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Using Mac OS X Server at home
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herbsman
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Feb 13, 2010, 02:51 AM
 
Is there any real practical use for using Mac OS X Server for a home setup? I just want to start learning it so I was thinking about installing it on my mac mini, but I don't know if this is practical.

1. What are the benefits using this at home?
2. Can I use the mac mini as my main day-to-day computer? Does it use the same standard Mac OS X client applications and functions?
3. I have 2 macs (1 being the mac mini that I'd like to use as the OS X Server computer, 1 linux box, and 1 pc. What kind of interesting things can I do with this setup?

Thanks!
     
besson3c
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Feb 13, 2010, 05:18 PM
 
What are your goals here? To learn something that is practical in the world of work and/or landing a job, or to have fun?
     
mduell
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Feb 13, 2010, 07:05 PM
 
No.
     
imitchellg5
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:40 PM
 
I don't mean to sound condescending, but I simply don't know how else to say it. If you need to ask those questions, you don't need to run OS X server. So save yourself a few bucks!

Edit: To expand a little bit, the client versions of OS X have a lot of technologies built in that could probably accomplish what you want to do, if it's just to mess around with.
     
herbsman  (op)
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Feb 14, 2010, 07:05 PM
 
Thanks for the responses everyone. Yeah, I want to learn because I mainly want to get my feet wet with the server stuff. My employer recommended that I start learning this stuff asap as the business is growing (Mac OS X server is not setup yet at work) and I got thrown into the role of IT dude at my work after 2 of the previous guys quit. I'm not really from this field but I'm the most techy person at work so it kind of fell on my lap. My boss is going to hire a real sysadmin to get this setup in a few months and I will assume the role as the assistant, but I thought I'd just mess with it for now for fun so he gave me the copy and license for 10.6 server along with a mac mini to try at home.

I admit I have no clue what I am doing! LOL. Again I admit I am a total newb with this stuff but I guess you gotta start somewhere. Thanks again for the responses and your help!
( Last edited by herbsman; Feb 15, 2010 at 03:30 AM. )
     
besson3c
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Feb 14, 2010, 07:23 PM
 
herbs: I would *really* *really* think about whether this is a path you want to go down.

What you are doing is effectively assuming responsibility for the company in absence of an actual IT person. This may sound like a fun adventure to you, but when the shit hits the fan, you are the guy.

We can tell you what stuff to click on to set stuff up, but this is probably not going to really do you a whole lot of good in the long run. In the long run, you want to know *exactly* how your backup works so that you can be assured that it is running and doing its thing at any given time, you want to not only know by rote what stuff to click on to setup your server, but to understand *exactly* what the GUI is doing under-the-hood so that you can be prepared for whatever unforeseen problem comes your way.

When the shit does hit the fan, it's often with really obscure problems. Maybe an Apple update breaks something, maybe Apache will no longer start, maybe a configuration file was overwritten, maybe there are DNS or networking related problems, mail stops flowing, RAM or a HDD starts to go bad, something silently fails and you discover this by pure fluke. There are a million and one things that can go wrong, so simply trying to learn whatever you can about whatever product you are using is not enough. You have to understand how to examine log files, how to Google for error messages being produced by the log files, how to use various Unix commands to diagnose problems and knowing what these commands mean/do, how to manage resources on the server, how to trace problems from software failures down to kernel level failures, etc.

A lot of people seem to think that because Apple makes things easy that it is a good idea to run a server. Do not be enticed by this false sense of security, Apple's ease-of-use bubble, like any other, works until it doesn't. When it doesn't is what you should be most concerned with, as when it doesn't and the company is losing business, you are sweating bullets, stuff is down, there are fires to be put out and you are the guy is exactly the *wrong* time to be learning on the job.
( Last edited by besson3c; Feb 14, 2010 at 07:31 PM. )
     
olePigeon
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Feb 14, 2010, 07:25 PM
 
OS X Server is the only version of Mac OS X that is licensed to run in a Virtual Machine on Apple hardware. If you want to play with it, you could load it up in VMWare or Parallels to give a try without reinstalling your computer.
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts
     
bishopazrael
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Feb 15, 2010, 12:07 AM
 
Herbsman,
I was in the same boat. I'm just the regular computer guy and my boss is asking me to do the same thing.

On a level of 1 to 10, 10 being tough.
Setting up OS X is a 2 or 3 for most folks. Not for me, I've been doing it a while. So for me its a 1.

Setting up server. Call it a 7. Things like DNS you HAVE to know backwards and forwards. I actually called a consultant to set things up. I had bought the Server Essentials book that's approved by Apple and they use in their training courses. I learned more with this guy than the book. There are things that they leave out. Small details that left out make a difference.

There IS a steep learning curve. But these guys ..... I quit coming here for serious help. Too many guys around here acting like if they tell you too much you might be gunning for their job. Don't get me wrong. They're nice guys, but when it comes down to it, more often than not they all fall back on the old "Its hard" routine.

The bottom line is that only you know if you have the aptitude to do this. Don't take the job if you think you can't deal with the worst of problems when they roll around. On the other hand if you think that the likely hood of your company needing anyone else for IT besides you is slim, then explain to your boss like I did that you don't know some things, but that you're learning. Worse comes to worse you can call a local Apple consultant. But if that's the route you want to take I'd highly advise you to set up a prior relationship with him first. Have them come out and check out the set up.

Setting up a server is easier than you think with 10.6. It runs great on a Mini. It does all the file sharing you need. The worst part was learning about the DNS set ups and HOW to set something up right. Book learning vs. street learning.

I say get it, play with it, learn it, love it. Don't let anyone else tell you what you SHOULD do. They don't know you, only you do.

Good luck,
Bishop out.
Backups are like guns and condoms. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
     
besson3c
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Feb 15, 2010, 12:21 AM
 
If you do take on the job, ask for more money. Keep a minimum safe distance from problems, don't assume responsibility.
     
bishopazrael
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Feb 15, 2010, 01:55 PM
 
Besson, we get it. Because all you know about macs and computers and networking, you just gained by osmosis. You're just that good.

Us lowly types, we gotta sweat and bleed to learn this. If you can't at least encourage someone please don't come in with that nasty attitude like someone who needs to learn it isn't worthy of learning or going through trial by fire.
Backups are like guns and condoms. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
     
besson3c
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Feb 15, 2010, 02:42 PM
 
Of course he, or anybody here, is able to learn stuff, why would I imply otherwise? Obviously we all need an opportunity to cut our teeth. I'm just saying that this particular opportunity sounds like it could become a liability, although maybe I'm just reading into it incorrectly.
     
herbsman  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 06:17 PM
 
Wow I didn't mean to stir up so much trouble with my question.

I want to explain that in no way are we going to deploy Mac OS X server at work right now especially with me at the helm. This is only going to happen when my boss hires a real sysadmin which will be several months down the line. He only let me 'borrow' the Server software to try and mess with at home because I will in effect become the future sysadmin's assistant and will train under him.

My boss knows nothing about computers. He only knows that with the growing size of the business the IT infrastructure needs to get beefed up. He had consultations done with professionals that recommended this. In the meantime, I'm the IT guy that handles the regular computer issues for the employees at a client OS based level only.

So I guess that leads me back to my original question. I would like to play with Mac OS X server and am willing to set it up at my home if there are any practical case uses. Perhaps there aren't any according to some of the previous posters.

If so, what is the best way for me to learn about this stuff? Maybe some of you can give me a basic outline on things that I need to learn and know and I can use that as a study guide. Thank again everyone, I really appreciate all the feedback.
( Last edited by herbsman; Feb 15, 2010 at 06:24 PM. )
     
imitchellg5
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Feb 15, 2010, 06:27 PM
 
Would your boss let you take (for pay) a couple of courses on system management if there are any available in your area?
     
besson3c
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Feb 15, 2010, 06:29 PM
 
In that case, as long as the situation is no-pressure and you aren't being thrust into action where you are accountable for stuff, what I said doesn't apply

Here are the sorts of things I would learn, without knowing anything about the services that you would potentially be running (this is all generic sys admin stuff, in no particular order):

- How to find and interpret log data

- How to setup automated tasks that run on a set schedule or at set intervals

- How to setup a reliable backup, monitor this, and be completely assured at any moment of time that it is running and doing its thing without silently failing

- How to manage resources (memory, CPU, etc.)

- How to test for failing RAM and hard disk drives

- How to know when virtual memory is being utilized so that this can be prevented and/or minimized

- How to manage the server remotely and securely from any location in the world with internet access

- How to plan for maintenance windows/upgrades/downtime

- How to restore from backup from a set point in time

- How to setup outbound mail for notification/text messages, if nothing else

- How to setup a secondary server to monitor the services running on the primary server and notify you when there are problems

- How to setup a working clone/test server and use it to test stuff before rolling out changes (this is important!! A lot of people don't bother to do this and get into trouble)

- How to setup DNS and/or /etc/hosts entries so that the server can be accessed via a domain name that would remain constant. Additionally, you might want secondary subdomains that are even more generic so that if you want to change the name of the machine you can without having to touch these names... e.g. mail.yourcompany.com, ns1.yourcompany.com, ns2.yourcompany.com, etc.

- Know the ins and outs of permissions and what sorts of permissions will put your server at risk

- Learn smart security policies, both physical and software-based

- Have a secondary/tertiary offsite backup

- Learn as much Unix as you can so that you can do all of this stuff in the command line without relying on some dude's GUI

- Learn how to write shell scripts


I'm sure I could think of more stuff, but hopefully this is a good starting place.
( Last edited by besson3c; Feb 15, 2010 at 06:35 PM. )
     
herbsman  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 09:55 PM
 
thanks besson3c that's very informative.

and imitchellg5, I think my boss might be ok with paying for that. Do you have any recommendations where they train newbs for a crash course on sysadmin stuff?

Thanks!
     
besson3c
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Feb 15, 2010, 09:57 PM
 
where do you live, herbsman?
     
bishopazrael
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Feb 16, 2010, 12:31 AM
 
Now THAT is the kind of post that I came here for in the first place. Thanks Besson.
Backups are like guns and condoms. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
     
herbsman  (op)
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Feb 16, 2010, 12:36 AM
 
oops forgot to mention where i'm at!

I live in the Bay Area, northern California in Santa Clara. I'm sure there's lots of stuff around here but I'd love to get a stamp of approval recommendation from the experts
     
   
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