Classic UNIX system administration involves editing configuration files with a text editor such as vim. Newer UNIX-like systems include tools, some of which have a graphical user interface, to help you manipulate these configuration files. But whatever the interface, most UNIX-like system administration is based on text configuration files. As a result, if you know what you are doing, you can always work with these text files instead of using a graphical tool.
Graphical maintenance tools
From the beginning, the Macintosh has provided graphical tools to perform system administration tasks. These tools, as opposed to some of the tools found on other UNIX-like systems, are designed from the ground up to have a graphical user interface. Under Mac OS X there may be no file you can edit in place of using the graphical tool. If you are used to doing system administration by editing text files, you may find the lack of editable files frustrating.
Among other benefits, using a consistent front end for a system administration task allows Apple to change the way something works within Mac OS X while retaining the same interface. For example, although the way secure remote login services are launched changed from version 10.3 to version 10.4, the interface remained the same. You still enable Remote Login in the Sharing preferences. Disk management, checking, and repair are provided by the Disk Utility application. In general, the Macintosh favors the use of GUI tools for server administration. Configuration files, pathnames, and other details may change from one release to another, and sometimes they may differ between the regular and Server versions of the system.
Many of the tasks common to system maintenance on OS X systems can be handled through the System Preferences application (page 27). The Accounts pane allows you to create, delete, or modify user accounts. Servers can be started and stopped from the Sharing pane, and network configuration can be managed from the Network pane.
Server Admin and Workgroup Manager
Mac OS X Server provides two additional maintenance tools: Server Admin and Workgroup Manager. Some of the functions that appear in System Preferences on a non-Server system are found in these applications on a Server system. In general, Workgroup Manager controls resources such as shared disks or printers and user accounts, while Server Admin controls services such as DHCP, email, and Web services.
Textual maintenance tools
This chapter focuses on text-based system maintenance tools. These tools are less crucial on the Macintosh than they are on traditional UNIX systems, but they offer convenience and flexibility, and they integrate well with other UNIX utilities. The underlying principles remain the same as with the graphical tools.