Xsan Upgrade and Big Sur Prep. Hello Catalina!

Big Sur summer testing time!

Summer time is beta testing time. A new macOS beta cycle with Big Sur is upon us. Test early, and test often. With all the excitement of Big Sur in the air, it’s time to look at Catalina.

Our day to day production Xsan systems do not run beta software, not even the latest version of macOS, they only run tested and safe versions of macOS. I always recommend being a revision behind the latest. Until now that meant macOS 10.14 (Mojave). With the imminent release of macOS Big Sur (is it 10.16 or macOS 11?) then it’s time to move from 10.14.6 Mojave to 10.15.6 Catalina. It must be safe now, right? 

Background

Xsan is Apple’s based Storage Area Network (SAN) software licensed from Quantum (see StorNext), and since macOS 10.7 aka Lion it has been included with macOS for free (it was $1,000 per client previously!).

Ethernet vs Fibre Channel vs Thunderbolt

A SAN is not the same as a NAS (Network attached storage) or DAS (direct attached storage). A NAS or other network based storage is often 10GbE and can be quite fast and capable. I will often use Synology NAS with 10GbE for a nearline archive (a second copy of tape archive) but can also use it as a primary storage with enough cache. Lumaforge’s Jellyfish is another example of network based storage.

Xsan storage is usually fibre channel based and even old 4GB storage is fast because … fibre channel protocol (FCP) is fast and the data frames are sent in order unlike TCP. It is more common to see 8GB or 16Gb fibre channel storage these days (though 32GB is starting to appear). And while fibre channel is typically what you use for Xsan you can also use shared Thunderbolt based storage like the Accusys A16T3-Share. I have tested a Thunderbolt 2 version of this hardware with Xsan and it works very well. I’m hoping to test a newer Thunderbolt 3 version soon. Stay tuned.

Xsan vs macOS Versions

We’ve discussed all the things that the Xsan is not and now what is it? Xsan is often created from multiple fibre channel RAID storage units but the data is entirely dependent on the Xsan controller that creates the volume. The Xsan controller is typically a Mac Mini but can be any Mac with Server.app (from Apple’s App Store). The existence of any defined Xsan volumes depends on the sanity of its SAN metadata controllers. If the SAN controllers die and the configuration files go with it then your data is gone.  POOF! I’ve always said that Xsan is a shared hallucination, and all the dreamers should dream the same dream. To make sure of this we always recommend running the same version of macOS on the Mac clients as well as the servers (the Xsan controllers). And while the Xsan controllers should be the same or at a higher macOS version level it can sometimes be the opposite in practise. To be sure what versions of macOS are interoperable we can check with Apple’s Xsan controllers and clients compatibility chart and Xsan versions included in macOS for the rules and exceptions. Check the included version of Xsan on your Mac with the cvversions command

File System Server:
  Server  Revision 5.3.1 Build 589[63493] Branch Head BuildId D
   Built for Darwin 17.0 x86_64
   Created on Sun Dec  1 19:58:57 PST 2019
   Built in /BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-613.50.3/buildinfo

This is from a Mac running macOS 10.13

Host OS Version:
 Darwin 17.7.0 Darwin Kernel Version 17.7.0: Sun Dec  1 19:19:56 PST 2019; root:xnu-4570.71.63~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64

We see similar results from a newer build below:

File System Server:
  Server  Revision 5.3.1 Build 589[63493] Branch Head BuildId D
   Built for Darwin 19.0 x86_64
   Created on Sun Jul  5 02:42:52 PDT 2020
   Built in /AppleInternal/BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-630.120.1/buildinfo

This is from a Mac running macOS 10.15.

Host OS Version:
 Darwin 19.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 19.6.0: Sun Jul  5 00:43:10 PDT 2020; root:xnu-6153.141.1~9/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64

Which tells us that the same version of Xsan are included with macOS 10.13 and 10.15 (and indeed is the same from 10.12 to 10.15). So we have situations with Xsan controllers running 10.13 and clients running 10.14 are possible even though macOS versions are a mismatch, the Xsan versions are the same. There are other reasons for keeping things the macOS versions the same: troubleshooting, security, management tools, etc  To be safe check with Apple and other members of the Xsan community (on MacAdmins Slack).

Backups are important

Do not run Xsan or any kind of storage in production without backups. Do not do it. If your Xsan controllers die then your storage is gone. Early versions of Xsan (v1 especially) were unstable and the backups lesson can be a hard one to learn. All later versions of Xsan are much better but we still recommend backups if you like your data. Or your clients. (Clients are the people that make that data and pay your bills). I use Archiware P5 to make tape backups, tape archives, nearline copies as well as workstation backups. Archiware is a great company and P5 is a great product. It has saved my life (backups are boring, restores are awesome!).

P5-Restore-FCPX.png

Xsan Upgrade Preparation

When you upgrade macOS it will warn you that you have Server.app installed and you might have problems. After the macOS upgrade you’ll need to download and install a new version of Server.app. In my recent upgrades from macOS 10.13 to macOS 10.15 via 10.14 detour I started with Server.app 5.6, then install 5.8 and finally version 5.10.

After the macOS upgrade I would zip up the old Server.app application and put in place the new version which I had already downloaded elsewhere. Of course you get a warning about removing the Server app

 

Xsan-ServerApp-ZipRemovalDetected.png

Install the new Server app then really start your Xsan upgrade adventure.

Serverapp-setup.png

Restore your previous Xsan setup.

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If everything goes well then you have Xsan setup and working on macOS 10.15.6 Catalina

Xsan-Catalina-Upgrade-Success

TCC troubleshooting

Download Howard Oakley’s Taccy app

Read Howard Oakley’s blog post on Catalina and privacy protection

Read Apple’s profile reference doc with respect to Privacy Preferences Policy Control payload

Read Rich Trouton’s guide to creating privacy pref policy profiles

This snippet (from MacAdmins slack) shows tcc in the logs if that is the issue:

log stream –debug –predicate ‘subsystem == “com.apple.TCC” AND eventMessage BEGINSWITH “AttributionChain”‘

Drop it! MunkiReport Db hacking

SQLite3 Db hacking for MunkiReport

Making modules for MunkiReport is easier than ever. Seriously.

please make:module

It’s easier than ever to make modules for MunkiReport (check out the recent MDOYVR MunkiReport workshop) and since the heavy lifting is done you can concentrate on the business logic (what makes sense) and the commands to execute or the scripts to run (python, shellI, etc). Worry about actionable data and less about the tables and views.

If you testing in production (which you should never do, always test is a testing environment) then you may happen to change a module (tables and fields etc) but keep the module name the same. This will confuse your database and you will need to erase it from the db to continue. In SQL speak this is “Drop table”. (You could also delete the munkireport Db and start again, but this is for those crazy enough to test in production and may want to keep the other data).

Sqlite commands for Munkireport

  1. Maintenance mode (current way)
sudo ./please down
Application is now in maintenance mode.

Old way –> sudo touch /Users/Shared/MunkiReport/munkireport-php/storage/framework/down

 2. Edit MunkiReport db

sudo /usr/bin/sqlite3 /path/to/MR/app/db/db.sqlite

 3. Exit maintenance mode (current way):

sudo ./please up
MunkiReport is now live.

Old way –> sudo rm /Users/Shared/MunkiReport/munkireport-php/storage/framework/down

Note: if you forget to get out of maintenance mode then clients can’t check in

“ERROR: Server error: MunkiReport is in maintenance mode, try again later.”

4. Migrate Db

sudo ./please migrate

Please use please migrate (or migrate db in web admin) if making changes to a module or else. That is, if you’re crazy to do this in production.

Server An error occurred while processing: \fancy_module_processor
Server Error: SQLSTATE[HY000]: General error: 1 no such table: fancy_module (SQL: select * from "fancy_module" where ("serial_number" = D09TP1QLH1K3) limit 1)

5. SQL hacking:

If you’re testing in prod and change a module’s fields but keep the same module name this will confuse your database and you will need to erase the entire db and start again or just erase this module from the db to continue. In SQL speak this is called “Drop table”.

A. List tables

For tables, the type field will always be ‘table’ and the name field will be the name of the table. So to get a list of all tables in the database, use the following SELECT command:

SELECT name FROM sqlite_master
WHERE type=’table’
ORDER BY name;

B. Drop table

Go through the list of tables and confirm the one you want to drop. Then do it. You’re backed up anyway, right? I mean, the data will come back when the clients check in again. So don’t worry.

Drop table to remove “fancy module” table from Db

DROP TABLE fancy_module;

3. Exit

.quit

REFERNCE:

MunkiReport WIKI – https://github.com/munkireport/munkireport-php/wiki

Jon Crain’s module making blog series – https://joncra.in/2018/11/30/creating-munkireport-modules.html

SQLite FAQ – https://www.sqlite.org/faq.html#q5

Notarize it!

Apple’s notarization service allows Apple to verify apps distributed outside of the App Store system. If you make your own apps to distribute to customers, clients, family or friends then you will have to notarize them by submitting them to Apple. This avoids painful dialog boxes in macOS 10.15 Catalina that prevent your app from launching by default.

NotarizeYourApps-Apple-Oct2019

Notarization The Hard Way

I’d been putting off notarizing my apps created for my clients for three reasons,

1)  it isn’t a strict necessity because most users are on macOS 10.14 Mojave,

2) I use Munki to distribute and install software which bypasses the requirements, and

3) I’m lazy

But it is only a matter of time before this would be a strict requirement and necessity. Also the relaxed requirements for notarization of apps was about to change again in February 2020 and I said this is the moment to do something. What now? Check with Rich Trouton and his blog Der Flounder.

codesign –force –options runtime –deep –sign “Developer ID Application: Name (#H7373736)” “/Applications/Cool-App.app/”

Rich Trouton is the modern major general of documentation and a super awesome dude. His blog Der Flounder has documented this process and now it was time to revisit this. Step by step recipes well explained with comments. What’s not to love?! Well, I didn’t get far because I missed some ingredients. Signing the app failed. I couldn’t notarize it without signing it. Hmm…

error: The specified item could not be found in the keychain.

It didn’t work the hard way, so let’s try it another way.

Notarization Made Easy

A very awesome app from Late Night Software called SD Notary can help make this process go smoothly. Their app detects if you have the right cert to run this process. Something which I thought I had, but did not.

Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles

It’s no accident I got tripped up in the same place with the cli and with the SD Notary app to notarize my app. I was missing the correct certificate. When I tried to codesign as a first step that’s when I got an error that I puzzled over for a minute.

The SD Notary app stopped me also at the first step because it said it couldn’t find a Developer Signing ID. And that with the command line error finally made me realize I’d missed something. And here I thought creating the app specific password was the hard part. (It wasn’t hard, but you have to look in the right place!).

A quick run back to the Apple developer site and a trip to the “certs identifier and profiles” section to create a new “Developer ID Application” cert (I had the installer one previously) solved that. I also had some trouble creating an app specific password, mostly because I was looking in the wrong place (in my dev account, not my apple ID account) but that got sorted.

Notarize-Apple-CreateNewCertificate

The “Developer ID Application” is what I needed.. Of course to get this I need to generate a cert signing request. There’s always a few steps. But once these are done then you’re good to go.

Once the proper Application type cert is in place, and the app specific password then you’re able to notarize via cli or an app like SD Notary. I tested this in Terminal:

xcrun altool --notarize-app --primary-bundle-id "com.apple.automator.Cool-App" --username "memyself@email.com" --password "really-cool-passw0rd" --file "/Applications/Cool-App.app.zip" 

No errors uploading '/Applications/Cool-App.app.zip'.
RequestUUID = 12345f-567e-476f-a229-6789cef906b

And in less than 3 minutes I received an email declaring it done. “Your Mac software was successfully notarized.

Then I went back to SD Notary and tried again. It was also successful and after selecting the app the entire process of signing, zipping, submitting to Apple, then stapling was done seamlessly.

SDNotary-Stapling

Hope that makes sense to someone. And the next time I notarize an app I will be able to do it seamlessly thanks to the help of everyone who has provided documentation and cool apps. Cheers.

References:

SD Notary app — Notarizing made easy

Rich Trouton’s Der Flounder blog

Apple dev docs

Howard Oakley’s Eclectic blog

FCP7 to FCPX

If you used classic Final Cut Pro 7 for years then eventually moved to FCPX now what do you do when you want to restore an old project? Read on…

FCP7 to FCPX

In the beginning we set up an older iMac that had been sitting around and already had macOS 10.12 and Final Cut Pro 7 (and even an early version of FCPX). We used this iMac to open up old FCP7 projects from our projects archive which were restored from LTO tape archive created by Archiware P5.

This process of restoring from tape archive back to the SAN then copying to an external drive to attach to this older iMac to convert worked but was cumbersome and not convenient. Opening old projects in FCP7 and then exporting out the XML was easy. Using SendToX to convert to FCPX XML was also easy. But getting the project to this old Mac off the main network was a drag.

Retroactive app

Use Retroactive app to install Final Cut Pro 7

Then one day I heard of this project that allowed to install iTunes on macOS 10.15 (Catalina) which only had the new Music app. Weird flex, but OK. Reading further it also allowed FCP7 to be installed on macOS 10.14 (Mojave)! Now this was a useful revelation. The app is called Retroactive and it would be very useful to us. Now FCP7 could be installed on the same Mac as FCPX. It would then have access to the network and the SAN where do all our editing and where we restore archive from LTO archive. Awesome.

The best part was that we moved from a dedicated old iMac running macOS 10.12 to a newer iMac Pro with macOS 10.14 on the Xsan and can run FCP7 thanks to that new app that makes it work. And then FCP7 to XML to sendtoX to FCPX is not too bad.

We also used Kyno to drill down into all the restored projects to identify en masse all the restored footage that it incompatible with FCPX. Renamed and then reconverted. All is well again for now. Archive restored, FCP7 projects converted to FCPX. Yeah, happy times.

Kyno batch rename dialog box

Kyno batch rename

Kyno FCPX incompatible files reanaming converting

Kyno convert and transcode

We had one minor snag in the process. Some of the restored projects didn’t use FCP7 they used early versions of FCPX with their events and projects folders separated (not the current library structure). Latest version of FCPX 10.4 did not know what to do with these projects that were also some times stored on sparse disk images (oh how the Xsan did not like these projects at the time). There was a menu for a while to convert these projects but it was now gone. What to do?

Back to the old iMac and we used FCPX 10.2.3 to convert these projects from 10.0 version to 10.2.3 library which can then be converted to the latest FCPX 10.4 format. Almost easier to convert FCP7 to FCPX in one shot but it worked and we were happily editing old projects in the latest version of FCPX.

fcpx 10.2.3 dialog box to update projects

fcpx 10.23. update projects and events dialog

Editing old projects in new FCPX

We have a way to restore old projects from LTO tape thanks to Archiware P5, a way to identify, rename and bulk convert old footage in an easy fashion thanks to Kyno and now also a way to convert FCP7 with SendToX and Retroactive to make it more seamless.

Hope this helps anyone else if want to do the same thing good luck.

Automate those apps. Get some robot love 🤖 ❤️!

If only one person needs an application then I think about using Munki to deploy that app. If more than one person should have it then Munki is definitely the way to automate app deployment. And really, if you’re going to take the time to download an app from a website, mount a disk image or un-pack a ZIP archive, run an installer, type an admin password, close that installer … then for the love of all that is good just put the app into your Munki repo and be done with it. Automate it.

Using Munki to solve problems makes sense. Automation helps everyone in this case. But if you’re putting in one off applications into your Munki repo more often than you need to, you need to get those apps into Autopkg. Using Autopkg recipes to download the latest apps and put them into your Munki repo automatically is an automation love fest, but if your apps don’t have recipes what are you going to do? Manually add your apps to Munki? No way. We need a robot 🤖❤️. Recipe robot, that is.

Using Recipe Robot we can build Autopkg recipes for most apps then add the recipes to the Autopkg community to enjoy. Everyone wins.

I recently created recipes for two important apps in my media workflow: Kyno and Hedge. I’ll show an example of this workflow using Recipe Robot and Munki Admin to demonstrate the workflow.

Step 1. Feed the robot.

Drag and and drop the app you want to create your Autopkg recipes.

RecipeRobot-FeedMe

Step 2. Watch the robot do it’s work

RecipeRobot-start

Step 3. Robot is done. Recipes made.

RecipeRobot-Done

Various type of recipes can be made. I chose download and munki because those are what I am using to automate adding apps to my Munki repo. But there are other options: jss, Filewave, or “install” for example.

reciperobot-options.jpg

Step 4. Run those Recipes

You can use your recipes locally with Autopkg. Run them in Terminal or use Autopkgr , a very nice GUI app for automating the collection and scheduling of recipes. Note: Autopkg and Munki can all be run via cli (command line interface) but for this demo we are showing the GUI apps that are there provided by outstanding members of the community. Many Thanks to them and the contributors to their projects.

Autopkgr-notification

Autopkgr app can send notifications in macOS, emails, or post to your Slack group.

Step 5. See the recipes, Use them wisely

MunkiAdmin-Recently ChangedPKGS

Here is an example of newly imported Kyno and Hedge apps in our Munki repo (via Munki Admin GUI).

MunkiAdmin-Description

Add a display name, choose which catalogs the apps will reside in, and check that the description will help explain what the app is.

References:

Elliot Jordan – Autopkg talk at MacDevOps:YVR

https://youtu.be/Q_cvgGtJ71M

Elliot Jordan – Recipe Robot talk at MacDevOps:YVR

https://youtu.be/DgjO1mfMHtI

 

Compressor Tips and Tricks

 

Issue: Stuck job in Apple’s Compressor app.

Resolution: Remove the historical jobs in your local home folder.

~/Library/Application Support/Compressor/History/V4

Compressor-History2

Note: to get to your home folder hold down the OPTION key and select the Go menu in the Finder.

Compressor is the best sidekick to Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and it gets used a lot. But occasionally something goes awry. It’s software running on a computer. So we troubleshoot. What looked like a stuck running job was mostly leftover evidence of an old job. The Apple support document I found didn’t mention this tip but instead talked about zipping up your settings folder which has all your custom compressor settings for things like YouTube outputs or anything custom. Didn’t seem useful to me to remove but this historical stuff, don’t need it and POOF this solved the issues. It’s not always this easy but something you just take the win and go with it.

Reference:

Resolve an issue in Compressor: Learn how to isolate, troubleshoot, and fix issues in Compressor.

https://support.apple.com/en-ca/HT203476

The case of the strange disappearing drive space

Recently I was asked to look at a 4TB drive that was only showing less than 2TB available…. No problem, I said, this is easy to fix. Famous last words.

Just open up Disk Utility and resize the partition, or reformat the disk, right? Easy Peasey. Well, it took some troubleshooting to time to figure out and a trip to Terminal was required to solve this weird case, plus I learned a new command along the way. Fun.

The Problem:

Buying a 4TB hard drive then putting it into your external drive case for backups should be simple,  but what if instead you got a nasty surprise and it showed up as less than 2TB?

Troubleshooting the issue:

4TB drives were presented to me and when I loaded them into an external SATA dock then showed as 4TB drives with a partitioned volume of less than 2TB.

I tried to delete the phantom partition, and I tried resize the volume to use the empty space in Disk Utility.app but it refused to budge. This needed a trip to Terminal.

man diskutil

Using “man” or “info” commands you can find out more about almost any particular command. Maybe some useful options or arguments would be listed or at least some examples would help.

NAME

     diskutil -- modify, verify and repair local disks

SYNOPSIS

     diskutil [quiet] verb [options]

DESCRIPTION

     diskutil manipulates the structure of local disks.  

 

To find out more about what we’re faced with let’s ask diskutil what it sees:

diskutil list
/dev/disk2 (external, physical):

   #:                       TYPE NAME           SIZE       IDENTIFIER

   0:      GUID_partition_scheme               *4.0 TB     disk2

   1:                    EFI                   209.7 MB   disk2s1

   2:        Apple_HFS Backup                  1.8 TB     disk2s2

Looking through the man page the “resizeVolume” command caught my eye. Also the “limits” option seemed interesting. How

diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 limits

Resize limits for partition disk2s2 Backup:

  Current partition size on map:         1.8 TB (1801419800576 Bytes)

  Minimum (constrained by file usage):   846.4 MB (846426112 Bytes)

  Recommended minimum (if used for macOS):26.8 GB (26843545600 Bytes)

  Maximum (constrained by map space):   4.0 TB (4000442028032 Bytes)

The Answer:

Reading through the man page revealed that the best way, and new to me, was to resize the partition to use all available space with “R”. Of course, so intuitive.

sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 R

I did get some errors. But repairing the disk fixed those issues. And I was able to resize the disk in Terminal with diskutil where Disk Utility.app had failed.

sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk2s2 R

Resizing to full size (fit to fill)

Started partitioning on disk2s2 Backup

Verifying the disk

Verifying file system

Volume was successfully unmounted

Performing fsck_hfs -fn -x /dev/rdisk2s2

Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume

Checking extents overflow file

Checking catalog file

Checking multi-linked files

Checking catalog hierarchy

Checking extended attributes file

Checking volume bitmap

Checking volume information

The volume Backup appears to be OK

File system check exit code is 0

Restoring the original state found as mounted

Resizing

Modifying partition map

Growing file system

Finished partitioning on disk2s2 Backup

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):

   #:                       TYPE NAME          SIZE       IDENTIFIER

   0:      GUID_partition_scheme              *4.0 TB     disk2

   1:                        EFI             209.7 MB   disk2s1

   2:                  Apple_HFS Backup      4.0 TB     disk2s2

And lastly, the issue may have been caused by the old drive dock which refused to see the 4TB volumes even when correctly resized. A newer drive dock was required.

Zoom in on Privacy and Security

Recent attention on video conferencing app Zoom and security exploits brings attention to the various Privacy and Security settings on your Mac. Currently macOS 10.14.5 Mojave defines microphone and camera settings which should be verified periodically if they’re not being managed by MDM (mobile device management) and even in those case, just to verify.

Zoom update

If you’ve ever had Zoom installed you must launch it and then update it manually, unless you have Munki or other patching solution to manage your Mac.

 

Zoom Enable camera access

If you want Zoom to have access to your camera (useful for video conferencing) then enable it or leave it disabled until the moment you actually need it.

Privacy-Camera-OFF-Settings.pngMaybe this is a good time to review what apps have previously been granted access and disable them or not after you review the situation.

Privacy-MIC2-Settings.png

Check your microphone access as well. What apps are in your list?

Further research:

Check out Objective See’s excellent security tools such as Oversight to protect yourself from unwanted access to your camera.

Also check out this past talk at MacDevOps:YVR 2018 by Kolide’s Zach Wasserman about osquery and at the 11min mark where he talks about another app BlueJeans and how to investigate it with osquery.

The MacDevOps:YVR videos from past talks contain many security related talks as well as other awesome troubleshooting tech talks.

 

 

Use Munki to install a screensaver

Use munki-pkg to package up stuff and make your life easier when managing Macs using munki. Here is an example of installing a screensaver.

Why use munki-pkg? How else do you install stuff using munki, run scripts, and version your testing buildings all in one easy to use application? This is all possible with munki-pkg.

Munki-pkg makes package (PKG) installers, Munki likes pkg installers. Munki will also install apps, run scripts, install profiles, and do many things but packages are useful because we can put files in specific places, such as the main computer level screensaver folder, then run a script to set it as a default.

Download munki-pkg and create a working project folder.

Step 1.

Create the folders you need and place your files (payloads) in the right places.

munkipkg-payload.png

Step 2.

Create your post install script if you need one. Example: setting the screensaver you just installed as the default.

#!/bin/sh

defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver moduleDict -dict moduleName Brooklyn path /System/Library/Screen\ Savers/Brooklyn.saver/ type 0

 

munkipkg-postinstall.png

Step 3. Build your package

Run munki-pkg on the command line and build your package. If you make changes then version up in your build-info.plist and build again.

munkipkg-build.png