Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

My new macOS server marks the end of Mac OS X Server

MAMP runs at the center of my new Mac mini server.

I upgraded my Mac mini server last weekend, swapping an M2 model in for a 2018 model running macOS Mojave that was the last in-service Intel Mac in my house.

But the changing of the guard turned out to be even more complete than that. Not only does Apple silicon reign supreme, but I broke with years of migrating my old server to new hardware and set the entire Mac up from scratch.

This is a big deal for a server. I’ve been migrating my server data since I started using Mac OS X Server a couple of decades ago. Mac OS X Server was—and I’m grossly simplifying here, but it’ll have to do—software that provided a Mac interface for a whole host of Unix-based server programs.

When Macs became Unix machines, Apple got the idea that they’d make great servers, if only all that Unix software could become a better Mac citizen. After a few attempts to bifurcate Mac OS X itself into two different versions, Apple gave up and essentially reduced Server to a single standalone app that configured stuff like file and web servers.

In the last few years, Server has faded away entirely, and Apple has swept a lot of stock Unix software entirely out of the standard installation of macOS. In taking the leap from Mojave to Ventura, my server lost its stock installations of Python and PHP, both of which I use for various tasks.

This led me to a moment of clarity: Everything that I used to rely on Mac OS X Server to handle for me was gone. So why was I now attempting to install and administer all of this stuff myself, like a Unix sysadmin? I’m running a macOS server so I can use macOS apps!

Fortunately, shrugging off the last vestiges of Mac OS X Server was made a lot easier by an app I bought while building the new WordPress version of Six Colors a couple of summers ago. MAMP is a modern take on the same stuff that OS X Server tried to accomplish back in the day: it’s Mac app interface on top of Apache, MySQL, Nginx, PHP, and more. There’s a free version and a $99 pro upgrade that adds a bunch of additional features.

With MAMP, I was able to get my web server up and running without having to wade into installing PHP myself. (I did install Homebrew and use it to install Python. Starting with a clean install of Homebrew on an Apple silicon Mac also felt like a smart move.) MAMP even let me use certificates created with Let’s Encrypt’s certbot app to set up encryption on my server.

Mac OS X Server didn’t make business sense for Apple—the company’s flirtation with the server market fell by the wayside as the iPod propelled the company toward the iPhone and beyond—but the fundamental idea of building a much better interface atop a bunch of Unix command-line utilities was a good one. The Server app itself is long dead, but its spirit lives on—on my new M2 Mac mini server.

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