Leopard Server install disaster

Martin Levins
7 April, 2008
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I’ve had one of "those" weeks as we upgrade our network to fully integrate Leopard and, in the process, discovered some things that may assist others who are moving the same way. As has been mentioned many times elsewhere, you wouldn’t have considered moving to Leopard on the server side before 10.5.2, but there are still problems even with this release. But first, let me tell you what we were setting out to achieve.

We upgraded our student laptops to Leopard last year at 10.5.1 so that we could deploy Parental Controls, giving some protection to student machines over the holiday break when they were away from our network and its internet protection. We left our Open Directory (the thingy that holds everyone’s login and permissions details) at 10.4.11 — that limited our control over client preferences, but we preferred this over the instability of Leopard (at that time).

Come January, the cooling in our server room failed and meltdown ensued, forcing a rebuild of services from backups (this is a tedious thing to do at the best of times; after a a long haul flight returning from Macworld Expo , it really delivered a strong shot of ennui).

Until last week, I was going to upgrade our existing directory to Leopard and all would be well, but, at the last minute, I reneged. Two things were at work here: the complexity of this particular upgrade process and the late advice that I received that it would be preferable to start afresh anyway.

Luckily, all of our users have their user names, generated passwords, User numerical IDs and home directory locations stored in a database linked to our school’s student admin system, so the plan was to export these data as a text file, then bring that into Passenger: a great utility that spits out files that Workgroup Manager easily understands. We’d do some sanity checking and import the result into a virgin Open Directory. Then, we could all go home, tired but happy.

Hmm.

Of course I would have to have been playing with the space-time continuum that week, so it took longer than I’d planned. There were some stray data in the database that needed extended correction, some of the client document servers refused to play ball and had to be rebuilt, the Open Directory server refused to see itself in the DNS, and time just evaporated. Get the picture?

Long story short: I postponed the upgrade, until I can get three clear days: next term as it happens.

This highlights the complexity of a modern educational computer system, and the need to keep careful records of your setup. It also brings up the need for multiple servers in any but the most basic installation.

Why? Whilst our Directory can be a Leopard install, our document servers can’t, as the document-serving part of Leopard is still broken and unlikely to be fixed until the middle of this year at the earliest.

So, we have to use Tiger for these servers, and will need to remember which machine we were talking to when using Workgroup manager (our consultant recommended that the Tiger and Leopard versions of this software should only be used on the corresponding system).

Sometimes, you wonder …

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