18 Oct 2010

OS X Snow Leopard Server for the Home

With Apple’s introduction of the mac mini server some years ago they opened up a niche market. Perfect for the home or small office environment the server is a fantastic little machine that I believe should be a must have. But it sits there on the shelf and very little is said about it outside of the reviews on various sites around the internet. The reviews themselves go over the pros and cons of the machine; They talk about how much easier snow leopard server is to administer than previously and they herald the machines specs and features and give a balanced view of its shortcomings. Yet from my looking around there is very little reporting about what the server can do for the average family. This article will attempt to explain what the Mac Mini server can do for you in plain english and will link to individual tutorials when they become available.
The mac mini server at home
If your house has more than one computer then a mac mini server could be just what you are looking for without knowing it yet. This low powered machine can do much more than you ever imagined. If you know a little bit about computers and can follow some instructions then you should be able to get the server up and running in no time and be the lucky recipient of any or all of these benefits
Network user accounts: You want to use the computer to send some emails or work on a document but someone beat you to it and now you have to wait for them to finish. If you give all your family network user accounts then this is no longer a problem. Your documents and emails follow you around no matter which computer in the house you are using. You can simply sit down and log on at any computer you choose and everything is where you left it. Save games are always there, internet bookmarks, your dock is always the same. To top it off your kids can only use the computers at certain times on school nights and you can pick and choose what programs they can use. 
Time capsule replacement: I have a lot of laptops in my house and plugging them into portable hard drives to back up all the time was a pain. I could have bought a time capsule and had them all back up wirelessly with that but a mac mini server can do exactly the same thing. I have an external hard drive plugged into my mac mini server and set it to be a time machine backup share. Then all the computers in the house can back up over the air!
Mobile calendar and contacts for free: Thinking of getting mobile me so your phone and computer can stay in sync? The mac mini server can do this for you. Set up your mac and your iPhone and they all use the same calendar and contacts from the mac mini server. Each person in your family can have their own calendar and you can use it to book in visits to grandma or nights at a friends house and see when everyone has free time. You can even use the calendars to book time on the family computer or on the TV or Games Console and put and end to squabbling.
Host your own website for free: Want to host your own website but can’t find anything thats good and free? If you’re not expecting thousands of visitors an hour then you can easily host your website on your home internet connection. As your mac mini server will be on all the time anyway for all the other things it will be doing for you then this is a great opportunity to use it to keep your own blog and let everyone see how you’re getting on. It works well with iWeb too for easy site building.
Streaming internet TV: in the UK we have iPlayer, 4OD, Sky player and many other TV channels giving us their great content online. If you have ever wanted to watch these online TV channels on the actual TV then just plug you mac mini server in to your HDTV and you can use it to do just that! As well as being able to stream from the internet you can watch anything from iTunes and anything on Youtube. You can use the apple remote but I recommend getting a wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad for the ultimate home entertainment system. Apple TV eat your heart out.

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