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NetInfo’s Retirement

In Leopard, Apple is officially putting NetInfo out to pasture. More than simply relegating it to being unsupported, as in previous Mac OS X Server releases, Leopard completely removes NetInfo as a vehicle for storing local account and machine information.

In its place, Apple has introduced a series of flat files that combine to create a local directory services node.

These flat files are located in the Unix /var/db/dslocal/nodes/default/ directory. Inside this directory is a series of directories that correspond to the various Open Directory record types and within each is a series of property list (.plist) files. These files contain the directory services data for each record and may contain both string and binary data.

As you might guess, with the passing of NetInfo and its replacement with a series of flat files, working with local directory service data has changed.

NetInfo command-line utilities can no longer be used, though these tools have not been recommended by Apple since the company began to phase NetInfo out with Panther.

Instead, users are advised to rely on general directory services command-line tools.

Following are three of the most common NetInfo tools and their Leopard counterparts (additional information can be located in the man pages for these tools).

nicl

dscl

niload

dsimport

nidump

dsexport

The functionality of NetInfo Manager has also been split up. Direct editing of user and group account data is now done directly in the Accounts pane of System Preferences.

Although no button for such editing is included, right-clicking on an account reveals a contextual menu containing an Advanced Options item. This menu displays much of the account attributes that were previously modifiable using NetInfo Manager including User ID number (UID), primary group ID, short name, login shell, home directory location, universally unique identifier (UUID), and account aliases.

Groups (which can now be created and modified in System Preferences) allow for advanced modification of the Group ID (GID), short name, and UUID.

Other features of NetInfo Manager, including the ability to enable/disable root (which can also be accomplished with the dsenable root command line tool) and the management of NFS mounts, have been moved into the new Directory Utility.

Directory Utility also serves as a replacement for Directory Access in that it manages access to various shared directory services domains.

Directory Utility includes two views: standard (in which only auto-detected directory servers are listed) and advanced, shown in Figure 1 (which offers a toolbar to configure NFS mounts, the available directory services plug-ins, and a search policy for querying directory servers).

Figure xxx

Figure 1 Directory Utility

Although sporting a slightly different interface from Directory Access (and much different from NetInfo Manager), the process of configuring both NFS mounts and available directory services plug-ins is very similar to these pre-Leopard tools and users familiar with them will find their way around easily.

The Directory Utility preferences dialog box also includes the option to enable/disable automatic discovery of Leopard Server (when the server is configured in standard or workgroup mode for simplified setup) for both access to services and auto-configuration of applications.

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