Flat Out of Time - Correcting the System Clock from the Login Window


Flat Out of Time - Correcting the System Clock from the Login Window

Some of the schools I work with have shared class sets of MacBooks. Their shared MacBooks are configured to connect to the school’s Wi-Fi (WPA2 enterprise network) at the login window. Sometimes the MacBooks are left in sleep mode for extended periods of time, causing the battery to deplete and the system clock to reset.

After the flat MacBooks are recharged and turned on, they fail to connect to Wi-Fi and this leads to users complaining that they cannot log in. This is due to the ‘Not Valid Before’ value of the Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) certificate being ahead of the system clock.

Correcting this issue would require a user to first realise the time is incorrect and then connect the MacBook to the network with an Ethernet cable or more commonly bring the MacBook to an IT Administrator with access to a local administrator account.

With the number of users coming to see me with this issue, I started looking into ways I could give the user the ability to correct the system time themselves from the login window and without an Ethernet cable. My idea was to create an application that appears over the top of the login window if the system clock is set to a date before 2015.

I found making an application visible at the login window surprisingly difficult. It wasn’t until I came across Apple’s PreLoginAgents sample code that I was a big step closer. Not long after that I had a working app that prompted users to correct the date and time after a flat battery.

To use, simply download the package from here and deploy it to your clients.


Deploy Finder's Sidebar List Favorites


Deploy Finder's Sidebar List Favorites

Recently I came across Matt Schalk's Change_Sidebar_list.py script for interacting with Finder’s sidebar list favorites.

His script really caught my attention as I have come across situations where network home directories are missing the default set of Finder sidebar favorites.

To easily deploy a standard set of Finder sidebar favorites I have created another script (setsidebarfavorites.sh) that interfaces with Matt’s Change_Sidebar_list.py script. This script was also created with Joseph Chilcote's outset in mind. Placing setsidebarfavorites.sh in /usr/local/outset/login-once/ will initially configure a user’s favorites and then leave it up to them to further customise.


1. Install changesidebarlist-1.0.pkg

2. Install outset.pkg

3. Install setsidebarfavorites-1.0.pkg



If you want to further customise the standard list of favorites included in setsidebarfavorites-1.0.pkg download and edit setsidebarfavorites.sh.

Once customised simply copy setsidebarfavorites.sh into /usr/local/outset/login-once/ on your client machines and correct the script's file permissions with:

sudo chown root:wheel /usr/local/outset && chmod -R 755 /usr/local/outset && xattr -rc /usr/local/outset


Dock Master - A Superior Profile Maker for Managing the Dock


Dock Master - A Superior Profile Maker for Managing the Dock

Recently I have been actively looking into the best solution for setting a custom dock on multiple machines.

Apple’s Profile Manager allows the creation of configuration profiles with dock settings. However, the functionality has some frustrating limitations:

  • There is no control over the order in which applications are displayed in the dock.
  • You can only add applications to Profile Manager if they are installed (note: can be dummy .app files) on the OS X Server host itself.
  • No home directory relative path support, therefore you cannot simply add a user’s Downloads folder to the dock.

The Search for Something Better

I tried Kyle Crawford’s dockutil command line tool and found it worked well for changing the dock of existing local accounts, but required scripting (LaunchAgent) to apply to newly created accounts.

I also had temperamental success in directly editing:

After that I tried using Tim Sutton’s mcxToProfile script to convert ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.plist into a profile. Unfortunately home directory relative folders were broken using this technique.

Get To The Good Stuff

Over the past week I started working on a tool to make generating dock configuration profiles easy and include all the features missing from other tools.

The advantages of my solution (Dock Master) include:

  • Support for home directory relative paths (e.g. ~/Downloads).
  • The ability to include applications that are not installed.
  • Inclusion of network shares and website links with custom labels.
  • The ability to set folder attributes (sort by, display as and view content as).

Dock Master is an intuitive way to customise and generate dock profiles. To help you get started I have included some sample data commonly featured in education docks and an example of a directory, share and website that can be edited/removed as required. Once all the desired alterations have been made the profile is ready to be downloaded and distributed.

Removable Dock Items

A few people have contacted me asking if there’s way to deploy a custom dock with removable items. Unfortunately, configuration profiles do not allow for this. Dock Master now works around this limitation by creating a dock preference file that is added to the User Template (new user accounts) and optionally replaces the dock plist in existing user accounts.

Below you will notice a lock icon next to each dock item, unlocked items are removable by the end user. If one or more dock items are unlocked, Dock Master generates a tar file (compressed archive) instead of a configuration profile.

Once the tar file (archive) is extracted you will have a folder containing a ‘makepackage.command’ script. To build your custom package, simply right click the script and select Open.

The resulting package can be deployed just like any other package (e.g. Apple Remote Desktop, AutoDMG, DeployStudio, Munki, etc).



Please provide the full path to the application (.app file).

Others (Folders/Shares/URLs)

Additional Options

Profile description:
Profile scope:
Prevent users from permanently modifying dock contents.
Merge with user's existing/default dock.
Add user's network home folder.
Maximum icon size (1-256):
Enable magnification. | Maximum magnification size (1-256):
Dock position:
Minimize windows using:
Apps animate (bounce) on open.
Automatically hide and show the dock.
Show indicators for open applications.
Minimise windows into app icon.
Create package instead of profile. | Apply to existing users. | Package version:

Do You Like Dock Master?

If you appreciate my work on Dock Master please consider making a donation. Dock Master has been a hobby project, I never developed it planning to make money (although my partner thinks I should) and I felt it was my way of contributing to the Mac Admin community. Donations help offset server hosting costs and access to resources.



I have downloaded my fancy dock profile/package, how do I push it out to all my users?
There are several ways to distribute profiles and packages, I recommend simply importing them straight into Munki.

What happens if I want to change a Dock Master profile already installed on my clients?
Dock Master profiles use the dock name as the profile identifier, therefore if you use the same name the new dock profile will overwrite the old. Dock Master packages simply overwrite any prior installed Dock Master package.

Can I reorder dock items?
Yes, simply click and drag the ≡ sign to change the position of a dock item.

I still don’t get it, why would I use this?
It's free!!!

In education environments younger students find it difficult to find an application in Finder or the Launchpad, therefore having applications sitting in the dock allows students to independently access the applications they need.

This tool allows advanced customisation and quick generation of dock profiles that can be applied to different device groups (e.g. Art, Music, Junior School Macs).

And lastly because it's awesome!

Where can I find the source code?

I was surprised with the demand for Dock Master. Since its release I have rewritten Dock Master (originally PHP) into a native OS X Swift command-line tool for offline use. You can find the source code on GitHub here.


Video Hoarder - A Free youtube-dl GUI


Video Hoarder - A Free youtube-dl GUI

Video Hoarder is an Automator application for providing a graphical user interface (GUI) to the command-line tool ‘youtube-dl.’ Anyone is welcome to further modify Video Hoarder.


  1. Install FFmpeg
  2. Install FFprobe
  3. Download, open and drag Video Hoarder into Applications


Usage Tips

  • If you see a message "<FILENAME> can't be opened because it is from an unidentified developer" try right clicking on the file and selecting Open
  • Whilst downloading you will see a small gear rotating in the top right corner of the screen
  • You will be notified when the download is complete


The image below loosely explains Video Hoarder's Automator workflow.


Munki Business - A Guide to Munki 2


Munki Business - A Guide to Munki 2

A lot has changed since my original post on Munki 1, with Munki 2 well and truly out I have taken the opportunity to write an updated guide on Munki 2.

What is Munki?

Munki is a community driven project created by Greg Neagle, allowing IT Administrators to efficiently deploy software to large numbers of Macs.

A Munki implementation can be broken down into two core parts;
a) repository hosted on a web server
b) bunch of clients running the Munki software

A Munki Repository

Since a Munki repository is simply a collection of organised files served out by a web server it can be hosted on any web server (e.g. IIS, Apache, etc.) regardless of platform. In the situation where the repository is hosted on a remote server, Administrators can remotely edit the repository over a network share.

Every Munki repository is comprised of the following four directories:
pkgs: All package (.pkg) and disk image (.dmg, .iso) files.

pkgsinfo: For each piece of software in the pkgs directory there is an associated file in pkgsinfo. These files contain detailed information about that piece of software and the catalog(s) that software is assigned to. Conventionally these pkgsinfo files have the .plist extension.

catalogs: Catalog files are generated from the contents of pkginfo files, they are used to separate production (tested) from development (untested) versions of software.

manifests: Clients are configured to download a particular manifest file. These manifest files contain a list of software to install and the catalog (version) to use.

Note: Apart from the contents of pkgs every other directory contains standard Extensible Markup Language (XML) files.

With the release of Munki 2, there are three additional directories:
artwork: A place to store any images used within software descriptions.

client_resources: Home to the Managed Software Center application theme files.

icons: Contains images (.png) used as software icons in the Managed Software Center application. The recommended icon resolution is 300x300.

Setting Up a Repository

The steps for setting up a Munki repository vary depending on web server and platform. For OS X the standard procedure involves creating a ‘munki_repo’ directory in ‘/Users/Shared/‘, populating it with the directories listed above. Then creating a symbolic link from ‘/Users/Shared/munki_repo’ to ‘/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default/’ and enabling the OS X Server web server.

Managing Munki Repositories

Download and install the latest release of Munki Tools here.

Part of Munki Tools are the Munki Admin Tools for command-line management of Munki repositories. Unless you enjoy working purely in the command-line, I recommend downloading Hannes Juutilainen’s MunkiAdmin, a user-friendly application for managing Munki repositories. 

Install AutoPkg

AutoPkg automates the process of downloading and importing third party software updates straight into the Munki repository. Look at setting up AutoPkg by following my guide here.

Manually Importing New Software

If you wish to manually import a piece of software here are the steps:

Before we can use the Munki Admin Tools we need to complete the initial setup. To start the setup open Terminal and type:

munkiimport --configure

The 'Repo fileshare URL' can be left blank if the Munki repository is stored on the local disk, otherwise provide a network share path (e.g. smb://SERVERADDRESS/munki_repo).

I recommend following the guidelines below, to keep your Munki repository tidy:
First rename the software you wish to import:

  • Match the name to the software (e.g. jre-7u67-macosx-x64.dmg > java.dmg).
  • Only use lowercase letters (e.g. Firefox 32.0.3.dmg > firefox.dmg).
  • Do not use dashes, underscores or spaces (e.g. Skype_6.19.0.452.dmg > skype.dmg).
  • Delete version numbers (e.g. vlc-2.1.5.dmg > vlc.dmg).
  • Omit the developer’s name (e.g. googlechrome.dmg > chrome.dmg).

Once renamed open Terminal and type ‘munkiimport ‘ (take note of the trailing space).
Drag the renamed package onto the Terminal window and hit return.
When prompted for an item name enter the name of the package without the extension (e.g. firefox.dmg > firefox).
The display name can contain spaces and capitals (e.g. Flash Player).
The description can be left blank for now, as it can be added in later with MunkiAdmin.
The version number is pulled from the software, verify it is accurate and hit return, otherwise type in the correct version number.
When prompted for a category, use the Mac App Store categories as a guide (e.g. Productivity, Utilities, etc).
Enter the developer’s name (e.g. Apple, Google, etc).
When prompted for Catalogs hit return.
You will be presented with a summary of your input, if you are happy that it is all correct type y and hit return.
Just hit return when asked for a subdirectory path.
Munki may offer to extract an icon, type y and hit return. 
You are given a chance to make any alterations to the newly generated pkginfo file, simply press control + X.
Lastly you are asked if you would like to rebuild catalogs, type y and hit return.

Assigning Software to Manifests

To put it simply manifests contain lists of software to install and the catalogs (software version) to use. Software can either be set as mandatory (managed_installs) or optional (optional_installs). Optional installs provide a self-service experience similar to the Mac App Store.

MunkiAdmin makes the process of assigning software to manifests simple, just add a new item under either the Installs tab (mandatory) or the Optional Installs tab.

As seen in the diagram below, every Mac installs a SOE (Standard Operating Environment) suite of software. Depending on the Mac’s location (e.g. Art, Music, etc.) and the intended user type (e.g. staff or student), additional software (e.g. Photoshop, Sibelius, etc.) is installed. Since Munki clients can only check a single manifest, I have dealt with this limitation by stacking manifests.

It may seem confusing at first, but once the manifest infrastructure is in place, assigning new software to all relevant clients is simple. The green bubbles are manifests that clients check and we normally avoid adding any software directly to these. Yellow are purely for merging manifests, again nothing should be added to these. Blue are core attributes (e.g. laptop, staff, science, etc.) and software is assigned to these.

Configuring Munki Clients

Once Munki Tools is installed, clients need to be configured with the Munki repository's address and which manifest to check. Often these settings are configured using DeployStudio, a payload-free package or another means of script execution. This can be performed manually in Terminal with:

defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls.plist SoftwareRepoURL http://SERVERADDRESS/munki_repo
defaults write /Library/Preferences/ManagedInstalls.plist ClientIdentifier MANIFESTNAME

Testing Software

Before pushing out software to every Munki client it is important to thoroughly test that it works as expected. You should configure at least one test machine the same way as the rest of your client’s with the exception of pointing it to a testing manifest.

A testing manifest should include both the development and production catalogs, as well as a manifest directly accessed by clients.

Once that piece of software has been deemed stable, add it to the production catalog and watch as the rest of your clients install it.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have read this far, you should be starting to get an understanding of how useful and feature rich Munki is. For readability I have chosen to tackle common queries I receive regarding Munki.

How does Munki know what is already installed?
Any applications installed by simply dragging and dropping them into Applications are detected by Munki. If a user deletes a drag and drop app from Applications Munki will notice its absence and reinstall it.

With package files, Munki indirectly checks for the existence of receipt files, therefore deleting the associated .plist and .bom files of a package in /var/db/receipts will cause Munki to reinstall that package.

Managed Software Center keeps attempting to install the same package over and over. What’s going wrong?
If MSC loops on a package, compare the receipts listed in the pkginfo file to the receipts present in the '/var/db/receipts/' directory. Once you figure out the missing receipt(s) mark them as optional (ignored).

You can also use Terminal’s ‘pkgutil’ command to search for installed receipts. In the example below I am searching for receipts containing the word xerox, the (?i) part ignores case and .* are wildcards.

Can we customise the banners in Managed Software Center?
Absolutely! You can even customise the sidebar and footer links. The official Munki wiki does a great job covering this in detail here.

How frequently does Munki check for updates?
After ten seconds of inactivity at the login window Munki will automatically install any locally cached updates.

By default a launch daemon is set to run ‘/usr/local/munki/supervisor’ ten minutes past every hour. The supervisor generates a random delay of up to sixty minutes to help stagger clients contacting the Munki repository. Once the delay is over supervisor triggers ‘/usr/local/munki/managedsoftwareupdate’, if there are new updates the logged in user is notified by Managed Software Center.

Note: Munki is also capable of installing software without any user intervention. This is achieved  by enabling 'Unattended install' in MunkiAdmin.

Will Managed Software Center work outside of the organisation?
As long as the web server hosting the Munki repository is externally accessible MSC will also work externally. If you plan on hosting a Munki repository on a public web server you should also configure SSL Client Certificates to ensure access to the repository is limited to permitted clients. 

How can I remotely trigger Munki clients to check for updates?
Using Apple Remote Desktop you can trigger groups of Macs to instantly check the Munki repository for updates and install.

Trigger Munki instantly regardless of whether a user is logged in:

/usr/local/munki/managedsoftwareupdate;/usr/local/munki/managedsoftwareupdate --installonly

Trigger Munki to run the moment the current user logs out or if nobody is currently logged in:

touch /Users/Shared/.com.googlecode.munki.checkandinstallatstartup

Tip: You can save those commands as Unix command templates in ARD.

How do I go about troubleshooting a Munki issue?
Since the Munki repository is just a bunch of files served out by a web server, almost all troubleshooting is performed from Munki clients.

On a client open Terminal and run:

sudo managedsoftwareupdate

This will immediately display any issues with the repository. You can also check the client log files stored in ‘/Library/Managed Installs/Logs/‘.

How do we update the version of Munki Tools running on clients?
AutoPkg makes it easy to keep your Munki clients up-to-date with frequently updated software (e.g. Flash Player, Java, etc.). You can quickly set up AutoPkg by following my guide here. There is a munkitools2.munki.recipe override included in my collection of recipe overrides. This will automatically import the latest release of Munki Tools into your Munki repository, as four separate packages:
munkitools_core.pkg: The required core command-line tools used by Munki.
munkitools_admin.pkg: The optional admin command-line tools for managing Munki repositories.
munkitools_app.pkg: The user-friendly Managed Software Center application.
munkitools_launchd.pkg: The launchd items to automate checking for updates.

The only package that should be assigned to a manifest is the munkitools_app, the rest are either marked as ‘required’ or ‘update for’ packages that would be installed regardless.


Separating System and User Data with DeployStudio


Separating System and User Data with DeployStudio

Some end-users seem to find new ways to mess-up their computers, instead of spending a lengthy time trying to undo the damage, IT Staff can simply reimage a Mac with DeployStudio.

Placing the operating system (OS X & Applications) and user data (home directories) on separate partitions makes the process of restoring/upgrading the operating system even faster as there is no longer a need to migrate user data. 

Below I have listed the steps to configure DeployStudio to set up Macs with separate partitions for operating system and user data.


In DeployStudio create a new workflow titled ‘Partition’. The first item to add is a safeguard Alert task, followed by a Partition task. Allocate 80 GB to ‘System’ and the remaining space to the ‘Data’ partition. Also set ‘Target volume’ to ‘First disk available.’

Now edit your existing Reimage workflow. Before your ‘Restore’ task add a ‘Workflow’ task and set ‘Embed workflow’ to ‘Returned by script…’ and the script to ‘check_partitions.sh’. The check_partitions.sh script can be downloaded from here.

The check_partitions.sh script:

  • Skips partitioning if the System and Data partitions already exist.
  • Partitions the disk if neither System or Data partitions are found.
  • Aborts the DeployStudio workflow if only one of the partitions are found.

Under your ‘Restore’ task set the ‘Target volume’ to ‘System’ and ‘Rename volume’ to ‘System’.

After the ‘Restore’ task add a ‘Generic’ task, set the command to ‘redirect_users.sh’, check ‘Postponed execution’ and ‘Automate.’ The redirect_users.sh script can be downloaded from here.

The redirect_users.sh script:

  1. Removes the standard Users directory from the System partition. 
  2. Creates a symbolic link pointing Users to /Volumes/Data/Users.
  3. Recreates the /Users/Shared directory on the Data partition.


That’s it, happy reimaging!


Additional Information

Size Restriction
Unlike the standard single Macintosh HD partition layout, users are limited by the size of the Data partition. This can be an issue for small (<128 GB) MacBook Air SSDs. If your Macs are low on storage I recommend taking a look at this DeployStudio guide.

Always Backup
Although reimaging a machine with the above set up should not affect the Data partition you should always ensure your user has an up-to-date backup (e.g. Time Machine) beforehand.

No FileVault Support
Working mainly in school environments there has never been a demand for encrypting user data. Feedback from MacEnterprise.org members has brought to my attention that FileVault only encrypts the OS X partition (System) and not the Data partition. If you plan on using FileVault the only option is to keep everything on a single partition.

Missing Finder Icons
If a home directory path contains a symbolic link there is a bug in Finder where the pretty sidebar/home folder icons are missing. This issue occurs because we are using a symbolic link to redirect the Users directory.

To correct this issue OS X needs to be updated with the actual path to the user’s home directory. This can be done in System Preferences > Users & Groups, unlock the preferences and right click your user account > Advanced Options and update ‘Home directory,’ with the actual path (e.g. /Volumes/Data/Users/mpage).

This can also be achieved in Terminal with the ‘dscl' command by updating a user’s ‘NFSHomeDirectory’ attribute.

To automate this for school environments I have created a LaunchDaemon script, set to run on startup. This script updates all local user accounts with their actual home directory paths. You can download the script from here.


Creating a Never-booted OS X Standard Operating Environment (SOE) with AutoDMG

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Creating a Never-booted OS X Standard Operating Environment (SOE) with AutoDMG

In the past creating an OS X SOE image would involve performing a clean install of OS X, installing Applications, configuring any special settings, booting into single-user mode to remove any cache and machine specific files and lastly creating a restorable disk image.

This process is time consuming, has many easy to forget steps and discourages image updating. Thankfully we now have AutoDMG, a user-friendly Mac application for creating never-booted OS X disk images.

Instead of telling you how amazing it is you can try it yourself, it’s easy!

Simply download the latest release of AutoDMG here.

To make any use of AutoDMG you will also need a copy of the Install OS X Yosemite application. You can download the latest version of OS X Yosemite from the Mac App Store here.

Open AutoDMG and drag and drop the Install OS X Yosemite application onto AutoDMG.

AutoDMG can download and install the Apple software updates released post that version of the Install OS X Yosemite application. AutoDMG is also capable of installing additional custom packages.

Click Build, select where you wish to save the image and wait.

The resulting image can then be copied straight into a DeployStudio repository.

Bonus Tips

After a major OS X combo update is released you should delete and re-download the OS X installer from the Mac App Store, as they are also updated.

In my experience packages containing preinstall and/or postinstall scripts are unreliable. The AutoDMG documentation here explains why that is. However, packages that simply copy files to a directory work reliably. If your package contains scripts, attempt a build and test the image. If it doesn’t work as expected consider repackaging it with AutoDMG friendly scripts, or simplify it down to a basic payload only package (copy various files to various directories).

I recommend only including large package files in an SOE, leaving all other packages to your preferred software package management system (e.g. Munki, Casper, etc).

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Capturing Package Files with PkgKeeper


Capturing Package Files with PkgKeeper

Deploying software via Munki is an excellent asset to sites managing fleets of Macs. Sometimes however, a package will not be listed directly on Apple's Support website and also may not be taking advantage of OS X Server's Caching Service. This is why I created the script PkgKeeper. The script works by monitoring filesystem access and if a pkg or dmg file is detected a hard link of the file is created on the user’s desktop.

At this point you may be asking yourself “what is a hard link?” Every unique file on a Unix (the foundation of OS X) filesystem has an inode (index node). One of the attributes of an inode is ‘link count.’ The link count is the number of hard links to a file.

Normally a file has a link count of just one, but when a new hard link is created that link count is incremented by one. Naturally, removing a file decrements the link count by one. It is not until the link count reaches zero that the inode is removed and the space is marked as available for use.

Under normal circumstances once an update package is installed and the package is removed the file's link count goes from one to zero. However, PkgKeeper creates another hard link of the file while it is still in use setting the file's link count to two. This stops the file from hitting a link count of zero and being completely removed.


Using The Script

Open Terminal and paste the following to download the script:

curl -O https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Error-freeIT/PkgKeeper/master/pkgkeeper.sh

Make the script executable:

chmod +x pkgkeeper.sh

Run the script:

sudo ./pkgkeeper.sh

Start downloading an update and watch as the script captures the package file.

Note for OS X 10.11 users: El Capitan's System Integrity Protection prevents this script from working. To temporally disable SIP boot into a recovery partition or 10.11 USB installer, open Terminal and type 'csrutil enable --without dtrace'.

Bonus Tips

In Terminal you can view a file's link count with the command:

stat -f '%l' FILE_NAME

The inode also contains the User ID, Group ID and file mode attributes of the file. Therefore all hard links will have the same user, group ownership and access permissions.

Once the update is installed the original process deletes its hard link to the file. This means it is no longer accessing the file and we are safe to edit the file's ownership. The easiest way to do this is by editing the 'Sharing & Permissions' section in the 'Get Info' window.


Installing & Automating AutoPkg with a Launch Daemon

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Installing & Automating AutoPkg with a Launch Daemon

UPDATE (1/12/15): Since AutoPkgr now supports recipe overrides I recommend using AutoPkgr over my headless script.

AutoPkg is a great tool for downloading and packaging software for distribution. It also integrates nicely with Munki. After testing AutoPkg I looked into methods to further automate the updating process. I came across Sean Kaiser’s blog detailing how he created a script and triggered it using a launch daemon. I took his script as an example and began to build my own, with a few extra tweaks.

My AutoPkg Wrapper triggers AutoPkg to run once daily at 8:30am, dynamically checking for updates to user recipe overrides and sending an email in the event of a new package.

Without further ado I will walk you through setting up AutoPkg and automating it with my AutoPkg Wrapper.

Note: If you haven’t already, it is important to install Munki and AutoPkg.


Configuring AutoPkg

First we need to add the main recipe repository to AutoPkg, we do this by opening Terminal and typing:

autopkg repo-add http://github.com/autopkg/recipes.git

Note: AutoPkg requires Git to be installed, if it is not installed you will be prompted to install it from Apple Software Update.

Next we need to set the location of our Munki repository:

defaults write com.github.autopkg MUNKI_REPO "/PATH/TO/MUNKI_REPO"

AutoPkg uses recipe overrides to override default or unspecified recipe attributes. My Munki repositories follow a consistent naming convention and therefore I create recipe overrides for every AutoPkg recipe used. Below are the criteria for packages added to my Munki repositories:

  • Packages are placed directly into pkgs and not into subdirectories.
  • Packages are named in lowercase (e.g. Firefox.dmg > firefox.dmg).
  • Packages do not contain the developer’s name (e.g. googlechrome.dmg > chrome.dmg).
  • Packages are initially added to the development catalog.
  • The pkginfo display_name attribute is set to match the package name with proper case and spaces (e.g. flashplayer.dmg > Flash Player).
  • The unattended_installs pkginfo attribute is disabled.
  • The developer and category pkginfo attributes are set.


Optionally you can download and install my collection of AutoPkg recipe overrides from GitHub:

git clone https://github.com/Error-freeIT/AutoPkg-Recipe-Overrides.git ~/Library/AutoPkg/RecipeOverrides


With AutoPkg configured let’s test a recipe:

autopkg run -v AdobeFlashPlayer.munki

Automating AutoPkg

If that worked it’s time to automate AutoPkg, download and run the autopkgwrapper installer:

git clone https://github.com/Error-freeIT/AutoPkg-Wrapper.git /tmp/autopkgwrapper && cd /tmp/autopkgwrapper && sudo ./install.sh

The install script requires administrator privileges and therefore will prompt for a password, as it copies the script and launch daemon into place and opens the script in Nano for configuration.

Update the ACCOUNT_NAME value to match the account name (a.k.a. username) containing the recipe overrides and update the EMAIL_FROM and EMAIL_TO addresses.

Note: To save changes in the Nano text editor press control + X, type y and hit return.

That’s it! Once set up you will be emailed when new items are added to the Munki repository. Standard workflow would then involve testing the new software and if the new software is stable, simply add it to your production catalog.


Troubleshooting The AutoPkg Wrapper

This AutoPkg Wrapper was intended to only be run as a launch daemon (by root) to manually run the AutoPkg Wrapper type:

sudo "/Library/Scripts/AutoPkg Wrapper/autopkgwrapper.sh"

You can update your email settings by typing:

sudo nano "/Library/Scripts/AutoPkg Wrapper/autopkgwrapper.sh"

By default the installed launch daemon is set to run daily at 8:30am, if you want to further customise how often the script is run I recommend editing the launch daemon with Lingon X.

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DeployStudio Rsync Backup & Restore User Data


DeployStudio Rsync Backup & Restore User Data

The MacBook Air is a great laptop and thanks to its SSD (Solid-state Drive), it provides impressive read and write speeds. The only problem is that SSD storage is expensive and the approach of storing user data on a separate partition becomes unfeasible with the limited space. One site running a fleet of 64GB MacBook Airs found themselves manually backing up user data before reimaging, then manually restoring the user's data.

To help improve their workflow, I investigated methods of backing up user data during reimaging with DeployStudio. I came across the BackupRestore scripts by Rusty Myers and they looked great for backing up and restoring over a gigabit network (up to 125 MB/s). However, since all reimaging at this site occurs in the I.T. Office, I wanted to make use of the jaw-dropping speeds of USB 3.0 (up to 525 MB/s) and Thunderbolt (up to 1.25 GB/s). Of course, real world transfer rates are less due to disk read/write speeds, but it’s still a substantial improvement over gigabit Ethernet speeds.

My solution involves two scripts, a backup script ran just before DeployStudio reimages the internal disk and a restore script executed on first boot.

To further speed up the backup/restore process, unwanted data is skipped with rsync’s --include-from option, allowing pattern filtering of the items backed up and restored. A good example use is skipping the restore of ~/Library/Caches directories.


Setting up the required workflows is straightforward and takes approximately 10 minutes. To try it out simply follow the steps below.

Download backup.sh, restore.sh, backup_filter.txt and restore_filter.txt from GitHub here.

Copy backup.sh and restore.sh into your DeployStudio Scripts directory.

Copy backup_filter.txt and restore_filter.txt into your DeployStudio Files directory.

Open DeployStudio and create a workflow called 'Backup', add a ‘Generic’ script task and select backup.sh from the ‘Command’ drop-down list.

Create another workflow called ‘Restore’ and add a file copy task. Set the ‘Target volume’ to ‘Macintosh HD’, select ‘restore_filter.txt’ from the ‘File’ drop-down list and set the ‘Path’ to ‘/Library/Scripts’. Add a ‘Generic’ script task and select ‘restore.sh’ from the ‘Command’ drop-down list and check ‘Postponed execution (command will be launched on first boot).’

Create a third workflow called ‘Backup + Reimage + Restore’ and drag over three ‘Workflow’ tasks. As you can probably guess, the first ‘Workflow’ task is set to ‘Backup’. The second is your standard workflow for reimaging and the last is ‘Restore’.

Duplicate this workflow, rename it to ‘Reimage + Restore’ and remove the first backup ‘Workflow’ task. This workflow is used to restore a backup to a different Mac.

Lastly, uncheck the Publish checkboxes next to your reimage and ‘Restore’ workflows.

Time To Test

Before proceeding make sure you have a backup of any important data!

Format a USB/Thunderbolt/FireWire external disk, with the name 'Backups' and connect it to a Mac you wish to reimage.

NetBoot into DeployStudio and test out the new workflows.

Rapid Backup & Restore

Unfortunately, todays MacBook Airs only have one Thunderbolt port and during reimaging, that port is taken up by a Thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter. Although untested, I believe a Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock would allow NetBooting into DeployStudio while attaching a Thunderbolt SSD.

Mac Migration

To migrate a user from one Mac to another, first run the the Backup workflow to take a backup of the source Mac. Connect the external disk to another Mac you will see a directory with the serial number of the source Mac. Simply rename the directory to the serial number of the destination Mac. Connect the backup disk to the destination Mac and then run a ‘Reimage + Restore’ workflow on the new Mac.

It is important to note that the restore script does not recreate user accounts, it just transfers user home directories. This is by design as the creation of the mobile account occurs when a user logs into the Mac for the first time.

Backup Archive

After successfully restoring a backup, it is moved into /Volumes/Backups/Restored/. This allows for recovery of any files that may have been skipped during restore, due to restore_filter.txt rules.