Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

The xxd is a bash command in Linux and macOS that is used to take a hexdump (convert a string to hex), or convert hex back to a string. To use xxd, just call it with a couple of options. Below, we’ll use the -p option to export into plain hexdump, and we’ll quote it and the <<< is to take input rather than a file name to convert (the default behavior), as follows:

xxd -p <<< "hey it's a string"

The output would be a hex string, as follows:


Then use the -r option to revert your hex back to text. Since xxd doesn’t allow for a positional parameter to revert, we’ll simply echo the hex string and pipe it back into xxd, as follows:

echo 6865792069742773206120737472696e670a | xxd -r -p

And the output would be (is):

hey it's a string

Other useful options:

  • -b: Perform a binary dump instead of a hex dump
  • -e: what it looks like when a little endian takes a hex dump
  • -h: get help with the command
  • -len: stop after the defined number of characters
  • -u: use uppercase in the hex, instead of the default lower-case (doesn’t seem to actually work on macOS)
  • -v: grab the version of xxd

April 2nd, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Ubuntu, Unix

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April 1st, 2017

Posted In: MacAdmins Podcast

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The videos from the MacADUK sessions are now available on the Internets! Including such great sessions as “What’s New With Managing macOS and iOS” from Marko Jung, “Something something commercial, something something open source” from Graham Gilbert, “Desired State Management Through Automation with Jamf Pro” from John Kitzmiller, “Advanced Mac Software Deployment and Configuration – Just Make it Work” from Tim Sutton, “Securing the Managed Environment – you, me, and everybody” from Pepijn Bruienne, “Munki and Patch. A Comparison” from Ben Toms & James Ridsdale, “Locking down macOS without Locking Up Users (The Sequel)” from Samuel Keeley. Totes fun!

Watch them at

March 28th, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security

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There is a new service in macOS, called Tetherator. Tethered-caching is a script that allows you to easily and quickly interact with the tethered-caching service, which has a few kinda’ cool options. This is on a client, and really speeds up all that crazy provisioning stuff you do. It can also check for the presence of a macOS Caching Server and use that as a source for the cache. The tethered-caching script is located at /usr/bin/tethered-caching.

Before you do anything with the service, check the status. That’s done with the -s option (there’s also a -v option to get verbose):

tethered-caching -s

The results before activated should be as follows:

2017-02-28 10:44:45.730 AssetCacheTetheratorUtil[3665:182657] Tetherator is disabled: (no error)
2017-02-28 10:44:45.746 AssetCacheActivatorUtil[3666:182664] Built-in caching server can be activated.
2017-02-28 10:44:45.762 AssetCacheActivatorUtil[3667:182673] Built-in caching server is deactivated: (no error)

Then start the service using the -n option in tethered-caching, along with the IP range to be used:

tethered-caching -n

This sets the ListenRanges key in the plist and should result in an activation process that appears as follows:

Starting tethered caching…
2017-02-28 10:47:59.691 AssetCacheActivatorUtil[3848:192902] Built-in caching server can be activated.
2017-02-28 10:47:59.706 AssetCacheActivatorUtil[3849:192910] Built-in caching server is deactivated: (no error)
Filtering the log data using “subsystem == “” AND messageType == 16″
Timestamp (process)[PID]
2017-02-28 10:48:05.098735-0600 localhost AssetCache[2882]: [] Built-in Caching Server activated. Exiting to allow re-launch.
2017-02-28 10:48:05.207493-0600 localhost AssetCache[2882]: [] Built-in Caching Server shutting down (0)
2017-02-28 10:48:07.362926-0600 localhost AssetCache[3862]: [] Built-in Caching Server version 170 started
2017-03-02 10:45:53.753 AssetCacheTetheratorUtil[29283:2526186] Tetherator enabled.
Started tethered caching. To stop it, press control+c once.

At this point, you’re calling /usr/bin/AssetCacheLocatorUtil to register and then start /usr/libexec/AssetCache/AssetCache via /System/Library/Preferences/Logging/Subsystems/ which defaults read nets:

{Activator = {};
"Default-Privacy-Setting" = Public;
"Enable-Oversize-Messages" = 1;
"Event-Log" = {
Enabled = Inherit;};
Level = {
Enable = Inherit;
Persist = Inherit;};
TTL = {Debug = 0;Default = 10;Info = 10;};};
Daemon = {};
Extensions = {};
Framework = {};
Tetherator = {};}

The AssetCache preferences can be seen by catting /Library/Preferences/

Activated = 0;
CacheLimit = 0;
DataPath = "/Library/Caches/";
LastConfigData = ;
LastConfigURL = "";
LastPort = 50775;
ListenRanges = ({first = "";last = "";});
ListenRangesOnly = 1;
LocalSubnetsOnly = 0;
PeerLocalSubnetsOnly = 1;
Port = 0;
PublicRanges = automatic;
ReservedVolumeSpace = 2000000000;
SavedCacheDetails = {};
SavedCacheDetailsOrder = ("Mac Software","iOS Software","Apple TV Software",iCloud,Books,"iTunes U",Movies,Music,Other);
SavedCacheDetailsStrings = {All the language keys as arrays - which I cut out to truncate the contents of the plist read};
SavedCacheSize = 0;
ServerGUID = "C5F29418-6158-4D3B-9162-XXX";
Version = 1;

Note that in the above, the LastConfigData key is pulled at activation by curling I’ve truncated the key as it’s kinda’ long…

A simple command that will be pretty common is to increase the size of the cache. To do so, you’d just edit that CacheLimit key to be the number that you want the cache to be. In the following example, we’re writing the CacheLimit key into AssetCache.plist at 100 gigs:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ CacheLimit -int 100000000000

There’s also in /Library/LaunchDaemons which starts the builtin AssetCache, AssetCacheC, and CacheDelete service.

Once started, you will have a sqlite3 database called AssetInfo.db at /Library/Caches/ A basic structure of how data is stored includes the following tables:

  • Z_MODELCACHE with just the Z_CONTENT column

Once enabled, updates will be cached to the computer that the service is enabled on, metadata stored in the previously mentioned database, and then change ports and network ranges when needed.

March 27th, 2017

Posted In: Apple Configurator, Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPhone, JAMF, Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mass Deployment, precache

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This is the first page of a 5 page piece I just finished writing for MacTech. After the last episode of the MacAdmins podcast though, I wanted to go ahead and get some of the information out there. For a much more detailed analysis, check out MacTech!

Apple has a number of different logging APIs. For the past few releases, Apple has tried to capture everything possible in logs, creating what many administrators and developers might consider to be a lot of chatter. As such, an entirely new interface needed to be developed to categorize and filter messages sent into system logs.

Writing Logs

The logger command is still used to create entries in system logs. However, if you are then using tail to view /var/log/system.log then you will notice that you no longer see your entry being written. This is because as the logs being created in macOS have gotten more complex, the tools to read and write those logs has gotten more complicated as well.

Let’s take a simple log entry. Below, we’ll write the string “Hello Logs” into the system log. To do so, use the –i option to put the process id of the logger process and –s to write to the system log, as well as to stderr. To make the entry easier we’ll tag it with –t followed by the string of the tag. And finally, we’ll quote the entry we want written into the log. This is basically the simplest form of an entry:

logger -is -t krypted "Hello Logs"

Once written, use the log command to read your spiffy new entries. This isn’t terribly different than how things worked previously. If you’re a developer, you will need to note that all of the legacy APIs you might be using, which include asl_log_message, NSLog, and syslog, have been redirected to the new Unified Logging system, provided you build software for 10.12 (you can still build as before for 10.11, iOS 9, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3 and below). These are replaced with the os_log, os_log_info, os_log_debug, os_log_error, os_log_fault, and os_log_create APIs (which correspond to various levels of logs that are written).

Reading Logs

Logs are now stored in the tracev3 formatted files in /var/db/diagnostics, which is a compressed binary format. As with all binary files, you’ll need new tools to read the files. Console has been updated with a new hierarchical capability and the ability to watch activities, subsystems, etc.

The log command provides another means of reading those spiffy new logs. To get started, first check out the man page:

man log

That “Hello Logs” string we used earlier is part of a message that you can easily view using the ‘log show’ command. In the below example, we’ll just run a scan of the last 3 minutes, using the –last option, and then providing a –predicate. We’ll explain those a bit later, but think of it as query parameters – here, we’ll specify to look for “Hello Logs” in eventMessage:

log show --predicate 'eventMessage contains "Hello Logs"' --last 3m

Filtering the log data using “eventMessage CONTAINS “Hello Logs”” shows us that our entry appears as follows:

Timestamp                       Thread     Type        Activity             PID

2017-03-23 23:51:05.236542-0500 0x4b83bb   Default     0x0                  88294  logger: Hello Logs


Log      – Default:          1, Info:                0, Debug:             0, Error:          0, Fault:          0

Activity – Create:           0, Transition:          0, Actions:           0

March 26th, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server

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March 24th, 2017

Posted In: MacAdmins Podcast

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The next release of iOS (10.3), macOS (10.12.4), and tvOS (10.2) bring us a host of new management features. These include DEP configuration, remote wipe, single app mode, conference room mode, and remote reboot for Apple TVs. The next evolution of iOS brings us sounds in lost mode, the ability to prevent users from connecting to unmanaged wireless networks (just make sure to push that policy after sending down the actual managed wireless networks – or eek), the option to remotely shut down and reboot devices,

The Mac options includes some of the above but also restricting the feature to unlock macOS devices with Touch ID, restrict documents and desktop syncing with Apple’s iCloud service. Shared iPad environments also get new passcode policies.

Jamf Pro 9.98 has also comes with Symantec PKI integration and lots, and lots, and lots of resolutions to product issues. For more, see For a full run-down of profile options and MDM commands:’s_New_in_This_Release.html.

Keeping with Apple’s evolving standards, Managed Preferences and Provisioning Profiles are being deprecated: (which isn’t to say you can’t still deploy these kinds of things using your own scripts, etc).

Finally, if you have a problem in your environment and want to see if it’s been fixed, for a list of defects and product improvements – see

March 23rd, 2017

Posted In: JAMF, Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server

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Some tasks are like the Labrynth. You walk around a corner, mark a block in chalk so you can go back, and then a goblin switches your arrow to a different direction. Or you go through a door and fall down an oubliette. But hey, if you write a few more scripts, you can always bring sanity to those you already have but don’t know exist, right?

March 22nd, 2017

Posted In: Uncategorized

March 16th, 2017

Posted In: MacAdmins Podcast

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You search for items in macOS using compound conditions in a number of ways. One way is with awk. Here, we’re going to grab the output of a simple ls command. That gets piped into an awk statement. Then we’re going to look at the expression to evaluate. Basically, we’re going to say anything that contains com. as well as apple and .plist. Because it’s ls, we’re looking for names of files that match those patterns. Each pattern is listed in brackets. And then there’s the {print} to lay out the action of printing to the files that match the pattern to the screen:

ls |awk '/[com.][apple][.plist]/ {print}'

Note: I know you’re not supposed to use ls in scripts. Don’t care. If it were dates and such, I’d of used stat…

March 14th, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server

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