Interesting read. I'm slowly working through the book with my mac mini.
Using Apple OS X Lion Server as a Home Server (Websites, Blogs and Wikis)
Interesting read. I'm slowly working through the book with my mac mini.
Interesting read. I'm slowly working through the book with my mac mini.
However, enable the Web and Wiki Servers and things will look a lot different. Before diving into the features they unlock, let’s get set up. At this point, I’m assuming that you have already configured your server’s domain name, DNS and have forwarded the necessary ports (80 and 443 in this case) on your router to point at the server. If you missed those steps, head back to the server configuration chapters at the beginning of the book.
On your OS X Lion Server, open up the Server app and in the left hand pane, select Web. It’s a straightforward panel with the usual On/Off switch and a listing for your default website. More on that shortly. Throw the large On switch, and allow the server to grind away a little as it sets up and configures the Apache-powered web server and associated services.
In the Web Sites section, you should see an entry already listed. This is your default web site, with your Fully Qualified Domain Name (which can be a standard domain like a .com, or .private depending on your server setup) alongside the web site’s default location on the server. Once switched on, you’ll see a link at the bottom of the panel to View Server Web Site (you can guess what that one does, right?), but before we do that, let’s switch on the Wiki Server as well.
Wikis are a great way of building a displaying information digitally, as anyone who has used Wikipedia will testify. The concept is reasonably simple – pages of information which can be edited and added to by contributors with changes authorised and published by editors. OS X Lion Server ships with an integrated Wiki server which allows the creation and hosting of your own Wiki – perfect for computer projects, hobbies, business use and more.
In the Server app, click the Wiki link in the left hand pane.
The Wiki configuration panel in Server app is even more minimalist than the Web Server panel. You can choose who is able to create Wikis (all users, or only specific users) via the drop down menu and… well, that’s about it. Throw the On switch and the magic begins.
Open up a web browser – on any computer you like, and enter your server’s domain name. You should notice a very different default website! Gone is that generic OS X Server splash page, and in it’s place, a whole website offering a feast of new features, including Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and real time updates.
Five icons are available to navigate you through the main areas of the website, with helpful descriptions under each. My Page is an area of the website dedicated for each of your users, where they can store personal documents, manage their profile and create a blog. Wikis allows the creation, browsing and editing of, you guessed it, multiple Wikis. People allows you to check out everyone’s contact information and blogs (a little obsolete for the home, maybe, but let’s remember that Lion Server is predominately designed for business). Meanwhile, Podcasts allows you to browse Podcasts created and served up by the family and finally, Updates allows you to keep up to date with any changes to content.
Depending on your needs and the preferences of the family, some of these features may see a lot of action, others very little but you won’t know which until you dig a little deeper! At the top of the page, you’ll spot a task bar that includes a search field, help files (the gear icon), and at the top left of the screen, a shortcut menu. Click it at any point, and you’ll see a navigation menu appear on screen.
Our first step is to log in to the website. Check the top of the screen, and you’ll see a prompt. Click the link and enter your username and password. Once you’re logged in, three new icons appear in the taskbar – a Lock icon is used for logging out, and a Plus button allows you to create new content (namely a new webpage in your documents repository, a new file in the same repository and a new wiki page).
Click the Pen icon, and you’ll get a preview of OS X Lion Server’s awesome webpage editing feature – the webpage becomes visible, and the taskbar switches to a suite of editing controls. Hover over individual page elements to see additional editing options.
First, let’s take a look at My Page.
At first, you’d be excused for glancing at My Page and moving on quickly – on first run, it’s not the most beguiling webpage you’ve ever seen, and it’s reasonably unclear how to get started. It’s basically a personal Wiki page, with the page content displayed in the larger panel to the left and information about the page (Update status, Recent Documents, Document Info and History to the right). To edit the page, and build a profile for yourself, click the Pen icon in the top taskbar.
The same editing controls appear, and you can add the content you wish – that can be text, photos, videos, HTML snippets, links and so on. Whatever you wish (it’s called My Page for a reason). Once you’re done, hit Save.
Once saved, you’ll see the Recent Documents and Document Info panels are updated on the right hand side of the page.
Once you’ve built your Profile page, you can go ahead and create more pages for specific topics. Click the Plus button and select Add a New Page.
Note that you’ve been automatically switched out of the About section of your personal website (see the blue navigation bar) into the Documents section – that holds all of your non-profile pages. Despite the name, of the Documents area as a storage facility not just for documents, but for all of your digital stuff – uploaded files end up in exactly the same place. Editing the page works exactly the same way as before. Save it when you’re done and you’ll start building a set of pages that are listed in your Documents section.
So, we now know how to create content on the server website – all well and good. But wouldn’t it be great if we could upload and share files with other server users, and indeed guests? Guess what – you can! Click that Plus button again at the top of the screen, and this time, select New File in My Documents. You’ll be invited to upload a file to the server.
Hit Choose File, and select the file you want to upload, then the Upload button. Off it goes to the server. Again, remember this can work remotely too depending on your server configuration (I’m currently writing this and uploading files to the server at home from a Starbucks.)
Once the file is uploaded, you may get a preview (if it’s an image) or just a generic placeholder. On the right hand side, you’ll find a slightly different selection of options available. From top down, you can tag your file (for easier searching), relate it to a relevant document on the server, receive a notification when the file is updated, or a comment is added, and at the bottom of the panel, configure sharing options.
By default, files are configured not to be shared, but you can easily change that with granular controls that permit Read, Read & Write or No access to individual users, your user groups as well as Guests. Just use the drop downs to configure.
Since uploading the file, you may have noticed an additional taskbar icon creep in – a downwards arrow. I’m sure you’ve also figured out that icon is for downloading the file from the server locally, right? Good.
Guests are able to view authorised files without logging into the server, by navigating to People, and selecting a user. They’ll be able to view Profile pages, and a list of authorised files.
Next up, adding a Wiki Page – we’ve spent a little time discussing Wikis, so how do we create one? The answer lies back under that Plus button in the taskbar. Click it, and select New Wiki. In the panel that appears, you’ll be asked for a Name, Description of your Wiki, and to select an icon for it. If you wish to upload an image to replace the default icon, you can do so here.
The second step in the Wiki creation process is to configure secure access – this works in much the same way as it did for file access earlier. Use the dropdowns to configure access for your default users and groups – note that if you want to configure access for a specific entity, just search for them in the bar at the top of the panel. Once you’re done, click Create.
Once created, you’re rewarded with a big green tick and a giant button! Rewards-a-plenty (possibly).
Once you hit that big Go to Wiki button, things will all seem quite familiar. Your wiki very much resembles your My Page area. You can add and edit pages in the same way, using the same controls. You can upload and download files to and from the Wiki. By basing the My Page experience on the same Wiki controls, or vice versa, you’ll immediately feel at home.
There are, of course, a couple of minor differences to address. Firstly, hit the Gear icon and you’ll see different options for deleting your Wiki, as well as a Settings Menu. We’ll come to that one shortly. Head up to the blue navigation bar, and at first glance you may think the About and Documents links refer to your pre-existing My Page buckets. They don’t – these are new dedicated spaces to bring your Wiki to life and provided dedicated space for Wiki related files.
Now let’s look at that Settings menu. It splits into four sections, covering your initial configuration settings, under General (your Wiki name, description and icon) and Permissions (access settings) as well as two additional areas – Services and About Page.
The next time someone tells you that Apple products deliver simplicity and consistency, I’d like you to look really smart (and be a little annoying) and politely ask why, in OS X Lion Server, Apple allow you to start a Wiki from one menu, but choose a completely different workflow for starting a Blog or Calendar. Go ahead, do it – because that’s what happens here! I alluded to Blog creation a little earlier, and it’s all available to do, but for some reason, the feature isn’t switched on by default, so you need to go hunt for the specific checkbox that starts the service. Ditto a calendar. We’ll come back to both of these shortly.
But first, About Page.
About Page lets you build a custom sidebar for your Wiki. Don’t get too carried away – this is restricted to automatically displaying the search results for tags you nominate.
The second option we uncovered in the Wiki Settings menu was the Calendar. You can create a dedicated web-based calendar that sits in your Wiki, and is accessible via a Computer or iPad. You must have the iCal Calendar service running in Server app. As long as it is, head to the Settings sub-menu and check the Calendar box.
A new Calendar link appears in your Navigation bar – click on it, and you’ll find a very attractive online calendar is available for you.
At the top of the Calendar, you can switch views between Daily, Weekly and Monthly views, whilst the Settings button allows you to set your timezone and on which day to start the week. The Plus button at the bottom left of the screen allows you to create multiple calendar views for different topics.
Adding new entries to your calendar is a simple case of clicking on a day, and completing the entry form. Hot the Notes tab to the right to add a fuller description.
That’s pretty much it for your Wiki – simple and easy to create and manage content. You now just have to provide the content!
I’ve mentioned the possibility of creating a blog on your server, but it’s not immediately obvious how to do so on the default website. The answer is buried in the Services menu – there are checkboxes for both a Blog and Calendar. To get started with the blog, check the relevant box and select Save. Now, as we’re currently in the Wiki section, the blog you’ve created will be positioned within your Wiki. But maybe you want a wiki in your My Page section? No problem. Click the top left boxes icon to bring up the Navigation bar, and select My Page. Click the Gear icon and select Settings.
Once the blog is enabled, you see a new entry for it in the blue navigation bar, and a new sub-menu in Settings, predictably called…. Blog. Click it and you’ll be able to configure access settings in the now familiar way. There are two additional item to configure too – Comments which enables users and guests to comment on your blog posts, and Comment Moderation, which determines whether comments made must sit in a moderation queue for you to approve before publishing. Make your selections and click Save.
Now click Blog in the Navigation bar. Yes, it’s a pretty spartan affair to begin with.
We’ll need to create a few posts to get our blog up and running. Head to the Plus button in the task bar, and you’ll find a new command called “New Blog Post in My Blog”. You’ll be asked to create a title for your blog post – type in a catchy title, and select Add.
You’ll now recognise the design of the blog post creation and editing page – it’s very similar to the Page and Wiki editor, with the main panel on the left holding your content, and a right-hand sidebar providing associated information about the post. Once again, formatting controls are towards the top of the screen. The sidebar is very similar to the Wiki sidebar, with the exception of a new Comments section (where enabled). Authorised users can simply click the Plus button in the sidebar to add their thoughts.
Before we leave the world of the Lion Server web, there are two more areas for us to check out, both of which make it very easy to navigate the website in different ways. Open the Navigation menu (via the top left icon) and let’s first take a look at Updates.
Updates is a very handy section to keep an eye on if you have a busy website, as it provides a simple list of all of the changes made to your website. You can filter the list just to show Unread page change or all changes, and on the right hand side an additional filter allows you to show your favourite, changes made to your own pages as well as the most popular pages. A very handy “at-a-glance” view of what’s new.
Meanwhile, People provides a list of users who have created content on the website. You can use the list to navigate directly to the content that user has permitted you to see, and enable updates to be watched.
Whilst you can add your own websites to Lion Server to replace the default (a reasonably complex task which is out of scope for most home users, and therefore this particular title), the Web, Blog, Calendar, Document Store and Wiki package supplied by Apple in OS X Server combines strong features and with simplicity of use. Click around and you’ll have a powerful family website up and running in no time at all, and best of all, everyone can get involved!
Download the Using Apple OS X Lion Server at Home eBook Now
If you've been enjoying our Using Apple OS X Lion Server as a Home Server series, then make sure you pick up a copy of the accompanying eBook. You'll find additional chapters and information on using OS X Lion Server to power your digital home that won't be available here on the site, and with all of our walkthroughs available in one convenient document (ePub or PDF), it's far easier to install and configure your server without having to click backward and forwards to the website.