Alternative to a Mac thread


#1

I’m starting this thread for people interested in alternatives to a Mac. There maybe many reasons why you may be looking/considering using alternative options.


New purchases thread!
#2

So needed a dedicated media server and general server box for at least a year and a half now and have been considering a Mac Mini for quite awhile but just couldn’t justify the outdated lockdown hardware and price.

To get an idea of what I mean you can take a look at my earlier reply here

[quote=“Kyle-K, post:24, topic:2933, full:true”]
So I took the plunge and finally went ahead and purchased A Intel (NUC) - Next Unit of Computing.’

Purchase the Intel NUC i7 Skull Canyon Barebones Kit. (BOXNUC6I7KYK4)

You’ve got a purchase your own Storage and Memory. So for that I chose.

SSD, Intel 600p 1TB M.2 (SSDPEKKW010T7X1)
RAM, 2x Kingston ValueRAM 16GB DDR4 SODIMM 2133MHz (KVR21S15D8/16)

A shitload cheaper than the Mac Mini would’ve been and got so so much more.[/quote]

The final price was. $1,490.75

Intel NUC i7 Skull Canyon Barebones Kit. (BOXNUC6I7KYK4)
$799 purchased from Shopping Express

Intel 600p SSD 1TB M.2 (SSDPEKKW010T7X1)
$429 purchased from Shopping Express

Shopping Express, Shipping Cost: $12.75 eParcel to Regional W.A.

2x Kingston ValueRAM 16GB DDR4 SODIMM 2133MHz (KVR21S15D8/16)
For a total of 32 GB the maximum this machine can handle.
$250 purchased from MSY

Memory has been the biggest pain started off at $115 a piece, then it went to $119 and then it’s been getting harder and harder to find and finally went up to $125, but had problems finding stock.

I was about ready to pay nearly $400 and something dollars for the memory through another supplier. But got lucky with the local MSY.

The memory should be here hopefully sometime early next week so haven’t really had a chance to play with things the only thing I was able to do was unbox and put the SSD in. I will share more in the coming days.


#3

Multiple. That’s the plan anyway. It’s going to run VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) And you can use VMware Fusion Pro to connect to the server and access the VM’s

The primary running VM will be.

=Media Server
Ubuntu Server
==Docker
===Containers
Plex
Download Server

I will also probably run 2 VM’s as Web Servers.

=Web Servers
1# CentOS
2# Ubuntu Server

I’ll have a Windows 10 VM and probably several Virtual Hackintosh’s running different versions of macOS.

If this becomes too much trouble I’ll probably just go with Ubuntu Server. Or maybe something else but I’m going to try the above first.

Will do. If you had anything that pops into mind that you want to ask feel free.

For me I’m not giving up macOS any time soon for my daily computer needs as I have a pretty recent iMac.

But in my case I couldn’t justify the hardware cost for the use case for this machine it was impractical.


#4

Very cool setup, what version of ESXi are you running? I’ve been running 6.0u2 for a while now and find it quite nice, it is great being able to create and manage VMs from a web interface rather than having to have VSphere installed in a Windows VM (although there are some things I have found that VSphere handles better than the web UI, specifically dealing with USB storage devices and pass through).

I had an Ubuntu Server VM running as my Plex server on in with 6TB of storage spread across 3 physical disks but unfortunately I had some data corruption issues (unsure why) and lost the data - fortunately I had a backup that was only a week old so was able to recover almost everything but am currently running it on a physical box again as I’m not sure I trust it to a VM at this point (only because I’m paranoid and don’t have the time or money to structure the storage for it as I want at the moment - would prefer OS and apps only on the VM and the media to be stored on a NAS)


#5

Haven’t got that far yet still waiting for the memory.

The only real experience I have with virtual machines is on macOS via VMware Fusion.

As I mentioned above this is really just the plan if I can’t get things to go I’ll probably go with a barebones Ubuntu Server but I’m going to try this first.

I’ll have to keep that in mind and make sure all the servers that are backed up at least once a couple hours.

Most of my media and other data is already stored on one of my two NAS which are both Drobo’s


#6

Setting up ESXi and VMs is pretty straightforward but if you need any assistance or advice feel free to ask away here or PM me as I have several years experience with ESXi both personally and professionally.

Also one thing to keep in mind with backing up VMs is that the majority of products that do ‘live backups’ etc. require a commercial version of ESXi but if you are running Ubuntu or other Linux variants I’d be tempted to just use rsync to backup the data to alternative locations.


#7

How reliable have you found the Drobo’s, I’ve heard a few horror stories about them over the years (but that can be said for most NAS systems especially when people don’t understand that a NAS is not a back up!)


#8

Have you had much experience with this in the past? I’m interested, but last time I looked the licence of ESXi was prohibitive so I stayed with individual Hackintosh servers. If you have, how compatible are we talking for the Hackintosh server? Does push work, does iMessage/appstore work?

Edit: Have just done some reading and there appears to be a ‘free’ version of ESXi. This calls for some testing!! :slight_smile:


#9

There is a relatively simple hack/change needed to ESXi which then allows you to easily install OS X without the needed changes for Hackintoshes (from what I recall), for pre ESXi 6 you can get the required software patch from http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/topic/267296-esxi-5-mac-os-x-unlocker/ and there is some details of a workaround/unlocker for the latest ESXi 6.5 https://www.reddit.com/r/vmware/comments/5hzom1/os_x_macos_esxi_65_workaround_until_new_unlocker/

I’ve successfully un OS X El Capitan on ESXI 5.5 and had no issues at all with it.


#10

Awesome. Could give my Mac Pro 3,1 another few years of life!


#11

Thanks for the offer will do if I need anything, I’ve had lots of experience with VMs on my Mac anyway, but playing around with ESXi is something I’ve wanted to do for quite awhile.

Always happy to try and learn and new things.

That’s probably all I’ll do is backup important stuff from within the VMs themselves. I’ll take full snapshots of the VM is from time to time. Most likely before and after doing something major.

Pretty reliable, have had no issues here. Except for the fact that Drobo haven’t upgraded their product line in the segment I’m interested in quite awhile and have been waiting for them to release the new hotness.

As my two Drobo FS one of them is at the maximum which is unfortunately only 5x4 TB drives as this model doesn’t support larger drives. The Drobo that I store all my media on is maxed out and is nearly full.

So I’m going to need to find a new solution soon.

Only with using VMware’s products on windows. I also have run various versions of macOS on mac’s but that’s supported.

But I do have a non-server version of Snow Leopard running. Which is probably the first thing I played around with.

As you had now noticed they offer it for free.

To let me know how you go I’d also be interested in other people’s experiences.

That’s pretty much what I’ve done.

From my understanding if you have manage to get all this working it should work perfectly fine when you move the VMs to a ESXi server with minimal reconfiguration.

Acelon1, has pretty much provided most of the information out there on how to modify ESXi so you can run macOS on nongenuine Apple hardware. ESXi has support for macOS based VMs built in because you can run it on Apple hardware.


#12

For me I was actually going to run ESXi on a Mac Mini because that’s what I was originally going to purchase I was first made aware of the possibility of this after reading a blog post on Mac Mini Vault when they started offering this to their customers.

And thought that might be a good idea. And after doing research into ESXi for running it on a Mac Mini, came across all the information about running ESXi and modifying it so it can run Mac-based VMs.

The Internet can be quite a rabbit hole.


#14

Just noticed that looks like the HP mini computers are now hitting the market https://www.mwave.com.au/searchresult?w=HP%20ELITE%20SLICE


#15

wow! apple prices and skylake processors.
very apple like, but not quite there: one USBC port, a display port ethernet and a couple of USB3s.
Plus you can stack components thru USB3 (fail: why not USBC or thunderbolt?).

Must say the monitor looks more attractive than that LG one Apple is peddling.


#16

25 January, 2017

11:45 AM: So the memories arrived Going to be taking care of that shortly. Before I start planning about what I’m going to do with the OS level stuff.

12:00 PM: Now I’ve just realised I set aside a keyboard and mouse but forgot to find the mini display port cable. So I can use the iMac and Target Display Mode.

12:05 PM: Special gloves on and memory is now installed. Now searching for the cable while I wait for things to download but it looks like things are going to take a while to download. Which pisses me off because we have NBN Fibre 100/40.

6:45 PM: Just waiting for the macOS versions to download, they always take so long. Finally found the mini display port cable also.

26 January, 2017 Happy Australia Day…

1:38 PM: All OSs are finally downloaded looking for my VMware login so I can download ESXi, The iMac is not recognising the NUC in Target Display Mode so I’ve had to move to the big screen TV.

1:45 PM: After spending some time on the Intel website last night, I now have to confirm what BIOS Version the NUC is running first to determine if I should do the update first.

I also note that there is possibly several firmware upgrades that need to be installed as well. I don’t know how well this would go getting applied through a guest OS? So may need to go with Windows 10 bare metal first so I can install the firmware upgrades.

4:38 PM: Logged into VMware Registered for and Downloaded “VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi)

7:18 PM: Just got the stuff to download from Intel’s website and I’ve gotta find All My USB Flash Drives. After that’s all done I’ll just check the files and will be ready to get started later in the week.

8:00 PM: Okay everything appears to have downloaded okay and we’re good to go when I’m ready.

27 January, 2017

4:58 PM: I’ve worked out the plan.

Going to update the BIOS first then going to do a Windows 10 install bare metal and complete all related firmware upgrades e.g. HDMI, Thunderbolt.

Then get rid of all that and start again with VMware ESXi Once Configured, I’m going to go ahead with a temporary VM, running Ubuntu Desktop and Plex Media Server. While I work on the permanent VM’s as time permits.

5:33 PM: I’m essentially just waiting for all my USB Flash Drive to return as they’re all checked out at the moment.

6:10 PM: Useful Links

ESXi on the new Intel NUC Skull Canyon



https://www.bussink.ch/?p=1729

Adding custom BIOS splash screen to the Intel NUC

5 February 2017 It’s time to get started on this project again.

1:50 PM: Going to start with this today.

2:33 PM: Confirmed: BIOS Update Required.

Installed: KYSKLi70.86A.0037.2016.0603.1032 (2 Versions Behind.)
Updating to: KYSKLi70.86A.0042.2016.0929.1933

2:58 PM: BIOS Update Completed, Waiting for the Windows 10 install media USB to finish before installing Windows. Wish I had more than one USB Flash Drive that was big enough.

6:35 PM: So I’ve hit my first brickwall following instructions to create the Windows 10 install media using terminal and “dd” everything looks to have gone okay but I can’t get the NUC to boot the installer.

9:15 PM: Update, Okay using “dd” in terminal despite what it says online does not work with Windows + PC Hardware.

Just because you google something and all the results come up with the same solution and they are relatively reputable sources doesn’t mean that solution will work.

I will update this section with more information later.

11:43 PM: Unlicensed copy of Windows finally installed.

12:00 PM: Heading to bed…

6 February 2017

10:10 AM: Waiting for Windows Update to do its thing after the updates have been completed.

I’ll install the Intel® Driver Update Utility which I hope will handle all the updates, firmware, drivers and other stuff for me.


#21

The Intel software works pretty well with the NUCs in my experience


#22

Excellent, have been pretty impressed with the Intel related stuff (BIOS and Software).

[quote=“Kyle-K, post:20, topic:3106”]
I’ll install the Intel® Driver Update Utility which I hope will handle all the updates, firmware, drivers and other stuff for me.[/quote]

Have been all over the place today, So haven’t quite got to this yet.


#23

Keen to see how this project plays out and the performance you get out of the system also.

A few points from the comments above.

  • ESXI is designed not to run apple operating systems on non-apple hardware. This is a licensing issue that apple has in place and is the reason esxi needs to be adjusted to add functionality. Otherwise, if you install ESXI on mac hardware, you can run mac OS virtual machines.
  • As of vSphere 6 and up, the web console is more full featured than the windows client.
  • http://www.virtuallyghetto.com - great vmware blog with mac content also
  • If you want to learn more about VMWare systems, the VCA (VMWare Certified Associate) is free to take from memory. You can sign up to do the course for free. Exam costs money.

Happy to share any of my experience as well. I am far from an expert in VMWare solutions but I work for a company that makes products for VMWare environments and other hypervisors. Have had a couple ESXI servers setup at home over the years too.


#26

12 February 2017

[quote=“Kyle-K, post:20, topic:3106”]
I’ll install the Intel® Driver Update Utility which I hope will handle all the updates, firmware, drivers and other stuff for me.[/quote]

2:49 PM: This is where I’ll be picking things up from today.

17 February 2017

10:10 PM: Intel® Driver Update Utility, Finally got the utility installed and had a chance to run it.

10:15 PM: its now installing all the drivers that it has found but it doesn’t appear to have found any firmware upgrades.

10:18 PM: After running through all the installers for the drivers, “Intel® Driver Update Utility” is showing them all as failed.

10:50 PM: Don’t know what’s going on here, I’m going to leave the drivers alone for now at this point they don’t really matter. We’ll leave that problem to when we’re setting up the Windows VM.

11:05 PM: Manually downloaded the firmware updates and was able to confirm that the HDMI firmware is up-to-date.

11:11 PM: However unable to check the current thunderbolt firmware. So I’m going to leave it and go to bed. That’s tomorrow’s problem.

18 February 2017

11:44 AM: Going to abandon the thunderbolt firmware upgrade and just move on for now anyway.

11:45 AM: Going to start the install process for ESXi. But I have some questions which I’ll post below in a separate reply.


#27

So it sounds like you need to run software to manage and set up the ESXi Server? Which is windows only there is mention of a web interface is that full featured and could that be used instead?

I’m also guessing I don’t need a separate drive for the ESXi Hypervisor OS? Correct?