Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

Web Services in Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Linux and most versions of Unix are provided by Apache, an Open Source project that much of the Internet owes its origins to. Apache owes its name to the fact that it’s “a patchy” service. These patches are often mods, or modules. Configuring web services is as easy in OS X Mavericks Server (10.9) as it has ever been. To set up the default web portal, simply open the Server app, click on the Websites service and click on the ON button.


After a time, the service will start. Once running, click on the View Server Website link at the bottom of the pane.


Provided the stock OS X Server page loads, you are ready to use OS X Server as a web server.

Before we setup custom sites, there are a few things you should know. The first is, the server is no longer really designed to remove the default website. So if you remove the site, your server will exhibit inconsistent behavior. Also, don’t remove the files that comprise the default site. Instead just add sites, which is covered next. Webmail is gone. You don’t have to spend a ton of time looking for it as it isn’t there. Also, Mountain Lion Server added web apps, which we’ll briefly review later in this article as well, as those continue in Mavericks Server and subsequently in Yosemite Server.  Finally, enabling PHP and Python on sites is done globally, so this setting applies to all sites hosted on the server.


Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s add our first custom site. Do so by clicking on the plus sign. At the New Web Site pane, you’ll be prompted for a number of options. The most important is the name of the site, with other options including the following:

  • Domain Name: The name the site is accessible from. The default sites do not have this option as they are accessible from all names that resolve to the server.
  • IP Address: The IP address the site listens on. Any means the site is available from every IP address the server is configured to use. The default websites do not have this option as they are accessible from all addresses automatically
  • Port: By default, sites without SSL run on port 80 on all network interfaces, and sites with SSL run on port 443 on all network interfaces. Use the Port field to use custom ports (e.g., 8080). The default sites do not have this option as they are configured to use 80 and 443 for default and SSL-based communications respectively.
  • SSL Certificate: Loads a list of SSL certificates installed using Keychain or the SSL Certificate option in the Settings pane of the Server application
  • Store Site Files In: The directory that the files that comprise the website are stored in. These can be placed into the correct directory using file shares or copying using the Finder. Click on the drop-down menu and then select Other to browse to the directory files are stored in.
  • Who Can Access: By default Anyone (all users, including unauthenticated guests) can access the contents of sites. Clicking on Anyone and then Customize… brings up the “Restrict access to the following folders to a chosen group” screen, where you can choose web directories and then define groups of users who can access the contents.
  • Additional Domains: Click on the Edit… button to bring up a simple list of domain names the the site also responds for (e.g. in addition to, add
  • Redirects: Click on the Edit… button to bring up a list of redirects within the site. This allows configuring redirects to other sites. For example, use /en to load or /cn to load
  • Aliases: Click on the Edit… button to load a list of aliases. This allows configuring redirects to folders within the same server. For example, /en loads /Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default
  • Index Files: Click on the Edit… button to bring up a list of pages that are loaded when a page isn’t directly indicated. For example, when visiting, load the wp.php page by default.
  • Advanced Options: The remaining options are available by clicking on the “Edit Advanced Settings…” button.

The Advanced Option include the following:

  • Enable Server Side Includes: Allows administrators to configure leveraging includes in web files, so that pieces of code can be used across multiple pages in sites.
  • Allow overrides using .htaccess files: Using a .htaccess file allows administrators to define who is able to access a given directory, defining custom user names and passwords in the hidden .htaccess file. These aren’t usually required in an OS X Server web environment as local and directory-based accounts can be used for such operations. This setting enables using custom .htaccess files instead of relying on Apple’s stock web permissions.
  • Allow folder listing: Enables folder listings on directories of a site that don’t have an Index File (described in the non-Advanced settings earlier).
  • Allow CGI execution: Enables CGI scripts for the domain being configured.
  • Use custom error page: Allows administrators to define custom error pages, such as those annoying 404 error pages that load when a page can’t be found
  • Make these web apps available on this website: A somewhat advanced setting, loads items into the webapps array, which can be viewed using the following command:  sudo serveradmin settings web:definedWebApps

Once you’ve configured all the appropriate options, click on Done to save your changes. The site should then load. Sites are then listed in the list of Websites.

The Apache service is most easily managed from the Server app, but there are too many options in Apache to really be able to put into a holistic graphical interface. The easiest way to manage the Websites service in OS X Yosemite Server is using the serveradmin command. Apache administrators from other platforms will be tempted to use the apachectl command to restart the Websites service. Instead, use the serveradmin command to do so. To start the service:

sudo serveradmin start web

To stop the service(s):

sudo serveradmin stop web

And to see the status:

sudo serveradmin fullstatus web

Fullstatus returns the following information:

web:health = _empty_dictionary
web:readWriteSettingsVersion = 1
web:apacheVersion = "2.2"
web:servicePortsRestrictionInfo = _empty_array
web:startedTime = "2013-10-08 01:05:32 +0000"
web:apacheState = "RUNNING"
web:statusMessage = ""
web:ApacheMode = 2
web:servicePortsAreRestricted = "NO"
web:state = "RUNNING"
web:setStateVersion = 1

While the health option typically resembles kiosk computers in the Computer Science departments of most major universities, much of the rest of the output can be pretty helpful including the Apache version, whether the service is running, any restrictions on ports and the date/time stamp that the service was started.

To see all of the settings available to the serveradmin command, run it, followed by settings and then web, to indicate the Websites service:

sudo serveradmin settings web

The output is pretty verbose and can be considered in two sections, the first includes global settings across sites as well as the information for the default sites that should not be deleted:

web:defaultSite:documentRoot = "/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default"
web:defaultSite:serverName = ""
web:defaultSite:realms = _empty_dictionary
web:defaultSite:redirects = _empty_array
web:defaultSite:enableServerSideIncludes = no
web:defaultSite:customLogPath = ""/var/log/apache2/access_log""
web:defaultSite:webApps = _empty_array
web:defaultSite:sslCertificateIdentifier = ""
web:defaultSite:fullSiteRedirectToOtherSite = ""
web:defaultSite:allowFolderListing = no
web:defaultSite:serverAliases = _empty_array
web:defaultSite:errorLogPath = ""/var/log/apache2/error_log""
web:defaultSite:fileName = "/Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/sites/0000_any_80_.conf"
web:defaultSite:aliases = _empty_array
web:defaultSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:0 = "index.html"
web:defaultSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:1 = "index.php"
web:defaultSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:2 = "/wiki/"
web:defaultSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:3 = "default.html"
web:defaultSite:allowAllOverrides = no
web:defaultSite:identifier = "37502141"
web:defaultSite:port = 80
web:defaultSite:allowCGIExecution = no
web:defaultSite:serverAddress = "*"
web:defaultSite:requiresSSL = no
web:defaultSite:proxies = _empty_dictionary
web:defaultSite:errorDocuments = _empty_dictionary
web:defaultSecureSite:documentRoot = "/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default"
web:defaultSecureSite:serverName = ""
web:defaultSecureSite:realms = _empty_dictionary
web:defaultSecureSite:redirects = _empty_array
web:defaultSecureSite:enableServerSideIncludes = no
web:defaultSecureSite:customLogPath = ""/var/log/apache2/access_log""
web:defaultSecureSite:webApps = _empty_array
web:defaultSecureSite:sslCertificateIdentifier = ""
web:defaultSecureSite:fullSiteRedirectToOtherSite = ""
web:defaultSecureSite:allowFolderListing = no
web:defaultSecureSite:serverAliases = _empty_array
web:defaultSecureSite:errorLogPath = ""/var/log/apache2/error_log""
web:defaultSecureSite:fileName = "/Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/sites/0000_any_443_.conf"
web:defaultSecureSite:aliases = _empty_array
web:defaultSecureSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:0 = "index.html"
web:defaultSecureSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:1 = "index.php"
web:defaultSecureSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:2 = "/wiki/"
web:defaultSecureSite:directoryIndexes:_array_index:3 = "default.html"
web:defaultSecureSite:allowAllOverrides = no
web:defaultSecureSite:identifier = "37502140"
web:defaultSecureSite:port = 443
web:defaultSecureSite:allowCGIExecution = no
web:defaultSecureSite:serverAddress = "*"
web:defaultSecureSite:requiresSSL = yes
web:defaultSecureSite:proxies = _empty_dictionary
web:defaultSecureSite:errorDocuments = _empty_dictionary
web:dataLocation = "/Library/Server/Web/Data"
web:mainHost:keepAliveTimeout = 15.000000
web:mainHost:maxClients = "50%"

The second section is per-site settings, with an array entry for each site:

web:customSites:_array_index:0:documentRoot = "/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:serverName = ""
web:customSites:_array_index:0:realms = _empty_dictionary
web:customSites:_array_index:0:redirects = _empty_array
web:customSites:_array_index:0:enableServerSideIncludes = no
web:customSites:_array_index:0:customLogPath = "/var/log/apache2/access_log"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:webApps = _empty_array
web:customSites:_array_index:0:sslCertificateIdentifier = ""
web:customSites:_array_index:0:fullSiteRedirectToOtherSite = ""
web:customSites:_array_index:0:allowFolderListing = no
web:customSites:_array_index:0:serverAliases = _empty_array
web:customSites:_array_index:0:errorLogPath = "/var/log/apache2/error_log"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:fileName = "/Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/sites/"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:aliases = _empty_array
web:customSites:_array_index:0:directoryIndexes:_array_index:0 = "index.html"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:directoryIndexes:_array_index:1 = "index.php"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:directoryIndexes:_array_index:2 = "/wiki/"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:directoryIndexes:_array_index:3 = "default.html"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:allowAllOverrides = no
web:customSites:_array_index:0:identifier = "41179886"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:port = 80
web:customSites:_array_index:0:allowCGIExecution = no
web:customSites:_array_index:0:serverAddress = "*"
web:customSites:_array_index:0:requiresSSL = no
web:customSites:_array_index:0:proxies = _empty_dictionary
web:customSites:_array_index:0:errorDocuments = _empty_dictionary

The final section (the largest by far) includes array entries for each defined web app. The following shows the entry for a Hello World Python app:

web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:requiredWebAppNames = _empty_array
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:includeFiles = _empty_array
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:requiredModuleNames = _empty_array
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:startCommand = ""
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:sslPolicy = 0
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:requiresSSL = no
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:requiredByWebAppNames = _empty_array
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:launchKeys:_array_index:0 = "org.postgresql.postgres"
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:proxies = _empty_dictionary
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:preflightCommand = ""
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:stopCommand = ""
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:name = "org.postgresql.postgres"
web:definedWebApps:_array_index:20:displayName = ""

Each site has its own configuration file defined in the array for each section. By default these are stored in the /Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/sites directory, with /Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/sites/ being the file for the custom site we created previously. As you can see, many of the options available in the Server app are also available in these files:

DocumentRoot "/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/"
DirectoryIndex index.html index.php /wiki/ default.html
CustomLog /var/log/apache2/access_log combinedvhost
ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/error_log
SSLEngine Off
SSLProtocol -ALL +SSLv3 +TLSv1
SSLProxyEngine On
SSLProxyProtocol -ALL +SSLv3 +TLSv1

Options All -Indexes -ExecCGI -Includes +MultiViews
AllowOverride None


Deny from all
ErrorDocument 403 /customerror/websitesoff403.html

The serveradmin command can also be used to run commands. For example, to reset the service to factory defaults, delete the configuration files for each site and then run the following command:

sudo serveradmin command web:command=restoreFactorySettings

The final tip I’m going to give in this article is when to make changes with each app. I strongly recommend making all of your changes in the Server app when possible. When it isn’t, use serveradmin and when you can’t make changes in serveradmin, only then alter the configuration files that come with the operating system by default. I also recommend keeping backups of all configuration files that are altered and a log of what was altered in each, in order to help piece the server back together should it become unconfigured miraculously when a softwareupdate -all is run next.

October 16th, 2014

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Mass Deployment

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