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 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.

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


So in this case, half of the requests would be sent to and the other half would go to 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)

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.

ImageI know we have quite a few customers who use their Mac minis as subversion servers. The number has increased since Leopard now ships with Subversion 1.4.4 and Apache2 pre-installed. (Of course, you’d need to configure the server. But there are good instructions here and here.)

Versions is a client for a subversion server. It was recently released as a free beta and offers a nice new way of interacting with the Subversion server.

So, if you’re looking for a nice way to keep versions of your work. Or, if you work with a group and want to make sure everyone is working on the most up to date work, then you can download Versions here.

ImageOf all the backup applications there are, I like SuperDuper the most. The reason is because in years of using it, I’ve never had a bad backup.

When it comes to Mac servers, there is usually quite a bit of configuration that goes into getting it just right. SuperDuper will backup the entire drive so it’s an exact clone.

Part of the reason we offer a “Hot Standby Club” to our customers is because SuperDuper make it real easy to get back and going in a machine failure. We’ll usually take their drive, plug it into our available standby machine and boot right from it. This means they’re up and going in no time while their server has their hardware is repaired.

SuperDuper is free to use for backups. But, to have it be real useful, you’ll want the Smart Backup. This allows you to only copy the things that have changed since the last backup. To get this option, you’ll need to register the application for $27.95. You can get the app and the license here.

ImageCrashPlan is an application that will allow you to do online backups. There are a lot of services like this, but there is an extra option for CrashPlan. With Crashplan, you can backup between computers you own or that belong to a friend.

The process is real easy.

  1. Install CrashPlan on your computer
  2. Set up an account with your email address and a password. (done right in the application)
  3. Install Crashplan on another Mac, PC or Linux box.
  4. Login with the same credentials that you used in Step 2
  5. Start the backup and you’ll never have to worry about it again.

The nicest thing about CrashPlan is that it is so simple. RSync is nice but it takes some work to set up.

Also, since Crashplan will let you back up to a friend’s computer or a Mac Server you’re running, there won’t be a monthly fee.

Crashplan is a $20 application and can be found here.