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Mac Mini (Late 2012) Experience

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  • Mac Mini (Late 2012) Experience

    Thought I'd start a thread to help people considering using a Mac Mini as a HomeSeer server and document my experiences.

    My Current Setup
    I use a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 iMac with 16GB of RAM as my primary computer at home. It sits in my office and is the workforce behind most of my productivity, side job work, photo and video manipulation, and late nights drooling over home automation setups and equipment. Prior to this endeavor, I had old setups that I've abandoned. And I have not been doing home automation. Shocker!

    My Past Setups
    Over the years, I've used PCs that were laying around and even built my own rackmount server for hosting HomeSeer. That rackmount experience, along with some other frustrations and a bleeding bank account, actually caused me to give up home automation for a number of years. I just couldn't justify the time and money being spent. I know, I know... but please don't cry for me. I'm a survivor.

    My New Platform
    I've finally upgraded my HS2 to HS3PRO and am putting it on a late 2012 model Mac Mini. If you've never seen a Mac Mini, they are phenomenal machines. Slim, small, cool, quiet, and very easy to work with.



    Specifications:
    • 2.5GHz Intel Core i5
    • 4GB RAM (2x2GB, expandable to 2x8GB, or 16GB)
    • 500GB Hard Drive
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000
    • Four USB 3.0 ports
    • Firewire 800 Port
    • Thunderbolt Port
    • 802.11n Wi-Fi
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • Gigabit Ethernet
    • HDMI Port


    I use an Aeon Labs Zstick2 for ZWave control.

    I run the box headless, although for setup purposes I strongly recommend a wired keyboard and mouse and a monitor. At least until it's been properly configured. The box itself can be placed almost anywhere... I like putting it on its side, stuffed next to my QNAP NAS. It's out of the way but still accessible. It would be right at home sitting on a shelf in my rack, duct-taped to the wall, stuffed into a mount behind a huge monitor, or strapped upside down into a ceiling. You get the idea.

    On my first pass, I purchased Parallels Desktop 9 and installed a VM with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. I figured I could use the Mac *and* the Windows together in a seamless combination of awesomeness.

    That. Did. Not. Work. Well.

    I'm thinking 4GB is probably not the best configuration for running a box with both Mac OS X and a VM with W7Pro, because it was a little sluggish. But the worst part was the VNC. When using a shared network, you VNC into the Mac and then manipulate the VM from there. For whatever reason, the redraw is terrible. You actually have to minimize the VM window and then re-expand it in order to see screen updates on the VM. Not pretty.

    I am currently going through a second pass. My initial thought was to split the networks so that the VM had its own IP address and then I could just VNC into the VM itself. But the speed of this thing combined with a lack of things I need from the Mac side of it at this time create a different direction: I'm going to install Windows 7 Pro directly onto the machine using Boot Camp. That way, the Mac Mini *is* a Windows 7 Pro machine natively. No Mac OS needed. This is likely the preferred way to run a home automation system on a Mac Mini, so I figured I'd just go directly there.

    I'll keep you all informed. Riveting information, I'm sure

  • #2
    ultrajones is using a mac mini (on last read in the forums).

    I am running HS3 inside parallels on a mac mini.

    It is phenomenally fast compared to my old HS2 configuration which runs dog slow and is slowly failing.

    It took a good bit of time to get everything to play nice and stop asking for permission to do stuff essential to smooth reboots and launching everything properly.

    VNC configuration took a good while to find the best VNC version, and optimal parameter settings to get a good install.

    You can also RDP into the windows side only.

    I have been impressed with the entire system. There are some keyboard mapping issues if you are not using a mac keyboard and try to do mac stuff.

    I added a 2nd internal HD (2TB), and max'd out the memory (I think 8GB is the max). I wish you luck.
    huggy_d1

    Automating made easy

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by huggy_d1 View Post
      ultrajones is using a mac mini (on last read in the forums).

      VNC configuration took a good while to find the best VNC version, and optimal parameter settings to get a good install.

      You can also RDP into the windows side only.
      Thanks. Can you elaborate on what you ended up with for VNC and parameters? Everything I've tried ended up with the scenario as described.

      I figured I could bridge the networks and then RDP directly into the Windows side of it, but I decided I don't really need the Mac side of things.

      Although, this begs the question -- are you getting some major HA benefits from the Mac side of your server?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by huggy_d1 View Post
        ...and max'd out the memory (I think 8GB is the max).
        Max memory is 16GB in a 2x8GB configuration. 8GB is probably a very appropriate size for running Mac + VM, certainly better than 4GB. At 4GB, the Windows VM is about 1GB.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by dantelope View Post
          Thanks. Can you elaborate on what you ended up with for VNC and parameters? Everything I've tried ended up with the scenario as described.

          I figured I could bridge the networks and then RDP directly into the Windows side of it, but I decided I don't really need the Mac side of things.

          Although, this begs the question -- are you getting some major HA benefits from the Mac side of your server?
          I'll post the vnc version and parameter settings later tonight.

          I use the mac side to program in xcode since that does not work in the non-mac world so well. Other than that, I installed the server app which gives me fairly solid server components, especially vpn.

          File shares accessible on the home LAN.

          It has many other options with that server app, ftp, wiki, web server, ntp, ....

          It's just so powerful for such a small little box. My HSTouch clients connect to the mac mini so fast I hardly even notice the connecting... prompt.

          The HA stuff, well, maybe eventually once I learn some os/x scripting to monitor the VM and restart it if it fails - which it has not in nearly a year of baby steps with it.

          With the mac, you get time machine for decent backups, and more granular than the default windoze backup system.
          huggy_d1

          Automating made easy

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by dantelope View Post
            Max memory is 16GB in a 2x8GB configuration. 8GB is probably a very appropriate size for running Mac + VM, certainly better than 4GB. At 4GB, the Windows VM is about 1GB.
            Thanks. I guess when I get some spare $, I'll get 2x8GB and give 8GB to Parallels, 4GB to Win7 and 4GB to tinker with in another VM, maybe Linux so I can get a free robust proxy server.
            huggy_d1

            Automating made easy

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by huggy_d1 View Post
              I use the mac side to program in xcode since that does not work in the non-mac world so well. Other than that, I installed the server app which gives me fairly solid server components, especially vpn.

              File shares accessible on the home LAN.

              It has many other options with that server app, ftp, wiki, web server, ntp, ....

              It's just so powerful for such a small little box. My HSTouch clients connect to the mac mini so fast I hardly even notice the connecting... prompt.

              With the mac, you get time machine for decent backups, and more granular than the default windoze backup system.
              Yeah, I love my iMac. But I have a NAS that does all my server duty and the Mini for me was specifically just for home automation. I'm going to use Boot Camp for this one and go from there. I'll keep you updated!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by dantelope View Post
                Yeah, I love my iMac. But I have a NAS that does all my server duty and the Mini for me was specifically just for home automation. I'm going to use Boot Camp for this one and go from there. I'll keep you updated!
                Sounds great. I know ultrajones has posted on the forums here how happy he was with the mini after installing windoze with boot camp.

                I hope to put it to a full blown test before year end and have it take on the home automation completely. Purchased some minor connection widgets online earlier in the week to facilitate some of that testing.

                Until my important plug-ins are ported, I can just run everything on the mini in HS2
                huggy_d1

                Automating made easy

                Comment


                • #9
                  RealVNC Viewer 5.0.4 (r103666) works with 64-bit (x64) unicode

                  VNC Viewer (advanced) Options
                  Display tab

                  Scaling : Scale to window size, preserve aspect ratio
                  Enable toobar
                  Mid of compression/quality

                  Inputs tab
                  Inputs Enabled
                  Enable keyboard input
                  Pass special keys directly to vnc server
                  Enable mouse input
                  Share clipboard with vnc server
                  Enable file transfer
                  Enable chat

                  Expert tab
                  --true values--
                  AcceptBell
                  AutoReconnect
                  AutoSelectLossy
                  ChangeServerDefaultPrinter
                  ClientCutText
                  ColourLevel pal8
                  DisableWinKeys -- because I'm using the mac...
                  DotWhenNoCursor
                  EnableChat
                  EnableToolbar
                  Encryption Server
                  InTransports IPv6;IPv4
                  MRUEntries 20
                  PointerCornerSnapThreshold 30
                  PointerEventInterval 0
                  PreferredEncoding Hextile
                  Protocol3.3
                  ScalePrintOutput
                  Scaling AspectFit
                  SecurityNotificationTimeout 2500
                  SendKeyEvents
                  SendPointerEvents
                  ServerCutText
                  Shared
                  ShareFiles
                  SingleSignOn
                  UseAddrBook
                  UseLocalCursor
                  VerifyID 2
                  WarnUnencrypted

                  --- I think the exert tab values are default as are most of the others.

                  The key for me was that VNC viewer version connected to the mac once the mac was set up to share properly. It took some googling to get all the right mac settings as well.
                  huggy_d1

                  Automating made easy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks! That's good stuff.

                    I'm really happy with my Boot Camp setup and using RDC. I've had to make a few changes so that RDC doesn't auto-logout when it quits, and so that the machine auto-logs-in and HS3 launches automatically, but it's pretty good!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dantelope View Post
                      Thanks! That's good stuff.

                      I'm really happy with my Boot Camp setup and using RDC. I've had to make a few changes so that RDC doesn't auto-logout when it quits, and so that the machine auto-logs-in and HS3 launches automatically, but it's pretty good!
                      One thing I've noticed with windows and RDP connections is it basically ruins the perceived display (if you have one connected to the mac) once you connect remotely.

                      If you use VNC for remote access, you don't have to basically do a switch users over the network and it should connect more smoothly and also act more like it acts when sitting right in front of the machine with monitor/kbd/mouse.

                      Just a thought.
                      huggy_d1

                      Automating made easy

                      Comment

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