wgmCreating network home folders for users in Open Directory is typically a fairly painless task using OS X Server. What can be a little more painful is trying to figure out how to create a clean, locally cached home folder on a client workstation. The only obvious options for home folders in Workgroup Manager are None & the creation of an AFP or NFS share that’s stored on the server.

While leaving the settings in WGM set to None does result in the home folder getting cached on the local machine, it’s a less than perfect solution. For starters, the profiles get cached in the root of the drive, under a directory labelled 99. Plus the home folders it creates doesn’t have the usual directory structure – they only contain a Desktop and a Library folder. Not quite what we’re looking for. Ideally, the home folder would get created in the /Users directory, using the standard home folder template just like a local machine account is.

The fix to this is to make sure the NFSHomeFolder attribute is set for all your network accounts. That’s what happens when you select an AFP or NFS share – the path to the network share is written to the NFSHomeFolder attribute in the LDAP directory. When you leave the home folder setting at None, the default value is assigned to NFSHomeFolder – a value which happens to be 99 (hence the 99 directory that appears in the root directory on client machines whenever a user without a specified home folder logs in).

Set Network Account Home Folders to the Local Users Directory (/Users):

  1. Launch WGM & login to your Open Directory server
  2. If the Inspector tab in WGM isn’t visible, enable it in the Preferences
    1. Check the box next to “Show ‘All Records’ tab and inspector
  3. Select a network user account & click the Inspector tab
  4. Locate the NFSHomeDirectory attribute – it should read 99 – & change this value to ‘/Users/username‘ where username is the shortname of the user.
  5. Save your changes.
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iphone_homeToday is the release date for the new iPhone 3G  S here in Canada. Available from Fido & Rogers, same as before. On the hardware side, a better camera & video recording clock in as two of the bigger changes (& long overdue ones, if you ask me…)

The OS 3.0 Software Update, however, seems to be where the big changes are, incorporating a slew of new features that have been in demand for some time. Cut & Paste, MMS, tethering, spotlight searching, and landscape keyboards in ALL apps come to mind as some of the bigger features. The calendar now lets you create meetings via MS Exchange & has CalDAV support, a nice nod to the enterprise crowd.

There’s a pretty good article in ismashphone.com about How to Use the 40 Best Features of iPhone 3.0. If you’re thinking of upgrading or you already have & think maybe you’re missing something, this would be a great place to start.

entourage_mac_2008_iconWhile most of the blog coverage on the recent Office 2008 12.1.9 Update focused on the patching of Word vulnerabilities, considerably less attention was paid to what seems to me to be a much more important aspect of the update: Exchange Web Services support.

Entourage Web Services is Microsoft’s upcoming attempt to “achieve greater parity between Entourage and Outlook.”

According to Microsoft’s Description of the Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac 12.1.9 Update, this update is a “prerequisite for the installation of Microsoft Entourage 2008 for Mac Web Services Edition” and will have to be installed before the Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition can be installed.

Microsoft will be abandoning CalDAV for Exchange Web Services (EWS), which should offer better “performance, compatibility, and reliability” since EWS allows Entourage to shift the bulk of the ‘heavy lifting’ to the exchange server, rather than relying on the client to carry the load as it does now. It will also allow for the syncing of Tasks, Notes, and Categories with an Exchange server and will use EWS & HTTP to resolve names from the Global Address List, among other features.

Entourage for Exchange Web Services requires Exchange Server 2007 running Service Pack 1 with Update Rollup 4 or greater. Clients need to be running OS X 10.4.9 or later and the 12.1.9 update for Office 2008 for Mac, plus the Entourage for Exchange Web Services Edition (once released). More information on the Entourage for Exchange Web Services Edition can be found at The Office for Mac Team Blog.

Entourage Web Services is still in the beta stage, however, and not yet available to the general public. Its inclusion in the 12.1.9 update seems to imply that that may soon change.

Update to version 12.1.9 of Office update using the Auto-Update tool, or download the 12.1.9 update directly from Microsoft’s support site.

As with all software updates to mission critical software, please be careful.

WWDC 2009 Keynote Video

June 10, 2009

WWDC2009_KeynoteApple recently posted a QuickTime video stream of their keynote address from WWDC 2009. Highlights of this years address included the iPhone 3G S, iPhone OS v3.0 (hello, MMS!), an official announcement for the fall release of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (with a US$29 upgrade!), Safari v4.0, (download it here!), and laptop upgrades & price cuts.

Click here to watch the full 2 hour video of the WWDC 2009 keynote address.

disk_utility_icon

I recently had a drive fail in a client’s RAID setup. 3 mirrored drives in a software RAID0 (mirrored) configuration. No big deal, you say! In a 3 drive configuration like that, you can swap the faulty drive without even losing any redundancy! Simple!

Right.

Physically replacing the drive went as planned, dead easy. But the rebuild failed contiuously. It should take hours (they were terabyte drives) but instead would stop after a few minutes, showing the replacement drive status as “Failed”. RAID Status obviously remained “Degraded”.

A bit of digging around on the web turned up this Apple knowledgebase article on rebuilding software RAID mirrors, which pointed out two VERY usefully pieces of information:

  1. You should use the command-line diskutil for rebuilding a RAID. Sometimes Disk Utility will be unable to successfully
    rebuild a degraded RAID mirror.

    • (Not an issue, this is standard practice anyways.)
  2. You should not rebuild the rebuild a mirror while it is the boot volume. Rebuilding a RAID Mirror will sometimes fail if it is the boot volume.
    • (Major issue, as it defeats much of the benefits of running a RAID in the first place! Sure, the data is safe – VERY important – but now I have to take a mail server offline for 12hours while the RAID rebuilds?!?!?)

The successful rebuild of the mirror involved both the above steps. The mail server was booted to an external drive and diskutil was used to rebuild the mirror. Before doing anything, however, I created a backup image file of the server (just to be safe…). The server was offline for approximately 12 hours, but it might have needed less – once I was confident that the rebuild was progressing successfully, I tried to enjoy the rest of my Saturday.

The moral of this story is obviously that software RAID solutions are in no way a substitute of hardware solutions. If you need guaranteed uptime, you need to invest – but we all knew that already… right?

For more information on rebuilding a software RAID in OS X, read Apple’s knowledge base article: How to rebuild a software RAID mirror.

AlienRAID.org

June 2, 2009


AlienRAID Logo

I just recently stumbled onto a very interesting website, AlienRAID.org, a site dedicated to “supporting Apple Xserve RAID storage systems in non-Apple environments.” Interested in Xserve RAIDs running at the South Pole? Or running Windows Server on an Xserve? This is the site for you.

IT staff & admins only – I don’t know how much there is here for your average end user…

Visit AlientRAID.org.