Posted by notKlaatu , 17 August 2008 · 96 views
I'm in charge of a server sitting off in some building somewhere, and one of the primary means of accessing it for me, unlike most people administering a server, is NOT an ssh session but a VNC screenshare session. Why? Because all the tools built in to the server require proprietary GUI tools. The good news is that the GUI tools are pretty and make you want to lick the screen (or so the marketing tells me), the bad news is that they don't actually work. (No, I mean, they really don't work; they don't do what they appear to be created to do...they just shipped incomplete apps.)Figure 1 are my GUI apps. Server Admin is like iTunes for your Server Rack; it aggregates all your servers into one big window with lots of buttons and tabbed menus and pretty sparkly gelatinesque LED lights. You can start and stop services here, but don't try to use some of these services, because it turns out that they can't actually be configured through this app (in spite of having configuration options available).The Workgroup Manager is designed to organize the Users and Groups, but the "Create Home Button" doesn't work and you have to come up with a creative way around its state of brokenness. Different admins have different ways of solving the problem, so just ask around.Server Preferences is sort of a bastard child app that sometimes overrides other apps' settings, some times will not...there doesn't seem to be a definitive logic to when you must use Server Prefs vs. Server Admin; you just wait for the warning dialogue box and do what it tells you.And then there's the /Applications folder, which will almost certainly provide me with endless amounts of important apps for administering my server. See Figure 2 for all the powerful tools made available to me. My favourite so far:Front Row - the AppleTV-like front end allowing me to access all the media on my server. No, not over a network -- while I'm logged in over VNC. If I get too frustrated with the broken GUI configuration apps, I can just switch over to Front Row and enjoy watching a movie over VNC. Brilliant!DVD Player - although I don't have physical access to the server and can't put a DVD into it, I could, I guess, in theory, somehow watch a DVD, again, over VNC. Again, a solid addition to an already rock solid server OS.iTunes - in case I need to put mp3s on my iPod, via VNC.....without physical access to the box..... um, I don't know how that would work. i guess if I had a really really long cable. But also, I can listen to mp3s or internet radio...no, not streaming over my network as if this was a media server, because iTunes can't do that, but via VNC because the full-screen screensharing session just doesn't take enough bandwidth as it is.iSync - an all important app that no one knows how to use on the consumer version OS makes a much needed appearance on the Server OS as well. There's no bluetooth on this company's server models, so iSync won't do much for that, and again with no physical access I won't be using it over a cable either...but nevertheless, it's a good app to have installed by default.And who could ever live with the already annoying and pointless Dashboard app (the widget viewer that takes over your entire screen)? When I'm administering the server, I frequently want to trigger Dashboard to check the weather. Unfortunately the key binding for Dashboard doesn't work over the VNC session, but I can always just access it graphically. Well worth having on a server OS. Debian and Redhat, take notes!Yes, this is a good server setup I have here. I don't think I'll ever just open up a terminal and ssh into a server again. If I can't VNC with a full screenshare, I want nothing to do with it.