Liquid Media's Apps

Disappointed in Mac OS X Server

Back in November 2009, Liquid Media bought one of the new Mac Mini Servers. We were really excited about it: group chat using iChat server, calendaring, Asterisk, continuous integration, etc., all in a sweet Apple-flavoured package. Since then we’ve had to reinstall the entire operating system 3 times, and essentially all we have is an over-powered file and Asterisk server. I’ve never been so thoroughly disappointed in an Apple product. In fact, I was so disappointed that I wrote Apple a letter about it. Not an email — a letter; you know, the thing that you put in an envelope and stick in the mail.

This is the letter in full:

Apple Canada
7495 Birchmount Road
Markham ON
L3R 5G2

31 March 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

In early November 2009 I purchased the newly released Mac Mini Server with OS X Snow Leopard Server. I was very excited to set this machine up to act as a server for my small web development business. It has failed miserably in this role. I am extremely disappointed in the quality of the OS X Server software.

First, some context: we are a small staff of 5 software developers. We have all been using Macs for many years. We are all reasonably experienced unix administrators and have managed all manner of Linux installs as well as our Apple computers. We are all unabashed Apple fans and have, and will continue to buy Apple products.

However, we all feel that Mac OS X Server falls far below your usual standard of quality. I am writing and mailing a letter, rather than sending an email or even a fax, to underscore the depth of our disappointment in the product. Some of our specific complaints include:

  • In order to set up iChat Server, we need to specify an externally addressable hostname and configure DNS. This is impossible because our Internet Service Provider assigns us a dynamic IP. Even if we used the hostname, which right now is an unmemorable, any name resolution we configure would break as soon as our IP address changes. Thus, running iChat Server, which was one of our core requirements, remains unfulfilled.
  • Calendaring in OS X Server is shockingly poor. We are all using Macs on the same network, yet we can’t use iCal on our Macs to create events and invite our colleagues to those events. The only way we have found to invite each other is by logging on to the web interface on the server.
  • We have had issues connecting multiple people at the same remote location to our network via VPN at the same time. The issues are still unresolved; our lesson has been to not trust the VPN services.
  • When we have successfully connected via VPN, although we are logically on the same network, we cannot see the Mac Mini Server in the list of servers in Finder. The only way to access the server’s files was by choosing “Go to Server” in Finder and manually entering the server’s internal IP address.
  • We realized earlier this week that Software Update Services was, for reasons unknown to us, not downloading any Mac OS X updates. Rather than taking advantage of our fast internal network, every one of the 5-person team ended up downloading the update separately.
  • There is no way that we are aware of to add new services to the Server Admin tool. For instance, instead of MySQL, we run PostgreSQL. We would like to configure a continuous integration server. We would like to add additional controls to manage web application deployments for our staging environments. We would like to manage our Asterisk phone system. Unfortunately, we can only manage these services from the command line — which is not a problem for us — but it would be nice if we could use the graphical tools that made us choose OS X Server in the first place.

Ultimately, we have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to configure this server, only to end up with little more than an under-used file server. For our Calendaring and Chat services, we have returned to Google Apps. For everything else, an inexpensive Linux PC will do just as well, if not better.

I am therefore writing to ask that you accept the return of and refund the full price of our Mac Mini Server, the AppleCare Protection Plan that we purchased, as well as any costs of returning the machine to you, if applicable. I am including a copy of the receipt in this letter.

I look forward to hearing from you with instructions on how to proceed. The best way for you to reach me is by email at ((hidden)) or by phone at 902-407-3037.


Paul Doerwald
Liquid Media


I’ll keep you up to date on what happens.

Tagged apple, os x, server, and snow leopard.
blog comments powered by Disqus