Musing on my next Mac

I currently use a 2016 15" Touch Bar MBP, a 2018 13" Face ID iPad Pro, a 44mm series 4 Apple Watch and now a n iPhone 11 Pro Max. There’s a bit of a rotation to my Apple tech updates. Simplified, I approach planning my finances to allow one of these devices to be updated on an annual basis. Or there about.

I have a need of a static Mac. That is one that’s not battery powered and that can sit with wake on network activity enabled to serve a couple of needs:

  1. Media Server,
  2. The host for Time Machine storage.

I’m also going to want to upgrade the MacBook Pro in the next few years.

There are two approaches I could take to my future Macs that I can see:

  1. Keep the MBP a while (I have no pressing need to replace it) and get a Mac mini in the near future — eventually replacing the MBP with a new MacBook,
  2. Get an iMac to replace the MBP — removing any reason to buy a mini.

Cost is a consideration, but not to the degree that it makes the less expensive route (iMac) a clear winner. A mini is cheaper in the short term, and I’m in no hurry to replace my primary Mac; the MBP. I do absolutely value the freedom of a portable Mac (I’m reclined on the sofa with my MBP right now poking around in Catalina). It’s also fair to say that I use the iPad Pro far more than I use my Mac these days.

So I’m curious to crowdsource some thoughts from my fellow Mac nerds. I’ll take everything from the rational “take the least expensive option that meets your needs” to any oddball consideration. Maybe a less expensive iMac and a future MacBook Air has some advantage I hadn’t considered.

I guess that a Mac used to serve media and serve as a backup target for other Macs in the house has no strenuous performance requirements. An iPod touch is about powerful enough for this task, if it had the capability! I do sometimes need some horsepower though — I do make use of the processor and discrete graphics hardware of my MBP. A well specced iMac could obviously handle both sets of requirements.

None of this is particularly urgent.

What would you do?

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If the current Mac is good for a few years, I’d suggest looking into a NAS instead of a static Mac (which is still an option!) Synology has cheap-to-expensive models, and has installable apps that serve everything from audio/video/photo media to rolling your own cloud service to managing email to calendaring to backing up GSuite to acting as a webserver or a Time Machine server. (Not that I’d necessarily use all those.)

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Yes get a dedicated machine for your media and backup via network. For about $550 you have a fully loaded Synology DS218+ with 4GB Memory and two WD Red 4TB server grade HD’s.

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I tried to go iPad & iPhone only, but couldn’t find a satisfactory backup solution. So I purchased the $799 Mac Mini - i3 processor, 8gb ram, 128gb SSD - on sale for just over $700. All data, with the exception of those files Apple insists on storing in the Library folder, is stored on an external 2TB drive. A second 2TB drive is used for TM backups. I keep almost nothing on iCloud, with the exception of photos, so the SSD is normally less than half full.

Backup & Sync mirrors my Google Drive to the external 2GB which also contains all my photos, media, and records. I tested it by running Time Machine, Google B&S, and Arq Backup at the same time, CPU ranged 8-20%.

In addition, I occasionally use it for normally productivity stuff and to rip the occasional DVD, etc. It handles all of this better than the 2013 MacBook Pro that I used for several years.

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Depends on how many people will be using and backing up to the device. If a few, I’d go with the mini for ease of upkeep. If an office-type environment, you might want a NAS.

Another option: for about the price of a mini, you can get a FreeNAS box.

I’d think about your time costs. If you buy a new Mac, the tools are all going to be familiar and you can probably get most everything running in an afternoon. If you buy a NAS…who knows.

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It will take 1hr incl assembly and plugging in cables. If you buy a synology

@bowline @MacExpert Synology can’t support Home Sharing as far as I’m aware. I don’t want to add a second technology stack to a system that I already have working perfectly and that’s integrated with existing, working shortcuts.

I will take a look, though. So I can make an informed choice.

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This is at home, so there’ll be 3-4 macs using it as a backup target, that currently use the time capsule. Part of this is to future proof those backups; the time capsule is getting old.

I’d go with the Mini. A NAS gives you capabilities like setting up a VPN, but the doing so is a PITA. Packages on the NAS need to be kept up to date, etc. This is all fine if a NAS is part of ones work or hobby, but if you have better things to do, it’s tedious.

Example: I can’t connect from the outside to my iMac Pro using Screens. No idea what I did, or what changed, so I’ll need to set aside some time to troubleshoot this.

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I’m in a similar situation in terms of pondering some “network storage” as a purchase down the road. I currently have a small / cheap NAS ( a WD my cloud Mirror), it’s in need of replacement so I’m eyeing topics like this with interest.

Should they help, my thoughts on this so far:

A key thing I’ve learnt from my current NAS is don’t get a cheap one! If I replace it with another NAS then I’ll be looking at mid to top end Synology or Qnap (I’m currently leaning towards a Synology though that’s mainly on gut feel rather than reasoned argument).

The option of a Mini with a DAS hanging off the back of it is also a tempting prospect. On the plus side with a mini I could host Backblaze on it, have all the machines in the house backup to the Mini/DAS then that can backup all our data to one backblaze account.
On the ‘Con’ side, I’d be pretty much doubling my costs by having to buy a Mini and a DAS never mind the cost of disks to go in it.

When I think of the cost I think a NAS would be the most sensible option. When I think of the flexibility and features I think the Mini / DAS option would be best. It’s then trying to justify the outlay of pennies. :wink:

So I’ve done some digging into Synology, and it’s not the right solution for me. I need to be able to stream via HomeSharing and the Computers app on the Apple TV. While it is possible to host a shared iTunes library on a NAS, a Mac gives the household access to the media in the way that is currently in use.

A Mac lets me integrate my media. It has no learning curve, and initiating media playback (or at least getting part of the way) is part of shortcuts that we’ve gotten set up thanks to the new ability to launch apps on an Apple TV as part of a shortcut (yay).

Now I’ll probably end up buying a Thunderbolt 3 external drive of some description to host Time Machine backups and the iTunes library, but as attached storage it’s easily Backblazed. As this Mac will be fully iClouded, and basically all my file storage is iCloud Drive at this point, I’ll just move my Backblaze licence to the new Mac, even if I continue to use multiple Macs, as I won’t need to back up both off-site to preserve my data.

I had wondered if macOS Server still had any useful update and app caching features but it looks like these have been descoped. I can use it to execute things like mail rules, though!

I do appreciate the NAS enthusiasm in the community.

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With the raise of iTunes subscription the home sharing will become less important.

Those who are still buying and ripping optical media can use the music library and plex service on the NAS.

That being said, my NAS is mainly doing Time Machine back-ups. Stores a large library of RAW images, and a repository for software I often need to download or preserve in case it’s no longer available for download.

Home Sharing is going to be central to our media streaming for the foreseeable future. Not all members of my household have or want a media subscription, and we have at least one very large local library (both music and video) which they rely on Backblaze to back up for them. I’m not even going to ask them to switch to PLEX or a NAS media app:

  1. They’ll say no (and rightfully so given the high risk introduced to a currently very low risk system),
  2. I don’t really want to deal with PLEX and a bunch of additional discrete media apps myself when one built-in app takes care of it on every device,
  3. I do have an Apple Music subscription and want to be able to stream local copies over the network.

So yeah, Home Sharing is pretty mission critical in this situation, and it’s non-negotiable.

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I’m in the same situation. While I know I’m going to need a NAS for my own particular needs what I expose to my family has to about simplicity. My boys are young and my wife has a demanding job thus she doesn’t want to struggle with technology when she comes home. I’m looking along the lines of

  1. Plex Server at home that I maintain but family does not use. I like the remote access, cross platform capability and ability to handle lots of different media.

  2. Infuse 6 Pro on Apple TV may the the only front end that I subject my family to. It’s focused just on videos and links with Plex but is very Apple like.

  3. Roon for music. I have an Apple subscription and will likely also sub to Tidal next year. I’m really the only person in the household that really listens to music and I like my Apple Music sub but Roon will essentially allow me to tie together almost all the hardware I’m looking at and never have to worry about codecs or streaming formats. It’s the Plex of audio

I’ve already purchased a cheap HP 600 series computer which will run Plex and Roon. Just need a SSD and external NAS but I’m also considering a Mac mini because I know I have the ability to home share, HomeKit. support and so much more but also essential is me getting my household on a sane backup and update schedule. MacOS Server 5.9 was recently announced and I’m really only needing Time Machine backups, a contacts server and Mobile Device Management and Caching Server features for updates to make my life easier than it’s been.

Basically I want Apple TV on each TV in the home, will be adding HomePods and I want to be able to simply stream audio and video content to whoever I want without being IT Dad on call. I think we’re almost there.

Time Machine server was pulled from macOS server and can be easily set up from any Mac through file sharing now, FYI.

@ismh has a how-to (of course):

https://512pixels.net/2018/08/how-to-set-up-time-machine-server/

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