TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacEnterprise: Packaging for System Administrators

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 03
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

MacEnterprise: Packaging for System Administrators

Building Installer packages for software distribution

by Greg Neagle, MacEnterprise.org

Introduction

In an earlier MacTech article, we discussed reasons Mac OS X systems administrators might need to package or repackage software for deployment in their organization. Some common reasons are:

Repackaging into a format compatible with your distribution mechanism

Repackaging software that won't install "silently" (i.e., prompts the user for info, or launches GUI applications)

Capturing organization-specific changes (licensing, configuration) into a package

Packaging third-party software that is distributed without an Installer package

Packaging internally-developed software or tools

We mentioned several packaging tools, and detailed two repackaging examples using LANrev's InstallEase. The first example was using drag-and-drop to build a installer package for Firefox. The second example used filesystem snapshots to build a package for TextWrangler and its command-line tools.

More Packaging Tools

LANrev's InstallEase is a very easy to use packaging utility, as you might have seen from the earlier article. But it actually relies on other packaging tools to do the "heavy lifting." In order to actually create the final package, you must have either Apple's PackageMaker, or Stéphan Sudre's Iceberg installed. In the case of PackageMaker, InstallEase uses it behind the scenes, and so you never have to directly use PackageMaker if you do not want to. With Iceberg, you save an Iceberg project from InstallEase, and then open that project file with Iceberg to finish building the package.

Why move beyond InstallEase? With InstallEase, you have very little control over things like the package bundle ID (which you might want to use to identify your company), or settings like requiring a restart after install. There's no way to specify a custom read me, license agreement or other user interface settings. For automated installs, none of these features may matter, but for a package you intend to have end-users manually install, you may want more control.

PackageMaker

To gain that additional control, we'll look at PacakgeMaker, Apple's packaging utility. PackageMaker is available with Apple's Xcode developer tools, and also as part of the Server Administration Software. New in version 3 is the ability to find files to add to a package via "snapshot", or watching for file system changes. Let's quickly revisit our example of building a package for TextWrangler, this time using PackageMaker, and then look at some of PackageMaker's additional options.

If you haven't already, install PackageMaker by installing either Xcode 3 or the latest release of the Server Administration Tools from Apple. At the time of this writing, the URL for the Server Tools was:

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

Don't run the installer - PackageMaker is available in the Utilities folder on the disk image, ready to be dragged to your hard drive.

In order to play along at home with the example, also download the disk image for TextWrangler from:

http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/download.html

and mount the image.

Getting Started

Open PackageMaker. You'll see an untitled project window, and a sheet asking for some basic info. Enter your organization identifier and choose a minimum OS target, as in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Specifying install properties

Creating a snapshot

We're going to use filesystem snapshots to build this package, so choose Add Snapshot Package... from the Project menu.


Figure 2. Adding a Snapshot Package

You'll have one last chance to get ready - if you haven't downloaded TextWrangler, do it now.


Figure 3. Starting the snapshot

Click Start to begin. Install TextWrangler from the disk image by dragging it to the Applications folder. To install the command-line tools, launch TextWrangler and agree when it asks if you want the current versions of edit and twdiff, authenticating as an administrator when asked. This, of course, is the reason we're building this package: we can then use our software distribution tool to install the TextWrangler application and its command-line tools without having to bother the user with the requests to install the command-line tools.

Once you are done with the install tasks, return to PackageMaker and click Stop.



Figures 4-5. Stopping the snapshot

Click Next to proceed.


Figure 6. Filtering snapshot items

You'll see a tree view of files and directories that were modified between the time you clicked Start and the time you clicked Stop. InstallEase has a configurable filter to ignore certain directories and files; PackageMaker does not, so you'll have a larger number of unwanted files and directories to wade through and uncheck. In the example shown in Figure 6, you'd want to uncheck /Applications/.DS_Store, and the entire tree under /Library, as these are not part of the actual install. The snapshot also captured several log files in /private/var/log, other items in my home directory, and more. You'll need to examine the list of captured items carefully and remove those that are not relevant to the installation. Give the snapshot a title and click Save.

Configuring the package


Figure 7. Package configuration

We can now start to customize the package. In the example shown in Figure 7, I've given it a title, and added a description.

Under Install Destination, you'll see three choices. In most cases, Volume selected by user is the best choice, especially if you will be using this package to install software on a non-booted volume, like when using the InstaDMG method of creating installation images. If you want non-admin users to be able to install the software, and it does not require anything to be installed in the System domain, you can check User home directory. This would be an unusual choice in most managed enterprise environments, though.

You can see the contents we captured with the snapshot in the left column under Contents. Turn the disclosure triangle down to see detail on the contents. See Figure 8 for an example.


Figure 8. Configuring the snapshot package

We can further customize the install under the Configuration tab for the snapshot contents. We can give the package an identifier and version, specify a restart action, and indicate if admin authentication is needed. This particular install does not need a restart, but you could choose to require a logout, recommend a restart, require a restart, or require a shutdown. (The only type of installation I can think of that would require a shutdown would be a firmware update that requires the user to hold down the power button on the subsequent startup.) Since this package installs items in /Applications, /usr/bin, and /usr/share/man, it will need admin authentication. Very few installation packages will not need admin authentication unless they install items in the user's home folder or in /Users/Shared, as these areas are modifiable by standard users.

Let's proceed to the Contents tab.


Figure 9. Editing the contents

In Figure 9, we can see all the items that will be installed. I've turned down several of the disclosure triangles so we can see more of the items. There are some changes that should be made. You'll see that the TextWrangler application is owned by gneagle. If we're going to install this on multiple machines, we'll want to change the ownership to root. We had to do the same thing when packaging with InstallEase, going through each file one-by-one and changing the ownership and permissions. PackageMaker has what might look like a handy shortcut: the Apply Recommendations button. If you were to click it, PackageMaker will go through all the items in your project, applying its recommended permissions and ownership. In my experience, the ownership and permissions it applies end up causing warnings later in the build process. It seems to just blindly set owner to root, group to admin, and permissions to 775 or 664. These are generally fine for things in /Applications, but cause warnings elsewhere in the filesystem - like in /usr/bin. So, sadly, you are probably better off fixing ownership and permissions manually.

If you discover you've accidentally included a file or directory you don't want installed, you can remove it from the contents by unchecking it in the contents list.

Next, we move to the Components tab.


Figure 10. Editing Component options

As shown in Figure 10, PackageMaker has identified the TextWrangler.app application bundle as a "component", and marked it as relocatable. This means that if after installation, a user with admin privileges moves the component somewhere else, that for future reinstalls or upgrades, Installer will search the disk for the component.

In most cases, for managed installs in an enterprise environment, I'd recommend that you disable this option. You as the OS X administrator know where you are going to install it and probably don't intend to move it around. Additionally, it slows down the install process as it scans the drive for the application, and there are some definite non-intuitive behaviors with this option in some configurations. It seems safest to turn this off unless you understand the implications and need the behavior.

The second checkbox, labeled Allow Downgrade, controls whether or not the Installer allows the user to install an older version of this component over a newer version. Most of the time, you would not want this, but if you are creating a package to downgrade an application because the newer version has problems in your environment, this might be a useful option.

We could also specify pre-installation and post-installation scripts to run at this point, but we don't need them for this project, so we'll leave the Scripts tab alone.

Editing the user interface

Let's look at an (optional) final task before building our package.

PackageMaker contains an interface editor to customize what the user sees when installing your package. If you are building packages that are to be installed silently in the background, you can safely ignore the user interface altogether. But if you are building packages you intend to be installed manually, you might want to customize the user interface.

Start by clicking the Edit Interface icon on the right side of the PackageMaker project window toolbar.


Figure 11. PackageMaker's Interface Editor

The Interface Editor will open, and will look like Figure 11. Here you can customize the background image and the Introduction, Read Me, License, and Finish Up messages, including adding localizations for languages other than English. Feel free to play with the various options. Once you are happy with your edits, close the editor and save the project.

Building the package

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for: building the actual package. If you haven't done so already, save the project. Click the Build icon in the project window toolbar. Give the package a name, choose a location, and click Save. You should see a progress indicator for a minute or less, and then something like Figure 12.


Figure 12. Build results

Though my build succeeded, there's one warning. I've turned down the disclosure triangle to read the warning, and I can click on the magnifying glass to be taken to where I can fix it.


Figure 13. "Spotlight"-style focus on the problem

In Figure 13, you can see that PackageMaker highlights the relevant control ala Spotlight in System Preferences. In this case, I needed to enter the destination - "/". Build again, and the warning should be gone.

If you wish, you can now open the built package in Installer and test it.

Wrap-up

This was a fairly typical example of building a simple Installer package. We took some third-party software that is distributed in a non-Apple Installer package format and did some post-install configuration tasks. We then used Apple's PackageMaker to capture the installed and modified files and build an Installer package. This example only scratches the surface of the many capabilities of PackageMaker. PackageMaker can build metapackages, new Leopard-style flat packages, and more. You can specify install requirements (like minimum available disk space, CPU type and speed), and optional installs, like user guides.

Though PackageMaker is a full-featured, powerful packaging tool, it also has some non-trivial issues. A key issue, in my experience and in the experience of other OS X systems administrators, is that PackageMaker has a hard time creating packages that have a large number of items. Many admins have seen PackageMaker crash or become unresponsive when trying to repackage Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite applications. This problem also occurs with the command-line version of PackageMaker, so other tools that build on or rely on PackageMaker will almost certainly have the same issue.

Workarounds for this issue include breaking the install into smaller packages that are then part of a metapackage, or using another tool like Iceberg. An attempted repackaging of Microsoft Office 2008 that failed for me using PackageMaker, both via the GUI and the command line, was successful using Iceberg.

A OS X administrator may need a variety of packaging tools at his or her disposal, since they all have their strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that you can get your feet wet with simpler tools, and as you need more capabilities, use heavier-duty (and more complicated) tools.


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

How to build a successful civilisation i...
GodFinger 2 grants you godlike powers, leaving you to raise a civilization of followers. In the spirit of games like Black & White, the GodFinger games will see you building bigger and better villages, developing more advanced technology and... | Read more »
How to get all the crabs in Mr Crab 2
Mr. Crab 2 may look like a cutesy platformer for kids, but if you're the kind of person who likes to complete a game 100%, you'll soon realise that it's a tougher than a crustacean's shell. [Read more] | Read more »
How to be a star in Britney Spears: Amer...
If you've ever wanted to be a star, baby, then you've probably already checked out Britney Spears: American Dream and are happily making your way up the charts. But fame doesn't come easy, and everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. So we've got... | Read more »
AppSpy is hiring a part time Staff Write...
| Read more »
How to save lives in ER Surgery Simulato...
A serious earthquake has struck a nearby town in ER Surgery Simulator - Emergency Doctor, and it’s up to you to save the victims. [Read more] | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a high score in G...
Ketchapp Games loves the endless runner genre. And its newest game, Gravity Switch, is no exception. Gravity Switch takes a fresh approach, though, as you move a block, suspended in zero gravity, safely through a maze of shifting pillars. If the... | Read more »
Tips and tricks to get a high score in S...
Smash Fu is a high-paced tile-tapping game that requires quick reflexes and some practice. You’ll have to smash bricks with the skill of a seasoned black belt to get a high score. To raise the stakes a bit, you’ll also have to avoid tapping any... | Read more »
How to keep the ball rolling in Dropple
If you're new to the minimalist puzzler Dropple, you may find yourself struggling to make it beyond the first couple of steps before your ball falls into the endless abyss below. [Read more] | Read more »
Game Craft releases new Legend of War ti...
Set for release at the end of this month, real time strategy title Legend of War seems sure to delight with a veritable feast of sweet features to get stuck into. Developed by Game Craft, the game is due for release through both the App Store and... | Read more »
How not to die in Traffic Rider
Traffic Rider, an Out Run-esque game in which your ride a motorcycle recklessly into trffic, might not seem particularly complicated. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Textkraft Professional Becomes A Mobile Produ...
The new update 4.1 of Textkraft Professional for the iPad comes with many new and updated features that will be particularly of interest to self-publishers of e-books. Highlights include import and... Read more
SnipNotes 2.0 – Intelligent note-taking for i...
Indie software developer Felix Lisczyk has announced the release and immediate availability of SnipNotes 2.0, the next major version of his productivity app for iOS devices and Apple Watch.... Read more
Pitch Clock – The Entrepreneur’s Wingman Laun...
Grand Rapids, Michigan based Skunk Tank has announced the release and immediate availability of Pitch Clock – The Entrepreneur’s Wingman 1.1, the company’s new business app available exclusively on... Read more
13-inch 2.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro (model #MF841LL/A) on sale for $1599 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP. Amazon also has the 13″ 3.9GHz Retina... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Clearance 12-inch Retina MacBooks available s...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on leftover 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks with models now available starting at $999. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
New 2016 13-inch 256GB MacBook Air on sale fo...
B&H Photo has the new 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (model MMGG2LL/A) on sale for $1149 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Amazon has the 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available start...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2 available starting at $339. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2: $499 - 64GB Wi-Fi iPad... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Nissan Service Technicians - Apple A...
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 , Read more
ISCS *Apple* ID Site Support Engineer - APP...
…position, we are looking for an individual who has experience supporting customers with Apple ID issues and enjoys this area of support. This person should be 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
*Apple* Support Technician II - Worldventure...
…global, fast growing member based travel company, is currently sourcing for an Apple Support Technician II to be based in our Plano headquarters. WorldVentures is Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.