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I teach new media classes at a small liberal arts and sciences university. For the past several years, I have been running an Ubuntu server on an old desktop PC in my office. At the beginning of each semester, I create an account on the web server for each student. They learn how to use FTP to upload their digital projects, and some students experiment with basic UNIX command line options. The server recently died, and I'd love to swap in my old Macbook as the new server.

I have spent the better part of a day trying to install Ubuntu 14.04 on a late-2011 MBP. Unfortunately, the dual graphics card configuration causes real problems for the Ubuntu installer. I've worked through multiple installation guides, and cannot manage to boot to the Ubuntu OS without manually editing the grub every single time.

Is it possible to accomplish my objectives while sticking with Yosemite on the MBP? Specifically, this is what I need to be able to do:

  • SSH into the MBP server from my other computer in order to create new user accounts.

  • Allow students to connect to their FTP folders via SFTP. Over the course of a typical year, there would be probably be around 30 new user accounts created.

Really... That's about all I need to do. I don't need a fancy graphical interface. I just want to telnet/FTP into the server and occasionally patch it to receive the latest security updates.

I know that Macs have some sort of UNIX terminal under the shell. It would be so cool if I could just telnet/SSH to reach the machine from my desktop computer. Then, I could use basic UNIX commands to create user accounts.

  • Just as a remark: Laptops are usually not built for running 7x24, so you might run into HW issues sooner or later. – nohillside Dec 6 '15 at 8:21
  • Thanks, Patrix. That's a good point that I had not considered. – Aaron Delwiche Dec 6 '15 at 20:43
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I'm sure you can create users manually from command line in OS X, and while I have a large *nix background, I'm only familiar with approaching this from a GUI standpoint in OS X (though like I said, this absolutely doesn't mean it can't be done.)

Simply get on the console or enable remote administration for your OS X user and VNC to the Mac from your desktop. Or install xRDP on the Mac, which is my personal preference for GUI access from Windows-to-Mac.

From there, just go to System Preferences, and create the user accounts from there. You can tweak the remote administration access to allow these users or add them to a specific group and give that group SSH access from there.

This will achieve what you're looking to accomplish. If the basic commands are the same as what you are familiar with, just enable Remote Administration, SSH to the Mac, and do your thing from the command line.

  • Thanks, rubynorails. This makes sense. For some reason, I was imagining that OS X isn't really designed to accommodate 50 users who are only using the system to upload files to a shared web server. Upon further reflection, that's exactly what I was doing with the desktop version of the Ubuntu software. – Aaron Delwiche Dec 6 '15 at 20:47

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