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Old Aug 8, 2011, 04:55 AM   #1
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How To Make a Cheap Mac-based Home Server

Hey guys, yesterday I got a "Sawtooth" AGP Graphics PowerMac G4. I'm using it as a File Server/iTunes Streaming Box to share media to all my Macs. It's my first Server that I've set up for home use, but I do things of this nature at Work (Computer Administrator at a ISD) all the time. After spending a few hours getting everything just right, I decided that making a PDF of how exactly to make a Macintosh-based HomeServer could save some people some time, money and worries if they've been looking into the subject. I'd even say it'd be a fun Father-Son bonding thing to do, if you two are geeks.

To follow my guide, all you need is:
-G4-based (or newer) Mac that has networking capabilities (Ethernet and/or AirPort).
-LAN (Local Area Network, you must have one if you're browsing the Internet on a computer :P)
-A little time (maybe a weekend, unless you order some things and have to wait for them to arrive :P)

I plan on adding pictures, and maybe a little more details (about iTunes library set-ups) to the PDF in the near future. Right now it's 4:49AM where I am though, so I'm dead tired. I've been working on this since about midnight.

Good luck you all! If anyone needs help, just send me a PM or reply to this post.

-Trying to help the community.
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 09:23 AM   #2
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What im reading is how to set up screen sharing and shared drives in Mac os. Hardly any server configuration in there.

I'm kind of interested in this because I use iTunes home sharing right now and while that seems to work, I'd prefer a solution where all machines actually hare the same library, playlists, etc. Any info on that?
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 09:28 AM   #3
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Never mind... my post didn't make sense.
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 09:29 AM   #4
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I dunno why more people don't do this. A couple of tidbits to add:

Connect a fax modem to it, attach that to your POTS (regular phone line) and you have a fax machine, sorta! Lion has abandoned the Apple USB modem; you can probably find one cheap. And there's the built-in Apple fax software or SmileOnMyMac has some (again, abandoned as of Lion). And then you can use it as a dialer; check out Dialectic; it lets your G4 "serve" phone services like dialing, etc. And it works on Lion too.

I think you mentioned this, but going headless is a nice way to save energy.

If you want a relatively easy way to get your new network to communicate over the internet for file and screen sharing, etc., try ShareTool. Makes it really easy. Essentially all the Bonjour sharing your new server does (iPhoto, printers, iTunes, files, screen, etc) becomes available anywhere you have internet access.

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Old Aug 8, 2011, 09:42 AM   #5
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I'd certainly suggest using an old Mac mini over any other Mac for this because
  • Compact
  • Lowest power consumption
  • Best MTBF so less likely to break down.

It's also possible to use an old Windows PC for this, perhaps with Linux installed, depending on what services you want. I used an old Dell desktop box (running headless) for many years, switching early last year to a refurbished Mac mini server, the server probably being overkill for most users.
Retina iMac, 15" MacBook Pro, Mac mini with Yosemite Server, 7 other Macs and 5 iOS devices in the household. Yes, it's too many.
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 11:03 AM   #6
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To answer @FarmerMac's question about iTunes on multiple machines:

Many people have the issue of their iTunes libraries being out of sync, or they just hate having multiple libraries. The easiest solution is to copy your iTunes Media folder onto a Shared Hard Drive/Location on your dedicated Server.

Before deleting ANYTHING from your personal Mac you must ensure that everything you copied made it over to the Server correctly (wouldn't wanna lose songs, eh?).

You can check by right-clicking your copied iTunes Media Folder (on the Server) and clicking 'Get Info' and looking at 'Size' inside the window, then right-clicking your local (on your personal Mac) iTunes Media Folder, clicking 'Get Info', then look at 'Size'.

If the sizes match, your iTunes Media Folder copied to the Server correctly and you can delete your iTunes library from your computer, then set-up iTunes to read off of the iTunes Library on your Mounted Server by following these steps:

Open iTunes, Open iTunes preferences, click the gear-like icon that says 'Advanced' and tell iTunes the location of the iTunes Library Folder is wherever you placed it on the server.

For instance, if I uploaded my iTunes Folder to 'Macintosh Data HD 1' on my Server, I would mount my Server (if it isn't mounted already) by Opening Safari and typing afp://xxx.xxx.x.x (the Server IP) and putting in the correct credentials.

Then in iTunes I'd tell iTunes (by going under the Shared tab) where the Library folder is by clicking the correct Networked Drive, then click the iTunes Media Folder. iTunes will refresh, and you will have all of the Music you had before just not locally on your machine(s).

Sorry if those steps are choppy, I'm at work. Hopefully that'll help with iTunes woes.
Repeat the process with all your other Macs you wish to have synced.
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 11:18 AM   #7
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Nice guide, Alex.

We have an old G4 Mini running Leopard. I had to pry it open to install 1GB of RAM to get this done. I may have to pry it open again to install a "large" hard drive so we can use it as a home server. Actually, I might decide to use it as a home server AND HTPC.

I suggest you could take your guide a little further by giving an example of a setup where 3 users share the Mini. To me the best scenario for a server is to run "headless" where there is no monitor and keyboard and all the admin is done via screen sharing from other Macs in the house. Screen sharing is something that would make sense to add to your guide. Also I don't know if I like the choice of Tiger for the server. Leopard seems like a better choice because it is a more recent OS and is the newest OS you can run on a non Intel Mac.

Just so you know I'm not advocating any sort of questionable OS installation, we happen to have a Leopard disk lying around because I bought Leopard just so I could legally upgrade our G4 Mini. All the newer machines came with Leopard or newer OS.
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 09:54 PM   #8
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Thanks for the feedback @R0k

Does anyone know where I can buy a legitimate copy of Mac OS Leopard? One of the reasons my guide wasn't based on Leopard was because when I bought my first Mac Snow Leopard was the 'up-to-date' OS release. I don't have a Leopard install disc (and really haven't looked for anywhere to buy it, I've only had my Sawtooth for 2 days :P)
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 06:16 AM   #9
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Leopard can be purchased on ebay.

As for the guide, why not just use an inexpensive NAS? Or am I missing something?
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