TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacEnterprise: Packaging for Distribution

Volume Number: 25 (2009)
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

MacEnterprise: Packaging for Distribution

Building Installer packages for software distribution

by Greg Neagle, MacEnterprise.org

Packing things up

Previously in MacTech, we looked at modifying Firefox in order to implement custom default preferences. This involved modifying several files inside the application bundle. If you made similar modifications for your environment, you'd then be faced with the next task: distributing the modified application to all your managed machines.

There are many ways to distribute software to Mac OS X machines, but most commercial products - Apple's and third-parties' - rely on Apple Installer packages to install and update software. This can be a convenient approach when the software you want to distribute is already packaged in that format, but you'll find there are several situations in which you need to create your own Installer packages:

1. The software is not distributed in Apple package format by the vendor, and your software distribution mechanism does not support the alternate format.

2. The vendor uses the Apple package format but the package will not install without user input - or, stated a different way, the package cannot be installed "silently".

3. You need to make changes in the files that are distributed, or distribute additional files.

4. You have internally-developed software that must be distributed. If you're lucky, your internal developer will package it for you. If you're not lucky, or you are the developer, then you need to do it.

Therefore, packaging software for distribution is a common task for OS X administrators. Fortunately, there are a lot of available tools to help you with this task.

Packaging Tools

A partial and by no means complete list of packaging and related tools for OS X in no particular order:

PackageMaker

http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/serveradmintools1055.html

This is Apple's utility for creating packages. It is available as part of the Xcode Tools, and also included with the Server Admin Tools. It can create every package format supported by Apple: old-style bundle packages, new-style flat packages, metapackages, distribution packages, and hybrid packages that work on multiple OS versions. The link above is for the 10.5.5 release of the Server Admin Tools; there may well be a newer release by the time this article reaches print.

Pros: PackageMaker is a supported Apple tool and is free. Many of the other tools rely on PackageMaker for at least some of their functionality.

Cons: It's hard to use, and had a history of buggy releases.

Iceberg

http://s.sudre.free.fr/Software/Iceberg.html

Iceberg is freeware by Stéphan Sudre, licensed with a BSD-style license. Capable and well-documented, Iceberg is very popular among Mac OS X administrators. It can create packages and metapackages, but not the newer distribution packages and flat packages.

Pros: Easy to use and free. It supports creation of packages from filesystem snapshots, as well as manual assembly of package contents.

Cons: Iceberg's installer installs a StartupItem that launches an always-on background task. This makes some admins uncomfortable.

LANrev InstallEase

http://www.lanrev.com/solutions/installease.shtml

LANrev, the maker of a cross-platform system management tool, recently made their InstallEase package creation utility freely available.

Pros: Ease of use, the ability to export Iceberg project files, and the creation of "uninstall" packages - packages that will uninstall software installed by another package. Creation of packages from filesystem snapshots.

Cons: It does not work standalone. To actually create packages, you must have Apple's PackageMaker and/or Iceberg installed as well.

Casper Composer SE

http://www.jamfsoftware.com/products/composer.php

Composer is a $100 utility from JAMF Software. Part of the Casper Suite of OS X client management tools, Composer is also available separately. Casper Composer creates packages based on filesystem snapshots. When used with the Casper suite, it can create installation packages with extra abilities such as installing default preferences into users' home directories.

Pros: Easy to use. Good documentation.

Cons: It's not free. Casper Composer requires Apple's PackageMaker to build standard Apple packages. Composer's special package features work only with other tools in the Casper Suite.

Helpful tools:

logGen

http://www.lsa.umich.edu/lsait/admin/mac/software/index.asp

logGen is freeware from the University of Michigan, by Phil Holland and Dave Pugh. It is a command-line utility for finding filesystem changes. You could use it as part of a package creation workflow together with pkgGen (described below) and PackageMaker.

pkgGen

http://blog.irisink.com/?p=106

This is a script by Zack Smith that parses the output of logGen and creates a "fauxroot" directory containing all the files and directories found by logGen. This fauxroot directory can then be used by PackageMaker or Iceberg to create an Installer package. The workflow would look something like:

  • Run logGen to create a "before" snapshot.

  • Install and configure software.

  • Run logGen to create an "after" snapshot and differences list.

  • Edit the differences list to remove unwanted items.

  • Run pkgGen with the edited difference list to create a fauxroot directory with copies of all needed files and directories.

  • Run PackageMaker and use the fauxroot directory to create your package.

Example Packaging Workflow

Let's use one of the tools to build an installation package for our modified Firefox. I'll use LANrev InstallEase for this example.

We'll start by assuming you already have an appropriately modified version of Firefox on your system, and have downloaded and activated a copy of InstallEase from LANrev's website.

Launch InstallEase.


Click Start to begin. You may optionally check No longer show this screen to skip the introduction in the future.


Since the Firefox application is self-contained within its own application bundle, we can save a bunch of time and create the package manually. You can do this any time you already know which files and folders you need. Select Manually and click Continue.


Ignore the confusing messages about snapshots; by choosing to create a package manually, you skipped the snapshot process. You are now looking at an empty package. Add the Firefox application to the package by simply dragging it in from the Finder:


After dropping Firefox into InstallEase's window, it should look like this:


You can examine the contents of the Firefox app bundle if you'd like, and make changes to the owner, group, and permissions of all the included files and folders if you wish. When you are satisfied, click Continue.


You have several options, and they are not exclusive - you can select as many as you want.

  • Apple Installer (.pkg): This is the default. You'll need Apple's PackageMaker utility installed to use this.

  • Uninstaller package for Apple Installer (.pkg): this is an interesting feature of InstallEase. It uses the installation package information to create a special package that contains a post-install script that removes the files and folders defined in the package. You can then use any software distribution system that relies on Apple's Installer (or command-line installer tool) to remove software as well.

  • Iceberg project (.packproj): Creates a project file for use with Iceberg. This allows you to use Iceberg to edit package options before creating the actual package.

  • Disk image with added files and folders (.dmg): this is mostly useful for use with LANrev's other tools - it creates a disk image that simply contains all the files and folders you've added to the package.

For this sample workflow, all we need and want is a standard Apple Installer package, so click Create.... You'll be asked where to save the package and for a filename. In most cases, you'll be asked to authenticate as an administrator. After a few moments, you should see something like this:


You are done with this simple example and now have a package that will install your custom version of Firefox.

Note that you had no chance to specify any package options, like whether or not the package requires a restart or if the package can be installed only on the startup disk. If you need to specify additional options, you are probably better off saving an Iceberg project and finishing your editing in Iceberg before creating the final package.

Another Example

Let's do a slightly more complicated example, this time using filesystem snapshots. Again we'll use InstallEase, but the process is similar in Iceberg and Casper Composer.

Launch InstallEase and select Automatically as the package creation method.


Click Continue.


Choose the source for the snapshot. In almost every case it will be the startup disk. In this example, the startup disk is named "Leopard". InstallEase by default ignores a lot of items on the disk when making snapshots to reduce the number of false positives. You can view and edit the list of excluded items by clicking the Adjust File Filter... button.


For this example, we'll leave everything at the default settings. Click OK to dismiss the exclusion editor, and click Take Snapshot to start the "before" snapshot.


You'll wait several minutes as InstallEase scans the disk and records information about exisiting filesystem items. Note that it was scanning my FileVault-protected home directory at the moment I took the screenshot. More on that in a bit. When it's done scanning the disk, you'll see this:


Now it's time to install your software. For this example, we'll install TextWrangler 2.3. Normally this is a drag-and-drop install, and so would need to be repackaged to be able to be pushed out with ARD or most other installation methods.


Download the TextWrangler 2.3 disk image from Bare Bones' website and open the disk image. Install the app by dragging it to the Applications folder, authenticating as an admin when requested.

If you were to package TextWrangler now, you'd have a working application, but you'd be missing the command line tools that come with the application. Worse, when your users launched TextWrangler for the first time, they'd be asked for an admin password in order to install the command line tools. To prevent that, we'll do it in advance and add it to the installation package. Launch /Applications/TextWrangler.app, and you should see this:


Authenticate as an administrator, then quit TextWrangler. Now we can return to InstallEase and click Take Snapshot. After InstallEase scans the disk for changes, you should see something like this:


I've turned down most of the disclosure triangles so you can see what InstallEase has found. Note that it found not only the main TextWrangler application in the Applications folder, but found the command line tool (/usr/bin/edit) and its man page. Without a snapshot utility, it might have been difficult to determine what items were actually installed when the command line tools were added.

We'll want to make a few changes before proceeding. First, InstallEase found changes in my home directory. Unfortunately, since I have a FileVault protected home directory, all it found was a changed "gneagle.sparseimage", so I don't know exactly what changed, but I'm fairly certain I don't care, so I'm going to remove /Users and everything below it.

You may be tempted to edit the exclusion list to always exclude /Users. Resist that temptation. Some software installs items in /Users/Shared which you'll want to capture. Also, it might be useful to see what files are created in a user's home directory on the first launch of an application. (In which case, using an account with a FileVault-protected home directory to install that software is probably a bad idea.) You probably won't want to include user files in an installation package, but you may need to manage them some other way or at least be aware of them.

There's another change to make before we build the package. Note that the TextWrangler application is owned by gneagle. That won't prevent TextWrangler for working on other systems, but it really would be better if we set the ownership to root or a local admin account to match other installed applications.


Here are the changes completed: the /Users folder and its contents have been removed, and the ownership of TextWrangler has been changed to root. Note that TextWrangler is actually an application bundle, so you actually have to expand the contents and change the ownership of every included item individually, which quickly gets tedious. Unfortunately, there seems to be no easy way to propagate changes recursively. We can now click Continue and choose our package formats and create the package just like in the first example.


Packing it in

No matter what tool you use, the basic concepts behind creating installation packages for OS X are the same. Different tools have different options and abilities - you may need to experiment with a few to find the ones that meet your needs.


Greg Neagle is a member of the steering committee of the Mac OS X Enterprise Project (macenterprise.org) and is a senior systems engineer at a large animation studio. Greg has been working with the Mac since 1984, and with OS X since its release. He can be reached at gregneagle@mac.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OmniGraffle 6.3 - Create diagrams, flow...
OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use Graffle to... Read more
PDFKey Pro 4.3.2 - Edit and print passwo...
PDFKey Pro can unlock PDF documents protected for printing and copying when you've forgotten your password. It can now also protect your PDF files with a password to prevent unauthorized access and/... Read more
Ableton Live 9.2.2 - Record music using...
Ableton Live lets you create and record music on your Mac. Use digital instruments, pre-recorded sounds, and sampled loops to arrange, produce, and perform your music like never before. Ableton Live... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.3.1.0 - Monitor and c...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
NetShade 6.3.1 - Browse privately using...
NetShade is an anonymous proxy and VPN app+service for Mac. Unblock your Internet through NetShade's high-speed proxy and VPN servers spanning seven countries. NetShade masks your IP address as you... Read more
Dragon Dictate 4.0.7 - Premium voice-rec...
With Dragon Dictate speech recognition software, you can use your voice to create and edit text or interact with your favorite Mac applications. Far more than just speech-to-text, Dragon Dictate lets... Read more
Persecond 1.0.2 - Timelapse video made e...
Persecond is the easy, fun way to create a beautiful timelapse video. Import an image sequence from any camera, trim the length of your video, adjust the speed and playback direction, and you’re done... Read more
GIMP 2.8.14p2 - Powerful, free image edi...
GIMP is a multi-platform photo manipulation tool. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. The GIMP is suitable for a variety of image manipulation tasks, including photo retouching,... Read more
Sandvox 2.10.2 - Easily build eye-catchi...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
LibreOffice 5.0.1.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more

ReBoard: Revolutionary Keyboard (Utilit...
ReBoard: Revolutionary Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Do everything within the keyboard without switching apps! If you are in WhatsApp, how do you schedule a... | Read more »
Tiny Empire (Games)
Tiny Empire 1.1.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1.3 (iTunes) Description: Launch cannonballs and blow tiny orcs into thousands of pieces in this intuitive fantasy-themed puzzle shooter! Embark on an... | Read more »
Astropad Mini (Productivity)
Astropad Mini 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Productivity Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off introductory price! ​*** Get the high-end experience of a Wacom tablet at a fraction of the price with Astropad... | Read more »
Emo Chorus (Music)
Emo Chorus 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Realistic Choir simulator ranging from simple Chorus emulation to full ensemble Choir with 128 members. ### introductory offer... | Read more »
Forest Spirit (Games)
Forest Spirit 1.0.5 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.5 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Ski Safari 2 (Games)
Ski Safari 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The world's most fantastical, fun, family-friendly skiing game is back and better than ever! Play as Sven's sister Evana, share... | Read more »
Lara Croft GO (Games)
Lara Croft GO 1.0.47768 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.47768 (iTunes) Description: Lara Croft GO is a turn based puzzle-adventure set in a long-forgotten world. Explore the ruins of an ancient... | Read more »
Whispering Willows (Games)
Whispering Willows 1.23 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.23 (iTunes) Description: **LAUNCH SALE 50% OFF** - Whispering Willows is on sale for 50% off ($4.99) until September 9th. | Read more »
Calvino Noir (Games)
Calvino Noir 1.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: The film noir stealth game. Calvino Noir is the exploratory, sneaking adventure through the 1930s European criminal underworld.... | Read more »
Angel Sword (Games)
Angel Sword 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Prepare to adventure in the most epic full scale multiplayer 3D RPG for mobile! Experience amazing detailed graphics in full HD.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple offering refurbished 2015 13-inch Retin...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 (15%) off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $999.99 $100 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1199.99 $100 off - 21″ 2.9GHz iMac... Read more
5K iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP, fre...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. They have the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149.99 $2199.99, $... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini, refurbished, available for $...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 1.4GHz Mac minis available for $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. Their price is $80 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest... Read more
iPad Air 2 on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
Best Buy has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $100 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP
Best Buy has MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary... Read more
Big Grips Lift Handle For iPad Air and iPad A...
KEM Ventures, Inc. which pioneered the extra-large, super-protective iPad case market with the introduction of Big Grips Frame and Stand in 2011, is launching Big Grips Lift featuring a new super-... Read more
Samsung Launches Galaxy Tab S2, Its Most Powe...
Samsung Electronics America, Inc. has announced the U.S. release of the Galaxy Tab S2, its thinnest, lightest, ultra-fast tablet. Blending form and function, elegant design and multitasking power,... Read more
Tablet Screen Sizes Expanding as iPad Pro App...
Larger screen sizes are gaining favor as the tablet transforms into a productivity device, with shipments growing 185 percent year-over-year in 2015. According to a new Strategy Analytics’ Tablet... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Music, Business Operations - Apple (...
**Job Summary** This role in Apple Music and in iTunes is working with…the songs that we all enjoy listening to in Apple Music. Your job will be to work wit Read more
Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
**Job Summary** We are seeking an enthusiastic electrical engineer for the Apple Watch team. This is a design engineering position that entails working with Read more
Engineering Project Manager - *Apple* TV -...
**Job Summary** The iTunes Apps project management team oversees iTunes, Apple TV, DRM and iOS Applications. We are looking for a project manager to help manage 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 Online Store: Customer Insigh...
**Job Summary** Apple Retail (Online Store) is seeking an experienced e-commerce analytics professional to join the Customer Insights Team. The Web e-Commerce Analyst Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.