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

Is there cross-platform play in slither....
So you've sunken plenty of hours into crawling around in slither.io on your iPhone or iPad. You've got your stories of tragedy and triumph, the times you coiled four snakes at one time balanced out by the others when you had a length of more than... | Read more »
Rodeo Stampede guide to running a better...
In Rodeo Stampede, honing your skills so you can jump from animal to animal and outrun the herd as long as possible is only half the fun. Once you've tamed a few animals, you can bring them home with you. [Read more] | Read more »
VoxSyn (Music)
VoxSyn 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: VoxSyn turns your voice into the most flexible vocal sound generator ever. Instantly following even subtle modulations of pitch and... | Read more »
Catch Battleplans on Google Play from Ju...
Real-time strategy title Battleplans is due for release on Google Play on June 30th, following its release for iOS systems last month. With its simple interface and pretty graphics, the crowd-pleaser brings a formerly overlooked genre out for the... | Read more »
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sh...
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Books Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Special Release Price $1.99 (Normally $3.99) | Read more »
Five popular free apps to help you slim...
Thanks to retail and advertising, we're used to thinking one season ahead. Here we are just a week into the summer and we're conditioned to start thinking about the fall. [Read more] | Read more »
How to ride longer and tame more animals...
It's hard to accurately describe Rodeo Stampede to people who haven't seen it yet. It's like if someone took Crossy Roadand Disco Zoo and put them in a blender, yet with a unique game mechanic that's still simple and fun for anyone. [Read more] | Read more »
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure...
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure Battling Game 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Teeny Titans, GO! Join Robin for a figure battling RPG of epic proportions! TEENY... | Read more »
NinjAwesome: Tips and tricks to be a mor...
Sorry about that headline, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that GameResort would not have named its game NinjAwesome without expecting some of that. It is, in fact, pretty awesome the way it combines an endless runner and old school arcade... | Read more »
Into Mirror (Games)
Into Mirror 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"- Edgar Allan Poe New game by Lemon Jam Studio, the team behind Pursuit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200-...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799.99 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $300 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799.... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
ABBYY TextGrabber: 1,000,000 Installs in 5 Da...
ABBYY, an international OCR technologies provider, has announced that their image-to-text application TextGrabber, got installed 1,000,000 times in just five days while being featured by the App... Read more
New SkinIt Waterproof Case For iPhone 6
With its impact and waterproof design, the Skinit Waterproof case provides security and protection to guarantee your phone will get you through even the most demanding outdoor conditions. The impact-... Read more
iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2181.11 $118 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1949... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $5...
B&H Photo has 2016 12″ 1.1GHz/256GB Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $50 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1249 $50 off MSRP... Read more
WWDC Announcements Revisited Still Underwhelm...
I was disappointed that no new MacBook hardware was announced at this year’s all-software World Wide Developer’s Conference. Not even a hint about what’s in the development pipeline. Of course, we... Read more
Twelve South Compass 2 iPad Stand Now Availab...
Twelve South has updated its most popular iPad stand, Compass 2, with the introduction of two new colors — Gold and Rose Gold. These new color options n perfectly complement the new Rose Gold iPad... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & *Apple*...
…Music Marketing Lead is responsible for developing robust marketing campaigns and programs for Apple Music and iTunes across the whole of Apple ecosystem. This Read more
*Apple* Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring - AP...
Apple Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring! Apple Valley Medical Clinic is an independently owned practice operating a Family Medicine Clinic, a 24/7 Urgent Care, Read more
*Apple* New Products Testers Needed - Apple...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - APPLE (United...
Job Summary As an Apple Solutions Consultant, you'll be the link between our future customers and our products. You'll showcase your entrepreneurial spirit as you Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.