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Working for Apples: A Windows Administrator's Guide to Serving Macs

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  1. Windows Shares and Print Queues: Let the Server or the Mac Do the Work
  2. Integrating Macs with Active Directory
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Are you Mac-savvy? Many Windows administrators and technicians have never had to support Macs on their networks, so the idea of suddenly having a handful of Mac workstations might seem really challenging. Luckily for you, it's an easier task than you probably think. Ryan Faas gives you a simple guide to supporting Mac workstations and Mac users within your Windows network.
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In any number of industries, there are companies or schools that have a handful of Macs. For the most part, these schools are dominated by Windows servers, workstations, and users, with an IT staff that’s competent at managing those Windows servers and workstations. But they often don’t have a great deal of experience in supporting Macs and Mac users. If that last sentence describes you, you’re one of the people that I’m writing this article for (and if you’re a Mac user in such an environment, you’re another). It isn’t a guide to all things Mac (and reading some good introductory Mac OS X user and troubleshooting books will probably be equally helpful for you), but it is a guide to how to support Mac workstations and Mac users within your Windows network.

There are two major sections to this piece: how to support Mac users accessing shared files and printers within a Windows network and how to integrate Mac workstations with an Active Directory domain. We’ll start with the easiest of the two first.

Windows Shares and Print Queues: Let the Server or the Mac Do the Work

Mac users almost always need to share files and be able to print to shared printers within a network. Whether they need to have their computers be part of a Windows domain is debatable. Often, administrators will find that capability more helpful than the users themselves. Luckily, access to the basic shared resources is pretty easy, and there are two approaches: have the Macs connect using the Windows SMB/CIFS protocol or install Services for Mac on Windows server hosting the resources and let the Macs access the servers using their native file- and print-sharing protocols (AppleTalk and AFP).

Letting Mac OS X’s SMB Client Do the Work

With the introduction of Mac OS X 10.1, Apple built support for the SMB protocol into Mac OS X itself (although it wasn’t until Mac OS X 10.2 that Apple included full and reliable SMB support). So, if you are supporting only Mac OS X workstations (particularly a small number of workstations) and your users are technically savvy enough (and most Mac users in Windows environments tend to be), you can simply rely on Mac OS X’s built-in SMB client.

SMB share points can be accessed using the Connect to Server command from the Finder’s Go menu or by browsing the network globe in a Finder window’s sidebar. When using the Connect to Server command, you would specify SMB as the connection protocol when connecting to a server’s IP address or DNS name (that is, smb://myserver.com). When browsing the network globe, Windows servers will be grouped by domain or workgroup name as they are discovered by either NetBIOS broadcast or through a WINS server.

After a user has chosen a server to connect to, an SMB client dialog box will display—allowing a user to specify his/her username and password for the server and the name of the Windows domain or workgroup to which the server belongs. Needless to say, the correct domain must be entered if the user will be using an Active Directory account. Once authenticated, a pop-up menu allows users to specify which of the share point on the server they want to mount. Users will need to mount each share point individually. Once mounted, they will display and behave as a Mac share point would. To speed things up a little, when using the Connect to Server command, users can specify the path to a share point (or a specific folder of file within it to mount a specific share point; that is, smb://myserver.com/mydepartment).

Accessing SMB Print Queues from Mac OS X

Access to SMB print queues is configured in much the same way as an LPR or AppleTalk printer in Mac OS X. Open the Print Setup Utility and click the Add button. Select Windows Printing from the first pop-up menu. Use the second menu to select from Windows domains or workgroups, or choose Network Neighborhood to browse the entire Windows network (which might be needed the first time you configure Windows printing because this menu defaults to listing the generic Workgroup item). After you have selected a domain or workgroup, you can select from the listed servers and then choose a print queue hosted by it. Use the Printer Model pop-up menu to configure an appropriate PPD for the selected print queue.

Microsoft Services for Mac

Windows servers (from NT 4 though 2003) include Services for Mac, a pair of optional services that are not included in the default Windows server installation. Services for Mac include File Services for Mac and Print Services for Mac, each of which can be installed independently of each other, and both of which can be added when the Window server operating system is first installed or at a later point. Services for Mac are included in the Other Network File and Print Services option in the custom Windows components dialog box during server installation and setup. They can be installed after the fact by using the Add/Remove Windows Components button in the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel. With Services for Mac installed, Mac users can connect to share points or print queues in the same ways that they would connect to such items hosted by a Mac Server.

Services for Mac adds the AFP and AppleTalk protocols to Windows 2000 or 2003 Server (under Windows NT, only AppleTalk installed), enabling it to provide AFP and AppleTalk access to share points and to share printers using AppleTalk. The AFP/AppleTalk file service needs to be configured globally for each server, and individual share points must be explicitly shared with AFP/AppleTalk. Share points can be configured as Windows (SMB) only or Mac (AFP/AppleTalk) only, or they can be shared using both file services. When an item is shared using both file services, it is effectively shared twice (once with each service). When Mac clients connect to the server, the server will accept both AppleTalk and AFP connections, but will prefer AFP connections whenever possible because of AFP’s greater performance.

Configuring Services for Mac and Choosing How to Authenticate Mac Users

You configure the Macintosh (AFP/AppleTalk) file service by right-clicking on the Shared Folders icon in either the MMC or the Computer Management application and selecting Configure File Server for Macintosh to access the File Server for Macintosh Properties dialog box, which includes three tabs: Configuration, File Association, and Sessions.

The Configuration tab includes four sections, most of which are self-explanatory. The first, Server Name for AppleTalk Workstations, is a text field in which you can enter the AppleTalk/AFP hostname for the server, which is automatically populated with the server’s NetBIOS name. The second section is where you can enter a Logon Message that will be displayed to users when they connect to the server using AppleTalk or AFP. The Sessions section at the bottom allows you to specify the number of concurrent AppleTalk and/or AFP connections that the server will accept.

The third section, Security, is where you specify how the server will authenticate Mac users. First, there is a checkbox, Allow Workstations to Save Password, which allows users to store their server password for automatic login (a feature that can be a security risk). The Enable Authentication pop-up menu enables users to specify how user passwords are sent to the server from workstations. The options include the following:

  • Microsoft Only: Requires a Mac OS 8/9 workstation that has a Microsoft User Authentication Module (UAM) installed on it. This is an optional add-on to the classic Mac OS AppleShare that enables the use of Microsoft’s password-encryption options. The Microsoft UAM is included with Services for Mac. Whenever a Macintosh share point is created on a Window server, the server automatically creates a Macintosh share point containing the UAM installer (classic Mac workstations can connect to this share point and run the installer).
  • Apple Clear Text: Specifies that passwords will be sent to the server as clear text over the network.
  • Apple Encrypted: This option specifies that passwords will be sent in an encrypted format compatible with the version 8.3 of the AppleShare software (requires version 8.3 or higher of the AppleShare client).
  • Apple Clear Text or Microsoft: This option will cause the workstation to use the Microsoft UAM if it is installed and will send the password using clear text if it is not.
  • Apple Encrypted or Microsoft: This option will cause the workstation to use the Microsoft UAM if it is installed and will send the password in encrypted form compatible with AppleShare 8.3 if it is not.

The File Associations tab allows you to automatically add creator and type codes that Macs have historically used instead of file extensions to determine file types. Services for Mac will create these for any files stored on a Mac share point based on the information on this tab. However, because Apple has included the capabilities for Macs to do this association on the fly for nearly a decade, the functionality is somewhat superfluous.

The Sessions tab displays the number of AFP/AppleTalk connections, the number of open files and the number open files. It also includes a text box for sending a message to all computers connected to the server using AppleTalk or AFP.

Beyond the Service: Configuring Mac File Shares

To create a share point for Macs (which Microsoft also refers to as a Mac Volume or SFM Volume), you need to use the Shared Folders tool in either the MMC or Computer Management[ms]unlike typical share points that can be created in Windows Explorer. Right-click an existing shared folder and select the option to share it as an SFM Volume. This creates a second share point for the folder.

A Mac share point’s Properties dialog box doesn’t contain a Sharing tab because permissions must be applied to Mac share points using NTFS permissions (which means that they can be created only on NTFS drives). The Security tab is still present and functions the same as it would for any other item.

There are a series of special security functions collectively known as SFM Volume Security on the General tab of a Mac share point’s Properties dialog box. The first function is Password, which allows you to assign a password to the share point. When users connect to it, they will see a dialog box that requires them to enter the appropriate password, regardless of whether they connect as Guest or use a Windows domain or server account. The second is a checkbox that allows you to make the share point read-only to all users who connect to it (regardless of any other permission assignments). The last is a checkbox to allow or deny Guest access to the share point.

What About Print Services for Mac?

When Print Services for Mac is installed on a Windows server, all print queues that you create are automatically shared over AppleTalk. There is no additional configuration that needs to be performed in order to make a print queue available for Mac users. Mac users cannot view the queue and manage print jobs as Windows users can. Also, it’s worth noting that Mac OS X 10.3 and higher supports configuring printers for use with Internet Printing Protocol (IPP). IPP is supported by Windows 2000 Server and above, although it does require additional configuration.

When to Use Services For Mac

Services for Mac provides a uniform framework for Windows administrators. However, the SMB capabilities built into Mac OS X make Services for Mac largely unnecessary. Services for Mac is extremely helpful if you are supporting workstations with older Mac OS versions such as those before Mac OS X and Mac OS X version below 10.2. In fact, much of the authentication options in Services for Mac are designed for pre-OS X Macs, meaning that Mac OS X only supports the unsecure Apple Clear Text password option for Services for Mac. Also, for further information, there are a couple of commercial products that do a better job of providing the same functionality as Services for Mac: Extremez-IP by Group Logic and MacServerIP by Cyan Software Ltd.

Another Alternative: Thursby System’s DAVE

For several years, Thursby Systems has developed a third-party SMB client for Mac users called DAVE. DAVE was developed before Mac OS X, and Thursby continues to provide both Mac OS X and classic Mac OS versions of the product. For situations where you need to provide support for Mac OS 8/9 workstations, DAVE presents an alternative to Services for Mac (or its third-party options). DAVE might be particularly attractive if you need to support only a handful of pre-Mac OS X workstations and don’t want to deal with a server-based solution. Thursby does provide a Mac OS X version of DAVE as well, which is best aimed at Mac OS X 10.0–10.1 workstations, though there is a small amount of functionality over Apple’s SMB client for more recent Mac OS X versions. Thursby provides a free and fully functional trial version of Dave from its website.

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