TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Leopard's New Toolbox �

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Systems Administration

Leopard's New Toolbox

What's new for the system administrator

by By Philip Rinehart, Yale University

The toolbox

Every system administrator has a number of tools in their toolbox. Third parties provide some tools, some are home grown, and others are based on tool provided by the operating system or developer tools. While much has been made of the new gee-whiz features of Leopard, the system administrator has not been neglected! Let's start with one of my favorites, dtrace.

dtrace

In Leopard, a decision was made to include a tool developed by Sun Microsystems, dtrace. What is the tool? The description from Sun best says it, "DTrace is a comprehensive dynamic tracing framework for the Solaris Operating Environment. DTrace provides a powerful infrastructure to permit administrators, developers, and service personnel to concisely answer arbitrary questions about the behavior of the operating system and user programs." In Leopard, it has been tightly integrated with the kernel, and can track many different operations, including file systems operations, memory operations, as well as many others. They are all tracked with the use of "probes". What does this mean for the system administrator?

Dtrace allows any system administrator to track a problem of any piece software without having debugging code present. It is dynamic! There is one drawback though, one has to learn the D language, which is very similar to C. Ick, another programming language to learn. Well, not quite, fortunately a tool for using dtrace was included in Leopard, dtruss. Originally part of the dtrace toolkit written by Brendan Gregg, it has been ported over to OS X. Here's a really simple example:

dtruss ls

What does this command do? It prints a ton of information from the kernel, including file system operations, memory operations, as well as any other call that passes through the kernel. The format of the output is pretty dense however, so can an option help? You bet, add the -s for a stack backtrace. This prints information on the stack in a much more readable format, including information directly related to the call being made. A couple of other very useful options are:

-p to attach to a pid

-n to attach to the name of a process

-f to follow children of a launched process

In general, this tool could be used to track a whole host of information about processes, and problems that have previously been difficult to troubleshoot. I admit it, I'm a command line junkie, but what if there was a more fun way to do it? A new tool that sits on top of Dtrace has been introduced, Instruments. It is supposed to be "GarageBand" for developers. Sounds strange doesn't it? Let's take a quick look. Launch Instruments from the Developer Tools. Figure 1 is how the window appears:


Figure 1

Wow, cool! It's even easier to track a couple of pieces of information that traditionally have been hard to track as a sysadmin. For a quick hit, select File Activity. Figure 2 shows how the left side of the panel appears:

Note how some nice defaults have been added. All of these attributes might be pieces of information that are important when trying to track down how an application is misbehaving. Figure 3 is a quick example of what the output might look like:


Figure 2

Each individual piece of information can be examined, and it can be tracked over time. That's only the beginning! The complete library of information that can be tracked is quite large. CPU Activity, Network Activity, a huge number of things can be tracked, and not one bit of programming has to be learned. It really simplifies the tracking of problems and is really up to your imagination. No more using fs_usage to track problems, hoorah! One last thing: the information can be saved, and sent to the Developer or shared with other system administrators.


Figure 3

Packagemaker

Package construction has changed significantly in Leopard. It can now watch the file system and create "snapshots". Launch Packagemaker, select the Project menu, and then choose Add Snapshot Package. It will watch the file system and monitor all changes. Click the Start button, and the process starts. Click Stop and the process then stops. After that click Next to proceed to the screen where cruft can be eliminated. Figure 4 is an example of how it might appear:


Figure 4

Taking a look at this, it is easy to eliminate certain files right off the bat. Uncheck them if they are not to be included. Some are relatively easy, such as .DS_Store files, or files in /private/var. That's the first step! Next, Save the snapshot.


Figure 5

Figure 5 shows how the snapshot appears. From there, the new Packagemaker allows for all the permissions to be altered to whatever is desired. The snapshot of information can be customized, including look and feel. The package build process is also much more informative, as it now can highlight the problem found when building a package for distribution. The interface is highlighted, showing where the error should be fixed.

Even more has been added, an Automator-like interface has been added to pre and postinstall actions. They included loading kernel extensions, getting applications or a few other items. Requirements can even be specified so that an application can be installed only on a system that meets the requirements. Note that even snapshot packages can have these requirements applied.

These are two of the big tools that have been added to Leopard that will make a system administrator's life easier. Packagemaker can be used to repackage applications that are not in the Apple package format. Once installed, Instruments and dtruss can help the system administrator troubleshoot applications. These tools also aid the system administrator in providing feedback to the Developer of the application so it can be properly rewritten.

Now that you've read about the tools, start playing with them. I've already found them immensely useful, and made my life easier. See you at MacWorld!


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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

How to build a successful civilisation i...
GodFinger 2 grants you godlike powers, leaving you to raise a civilization of followers. In the spirit of games like Black & White, the GodFinger games will see you building bigger and better villages, developing more advanced technology and... | Read more »
How to get all the crabs in Mr Crab 2
Mr. Crab 2 may look like a cutesy platformer for kids, but if you're the kind of person who likes to complete a game 100%, you'll soon realise that it's a tougher than a crustacean's shell. [Read more] | Read more »
How to be a star in Britney Spears: Amer...
If you've ever wanted to be a star, baby, then you've probably already checked out Britney Spears: American Dream and are happily making your way up the charts. But fame doesn't come easy, and everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. So we've got... | Read more »
AppSpy is hiring a part time Staff Write...
| Read more »
How to save lives in ER Surgery Simulato...
A serious earthquake has struck a nearby town in ER Surgery Simulator - Emergency Doctor, and it’s up to you to save the victims. [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a high score in G...
Ketchapp Games loves the endless runner genre. And its newest game, Gravity Switch, is no exception. Gravity Switch takes a fresh approach, though, as you move a block, suspended in zero gravity, safely through a maze of shifting pillars. If the... | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a high score in S...
Smash Fu is a high-paced tile-tapping game that requires quick reflexes and some practice. You’ll have to smash bricks with the skill of a seasoned black belt to get a high score. To raise the stakes a bit, you’ll also have to avoid tapping any... | Read more »
How to keep the ball rolling in Dropple
If you're new to the minimalist puzzler Dropple, you may find yourself struggling to make it beyond the first couple of steps before your ball falls into the endless abyss below. [Read more] | Read more »
Game Craft releases new Legend of War ti...
Set for release at the end of this month, real time strategy title Legend of War seems sure to delight with a veritable feast of sweet features to get stuck into. Developed by Game Craft, the game is due for release through both the App Store and... | Read more »
How not to die in Traffic Rider
Traffic Rider, an Out Run-esque game in which your ride a motorcycle recklessly into trffic, might not seem particularly complicated. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Textkraft Professional Becomes A Mobile Produ...
The new update 4.1 of Textkraft Professional for the iPad comes with many new and updated features that will be particularly of interest to self-publishers of e-books. Highlights include import and... Read more
SnipNotes 2.0 – Intelligent note-taking for i...
Indie software developer Felix Lisczyk has announced the release and immediate availability of SnipNotes 2.0, the next major version of his productivity app for iOS devices and Apple Watch.... Read more
Pitch Clock – The Entrepreneur’s Wingman Laun...
Grand Rapids, Michigan based Skunk Tank has announced the release and immediate availability of Pitch Clock – The Entrepreneur’s Wingman 1.1, the company’s new business app available exclusively on... Read more
13-inch 2.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro (model #MF841LL/A) on sale for $1599 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP. Amazon also has the 13″ 3.9GHz Retina... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Clearance 12-inch Retina MacBooks available s...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on leftover 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks with models now available starting at $999. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
New 2016 13-inch 256GB MacBook Air on sale fo...
B&H Photo has the new 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (model MMGG2LL/A) on sale for $1149 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Amazon has the 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available start...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2 available starting at $339. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2: $499 - 64GB Wi-Fi iPad... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Nissan Service Technicians - Apple A...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive , Read more
ISCS *Apple* ID Site Support Engineer - APP...
…position, we are looking for an individual who has experience supporting customers with Apple ID issues and enjoys this area of support. This person should be Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
*Apple* Support Technician II - Worldventure...
…global, fast growing member based travel company, is currently sourcing for an Apple Support Technician II to be based in our Plano headquarters. WorldVentures is Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.