Archive for February, 2016

Using pmset on OS X to schedule restarting your Mac

February 29, 2016 2 comments

OS X’s pmset command line tool is designed to control power management settings on your Mac, but it also has various options for scheduling your Mac to perform various actions at set times using the following format:

pmset repeat type weekdays time

The various types documented in pmset’s man page are as follows:

  • sleep – puts the Mac to sleep
  • wake – wakes the Mac from sleep
  • poweron – starts up the Mac if the Mac is powered off
  • shutdown – shuts down the Mac
  • wakeorpoweron – depending on if the Mac is off or asleep, the Mac will wake or start up as needed

The weekday options are as follows:

  • M = Monday
  • T = Tuesday
  • W = Wednesday
  • R = Thursday
  • F = Friday
  • S = Saturday
  • U = Sunday

The time option documented in the man page is as follows:

  • HH:mm:ss

The time must be set in 24 hour format, with a leading zero for numbers less than 10.

Examples of this would be:

4:00 AM = 04:00:00
1:00 PM = 13:00:00
12:00 AM (midnight) = 00:00:00

These options all match what shows up in the Energy Saver preference pane’s scheduling options, with one exception. There is a Restart option in the Energy Saver settings which doesn’t appear to have a documented type in the pmset man page.

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The answer turns out to be that there is a undocumented restart type which is not listed on the pmset man page. For more information, see below the jump.

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Apple security update blocks Apple Ethernet drivers on OS X El Capitan

February 28, 2016 9 comments

Over the weekend, Apple released an update for a kernel extension blacklist used by System Integrity Protection on OS X El Capitan. This blacklist is a security measure to help Apple block kernel extensions which have been found to be harmful or problematic for OS X. This update belonged to a category of updates which Apple has set to install automatically and in the background, so its installation would have been both automatic and invisible.

Unfortunately, this blacklist update appears to have inadvertently contained the kernel extension information for Apple’s own Ethernet drivers. This is a problem because blocking the Ethernet drivers means your Mac will not be able to connect to your network via an Ethernet connection.

Apple appears to have quickly recognized the problem and has released a follow-up update which fixes this issue.

Update – 10-28-2016: Apple has posted a knowledgebase article about this issue:

The good news:

  1. This issue does not affect your Mac’s WiFi connection. WiFi has separate drivers which were not affected.
  2. If the Ethernet drivers are blocked, but the Mac has not yet rebooted, your Ethernet connection will remain working until the next time the Mac reboots.
  3. The follow-up update which fixes the problem may already be installed on your Mac.

For more information, see below the jump.

Read more…

Creating password-protected PDFs on OS X

February 21, 2016 Leave a comment

If you want to restrict access to a PDF document, one way to do this is by setting a password on it. Thanks to OS X’s built-in PDF creation tools, it’s relatively straightforward on OS X to add a password to an existing PDF document, or include a password as part of the process of creating a PDF. For more details on this process, see below the jump.

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Certificate expiration and downloaded Mac App Store installers

February 15, 2016 3 comments

Mac admins who have previously downloaded installers from the Mac App Store may be seeing some of those installers displaying warning messages and/or failing to install as of this morning.

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This behavior is now appearing because the certificate Apple had been using to digitally sign installers for MAS apps has recently expired.

Screen Shot 2016 02 15 at 8 20 35 AM

Apple is handling the issue on their end by reissuing installers, which are signed with an updated certificate that expires on February 7, 2023. If a needed application with the correct version is still available from the MAS, the easiest fix may be to re-download the installer from the MAS. The newly-downloaded installer will be signed with the new certificate.

Screen Shot 2016 02 15 at 8 20 12 AM

In the case of applications where the needed version is no longer available from the MAS, or the application itself is no longer available, there are two ways to handle this issue:

Getting started as a Mac admin

February 11, 2016 5 comments

To close out MacADUK 2016, there was a panel discussion about the non-technical skills involved with being a Mac admin. One question was something like this:

“How should a new Mac admin get started?”

The folks on the panel (including myself) had a few answers for this, including doing research and finding a good mentor. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my brain had also filed it away for some further processing because it’s a dang good question and deserves more than the few minutes that we were able to devote to it. Because everybody’s different, I’ll just say what my opinions are on the subject.

1. Figure out if this is what you want to do.

You want to be happy in your career, right? Honestly, the first thing to figure out is if going into IT, and Macs specifically, is the way you want to go.

In my case, I figured it out back in college while working for the campus computer labs in the 1990s. The lab I worked in was for the engineering school and had a bit of everything: Macs, PCs running Windows 3.1, and Sun Microsystems boxes running SunOS. I found the Macs easier and more intuitive to work with than the other OSs, and I learned on-the-job how to fix them.

If you’re looking to figure out if this is what you want to do, getting an internship or an entry-level job in the field is a good way to learn. Working at an Apple store, with an eye towards getting on the Genius Bar, is another entryway that a number of new Mac admins have emerged from in recent years.

2. Figure out the best way you learn things. Learn stuff that way. Accept that the learning never stops. Repeat.

The most important element of your Mac admin career is having the skills to do the job. This is an ongoing learning process which you pick up through both training and experience.

How you learn best is going to be different for everyone. Some folks go to training classes and frankly get nothing from them, while classroom instruction is the best way someone else can learn. Ditto for books. Ditto for professional conferences. Figure out how you learn best, then pursue that method to help you accumulate the various skills you’ll need for this career path. If someone suggests an alternate way, try it! But the most important thing is finding what works for you.

In my case, I tend to learn best these ways:

A. Googling – Whenever I’ve got a problem that I’m not sure how to solve, my first stop is Google. I’ve found that very few problems are genuinely new under the sun and searching online may turn up the solution to a problem that you’ve been banging your head against. The solution may not all be in one place. Part may be in a StackExchange post, another part may be in a blog post, yet another part may be through searching GitHub. But a lot of answers to the issues you’re seeing are out there; you just need to find them.

B. Asking questions – We all get along with a little help from our friends, and the Mac admin community is pretty friendly. Asking questions in the MacAdmin Slack community, on the MacEnterprise mailing list, or on Twitter via the #macadmin or #macadmins hashtag, has helped me out a lot.

When should you ask questions of your fellow Mac admins? After you’ve done some research. You may find that the research answers your original question and leads you to ask even better questions, which in turn will make for a better discussion of your problem.

C. Testing – If the question is “What happens if I do X?”, the best answer many times is “Try it and see!”.

As part of this, I’ve got a couple of rules I go by when testing:

i. Have a test environment which is separate from your production environment – Test environments are meant to go * BOOM * on occasion, that’s why you have them. Production is sacred, don’t test things where it may affect the folks you support.

ii. Whenever possible, use virtual machines when testing – Picking up a copy of VMware Fusion or Parallels and running your tests inside VMs running OS X may be what saves you from hosing your own Mac when something unexpected goes wrong.

D. Find problems, then solve them – One of the most frequent ways I’ve learned new things is in passing, while I’m trying to solve a problem. Maybe it’s a problem just for me, maybe it’s a problem for a lot of people, including me. Maybe it’s a problem that’s not actually a problem for me, but it’s a problem for someone else. Any way you slice it, they’re all problems and the journey you take when solving problems is a great way to learn.

E. Documenting – I’ll be the first person to tell you that I have a terrible memory. Writing things down in a lot of detail does two things for me:

i. It actually helps my memory – By going through the process of writing up a problem and its solution, I actually remember more details later from memory.
ii. It’s a prosthetic memory – I don’t have to remember everything, I wrote it down so I didn’t have to. What I need to know is where I documented it, and search functions help out a lot there (see my earlier point about Googling.)

3. Find a mentor

One of the best ways to get experience is finding a good mentor and working with them to get the benefit of their own experiences. This may be tough if you’re the lone Mac admin in your shop, but you may also be able to find one (or several) online, again via the MacAdmin Slack community or via Twitter, or via meeting someone at a professional conference and then working with them via email or other ways of communicating online.

4. You will make mistakes

Nobody is perfect, nobody knows everything and failure is always an option. Accept that, and plan how to minimize the consequences to others from your mistakes.

I always try to learn from my mistakes, and some days it feels like I’m learning constantly. But I work very hard to make sure others aren’t affected by the commission and consequences of my mistakes. It’s not only the right thing to do, it will save you time because you’ll only have to fix your stuff and not have to fix others’ stuff as well.

5. Be flexible

There may be multiple ways to solve your problem; be open to alternate approaches. The important thing is solving the problem and there’s usually more than one way.

6. Accept that the solution you adopt today may not be the solution you need tomorrow

Over the past 18 years, I’ve seen Apple change some pretty fundamental things:

You have to be able to pick up which direction Apple is signaling that it’s moving to, and adjust your tools and solutions to match that direction. Sometimes that may mean you have to stop using a tool that’s worked for you a long time and pick up a new one to learn from scratch. Be prepared for that possibility and embrace those changes when you see them coming.

To close out, welcome to the craft! This is a really good time to start being a Mac admin, as Apple’s gear is on the ascendant in a number of places it traditionally hasn’t been and it’s an exciting time to be a part of it. Good luck, and may you have great success.

Slides from the “FileVault 2 Decrypted” Session at MacAD UK Conference 2016

February 10, 2016 Leave a comment

For those who wanted a copy of my FileVault 2 talk at MacAD UK 2016, here are links to the slides in PDF and Keynote format.


Keynote –

Word 2016 and Endnote’s “com.ThomsonResearchSoft.EndNote.plist” dialog window

February 5, 2016 9 comments

Microsoft Office 2016’s applications are sandboxed, which means that they don’t have access to external files and settings by default and need to ask permission from the user. Thomson Reuters’ Endnote software is affected by this because it uses a plug-in for Word 2016. This means that the first time you launch Word 2016 after installing Endnote’s plug-in, you will see a dialog box along with this message:

EndNote needs access to the file named ‘com.ThomsonResearchSoft.EndNote.plist’. Select this file to grant access.

If you’re seeing this dialog box, the com.ThomsonResearchSoft.EndNote.plist file should be already selected. If the file has been selected, please click the Grant Access button. This procedure should only need to be performed once.

Screen Shot 2016 02 05 at 7 51 34 AM


However, if you’re seeing this dialog box and the com.ThomsonResearchSoft.EndNote.plist file has not been automatically selected, that means that Endnote has been installed on this Mac but never launched. For more details, see below the jump.

Read more…

Installing Endnote X7.5’s Cite While You Write plug-ins for Office 2008, 2011 and 2016

February 2, 2016 5 comments

Thomson Reuters has released Endnote X7.5, an updated version of their Endnote bibliography software. This updated version had been long-awaited by a number of folks because it added support for Word 2016.

I have an existing process for deploying and licensing Endnote X7.x and I found that the site license which I’ve been using with previous versions of Endnote X7.x also worked fine with 7.5. One thing that did not work was Endnote X7.5 automatically deploying its Cite While You Write (CWYW) plug-ins for Word 2008, 2011 and 2016.

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In previous versions of Endnote, Endnote’s first launch triggered an assistant which installed the CWYW plug-ins to their correct location. Endnote X7.5, or at least Endnote X7.5’s trial version, appeared to lack this functionality. In addition, the CWYW plug-ins for Word 2016 need to be installed into a completely different location than for previous versions of Word:

  • Word 2008: /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Startup/Word
  • Word 2011: /Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Startup/Word
  • Word 2016: /Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office365/User Content.localized/Startup.localized/Word

Unlike previous versions of Microsoft Office, the Word 2016 support directories were also not created by Office 2016 by default, so they were not likely to exist unless a third-party plug-in for Word had previously been installed.

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To address the various issues identified, I wrote a script. For more details, see below the jump.

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