Home directory synchronization

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Don.Key, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. Don.Key macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2005

    I need an advise from experienced apple sysadmins, here is the initial situation:

    * Several Apple workstations and notebooks running OSX 10.4
    * One FreeBSD Based Server with multi-terrabyte storage
    * Server speaks NFS, SMB and can be setup to talk with AFP
    * Volumes on server itself are formated using UFS2
    * Several users, moving around from one machine to another as needed
    * Network is GigE but split on two buildings, link between buildings is P2P WiFi (effective 25Mbps)

    What I need is a way to effectively sync user homes to server, considering that:

    * There is no real need for centralized user management, user accounts are present on each local machine. Passwords are synced by other means (CryptoCard...)
    * Some well known space eaters such as iTunes, iPhoto libraries and so on can be safely excluded from this sync.
    * NFS based homes are out of question because users travel a lot

    After some reading I thought about 3 solutions:

    1) Rsync to server, probably easiest to do but will break some things native to OSX such as resource forks. Bad thing is: I do not know how important or critical that is in context of user homes???

    2) Use OSX build-in PHD functionality, this will require quite some work to get it working with FreeBSD based server (LDAP and so on)

    3) Use OSX tar to store home on server, excluding some fat directories. This is easiest solution but will result in a lot of network traffic on each logout / login.

    What would you advise? Perhaps someone knows some other solution we could use?

  2. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    So, are you saying that you put each user login on each machine? Or are you using LDAP or Active Directory? For two buildings full of people, I don't understand why you don't believe you need centralized user management.

    Okay, then this says to me that your users aren't really ready to give up their local resources and put it on the server side. Plus your infrastructure doesn't seem like it could cut it, if you're using wireless to connect the two buildings.

    I think what you should do is use the server for their actual work, and emphasize to them that they should save and share their work on the mapped server drives. We'll have to talk more about it, but I don't think your users are willing to give up their "personal" machines if they're putting their itunes library on them.

    Rsync with the -E flag preserves resource forks. The only problem is that the flavor of Rsync that has that flag is on OS X only, so you'll have to do the sync from client-side.

    PHD functionality? Never heard of it.

    You can configure OS X server to use remote home directories, but if you're only using OS X on the client side that might be more difficult to implement. Not to mention you're going to really put a load on your network.

    Keep me posted.
  3. Don.Key thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2005
    Not full of people :) Just 3 people and 6 machines. We do have our own LDAP server for Email and other purposes. I am just a bit overloaded now with other stuff and have no time to figure out how to point OSX to that LDAP server and / or install Open Directory schema.

    Most data users are working with is in fact on server but there is bunch of stuff in OSX home which must move together with users. Application, doch and other preferences for example.

    No one is using Itunes here, yet... I just put it as an example of fat directories. There are many more of those.

    Yep, I found it out and I think I found something I really like: Here, that is: Put the DMG with HFS Volume inside on Server, mount it and rsync -E to mounted HFS drive.

    Portable Home Directories

    Yep, as any UNIX mount. It could even have been possible (Then we would have 2 servers each per building) but it is useless for traveling users.

    So I guess rsync on dmg is the way. Now I have to figure out how to run a script on each user logon and logout... As well as show some king of progress bar. Does OSX has some scripting language with the basic GUI API?

  4. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    It's pretty easy, just open Directory Access inside /Applications/Utilities and point it at the IP address or DNS name.

    Gotcha. I've never used that method.

    I can't believe that I missed that acronym.

    VPN? That might work, but god knows how bad that's going to bog down the connection.

    Will you need to use Rsync? If you're using PHD to mount the DMG from the server won't it be transparent to the user, if you're attaching the DMG at the /User hierarchy? They'll just see /Users/whateverthiernameis, which is actually an attached volume. Filevault uses a similar method to do the same thing. When the user is logged out it's just a sparse encrypted disk image where their user fold would be, as soon as they log in, the OS mounts the image and attaches it at /Users.

    Just have a shell script or something run when they log in to mount the disk image where their home directory is.

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