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

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

How to become the ultimate robot warrior...
Chrono Strike is a delightfully immersive beat ‘em up with a sense of humor (any game with a good Sims reference gets points in my book). [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a higher score in...
Snow Roll is a devilish endless runner very much in the vein of Flappy Bird. It revels in its dastardly level of difficulty, and doesn’t really care how angry you get at it as it knows you’ll keep coming back for more. [Read more] | Read more »
How to win big in Slots Deluxe
Cheating while gambling is illegal and morally wrong, and in some parts of the world it leads to men with names like Vinnie "Six Knuckles" Manchenzo beating you to a pulp in a dark alley. [Read more] | Read more »
How to take over the world in Dictator 2
Running a country isn't easy - especially when you're a dictator who wants to take over the world and crush everyone in your path while you do it. [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a higher score in...
Tank.iois - you guessed it! - another multiplayer arena battler likeAgar.io and Slither.io. It does differentiate itself by putting you in a tiny tank though, so it's not exactly the same. To help you get that all-important high score, we've got a... | Read more »
How to unlock characters in One Tap Tenn...
As the title suggests, One Tap Tennis requires only a single tap to play its particular brand of tennis, and rewards you with a ton of unlockable characters if you perform well. Fortunately for you, we at 148Apps have got a few tips and tricks to... | Read more »
Grab it now: Game Craft’s Legend of War...
The real time strategy game is now available for you to sink your teeth into, through the App Store and Google Play. Combining elements of skill, strategy and empire building, Legend of War is a real gamers’ game. [Read more] | Read more »
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka (Gam...
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Skateboard Party is back! This third edition of the popular sports franchise features professional skater... | Read more »
Cubious (Games)
Cubious 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubious – How smart are you? How high is your IQube? Solve the impossible puzzles to find out, and help a lost little cube find his... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Waste of Space (Games)
Goat Simulator Waste of Space 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Enterprise Workers Pick Technology Over Perks...
New Adobe study shows surprising attitudes about office jobs and where the future of work is heading. Adobe has released survey findings revealing that a surprising 70 percent of U.S. office workers... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sale: $50-$100 off 11-in...
B&H Photo has 13″ and 11″ MacBook Airs with 256GB SSDs on sale for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air: $999 $100 off MSRP... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sales: Apple MacBook Pro...
B&H Photo has 13″ and 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 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Memorial Day Weekend Sales: Apple iMacs and M...
Take up to $150 off the price of a new iMac or Mac mini at the following Apple resellers this Memorial Day weekend: iMacs: B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP... Read more
Apple refurbished Retina MacBook Pros availab...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free... Read more
Apple refurbished 11-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $170 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Goal Zero and OtterBox Partner to Expand iPh...
Goal Zero, specialists in portable power, have announced a partnership with OtterBox, brand smartphone case protection, to offer the Slide and Slide Plus Batteries as modules compatible with the new... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
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 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $250 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 Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Architect - AECOM (United States)
**Requisition/Vacancy No.** 132759BR **Position Title** Apple Architect **Job Category** Information Technology **Business Line** Government **Country** United 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
*Apple* Project Engineer - Smart Source Inc...
SmartSource is in need of an Apple Project Engineer for a 12 month contract opportunity in Pittsburg, PA. Role: Apple Project Engineer Location: Pittsburg, PA 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
Service Assistant - *Apple* Chevrolet *App...
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, we Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.