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Cheap Used Mac
Old 12-08-2017, 03:40 PM   #1
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Cheap Used Mac

I know zero about Apple stuff, but I had the idea of learning Swift (programming language). Although there are apparently work-arounds that wouldn't require Apple hardware to use as my development platform, I don't think that would be well supported if I just learned from a book or from Coursera. Thus, the need for an Apple computer.

Not wanting to spend the typical high price of the latest and greatest, I wondered if there were any Apple folk here that could recommend some relatively modern, but not brand new (meaning, not so expensive) Apple hardware that I could use as a development platform.

The other concern I have is if there is a way to completely wipe and reinstall the OS from scratch. Even if it appears that a used machine has a clean new install, one never knows what's on there unless there is an air-tight way to do one's own factory reset OS install. And this, of course, could not depend upon another Apple machine, but could involve a USB connected drive, for instance.
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Old 12-08-2017, 04:07 PM   #2
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You might consider a refurbished Mac. Apple sells them.

https://www.apple.com/shop/browse/home/specialdeals/mac
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Old 12-08-2017, 04:14 PM   #3
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Consider getting a used intel mac mini. The newer macs have a hidden partition that you
can boot to and do a clean install. Or you can boot to apple server and install off the internet.
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Old 12-08-2017, 07:27 PM   #4
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Consider getting a used intel mac mini. The newer macs have a hidden partition that you
can boot to and do a clean install. Or you can boot to apple server and install off the internet.
+1. The mac-minis are sort of the underdog/Rodney Dangerfield of the mac world. Plenty of capability for learning programming, and you BYO monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc, so you save $ there. Refurbished is a good way to go, or even used. Apple semi-secret, "refurbished" isn't always. It seems to be a way to get rid of old models or excess inventory w/o putting them "on sale", as a "sale" might weaken the "brand" and their "rarely a discount" pricing model.

IIRC, you can also download that installer, or at least, I think I was able to back it up to a flash drive, so you could do an install with a totally blank drive.

The program "SuperDuper!" is the best cloning/back-up software I've ever seen. I wish I could do this on my Linux systems. You run it, it backs up everything (system, everything) to an external drive and (this is what is so great), right after it is compete, you can reboot, and select that external drive to boot from (just hold the option key at boot for a selection of all bootable systems). This way, you can test it w/o any effort, and with no changes to your normal system. Verify, reboot from the internal, and you are confident your back up works.

And if the main drive crashes, you just boot from your backup, and you are back in business. You can fix your internal system later. I was able to do that "back in the day". I booted from a "Zip Drive" for about a week until I could troubleshoot my system.

So far, I have not found a Linux backup system that will let me clone and boot from that clone w/o first making changes to the clone or the main system (cloned UUID conflicts and a bunch of fiddling with the loader). And if I have to load the clone on top of my old system, that defeats some of the purpose, as I just wiped out the system I backed up, and I'm back to one system!

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Old 12-08-2017, 08:41 PM   #5
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Old 12-08-2017, 11:22 PM   #6
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I also agree a mini is a good option, though prices on used ones seem to have gone up in some cases lately. For Xcode and Swift development I would suggest something that runs macOS Sierra/10.12. (I would avoid High Sierra/10.13 for a good while yet if possible.) This would be most Macs from 2010 onward.

A good source for info and specs on different Mac models is everymac.com

I have bought new/leftover, refurb, and used Macs from long time Mac specialists Small Dog Electronics (smalldog.com) and OWC (macsales.com) with good results.
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Old 12-09-2017, 06:46 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by sengsational View Post
I know zero about Apple stuff, but I had the idea of learning Swift (programming language). Although there are apparently work-arounds that wouldn't require Apple hardware to use as my development platform, I don't think that would be well supported if I just learned from a book or from Coursera. Thus, the need for an Apple computer.
I don't know how deep you want to get into Swift, but Apple Playgrounds is available from Apple on the iPad. It's aimed at school kids, but it does expose much of the iOS API so you can actually use it to dig into various technologies. It's an option.

https://www.apple.com/swift/playgrounds/

Quote:
The other concern I have is if there is a way to completely wipe and reinstall the OS from scratch. Even if it appears that a used machine has a clean new install, one never knows what's on there unless there is an air-tight way to do one's own factory reset OS install. And this, of course, could not depend upon another Apple machine, but could involve a USB connected drive, for instance.
Macs have a recover mode which lets you start up the machine into a special mode where you run Disk Utility (for repairs) or reinstall your system either factory fresh or from a Time Machine backup. No need for an external disk for this.

Finally, Xcode really wants to run off an SSD. In fact, it's hard for me to imagine running any Mac on anything other than an SSD. Don't torture yourself.

Have fun. Swift is an awesome language!
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:31 AM   #8
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Thanks all! This is just the kind of introduction I was looking for.

When it comes to getting my feet on the ground with a subject where I have no background, if I go out searching myself, I'm often left with too many options and am left scratching my head, overwhelmed, and without a plan forward.

With your suggestions, I feel like I now know enough to be dangerous, lol!
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Old 02-06-2018, 03:39 PM   #9
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My Dad had this machine. He's no longer around and my mom offered me this. As I said in the OP, I have no clue about Mac stuff. I looked this up and the OS is out of support, but I can upgrade the OS, right? But then I wondered if this machine has enough umph to run the IDE that would allow me to write Swift apps.
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:13 PM   #10
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DH is using a MacBook he bought in 2008. He just took it in to the Apple store and got the OS updated (they said the OS is now as current as it can ever be—the machine won’t be able to run the next one). Run it to an Apple store and see what they say?
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:28 PM   #11
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but I can upgrade the OS, right?
High Sierra (the latest MacOS) is supported on "iMac – Late 2009 or later models"

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201475
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:37 PM   #12
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My Dad had this machine. He's no longer around and my mom offered me this. As I said in the OP, I have no clue about Mac stuff. I looked this up and the OS is out of support, but I can upgrade the OS, right? But then I wondered if this machine has enough umph to run the IDE that would allow me to write Swift apps.
Sengsational, that iMac is more powerful than my mid 2010 13" MacBook Pro. I just upgraded the OS to High Sierra and it works fine. I did upgrade the hard drive to an SSD a few years ago. It has 4 GB of RAM and a Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2.4 GHz.
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Old 02-06-2018, 10:55 PM   #13
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My Dad had this machine.
I had basically that same machine (mid-2010 27-inch iMac) that I used regularly until about a year ago. It's a great machine, and I think it will work OK to get started. But I think you will get tired of that spinning drive soon.
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Old 02-06-2018, 10:58 PM   #14
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Here's the support page for when you are ready to reinstall macOS

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204904
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Old 02-07-2018, 12:41 AM   #15
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I had basically that same machine (mid-2010 27-inch iMac) that I used regularly until about a year ago. It's a great machine, and I think it will work OK to get started. But I think you will get tired of that spinning drive soon.
DW also has a 27" mid-2010 iMac, which still works fine. It is still running Sierra (10.12). We don't yet trust the latest from last fall, High Sierra (10.13). (Too many bugs and compatibility issues with older software and hardware.)

I did install Apple's Xcode suite on it to play around with Swift a bit myself, but haven't gotten around to actually doing so yet. Can't hurt to try it on your iMac, it won't cost you anything. Probably the biggest problem will be only having 4GB of RAM, but you could double that for about $30.
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Old 02-07-2018, 04:40 AM   #16
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DW also has a 27" mid-2010 iMac, which still works fine. It is still running Sierra (10.12). We don't yet trust the latest from last fall, High Sierra (10.13). (Too many bugs and compatibility issues with older software and hardware.)

I did install Apple's Xcode suite on it to play around with Swift a bit myself, but haven't gotten around to actually doing so yet. Can't hurt to try it on your iMac, it won't cost you anything. Probably the biggest problem will be only having 4GB of RAM, but you could double that for about $30.
Is that a model that has door, and end user can install memory? Just a thought. I know some of the models need to be disassembled, which is a difficult procedure for most of us.

Edit; Found the answer. yes it does.
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201191#2
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Old 02-16-2018, 03:11 PM   #17
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Thanks for all of the pointers, and specific links!! Good info that I'll certainly be using.

The iMac made it through the UPS shipping gauntlet. I'd wrapped the heck out of the computer in bubble wrap, 6 or more inches on all sides, but when I saw the mangled box, I was worried. I turned it on and it still works!

Now... on to doing a reinstall of the OS and researching additional memory.
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Old 04-26-2018, 05:31 PM   #18
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Continuing the saga of my introduction to the Apple world...

I got a fresh copy of the latest OS installed. That was completely painless.

The pain started when I started to use XCode and playgrounds. So horrifically buggy! And the development environment is stone-aged compared to the Android Studio.

But I must admit, I don't use a phone emulator on the Android Studio side...I use a real phone. I simply don't have a real Apple phone. That's one question I'll ask here...morphing this thread into a "Cheap Used Apple Phone". Seems like a lot of the testing is done on an SE. Kind of old, kind of small screen. Maybe the developers test there because the simulator is faster. dunno.

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Sengsational, that iMac is more powerful than my mid 2010 13" MacBook Pro. I just upgraded the OS to High Sierra and it works fine. I did upgrade the hard drive to an SSD a few years ago. It has 4 GB of RAM and a Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2.4 GHz.
I just ordered this kit. I hope it's the right thing. I don't have much to store on the computer...the projects are pretty small, so I only went with the 120GB. I think this will let me keep the 1TB internal drive, and just have the OS and XCode on the SSD. $100. Considering I got the iMac for free, I figure this will really speed things up.

Earlier, I didn't have "Time Machine" running, but I plugged in an empty external 500GB drive and it asked if I wanted to use it as a Time Machine drive. So I said "yes" and turned on time machine. I hope that will work when it comes to putting my current boot OS onto the new SSD that I'll be installing.

By the way, my Swift skills went from zero to something, but it really feels klutzy, if that's a word. Swift has so many versions that have come out in the last few years, and it's a pain to get answers that are for the right version. I went through this with Java...back in the day (Java 1.x) so many things were convoluted and hard. Then as Java matured, it became much easier. I figure Swift is still in that "trying to find itself" realm. Some really simple things are still so convoluted. And about the time you almost have figured out how to get around the weirdness, the dang playground crashes
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Old 04-26-2018, 05:44 PM   #19
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Interesting that you're having those problems. I imagine it would be due to the age of the machine. I develop iPhone apps all the time, just as a hobby, and I kind of like Swift and Xcode. And I have never had it crash on me, but I use a more modern Mac (less than four years old).
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Old 04-27-2018, 09:13 AM   #20
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You never have "homed" consume all your CPU? You never have the playground hang? There are tons of people who complain about those. You're lucky not to have to deal with those. And if XCode is all you've known, you can't miss pet features of other IDEs. And you also aren't constantly hitting hot keys that do something unexpected (the Apple way vs PC way). But even though I'm kind of an old dog, I'm determined to learn this new trick.
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