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Use Mountain Lion Server as workstation

2025 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Jun 24, 2013 3:32 AM by Simon Slavin RSS
asdl Calculating status...
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Oct 19, 2012 1:57 PM

Now that OS X Server is so easy to install on almost any Mac, how *bad* is it to run OS X server on, say, a Mac Mini AND use that Mac Mini as a workstation - running apps like Coda, creating websites, etc.?


Can Server run happily in the background, serving up files, being a (intranet) web server, wiki, etc.?


Can a separate local user account be created on the machine and be active while the server runs in the background - or does the local user account disrupt the server apps?


Would love to do it - but know it's always been frowned upon. But I'm just using the server as "server lite" in my small home office...

Mac Mini Server, Mac OS X (10.6.7), Snow Leopard Server
  • Mark23 Level 3 Level 3 (975 points)
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    Oct 19, 2012 2:02 PM (in response to asdl)

    You can do anything you want.

    OS X Server is just an add-on to Mountain Lion and can be removed easily if you need to.


    I run server in the background as well and it has never bothered me.

  • Mark23 Level 3 Level 3 (975 points)
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    Oct 19, 2012 2:28 PM (in response to asdl)

    You can create Open Directory users if you've enabled it, but you can just as well create local users even after setting up open directory.


    I just use the first user that I made on the system, which is an administrative user surely, at registration time.

  • Rich Allcorn Calculating status...
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    Jun 20, 2013 3:28 PM (in response to asdl)

    I am curious ...


    Mac OSx Mountain Lion Server should run just like the workstation, but just have more "stuff" already installed in it, with services and features that a server would use. 


    I know with LINUX, that the difference between a workstation and server is nothing more than what is installed with it during the initial installation.  On LINUX, usually server does not by default load the GUI (X workstation console), to eliminate the need if you're not going to use it as a workstation. 


    Since I installed the Workstation, I've had to install an X11 server, Xcode, a C compiler, etc. and lots of stuff that normally would come in a UNIX or LINUX installation.  For reasons that are clear (most users will not ever use these features) these are not installed by default. 


    If I installed OSx server, would they be?  (installed by default)



    (background info:  I'm an "IT guy" type, a hacker, systems admin type ... I need these services/tools)

  • Simon Slavin Level 4 Level 4 (1,390 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 2:05 AM (in response to Rich Allcorn)

    To build a Mountain Lion Server you do this:


    1. Set up a Mountain Lion Client computer.  Maybe even load additional software on it and use it for a while.
    2. When you're ready to turn it into a server load the Server App from the App Store.
    3. Run the Server app and tell it that you want the computer it's running on to be a server.
    4. Use the Server app to enable and configure whatever server services you want to be running.
    5. That is all.


    Once it's a server you can just leave it running doing the serving.  Or you can contine to use it as a workstation a the same time as it's serving, knowing that it'll be slower when there's lots of serving to be done.


    There is no reason for you to have X11, Xcode and a compiler on a Mountain Lion.  They're used only by developers, not sysadmins.  Nothing in OS X Server displays anything using X11 or compiles software.  Therefore they would not be installed by default.  Or, in fact, at all.


    If you want a development computer (i.e. one to debug and compile software on) it's probably a bad idea to do that on a server.  Some unexpected feature in one of the programs you write might (A) crash the server when other people are using its services or (B) provide a security hole which lets people poison or steal information from the server.

  • MrHoffman Level 6 Level 6 (11,700 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 8:23 AM (in response to asdl)

    FWIW: OS X Server: Don't log in to the server with a network user's account (TS3090)


    The salient difference: Workstation and client outages and downtime usually adversely effects just one user.


    Server outages can and usually do effect multiple users and multiple services.  Workstation and client management thinks nothing of shuffling configurations and rebooting, where servers tend not to be reconfigured very often, and server reboots tend to happen only when necessary and then variously also outside of business hours.


    The overhead from sharing access with a server can range from inconsequential to untenable, depending on what you're doing with the server.  Typical mail services and DNS for a few dozen folks to maybe a hundred or more usually won't be noticable.  Providing disk services or netbooting large numbers of clients and related heavy-I/O or heavy-network tasks might not be quite so innocuous for those folks sharing access on the server.


    No matter what you do here, make certain you have DNS services configured correctly before you start lighting up other services on your server.  Do not configure and light up other services until DNS is working and stable.  You cannot reference ISP DNS here (assuming NAT) and you cannot use .local as your top-level domain (or any other domain you don't have permission to use), and you're best off using a real and registered domain for your local network hosts.  If you have local DNS set up and you're in your own (registered) domain, then the following (diagnostic, harmless) command will usually tell you if the configuration looks OK.  Or that your configuration has errors.


    sudo changeip -checkhostname

  • Rich Allcorn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 8:49 AM (in response to Simon Slavin)

    I guess I wasn't specific enough ...

    We LINUX user's get spoiled in that our workstations are actual server-class systems.  Our workstation "is" a server.  We can run a mail server on it, a Samba server, NFS, finger, talk, ssh, telnet services, and even run serial "terminals" off of our OS.  So, coming from that background and expectation ...



    My intent was not to use a working, active server, that people are using as an actual "server",  as my workstation.  I intend to run it on my Macbook Pro "notebook" PC.  Nobody will be logging into it and using it but me.  It will not even have a static IP when I am roaming about ... only when I'm in my Lab. 

    There is no reason for you to have X11, Xcode and a compiler on a Mountain Lion.

    X11 - seriously?  X11 has been a part of UNIX for a LONG time.  OSx "is" UNIX.  There are a lot of things I put on my Mac that are open source, and therefore count on the standard of X11.  Mac OSx has so much stripped out of it, that one would expect to be on a UNIX system, that I have to install things like X11, Xcode, the C compiler, etc. 


    My question was about the "server version" of Mac OSx, not about a "server", per se.   I was wondering if I might have more resources in the server version of Mac OSx, rather than just using the workstation release.  But this will be, by application, a "workstation", whether it is running Mac OSx or Mac OSx Server. 


    I hope this clarifies my question ...

    Sorry about the misunderstanding. 

  • Simon Slavin Level 4 Level 4 (1,390 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 9:44 AM (in response to Rich Allcorn)

    From your top paragraph, all those server services run on every Mac, server or not.  They all do HTTP, SMB, telnet, ssh, VNC, CUPS, and act as WiFi tethers out of the box.  Click the GUI checkbox or put the daemon in launchd, or whatever.  Anyone used to various versions of Unix will have no problem with them.


    As I wrote above, there is no 'server version' of OS X.  You get a perfectly normal installation of OS X, perhaps one you've been using for years, and install one new app on it:  This gives you nice centralised GUI application from which you can control and monitor everything.  All the services I've listed above, plus lots of other stuff like Netbooting, DHCP and a web-facing interface to change your password.  Most of the stuff it does is already installed on all Macs.  The purposes of the app is to give you a nice centralised remote-control GUI interface to it all.


    But it has nothing on that would interest a developer using that computer to develop.  In the Mac world, the people who are interested in running servers are not the same people who are interested in writing software.  A developer would want to install development tools, not server tools.


    X11 really and genuinely isn't part of the Mac way of doing things.  Yes it comes with the free developer tools and it's easy to install.  That's where you find the the compilers and IDE and other things a developer is interested in.  But tell even most Mac programmers they have to install X11 to run an app you've written and they won't know what you're talking about.  Remember that Macs have had their own GUI since day 1.  In fact early Macs had a GUI and didn't have a command-line environment.  None at all.  Click or perish.  So Mac users don't think in terms of "Oh, I have to add a GUI environment to my computer to make it easier to use.".  (Argh you have reminded me of AWS.  My psychiatrist's bill is in the post.)


    And X11 isn't really Unix.  POSIX is Unix.  sh/ssh/bash/csh is Unix.  X11 is for people who can't remember command-line options.  GIMP is for artists.  Real programmers use 'sips'.

  • MrHoffman Level 6 Level 6 (11,700 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 10:02 AM (in response to Rich Allcorn)

    First, a general question: what do you seek to gain with the installation of OS X Server, and what are your expectations?  To one part of your question, OS X Server does not add X11, Xcode, the command-line tools nor related features, for instance.


    The OS X Server installation looks and works rather differently from the various Linux server implementations are packaged.  With the Linux server installs I've worked with, the whole environment is stripped down and intended for use as, well, a dedicated server.   Same kernel and many of the same tools, but very different packaging from the desktop environments, from the perspective of a user.  Stripped-down, purpose-built, very useful.  But not a desktop.


    The OS X client package includes disk and file services including clients and servers for CIFS/SMB, AFP and NFS, ssh and telnet and screen, and various other features.  OS X client already has various of what some folks refer to as "server" features.  There's BIND9 included, though you're managing that via the command line on OS X client using the familiar /etc/named.conf file.  With an add-on USB-to-serial adapter, I regularly run serial connections, too.


    OS X Server does add features, but — with a few salient exceptions in some versions, and usually involving Boot Camp — does not remove OS X features.  And OS X Server doesn't add development features.  (Well, what


    As for OS X Server and as a general rule, the application services that OS X Server adds to what's already available in OS X client will generally work best with static IP address assignments.  Due to common spam-filtering techniques deployed on other SMTP servers, mail services and related don't necessarily work reliably from servers with dynamic IP addresses, for instance. (This same general issues apply to Linux and other systems running mail servers, BIND servers and Open Directory servers, too.)


    If you're not looking to run DNS services or cache updates or otherwise use the features of OS X Server, then dealing with the requirements that OS X Server can add onto the configuration can be more of a hassle than it's worth.  (I've done that, too.  It works.  Mostly.  Sort of.  Depends on what you're doing.)  But that's entirely your call.


    In previous versions, OS X Server was explicitly not supported with MacBook and MacBook Pro systems.  FWIW.  Apple had supported the desktop and server configurations.


    Not intended to be flippant here and in all seriousness: if Linux meets your needs, run it.  If you need Xcode or X11, load and use that.  Do what you want or need to do here.  See what works for your particular expectations and usage.

  • Rich Allcorn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 10:45 AM (in response to MrHoffman)

    Having most of my experience in LINUX, I am in the "learning mode" here for Mac OSx.

    I moved to the Macbook Pro for a workstation, mainly because I got tired of all of these vendors "NOT" developing theirs to also run on LINUX.  Almost all of the things I want to do, I can do on a LINUX notebook workstation PC. 


    I use an Apple iPhone.  We all have iPhones in my home, iPhones and iPads.  In working with this Macbook Pro, I recently moved to an Apple Airport Extreme router for our Internet.  When we put in our 60" flatscreen TV (mounted into the wall, above the fireplace), I had to run what I call a "spinal column" from the back connections of the TV to the entertainment system, which houses everything.  I included connections for the computer port, to allow for putting an Apple Mac-Mini into the mix.  Then, we will be able to share our music, videos, etc. throughout the LAN (and hopefully  on-the-GRID when we travel).  With a bluetooth Apple keyboard and touchpad at the coffee table, we can then use the system as a "family PC" when needed, but it will most likely be (for the most part), a "server" in function. 


    For this reason, I am curious about the issue of using Mac OSx Server instead, and setting up our own little "Apple world" here at the house.  Like Anthony Hopkins, in the movie "The Edge", I too have the uncanny ability to remember things, trivial things, data, etc.   So, I have learned to be a "sponge" where knowledge is concerned.  And now that we're getting into the Mac stuff here, I want to learn ALL that I can. 


    I appreciate all that you've shared with me here, and will probably end up putting Mac OSx Server on the Mac-Mini, at least to see if it works for our needs.  Otherwise, I can always go back to the standard OSx that comes with the Mac-Mini.  I will put putting the most RAM I can in it, to play with it's capabilities. 


    Thank you again for your insight, your feedback and your advice! 

    It is much appreciated! 

  • MrHoffman Level 6 Level 6 (11,700 points)
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    Jun 21, 2013 12:15 PM (in response to Rich Allcorn)

    A Mac Mini can deal with sharing and serving files just fine, and serving media using home sharing and iTunes and AirPlay also works nicely. 


    The Mac Mini also has the advantage of connectivity to external Thunderbolt and USB storage arrays, if you acquire sufficient content to warrant that.


    In place of iTunes, an Mac Mini with the El Gato EyeTV software installed can also work nicely, and particularly if you want to interface to network-connected OTA DTV tuners or other external sources.


    Here are the tech specs for what OS X with provides.  There's also a product overview document linked there, which provides a few more details. 


    From my experience with both and media centers, OS X with provides no features that would seem particularly useful for the task of home media server.  Ancillary functions such as running DNS services or mail services or distributed authentication or such are certainly available, and what it hauls along are not structured as a media content server. 


    Simon Slavin: Starting with OS X 10.8, users need to fetch the XQuartz open-source package and install it to obtain X11 capabilities.  It's not available from Apple, and not included with the distributions.  FWIW.

  • Simon Slavin Level 4 Level 4 (1,390 points)
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    Jun 24, 2013 3:32 AM (in response to MrHoffman)

    Hey, thanks Hoff.  Shows how much I use X11.  And, I suppose, how much Apple cares about X11.  I bet I don't even have it installed any more.


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