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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers Network
I'm the administrator for a group of creative artists and have a number of Macs (of most all flavors) running on our network. While I love OS X Server, it remains (for me) too hard and complex to do what I need. I want an easy path to manage all my Mac users on a central server farm (preferably HP servers, since that is what our IT department has in our data center). I've heard about Mac OS X server running virtually, but only on Xserve.

My quest for running OS X virtually only led to more frustration:
  1. I don't really want to virtualize OS X Server.
  2. I don't need or want to manage two licenses (one on the server and one on the client).
  3. We don't have Xserves and probably never will.
Then Bingo! I found DiscCloud -- and it works perfectly, with the help of this hint, of course! Here are some tips to help get it running:
  • The first mistake I made was downloading the wrong version of VMware Server. You'll need the older version, located here. Be sure to pick the right download for your system (our HP servers run Windows).
  • To demo the full version of DiscCloud, you'll need an eval license. You used to have to dig around on the DiscCloud forums to find this, but now they've added it to their download page.
That did the trick. I was able to follow the video instructions (with the exception of the VMware installation bit, as mine is for Windows), and create a MacBook Air user having a one terbayte home directory! I can back up the MacBook as a virtual machine running on our HPs -- I love it!

[robg adds: To download the trial, you'll need to register for a free account. I haven't tested this one beyond verifying the download works.]
  • Currently 2.44 / 5
  You rated: 3 / 5 (9 votes cast)

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: Lectrick on Oct 09, '08 09:31:40AM

While I feel that Apple is (or should be) probably examining this market very closely, I think the legality of this solution at this time (based on the current OS X licensing model) is questionable at best, and is existing only due to Apple's inaction at this time.

That said, I would love a solution like this. I managed to install OS X Server just the other day in a VMWare Fusion 2.0 VM (which IS allowed by the current licensing) and it was rather stunning to see it live.

In /dev/null, no one can hear you scream

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: codebilly on Oct 09, '08 09:45:44AM

I double checked legal issues. DiscCloud is 100% Apple License Compliant. It does not allow you to install OS X in the virtual machine and contains no OS X code or binary. It only works with Mac OS X Leopard clients also.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: neill on Oct 10, '08 05:23:24AM

So . . . Mr. codebilly . . . you're the one claiming that this is the best thing since sliced bread.

Do you . . .or do you not . . . work with for or have an association with this company?

Please explain technically exactly how this works. I'm sure you can do that without giving away any of your proprietery information.

This looks like simply using Leopard installed on your local machine with a fast user switch to another user whose home directory is located in your "cloud". Alternatively . . . since VMWare is involved . . .what operating system is this VM running, how does that run Leopard client, and how does Leopard client get installed onto the VM without violating Apple's EULA.

If you want to shill for them . . . don't hide behind your plain vanilla claims . . . tell us exactly how this virtualizes Leopard and what happens when you (a) are away from the network or (b) want to get to this virtualized Leopard from another Mac.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: neill on Oct 09, '08 01:24:21PM

I'm not actually sure how much good this is in practice. Sure . . . you're now running a virtualized Leopard Server . . . but don't have have to have a real Leopard to run the virtualized machine on top of? The host machine could probably even be running Leopard client version . . . but then you're limited to the performance you can get out of whatever hardware you're running it on. I guess if you wanted to run multiple Leopard virtual servers and let one be mail, one be web, and one be file that would work . . . but you're still limited to the available performance on the hostmachine.

Might be good for doing some testing . . . but I would think that trying to run actual production servers this way quickly bogs down the host hardware. Toss the overhead of the virtualization on top of multiple virtual machines and (other then testing) . . . I'm not sure I see the point.

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Network storage != Virtual Machine
Authored by: gabester on Oct 09, '08 09:51:25AM

From what I can tell from glancing over these instructions, this is essentially another way to map network shares including home directories - you are not actually running VMs on each of the Macs but rather have an OS X install on each box and then used the Disccloud software to access network storage.

This is already possible with Mac OS X Server or even Active Directory, so I am not sure what this accomplishes unless I have missed something.

Disccloud will not allow me to create a virtual OS X machine that I can run on a non-network connected computer running VMWare, will it?

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Network storage != Virtual Machine
Authored by: codebilly on Oct 09, '08 10:02:54AM
Virtual Desktop != Virtual Machine? Hey .. if you like all of that configuration and administration .. go for it. Personally, I like this one:

Try that with active directory and network shares. ;)

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Network storage != Virtual Machine
Authored by: neill on Oct 09, '08 12:56:18PM

I agree . . .I checked out their site and even created an account so I could get to a few more details about how it works. You create a new user on the Mac and enable Fast User switching . . . then using your admin account you "cloudify" the new user. My guess (although I could not find any real technical details) is that the process is no more than just a local user on your Mac with a networked home directory. No provision for network user accounts shared between machines or anything like that. The download of the appliance is only 551 Megs . . . so it is clearly *not* a virtualized Leopard session at all . . . at least that's what it looks like to me..

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: codebilly on Oct 09, '08 09:58:45AM

I checked and double checked the legal issue and found their approach to be 100% Apple license compliant. Beyond checking, we obtained the source code and found the disccloud appliance to contain NO apple code, zero, nada, nil, . Not only is it legal, its refreshing (for developers) to find that Mac innovation can come from the development community and not solely from Apple.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: ghay on Oct 09, '08 11:53:55AM

Either it isn't an OSX client virtual machine or it's illegal.

Those are the only two options here.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: codebilly on Oct 09, '08 12:39:32PM

Really? What is the 3rd option?

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: ghay on Oct 10, '08 05:27:22AM

Good reading, and counting.

Virualisation of client OSX is barred by the EULA.
Doing any sort of virtualisation violates that = illegal.

Or, It isn't virtualisation = misleading title = bad article.

However, please do explain how you think it is legal virtualisation.......

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: xanadu420 on Oct 10, '08 09:46:43AM
Im sorry but that's plain wrong -- just because something violates Apple's EULA doesn't make it illegal.
It's obvious what your opinion is, but the legality of EULA's has not been established and plenty of EULA's contain unconscionable terms that neither would, nor could ever be found to be legally enforceable.
Again, it's obvious from your comments what side of the debate you are on, but telling someone that violating your interpretation of Apple's EULA is illegal is not factually correct in the present day legal landscape. See this wikipedia article

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: ghay on Oct 13, '08 08:14:19AM

Your post is based so far in opinion it is hardly worth commenting on.

However, the link you posted clearly states it refers to US law only. You simply do not make that clear in your post, the world is not equal to the US.

Secondly, your reasoning that "No EULA has been tested in court", is simply laughable. You are arguing the same point as Pystar are in selling Mac clones.
Just because you want this, doesn't mean it is legal. It is against Apple's license that you agree to - whether or not someone has challenged it in court.

We'll deal in facts - there IS an EULA - so far it hasn't been challenged - or to my knowledge enforced - so to break terms or conditions - you do so at your own risk.

If you disagree strongly, I suggest going to court, but as it stands, you simply cannot do it.

2. Permitted License Uses and Restrictions.
A. Single Use. This License allows you to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time. You agree not to install, use
or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so. This License does not allow the Apple Software to exist on computer at a time, and you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers at the same time.

It is hard to argue that a virtual machine is "Apple-labeled" when apple don't sell a virtualisation product.

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Authored by: LoadStar on Oct 09, '08 01:17:14PM

Admittedly, this is intriguing, and I intend to look into this product a bit closer when I have time to wrap my mind around it.

That said... does anyone feel like there's a bit of astroturfing going on in this post? An anonymous submission, then "codebilly" evangelizing for the product using terminology verbatim from the website? That alone is making me a bit leery of trying this product. If they can't promote their product legitimately, then it's probably not a product worth trying.

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Authored by: neill on Oct 09, '08 01:27:03PM

Might be something to that. Whatever this is . . . I doubt it's an actual "virtual Leopard" and there are zippo as far as technical details that I could find on their site. As I said in my other post (and as reported by others) it looks like a virtualized home directory living in the "cloud" . . .and I'm not sure I see any point in that.

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Authored by: Anonymous on Oct 09, '08 03:07:04PM
Agreed. This is a shill.

Note the surfing-while-intoxicated overuse of exclamation marks in the article and the linked site.

Note "codebilly's" assurance that "we downloaded the source" to check for legal issues. So, is codebilly trying to imply that he works for Apple? I simply don't believe anyone other than Apple or the publishers have any interest in examining the code from a legal perspective.

Then note his pouting defensive comeback to ghay "Really? What is the 3rd option?"

Please, robg, delete this advertisement. Resurrect it as a software news piece, but a "hint" this ain't.

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Authored by: neill on Oct 10, '08 05:26:03AM

Ya know . . .if'n I was a cynic I might guess that codebilly is the author and anonymous was just another account he created to get some buzz about his . . .whatever it does. Their site has bupkus on it about technical details and if this thing had been around very long and/or was any good I can't believe that macintouch/macworld/et. al. wouldn't have had some traffic about it.

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Please Rob
Authored by: daybrother on Oct 09, '08 08:04:45PM

Delete this spam. I really get angry when oily, sleazy, dim-witted yet condescending spammers walk in, sit down uninvited and strike up a conversation about their "clever" product with sock puppets nodding in unison. I don't come here for that.

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Airplane mode?
Authored by: artyg on Oct 10, '08 05:07:09AM
Got it working. But what about when you're not on the network? In my "Virtual Machines" directory on my Sun box, there are several files. 2 of them are .vmdk files, one that came with the download and one I created and mounted on /export/home
So I shutdown the disccloud appliance on the server and made a copy of the .vmdk virtual drive file that I used on /export/home
I then launched vmware fusion on my MacBook and ran the vm. Then I copied virtual disccloud drive to the Macbook and mounted with the local disccloud vm on /export/home
I found it works without a network connection, but I think the reason is that fusion runs a virtual network for virtual machines.
So, yes, it seems you could take it with you on the airplane.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: Zeitkind on Oct 12, '08 12:29:38AM

That simply looks like some kind of a NAS/SAN solution with home directories on a VM'ed server. Like server based profiles with Windows/AD (working since NT) or simular with OD or any Unix with ~/ on a NFS-share. Not new, not hot, just the way many enterprise networks work for ages.

I prefer iSCSI solutions instead. Get a SAN and transfer the users home dirs to iSCSI servers or use netboot with OS X servers. The only "cloud" I see is the dust to hide the real way it works.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: artyg on Oct 13, '08 08:04:04AM

Your comments are almost surprising considering you wrote this:

"Beware: iSCSI is quite new and many people had/have problems using it, but a drive shared like this can be used for TimeMachine" in your previous iSCSI "hint"

I was one of those that had trouble getting iSCSI to work on a Mac. Guess what, this (virtual appliance) worked in about 20 minutes.

Perhaps you also believe it is cheaper and easier to setup and administrate iSCSI?

I don't.

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: Zeitkind on Oct 13, '08 02:50:20PM

Well, I then used a beta version of the free iSCSI driver from GlobalSAN. If you buy a complete solution, you'll also have support and some kind of guarantee that it works. iSCSI isn't that new in professional environments, but sure in SOHO's. So if you use eg. FreeNAS and the free driver, well, I won't recommend putting critical business data on it, simply because it's not really tested by many users for now.

The free GlobalSAN-driver I use is stable for me now for months running on Intel and PPC 10.5.5 against a CentOS 5.2

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Run Mac desktops virtually on PC servers
Authored by: zebrum on Oct 12, '08 09:40:15AM


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