My first musings on what I’d like to see from Apple were basically a home server edition of Mac OS X Server, and suitable hardware, which, as I said was “pretty much a Mac Mini, with the exception of the 802.11n.”.
That was in 2008. Since then, the Mac Mini has moved on, with the addition of 802.11n, plus Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.
Mac OS X Server has also moved on, and in many way what Apple is now delivering is a home server, with, if not a Squid cache, at least App store caching, mail server, Time Machine, etc.. There are excellent reviews of Mac OS X Server (Mountain Lion) at Ars Technica (updated in Jan 2013 when new features were released).
Significantly, the price has plummeted to to being eminently affordable. It’s basically US$20.00—the same price as Mountain Lion itself.
That being the case, I’ve installed it as the home server, and I’m happy with it in that mode. I’ve repurposed my Mac Mini that was running as the Time Machine server (that function has gone to another machine) and it happily acts as the family mail server together with some other functions such as providing a VPN (so we can check our mail on the road).
Mac OS X Server is now basically just Server.app, with all the server components hidden away inside the App bundle. It is also very encouraging to see Apple adding new functionality, like the Caching server which appeared as a new feature in the first Server update.
That leads to a little list of things I’d like to see added (or fixed):
- Cache Server reporting. At the moment there is no display of what things are in the cache (which I’d like to know for curiosity’s sake).
- More caching. At the moment, iTunes purchases are not cached, nor is general web browsing.
- Fetchmail support. I pull mail onto the server for all the family members off multiple ISP accounts. Among other things, this keeps GB—and years—of mail on a local server which is not subject to merger, change of terms of service, bankruptcy or pre-emptive shutdown by foreign powers. It may be antediluvian and I should probably have the mail SMTP direct to my own domain, but in the meanwhile it suits me quite well and I surely can’t be alone in this.
- The Mail server stops. Well, actually, it doesn’t. Server.app says that it has, but the server is really running quite happily.
- Documentation. Really, the Apple documentation is inadequate. In transition from an enterprise product to a home product the documentation got left behind. I bought Server because I figured the price was low enough that if it wasn’t useful to me I would not have wasted much. I couldn’t figure out how useful it would be from reading the documentation. In the end, the web provided more useful how to and advice than the Apple documentation ever did.