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Headless Mac Mini Setup


darascal
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Hi All,

 

I need some direction on running a Mac Mini as "headless" (no keyboard or monitor).

 

First is the initial setup. I assume once I've got screen sharing enabled and sleep mode turned off, that I'll be able screen share using my MacBook in lieu of a monitor/keyboard. I've read elsewhere on the web that I can do the setup by booting my MB using the Mini as the boot disk, though I'm a bit clueless about how to do this. Can anyone provide some guidance with this?

 

I have a keyboard from my old eMac, but no external monitor. Should I buy a cheap monitor to do the setup and to have around just in case?

 

Second, I've heard that the Mini won't boot if it thinks there's no monitor (or keyboard?) connected. And that you need to plug something into the monitor port with some sort of tweak to the plug to fool the system. Does anyone have experience with this & can provide some assistance?

 

Much thanks in advance!

Russell

 

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Yep - thats all you need to do. It'll boot without keyboard etc. I set mine up by plugging it in in place of my main Powermac, set up screen sharing, installed iTunes, disabled bluetooth and wireless (it runs wired). Connected my main Mac back up, plugged the mini in to a spare port on my switch and booted it back up. Ran 'Chicken of the VNC' on the main Mac and there it was. Find the NAS, set core Audio and run up iTunes and its all ready to go.

 

Mine is set to sleep overnight and if not used for an hour. The remote app for iTunes control wakes it up without any problems.

 

Good luck

 

James

 

 

Weiss & Naim

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Thanks for your reply, James.

 

However, as I said, I'm rather clueless about booting the Mini using another computer. You said "I set mine up by plugging it in in place of my main Powermac". I'm not sure what you mean - do you mean you used the monitor/keyboard from your PowerMac? Let me reiterate that I do not have a separate monitor (I have an iMac & and MacBook), though I'm wondering if I should invest in a used one, for setting up the Mini.

 

Is it possible to do the setup sans monitor? I have read that you can boot the Mini from another computer, using the Mini as the boot disk or some such thing. Anyone know about this?

 

Thanks again,

Russell

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Hi Russell

 

From your description it is possible that you are thinking about Firewire Target Disk Mode?

You can read a short description on the Apple site:

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1661

But... as I understand it, this will only allow you to use the internal disk on your mac mini as if it was an external drive on your iMac or MacBook. Fine for rescuing/moving files, but I doubt if it would be possible to do your setup with this configuration.

 

Instead of getting hold of a cheap monitor, have you considered using a tv set as your monitor? A lot of newer lcd sets have a standard computer input on the back, or alternatively apple sell various adapters for hdmi or old school s-video. Check carefully first to see what you need (Apple used to supply some of these adapters as standard with a new mac mini, for example) because once you add up the cost of all the adapters and cables you can end up spending more than you would for a second hand monitor! Also be warned that tv monitor quality varies from being absolutely brilliant with a 32" lcd to eye wateringly dreadful via s-video to an old 13" portable. Obviously you won't need to look at it for too long when you have screen sharing, VNC or remote desktop working.

 

Once you have done your setup, you can remove the monitor cable and run your mini headless. However the screen resolution will revert to a default if the mac starts up with no monitor connected. On my G4 mini this is 1024x768, which is fine, but I know older macs revert to 640x480 which would be a right pain (it's barely big enough for the system preferences window, let along iTunes). Leaving a monitor adapter connected, even without a monitor on the end of it, will often help fool the mac into thinking that nothing has changed so it won't revert to default settings. I'd still recommend having some kind of screen, whether it be tv or monitor, that you can easily connect up for troubleshooting purposes.

 

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Thanks for your comments, souptin. Yes, I was talking about booting the Mini connected to the MacBook via Firewire. Didn't have the actual terminology. But if I can't set Preferences on the Mini this way, it's useless.

 

Thanks for the TV suggestion, I hadn't considered that. I'll definitely check that out.

 

Russell

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks again, Souptin for your TV-as-monitor suggestion, which somehow I had overlooked. This worked perfectly, once I figured out which HDMI input on the TV to use and convinced the Mini to pair with my wireless mouse & keyboard (borrowed from my iMac) - which actually cost a good bit more time and frustration than I'd like to admit.

 

(Although I was hooking up to the TV for my initial headless setup only, the display looked absolutely gorgeous on my Sony 32" XBR, and I'm tempted to hook it up again, but I really don't have much use for it, since I'm planning on relying on iPhone remote & screen sharing with my Mac Book for control purposes.)

 

And I'm happy to report that after I got past this stumbling block, everything went quite smoothly - I turned the Mini screen sharing on and sleep mode off, unplugged from my Sony, paired my keyboard and mouse back to my iMac, rebooted the Mini, and Voila! I was able to control the Mini with my Mac Book or use Remote for playing iTunes. I am now completely headless!

 

Thanks all for your input, this was actually easier (and cheaper - $30 for a Belkin DVI-to-HDMI cable - probably could have gotten one even cheaper, but hey, that's the Apple Store for ya) than I thought. And I have to echo the words of others on this forum - the Mini seems like a wonderful machine - small, fast, quiet, cool-running, reliable, inexpensive, and I have to say - cute!

 

Now all I have to do is get me a decent sound system!

 

Gracias,

Russell

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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  • 6 months later...

The Mac Mini without monitor or keyboard is easy to control from any computer on the network, as long as the Mini has Screen Sharing enabled and Sleep turned off (both in System Prefs) and is connected to the network by ethernet or wifi. No other setup or software is required. It will boot without a keyboard / screen. To control the Mini, just select it in the left column of the Finder on the other machine, and take over the screen. In addition, you can control iTunes from anywhere in the house with the Remote app on an iPhone or iPod Touch. In the Mini's Security preferences I lock System Prefs so only an Administrator can change them, and also run the Mini using a non-Administrator account, with good password security on the wifi network (to prevent the always-on Mini from becoming a back door into the home network).

 

What I don't like is not being able to control more of the headless Mini, for example when I need to change the Audio Midi setting from 44KHz to 96KHz. Apple really needs to integrate Audio Midi and iTunes so that sample rate changes are automatic. Also, I would like better access to the Mini so I can occasionally use Spotify Premium (at its "high bit rate" setting it sounds surprisingly good) or Pandora. I would also like to be able to make high res purchases direct to the Mini. These things can be done using Screen Sharing, but that means keeping a laptop in the room.

 

To enjoy the full flexibility promised by a computer audio source---but still maximize sound quality---the equipment overhead gets high. From a one-box CD player before, now I have a five-box player: Ayre DAC, modded Mini running iTunes / PureVinyl (and the SSD mod was expensive), CalDigit RAID drive for the iTunes library, iPod Touch remote, plus occasional laptop. I tried a MacBook Pro for in place of the Mini / CalDigit / Touch-laptop and of course it worked fine, but to get decent sound the MacBook must be connected by wire to the DAC, which means it must be physically close to the system. The laptop is not musically optimal anyway because it has a noisy spinning hard drive and lots of other RAM activity going on.

 

The main reasons to choose a computer source are: (1) sound quality (access to super high-res formats), (2) playback convenience via iTunes or some other player, and (3) flexibility / choice. You can play all formats and resolutions, you can access the music with ease, and you can even add to the collection by downloading / burning, or expand it by streaming from something like Spotify Premium. In short, the (expensive) computer should be more than a dumb platform for iTunes or Amarra, and therefore the listener needs to be able to see the screen and open / close applications at will.

 

Maybe the iPad with redesigned Remote App will be a full-featured remote, although I will still have 4-box solution versus my old 1-box player.

 

 

 

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iPad that is it!

 

I was going to buy a macbook pro to use as a home laptop (mostly for entertainment, work is with the company pc laptop) and as audio transport/music storage, but waited for the ipad presentation and then it was clear to me, the perfect solution (for my case) is definitely ipad+mini.

 

for simple tasks, within it's capabilities, the ipad is better at all it does than the macbook, and for music server, a minimalist desktop is perfect, much better than a laptop you carry, plug and unplug from the DAC.

 

if the ipad runs the remote app (and hopefully with more browsing capabilities) then it's going to be great. But not all is simple, and the perfect solution would be to have screen sharing with the mini... i'm sure someone will develop it and then you will be carrying only the ipad (in reality is a screen, keyboard and mouse) and leave the cpu and harddrives anywhere else.

 

I'm really looking forward to this.

 

cheers

 

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Hi neovibe - The more I think about the iPad the more I like it as a remote control. I looked at some of the Philips Pronto remotes the other night and the cost (up to $1500) was outrageous compared to an iPad.

 

I will certainly check out the Jaadu application for screen sharing / VNC access to my Mac once I have the iPad.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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If you've got a TV in your listening room and you have a Macbook then Teleport is a very cool solution:

http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/22339

http://abyssoft.com/software/teleport/ - Developer site, but down this sec..

 

Basically you don't need a keyboard and mouse hooked up to the mini, all you do is flick your mouse cursor from your Macbook off a configurable portion of the laptop screen. At that point the cursor will 'teleport' over to the mac mini, and your Macbook keyboard and mouse now have 100% control of the mini (including all special function keys). It also lets you drag and drop files from one machine to another, which is a great bonus feature.

 

 

 

mpdPup maintainer

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi there, I stumbled on this post a bit too late, it seems, but wanted to comment on the use of Target Disk Mode to set up the Mac Mini. If the mini is plugged in to power, has a keyboard (temporarily) plugged into it, and is turned on while you hold the "t" key (for about 10-15 seconds after the chime), then the mini will start up in Target Disk Mode. Next, connect the mini to another Mac (iMac, for example) via a FireWire cable. While starting up the iMac, hold the "option" (or "alt") key, and you will be presented with a listing of available startup drives from which you can boot the iMac. Simply select the orange FireWire drive to the right and press enter/return.

 

I'm a Mac Genius at an Apple store and we use this nice trick all the time to let people start their computers that have damaged displays or for other reasons.

 

 

Chris

 

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  • 5 months later...

Thanks to your posting re: On my G4 mini this is 1024x768, which is fine, but I know older macs revert to 640x480 which would be a right pain (it's barely big enough for the system preferences window, let along iTunes). Leaving a monitor adapter connected, even without a monitor on the end of it, will often help fool the mac into thinking that nothing has changed so it won't revert to default settings.

 

I attached a cheap belkin cable to one of the old ADC ports of my headless G5 graphics card and it works great. Using Vineserver (free) on the G5 and VNC chicken on my macbook, I can access the screen at full 1680 x 1050, ( not limited to 1024x768)

Now I pretty much use the G5 to stream itunes library via iphone remote app to different airports..works like a charm and with connect 360, works great with xbox also for videos.

 

cheers,

Krisen

 

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Yes, Apple screen sharing is based on the VNC protocol: any VNC client will be usable, though not quite as fast as the built-in MAC OS X screen sharing app, which has Apple specific, non-standard extensions

 

Max

 

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  • 1 month later...

Max,

 

I'm considering running a mac mini headless & using a iBook G4 as a controller. In your last response, am I clear in my understanding that there is no need for any other application, other then the built-in MAC OS X screen sharing app to control the mini with? With the built-in screen sharing app I'll have full control of my mini?

 

Tim

 

iBook G4 1.33 GHz Power PC 1.25 Ram - iTunes 9.2.1 - 2nd Gen. Drobo via FW400

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Yes, you can control the Mini using the built in screen sharing in OS X. The Mini will appear in the Finder window, in the left column under "Shared". You click on it and press the Share Screen button, and that's it. However, before all this is possible, on the Mini you must first somehow set up Screen Sharing in System Preferences / Sharing, and set up any authentication requirements you want. To do that it's easiest to connect to is using a keyboard, mouse and screen, if only temporarily. Also make sure the Mini's wifi is turned on, if that is what you will be using.

 

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Thanks for the reply Cynic. Initially I won't be using wi-fi only CAT 6 wired. Maybe in the future, if I purchase a iPod touch or release my iBook G4 from desktop duties. Once screen sharing is set up on the mini would I be able to enable wi-fi through screen sharing if in the future I want to use wi-fi? I assume if I purchase a iPod touch to help control music playback on the mini I would need to enable wi-fi at that time, correct?

 

Tim

 

iBook G4 1.33 GHz Power PC 1.25 Ram - iTunes 9.2.1 - 2nd Gen. Drobo via FW400

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...but yes, everything you need to do full remote control is included in MAC OS X (10.5 and up). You'll have full control: you can turn network interfaces on and off, upgrade software, or whatever. I even rip CD's this way

 

Max

 

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"I assume if I purchase a iPod touch to help control music playback on the mini I would need to enable wi-fi at that time, correct?"

 

Just to clarify this a little (I hope): You would NOT need to enable wifi on the mac mini in order to use ipod touch / ipad / iphone as a remote. The mac can remain on wired ethernet, but you need to also have wireless access enabled on your home network to allow the touch to connect.

 

Most likely this will already be possible with your existing ethernet hub / modem. If not then you can look into something like an Apple Airport Express / Extreme which would plug into your existing router, or even enable 'internet sharing via airport' on the mac, which would effectively do much the same as adding a stand alone airport unit.

 

But definitely look for wifi capability on your existing router first.

 

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Thanks souptin & Cynic, that clarifies & simplifies wi-fi questions. I do have wi-fi ability on my router/modem, so if I ever needed too, I would activate the wi-fi on the router/modem, not the mini. If I was to use the iBook G4 wirelessly, to control mac mini, I would need to turn airport on the iBook then, along with enabling wi-fi on the routher/modem?

 

By the way, Cynic, I started a thread entitled, "Beginning a late model 2009 mac mini music server", http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Beginning-late-model-2009-mac-mini-music-server, in which I had some questions, one being about the pros of installing a solid state drive. I notice by your sig that you're using a 60GB SSD. If you have any input for the other thread any advice would be appreciated.

 

- Tim

 

iBook G4 1.33 GHz Power PC 1.25 Ram - iTunes 9.2.1 - 2nd Gen. Drobo via FW400

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I will refer you to my answer in your other thread, but just to comment that as I say there, using a MacMini as a Squeezebox (or for that matter if you were using if for UPnP AV) server is different situation to using it direct to a DAC. For the Squeezebox the SSD is pointless.

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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