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Summary:

Put that old Mac to work! If your one of the many Mac faithful who recently upgraded to a shiny new intel mac, you may be wondering what to do with your older PowerPC system. After pondering this very question for a while, I found that […]

Put that old Mac to work!

If your one of the many Mac faithful who recently upgraded to a shiny new intel mac, you may be wondering what to do with your older PowerPC system. After pondering this very question for a while, I found that there were three answers. You could:

A) Put the old Mac in the closet or in the Garage to gather dust for the next century.

B) Let someone else use your precious, or

C) Put it to work as a small home network server!

There are three main services that the Mac makes quick and easy work of, iPhoto sharing, iTunes sharing, and file serving, all courtesy of the quick and easy zeroconf… I mean Bonjour.

Setting up iPhoto and iTunes to share their respective libraries on your home network is a snap. Simply choose the “Sharing” tab from the apps preferences window, and click on “Share my library on my local network” for iTunes, or “Share my Photos” for iPhoto.

Then fire up iTunes and iPhoto on your new mac and presto! Your old libraries are available on your new mac without using any hard drive space. I’ve been looking at those options in the preference panes for what seems like years now, and I’m impressed with how well it actually works.

For example, I downloaded a few TV shows and a movie onto the old Mac, and was able to stream them to my new one via iTunes with no problem whatsoever.

Sharing the old Mac’s hard drive space was equally as easy. Simply open up the Systems Preferences, click on the Sharing prefpane, and click the check box next to “Personal File Sharing”.

Then, from your new Mac, open up the Finder, click on the “Network” icon, and double-click on the icon that appears with your old Mac’s name. You’ll be asked for your old username and password combo, and then be asked for the volume that you wish to mount. Select one than looks good (or all of them, if you have more than one!), click OK, and Boom! (ala his Steveness) You’ve got easy access to all your old files, and a place to store new ones!

If you have the built in firewall enabled (and really, its a good idea), don’t forget to allow personal file sharing, iPhoto sharing, and iTunes sharing in the Firewall prefpane.

Extra Credit!

This is not the end of how you can put that old Mac to use, in fact, its only the beginning! The Sharing prefpane contains nine options, seven of which could be useful on a small home network. For even more usefulness, you can get deep inside the UNIX core of OS X and install MySQL for a database server, PHP for server side scripting, VNC for remote desktop connections, and a host of other tools to make sure that the old Mac stays active and healthy for many more years to come.

  1. But what if you want to add things to those libraries? You can’t do it if you’re sharing them from another computer. Also, if you have an ipod, you can’t sync it with a shared library. So while this is certainly “nifty”, it isn’t really practical since most people’s iTunes and iPhoto libraries are evolving, not static.

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  2. The other issue to keep in mind is the cost of power. The difference between a hard drive and a second computer in terms of power usage is pretty significant.

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  3. The best use for an old PowerPC Mac is — use it to run Adobe apps, which are all but unusable under Rosetta.

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  4. I think Marc is essentially correct, but it may not be as huge a challenge as suggested. I have been wrestling with how to do this with the little Mac Mini in our guest bedroom, which is used little, but has plenty of room. I think if I simply chose to set up iPhoto on the Mini, that might make sense, because I control most of the photos, and it’s no big deal to have a central point for their storage. Downside: when traveling, no photos. iTunes is more troubling, because I often add more songs to my library when I am on the road and browsing the iTS. But given that it is possible to sync my iPod to two different libraries, e.g., only those songs I want on my MBP, and then maybe a few in storage on the Mini, maybe it is not such a bad idea.

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  5. Hmm, Photoshop 8.0 runs just peachy on my Mac Pro.

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  6. I am doing the same thing with a Mac mini. I have written an AppleScript that takes care of coping tracks from my iTunes library to the Mac Mini, and then add it to the Mac mini’s iTunes library.

    http://www.paulstimesink.com/post/2006/05/18/copying_tracks_to_remote_itunes

    Also, I use unison to keep the iPhoto libraries in sync.
    http://www.paulstimesink.com/post/2005/03/26/unison

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  7. iPhoto and iTunes are evolving (option key held down at startup for multi libraries choice) but still have a way to go for networkers.

    Like Greg I’ve been juggling between a new Mini and an older G4 Powerbook and I really wish Apple would let iSync do what it should – sync Apple programs for those who’ve invested in more than one Mac instead of trying to squeeze us to lay more down on dotmac.

    My own iPhoto choice has been to simply keep loading, stocking and editing pics on the Pbook with Photoshop and sharing them to the Mini (with an empty iPhoto folder, saving multi GBs there). They’re more useful on the Pbook because the camera gets more use on the road too.

    As far as iTunes goes my large library’s on a portable external drive normally connected to the Mini, but how to travel flexibly?

    One downside to iTunes 7 multi libraries is the prefs don’t get duplicated. But there’s a little freeware program called MiniSwitch which gives the option to switch libraries *and* prefs – slick once it’s set up – thus completing the process for a full library on the Pbook when taking the external along too.

    The point there is to keep something on the Pbook for simple trips without the external. So I switched the Compilations folder to the main drives on both machines and pointed iTunes at them as extras with the prefs for ‘Add to library’ switched off on both machines.

    Once it’s set up – fiddly while keeping rating etc (export/import temp playlists) – it works quite well. Looking forward to when Apple makes life easier for networkers though, which they could start doing right now.

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  8. I recently turned an old Powerbook G4 with a dead battery into a very cool media center, using the apple bluetooth keyboard and mouse and:
    http://www.equinux.com/us/products/mediacentral/

    I also turned an old Power Mac G4 into an FTP server for the office with Rumpus:
    http://www.maxum.com/Rumpus/

    They are both excelent applications and they don’t cost a fortune.

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  9. I run my home LAN on an old Blue and White G3 with four network cards and Mac OS X Server. I use DHCP/NAT for handing out IPs and a crappy Linksys router for wireless. I also run Open Directory to allow me to have auto-mounts and a few other nifty features.

    It works great. I have sharepoints set up for each library and have them auto-mount on client machines. That way when you’re on LAN the different libraries auto-mount in /Network/.

    The G3 is a very nice system for this…it’s steady as a rock and OS X Server runs like a dream.

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  10. My best use for a old computer is to record Radio Stations, I have been doing is non-stop for almost 2 years now! I record a local talk show, and almost every Red Sox Game.

    Some Details on my not so great BLOG
    http://www.cryan.com/daily/?m=6

    - Chris

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