All you wanted to know about the Leopard Server
Apple focuses on ease of setup and administration
By Ryan Faas, Computerworld | Computerworld UK | Published: 01:00, 01 November 2007
Enhanced collaborative tools
In addition to iCal Server, Leopard Server includes Web-based collaborative tools and a new organisational information tool called Directory, explained in more detail below. New Web-based tools include an easy-to-configure wiki and blogs that can be created for any group. Group calendars offer a very slick and polished Web 2.0 interface that both looks and functions excellently, and the choice of several site templates. As with all versions of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server, Web services are handled by Apache.
The new Directory application included with Leopard gives users access a wide variety of organisational information about users, groups, office/school locations and other types of available resources. It maintains both general user contact information, including address and phone number, as well as organisational information such as who reports to whom.
Location information can include maps, address and descriptions, and can be as granular as a person's desk location within an office. Resources can include anything from copiers to company cars. Resources and locations can even be scheduled, thanks to integration with iCal Server.
Directory offers an option for creating a single-source reference for employee, departmental and organisation-wide information. The option for employees to edit their own information - including photos of themselves - and the breadth of material that can be included are impressive.
If the system could be integrated with other business applications such as payroll or time and attendance systems, Directory could serve as a complete tool for maintaining employee information. Such integration might be able to be performed via LDAP queries, as the Directory information appears to reside mostly in Open Directory.
With the variety of commercial and home-grown tools for employee management, however, it would be impossible for Apple alone to develop this type of integration. Third parties may be able to do so independently or working with Apple.
The downside is that there is no comparable Windows setup, which will limit Directory's ultimate application for many larger organisations that are dealing with a variety of client systems and software.
New managed preferences
Apple has updated its managed preferences architecture to include new built-in preferences and expand several existing options. New preferences include Parental Controls, which mirror the Parental Controls found in Leopard client, and Time Machine, which allows an administrator to define a share point to be used for backing up workstations with Leopard's Time Machine. Options in Time Machine can also be set to define which volumes get backed up, whether system files are backed up and to limit the total storage space for backups.
Managed preferences that have received major updates include Applications, Login and Mobility. With the new Applications setup, administrators can restrict not only which applications may be launched but also restrict the launching of applications in specific folders. Additionally, administrators can define which Dashboard widgets may be run and whether access to Front Row, Apple's media centre, is allowed.
For its part, Login can now automatically set the computer name displayed in the log-in window to that of a Mac's computer record. This is helpful for NetBoot and NetInstall clients, which might otherwise all display the same name, and for ensuring naming consistency across a network.
Also new in Login is an option for external accounts whose home directory resides on an external hard drive that users can carry with them, and the option for a Guest account. A new Access tab allows administrators to restrict which users and groups can log into a computer or all computers in a computer group. The ability to limit access was previously available for computer lists rather than for individual computers.
Also on the Access tab are choices for how multiple managed group settings are applied.