11 Replies Latest reply: Jan 2, 2013 8:43 PM by milktease
ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

I want to enable a Mac Mini's wifi without having any other active network (No cable in the ethernet port). Purpose is to use the box in a portable demo environment, where the demo laptop connects via wireless to the application running on the Mini. Is this possible? The only options that are apparent are via Internet Sharing, but it seems you must share some other port (like ethernet), and if that port is not active, the wireless is not enabled. At least that is the observed behavior.

 

The use case is this. Sales guy has the mini and his laptop with him. He goes to the customer, plugs in the mini, waits a couple of minutes, fires up the laptop, connects to the mini's wireless connection, does his (web based) demo. The mini does not connect to anything but the wall power. There are good reasons for not putting this application on the laptop itself.


Mac mini, Mac OS X (10.7.2), OS X Lion Server
  • 1. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    Strontium90 Level 4 Level 4 (3,140 points)

    Interesting proposition.  But it should be possible. 

     

    In my experience, you do not need an active connection on the "Share from" setting.  For example, I will commonly set my laptop to share its Wireless connection over ethernet.  Then I will connect my laptop to a raid case or other device in a data center, allowing my ethernet port to hand off a DHCP lease.  Meanwhile, the wireless connection is not connected to anything and is getting a 169.254 bonjour address.

     

    So without access to a device to try at the moment, the theory should hold that you can set the Share you connection from to the Mini's ethernet port.  Then check the Airport/Wi-Fi port as broadcast port.  This should reveal the Wi-Fi Option button, allowing you to define a simple security and an ssid.

     

    Now, the one thing you may have trouble with it DNS.  However if the mini is only doing a web demo and you are using relative links, then you should be fine.

  • 2. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    This only appears to be the case if you start internet sharing with a cable plugged in. If you enable internet sharing without a cable plugged in, it never starts up the wifi side. If you check the status of wifi from the menubar it appears to be searching for networks to connect to.

     

    Since I want this to come up properly configured when the sales guy boots up the machine, with no intervention, just using internet sharing doesn't seem to do the trick.

     

    Regarding DNS, you are right it isn't needed. But I did set up DHCP service, serving both the wired and wifi side. So if the connection does ever come up, the connecting laptop gets a proper IP address from the server. This works fine if I configure an Ad Hoc network, but unfortunately those don't persist over a reboot.

     

    I'm at a loss at the moment. I've even tried writing a boot time applescript to set up an Ad Hoc wifi network via menus, but unfortunately there has to be a logged in session with a desktop to manipulate. There doesn't seem to be enough control with the networksetup script to configure an ad hoc network. So far I am stymied.

     

    I may be forced to give up and have the sales guy carry a cable with him, but that is a disappointing Plan B.

     

    Help anyone?

  • 3. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Actually it is worse than above. If the cable is removed, the system drops the wifi, even if it was up before.

     

    It really seems to be a share it only if it is present sort of algorithm.

     

    Help?

  • 4. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    John.Kitzmiller Level 3 Level 3 (870 points)

    It seems to me like it might be easier to host the mini somewhere like macminicolo.net, give the sales guy a mobile hotspot, and just have him connect to the web based demo that way.

  • 5. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Unfortunately John, if I could have done that I wouldn't be in this pickle. This is not being done in the United States, but in another country. The clients being visited are in "sensitive" sites, and will not give us access to their internet connection. Worse, we cannot count on the quality of 3G services in these locations.

     

    The people being presented to are key decision makers, and we need to make a good impression with them. Thus the desire to have a box largely out of site, with the only thing on the desk being the small laptop, ideally without a cable. But the fallback appears to be the en0 port, and a cable, unless someone has an idea here.

     

    So, still... Help?

  • 6. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Sorry, in the above reply I meant "largely out of sight", not "out of site"...

  • 7. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    Camelot Level 8 Level 8 (45,790 points)

    You might need a two-part solution.

     

    The problem mostly hinges around the Mini acting as a base station, which it only does under certain circumstances (i.e. when it's sharing the internet connection).

     

    One solution, therefore, would be to carry a Mini and a small wireless base station of some kind - even the diminuitive Apple AirPort Express would do. The base station would create a small wireless network to which both the Mini Server and the client laptop would connect to. You wouldn't have any issues of the Mini not working due to the lack of en0 connection, and you'd have consistent IP addresses to work with.

  • 8. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi Camelot,

     

    Thanks, yes I agree adding an external express would help. A little more expense, and the need for two plugs, but maybe not a big issue.

     

    That said, since the mini can obviously act as a base station in some circumstances, is it technically possible to either coerce it to be a base station at other times (say, for example, coming up with a way to share lo0, which is on my "things to try" list), or to get the box to create an ad hoc network on boot (I have an applescript to do that, but requires that the user be logged in with a display so it can operate the menus - if there is a way to do it with a launch daemon that would be ideal).

     

    Is this a marketing restriction, or a technical one? Am I the only one that thinks a standalone base station serving an application, without any other network connection permanently attached, is a useful configuration?

  • 9. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have solved my own problem by sharing the loopback network (lo0)!

     

    Here is how to do it:

     

    1. In Terminal, use networksetup to create a network service on lo0:

         % sudo networksetup -createnetworkservice LoopbackNet lo0

    2. In Server Admin (part of the extra set of admin tools not included in Lion Server for some inexplicable reason) set up DHCP to provide addresses on the wifi network

    3. Again in Server Admin, enable NAT, IP forwarding and mapping, with port forwarding enabled. (Internet Sharing might do this, but it didn't work until I did this myself.)

    4. In System Preferences => Internet Sharing, share the LoopbackNet service via WiFi (be sure to set up your WiFi as you like in the options).

     

     

    That's it in a nutshell. (I may have left out a detail or two, feel free to comment if it doesn't work for you and I can help you through it...)

  • 10. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    ChuckPrice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    There is one more problem with making this work reliably. When the mini reboots, for some reason OS X does not reliably restart Internet Sharing. I learned from a post in another forum that the simple solution is to kill the bootp daemon in the /etc/rc.local script. This is harmless, since it will be immediately restarted and will bring up Internet Sharing properly as a result.

     

    Put the following into /etc/rc.local:

     

    kill $(cat /var/run/bootpd.pid)

     

    Make sure the /etc/rc.local script is executable by:

     

    % chmod +x /etc/rc.local

     

    after creating the /etc/rc.local script.

     

    Once you reboot, sharing should start reliably.

  • 11. Re: Mac Mini as standalone wireless demo box
    milktease Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hello Chuck,

     

    I found this through a generic search and it's just what I need, I think.  My use will be to use an ipad as sole interface to a mac mini using wifi.

     

    So I'm wondering if you've made any changes to this setup in the last 7 months or any other epiphones.  Next I'm looking for the best of the vpn clients for ipad.

     

    Thanks for posting your solution which beats the **** out of a menu picking applescript for an adhoc network.  I get paranoid that menus will change, timings that are sensitive, etc.

     

    cheers, happy new year!