Speccing out a new Mac mini -- advice?
  • Hello!

    Long-time SecuritySpy user here.

    I'm currently running SecuritySpy on an older Mac mini (dedicated for that purpose), and am considering upgrading to a current Mac mini to get better performance. I'm trying to determine how to spec out the new Mac mini. I have 16 cameras varying in age and resolution, but have slowly been updating cameras to a higher resolution. They're all set to motion record, and I frequently bring up a live view using SecuritySpy's built-in web server.

    I've tinkered with the System Requirements Calculator (https://www.bensoftware.com/securityspy/helpcalculator.html), which is a great resource, but still have some questions.

    In terms of memory, is it fair to assume that SecuritySpy doesn't use much RAM, and that the default 8 GB would be enough? Or should I go to 16? I hate how much Apple charges for memory, and while I've trivially upgraded memory on many Mac models myself in the past, it sounds like a risky procedure to do yourself on the new Mac mini due to the way Apple changed the design.

    My main question, though, is about storage. On my older Mac mini, I have an external 8 TB USB-2 drive that is used to store all video from SecuritySpy. The location that I'm at has frequent power outages, which will often cause a hard reboot of the Mac mini. I've had issues with SecuritySpy launching before Mac OS mounts the external hard drive, which will cause SecuritySpy to either hang/crash or default to writing to the internal drive, which doesn't have much spare capacity. I've tried to "fix" that by writing an AppleScript that launches SecuritySpy after a 10-second delay -- providing a chance for all external volumes to mount on a restart before SecuritySpy launches. That has helped, although doesn't seem to always work. (If there's a feature hidden in SecuritySpy somewhere that can help with this particular problem, I'd love to learn about it!)

    What I'm considering doing on the Mac mini is upgrading to the 2TB internal SSD and using that for video storage, which would be faster, of course, and will avoid the mount-race-condition problem I've experienced. It will be less storage than an 8TB hard drive, obviously, so I might have to manually archive files off the internal hard drive more frequently, but that might be an OK tradeoff for better performance.

    However, is it a bad idea to use the internal SSD as the video destination for SecuritySpy? In the past, I know SSDs weren't ideal for continuous writing applications, as they have a lower read/write lifetime than traditional hard drives. But perhaps they're on more equal footing now and that's less of a concern. Any thoughts on this?
  • In terms of RAM, I would say go for 16GB. SecuritySpy is efficient in its use of memory, but with 16 cameras that you are upgrading to higher specifications it would be prudent to go for the larger amount in order to be future proof. I know it's galling to be paying the premium cost that Apple charges for this, but I think this is preferable to either being short of RAM, or attempting to upgrade the RAM yourself, which might result in damage during installation, or the possibility of the non-Apple RAM causing problems.

    When SecuritySpy is launched and a capture destination is unavailable, SecuritySpy will wait for 20 seconds for the drive to mount, and then will give up and continue to launch, and will proceed to record to the default capture destination on the system drive (~/SecuritySpy/Captured Files). Subsequently, when the external drive re-appears, SecuritySpy will automatically switch back to it.

    This mechanism has been improved in recent versions of SecuritySpy, so if you are seeing problems with this, make sure you are running the latest version of SecuritySpy.

    In terms of reliability, an SSD is perfect fine to use for SecuritySpy's capture drive, especially for motion-triggered recording, where the rate of data written to the drive is far less than continuous recording. SSDs do have a limited number of write cycles, but this is quite large number (1000 or more), and if you plan to keep your recorded footage for a month or so (so that you are writing a maximum of 2TB data per month to your 2TB drive), then the drive will last for several decades. It will likely last much longer than a mechanical HDD, which should be considered to have a life span of just a few years of continuous use before they tend to fail due to mechanical wear and tear.

    However the problem with SSD drives is the cost-to-storage-space ratio, which is very poor in comparison to HDD drives — especially so for Apple's SSD options, which are very expensive. I would therefore recommend you use a large external HDD in a USB-3 or Thunderbolt enclosure for your new system. You will get much more storage space for much less money, and the performance and reliability should still be very good.
  • Thank you Ben -- I appreciate your comments and recommendations.
  • I've just moved my camera's onto a top-spec Mac Mini with the fastest i7 CPU, 2TB SSD, and 32Gb RAM. I have 7 cameras at the moment - all 1080p at 15 frames per second and when it's running the web page tells me its 2-5% CPU load. I do use the server for Plex Media and FTP as well but it does not seem too concerned.
  • Im running a Late 2012 Mac mini - Catalina 10.15.4 - 2.5Ghz Dual-Core i5 - 16GBDDR3
    internal SSD for OS - internal SSD 2TB for records

    Running :
    Plex Media Server + DVR
    piHole5 - Docker
    SecuritySpy 5 with 10x 1080p cameras 15fps @ constant record

    SUMMARY

    - 10 of 10 cameras currently online
    - 8 movie files recorded in total
    - 0 image files recorded in total
    - 287 GB of data recorded in total
    - 100% software uptime
    - 25% average CPU usage
    - Normal memory pressure
  • I would like to add I run SS at the moment on my iMac until I can get a Mac mini dedicated to it but I write everything straight to my NAS so it does not record locally and I have not any trouble doing this with 4 cameras on motion detection and two of those doing continuous capture.

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