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Keeping lab Macs clean - Mac Applications & Software

I'm hoping a UNIX Guru (or two) can help me out here. Here's my tale of woe: I'm trying to keep our lab machines clean by (upon restart) ing away all of the folders in the 'guest' account, copying over a fresh copy from a read-only portion of the HD, then changing the owner to be 'guest'. So far, I'm 99.99 % successful -- all of the prefs come over just great, all of the browser bookmarks are our complete set, the Dock has all of the icons we want it to have. The exception? You guessed it -- Microsoft ...

  1. #1

    Default Keeping lab Macs clean

    I'm hoping a UNIX Guru (or two) can help me out here.

    Here's my tale of woe:

    I'm trying to keep our lab machines clean by (upon restart) ing
    away all of the folders in the 'guest' account, copying over a fresh
    copy from a read-only portion of the HD, then changing the owner to be
    'guest'.

    So far, I'm 99.99 % successful -- all of the prefs come over just
    great, all of the browser bookmarks are our complete set, the Dock has
    all of the icons we want it to have.

    The exception? You guessed it -- Microsoft Office. No matter what I
    try, Office insists on going through its "Configuring Office
    Components..." crap on the first launch after the restart. While this
    takes only about 20 seconds, to students in a hurry (or faculty giving
    a presentation to an auditorium full of people), that's a long time.
    Not to mention that it gives non-Mac users a very poor first impression
    of the platform ("Man, these things are SLOW" is one comment I heard in
    a smaller lab I've tried this out in...not good).

    Does anyone know why Office keeps thinking that it needs to reinstall
    its prefs/fonts/other crap after the prefs have been copied from an
    account template? I've tried both 'cpmac' and 'ditto -rsrcFork', but
    no-go. I even did a 'find' for all of the files it replaces when it
    does that, then copied those to our template, but it still thinks it
    needs to reinstall its prefs/fonts/other crap. On OS 9 I used
    Assimilator, and Office didn't have a problem with prefs copied down
    from the server, but now I'm not even using a server...the files are
    coming from the same drive.

    Aside from DriveShield and other commercial packages, does anyone have
    any suggestions for keeping drives clean? I've tried Rsync and Radmind,
    and just can't get them to work -- the doentation on those isn't the
    best (yes, I've read everything on macosxlabs.org). I'd prefer a quick
    and dirty solution, and I'm almost there with 3 lines of code, except
    for &#%& Microsoft. Perhaps it's a chmod problem?

    Thanks for any suggestions!


    Homer
    homersimpson23 at hotmail dot com
    Homer Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article
    <030920030040529662%spammers.com>,
    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com> wrote:
     

    I am certainly no Unix guru, but Iīll give it a try.
     

    How about a different approach? First of all, is there really a reason
    why the users should be allowed to mess with preferences? If not, just
    create a user (does not have to be a "real" guest user, make Logging in
    easier for them by allowing them to select their username from a list,
    or, better yet, auto-login the "default user". Give this "guest-to-be"
    -account admin rights, and log in as that user. Set everything up, log
    out, change the "guest" user from "admin" to "normal", _and change the
    owner of the "guest" userīs /library -directory to be the admin, giving
    the "guest" read-only permission to it_. Thatīs what I have done. So far
    the machine has not been in real use, only in my testing, but every
    program seems to work just fine without being allowed to change their
    preferences. The users cannot even create files on the desktop, which
    has been a PITA with OS9. They only have write access to the "doents"
    directory, which is in fact on another partition. This way they can
    never fill the system disk, which would otherwise happen at least once a
    month. (only a 20GB disk inside the machine)
     

    My solution could certainly be called a dirty one, but quick is not
    something Iīd call it ;)

    ..lauri
    l Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article
    <030920030040529662%spammers.com>,
    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com> wrote:
     

    My guess is that Office is detecting a broken alias. Make the files
    read-only after everything is set up. Change the owner to an admin and
    then grant only rx permission to guest.
    Kevin Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article <bj4c6a$coj$helsinki.fi>,
    <com.invalid> wrote:
     
    >
    > I am certainly no Unix guru, but Iīll give it a try.

    >
    > How about a different approach? First of all, is there really a reason
    > why the users should be allowed to mess with preferences? If not, just
    > create a user (does not have to be a "real" guest user, make Logging in
    > easier for them by allowing them to select their username from a list,
    > or, better yet, auto-login the "default user". Give this "guest-to-be"
    > -account admin rights, and log in as that user. Set everything up, log
    > out, change the "guest" user from "admin" to "normal", _and change the
    > owner of the "guest" userīs /library -directory to be the admin, giving
    > the "guest" read-only permission to it_. Thatīs what I have done. So far
    > the machine has not been in real use, only in my testing, but every
    > program seems to work just fine without being allowed to change their
    > preferences. The users cannot even create files on the desktop, which
    > has been a PITA with OS9. They only have write access to the "doents"
    > directory, which is in fact on another partition. This way they can
    > never fill the system disk, which would otherwise happen at least once a
    > month. (only a 20GB disk inside the machine)

    >
    > My solution could certainly be called a dirty one, but quick is not
    > something Iīd call it ;)
    >
    > .lauri[/ref]

    This is a cool suggestion, but I want to have the Macs have the same
    capabilities as the Windows machines in our labs (which does allow
    saving on the desktop and resets on restart). If students start telling
    each other "you can't save files on the Mac" (and not having to
    remember to look in the Doents folder), then usage will plummet. I
    like the flexibility that Assimilator gave me: they could install
    stuff, but reboot, and everything is back to normal. With the 'guest'
    account I have setup now, they can't open any System Preferences, or
    install any software. I just wish Rsync actually worked, or Radmind had
    actual useful doentation. Damn Microsoft...


    H
    Homer Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article
    <030920032320081463%spammers.com>,
    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com> wrote:
     

    Well, the suggestion to make the "guest" userīs /Library completely
    read-only for them was just that, a suggestion. No reason why one
    couldnīt allow things here and there, but at least that would be a
    "deny-allow" kind of approach. One would not have to worry about what he
    might have forgotten to deny the users to do, just make sure that
    everything one thinks or knows the users _will_ need is allowed.

    Also, I forgot to mention, that I copied all the apps allowed for the
    "guest" user to run to their home directory, and denied them to read,
    write or execute the /Applications -directory and all its contents.
    Sure, this makes updates just a bit more complicated, but that can be
    automated if needed. This way, no-one is going to complain that they
    cannot use the interesting-looking apps within /Utilities. When they
    donīt know they exist, they wonīt miss them, or come up with excuses why
    they should be allowed to do something you donīt want them to.

    I am not trying to be a BOFH (although I do admit it seems so), but just
    keep the machines running by themselves. Also when I am on vacation and
    no-one is going to be around to fix things for weeks if they get messed
    up. The thing is, that people expect to be allowed to use a public
    computer as if it was their personal machine, and adjust every single
    system and application preference like they have on their own machine.
    Which is otherwise fine, but many prefs, like Adobe apps color settings,
    have really been adjusted to suit the work. Most users would of course
    never touch any preferences, and if someone else has changed them, they
    usually wont even notice. Then, after a dayīs work they run into a
    problem, which is soon found out to be caused by some Previous User and
    their idea of The Way Things Should Be. Resetting prefs would be fine,
    but would require something to tell the machine that the user has
    finished working and it is OK to do any resetting. A logout after idle
    time -solution comes to mind. This cannot be done in this lab, since
    people often leave their work open for hours, and may or may not come
    back before someone else starts using the machine.
     

    I think FruitMenu or one of the other Unsanity.com apps could be useful
    too for your purpose.

    ..lauri
    l Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com> wrote in message news:<030920032320081463%spammers.com>...
     

    Homer,

    I'm in the same boat as you, my friend...I support approx. 50 macs in
    4 different labs, all recently upgraded to OS X, and we are struggling
    with a way to prevent users from making changes to the machines. We
    recently looked at a beta copy of DeepFreeze (which works great on
    windows) for OS X, but it didn't seem to work very well. If you find
    a solution that would work for a lab environment, please post!
    Thanks,

    Dave
    D. Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article
    <030920030040529662%spammers.com>,
    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com>
    wrote:
     

    well, I don't have a good answer, but I do have a somewhat clunky
    kludge. how about making Microsoft Word a hidden login item. That
    way it will start up automatically after reboot or login and take
    all the time to do its stuff in the background when no one is
    there to wait on it (i.e., either the machine is sitting idle
    with no one ready to use it, or if a user is there waiting to use
    it, probably they're doing other things, maybe? Even if they're
    waiting to run Word you'll still be several seconds ahead of
    them). since Word is probably heavily used this might make a lot
    of sense to have it waiting in the background. sort of like
    starting classic on login to save time; same idea. If it's ready
    in the background for a user to click on its icon in the dock,
    boy, that will look like its FASTER than a comparable Windows
    computer :-) Blazing speeds! :-)

    and of course once Word re-creates all its preferences, the next
    user won't be met with a long wait when running Word.

    In other words, get all the preference-creation out of the way
    before a user sits down at the machine to use Word. Somehow.
    sam Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article <google.com>,
    com (D. Fox) wrote:
     

    At the Apple stores, they wipe out the disks and reinstall the entire
    system every night--according to what a manager at the local store told
    me.

    --
    Never play strip tarot.
    Michelle Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    Dear Michelle Steiner:

    On the Windoze side there's this nice little program availabule called Roxio
    GoBack which takes a snapshot of the system state you want to preserve, and runs
    in the System Tray. When you reboot, it automatically rolls back any changes or
    installs to whatever config you had at bootup. It's perfect for the training lab
    PCs here, which tends to get pretty modified up, but good. I haven't checked up
    on equivalent products for the Mac, but there's got to be something available or
    in development by now.

    Abrey Myers
    com


    In article <west.cox.net>, Michelle Steiner
    says... 
    >
    >At the Apple stores, they wipe out the disks and reinstall the entire
    >system every night--according to what a manager at the local store told
    >me.
    >
    >--
    >Never play strip tarot.[/ref]

    Sadder Guest

  10. #10

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    BTW, hereīs a link where Iīve found a lot of useful stuff concerning the
    use of OS X in a lab environment:
    http://www.macosxlabs.org/

    ..lauri
    l Guest

  11. #11

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article <newsguy.com>, Sadder
    <com> wrote:
     

    There is a Mac equivalent -- DriveShield -- by the same folks who make
    the Centurion boxes for the PC. We're using it in one of our labs (18
    iMacs), but for the other 500+ in our labs, that's too much $. Plus, to
    make *any* change at all, you have to login as an admin, turn
    DriveShield off, reboot, log back in as an admin, make changes, turn
    DriveShield back on, and reboot again. 500+ times.

    But, if I can get the MS prefs problem solved, we could at least copy a
    prefs folder to each iMac from a server, which would take much less
    time. And if I ever get Rsync or Radmind to work, even less.


    H
    Homer Guest

  12. #12

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article <OKI5b.351052$YN5.239706sccrnsc01>, sam grey
    <com> wrote:
     
    >
    > well, I don't have a good answer, but I do have a somewhat clunky
    > kludge. how about making Microsoft Word a hidden login item.[/ref]

    Hmm. That's not a bad idea. And with EnergyX I can tell it to restart
    every night at 4am. Gotta try this out.


    H
    Homer Guest

  13. #13

    Default Re: Keeping lab Macs clean

    In article
    <050920032240030817%spammers.com>,
    "Homer J. Fong" <spammers.com>
    wrote:
     

    yeah; it will be most successful if your machines automatically
    login on boot into a guest account, rather than if your users log
    in as guest or whatever each time they sit down at the machine.
    because, with the latter, microsoft word will still have to run
    when a user logs in and won't be open and ready to go. But even
    in this case perhaps the user will be doing other things and so
    won't notice that it's opening in the background, hidden (apart
    from the little bobbing icon in the Dock).

    please report back on success or failure of this method. thanks.
    sam Guest

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