trying to idiot-proof my MacMini music server setup

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by RShackleford, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. hatrack71

    hatrack71 distracted by everything

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    El Capitan and newer is still supported officially by Apple. I've been receiving security updates on El Cap. Anything older would not be wise as you state.

    One thing though. If you are running an older MacPro 1,1/ 2,1 with Pike's bootloader, you are now unable to update El Capitan. The latest cumulative OS update (2018 Spectre/Meltdown patch) rendered it unbootable. So I had to reinstall a pikified El Capitan OS and shut off updates to continue using it. These were kinda strange machines though in that they had 32 bit boot efi. Now some claim this machine wasn't affected but I still am not liking it. I have hidden the update that bricked everyone's pikified MacPro, but it will be risky to try any other updates as well for fear it also makes the system unbootable. Sort of the end of the line for the MacPro 1,1/2,1. It might actually be a candidate for Ubuntu now I'm kinda sad to say. But for a machine from 2006/7... pretty impressive run. Honestly, I think the MacPro 1,1/2,1 is a machine Apple tried to kill off but were not successful. It was just too powerful and upgradeable to fall by the wayside. Mine have dual quad core processors (8 cores) with 32G of DDR2 ECC and GTX 750tis. Hardly obsolete and it does run Windows 10 like a dream... but without a boot screen. But I run everything without a boot screen because I don't want to be stuck with using only supported gpus which are far too outdated.

    One thing I dislike about Apple is how they limit which max OS X a machine can have. There are ways around it though in some cases. But Apple will never let you know. They want you to buy a new supported device.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018

     

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  2. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Mine is dedicated to running only Audirvana. There’s nothing on it except my music. I don’t see much risk in that. One would still need the password to access my WiFi network and that security is handled by the router. Am I missing something?
     
  3. illinoisteve

    illinoisteve Super Member

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    To the thread title question, let me respond with a related question:

    Can anything ever really be made "idiot-proof"? Idiots are so resourceful. The boundaries of ignorance are quite unfathomable, and unpredictable. To make something idiot-proof would be like shielding it from a kind of super-hero you could never imagine.

    Just sayin'.....
     
  4. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Very true and worth repeating.
     
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  5. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    It's a goal, perhaps never to be attained - but the struggle may yield dividends, in the form of a system that's close to "idiot proof". Maybe I should have stated that my goal is not to have to f*ck with the MacMini every time I want to hear some music. I just want to turn on my stereo system, set the selector to the Emotiva DAC, and then fire up iTunes using an iPad. IOW, as simple as all the articles about setting up a Mac Mini media server make it sound.

    And I think I'm there, albeit with an older version of OS, El Capitan, and an older version of iTunes (12.2 instead of 12.7). I'm going to stick with ElCapitan, given I've read here (and elsewhere) that it puts greater demands on the hardware (which IS 8 years old) and that may have been responsible for some of the weirdness I was seeing when I OP'd. And I could give a rat's ass about the additional features of Sierra and High Sierra. I may however, get a firm grip on the family jewels and update iTunes. The worst that can happen is I go back to zero: wipe the disc, do a clean install of ElCapitan, and change a few settings. I haven't even brought my library over yet. Pray for me.

    I'm also intrigued by the app I linked a few posts back (#59), that enables one to control a Mac from the Apple TV 4K's "Siri" remote control (I believe I'll buy a new ATV soon - my new Sony Android TV gets all the streaming services, but Apple's user interface is so vastly superior). I like the idea of keeping A/V system and computers separate (I'm including MacMini under A/V, not computers). So controlling the Mini with ATV's remote would allow that.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  6. gguillot

    gguillot AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Here's a solution you may want to consider - Roon. I have been using it for about 6 months now and love it. My 2009 Mac Mini is used as the "core." All it does is serve up the data - no one has to touch it and it is NOT connected directly to my DAC or amp. It runs a small app and it is set to stay powered on 24/7 and run headless. I use Sonos Connects and Raspberry PI/DigiOne as music "streamers." It has greatly simplified streaming music in my home. You pay for it, but for what it does - I have found it well worth it.


    Check out the details at roonlabs.com/howroonworks.html
     
  7. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Not many people want to spend 115/yr or 500/lifetime for a piece of software. Also the larger your library, the more horsepower you need.
     
  8. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    Thanks, but I need to come up to speed on an entirely new piece of software like I need a hole in the head.
    Y'all needed to pray a little harder. I installed (or tried to) iTunes 12.7, and it got hung in some weird place where it said I'd closed windows (which I had done, the first time it hung) and did I want to reopen them or not; either option led to the forever spinning color wheel. So I finally said "screw it" and wiped the disc and did a clean install of El Capitan. For awhile, I could not get the "screen sharing" choice in SystemPrefs to stick (after reboot), but finally it did (for when I want to control the thing from Macbook instead of iPad). So I'm back to where I was this morning, which I think is actually a pretty good place.

    Thanks for all the help in this journey, folks !
     
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  9. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    The flakiness of this Mac stuff is breathtaking. Latest version: I did a clean reinstall of High Sierra (with the latest iTunes 12.7) and BitPerfect. Each morning I try to play music just using iTunes remote from iOS, to see if I can make it work without having to get onto the computer (using screen sharing from my laptop, which, amazingly, seems to be fairly robust). This morning, could not connect from iOS. Get onto the Mini (using screen-sharing) to find iTunes has "quit unexpectedly". Start it up again, try to re-connect to the iTunes library from iTunes remote (on iOS), and the "remote" button will not appear in iTunes (you have to click on it and enter a 4-digit code in order to connect the library) to iTunes remote. Nothing works: restarting Mini, nothing. Call Apple, get transferred to several different people who seem unable to comprehend what I'm trying to do, and all of a sudden the "remote" button just shows up.

    I'm done with iTunes, I think - unless I want to resign myself to having to use screen-sharing, or even a dedicated bluetooth keyboard and magic trackpad rig, to control it. Thinking of trying VLC (continuing to use iTunes to manage my library). Seems highly regarded, and will have other media (e.g. video files) on the Mini and VLC seems to be a one-stop shop for playing these.

    My issue (maybe I should start another thread): can the output of VLC be made to be "bit perfect" (for sending out the USB or optical-audio output of the Mini to a DAC) ?
     

     

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  10. awillia6

    awillia6 Well-Known Member

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    What a mess! To get things back under control, I suggest you set up a vanilla pure Apple, pure iTunes system controlled in the simplest way possible (keyboard, mouse, outboard monitor, etc.). Evaluate iTunes' functionality and stability on this setup. If PERFECTLY stable, begin adding some "spice" (3rd party software, screensharing, headless remote control, etc.), and see just where the "heartburn" (instability) sets in. Add one variable at a time, evaluate thoroughly (with a common test suite, if possible), then add next variable, retest, and so on. Either you will come across a single villainous component or possibly a deadly combination of more than one of them. At any rate, using this SYSTEMATIC approach, you should be able to come up with the problem area(s) around which you can make intelligent decisions on alternate software, hardware, setups, or procedures to achieve the results desired. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 12:18 AM
  11. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    Haha, I typed the below response before I saw your message here. I believe it was you, earlier in this thread, who advised me to take this systematic approach. And I was doing it, honest - had vanilla iTunes working (and graduated to step of using screen-sharing with my laptop). But then I did something stupid.

    Argh, the latest frustration, straw breaking the back of the proverbial camel, was suddenly I was unable to pair iPad with iTunes on the Mini; the "remote" icon never appeared in the iTunes window. Turns out, in an effort to figure why my wifi is so slow, I added another wifi router in the A/V area, which has ethernet running to it from the router in the study where the modem is. iPad was connected to the study router's wifi, whereas Mini was ethernet'd to router in A/V area; so even though it's all kinda my LAN, it kinda isn't. That's all the problem was.

    The moral of the story, as pointed out to me earlier in this thread I believe, when you're having this much trouble, only change ONE thing at a time. Turns out I added BitPerfect to my working-well vanilla iTunes installation more or less simultaneously with adding this second router. What a dufus.
     
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  12. awillia6

    awillia6 Well-Known Member

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    We live and we learn. Every one of us...
     
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  13. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    You’re not alone. Audirvana and my mini are getting along famously. Audirvana’s A+ Remote not so much. My latest corospondence to them follows:

    Damien,
    Thanks, rebooting did the trick. If I may I have another issue for you. The A+ Remote application communication is spotty. Always after a period of inactivity the iPhone or iPad cannot connect to the Mac Mini which is intended to be a dedicated headless music server, always on and set not to sleep. Even so it set to wake for network access. I have to restart the mini and then on the iPhone or iPad close the A+ Remote app, go into settings and renew the lease and then relaunch the A+ Remote app to get it to work. Setting the mini’s IP address as a Static Lease on my wifi router has no effect. Creating a computer to computer network on the mini doesn’t make a difference. How can I make the A+ Remote reliable?
     
  14. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    Sorry to hear that. This is one reason I've resisted going with a player besides iTunes, especially one that's not free. Good luck.
     
  15. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I was having the same problem with the iTunes remote so and the second gen airport express. That’s part of what prompted to look elsewhere.
     
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  16. awillia6

    awillia6 Well-Known Member

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    If you recall, could you please describe in more detail the issues you were having with your plain Jane vanilla iTunes setup? Also you alluded to other, unspecified reasons to bring in an iTunes replacement. If you don't mind, could you talk about those other considerations? Thanks in advance. Many folks, myself included, are looking down the road and trying our best to come up with the optimal combination of functionality, maintainability, simplicity, cost, and longevity. Not an easy chore by any stretch...
     
  17. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    At one point I had 4 1st gen AirportExpresses running from our iMac and the whole house listening was terrific. They were always ready after a day or a month it mattered not. 1 by 1 they lost comm despite new firmware updates. The 2nd gen AE’s would require a reboot every damn day so I returned them.

    Issue no 2 the remote app comm is spotty requiring frequent restarts of iTunes or the computer. Even though Apple was early to market with N WiFi I suspect this may have something to do with the newer routers. Back when everything was seamlessly reliable I was running a Time Capsule.

    Issue 3 Apple abandoned the DAP. My iPod classics (160gB & 80 gB) won’t last forever. My lossless library is pushing 350 gB. When I’m away from home I’ll invariably hear a song that suggests album B and it’s frustrating not to have that album in my pocket. Now that the 3rd gen FiiO X5 supports 1/2 tB on (2) 256 gB microSD cards the pull is formidable.

    So looking down the road I decided to go FLAC and make an ALAC copy for iTunes. Then I thought why just listen to vinyl at home when I can double my library without handling my CD’s? Which led to the headless server quest and trials of DaPhile, Volumio and finally buying Audirvana.
     
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  18. awillia6

    awillia6 Well-Known Member

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    Wow! Quite the journey, uphill struggle all the way. Thanks for the great info.

    Sounds like Apple's (and everybody else's) struggles with WiFi bit you in the butt big-time. I avoid the problem as much as possible by running all my essential gear hung as closely as possible off the 1GHz Ethernet "backbone" that links my fiber gateway and primary switches to the NAS and Time Capsules. The Apple Express units as well as the Apple TVs have the advantage that their client interface (AirPlay) looks and (supposedly) operates the same whether accessed via WiFi or by hardwired Ethernet. So plugging one of them into the wired net makes it look just like a local WiFi-available device to any WiFi connected client no matter how far away the client's actual WAP (TIme Capsule or AirPort Extreme) is anywhere on the net. Similarly, all attached Express and TV units show as AirPlay targets to any and all devices anywhere on the network, whether wired or WiFi-connected. I only ever use actual WiFi for the short hops to connect clients (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) to the nearest WAP; from there on, everything is hardwired (desktops, servers, printers, local switches, NAS, routers, etc.) I almost never have WiFi issues—the ones I do have are local to specific clients, so a power cycle tends to resolve any issue—allowing me to concentrate on bolting up solid appliances and applications.

    On your iPods, there are retrofits to replace their hard drives with either (micro)SD cards or actual SSDs. I'm playing around with such a setup on a throwaway 5th gen iPod ("Video")—it was a $20 eBay "parts only" special—to see how it works before I go into my 160GB 6th and 7th gen units. The nice thing about the 5th gen is the lack of a storage limit other than the approx. 20ksong limit due to database metadata size constraints. Since the underlying storage mechanism is unaffected by the limit, ALAC lossless storage is no problem to about 500GB (per my napkin calculation; I'll know better once I install the SD card carrier in the iPod next week). Right now, I'm running battery run-down tests so I can see what the relative power draws are between the current hard disk and the future SD (and possibly SSD) setup.

    My thinking is to get ready for AirPlay 2 and new iTunes functionality that is rumored to support the FLAC file format, among others, although I have no idea on available resolution options (if any other than 16/44.1).
     
  19. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    How about starting a thread on your iPod mod?
     
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  20. awillia6

    awillia6 Well-Known Member

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    Good idea! Haven't done much yet (beyond installing a new battery and testing it), but when I get the SD carrier (should be coming this week) and get everything going, I'll go back through the process and document it here. Thanks for the suggestion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 10:17 PM
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