Mac OS X Server (Leopard) 10.5 Annoyances

We just got new toys at Student Publications (Xserve, Xserve RAID). On the software side of things, I am now using 10.5 Server. I have two gripes right out of the box, one of which I know is not just me.

Leopard Server has this new "Server Preferences" application that is used if you setup the server as a "Standard" configuration. Server Preferences is molded after System Preferences. It looks the same, acts the same.

Alright, I'm game. If Apple decided to create yet another new Server application, I will give it a try and see if it works as intended.

They have really watered down server administration. This is both good and bad. It is now dead easy to setup users, setup share points, and get things moving rapidly -- if you are not migrating data, this likely will work just fine for you.

The first glitch is the "empty" share point every new user gets if they are not assigned a home folder. And as I see it, there is no place to specify a home folder when you create a new user in Server Preferences.

As "scary" as Workgroup Manager might be, it at least gives you access to everything you need when creating new users. I am not really sure I like Server Preferences that much after this issue. You see, I have been using Mac OS X Server since Rhapsody DR1, and have used every iteration of the "new" OS X Server: 10.1 to 10.5 now. So when Apple throws something like Server Preferences at me, it is like a slap in the face.

Worse is when there is a problem with it and it requires me to open up Workgroup Manager to fix it -- a program I would normally be in to create users anyways.

What happens when you create a new user in Server Preferences is that their home folder is set to /var/empty. So whenever that user logs into the server, there is an "empty" share they can mount. They have no write access to it, however, but they can still (and will) mount it on the desktop. This is extra clutter than I do not need, and my users do not need to see.

The fix is simple enough: open Workgroup Manager and select Accounts from the toolbar (you may have to quit/relaunch Workgroup Manager for it to "see" the new users you created in System Preferences). Chose any of your new users and go to the Home tab. Now select /var and hit the minus sign. Yes, you are sure you want to delete the /var Home folder.

Problem solved. But why is this a problem in the first place, Apple?

Annoyance number two: In System Preferences, (you can tell how much I just love this application) there is a refresh glitch when you create a new share. Create a new share in File Sharing, click Edit Permissions, and then chose the second radio button: Only these registered Users and Groups. If you start checking off Users and Groups that you want to give access, and you do this before the settings are saved for the new share, (there is a small status icon that spins) all your check boxes are reset and the share is back to allowing All Registered Users.

That is downright frustrating. Am I supposed to create a new share and then go have a cup of coffee? When I create a new share point I want to set up permissions on it right away. What is happening is that when you create a new share point in System Preferences, it is automatically set to All Registered Users.

If you setup a file share in Server Admin you setup the share point and the permissions at the same time, then you press Save and viola! the new share is accessible to only the users and groups you intended.

I really do not know why Apple feels the need to reinvent the server administration tools in every major iteration of OS X Server, but they do. Every single time. Setting up share points in 10.4 Server was even handled differently than in 10.5's Server Admin method; users, groups and share points were all created in Workgroup Manager -- call me crazy but having them all in one application was handy.

While I applaud Apple for trying to make administration of OS X Server easier, they are not saving me any time in the process, and that is a problem. Adding insult to injury, they have not worked out all the kinks in System Preferences yet.

Why should I have to hunt for answers to the "empty" share on messages boards? Why in the world would Server Preferences setup a share with global privileges, and then allow the administrator the grant permission only to those who need it?

Apple, what have you done to the administration tools in Mac OS X Server? The administration software that came with 10.4 Server sure seemed to work good for me, why make my life harder?

Bonus annoyance: Say you need to propagate permissions throughout an entire share. This fixes permission problems nine times out of 10. I just had to do this today, and guess what, if fixed the problem right away. The annoying thing comes in when there is no facility to do this in Server Preferences. You have to do this in Server Admin.

Yet again Apple, what is the purpose of Server Preferences? Other than to be a heaping pile of buggy and/or basic feature lacking code.

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