I want to emulate the command-line experience from OSX with a small netbook and practice my skills with the comfort of this small machine.

Surely Apple offers actual Darwin Links for developers or sysadmins... their url is even "OpenSource.Apple.com," but so far the images I've found in web-archives seem even older; see for example this post or this unix & linix post.

I thought FreeBSD would provide this, and I'm loving using FreeBSD, but OSX has incorporated so much more into the systems that I feel like it is not accurate training or the answer to my question.

It is possible to get an .iso of so-called Pure Darwin (The successor to Open Darwin), but it seems like it focuses on VMware images and getting people into a GUI (which is cool, but not my goal here), plus it is naturally a bit out of date. Thanks.

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    As you know Apple software is only licensed to run on Apple products. So it is basically impossible to get the 100% experience without owning a Mac. I should add that IMO any sort of Linux experience will get you 80% of what Apple offers in terms of command line experience. The rest is Apple specific and probably not worth learning unless you're actually going to use Apple products.
    – Hefewe1zen
    Mar 22, 2016 at 23:01
  • Is the .iso here out of date/not what you're looking for (the nano version)?
    – JMY1000
    Mar 23, 2016 at 3:37
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    As for not breaking a Mac, you can run the later versions of Mac OS X in a virtual machine if running on a real Mac. The entire VM lives in one single file in the real Mac. So you can make a backup of that single file. If you mess up the virtual Mac, trash that bad one and start again with a fresh copy of the backup. You are instantly up and running again. I use the Parallels product for my VM but Fusion by VMware may also work well. A third product, VirtualBox, also runs various operating systems on a Mac but installing Mac OS X as the guest can be tricky in this particular VM product. Mar 23, 2016 at 8:30
  • @Hefewe1zen You're maybe right that it is best to work on a Mac--that's right-on my point here--I would say that Linux is not getting me 80% there, maybe more like 50% for actually doing things--the entire users & groups (dscl), scutil, versions of things like Top are way different-- those are just the first things that I use everyday, and would like to get better with, that are not the same in most Linuxes. Mar 23, 2016 at 12:38
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    @forgotstackxpassword: Those commands (dscl, scutil, defaults, diskutil, etc) as well as other concepts (plists, launchagents/daemons, SIP, etc.) are only on OS X. You're not going to find them elsewhere. Sorry.
    – Hefewe1zen
    Mar 23, 2016 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


Apple software is only licensed to run on Apple products. Commands such as dscl, diskutil, defaults, etc. are specific to OS X. However you will find that outside of that, most of the CLI is very similar to other *nix flavors.

  • Thanks for the Answer & comments, @Hefewe1zen; since the actual, ultimate goal is building admin efficiency & speed, then with your answer in mind, I'm sure I can specifically comb the web for OSX sysadmin CLI tips and resources. Also for further information I can find resources about which commands are OSX-specific, and of course, if any of us have something really strong, we can leave a link here ;-) Mar 23, 2016 at 15:42
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    I can't readily find a site that differentiates. This link sort of does ss64.com/osx - another way to look at a man page and at the end there will be a History section which may shed some light.
    – Hefewe1zen
    Mar 23, 2016 at 15:50

Use ssh on the netbook to log into a remote Mac and learn the commands that way.

  • Honestly that is a really cool answer for me personally, but maybe it is not the "best answer" for most people seeing my question to mean presumably how to have this experience without having any Macs around. Cheapest might be to get some really old Mac, or something with a hardware issue on the screen or usb ports and use it via ssh. This is needed for me, because I want to play with things like OD where I would never want to mess around on my admin machines, or have to worry about if my sister's laptop is on in the other room. Mar 23, 2016 at 21:13
  • really nice solution to the same problem! Mar 23, 2016 at 21:14
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    I was going to suggest this, but didn't bother. My issue is most people probably wouldn't let someone else SSH in to their production machine to perform potentially system altering commands. Not to mention some of these commands are to be used in conjunction with the GUI, so it's kind of hard to test. For example, setting certain preferences with defaults, or config profiles. I guess it depends on what you want to learn, exactly.
    – Hefewe1zen
    Mar 24, 2016 at 22:43
  • @forgotstackxpassword If you already have a keyboard, mouse, and screen, look into a used Mac Mini.
    – Hefewe1zen
    Mar 24, 2016 at 22:52
  • @Hefewe1zen you're right-on about "potentially system altering commands..." & the need to see the GUI for confirmation (something I hadn't thought of). My goal of this question was by limiting myself to the command line, on a goof-off machine, I could find faster tools via the command line, than many of the things I know already. Great examples are installer, softwareupdate, saving work time already. Mar 25, 2016 at 0:04

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