Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

(Guest Post by Allister Banks)


As Venn diagram circles go, many folks in our community are getting into autopkg, and there’s even more that already use the JAMF Casper Suite. Over on the blog there’s an announcement for a new ‘processor’ add-on that can be installed with autopkg, that therefore can leverage the JSS API to fulfill many of the functions which up until present only Munki enjoyed. Please do read the release notes and give it a try!

January 6th, 2014

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mass Deployment

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(Allister Banks Guest Post:) As part of my presentations at LOPSA-East(the pdf slides of this one is here) earlier this year, I wanted to demonstrate how quickly you can get a proof-of-concept of Munki running on a recent Mac OS without Server. I had always used Greg Neagle’s awesome intro articles for MacTech(especially part 2,) which were  created back in 10.6 days(simpler times, amirite?) This video takes you through the setup of a Munki repo, and goes on to demonstrate not only basic Munki interaction and functionality, but if you setup MunkiWebAdmin and the reporting scripts on your clients in addition, it does a quick tour of that interface. Setting Up a Munki Repository on 10.7+, Quick MunkiWebAdmin Demo from Allister Banks on Vimeo. Pardon the length, lack of sound and meme’s sprinkled throughout, but I hope it’s of use to someone!

November 4th, 2013

Posted In: Mac OS X

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In case you were there and would like a copy, here’s the slides from the presentation I did this week at the JAMF Nation User Conference 2012. If you weren’t there, then perhaps they will help you in some way. JNUC2012 The session was recorded so I’ll try and post when it becomes available for download.

October 26th, 2012

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mass Deployment

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The software patching configuration built into most operating systems is configured to open a box at home, join your network and start using the computer right away. As environments grow from homes to offices and then offices grow into enterprises, at some point software updates and patches need to be managed centrally. Mountain Lion, as with its OS X Server predecessors has a Software Update service. The service in the Server app is known as Software Update and from the command line is known as swupdate. The Software Update service, by default, stores each update in the /var/db/swupd directory. The Software Update servie is actually comprised of three components. The first is an Apache server, invoked by the /Applications/ LaunchDaemon. This LaunchDaemon invokes a httpd process and clients access updates from the server based on a manifest of updates available in the sucatalog. These are synchronized with Apple Software Updates via /Applications/, the LaunchDaemon for swupdate at /Applications/ The Apache version is now Apache/2.2.22. Clients can be pointed at the server then via a Profile or using the defaults command to edit the /Library/Preferences/ file. The contents of this file can be read using the following command: defaults read /Library/Preferences/ To point a client to a server via the command line, use a command such as the following: sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ CatalogURL But first, you’ll need to configure and start the Software Update service. Lucky you, it’s quick (although quick in a hurry up and wait kind of way). To get started, open the Server app and then click on the Software Update service. By default, updates are set to simply mirror the Apple servers, by default, enabling each update that Apple publishes, effectively proxying updates. You can use the Manual button if you would like to configure updates to either manually be approved and manually synchronized or just manually approved but automatically copied from Apple. Otherwise click on the ON button and wait for the updates to cache to simply mirror the Apple servers. If you would like to manually configure updates, click on the Manual option and then click on the Updates tab. The first item in the Updates tab is the “Austomatically download new updates” checkbox. This option downloads all of the updates but does not enable them. The Updates tab also displays all available updates. click on one and then click on the cog-wheel icon towards the bottom of the screen to configure its behavior (Download, Enable, Disable, Remove and View Update). Note: The only option for updates in an Automatic configuration environment is disable. The service can be managed using serveradmin. To start Software Update, use the start option, followed by the swupdate service identifier: sudo serveradmin start swupdate To stop the service, replace start with stop: sudo serveradmin stop swupdate To see the status of the service, including the location of updates, the paths to log files, when the service was started and the number of updates running, use the fullstatus option: sudo serveradmin fullstatus swupdate The output of which appears as follows: swupdate:state = "RUNNING" swupdate:lastChecktime = 2012-08-04 17:04:45 +0000 swupdate:syncStatus = "DONE" swupdate:syncServiceState = "RUNNING" swupdate:setStateVersion = 1 swupdate:lastProductsUpdate = 2012-08-04 17:07:10 +0000 swupdate:logPaths:swupdateAccessLog = "/var/log/swupd/swupd_access_log" swupdate:logPaths:swupdateErrorLog = "/var/log/swupd/swupd_error_log" swupdate:logPaths:swupdateServiceLog = "/var/log/swupd/swupd_syncd_log" swupdate:readWriteSettingsVersion = 1 swupdate:checkError = no swupdate:pluginVers = "10.8.91 (91)" swupdate:updatesDocRoot = "/var/db/swupd/" swupdate:hostServiceState = "RUNNING" swupdate:autoMirror = no swupdate:numOfEnabledPkg = 0 swupdate:servicePortsAreRestricted = "NO" swupdate:numOfMirroredPkg = 0 swupdate:autoMirrorOnlyNew = no swupdate:startTime = 2012-08-04 17:04:45 +0000 swupdate:autoEnable = no There are also a number of options available using the serveradmin settings that aren’t exposed to the Server app. These include a feature I used to use a lot in the beginning of deployments with poor bandwidth, only mirroring new updates, which is available to swupdate via the autoMirrorOnlyNew option. To configure: sudo serveradmin settings swupdate:autoMirrorOnlyNew = yes Also, the service can throttle bandwidth for clients. To use this option, run the following command: sudo serveradmin settings swupdate:limitBandwidth = yes And configure bandwidth using the syncBandwidth option, as follows: sudo serveradmin settings swupdate:syncBandwidth = 10 To automatically sync updates but not enable them (as the checkboxes allow for in the Server app, use the following command: sudo serveradmin settings swupdate:autoEnable = no The port (by default 8088) can be managed using the portToUse option, here being used to set it to 80 (clients need this in their catalog URL from here on out): sudo serveradmin settings swupdate:portToUse = 80 Finally, administrators can purge old packages that are no longer needed using the PurgeUnused option: sudo serveradmin swupdate:PurgeUnused = yes One of the biggest drawbacks of the Software Update service in OS X Mountain Lion Server in my opinion is the fact that it does not allow for serving 3rd party packages, from vendors such as Microsoft or Adobe. To provide those vendors with a manifest file and a quick little path option to add those manifest files, a nice middle ground could be found between the Mac App Store and the built in software update options in OS X. But then, we wouldn’t want to make it too easy. Another issue many have had is that users need administrative passwords to run updates and don’t have them (technically this isn’t a problem with the OS X Server part of the stack, but it’s related). While many options have come up for this, one is to just run the softwareupdate command for clients via ARD or a similar tool. Many environments have used these issues to look at tools such as reposado or third party patch management tools such as JAMF Software’s the Casper Suite (JAMF also makes a reposado-based VM that mimics the swupdate options), FileWave, Absolute Manage and others. Overall, the update service in Mountain Lion is easily configured, easily managed and easily deployed to clients. It is what it needs to be for a large percentage of OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) Server administrators. This makes it a very viable option and if you’ve already got a Mountain Lion computer sitting around with clients not yet using a centralized update server, well worth enabling. Note: Managing multiple Software Update Servers has changed in OS X Mountain Lion Server, see my previous post for more information on these changes.

August 5th, 2012

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

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The Mac OS X App Store was released earlier this month as a part of the Mac OS X 10.6.6 update. The App Store, with over 1,000 applications (including a couple of server tools), allowing people to download and install applications on Mac OS X computers without needing to understand how to click through the screens of a standard package installer, drag applications from disk images into the /Applications folder or basically how to do practically anything except for click and provide a valid credit card number. As with the App Store that debuted with the iPhone, the App Store for Mac OS X is clearly aimed at residential customers, but being that these computers are used in enterprises around the world, the impact to managed environments cannot be discounted. I decided to do plenty of testing and reading before I wrote this up, so hopefully you’ll find it helpful, if not very timely. The first and probably most important aspect of the App Store to most who are charged with managing large numbers of Mac OS X computers is that only administrative users can install software from the App Store. This little fact makes the App Store itself a non-issue for most enterprises, who do not make typical users administrative users. Because only administrative accounts can download and install applications, there is little risk created from leaving the App Store on client computers. Applications installed from the App Store can only be deployed into the /Applications directory. These applications are owned by System, with read-only access given to the wheel group and everyone else. No ACLs are used, so while a single user purchases the software any user on the system can open it. If you copy the software to another computer then you will be prompted to authorize it using the same Apple ID that was used to purchase it. When an administrative user purchases an application, they are not prompted for a system password, only an App Store password, which uses the same Apple ID used for the iTunes Store and the iOS App Store. Application updates are handled using the familiar Updates screen borrowed from the iOS App Store, which includes the nifty Update All option. As far as controlling the user’s experience with the App Store, there are a few options. Administrators can remove the App Store application bundle (which can be replaced any time) from /Applications. Administrators can also black list the application using managed preferences/parental controls. A Dock item is added by default and can be removed as well. Removing both the Dock item and the Application bundle will then remove the App Store menu item from the Apple menu. You can also block the hosts at, which includes,,,, and possibly These will communicate over ports 80 and 443, according to the operation being used. There is also a launch daemon at /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ that should be unloaded and likely removed if you’re going to outright disable the App Store. However, the only real way I would personally disable is using a managed preference. There is also a property list file for the App Store that can be used to manage the application in Workgroup Manager in ~/Library/Preferences/ However, there isn’t much that can be done here at this time. Because applications are tied to users, when a user moves computers you will want to backup and restore the applications for the user. To do so, here’s the captain obvious article for ya’: The App Store is not a replacement for a good patch management system. Software distribution cannot be managed centrally using the App Store and Software Update Server in Mac OS X Server does not currently cache applications from the App Store. Trying to think of a way to shoehorn the App Store into a software distribution system such as JAMF’s Casper Suite, Absolute Manage or FileWave is just asking for a world of pain, so let’s pretend that we never brought it up. If your organization isn’t able to license one of the aforementioned products, check out Star Deploy from or munki from Finally, I think that Apple’s done a great job with the App Store for a version 1 release. I think that my wife loves it and that over time if Apple chooses to do more with it then great; otherwise, all of the options we’ve been using, from the installer command on, are still at our disposal.

January 18th, 2011

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

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