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Hi,
I am thinking of buying a Mac Mini that I can leave running for various projects around my house.  One project may be triggering an Arduino based sensor that then takes a photo when I'm not home via a webcam.
I'm looking for a small cheap computer that I can hook various projects to and then leave alone.  

Is the Mac Mini a bad idea?  Any other suggestions?

Thanks
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Not sure you'd even need an Arduino in the loop for that-- most of the webcam software would do such things directly.  They have remote management features and far better motion-sensitive captures than you could implement on the Arduino.

If your sensors are specialized (someone breaks a light beam or fails a keypad check), then yes, an Arduino attached to a USB port could trigger some script to snap frames from an onboard camera.

A MacMini isn't fast compared to the fastest laptops and desktops, but it's way more than enough to run a web server, a firewire or usb web camera, and even a video recorder, on remote command.  You could also do all your Arduino and Processing development on it, with plenty of power to spare.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 01:38:18 pm by halley » Logged

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I'm thinking of buying a mac mini to play with as well (maybe do some iPhone development since my powerbook is too old for the SDK).  It's a nice looking toy for a lot of projects.  I really wish apple had a consumer desktop computer without an integrated screen.  That's the only thing keeping me on the PC side of the fence.

For what you describe though, have you considered a Netbook?  They're half the price of a mac mini and gives you a 9" colour LCD and full keyboard to play with.
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mac mini does not have an integrated monitor and its price is pretty close to the price of a netbook:

http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/family/mac_mini?mco=MTE3MDI

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If you are looking for a clean fast solution, check out the mini-itx boards and processors. http://mini-itx.com/store

These are what you see in most custom car pc mods, etc.

They give you almost the full performance of a computer in a really small form factor with low power consumption and they're fairly cheap

Our university Robotics team uses them for most projects.

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about a monitor and keyboard. After the initial setup, if you hook up the computer to the house network, you can just access the computer over remote desktop or shell and do what you got to do.
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You can also go for a netbook like the EEE. its 300 bucks with a 9" screen and wifi and stuff, like your normal laptop, but with linux or XP.
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I would go with a Mac as their free development suite beats hands down anything Microsoft has to offer at several thousand dollars.
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If cost is not too important, a Mac Mini is a fine system for such purposes.  Runs MacOS, runs Windows, runs Linux, looks nice; what more could you want?
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