Root Me Baby One More Time!

UPDATE: Apple has posted a security update. 2017-001

Root-a-pocalyse. Root down. Root a toot toot. Many funny tweets today about a very serious issue. A bug was discovered in macOS 10.13 that enabled anyone to login with a root account. With no password. Wow. Seriously. Yeah, that’s bad.

Bug discovered by Lemi Orhan Ergin.

I tested by clicking on the lock icon in System Preferences. Normally this requires an admin account. I was able to authenticate with “root” and no password. This actually also set root to no password. You can choose a password here and this makes it for you. How convenient. You can also login to the Mac via the login window. With root. And no password. Crazy.

If your Mac is off it’s safe. Not joking. If your FileVault protected drive is encrypted and your mac is turned off then you’re good. If you Mac is turned on and you’ve logged in at least once (or at least decrypted the drive on boot) then you’re not safe.

What can you do? Change the root password and set the shell to false. Until Apple fixes this. Should be anytime now. Or soon.

dscl . -passwd /Users/root “random or very secure password here”

dscl . -create /Users/root UserShell /usr/bin/false

Read a comprehensive explanation on Rich Trouton’s site:  Der Flounder blog


My Thunderbolt Nightmare

It was a dark and stormy night of cables and capacitors when suddenly I heard the door knocking, or was something falling of a shelf? I was in a cramped server room, if you’d call it that, and I was day dreaming, sorry, night terrorizing, of days gone past when I worked in nice big well ventilated server rooms with proper enterprise gear. Oh wait, did I really dream that? Did it really happen? Maybe it was less well ventilated and there were cables strewn about the tall 42U shelves and sometimes we found a Mac hidden underneath spaghetti. Sometimes. I vaguely remember the long shiny metal servers, they talked to me, they sang, a whiny pitch of whale song. Dream on, dream on.

Now. Today. Apple Music on my iPhone plays every single Arcade Fire album in a long playlist, in order. And I follow the white rabbit of Thunderbolt cables. This is my thunderbolt nightmare. Dead drive in a Thunderbolt Promise Pegasus unit, web ticket filed for registered hardware. Legacy. That’s the word they used. Where’s Marshall McLuhan when you need a proper redux of the shit storm you’re in? Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C and everything is possible. Can’t wait to step into that confusing identity crisis. OK, back to the present day when I stared at the red blinking drive, a replacement drive from not long ago dead again, sitting in the last row of a now legacy Pegasus R6 unit. RAID 5, the most dangerous kind, this is what stood between me and uncertainty. The worst kind of RAID. Well, not as bad RAID 0. Raid nothing. Raid 5 is one bad drive away from a bad day. Backups? Hmm, I got those, I got plenty of those, but I don’t want to be tested today. No, not today. Not this bloody day.

I open the Pegasus utility and the GUI wants an update. Hmm, that’s not in autopkg, I think. Why is out of date? Munki let me down. I start to drift, to side shift into adding newer better recipes to autopkg, to tweaking my Munki repo, to what sessions would be awesome at the next MacDevOps:YVR conference. Gee whiz, I love open source, and everyone in the Mac Admins community…. Snap out of! I slap myself in the face. I was hallucinating. Stay on task. I update the Pegasus utility. I stare at the critical reports from one of the three R6 units attached to this Mac Mini server. Did I say server? But it’s so small, so little. It works. It’s magical, kinda neat. Until you stare too close at the back. The Thunderbolt cables go from the Mac Mini to the first Pegasus unit to the SANlink fibre channel adapter to the LTO 6 tape library to the next Pegasus utility to the second SANlink adapter to a third and final Pegasus RAID unit. What’s is going on? Where does this cable go? Let me just follow it to the next jumping off point. My brain slows, the lack of oxygen in this cold machine room start to affect my thinking. I lose my way.

I download the report for the Pegasus unit. I had to unlock a pretty neat lock icon and click on the save report. I upload it to the web support and add it to the ticket. Tech support gets backs to me in a day and said all is good, and to carry on. I can’t. The drive is dead. What are they not seeing? It’s right in front of me. I download the report again. Again the same response. Fine. It’s time to stop messing around and pop open Terminal. Loading up promiseutil I check out the options and switches and get into an argument with myself about the currently valid optionals of letters and numbers that are required. I check my notes, online knowledge base, and try again. It’s broken. It doesn’t work. Stumbling around the command line typing imprecisely incorrect statements gets nowhere fast. I realize that there’s no way for the cli utility to properly change its focus to the broken unit with the busted drive. Both the GUI and the binary are stuck on the one R6 unit and won’t see what’s in front of my face.

I call tech support. This is humiliating. This was supposed to be easy. Drive dead, drive reported, drive ordered, drive replaced, then no one the wiser. Data saved, not dead. Backups not tested. Not today. No, not today. Tech support treats me like the imaginary newbie IT people sometimes treat everyone with. He repeats his instructions to me. He is polite. Download the report. I can’t. It won’t work. Unplug the unit. Plug it into something else. I can’t. The cables. The Thunderbolt cables are everywhere. It’s magical, and daisy-chained, and stuck. “Can I remote in and see?” he asks, hoping to resolve this quickly. Sorry. That’s impossible. Even if I thought it was a good idea. I remind him that I have a dead drive. That’s why I called. I want to get a replacement drive. “Sorry sir that legacy unit is not under support most likely,” I know that. I realize that now. That I wasted my time. It happens sometimes. The truth is staring at you. You need a mirror to see. “You need to order compatible drive from the compatibility list.” I am a well spring of emotions. I thank him. I am nice. He was polite. But now I know what I need to do. Oh wait, what? Order a drive now! Order two.

McLuhan never had a chance to evaluate Thunderbolt storage technology but the insane genius and simplicity of Thunderbolt reduced expensive enterprise fibre channel storage to the dust bin. Magical SAN for video editing with a Mac Mini and Thunderbolt RAIDs. Cheap enough to buy with a departmental credit card, fewer meetings to attend, more films to shoot and edit. Backup, archive, repeat. McLuhan would have no doubt reminded me that the tetrad of technology would have flipped Thunderbolt on its head, Fibre channel never went into a dust bin, but was firmly relegated to well cooled storage room, and long ago legacy drives in the enterprise units are humming a long while the cursing wind and emotions swell over the Thunderbolt mountain. Fibre channel just became cool again. Retro smart.

Troubleshooting Autopkg and AutoPkgr (part 1 of 5,432)

I love Autopkg and Autopkgr. They feed Munki and they keep me fed.

Sometimes Autopkg gives an error that doesn’t make sense since you don’t have enough info. Like this one:


That’s no way to make friends. Nope.

If even I understood all that… which is saying a lot. It doesn’t tell us what to do, or where to go to fix it.

Git makes sense, but maybe not in the context of Autopkgr errors. It wants us to “Git add or rm” (remove) offending items, but what does it have to do with what we’re doing at this moment? Hmm. Ok, we know  that autopkgr uses autopkg which uses git but that still leaves us in the dark about what’s going on.

Drop down in terminal and poke at autopkg. That always helps.

bash-3.2$ autopkg

Usage: autopkg <verb> <options>, where <verb> is one of the following:

    help             (Display this help)

    info             (Get info about configuration or a recipe)

    install          (Run one or more install recipes. Example: autopkg install Firefox -- equivalent to: autopkg run Firefox.install)

    list-processors  (List available core Processors)

    list-recipes     (List recipes available locally)

    make-override    (Make a recipe override)

    processor-info   (Get information about a specific processor)

    repo-add         (Add one or more recipe repo from a URL)

    repo-delete      (Delete a recipe repo)

    repo-list        (List installed recipe repos)

    repo-update      (Update one or more recipe repos)

    run              (Run one or more recipes)

    search           (Search for recipes on GitHub.)

    version          (Print the current version of autopkg)

autopkg <verb> --help for more help for that verb

Looking at all that we notice that “repo-update” is most likely the autopkg command that gets activated when Autopkgr gui “update repos now” button gets clicked.


Running autopkg with repo-update option gets us a better error message.

Attempting git pull for /Users/awesome/Library/AutoPkg/RecipeRepos/


ERROR: Pull is not possible because you have unmerged files.

Please, fix them up in the work tree, and then use 'git add/rm <file>'

as appropriate to mark resolution and make a commit.

So, at least we know now what is causing that error that Autopkgr showed us. Quick fix:

autopkg repo-delete

And then we go on and pretend like nothing happened and continue on with our day, amirate? Maybe we go to the Mac Admins Slack autopkg channel and ask our colleagues, or  post on the autopkg mail-list. Or we write a blog post.

More information:

The Autopkgr read me has troubleshooting tips

In the archives:

I first wrote about troubleshooting Autopkgr 2 years ago


Watchman Monitoring + Archiware P5

I’ve been a little busy lately. I’m working on some scripts for Watchman Monitoring that alert when Archiware P5 needs attention. It’s really much more exciting than it sounds. 🙂


Archiware P5 plugin (included with Watchman Client 6.6.0)

UPDATE: The Archiware P5 plugin is now included with the Watchman Monitoring client version 6.6.0

Use the link above to read up about Watchman Monitoring and the Archiware P5 plugin.

This plugin is now part of Watchman Monitoring thanks to Allen and his team! Of course, big thanks to a lot of help from Python magician and MacDevOps:YVR colleague, Wade Robson. I couldn’t have finished this plugin without his help. Merci, mon ami. (Early help to get started with this project is thanks to Scott Neal, automation expert and programming wizard. Thank you so much Scott, and thanks for the tasty Portland beer!).

Watchman Monitoring is a group of plugins that will warn when drives are failing, computers have restarted unexpectedly or backups are not running. All reporting goes to a beautiful web interface in the cloud which can keep a history of plugin issues. Watchman allows for integration with ticket systems and multiple users including clients and IT staff that can keep track of what’s up with their workstations, and servers.

Watchman Monitoring helps me keep tabs of major issues at all my clients before they become disasters. I even use it in discovery for new clients to see what issues exist but are ignored or unknown.

Since I set up a lot of SAN storage for my clients, and I use Archiware P5 for backups and archives I realized I needed to write a plugin for Watchman Monitoring that alerts me to issues. Instead of remoting in with VPN to each and every client every day to check on backups the only alternative is to automate it. These scripts watch the LTO tape drives and emails when they need cleaning, or warns when running jobs need tapes, if workstations haven’t backed up in a while or if tape pools need more tapes. And in Beta 2 we’ve added a check to see if the P5 maintenance support needs to be renewed to give you time to renew it before it expires. As well as better alerts for issues with running jobs, and lots of bug fixes.

We have it working on Mac servers running Archiware P5 and the next step is Linux, and the Unix family. Later on, Watchman will port it to Windows. The scripts are written in Python which is great for portability (except to Windows. Ha ha). And the P5 Watchman plugins should eventually run everywhere that Archiware P5 runs (OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and Windows).

The best part of writing plugins for Watchman Monitoring is the great help that Allen and the whole team at Watchman have given us been throughout our development of these Archiware P5 plugins. And of course everyone at Archiware and Mike at PVT have been super helpful in explaining the use of the nsdchat cli for Archiware P5, even going so far as to add some features we needed to nsdchat when we explained how useful they’d be for this project. Mille mercis. Vielen danke.

Using GitHub to check code in, document business logic, write code, build a wiki and then track issues that need bug fixes or enhancement requests has been an adventure. It all starts with an problem that you want to be alerted for. It’s easy enough to add custom plugins to Watchman Monitoring you just need some ideas, a programmer (or two) and some time for testing, debugging, more testing and time. Did I mention you need lots of time? Ha ha

And now for a sneak peak of the Archiware P5 beta 2 plugins for Watchman Monitoring.

  1. Watchman nicely lists the new warnings and expirations for quickly getting to the issues you need to see.             Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 warnings expiration X
  2. Expirations are tracked with Watchman. In this case we note the date when the maintenance for Archiware P5 needs to be renewed. Don’t want to miss that! Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 Expirations plugin Xpng
  3. Server info is good to know. Uptime, port used, and what exactly is licensed.         Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 Info plugin X
  4. The LTO tape drive is the heart of any tape library, and alerting when it needs cleaning is very important.                                               Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 Devices plugin X
  5. Other plugins watch the tape pools, running and completed jobs, as well as Backup2Go (workstation backup).

Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 B2Go plugin X

Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 Pools plugin X

Watchman Monitoring Archiware P5 Jobs plugin X

Troubleshooting AutoPkgr

While awaiting my awesome Part.2 of how to set up Munki we will look at quick fix I made recently to troubleshoot AutoPkgr issues I was having.

I have AutoPkgr set up with several sites as a quick and easy way to get updates of free and licensed software into Munki. Strangely, I ran into an error on my test box, and not on my deployments with clients. So it was something I had done, but what did I do?

AutoPkgr python error

AutoPkgr python error

At first I thought that one of the recent updates to AutoPkgr had broken the application. But since it was running correctly elsewhere I had to quickly rule that out. Running the recipes, which looks for new updates of certain applications, kept giving me a python error. How do you troubleshoot this? Re-install Python? De-compile AutoPkgr? Rant on the MacEnterprise maillist? No, that won’t help. 🙂

AutoPkgr is a very nice GUI front end to the excellent AutoPkg project. AutoPkgr installs Git and AutoPkg which are needed. AutoPkgr makes much of the set up much quicker and faster. It’s a great tool. Thanks to the Linde group.

AutoPkgr update dialog

AutoPkgr update dialog

The best way to troubleshoot this issue with AutoPkgr is to see if it is an issue with AutoPkgr. Let’s see if AutoPkg runs at all, and with the same errors. Now there’s an idea. So how do we run AutoPkg? Terminal. Open, and run AutoPkg directly. I always start with a basic “where is the app binary I want?” and then run the app with no options to see if there’s a help menu with an explanation of the switches.

AutoPkg in Terminal

AutoPkg in Terminal

Looking at what Terminal says we now know that AutoPkg is installed in the path /usr/local/bin which is a very accepted place for non-standard (extra, or optional) binaries to live. We also know that “autopkg run all” is not the correct command to run, but it was enough to elicit a better error message. In fact, the problem seems to be a “plist error” with the TextWrangler override recipe. What’s that you might be asking? AutoPkg allows the use of “overrides” which adjust a recipe. In my use of AutoPkg I set an override to add information to a recipe, specifically developer and category information so that Munki’s Managed Software Update app correctly displays the information and the user has a more logically sorted software self-serve portal. In any case, we know from this error that something is wrong with the override. I can run xmllint and clean it, I can open and find the error, or I can just delete this override and re-run AutoPkg to see if we can get somewhere.

AutoPkg transmit

AutoPkg transmit

In this example I run AutoPkg with the Transmit recipe and all runs well. Everything is good now. So what’s the lesson here? Be careful with your plist files. When you make your override, and add useful keys, double-check your work to avoid a broken AutoPkg.