Okay, i'll annotate this set a bit. I bought the higher-end Mac Mini, but after spending the morning yesterday getting things set up, it was pretty clear that 256MB wasn't enough. Running a few apps - IM, browser, email, etc. and doing anything else started making windows jump around, etc. My friend Greg, who's a Mac convert for at least a few years now came over to check out the machine and to help me get things set up from a Mac-hacker-programmer perspective. After watching the machine churn, we decided that more memory was needed. (And I think Greg was particularly itching to do a mini-autopsy).
I should say that the Apple store I went to didn't have any extra 'kits" so I couldn't get the wireless options (WiFi/BT) or memory upgrades even if I wanted to. Considering that I spent about the same amount of money for 512MB via retail as Apple was offering for an upgrade, it almost would've been worth it. But this way I got to keep the old 256MB RAM, and I got to break into my mini, so it was all good.
Okay, first steps was I checked out MacWorld's article and photos and the little video out there. Both talk about pops and crackles as you open the mini and they weren't kidding. It definitely takes some brute force to get it open and the noises are incredibly disconcerting. You have to jam the putty knife into the side of the machine, then pull back (with enough force to bend the putty knife) and it'll pop and crackle and come apart. Just jamming the putty knife in though is quite the feat - it's definitely a snug fit and just doesn't feel like you're doing the right thing at all.
After some force is applied, the top will come off. You can see from the pics that I jammed the putty knife in too far with the sharp bit and ripped a little of the insulation/padding stuff that's around the inside ridge of the mini. Don't do that if you can help it (though I'm sure it's nothing). Swapping the RAM was simple as any other computer. And you can plug it in and turn it on without the cover to test to makes sure everything thing is working, which is nice. But then putting cover back was a bitch.
Macworld talks about how this was the easy part! Well, we tried to get the cover on and bent some of the metal prongs at the very back (without realizing). Our first attempt went down and locked in, but with a noticable gap at the back of the machine. So then we had to pry it open and try again. And again. Eventually we were able to put the little metal prongs back where they were supposed to be, put the cover on flat, and pushed down and everything locked back into place snuggly. And though there may have been a scratch or two on the bottom, flipping it over and it looks good as new. The good thing about having to take it apart so many times is that I'm now pretty proficient at cracking the thing open which will be good for next time. ;-)
Apple could have made this a bit easier, I'm sure there'll be blood on the cases of more than few minis. But it's definitely possible and straight forward to do upgrades yourself.
I'll do a longer review in a bit on the software side of things in a bit.