Headless Xserve G5
Recently I have had the pleasure of working with an Apple dual 2.3 GHz Xserve G5. Aside from it being loud, I find it to be a fantastically engineered machine with an OS to match. Still, working with a server that has no video card cost me some time, that is until I found the ultimate workaround.
When I ran the setup from the Server Assistant, a problem that I ran into is that the server lost its network connection. Since, it being father's day, I wanted to spend some time with my daughter, I went out to the playground, and then a walk. Much to my astonishment, when I returned the installation hadn't completed, and the network connection light was dark. I checked the network cable to make sure it was still firmly attached, and indeed it was. Several hours later, I decided that it must have hung and rebooted the server. After it came up, the network connection lights were working, the server was responding to pings, but I couldn't connect with the administration software. I checked my DHCP logs, and the server's network MAC address was there and the name was correct, but nothing I tried worked. I had read on another site that the server will often stop while waiting for a user to input their language selection. I thought this must be the issue. I unlocked the ports on the back with the packaged key, plugged in a keyboard and mouse and pressed enter (without being able to see what I was doing of course.) Still, I couldn't get a connection.
I found a site that showed me a way that I could get the OS X Server to boot up on my iBook, by putting the server into target disk mode, and then setting the Xserve's disk drive as the boot disk for my iBook. I couldn't easily figure out how to do this, but it turns out that it isn't that hard. The way to get it into TDM is by holding the alert button on the front while pressing the power / standby button. As it boots, keep holding the alert button until the CPU load lights light up in sequence, the top lights will pulse, and the bottom lights will be dark except for the one on the far right. This is to boot normally. There are many possible settings, however the most important to me right then was to get it into TDM which is the fifth light from the right. You select this by letting go of the alert button, and then pressing it for each time you want to move the light. Once the selection is made, you need to hold the power / standby button until the top row of lights come on. The Xserve will then be in TDM. You must have the firewire cable plugged into your PowerBook or iBook at this point. The most astonishing thing was the fan noise for the Xserve. I couldn't believe how loud the fans can get, but without the CPU and OS engaged, I guess it is better to run it at full since there is nothing to monitor the sensors.
Assuming your iBook is booted, when you plug in the firewire from the Xserve to the iBook the drives in the Xserve will mount, you can then go into preferences and set the Xserve as the boot drive. When you reboot your iBook, you will be prompted to log into the Mac OS X Server.
The problem with this process is that you are stuck with the ports on the iBook, there is no way to manage the ports on the Xserve. So, when I found out that my problem was that the setup process had activated eth1 instead of eth0, there was no way to change that. Fortunately, I have two open ports on my router, so I just plugged both of them in, with some trial and error I managed to finally get everything working.
Even with the horrific setup process, I am very pleased with the software tools and the overall spit and polish of the Xserve and Mac OS X Server 10.4. I am going to use Xgrid to help me with some of my big compiles, since I am only working with a paltry 1.6 GHz G5 at home, having my G5 and the dual 2.3GHz G5s of the Xserve working in tandem should be a killer combo.
I like the fact that Apple packages the newest production version of MySQL, JBoss, and that their email and FTP setups are so easy. I would probably be loath to go back to Microsoft's server packages because OS X is so smooth. For web applications Mac OS X Server is fantastic, I just wish that Macromedia would provide production quality versions of JRun and ColdFusion MX 7, then everything would be fantastic. Even with Apple going with Intel, their servers are solid today. I'd buy one, and I intend to buy the last production PPC Mac, although I am concerned with Rosetta. I wonder how well it will run my legacy applications, like the Macromedia Suite MX. I am not excited to have to pay Adobe another $1,000 for the updated version.