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Introducing Solaris System Administration

Defining the System Administrator's Job
Understanding Superuser Status
Communicating with Users
Starting Up and Shutting Down Systems
Monitoring Processes
Reviewing Essential Administration Tools

Winchester Mystery House [in San Jose, California] . . . was designed to baffle the evil spirits that haunted Sarah Winchester, eccentric heiress to the Winchester Arms fortune and mistress of the house. With 160 rooms and 2,000 doors, 13 bathrooms, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, blind closets, secret passageways and 40 staircases, the house is so complex that even the owner and servants needed maps to find their way.

--AAA, California / Nevada TourBook, 1991

Sarah Winchester, listening to the advice of psychics, believed that if she kept adding rooms to the house, she would not die and be subject to the influences of spirits who had been killed with the Winchester rifles manufactured by her husband.

The UNIX operating system is much like the Winchester Mystery House without, we hope, the evil spirits. The original operating system has been continually enhanced and expanded. There are many ways to get about, and, like the owner and the servants in the Winchester house, system administrators frequently need a map to help them get from place to place.

To add to the complexity, there are many versions of the UNIX operating system based on either Berkeley (or BSD) UNIX or AT&T's System V. This book serves as a map to some of the most frequently used "rooms" of the SunOS 5.x system software, which is an enhanced implementation of UNIX System V, Release 4 (usually referred to as SVR4). The book also provides comparative information to help you learn the differences between the SunOS 4. x versions (the BSD UNIX operating system) and the SunOS 5.x version (the SVR4 operating system).

Defining the System Administrator's Job

The system administrator's job is to keep the software (and perhaps hardware) functioning for a stand-alone system or for a set of systems on a network so that others can use them.

Typical duties of system administrators vary, depending on the number of systems supported and how the duties are divided up. It is not uncommon for system administrators to be experts in administering one or more areas and be inexperienced in others. Some administrators specialize in network administration; others in user accounts; and still others in areas such as printing.

Here's a list of typical system administration duties that are described in part or in full in this book:

  Administering devices
  Using tape cartridges
  Formatting diskettes
  Monitoring disk use
  Understanding the Service Access Facility
  Setting up a bidirectional modem
  Administering file systems
  Mounting and unmounting file systems
  Backing up and restoring files and file systems
  Administering network services
  Finding network information
  Transferring files between systems
  Administering NIS+ databases
  Administering printing
  Setting up a print client and print server
  Using printing commands
  Administering users and groups
  Adding users
  Removing users
  Changing user information
  Creating new group accounts
  Understanding shells
  Using Generic shell commands
  Using Bourne shell commands
  Using C shell commands
  Using Korn shell commands
  Administering systems
  Finding system information
  Creating local mail aliases
  Configuring additional swap space
  Administering the system date and time
  Recognizing file access problems
  Problems with search paths
  Problems with permission and ownership
  Problems with network access

The organization of this book matches the tasks listed above. To accomplish these tasks, you need to know when and how to:

  Gain full access to all file systems and resources
  Communicate with users
  Shut down and start up systems
  Monitor processes

However, information about the following system administration tasks is beyond the scope of this book: installing system software, installing third-party software, setting up and administering network services, setting up and administering mail services, adding and removing hardware, administering security and accounting, and monitoring system and network performance.

The rest of the sections in this chapter, which describe how to accomplish the system administrator's tasks, introduce some basic commands and administrative tools.

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