Linux Administrator supporting macs

Tiras25 used Ask the Experts™
Linux admin supporting Macs.  I have a good Linux helpdesk candidate that will be require to support Macs in the future as well.  Would that be a huge knowledge curve for a good Linux admin to support Macs?  He claims almost 0% mac knowledge.
I know Linux guys very intuitive supporting Networking stuff (Cisco, etc.)  Not sure about Mac OS tho.
Watch Question

Do more with

Expert Office
EXPERT OFFICE® is a registered trademark of EXPERTS EXCHANGE®
Network Administrator
If they are fairly well versed in linux, including GUI's, and has access to a MAC machine to research on, they should be able to pick up basic mac helpdesk skills in a short time... If they also have windows experience I think they could do it a little quicker...

I have only touched macs a few times, and with basic knowledge and a google/youtube access, I have done OK... Managed to restore one without an os copy... Swapped a hard drive...

The only way to find out for sure is to devise some testing, or bring them on as a temp and give them a 30 to 90 day trial period...


Awesome.  Thanks Scott!
Scott SilvaNetwork Administrator

newer macs are based on BSD and are much more similar to linux than the old power pc based macs
Ensure you’re charging the right price for your IT

Do you wonder if your IT business is truly profitable or if you should raise your prices? Learn how to calculate your overhead burden using our free interactive tool and use it to determine the right price for your IT services. Start calculating Now!

macOS is easy to learn. Give him a Mac to use for a few weeks and he'll pick it up. You can do some pretty cool stuff via command-line on the Mac, although it sounds like you're looking for desktop support. That being said I don't think a linux user has any advantage over a Windows user. Either way it's a new OS, and each OS has its own nuances. If he's computer savvy, he'll pick up on it I'm sure. Just make sure he has a Mac to use as often as possible. Better yet, 2 Macs so he can learn how to configure and manage Macs on a network. Is your network on a Windows active directory domain? Will the Macs be on this domain?
nociSoftware Engineer
Distinguished Expert 2018
MAC OS is below the visible layer a lot like Free BSD. (It is ased on the FreeBSD kernel, many unix tools run on Mac...)
So yes there will be a learning curve but it should not be too alien.
Distinguished Expert 2017
Scope of support could be of little import of Mac based as often it is application level support.......

As a long ago tech support, you would need to define. In a somewhat greater detail what you mean by "support macs".

I would agree with others, a person with Linux admini inexperience should in short order acquire knowledge familiarity of Mac given done curiosity ...
Often, learning by fire is more interesting..

Attaching macs to openldap directory service, providing access to NFS shares?
Installing apps/package?
I would say no in general.

How much Mac support are you talking about?  Is there someone else there that knows Macs that can Mentor him?  Is he the sole admin?  How much of the job is Mac support and how much is Linux?  Will he be forced to use a Mac, and therefore forced to learn it?

The Mac GUI may be easy to learn for a user, but without any experience, it would be a few months before he got the hang of enough of the details to do a really good job troubleshooting as a junior level helpdesk admin.  Unless, you really just want him to be a junior desktop support admin for the Mac because you have another admin to do more of it.

I found that if they know windows, especially if they only know Windows, it actually is a detriment for a majority, about 1/2 to 2/3 of them aren't actually open to learning new environments and tend to struggle with the Mac.  1/10 to 1/5 of them may be able to learn Mac from scratch, because they're the type that will adapt.  The rest learn very rudimentary Mac skills and want the user to switch away from Mac, rather than actually supporting the customer.  For some of them, their fix is to badmouth OS X until the user switches.

I see numerous poorly set up Mac integration because the Admins are really still Windows admins, and only know rudimentary, to middling level Mac.  I don't see many real Mac admins that know the system and command line inside out if they know Windows.  Many of the older Mac Admins that know the GUI came over from the early days of OS X and still only know the GUI.  There's a lot of programmers that use Macs because of Terminal, but they still don't have sysadmin or hardware skills.

While OS X is based off BSD, there are enough differences on the command line for system utilities that, unless this guy's a generalist that can pick up things quickly, he's going to be lost.  Sure, he can do basic unix commands, but he doesn't know how the OS is structured.  It's like the struggle between systemd and initd.  I found most people stick to their mold.  Once they've really gotten one Linux, they stick with the one.  Redhat based users tend to stay with Redhat based distros and Debian based users stick with Debian based Distros.

If they have used multiple distros, then they're more likely to adapt.  You will still need to ask that linux admin how many distros he's used.  Ask which distro he likes, and why.  Ask him to compare or describe what he likes better about one particular distro over the other.  If he's only ever used one distro, and never used Windows either, then I'd pass on him.

You'll need to hire a real Mac admin, that actually knows the Mac, both GUI and command line, if you're going to have Macs in a big way.  If he's part of a team, it would be ok, but if he's the sole admin, I'd say no.  He's going to mess up the Macs before he learns it.
Distinguished Expert 2017
Serialband, I'll just pick on your distro selection choices as a determinant.
The comparison is the person who leases versus a person the buys (new to them) cars. in terms of distro choices. one wants the newest and "greatest" as soon as it comes out while the other prefers stability for the life of an application.

What did this Linux admin do with the current/prior employers?
If you need a trouble shooter, test their troubleshooting skills. I.e. end user calls/comes to with a problem that they are unable to open a documents, access a document, etc. see what/how the person approaches the end user.
In support roles, understanding the end user and their disposition is just as important as knowing the underlying system.
Obtaining the details needed to determine what the issue is and context.
I'm not sure what you're trying to point out with that comparison.
Distinguished Expert 2017
Hthe main point of redhat/Centos deals with maintenance of major/minor version of apps, packages while Debian often transition to newer app versions in comparison.
I.e. Php that came with redhat/centos 7 will not transition to a newer version of an application that might deprecate sonething on which an existing app relies, this mainly deals with web based apps..........
You get fedora if you want the "latest" and greatest with a Redhat based distro.

You get Ubuntu LTS or Debian if you want a stable Debian based distro.

There are stable distros in each version and vice versa.

Do more with

Expert Office
Submit tech questions to Ask the Experts™ at any time to receive solutions, advice, and new ideas from leading industry professionals.

Start 7-Day Free Trial