Apple TV Web Server

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by macduke, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. macrumors 601

    macduke

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Location:
    Central U.S.
    #1
    Lately I've been considering some options for a low-cost, lower-power home web/file server.

    How cool would it be if Apple released a tiny server similar to the Apple TV?

    Most personal and small business websites don't require a huge amount of horsepower. Apple could release a micro server in an Apple TV looking package with an A6 chip (which runs at what, between 1-1.5GHz?), 1GB ram (or maybe 2?), 16/32GB flash storage, BT, ethernet, USB, etc. It could run a "lite" version of OS X server, and retail in the $199-249 range. Wouldn't you think that a lot of small companies and geeks would pick up something like this? It's a lot cheaper and power efficient than a Mac Mini file server, even if it cost $299. Sure they probably wouldn't sell a huge amount of them—but I think they could do it relatively cheap since it's just a juiced up Apple TV with some extra software. They already make the speedier components for the iPhone and iPad.

    Another idea that I had was to go the unofficial route. I don't keep up on Apple TV hacks, but I did a brief search the other day and came across a web server that you can install on Apple TV 2. The article said that it might have problems with MYSQL databases since it only has 256MB of ram. My question is this: would something like that run sufficiently on an Apple TV 3 since it has 512MB of ram? I can't imagine my current Hostgator shared package has any more than that. I heard that a jailbreak is coming soon—is this correct? Obviously 8GB flash storage isn't ideal, but usable in some situations. And if an external USB drive could be used then that would be usable for a file server and for a personal or small business website using WordPress, correct?
     
  2. macrumors 6502a

    aarond12

    Joined:
    May 20, 2002
    Location:
    Dallas, TX USA
    #2
    The Airport Extreme Base Station does this, except for the web server/SQL part. I have three 2TB hard drives (on a USB hub) attached to my AEBS which serves as a Time Machine server and AFS/SMB file server.

    You do realize there are a number of NAS boxes that do everything you're asking for, including remaining low-power.
     
  3. macrumors 603

    blueroom

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2009
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    #3
    Synology comes to mind. Low power consumption and no bigger than it needs to be.

    If small & cheap are your thing you could setup a Raspberry Pi to be a web server.
     
  4. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2013
    Location:
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    #4
    Apple has a Mini, pre-configured for OSX Server. I doubt they are going to come up with anything that competes with that.
     
  5. macrumors 65816

    marzer

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #5
    Clever idea, but no, it would not need (or want) to use any form of OS X server. Many people are misinformed of what OS X Server provides. The majority (if not all) of the server functions already exists in the standard OS X client. All Server does is provide an administrative front end so you don't have to do all that configuring through the CLI.

    The best setup for the box you are contemplating is the exisitng ATV hardware and its respective version of iOS with a port of Apache, MySQL and Perl, and other basic services (firewall/ssh/ftp/etc.). These already exist in Apple's software inventory for OS X. And this could all be easily provided within the existing $99 price tag.

    Enable the port for mass storage device to hold the site data and modify the Front Row GUI to provide some basic menu-driven site admin functionality (like services on/off, server restart, etc.).

    The uploading to the device could be through iTunes, much like the old ATV used to do. You create and maintain the site on a host computer and point iTunes to the root location so it can sync it to the web server box. It could even do some rudimentary compatibility checking before/during syncing to ensure your web stuff runs fine on the server device.
     
  6. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #6
  7. macrumors 65816

    marzer

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #7
    Yes. I was aware of that project, but as you can see even they refer to it as not being sustainable. That's most likely due to reliance on HW and OS evolution thats beyond the project's control.

    In this exercise, its a consumer product. Inherently sustained through its anticipated market lifecycle.
     
  8. thread starter macrumors 601

    macduke

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Location:
    Central U.S.
    #8
    Great points. I don't have any experience with OS X Server, just assumed it would have to be something like that. I use MAMP to run local servers but just assumed that all the Apache, MySQL and such came with it. I'm mostly a front-end design sort of guy, but I do code some PHP and such and like geeking out about nerdy things like the idea of running my own server (I used to build PCs back in the day).

    The biggest problem with the current AppleTV hardware is probably ram. Perhaps a future version would be better suited running the standard A6 package with 1GB. It might also be interesting to run the server off AppleTV and then somehow leverage iCloud as a sort of CDN for all the scripts, CSS, images, and videos. Perhaps that could be an iCloud subscription that comes with the server free for a set amount of time, and then has a yearly renewal fee. Until then Amazon S3 could be a potential solution. Would using a CDN cut down on the memory used on the AppleTV? What I read is that MySQL uses the most memory, I think. Perhaps caching the database with a plugin could help that out?

    Maybe for now a Raspberry Pi + Amazon S3 + caching plugins could be a way to go for a simple WordPress site? We're not talking very high traffic here. But the website will be retina-ready and will hopefully grow over time as I add more portfolio pieces to it and write more about design and art on the blog. But I'm not sure if Raspberry Pi has the power for that.

    Thanks for the replies everyone!
     
  9. macrumors 65816

    marzer

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #9
    What would cut down on the need for more internal memory is using the USB port for mass storage. Could be a USB drive or an external hard drive depending on the storage and performance needs of the developer.

    This sort of implementation is best marketed towards the amateur/kiosk/hobbyist. So the current processor/RAM is more than sufficient given you keep with core open-source web applications and standards. You might expect daily hits in the thousands, but once you go beyond that, or need to conduct e-commerce type traffic, its probably going to be economically feasible to go with a more robust system.

    You'd really want to keep such a device simple, mainly relying on the attached mass storage for content storage. Any cloud or CDN integration would be implemented solely at the discretion of the site developer and within the mechanisms already provided in the standards-based wed applications.

    If a company like Apple tried to produce it as more than a simple self-contained appliance, or tried to provide features beyond the vanilla open-source applications, the cost of support and sustainment could make it a non-starter to get to market. On the other hand, a clever developer could choose to do more, given his respective talents.
     
  10. macrumors 68030

    ericrwalker

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2008
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    #10

    I agree, I like the idea of the AppleTV being able to be used as a server but I think for the price of the Raspberry Pi and that it can be dedicated for this purpose. Hell he could run a page off an SD card that way, and you don't have to worry about Apple updates, and having to rejailbreak.
     

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