Providing new installs of macOS, or upgrading to newer versions, can be a challenge in many Mac environments. Apple’s OS distribution model is focused around the Mac App Store (MAS), which may not be an option for a number of managed Mac environments. The MAS-distributed OS installer also does not include the option of adding additional third-party packages to the OS installation process; it only installs the software that Apple itself includes in the OS installer.
To address these needs, an open-source tool named createOSXinstallPkg is available. createOSXinstallPkg allows you to create an Apple installer package from an “Install macOS.app”. You can use this package for the following:
- Installing OS X or macOS onto an empty drive
- Upgrading existing OS X or macOS installations to a newer version of the operating system
The advantage of using this tool is that a number of system deployment tools for Macs can deploy the installers created by this tool, allowing OS installations or upgrades to be performed by the system management tool already in use by a particular IT shop. One great thing about using this tool is that createOSXinstallPkg will create an installer package that either installs a stock copy of either OS X or macOS, or you can add additional packages to the stock OS install.
When adding packages, there are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind:
- There is about 350 megabytes of free space available in the OS installer. This is sufficient space for configuration or bootstrapping packages, but it’s not a good idea to add Microsoft Office or similar large installers.
- The limitations of the OS install environment mean that there are a number of installers that won’t install correctly.
In particular, packages that use pre-installation or post-installation scripts may fail to run properly when those packages are run as part of the OS installation process. To help work around this limitation, I’ve developed a solution which I’ll be discussing later in the post. For more details, see below the jump.
In my shop, we’re not currently using Apple’s VPP program for purchasing applications from the Mac App Store (MAS). However, we do want to make it convenient for our users to be able to access and install some commonly used applications which are available from the App Store. Casper 9.4 and later natively supports providing access to MAS applications, but this approach is more focused on VPP-purchased applications. In my shop’s case, our customers are more likely to purchase apps from the MAS using Apple’s consumer payment model and then get reimbursed.
To help with this, I originally used a process similar to this one developed by Bryson Tyrell. I wanted to make the process more modular though, where I only needed to supply a URL from the MAS and have a scripted solution handle the rest. For more details, see below the jump.
As previously discussed, a number of folks in my shop use Clarivate Analytics’s EndNote bibliography software. Clarivate Analytics provides EndNote X8 with an installer application, but I need an installer package in order to easily deploy it to my customers. EndNote X8 was initially problematic in that regard, but I was able to write AutoPkg recipes for EndNote X8 to handle converting Clarivate Analytics’s installer application into a deployable installer package, including a recipe that would automate uploading the latest EndNote installers to my Casper server.
Once AutoPkg was able to provide an EndNote X8 installer package for deployment, the remaining hurdle was that the EndNote X8 installer from AutoPkg installs an unlicensed copy of EndNote and I needed to have installed copies of EndNote automatically use my shop’s EndNote site license.
Fortunately, EndNote X8’s volume license can be deployed just like EndNote X7’s volume license. The volume license is stored in as an invisible file named .license.dat in /Applications/EndNote X8 and it has a format that looks like this:
Company Name 1234567890 V2ZMQT6556P8WMH38MTQ6YSM8UXCCRYQ5MDS4WJGLKMP7RGSWECBCMT77556P8WCE8KMTQ6YSMNXJCCRYQ59MD9WJGLKMCSESSWECBCMB76556P8WCU3NMTQ6YSMLUYCCRYQ5MET8WJGLKMPSMJSWECBCM57F556P8WCU3CMTQ6YSM9DECCRYQ59XSCWJGLKMPNE9SWECBCMB79556P8WCH8KMTQ6YSMDXECCRYQ5MTSMWJGLKMPYRMSWECBCB7W7556P8W
Note: The Company Name part may show up twice in your .license.dat file.
With some additional testing, I found that I could remove an existing .license.dat file (if one was present) and replace it with my shop’s site license’s .license.dat file. That allowed me to use the EndNote X8 installer produced by AutoPkg by having Casper install it, then apply our site license file as a post-installation action. For more details, see below the jump.
Recently, EndNote X8 was released. When the new version’s installer was downloaded, it was discovered to be an installer application, which can pose problems for deployment.
By itself, the change to an installer application may not have been a huge problem as long as it had options for running the installation process from the command line. However, when I checked with EndNote support about the new installer, I was told that there was no option for installing EndNote X8 on a Mac using the command line.
Since the EndNote X8 installer does not have the option of command line installation, the only real option I thought I had was to install EndNote X8, then re-package it as either a drag-and-drop install or an installer package. However, when I dug deeper into the installer, I discovered a .zip file buried inside the installer.
When expanded, this .zip file proved to be a complete install of EndNote X8.
When I ran the EndNote X8 installer, it appeared to be performing the following functions:
1. Checking for Endnote updates
2. Extracting the .zip file into a new EndNote X8 folder
3. Moving the new EndNote X8 folder into /Applications
4. Launching the EndNote X8 application, which automatically loads the EndNote X8 Customizer screen if EndNote hasn’t been configured.
For more details, see below the jump.
It’s often useful to provide a way for everyone in your shop to be able to look up commonly used websites. Methods I’ve seen of doing this include:
- Wiki pages
- Bookmarks deployed to browsers
- Browser extensions
Another method is to use Casper’s Self Service plug-ins feature.
This makes it easy to set up website bookmarks, which then appear in a sidebar of Self Service.
The main drawback to this method is you can’t scope these bookmarks to appear only to certain users or computers. These will appear on on all managed computers and to all users. If you need to have one set of bookmarks available to Group A in your organization, and a different set of bookmarks appearing to Group B, the Self Service plug-ins feature may not be the best solution.
Fortunately, you can solve this scoping issue using Casper policies and Self Service. For more details, see below the jump.
Recently, one of my customers had a problem with the font he needed not showing up in all applications. In this particular case, he wanted to use the Symbol font as part of a Keynote presentation he was preparing but it did not appear in Keynote’s font list.
Meanwhile, the Symbol font did appear in PowerPoint 2016’s font list.
Meanwhile, it was possible to copy and paste text using that font from PowerPoint and into Keynote, but then the font list in Keynote showed a blank entry in place of the name of the font.
What was going on? For more details, see below the jump.
I had one of my customers report a problem today after applying software updates to his Mac. His Mac had been able to automount certain network shares via NFS before the updates, but was unable to access those shares following the updates.
I connected remotely to the Mac and verified that I was unable to manually mount the NFS mounts.
When I tried to run the showmount command to get a list of the available NFS mounts on the server, I also received a timeout message:
I was about to send this on to the team that handled our NFS shares, when I remembered I hadn’t verified that I could access the server. Sure enough, I couldn’t:
I could ping Yahoo however, so I could contact the internet.
So I couldn’t access an internal network resource, but I could access the internet. What made this puzzling was that I was connecting remotely to the Mac via the IP address associated with this person’s Ethernet address. This IP address should not have had issues accessing internal network resources. What had happened? For more, see below the jump.