Servering my Mac

I graduated in 2017. Not long after that, my old college shut down. Even while I was there, they were packing the place up and shipping everything useful out to a different building; so, after asking politely, I ended up being the proud owner of a Mac Pro!

My current Dell server isn’t really fit for purpose any more. Well… it kind of is, and would probably be fine; but it’s running VMware ESXi, and VMware stopped giving it away for free several months ago. I don’t really want a server I can’t update, and worse than that, it doesn’t seem to want any other OS on it!

Luckily, I’ve got a beautiful Mac Pro 5,1 knocking about, which would be a perfect replacement. It’s several years older and not quite as powerful, but it’s prettier and quieter, so it can go in the living room without making a racket. And the thing is, I don’t really need all that much power for what I’m doing with it.

The Hardware

A silver Mac Pro laptop on a table, with a white Apple keyboard and a Mighty Mouse. An ill-fitting HP monitor show the MacOS desktop, with a Windows 98 wallpaper for humourous effect.

A picture from 2017. Judge not.

In its original configuration, it had an Intel Xeon W3530 processor and 3GB RAM. Not a lot, huh. Considering my old server had 40GB RAM, it’s a significant downgrade… to the extent that as soon as I tried doing more than one thing at once on it, it died very ungracefully (as in, pull-the-power ungracefully). It was enough to get OpenSUSE MicroOS installed instead of MacOS, but that’s about it.

Good thing is, I got some tasty new RAM for it yesterday, so it’s now up to a much more useful 32GB.

There’s a bit of oddity with the RAM situation; according to my research, with the current CPU, I should be limited to 8GB per slot, not the 16GB I’m currently using. But I’m guessing that’s just a MacOS limitation. It does make me wonder how much higher I can go per slot… maybe I could’ve gone the full 32GB per slot and had more RAM than I know what to do with!

Either way, I’ve also got a new Xeon X5690 processor for it, which I’ll install just as soon as a I get a suitable screwdriver to remove the comically massive heatsink.

I picked MicroOS because it’s an immutable system designed for running container workloads. Previously, I’d “contained” my services using distinct virtual machines, but I’ve realised now that’s not a terribly efficient solution, especially given my use case. Maybe I’ll think the same of Docker containers in six years’ time and switch to something else… who knows! Technology, unlike my OS, is as mutable as they come. (As in, I want to mute it and live in a bubble where nothing progressed past 2006.)

The OpenSuse logo, showing a happy green chameleon.I also picked it because I have a bit of nostalgia for SuSE, it being my first Linux distro. Can’t say no to Geeko!

Now Playing

A cargo ship full of containers. It's meant to symbolise the software Docker, get it?

I currently have the following services running on my Mac:

  • Dockge – for managing my Docker containers. I previously used Portainer, which is quite nice but also kind of overkill. Dockge is much simpler and cleaner.
  • Jellyfin – for my films and TV shows! I need to get a nice, big hard drive to keep all my media files on; the 1TB I had allocated for it previously was a little cramped. Then again, maybe this is a good opportunity to reduce my collection a wee bit.
  • PhantomBot – my Twitch bot! I like self-hosting my own bot, because it gives me a ton more flexibility than, for instance, Moobot. And it’s not constantly trying to upsell stuff to me.
  • SearXNG – because I’m fed up with search engines, and it seemed a nice idea to roll my own. I fully intend to theme it to resemble something like AltaVista.
  • Syncthing – mainly for getting files to and from my server. In future, it might be nice to use this as an alternative to pCloud.
  • Mealie – to keep track of my recipes. I previously used Tandoor, but wasn’t especially satisfied with it.
  • Watchtower – to automatically update specific containers.
  • Cockpit – a useful GUI server management tool. I can do everything through SSH anyway, but it’s nice to have a simplified interface for it too – say, if I’m on my phone.

There are a few others that I’d like to run in future at some point:

  • Navidrome – a very good music server, and one I’ve used extensively in the past.
  • Sonarr – great for organising my Jellyfin libraries. I never worked out how to get it to download stuff, though.
  • Bazarr – for acquiring and syncing subtitles to media that doesn’t already have them.
  • Uptime Kuma – I do like a nice graph, although I question its usefulness if it’s reporting the uptime of the same server it’s running on. Whatever – pretty graphs.
  • Huginn – an automation system, and a replacement for things like dlvr.it and IFTTT.
  • Pi-Hole – a network-wide ad blocker. Useful and very necessary with today’s disgustingly malware-ridden Web.
  • A nice homepage dashboard thing – still looking for the perfect one.
  • Some sort of reverse proxy manager, so I can access my services over the Web.

At the moment, I’m going to go easy on it just to make sure it can handle being a server. But I’m excited to do more with it and find out what it’s capable of! (Maybe someday I can reinstate my beloved Minecraft server…)

About LunarLoony

IT support technician by day, artist also by day, video game enthusiast by day as well. Not keen on doing things by night... when else am I supposed to sleep? I have been making internet things since about 2005, and advocate for personal websites and blogs and things. I also run Broken Circus, where I make short films about video game history!
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