Posts Tagged ‘automation’

InstaDMG Issues, and Workflow Automation via Your Friendly Butler, Jenkins

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

“It takes so long to run.”

“One change happens and I need to redo the whole thing”

“I copy-paste the newest catalogs I see posted on the web, the formatting breaks, and I continually have to go back and check to make sure it’s the newest one”

These are the issues commonly experienced with those who want to take advantage of InstaDMG, and to some, it may be enough to prevent them from being rid of their Golden Master ways. Of course there are a few options to address each of these, in turn, but you may have noticed a theme on blog posts I’ve penned recently, and that is:

BETTER LIVING THROUGH AUTOMATION!

(We’ll get to how automation takes over shortly.) First, to review, a customized InstaDMG build commonly consists of a few parts: the user account, a function to answer the setup assistant steps, and the bootstrap parts for your patch and/or configuration management system. To take advantage of the(hopefully) well-QA’d vanilla catalogs, you can nest it in your custom catalog via an include-file line, and you only update your custom software parts listed above in one place. (And preferably you keep those projects and catalog under version control as well.)

All the concerns paraphrased at the start of this post just happen to be discussed recently on The Graham Gilbert Dot Com. Go there now, and hear what he has to say about it. Check out his other posts, I can wait.

Graham Gilberts Blog
Back? Cool. Now you may think those are all the answers you need. You’re mostly right, you smarty you! SSDs are not so out-of-reach for normal folk, and they really do help to speed the I/O bound process up, so there’s less cost to create and repeat builds in general. But then there’s the other manual interaction and regular repetition parts – how can we limit it to as little as possible? Yes, the InstaDMG robot’s going to do the heavy lifting for us by speedily building an image, and using version control on our catalogs help us track change over time, but what if Integrating the changes from the vanilla catalogs was Continuous? (Answers within!) (more…)

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing At Least Three Times

Monday, January 14th, 2013

In my last post about web-driven automation, we took on the creation of Apple IDs in a way that would require a credit card before actually letting you download apps(even free ones.) This is fine to speed up the creation process when actual billing will be applied to each account one at a time, but for education or training purposes where non-volume license purchases wouldn’t be a factor, there is the aforementioned ‘BatchAppleIDCreator‘ applescript. It hasn’t been updated recently, though, and I still had more automation tools I wanted to let have a crack at a repetitive workflow like this use case.

SikuliScript was born out of MIT research in screen reading, which roughly approximates what humans do as they scan the screen for a pattern and then take action. One can build a Sikuli script from scratch by taking screenshots and then tying together the actions you’d like to take in its IDE(which essentially renders HTML pages of the ‘code’.) You can integrate Python or Java, although it needs(system) Java and the Sikuli tools to be in place in the Applications folder to work at all. For Apple ID creation in iTunes, which is the documented way to create an ID with the “None” payment method, Apple endorses the steps in this knowledge base document.Sikuli AutoAppleID Creator Project

When running, the script does a search for iBooks, clicks the “Free” button to trigger Apple ID login, clicks the Create Apple ID button, clicks through a splash screen, accepts the terms and conditions, and proceeds to type in information for you. It gets this info from a spreadsheet(ids.csv) that I adapted from the BatchAppleIDCreator project, but currently hard-codes just the security questions and answers. There is guidance in the first row on how to enter each field, and you must leave that instruction row in, although the NOT IMPLEMENTED section will not be used as of this first version.

It’s fastest to type selections and use the tab and/or arrow keys to navigate between the many fields in the two forms(first the ID selection/password/security question/birthdate options, then the users purchase information,) so I didn’t screenshot every question and make conditionals. It takes less than 45 seconds to do one Apple ID creation, and I made a 12 second timeout between each step in case of a slow network when running. It’s available on Github, please give us feedback with what you think.

…’Til You Make It

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Say you need a bunch of Apple IDs, and you need them pronto. There’s a form you can fill out, a bunch of questions floating in a window in some application, it can feel very… manual. A gentleman on the Enterprise iOS site entered, filling the void with an Applescript that could batch create ID’s with iTunes (and has seen updates thanks to Aaron Friemark.)

That bikeshed, though, was just not quite the color I was looking for. I decided to Fake it. Are we not Professional Computer Operators?

Before I go into the details, a different hypothetical use case: say you just migrated mail servers, and didn’t do quite enough archiving previously. Client-side moves may be impractical or resource-intensive. So you’d rather archive server-side, but can’t manipulate the mail server directly, and the webmail GUI is a touch cumbersome: are we relegated to ‘select all -> move -> choose folder -> confirm’ while our life-force drains away?

Fake is described as a tool for web automation and testing. It’s been around for a bit, but took an ‘Aha!’ moment while pondering these use cases for me to realize its power. What makes it genius is you don’t need to scour html source to find the id of the element you want to interact with! Control-drag to the element, specify what you want to do with it. (There are top-knotch videos describing these options on the website.) And it can loop. And delay(either globally or between tasks,) and the tasks can be grouped and disabled in sections and organized in a workflow and saved for later use. (Can you tell I’m a bit giddy about it?)

Fakeinaction-MailSo that mail archive can loop away while you do dishes. Got to the end of a date range? Pause it, change the destination folder mid-loop, and keep it going. (There is a way to look at the elements and make a conditional when it reads a date stamp, but I didn’t get that crazy with it… yet.)

And now even verifying the email addresses used with the Apple ID can be automated! Blessed be the lazy sysadmin.

Support for Windows XP and Office 2003 Ending

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Microsoft has announced an official end to support for Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8, 2014. This means no security updates, fixes or even paid assistance for fleets of XP systems that still dominate enterprise environments. While there have been announcements that XP support is going away, Microsoft has continued to extend it until now. At this point, the products will be over 10 years old. The return on investment of the combination has been as good as any combination throughout the history of large scale IT deployments.

If you are still using Windows XP, 318 can work with you to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 or plan a migration to Windows 8 when it is available to the public. For assistance with such migrations, contact your 318 Professional Services Manager, or sales@318.com if you do not yet have one.

New CLI Options in Final Cut Server

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

For those of us who thought that the Final Cut Server 1.5.1 update was just a couple of minor bug fixes, there’s a little more than meets the eye. If you run /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Server/Final Cut Server.bundle/Contents/MacOS/fcsvr_client then you’ll note that there are a few fun new features. While there hasn’t been enough time to thoroughly put the new options through their paces, we do hope to do further reporting on them as we become more comfortable with leveraging them for automations. Stay tuned!

Automating Craigs’ List

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Craigslist is a great place to find all kinds of things.  But sometimes you need to keep looking for something, over and over for months on end until you find it.  Maybe it’s something you just don’t want to pay for or maybe it’s someone that wants that thing you just don’t want to throw out (like that bondi blue iMac).  Either way, there’s a site that will search Craigslist for you and  email you when a pattern that matches your search appears.  Simply do a search on Craigslist, copy the URL from your address bar in your web browser and then open CraigsListWatch.com. Here, you can paste in the URL, enter your email address and every other hour they will look for new postings that match your criteria. This is a great way to take so much stuff and automate your searches, without having to write an Automator workflow to do so!