My new Mac mini

mac mini
[trim] I had opened with my “how I learned *nix back-story”, but we will save that for another time. Ever since blogging became my only source of income, I’ve started to worry about how “mission-critical” my computers are. I decided that relying on some operating system and GUI that I hacked together wasn’t the best plan (I run Linux on everything). I hate Microsoft, so I’ve only got one real choice. mac mini

Last summer Apple announced that they were switching to x86 architecture from PowerPC. I was very excited because in recent years Apple had built a robust operating system on top of BSD (a *nix style OS). x86 + *nix meant a ton of free code in the wild would probably “just work” and it was all wrapped in GUI that anybody could use. The first Intel Macs were the iMac and the MacBook Pro. I didn’t get an iMac because I had a perfectly good 24″ flat panel. I did convince my parents to buy an iMac because I was tired of rebuilding XP computers and I think it will be problem free. The MacBook Pro priced itself right out of my league. Plus, I’ve got a Dell laptop that is only a year old that I love to use (running Gentoo). The new Intel Mac minis were released last week. It was exactly what I wanted: small form factor, plenty of processing power, and I could use it with all of my current peripherals. I’m thinking about strapping the mini to the back of the monitor along with my wireless keyboard/mouse receiver to make my own iMac.mac mini

The monster it’s sitting on top of is the computer I built in December. It has dual tv tuners and probably enough space to cram 6 more hard drives and at least two more tuner cards. I had been using it as a desktop, but the plan all along was to turn it into a file server/MythTV backend. MythTV is a software package that turns your computer into a Tivo plus much, much, more. You can also stream TV from the backend to multiple machines, so I’ll be able watch TV on whatever my mini is attached to. I plan on hooking the file server up to my TV with no other monitor.mac mini

The mini arrived yesterday evening and it was the first time I had used a Mac for an extended period (I haven’t had much time with my parents’ iMac). After going through the standard setup stuff I started grabbing my essential programs: Firefox, The Gimp, and Open Office. I figured I’d probably be using the same programs I used in Linux. That’s not entirely the case: Camino is amazingly quick and not nearly as flaky as Firefox. Adium is also a nice compact IM client for strapping together all of the different protocols. Last night I set up Samba file sharing on the bigbox and Synergy so I could use both boxes with one mouse and keyboard (the monitor has VGA and DVI ports).mac mini

Today I woke up and realized that Samba was a totally dumb idea. Since I’ve only got *nix machines, NFS is a much better choice. NFS took a little messing to get going since it isn’t a feature they advertise. I’ve got it automounting thanks to this handy guide on using Mac OS X as an NFS Client. I decided to stop using Synergy so that I wouldn’t be tempted to rely on the Linux box as a desktop; I bought the mini for that.mac mini

Once I got NFS going the next step was to get my music collection off of my iPod and onto the file server. Up until this point my iPod had been synced with the music collection on Frosty’s XP machine. An iPod just makes a mirror of the music collection on your hard drive, it doesn’t actually move the files. This is why they don’t give you a method of copying files back from your iPod to your computer, because you’re obviously trying to steal music since those files should already be on your computer. You can get drive access to the file system but all of the mp3s have names like XGYP.mp3, not the actual song name. I set up iTunes to use a folder on the file server and checked the options “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to Library”. The first option means that iTunes will store the files in a artist/album/track#song.mp3 file structure. The second option means that it will move any tracks you add to the Library into that directory structure. I used the program iPod Viewer to transfer all of the mp3s off of the iPod into one folder (their scrambled names still intact). Sidenote: When you plug in the iPod for the first time it asks if you want to “associate with this computer”. If you click “OK” it will annihilate everything on your iPod. Since your music Library is empty it will make a mirror of that… deleting everything. Once all of the misnamed files were copied to the server I just dropped the files in the Library and iTunes happily filed everything in correct artist/album directories naming the tracks correctly as it went. Granted, things wouldn’t have worked out as well if I hadn’t gone through and fixed all of the misspelled ID3 tags eons ago. Once all of the files had been automatically moved I associated the iPod with the machine. iTunes deleted all of the files on the iPod and copied the same files back to the iPod. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?mac mini

Next task is the photo collection. (wow, that ended up really long even with starting over)mac mini

3 Responses to “My new Mac mini”

  1. adam gray says:

    That is pretty awesome. I’ve been debating getting a mac for awhile now, but I need something with a little more power to play WoW with. Let me guess, you learned *nix with engineering? That’s how most of us jumped in.

  2. Dad says:

    Spending those larger AOL checks already? This is good though, because now you will be even more expert tech support for our iMac.

  3. […] apartment. My black MacBook is attached to a 24″ Dell monitor in the bedroom. I also have a 2006 Mac mini plugged into my projector and home theater in the living room. My Drobo is attached to the mini and […]

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