TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacEnterprise: Packaging for Enterprise Deployment

Volume Number: 25
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

MacEnterprise: Packaging for Enterprise Deployment

Building Installer packages for mass unattended distribution

by Greg Neagle, MacEnterprise.org

Introduction

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

Packaging internally-developed software or tools

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

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

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)

In an ideal world, only the first two reasons would require a systems administrator to create an installation package (and if you can train your internal developers on packaging, maybe you can cross the first one off, too!). For the other scenarios, it would be more desirable to just take the installation package provided by your third-party software vendor and use it without having to repackage the software. This month, we'll talk about some of the reasons third-party installers don't work in enterprise environments and provide suggestions on how third-party software vendors could make their installers more enterprise-friendly.

Previous MacEnterprise columns have been targeted towards systems administrators in enterprise-scale organizations. This month's column should also be of interest to systems administrators, but I hope MacTech readers who are software developers find it relevant as well.

If you are a software developer, why should you bother making your installer friendly to enterprise environments? The number one reason is that if you do, you'll sell more of your product into an enterprise environment. Make it too hard to deploy in an enterprise, and systems administrators will look elsewhere and recommend your competitor's solutions.

Reason two: if your installer is not enterprise-friendly, systems administrators will almost certainly have to repackage your software in order to deploy it to their users. This introduces an opportunity for errors to creep into the install process. It's much easier to support your own software when you know it was installed with your own installer - if organizations have to repackage your software for installation, you've just introduced a new variable to support, or many, many new variables, as each organization that repackages your software may do it slightly differently.

Definitions

What does it mean when we refer to an installer as being enterprise-friendly? It's actually quite simple. An installer is enterprise-friendly when a system administrator can use standard mass-deployment tools to install your software on many machines automatically, and when, once installed this way, the software works as expected for all users of a given machine with no additional post-install configuration that cannot be done as a non-privileged user (i.e., a user without administrator rights).

Now you're wondering: "what does this author mean by 'standard mass-deployment tools'?" Again, a simple answer: on OS X, a standard mass-deployment tool is one that uses the Apple package format. This includes Apple Remote Desktop, LANrev, the Casper Suite, the KBOX, and many other commercial tools. All of these tools can use the Apple package format to install software remotely to a large number of managed machines.

Simple advice

The first, cheapest, simplest, and most important thing you can do as a software developer to ensure your software's installer is enterprise-friendly is to use an ssh session and the command-line installer tool (/usr/sbin/installer) to install your software on a remote machine. Test the install with no-one logged in as a GUI user, and for extra points, test the install with a GUI user logged in.

Some more details:

Copy the installer to the target machine in any way that is convenient - use scp to copy a disk image or tar or zip archive; or log on directly to the target machine and copy the installer from the web or a file server. Put it someplace readily accessible like /Users/Shared.

If a GUI user is logged into the target machine, log that user out.

Use ssh to login to the target machine as root or as an administrative user that has sudo rights.

> ssh gneagle@aquaman
Password:
Last login: Thu Feb  5 15:16:59 2009
(aquaman) gneagle [201] %

If you've logged in as an administrative user, use sudo to become root, and try to install your software:

(aquaman) gneagle [201] % sudo -s
Password:
[aquaman:/] root# cd /Users/Shared/
[aquaman:/Users/Shared] root# 
[aquaman:~] root# installer -target / -pkg MyApp.pkg

If you support Tiger, test with a target machine running Tiger as well as Leopard. Watch what happens on the target machine while the install is happening. No windows or dialogs should appear; no applications should launch. You should see no visible indication that anything is happening.

Assuming the installation was successful and silent, now, using the GUI on the target machine, log in as a non-admin user and verify your software works as expected. Do the same as an administrative user.

Repeat the experiment, this time with a GUI user login on the target machine.

If your software can be installed silently with this method, there is no visual indication that anything is happening when the install is occurring, and your software functions as expected when installed this way: congratulations! There's a very good chance your installer is enterprise-friendly!

Common pitfalls

As it turns out, it's not hard at all to make an Installer package that is enterprise friendly. The simpler the installer package, the more likely it is enterprise-friendly. But here are some common pitfalls that can make third-party software unnecessarily difficult to deploy in an enterprise environment.

Pitfall #1: using alternate packaging formats

To make your installer enterprise-friendly, use the Apple Installer package format. This does not mean you have to use Apple's PackageMaker tool to create your packages, but whatever tool you use must have as its final output an installation package compatible with Apple's Installer. If you use any other format for your installer, enterprise administrators will almost certainly have to repackage your software to deliver it to their users.

This pitfall extends to the so-called "drag-and-drop" disk images: with this type of install, the user is given a disk or disk image, that when opened, presents the software and typically, instructions to drag it into the Applications folder. While this installation method is acceptable for simple interactive installs, it does not work with mass-deployment tools, once again forcing the administrator to repackage your software.

If you (or your customers) prefer drag-and-drop installs and don't want to give them up, at least consider making an Installer package available as an option for system administrator use. Such an optional package could even be included on the disk image that contains the drag-and-drop application, perhaps in a subfolder and mentioned in a READ ME file.

Pitfall #2: asking for administrator credentials on first launch

Some software asks for administrator credentials on first launch so that it can install additional items. Some examples are TextWrangler, and TextMate, each of which ask the user if they can install command-line tools, which requires administrator rights. If the user declines, the software won't ask again. Worse examples include some of the Adobe Acrobat family of products, which ask every time the product is launched until its demands are met.

This is problematic in an enterprise environment because best practices dictate that most users do not have administrative rights, and so cannot provide the requested credentials. The assumption that a user of your software has or can obtain administrator rights after your software has been installed is simply a bad assumption in an enterprise environment, or any other large-scale environment (like education).

To avoid the issue, administrators have to repackage the software; either including the optional installations or packaging a modified version of the software that doesn't ask the user to install the additional items.

From an administrator's viewpoint, it would be better if the installer simply installed everything it wanted installed up front. In the case of TextWrangler and TextMate, there are no installers - these are distributed as drag-and-drop disk images - so again, the option of an Installer package would make administrators lives easier. In the case of software like Acrobat or Reader, vendors should provide a way for administrators to turn this behavior off without having to modify or repackage the software.

Pitfall #3: pre- and post-install scripts

If your installer makes use of pre- and/or post-install scripts, test them during your remote install tests to make sure they don't do anything visible. The Microsoft Office 2008 installer has a post-install script that attempts to add things to the dock. When run remotely when no one was logged in on a Tiger machine, this script caused the Finder and Dock to open behind the login window. Not only was that annoying, it was a security risk since the Finder was running as root! The Office 2008 installer is not the first installer to do something like this, and unfortunately, probably won't be the last.

Even if a user is logged in, if the administrator was installing Office 2008 remotely, is it really good form to kill and relaunch a user's Dock out from under them?

Other things to watch out for are scripts that attempt to quit open applications, and anything that makes use of AppleScript, which may not behave as expected when no-one is logged in.

Fortunately, a pre- or post- script can easily tell if it's being run in the context of a non-GUI install: the installer command sets the COMMAND_LINE_INSTALL environment variable. Just test for it and exit or skip over a task if it's set - here's a Perl example from a postflight script in the iTunes install package that updates the Dock:

# exit if command-line install
exit(0) if ($ENV{'COMMAND_LINE_INSTALL'});

Pitfall #4: Licensing and registration

It's a fact of life that many commercial applications need some sort of license code or registration code to run as an effort to combat piracy. If your installer requires entering a license code as part of the install process, it will not be able to be installed via mass-deployment tools. Site licensing can help the problem somewhat, but still doesn't solve it completely if the installer asks for the site license code. Consider these alternatives:

If the software is being installed via command line (i.e. the COMMAND_LINE_INSTALL environment variable is set), allow the installation to occur without entering a registration code. Your app could then ask for the registration code at first launch. (But that can cause its own problems...)

An ever better option, but one that I've seen very few vendors embrace, is to provide administrators with a method to include the registration code or codes with the installer. This could take the form of a separate package install that simply installs the registration code(s), or a properly named and formatted text file that a script included with the installer looks for and uses, or some other method for an admin to provide registration codes without having to visit each machine or do a full repackaging of your software.

There are certainly other failure modes and issues that can make an installer less than enterprise-friendly, but these are among the most common pitfalls.

More information

Apple has some documentation on software delivery, managed installs and remote installs. A PDF is available here:

http://developer.apple.com/documentation/developertools/conceptual/SoftwareDistribution/SoftwareDeliveryGuide.pdf

and an HTML version is here:

http://developer.apple.com/documentation/developertools/conceptual/SoftwareDistribution

Call to action

Software vendors: if you follow the suggestions in this article, your installer will be enterprise-friendly and you may even see increased sales and fewer enterprise support issues.

System administrators: if your software vendors aren't providing enterprise-friendly installers, let them know! File bug reports, pester your account representatives, or, worse case, investigate alternatives from vendors who "get it." Good luck!


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.

 
AAPL
$116.47
Apple Inc.
+0.16
MSFT
$47.98
Microsoft Corpora
-0.72
GOOG
$537.50
Google Inc.
+2.67

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cobook 3.0.7 - Intelligent address book....
Cobook Contacts is an intuitive, engaging address book. Solve the problem of contact management with Cobook Contacts and its simple interface and powerful syncing and integration possibilities.... Read more
StatsBar 1.9 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Maya 2015 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more
Evernote 6.0.1 - 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
calibre 2.11 - 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... Read more
Herald 5.0.1 - Notification plugin for M...
Note: Versions 2.1.3 (for OS X 10.7), 3.0.6 (for OS X 10.8), and 4.0.8 (for OS X 10.9) are no longer supported by the developer. Herald is a notification plugin for Mail.app, Apple's Mac OS X email... Read more
Firetask 3.7 - Innovative task managemen...
Firetask uniquely combines the advantages of classical priority-and-due-date-based task management with GTD. Stay focused and on top of your commitments - Firetask's "Today" view shows all relevant... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.6 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PhotoDesk 3.0.1 - Instagram client for p...
PhotoDesk lets you view, like, comment, and download Instagram pictures/videos! (NO Uploads! / Image Posting! Instagram forbids that! AND you *need* an *existing* Instagram account). But you can do... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to E...
Ubisoft Gives Everyone Two New Ways to Earn In-Game Stuff for Far Cry 4 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Golfinity – Tips, Tricks, Strategies, an...
Dig this: Would you like to know what we thought of being an infinite golfer? Check out our Golfinity review! Golfinity offers unlimited ways to test your skills at golf. Here are a few ways to make sure your score doesn’t get too high and your... | Read more »
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Meli...
Dark Hearts, The Sequel to Haunting Melissa, is Available Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Meowza! Toyze Brings Talking Tom to Life...
Meowza! | Read more »
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG f...
Square Enix Announces New Tactical RPG for Mobile, Heavenstrike Rivals. Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] With their epic stories and gorgeous graphics, | Read more »
Quest for Revenge (Games)
Quest for Revenge 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The great Kingdom of the west has fallen. The gods ignore the prayers of the desperate. A dark warlord has extinguished... | Read more »
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for Y...
Threadz is a New Writing Adventure for You and Your Friends Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 21st, 2014 [ permalink ] In the tradition of round-robin storytelling, | Read more »
SteelSeries Stratus XL Hardware Review
Made by: SteelSeries Price: $59.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 4.31 out of 5 stars | Read more »
ACDSee (Photography)
ACDSee 1.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Capture, perfect, and share your photos with ACDSee. The ACDSee iPhone app combines an innovative camera, a powerful photo... | Read more »
ProTube for YouTube (Entertainment)
ProTube for YouTube 2.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 2.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ProTube is the ultimate, fully featured YouTube app. With it's highly polished design, ProTube offers ad-free... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save up to $400 with Apple refurbished 2014 1...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping... Read more
New 13-inch 1.4GHz MacBook Air on sale for $8...
 Adorama has the 2014 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $899.99 including free shipping plus NY & NJ tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. B&H Photo has the 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook... Read more
Apple Expected to Reverse Nine-Month Tablet S...
Apple and Samsung combined accounted for 62 percent of the nearly 36 million branded tablets shipped in 3Q 2014, according to early vendor shipment share estimates from market intelligence firm ABI... Read more
Stratos: 30 Percent of US Smartphone Owners t...
Stratos, Inc., creator of the Bluetooth Connected Card Platform, has announced results from its 2014 Holiday Mobile Payments Survey. The consumer survey found that nearly one out of three (30 percent... Read more
2014 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $...
 B&H Photo has lowered their price on the new 1.4GHz Mac mini to $449.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new... 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
64GB iPod touch on sale for $249, save $50
Best Buy has the 64GB iPod touch on sale for $249 on their online store for a limited time. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for... Read more
15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $17...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. B&H will also include free copies of... Read more
New Logitech AnyAngle Case/Stand Brings Flexi...
Logitec has announced the newest addition to its suite of tablet products — the Logitech AnyAngle. A protective case with an any-angle stand for iPad Air 2 and all iPad mini models, AnyAngle is the... Read more
Notebook PC Shipments Rise Year-Over-Year as...
According to preliminary results from the upcoming DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report, the global notebook PC market grew 10 percent year-over-year in Q3’14 to 49.4... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC)- Retail S...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
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* Store Leader Program - College Gradu...
Job Description: Job Summary As an Apple Store Leader Program agent, you can continue your education as you major in the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll 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
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.