iTools 7.0

Experienced Unix administrators - with their strong grasp of the command line - may well scoff at a GUI server configuration tools. But for the rest of us, they can save hours of manual labour. iTools by Tenon Intersystems is a Unix server management application, developed specifically for Mac OS X. With iTools, OS X users wishing to manage services such as those for Web, FTP, and DNS no longer need to hack away Terminal's command prompt. Getting started Since version 6, iTools has been native to OS X, and 10.2.5 is recommended for version 7.0 - with 10.2 the minimum requirement. The iTools 7.0 package is the base installation, and doesn't include support for ht://Dig (a search engine), MySQL (a database), or Tomcat (a Java servlet engine). These are supplied as extra packages, and can be added later. With all 110MB of the iTools base package installed on your system disk (iTools won't install on any other partition) you will be required to restart your computer - something almost unheard of when installing individual Unix applications. Now with the short installation out of the way, you can begin setting up your OS X box as a production server. To begin, start the iTools Manager GUI application found within the standard Applications folder. Since you will be able to make changes to system-wide services (not just your own applications), you must set up an administrator account within iTools. Accounts created within the application are separate to the native OS X accounts. While this provides another layer of security, it requires the administrator to manage a separate group of accounts on the server. The first screen prompts you for a “Remote Server URL” - which is somewhat misleading, since the hostname of the local machine can also be used. Entering the default username and password of “admin” will then grant access to the iTools Manager. Once inside, options appear for configuring the default services (as well as the optional ones if installed) in a similar interface to that of OS X's System Preferences. In keeping with its philosophy of not interfering with OS X, iTools installs its own versions of Apache, ProFTP, MySQL, and Coyote (Tomcat connector). What it doesn't bypass are OS X's default email and DNS servers - however, these are still configured via iTools Manager. Front-end iTools Manager is the native Aqua front-end to all the Internet services that iTools administers. So instead of manually editing a configuration file - such as Apache's httpd.conf - you can tweak server applications through a more standard GUI interface, and the results of which will be written to the respective configuration file. For the most part, iTools does a good job of making tricky things straightforward. And although server administration should never be left to inexperienced users (particularly when data security is paramount), general tasks, such as limiting the number anonymous FTP users, can be performed with ease. As mentioned, iTools ships with ht://Dig, MySQL, and Tomcat as optional extras. With these installed, you have access to a total of 12 configuration tools. Although seemingly unnecessary, it's possible to bookmark a tool on the top toolbar of iTools Manager by dragging it up. In addition to the iTools Manager, iTools can be used via a standard Web browser. Just point it to the secure Web server running on port 85 (https://localhost:85/, for example), and a clone of iTools Manager will appear as a Web page. This is most convenient if you need to administer a remote server. However, this method does require port 85 to open. The most notable issue we encountered while using iTools was its inability to correctly configure the default mail server for OS X - Sendmail. This is due to Sendmail not agreeing with some of OS X's default folder permissions. Overcoming this is beyond the scope of this review, however; iTools simply denotes the service as “unavailable,” and displays a red button alongside it in the Status tool. Tenon has developed its own mail and list server called Post.Office, which sells separately for $295 for 100 mailboxes and 10 mailing lists. Post.Office can also be administered through iTools. iTools also has an update feature that works in much the same way as OS X's Software Update: just elect which system update to perform, and hit Install. If you plan to manage a MySQL database server, iTools makes this easy by configuring phpMyAdmin - a free MySQL administration application written in PHP. The interface of phpMyAdmin is Web-based, and is simply linked from iTools Manager to your default browser. Although iTools performs well, it competes with Webmin ( a popular free open-source application that sports more general system administration functionality. And with Apple constantly flaunting the manageability of its OS X Server, Tenon may find itself competing with a similar offering from Apple in the future.


With a recommended retail price of $469 (at the time of writing, iTools was on sale for $269) iTools doesn't come cheap. Also consider that most of the core software that it uses is not only free, but the source code is publicly available. That said, if you need an Aqua and Web-based server-management application for OS X, then iTools is worth a look. But before signing any cheques, consider cheaper alternatives.

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