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Essential System Administration, 3rd Edition by Æleen Frisch

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Administrative Tools for Managing User Accounts

Shell scripts to automate the user account creation process have been common for a long time on Unix systems, and most Unix vendors/environments also provide graphical utilities for the same purpose. The latter tools allow you to make selections from pick lists and radio buttons and type information into blank fields to specify the various user account settings.

The advantage of these tools is that they take care of remembering a lot of the steps in the process for you. They usually add entries to all relevant account configuration files (including ones related to enhanced security, if appropriate), and they make sure that the entries are formatted correctly. They also typically create the user's home directory, copy initialization files to it, and set the correct ownerships and protection. Most of the tools are extremely easy to use, if somewhat tedious and occasionally time-consuming.

All of these tools also suffer from the same disadvantage: their abilities usually end after completing the activities I've already listed. A few of them perform one or two additional activities—adding the user to the mail system is among the most common—but that still leaves a lot to do. The best of these tools allow you to customize the activities that are performed, as well as the default values for available account settings; unfortunately, many of the currently available Unix user account management facilities lack any serious customization capabilities. ...

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