Server Essentials and the Cob Project Revisited

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This last week has been very hectic for me. What with the holiday weekend, and then with the Server Essentials class that just finished on Friday, my time has been pretty well taken up. So, for those who were wondering what was going on during this time, here are the events that were most applicable:

Mac OS X Server v. 10.4 Essentials
Another class was run, this time filling completely. I only had one student that didn't attend, but from what her colleagues said, it wasn't that much of an impact on her job (they would be doing the settings for her anyway). Other than that, the class was full, and ready to learn about the OS X Server platform.

There was an issue with internet access, which stemmed from the system setup our class had. It seems that Network Address Translation (NAT) within Mac OS X Server doesn't forward from the Wireless network to the Ethernet port. As such, the students didn't have the ability to browse the internet. Some felt this was a failure of the setup, but quite honestly, the class doesn't require internet access (all assignments were set up to work within an intranet).

Trials within the network doesn't hurt too much in the class, but when one assignment fails all together, one starts to wonder what's going on. In this assignment, the class was to connect their file server to the main Directory Master, and then authenticate from their client machine to the connected server, using a user in the main Directory Master database. The connection failed. I troubleshot the project, and was unable to find the point of failure.

I started with the account on the Directory Master. I reset the password, and then double-checked it's validity by authenticating directly to the Master. It worked like a charm, so it didn't appear to be the main server at all. I then checked the Directory Access settings on the connected server, and it all appeared correctly.

At this point, I asked the class to move on while I checked with Apple to see what the problem could be. Apple suggested that I check the connected server with a command line tool called dscl. This command allows one to view the Directory information on the server as though you were browsing through directories and files. So, I checked the Directory on the connected server using this command:

dscl localhost -read /LDAPv3/[name of ldap server]/Users/[short name of user]

That command, of course adding the name of your LDAP server and the short name of the user, will give you the plist file that includes all the user information. That includes home folders, user ID, password (starred out, of course), and preference settings. If that information shows up, then the connection is complete, and the user should be able to authenticate.

Well, the information came up, but the user was still unable to authenticate. I checked with the Password Server logs, and in neither the server nor the error logs did the user authentication failure register. I checked both on the connected server and on the main server. Something was just not working, and I was unable to find the cause.

Well, after working with Apple all week on this issue, at which point people merely thought I was not following instructions, we started our Challenge portion, and every student using their own main server could authenticate on a connected server. So, it appears that the server that I have been managing for each class had some how become corrupt. I still don't know what has happened, but regardless I am reinstalling the server to be sure it is clean and ready for the next class.

Cob Project Revisited
I have been mentioning my pending cob project to build a greenhouse for some time now, and since the announcement of the project I haven't mentioned much about it. Well, that's because various financial requirements have restricted my necessary purchase of the gravel I need to make a decent footing for my brick foundation.

Well, not to put the whole project on hold for long, I decided to start with a new project, a little less ambitious. I started building a small cob oven right next to my covered patio in the back. It extends into the garden area currently, and has come along nicely.

I started by using 5 of the several decorative large rocks that were part of the landscaping when I purchased the house. We hadn't a lot of use for them until now, and I thought they would bring the base of the oven up nicely. I put them as close together as possible, and then started mixing my earth.

The mixture I am using is basically shovels of dirt from the back yard. I am able to do this, because my yard has no top soil other than the soil included from the sod laid down years ago. Because our house is in the ancient Bonneville Lake bed, the soil is a combination of sand and clay, and mostly clay. I mixed in cut June Grass (so-called because it dies by June), which has a nice stalk to it, though it is thinner than typical straw. The mixture does crack rather severely because of the high clay content and not as much straw, but the cracks can be easily filled. I will post pictures as soon as I have some available.

To date I have the base completed, with a bit of the side walls done. I hope to have the project finished by the weekend of the 16th, because I will be at the Utah Scottish Festival and Highland Games this weekend.

So, that has been my week this last week. If you have any suggestions regarding the authentication problem my class ran into, I would be interested in hearing them!