TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Changing Spots

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

Changing Spots

New ways of manipulating Directory Services in Leopard

By Philip Rinehart, Yale University

User Account Changes

Occasionally, questions about user accounts and how to maintain them appear on the Macenterprise list. Leopard changes the landscape, as NetInfo no longer exists. What does this mean practically? All user account information is now stored as flat text files. No more messing around with command line utilities like nicl, nidump, etc. All access is now accomplished using the command line directory service utility, dscl. Let's take a look at how it works.

DSCL

Dscl, Directory Service Command Line, utility was originally introduced in Tiger. With the death of NetInfo, it is the new way of manipulating user accounts. Also, astute users may note that NetInfo Manager is now completely gone, so any manipulation of NetInfo attributes must be accomplished by using dscl. Directory Service attributes can be changed, appended or deleted. Let's take a very basic example.

   dscl . -read /Users/myuser

This example operates on the local node by using the period, and returns all of the attributes for myuser. The command returns a list of all of the values that would have been seen in NetInfo Manager. They are printed out as a single line for each value. While interesting, it only begins to tap dscl for its true power. Here's a second example, listing all the users on the local system, as well as their UniqueID values (UID).

   dscl /Local/Default -list /Users UniqueID

This command is a really quick way to list any attribute of any user that is stored in the local Directory Services store. Notice a slight difference in this command? Instead of using a period, the full node is specified, in this case, the local database, /Local/Default. Let's step back just a second. Since NetInfo is gone, where is all the information? Here is the complete path:

   
   /var/db/dslocal/nodes/Default/Users

Explore the contents of the directory, notice how everything is a plist? One of the decisions made when moving away from NetInfo is that all of the information is now stored in xml plist format in the above directory. As an interesting side effect, any properly formatted plist that is added to the user will now appear on the system as a valid user. Returning to our UID example, now that the UID is known for any user, it is a pretty simple operation to change a UID on the fly. Back to dscl:

   
   dscl /Local/Default -create /Users/myuser UniqueID 503

This command takes the current UniqueID value for myuser and overwrites or it with the new value. Instead of the user's previous value for UniqueID, a new one has now been put in place. Note that use of the create option will completely overwrite any current value. If the value does not exist, it creates it in the plist.

PUMP IT UP

All of our example dscl commands will work in Tiger. Dscl in Leopard has been beefed up considerably. It now has the ability to read subkeys through the use of additional command line options. If you ever looked at a NetInfo record that contained mcx information, you know that mcx settings are typically sent to the client as a plist. Now that this information is stored in a flat plist with nested values, dscl needs a way to manipulate the data. New options have been added, readpl, readpli, and createpl, createpli. Unfortunately the syntax is difficult to master, as it requires a very specific format. Here's a somewhat simplified example for managed preferences.

   dscl . -readpl /Users/myuser MCXSettings mcx_application_data:com.apple.finder

Note the syntax of the key, colons separate nested values. In this particular case, the managed preference key for the Finder is read. This example should give you a taste of how the command works, but getting the path exactly right can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, there is a way out of the weeds, with a new mcx options for dscl..

MCX!

One of the major complaints in previous versions of OS X was the inability to easily understand and manipulate managed preferences. Leopard is the first version of OS X that has options to help manage via script, or the command line. It has also been quite difficult to troubleshoot managed client preferences, and to truly understand what is going on when managed preferences are applied. Let's look at our friend dscl again, this time with an eye toward the options that were added to dscl. Here's a very simple example:

   dscl . -readmcx /User/myuser

Note how the information is returned. Each managed preference is returned as a set of values with a consistent format. So for example, if a Finder preference was managed, the value might look like this:

App domain: com.apple.finder
Key: ComputerViewOptions_Arrangement
State: always
Value: None

Cool! The mcxread option is useful, but even more useful is the ability to set, import and export keys with dscl and its associated mcx commands. Imagine being able to set preferences from the command line from a client! A sample process could be:

   dscl . -mcxexport /Users/myuser -o /tmp/export.plist com.apple.finder

This command exports the managed client settings for myuser. The settings can then be altered in the exported file, export.plist with any text editor. Once finished editing, use this command to import the changed values:

   dscl . -mcximport /Users/myuser -d /tmp/export.plist

One note about this command, the -d option deletes any keys that existed previously. It is equivalent to calling mcxdelete for every key found in the import file. There are many options available for command line managed preference manipulation of preferences, which are not documented in the manual page. So how can you find the proper options? Use the flag -mcxhelp.

   dscl . -mcxhelp

This short command returns all of the options available, and is quite thorough in its description of how to use the command line options.

What if you only want to see what managed preferences are being applied? A new command for Leopard, mcxquery has been added. It can be called directly to present all of the options for any known user, group or machine. Here's how:

   mcxquery -user myuser -group mygroup -computer mycomputer

This command returns a list of all managed preferences for all three options. Additionally, it specifies exactly which domain the management is being applied from. If it is a user management preference, it indicates the managed preference. Very useful! Now that Leopard is finally out, a whole new world of discovery awaits us. As always, see you on the lists!


Philip Rinehart is co-chair of the steering committee leading the Mac OS X Enterprise Project (macenterprise.org) and is the Lead Mac Analyst at Yale University. He has been using Macintosh Computers since the days of the Macintosh SE, and Mac OS X since its Developer Preview Release. Before coming to Yale, he worked as a Unix system administrator for a dot-com company. He can be reached at: philip.rinehart@yale.edu. The MacEnterprise project is a community of IT professionals sharing information and solutions to support Macs in an enterprise. We collaborate on the deployment, management, and integration of Mac OS X client and server computers into multi-platform computing environments.

 
AAPL
$118.85
Apple Inc.
-0.15
MSFT
$48.10
Microsoft Corpora
+0.35
GOOG
$541.36
Google Inc.
+0.99

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Skype 7.2.0.412 - Voice-over-internet ph...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
HoudahSpot 3.9.6 - Advanced file search...
HoudahSpot is a powerful file search tool built upon MacOS X Spotlight. Spotlight unleashed Create detailed queries to locate the exact file you need Narrow down searches. Zero in on files Save... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
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
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
OneNote 15.4 - Free digital notebook fro...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Monster Strike Review
Monster Strike Review By Campbell Bird on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: BILLIARD STRATEGYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Collect monsters and battle by flinging them across the battlefield in this strangely... | Read more »
Proun+ Review
Proun+ Review By Jennifer Allen on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TWITCHY RACINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Twitchy racing aplenty in Proun+, an enjoyably tricky title.   | Read more »
Lucha Amigos (Games)
Lucha Amigos 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Forget Ninja Turtles, and meet Wrestlers Turtles! Crazier, Spicier and…Bouncier! Sling carapaces of 7 Luchadores to knock all... | Read more »
Record of Agarest War Zero (Games)
Record of Agarest War Zero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: HyperDevbox Holiday Turkey Black Friday Special Pricing! To celebrate the opening of the holiday season HyperDevbox... | Read more »
Raby (Games)
Raby 1.0.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.3 (iTunes) Description: ***WARNING - Raby runs on: iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Mini Retina, iPad Mini 3, iPad 4, iPad Air,... | Read more »
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Games)
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** PLEASE NOTE: Oddworld Stranger's Wrath requires at least an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad Mini or iPod Touch 5th gen... | Read more »
Bounce On Back (Games)
Bounce On Back 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Dwelp (Games)
Dwelp 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: === 50% off for a limited time, to celebrate release === Dwelp is an elegant little puzzler with a brand new game mechanic. To complete a... | Read more »
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Maker...
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Makers of Scrap Squad Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Relevant Games has announced they will be releasing their reverse tower defense game, | Read more »
Tripnary Review
Tripnary Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRAVEL BUCKET LISTiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Want to create a travel bucket list? Tripnary is a fun way to do exactly that... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Black Friday: 27-inch 5K iMac for $2299, save...
 B&H Photo continues to offer Black Friday sale prices on the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac, in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP... Read more
Karalux Announces 24K Gold-Plated iPhone 6
Karalux, a Vietnam-based jewellery firm, has launched a unique 24 karat gold-plated iPhone 6 version with gold-cast monolithic dragon on its back panel. The real 24 karat gold plated enclosure doesn’... Read more
Black Friday: 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook P...
 B&H Photo has lowered their price for the 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1159 for Black Friday. That’s $140 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model (except for Apple’s $1099... Read more
View all the Black Friday sales on our Mac Pr...
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. View Black Friday sale prices at a... Read more
Black Friday: 11-inch MacBook Air for $779, s...
 Best Buy has lowered their price for the 2014 11″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air to $779.99 for Black Friday. That’s $120 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale... Read more
Apple Store Black Friday sale for 2014: $100...
BLACK FRIDAY The Apple Store has posted their Black Friday deals for 2014. Receive a $100 PRODUCT(RED) branded iTunes gift card with the purchase of select Macs, $50 with iPads, and $25 with iPods,... Read more
Black Friday: 15% off iTunes Gift Cards
Staples is offering 15% off $50 and $100 iTunes Gift Cards on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Click here for more information. Shipping is free. Best Buy is offering $100... Read more
BEVL Releases Dock Tailored for iPhone 6 and...
Seattle based BEVL has released their first product: an iPhone dock that is divergent in build quality, rock-solid function and visual simplicity to complement the iPhone. BEVL is now accepting... Read more
Black Friday: $150 off 13-inch Retina MacBook...
 Best Buy has 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available).... Read more
Black Friday: $300 off 15-inch Retina MacBook...
 B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $300 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.