Did you know you can set up a Mac Mini server with OS X 10.7 Lion even if you don’t have a screen and keyboard attached?
Transcript of the video:
We had a bit of a triumphant moment here at IvanExpert the other day. We measure triumph in our ability to solve problems that there don’t seem to be easy solutions to.
We did that the other day with a Mac OS X Server installation. You can buy a Mac Mini Server–it’s a tiny little computer and it can sit practically anywhere.
The thing about a server is that you don’t really need or even want a screen or a keyboard attached to it, it’s a waste, especially if it’s a Mac Mini and it can just be stashed somewhere.
But you need to be able to set up the Mac Mini Server, and Apple doesn’t make this easy, for no good reason. It’s easy if you have a screen and keyboard attached. But if you don’t, you have the following option, which is barely documented.
If you have another copy of Mac OS X Server on another computer, you can use its copy of the server application to connect to the freshly started new Mac Mini Server and that will allow you to remotely configure it.
However if you have the server admin tools installed on Mac OS X 10.6 you can’t. Or at least we haven’t yet figured out how to.
So we had to figure out how to install this server, with no screen or keyboard attached to it . it does turn out that somebody else figured out a similar technique for Leopard Server some years ago, but I hadn’t found that guy’s blog post when I figured this out.
Basically you have to SSH in to the root account of the new server, and the password is the serial number of the Mac Mini you just bought.
Then there is a long obscure command for starting the Apple Remote Desktop–that’s the screen sharing server. That command is documented in an Apple tech note, if you search for “kickstart” in Apple’s tech database you can find it.
Once you’ve got Apple Remote Desktop server started, you can then use screen sharing on your computer–and by the way, you have to figure out the IP address of the server computer; that’s most easily done by looking in the AirPort or router DHCP log, you need that for the root login too.
So once you have that, you log in via screen sharing, using vnc:// in Connect to Server or Safari with the server IP address.
You log in as root with the full password again. Once you have done that you can then go through the server setup procedure. When that completes you’ll be on the Lion desktop.
The first thing you must do is go into System Preferences, go to Remote Management, click on Options, and make sure that Observe and Control are set. Otherwise you will not be able to log in to the machine remotely again.
After that, you can then log in.