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I currently have an Apple XServe G5, running OSX server 10.4. As you can imagine, 10.4 has become increasingly annoying due to the high difficulty of updating the server software (Apache, PHP, MySQL, not to mention ClamAV). I am considering putting Ubuntu on this server (I've already found the build to support the PPC arch.), however I would like some assurance that I will be able to find replacement packages for everything that 10.4 can do. Right now my main concerns are:

  • File Sharing via AFP (No 'just use FTP' please, many of my employees vastly prefer how their Macs interact with AFP in Finder and the like).
  • Mail server.
  • Load balancing via Crossroads.
  • Are there any packages that support the special hardware on an XServe, such as the system identifier light and the intrusion switch

I already have two webservers (AMD boxes) running on Ubuntu so I'm not unfamiliar with the software, it's just that this server has many more responsibilities than just web and database serving.

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  • AFP can be handled by netatalk. This might have issues, though. See below.
  • Mail: You can choose between a wide variety of packages: SMTP could be handled by Sendmail, Postfix or Exim, IMAP by Dovecot, Courier or Cyrus, just to name some popular variants.
  • Load balancing: I am not familiar with Crossroads and what you want to load-balance, but I am sure something is possible.
  • Not sure about the Mac specific hardware. On Intel Macs, it's (a subset of) IPMI, but I don't know about PPC hardware.

Issues with Netatalk: I haven't used it in a long time, so I am not sure what might have changed, but there is a general problem with using Linux as a Mac fileserver: Resource forks and extended (Finder) attributes. These aren't supported with Linux file systems, but are simulated by MacOS with special files (.filename). As long as you only use Mac clients that know about this, things will likely work nicely, but if you use other clients (Linux, Windows) and change files there, this dot files won't get renamed, moved or deleted together with the master file, so you end up with missing attributes and unneeded dot files.

Also, remember this hardware is getting really old now...

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I say stick with Tiger (possibly upgrade to Leopard?) & compile/download the software stacks you need separately. I think in the end, you'll save a lot of time rather than trying to get Ubuntu server running while trying to monitor the hardware somehow at the same time.

There are lots of tutorials out there for MAMP stacks, & you could maybe even try MAMP Pro? You usually don't use W/L/MAMP stacks in production, but you can lock them down fairly decently & it's not strictly verboten, IMO. Maybe even check into the Bitnami installers to see if there's one that'll do what you want. Yes, you lose the "built-in" OS X management features, but IMO, they're mostly lacking & you have to delve into the command line to tweak things just how you want.

I know it's more difficult getting most unix software working on OS X because it's hard to figure out Apple's "plist" way of thinking, but you'll likely spend less time doing that than you will trying to get Ubuntu working with the services OS X does do well. I know because I've been there.

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I wouldn't go the way of putting another OS on XServe hardware. You will loose every pro in this case except it's 1U size. For example hardware monitoring will stop working and I really don't believe that you will get all needed packages in PPC form. The hardware is getting old very quickly and in case of failure you have almost no chance to get spare parts. Get rid off this box and buy an older Intel based machine, install MAMP as chumd recommended and you're on your own. You obviously don't need server to fulfill your task...

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