Mac Mini As A Server Platform

I have computers all over the place. Way too many. And specifically I have a Linux Laptop that acts as my web and email server. That’s right, I have my own email server. Why not? I pay for a domain name so I can host my website why not have a email address?

Recently I bought a Mac Mini and installed OS X 10.10 Yosemite on it. Mac has a program called Server which really isn’t a program at all. It’s just a graphical interface that lets you easily toggle the services that ARE ALREADY INSTALLED ON YOUR MAC. That’s right, your Mac is a server already. My Mac Mini is run without a monitor, keyboard, or mouse and is just setting there. It has an i7 2.3GHZ chip that zooms to 3.3GHZ and has 16 GB of RAM and an SSD hard drive. It’s basically a super computer just sitting there only feeding music to my amplifier. Too much computer to not utilize in another fashion.

So make it a server. First you need to buy a domain name. I recommend going to either NameCheap or GoDaddy. NameCheap is what I’ve used here. They are indeed cheap and have great support.

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Here’s the overview of the server app. As you can see I named my server “hagenserver”. Pretty punny, huh? Also if you look close at the photo above you can see that there are green dots next to some services. I am currently running a file server, an email server, a web server and a DNS server.

Another cool aspect is that it is EASY to set up a self signed certificate and / or renew said certificate for SSL security. Don’t want your email bouncing around for everyone to see. At least I don’t.

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Here’s the Mail Server config. I built a linux mail server and it literally took me days to make it work and took several years off my life due to stress. Basically all I did with the Mac was to point it to my domain and turn it on. It self configured. WOW! And it’s secure or fairly secure anyway. To really beef it up you can get into the actual configuration files for postfix and do your magic but if you just want it to work it’s ridiculously easy.

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One of the biggest problems with running a server is most household internet service providers don’t give you a static IP address. Which means if your IP address changes, and it will, your server can’t keep up. So you need to use something called DynamicDNS. Someone made a program compatible for NameCheap called NCDNSUpdater. Plug in your domain name, the password that NameCheap gives you and enable the interface. It checks every 5 minutes (or however long you specify) to check the IP address. If it changes, your domain gets pointed correctly to the right server. In this instance the longest my server will ever be down is 5 minutes or less if the IP address changes. Brilliant.

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Note that there are two "hagenserver" entries. One for www and one for the @ symbol (the entry made on the host line). This will update corresponding entries on your NameCheap A Address Records. And that's what this updater is. It tells your web host where to find your website.

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And lastly is my web server. See the “Store Site Files In:” thing. Just make a folder and take the website you made and place the files there. I use some web software called RapidWeaver. Make a simple webpage, then export it to that folder. That’s it. Instant website.

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Anyone can run a server. If you have a mac in the house, buy yourself a domain name with email for like $10 or $15 a year and buy the Server GUI app from the Apple App Store for $19.99. And then you are part of the internets.