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Apple Gadgets & Tech Mac Mini OS X Server

Setting Up a Mac Mini Snow Leopard Server Without a Display

The Mac Mini has always been a great little workgroup or home server. The low power consumption combined with the form factor have convinced me to pick up my second mac mini since 2005. The first one was a PowerPC based 1st gen Mini and served as a primary desktop for many many years. This new Mac Mini Server with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 1TB HD will be used as file, database, web and media server.

I’m not going to get into setting up all those things right now. I’m going to get into how to go thru the basic setup of the Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server if you don’t have a display to connect it to. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t ship the Mac Mini Server with an HDMI adapter so I had to dig around on getting the Mini setup. The instructions that come with the Mini aren’t very helpful.

What you need:

  • Mac Mini Server – called “minisrv” from here on.
  • Another Mac that will be used as your desktop/admin machine – called “mac1” from here on. A PC with Windows may be ok but I haven’t tested that config.
  • An (wired) ethernet switch, a WiFi Router that has room to plug in at least 2 ethernet connections or an ethernet hub
  1. Install the “Admin Tools” cd that came with the minisrv.
  2. Ensure that you have DHCP enabled on your network so minisrv can get an IP address.
  3. Make sure both computers are connected to the switch, router or hub. mac1 doesn’t have to be connected via ethernet if you’re connecting both machines to a WiFi router, though, minisrv should be connected using ethernet.
  4. If you can’t go wired, you should disable any sort of encryption or passwords on your WifI and also ensure that the SSID broadcast is turned on.

  5. Turn the Mac Mini on and about a minute or two after you hear the chime, you should SSH into the box. Now this will be tricky. You need to know what the IP address of the Mac Mini is. On mac1, go to Applications -> Server and launch “Server Admin”. You should see an IP address listed there. Unless you have multiple Mac servers running, this IP will be the one you should ssh into.
  6. Launch Terminal
  7. ssh from mac1 to minisrv
    mac1# ssh root@
    The password to use here is the first eight digits of minisrv’s serial number.
  8. Type the following into your terminal:

    localhost:~ root# cd /Library/Preferences
    localhost:~ root# echo -n enabled > com.apple.ScreenSharing.launchd
  9. Go to Finder -> Connect to Server and click on Browse. You should see minisrv showing in the list on the left. Click on it and then click on “Share Screen”.
  10. Go ahead and follow the directions to finish setting up your new Mac Mini Server.

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Apple Mac Mini MacBook OS X

IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad Vs. Apple MacBook Revisited

I’ve been using the Apple MacBook on and off for a little over a month now.Disclosure: The MacBook isn’t my only computer. At the office, I have a Dell now running Ubuntu 6.06 and at home, I removed the failed IBM Deskstar drive out of my Dell, installed Ubuntu from scratch. At some point, I’ll reinstall Fedora Core 5 on the free partition. My main computer at home is my 1st generation PowerPC based Mac Mini. Hence, I use my MacBook when I’m not at the office or when I’m not sitting in the basement.

My use of the MacBook, though not constant, is considerable. I have come to enjoy most aspects of the hardware along with the software (OS X). I was asked to discuss my thoughts on the following aspects of the MacBook.

  1. Sturdiness: I haven’t traveled with the MacBook yet. I have only carried it with me to the local Starbucks and to the office on several occassions. It feels like a fairly well built machine but I can’t vouch for how it would react to a few falls like my old T40. I would be very surprised if it continued to function as well as my T40 after the serious falls it took.
  2. Productivity:
    • Though I am still no fan of the Apple Trackpad, I have configured it well enough that it doesn’t annoy be as constantly as before. I still think the Thinkpad keyboard/Trackpoint combination is the most productive I’ve seen on any laptop or desktop (see my review of the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard).
    • The feel of the MacBook keyboard is pretty good. I don’t miss my ThinkPad in this regard. Though, it’s a bit different, it feels nice.
    • I also miss the Thinklight that exists on the Thinkpads. This is incredibly useful when you’re trying to type in the dark (e.g. late at night in bed, on an airplane, etc). Considering the prices that some Thinkpads are available at, I hope Apple puts a lit keyboard or a Thinklight-like feature into future MacBooks.
    • The built-in iSight on the MacBook is a very useful feature if you use Skype, IM, Video IM, or just like to take pictures randomly. I am using the MacBook to create an audio diary of a project I am working on. I might turn it into a podcast at some point but not just yet. I’m also using Skype for phone calls in the US while it is free.
    • The wifi piece of the MacBook has been acting pretty flaky recently. At Starbucks, I had to reboot the laptop a few times before it would reconnect to the AP. At home, it is disconnecting from my Linksys WRT54G very often in spots that it worked fine just a few weeks ago. I think a similar problem has been reported on the MacBook Pros but I have yet to call this into AppleCare.
    • Battery life has also dropped significantly. I was getting 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours of battery life on a full charge, with my settings optimized for battery conservation. The same settings are consistenly providing me no more than 2 hours and 45 minutes of battery life. I have tried calibrating the battery as per the manual but no luck. I am in the process of recalibrating for the 4rd time right now before I call AppleCare.
    • Apple OS X is pretty good in terms of productivity. I would like it if I could configure keyboard shortcuts for everything and maybe I can, I just haven’t tried hard enough to figure it out.
    • Apple ships the MacBooks with a decent amount of software for productivity. (Quicken 2006 for the Mac doesn’t compare to the Windows version).
  3. Applications: I am pretty happy with the applications on OS X. I’ve been able to get lots of Unix opensource applications running, including Postgresql, NeoOffice and OpenOffice, along with Perl and a good amount of the Perl modules from CPAN. The MacBook ships with a trial version of iWork and Microsoft Office for Mac. I didn’t find a need to use either of these applications and had not installed them when I reinstalled OS X. OS X is pretty good at sleeping, though I would like to see a hibernate function. It is just as stable as Linux from my use of OS X Tiger on my PowerPC Mac Mini and on my Intel MacBook. It’s probably much much mroe stable than Windows on anything.

I haven’t completely ruled out buying a new motherboard for my old T40. If I can buy it and get it installed, all for $200, I’ll probably do it. Anything more than that, I won’t. I guess that means that though I really like the MacBook, I am really used to my ThinkPad T40 running Linux and I miss.

The MacBook is a fist generation computer whereas the Thinkpad T series is tried and true. The MacBook is very good for early adopters and those that aren’t afraid of a little tinkering. It’s also a very cost efficient way of playing with OS X and being able to see first hand how things “just work”. The MacBooks do get pretty hot so be careful to keep the laptop on your lap for very long.

If anyone has any additional questions, please drop me a line.

Apple – MacBook
Lenovo – T Series

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Apple Mac Mini Misc. Technology

Apple’s Mac Mini Grab Bag

CNET recently posted an article about Apple’s decision to, in some cases, provide hardware on their fabulous Mac Mini that performs beyond the published specs, i.e. more video memory, faster hard drive, or better bluetooth is an unfortunate decision.

Apple should clearly define what hardware is included for what the customer is paying for. I wouldn’t be too happy if I bought a Mac Mini and the guy next door paid the same amount and got a better machine.

Apple should either charge more for the better machines, or discount the older hardware machines to $399. At that price, I am sure a lot more of the Minis will be flying off the shelves.

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Apple Mac Mini Misc. Technology

Apple’s Move to Intel

Apple’s recent announcement to move to Intel chips isn’t very surprising. However, it will create significant challenges for Linux companies like Novell and RedHat. As Apple makes the transition, more and more Linux users and more and more Windows users will be likely to pick up a $499 Mac Mini than they will be to pick up a Dell and install Linux on it. Having been a Redhat/Fedora user for about eight years ( five of which have been Linux as my ONLY desktop ), I recently delved into the Mac Mini. It’s a great machine, runs great, stable software, the software and applications are all integrated, and most importantly, IT ALL WORKS .. WELL! In the six months I’ve had the Mini, I’ve probably rebooted it five times ( one of those times was because I upgraded the RAM ). With the power of BSD behind OS X and Apple’s traditional ease of use, more and more Linux folks will opt to run OS X as their primary desktop environment and Linux as their server environment. I don’t think Microsoft will have anything to worry about in terms of losing market share to Apple. Business users and the general, non-technical user will need to be assured that all their normal business applications run on the Mac, something that will be very difficult to do in the short run.

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Apple Mac Mini Misc. Technology

The Mac Saga Continues …

I’ve been using the Mac for roughly a month now and I love the machine but I just finished ordering a 1GB memory upgrae for the Mini. OSX desperately needs more memory.

I’ve used Fink to install Gnome on OSX, not because I think it’s better or worse than Aqua, but more to see if it can be done and how it works. So far, I haven’t been able to get it to run. I’m probably missing a few pieces somewhere …

I still haven’t been able to get X applications from a remote Linux box to display on the Mini. I honestly haven’t spent much time trying to figure out why but it’s on the To Do list.

One of the really nice things is that I’ve continued to use iSync to keep all my contacts and calendars updated on my Sony Ericsson T610 and my 3G iPod. More or less making my Palm Tungsten T useless. Now to find out a good little project to mak the Tungsten T useful again ….

I also need to get Apache and Postfix configured on the Mini and install MySQL, Postgresql, Metadot, and various Perl modules. I’m not yet sure if I will need to compile and install my own version of Perl rather than using the OSX compiled Perl 5.8.1

I almost wish I had a Powerbook so that I can play with Mac OSX when I’m not at home …

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