4 Replies Latest reply: Dec 30, 2012 8:13 PM by Kirk Carver
Kirk Carver Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

I have a Mac Mini server (twin 500 gb HD) which I have had for about 2 years.  Mainly I have just played around with it, but never set up the server functionality to it's full extent.  I just clean installed OSx Mountan Lion (10.8) on the machine.  The two HD's are separate and not in a RAID configuration.


With the release of 10.8 OSx, the server functions are now in an App you have to purchase and download.  No issue for me, but I would like some assistance and guidance from the community on how to properly set up the server for my needs (or if staying with the basic OS is fine).


I have a couple of MacBooks, an iPad and two iPhones in the family, plus a remote Mac in another city.  The OSx devices will be upgraded to 10.8 soon, the iOS's are up-to-date with the latest os.  I also have a new Time Capsule running our network, but haven't started using it as a TM backup location (current backups are on local attached drives}


I plan to use the Mac Mini with dual HD's primarily as the location where our media resides, regardless of whether it becomes a server or stays in the base OSx.   However, reading over some of the capabilities of the server ( 1 ), I'm hopefull I might be able to do more with the machine. 


I'd like to be able to have a centralized user account managment via the Open Directory that the OSx Server provides.  Would also like to be able to set the other "client" computers / devices to allow for synchronization back to the server when they reconnect to the network after being mobile.   Also, it would be nice to set up the configuration of each of the users such that their preferences, iTunes media file locations, etc are consistent across all machines. 


There may be some limitations to what I am attempting, that I am unaware of.  However, if at minimum I could accomplish the account managment easily, that would be a win.


Assume I know little or nothing about domains and authentication -- not exactly true, but I don't want to assume anything with my limited knowledge.  I don't mind reading detailed step-by-step manuals if they are available, but I would appreciate some guidance and wisdom to get me started.


Thanks for any help y'all can provide.



(1) http://movies.apple.com/media/us/osx/2012/server/docs/OSXServer_Product_Overview .pdf

mac Mini Server, Mac OS X (10.6.5)
  • gesher Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi, were you able to get this set up? I'd be really interested to hear how it went: if it did work, could you tell me what you did to get there; and if it didn't work, could you tell me what you tried?

  • FromOZ Level 2 Level 2 (415 points)

    OS X Server is an interesting beast, I am at work an IT Director in a Microsoft only environment, and am reasonably familiar with Linux/Unix having used it personally for many years.


    OS X Server is, as you will likely know, a combination of various open source packages (BIND, Postfix, Dovecot, Open Directory etc.) with an Apple 'wrapper'.


    I have recently got into similar situation as you, Apple gear at home (not one MS or Google product) and my old Linux server machine running Gentoo was long overdue for retirement. Let's get a Mac OS X server I said — it's based on *nix with the Mac front-end, what could be better??



    My experience after installing and configuring the whole thing — Mac mini + ML OS X Server ? Personally I think that Apple has gone backwards with Lion/Mountain Lion server. Trying to make a server platform act like an end-user product is a mistake. Servers are not end user machines — by their very nature they are sophisticated and may require complex configuring. Making some lollipop front-end that is claimed to be 'simple' simply by virtue of removing (necessary) configuration options ends up fooling no-one, and frustrating pretty well everyone.


    Tim Cook, if you're listening, the guys who made the changes to OS X server are on a par with the guys who made maps — sack 'em and please fix/improve OS X Server.



    Phew that feels better. Having said all the above I will be sticking with ML Server — and keeping my fingers crossed.


    OK my suggestions to you are:


    1. First get some decent documentation I'm recommending the 'Apple Pro Training Series: OS X Server Essentials: Using and Supporting OS X Server on Mountain Lion' to people. You can get a Kindle edition on Amazon (I don't work for Amazon or the publisher).
    2. Make a dedicated new Apple ID for Apple Push Notifications, don't use your personal Apple ID. I made one like 'system@example.com' where 'example.com' is my domain name. Get this ready before server install and make sure you can receive incoming emails to that email address.
    3. Make sure DNS is setup properly before installing OS X server. I have domain name and use the OS X DNS server to serve DNS in the LAN using that DNS domain. When client machines are on the Internet the DNS records point to the same server.
    4. Make sure the server name & host name are correct & match the public DNS records. Don't have the host name registered in external servers until you get the (internal) OS X DNS server running OK.
    5. After installing OS X server turn on DNS only first and configure it (read the book and remove the original domain based on the server name) and check that it is (basically) running OK and serving DNS (in the LAN) for your domain by checking Network Utility and finally also this command in Terminal.

      sudo changeip -checkhostname

      do not proceed any further unless this command returns success — don't.....
    6. Ideally purchase and use a real (not self-signed) certificate. I just got a simple (not wildcard) certificate. Make sure that is installed and working on the server. One good test is to get the certificate installed, assign it to the web server, open the OS X web server to the Internet and then go to


      and put in the URL of your server, for example if you had machine called 'server' and your domain was 'example.com' with SSL certificate of 'server.example.com' this site should give you green checkmarks for all parts of the certificate chain.
    7. Only after the certificate is working OK proceed with turning on other services like Open Directory.
    8. If you start turning on a few services you will quickly need RAM, my Mac mini is running an i5 and is OK with CPU but the stock 4 GB of RAM is not enough. Swap memory is already going up to 2 GB, I will likely increase the RAM to 16 GB. 8 GB could be enough but don't want to buy to that level and find out after (as there are only two memory slots in Mac mini) that it is not enough.
    9. Read the book first... be prepared to reinstall the whole machine from scratch at least once. If something goes wrong at the beginning and one of the fundamental things gets messed up — don't bother trying to rectify it, and don't think that just re-installing Server will be OK. Wipe the whole machine including the base OS and restart from scratch.
    10. Setup OS X Server DHCP for the LAN and point DNS (for LAN clients) to the server DNS server.
    11. Bring up new services one by one and check they are functioning — use logs to check what is happening even if things look to be going OK.
    12. I found for email addresses and Open Directory accounts that the short name of the OD account had to be the same as that to the left of the @ sign of the email address. So if someone's email address is fred@example.com then their OD account short name had to be 'fred'. Otherwise Dovecot (IMAP) will not deliver email. I am sure there is somewhere to fiddle with this so the OD account short name can be different but I didn't bother digging around at the time.


    Good luck!

  • Kirk Carver Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)


    Yes I did get the server setup... But only after two x four hour sessions with Apple enterprise support. Had to wipe the machine twice, even with the tech support (helpful guys there btw). I'm not near my notes so I can relay the procedure. But suffice it to say you can't set up server with the Server App front end a by itself. You gave to download other software to make the appropriate settings (it's free but you have to know what you're looking for.


    After all the work that went into setting it up, im not sure if the server benefits I was looking for with aid my situation. I may simply turn the mini back into a simple ML machine.

  • Kirk Carver Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)



    Thank you for taking the time to write that post. I may revisit the server approach using your input.


    Still, I've yet to be able to realize the mobile home directory approach I was seeking and may can the server approach altogether.