Apple

OS X Server 4.1: Change log - potential problems and solutions

Jesus Vigo explores the change log to Apple's latest OS X Server 4.1, including known issues and solutions to help resolve the problems.

OS X Server 4.1

On April 8th, Apple released its much-anticipated update for OS X Yosemite, 10.10.3. Since its initial release, end users have been plagued with numerous issues, with arguably the most vocal problem affecting Wi-Fi connectivity.

Update 10.10.3 has been in the wild for just over a week, and the number of reported issues have dwindled, which is not surprising considering the full breadth of improvements contained in the massive update.

This brings us to Apple's other recent update: OS X Server 4.1. This was a much smaller update in terms of size and payload, but it was very important for system admins responsible for managing local and mobile devices, particularly those with iOS 8.3 installed.

Server 4.1 didn't require as large an update as Yosemite, mainly due to the fact that OS X Yosemite serves as the underlying foundation for Server 4.1, with numerous security patches to further harden the security of your Mac server. So, naturally, it's no surprise that 10.10.3 is a required update for those wishing to update to Server 4.1. Both of these updates can be downloaded directly from the Mac App Store, while updating offline systems may be done locally by using the 10.10.3 Combo Update.

With the change log and requirements included above, let's take a closer look at some of the common issues affecting OS X Server 4.1 and tips on how to resolve them.

1. Services stop working

Symptom: After downloading the Server.app update, all server functions cease to work, even though the server is online and communicating.

Cause: Updating the Server.app is unlike updating the underlying OS in that once the update has been installed, the system may (or may not) reboot to complete the installation. With Server.app, however, once OS X detects that Server.app has been replaced, it immediately stops all the server-side services.

Solution: To resolve this, simply launch the newly downloaded Server.app from the Applications folder to actually update the necessary files and complete the installation process. The install scripts automatically restart the server-side services once it's installed. Manually turning on the services is also an option.

2. System Image Utility (NetInstall) not finding Install OS X Yosemite.app

Symptom: Launching System Image Utility (SIU) to create NetBoot/NetInstall images results in "No sources found," even though the Install OS X Yosemite.app is available.

Cause: As with any major update, the delta update that contains only the modified system files are downloaded. This helps to keep the file size smaller and remain efficient when updating OTA. The full-size update, however, comes in the form of a newly replaced OS X Yosemite installer in the Mac App Store.

Solution: Replace the previous version of the Install OS X Yosemite.app with the newer download from the Mac App Store. The new file will include 10.10.3 automatically updated within the file. Once it's downloaded, launch SIU again and, as long as the updated installer is located in the Applications folder, it should detect and highlight that new file for image creation.

Note: It's a best practice to update the NetBoot/NetInstall images each time a new major is released. While not a requirement, it's preferable to deploy a recently updated image than one several versions behind.

3. Open Directory not working/found

Symptom: Open Directory is not working or found within the Server console, or the service is found to be off and does not turn on.

Cause: The likely culprit in this scenario is a corruption of the config files brought on by a system file update or change stemming from the update to Server 4.1 and/or 10.10.3.

Solution: Unfortunately, these are the types of risks associated with system updates. Not unique to OS X, but specific to updates in general: The modification of code may strengthen the OS (good update) but also has the possibility to break something that was previously working accidently (bad update). Historically, this has occurred few and far between at a catastrophic level, but it's pretty commonplace for day-to-day updates/hotfixes.

As with any update scenario, and this applies twice to servers and other production equipment, perform a full system backup prior to updating. A bare metal backup is the best protection against a rogue update, since the system can just be reimaged back to its prior state with relative ease.

This matter is no different. Make your backups and proceed with the update. In the event that something goes awry, restoring from a backup—either partially or completely—may make the difference between the server staying operational or being rebuilt.

4. Network users/groups cannot be created

Symptom: New user/group accounts cannot be created after upgrading OS X Server. Existing accounts may still work and authenticate logon—however, a password change denied alert may appear if attempting to reset a password.

Cause: Similar to issue #3 above, upgrading OS X Server still updates several systems used by the app to manage the server. Doing so, while relatively benign, can and does sometimes introduce a file corruption or related issue that prevents access or disables the service altogether.

Solution: There are two possible solutions to this issue. First, check DNS entries to confirm they are correct. Particularly, note the name of the hostname of the server and verify that the hostname is resolving to the IP address assigned to the server. Additionally, ensure that any DNS servers storing records for your server are listed in the DNS settings of your OS X Server.

If the DNS settings are valid, the second solution involves reapplying the Kerberos protocol configuration on the server. To rekerberize the server, quit Server.app, then open Terminal, and enter the commands below—one line at a line:

sudo mkdir /var/db/openldap/migration

sudo touch /var/db/openldap/migration/ .rekerberize

sudo slapconfig -firstboot

After the commands have executed successfully, quit Terminal.app and open Server.app. With the settings reconfigured, attempt to create a new user account from the Users pane to confirm that user/group creation functionality has been restored.

As with all applications, there are growing pains, and OS X is no different (though it has historically been known and praised for its stability and performance). OS X's UNIX underpinnings are strong and the OS has stood the test of time to prove itself resilient.

Nonetheless, testing new applications, especially server apps, are key to identifying and resolving potential issues down the road—before they go into production. A system is only as strong as its configuration and backups. If one goes, there's still the other to fall back on.

What other problem (and possible solutions) have you run across with OS X Server 4.1. Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Jesus Vigo

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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