Death to Apple’s Mac Mini: I made a Hackintosh


By Ian Sherr

If you ask me what type of tech I have at home, you’d think I live in an Apple Store.

We have iPhones, iPods, iPads, Apple TVs and Mac laptops. There isn’t a PC in sight.

I’m well-known for pushing my family to switch to Apple, too. No, it’s not a cult thing. I’m just lazy.

Did you know how much easier it is to fix these things? IBM says  PCs cost about three times more than Macs to keep in good running order. And it’s true. Just ask my in-laws how much less time I spend fixing computers when I visit, now that they’ve junked their old Windows-based PCs.

My older brother, who convinced me to buy my first Apple computer (a PowerBook in 2003), often tells people he picks Macs because he doesn’t have to routinely fight with them to work.

But that changed for me in October.  Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, got on stage at the company’s Cupertino, California, headquarters to announce new Mac computers. Namely, the new MacBook Pro laptop, redesigned with, among other things, a nifty touchscreen built into the keyboard.

I had my wallet out and waiting, but it wasn’t for that. I needed a new desktop.

I sat and watched the event along with my infant son, hoping Apple’s  Mac Mini computer would be updated with faster chips. I wanted a new Mac Mini because it’s about the size of two best-seller books stacked next to each other — easy to stash right beside our TV. It also starts at only $499 (you have to supply the monitor, keyboard and mouse, which I already have).

The problem is Apple hasn’t updated the Mac Mini since October 2014.

For the past several years, I’ve used a nearly 7-year-old MacBook Pro as a media center, storing all our family photos, videos, iTunes movies, music and everything else. I’ve also started using Plex, an app that allows me to stream and search for all that stuff the same way you use Netflix, but also for — y’know — pictures of my son’s first smile.

This year, it was time for a replacement. Sadly, MacBook Pro laptops were all that’d be on tap. Even Apple’s iMac (last updated October 2015) and Mac Pro (last updated December 2013) desktop computers were neglected. If I bought a Mac Mini today, I’d be paying full price for a machine more than two years old.

Apple, you let me down.

My son's first Apple event ended in disappointment.

My son’s first Apple event ended in disappointment.

Can tech help Alzheimer’s sufferers?


By Ian Sherr

My mother was a brilliant woman. She earned three bachelor’s degrees and a master’s, and could have become a doctor if not for the rampant sexism she faced in college in the early ’60s.

Instead, she worked for a major airline, where she applied her math smarts calculating a cargo load’s weight and balance that would allow a plane to safely take off.

But after spending nearly a decade working the overnight shift, she was starting to get absent-minded. At first it was little things, like she’d go somewhere without the documents she needed. Then it was big things. Then she got in a car accident.

My mother was shocked when she came out of the doctor’s office after weeks of testing. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. At 57 years old.

My mother was told to do anything that required thinking. She did crosswords. She read books. And since she was already good at math, she calculated the value of her invested retirement nest egg against the stock market’s moves.

If she were alive today, she probably would type Alzheimer’s into an app store. The first hit is an Alzheimer’s patient-care app called MindMate, which includes interactive brain games it claims will “stimulate user’s cognitive abilities based on world-leading research.” There are dozens more.

Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of apps and websites promising to solve what medical science hasn’t. Many claim they’ll improve the brain, or even help fend off the disease. Experts say nearly all are peddling false hope to people who have just been told they’re going to lose their minds. There’s no scientific proof any of these apps do what they claim. But since more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s there’s big demand for a fix.

“People are willing to try anything when they’re desperate,” says Creighton Phelps, a deputy director at the National Institute on Aging.