Great things to do with your Mac mini

Today, we celebrated the Mac mini's 7th anniversary. As workhorse machines go, the mini cannot be beat. It provides a great deal of computing power along with a small footprint and plenty of ports for devices. Add any monitor, keyboard, mouse, or trackpad and you're ready to rock and roll.

Here are some of our favorite ways to use minis in real life.

  • Media Center. The Mac mini gives you the media power of an Apple TV, a small footprint, and adds computing on top. Connect your Mini to an EyeTV or similar capture system, and you've created a workable DVR solution. Yes, Apple dropped FrontRow support with Lion, but we're very fond of Plex and XBMC.

  • First Development Mac. Intel minis make perfect "first" development Macs, offering a stepping stone into the Apple world for anyone reared on Windows or Linux. You can purchase a Mac, a dev membership, and all the accessories you need to get started with iOS development for under $1000. These minis also act as a gateway drug for many developers. From there, it's onto iMacs and MacBooks.

  • Kid Computers. Nothing says education like mini. Get your students started with a great Mac experience, at an affordable price. Most kid software, browsing, and email will run on older minis, so you can buy refurbished while knowing your kid can still get the job done.

  • Embedded Systems. Minis are easy to deploy to embedded systems, from kiosks to interactive museum exhibits. Their Apple lineage also means that servicing and warranties are taken care of through low-cost AppleCare.

  • Windows Platforms. One word: BootCamp. Your Mac mini may be one of the best Windows systems you ever owned.

Got other ways you love to use Mac minis? Join in the comments as we celebrate 7 years of the little Mac that could.