Fighting FileMaker Server 11 Advanced: Instant Web Publishing on OS X

One of the groups I support at work is rather wedded to FileMaker Server Advanced for hosting their databases.  I understand this, they use the databases to hold strain information for their yeast experiments, ordering information for the lab and some image data.  No-one needs to learn SQL to use it, and FileMaker Server Advanced allows them to serve their databases up across the campus to both FileMaker itself and also expose them on the web.

However, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of attempting to install FileMaker Server Advance  you will realise that it needs a lot of encouragement to actually *work*.  This particular reinstall was caused by the timely death of an ageing G5 Xserve.

First of all, a couple of hints that I’ve not seen anywhere else on the FileMaker forums to address common installation problems.  For the record I installed it on a desktop machine running OS X 10.6.4

  1. Often the admin console fails to start after installation.  This is dealt with in the install manual with an unhelpful suggestion to reboot.   A little legacy trouble was the issue here, old proxy settings were interfering with the ability of the Java Web Start admin console to communicate with the back end.
  2. If you’re still having issues, switching from the 64bit to 32bit Java (Applications>Utilities>Java Preferences) is recommended

The problem I’ve hit time and time again with FileMaker Server Advanced is getting the IWP (Instant Web Publishing) working.  When Filemaker installs, it required you to be running Apache, and have a certain set of firewall ports open.  However it will invariably fail to correctly test the Apache installation and accept it.  Whilst it gives you the option to come back later and do it, this will also  never work.  If you poke around online there are many many solutions offered up to this problem, mainly to do with the httpd.conf file.  However the problem is a lot more straightforward, and must affect pretty much every single person who attempts to install this.

When FileMaker Server Advanced installs it creates a new system user called fmserver.  This is the identity under which all the database services run.  When it comes to setting up IWP, the ‘test’ it performs on the Apache installation is to attempt to install a couple of files to /Library/WebServer/Documents (this was exposed by perusing the Apache logs).  This will never work as the fmserver user does not have sufficient privileges to write *anything* to this directory as it is drwxrwxr-x and owned by root, with group admin.

The solution then is simple and obvious, you need to add the fmserver user to the admin group. I haven’t seen this solution anywhere else online and hope that somebody might find it useful.  After this procedure I uninstalled and re-installed FileMaker Server Advanced, and everything works as advertised now.  The short incantation is (as an admin user):

$ dscl localhost
cd /Local/Default/Groups
append admin GroupMembership fmserver

2 thoughts on “Fighting FileMaker Server 11 Advanced: Instant Web Publishing on OS X

  1. Vegard

    I get this error:
    server:~ vegard$ dscl localhost
    > cd /Local/Default/Groups
    /Local/Default/Groups > append admin GroupMembership fmserver
    attribute status: eDSPermissionError
    DS Error: -14120 (eDSPermissionError)

    I’m running 10.8.4 and FMS 12 Advanced

    1. dswan Post author

      Sadly I no longer administer OS X machines and this article must be very out of date anyway. However permissions errors would suggest you are trying to run the commands as a normal user rather than via sudo or the root user?

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