ImageThis last weekend, a good friend of mine called and told me that his office and been broken into early Sunday morning. The thieves stole 7 20″ iMacs and a cd player. (Luckily they didn’t steal the 24″ iMac or the Mac mini server with all the data on it. We keep that server hidden good.)

Thank goodness my friend had business insurance and we picked up 7 new iMacs and had them all setup and running by Monday afternoon. We look at it as an inconvenient, but inexpensive way to upgrade the iMacs.

So now the matter is whether the police will get the iMacs back. The chances are small.

However, this week Macosxhints.com published a nice post that would have been great to have had last week. It is titled, “An advanced script/web solution to track stolen Macs .” Basically it consists of a couple of scripts that stay hidden on your machine. If your Mac were to be stolen, and later connected to the internet, it could send it’s whereabouts and photos of the thief (assuming their is a built-in iSight camera.)

How does this pertain to a site about servers? Well, you can easily turn your Mac server into an FTP server that can accept the photos and information.

Anyhow, if you’re looking for a fun weekend project that you may be REALLY thankful for later, go take a look here.

ImageThe other day, a customer asked me to setup an FTP account for his clients to use in uploading files to his machine. And while the built-in file serving of Leopard is nice, it’s not made for this sort of thing. For instance, creating a “Sharing Only” user account will only allow AFP and SMB connections.

PureFTPd is a free FTP server and PureFTPd manager is a nice Mac GUI to getting it installed and setting it up.

When you start the application, there are just a few general questions that are asked to help the setup. You can then create users, assign them to certain folders or directories.

There are plenty of options and it makes it real easy to have a powerful file server. The app is free from the developer’s site, though donations are appreciated.

ImageEvery once and a while, I’ll get an email asking if we can take a load balancer in our cage. Load balancing is a technique to spread work between two or more computers. So naturally, a load balancer is hardware that makes this possible. The idea is to have multiple Mac minis to host a website so it continues to perform well for high traffic. Since our network and racks are tailored specific for Mac minis, we don’t install load balancers. But, we recommend a much better and less expensive way to do load balancing. We suggest DNS, or more specifically, round robin DNS.

Round robin DNS is a way for one domain to be spread between multiple machines. This way, each time the domain name is called, the request will be forwarded to a different machine. Below is an example of what it might look like courtesy of DNSMadeEasy.com)

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So in this case, half of the requests would be sent to 192.168.1.2 and the other half would go to 10.2.54.4. Now each machine only handles 50% of the load. You can easily use up to 13 different ip addresses to really spread the load.

As you can imagine, there are some nice benefits to using Round Robin DNS:

  • No extra hardware to purchase. (Load Balancers can cost thousands.)
  • When used with DNS Failover, you could have one Mac mini go down and not have it apparent to the end users. It just gets dropped from thr Round Robin until it comes back online.
  • Rather than using just one Xserve, you can use five or six Mac minis. Place them on different power strips, attached to different switches, and behind different routers. This way, should any of hardware fail (XServe, power, switch or router), there are still machines available.
  • It’s easy to setup, and to add additional machines later. When your budget allows for another machine, just put it in the circle.

We have a few customers doing this now and it’s worked great. If it’s something that might help your company, we’d love to work with you. Just let us know.