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.


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


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 ( 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: 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

World of Tanks Generals guide - Tips and...
World of Tanks Generals is a brand new card game by the developer behind the World of Tanks shooter franchise. It plays like a cross between chess and your typical card game. You have to keep in consideration where you place your tanks on the board... | Read more »
TruckSimulation 16 guide: How to succeed...
Remember those strangely enjoyable truck missions in Grand Theft Auto V whereit was a disturbing amount of fun to deliver cargo? TruckSimulation 16 is reminiscent of that, and has you play the role of a truck driver who has to deliver various... | Read more »
The best GIF making apps
Animated GIFs have exploded in popularity recently which is likely thanks to a combination of Tumblr, our shorter attention spans, and the simple fact they’re a lot of fun. [Read more] | Read more »
The best remote desktop apps for iOS
We've been sifting through the App Store to find the best ways to do computer tasks on a tablet. That gave us a thought - what if we could just do computer tasks from our tablets? Here's a list of the best remote desktop apps to help you use your... | Read more »
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade guide - How...
Warhammer 40,000: Freebladejust launched in the App Store and it lets you live your childhood dream of blowing up and slashing a bunch of enemies as a massive, hulking Space Marine. It's not easy being a Space Marine though - and particularly if... | Read more »
Gopogo guide - How to bounce like the be...
Nitrome just launched a new game and, as to be expected, it's a lot of addictive fun. It's called Gopogo, and it challenges you to hoparound a bunch of platforms, avoiding enemies and picking up shiny stuff. It's not easy though - just like the... | Read more »
Sago Mini Superhero (Education)
Sago Mini Superhero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: KAPOW! Jack the rabbit bursts into the sky as the Sago Mini Superhero! Fly with Jack as he lifts impossible weights,... | Read more »
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes guide - How...
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting heroes, powering them up, and using them together to defeat your foes. It's pretty straightforward stuff for the most part, but increasing your characters' stats can be a bit confusing because it... | Read more »
The best cooking apps (just in time for...
It’s that time of year again, where you’ll be gathering around the dinner table with your family and a huge feast in front of you. [Read more] | Read more »
Square Rave guide - How to grab those te...
Square Rave is an awesome little music-oriented puzzle game that smacks of games like Lumines, but with its own unique sense of gameplay. To help wrap your head around the game, keep the following tips and tricks in mind. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via

iPad Air 2 And iPad mini Among Top Five Black...
Adobe has released its 2015 online shopping data for Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day. The five best selling electronic products on Black Friday were Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPad Air 2, Microsoft Xbox... Read more
All-in-one PC Shipments Projected To Drop Ove...
Digitimes’ Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai report that all-in-one (AIO) PC shipments may drop a double-digit percentage on-year in 2015 due to weaker-than-expected demand, although second-largest AIO make... Read more
Sprint Offers iPad Pro
Sprint now offers Apple’s new iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular, featuring a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels. Customers can pick up iPad Pro at select Sprint retail locations. It can... Read more
Cyber Monday: Target offers 15% discount on A...
Target has discounted Apple Watches by 15% for Cyber Monday. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: - Apple... Read more
Sunday roundup of Holiday weekend Mac sales:...
Take up to $500 off MSRP on the price of a new Mac at B&H Photo today as part of their Black Friday/Holiday weekend sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only. These prices are... Read more
Holiday weekend: Apple Watch on sale for $50-...
B&H Photo has the Apple Watch on sale today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - Apple Watch Sport: $50 off - Apple Watch: $50-$100 off Read more
Holiday weekend: iPad Air 2s on sale for up t...
B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $80 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $459 $40 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $569 $30 off - 128GB iPad Air... Read more
Holiday weekend Mac sales roundup: B&H Ph...
B&H Photo continues to have all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday/Holiday weekend sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more
iMobie Releases its Ace iOS Cleaner PhoneClea...
iMobie Inc. has announced the new update of PhoneClean 4, its iOS cleaner designed to reclaim wasted space on iPhone/iPad for use and keep the device fast. Alongside, iMobie hosts a 3-day giveaway of... Read more
U.S. Cellular Offering iPad Pro
U.S. Cellular today announced that it is offering the new iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular, featuring a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels — the most ever in an iOS device. U.S. Cellular... Read more

Jobs Board

Technical Program Manager, Strategic Merchant...
# Technical Program Manager, Strategic Merchants - Apple Pay Job Number: 44001177 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Oct. 30, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Read more
Frameworks Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple...
# Frameworks Engineer, Apple Watch Job Number: 41403122 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Jul. 1, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Join the Read more
Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay - Apple (Un...
# Software Engineer - Apple Pay Job Number: 44003246 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 16, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Apple Pay Read more
Merchant Operations Manager: *Apple* Pay -...
# Merchant Operations Manager: Apple Pay Job Number: 43593822 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 10, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Read more
Product Design Engineer - *Apple* Watch - A...
# Product Design Engineer - Apple Watch Job Number: 41727161 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Jul. 22, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.