TweetFollow Us on Twitter

New Networking Tricks in Panther

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Programming

Patch Panel

New Networking Tricks in Panther

by John C. Welch

A quick look at some new tricks, good and bad, in Panther

What's up Doc?

So, once again, we have a major release of Mac OS X upon us, and while everyone else is ooh-ing and ah-ing things like Expose and vertical toolbars, I, MacTech's intrepid IT Geek, am plumbing the networking changes to Panther. Well, okay, so most of the UI stuff is not that exciting to me. Expose is cool I suppose, but I had my own methods of dealing with this that don't require Quartz Extreme, or yet another set of key equivalents. (Lately I've been having flashbacks to WordPerfect 5.1, and the dorky key-command templates we all needed with it.)

But Panther is a big change, and I daresay that if you're a networking type, (I'll assume you are, since you're reading a column called "Patch Panel"), Panther has a lot of stuff for you. Now, I'm not going to be able to look at everything in this column. To do so would mean the "John C. Welch" issue of MacTech, and while that's a great ego stroke, there's a hard limit to how much of me anyone should have to take in a month. Instead, I'll take a look at a key element of Panther's networking subsystem.

Active Directory Integration

This is one of the most improved areas of Panther, and the changes are a long time in coming. Personal opinions of Microsoft not withstanding, it's just sensible for Mac OS X to play nice with Active Directory. In this area, the biggest new toy is the Active Directory, (AD) plugin for Directory Services. This allows you to make your Mac a member of an Active Directory domain, and be able to play almost as nicely as a Windows box. (I say "almost" because there's a huge part of AD that requires windows, such as MSI, certain group policies, ACLs, etc.) This is quite different from the way you did this in Jaguar, which used the LDAP connector to talk to AD, and could sometimes require modifying the AD schema to work right. (To be fair, there's nothing wrong with using LDAP. It's how AD does a lot of its work, and even with the plugin, if you want certain things stored in AD, you're still going to need to modify the schema. But the plugin minimizes some of this.) As well, enabling automatic Kerberos authentication at login with Jaguar was somewhat tricky, and not for the faint of heart. You could use ADmitMac, from Thursby Systems with Jaguar, and get the same level of integration as the Panther plugin enables, along with some extras, such as better use of Windows shares, (no .DS_Store booger files littered everywhere), and support for NT 4 Domains, (Panther's plugin is AD only.) So, if you need to deal with NT 4 domains, or need to integrate Jaguar with AD, ADmitMac is a great solution, albeit not free. But then again, neither is Panther. In any case, with Panther, AD just got a lot easier.


Directory Access in Panther

So, as we see above in the Directory Access application, AD now has its own entry. Click on Active Directory, hit "Configure..." and you get the following screen:


Active Directory Plugin Configuration

To add, or bind a computer to an Active Directory domain, you enter in the forest name, the domain name, and the computer name. If you don't have a separate domain, then use the forest name. Click on the "Bind..." button, (It says "Unbind..." here because my laptop is already bound to a domain.), enter in your Mac OS X admin password, and the userid and password of a user that is able to add machines to an AD domain, and you're set. Note that the userid and password for the AD domain does not have to be the logins for local users on that machine. In my case, they're completely different. If there are no errors, then your machine is now a part of an AD domain. There are a few options that can make your life easier here. "Cache last user logon for offline operations" is very handy for laptops, so that you can log onto your machine and get work done, even when you're off the network. If you have a large AD forest, the "Authenticate in multiple domains" can make your life easier. "Prefer this domain server:" allows you to specify what domain server to authenticate to when available. Unless you have a specific need for this, leave it unchecked. (If you have to ask if you need this, the answer is probably "no".) "Map UID to attribute:" allows you to map the unique User ID to a specific AD attribute instead of letting AD handle this. Again, if you aren't sure you need to do this, leave it alone. "Allow administration by:" lets you give admin rights to users in certain domain groups. By default, the domain admins and enterprise admins groups are used if this option is enabled, and you can add others if you like. This allows AD administrators to have administrator rights on a Mac OS X machine without having to create local accounts for them.

However, if you have to set up the plugin on multiple machines, using the UI tools can get a bit tedious. They still work, but automating the Directory Access application is fairly tedious. Luckily, you can completely set up the AD plugin via the command line, and the dsconfigad application. The man page for dsconfigad is pretty complete, and has some nice examples. So, to add a machine to a domain, the command line would look like the example in the man page:

dsconfigad -a ThisComputer -u "administrator" -ou 
"CN=Computers,OU=Engineering,DC=ads,DC=demo,DC=com" -forest ads.demo.com -domain 
domain.ads.apple.com

The man page gives clear examples of using dsconfigad to set up all the different features of the plugin. Including a command line configuration option makes the plugin much easier to use with other management tools, even if your management console is running a different flavor of Unix, or even Windows. Cross-platform automation in the IT space is a good thing.

Authentication and Contacts setup

By default, Mac OS X will search through the local authentication domains first, then any external directories. If you have multiple authentication directories, or you want to force a specific order, then you can create custom authentication paths as in the image below:


Setting custom authentication paths

This tells Directory Services where to look, and in what order when performing authentication operations on a given machine. Now, there's another thing that we use directories for, namely as distributed address books. If we take a look at the "Contacts" tab in directory services, we see that it looks much the same as the Authentication tab, and you can set up custom search paths there as well, like in this image:


Setting custom Contacts paths

If you do this in Panther with Active Directory, you get one immediate bonus. Address Book, and therefore Mail can now use Active Directory's Global Address List, or GAL, to look for email addresses when sending mail.

Once you have this set up, how's it work? Well, pretty darn well so far. I can log into my laptop using my AD login identity, with no local account creation. My home directory is created, and I have access to all my Mac applications. When I connect to shares on the Windows network that I have access to, I don't have to supply additional credentials for them, they just work. So the single signon aspects of Active Directory work with Panther as well. This is due to the other part of the AD plugin's magic, namely it's Kerberos support. When I log into my AD domain, since AD and Panther both heavily use Kerberos, I automatically get my Kerberos tickets. So when I attempt to use AD services, like access to network file shares, I don't have to re-enter my user information. One signon does it all, thanks to Kerberos.

The only real problem I ran into was a momentary problem with DNS. Like a lot of network services in Mac OS X, the AD plugin makes heavy use of reverse DNS lookups to get information on the AD domain so that it can interoperate correctly. When I first tried to bind to the domain, I kept getting reverse DNS errors. Nothing seemed to be wrong, and by the next morning everything was working fine, and I could bind with the domain, so I'm not really sure what went wrong there, or what got fixed, since nothing was changed on the AD side.

This is a major benefit to Apple and Mac OS X in almost every market they compete in. Regardless of your opinion of Microsoft, Active Directory is one of the most popular directory systems on the market, and with good reason. It's flexible, fairly secure, (As a product. While Windows tends to have a lot of security holes, AD has been pretty clean here.), and had excellent management tools. It's very dominant in the enterprise, and is gaining ground in both the higher ed and k-12 markets. Integrating well with AD is critical for Apple to go from a reluctantly accepted platform to an accepted alternative to Windows on the desktop and Linux in the server room.

I know that in my case, the ease of setup of the plugin, and the functionality it provides is going to make my Macs a much more accepted part of the network. This doesn't mean that we automatically start buying Macs by the truckload, but in the future, if I bring up Mac OS X as a solution to a problem, there won't be the automatic "Macs can't integrate with AD" dismissal.

There are still a few things that need to be done on the integration side, such as creating a Microsoft Maintenance Console, (MMC) snap-in for Mac OS X, so that you can properly manage Macs with the Windows AD administration tools. Giving Windows administrators a way to use Group Policies with Macs would be another good idea too. Since most Mac OS X applications don't use a resource fork, it has more flexibility with installation sources than Mac OS 9 did, so there is at least a theoretical potential for MSI integration that I would like to see explored a little more. However, for a first implementation, the plugin works quite well.

Conclusion

Obviously Panther contains far more networking improvements than just an Active Directory plugin, but the plugin is a major new feature that will help Apple be thought of as a much better player in the enterprise space. No matter how you look at it, this can only be thought of as good for Apple and the Mac community.


John Welch <jwelch@provar.com> is a Technical Strategist for Provar, (http://www.provar.com/) and the Chief Know-It-All for TackyShirt, (http://www.tackyshirt.com/). He has over fifteen years of experience at making Macs, and other computers work. John specializes in figuring out ways to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, showing that the Mac is a superior administrative platform, and teaching others how to use it in interesting, if sometimes frightening ways. He also does things that don't involve computers on occasion, or at least that's the rumor.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

CrossOver 14.1.3 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Little Snitch 3.5.3 - Alerts you about o...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activity As soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 6.2.3 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2 - GTD task manager with iO...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
Cocktail 8.4 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
PDFKey Pro 4.3 - Edit and print password...
PDFKey Pro can unlock PDF documents protected for printing and copying when you've forgotten your password. It can now also protect your PDF files with a password to prevent unauthorized access and/... Read more
Kodi 15.0.beta1 - Powerful media center...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 6.4.12 - Catalog your d...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast. Finder-like intuitive look and feel. Super-fast search algorithm. Can compress catalog data... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.3.0.0 - Monitor and c...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
Lyn 1.5.11 - Lightweight image browser a...
Lyn is a lightweight and fast image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it... Read more

Battle of Gods: Ascension (Games)
Battle of Gods: Ascension 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: TURN-BASED TACTICAL COMBATFight tactical battles against the forces of Hades! In Battle of Gods: Ascension you play... | Read more »
Shadowmatic's Latest Update Adds a...
Shadowmatic's shadowy shadow-ness is getting a little shadowy-er thanks to a recent update that adds an Arcade Mode. [Read more] | Read more »
Sunrise Calendar and Slack Have Assimila...
Wunderlist is perhaps one of the most populat and beloved productivity apps on the App Store - and now it's gone and incorporated itself into other useful services like Sunrise Calendar and Slack. [Read more] | Read more »
Crossy Road Devs Hipster Whale are Bring...
Hipster Whale, the minds behind the rather popular (and rather great) Crossy Road, have teamed-up with Bandai Namco to create PAC-MAN 256: an absolutely bonkers looking maze runner chaser thing. | Read more »
Meet the New Spotify Music
Spotify Music  has a lot going on. They're introducing 3 new modes to serve all your musical needs, with the "Now" start page  gives you curated playlists based on your particular tastes. As you listen the app will learn more about your tastes and... | Read more »
What the Apple Watch Gets Right, and Wha...
| Read more »
Celebrate PAC-MAN's 35th Birthday W...
BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America is celebrating PAC-MAN's 35th anniversary by releasing updates for PAC-MAN and PAC-MAN Lite for iOS. [Read more] | Read more »
Strike Wing Episode 2 has Landed on the...
Strike Wing: Raptor Rising is an exciting space combat simulator by Crescent Moon Games, which was recently updated to continue the story with Episode 2. [Read more] | Read more »
Kiqplan Expands its Interactive Coaching...
The makers of Fitbug have been hard at work on their Kiqplan lineup, and have added four new summer themed plans to help you get the most out of your workout. [Read more] | Read more »
Make a Photobook in Minutes with Pictyea...
What happens when you can't stop taking photos and have an urge to create a photobook? Pictyear saves the day. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

What Would the ideal Apple Productivity Platf...
For the past four years I’ve kept a foot in both the Mac and iPad camps respectively. my daily computing hours divided about 50/50 between the two devices with remarkable consistency. However, there’... Read more
PageMeUp 1.2.1 Ten Dollar Page Layout Applica...
Paris, France-based Softobe, an OS X software development company, has announced that their PageMeUp v. 1.2.1, is available on the Mac App Store for $9.99. The license can be installed on up to 5... Read more
Eight New Products For USB Type-C Application...
Fresco Logic, specialists in advanced connectivity technologies and ICs, has introduced two new product families targeting the Type-C connector recently introduced across a number of consumer... Read more
Scripps National Spelling Bee Launches Buzzwo...
Scripps National Spelling Bee fans can monitor the action at the 2015 Spelling Bee with the new Buzzworthy app for iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices. The free Buzzworthy app provides friendly... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $120 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $979 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model (except for Apple’... Read more
27-inch 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899, $10...
B&H Photo has the new 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Save up to $50 on iPad Air 2, NY tax only, fr...
B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $469 $30 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $549.99 $50 off - 128GB iPad... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
New 13-inch 2.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available starting at $679. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 11″ 1.4GHz/128GB... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Software Engineer - *Apple* SIM - Ap...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
Architect / Senior Software Engineer, *Apple...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
*Apple* Pay Support Readiness Project Manage...
Changing the world is all in a day039s work at Apple . If you love innovation, here039s your chance to make a career of it. You039ll work hard. But the job comes with Read more
Hardware Design Validation Engineer - *Apple...
**Job Summary** The Apple Watch team is looking for a Hardware Design Validation Engineer. This person will be part of the Apple Watch hardware team with Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.