For all of my fellow tech nerds out there, you’re gonna hate me. You just are, and I’m ok with that. With the grace and ingenuity of a friend, Zak, who is a Genius in every sense of the word, we worked some serious magic on a Mac Mini server in about an hour to finish the most recent phase of my digital photography workflow series. I picked up a base Mac Mini i5 to use as a server in conjunction with my 13″ MacBook Air i7. I needed the ability to work on images both locally and remotely using Aperture 3, AND be able to offload images remotely from my MacBook Air in the field.
I wrestled with Mac OS X Lion Server for a while and found it wasn’t able to do everything I needed it to do. Plus, it is a serious memory hog, and not as straight forward as I would have liked it to have been. LogMeIn could have given me access to view and manipulate files remotely, fulfilling one requirement, but it as a paid service. Back to My Mac would have allowed the same, but is simply atrocious. The easiest solutions that we could come up with involved Apple Remote Desktop, and Transmit for FTP transmission of images. Here’s what went down, and why.
Remote Desktop was pretty straight forward. It allows the visual operation of every function on the Mini as if I were sitting right there. I can use it on my own network, as well as remotely on any network. We had to configure the AirPort with a static IP address for the Mini, and install Remote Desktop 3.5 on the MacBook Air so that it could connect to the Mini. Instant, full featured connectivity, to everything the Mac Mini can do and every volume connected to it. A free DNS address from no-ip.com, as well as their free Mac app, was configured on the Mini, enabling it to be accessed using Transmit on the Mini. This allows for drag and drop transfers from the Air to the Mini remotely via FTP. Super. Of course, the Energy Saver pane in System Preferences was set to never sleep the Mini, which is connected to an APC uninterruptible power supply that has a battery backup for intermittent power failures. In the same panel, I also enabled the Mini to reboot after a power failure.
No display, keyboard, or mouse are required to operate the Mac Mini. Anytime I want to connect, I just click on Remote Desktop, select Control, and my bluetooth keyboard & magic trackpad are now controlling the Mini on my 20″ display & MacBook Air if I’m at my workstation. Side by side computers on interconnected monitors with one bluetooth keyboard and one Magic Trackpad. That in itself simplifies things. The 12TB Promise Pegasus R6 is connected to the Mini with 9.7TB of usable storage at RAID 5, as well as a 3TB hard drive which I use for additional media. Additionally, on the iOS side of Apple’s complete solution, both Remoter and VNC Mocha Lite allow for remote access on the iPad and iPhone. I also utilize Logmein Ignition on the iPhone as another alternative. What’s more ridiculous, is that with Tether, I can share the 3g signal from my iPhone 4 to my MacBook Air and use it to connect to my Mini server. Obviously, this isn’t as fast as a business class network, but it definitely gets the job done. My needs were met; I can offload images in the field, and manipulate each Aperture library remotely.
The next steps: 8GB of memory is on it’s way, replacing the 2GB that came with it, and I will soon be swapping the 500GB 5400RPM hard drive with a 64GB SSD for near instant response. Truthfully, this stuff amazes me because as far as my resources can take me, it is really cutting edge. Developing a workflow this refined required extensive training from Apple, a lot of collaboration, criticism, failure, time, years teaching and supporting other photographers, as well as technological developments that have never before existed. But I feel like it’s there. For now, at least. It does all that I ask it to do, and has saved me in countless situations, which at the end of the day, serves the clients that I photograph for, and gives me time to sleep at night. If I had a staff working alongside of me, I would try to mimmic Chase Jarvis‘ workflow that he, Dartanyon, and the rest of their team put together. But for one photog, this is more than sufficient.
Questions, ponderings, and feedback are welcome in the comments section below.