A lot of Mac admins need to test software in their environment against both the shipping version of macOS and older versions of OS X. However, getting older OS installers from the Mac App Store (MAS) can be problematic if the Mac you’re using isn’t able to run the older OS as its own operating system. If the Mac you’re using isn’t itself able to run the older OS, a request to download the OS installer from the MAS will result in an error message like the one shown below.
If you’re in this situation, but also have VMware Fusion or a similar virtualization solution available, there is a way to download the desired older OS installer using a VM running the shipping version of macOS. For more details, see below the jump.
As part of assisting a colleague with a customer today, I needed to figure out how to enable the debug logging for Microsoft AutoUpdate. For Mac admins with a similar need, please see below the jump for details.
On some occasions, it’s useful to be able to make a full backup of a system on an ad-hoc basis. One example would be making a complete backup of a Mac’s boot drive before sending it in to Apple for a repair, as Apple may swap out or erase the Mac’s existing boot drive as part of the repair process if their tools indicate a drive problem.
When I’ve needed to do this, I’ve used DeployStudio for this task. The reason why is that DeployStudio includes the ability to do the following:
- Create an asr-ready disk image from a Mac’s boot drive containing the OS and all other data.
- Restore the disk image to an available volume on the same or different Mac, and setting the target volume to be bootable.
These capabilities were originally designed to allow monolithic images to be created from one Mac for distribution to other Macs, but these capabilities also allow DeployStudio to create on-demand backups of a Mac’s boot drive. For more details, see below the jump.
One of the practices that has historically helped Macs fit better into enterprise environments has been to bind Macs to Active Directory (AD) domains and use AD mobile accounts, using either Apple’s own AD directory service plug-in or a third-party product like Centrify. However, this practice has meant that the password for the mobile account is being controlled by a service located outside of the AD-bound Mac. This has led to problems in the following areas:
With the recent availability of tools like Apple’s Enterprise Connect and NoMAD, it’s now possible to provide the advantages of being connected to Active Directory to your Mac without actually having to bind your Mac to an AD domain. This has led to more environments not binding their Macs to AD and using either Enterprise Connect or NoMAD with local accounts.
With local accounts, all password management is done on the individual Mac. This means that problems with keychain and FileVault password synchronization are vastly reduced because the password change mechanism for a local account includes updating both the keychain and FileVault 2 automatically with the new authentication credentials.
For those shops that have been binding their Macs and using mobile accounts, but want to switch to the new local accounts + Enterprise Connect / NoMAD model, there is an account-related challenge to overcome:
How to transition from an AD mobile account, where the password is managed by AD, to a local account, where the password is managed by the individual Mac, with the least amount of disruption for your users?
To assist with this process, I’ve developed a script that can take an existing AD mobile account and migrate it to being a local account with the same username, password, UID, and GID. For more details, see below the jump.
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.