Help me buy a new computer
October 9, 2013 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I would like something the size of a Mac Mini, that runs Ubuntu (server), can contain at least 1.5TB of storage and 12GB of RAM. What should I be looking at?

Reasonably performing database/web/file sharing machine.
posted by xmutex to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How about a mac mini that you install Ubuntu on?
posted by TimeDoctor at 7:03 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you want an Intel NUC
posted by deanc at 7:08 PM on October 9, 2013

deanc: The NUCs look nice but I don't see how to squeeze 1.5TB of storage. No mSATA drives that big. Is there something I might be missing? Which is probably the case.
posted by xmutex at 7:28 PM on October 9, 2013

You're setting the size limit awfully small by aiming for a Mac Mini footprint; Apple is very good at compact computing and they "only" get 1 TB and 4 GB inside.

Have you looked at the Fit-PC "Intense PC" model ? They advertise capacity of 16 GB RAM and two 2.5 inch hard drives.

I haven't used the Intense model, but I've been very happy running headless Ubuntu on a Fit-PC2 in an industrial application.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:43 PM on October 9, 2013

Kakkerlak: Mac Minis have two 2.5" 9.5mm tall drive slots and take up to 16GB RAM.
posted by zsazsa at 7:56 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could upgrade the memory and storage in a Mac mini. Crucial is a good vendor for memory. Newegg is a good vendor for hard drives. Then install Ubuntu, as usual.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 PM on October 9, 2013

There are no hardware compatibility issues w/ installing Ubuntu on a Mini? Nothing weird gonna crop up and bug the crap outta me?
posted by xmutex at 9:15 PM on October 9, 2013

The last-generation NUC spawned a lot of third-party cases, since it's technically a development board for appliances, and the forthcoming Haswell board will too, if you have time to wait; since there's a single SATA connector, some of them will accommodate a 2.5in drive.

The booksize/ultraminis at Newegg tend to miss one of your requirements: either only a single DIMM slot, or no SATA. However, there's this Zotac ZBox that would take a SATA drive and 16GB of RAM.
posted by holgate at 9:29 PM on October 9, 2013

There are no hardware compatibility issues w/ installing Ubuntu on a Mini? Nothing weird gonna crop up and bug the crap outta me?

I'm running Ubuntu 12 on a first-gen Intel Mac mini at work, which seems to run okay. Wireless works fine. It is hooked up to a 27-inch display through a USB KVM. No other weirdness that I could notice, though I did have to install an EFI boot manager to be able to choose to boot from various partitions.

Here is a guide for installing Ubuntu 13 on a late 2012 Mac mini, which discusses potential driver issues and how they were fixed.

You could buy a Mac mini and do a dry run with the stock hardware, i.e., install your Linux of choice with the factory hard drive and memory. If everything is good, you upgrade the hardware with a couple 750 GB SATA3 drives and more memory and you're set. If not, you bring the Mac mini back to the Apple Store and they give you a full refund.

As far as I know, Apple is perhaps the only computer vendor with a 0% restocking fee, so there's little or no risk with this option, compared with a DIY or third-party build where you're stuck with what you have and whatever hardware/driver incompatibilities, or pay a 15-20% restocking fee.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:49 PM on October 9, 2013

The only issue I could see with Mac minis is that there may be new models out very soon. Checking with the MacRumors buying guide, it suggests waiting for Haswell-based upgrades. If you buy now, you get the late-2012 model. On the other hand, new hardware could introduce incompatibilities that would take a little time for the Linux crowd to patch for. Current (soon to be old) hardware might be easier to set up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:02 PM on October 9, 2013

Yeah, if you decide to go with a Mac mini, then wait till the month's end to see if new ones come out, and you may get a decent deal on older hardware, or have the option of springing for a Haswell-based box that has a bit better power consumption, but may need a bit of time to have the driver kinks addressed.
posted by holgate at 10:39 PM on October 9, 2013

The current model mac mini server is a quad-core I7 and can be configured at the factory to your specs (2x1TB drives, 16GB memory), though it's cheaper to upgrade the memory yourself. Apple frequently has "refurbished" units for $100 to $200 less than list, and in my experience these look & act as new. Right after an upgrade may be a time to get a previous gen refurb, but unless they announce something more than incrementally better than the current model, the old ones don't drop in price _that_ much.

I have a previous generation mini server (500GB drives, slightly slower I7) and paid $799 for it as a refurb. I can't speak to running Ubuntu on it, though.
posted by mr vino at 1:02 AM on October 10, 2013

I'd recommend you try a mini, too. The only weird thing you'll encounter is the EFI boot system. You can hopefully get around that using rEFIt (or rEFInd) or using the mac's own dual boot support that's targeted at Windows. You may have to live with a small mac partition for the booting situation.
posted by chairface at 6:25 AM on October 10, 2013

I just came across this thread today, and if you haven't already made a decision or a purchase you might be interested in knowing that Apple very slightly changed the specs on the Mini recently (I know because I've been watching like a hawk for my own reasons). They haven't put in Haswell generation chips yet, which is what I'm waiting for, but they have added a 2TB model. It also shouldn't be that hard to to put 2TB inside yourself? HTH.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:13 PM on October 30, 2013

...there is also a fairly comprehensive guide to putting Linux on the most recent Mac Mini model if that's useful.
posted by trackofalljades at 4:16 PM on October 30, 2013

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