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I have a friend who is wanting to get a Mac Mini to do iPad development. He says the server version is cheaper than the desktop version. I've only ever used the desktop version. Is there any reason not to get the server version? What are the main differences between Server and Desktop?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

First off he's wrong on all levels.

The Desktop Version is $29, the Server Version is $500.
A standard Mac Mini is $700 base. Mac Mini Server is $1000 base.

Second, the distributions are pretty much identical. The difference is that the Server Version ships the server applications, tools, and processes. Postfix, Dovecot, Jabberd2, OpenLDAP, the entirety of the /Applications/Server directory, and some of the things in /Applications/Utilites like XSan management and the RAID Utility.

If he's looking to do development for iOS, getting the server version makes no sense. If he's looking to do development for Web Services, it's still easier and cheaper to run it on the Desktop version.

If he's looking to run a server, trivially, for mail services, chat and calendaring services, MORE than just web services (web services are trivially easy on the Desktop Version), then he should get a MacMini Server.

Use a Server for a Server for the features it provides, otherwise, use a standard version.

[edit]
We have two versions of XServes, and two Mac Mini Servers (classic style body), I'd be glad to answer any additional questions you or your friend has.

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I am that friend; since you cannot upgrade memory/cpu/HDD of a Mac Mini by hand with ease, and my experience (20+ years of software development, but away from the Mac world for too long): a Mac Mini at 2.66Ghz with 8 Gb memory 500 Gb HDD is USD 1499. a Mac Mini Server (standard 2.66Ghz) with 8Gb memory (and standard with 2 500 Gb HDD's) is USD 1399. I want to do both iOS development (first for iPad and iPod, making the switch from .NET CF Development), and server stuff (in addition to TCP/IP, Queueing and WebServices stuff I do on other platforms today) and running services (now: Linux, Win). –  Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Nov 30 '10 at 21:02
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Memory is easy in the new MacMini body style. HDD is not so much (and I understand the benefits of the dual HDs in the server version). And I've never, EVER been in a position to want to upgrade the CPU in a Mac. You don't need a server to do server development. You need a server to run production services. I would suggest you have two boxes, a development machine, SEPARATE from a production machine, for your own sake, but obviously that's all on you and your finances. –  Jason Salaz Nov 30 '10 at 21:07
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If you want to run your own services, use the Desktop version. If you want to run the services provided to you by OSX server, (again, mail, jabber, calendar, ldap, etc.), use the Server version. Hell, if you want the horsepower and the form factor, buy the MacMini Server, and install the MacMini Desktop version. What's another $30? This all comes down to what software OSX Server provides, and whether you'll use it or not. –  Jason Salaz Nov 30 '10 at 21:11
    
Given the finances, and the 'research' status of what I'm going to do (it probably won't pay for quite a while) I'd rather have 1 box soon, and buy a second one over time. Does the MacMini Server come with restore media so I can restore the Server OS if I temporarily install the desktop OS? How should I reinstall? Buy a SuperDrive, or does a regular USB powered DVD drive work too? –  Jeroen Wiert Pluimers Nov 30 '10 at 21:34
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Yes, in the box you get a Server OS DVD for installing the Server OS, and you get a second CD of server management utilities you can use on another Mac to remotely administer the server. Since you have two drives, you could always install a ServerOS on one and a DesktopOS on the other. Or make a common one for data, and partition the primary disc into two parts and install one OS on each. We have a non-Apple usb optical drive we use to plug into the Mini's for out-of-OS CD work. In-OS I suggest you just use Remote Disc Sharing. –  Jason Salaz Nov 30 '10 at 23:53

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