TweetFollow Us on Twitter

MacEnterprise: Managing Software Installs with Munki

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: MacEnterprise

MacEnterprise: Managing Software Installs with Munki

An introduction to software deployment with Munki

By Greg Neagle, MacEnterprise.org

Introduction

Managing Mac OS X machines has many facets. Common tasks include the initial building or imaging of machines, configuration of the OS and applications for use, managing user accounts, setting and enforcing organizational policies, and inventorying hardware and software. Remotely assisting users might also come under the category of Mac management.

Another very common task is installing, updating, and removing software on deployed machines. There are some organizations that build their machines with a "golden master" image, and then never touch them again until they are reimaged, but that's a rare arrangement. For most organizations, there is a continuing need to add, update, and remove software from machines that have been deployed.

There are several commercial tools available to assist you with this task. Among these are the Casper Suite, Absolute Manage (formerly LANrev), KBox, and FileWave. There are also some free tools. Radmind, developed at the University of Michigan, is a tool to manage the contents of a filesystem. Its design allowed it also be used as a software management system, and it has enjoyed some popularity among Mac OS X administrators. I, personally, have used it for the better part of a decade to manage hundreds of Mac OS X machines.

For various reasons, a couple of years ago, I began to look at alternatives to radmind. I needed a system that did not manage the entire filesystem and allowed greater flexibility for users to decide what was installed on their machines, and I wanted a system that removed much of the tedium of adding new software to the management system. The commercial solutions mentioned earlier probably would have met my needs, but timing and finances meant that I'd have to wait a year before we could consider purchasing one of these solutions. So with a year to wait before I could possibly buy a commercial solution, I decided to try writing my own software management utility. The result is munki.

Although munki is relatively new compared to radmind and many of the commercial solutions, it has been in use at my organization for over a year, and is in use by many other organizations world-wide.

What Munki Does

Munki consists of client-side tools written largely in Python, and is available as open-source under the Apache 2 license at http://code.google.com/p/munki. The client tools run on Leopard and Snow Leopard. They require Python 2.5, and so will not run on Tiger or earlier versions of Mac OS X.

On the server side, munki can use any web server. I run my munki repository on an Xserve running Snow Leopard Server, but you can use any available modern web server on any platform. (I say "modern" because some software packages can be over 2GB in size and older web servers have problems serving files of that size.) You do not need to install any munki-specific software on the web server, but you must be able to create directories and files on the web server.

Munki can install software delivered as standard Apple packages - the same kind of packages, that when double-clicked, open in Apple's Installer.app. Munki can also install software from disk images - for example, an application delivered on a disk image that is supposed to be dragged to the Applications folder. These "drag-n-drop disk images" are easily installed by munki. Munki also knows how to install many Adobe products - specifically, it can install the Adobe CS3, CS4, and CS5 products and their updates. In many cases, munki can also remove the software it has installed.

Munki also supports "Optional Software". These are items that are made available to the users of machines your manage, who can decide for themselves whether or not they'd like any of these items installed. If they choose to install an optional software item, they can also later remove it. This feature does not require admin rights for the user, and is similar in concept to "Self Service" installs offered by the Casper Suite from JAMF Software.

Additionally, munki can update software it did not install itself. You can specify that certain software should be updated only if some version is found already installed on a user's machine.

What Munki Doesn't Do

Earlier, we mentioned that managing Mac OS X machines has many facets. Many of the commercial solutions for software deployment also provide solutions for other facets of Mac management. Munki does not. Munki focuses only on software deployment. You'll need to turn to other tools for imaging, inventory, remote assistance, and preference management. At my organization, we're using DeployStudio for imaging and Apple's Screen Sharing for remote assistance. If you've been reading this column for very long, it shouldn't come as a surprise that we're using Local MCX for preference management.

Munki Pieces

Most of the data munki needs to function is stored on a web server. Munki uses three types of data:

Installer items: these are packages or disk images containing the software to be installed. In many cases, you can use a package or disk image provided by the software vendor without having to repackage or convert the installer package in any way. For example, munki can install Firefox from the disk image that you download from http://www.mozilla.com.

Catalogs: these are lists of available software, containing metadata about the installer items. You, as the munki administrator, build these catalogs using tools provided with munki.

Manifests: A manifest is essentially a list of what software should be installed on or removed from a given machine. You could have a different manifest for every machine, or one manifest for all of your machines. Manifests can include the contents of other manifests, allowing you to group software for easy addition to client manifests. For example, you could create a manifest listing all of the software every machine in your organization must have. The manifest for a client could then include the common-software manifest, and additionally have software unique to that client.

Manifests and catalogs are stored on the web server as standard Apple plist files in text format. If you've administered Mac OS X machines, you've almost certainly encountered plist files. They are a well-understood way to store structured data in a text format. Here's an example of a simple manifest:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
   <key>catalogs</key>
   <array>
      <string>production</string>
   </array>
   <key>managed_installs</key>
   <array>
      <string>Firefox</string>
      <string>Thunderbird</string>
   </array>
</dict>
</plist>

This manifest simply tells munki to look for information about software to install in the "production" catalog, and to ensure Firefox and Thunderbird are installed. Munki then searches the production catalog for items named "Firefox" and "Thunderbird", and since we did not specify a version, it selects the items with the latest versions. Here's what it finds for Firefox:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
   <key>autoremove</key>
   <false/>
   <key>catalogs</key>
   <array>
      <string>production</string>
   </array>
   <key>installer_item_hash</key>
   <string>10ede8228c869ba4b03611b6ec750acbccf879f20ce52cb86e1baf6972f60fb0</string>
   <key>installer_item_location</key>
   <string>Firefox 3.6.10.dmg</string>
   <key>installer_item_size</key>
   <integer>18996</integer>
   <key>installer_type</key>
   <string>copy_from_dmg</string>
   <key>installs</key>
   <array>
      <dict>
         <key>CFBundleIdentifier</key>
         <string>org.mozilla.firefox</string>
         <key>CFBundleName</key>
         <string>Firefox</string>
         <key>CFBundleShortVersionString</key>
         <string>3.6.10</string>
         <key>path</key>
         <string>/Applications/Firefox.app</string>
         <key>type</key>
         <string>application</string>
      </dict>
   </array>
   <key>items_to_copy</key>
   <array>
      <dict>
         <key>destination_path</key>
         <string>/Applications</string>
         <key>source_item</key>
         <string>Firefox.app</string>
      </dict>
   </array>
   <key>minimum_os_version</key>
   <string>10.4.0</string>
   <key>name</key>
   <string>Firefox</string>
   <key>uninstall_method</key>
   <string>remove_copied_items</string>
   <key>uninstallable</key>
   <true/>
   <key>version</key>
   <string>3.6.10.0.0</string>
</dict>
</plist>

At this point, you might be intimidated by the complexity of this information. But don't worry, it's very easy to generate this info with tools that are part of munki, and we'll cover that in the future. The information might look less intimidating if I were to remove the plist overhead and present a subset of the information as a simple table. Look at Table 1 for the result.


Table 1 - munki's information about an installer item

Let's look at parts of the information that munki found about Firefox.

The most important field is name. Here it is "Firefox", which matches the name in the managed_installs list in the manifest. When looking for information about a managed install, munki searches the catalogs for items matching the name given. If no version is given, it selects the item with the highest version it finds. Here the version is "3.6.10.0.0".

Once it has found information on the item to be installed, munki checks to see if the item has already been installed. Munki can do this one of two ways. If the item to be installed is installed via an Apple package, munki can check for the receipts left when a package is installed. But software that is not installed via an Apple package does not leave a receipt. And even for items that come in package format, it is possible for software to be removed (for example, by dragging an application to the trash) while leaving the receipt in place. So munki has a second method is can use to determine if an item has been installed, the installs list. For our Firefox example, here is that list:

   
  <key>installs</key>
   <array>
      <dict>
         <key>CFBundleIdentifier</key>
         <string>org.mozilla.firefox</string>
         <key>CFBundleName</key>
         <string>Firefox</string>
         <key>CFBundleShortVersionString</key>
         <string>3.6.10</string>
         <key>path</key>
         <string>/Applications/Firefox.app</string>
         <key>type</key>
         <string>application</string>
      </dict>
   </array>

A simplified version of the installs data is shown in Table 2: Installs data for Firefox 3.6.10

Installs:   
   Type:    application   
   Identifier:   org.mozilla.firefox   
   Name:    Firefox   
   Version:   3.6.10   
   Path:    /Applications/Firefox.app   

Table 2 - Installs data for Firefox 3.6.10

In this example, the installs list contains a single item. This item contains information about the Firefox application itself. Most importantly, it has the name, version and pathname for the application. Munki can then use this information to determine if Firefox is installed, and if so, compare the version of the installed application to the one defined in the catalog information about Firefox. (Munki can often find the application even if it has been moved from its normal location by using System Profiler data and the name and identifier.)

If Firefox isn't found, or the version of the installed Firefox is lower than the version described by the catalog information, munki decides that Firefox needs to be installed and downloads the disk image file containing Firefox, using information from the installer_item_location field. If we were using the sample manifest shown earlier, the check would be repeated for Thunderbird.

Let us assume that munki found that Firefox was out-of-date, but the current version of Thunderbird was installed. After downloading the disk image for Firefox 3.6.10, munki would alert the user of available updates using the Managed Software Update application, shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1 - Managed Software Update.app

As you can see, Managed Software Update.app is designed to closely resemble Apple's Software Update application so that users might quickly grasp its purpose and how to use it. Unlike Apple's Software Update application, users do not need administrative rights to install software using this application. If the user clicks Update now, munki will install Firefox 3.6.10 without an administrative prompt. The next time munki checks, it will find that Firefox is installed and not attempt to install it again.

The installs list also bestows munki with another feature: automatic repair. If a user (with administrative rights) were to remove Firefox (by accident or on purpose), munki will notice and reinstall the application. For more complex software installs, munki can check for the existence of multiple items - not only applications, but other filesystem items as well. If any of the items in the installs list are missing or out of date, a reinstall is triggered.

To remove a software item from a machine, you'd edit the manifest for the machine, moving the item from the managed_installs list to the managed_uninstalls list. If we wanted to remove Firefox, the edited manifest might look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
   <key>catalogs</key>
   <array>
      <string>testing</string>
   </array>
   <key>managed_installs</key>
   <array>
      <string>Thunderbird</string>
   </array>
   <key>managed_uninstalls</key>
   <array>
      <string>Firefox</string>
   </array>
</dict>
</plist>
This time we'll run munki from the command line:
>/usr/local/munki/managedsoftwareupdate
Managed Software Update Tool
Copyright 2010 The Munki Project
http://code.google.com/p/munki
The following items will be removed:
    - Firefox
Run managedsoftwareupdate —installonly to install the downloaded updates.

Munki sees Firefox in the list of managed_uninstalls, and uses the information in the installs array we discussed earlier to determine that Firefox is installed. Munki then schedules Firefox for removal. From the GUI, the scheduled task looks like Figure 2.


Figure 2 - Software removal

In the interface presented to the user, details about software removals are hidden by default (though the administrator can override this if he or she would like). This is to discourage users from deferring updates indefinitely because they don't want a certain application removed.

Munki Behaviors

This is a good time to discuss a major part of munki's design. Munki is designed to be polite. It never installs anything under a currently active user session without the user's approval. If no one is logged in, munki will by default install or remove software automatically, hiding the loginwindow and presenting a status window. If a user is logged in, munki notifies the user of updates and allows the user to either update right away or defer the update until later. Munki also handles multiple user logins (via Fast User Switching) gracefully and will not install items if more than one user is logged in (as doing so could cause switched-out users to lose work).

Administrators can customize these behaviors, configuring munki to never bother the user with available updates (therefore waiting to install all updates when no user is logged in), or the inverse - telling munki to never automatically install software when at the loginwindow, and instead always requiring user consent for all updates. Administrators cannot, however, easily configure munki to force an install or removal while users are logged in.

To Be Continued...

This month, we've presented a basic introduction to munki, an open-source utility for managing software installs, updates and removals on Mac OS X machines. Next time, we'll dive a little deeper and set up a proof-of-concept installation of munki on a standalone machine. This will include both the munki client tools and a working munki server. We'll then explore more of the munki toolset and look at creating munki catalogs - the listings of available software munki uses to determine if a piece of software needs to be installed or removed, and if so, how to complete the installation or removal.

In the meantime, if this month's column has piqued your interest, be sure to check out the resources available on the munki Google Code website at http://code.google.com/p/munki, and browse the archives of the munki-dev Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/munki-dev. Until next month, have fun munki-ing around!


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

OmniOutliner Pro 4.6 - Pro version of th...
OmniOutliner Pro is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
Alfred 3.1 - Quick launcher for apps and...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
OmniOutliner 4.6 - Organize your ideas,...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
Default Folder X 5.0.6 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more
Adobe Creative Cloud 3.8.0.310 - Access...
Adobe Creative Cloud costs $19.99/month for a single app, or $49.99/month for the entire suite. Introducing Adobe Creative Cloud desktop applications, including Adobe Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC... Read more
MYStuff Pro 2.0.25 - Create inventories...
MYStuff Pro is the most flexible way to create detail-rich inventories for your home or small business. Add items to MYStuff by dragging and dropping existing information, uploading new images, or... Read more
Viber 6.2.0 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device, so... Read more
Data Rescue 4.2.3 - Powerful hard drive...
Use Data Rescue to recover: crashed, corrupted or non-mounting hard drive deleted, damaged, or lost files reformatted or erased hard drive One powerful new feature found in Data Rescue 4 is... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.34 - Connec...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more
Microsoft Remote Desktop 8.0.34 - Connec...
With Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can connect to a remote PC and your work resources from almost anywhere. Experience the power of Windows with RemoteFX in a Remote Desktop client designed to help... Read more

Find out the story behind League of Ange...
If you’re looking for a new thrilling MMORPG to play with your friends then you’ll be excited to hear that there is a sequel to one of the most well known titles in the genre – namely League of Angels 2. With a brand new 3D engine offering... | Read more »
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Blazing...
I'm not sure if it's possible to say you are an anime fan but also never have seen one episode of Naruto. If it is, then I resemble that remark, and if not, I offer a hearty apology. [Read more] | Read more »
5 mobile games that let you explore spac...
No Man's Sky hasn't exactly turned out to be everything it was promised. Though its core concept of exploring an unimaginably vast universe of different planets is an intriguing one, the execution has left many PS4 and PC gamers feeling like they... | Read more »
Mummy madness in new action game Tomb He...
Hot on the tail of Bump Hero, ZPlay is giving gamers another reason to get screen bashing with a brand new release. Tomb Heroes is a challenging action game in which you battle enemies in various tombs around the world. You can select from nine... | Read more »
Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) (Games)
Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Siralim 2 is an old-school monster catching RPG. Summon and customize hundreds of creatures to fight for you as... | Read more »
Clean Text (Productivity)
Clean Text 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars (Games)
Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: *** SPECIAL LAUNCH SALE: $2.99 (25% off) *** "A mesmerizing and unexpectedly emotional journey." -- Los... | Read more »
How to get four NFL superstars for your...
Even though you're probably well on your way to building a top notch squad for the new season in Madden NFL Mobile, let's say you could beef it up by adding Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Von Miller, and Todd Gurley to your roster. That's... | Read more »
Cartoon Network Superstar Soccer: Goal!!...
Cartoon Network Superstar Soccer: Goal!!! – Multiplayer Sports Game Starring Your Favorite Characters 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Become a soccer superstar with your... | Read more »
NFL Huddle: What's new in Topps NFL...
Can you smell that? It's the scent of pigskin in the air, which either means that cliches be damned, pigs are flying in your neck of the woods, or the new NFL season is right around the corner. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

RESCUECOM 2016 Semi-Annual Computer Reliabili...
The beginning of a new school year is upon us again, in which students and parents have some very important choices to make, often including the purchase of a computer or tablet. Whether you are... Read more
VRS Design Damda Glide Series iPhone 7 and 7...
What makes the Damda Glide Series for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus special? Case maker VRS Design says its Damda Glide Series is the first mobile case to incorporate a semi-automatic mechanism for... Read more
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
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $350 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $829... 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
Save $120 with Apple refurbished Time Capsule...
Apple has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for $120 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $179, $120 off (not... Read more
9-inch 32GB iPad Pros on sale for $70 off MSR...
B&H Photo has 9″ 32GB WiFi Apple iPad Pros on sale for $70 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 9″ Space Gray 32GB WiFi iPad Pro: $529 $70 off MSRP - 9... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $140 off MSRP
Adorama has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP Amazon has the... Read more
Back To School with OtterBox Essentials
Back to school means back to an environment that is tough on tech. OtterBox has the back to school essentials you need to keep tech safe from drops, bumps, scratches and hallway havoc. Check out the... Read more
VRS Design Releases New iPhone 7 Plus Case Li...
With a device as large and costly as the iPhone 7 Plus, it is primal instinct to protect it from potential damage. According to a study by SquareTrade in 2012, iPhone damages cost Americans roughly $... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
Apple Solutions ConsultantJob Number: 51218534Pleasant Hill, California, United StatesPosted: Aug. 18, 2016Weekly Hours: 40.00Job SummaryAs an Apple Solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 51218354 Fredericksburg, Virginia, United States Posted: Aug. 18, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* /Mac Support Engineer - GFI Digital,...
FI Digital, Inc. is currently seeking candidates for a full time Apple Support Engineer to add to our Maryland Heights, Missouri IT team. Candidates must be dynamic Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
Apple Solutions ConsultantJob Number: 51218534Pleasant Hill, California, United StatesPosted: Aug. 18, 2016Weekly Hours: 40.00Job SummaryAs an Apple Solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.