So in my previous post I mentioned some challenges I encountered using macOS on my Hackintosh as a NAS, and my ultimate success in getting it working with Windows as a backup server… after moving the actual NAS’ing to a Linux VM.
What I didn’t realize then, but I know now, is that at least on my NUC, for some reason, the IntelMausiEthernet is not actually stable! I don’t know if it’s tied to high/sustained load, but for whatever reason, over time the NIC would lose connectivity with the network. Re-plugging the network cable resolved the issue, but it would quickly recur.
This rapidly became a dealbreaker, as not only did it render the machine useless for backups, it also made it useless as a Transmission server.
Now, before you ask, no, I haven’t spent any time debugging the issues and don’t plan to. So I haven’t a clue what was actually wrong.
My solution was a lot simpler: I just bought a USB Ethernet dongle and moved on with my life. That, fortunately, has worked like an absolute charm and solved all of my network stability issues!
So, as I mentioned previously, one of my ideas for my hackintosh server was to turn it into a backup server/NAS for my home. As a server, the NUC is an excellent option, being low power, quiet, and incredibly compact. And while I can do some amount of backing up to cloud storage (i.e. Drive), for regular day-to-day backups a proper local solution is preferable.
Now, Lenore and I both have Windows 10 equipped laptops, which means we can take advantage of the File History feature to actually perform backups to a designated network drive. So, it would seem that simply setting up a drive share on the Mac, and pointing our laptops at it, would do the job nicely!
A few releases back macOS moved away from Samba to their own implementation of SMB (the Windows file sharing protocol). Well, apparently that implementation of SMB does not work with File History. And I have no idea why. The errors you get make no sense, and there’s basically no solutions out there on the internets.
You’d be amazed how long I spent pulling my hair out over this one.
Ironically, the solution I arrived at was as silly as it was obvious: I deployed an Ubuntu Server VM running headless on the Mac via VirtualBox. The VM mounts the macOS filesystem and shares it using Samba.
But it works! We now have backups!
And while I was at it, I also finally set up Transmission and Flexget so I could move my bittorrent activity to the Mac as well. The downloaded content is shared using the built-in macOS drive sharing features… for basic reads it seems to work just fine. For now, anyway.
The Intel NUC really is a remarkable little device. The NUC I have (NUC6i5SYK) contains a Core i5-6260U containing 2 physical cores supporting hyperthreading clocked at 1.8Ghz base frequency up to 2.8Ghz turbo. Into that little box I’ve recently packed 32GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SATA drive (I’d use PCIe, but macOS compatibility isn’t great for PCIe NVMe drives), turning my NUC into an excellent, power-sipping little home server and workstation.
To that I’ve also added a Behringer UMC202HD U-Phoria USB audio interface and a DI box, which turns thing into a very nice little audio recording workstation. Of course, it looks a little funny because the NUC is actually smaller than the audio interface!
Some things I’m planning to do with this:
- Recording workstation. Nuff said.
- Home backup server. I’ll expose the storage as a network drive that our Windows laptops can use as a backup storage location.
- Torrent server. Transmission is an excellent, OSX native torrent client, and with 1TB of storage, my NUC is a perfect place to run it.
And more generally, this could be a useful place to host VMs as needed, and… well, really anything else I could imagine using a home server for (custom DVR for my IP camera system? Hmm…).
Is this all overkill? Maybe. But hey, that’s just how I roll…
Early in the year, on a bit of a whim, I decided to pick up an Intel NUC. These things are actually pretty slick little kit computers. The model I purchased sports:
- Intel i5-6260U Skylake CPU
- Four USB ports
- HDMI and DisplayPort
- Built in WiFi and Bluetooth
- SDXC card reader
- Audio output jack
All in a box that’s 11x11x5cm.
As it’s a kit, you’re responsible for adding storage and memory, so to this I added 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD I had lying around.
Now, the main purpose of this thing was to replace the old computer I was using for idle guitar recording and so forth. To that end, I loaded it up with Ubuntu Studio, installed Ardour, Guitarix, and a few other bits and bobs, and called it a day. But I haven’t been playing much lately, and recording not at all, so there it sat.
And then, on a whim, for reasons I honestly don’t recall, I figured, hey, I’m bored and that NUC is just sitting there… why not descend into the depths of hell and try turning this thing into a Hackintosh?
“A what?”, you say?
Well, Mac OS is only shipped and supported with Apple hardware. But ever since Apple switched to Intel for their machines, there’s been a busy little community of masochists hacking the operating system and getting it to work on non-Apple hardware. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you like to tinker and self-torture, it’s an interesting challenge.
You can imagine why this piqued my curiosity. Tinkering? Masochism? I’M IN!
My first crack at this, last weekend, involved trying to install El Capitan (macOS 10.11) with a standard recipe on tonymacx86.com. This… did not go well. To this day I have no idea why it didn’t work, but it consistently failed to boot into the OSX kernel when I tried to load the installer from a USB stick. I’m pretty sure I briefly went insane. And the muttering. My god, the muttering.
But, because I’m not one to give up in the face of adversity, even when the project is nearly pointless, I soldiered on.
And then it came to this: My hail mary. Screw El Cap, why not just jump straight to Sierra and see what happens? So on a Tuesday night I downloaded Sierra (macOS 10.12) directly from the App Store and tried it one last time.
And I’ll be damned, it worked very nearly flawlessly! I had to drop in some additional tweaks to get the Intel graphics chipset to work properly, but otherwise… it… just works. I’m not 100% sure this isn’t all an hallucination as a result of sleep deprivation.
So, let’s define “just works”. The things that do work:
- Accelerated Intel Iris 540 graphics (I’m running this on a 1920x1080 Samsung TV).
- USB ports
- Onboard Ethernet
- HDMI audio
Of the things that don’t work (and I knew these ones going in):
- WiFi and Bluetooth
- SD card reader
Fortunately I wired ethernet into my office years ago, and have a far more capable USB SD card reader, so none of these things much matter.
And beyond that, this thing is working great! It’s snappy as hell, and seems pretty darn stable. Overall, after going through struggles with El Cap that made me want to tear my hair out, once I switched to Sierra the process ended up being incredibly easy (thanks to a great community with lots of resources and recipes). As a result, I now have a very capable little Mac with the most recent version of macOS running on it. Want proof? Here it is!
To this I’ve added recording software, drawing/diagramming tools, development tools, etc, transforming my languishing NUC into a very capable little multimedia authoring workstation.
Thanks Hackintosh community!
Just updated to macOS 10.12.6 using Apple’s stock updater. Flawless victory!
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