I may be the odd-person out when it comes to Mac OS X. While I do not mind using OS X Client on machines, I prefer running OS X Server. I have purchased each version of Mac OS X Server since Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. When I purchased it, I bought the 10-client license for $499. I also spent another $499 on the unlimited client version of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server. This time around I joined the Mac Developer program and was able to use it for my $99 entry price.
One of the biggest reasons for me to choose to go with Mac OS X Server over Mac OS X Client is because I do web-based development. Instead of trying to cobble together all of the pieces like MySQL, apache, and PHP on the client version, I can just as easily, and without much effort use Mac OS X Server. Mac OS X Server has all of the pieces for my development environment already to go out of the box. Sure, I could use alternative options like MAMP, but they are just not as clean nor as easily configured.
One of the major appeals for using OS X Server as a platform is the ease of configuration and the granularity of control when using OS X Server. Mac OS X Lion Server continues this feature set, for the most part.
The following an in-depth review of both Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Client, and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. Since these two operating systems are so closely related it did not make sense to separate out the Server-based portion without getting a full context of the entire operating system. Additionally, who knows, after reading about the Server portion you may just out and dabble in the Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server environment.
The price of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is $29.99, while Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server is only a mere $49.99. You must download client before converting your client to Server. The client version of Lion has not changed in price. However, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server’s price has been reduced. The significant price drop makes it a 83.97% savings over the previous $499 price-tag for older versions of Mac OS X Server. At this price point it is easily within reach of many prosumers who may wish to dabble in Server administration but not wish to fork out a significant amount of money to enjoy their hobby.
Since Mac OS X 10.7 is an evolution of the Mac OS operating system, one expects stability. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server does not disappoint. Throughout the beta builds the entire operating system was quite stable. There were no kernel panics nor anything that really killed any connectivity. Even with new features, like Launchpad and Mission control, everything worked quite well.
One of the main things that occurs whenever a user upgrades their operating system is that some applications break. This is generally not the case with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server, the only exception that I have encountered will be discussed later. I have had no issues with applications, like Adium, Colloquy, and even Google Chrome. Apple’s own applications like iLife ’09 and iWork ’09 work without issue. Older applications like iWeb and iDVD (7.1.1) work without any issue as well. This goes a long way for those looking to upgrade.
Mac App Store availability
The only distribution method for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server will be via the Mac App Store. This is a great method for most users, however small businesses and enterprises are not entirely enthralled with the prospect of having to establish a Mac App Store account just to upgrade their Mac OS X servers.
Despite this potential limitation, Mac App Store availability will allow users to re-download Lion (or copy the installer) in order to install Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on each of their devices.
By having Mac App Store availability, this method could potentially allow Apple to keep users up-to-date when they go and re-install OS X Lion. Let’s say that a user installs Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or Lion Server on Day 1 (not likely from most, but possible). They would receive version 10.7.0. Let us say 3 years later the same user wants to re-purpose the Server hardware and they want to do a clean-install. Instead of downloading version 10.7.0 Apple may allow them to download 10.7.5 in order to allow them to stay up-to-date without having to download 10.7.0 and download the 10.7.5 combination updater.
There has been no information from Apple as to whether or not this will indeed be the case and this possibility is merely speculation on my behalf. But it is entirely possible that this is how Apple will handle re-install updates. More information on clean-installs will come later on.
Recovery Hard Drive Partition
Since Apple is only offering Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Server via the Mac App Store, this means that there is no physical media needed to install or somehow misplace. This can be a bit problematic if a user is away from their office and needs to do some emergency file-system management, like Repairing Permissions. Well, fear not, Apple has added a recovery partition for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.
The recovery partition can be accessed just like any other bootable media, but holding down the Alt/Option key while the device is booting up. When you hold down the Option Key during boot time you should see the Internal Hard drive as well as any other bootable media. The last item you should see is ‘Recovery Hard Drive’. This is a replacement for the physical DVD that one would carry along with them while they travelled.
Within the Recovery partition you are able to use Disk Utility, Restore from a Time Machine Backup, and even install a fresh copy of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. Disk utility looks just like it has since, at least, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. The recovery partition will not be helpful if your Mac suffers a catastrophic hard drive failure. If this turns out to be the case, I hope you have a good backup of your files in place.
One of the new features of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server is Mission Control. Mission Control is a combination of two unique Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard features, Spaces and Expose. Within Mission Control you can create new a Space and organize all of your Applications within a single view.
With Spaces under Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, you would have to go to Spaces (or your customized hot corner) and then switch to a particular space to find a specific application window and see if you can locate it. Now with Mission Control, you can view the items, in an Expose-like manner, that are specifically within a space.
Another feature of Mission Control is when you have an application window on more than one Space, by merely clicking on the application icon in the Dock you will automatically be moved between the spaces that have that application window.
For instance, say you have three TextEdit windows on three separate spaces. If you click on the TextEdit icon you will be presented with the Application in the Current space. Clicking on the TextEdit icon a second time will move you to the second space. A third click will move you to the third space. And the nicest feature, if you click on the TextEdit icon a fourth time and you will be moved back to the first space. This makes it so much easier to find an application instance.
You can even do some application organization management within Mission Control. In order to move an entire application, and all associated windows, all you have to do is click on the Application’s icon, while in the Expose-like View, and drag the entire grouping to the specific space that you wish to have it moved to. There is no need to drag each individual window for the application. This can be quite handy for those who have a TON of browser windows open at a single time and do not wish to move each one individually.
One of the most touted features of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was the introduction of ‘Time Machine’. Time Machine allows you to backup your entire Mac and restore individual files instead of having to do a complete system restore. Time Machine will backup the incremental changes every hour. Subsequently, Time Machine will do a full backup once per day, and erase the incremental backups. Time Machine will then keep as many full backups as there is space on your Time Machine partition or hard drive.
Retrieving files from a Time Machine backup is not difficult, but you do have to know where the file is located in order to fully be able to retrieve the desired backup.
Versions takes the Time Machine concept a bit further. Instead of just having to try and locate the file you are attempting to restore, You can restore the file to previous version on a file-by-file basis. This feature must be enabled by the Mac Developer in order to take full advantage of the versions feature.
The easiest way to experience this effect is to type up something in TextEdit, Save it, and then type something more and save it again. Once you edit a file you will notice that the title bar now includes a “– Edited” at the end of the file name. If you hover over Edited you will see an arrow. This arrow contains four options for that particular file.
You can lock the file, so it can no longer bed edited. This is great in case you do not want to accidentally write over a perfectly good file, like a review that has been submitted and approved for instance.
The second option is to duplicate the file. This will take the version you have at that moment and create an exact copy of the file. This can be quite handy if you may want to save a version of what you have now, and refer back to it at a later time without needing to go through the Versions interface.
The third option is ‘Revert to Last Saved Version’. This option will allow you to restore the file to the last time you saved the file. This can be life-saving if you accidentally remove a section of text without noticing. Instead of trying to remember what was written, you can copy and paste the added text and restore to the last saved version and then subsequently paste the additional text into the document.
The fourth, and final, option is ‘Browse All Versions’. If you enter into the ‘Browse All Versions’ view, you will be created within a Time-Machine like interface. From this view you can compare your current version and any previous version of the file. On the right hand side of the screen you will see a scroll view that contains all of the previous versions. From this you can scroll to any previous version quickly and go as far back as the original save of the file.
You can copy and paste from any one version and even work on the current version while previous versions. This can be a lifesaver in case you deleted something accidentally and you need to retrieve it. Best of all, you do not need a system administrator being the intermediary when it comes to restoring files, the end user can do this all by themselves.
Just to note, Versions will automatically ‘Lock’ a file if it has been more than two weeks since the last edit. This is to protect users against accidentally saving over a file that they did not intend to edit.
There has been a few things added to the Screen Sharing application. In addition to pulling its normal duty of being a VNC viewer you are now also able to login to a Mac OS X Lion device using an Apple ID instead of a username and password. This can make it easier for remote users to connect instead of having to remember yet another username and password combination.
The second feature added, is specific to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. It is the ability for users to login, much like a terminal server, and create their own session. This session does not interfere with another currently logged in user. It creates an entirely separate user session. This feature will do wonders for admins who need to have multiple people manage a single server, but do not wish to fight over simultaneous usage of the server. The only problem with this is that it only works with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Clients and Servers. Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard clients cannot connect in this particular fashion.
For those with a portable Mac and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server you are able to plug-in an external monitor and close the portable lid without having the computer go to sleep. This can be convenient if you use an older Mac as your primary machine. It can also help if you need to utilize an out of warranty Mac with a broken LCD screen. Instead of having to repair the machine, it can be used as a person’s desktop machine.
One thing to note about this new feature, by doing this you are giving up the option of using the laptop screen as part of the monitor display. Along with the removal of the screen real estate, all of the Applications will move to the external display. This may not be a big deal to some people, but it may possibly be a deal breaker for other users. This should work with all portable Macs that support Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, since my Mac is 4-years old and it supports it without any issues.
When Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was unveiled by Apple it was mentioned that the Mac will have some iOS features built-in. The most noticeable iOS feature is Launchpad. Launchpad is an exact replica of an iOS 4.0 or higher home screen. Even right down the the options for folders and even the handling of how applications are deleted.
Launchpad allows a user to organize their applications using folders. These folders will not modify the folders within a users’ Application folder. Launchpad folders are exclusive to Launchpad.
In order to delete an application you merely hold down on an application icon, the icons will then begin to jiggle, just like their iOS brethren. At this point you can click on the little ‘X’ in the upper right corner to delete the application. At this point you will see a popup that verifies that you wish to delete the Application. As a note, this is only applicable to applications that have been downloaded from the Mac App Store. Any applications outside of the Mac App Store will need to be deleted in the traditional manner.
About this Mac
There are some part of Mac OS X that are just standard and almost never changes. The way to access the system profiler, though the ‘About this Mac’ Screen. In Mac OS X the ‘About this Mac’ screen has been the same. It has consisted of The Software Platform, version, Processor, Memory and Startup Disk.
Well, Apple has radically changed this screen. Instead of a being a dull and rather plain looking screen, it is now colorful and provides users with more options. The initial screen looks the same as always, but when you hit ‘More Info’, which would normally bring you to System Profiler, you are now presented with a screen like the one below.
You are immediately presented with the most necessary information regarding your Mac. The model, Size and Year, Processor, Memory, Graphics, Serial Number, and Software version. This is the most crucial information for when a user calls Apple Support for assistance. This redesigned ‘About this Mac’ will ease support personnel with assisting customers with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion issues.
From this a user can select ‘System Report’ and get the traditional System Profiler information. A user can even ‘Check for Updates’, through Software Update, right from this screen, in case they missed the ‘Software Update’ option in the Apple Menu.
The Displays tab, shows just what you would expect, the currently Connected Displays. If you have more than one display you will see both in the window. Underneath each of these displays is the maximum resolution as well as the graphics power behind it. As you can from my screen shot, I have two monitors connected, the internal, and my 26″ Monitor.
The third tab, Storage, shows all of the drives that are connected to the system. In addition to the free space that each drive currently shows, the contents of the drives are broken down by types of Media that is occupying the drive. This is much in the same manner as iOS devices within iTunes. Yet another little feature that is brought over from the iOS platform.
One of the most helpful features of the new ‘About This Mac’ screen is under the ‘Support’ tab. This has two distinct sections, ‘Mac OS X Resources’ and ‘Macintosh Resources’. The Macintosh Resources section has a particular item, ‘Specifications’. If a user clicks on this link, it will bring them to the Apple Support Page with all of the specifications for their computer. This can be very helpfu when a user is requesting assistance for why a particular application will not work, like a game from the Mac App Store, and you can have them quickly get to the specifications for their computer. This is a much more efficient method than doing a search on the Internet.
iOS features the ability to put your iOS device into a sleep state merely by hitting the ‘Sleep/Power’ button at the top. When you awaken your iOS device again you will be right back where you left off, as if you never turned off your device.
This feature has been been added to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. It is not nearly as quick as the iOS version, simply because iOS is just optimized for Sleep. To test how the feature works on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server, try opening a bunch of applications, then log off. You will see an option ‘Reopen windows when logging back in’. This is the ‘Resume’ feature. If you were to logoff and log back in, all of your applications, including open files, will be re-opened and you will be right back where you were at.
This is a tremendous gain in productivity. If you are in a rush and cannot be bothered to properly log out of a machine, you can hold down the power button, and all of your items will be re-opened when you log back in. This includes unsaved files (at least in TextEdit). I do not recommend relying on this as your save-mechanism. That is why the save function exists, and why Apple included ‘Versions’ with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server.
One of the rather troublesome lessons to learn when first converting from a Windows PC to a Mac OS X computer is that when you copy a folder to a directory which already has a folder by that name, the files contents are overwritten. This has changed in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server.
Now, instead of losing the contents of a file, you are asked what you want to do. You have three options. Stop the transfer, where nothing will be changed; Replace All, where the contents of the destination folder will be overwritten; Keep Both, which will allow you to merge the two directories.
I cannot tell you how extremely helpful this will be. I have lost bits of work by accidentally copying and pasting directories over one another. This is a huge leap forward for non-administrative users.
For the server crowd specifically, this will make it much easier to do upgrades on Non-Apple software, like WordPress. Mostly because you will not to worry about losing your configuration files that you worked so hard to configure and losing a configuration file is not anybody’s idea of a good time.
When Apple announced Mac OS X 10.7 Lion they mentioned that Mail.app would be getting an upgrade to be more consistent with the iOS version of Mail. The primary feature requested for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Mail is conversations. The threaded conversations features has implemented in Mail.app 5.0 on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. These conversations are now closer to the conversations that iOS has been sporting since version 4.0.
Threaded conversations allows a user to more easily keep track of a mail thread without having to search through an entire mailbox just to see where a particular mail thread began.
As you can see the number of messages is displayed in the lower right corner, so you can easily keep track if any of the messages are new. This feature works automatically across all your email accounts, there is no need for special configuration. If you wish to not use this feature, you can easily change this by going to View Menu, and selecting ‘Organize by Conversation’. This will clear the checkbox and you will see each email message individually.
The upgrades to Mail.app are minimal, but how much can you really do with an application that is already as mature as Mail.app is.
One of the nicer touches of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is Spaces and Mission control. In the previous versions of Mac OS X, 10.5 Leopard, and 10.6 Snow Leopard, when using spaces you could only use a different background for each screen that you had. This background would be used consistently across all of your spaces. Now with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion you are able to have a different background for each Desktop Space. This extends across all connected monitors as well.
For instance, if you have an external display connected to a MacBook Pro and you have three Spaces set up. With this setup, you can have up to six different backgrounds, one on each Display and on each Space. This can make it easier to identify which space you are currently viewing. If you use different Spaces for different functions, you could even select a background to match function that the particular Space is performing.
It may not seem like a lot, but it can assist some in improve their efficiency when using Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion server.
Preview.app is probably the single biggest reason to get a Mac. Having a built-in PDF viewer is a fantastic perk, since you do not have to install the insecure bloatware known as Adobe Acrobat Reader. That is, unless you have a specific need for Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat.
Well, Apple has added one less reason to install an Adobe product on your Mac OS X machine; signatures. With Preview.app in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion you are able to take a picture of your signature and use it throughout any number of PDF files. This can be rather handy when you need to sign a PDF document and instead of printing out the entire document, signing it and then faxing, or scanning to email, you can just easily add your signature and place it in the document, then e-mail it back to the person instead of faxing.
To create a signature, open up Preview, click on Preview -> Preferences and click on the ‘Signatures’ tab. You will be presented with a screen that looks similar to this one.
The instructions indicate to create your signature using a white piece of paper with black pen. My tests found that using a Pencil on a Pink or Blue post-it note worked best. If you put your signature on a lined piece of paper, the lines will appear in the capture, so use a non-lined piece of paper when creating your signature.
You have an option to save the signature for future use or just temporarily. In order to use a signature, do the following.
- Open the PDF you wish to sign.
- Click on the ‘Annotate’ tab button item.
- Click on the ‘Signatures Drop-down, it looks like this:
- Select which signature you wish to use.
- Select the size of the signature you wish to use.
- Save the PDF.
Signatures will be a great timesaver, and even makes some other software less relevant. There is one thing to mention, you cannot use signatures unless it is a PDF. Preview handles all sorts of files. These include jpegs, png, and TIFfs, but you cannot use signatures on these files. It is strictly for PDFs. Despite this limitation, that is not all Preview.app adds.
Preview also has a new way to view files. You have four different options. The first is the standard view that everyone is used to with the document being the entire Preview window. The second is the each page has its own view, this time on the left instead of the right; this is similar to the way iOS does things, item on the left, contents on the right. The third is strictly a list of file names that are open. The final one is just like Grid view. You can see a small view of the files that are open. You can switch between each view as you see fit.
System Preferences has seen a bit of an overhaul. Sure, it looks the same as before but now with a few new options. The first is that you can now customize which preference panes are shown.
In order to do this, you just need to go to View -> Customize. Here you will be presented with check marks next to each of the Preference Panes. If you uncheck it, it will no longer be shown after you click on the ‘Done’ Button.
Do not fret, this is not deleting a Preference Pane, it is merely hiding it. This can be quite helpful when you want to setup a computer for a child, or less tech savvy relative, and do not want them messing with certain settings. Despite hiding preference panes from the main System Preferences View, all of the installed Preference Panes are still available from the View Menu.
There is one more little tidbit that makes Mac OS X 10.7 Lion just a bit cooler than previous versions. Try this:
- Open up System Preferences.
- Click on any system preference, it does not matter which one.
- Click and hold the ‘Show All’ Button.
- Notice a list of all of the System Preferences are shown.
Customizing System Preferences can be helpful, not just from a child-proofing perspective, but it can also allow you to clean up system preferences. For example, you can hide the TrackPad system preferences because you do not own an Magic TrackPad or you do not own a laptop. It may not be a whole lot that is new within System Preferences, but it is a nice touch that adds to a more personalized experience.
System Preferences itself may not have changed much, but the ways to truly customize your Mac OS X 10.7 Lion experience have changed, for the better.
Mac App Store
Despite having the Mac App Store available since Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard, it is now included automatically with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. The Mac App store allows any Mac Developer to submit their applications to the store to be downloaded by every Mac OS X 10.7 user.
The Mac App Store, on top of being an avenue for developers to distribute their wars, it is also a place for end-users to acquire software. Much like the iTunes Store, the Mac App store allows a user to utilize their Apple ID to purchase applications. Unlike the iTunes Store however, there is no limitation for the number of computers that can be associated with a single Apple ID on the Mac App Store. This means, that if a user has three Macs, all running Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard or Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, they can download all of their purchases applications without having to worry about locating license keys and verifying that their license agreements allow them to install their purchased applications on multiple machines. This makes it much simpler for end users to manage the software that they purchase.
The Mac App Store also offers the ability to update applications right from within the Mac App Store application. This streamlines the update process for many users. Instead of having to open each application to check for any updates, they can just open the Mac App Store application and check. This makes it much easier on the end user.
The last item that the Mac App Store offers is a peace of mind when it comes to purchasing applications. Instead of worrying if the website you are buying a particular Application from is legitimate, you can just utilize the Mac App Store and remove that stress. Apple vets all of the applications that are submitted to make sure that they are free of viruses and do not destroy your computer or do any other nefarious task.
Applications within the Mac App Store are not allowed to require root permissions. This means that users do not need to worry about some virus being installed surreptitiously on their computer and hijack their computer to be used within a bot-net or as a vector to steal credit card information.
Applications purchased from the Mac App Store are completely self-contained. This means that the application will not throw a bunch of different files all over your computer system. This is a move that mimics the iOS Application store and the way that iOS applications operate. By utilizing this method, when a user removes an application the entire contents of the application is removed and nothing remains.
With the introduction of Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard software a new feature was added, Quick Look. Quick Look offers a user the ability to quickly view a file, whether it be a PDF, JPG, Pages, Keynote or Numbers among other file types.
Apple has improved Quick Look in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Now instead of just being able to view the file and close it, you are now offered the option of opening the file with its native application. This can improve productivity since you do not have to exit Quick Look and double-click a file to open it, once you have located the file you are seeking, you can just open it right from the Quick Look Window.
A second feature with Quick Look is that you can make the entire application Full-Screen. Full-Screen applications will be discussed in detail later. Suffice it to say that you can concentrate on the single file at hand and take a good look at the item.
While in Full-Screen view you have the option of exiting Full-Screen Mode or closing the file entirely. If you double-click on the file, while in Full-Screen Mode, it will open with its default application. There is one more feature of Quick Look’s Full-Screen mode, if you are using quick look on an image file you can add it directly to iPhone right from within Quick Look. This option can make processing a bunch of new photos quickly, thus saving a significant amount of time during the pre-processing phase of photo editing.
These may not seem to be huge changes, but it still nice to see that Apple is thinking of the small items that can really improve the experience of a user.
Another feature that is being brought from iOS to the Mac OS is Full-Screen Applications. Developers, if they so choose, can allow their applications to be run in Full-Screen mode. This means that the application takes over the entire screen and is the only viewable application.
This is a feature that many users who wish to have ‘distraction-free’ writing or editing sessions will truly enjoy. It is not available in every application by default, and not even all of Apple’s own application implement this functionality.
A list of a few of the applications that support Full-Screen mode are, Safari 5, Terminal, Quick Look, and Mail. If you combine Full-Screen view with Spaces, you could have your Mail in its own Space, completely full screen. Or even have Terminal in its own Space to create the feel of using an actual Terminal-based computer.
Do not fret, if you get stuck in an Application that is full screen just move your mouse to the top of the screen, the menu bar should appear and you can get out of Full-Screen mode.
Safari has been upgraded to version 5.1. There are a couple of new features that are worth mentioning. These features can make a tremendous difference for some users.
The first feature is ‘Reading List’. Reading list is a new feature that allows you to save an item to be read at some later point in time. This can be helpful if you see a news article that you want to read, but you do not have the time read at the current moment.
The best part of ‘Reading List’ is the ability to have the items sync over iCloud in order to be able to read an article on any of your devices. This could potentially eliminate the use of services like Instapaper.
The second change, is the way that downloads are handled. Instead of having a separate window to view the current downloads, there is a button that shows all of your current, and previous, downloads.
You can watch the progress as it goes across, which will allow you to quickly glance at the progress instead of having to look at the separate window to see how your applications are downloading.
The third feature is Full-Screen mode. Just like other full-screen applications , you can put Safari in its own Space and do distraction-free browsing. Sometimes, you just want to be able to focus on a single task and not have to deal with the constant distractions that can be IM, Email, and even Twitter, so this is your answer.
Photo Booth is the one application that many current Mac users demonstrate to persuade non-Mac owners to purchase a new Mac. Truly, how can you go wrong with showing somebody the four-screen view. Photo Booth in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion has been only slightly upgraded. The only new feature is that Photo Booth is now a full screen application. The functions between the windowed view and full screen view are completely identical. The full screen view gives you a theatre like interface for taking your Photo Booth pictures.
It may be the only change in Photo Booth, but it can be a great demonstration tool.
Server Specific Items
The following section is for items that are specifically related to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. The previous items apply to both the client version of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion as well as Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server, this section is just Mac OS X 10.7 Server. You can use this section, if you would like, to determine if you believe as though Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server could be right for you, or your business.
Mac OS X Server History
When Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released you had three distinct options for setting up your Mac OS X Server. Standard, Workgroup and Advanced mode. Standard mode only allowed an Administrator to use Server Preferences to configure their Mac OS X server. This option was great for Small Businesses where it was the only server to be setup. This mode limited what options you had available. You could use the Standard Mode for secure Instant Messaging, file sharing, email, website hosting, Blogs, and Wiki. You could not do some advanced tasks, like Software Update Server, XGrid, Podcast Producer, or even Quicktime Streaming.
Workgroup mode was intended to allow a system administrator the ability to pick and choose which services were enabled or disabled. Administrators were given the option of determining how best to use their server. This mode worked best where the Mac OS X Server was part of a larger network and may not be the only server machine.
Advanced mode was the grandaddy of them all. With Advanced mode the Server administrator would utilize the Server Admin application to manage all aspects of their Mac OS X server. This application would allow the administrator to configure any service that they chose. From DHCP and DNS, to Apple File Protocol, SMB Shares, Podcast Producer, Quicktime Streaming, or even Software Update Server. This was the mode to chose if you had more complex needs.
The only downside to this type of setup is that you had to choose the mode your Server was to work in at setup time. Sure, you could upgrade it from Standard to Workgroup, or even Standard to Advanced, but you could not go back to Standard Mode, unless you did a fresh install of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard changed this model a bit. Instead of having to choose which mode you were free to enabled and disable the applications that you wanted to utilize. You could use either Server Preferences or Server Admin to manage your server without worrying that one application would mess up another. This was great for server administration since you could repurpose a server without needing to completely wipe and reload the operating system.
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server pushes this model forward a bit, but it also goes backwards at some points.
Server.app is the primary way to manage your Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. Server.app allows a server administrator to manage their server by simplifying the administration tasks for non-admin users. Server.app also now integrates Some Airport functions.
Through this screen you can add specific applications and then restart the Airport device. This makes management of an Airport Express, Airport Extreme or Time Capsule that much easier, since the Airport Utility look daunting for those who may not know what ever option truly does.
Mac OS X Server in general has offered an option to host a Wiki since Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Server. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server offers a significant improvement over Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server’s wiki, which had significant improvements over Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard’s Wiki Server.
Apple has completely redesigned the Wiki Software, not just externally, but internally. Instead of being written in python, Apple’s Wiki Server 3 is now utilizes Ruby on Rails for the entire infrastructure.
Some of the new Wiki Server 3 features include, a new navigation bar, custom project-specific wikis, File sharing, massive Search improvements, and email notifications.
Some novice, and new wiki users, may choose to look for help documents. These have been completely redesigned too. Under Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the Wiki Help pages looked like a WordPress 1.6 page. There was just a blue bar across the top and you basically had to search to find any help documents. This has radically been changed in Wiki Server 3.
Wiki Server 3′s help pages now offer an iOS-like interface for finding items. There is a list of topics on the left, much like the iPad, with the contents on the right. You can even search to help find the specific item you are looking for much more easily.
The physical changes include a new navigation bar, which allows you to do creating right from the toolbar. The Login Page for Wiki Server 3 now includes a ‘Remember Me’ function.. Therefore users are not required to enter in their username and password every time they visit the page.
The Search within Wiki Server 3 has been noticeably improved. You are now able to search within certain file types. The list of file types includes, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers, Keynote and even PDFs. It should be no surprise that Pages, Numbers and Keynote are on the list, since these are Apple products. However, the ability to search Word, Excel and even PowerPoint is rather interesting. Obviously Apple recognizes that Enterprises use Microsoft’s Productivity suite and may want to upload these files their Wiki Server in order to make them searchable. This is a nice touch that can go a long way to getting more Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server users.
The most significant end-user improvement has to be email notifications. Many users find keeping up with comments and page edits to be a daunting task. Particularly, since you have to manually add the pages to a track list. Well, guess what, this has changed in Wiki Server 3 on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. Now a user can be notified via e-mail when new comments or page edits have occurred. One would think that this could fill up a user’s inbox rather quickly. Apple has taken this condition into account. If a number of updates or comments are added to a page rather quickly a user will receive a single notification of the updates, instead of an individual email every time something is updated.
Wiki Server 3 offers some nice improvements over previous versions, if you rely heavily on Wiki Server, you may want to check out Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server’s Wiki server.
File Sharing with iOS
One of the most significant improvements under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server revolves around the integration of iOS devices. Specifically targeted towards the enterprise is the addition of File sharing for iOS devices through the use of WebDav.
As a system administrator you can choose which directories are available for iOS sharing through the Server.App File Sharing options.
When you create a Share Point, you can select which options are available on this folder as well. This includes whether or not to utilize the folder to save iOS files. This feature will go a long way to allowing iOS devices into the enterprise.
In order to allow users to connect to these files shares, they must be using iWork 1.3 on your iOS Devices in order to be able to save to WebDav shares. When a user connects, they will need to authenticate as themselves and the appropriate folders that allow iOS file sharing will appear.
What’s Not Great
Apple has dumbed down OS X Server to be easily usable by almost any non-server user. This is great for Mac OS X Server adoption. However, this does not bode well for those who have complex setups and need to manage even a modicum of Mac OS X devices.
Server.app combines the functionality of Server Admin with the ease of Server Preferences. You can easily enable and disable individual services with the click of a mouse button. This is great for those who may be novices when it comes server administrator, but this can be rather troublesome for more Advanced server administrators.
Server.app dumbs down the configuration options of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server; so much to the point that you do not have very few options for some services. Take Wiki Server for instance, this is the only option available.
Wow, you can either allow everybody or some users to create wikis. Granted, most of the administration is done via the actually Wiki Software, but it is still disappointing to see so few other options that are outside of a user’s control.
Many Smaller business use Mac OS X Server to be their VPN endpoint for their Macs and iOS devices to connect to, in order to be able to access the corporate network.
With Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, an administrator had a bunch of options available in order for the System administrator to customize their setup. You had two different VPN technologies that you could utilize, Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Now in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server you have only one option. L2TP with IPSec Authentication. You still have the ability to decide what IP address range to assign, but that is the extent of the configuration options.
Despite the lack of configuration options, there is no way to debug VPN connections to see if there is an issue. In addition, there is information regarding the type of VPN that is configurable on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. Through trial and error I have determined that it is in fact an L2TP VPN, so you can save yourself the troubleshooting to determine exactly what type of VPN is available.
Server Admin Tools
With the change from Server Admin to Server.app as the primary mechanism for managing a Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server, the question on how to administer the advanced functions comes into question. Thankfully, Apple has not eliminated Server Admin Tools.
Server Admin Tools does still exist, however you can only manager certain services through the application. There are only eleven services that are administered through Server Admin Tools under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. In Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server there were a total of 26 different services that could be administered.
Some of the 26 have been combined, like AFP, SMB and NFS. These have been combined under the ‘File Sharing’ service, which is only administered through Server.app. Advanced configurations like Open Directory, DNS, DHCP, Firewall, NAT, and Software Update are are still present and administered through Server Admin Tools.
The rather disturbing part is that there are a few services that are completely missing from Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. The list is as follows: FTP, MYSQL, QuickTime Streaming, and Print Server. These are just not available in any way, shape or form under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server, at least not natively. This is rather troublesome for those businesses that rely on any of these services.
The elimination of Print Server is not necessarily a deal breaker for many, but if you were hoping to use a slightly older Mac Mini Server as a Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server print server, it isn’t going to happen. This is a dangerous trend that cannot bode well for Mac OS X 10.8.
Within Mac OS X 10.7 Lion you have a couple of different options for scrolling. The first is the the standard scrolling that most users are already accustomed to using. But there is an option to have ‘Natural Scrolling’. This is where the scrolling emulates the scrolling within iOS.
Let us assume you are using a Magic Trackpad or a Magic Mouse. When this is enabled, this means that in order to scroll up you actually move your finger from top to bottom. Conversely, to scroll down you move your finger from the bottom of the mouse, or trackpad, to the top.
When a user first enables this it can be very disorienting to use. If a user decides, or is forced, to stick it out and try and become accustom to the new scrolling it can become as natural as their previous scrolling methods.
I have been racking my brain for a real-world analogy to make the ‘Natural Scrolling’ actually seem plausible, but up until this time I cannot think of a single example where this makes sense, outside of iOS.
The only tangible idea I can come up with is as follows. Imagine that you have a scroll of paper that you want to get to the top of in order to read the title; You would have to pull the paper from the bottom to the top of in order to read the Title.
Reliance on Gestures
I understand that the software is Apple’s, and it is their choice to do as they wish, but Mac OS X 10.7 Lion relies heavily on gestures for navigation. This can be rather off-putting to a user who is not used to them.
The gestures, while useful, can easily become very frustrating for the average or novice user who is just using a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad for the first time. For instance, it is very simple to zoom in on a webpage. It is so easy, it can be done accidentally. THe first time you do this, it can be unnerving due to the fact that you do not know what you managed to do to cause this action. The answer is a double-tap with a single finger.
This is not the only gesture that is present in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. There are a few gestures actually, which will be discussed later. Suffice it to say that you are really going to want a Magic Mouse or Magic Track Pad if you do a significant amount of work on your computer and want to be efficient.
The release of any product is going to have some issues associated with it. It is the nature of the beast. No piece of software can be 100% polished, because by the time you would have it finally polished it would be years down the road and the software would become obsolete. Mac Os X 10.7 Lion is no exception to this rule.
There are several issues that are troublesome. The first is the install time. According to the setup, it was to take approximately 34 minutes to upgrade my install to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. This sure was not the case. It took nearly 90 minutes to do the full installation. The first 75 minutes were the physical install, plus reboot. And the last 15 minutes was the setup after the installation.
To be fair, I am running a 4-year old 2.16GHz MacBook. It is probably the oldest system that will support Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Despite this, it should not take 90 minutes to install an operating system. That’s the first issue I have, the timer may not accurately reflect the amount of time to upgrade.
When there is a new operating system one would expect some sort of manual or maybe some helpful configuration guides to assist them with the new features of their operating system. Apple has failed to do this.
Sure, you can try and use the help screens but those do not explain a whole lot. For instance, there is no information regarding WebDav at all in the Help of Server.App. This makes it rather difficult to use your Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server as a file repository for iOS devices.
As mentioned previously, there is no documentation for what type of VPN is configurable with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server.
The lack of documentation is quite frustrating when you have no idea what any feature or configuration option means. Flying blind is not a way to operate at all, particularly on a Server platform.
Many Mac OS X users prefer to do a complete clean installation of Mac OS X when a new Operating System upgrade comes along. There are many reasons for the desire to do perform this clean wipe. It could be due to wanting to remove the cruft that comes with testing out applications on their previous Mac OS X installation. The desire can also come from controlling what is installed on their new system.
Instead of bringing over every application that was installed they, the user, can pick and choose what is needed and what was just superfluously installed. Typically, this is the method I choose, even on Servers.
It may be time to put your angry letter/email writing skills to work. There is no simple way to perform a clean installation. There have been tutorials on how to grab a copy out of developer builds and burn that image onto a DVD, but there is no guarantee that it will work.
The only method that may work is to install Lion, allow it to create the recovery partition, and then subsequently wipe your internal hard drive by booting into the Recovery Partition and re-installing Lion after you erase the system partition. Note, this should only be done if you are 100% sure you have a fully working backup of your internal drive because this method will erase everything on your hard drive. There may be no going back.
Wiki Server requirements
I previously mentioned Wiki Server 3 for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server. There is a potentially problematic issue that only certain browsers are supported. The required browsers are below.
As you can see, the requirements include Safari 5 or later, Firefox 4 or Later, Internet Explorer 9 or later, and Chrome.
Since Safari on Leopard is 5.0, it is supported. However, older systems like Mac OS X 10.4 are not supported at all. If the devices are running a PowerPC processor, they could potentially be upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, which does support Safari 5.0. However, it may be at some point in the future where even 10.5 Leopard is not supported for a feature, since Apple is now longer issuing security updates for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.
Internet Explorer 9 is a brand new release of Microsoft’s Internet browser that many enterprises will not, or cannot adopt, any point soon. Many Enterprises are behind the curve when it comes to upgrading Internet browsers. This can be due to compatibility with their internal software or merely because new browsers can lead to potential security issues.
Web browser are not the only item that takes a while to upgrade. New Operating system adoption within the enterprise is notoriously slow. This is mostly due to refresh cycles. Many older hardware systems cannot support the newest operating systems. There are many business still running Windows XP, which cannot support any Microsoft operating system past Internet Explorer 8.
You may be asking, what does Microsoft have to do with Macs? Quite simple, Many enterprises are not wiling to put their mission-critical software on a platform that they have not supported previously. Some Enterprises may be willing to take a chance on hosting a new item, like a Wiki, on a Mac because it can integrate with their Active-Directory Domains. Using a Mac as a Wiki Server is an excellent way to bring new technology to employees, and simultaneously test a new platform.
Combining the minimum requirement for Windows Vista, which does support Internet Explorer 9, and the inability to use their older clients could have some enterprises looking elsewhere for another solution. I know that this may be a very small percentage of enterprises, but with many C-level executives using Macs, adoption may ultimately be inevitable.
The biggest disappointment in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server is the lack of granularity regarding website hosting, particularly for me since I develop almost solely by using Mac OS X Server as my web-development platform.
With OS X Leopard Server and OS X Snow Leopard Server an administrator had the option of deciding which modules were to be supported within their server. If they wanted to allow python scripts to be run, allow WebDav capabilities or even allow PHP to run you could. Now with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server you do not have these options.
You can control whether PHP is enabled, but any advanced GUI controls are completely missing. If you really need advanced controls you can jump into Terminal and use your typing skills to make everything work the way you want. But be warned, your configurations may be overwritten if you change something via the GUI. This is a major disappointment for Server Administrators. Sure, you can compile Apache’s HTTP server from source-code, but then why not just use Mac OS X 10.7 Lion client and save some money.
Full Screen App convention
One of the new features, as previously noted, of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is that you have the option of making applications Full Screen. Not every application will be full screen aware. It is a feature that Mac Developers must build into their application. Apple has built this feature into Safari 5.1, Terminal, and Photo Booth.
The only issue I have with this feature is that there is not a standard convention for getting in and out of full screen applications, even within Apple’s own program. For example, in Safari and in Photo Booth in order to switch between full screen views you hit Control+Command+F. While in Terminal to switch between full screen mode you hit Option+Command+F. This inconsistent nature of the full screen commands may lead some to avoid using full screen applications all together.
Dual Application Management
As stated previously, with Launchpad you can easily manage your Mac App Store applications right from the Launchpad interface. Sure, you still have the traditional option of using Finder to delete applications, and this method still works. The only problem with deleting applications is that you do not need to provide your password, the same way you are required to do so when you download and install an application from the Mac App Store. This can be a problem for those who want an extra step to really make sure that they want to delete an application. When you delete an application from Launchpad, the application is deleted. It is not put into the trash bin. This mimics the way iOS application management is handled.
Conversely, if you delete an application from Finder, you are presented with a dialog to enter in your password to verify that you want to delete the application. In the traditional Mac OS X way, the application is not deleted, merely moved to the Trash. The dual application management mechanisms may cause some confusion for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Lion Server users.
After using Mac OS X 10.7 Lion for a while, I have developed a couple of hints that may ease the transition from Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.
The first hint is to Run Permissions repair before and after you install Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Since Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is an in-place upgrade and you cannot easily do a clean-install, this will go a long way to having a smooth upgrade process.
I mentioned one of the issues of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server was the installation time, I did not run Repair Permissions beforehand. If I had, this may have vastly improved the installation time.
The second hint is to look at the Mouse Options within System Preferences. I recommend this not only because you can choose which scrolling option that you prefer, but because you can learn what gestures are supported by your device. This may only apply to the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse, but doing this can save a user from the frustration of accidentally performing a gesture and not being able to figure out what they did to make the operating system perform in that manner.
Apple has built new gestures into both the Operating system as well as Safari. For many people working efficiently is a goal that they strive to attain. Apple has given those users a few more options to reach their goal of efficiency.
Gestures are present throughout Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. You can quickly switch between Spaces, Zoom in on a picture or text, or even quickly navigate within Safari. Gestures can really bring together your usage of iOS and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion because the gestures you may already be used to performing on iOS devices are the exact same within Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is a solid upgrade. It is not a revolutionary upgrade, but it definitely an evolutionary one. Given the maturity of the operating system it should be no surprise to anybody that the integration of iOS and Mac OS X has begun. If you want to keep an operating system new and fresh, you must add some new features. The iOS features that Apple has added into Mac OS X 10.7 Lion are solid, the right choice and bring the right amount of functionality to Mac OS X.
As one can guess this is only the beginning of the integration of iOS and Mac OS X. I would not be surprised to soon learn that Apple is switching upgrade models from a full blown operating system release cycle to a more incremental upgrade cycle.
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is a definite plus, even on the Server side, despite the issues outlined above. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion server are available in the Mac App store. If you computer meets the requirements there is no real reason why you should not upgrade in the near future. As always, make sure you have a full and working backup before doing the upgrade to the latest in Mac OS X technology.