Plex Media Server on an Ubuntu Mac Mini
Apple's Mac Mini hasn't seen a referesh since 2014 with many people believing that the 2012 version was superior anyway due to it having it's RAM and hard drives easily upgradeable.
Using a 2012 Mac Mini to edit video and perform other CPU/GPU intensive tasks in 2018 isn't ideal but this little beauty of a machine can be used quite effectively as a media server.
I decided to try using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS instead of macOS High Sierra as my OS of choice for this project and then install Plex Media Server to serve up movies and TV shows to my Apple TVs.
I downloaded the 64bit version of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and used UNetbootin to make a bootable USB installer. Holding down the Option key while booting the Mac mini resulted in the USB drive being shown as a boot option. I selected it and installed Ubuntu as a clean install which mean't that my macOS installation was deleted and Ubuntu was the only OS available on the Mac mini.
Once I got to the desktop, I updated the system, enabled wifi by allowing additional drivers in Settings, paired my Magic Keyboard and Trackpad using the Bluetooth utility in settings and with minimal effort, had a working Ubuntu system.
Setting up Plex Media Server
Plex Media Server is available as a free download from Plex.tv.
I downloaded the 64bit version and installing it was as simple as double clicking the downloaded installer and authorizing Software Centre to install it via my admin password.
Once Plex Media Server was installed, I logged in using my free Plex account and then started adding my media.
Once my media was added ( TV Shows and Movies), Plex immediately started downloaded meta data to add cover art, synopsis info etc.
I then open the Plex app on my iPhone and Apple TVs and linked them to my new server which was quite a simple process.
All my media was available and streamed perfectly without issue. Even though I was using an iPhone and an Apple TV to test the quality of streaming, my Ubuntu-based Plex Media Server connected and worked seamlessly.
I ran Plex Media Server on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS for several weeks and found the system to be stable, fast and perfectly capable of streaming my media. I could have easily done the exact same thing using macOS High Sierra instead of Ubuntu since Plex Media Server is available for macOS as well.
However, my aim was to test if Ubuntu could function without issue on a 2012 Mac mini and confirm if it could be used without ever having to dual boot with macOS. My testing has shown that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is fast, fully supports the 2012 Mac mini's hardware and the fact that it has free updates for 5 years confirmed that I won't be going back to macOS.
Ubuntu and Plex gave my aging Mac mini a new purpose and will probably remain in this state for several years to come. I highly recommend to anyone that has an old Mac mini that isn't in use anymore to give Ubuntu a go: it might be a pleasant surprise!