Adding Mac Support, Part 2: MSP Resources for the New, Maybe Unwilling, Mac Admin
My previous blog was, “I’ve never used a Mac, and now I need to manage them.” For this installment of this series I will highlight some key tools and resources for the new Mac admin.
For most management tasks, you can generally rely on your RMM of choice to interact with your Macs and act as an abstraction layer between you and the as-yet-unfamiliar OS. Use Safari, or download whichever browser works best for you. They’re pretty much all available for the Mac, even Edge (yes, Microsoft Edge).
For writing scripts and editing configuration files, you’ll probably need a simple text editor, and Apple conveniently provides TextEdit for free. It will conveniently open all kinds of files that it has no business opening. Also conveniently, it will invisibly translate a basic text file into the highly inconvenient Rich Text Format and break your heart.
Therefore, one of the first applications I install on any Mac I use is BBEdit, from Bare Bones Software https://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/ ($49.99 for all the bells and whistles, but you can use the free version forever). I promise I’m not being paid by Bare Bones to endorse their software, but I wouldn’t complain if they sent me a T-shirt. That’s right, a text editor that has its own merch.
The secret weapon of Mac admins everywhere, AutoPKG will take software and other files you need to distribute to your Macs and package them into an installer you can easily deploy remotely. There’s a massive library of “recipes” to help you tap into the powerful automation engine hiding under its unassuming surface. Download it from http://autopkg.github.io/autopkg/.
AutoPKG, like many of the best admin tools, runs on the command line. So you’ll want to make yourself familiar with Terminal, which is the application that gives you direct access to the Unix underpinnings of MacOS. For that, I recommend diving into the articles and books available at Scripting OS X (https://scriptingosx.com/).
Most of the command line utilities you will need are already installed by default, but just about everything else you might need can be accessed through Homebrew. “Brew” is the package manager, much like yum or apt on a Linux system. Coming from Windows, you may be familiar with Chocolatey. The concept is the same: one command to run that will install, update, or uninstall a wide variety of third-party applications and libraries that don’t come installed by default. You can find installation instructions and the massive list of supported software at https://brew.sh/.
The best way to learn is hands-on and in person. And there’s no better way to jumpstart your Mac admin knowledge than to attend a conference with hundreds of other IT professionals, all packed into a confined space, teaching and learning from one another. On second thought, it’s still 2021. Stay home and watch the presentations instead.
Each year, Apple gathers the tribe of Mac and iOS programmers for their Worldwide Developer Conference. It’s often the place where new hardware is revealed and new versions of MacOS are demonstrated publicly for the first time, and you might even bump into Bono. https://developer.apple.com/wwdc
Growing out of a Penn State event and initially focused on the higher-education market, the MacAdmins Conference is a four-day affair with hundreds of attendees and session tracks on everything from systems administration to software development. https://macadmins.psu.edu/
Do you really need an excuse for your company to send you to Maui (hint hint)? The Objective by the Sea security conference gets its name from a pun on a programming language and the conference location. Don’t let that discourage you: Mac-focused cybersecurity sessions with industry experts are guaranteed to fascinate and terrify you. I know they scare the crap out of me. https://objectivebythesea.com/
Talk to me
As I continue to add to this series, I’d like to hear from you. Are you new to managing Macs? Do you still have a binder of installers on 3.5” floppy disks? Ask your questions, or share your favorite tips for the newbies. Email me at [email protected].
This guest blog is courtesy of N-able. Charles Mangin is Head Mac Nerd. You can follow him on Twitter at @mac_mgmt_nerd or connect on LinkedIn here. Read more N-able guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of ChannelE2E’s sponsorship program.