Penn State MacAdmins 2015


Penn State MacAdmins conference was last week. Over 600+ MacAdmins traveled from all over the world to discuss and share knowledge regarding OS X. This was my first year at PSU MacAdmins so I did not know what to expect. With that said I found this conference to very informative and collaborative. 

The first day there were five workshop's for attendees to choose from:

  • Apple Workshop
  • Fundamentals of Wi-Fi(or, Arguing with Physics)
  • Packaging Workshop
  • All Things Security
  • Introduction to Cocoa Development and Reverse Engineering on OS X

All great workshops but I choose the Packaging Workshop. This was of particular interest to me because I did not know how an installer should actually look and behave. This workshop explained did a great job of explaining how packages should look and behave. In addition to this information there were helpful tips with hands on packaging experience in the GUI and on the command line. The workshop had some of the following topics and suggested a few applications: 

There was also scripting and Stupid packaging tricks recommendations. This was by far one of the most helpful sessions for me all conference. I did not have a strong background with this particular topic but after this workshop I feel more than confident in my ability to exam and build proper applications packages for deployment. 

There were a plethora of amazing sessions all week long. Check out the schedule Some of my favorites were:

  • Integrating AutoPKG and the Casper Suite with the JSSImporter
  • To 12,00 Macs and beyond....
  • Administering Office 2016 for Mac
  • It's Dangerous to Go Alone, Take This!
  • Automated Testing with VMware Fusion
  • The 12 Unix Commands Everyone Should Know
  • OS X Operating System Security at Scale
  • Using AutoPKG for Windows Software
  • Open (and/or Free) vs Closed Source - Steel Cage Death Match
  • Using Google's Open Source Tools to Manage Macs

The list is too long to list all the other sessions that I enjoyed because I could not attend them all. But something interesting occurred during this conference, crowd sourcing notes with Google Docs. I have always wondered why more people are not using crowd sourcing note taking.  It could allow you to be in multiple places at once or the ability to review the notes at the end of the day. Slack was the primary driver when organizing notes for most of the sessions and EVERYONE seemed to be on board with the idea. Many times before a session would be begin someone would place a link to the notes in #PSUMAC slack channel to allow note collaboration. 

Slides and video's will be released at a later on PSU Mac Admins website and on youtube but for those who people want to immediately review this was the perfect medium. Slack brought people who weren't even at the conference into the conversation adding input regarding topics or peering into the notes, causing further interest about all of the talks and topics. Here is a Google Docs Collection links from the notes taken by everyone at PSU Mac Admins 2015:

One particular theme that I heard constantly whether in the packaging workshop, sessions or during general conversations at Legends, automation is key. There are plenty of tools that can help you automate very simple and complex task during your day. If you have not heard of autopkg, please go and read the github page.. It interfaces with many of the tools you use everyday, and will take the mundane task of patching & deploying applications out of your hands. Automate your VMs with vfuse by Joseph Chilcote or with Rich Trouton's session on virtualization testing. The theme was your time is precious as a Mac admin, therefore save time where you can which will free your mind to accomplish more challenging tasks. 

I do want to give a thank you to Penn State Mac Admins Conference, Penn Stater, and for all the individuals who attended or interacted with community during the conference. I can't wait for PSU Mac Admins 2016! See you then and thank you again for the best week of Summer Camp. 

Mic check 1, 2, 1, 2

There are plenty of open source projects out in the wild that are built on a variety of platforms. Github, BitBucket and Mercurial. Open source projects rely on these services because they are able to version control their code. Version control has some of the following benefits:

  • Archive successive versions of source-controlled items
  • Maintain detailed history and version information
  • Collaborate on projects
  • Recover from accidental deletions or errors

Deploying version control within an organization can a help staff produce efficient and stable code. It allows everyone to view, comment, and edit code before it hits production servers. Many times when people write code,  normally the code works well on their system and maybe on a few of their test systems, but in an environment that has hundreds or thousands of nodes it is important to fully test every potential system your code will touch. This leads to the another important component of writing code Documentation.

Documentation is something that is lacking in most I.T. departments. Technicians deploying systems usually feel pressed to roll out a service or finish a project so they can move onto the next item on their agenda. Versioning will allow technicians to document every change. Co-workers can follow the logic that went into developing a code base. Documentation can also help save you when having to restore or update services. I.T. professionals move at a lightening pace and it helps if you store helpful hints for yourself or team. For those co-workers who need to motivation of why to document, Rich Trouton, gave a presentation at Mactech Conference about documentation that is worth a read. 

Open source projects that utilize these tools allow anyone who is interested in a project to provide and enhance code. For example, the Autopkg project, is an automated preparation of software to be deployed to OS X clients. This project was created because there is a need to  automate software updates for applications. The creators of the tool started a repository that users can pull updates for certain applications. However, they set up the application framework which enables anyone to create "recipes" and contribute to the project. Autopkg code lives all on Github, which allows for collaboration on a global scale. 

Because of the popularity of Autopkg another open source project, based upon Github and version control, is Autopkgr. This open source project is a GUI wrapper for Autopkg. Due to version control the creators of Autopkgr are able to allow anyone to help modify the code to help benefit the community. 

Lastly if you are looking to set up a code sync, the Client Platform Engineering (CPE) team at Facebook, has opened sourced some of their code sync tools. In addition users can use some of these other tools to help with versioning and checking code:

These are not the only or definitive list of versioning, editing, or checking code but just a start. 

Here are some questions I have for you:

  • Do you version control your code?
  • What do you use to version control your code?
  • How to implement version control?
  • If you are currently not using version control do you see yourself implementing version control?

Just some food for thought. 

We are stronger as a Whole

Macbrained's November meeting was held at Salesforce. This meet up was a bit different from the events we've held previously. Normally we have a guest speaker talk about a topic of their choice, then we network. This time around we still networked however we held to panels: General I.T. and Security. We took questions from the the community via Google Moderator and Macbrained FB page. Here is a sample of the questions the community submitted:

  • AV Software on a Mac, is it there for legit reasons, or just for compliance?
  • What are the top security threats for OS X right now?
  • Binary white listening is becoming a thing on OS X, rolling it to a mac user base is likely to cause bigger waves than a Windows based userbase that is used to having restricted rights etc. Anyone have a plan?
  • What type of aggregate syslog collection/analysis is everyone using?

These are some of the questions that were answered during the panel. There were followers on Twitter who chimed in with responses as well. Answers consisted of AV is for compliance more than protection, check out Google Santa Open Source program, and users should attempt to utilize Facebooks OS Query

Communities help expose people to resources to help them accomplish their goals and gives people a chance to give back. Those goals can entail scripting, new ideas of how to implement or solve a problem, someone to bounce ideas off of, or just someone to lean on. 

Do you belong to any communities? Do you give back to the open source community? Here are some images from the Macbrained November Meet-Up. 

Security Panel, General I.T. Panel, and the Macbrained Family