Apple made me PC

I’ve been using exclusively Macintosh computers for many years and have almost forgotten what a PC is. Mac’s are a form of Personal Computer (PC) but are rarely referred to in that way.

It all started with macOS Server which was not and still isn’t a particularly reliable product. I persisted with macOS Server because my Apple clients integrated so well with it, when it was working! I enjoyed being able to use the small energy efficient Mac mini which came with two hard disks and OS X Server preinstalled. macOS Server and macOS High Sierra were a great combination; the server felt reliable and I was able to run all needed services on the single Mac mini including: DNS, VPN, Open Directory, File Sharing, NetInstall, Profile Manager, Software Update, Websites, and Content Caching.

With everything finally running well Apple decided to strip out all that makes macOS Server an actual server releasing a guide to migrate to open source services. I was able to preserve most functionality with an important exception: when Server started to provide Open Directory and Profile Manager it killed my migrated “named” service because for some reason Apple bundle a useless version of ‘named’ with the current version of macOS Server. The macOS Server ‘named’ is an old version which starts then stops when Server management starts up and as a consequence kills the newer version stored in /usr/local/bin . I tried a great deal including changing binary names and references in the plist file but nothing worked. I came to realise that I could no longer reliably run all services on the one machine. For a while I removed Server from the Mac mini so that ‘named’, VPN, File Sharing, NetInstall and Content Caching could be run having been migrated, and I installed Parallels Desktop to run a virtual machine to provide the Open Directory and Profile Manager services. My solution worked for a while but it was not ideal that Open Directory started after the services that depend on it. Eventually I ended up with two Mac Server virtual machines and the host machine just running ‘named’ and ‘vpnd’. Apples next blunder after macOS Mojave was to break ‘vpnd’ so that I could no longer reliably provide a VPN service. Much research and bug reports to Apple later nothing was resolved. I ended up getting a non Apple router with a VPN server built-in but sadly I can’t integrate that with Open Directory.

As the saga continued I needed a better Software Update server and setup a virtual machine for NetSUSLP, which I’m now running on a PC. Initially I was wanting to be able to use arm64 virtual machines to provide services so that I could move to the Apple Silicon Mac’s in the future. Unfortunately there were complications moving NetSUSLP to an arm64 based Linux so I accept that I need to either use x64 emulation or move to an intel system with a hypervisor. Whilst my old 2012 Mac mini is still running intel virtual machines I have to accept that the machine won’t run forever. I have had difficulty maintaining the macOS Big Sur Server virtual machine because of Apple blocking software updates and improperly testing their new hypervisor so it became necessary to add an additional Mac mini for Profile Manager. I bought the cheapest M1 Mac mini available. The M1 Mac mini now provides Profile Manager and Caching and I find it frustrating that I can’t add DNS because the kill issue is still present. Because Parallels Desktop doesn’t support M1 macOS virtual machines I am limited on what I can do with this very advanced piece of hardware.

For the future I will be shutting down the 2012 Mac mini and replacing it with an x64 server, likely an HP Proliant Micro with a Linux system replacing all but the Profile Manager service which can continue run on a dedicated Mac mini.

The move to Apple Silicon has brought other complications for me because virtual machine compatibility is limited to specific arm64 systems, and there are licensing issues with Windows. Whilst I’m confident that I will be using Apple Silicon Mac’s in the future I have bought an old HP Workstation to run x64 virtual machines, windows specific office software and stream some train simulators to my Mac screen.

Thanks to Apple I’m way more PC than I used to be.