Paying Homage to OS X Server

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on June 2, 2022

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On Apr 21, 2022 Apple retired OS X Server. It was a bittersweet moment, not surprising to anyone paying a tiny bit of attention, but still a transitional point in time for us in the Mac-specific IT Administration community. What makes this event so important? Why do we seem to have such ties to an operating system? Seems silly, right? It’s not and here’s why.

Picture it: Using a computer has always come easy to you. You use yours to write emails, surf the web, play games, you know, the usual. Setting up and maintaining the network at home was always your responsibility. And then – BAM – one day you realize that everyone comes to you for computer help. And you enjoy helping others. “Aha!” you say, “I could bank some cheddar doing this.” (I’ll have another article about the wisdom of making your hobby your career later in the year.)

And, so, you set out and learn more about IT Administration.

Most folks I know who became IT Admins didn’t do it with the goal of joining a community of like-minded nerds. Most of us got into this field because we like a challenge, or because it seemed like a natural career path, or because we get along better with computers than people. Or maybe we just fell into it. We never expected that an OS would bring us more than a hobby or career. I mean, who ever thought of a computer helping people make friends, let alone build a community. That’s just ridiculous. <grin>

Yes, there were user groups – but those are decidedly not the same as what I’m talking about. Close-knit groups of IT professionals are different. First, we get paid for our knowledge and skills. Second, we delve deeper into the OS than the average person. And, finally, our work comes with or as a result of a bigger goal than finding aliens (unless, of course, that’s your business and then that’s a different story). 

We want to change the world. We are the crazy ones

The Community

This post will be mostly about the Mac IT Admin community. But don’t leave just because you do Windows, ok? There’s a lot to learn from us. We’re a pretty interesting group.

You’ll hear Mac admins talk about Apple history wistfully. Some are deeply entrenched in it, showing off their collections of original <insert Apple product name(s) here>. Others have their favorite OS version. Still others talk about the conferences and the people and the friendships and professional relationships that grew because of all of these things.

For many, it all started when, in 1996, Apple bought NeXT. After much rumor-mongering, Mac OS X Server 1.0 made its debut in March 1999. Some folks realized that they were going to need to learn Unix to be able to work with Rhapsody and if they wanted to have a leg up in the world of IT Admin and the Mac. A couple years later, Mac OS X Server 10.0 (Cheetah) showed up and the Mac Admin world was forever changed.

OSXS Built Careers

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It was OSXS that the Mac Admin community was built on. We finally had something that was built for business and could support efforts to place more Macs in offices. Its Unix underpinnings evened up the playing field and allowed us to interface with our unix counterparts. We had questions, we became fans of O’Reilly books, and if we had the courage, we started installing OSXS at our clients. But documentation was thin, to say the least.

We had a listserve (or a couple) where we found most of the answers to our questions. We started attending conferences that dealt with OSXS and the complexity of built-in features. We learned about web serving and LDAP and Open Directory and VPN and all the other features of the OS. At first, many fought this progress, but some of us figured out how to monetize our new knowledge and grow our businesses and better our careers. 

The Admins listserve traffic grew, my Apple Consultants Network listserve traffic grew, and, along with that messaging growth, we were matching up names and faces at conferences. We were building a community along with our businesses. We joined a Mac Admins IRC – that was crazy to keep track of “conversations”. In mid-2015 the group moved away from IRC and became the MacAdmins Slack. I can not believe that we moved to slack a mere 7 years ago – it feels like 20. We have grown to over 47,000 members.

I feel sorry for you folks in the Windows community. With such a variety of hardware and OS out there, you don’t have the benefit of a single-focused, tightly knit, global community. We didn’t really have a choice – we, basically, all use the same OS. 

Forever Friends

I have loved being a part of this the Mac Admins community. I’ve loved watching it grow. I’ve mourned far too many losses together with this community. I’ve watched as this fine bunch of crazy ones have unselfishly shared knowledge with each other in an effort to help lift up each other. We post jobs. We help each other build and write resumes. We celebrate and support each other through thick and thin. 

Personally speaking, this community, grown around OS X Server, gave me the opportunity to build friendships that have spanned decades. The community afforded me the ability to be in the orbit of some of the most brilliant and generous people in the world. I even had the opportunity to write a chapter of Tiger (10.4) book. And, because of OSXS, I was able to build a successful business, to send my kids to college, and to ultimately get hired by an amazing company. I owe a lot to that little fruit company and its goofy little server OS. 

Raising All Boats

And now we’re taking this just a little bit further. The Mac Admins Foundation is a new 501(c)(3) charitable organization built from the ground up by Mac Admins, for Mac Admins. It is a welcoming and accessible organization to support the global community of people who manage Apple devices at large and small scales. The Foundation wants to expand the profession, and maintain affordable access to all community resources.

These are my people. I am honored to know them all and to call them my friends. And, while I feel silly saying it, I owe it all to OS X Server. Thanks Apple.

We know the value of community. Come be a part of building another. Join us over in the JumpCloud Community and let’s pour one out for OSXS.

Pam Lefkowitz

Pam is an IT Columnist at JumpCloud where she uses her experience as a consultant and MSP to write about IT admin life and tech. Outside of (remote) work hours, she spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with fiber.

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