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Mac OS X Panther in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition by Jason McIntosh, Chuck Toporek, Chris Stone

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Chapter 10. System Administration Overview

Because Mac OS X has Unix at its heart, performing some system administration tasks is unavoidable, even for the most casual users. For this reason, the system lets you approach many administrative duties from two different angles. Fundamental tasks such as user account management (you’ll need at least one user on the system, after all) and network setup may be performed though the friendly frontends of System Preference panes, while a more experienced system administrator can perform more subtle and sophisticated tasks through the Terminal’s command line.

As such, much of this chapter assumes knowledge of the Terminal application and Mac OS X’s Unix command line; see Chapter 18 first, if necessary. Many administrative tasks also require looking up and modifying information stored in the machine’s directory services database. See Chapter 11 for complete coverage of Directory Services and the available user interfaces.

Acting as Root

As with all Unix systems, Mac OS X has a concept of a special user named root. The root user can read from and modify any part of the filesystem, execute any program, and send signals (including the terminate signal) to all running programs and processes, regardless of who might own them. Root doesn’t correspond to any one user; instead, a user with proper access privileges can become root temporarily in order to perform tasks that the Unix file and process permission systems wouldn’t otherwise allow, such as ...

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