ImageIf a server is setup correctly, clinic you can hopefully walk away and it will run fine without interaction for a long time. Digital Sentry will help you get a little closer to that goal.

“Digital Sentry monitors your system for specific events, and then can perform a vast array of unique actions in response. Watch for such system events as waking from sleep, program launches, closes, or switches, file modifications, incorrect password attempts, mouse and keyboard input, and many more. Then, perform any number of tasks like sending an e-mail, shutting down the computer, starting a simulated self-destruct, pinging a web URL, taking a web cam shot, taking a screenshot, playing a multimedia file, speaking some text, executing a shell script… the list goes on!”

The interface is nice and easy to setup. The cost is $19.95 and comes with a free trial. Download it here.

ImageWe often get asked how to host multiple websites on one Mac. This is done using virtual hosting.

Until this point, this included opening hidden files and entering the vhosts by hand. This isn’t hard, but can be intimidating for a new developer and Mac user.

I was happy to find VirtualHostX. This application helps to add a new virtual host with just a few clicks. (They also offer a pretty nice tutorial on setting up vhosts while using MAMP.

The application runs $9 and can be downloaded here.

ImageI know that quite a few of our customers use their their Mac minis as file servers that they share with their clients. This application will be an answered prayer for many.

With FTP Maker, you just start up the application and enter your information. (e.g., server address, directory, password, etc.) You can also add a logo for your company. Once complete, you just push “Create FTP Upload Application.” FTP Maker will then create an application that you can pass to your customers so they can easily upload to your server. Once they have it, they just drag and drop files on the application and everything else happens automatically.

What a great idea for an application. You can download a trial at the developer’s site. If you decide to purchase it, the license will cost $30.

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.

ImageQuite a few of our customers use their Mac minis as central storage for a team of people in different locations. We hear from a lot of business owners who have been trying to run the server from their office, but just need more speed, reliability and security. They recognize that we can provide all three, but often they are concerned about having the machine out of the office where they can’t keep a close eye on the different versions of data. They want to make sure everyone is up to date.

This is where Changes will come in handy. Changes will keep multiple machines in sync with the latest versions of documents and projects. If you prefer something more manual, it also provides a quick way to text comparison using popular text editors.

This is also a great way to backup and update your website.

Changes is available for $39.95 and can be downloaded from the official site. (demo available)

ImageThis one isn’t directly connected to running a server, but it’s incredibly useful for those that are on the move quite often. (And those who are on the move quite often usually have servers, so there’s my justification.)

Most of my internet time is spent at my house, my office, or the data center. In all three places I have static ip’s for port forwarding, etc. For each spot, I have a “Location” setup on my MacBook Air. I got tired of manually changing the location each time I moved around so I went searching and I found Locamatic.

Locamatic is a preference pane that will automatically change your Location based on whatever network your Airport card joins.

I’ve had it setup for a week now and it’s worked flawlessly switching me between locations.

If this sounds useful, you can it here for free.

ImageI’ve been happy to move from cron to launchd for automating tasks. Lingon has become incredibly useful in this transition.

“Lingon is a graphical user interface for creating an editing launchd configuration files for Mac OS X Leopard 10.5. You can use launchd on a Mac to launch scripts and applications whenever something special happens or at a specific time or periodically. You get all launchd configuration files in a list to the left so you can easily see all and choose which one to edit.

Editing a configuration file is easier than ever in this version and it has two different modes. Basic Mode which has the most common settings readily available in a very simple interface and Expert Mode where you can add all settings either directly in the text or insert them through a menu.”

You can get your free copy of Lingon here.