I’m very happy with my Mac and I think there’s no turning back now. The elegance, simplicity, stability and security of OS X can never be compared with Windows. I still have a Windows pc and a notebook with some windows only applications installed. Also one thing to note is that the corporate world is full of windows, so I think a system and network admin cannot completely ignore windows. Anyway, if you’re planning to switch to a Mac, the good news is that there’re enough Mac application for productive system and network administration. Here are the applications I find useful for my daily system and network administration.
Mail.app, without any doubt is the best IMAP Client I’ve used to date. It’s speedy sync of folders, pretty good spam filter and stability makes it an excellent client for high volume daily email dose for system and network admins. With MailTags it becomes even smarter. I also receive my hotmail emails locally in Mail.app using HTTPMail Plugin. Thunderbird is another alternative, with many cutting edge features and plugins, but it’s not as stable as Mail.app. You can check how I deal with emails.
Currently Safari is my default browser. I love it for it’s speed and elegance. I’m using it with few plugins (AcidSearch and Safari Stand). But I’m a fan of Firefox too for the enormous amount of plug-ins available. In reality both of them are not perfect for system admins; some sites cannot be displayed properly with Safari and firefox is noticeably slow in my PowerBook G4. So, I’m using both browsers at the moment. Maybe it’ll change with Cocoa firefox or Safari 3?
If you use a palm based PDA or smartphone to take a note, carry your address book and schedules then Palm Desktop is a very essential application. I Sync it with my Treo 600 to get my latest data both on my mac and the smartphone. This is a very useful tool to get the important stuffs out of your head.
This is one the application that I use most after Email and Browser. It helps me to utilize the power of command lines and manage other Linux and Unix servers. OS X has built in Terminal program but iTerm has several admin friendly features, such as bookmarking and tabs.
KeePassX is the OS X port of the Windows password manager, KeePass. It uses a database format that is compatible with KeePass Password Safe. This means my colleagues can use windows and I can use Mac or Linux to open and edit the same password database file. OS X has a built-in password manager called KeyChain, which is a perfect tool for a single user but for system and network admins it lacks some major feature like sharing the passwords with other administrators. You can check the password manager roundup for more.
This is the central place to configure your access to the Internet. Your dial-up modem, wireless network, Bluetooth and PPTP connections are configured here.
This is a must have tool for network admins who need to configure routers, firewalls, and calculate the subnetmasks. Based on subnet masks it can calculate how many usable ip addressed you’ll have and also displays the CIDR.
The most useful application built into OS X for network admins is the Network Utility. It combines the very essential network utilities and gives an unified access to tools like: Netstat – that shows the routing table to current socket connections, Ping – to test the connectivity of a host in the network, Traceroute – to trace the route to a host, Lookup – for different dns queries, Whois – to find out the owner of ip address or domain name and Port Scan – to test the open ports in a host.
At it’s core visual route is a traceroute that can trace the network path visually. It offers some advanced and useful features for network admins. It shows the connection route path on a world map with multiple map options, identifies ip address locations, multiple tabbed reports for easier navigation and simultaneous trace route reporting, integrated ping tests, reverse dns, whois lookups, internet connectivity analysis, network latency reporting, packet loss reporting, worldwide whois lookups, network provider whois lookups.
Nmap is a very popular free open source utility for network exploration or security auditing. XNmap provides a GUI for Nmap, it can do everything that nmap can do. Some of it’s features are: Network Audits, Security Audits, Rogue Machine Discovery, Backdoor Discovery, Operating System Patch-level Audits and many more…
Ethereal is a free and open source packet sniffer application, used for network troubleshooting, analysis, software and protocol development, and education. It has all of the standard features of a protocol analyzer. This is a gem without which it would be very difficult to solve some network problems. For installation check Ethereal on Mac OS X.
The world is full of Windows Desktops and Servers so this is a must-have application for system and network admins who need to manage Windows machines. I do need to connect to some windows servers time to time and it’s very useful where VNC is not installed.
Chicken of the VNC
Despite the funny name it is a serious VNC Client and works very well. You can use it to connect to remote computers.
A free software for converting WiFi WEP/WPA keys, from HEX to ASCII and vice versa. Very simple and useful tool indeed. I used to keep a HEX to ASCII conversion table before, but now I can just convert with a click
MD5 is a way to verify data integrity. Every system and network admin need to make sure that s/he gets the genuine data. MD5 helps to verify that the softwares and files download from the Internet are not corrupt during the download or tampered by some hackers.
Again the corporate world is full of Windows, so this is the place to add your Mac to Windows Active Directory, Workgroup or LDAP server. Using SMB/CIFS, you can configure windows workgroup and wins server. To join the Windows Active Directory you need to configure the Active Directory option.
This is similar to windows task manager, where you can see the system resources used by active processes. You can mainly view CPU, Disk, Memory and Network usage data. This tool is useful if something hangs or stops responding in your Mac, which is a very rare event.
If you’re using some OS X application for system and network administration that I’ve missed please drop a comment.