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Archives for 2013 | Macminicolo Blog - Tips, tutorials and reviews on running a Mac mini server

Most popular posts from 2013

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This year is winding up and it's been a good year for Macminicolo. Can you believe that next year will be our tenth year of hosting Mac minis? It doesn't seem so long ago that we started this niche service of using a Mac mini as a server. It's been great. 


Before we welcome 2014, we thought we'd look back at the five most popular blog posts from 2013:


50 ways to use your server : This post lists all sorts of ways to use a Mac mini as a server. The list includes free, open-source and paid software that makes it easy to get going. 


The market for used Mac minis: Since we've been buying and selling minis for 9 years, we've seen how they hold their value. This article breaks down the reasons they stay valuable. 


How to backup your Mac mini server: Another article that is written from many years of first-hand experience. The most important lesson from the article...just do something. 


Ten Alfred workflows for IT: Alfred is getting more and more popular. Here are ten workflows we use often around here. 


Setup a VPN server with Mavericks Server: This article is only 4 weeks old, but has become very popular from Google searches. It seems that many are trying to figure out the setup, and the little trick to make L2TP connections work.


Those are the five most popular articles this year, though the dummy dongle post from last year remains near the top overall. 


We'll keep good content coming in 2014. Be sure to follow us on twitter @macminicolo to keep up with the posts and specials. 

Some lessons on Mac minis and SSD options

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Over the years, we've installed hundreds of SSD drives into Mac minis. It's always a great upgrade and can make an old mini feel like new again. Of course iFixit has all the Mac mini upgrade tutorials you'd need and the process isn't as horrible as it seems at first. When you've done it enough times and have the right tools, the process takes less than a couple minutes.


Since we've installed so many different drives and brands over the years, we have experience with their longevity and some potential issues. I thought I'd write a few of these lessons we've learned in case it helps others:


First the bad: OCZ and Crucial SSD drives are fast, but they've been less reliable in our experience. The firmware upgrades require Windows or bootable CDs. Even worse than that, the return process for those drives are excruciating. There will be a ton of automated replies and waiting.


Second, a word of caution: If you are going to put an SSD drive into a Mac mini server or any other Mac with dual drives, be sure to clone the data using SuperDuper or CCC. There is a bug in Mavericks and Disk Utility. If you do a "Restore" to the drive and then install it into a Mac with dual drives, the OS will see it as a potentially broken Fusion drive the first time you boot up. Nine times out of ten, this will brick your SSD drive. (And I don't mean "brick" in the way people refer to iPhones that just need to be restarted. This will most likely require a return with the manufacturer.)


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Finally, the reason you probably started reading: The Samsung 840 EVO SSD is the best option on the market right now. We've installed 100+ of these drives, and near 300 if you count their predecessor the Samsung 830. I don't know their RMA process yet because we've never had to return one. These drives are fast, have good P/E cycles and are very well priced. As of today, Amazon has the popular 250GB for just $173 and the 1TB version is just $524. With a drive that size, you don't even have to mess with the Fusion setup. If you really want an ultimate setup, a 2012 Mac mini can handle a 1TB SSD and a 2TB HDD together


Update: The 840 is now being phased out, but the streak of great drives continues with the 850. The 250GB is just $249 and the 1TB is down to $469.  


So if you're looking to breath life into a Mac mini, and SSD upgrade is not too hard and not too expensive. (Of course, if you're a Macminicolo customer that wants to upgrade your server, just let us know. Glad to help.)



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About Macminicolo


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas based company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. We are the leaders in this niche market and are known for our personal service and advanced data center. We currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 56 different countries around the world. Find us on Twitter @macminicolo or on our company blog.

Setup a VPN server with Mavericks Server 10.9

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We have a lot of customers who use their Mac mini as a VPN server. This works great when you need an IP address in the US, or a secure internet connection on the road, or a number of other reasons. When Apple released Lion, they changed the setup a bit. This continued in Mountain Lion and remains in Mavericks. By default, Mavericks Server VPN will distribute IP addresses in the same range the Mac itself uses. This doesn't work well in a facility like Macminicolo where each Mac mini has a static WAN IP address.


We asked Rusty Ross to help us put together a tutorial that will help Macminicolo customers setup their Mac minis to serve as VPNs. He's broken it down in a few parts so be sure to take the steps that are best for your situation:


PART I: VLAN and DNS


PART II: Internet Routing (*OPTIONAL*)


PART III: VPN


PART IV: Client Setup


If you are simply looking to enable VPN service on your OS X Server for secure connection(s) between your server and client(s), you can skip PART II. That's right: you can jump straight from PART I to PART III. The procedures discussed in PART II are intended for those who are looking to route internet traffic from their VPN clients over the VPN and out to the internet via their server's public internet connection at Macminicolo.


Also, it should be mentioned that server administration (particularly at the command line level) can be tricky. If you do proceed beyond this point, which shall be exclusively at your own risk, then please proceed carefully, and as always, don't ever proceed without a backup of your server and other irreplaceable data.


Another unpleasant warning label: The current version of Mavericks Server (3.0.1) has issues with L2TP VPN connectivity. That's right, L2TP, the very type of VPN we are about to set up here. Apple is aware of this issue, but a fix has not yet been released. In the meantime, there are some potential workarounds, but they definitely exceed the scope of this tutorial. (If you are experiencing this issue, feeling hardcore, and looking for extracurricular activity, here's a hint: Consider replacing the racoon binary in Mavericks Server with a copy from Mountain Lion Server.) Okay, let's all wash our hands now.


Update: Apple released an update that basically does the same thing as the hint above. If you don't see it automatically, it can be found here.


Still here? Okay, let's get started.


PART I: VLAN and DNS


First, let's set up a VLAN.


In System Preferences, go to Network, and choose "Manage Virtual Interfaces..."


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Then choose "New VLAN..."


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Let's just name our VLAN something like "LAN", and all other defaults here should be fine:


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After pressing "Create", you'll see this:


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After pressing "Done", you'll be able to enter network info for your new VLAN. Make sure to choose "Manually" for "Configure IPv4", and set the IP Address, Subnet Mask, and Router as shown below.


(Advanced: We'll be using a 10.0.0.1 private IP for the server and 10.0.0.0/24 private network in this walkthrough, but note that the technique documented here will work with any private IP addressing scheme. To accomplish that, you'd substitute that alternate network info here, as well as a few other places further along in this walkthrough.)


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After pressing "Apply", you should see an something like this, indicating that your newly-created VLAN is active:


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Nice work. Now, let's get basic DNS up and running. Launch Server.app, and click on the "DNS" section of the sidebar, under "Advanced":


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Now press "Edit..." next to Forwarding Servers:


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...and add both Macminicolo DNS IP addresses:


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All other DNS defaults in Server.app should be fine, so let's switch DNS service on:


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Great. Now, once again, if you are NOT interested in routing public internet traffic from your VPN client(s) over the VPN and out to the internet via your server's public internet connection at Macminicolo, you should SKIP from here to PART III.


PART II: Internet Routing (*OPTIONAL*)


So far, so good. Now things get a little trickier, as we need to dive into the command line a bit to get NAT and routing set up. First, we'll need to edit two privileged text files, so we are going use Terminal to summon TextEdit.app with root privileges. (Advanced: If you are comfortable with your own command line text editor, you can obviously make the next couple edits on your own.)


Launch Terminal.app, and inside the terminal window that appears, enter the following command (as a single line), and press return:


sudo killall TextEdit; sudo -b "/Applications/TextEdit.app/Contents/MacOS/TextEdit"


You'll be prompted for your password, and if you've not used sudo on this Mac in the past, you may see a warning about using sudo, which is fine.


(This command first tries to quit any instances of TextEdit that are already running. If TextEdit isn't already running, you'll see a "No matching processes were found" message, which is fine.)


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Next, let's open the first file we need to edit. In the same Terminal window you used before, enter this command (as a single line) and press return:


sudo open -t /etc/pf.anchors/com.apple


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Upon doing this, you should expect to see the following file, entitled com.apple, open in TextEdit.app:


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Okay, we are now going to add three custom lines to this document. Red arrows in the picture below indicate where these lines should go. The three lines you'll be adding are:


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See here for location in document:


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Great. Now close the window of this "com.apple" document you've been editing so that TextEdit.app will save the changes you just made.


Okay, one more text file needs to be edited with TextEdit.app, and in fact, you'll be creating this one from scratch. Back in your Terminal.app window, enter the following command (as a single line) and press return:


sudo touch /etc/pf.anchors/customNATRules; sudo open -t /etc/pf.anchors/customNATRules


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Upon doing this, you should expect to see an empty text file titled "customNATRules" open as a window in TextEdit.app. Enter the following two lines of text into this file (make sure to press return after the second line):


nat on en0 from 10.0.0.0/24 to any -> (en0)


pass from {lo0, 10.0.0.0/24} to any keep state


(Advanced: If you are using private IP addressing other than 10.0.0.0/24, you should customize these two lines to match your chosen network.)


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Nice. Now close the window of this "customNATRules" document you've been editing so that TextEdit.app will save the changes you just made.


Now, just a couple more commands in Terminal.app, and we'll be done with the command line.


Enter this command (as a single line) into your Terminal.app window and press return:


sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c 'add :ProgramArguments:3 string -e' /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.pfctl.plist


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And finally, enter this command (as a single line) into your Terminal.app window and press return:


echo 'net.inet.ip.forwarding=1' | sudo tee -a /etc/sysctl.conf


The Terminal should respond with "net.inet.ip.forwarding=1", which is what we want.


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Well done. You can now close your Terminal.app window entirely.


Okay, you have now set up NAT and routing for your private network. The last piece of the puzzle on the server will be to configure and enable VPN service.


Before you proceed, though: RESTART your server now. (We'll wait...)


Now that you have restarted your server, let's continue.


PART III: VPN


Whether or not you have just completed Part II or skipped to this point straight from Part I, rest assured that everyone is welcome here in Part III.


First, open Server.app and click on the "VPN" section of the sidebar:


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Several default settings here are already in place as we'd want them, so we'll just edit a few.


Enter your Shared Secret as desired:


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Now press "Edit..." next to DNS Settings. You will likely see the Macminicolo DNS IP addresses here, which is NOT what we want in this particular place:


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Instead, change this to 10.0.0.1 as follows:


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(Advanced: If you are using an alternate private network, customize the above appropriately.)


Press "OK" and we're back here:


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Now press "Edit..." next to Client Addresses, and enter settings as pictured below. (Advanced: If you are using an alternate private network, or have different needs in terms of address pool size, customize appropriately.)


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Press "OK" and you will likely see the following warning:


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Since this won't actually be a problem, breathe easy, and press "Continue". Now once again, we're back here:


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...and should be all set to go. Switch the VPN service on:


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Brilliant. Wait about 30 seconds for the VPN service to become fully active, and your Mac mini server should now be ready to serve VPN clients and (optionally, if you completed Part II) route their public internet traffic over its connection.


PART IV: Client Setup


Now that your server's VPN is configured, enabled, and (optionally) ready to route public internet traffic for its clients, you may want a little guidance on how best to configure a client.


Let's set up a Mavericks client as an example.


In System Preferences, go to Network, and press the "+" in the lower-lefthand corner:


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Choose "VPN", make sure you are using "L2TP over IPSec", and give your service a name:


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Press "Create", and then make sure your new VPN is selected in the sidebar on the left, so you can edit its details on the right:


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As shown above, enter the IP address or DNS name for your server in the "Server Address" field. In the "Account Name" field, enter the username for the account on the server that you want to use to log in from the client.


Press "Authentication Settings..." and you'll see this:


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Enter the Password for the account you just specified, and the Shared Secret exactly as you set it up on the server.


Press "OK", and you are back to:


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Now press "Advanced..." and you should see:


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If you chose to complete optional "Part II: Internet Routing" section earlier:


Then check the option to "Send all traffic over VPN connection" so that your client will, um, send all its traffic (including public internet-bound traffic) over the VPN when the VPN connection is active.


Otherwise, if you skipped the optional "Part II: Internet Routing" section, make sure to un-check "Send all traffic over VPN connection" (unlike the picture above).


Press "OK", and you are back to:


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Press "Apply" to save changes.


And now your client should be ready to connect to your server's VPN.


Just press "Connect" when you want make this happen.


Well done.


As I mentioned, this tutorial came from Rusty Ross, a great hands-on consultant that works with a bunch of happy MMC customers on a wide range of topics, including setup, migration, troubleshooting, maintenance, networking, strategic planning, and creative thinking. He's available for a quick-fix, a specific project, or a longer-term relationship. If you have questions, you can find us on Twitter @macminicolo. And if you're looking for somewhere safe and connected to place a VPN server, checkout our prices to host a Mac mini with us.


imageAbout Macminicolo.net
Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 31 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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XcodeServerHosting.com - A new service from Macminicolo

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We are happy to announce a new service from Macminicolo called XcodeServerHosting.com. With this service, we'll provide a powerful Mac mini so developers can use it as a remote continuos integration server with the new Xcode server in Mavericks. All your developers and staff can work on your projects from anywhere in the world. You can also opt to attach an iPod Touch and iPad if you'd like to have your app built on real hardware.


Apple provides a free copy of OS X Server to all developers, iOS and Mac. Once Server.app is installed, the service “automates the integration process of building, analyzing, testing and archiving your app." And since you have the server in a very high end data center, you're welcome to setup the web, mail, or any other service you'd like to use.


To celebrate this new service, we're giving away ten copies of Day One app for Mac and iOS. The developers behind this award-winning app have been using a CI server at Macminicolo for sometime. They've reported the server here as critical in their development. In fact, not too long ago, their webhost was having issues so they moved DayOneApp.com to their mini too and found a performance increase on serving up their site.


To enter you just need to retweet this message on Twitter. We'll pick ten winners and DM you to let you know that you've won.


If you're a developer or development team that would like streamline your development and testing, go check out XcodeServerHosting.com. And if you have any questions, you can send us a note or reach us on twitter @macminicolo.



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About Macminicolo


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas based company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. We are the leaders in this niche market and are known for our personal service and advanced data center. We currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 56 different countries around the world. Find us on Twitter @macminicolo or on our company blog.

Using Network Utility in Mavericks 10.9

If you work in a data center, or work with servers at all, Network Utility has probably been a useful tool over the years. However, if you kept that app in your dock and upgraded to Mavericks today, it's disappeared from your dock. The good news is that it's still available. Rather than living in the utilities folder, it's now in /System/Library/CoreServices. However, there's a faster way to get to it. 


First open up the System Information app (Applications/Utilities) and then drop down the "Window" menu to select Network Utility:


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Once it's in your Dock, be sure to Command+click and "Keep in Dock":



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Now the app will be in your dock again and ready to be used. 


About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

Benefits of hosting your Mac mini in a data center

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One of the biggest benefits of the Mac mini is it's small size. It can easily be kept in a closet or storage room. So why would you want to keep them in a data center?  It mostly comes down to the three S’s: Security, Speed, Safety



We are located in the Switch facility in Las Vegas which is known as being one of the greatest data centers in the world. Here is how it can help with security, speed and safety.


Security



Since it is your data on the Mac mini, you want to be sure it can’t be taken. The data center is very serious about security. The building has concrete walls that are metal enforced and protected with crash posts.


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In order to get to the location where the Mac minis are stored you must:


  1. call on the intercom to vocally identify yourself to security

  2. once cleared, they unlock the door as you swipe your access badge

  3. step into the mantrap to have a visual confirmation compared to their photo on file

  4. swipe access badge again and pass fingerprint biometrics test

  5. locate the cage location while under video surveillance

  6. enter the 4 digit code to release the key

  7. unlock the cage


In other words, no one will be meandering through the back closet of the office and take the Mac mini server or the data that it holds.


Speed


When the Mac mini is in a home or office, the speed to transfer files remotely is dependent on the upload speed from that location. If you’re also in that home or office, the transfers will be fast since you’re on the same network. But if you plan to use the data from multiple locations, a better connection will help. 

The connection at our data center is second to none:


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Fiber connections from multiple carriers and your Mac mini will have access to all of them. This will allow you to download files at a good speed from anywhere. If you’d like to test the speed from us to your location, you can do a speed test here.


Safety



Part of the reason these massive and powerful data centers were built in Las Vegas was the absolute lack of natural disaster in our history.


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So humans might become a disaster after some time in Vegas, but Mother Nature is well behaved here. And it’s not only damage to a facility that can cause downtime. If your home or office is fine in a disaster, there is still a possibility that power won’t be available after it’s happened. Our data center has backup generators and many options for backup power.


Conclusion




A data center is a great place to keep your server. You could install a Mac mini server, use it for years, and then easily resell it for a good percentage of what you paid for it. 


About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

Mac minis, GPU, and a Mavericks upgrade

The current Mac mini has an integrated GPU called the Intel HD Graphics 4000. It is the same one that is in many of the portables from the current Macbook line. It is mostly useful if you are doing video work, gaming, or using a display (external or internal.)


When a Mac has an integrated GPU, it will share memory with the main system. In other words, if your Macbook Air has 4GB, the integrated might reserve 512MB of that, leaving 3.5GB of RAM for OS X and applications that you are using.


For most of the minis here, GPU performance isn't critical. For services like web or mail, the GPU isn't used a whole lot. But for those customers who do use the GPU (and for others who use Mac minis at home as the main machine), you'll be glad to hear that Mavericks is going to increase that memory allocation to the GPU. I'll explain:


Currently, a 2012 Mac mini with Mountain Lion will allow 384 MB to 768 MB of system memory allocation depending on how much RAM you have installed. For instance, if you have 4GB of RAM, your GPU will get 512 MB


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And if you have 16GB of RAM installed, your GPU will get 768 MB.


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However, once you upgrade to Mavericks (10.9), that same Mac mini will now be allocated a full 1024 MB of RAM:


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You'll probably want to be sure you have enough RAM to go around when that full 1GB is allocated to the graphics.


It's nice to see advancements in software lead to better use and performance of current hardware. (This is similar to when we discovered that a firmware upgrade allowed the Early 2009 Mac mini move from 4GB to 8GB maximum for installed memory.)


So for those of you relying on the GPU performance in your Mac mini, that Mavericks upgrade should be a nice upgrade. (And if you're running a headless Mac mini, the dummy dongle is another GPU enhancer.) Add this to the list of things to look forward to in Mavericks.



About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

The market for used Mac minis

We've been hosting and writing about Mac minis for over eight years. During that time, we have purchased and sold thousands of minis, used and new. Considering our familiarity with the product, we get emailed all the time about all things relating to Mac mini.  One of the most common emails will read something like this:


"I've been looking for a Mac mini to use as a server in our home. I don't need the newest version so I thought I'd look around for a good used one. I was surprised to find that used Mac minis aren't a lot cheaper than the new ones. Do you have any idea why?" 


Then the email usually ends asking if we have any used Mac minis available. (Yes, we usually do.)


I've thought about this topic quite a bit and I do have a few thoughts on it. But first, let's look at the data. The chart below shows the depreciation of a Mac mini six months and each full year after purchase. This data comes from those thousands of Mac minis that we've sold and purchased over the years. In other words, real world info and not just guesses. 


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You can see that there is a pretty steady but slow depreciation over time. It's held very close to this timing. The first thing that made a noticeable effect in depreciation was the release of i5 and i7 machines. Those had great power gains. 


One of the benefits of colocation is that you have the machine all to yourself. There is no risk of others using all the processing power or updating software and breaking the build. The drawback to colocation is you have to purchase the hardware yourself. I think this is where the Mac mini really shines as a colocation option. You could purchase a mid-range, quad core Mac mini for $799, use it for a year, then sell it for around $715. 


Another example, you could have purchased an original G4 Mac mini for $500, used it as a server for 8 years, and sold it today for $100. We have customers doing just that. Impressive right? I can't think of another computer (even another Mac) that could retain that twenty percent of purchase price after 8 years of use. 


Why the Mac mini?


So why does the Mac mini have this value retention? I've thought of a few reasons:


First, the Mac mini is small and easy to ship. This keeps the "potential buyer" market high. Personally, when I sell an old iMac I usually try to find a local friend or family member that is looking to upgrade. Sometimes I will use Craigslist. But I never list the large Macs on ebay because I just don't want to deal with shipping a big, fragile box. In comparison, a mini is easy to pack and can even fit in a USPS flat rate box that can get anywhere in the world for about $50 or less. 


Another reason the Mac mini resells well is the name has never changed. It's never been officially named by the processor (G4), screen size (27in) or resolution (Retina). In other words, a Mac mini is a Mac mini. While shopping, they don't show their age by name.


A third reason the Mac mini keeps value is the jobs for the hardware transition well over time. A new mini is a very capable primary machine or Xcode server. After a few years of aging, the Mac mini remains a very good web server or kid machine. At six years old, a mini can be placed in a shelf and used as a File server or Time Machine backup location. You can tuck these machines in shelves or closets easily. In comparison, the first Core Duo iMac was being sold about six years ago. It's still a decent machine despite not running the latest operating systems.  But if you plan to relegate it to being a file server, it's not one you can just tuck into a shelf and forget it's there.  I think the size makes the older minis desirable. 


Last reason might be that old machines have specific specs that people might be looking for in their use. For instance, when the minis lost their optical drives, it didn't change much for us at Macminicolo since discs are rarely used. However, it spiked the value of machines with Superdrives since many people rip their DVD and music to use the machine as a media server. We saw the same thing as dedicated graphic cards were phased out. 


So there are the reasons I've seen the minis keep their value so well. And in an technology world of "treasure today, trash tomorrow" it's nice to know you can buy a machine that lasts a long time and is useful enough for others to keep a good value on resale. 


If you have more thoughts on the used Mac mini market, I'd love to hear them @macminicolo on twitter. 


About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

How to backup your Mac mini server

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Last week we had a Mac mini with a failed SSD drive. The customer had some data backed up to a secondary internal drive, but the primary database had not been backed up for some time. We tried to work some magic, but the SSD was completely gone and we could not retrieve data. If you've been there before, you know how gut wrenching it can be to lose data. If you have not been there before, consider yourself lucky and read this post so you don't have the feelings in your future. 


Customers at Macminicolo are in charge of backing up their own data. Over the years, we have found this to be the best approach because customers know their data the best and know which items are the most critical. 


From time to time, we are asked the best way to do the backup of Mac mini server. My first advice is to keep it simple. The more complex the backup, the more parts that can break down. Here are some things we've learned:


First rule of backing up, do it. Find some way to backup the data you need. 


My preferred way to backup a machine is by cloning to an external hard drive. Applications like SuperDuper and CCC make this process simple. You can clone your data (either entirely or just the changed data) on a automatic schedule. If your machine has trouble, we can take that external drive, connected it to another machine, and boot from the hard drive. You're up and running right away while your hardware is in repair. When your machine is working again, we can clone your external drive back to your machine and you're back at it. 


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Time Machine is another good option for backing up data. Over the years, Time Machine has improved by doing a more thorough backup. It does a good job at revisions, and let's you restore data that may have gone missing a couple weeks before you notice it gone. There are two things to keep in mind with Time Machine though. First, a Time Machine backup is not a bootable backup. So, if data restore needs to be done, it will take some time. Second, Time Machine can be picky on which hardware it will restore to from it's archives. Swapping machines in and out changes the restore because it uses a Migration Assistant if it's new hardware.


For me, the ideal backup is Time Machine to a second internal drive and cloning to an external drive. This gives you the best of both worlds. If your boot drive is small and will never fill your external drive on it's own, you might clone to different daily, weekly, monthly partitions on an external drive. 


There are some other tools and tidbits that might be useful:


Here is everything you need to know about running RAID on an Mac mini. Don't do it. We've seen more data lost than saved from RAID setups. 


If you use a Mac mini for a single database purpose (like Daylite Hosting or a wordpress blog), then Hazel and Dropbox are a very good option. You can set it up for Daylite or Wordpress to backup the database regularly to your Dropbox folder, then Hazel can make sure the old backups are deleted as the folder starts to fill up. Since your data is in dropbox, you also have a copy on their servers and on any other computer you setup for syncing of that folder.  


If you want a complete backup offsite, you can use a paid service like Backblaze. If you'd like to avoid a monthly charge, you can use the free version of Crashplan. With this version, you install it on your server, and then install it on another computer at home or at the office. The server will backup to that computer. Restore takes a bit, but it is nice to have a full copy somewhere. 


Finally, whatever backup process you choose, be sure to check and test it regularly. Ask yourself, "If my primary drive were to die right now, how quickly would I be able to get up and running again?" 


If you have any question on backup, or have something to add, you can reach us @macminicolo on twitter. 


 


About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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Our plans for Xcode Server and the Mac Pro

imageAt WWDC last week, Apple announced two things that really caught our attention at Macminicolo. 


Xcode Server will be included in Server.app. This is huge. A number of customers here already use their minis as CI servers. (Here's a post on how the developers of Day One use their CI server.) Jenkins is great, but Xcode Server is drop dead simple. We've been testing it here. When it becomes publicly available, we'll have a  specific package that includes a server, an iPad and an iPod touch. Everything you need to develop and collaborate your code. 


The Mac Pro is another great release. It's smaller size, and crafted design, will make it great for a data center. We knew right away that we'd be hosting them so our colocation space is all ready for the Mac Pros. We plan to keep them vertical as that is how they were designed by Apple. We've had confirmation that it's the ideal position. (History note: when we first started Macminicolo in 2005 we kept Mac minis horizontal as they were designed. However, when a few of the original Mac mini design team also becomes customers, they confirmed it was fine to keep them on their side. These confirmations are important to us because it's not our hardware, it's yours.) Most people will be fine with a Mac mini. They're very capable. But for those ready to jump to a Mac Pro, they should be incredible servers. 


If you'd like to keep up as the Xcode Server and Mac Pro options become available, follow us on twitter @macminicolo.



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About Macminicolo.net


 Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.

Hosting a Mac mini as a development build server

We get to work with a lot of great companies. When the developers of Day One came to Macminicolo, I was especially excited. Their award winnning app for Mac and iOS is one of my favorite apps of all time. In fact, I've joked with Ben and Paul claiming that I am the head of their public relations, paid or not.


I asked them if they would share how they are using their Mac mini at Macminicolo and they were kind enough to write it up for all of us. So here is the secret sauce for making the 2012 Mac App of the Year. You can view the post here

50 ways to use your server

imageI have a list of artists I wanted to see before I die. The only two remaining are Frank Sinatra (I was too slow to act there.) and Paul Simon. I'm still working on getting to one of his shows, but in the mean time, here is an ode to his classic "50 ways to leave your lover."


Macminicolo presents: 50 ways to use your server:


OS X Server is the do-all Mail, web, wiki, etc from Apple. 


Jenkins or TeamCity will let you build your apps on a remote CI Server. See how the developers of Day One use their Mac mini as a build server.  (Free)


Selfoss (free) and Fever ($30) are great alternatives to Google Reader.


Sendy is a self hosted service to email your newsletters at a significant discount. Similar to Mail Chimp. ($59) 


Yourls is a self hosted URL shortener. It provides stats as well. (free) 


ZPanel is an alternative to CPanel. (Free)


GitLab is a self hosted Git management software. (Free) 


SparkleShare lets you set a folder on your server that will sync with all your peers or coworkers. A great way to collaborate on folders. (Free) 


Pow lets you create a quick environment to build and test Rails apps. (Free) 


Moodle is a CMS for education. Free 


Daylite Server lets you sync your Daylite info from anywhere. (Server, Free. Client, $280) We also have a Daylite Hosting service


VirtualHostX lets you setup multiple websites quickly. ($39) 


iVPN makes it very easy to setup a VPN server. ($15)  We also have a tutorial to setup a VPN in Mountain Lion Server


Crashplan lets you backup remote Macs to your Server. (Free) 


Owncloud is a replacement for Dropbox, but also provides calendar, contacts and so much more. We also have a post for installing ownCloud on a Mac mini. (Free) 


Plex Server lets you play all your media to your phone/tablet/Macs. (Free) 


FileMaker Server is a powerful database server. Very Powerful. Run it for yourself or as a paid service for others. 


Kerio Connect is a powerful Mail server. A very good alternative to Exchange. 


Run a Minecraft Server of your own. 


Vagrant will help you create development environments quickly. 


Real Studio will help you build a web app on your server. 


uTorrent is a great torrent client. Also has a web remote. 


Billings Pro Server lets you sync and track time from anywhere. 


Profile Manager 2 will let you manage iPads and iPhones. 


Put Xcode on your server and develop from anywhere. 


MAMP will help you setup a wordpress blog quickly with PHP and mySQL. 


Scrup is a self hosted alternative to Droplr or CloudApp 


DNS Enabler lets you run your own DNS serve. 


Kikuchat is a self hosted Campfire alternative. Server.app also has a Messages Server.


Mint is a self hosted analytics program to keep an eye on your site traffic. 


Shaarli is a self hosted book mark manager similar to Delicious. 


BBpress is clean forum software from the makers of wordpress. (Free) 


Simon is an application that will check all sorts of servers and services. Similar to Pingdom. 


iStat Server will let you keep an eye on your Mac server. 


Deep Freeze will let you really hack on your machine, and bring it back clean with a restart. 


Asterisk is an open source VOIP server. (free) 


TFTP Server still comes in handy after all these years. (Free) 


Nagios will keep an eye on your infastructure. 


VMware ESXi (free) will let you install and run multiple instances of OS X on the same server. Parallels Server for Mac is another great option.   


SugarCRM offers a free, self hosted version. It's a CRM for keeping track of clients, sales, support requests, etc. 


Rapidweaver makes web site creation really simple, and works with the default web sharing in OS X. 


Slogger will take your data from social networks and create entries in Day One. 


Subversion is an open source version control system. 


Lasso Server brings Lasso to the web. 


Pancake is a seller self hosted app for invoicing and billing clients. 


GridRepublic or Warrior will let you put your extra server power to good use. (Thanks Eric)


Thinkup will let you help you make all of your social networking more useful.


If you have something we should add to the list, I hope you'll let us know @macminicolo on twitter

Owncloud 5 is released and looks great

imageAt first glance, Owncloud is a free and open source alternative to Dropbox. As their site reads, it is "your data on your servers, under your control." It works just the same as Dropbox where things are kept in constant sync and you can undelete items with versioning. It's a nice middle ground of universal availability, but owning and controlling your own data. There are clients for Mac, Windows and iOS. In my testing of Owncloud 5, the syncing is even quicker and more stable. Check out all the features here.


If you look a little futher, you'll see that it even does more than syncing. You can also sync address books, calendars, and bookmarks. There are also a number of apps you can install to add more features including tasks, notes, etc. Soon, there will also be a great ownCloud alternative to Google Reader.


As you would guess, Owncloud works great on a Mac mini. Here is a tutorial for installing Owncloud on a Mac mini. I was going to post screenshots and a walk through, but you can try a demo of Owncloud right online.  And if you like it, you can download from their site


If you have any questions, you can reach us @macminicolo on Twitter.

Ten Alfred workflows for IT (plus one)

imageA little while ago, we wrote a post about Ten iPhone apps for IT and it's been quite popular. The iPhone it a great tool for IT admins so we tend to look for ways to put it to use. 


Alfred is another great tool to use on a Mac. It does all sorts of things. In Alfred, workflows let you add to the capability of the application. (You need to have the Powerpack to use workflows.) Here are some workflows that are quite useful for IT admins, and just about anyone else:


We use Remote Desktop here quite a bit. With this workflow you can just type "rd" and the name or ip of the machine you want to control. Hit return and the ARD sessions starts right up. So great. 


iMessage workflow will let you start a chat from Alfred. Just type "im" and the username. It also works with GTalk. We use iMessage a lot at Macminicolo. (You can chat us straight from our contact page.) 


VPN Services workflow will show you a  list of available VPN services and  allows you to connect or disconnect via Alfred. 


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AlfredDig will let you look up DNS quickly. You can also specify by type of record. (i.e., A, MX, etc)


Top processes workflow lets you quickly see and/or kill the apps that are using the most CPU or memory on your Mac. It's much quicker than digging into Activity Monitor.


If you like to keep Safari without Flash, but keep Chrome around for when flash is needed, this workflow will open the current Safari tab in Chrome.  


Jenkins is a very popular use for Mac minis here. Developers will run the CI server on a Mac mini to build out their iPhone and Mac apps. Here is a Jenkins workflow that will let you check on status of the Jenkins builds. Starting builds will be feature soon.


For general interaction with your Mac, here are some great workflows. You can do Fast User Switching, show hidden files and folders in Finder, toggle wifi, and change your Network location. That last one is great if your laptop is being used between home and work. 


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There is one more that doesn't have much to do with IT, but people tend to listen to music while they work. This workflow will let you rate the currently playing iTunes track by typing "rate" and the number of stars. (1,2,etc) I use it to rate one star on the songs I want to delete the next time I'm in iTunes. Very useful. 


Update: Here are a couple more workflows for working on the local network. With automatic discovery you can mount network shares or use Screen Sharing.


If you have more workflows we should include on the list, send them @macminicolo on twitter. 


About Macminicolo.net


Macminicolo, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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SpiderDuo: A KVM-over-IP for a Mac mini

imageSix years ago, I started a discussion thread on the Macworld forms titled, "Any suggestions for KVM over IP?" In the post, I tried to explain that sometimes there is benefit to controlling a remote Mac before the Mac itself is online. In other words, I know Mac OS X has very good Screen Sharing built in, but I needed a way to control it before Screen Sharing was available. After a dozen posts telling me to "just use Screen Sharing" I  never found a great answer. Even though it's been six years, I still get emails weekly asking me if I've found an answer. Finally, I'm able to answer yes and here's an idea of how it works.


The SpiderDuo is a good KVM over-IP option for a remote Mac mini if Screen Sharing is not available. When you order the product, it comes with all the necessary parts:


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This includes the SpiderDuo, a power supply with adapters, a mounting kits, and the cables to go to your Mac and to your local KVM (if needed.) 


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By default, the unit ships with DHCP. For use in our data center, we just applied a static IP address to the SpiderDuo  and created a subdomain that will point us to it. That way, should a customer want to do some troubleshooting on a machine that isn't online, we just sent them to the SpiderDuo URL and they can control their Mac. 


Once the SpiderDuo is connected to the internet, you can reach it in a browser (I tested in Safari and Chrome). The page will show you a screenshot of the connected Mac, and will also let you manage the users and login info for the service. Once you click on the Preview, you'll get "Java Web Start" file. And there is the one downside of the unit: In order to control the Mac, you'll need to do it in a Java runtime environment. This is a free Java download if you don't already have it installed. 


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The speed is not great, but definitely usable. There are a few options like going full screen, refreshing the mouse, etc:


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I confirmed  the connection by killing network interface on the remote Mac mini. Sure enough, the Screen Sharing died out immediately, but the SpiderDuo was fine. I was able to reboot into verbose mode and control the Mac as well. 


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So, in short, my 6 year search has led me to this unit. If you have Screen Sharing available, that's definitely the way to go. But, this unit is great in a bind, and does indeed work with a Mac. It retails for around $250 I was glad to find it on Amazon a bit cheaper and available for Prime Shipping. We'll have them available at Macminicolo should a customer want to use one on their machine. If you have questions, you can get us @macminicolo on twitter. 


About Macminicolo.net


 Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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Ten iPhone apps for IT

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Four years ago, I wrote a post about seven iPhone apps for IT. They were great apps at the time and that page still gets a ton of traffic via search engines. The app landscape has really changed since then and most of those apps are either gone or abandoned. So here is an updated list that is a little more accurate for 2013 and the great options out there. Let's look at some that are good for working with a Mac server remotely, and also that work with services that one might run on their Mac server. (And if you have suggestions to add to this list, please  tweet them @macminicolo.)


For Screen Sharing, I've landed on iTeleport. I like that you can use the Mac username login and they have a nice iTeleport Connect that will let you reach computers without a static IP address. Screens is also very nice, but I wasn't able to accurately select items with my fingers. With iTeleport, you move a cursor around on screen. 


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iStat is made by Bjango, who are customers of Macminicolo. But, I've used iStat long before doing business with the company. It's a very simple way to monitor the important stats of your server. (i.e., bandwidth, RAM, Processor, etc). 


If you want to see a sad genre of apps, take a look at the network utility tools. It makes you want to perform pings or traceroutes with your eyes closed. (Let's be honest, if we're doing an emergency ping, it's usually in the middle of the night anyway so our eyes are mostly closed.) In any regard, PingTool is the app I've settled on. It has a good design, and a number of useful tools. (ping, traceroute, DNS lookup, Port scan, etc)


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We do a lot of our sales and support through iChat/Messages. When I'm away from the computer, Verbs is the best way to keep up with chats on the AIM network. 


In the original list, I posted the app for GrandCentral. Of course, that service eventually became Google Voice, and I think it's great. The official Google Voice app is not bad either. Real easy way to route business calls and texts to the right people. 


We all like to keep an eye on our website stats. (You should see what happens when Fireballed.org gets hit well.) For me, Analytiks has been a great option to check sites on the go. It will allow you to watch eight sites from your Google Analytics account. 


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If you are running Wordpress blogs, Poster is a great interface to make posts from your iPhone.  


For SSH, Prompt is my preference. It's a great app now, but it's also backed by a great software company so you know it will remain great. It will also help you telnet into a server.


If you need to get connected with FTP (or SFTP), Textastic can get you connected, and let you edit text. 


<img align="left" alt="image" src="http://www.macminicolo.net/i_mini/apps/istat.png"Sometimes you just need to sketch out a network diagram to keep things straight, or to send to someone else. Ink for iOS is nice for that. (Paper is fantastic for that on the iPad, but there is no iPhone version.)


So those are the iPhone apps we're using to run Macminicolo. If you have more that should be considered for the list, I hope you'll tweet them @macminicolo



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About Macminicolo.net


 Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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Macminicolo (and the Mac mini) turn eight years old

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The Mac mini was released eight years ago today, just two days before Macminicolo was started on 13 January 2005. It's been eight years of hosting thousands of Mac minis. Impressively, we still have nine of the original G4 Mac minis that were connected the very first day and they're still going strong. (I still curse this post from AI confirming the Mac mini as dead six years ago. I still have to answer "what if" questions.)


Even after all these years, the biggest hurdle we have is getting the word out about how good a Mac mini performs as a server. They are deceptively powerful. If I told someone they could have a Quad core server with an SSD boot drive and 16GB of RAM for just $35/mo, they wouldn't believe me. (Try to price out a 16GB server anywhere else. Gets very pricey and you don't even get to keep the hardware when you're done.) 


The servers here are used for a number of things. Popular uses include websites, VPN server for travelers, remote backup to a very secure facility, mail server, and a number of small business uses. Of course, we use Mac minis for our labeled services like DayliteHosting.com and Fireballed.org. For our eighth birthday, I thought I'd shine a spotlight on some customers and what they're doing. 


imageThe servers here are very popular with iOS developers. As I look through the list of presenters at Renaissance conference this year, more than half of these good folks are or have been customers here.  I suppose these customers prefer to work with OS X tools so it fits right in. There are great educational tools like Elemints and Agendas. Bjango delivers hall of fame utilities like iStat and Skala Preview.


Episodes is a nice companion to watching TV. Delicious Library for cataloging all kinds of media. And of course, king of the podcast networks 5by5.


If you are into games, Semi Secret Software makes my favorite game of all time (Wurdle) and recently released a very original Hundreds game. Lumicon is nice word game. Ironfell is a multiplayer strategy game that runs completely on Mac minis. 



imageWe're proud to work with learning opportunities like Cocoaconf and Try iOS from Code School. (Watch this awesome video on how they use their 25 Mac mini servers. Very neat.) You can also learn from great hackers like Brett Terpstra and Charles Edge.  


There are a number of photographers that backup their photos to a Mac mini here so they have quick access to a large collection of photos. We also work with nice photography projects like Venice Arts and Canon's Photography in the Parks


People ask all the time "What are some common uses of the Mac minis there?" We plug in the minis and don't touch them again unless asked so we don't know what is running on most of them. This is just a small number of customer examples. (If you're a MMC customer and would like to be added to the list, send us a tweet @macminicolo and we'll get some updates.)


We're looking forward to the ninth year of hosting minis. Hope you can join us soon. (Keep an eye on our twitter account for upcoming promos.)


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About Macminicolo.net


 Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 47 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.


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