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Archive for the ‘Amazon Web Services’ Category

Connecting to AWS EC2 instances via Session Manager

April 1, 2021 Leave a comment

When folks have needed command line access to instances running in Amazon Web Service’s EC2 service, SSH has been the usual method used. However, in addition to using SSH to connect to EC2 instances in AWS, it is also possible to connect remotely via Session Manager, one of the services provided by AWS’s Systems Manager tool.

Session Manager uses the Systems Manager agent to provide secure remote access to the Mac’s command line interface without needing to change security groups and allow SSH access to the instance. In fact, Session Manager allows remote access to EC2 instances which have security groups configured to allow no inbound access at all. For more details, please see below the jump.

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Setting up AutoPkg, AutoPkgr and JSSImporter on an Amazon Web Services macOS EC2 instance

December 20, 2020 1 comment

One of the outcomes of the recent Amazon Web Service’s Insight conference was AWS’s announcement that, as of November 30th, macOS EC2 instances were going to be available as on-demand instances or as part of one of AWS’s reduced cost plans for those who needed them long-term.

There are a few differences about AWS’s macOS offerings, as opposed to their Linux and Windows offerings. macOS EC2 instances are set up to run on actual Apple hardware, as opposed to being completely virtualized. This means that there are the following dependencies to be aware of:

  1. macOS EC2 instances must run on dedicated hosts (AWS has stated these are Mac Minis)
  2. One macOS EC2 instance can be provisioned per dedicated host.

AWS has also stipulated that that dedicated hosts for macOS EC2 instances have a minimum billing duration of 24 hours. That means that even if your dedicated host was only up and running for one hour, you will be billed as if it was running for 24 hours.

For now, only certain AWS regions have EC2 Mac instances available. As of December 20th, 2020, macOS EC2 instances are available in the following AWS Regions:

  • US-East-1 (Northern Virginia)
  • US-East-2 (Ohio)
  • US-West-2 (Oregon)
  • EU-West-1 (Ireland)
  • AP-Southeast-1 (Singapore)

The macOS EC2 instances at this time support two versions of macOS:

macOS Big Sur is not yet supported as of December 20th, 2020, but AWS has stated that Big Sur support will be coming shortly.

By default, macOS EC2 instances will include the following pre-installed software:

For folks looking to build services or do continuous integration testing on macOS, it’s clear that AWS went to considerable lengths to have macOS EC2 instances be as fully-featured as their other EC2 offerings. Amazon has also either made it possible to install the tools you need or just went ahead and installed them for you. They’ve also included drivers for their faster networking options and made it possible to manage and monitor Mac EC2 instances using AWS’s tools just like their Linux and Windows EC2 instances.

That said, all of this comes with a price tag. Here’s how it works out (all figures expressed in US dollars):

mac1 Dedicated Hosts (on-demand pricing):

$1.083/hour (currently with a 24 hour minimum charge, after which billing is by the second.)
$25.99/day
$181.93/week
$9493.58/year

Now, you can sign up for an AWS Savings Plan and save some money by paying up-front for one year or three years. Paying for three years, all cash up front is the cheapest option currently available:

$0.764/hour
$18.33/day
$128.31/week
$6697.22/year

Now some folks are going to look at that and have a heart attack, while others are going to shrug because the money involved amounts to a rounding error on their existing AWS bill. I’m mainly going through this to point out that hosting Mac services on AWS is going to come with costs. None of AWS’s existing Mac offerings are part of AWS’s Free Tier.

OK, so we’ve discussed a lot of the background but let’s get to the point: How do you set up AutoPkg to run in the AWS cloud? For more details, please see below the jump.

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Resizing an AWS macOS EC2 instance’s boot drive to use all available disk space

December 19, 2020 3 comments

I’ve started working with Amazon Web Service’s new macOS EC2 instances and after a while, I noticed that no matter how much EBS drive space I assigned to a EC2 instance running macOS, the instance would only have around 30 GBs of usable space. In this example, I had assigned around 200 GBs of EBS storage, but the APFS container was only using around 30 GBs of the available space.

Screen Shot 2020 12 19 at 3 23 59 PM

After talking with AWS Support, there’s a fix for this using APFS container resizing. This is a topic I’ve discussed previously in the context of resizing boot drives for virtual machines. For more details, see below the jump.

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Remotely gathering sysdiagnose files and uploading them to S3

October 16, 2020 1 comment

One of the challenges for helpdesks with folks now working remotely instead of in offices has been that it’s now harder to gather logs from user’s Macs. A particular challenge for those folks working with AppleCare Enterprise Support has been with regards to requests for sysdiagnose logfiles.

The sysdiagnose tool is used for gathering a large amount of diagnostic files and logging, but the resulting output file is often a few hundred megabytes in size. This is usually too large to email, so alternate arrangements have to be made to get it off of the Mac in question and upload it to a location where the person needing the logs can retrieve them.

After needing to gather sysdiagnose files a few times, I’ve developed a scripted solution which does the following:

  • Collects a sysdiagnose file.
  • Creates a read-only compressed disk image containing the sysdiagnose file.
  • Uploads the compressed disk image to a specified S3 bucket in Amazon Web Services.
  • Cleans up the directories and files created by the script.

For more details, please see below the jump.

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“Getting Started with Amazon Web Services” encore presentation at MacSysAdmin 2020

October 7, 2020 Leave a comment

The MacSysAdmin conference, like many conferences in 2020, has moved to an online format for this year. The MacSysAdmin 2020 organizers have also decided to have both sessions that are new for the 2020 conference as well as give an encore performance for sessions given at past MacSysAdmin conferences.

I was pleased to see that my “Getting Started with Amazon Web Services” session from MacSysAdmin 2018 made the cut for MacSysAdmin 2020. For those interested, my session will be available for viewing this Friday, October 9th.

Backing up a Jamf Pro database hosted in Amazon Web Services’ RDS service to an S3 bucket

February 16, 2020 Leave a comment

For those using Amazon Web Services to host Jamf Pro, one of the issues you may run into is how to get backups of your Jamf Pro database which you can access. AWS’s RDS service makes backups of your database to S3, but you don’t get direct access to the S3 bucket where they’re stored.

In the event that you want a backup that you can access of your RDS-hosted MySQL database, Amazon provides the option for exporting a database snapshot to an S3 bucket in your AWS account. This process will export your data in Apache Parquet format instead of a MySQL database export file.

However, it’s also possible to create and use an EC2 instance to perform the following tasks:

  1. Connect to your RDS-hosted MySQL database.
  2. Create a backup of your MySQL database using the mysqldump tool.
  3. Store the backup in an S3 bucket of your choosing.

For more details, please see below the jump.

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Slides from the “Providing the best Mac experience possible, from the Apple CoE team with ♥” session at Jamf Nation User Conference 2018

October 24, 2018 Leave a comment

For those who wanted a copy of my Mac management talk at at Jamf Nation User Conference 2018, here are links to the slides in PDF and Keynote format.

PDF – http://tinyurl.com/JNUC2018SAPPDF

Keynote – http://tinyurl.com/JNUC2018SAPKeynote

Session videos and slides available from MacSysAdmin 2018

October 11, 2018 Leave a comment

The documentation from MacSysAdmin 2018 is available, with the session slides and videos being accessible from the link below:

http://documentation.macsysadmin.se

The video of my session is available for download from here:

I also like to thank Tycho Sjögren and Apoio AB for inviting me to speak again at this year’s MacSysAdmin.

Slides from the “Getting Started with Amazon Web Services” session at MacSysAdmin 2018

October 5, 2018 2 comments

For those who wanted a copy of my Amazon Web Services talk at at the MacSysAdmin 2018 conference, here are links to the slides in PDF and Keynote format.

PDF – http://tinyurl.com/MSA2018AWSPDF

Keynote – http://tinyurl.com/MSA2018AWSKeynote

Backing up the contents of an AWS-hosted Jamf Pro cloud distribution point to a local directory

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

As part of removing unused packages from a Jamf Pro cloud distribution point using @shea_craig‘s Spruce tool, I needed to first make a backup of the contents of the cloud distribution point to a local directory on my Mac. That way, in case I had made an error and deleted the wrong installer package, I had a copy of the package readily available and could re-add the package back to my Jamf Pro server.

The cloud distribution point in question is hosted out in Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) S3 service, so I decided to use AWS’s awscli command line tool‘s S3 functions to run a one-way synchronization process between the cloud distribution point in S3 and my local directory. For more details, please see below the jump.

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