The Adventures of Systems Boy!

Confessions of a Mac SysAdmin...

Three Platforms, One Server Part 2: Windows and Quotas

The Problem
So we've hit a (hopefully) minor snag in our migration to a single authentication server for all platforms. It's, of course, a problem with Windows and its roaming profiles system.

Roaming profiles for Windows are like networked home accounts for Mac. The idea is simple: Your home account is stored on a networked file server of some sort, and when you log on to a workstation this home account is mounted and used for storing files, application preferences and other user-specific settings like bookmarks, home pages, and Desktop backgrounds. It's nice because it allows you to log in to any system on the network, retrieve your documents, and have consistent settings that follow you from computer to computer. On the Mac, the home account is simply a network mount that acts very similarly to a local hard drive or partition. That is to say, your settings are read directly from the server mount as though they were local to the system. This is how Linux works as well. Windows, however behaves, quite infuriatingly, differently.

What Windows does, instead of reading the roaming profile documents and settings directly from the server, is to copy everything in the roaming profile folder on the server to the local machine at login. Then, at logout, the changed files are copied back up to the server. This is a horrific nightmare for any user with more than a 100 MB or so of data in his roaming profile, because as the data grows, logins and logouts take increasingly long as the workstation tries to copy the account data to and from the server. Our user quotas are up to 6.5 GB. So you can see where we get stuck. Because of this copying behavior, Windows roaming profiles just can't handle the amount of data we allow in home accounts for Mac and Linux users. It would choke and kill our network anytime a user logged in. And that would be bad.

This problem has been handled in the past by our separate and discrete Windows Server, which allows assignation of roaming profile quotas. But now we want this to be handled by the Mac Server, which also handles Mac and Linux accounts. The Mac Server, though, doesn't really allow handling Windows accounts much differently than Mac accounts. I can't tell the Mac Server, "Give the systemsboy user a 100 MB quota for Windows, but a 6.5 GB quota for all other types of accounts." It just doesn't work that way. The only difference I can specify is where the Windows roaming profile is stored versus the Mac/Linux profile, and this is going to be a key in the solution to this problem.

The Solution
So, on the Mac Server, the trick will be to specify a separate volume for Windows profiles, and then apply a quota for each user on that volume. Specifying the volume is easy. I've created a partition called "Windows." And I have set the Windows roaming profile to use this volume for all users.

Quotas, on the other hand, are a bit trickier, and I've had to do some research here, but I think I have it. The Mac makes use of quotas using the FreeBSD model, and quotas on Mac Server work just as they do on FreeBSD. Setting quotas is both volume-specific and user-specific. That is, you set quotas per-user, per-volume. And it's not the most user-friendly process.

The first thing to do is to set a volume up with quotas. A volume that has quotas enabled will have these four files at its root:

.quota.user (data file containing user quotas) (data file containing group quotas)
.quota.ops.user (mount option file used to enable user quotas) (mount option file used to enable group quotas)

To create these files you need to run a few commands. The first one generates info needed by the quotacheck command, via ktrace, and outputs it to the ktrace.out file:
sudo ktrace quotacheck -a

We can check our ktrace output, to make sure we have some useful data, with the following command:
sudo kdump -f ktrace.out | fgrep .quota

Which should produce output akin to:

7870 quotacheck NAMI "//"
7870 quotacheck NAMI "//.quota.ops.user"

7870 quotacheck NAMI "/Volumes/Windows/"

7870 quotacheck NAMI "/Volumes/

The next command takes the output of the ktrace file and uses it, through some shell voodoo, to create our needed mount option (.quota.ops) files on all mounted volumes:
sudo kdump -f ktrace.out | fgrep quota.ops | perl -nle 'print /"([^"]+)"/' | xargs sudo touch

Lastly, we need to generate the binary data files (.quota.user, on all our volumes, thusly:
sudo quotacheck -a

Or we can be more selective of which volumes upon which to enable quotas by specifying:
sudo quotacheck /Volumes/Windows

(NOTE: Be sure to leave the trailing slash OFF the end of the file path in this command, lest you get an error message.)

If we do an ls -a on our Windows partition, we should now see the above mentioned files listed. Any volume that lacks these files will not have quotas enforced on it. Any volume with these files will have quotas enforced once the quota system has been activated.

So the second step in this process is to simply turn the quota system on -- to make the OS aware that it should be monitoring and enforcing quotas. To do this we use a command called quotaon. (Conversely, to turn off quotas, we use the command quotaoff.) This command:
sudo quotaon -a

will explicitly tell the system to begin monitoring quotas for all quota-enabled volumes. Again, to be more specific about which volumes should have quotas turned on, use:
sudo quotaon /Volumes/Windows

(Again, mind the trailing slash.)

This setting should be retained after reboot.

Now that we have a volume set up with quotas, we need to set the limits for each and, in our case, every user. Before we can set a user quota, however, the user in question must have a presence on the volume in question -- that is, must have a file or folder of some sort on the quota-enabled volume. So let's create a folder for systemsboy and set the permissions:

sudo mkdir /Volumes/Windows/systemsboy; sudo chown systemsboy:systemsboy /Volumes/Windows/systemsboy

Next we must set systemboy's user quotas. This requires editing the .quota.user and files. Since the files are binary data files, and not flat text files, editing them requires the use of the edquota command. The edquota command will format and open the files in the default shell editor, which is vi. If you're not too familiar with vi, you may want to specify a different editor using the env command. To edit the user systemsboy's quota in pico, for instance, use this command:
sudo env EDITOR=pico edquota systemsboy

You should see something like this in your editor:
Quotas for user systemsboy:
/: 1K blocks in use: 0, limits (soft = 0, hard = 0)
inodes in use: 0, limits (soft = 0, hard = 0)

The first line in the file specifies the user whose quotas are being set. The second line is where you specify the maximum disk space allotted to the user. The hard quota is the actual quota -- the maximum amount of disk space allotted to the user. The soft quota provides an amount above which users might receive warnings that they were nearing their limits. This is how it would work in an all-UNIX world. Since our server is providing quotas for Windows, this warning system is effectively useless, so we don't really need to worry much about the soft quota, but for consistency's sake, we'll put it in. The third line specifies the maximum number of files the user can own on the volume. We're going to set all our users to have a quota of 100 MB, with a soft quota of 75 MB. We don't really need a limit on the number of files the user can have, so we'll leave those numbers alone. Leaving any value at 0 means that no quota is enforced. So here's our modified quota file for systemsboy:
Quotas for user systemsboy:
/: 1K blocks in use: 0, limits (soft = 75000, hard = 100000)
inodes in use: 0, limits (soft = 0, hard = 0)

There's one last step we need to worry about, and that's how to set these values for every user. Obviously, with a user base of 200+, it would be prohibitively time consuming to set quotas for each and every user with the above method. Fortunately, edquota provides a method for propagating the quotas of one user to other users. The syntax looks something like this:
sudo edquota -p systemsboy regina

where systemsboy is our "prototypical" user from which we are propagating quotas to the user regina. To modify all our Mac Server users, we'll need a list of all users in a text file, and of course, a directory for each user on our Windows volume. We can generate the user list by querying the LDAP database on our Mac Server, and outputting the response to a text file, like so:
dscl localhost -list /LDAPv3/ > ~/Desktop/AllUsers.txt

A simple for loop that reads this file can be used to create the users' directories and propagate quotas to all our users en masse. This should do the trick:

for user in `cat ~/Desktop/AllUsers.txt`; do sudo mkdir /Volumes/Windows/$user; sudo chown $user:$user /Volumes/Windows/$user; sudo edquota -p systemsboy $user; done

Or we can combine these two steps and forego the text file altogether:

for user in `dscl localhost -list /LDAPv3/`; do sudo mkdir /Volumes/Windows/$user; sudo chown $user:$user /Volumes/Windows/$user; sudo edquota -p systemsboy $user; done

Done at Last
I warned you it wouldn't be pretty. But that's it. You should now have a volume (called "Windows" in this case) with quotas enabled. Every user in the LDAP database will have a 100 MB quota when accessing the Windows volume.

To back out of this process at any time, simply run the command:
sudo quotaoff -a

This will turn off the quota system for all volumes. It will also reset any user quota values, so if you want to turn it back on, you'll have to recreate quotas for a user and propagate those quotas to other users. If you're sure you want to get rid of all this quota junk once and for all, you can run the quotaoff command and then also remove all the volume-level quota files:
sudo quotaoff -a
sudo rm -rf /.quota*
sudo rm -rf /Volumes/RepeatForAnyOtherVolumes/.quota*

Doing this takes you back to spec, and will require you to start from scratch if you want to reimplement quotas.

Final Notes
There are a few things I'd like to note regarding the Windows client interaction with this quota system. For one, the Windows client is not really aware of the quotas on the Mac Server. And since Windows copies everything to the local machine at login, Windows does not become aware of any quota violations until logout, when it tries to copy all the data back to the server and hits the user's limit. At this point, Windows will provide an error message stating that it cannot copy the files back to the server, and that settings will not be saved. In the event that this happens, the user's settings and documents will remain available on the particular workstation in question, and all he should have to do to rectify the problem would be to log back in to the machine and remove enough files to stay under his quota on the server, then log back out. Still, I can already see this being a problem for less network-saavy users, so it's something to be mindful of, and perhaps solve in the future.

A couple other, more general things I'd like to note: There's a nice free utility called webmin which can be used to set quotas for volumes and users via a simple web interface. I tried using webmin, and for setting the volume quotas it was pretty good, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to get it to propagate quotas to multiple users. If you feel a bit put off by some of the above commands, you might try fiddling with webmin, though by the time you install webmin, you could've just as easily done things via the command-line, so I don't really recommend it for this purpose. It's a little more user friendly, but in the end you'll definitely have to get your hands dirty in the shell.

Also, as one of the purposes of unifying our authentication servers is to ultimately simplify user creation, all this is leading to one big-ass user creation script. I have a Mac-only version of this from the old days that should be easy to repurpose for our new Windows user additions. The hardest part of modifying this script will be setting user quotas (though with the edquota -p option, it shouldn't be too bad). Having an understanding of the UNIX side of quota creation, though, will be essential in creating this script, and I for one am glad I took the time to learn it, rather than using the webmin GUI. I really like webmin, and would recommend it for some stuff, but I really like scripting too, and usually prefer a well written script to a web interface. Sure it might be "harder" to write a script. But the tradeoff is speed and the ability to affect a number of things -- be they users, files or folders -- en masse. With webmin, I could create new users, but I could never use it to, for instance, propagate Mac and Windows skel accounts. That would be a separate step. With the proper script, I should be able to do complete Mac/Linux/Windows user creation from one Terminal window, any time, any place. So, again, that's the direction I'm headed in and recommend.

Finally, most of the information regarding quotas on Mac OSX was gleaned from this article:

Big thanks to Jeremy Mate, whoever you may be, for the generally clear explanation of setting up quotas on the Mac. I'd recommend folks stop by his site for other Mac command-line and admin hints and documentation as well. There looks to be a lot of good and relatively obscure information there:

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