Mini System Setup – suggestions / advice

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by PoppaJoe, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. PoppaJoe macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2011
    I just bought a 2011 2.0Ghz quad core mini with dual 500gb HDs with Lion Server.. It will serve two other Macs and 2 PCs. My usage – Aperture and light Photoshop, light music and movie streaming to my TV. I want to have a central location for all my pictures, music, and shared data, and have remote access to my data. I plan on using Time Machine to back up the Macs and to manually backup the PCs. Eventually I’d to explore website and possibly iOS app development.

    What would you recommend I buy next to complete my setup? I am considering the 3TB Time Capsule, a NAS - Synology DS212j, a Raid system, and/or just getting one or two external HDs for the storage and backup.

    I’m leaning towards the Synology based on favorable reviews and the features of a NAS system. Though it seems overkill since I already plan on using Lion Server on the Mini. I’ve already bought a WD 3TB 3.0 USB external that I may use on its own, or pull the drive for the DS212j. If I do buy the NAS, I would get another 3TB drive for 6TB total storage on the NAS.

    I’m intrigued by the Time Capsule’s capabilities but already have a wireless router and I live in a small apartment.

    I’ve ruled out a Drobo based on reviews that I’ve read on Amazon, and a homebrew Raid seems like too much work. I have a newborn that takes up most of my time.

    I have a little over $700 on an Apple gift card, so it would be better if I could buy something that the Apple store sells, but I don’t want that to be my main limitation. I also don’t want to spend any more than $500 - $700.

    I appreciate any advice, suggestions, criticism you have to offer.
  2. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Why not get a LaCie little big disk? 2 tb model runs 550 @ Connects via thunderbolt.
  3. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    How big and how many images are you working with at a time? Do you intend to keep all images? I assume this is more for your own personal photos?

    How big is your music collection and what format is it encoded in?

    How big is your movie collection and in what format?

    What are you planning to use as the media client for your TV? The Mac Mini or a standalone box like ATV2 / Boxee Box etc?

    I have a Synology DS1511+ and I highly recommend their products, if you have a need for it (more on this later).
  4. warvanov macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2011
    If you're planning on leaving the mini server on all of the time, which I'm sure that you are, I think that all you really need is a couple of attached external hard drives. Unless you're terribly concerned about presentation (ie the physical appearance of your mini on display) then this will be the most simple solution.

    I currently have a 1TB external HDD attached to my first gen G4 mini and I use that drive to back up my MacBook Pro. It works flawlessly. I can only imagine that a Lion Mini Server would do the same.
  5. PoppaJoe thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2011
    Thank you for the suggestions / advice

    @paulrbeers, I did look at the Lacie Thunderbolt 2TB. I'm still waiting for more reviews of it. I think I read on here that it was a bit loud, but that could just be relative.

    @warvanov - thanks, I may end up doing that since it might be tough to convince the wife that I "need" to spend the money on my setup rather than items for the baby. ;) I will keep it on all the time connected to the TV in the living room via HDMI

    @theSeb - thanks for the detailed post! Yes, personal photos, working with several hundred each "shoot". I'm around 3K pictures with 90GB of pics. I shoot in raw format, and am getting more "involved" with photography as I learn more.

    The music collection and movie collection aren't very big as I've been limited by space and funding - mp3s and .avi formats. I used to download torrents of movies and am now transitioning to more "legal" versions. I plan on using either xbmc or plex as my media client. I don't understand the ATV2, roku, boxee etc, but that's mainly because I haven't researched it.

    I would say that my needs / requirements are fairly similar to yours, so I really appreciate learning how you went about meeting those requirements.

    It sounds like the easiest thing to do is to go with the external HDs and then to expand to a NAS as time and funding increases. I do think that ultimately I will end up with a setup similar to theSeb. It just will probably take some time.:D
  6. keema macrumors member

    Oct 26, 2011

    increase your ram as well if you haven't done that..
  7. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Let's concentrate on your streaming and playing media requirements for a moment.

    The question that you need to ask yourself is: Will the mac mini act as the server, the client or both for playing media? I don't know how much you know about this sort of thing, but forget for a moment that your mac mini is called a mac mini server. It has nothing to do with what I am talking about. You've mentioned that you want to stream to a TV. I am going to try and cover some of the most common solutions, but this can be done in some many ways that I can't explain them all.

    media client - the device that presents the media to you, allows you to search and select what you want to watch / listen to. This could be your mac mini, a Blu Ray player, an AV Receiver, a set top box such as boxee box, roku, Apple TV etc or it could even be your TV itself, if it has the functionality)

    media server - the device that stores your media. This could be your Mac Mini or a NAS and so forth.

    The basic flow is
    media server --> media client --> TV

    A media server and a media client are software, but they need hardware to run on. For example, boxee is a media client, like XBMC, but you can buy a boxee box which is set top box that connects to your TV and has the hardware to play the media as well as the boxee client software.

    How you achieve this is very much up to you since you've a multitude of options. The simplest option would be to use the mac mini as the server and client. The mac mini stores all of your media and is connected to a TV via HDMI. You then run some client to be able to select and watch media (A client in this case could be iTunes, XBMC or even a rudimentary approach of Finder + VLC)

    Mini -->(HDMI)-->TV

    The problem with this set up is that you've mentioned this:

    Unless I am missing something, this suggests that you intend to use the Mini for Aperture and Photoshop? So then I have to assume that you're not planning to put the mini under your TV in the lounge and still attempt to work on it, unless you have an odd workspace setup? This means that you need a media client, if you're planning on using the mini as a normal computer as well.


    The network will be either wireless or wired Ethernet. I would recommend wired Ethernet if it's possible. Wireless streaming does not always work well, even with the best N wireless routers and how well it works will depend on where your TV, router and mini are placed and how many walls are between them. Wireless streaming is normally fine for SD content, but I run into issues when trying to stream 1080p HD content, even when the components are a couple of feet away from each other.

    A lot modern TVs have a built in DLNA client. If you don't know about DLNA, then there is plenty of reading material on the web. Most NAS devices have a DLNA server. This seems like a perfect set up in theory. You can even get a DLNA server (software) that will run on your Mini.

    Mini(with DLNA server) -->(Network)--> TV (with DLNA client)

    Great? Well, not really. DLNA is wonky and the implementations differ from manufacturer to manufacturer so compatibility is an issue and it can be quite frustrating to get it to work. Even if you do get it to work then things like fast forwarding don't work very well and the in-built menu systems are usually quite poor and you won't get the media info scraping capabilities that you would get from using something like XBMC, boxee or Plex.

    If you have a recent Samsung TV, then you can check if it has a Plex client. If it does, then you're in luck. You can get a Plex server to run on your mini and then stream straight to your Samsung TV. It will have beautiful menus and media info scraping, just like XBMC.

    Mini(with Plex server) -->(Network)--> TV (with Plex client)

    I am sure you can now see where this is going. There are different ways to stream media to your TV and whichever you choose should be the one that fits your current and future plans and needs best. Obviously going for a stable solution that's proven to work is a good idea as well.

    But let's imagine that you don't have a TV with a plex client. You have several options

    Mini(running iTunes) --> (Network) --> Apple TV --> (HDMI) --> TV
    Mini (running network shares) --> (Network) --> Jailbroken Apple TV running XBMC --> (HDMI) --> TV
    Mini (running Plex server) --> (network) --> Jailbroken Apple TV running Plex client --> (HDMI) --> TV
    Mini (running network shares) --> (Network) --> Boxee Box or similar set top box --> (HDMI) --> TV

    The first option will be the easiest and most seamless to set up. The other two options are a bit trickier and you have to get your hands a bit dirty, but you've mentioned that your media is in avi format. This is fine for most media clients, but it's not for iTunes. If you want to go with the first option then you will need to transcode your videos into an iTunes format. Handbrake will do this for you. It's easy to use and free.

    In nearly all of the scenarios you could substitute the first device (mini) with a NAS, except for the running iTunes scenario. You cannot do this with any NAS right now to stream video. Some NAS devices, e.g. Synology, come with an iTunes server, but this is only good for music and Apple won't release the code to allow them to update it.

    So you could have a set up like this

    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Mini (running XBMC or similar client) --> (HDMI) --> TV
    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Jailbroken Apple TV running XBMC --> (HDMI) --> TV

    But this means that your mini will not be very usable as a normal computer for your editing/graphics work, unless you intend to work on the TV, which I wouldn't recommend, or have some long cables and an odd workspace setup.

    I hope that this answers most of your questions, but let me know if you have any more.

    My intended set up is actually this:

    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Mini (running XBMC) --> (HDMI) --> TV lounge
    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Mini (running XBMC) --> (optical) --> AV Receiver
    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Mini (also running iTunes) --> (Network) --> Apple TV --> TV Bedroom
    NAS (network shares) --> (Network) --> Mini (running iTunes) --> (Network) --> Airplay speaker in kitchen

    Here are some old screenshots when I was setting stuff up as inspiration. You just can't go wrong with this and even the Mrs approves








  8. PoppaJoe thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2011
    Wow - Thank you TheSeb!

    Your post is like a mini- tutorial. :D I'll be using the mini as both a server as well as a client. I'm going to try both Plex as well as XBMC. Though, I have to say that the screenshots you posted are very clean looking and have a great interface. For the Mrs., as long as it is easy to use, she won't say object to however I set it up.

    I think I will go NAS -->Network --> Mini --> TV (via HDMI). I'll post pics when I finally do get it setup. Though, based upon your recommendation, I think I'll have to get a gigabit switch switch / router for the wired setup. I have a 802.11g 10/100 gateway modem / wireless now.

    I was planning on using the mini hooked up to the TV as its monitor and just sit on the couch using a wireless / bluetooth keyboard/mouse. But you raise a very good question since I won't be able to watch TV and work at the same time. I used to hook my white Macbook to the TV to watch TV / Movies, but that prevented me from using the computer.

    What do you think of this: NAS--> Mini --> Monitor (for work) / Mini --> Apple TV --> TV for streaming movies/TV?

    Would I be able to hook up a monitor and then simultaneously work and stream to an Apple TV connected to the TV?
  9. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    this looks like some nice ideas from theSeb.

    I say get a nas if you can go for more money get this nas

    why ?

    fast and has easy expansion

    as for the lacie little big disk.

    consider this instead

    add your own 2.5 inch drives must be the same drive you can run them in raid0 or raid1.

    they are rock steady in fw800 if you use ssds they are quiet

    . down the road you could make them t-bolt with these 2 parts

    this would be up to 4tb of storage in a small area

    for about 350 plus 4 hdds. your speeds would be over 140MB/s for each one.

    I am not knocking the lacie little big disk but it is loud for use in home.. if you are doing a wedding with a lot of noise it is good. you can pull the fan with samsung ssds in it I have not been able to make my 512gb dead quite mod overheat or even pull 10 watts.

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