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Old Apr 10, 2010, 10:45 PM   #1
TXbug
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Mac Mini with OS X Server Snow Leopard

I am thinking about getting the new Mac Mini with OS X Server Snow Leopard.
I have a mixture of PC's and laptops at home. Namely, Windows XP, Windows 7, OS X 10.4.11 and OS X 10.5.8. I know that Windows will not take full advantage of the servers features. How well does it work with laptops and desktops that are not running Snow Leopard?
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 02:13 PM   #2
timbloom
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What services will you be running on the server? For the most part, OS X Server is very cross-platform, but it does all depend on what you're trying to accomplish.
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 02:14 PM   #3
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i am also interested in the mini + snow leopard server

-there is only one ethernet port out so you will need to adj your router with rules, best done, considering the environment on an airport extreme.

-comes with (2) 500G internal drives, raid1 would be nice for a mail server, brings up another point

-as a server need to consider how the mini is backed up, TimeMachine tends to avoid frequently changed large files. a bare chassis re build may be more than expected with time machine too.

-wonder if any metrics for the mini's performance in a 1000T home network.
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 10:24 PM   #4
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What services will you be running on the server? For the most part, OS X Server is very cross-platform, but it does all depend on what you're trying to accomplish.
Samba is my main interest.

Mail server would be nice. The Windows boxes use Outlook. The 10.4.11 uses Entourage. The 10.5.8 uses Lotus Notes for work and I would not use the Mail server for that. I don't use the OS X mail client on any OS X boxes.

iTunes server if possible.

iCal for the OS X boxes.
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 10:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TXbug View Post
I am thinking about getting the new Mac Mini with OS X Server Snow Leopard.
I have a mixture of PC's and laptops at home. Namely, Windows XP, Windows 7, OS X 10.4.11 and OS X 10.5.8. I know that Windows will not take full advantage of the servers features. How well does it work with laptops and desktops that are not running Snow Leopard?
I am using Mac Mini with Mac OS X Snow Leopard (not Server) as our office server for email, file sharing, print, webserver, ftpserver. I use Macports and other open source softwares to achieve this.

So far, I am glad with the performance of this Mini. It's so cool to have a server which sits quietly on my desk
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 10:59 PM   #6
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I know this is a super nube question, but could someone tell me what exactly one can do with a true server like this as opposed to just any other Mac connected to a network and/or the internet?

I know it is very slow when I transfer files from one of my Macs to another and so just keeping all my media content on one as the hub from which I can watch movies etc on other ones in the house hasn't turned out to be as nice as I'd hoped. So I assume having a server optimized and dedicated to this sort of thing would be faster.

But why exactly? And what exactly would be the advantages of having one of these versus having something like an HP Mediasmart or some other basic NAS like Synology DS209+II or DS210 etc.

I expect one answer is that you can't run a standard Mac as a mail server or file server on internet, but if this is the case I'm curious why. Same for NAS (for at least the file server part).
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 02:35 PM   #7
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Here's what I've set up with mine. I'm not interested with mail or web hosting at home.

* DNS (Verizon's router is fixed to their DNS for upstream -- BAD!)
* DHCP
* Open Directory
* DynDNS Update
* TimeMachine backup for 5 Macs
* Windows VM to run Microsoft Money
* File Sharing for music, pictures, video, software archival storage.
* AddressBook server to sync address book between my MacBook and iMac
* iCal server to sync and share calendars among computers and iTouches.
* Printer/Scanner server
* VPN server to access network away from home

Unlike OS X for clients, the server version isn't an instant setup. If you have only a couple of computers, or don't have a need beyond what a NAS will do, don't give buying the Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server a thought.

Some people get one just for the educational experience, though.
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 06:43 PM   #8
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Thank you for all the info. Can you tell me what the NASes are appropriate for in the spectrum of networking needs? When I try to view a movie from my MBP where the file is located on my C2D iMac (both 802.11N with Airport Express as my router), the movie will often stutter and also file transfers take much longer than I expected. Is part of the role of NASes (as opposed to just having big external drive attached to desktop in your network for example) to make these kinds of networking tasks perform better? Basically, what are the advantages to having an NAS other than the things like being able to get easy internet access to your iPhone and that kind of thing?

Ideally, I would like to have some arrangement where I can have just one of each of my files on one (backed up) drive somewhere on the network rather than what I have now which is duplicate files all over in part because the delay in loading them is so great when they are on different computer etc and also in part because that just seems to naturally tend to happen when you don't centralized storage arrangement that's as convenient to use as saving files to local computer.
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Old Apr 14, 2010, 04:08 PM   #9
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@talmy

Talmy

how did u set up the dns as I also have a verizon router that sucks and creates a bad bottle kneck in my Internet flow.


Thanks for any info!
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Old Apr 15, 2010, 01:29 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by TXbug View Post
Samba is my main interest.

Mail server would be nice. The Windows boxes use Outlook. The 10.4.11 uses Entourage. The 10.5.8 uses Lotus Notes for work and I would not use the Mail server for that. I don't use the OS X mail client on any OS X boxes.

iTunes server if possible.

iCal for the OS X boxes.
You don't need OS X Server to run Samba or iTunes server, just enable sharing in system preferences for SMB and your set.

iCal Server and Mail server MAY need OS X Server albeit i think you can implement Mail server without OS X server though, not sure how off the top of my head.
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Old Apr 15, 2010, 09:50 AM   #11
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Talmy

how did u set up the dns as I also have a verizon router that sucks and creates a bad bottle kneck in my Internet flow.


Thanks for any info!
First thing is to make sure you have a local domain name other than .local (which is used by Bonjour) and different than any registered domain (unless you are hosting all services for your domain locally). Then in DNS services you need to set up your Zone. If your local domain name is me.foo and your server's IP address is 192.168.1.2, add the zone:

Primary Zone Name: me.foo. (note the period at the end!)
Admin Email: (your email address)
Nameservers: me.foo. 192.168.1.2

Add machine records for all devices that have static IPs, which should include your server.

Under settings, add Forwarder IP addresses to the upstream DNS server, I use Google, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

The server itself should be configured to use itself (192.168.1.2) for its DNS Server. Likewise all systems on your network should only list your server for DNS. This is accomplished for systems using DHCP for assignment when you configure DHCP. You don't want your Verizon router to do this either!
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Old Apr 15, 2010, 10:06 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by 2ms View Post
Thank you for all the info. Can you tell me what the NASes are appropriate for in the spectrum of networking needs? When I try to view a movie from my MBP where the file is located on my C2D iMac (both 802.11N with Airport Express as my router), the movie will often stutter and also file transfers take much longer than I expected. Is part of the role of NASes (as opposed to just having big external drive attached to desktop in your network for example) to make these kinds of networking tasks perform better?
Unless your iMac is so busy doing other things as to kill performance, it sounds like you have networking problems. A NAS won't help there.

Quote:
Ideally, I would like to have some arrangement where I can have just one of each of my files on one (backed up) drive somewhere on the network rather than what I have now which is duplicate files all over in part because the delay in loading them is so great when they are on different computer etc and also in part because that just seems to naturally tend to happen when you don't centralized storage arrangement that's as convenient to use as saving files to local computer.
A NAS is basically a computer that only provides file sharing. Its advantage over a server is generally lower cost and ease of setup. Using a NAS or server system is never going to be faster than having the files locally. You only want to have one of these if files need to be often shared between computers, or there is a high volume of files that makes it cost prohibitive to have local copies. There is also a benefit of a server or NAS in terms of performing backups as it is possible to back up every system from one location.
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Old Apr 15, 2010, 01:45 PM   #13
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Agreed that you have network issues...

Only the latest model of Airport Express supports 'n' wireless - it was released in March 2008, so if you bought it after that, it's 'n' capable. Otherwise, it's just 'b/g' capable.

Assuming for the moment that the Airport Express is 'n' capable, and both the serving and receiving computer are 'n' capable, there's still plenty of potential for video streaming across a wireless network to stutter.

You haven't said anything about the size of the files you're attempting to stream, but even 'n' wireless isn't all that fast. A really fast 'n' setup MIGHT reach real-world speeds of 50mbps, but that's pretty rare in my experience, and it's a LONG way from 'n's theoretical 300mbps transfer speeds.

Remember also that even if you have only 'n' capable units involved in a file transfer, the presence of a single 'b' or 'g' device on the network knocks the ENTIRE network down to the speed of the slowest device. Thus, having one Nintendo DS with 'b' networking connected brings all those nifty 'n' devices you paid for down to snail-speeds.

I finally decided to buy an additional Airport Extreme to run exclusively 'n' for this reason.

Long story short, moving large video files is EXACTLY the kind of thing for which wired connections are recommended.
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Old Apr 16, 2010, 10:47 AM   #14
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Agreed that you have network issues...
Remember also that even if you have only 'n' capable units involved in a file transfer, the presence of a single 'b' or 'g' device on the network knocks the ENTIRE network down to the speed of the slowest device. Thus, having one Nintendo DS with 'b' networking connected brings all those nifty 'n' devices you paid for down to snail-speeds.

I finally decided to buy an additional Airport Extreme to run exclusively 'n' for this reason.
The recent Airport Extremes have dual transmitters and solve this problem. The "n" speeds seem to be highly dependent on distance to the base station, but I've had no trouble streaming movies on either "g" or "n" with mine. It was dicey before I bought the Extreme, though.
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Old Apr 21, 2010, 01:40 PM   #15
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Cautionary Tale

I thought it worth striking a note of caution in this thread regarding Mac Mini/OS X Server...

Apple are doing a good job of selling this bundle by making it look very attractive (and straightforward) to server 'newbies' like me. There are lots of features that don't actually work very well though so be careful. Ask Apple about iphone push notifications, contact sync'ing and anything you might take for granted with Exchange and you start to get very inconsistent answers.

Also the learning curve is horrendously steep even for someone with a good education and 20 years of PC experience.

The thing that lets the equation down most however is Apple Enterprise Support which is geared for true 'enterprise' people calling them, as opposed to amateurs for whom Mac Mini puts server-land within reach. By their own admission they are absolutely NOT geared up to support newbies buying Mac Mini. Support is inconsistent and frequently one agent breaks something another agent recently fixed while disagreeing with previous set-up advice. Documentation is weak, 'Getting Started' stuff is totally pointless (virtually content free marketing material in truth); in fact it guides users into configurations that Apple themselves then say "ah well I wouldn't do it like that if I were you...". At the higher end the documentation is geared for true 'enterprise' folk and leaves out swathes of secondary information that a newbie needs to complete a task.

Finally there is black art... several services conflict with one anothers' settings, meaning that if you configure them in the wrong (unpublished) order they don't play well together and can in fact even break one another.

I would say it is impossible to configure using the automation (so do Apple) and that a significant command line knowledge is required.

I've just spent 3 weeks trying to learn this stuff and despite a not unreasonable level of intelligence have failed and also concluded that Apple Enterprise Support can't actually help - they are the wrong tool for the job. So now I have to give a bunch of money to a consultant to start again and make it work... which really flies in the face of the whole Mac Mini Server pitch from Apple...

If you're a newbie and thinking about it, budget time for multiple rebuilds and/or $$$ to employ someone to fix it when you run out of time.

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Old Apr 27, 2010, 04:55 PM   #16
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I would say it is impossible to configure using the automation (so do Apple) and that a significant command line knowledge is required.
Glad to know I'm not alone. The automated configuration "Server Assistant" as well as the simplified management tool "Server Preferences" managed to screw up everything they touched. I got improperly configured DNS, file sharing where everyone was locked out of access, and more! I did manage to get everything straightened out (luckily I didn't have to rely on it) after days of tinkering. I ordered a "For Dummies" book that was good but late as I had everything working but the printer server by the time it arrived.

Once I found all the documentation on the Apple site I did find it mostly complete, however there was insufficient documentation on command line tools and configuration files that I did have to fall back on occasionally. There is also poor coverage of the "big picture". And as you pointed out some things that are claimed in the advertising (like address book sync to iPhone/iTouch) simply are missing.

The results have been worth the effort for what I wanted, but I strongly recommend that anyone considering the Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server first ask if just a "plain" Mac mini wouldn't suffice.
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Old Apr 28, 2010, 05:38 AM   #17
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I'm inclined to agree with the folks that are saying that the Mac Mini Server is not really suitable for someone who has never configured a server before, and for most of the reasons that have already been covered.

I bought one of these myself and it took a lot more reading and scratching my head then I expected before I got it doing what I wanted. Considering that I have over 25 years experience building, configuring and managing servers running various flavours of Unix and spend my days with a bunch of terminals remotely logged into various servers dotted around the country, I was hoping for something a little more "Apple". That said, I bought it as a learning toy and it's certainly forced me to learn some new tricks, so I guess I got what I wanted
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