TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac in the Shell: The man Show

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 05
Column Tag: Mac in the Shell

Mac in the Shell: The man Show

Learning shell utilities with and without man

By Edward Marczak

Introduction

Documentation. The ugly reality is that it's usually an afterthought for a project, if completed at all. We like to code, we like to connect systems, but rarely do we like to document the work. man ("manual") pages, the built-in documentation system, have thousands of entries for shell utilities. Depending on the author, these entries range from well-written, humorous and pleasurable reading, down to sparse, terse and frustrating. Sometimes, the simple act of giving usage examples would make all the difference in usefulness and clarity. While I can't cover every shell utility here, I would like to point out some that you should know about, but that may not have the best documentation or just lack examples.

networksetup

Just as the name implies, networksetup is a utility to configure the network interfaces on a Mac OS X machine. There's no man page for this one at all. By default, it's not even in your path. Currently, under OS 10.4 ("Tiger"), you'll find networksetup located at: /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/ARDAgent.app/Contents/Support/networksetup (whew!). There is, though, a usage statement printed if you run the command but lists no options and provides no examples.

Since OS X uses configd to inform the system of its current configuration state, the old-school utilities, such as ifconfig don't really work too well. Oh, yes, they can read the current state of the network, but setting it is another matter. This will work for a little bit, at least until configd receives a change event and reconfigures things for you.

networksetup uses terminology that is closer to the OS X GUI than traditional devices, too. First thing you typically need to figure out are the names of the network services being offered -- a.k.a. the interface names:

# networksetup -listallnetworkservices
An asterisk (*) denotes that a network service is disabled.
Bluetooth
Built-in Ethernet
Built-in FireWire
AirPort
Parallels Host-Guest
Parallels NAT
VPN (L2TP)

(You do, by the way, need admin level privileges to run this utility). You'll note that these names correspond to the names in the Network System Pane:


Figure 1 -- Interface names

If you rename the interface in the Network Pane, networksetup will see it that way, too. A possibly more useful list, if you're on a machine that you're not familiar with yet, is gained from the -listnetworkservice order switch. It shows both the interface name and the order that OS X uses it:

# networksetup -listnetworkserviceorder
An asterisk (*) denotes that a network service is disabled.
(1) Bluetooth
(Hardware Port: Bluetooth, Device: Bluetooth-Modem)
(2) Built-in Ethernet
(Hardware Port: Built-in Ethernet, Device: en0)
(3) Built-in FireWire
(Hardware Port: Built-in FireWire, Device: fw0)
(4) AirPort
(Hardware Port: AirPort, Device: en1)
(5) Parallels Host-Guest
(Hardware Port: Parallels Host-Guest, Device: en2)
(6) Parallels NAT
(Hardware Port: Parallels NAT, Device: en3)
(7) VPN (L2TP)
(Hardware Port: Windows L2TP, Device: )

This list is a great reminder that routes may be overridden by the order of interfaces.

Well, how about setting up the device? There are switches that act like each of the settings in the GUI:


Figure 2 -- How d'ya like your interface?

Probably of most interest is "-setmanual". To configure the built-in Ethernet interface to have an IPv4 address of 192.168.50.77, with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and a default gateway of 192.168.50.1, you'd use this:

networksetup -setmanual "Built-in Ethernet" 192.168.50.77 255.255.255.0 192.168.50.1

One nice trick that doesn't seem apparent from the usage help, but has worked for me (up through 10.4.9), is that the router is optional. This is critically important when you're configuring an interface that will be active along with another.

The second option in our list is "-setmanualwithdhcprouter". This is just like "-setmanual", without being able to specify the subnet or router:

networksetup -setmanual "Built-in Ethernet" 192.168.50.77

Setting an interface to use DHCP is simple:

networksetup --setdhcp "AirPort"

You can also supply a client id after the interface name, if necessary. You can also clear the current client id by using "Empty" as the client ID name.

Similar to "-setdhcp" is "-setbootp". The command is the same as "-setdhcp", however, bootp doesn't support a client id, so, nor does this command.

Finally, "-setnetworkserviceenabled" roughly corresponds to "Off". This can turn the service "off" or "on":

networksetup -setnetworkserviceenabled "Bluetooth" off

If you run this while the Network Pane is open in the GUI, the GUI will alert you with, "Your network settings have been changed by another application" -- just something to be aware of. It then places an asterisk next to the name of the interface when using "-listallnetworkservices" and "-listnetworkserviceorder".

Finally, there are some very useful Airport specific commands. Different than enabling or disabling the interface, you can also turn power to the Airport off completely:

networksetup -setairportpower off

Of course, you can turn it back on with the same switch and a parameter of "on". You can also check the current state with "-getairportpower".

Of greater use, though, is the ability to programmatically set which network to connect to, using "-setairportnetwork":

networksetup -setairportnetwork "BigNet" SekurePa$$wd

Here too, you can find out the current state with a 'get' variant:

networksetup -getairportnetwork
Current AirPort Network: SuperAirNet

The networksetup command is very powerful and very thorough! In addition to the options I covered here, you can do anything that you can do in the GUI: create VLANs, turn AppleTalk on or off, set proxy configuration and more. It's a good command to be familiar with for scripting, remote setup and just to do things the "OS X way!"

scp

"scp" is the secure copy program. It's part of the ssh suite, which means that any remote machine you can connect to via ssh, you can also copy programs to and from. While there is a man page for this one, it doesn't have example usage. Also, I find that not enough people know about or use it -- even those who use ssh on a regular basis. scp is simple, really. To copy a local file to a remote machine, use this:

scp local_file my_id@server.example.com:/path/to/file/filename

You'll be asked for a password from the remote machine. Then, given permission on the remote, you'll see a progress meter that shows the file in transit. In my example, "my_id" is the id you use on the remote machine. (For those of you that may want to date yourself, unlike ssh, scp does not accept the "-l" (ell) switch to pass in your credentials -- a switch that ssh supplies to make the transition from telnet easier!).

The colon character (":") separates the hostname from the path. This can be a relative path, too. The starting location is the remote id's home directory. Also, like ssh, if unspecified, your current id is supplied. So, if I wanted to copy a file to my home directory on my test box, I could simplify the command down to this:

scp local_file lycaeum.radiotope.com:

Do note the trailing colon character. Without it, you'll just make a local copy of the file -- in this case, named "lycaeum.radiotope.com".

To copy from a remote machine, just reverse the order of the files, putting remote information first. To copy "filename" from the remote to your machine as "local_file", try this:

scp my_id@remote.example.com:/path/to/file/filename local_file

Again, to use the same name as the remote, simply omit it on the local side:

scp lycaeum.radiotope.com:program-4.7.6.tar.gz ./

If you're thinking of using this in an unattended script, you'll need to authenticate via keys so that you're not prompted for a password. While there are plenty of examples on the web of how to do this, for the sake of completeness, here is the short version:

Open up a shell on the local computer, and log into the correct local account.

Generate a public-private keypair by typing "ssh-keygen -t rsa". Leave the passphrase empty. This creates the files "id_rsa" and "id_rsa.pub" in the .ssh directory in this account's home directory.

Copy only id_rsa.pub to the remote machine using scp.

Login to the remote machine, and add the contents of id_rsa.pub to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys. You can use redirection to do this, as the authorized_keys file may already exist: cat id_rsa.pub >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Logout of the remote machine, and test the setup using ssh. Try to ssh back into the remote machine. This time, you should not be prompted for a password.

Using keys in this manner, you'll be able to setup scp copies in an unattended script.

ssh and File Copy Programs

You may use ssh every day. You may use some of its more advanced features. But it is impossible to Know ssh. For every feature that you use, there seems to be another that you didn't know even existed. Did you know that ssh accepts input on standard in (stdin) and will simply shove it through the tunnel, popping it out on the other side?

What does that mean to us? Well, you can just gather up your data and pipe it to ssh:

tar czf - /path/to/file | ssh

Of course, we need to do something with it once it gets to the other side. How about expanding it somewhere? Let's imagine that we wanted to tar up the local /www directory and get it to a remote machine with its hierarchy intact:

tar czf - /www | ssh "cd /; tar xzfvp -"

Now, tar is a very nice solution -- most of the time. It's had a bit of an on-again off-again brokenness to it under OS X regarding resource fork copying. As I write this article, using OS X 10.4.9 Intel, tar works very nicely for copying resource forks. One other huge advantage to tar is that it preserves dates on copy. But, in fact, ditto will do this too, along with preserving all of the other OS X-specific data that it normally does. A simple example is a webloc file, which typically is resource-fork only (text clippings are also resource fork only). Fire up Safari, load a page and then drag the icon from the location bar to your desktop. Now you have a resource fork only file to work with:

$ cd Desktop
$ ls -l Weather\ Map.webloc 
-rw-r--r--   1 marczak  marczak  0 Apr 15 08:33 Weather Map.webloc
$ ls -l Weather\ Map.webloc/..namedfork/rsrc
-rw-r--r--   1 marczak  marczak  837 Apr 15 08:33 Weather Map.webloc/..namedfork/rsrc

Let's move this file to a remote machine using ditto. Again, I'm going to copy to my test server (lycaeum) and rely on the fact that by default, ssh plops me into my home directory. If you want to write the data elsewhere, replace the "./" path with one that suits you (and you have permission for). Here it is:

ditto -c Weather\ Map.webloc - | ssh lycaeum.radiotope.com ditto -x - ./

Log into the remote server and check out the date, time and other file attributes -- they'll all stay intact (however, not ACLs, as expected).

Machine Info

I'll leave you with two commands that can display information about the software and hardware on a given machine: sw_vers and system_profiler. Not that these are complex or need a lot of explanation, but just to know that they exist. If I could count all of the times I see a question about getting system information on a tech mailing list, I probably wouldn't be writing this!

sw_vers is the simpler of the two. With no options, it dumps out the product name, version and the build number:

$ sw_vers 
ProductName:    Mac OS X Server
ProductVersion: 10.4.9
BuildVersion:   8P135

You can pass in switches to limit the amount of information returned:

$ sw_vers -buildVersion
8P135

Filtering the information is certainly useful if you need this information in a script.

system_profiler is the shell equivalent of the GUI System Profiler.app. Like sw_vers, just used on its own, it gives you a good deal of info. Try it! (There's way too much output to print here). You can parse through this data on your own. If you're only looking for a specific bit of info, you can pass in filters that do just this:

$ system_profiler SPMemoryDataType
Memory:
    BANK 0/DIMM0:
      Size: 2 GB
      Type: DDR2 SDRAM
      Speed: 667 MHz
      Status: OK
    BANK 1/DIMM1:
      Size: 1 GB
      Type: DDR2 SDRAM
      Speed: 667 MHz
      Status: OK

You can get a list of data types with the "-listdatatypes" switch. If you want more than one type at once, go ahead and pass in those types:

system_profiler SPDisplaysDataType SPAirPortDataType SPPowerDataType

sw_vers and system_profiler are both great commands when accessing a remote machine that you may not be familiar with -- especially when someone is sitting at the console and you don't want to ask them for the information!

Summary

I regularly use the commands and techniques presented here. While the information is typically in the man page, useful examples don't always accompany that information. Sometimes, you just need to experiment with a command -- on a test system, of course -- until you have it figured out. Sometimes there are alternatives to man. Many GNU utilities have an info page that's different than the man page, if one even exists. Try "info emacs", for example. Press 'q' to get out of info's display. Of course, MacTech and publications like it (are there any?) present good alternatives to man pages as well. I hope this article was a good step in that direction for anyone reading it.

Media of the month: well, it's not going to be a Leopard title, as we're going to see a little delay there! However, there's plenty to be read before then. Don't get all stressed out about it. Instead, find some entertaining reading, like the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. OK, not necessarily short reading, but I'm always surprised by how many people have not read these books. The movies were fine, but the books capture something different.

Until next month, enjoy!


Ed Marczak owns Radiotope, a technology consulting company that brings enterprise solutions to small and medium sized businesses. He is also the Executive Editor for MacTech magazine. Outside of technology, Ed likes to spend time with his family, and to practice counting.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Lyn 1.5.11 - Lightweight image browser a...
Lyn is a lightweight and fast image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it... Read more
NeoOffice 2014.11 - Mac-tailored, OpenOf...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
LaunchBar 6.4 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Remotix 3.1.4 - Access all your computer...
Remotix is a fast and powerful application to easily access multiple Macs (and PCs) from your own Mac. Features Complete Apple Screen Sharing support - including Mac OS X login, clipboard... Read more
DesktopLyrics 2.6.6 - Displays current i...
DesktopLyrics is an application that displays the lyrics of the song currently playing in "iTunes" right on your desktop. The lyrics for the song have to be set in iTunes; DesktopLyrics does nothing... Read more
VOX 2.5.1 - Music player that supports m...
VOX is a beautiful music player that supports many filetypes. The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all... Read more
NetNewsWire 4.0.0 - RSS and Atom news re...
NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the sites and authors you read most regularly. Let NetNewsWire pull down the latest articles, and read them in a distraction-free and Mac-like way. Native... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.6 - Search and ins...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
ForkLift 2.6.5 - Powerful file manager:...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
Drive Genius 4.1.0 - Powerful system uti...
Drive Genius 4 gives you faster performance from your Mac while also protecting it. The award-winning and improved DrivePulse feature alerts you to hard drive issues before they become major problems... Read more

Biz Builder Delux (Games)
Biz Builder Delux 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Ah, there's nothing like the rhythmic bustle of a burgeoning business burg... especially when you're the one building it... | Read more »
Auroch Digital is Bringing Back Games Wo...
| Read more »
Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age...
Carbo - Handwriting in the Digital Age 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Draggy Dead (Games)
Draggy Dead 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Ditch your dead end job and take up a rewarding career in Grave Robbing today!Guide the recently deceased to a fun filled life of... | Read more »
Bad Dinos (Games)
Bad Dinos 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Apple Watch isn't Great as a Fi...
| Read more »
Show the World What You See With Stre.am...
Live broadcasting is getting popular on mobile devices, which is why you can now get Stre.am, by Infinite Takes. [Read more] | Read more »
PhotoTime's 2.1 Update Adds Apple W...
The latest PhotoTime update is adding even more functionality to the handy photo organizing app. Yep, including Apple Watch support. [Read more] | Read more »
Oh My Glob! Adventure Time Puzzle Quest...
Finn and Jake are taking over D3 Go!'s popular puzzle game series in the upcoming Adventure Time Puzzle Quest. [Read more] | Read more »
Earthcore: Shattered Elements - Tips, Tr...
At first glance, Earthcore: Shattered Elements seems like a rather simple card-battling game. Once you’re introduced to skills that will change quite a bit. Even more so once you start to acquire hero cards. But it’s not so complicated that we... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

OtterBox Maximizes Portability, Productivity...
From the kitchen recipe book to the boarsroom presentation, the OtterBox Agility Tablet System turns tablets into one of the most versatile pieces of handheld technology available. Available now, the... Read more
Launch of New Car App Gallery and Open Develo...
Automatic, a company on a mission to bring the power of the Internet into every car, has announced the launch of the Automatic App Gallery, an app store for nearly every car or truck on the road... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 13-inch 1.6GHz Mac...
Best Buy has the new 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849 on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: 27-inch 3.5GHz 5K...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2099.99 this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary.... Read more
Sale! 16GB iPad mini 3 for $349, save $50
B&H Photo has the 16GB iPad mini 3 WiFi on sale for $349 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Price drop on 2014 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros by $200. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 save $200 - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
With a Mission to Make Mobile Free, Scratch W...
Scratch Wireless, claiming to be the world’s first truly free mobile service, has announced the availability of a new Scratch-enabled Android smartphone, the Coolpad Arise. The smartphone is equipped... Read more
First-Ever Titanium Alloy Curved iPhone 6 Scr...
One of the most common problems with mobile phones is damage to the screens. The slightest drop can cause a dreaded spider web of gashes and cracks in the glass panel surface that can cost $hundreds... Read more
Preorder new 12-inch MacBook, $10 off, save o...
Adorama has new 12″ Retina MacBooks available for preorder for $10 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB... Read more
Will iOS 9 Finally Bring Productivity Friendl...
Ah, the irony. From its original announcement in 2010, Apple has doggedly insisted that the iPad remain “simple,” thus arbitrarily limiting its considerable potential as a content creation and... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
Business Development Manager - *Apple* Pay...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is seeking an experienced Business Development professional to join the Apple Pay team to develop partnerships and strategic alliances with Read more
Project Manager, *Apple* Retail New Store O...
**Job Summary** An Apple Retail New Store Openings & Remodels Project Manager is responsible for successfully managing the openings, remodels, and small works of Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
Partner Marketing Manager - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** The Apple Pay partner marketing team is looking for a marketing manager to develop and drive US marketing programs with our financial institution Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.