Server updated to Yosemite

Seeing that there weren't much show-stopping problems with OS X Yosemite 10.10.0, I decided to proceed with updating my Mac mini server's OS from OS X Mavericks 10.9.5. Experiences with the Mountain Lion - Mavericks update helped in getting the web server back up running again relatively quickly. The downtime was only about 2 hours. Not much of a drama to write about.

One problem I noticed is that MySQL does not automatically start on reboot, and it seems to be a known problem. I'll have to remember to manually restart it when I have to reboot the server.
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Remedies to server connection issues

I've reported about the server losing connection after a bit of idling time yesterday, and the culprit was the power management settings. Surprisingly, my Mac mini was set to go into power saving mode just ten minutes after idling. I'm not sure what kept it up before, but it certainly isn't kept awake now. So I set the setting to never go fall asleep. Now the connection doesn't drop.

I thought this was the end of troubles, but it turns out that the server now takes a long time to respond after several minutes of idling. Once it responds, subsequent pages load just fine. I haven't found out why this was the case, but I know it's not a DNS lookup issue because there's no delay while there is network activity on the Mac.

So I devised a way to work around this issue by automatically causing a small network activity every minute. After opening Terminal:

crontab -e
[Press "i"]
00-59 * * * * /sbin/ping -c 1 -n > /dev/null/
[Press "Esc" button]
[Press "!wq"]

And that's it. Once this is done, the system starts doing a ping once every minute silently. So far, it's working nicely and the website loads fine regardless of idling time.
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Server updated to Mavericks!

Screenshot of installing OS X Mavericks downloaded from Mac App Store
Installing OS X Mavericks downloaded from Mac App Store
I've been wary of installing new OS upgrades on the server because it can easily mess up the custom configuration I set up. In fact, that was primarily the reason why my old iMac that ran my websites (including this one) until early this year ran Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) for 3 and a half years until it broke down. I passed upgrading to Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8 ) all that time. I ultimately moved to Mountain Lion only because the new Mac mini that replaced the iMac required it.

This time was different. I had simplified the server configuration and kept track of the modifications. Basically, it was down to a couple of configuration files for built-in Apache server, and a separate MySQL installation. Downloading Mavericks (10.9) from the Mac App Store was what took most of the time. It was released as a free upgrade from anything that ran Snow Leopard and up, so there was a huge demand. Once the download was complete, I ran the installer, and it took about half an hour to complete.

Screenshot of iWork upgraded for free on Mavericks
Free iWork upgrades!
I noticed that the websites were broken after the installation, as expected. However, checking the changes revealed that I only needed to fix the main Apache server configuration file. A couple of minutes of fiddling with the file later, the websites came back working properly. This was easily the fastest and the most trouble-free transition to the new major OS X version ever.

As a bonus, Apple had decided to make iWork upgrades to the just-released latest version for free, regardless of whether it was bought on DVD or on Mac App Store. My old copy of iWork '09 installed from the disc got properly upgraded, and the apps now show up in purchases list. Free OS and office suite upgrade, and smooth server transition. Apple has spoiled me.
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Snow Leopard's NTFS read/write support


There had been mentions of Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) pre-release builds supporting read/write support for NTFS (native file system for current Windows versions). Read-only NTFS support was available since Tiger (10.4) days, so this was an interesting development. Unfortunately, read/write support was apparently dropped in the final release build of SL.

It turns out the support is still there, but disabled by default. This post by Chrysaor at MacRumors shows how to modify fstab to force an NTFS partition to mount in read/write mode. The drawback of this trick is that you have to manually do it to every partition you want to mount, and you need to unmount and remount the partition after applying the trick to get it to work. Hardly elegant, mind you.

Luckily, there is a much simpler and elegant way. Click below to find out.
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Snow Leopard testing in progress

I've gotten Snow Leopard on the server a week ahead of schedule. Yes, this website is running on Snow Leopard right now. My wife is expecting the baby in a couple of weeks, so I decided to get on with any time-consuming stuff early. The website seems to be running okay, so far...

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