A while back, I bought a Mac Mini Server before the latest refresh. It’s a 2010 model. This was a good deal at the time because it came with 2 internal 500GB 7200RPM drives, 4GB of RAM and the Core2Duo 2.66Ghz processor by default…a config that cost $150 less than to do it with the standard Mac Mini. Also, it included Snow Leopard Server. I didn’t really need Snow Leopard Server. I toyed around with it a bit, but eventually decided I didn’t ever really need OS X server. Still, it served me well, pun intended, as my iTunes Media Server, housing several hundred gigs of iTunes movies, TV shows and music content. It also housed an AFP share for a rather sizable Aperture library.
Step forward to today. I wanted to repurpose the Mac Mini into my main music workstation. I figured that since Ableton has released their 8.2.5 update that addresses Lion compatibility, I should try to aim for installing Lion on this box. Also, the goal was to get rid of the OS X server bits altogether. Easier said than done.
First, the upgrade process to Lion is simple and straight forward. You go to the App Store and purchase and install Lion. The first catch for me was the automatic detection of me running OS X server and it claimed I had to download Lion and Lion Server for a combined $79.99. Ouch! I just wanted Lion, but because I already had OS X server, it was forcing me to get both for the much higher price. So, I did some reading and searching and found a recommendation to wipe the Mac Mini Server clean, and get a standard Snow Leopard build on there that wasn’t OS X server. I decided this would be rather simple to do. So, I started to do exactly this. It ended up being a rather twisted attempt at futility.
First, the Snow Leopard family pack install disk I have failed to boot on the Mac Mini. When this happens, you get greeted with a crossed out circle symbol instead of the Apple logo as it boots. I did a bit of reading and found that my install disk was too old and couldn’t deal with the relatively recent hardware of the 2010 Mac Mini Server. There were numerous suggestions on how to use another Mac to install a fresh copy of Snow Leopard to an external USB drive so it can be updated then transplanted to the Mac Mini, but all of those proved to eventually have flaws that left things like the SD reader unusable.
Lacking way to get regular Snow Leopard on here, I decided to look at other options.
One of the other options involved purchasing and downloading Lion from another Mac, but not actually installing it and using some rather lengthy process to build a boot image. Back in my younger geek years, I would have taken the several hours to do all this work, but I wanted a short cut. I did more searching and found that Apple just released the Lion Installation USB thumb drive on the Apple Store. But, the major issue here was price $69.99, and availability. I called the two local Apple stores, they didn’t stock it and really had no idea it even existed.
So, left with looking at a $69.99 option I would have to order, pay tax and shipping to get vs. the $79.99 combined download price, I opted for the later. Should I ever want OS X server, I have it on any of my Macs and I get the vanilla non OS X Lion for use on any of them as well.
As it turns out, Lion Server is a set of services and apps that sit on top of OS X and if you never use them, you can disable them and have no detrimental effect of having them on the system.
It ended up being a long and arduous process that could have been longer, even if less expensive. My main gripe here is with Apple. Why can’t this be easier? Why force me to buy something I don’t want because of something I already have? I’ll probably try to see if I can get a refund for the forced App Store purchase of Lion Server. Now, back to building the workstation, getting everything back on there and making music!