Saturday, February 5

A tech Project

Hello Team!
I wanted to "crowd-source" you all as I am working on a little tech project that I feel like there is too much data for me to completely go through all the options on my own, and I have very little experience when it comes to some of this, so I am going to lay out my project goals, and some of the things I would like to get as "optional benefits" and see what ideas you techy, or non-techy, folks might come up with:

The Lightweight / Remote Computer project
To replace my current workhorse laptop (13" Macbook Pro 2.53ghz w/ 8gb RAM and a 500gb 7200 HD) with a tablet and remote access to a small machine hooked to my TV at home for personal files, music, misc server functions, etc.

Note on usage:
Most of what I do is browsing the internet currently. I do do the blog entries and write emails but that is a fairly small portion of my "work" day. I don't have too many issues with getting out a bue tooth/ USB keyboard for those times I need to type a lot. (And the keyboard could be shared between small computer and "tablet")

  • Long Battery Life (more than 3 hours of use without having to plug it in again)

  • Wifi and 3/4G

  • Remote access ability (built in or app) to other machines/ OSs

  • Remote access that doesn't need to be maintained. (No manually setting a new IP address every time Comcast changes it.)

  • Lighter than a laptop, but still have a nice screen size. 7"-11" (IE: No 4" phones need apply here)

  • Needs to function apart from small computer. (IE: Access to Google Docs, web, email, etc)

Mini Computer:
  • Small computer should have a full OS (Apple TV/ Roku not an option)

  • At least 500gb HD space

  • HDMI output (with audio)

  • Quiet!

  • CD/DVD

  • 4 USB ports

  • Good solid (100/1000 Wired connection), no need for wireless as it will be sitting right by the router.

  • Tablet that has a USB port on it

  • Reliable wimax (3g/4g) connection in Downtown Houston. (Unlike T-Mobile)

  • Small machine had blueray built into it

  • small machine had bluetooth built in for shared keyboard/ mouse technology with tablet

  • Access to tablet OS "apps" (Android / iPhone / Win7mo apps)

The general thing that got me thinking about all this is that I just spent ten days in the hospital and it wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last, and my laptop stayed at home, unused, for that time because it weighs too much and is too costly to bring into an environment like that where it could "disappear" while I am sleeping. So I was thinking that while I tried to use my phone the connection (the hospital has BAD wifi and T-Mobile's data connection only works between 11pm and 7am at the hospital (overuse during the other times?)) was spotty and I couldn't control my hands well enough on the 3.5" screen to not be frustrated a lot of the time. So I am looking for a kind of lightweight "head" device I can do things with and enjoy the use of, while still having a machine at home to quietly sit there and have a little more horsepower if I feel like I need to go outside the bounds of a tablet OS. I also enjoy some of the "apps" I have seen coming out of the Android/ iPhone revolution so those would be nice to have access to as well.

I know I could go completely Mac on this without much effort, and with a little more effort I could probably also go Windows, but I wasn't sure what all was out there and what you all had seen, or touched, or what other tech I might be missing entirely. So I put this project before you as something I am working on I am eager to hear what you might think. Feel free to ask questions and / or put fourth your ideas either here in the comments, on facebook, or by emailing me at ben d0t m0rrell at gmail d0t c0m. (all o's in that email address have been replaced by 0's for difficulty in computer reading, so I don't get spam)

I look forward to hearing from you!



  1. Hi Ben!

    My only comment is that I am very happy with the hackintosh Nate helped me set up this year. For about a third of the price of an equivalent Mac, and following some clear directions from a hackintosh community website, I built a computer and then tricked it into thinking it was an Apple. There are definitely mini-computer setups you could put together yourself that would be compatible with the Apple OS with a little bit of tweaking. Of course, the one issue is whether you are comfortable with bypassing the EULA on OS X. You can buy a legal copy, but the EULA says something about not installing the OS on non-Mac computers. If you're interested, here's a guide to putting together a "CustoMac Mini".

  2. Oh, forgot to mention the obvious added benefit that you could easily make it dual-boot (or more).

  3. Anonymous12:48 PM

    Humorously enough I have been specing some systems out and the Mac setup is actually coming out cheaper than the windows setup... however the Windows setup hits all of the options and the mac system doesn't...

  4. How much power do you want the mini computer to have? Why the requirement for CD/DVD?

    I recently got an Aspire Revo 3610(nettop) for our main room that is hooked up to our TV. It was originally purposed to serve as a media center, but has proven to be much more than that as I often remote into it from work, use it to file serve and backup and a couple other things. It's not very powerful, but was only $200.

    We also have an iPad which I love, but haven't ever tried remoting into another machine with it. Not sure if that's an out of the box function that Apple approves of, but jailbreaking is always an option (and not very difficult). What kind of tasks do you see yourself remoting into perform that would require "more horsepower"?

    The new Mac Air's are said to be the ultimate mobile device. It would cure your desire for something lighter, but not something cheaper. Along that line of thought though, any ipad or tablet will be a prime target for theft.

    Hope all is well!

  5. I've never used one, but I've always thought a Mac Mini would be a good media computer. Plus it meets all of your mini computer requirements (with the possible exception of "quiet" but like I said I've never used one so I don't know about that).

  6. Ben-- you might check out Virgin mobile's Mifi ( which is 3G with no contract. It might be better service than what T-Mobile is offering but I haven't used it so I'm not sure.

    As for your mini-computer, there are obviously a ton of options here but I'll put a 'plug' in for the plug computer I've been using called PogoPlug ( It costs $100 and uses 4 watts of power. It's virtually silent and it has impressive specs for its size and cost. It does take a little tinkering with to get it setup but mine is running like a champ. I've got Linux running on it with ddclient (for updating my domain name with my dynamic IP address) along with samba file server, ftp, Apache web server, and some other stuff. There are a ton of apps you can install on it ( One of the most useful things I've done with it is make our photo library (10 gigs) accessible over the web from my iPhone.

    Anyway...just wanted to throw that one out there. I'm guessing that might not be quite what you are looking for but it's at least something to noodle on.

    Sounds like a fun project.


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