Introduction: READ ME FIRST: How to Setup the Ultimate Mac Mini Supercomputer

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The mac mini is basically a laptop without a screen and no keyboard or mouse included. You would think to yourself, who the heck is going to use this thing? However, this computer uses less electricity than most light bulbs, works sublimely well, and of course uses the mac os x operating system, which means unix at its core. Therefore, anything that can be done on a unix computer, can be done on this one.

Well, as I have found, having a mac mini and working as a home jack of all trades server provides loads of great advantages. You can setup that computer to share your music over the internet, provide a large photo album site, even talk to your roomba, or play movies on your new 42" flat screen tv. Let you're imagination go wild!

I've segmented this into loads of other instructables and grouped them together as one cohesive group. Each instructable is mostly independent, so you choose which ones you like.

I will probably continue to always be updating these, so post in the comments what other information is needed in each one.

This part of a compendium. Check out the other parts at:
https://www.instructables.com/id/READ-ME-FIRST-How-to-setup-the-ultimate-Mac-Mini-/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Setting-up-the-ultimate-Mac-Mini/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Different-ways-to-connect-to-your-Mac-Mini/
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-access-your-music-from-anywhere-with-your-M/
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-share-your-photos-from-your-mac-mini-on-the/
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Setup-the-Ultimate-Media-Player-with-the-Ma/

Step 1: How to Make a Super Mac Mini

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First thing is first, you need a mac mini. In order to make the most out of this computer and especially for the upcoming updated system software that apple is releasing, I would recommend you stick with the intel mac minis.

For my money, I found the best deal on apple's refurbished store. People somehow believe that their 4 year-old mac mini with a power pc chip is still worth $300, or that last years model is worth $500 because it was upgraded at the time of purchase. In my mind, its only worth premium money if it comes with a year warranty, has an intel core two duo chip and technology from the last two years. Also the newest model has a mini-dvi so only buy one if you know you're getting a mini-dvi to dvi connector (this will come in handy when connecting to a tv).

The next step is to turn it into franken mac mini, by adding more ram a much bigger hard drive and the will to destroy.

Then you need to setup the software. For this one step, its nice to connect it into a monitor and a keyboard. I happened to have these things for my regular computer, so it wasn't much of a problem for me.

Make sure you're operating system is completely up-to-date: Apple menu>Software update

The instructable below also details how to:

Become a mac developer member and install the developer tools
Install all needed quicktime codecs
Install fink for the open source software
Install VLC for your secondary movie player

The last step is to set all the needed system preferences and settings so you never have to plug in a keyboard again.

Check it out at:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Setting-up-the-ultimate-Mac-Mini/

Step 2: How to Connect to Your Mac Mini Without a Keyboard and Monitor

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Eventually, you hope your mac mini will be sitting on the shelf minding its own business. If you have business to attend to on this computer at some point, you'll need to connect to it if you don't have a spare keyboard and monitor around. Even if you do, this helps you connect one computer to another to share files or promote laziness. First you need another computer (mac preferred). Its the slightly more expensive option so if you are looking for the cheapest way to do this and you are starting at the beginning, perhaps you should consider just buying a keyboard mouse and monitor, otherwise read on!

The associated instructable details several ways to gain different kinds of access to your mac mini

To just copy files with another mac, you can setup file sharing on your mac mini under system preferences, then connect from the finder with your other mac.

You can also use screen sharing to create a virtual screen in your other computer so you can control the mac mini

SSH and SCP are two command line utilities that allow you to run commands on the remote computer and forward information. SCP is about the simplest method for copying files from one computer to another. SSH will be used later on to enable sharing music across the interweb as well as allow screen sharing also across the tubes.

Connecting one computer to another can be done in a multitude of ways, but these are the most useful for actually controlling your computer.

Find it here:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Different-ways-to-connect-to-your-Mac-Mini/

Step 3: How to Share Your Music Using Firefly Media Server (mt-daapd)

Picture of How to Share Your Music Using Firefly Media Server (mt-daapd)

Many people know you can share music through iTunes, but there's a much better program out there for sharing your music to other computers on the internet as well as to your iphone/ipod.

The advantages of this program are that you don't have to use itunes to serve the music, you can see the music using other music programs, and you can also get it to share your music over the web or through an ssh connection from across the world. I believe it also recognizes many more types of music.

For those that already use iTunes it still recognizes the playlists and music you've already setup.

Mt-daapd is a very versatile program, but there were a few tricks involved. I'll show you all I learned from setting it up.

This instructable shows you how to setup Firefly
Connect to it from within your network and
Likewise, connect to it from outside your network!

Now available here:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-access-your-music-from-anywhere-with-your-M/

Step 4: How to Share Your Photos

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If you've installed the webserver mentioned in step 1, you can now create a photo server site so people can view all your photos without dumb bandwidth and space restrictions. Most photo sharing services limit the amount of space you can use or uploads per month, so why not skirt around the issue and instead host them on your own webserver.

This instructable will show you how to:

Setup and configure your own webserver using MAMP, an easy to configure hosting tool.
Then we'll setup up zenphoto which is an open source photo album system so you can see all sorts of pretty pictures

Here!
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-share-your-photos-from-your-mac-mini-on-the/

Step 5: How to Setup the Ultimate Media Player

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Front Row on the mac is an incredible resource to play movies, tv shows music podcasts, and so much more from your TV or display. Using the included remote, you can setup up great media center in your living room. Here's how!

The instructable shows how to:

Get the appropriate cables and adapters to connect to the TV
Move all content to the appropriate places, or create aliases to it
Tell Front Row how to read not quicktime files
Lock down your remote to the mac mini
Hit play!

Check it:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Setup-the-Ultimate-Media-Player-with-the-Ma/

Step 6: Ideas Yet to Be Completed

The following are ideas I've come up with that I'm interested in doing on my mac mini. I'll get to them soon enough, but what others can you think of?

Automate the Roomba through bluetooth
Control an Arduino board to control a relay board
Bit torrent server
Use Mac OS Server
Karaoke dream machine (going to work on this one next)

Comments

Computothought (author)2010-11-11

Great instructable, but I am not a Devotee of Mapple......
What a used $20 if not free dell gx1(pentium II) can do:https://www.instructables.com/id/Uses-for-your-own-private-cloud/

KT Gadget (author)2009-10-23

The cheaper way to not spend 800 is to buy a used mini from ebay (or better from your neighbor if their throwing one out) and replace anything that needs replacing. Newegg has the ram so thats answers that. HDD: I'm not sure if Mac minis use the standard drives 3.5", or laptop HDDs,  so that needs research. Optical Drive: also needs research.

Depending on how much the mini you pay for, it will be cheaper for the most part.

At some point Im hoping to get the money to do this ible myself.

dancmarsh (author)KT Gadget2010-02-25

That I can help you with, not sure of connections though, probably sata.

Hard drive is 2.5" laptop
dvd is standard, slot loading laptop drive with no bezel.

brawns214 (author)KT Gadget2009-10-23

I continue to find new uses and better ways of doing things, so maybe I should go back through and update these. They weren't really well received, but I'm guessing thats because they aren't so eye catching and aren't fun reads.

Anyway, I was suprised to find the best value for me was through Apple's Clearance (or refurbished) store. They had 1 generation old equipment that was covered under warranty and priced around $400. With a student discount that can be 10% less.

This was the experience with both my friend and myself, that people are asking a lot for these computers when they are used. Those computers aren't covered under any warranty and are generally a couple years old, so upgrades are necessary. While this route won't cost you $800, it seemed to me that I was going to spend $400-$500 anyway. Why bother?

Mac minis use 2.5" hard drives, which are also coming down in price and going up in capacity. I got a 500GB for pretty cheap.

I would be weary of old mac minis that don't have a core 2 duo processor. Finding one with this processor will guarantee that it will endure much longer as your media center/server/roomba controller.

nanonano58 (author)2009-08-14

800 thats too much, you can get a laptop whit HDMI for that price

nanonano58 (author)nanonano582009-08-14

and not refurbished

brawns214 (author)nanonano582009-08-14

I was definitely surprised to find them going for that much online. I found one on mac clearance for $450 that was just the previous model, so it worked out great. I agree $799 is way too much. I just needed a photo for the space