One mini, multiple simultaneous users...

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Oujmik, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. Oujmik macrumors member

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    Oct 23, 2012
    #1
    Ok, I'm not really knowledgeable about servers etc so bear with me here I could be talking nonsense... this is just something I've been vaguely wondering for a while.

    ...my new mini is pretty powerful but currently when my girlfriend is using it to watch TV, I can't be browsing the web, or gaming, or whatever (or vice versa).

    It seems that the mini is easily powerful enough to be able to do both at once (for example I could just plug in two monitors with a really long DVI cable and have TV on one and something else on the other, but then I might accidentally mouse onto the TV screen and of course the other person could only watch TV passively as I'd have control of the input. devices)

    I know I could use the mini as a server, but that seems pointless as you then need client machines to connect (unless those machines could be really lightweight like a RaspberryPi or something). I am trying to figure out how close its possible to get to running two completely independent machines from a single mini. Does that make any sense at all?
     
  2. niteflyr macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Hook up an Apple TV. She can stream iTunes stuff, netflix, etc. on TV using the ATV remote while you are on the computer.
     
  3. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    #3
    AppleTV would be an easy solution, agreed. Although you may run into bandwidth issues if she's watching tv while you're surfing or playing games, depending on your provider.
     
  4. brand macrumors 601

    brand

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    #4
    Mac OS X is not designed to be a true multiuser operating system. There are ways to hack what you are trying to do but in the end they all result in a subpar experience.
     
  5. opinio macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Simple choice here... your girlfriend or the mini... which one is it going to be? :)

    Jokes aside, many in the forum would actually chose the mini!
     
  6. Oujmik thread starter macrumors member

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    #6
    Hmm... as I suspected.

    An Apple TV might be worth getting, but watching TV was really just an illustrative example, I was really thinking along the lines of having multiple interfaces around a house all of which were powered by a single central machine - i.e. the mini.

    It just seems daft to me to increase the number of computers in the house (for example by buying a laptop or iPad) when the best one is massively underutilized because only one person can interact with it at a time.
     
  7. hudson1 macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Not sure I understand. What do you mean by "multiple interfaces"? Not saying they don't exist but I don't think I've ever seen a multiple interface Mac.
     
  8. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    #8
    Kinda curious myself. If you could tell us exactly what you're trying to do people could probably provide some better answers.
     
  9. xlii, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013

    xlii macrumors 68000

    xlii

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    #9
    What he is referring to is known as "time sharing". It's how it used to be back in the 70s & 80s on big mainframes or server class mini computers. Quite a few colleges used DecSystem 20 back in the day. You'd have a dumb terminal (VT100, VT125) hooked up to comm gear that got back to the mainframe. Some had as 500 terminals hooked up. You could also dial up from home through a modem. Time Sharing is what got Digital Equipment Corporation a start in the computer business with machines like the pdp1, pdp6,pdp10, decsystem 10, decsystem 20.

    When you can buy a cheap PC for $300 dollars that runs Windows 8.1 it's just not worth it to go the time sharing route. Just buy another cheap PC.

    Time Sharing = each user gets a small slice of time in the CPU. The OS can allocate resources if one user needs more time than another. A timing module keeps track of your usage so you could be billed for your time on the machine.
     
  10. hudson1 macrumors 6502

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    #10
    Indeed, that's how you use a mainframe computer but I'm not aware of anyone using a dumb terminal in their house to interface with a Mac. Is there one?
     
  11. Dekard, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013

    Dekard macrumors 6502

    Dekard

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    #11
  12. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

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    #12
    You can sort of do this with OS X using screen sharing and multiple users. If somebody is logged into the main screen, you can connect via screensharing and login as a different user on a virtual monitor. OS X has supported this since Lion.

    You still need a client device though.
     
  13. Oujmik thread starter macrumors member

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    #13
    The mainframe idea is basically what I was getting at but in a kind of domestic setting and without the need for clients to have any appreciable computing power of their own. As a simple example, imagine I needed two computers in the house, one for my work and one for my kids to use Facebook or whatever kids do these days. With the aid of a few long cables it would be perfectly possible to attach two screens two mice and two keyboards to a single physical machine. If the OS could handle it they could appear as distinct machines, much like virtualisation but without a client. I know it's not how things work right now... But has it been tried? Could it work?
     
  14. gobsmacked macrumors member

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    #14
    Yes, it's been tried and yes, it could work. I'm still not clear on what you are trying to accomplish though. A reduction in power (electricity) usage, cost reduction, reduction in number of physical items in the house, or something like a reduction in the complexity of management?
    You are still going to want some interface device at each location such as keyboard and screen or tv and remote control. If it's low cost and reduced computing power locally how about chromebooks?
    As this is a mac mini forum and you are asking about simultaneous users why not install OSX Server on it?
    I think you'll find that the kind of thin client set up you seem to be asking about is going to end up costing more and be much more complex to manage.
     
  15. Oujmik thread starter macrumors member

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    #15
    I don't think I'm really trying to achieve anything right now, more just curious about whether this model would be viable for a 'home of the future'.

    In the short term I'd quite like to be able to have my mac mini run TV on one screen and a desktop on another nearby screen without any accidental interaction between the two, but it looks like even that is more hassle than just buying a second machine (Apple TV, separate TV with HDD recorder etc, another mini) so my interest is now really academic.

    The appeal is mostly around reducing the cost and complexity of the arrangement. If you had one 'home mainframe' you could do any task at any of your interfaces (maybe I'll watch TV on my 'tablet screen' in the garden, maybe I'll edit my photos upstairs today because the lighting downstairs is bad) without all of those interfaces needing independent computing resources, copies of software etc sufficient to perform every task. When a new mini came out, you could just slot it in and hey presto all your 'interfaces' are upgraded. This is basically the proven client/server or 'cloud' model, but transformed to a much smaller and more immediate scale with the client becoming so thin it is almost non-existent.
     
  16. Tilpots macrumors 601

    Tilpots

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    #16
    Wanna get clarification here... If I'm watching a video thru an app on the Mini that's playing on the AppleTV, I could switch to a different app like safari to browse the web AT THE SAME TIME? Can anyone confirm this???:confused:
     
  17. hudson1 macrumors 6502

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    #17
    Keep in mind that achieving a true client/server model in the home means increasing complexity (and presumably cost) on the server side of the model. Apple has done some user-friendly things which chip away at what you want, though. There's iCloud storage accessible under you user ID. Multiple copies of Apple software can be used under your ID. You can locate your photo masters on remote drives (Aperture will do this for you, not sure about iPhoto). That doesn't unify your library, per se, but allows you to edit from multiple machines.
     
  18. niteflyr macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I was just referring to ATV apps like iTunes, Netflix, etc. However, I believe you can do what you are referring to with the new airplay display function in Mavericks . The ATV is like a second monitor.
     
  19. Tilpots macrumors 601

    Tilpots

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    #19
    OK. Thanks. I reread your post and that makes much more sense.
     
  20. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

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    #20
    Yes this is possible. The simplest solution for your first use case (TV) is to simply buy an Apple Remote Control. 2006 and newer Mac Minis have an IR receiver already built-in. Your GF can control the TV application on the second screen with the remote and you can control the computer on the first screen with the keyboard and mouse.

    For full computing applications, you'll need VMWare. I use Parallels so I have not done this myself, but it's reported to work here. Install VMWare and a second copy of OS X, Windows, Linux, whatever, then dedicate a keyboard and mouse to the virtual machine. I think you'll need at least 8GB of ram for this.

    It is possible Parallels supports a dedicated keyboard and mouse for virtual machines, but last I checked (version 5), they did not. When I tried this there was a method for dedicating USB devices to the VM, but it did not work correctly for keyboards and mice.
     
  21. Oujmik thread starter macrumors member

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    Oct 23, 2012
    #21
    Thanks, that's really interesting. I didn't know VMware supported multiple keyboards etc. Will definitely look into that when I get some time.

    The TV remote has broken, so an apple remote might be a good idea anyway...
     

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