TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac in the Shell: Mass Remote Management with dshell

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: Mac in the Shell

Mac in the Shell: Mass Remote Management with dshell

Or, mass remote management without ARD

by Edward Marczak

Introduction

A feature article this month covers methods to manage an army of Macs post-deployment. In other words, after they've been imaged and rolled out to the masses. The products and methods listed there are certainly applicable and appropriate for many situations. I'm going to describe yet another method that comes in handy in other situations. dsh, the distributed shell, can run a command over groups of machines that you specify. It performs this magic over ssh, so, you can affect machines over LAN or WAN links, near or far. Since OS X and other machines have ssh in their base distribution, you can command across platforms. This article explains how you, too, can send out commands to all or a group of your Macs - simultaneously - with a single press of the return key.

Getting the Goods

While there are many nice apps in the base distribution of OS X, dsh is not one of them. dsh is an agentless controlling app, so fortunately, you only need to retrieve, compile and install on one host, or any admin station that you need. You'll need a compiler on some station to compile the program - typically meaning having Apple's developer tools installed.

Two downloads are needed to get us going. Visit this page:

http://www.netfort.gr.jp/~dancer/software/downloads/list.cgi

and retrieve the latest versions of dsh and libdshconfig. As of this writing, they are:

http://www.netfort.gr.jp/~dancer/software/downloads/dsh-0.25.9.tar.gz

http://www.netfort.gr.jp/~dancer/software/downloads/libdshconfig-0.20.9.tar.gz

It's easy to take care of everything while in terminal: just use curl to download the files needed (use "curl -O http://.."), tar to unpack (tar xzvf filename) and then it's simple to compile. Both pieces of code compile cleanly in OS X 10.4 and 10.5, and install in /usr/local by default. Enter the libdshconfig directory that you just unpacked, and simply enter the following commands (your entries in bold):

$ ./configure
checking for a BSD-compatible install... /usr/bin/install -c
[output snipped]
config.status: creating Makefile
config.status: creating config.h
config.status: executing depfiles commands
$ make
make  all-am
[output snipped]
creating libdshconfig.la
(cd .libs && rm -f libdshconfig.la && ln -s ../libdshconfig.la libdshconfig.la)
$ sudo make install
Password:
/bin/sh ./mkinstalldirs /usr/local/lib
[output snipped]
 /usr/bin/install -c -m 644 libdshconfig.h /usr/local/include/libdshconfig.h

Next, we need to do the same for dsh itself. Change into the dsh directory you unpacked, and repeat the same process that you just went through for libdshconfig (configure, make, sudo make install). The entire process should take you less than 5 minutes. Literally.

While you can alter the install directory, I recommend that you leave the default values, and have the binaries and config files installed under /usr/local. I'll be referencing that as the install location throughout this article.

You can verify installation by typing "/usr/local/bin/dsh". You should be told, "dsh: no machine specified", and dsh would be right.

The configuration

Now that we have dsh installed on our administrative machine, how do we use it? Fortunately, under Leopard, /usr/local is a 'blessed' location, and is already in our $MANPATH. If you're using 10.4, you'll need to add "/usr/local/share/man" to $MANPATH and export it, or re-source your init file. dsh comes with some short-but-useful man pages. First, we'll need to update the configuration file.

If you left each application take the default values during their configure stage, and I recommend that you do, you'll find the main config file at /usr/local/etc/dsh.conf. We need to make one change to this file. So, whip out your favorite text editor, and change the line that reads:

remoteshell =rsh

to read:

remoteshell =ssh

(If you're daring, this can be achieved in one line with sed: sudo sed -i .back s/rsh/ssh/ dsh.conf). You may also want to change the "waitshell" value from "1" to "0". With a setting of 1, dsh will block execution until the previous machine has returned. As I said, you may want to change this. It's really applicable for very large rollouts. There's a man page available for the configuration file accessible with "man dsh.conf".

Determining the Target Machines

Before we continue, we need to take a step back and plan things out a bit. We need to determine which machines we're going to be targeting. Since we've chosen ssh as the remote mechanism, each machine that we're going to want to control needs ssh enabled. Now a days, this is the default for most platforms and distributions. That said, unless we want to enter our password each time we make a dsh run, we're going to want to create a public key and install it on any machine that we want to administer. Also, we also need a list of computers for dsh. This list basically tells dsh, "hey - run this command on all of these machines."

ssh was covered extensively in this column in the October 2007 issue, but, as a quick refresher, here's the sequence of creating a public key for ssh's use:

$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/admin/.ssh/id_rsa): 
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in /Users/admin/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /Users/admin/.ssh/id_rsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
6e:4b:ca:45:2d:c7:3d:14:d2:34:1e:ad:45:a5:fc:8e admin@machine-name.local

In this sequence, you simply press enter when asked for the passphrase and to verify. Notice that the output tells you that "your public key has been saved in...". Change directory to ~/.ssh. We need to copy the contents of the newly generated id_rsa.pub file to each machine that we're going to manage. Fortunately, this is a one-time step.

Easiest instructions to write: ssh to the machine you're going to target, using the admin-level account that you'll be running remote commands with:

ssh admin@remote.example.com

Once in, run this command:

ssh user@my.machine.com "cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub" >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

where 'user' is the user account that you just had generate the key for, and "my.machine.com" is the machine where that user id resides - likely the machine you're on right now. Once done, type exit, and then try to ssh again. This time, you should not be asked for a password, but rather, simply receive a remote shell.

In the event that you cannot ssh back to your machine, you can always manually copy your key to the remote machine and add its contents to the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the target account. For more about ssh, creating ssh keys and troubleshooting, see my ssh article in the October 200 issue of MacTech Magazine.

While you are accessing each remote machine, you need to keep a list of the account that you're accessing it with, and its fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or IP address. Once complete, take this list and enter it into /usr/local/etc/machines.list in this format:

/usr/local/etc/machines.list
nyadmin@ny.radiotope.com
caadmin@ca.radiotope.com
fladmin@fl.radiotope.com
azadmin@az.radiotope.com

Now comes the fun part!

Spreading the Joy

Let's start with a easy one: viewing the uptime statistics on all of the machines we've identified. This is as easy as:

$ dsh -a uptime 16:38 up 14 days, 9:27, 2 users, load averages: 0.19 0.13 0.16 16:38 up 59 days, 7:09, 1 user, load averages: 0.02 0.02 0.00 13:42 up 93 days, 3:25, 2 users, load averages: 0.02 0.02 0.00 1:39PM up 213 days, 4:01, 0 users, load averages: 0.12, 0.08, 0.04

It's a complete coincidence that those are in order of uptime! However, that raises the question: what order are they in? The "-M" switch will prepend the machine name before its output. Let's see that in action:

$ dsh -M -a uptime
nyadmin@ny.radiotope.com: 16:41  up 14 days,  9:30, 2 users, load averages: 0.47 0.27 0.21
fladmin@fl.radiotope.com: 16:41  up 59 days,  7:12, 1 user, load averages: 0.00 0.00 0.00
azadmin@az.radiotope.com: 13:45  up 93 days,  3:28, 2 users, load averages: 0.01 0.02 0.00
caadmin@ca.radiotope.com:  1:42PM  up 213 days,  4:04, 0 users, load averages: 0.04, 0.07, 0.04

There, that's a little better. The "-a" switch tells dsh to run the command against all machines that we've defined.

If you opted to not use a waitshell - your config file still has the line "waitshell =1" - you can override this at runtime using the "-c" switch. Also, if there's a machine that you have not added to your machines.list file, but want to use it ad-hoc, use the "-m" switch. Combining all of these options would look like this:

$ dsh -M -c -m txadmin@tx.radiotope.com -a 'last | head -1'
fladmin@fl.radiotope.com: fladmin  ttyp0    192.168.70.108   Thu Nov 29 15:22 - 15:22  (00:00)
caadmin@caadmin.radiotope.com: caadmin  ttyp1    192.168.70.108   Thu Nov 29 15:09 - 15:09  (00:00)
nyadmin@ny.radiotope.com: nyadmin  ttyp2    192.168.70.108   Thu Nov 29 12:29 - 12:29  (00:00)
Password:
txadmin@tx.radiotope.com: root      ttys000  w1.z2.nyc-ny.example.net Thu Nov 29 09:29 - 09:35  (00:05)
fladmin@fl.radiotope.com: fladmin          ttyp0    10.0.2.3       Thu Nov 29 13:37 - 13:37  (00:00)

In one fell swoop, this runs the command "last | head -1" on all machine defined in our machines.list file and additionally on "tx.radiotope.com". You'll see the "Password:" prompt in the output above as tx.radiotope.com wasn't preconfigured and is using password authentication. Once the (correct) password is entered, it happily gives us the output we're looking for, just like the other machines.

Final Tips

dsh is useful enough already, but how can we make our lives even easier? First, you may not always want to run all commands on all machines. There are two ways around this. One way is to use a group file. Simply create a file using the same format as machines.list and store it in /usr/local/etc/group/groupname. So, let's say we wanted to target all of our West Coast servers. We could create /usr/local/etc/group/west_coast and add to it:

/usr/local/etc/group/west_coast
waadmin@wa.radiotope.com
caadmin@ca.radiotope.com
oradmin@or.radiotope.com

Now, we can run commands against just this group:

$ dsh -M -g west_coast w

This will give us "who" (w) information from each server in the "west_coast" group.

Also, you can specify full server lists in an ad-hoc fashion. Create a file using the machines.list format, and specify it with the "-f" switch.

Nicely, if a machine definition ends up in multiple files, specifying it multiple times will be reduced to a single invocation.

The real magic here is that all input to dsh are simple text files. Decisions can be made, results grabbed from a database, files created on the fly and commands send to appropriate groups of machines. Think about how you could group machines: by location, by service (web, directory services), by class (PPC, dual-proc), by use (administrative, development), etc.

In Conclusion...

Despite the subhead, I don't believe dsh is meant to replace ARD. However, for server management, it may fit into your workflow better and can reach out to machines that ARD can't touch (think Linux or BSD servers...even Windows, with the right software and mindset). This can give you some incredible control over armies of machines. You have all the power of a shell on the remote machine. You can be very creative and powerful with this!

Until I found dshell, I used to do something similar by using a for loop to execute commands across machines:

for i in `cat servers.txt`; do
ssh root@$i softwareupdate -i -a
done

However, dsh has been thought out much more than the "for-loop-solution" and is much more extendible.

Don't run dsh in your production environment until you read the man page, which details some other options for limiting how many remote machines are accessed at any given time. (Look for the -N and -F options, specifically).

Media of the month: Walt Whitman, The Complete Poems. Start the year off with some poetry - especially if it's not your usual fare. Walt Whitman doesn't do it for you? Check out James Joyce or Emily Dickenson - there are amazing gems in that timeless writing.

Happy New Year!


Ed Marczak is the owner of Radiotope, a technology solution provider. He is also a husband, father and avid wearer of pants. tail -f /dev/brain at http://www.radiotope.com/writing

 
AAPL
$111.78
Apple Inc.
-0.87
MSFT
$47.66
Microsoft Corpora
+0.14
GOOG
$516.35
Google Inc.
+5.25

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 2.13 - Complete e-library manage...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Mellel 3.3.7 - Powerful word processor w...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
ScreenFlow 5.0.1 - Create screen recordi...
Save 10% with the exclusive MacUpdate coupon code: AFMacUpdate10 Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your... Read more
Simon 4.0 - Monitor changes and crashes...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
BBEdit 11.0.2 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
ExpanDrive 4.2.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2014 13.2 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2014 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). After Effects CS6 is still available... Read more
Evernote 6.0.5 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
Command-C 1.1.7 - Clipboard sharing tool...
Command-C is a revolutionary app which makes easy to share your clipboard between iOS and OS X using your local WiFi network, even if the app is not currently opened. Copy anything (text, pictures,... Read more
Tidy Up 4.0.2 - Find duplicate files and...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Make your own Tribez Figures (and More)...
Make your own Tribez Figures (and More) with Toyze Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
So Many Holiday iOS Sales Oh My Goodness...
The holiday season is in full-swing, which means a whole lot of iOS apps and games are going on sale. A bunch already have, in fact. Naturally this means we’re putting together a hand-picked list of the best discounts and sales we can find in order... | Read more »
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode f...
It’s Bird vs. Bird in the New PvP Mode for Angry Birds Epic Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minec...
Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode – A Telltale Games Series Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their...
WarChest and Splash Damage Annouce Their New Game: Tempo Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] WarChest Ltd and Splash Damage Ltd are teaming up again to work | Read more »
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary...
BulkyPix Celebrates its 6th Anniversary with a Bunch of Free Games Posted by Jessica Fisher on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] BulkyPix has | Read more »
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking F...
Indulge in Japanese cuisine in Cooking Fever’s new sushi-themed update Posted by Simon Reed on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Lithuanian developer Nordcurrent has yet again updated its restaurant simulat | Read more »
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to C...
Badland Daydream Level Pack Arrives to Celebrate 20 Million Downloads Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Desti...
Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Destiny, and Beyond – AppSpy Takes a Look at AAA Companion Apps Posted by Rob Rich on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] These day | Read more »
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Fre...
A Bunch of Halfbrick Games Are Going Free for the Holidays Posted by Ellis Spice on December 19th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

The Apple Store offering free next-day shippi...
The Apple Store is now offering free next-day shipping on all in stock items if ordered before 12/23/14 at 10:00am PT. Local store pickup is also available within an hour of ordering for any in stock... Read more
It’s 1992 Again At Sony Pictures, Except For...
Techcrunch’s John Biggs interviewed a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) employee, who quite understandably wished to remain anonymous, regarding post-hack conditions in SPE’s L.A office, explaining “... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Pros for...
 B&H Photo has new MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP as part of their Holiday pricing. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1699... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: MacBook Airs for...
B&H Photo has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, for a limited time, for the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday shopping season. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: iMacs for up to $...
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software: - 21″ 1.4GHz... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac minis availab...
B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $80 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459 $40 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $629 $70 off MSRP... Read more
Holiday sales this weekend: Mac Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $500 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2599, $400 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3499, $... Read more
Save up to $400 on MacBooks with Apple Certif...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs available for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Save up to $300 on Macs, $30 on iPads with Ap...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
iOS and Android OS Targeted by Man-in-the-Mid...
Cloud services security provider Akamai Technologies, Inc. has released, through the company’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert), a new cybersecurity threat advisory. The... Read more

Jobs Board

Project Manager, *Apple* Financial Services...
**Job Summary** Apple Financial Services (AFS) offers consumers, businesses and educational institutions ways to finance Apple purchases. We work with national and 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* 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* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.