norburym (Mary Norbury-Glaser) writes "Mac OS X Server 10.3 Panther is one of the latest in Peachpit Press' Visual QuickPro guides (not to be confused with the beginner "QuickStart" series) and is written by one of the best IT/Mac trainers in the industry, Schoun Regan, with assistance by his devoted sidekick and co-trainer at itinstruction.com, Kevin White. Peachpit and the authors have produced a book with excellent content and delivery; the installation and setup of Mac OS X Server and Web services is explained with clarity and precise detail." Read on for the rest of Norbury-Glaser's review.
PeachPit Press labels Mac OS X Server 10.3 Panther as intended for those readers with intermediate to advanced OS X Server experience, but this is not accurate. The step-wise instruction provided by Regan and White is richly documented with screenshots, so even those new to OS X Server can follow this book. Intermediate or advanced server admins will find some nice "tips and tricks" to add to their arsenal of tools, and if they're preparing to set up their first OS X Server or XServe, they'll find this book a handy companion to "pre-lab" with and to use as a follow along guide.
In less than 20 pages, Chapter 1 takes the reader through planning his or her OS X Server deployment with an overview of partitioning options, various methods of installation and a tour of post-install logs. This is Regan's "20-pages-of-prep/20-minutes-to-install" chapter; concise, exact and representative of the pace and caliber of the chapters that follow.
Chapter 2, "Server Tools", covers the aftermath of the install; how to use the Server Administration software that comes with OS X Server to configure the server. The authors walk through language choices, network interfaces, administrator account setup, directory service and service startup options. The Server Admin and Workgroup Manager tools are also discussed in detail; how to customize Server Admin preferences, how to use Workgroup Manager preferences (resolve DNS, use SSL for sharing, show system users and groups) and how to add users to the local database. The Server Admin tool is the most used utility in OS X Server. It offers a well-designed GUI to manage all your services as well as preferences and advanced options. If you're upgrading from AppleShare IP, you'll want to look at the section on using the AppleShare IP Migration tool to ease the transition to OS X Panther Server. An overview of the Macintosh Manager follows, for support of Mac OS 9 user preferences. The chapter concludes with a brief introduction to additional server tools: MySQL Manager, using Server Monitor, the RAID Admin Tool, the Network Image Utility, the QTSS (QuickTime Streaming Server) Publisher and the QuickTime Broadcaster (the last two are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 12).
Implementing Open Directory is the focus of Chapter 3, but the actual implementation steps are prefaced by a strong discussion of directory services. The authors begin with a summary of LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Microsoft's AD (Active Directory), both methods of storing user data. This leads neatly into the Mac OS X Client and Server Directory Access application and the various services options that allow the client or server to connect to another directory service (AD, BSD Flat Files and NIS, LDAPv3 or NetInfo) in order to obtain authentication, authorization and contact information. Each of these options is detailed in its own section. Using the Authentication tab of the Open Directory service to apply global password server policies and using Kerberos (authentication method) are also addressed here. This is an exceedingly well-composed chapter. Understanding directory services and Open Directory concepts will enable the server administrator to better organize the hierarchy of users, groups and shares in his or her environment, especially in a multi-platform situation.
User and group management is the logical segue to the discussion on directory services and is the title of Chapter 4. Topics range from: configuring basic user attributes, advanced user options and administrative user permissions; configuring password types (Open Directory/Kerberos single sign-on, shadow, crypt); creating groups and assigning group folders; setting the home directory and user disk quotas; adding email to user accounts and enabling printer quotas. The section devoted to setting the home directory will be of particular interest to many readers; most academic and corporate users are in an environment where their documents and application preferences are stored in a home directory.
OS X Server excels at providing file sharing via AFP (Apple File Protocol), SMB (Server Message Block), FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and NFS (Network File System). Chapter 5 concentrates on strategies and configuration of share points and sharing protocols. Of the four protocols addressed here, the most widely referenced will be SMB, the native Windows service provided in OS X Server by Samba, an open source/free software (samba.org). Subtopics in this category include connecting Mac OS X clients via SMB and Windows clients via SMB, configuring your server as a PDC (Primary Domain Controller) to enable Windows clients to authenticate against your server and enabling WINS. The chapter concludes with instructions on creating additional network mounts using a shared Application folders and a shared Library folder as real world examples. This chapter will help anyone in a cross-platform environment to blend their Mac OS X Server seamlessly with Windows client and server machines.
Chapter 6, "Network Configuration Options" looks at extending the functionality of your server by enabling other network services like DNS, DHCP, NAT and IP forwarding. The authors spend some time underscoring the importance of properly configuring DNS and the instructions here for setting up simple forward and reverse zone records and then testing the DNS settings are excellently done. Another well-written section is on enabling NAT. This is a simple procedure to perform and well worth it for the added security it provides.
Printing services is the focus of Chapter 7 and goes over print queues, CUPS (Common Unix Printing System), configuring printers in Open Directory and on client machines, managing print jobs and viewing print logs. Every organization can benefit from a centralized print server that can allow an administrator to monitor and control print jobs. The authors make the process of configuring the server and clients extremely easy.
Not everyone needs to enable mail services (especially if they find themselves in a Windows environment with an Exchange server) but nonetheless, it's a valuable subject and the authors give a thorough explanation of not only the mail protocols and services built into OS X Server (SMTP and Postfix, POP, IMAP, Cyrus, SquirrelMail and Mailman) but they also expound on ways to handle spam, creating virtual domains, configuring secure mail authentication, enabling SSL and enabling mail lists via Mailman. Monitoring mail services using the Server Admin tool and Mailman close out the chapter.
Chapter 9, "Web Services," introduces the reader to the Apache Web server. Built into OS X Server, Apple has provided a unique integration of Apache that can be managed via the GUI. Using our friend, the Server Admin tool, the authors show how to set up a Web site, configure Web site options, set up SSL, edit or add to the built-in MIME types, enable Web proxies and monitor web services and log files. By far the most interesting part of this chapter is devoted to setting up realms and WebDAV. WebDAV is a network protocol that provides collaborative editing on a shared file server destination and it supports versioning of any type of media (HTML, GIF, JPEG, etc.), not just text-based. Since WebDAV works over HTTP, you get authentication, encryption, caching, proxy support and efficient transfers.
Every server administrator has to worry about security and the authors turn their attention to this topic in Chapter 10. They begin with physical security (locking the server room, locking the server itself, removing external devices from the server and installing Open Firmware Password to prevent someone from booting into a less secure mode) and then move to firewall basics and how to create advanced FTP rules. Password "good practices" comes next (seems like this is a no-brainer, but the sad fact is that this is a necessary reminder for many people, even server administrators) followed by how to enable encryption based on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). The authors walk the reader through creating a private key and a corresponding CSR (Certificate Signing Request) and how to act as your own CA (Certificate Authority). They provide really nice directions on how to implement certificates for Open Directory, Web and email SSL as well using, of course, the Server Admin tool.
Chapter 11, "Running A NetBoot Server" combines many of the concepts from previously discussed protocols (DHCP, TFTP, NFS, HTTP) to illustrate another unique feature of OS X Server. NetBoot allows for client machines to boot off shared disk image files that reside on the server. It also enables the server admin to deploy an install image across a network. NetBoot is a highly valuable tool for anyone interested in creating an efficiently managed environment. The authors provide step-wise directions on how to create a bootable image and an install image, how to manage NetBoot images, how to automate installations (very neat) and how to import/export images in order to move them from server to server.
The last three tools in OS X Server are illustrated in Chapter 12: QTSS (QuickTime Streaming Server) which enables audio and video streaming, QTB (QuickTime Broadcaster) which allows you to produce live events for online delivery and QTSS Publisher which manages QuickTime movie, MPEG-4 and MP3 playlists.
The final chapter of the book concentrates on client management and how to implement managed preferences to workgroups, computer lists or individual user accounts. This, of course, is every administrator's dream: to manage and control clients from a centralized environment! The authors show that OS X Server provides excellent management options and with a bit of planning and foresight, an administrator can properly configure their OS X Server tools to provide a balance of efficiency and control.
So what's missing? Not much, really. VPN is not covered at all, though, and I would have liked a section on this. VPN is a real necessity not only for remote employees/students but also for the administrator. But sheesh -- that's a small complaint given the amount of information in this book, and I have to applaud the authors for their ability to combine such detailed instructions on nearly every aspect of OS X Server between two covers.
The book follows the classic Visual QuickPro Guide layout, with each page split into two columns to allow for instructional text situated alongside accompanying screenshots. This book is loaded with screenshots and icon graphics, so the reader will miss nary a step while following along on their test box or their production server. There are even pictures of the progress bar as configuration settings are being applied! (Well, sometimes patience needs to be encouraged.) Chapter subtopics are indicated on the binding of the book with gray thumb tabs. Extended information and digressions are highlighted in gray boxes as logical asides.
Everything about this book is designed to guide the reader through every aspect of the installation and configuration of OS X server. The authors provide clear explanations of each step using a task-based approach with extended discussions on the various choices the server presents the user with at appropriate intervals. There are plenty of real world "tips and tricks" that will save the administrator time and anguish over the course of setting up the server. Regan and White address some of the most difficult to comprehend topics and issues an admin will address: multi-platform environments and file sharing, DNS, Open Directory and security. Fully understanding these subjects is critical to making the correct choices while configuring the server. The authors' thorough discourse provides the reader with the knowledge and tools to get the job done.
Mary Norbury-Glaser is an IT Director at a University of Colorado Health Sciences affiliate center in Denver. Working in a multi-platform academic environment dominated by Windows boxes, she sometimes feels like the Mac Maytag Lady. You can purchase Mac OS X Server 10.3 Panther from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.