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entry May 15 2007, 08:48 PM
I was one of the lucky guys that got a domain name back when they were fairly rare - 1998. I snagged deepskies.com being an astronomer. Over the years, this domain has been hosted on a variety of platforms such as Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. One common thing has always been that I've hosted the server myself - never through a provider. I always made sure where ever I have been employed, they've had a good pipe to the Internet and I've been allowed to hang my box on their connection (outside the firewall if possible!).

Another common thing has always been the server hardware - Intel-compatbile beige boxes. I believe the first box in 1998 was an Intel Pentium Pro 200MHz box, with a 240MB Quantum hard disk drive. It had Windows NT 4.0 on it, using IIS for the web server, and Post.Office MTA 3.5 for the e-mail server. Up until this year, various boxes have been swapped in and out - a 500MHz box, then 900MHz, 1.6GHz and finally a 2.8GHz box. One thing I've wanted to do for the past few years is run my domain on a Mac server.

Mac OS X Server is the Apple equivalent of Windows Server - it's essentially Tiger with a bunch of Darwin (BSD) services and some really nice Mac GUI interfaces. The latest version is 10.4.9 and it will run on just about any G4 or higher Macintosh that is equipped with Firewire (why the Firewire requirement - I have no idea!). After checking my budget, an XServe with RAID was out of the question! I had $250 to find myself a "real" Mac to host my stuff (PearPC on the Windoze box wasn't going to cut it!). After some research, I found a G4 Cube for sale just a few hours from where I live. A nice fellow named Tom agreed to my price and the deal was done!

I eagerly brought my new Cube home and set it up with OS X Server (a used copy I purchased from the original owner). Once set up, things were very straight - forward. I opened up the Server Admin icon in the Dock, and configured the Web service to start up automatically. I published my existing website from iWeb to the /Library/WebServer/Documents folder and I was in business! The site came up right away when I surfed to it's IP. I then swapped the Windows server's IP to the Mac and it was LIVE!

I have a second domain (barriebuddhism.org) which was written in ASP.NET in Visual Studio 2005. I quickly converted the site to plain HTML and created a second virtual server on the Mac - presto! That site was up too! All that was left was the e-mail - which unbelieveably was still running on Post.Office MTA 3.5 - the very same software as back in 1998! I simply had never found an easier/better SMTP/POP3 server service for Windows!

I have configured the Mac's e-mail services to start up, and I'll either work at transferring the existing e-mail over to the Mac, or I'll have the user's empty their Inboxes via POP3, and then just switch over to the Mac. However, I'm not quite ready to do that - but I really, really, REALLY want to turn off this beige box! What to do? Well, at some point in the past I got smart and virtualized my e-mail server using Microsoft's Virtual Server product. Guess what? There's a Microsoft Virtual PC product for the Mac (it only runs on PowerPC equipped Macs - not Intel Macs!) that I have a (valid) copy of! So I installed it on the Cube, and then transferred the 13.8GB .vhd image over from the beige box. I simply booted it up (making sure the virtual networking was set to "switch" mode so the virtual PC would be able to use it's existing IP!) and I was good to go!

The beige box is off. Within a week everyone should be migrated to the Mac's e-mail system, and the last remnants of Windows will be gone! I'll then look at rebuilding my website using Xcode and WebObjects! Stay tuned!

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