Hands-on: Making Leopard servers simple

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Two final items make up the System section and Server Preferences: Time Machine and Firewall. As you might expect, Time Machine defines whether Leopard clients can use the server as a backup location in Leopard's Time Machine backup application.

When configuring their access to a server running in standard mode, users can opt to not use an available server as a backup location for Time Machine. In that case, they can select an external hard drive as a backup location or simply not to back up using Time Machine at all. Administrators can also specify which hard drive on the server will store backups and whether clients should back up Mac OS X system files or only user data.

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Time Machine options in Server Preferences.

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Firewall provides a basic interface to the firewall in Leopard Server, which operates as an adaptive firewall under standard and workgroup modes. The interface is extremely basic -- even more so than on Leopard clients. It only allows selection of the available services along with remote management using SSH or Apple Remote Desktop to be used in creating firewall rules.

More complex firewall rules involving access to the server over specific ports or from specific IP addresses or address ranges are not available, though it is possible to configure the Unix IPFW firewall that comes bundled with Leopard Server from the command line if you want to create more complex firewall rules.

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Firewall settings in Server Preferences.

Click to view larger image.

All in all, Server Preference is simple, intuitive and user-friendly. More importantly, it does help manage Leopard Server for basic use. It would, however, be nice if Apple had provided some more extensive graphical user interface firewall administration, such as what is available using IPFW from the command line or the options available to Leopard Server running in advanced mode.

In addition to Server Preferences, a Dashboard widget provides easy monitoring of the server. Like Server Preferences, it can run on the server itself or, more practically, on any Leopard-based Mac that can access the server. The widget includes the current status of each service; the total number of Web hits and iCal events; and the number of user connections for the file sharing, iChat, Mail and VPN services. Simple graphs for CPU usage, network load and disk space usage are also available. The widget makes monitoring the server extremely convenient and is as user-friendly as Server Preferences itself.

Connecting clients

Leopard introduces the ability for Mac OS X to attempt to locate Open Directory running on servers. The Open Directory servers need to be operating in standard mode using Apple's zero-configuration Bonjour networking feature. When Macs running Leopard start up, they will automatically detect servers that are located on the local network or subnet and then launch Directory Utility. Directory Utility, in turn, will ask the user if he wants to configure his Mac to use services provided by the server.

If the answer is yes, the user is asked for the username and password of an account created for him on the server and the administrator password for the Mac. After verifying both passwords, the server account password will be updated to match the user's local account password. The user will then have the option of allowing the server to automatically configure the relevant applications (such as Mail, iChat or Time Machine) to access resources on the server.

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