Reviving the Mac Mini

My wife bought a Mac Mini toward the end of college that has been sitting in our basement pretty much since we went to Korea in 2009. I’ve been wanting to do something with it for a while and with Flickr changing its accounts, now seemed like a good time.

I was looking for photo sharing alternatives to Flickr, mostly because I can’t afford a pro membership and I’m already over the 1000 photo limit being imposed in January. I came across [Lychee](, which is essentially single-user, self-hosted photo management. (Check out their [demo site]( – it’s pretty impressive). My home photo collection could also stand being backed up somewhere more consistently, so my goal is to convert the mini into a self-hosted photo sharing site so I can continue to post out on the web and have a backup at home.

*cracks knuckles*

I set up in the dining room and got started.

I have to say, it was pretty amazing plugging in this computer, which hasn’t seen use in nearly a decade, and watching it boot up as if I had used it yesterday.

Macs have [long-had web hosting built right in]( Apache and PHP are included by default and it’s easy to install MySQL for databasing. I was hoping to go the easy route and just use the default tools. LOL.

Lychee requires PHP 5.5+. The mini (late 2006 model) has PHP 4.4 and Apache 1.3 installed. No good. I started searching for [ways to upgrade both](, but the recommended site with ported versions for old copies doesn’t exist anymore.

So, I grabbed another Mac for more efficient Googling. There was also beer.

The best option, I think, is to boot into Linux rather than OSX 10.4. So, I started researching Debian distributions that would work on older hardware. My plan was to wipe the entire hard drive and dedicate it to server resources. When I landed on the Debian wiki, they had a page specifically for older, Intel-based Macs. This line caught my eye:

The oldest Mini (macmini1,1) is typically the most problematic, due to bugs in its firmware. When booting off CD/DVD, if there is more than one El Torito boot record on the disc then the firmware gets confused. It tried to offer a choice of the boot options, but it locks up instead.

That’s not good. I have two choices: I can partition the drive to prevent losing the entire machine or I can go for it and hope that the OSX recover DVD I have in the basement still works. (I’ll probably partition, just to be safe.)

Luckily, two lines later, the Debian wiki notes that specific builds are now available which only include _one_ boot record, which solves the problem. [A quick 300MB download of the Mac-specific distribution]( later and I’m ready to burn then disk image to a USB drive with [Etcher](

Next steps are to actually do the Debian install.


Every Friday, our local NPR station has a segment called Michiana Chronicles which features essays by area writers. I don’t catch it often, but I happened to be driving today when it came on. It’s titled Mug Storiesand it inspired this post.

I definitely have my own preferred mugs. I usually look for the wide-mouthed blue mug that we got in the Korean equivalent of a dollar store. I bought it because I needed something for coffee in my first teaching position. We were 24, transplanted to the center of Seoul and learning how to build a life together. That was the same year I bought my wife the wide, hand-thrown mug with a violet painted on it from 인사동.

Our overseas mugs aren’t limited to Korean origin. We also have a nice heavy vessel from Austria adorned with Schladminger that my wife obtained while studying overseas during college. We’ve both been to Austria, though separately. I’d be okay going back some day with her.

(This photo is from Bavaria in Germany, but Austria is just past those mountains, so I’m going to count it.)

This is technically from Germany, but Austria is just past those mountains

IMG_3854 flickr photo by bennettscience shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

We had a smaller mug from Thailand from our trip during Christmas in 2010. It was brown with a white glaze ring around the top and a mosaic-like pattern on the white. It was delicate and made the 7,000 mile trip home fine only to have the handle broken in our dishwasher one afternoon.

The Thailand mug before it broke.

Bottom of the cup. flickr photo by bennettscience shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Some of our mugs come out more frequently in particular seasons. We were gifted two mugs from a local potter as wedding gifts. We got to go to meet Peter the Potter in his workshop and pick out two hand-thrown pieces. One still survives today, nearly 10 years later (the other developed a hairline crack and it started leaking). We were married in the spring but the burnt orange and earth colors of the glaze make me reach for it more in the fall as we hunker down for the cold winters.

Other mugs don’t come out enough. It’s a reminder that we need to have people in the house…enough to use the mugs that don’t get used regularly. They’re just as good as others, but for one reason or another, they’re relegated to guests only. We ended up hosting Easter dinner this year. Family and friends came over for a meal and all of our mugs were in the dishwasher that night.

Featured image Full House Cafe flickr photo by pheezy shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license