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ShortcutToMoncton Dec 7, 2012 04:53 AM
Using Mac as NAS - Network Attached Storage?
So I've been trying for a while to find a solution for a true home theatre media centre. NAS drives such as Synology offer a really cool Linux-based web interface that can be access via remote media - essentially, operating like a headless computer and allowing one to access all their stored files, even including downloading torrents etc. apparently. Sounds great - except theatre media software like Plex Server will not really run on them, except for the most powerful versions that cost more than an iMac (because pretty zippy processors are needed for transcoding). So, you still need a computer to run the server.

So I started thinking (AGAIN) about using a Mini in this manner, with say a SSD hard drive with a Thunderbolt array. It would easily double as a Plex server and client, and if hooked up to the TV could automatically start the client upon boot; the trick of course being how to use it without going the mouse-and-keyboard route.

Is there a way to control a Mac, headlessly, using something like an iPad?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 7, 2012 04:56 AM
The other option of course being an ATV3/Roku next to the Mini and hooked up to the TV, acting as the "TV interface".

But you still need an easy way to store/access/get/organize your media on the Mini, without a monitor.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 7, 2012 05:05 AM
FYI I currently have a 27" iMac, which operates as a media server for ATV (and/or Plex server). The annoying part being that I then have to have this computer running at all times. Ideally, I'd sell the iMac, get a Mini, and then run it headless in the entertainment closet and never have a desktop computer in the house ever again.

The future is now! Maybe. If I can do this.
 
Waragainstsleep Dec 7, 2012 06:13 AM
You can run any number of remote desktop clients on the iPad to control the Mini.
 
abbaZaba Dec 7, 2012 06:45 AM
pretty sure we've been over this before, in your other thread.

I use Logitech's Touch Mouse but there are a number of other (most likely better) options. I also use Screens on iOS for VNC connections.

if you're going to run it headless, you might want to take a look at this link for a video dongle (to take full advantage of the GPU, if that's a concern):
http://blog.macminicolo.net/post/33839671756/build-a-dummy-dongle-for-a-headless-mac-mini

the iPad mini wasn't out when we last discussed remote options but it might be the perfect addition to home theather: lighter, smaller, cheaper but still pretty powerful
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 7, 2012 06:58 AM
Well in the other thread I think we were discussing controlling the iMac via a normal desktop on the TV - i.e. using the iOS as a "mouse and keyboard" combo. In that instance you'd presumably need a screen to see where you're clicking etc.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 8, 2012 12:42 PM
Well **** it, I just ended up buying a Mac mini and I'll play around with it. Anyone have a remote desktop client for the iPad they'd recommend? I will need to do basic things like organize folders and download files, probably via iTunes, bittorrent or what have you.
 
Waragainstsleep Dec 9, 2012 12:46 AM
I recommend Transmission for bit torrent. It has a built in web server so you could create a web app on your iPad for it. "My Mac" seems to be a pretty good remote desktop client.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 9, 2012 11:06 AM
Beaut. I have Transmission, and I got iTeleport this afternoon. It's a tad choppy (especially when scrolling etc.), which I will hopefully be able to clean up by playing with the settings or whatever, but it will allow me to access the computer headlessly from any decent internet connection via iPad/iTouch/iPhone (when I ditch my BB). The mini is still connected to the TV via HDMI; another HDMI is used for Roku. So, I can switch the TV to mini input and do whatever I want with the computer using the iPad as a mouse/keyboard remote; or, more regularly, I can use the Roku interface to access my media as a front-end, and still be able to use the iPad to get into the mini and tool around with settings/storage/etc.

Not a bad solution thus far. Sold the iMac and I'm running with it. Will probably need another iPad down the road, as otherwise I'll be fighting with the wife over hers :D - perhaps a 7" model, or more likely we'll just wait until they shave some weight off the 10" model and get that one for her.

Either way, Plex server and iTeleport will always be running, and the mini itself will likely always be on with no sleep option (unless there's a good way to wake it for Roku/ATV network access, which my iMac would not do). I've heard that the iPad Plex app will control a computer's Plex client as well - that might be the best option in terms of video/audio output quality, having it come directly from the mini.
 
abbaZaba Dec 10, 2012 07:22 AM
I have a Roku and a mini and I will tell you that when playing media through the Plex channel on the Roku, the mini will be doing transcoding. There are a few audio issues with Plex on Roku. Your best bet is to use the Plex client on the mini and control it with the iOS app.

I've got iStat server on the mini and iOS and when playing through the Roku, the stream only works when not Direct Playing. When I tried Direct Playing my files, the video was fine but the audio wouldn't go through so I have to resort to transcoding. I'm not at home right now otherwise I'd give you the specs on the audio codec but I can confirm your suspicion that to get the best quality, you should play directly off the mini.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 10, 2012 09:36 AM
Hmmmm, okay - I haven't run into any identifiable audio issues as of yet with the Roku, but I suspected there might be some things to consider using the Roku.

My one complaint against Plex is that - as of a couple months ago - Netflix didn't work on Plex Client in Canada. So if I simply had the mini load Plex Client upon startup (so it could be simply controlled with an apple remote), I would still need to quit PC access Netflix via a web browser, which is a real pain in the ass. I've got to check and see if they've got it working....
 
abbaZaba Dec 10, 2012 10:51 AM
Netflix only provides the API for the US catalog...not much Plex itself can do about that. I'd suggest a proxy but that seems like an annoying workaround for something that should be easy.

edit: how is Netflix for Roku? maybe you could use the Roku for Netflix and Plex for your local high quality content. 1 TV input for Roku 1 TV input for Plex and switch between the two?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 10, 2012 11:47 AM
Yeah I certainly could - but it's annoying, you know? More cables to run, more systems to have running, more remotes and buttons to push. It's nice to have a one-stop GUI shop that can be controlled with a simple remote, like a Roku or the Plex client on the Mini.
 
abbaZaba Dec 10, 2012 03:24 PM
heh, yes it is. I think we ended up coming to this conclusion in the last thread!

I'm just crossing my fingers for a jailbreak for the 3rd Gen AppleTV. Once that happens I think most of these annoyances would be solved.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 11, 2012 04:00 AM
Hah - yes! Really, a Mac Mini with a simplified iOS interface that could be controlled via iPad touchscreen or remote is the ideal solution. I'm convinced Apple will get there eventually....
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 12, 2012 09:40 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by abbaZaba (Post 4205546)
if you're going to run it headless, you might want to take a look at this link for a video dongle (to take full advantage of the GPU, if that's a concern):
http://blog.macminicolo.net/post/33839671756/build-a-dummy-dongle-for-a-headless-mac-mini

the iPad mini wasn't out when we last discussed remote options but it might be the perfect addition to home theather: lighter, smaller, cheaper but still pretty powerful
Thanks for the dongle link - I don't know if iTeleport screen sharing or Plex is affected by the video driver not loading - or if it matters with the Intel graphics - but I'll see if it makes a difference.

I'm wavering between the iPad mini or just waiting for a lighter version of the 10". Agreed that the 7" is probably the perfect size for a video remote though.....I just wish the screen was a little better. It's not bad at all, but I notice a difference when going from the iPhone 5 to iPad 7 to iPad 10....
 
subego Dec 14, 2012 07:31 AM
Sorry I came to this late. How often do you need to access the mini?
 
derbbre Dec 14, 2012 10:17 AM
I went through the same thing you're going through, figuring out which combo of client and server to use.

I went with a Mac mini on it's own, plugged into my TV via HDMI. I've got a 4-bay USB enclosure for more storage (thunderbolt would be better, but $$$). The mini is quiet enough that I only hear it when it's encoding video.

I use Remote Buddy and a good ol' Apple remote to control things and run Plex server on it as well. This allows me to use all my media from my tablets and phones and other computers and I run Plex client on the mini at the same time. For the most part this works great. I can run Hulu and Amazon video and NFL GameRewind and the like this way and I don't have too many machines running.

When I can't get the job done with Remote Buddy, I use Wyse PocketCloud as a remote desktop viewer to the mini from a tablet and away I go. The Apple remote and Plex client for phones and tablets will also let me control what's going on on the mini. Overall I'm happy, if Plex plugins would work better, I could just use it for everything...

Good luck!
 
subego Dec 14, 2012 03:29 PM
That's the direction I was going. Use the TV as a "head" for the Mini.
 
zenfort Dec 15, 2012 05:05 AM
I've found Remoter VNC to be an excellent controller etc. of a mac running headless. It's the best VNC I've found from many.
The flat screen becomes a head when it's on also.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 17, 2012 01:04 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4206888)
That's the direction I was going. Use the TV as a "head" for the Mini.
I'm going to get RemoteBuddy, but keep in mind that so far, using the TV as the monitor does not work well because the MacOS interface simply isn't meant for distance viewing. On a 50" 1080p TV about 9-10 feet away, text and/or menus aren't truly legible. I suppose I could go mostly by feel, but it's surprisingly hard on the eyes straining to see what one is clicking on.

This is using the iPad as a trackpad btw.
 
subego Dec 17, 2012 05:33 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4207240)
I'm going to get RemoteBuddy, but keep in mind that so far, using the TV as the monitor does not work well because the MacOS interface simply isn't meant for distance viewing. On a 50" 1080p TV about 9-10 feet away, text and/or menus aren't truly legible. I suppose I could go mostly by feel, but it's surprisingly hard on the eyes straining to see what one is clicking on.
This is using the iPad as a trackpad btw.
It may not be as bad as you think. That's my exact setup: 47" at 10'. I do have 20/20 vision, but that's far from perfect. I could use glasses IMO.

I won't lie and say lots of text reading doesn't cause eye strain, but that's not what you usually do with a TV. Not to mention in many important places, you have the option to boost the text size, or zoom in (like with Safari or the Finder). Menus, due to being boldfaced, are still legible.

Of course, you could always just run Plex on the Mini too.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 17, 2012 09:04 AM
Well I should say that's what I'm currently doing: I'm running the Mini using the TV as the monitor, and controlling the mouse/keyboard via the iPad. Since via iTeleport I have the option to have the screen mirrored on the iPad, I've used both TV-only and iPad-mirroring; and over the last week I've definitely turned towards looking at the iPad; it's way easier than trying to look at the TV. (I'm not sure if there's much difference between the extra 3 inches I have over you (THATS WHAT SHE SAID ETC), and I also could use glasses but have been told it's probably not worth it......but it's really quite painful IMO.

Is there a way to increase the Finder font size?

Yes, I have been using the Mini running Plex server/client headlessly.....but then if I log in to organize files etc. I have to get out of Plex client and all that, and then open it again when I leave. Annoying.
 
subego Dec 17, 2012 06:05 PM
You can change the font size in the finder under View>View Options.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 18, 2012 03:32 AM
Thanks - I keep looking for a system-wide text size option in Preferences and then realize there isn't one. Basically, I'm going to make the Dock and the entire interface big and dopey and iOSy....lol. Basically, right now I'm the poster boy for hate by true computer users. Woohoo!
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 20, 2012 03:19 AM
Heh, that does not increase the interface text size, merely the text within the Finder - I remember having this problem some years ago. Is there a way to increase the GUI text, or does that not scale?
 
subego Dec 20, 2012 08:36 AM
Across every app? Shit gets pretty big when you run 800x600 on an HDTV. ;)

System wide though, I think you're out of luck. It's an app by app thing.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 20, 2012 09:05 AM
800 x 600?

Is that the standard 1080p resolution? The mini auto-matched the resolution to the TV when I plugged in the HDMI - I have no idea what it's running at but I assume it's slightly higher than that...?
 
subego Dec 20, 2012 09:35 AM
Yes. Hence the wink. :)

1080 is 1920x1080. Feeding it a lower resolution image will make it look fuzzy as the TV upscales it, but that upscaling makes everything larger.

The top is 1080, the bottom is 600.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v8...2AC71C1B5A.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v8...2ABB634BA0.jpg

Yeah, that's pretty silly, which was my point, but it may actually be worth it to try a saner resolution than 600.

Here's 1344x756 as an example:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v8...2D218237D1.jpg
 
ShortcutToMoncton Dec 31, 2012 08:38 AM
The downshot is that basically makes having 1080p TV a non-factor, right? Unless one wants to switch resolutions between doing Finder stuff and watching media?

I've run into the weird problem of my Apple remote being unable to pair with the mini - simply isn't recognized. (It's a remote I got with the AppleTV 2.) Looked it up online and apparently others have also had this problem - haven't found a solution yet, though. Very odd.
 
subego Jan 1, 2013 02:22 PM
My snarky answer is if you can't do finder stuff at 1080, on a 50" at 10', your eyes aren't good enough any more to notice the difference between 1080 and, say 720.

My non-snarky answer is the same thing, minus the snark. As I said, I can do 1080/50/10 without much difficulty, and I could use glasses IMO.

I guess what's really throwing me is how much do you use the finder on a home server computer? Your resolution may be fine, it's your "workflow" which need tweaking.
 
subego Jan 1, 2013 03:50 PM
Oh... Stupid question about the remote.

Have you dug into the Security panel in System Prefrences? There's a setting to lock down the IR receiver. Switched on FileVault for my laptop recently and happened to notice it.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 06:19 AM
Yeah there's an option to turn off/on remote pairing in the Security panel - doesn't make any difference, the mini just won't recognize it, although the ATV does. The remote formerly worked with our iMac as well as the ATV.

To clarify, I can do "Finder stuff" but it definitely causes eye strain after about 10 minutes. I had an eye test about 3 months ago and was told I'm the slightest bit away from normal perfect vision - not yet bad enough for him to recommend glasses. I certainly can see a difference between iTunes-quality 1080p and Blu-Ray quality 1080p, if that helps your analysis. :D

You are right that the entire point of this system is not to do Finder things. But I still need to do the occasional file organization and/or open programs that have menu options (iTunes, Plex Server, etc.) - so it does come up.

The other practical problem I have is that Plex Client is a full-screen program, so if I want to do something else on the computer (play music via iTunes, etc.) I have to awkwardly quit Plex Client or hide it or what have you, and then go back to it when I'm done those other things. There's got to be an easy practical way around that, right? I've never used the Spaces concept that was bandied around as an OS feature and not sure it would help me here - can I set up Plex running fullscreen in one Space, and then my other programs in another Space, and quickly hotkey between them?
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 07:09 AM
Fullscreen apps which are fullscreen by blocking the finder really frosts my ass. With a "proper" full screen app you just three-finger-swipe back and forth. You should be able to run iTunes in its own fullscreen, and swipe between Plex and iTunes.

Here's my honest analysis of your size issues. I swear I'm not trying to be a dick, I just don't understand your issues.

Having to quit Plex to use the finder: that's a serious problem. No question.

Size of menus: they're a little hard to read, but you don't use them for a length of time which is eye-fatiguing.

Size of text in finder windows: as I said, you make the text bigger in the view preferences. I have zero eye-fatigue doing finder work. I'll get back fatigue from the couch-coffee table ergonomics, but that's different.
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 07:10 AM
My only remaining thought on the remote is it hasn't been paired.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 07:39 AM
Arrgh ate my post.

Anyways, Plex can be controlled with a properly-working Apple Remote - so that's all I'd need to access all my visual multimedia. Now that I think about it, I wonder if iTunes could be remotely controlled by the iPad via Remote - so the screen would show Plex, but I could start the computer to playing iTunes music? That would be handy.

The only other workaround would be easy access to the Finder/desktop for the rare times when I need to do System/Finder stuff or open another program (Bittorrent, go on the internet etc). As it is Plex is annoying to quit - if you can't cmd-Q you need to painfully click through a bunch of menus to quit. Any thoughts on having one desktop "space" with Plex always fullscreen, and another with the regular Finder, and an easy hotkey to switch between them?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 07:41 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4209815)
My only remaining thought on the remote is it hasn't been paired.

Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4209572)
I've run into the weird problem of my Apple remote being unable to pair with the mini - simply isn't recognized.
O RLY

:p
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 07:41 AM
Can't Plex run music?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 07:43 AM
Yeah it can (I use it now, via Plex on Roku) but the interface isn't nearly as convenient as iTunes, or iTunes Remote on the iPad. It's tough to quickly navigate through a 15k song library with just a click remote no matter how you slice it, I think. I've discovered we simply play a lot more of the same albums at the "beginning" of the intro screen, rather than scrolling all the way to the proverbial Zs for other artists.
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 07:46 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4209821)
O RLY
:p
Your welcome.
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 07:47 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4209826)
Yeah it can (I use it now, via Plex on Roku) but the interface isn't nearly as convenient as iTunes, or iTunes Remote on the iPad. It's tough to quickly navigate through a 15k song library with just a click remote no matter how you slice it, I think. I've discovered we simply play a lot more of the same albums at the "beginning" of the intro screen, rather than scrolling all the way to the proverbial Zs for other artists.
Is running iTunes fullscreen and swiping between them not an option?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 08:39 AM
Well it doesn't solve the problem of having to have a non-remote interface to switch between them - unless the swipe gesture can be key-coded with the Apple Remote? I have to check RemoteBuddy and see, but that might be great if possible.

(Unfortunately my track record in finding out whether what I want is possible is pretty dismal. :lol: )

It also doesn't solve the problem of getting to the Finder, but I actually don't know if MacOS swipe gestures work via VPN on an iPad. I actually stayed with Snow Leopard on an iMac until buying the mini last month, so I'm not very familiar with the new swipe gestures that have been implemented in Lion/ML. I'll give it a try tonight - good suggestion.
 
abbaZaba Jan 2, 2013 09:02 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4209820)
Any thoughts on having one desktop "space" with Plex always fullscreen, and another with the regular Finder, and an easy hotkey to switch between them?
Any thoughts? yeah, do it!

What "Finder stuff" do you find you need to do while you're sitting on the couch ready to watch a show or movie? Everything with my setup is networked- if I need to change a filename I use a macbook or iMac to do it. Your setup should be such that you barely go into Finder. Have iTunes fullscreen in one space, have plex fullscreen in another and switch between the two. Use Remote to control iTunes from wherever. Use the heck out of the Plex and Roku iOS apps. If you have an iPad and/or an iPhone, I'm not even sure why you're using the Apple Remote...

Did you ever figure out your Netflix in Plex situation?
 
subego Jan 2, 2013 09:06 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4209845)
Well it doesn't solve the problem of having to have a non-remote interface to switch between them - unless the swipe gesture can be key-coded with the Apple Remote? I have to check RemoteBuddy and see, but that might be great if possible.
(Unfortunately my track record in finding out whether what I want is possible is pretty dismal. :lol: )
It also doesn't solve the problem of getting to the Finder, but I actually don't know if MacOS swipe gestures work via VPN on an iPad. I actually stayed with Snow Leopard on an iMac until buying the mini last month, so I'm not very familiar with the new swipe gestures that have been implemented in Lion/ML. I'll give it a try tonight - good suggestion.
Ahh... I'm very Magic Trackpad centric with my setup.
 
abbaZaba Jan 2, 2013 09:12 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by subego (Post 4209855)
Ahh... I'm very Magic Trackpad centric with my setup.
The Magic Trackpad and it's gestures are *quite* nice. I never thought I'd use them, but I use them all the time. that'd be perfect for switching apps like you want. but I don't know how thrilled you'd be buying another gidget for your setup.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 2, 2013 09:41 AM
I only have the headless mini, remember. Any file/system work done has to be on the iPad via VPN - which admittedly isn't the easiest.

I actually bought the Magic Trackpad but returned it, hoping that I would not need it. You're right: I'd rather do without another remote gadget having to sit on the couch.

The issue with using the Apple Remote is I'd rather not have to have an iOS device in order to control the thing. Right now we only have one iPad - and it's the wife's. You see where this is going, right? :lol: And even if I get one, what if someone else wants to change the playlist - do they have to take one of the iPads? If that can be done with RemoteBuddy, all the better.
 
abbaZaba Jan 2, 2013 02:43 PM
I've honestly never really delved into all RemoteBudy can do, despite owning a license for 6 years. I use RemoteBuddy as a quick application switcher/hider/quitter/launcher.

If the Desktop is foremost, I hit the button on the remote to bring up the RemoteBuddy menu, pick the app I want to launch from the custom list (like Plex or occasionally VLC) and boom, plex is front and center. If I need to hop back to the desktop, RemoteBuddy button->Hide Plex. It's not perfect but it is pretty OK
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 3, 2013 01:35 AM
Yeah, that's basically what I want it for though - a quick and easy way to control the most-used features (iTunes, Plex, perhaps another application or two) with only an extremely simple remote. It seems likely at this point that for any work that's more detailed, I'll just go the VPN/iPad route.

(Actually, my usage pattern at the moment is that I'm finding I mostly use the desktop area for torrents and/or Transmission. I haven't set up the Transmission web client as of yet, but if I can do that and use the iPad to download any files to the mini, then my need for more advanced control will be even less.)

I also checked last night, and it is possible to simply have Plex in fullscreen, and use Remote on the iPad to control iTunes, which will play in the background (the only downside or benefit, depending on your perspective, is that the playlist will of course show only on the iPad). And the three-finger swipe works fine on VPN - it brings up the Application switcher, right?......was formerly Cmd-Tab on SL - so I'm able to switch from fullscreen Plex to other apps if I'm using VPN.

When I get an Apple Remote working I'll see if Remote Buddy allows me to do something similar with a hot key - from your description it sounds like it will.
 
subego Jan 3, 2013 10:31 AM
Just in case anyone wants to make a bajillion dollars, here's the remote of the future:

It's a Magic Trackpad you can hold with only these buttons:

Power
Pause
Volume up
Volume down
Mute


**** physical media. **** cable. **** using more than one input on your TV or amp. **** cursor based input. **** all those goddamn buttons on your remote from last ****ing century. **** remotes which go too far and don't have the five physical buttons you need to use without looking. Sorry... that's you iPhone and iPad.

Slap a keyboard on the back and start cashing checks.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 4, 2013 07:39 AM
Take it to the Pol Lounge! :lol:

There are some pretty good remotes out there, apparently. RemoteBuddy says that it can make the Wii remote actually work with MacOS, and you can even control the cursor with it......I bet it's frustratingly precise to use it in that manner, but I'd give it a try if I could find one for cheap. :D

I think in one of my other threads I also found some remotes with small keyboards on the back. Pretty cool.
 
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