TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Rolling out Microsoft Office Updates

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Patch Panel

Rolling out Microsoft Office Updates

Repackaging updates for fun and sanity

by John C. Welch

Hello Again

Well, it's been a while since my particular brand of loquaciousness has graced the pages of MacTech, but like boomerangs and bad pennies, here I am. In this month's installment of Patch Panel, I'm going to chat with you about a subject near and dear to all our hearts; Rolling out updates to Microsoft Office. By "near and dear" I mean, "met with much eye-rolling and groaning". This has nothing to do with Microsoft Office itself. Regardless of your opinion of the suite, the fact is, it's something that most Mac administrators have to support. One of the time honored tediums of the administrator's life is that of rolling out the update. This is something that can either be relatively easy, or a tedious process that makes you wish we could revert back to the good old days of stone tablets and chisels.

Some History

Waaaaay back in the dark ages, (okay, back before OS X), there was nothing as organized as the current Apple installer. Oh, Apple had an installer, but it was not nearly as easy to deal with as the current Mac OS X version. So, sensing an opportunity, several companies came out with their own products, one of the biggest being Installer VISE, from MindVision. (http://www.mindvision.com). VISE had a number of advantages over the others, including not just Windows support, but actual acceptance on that platform. This of course, made it rather attractive to a number of companies, including Adobe. Now, while Microsoft had, and indeed, still has their own Windows installer(s), the rest of VISE's feature set made it a good fit for the Mac BU.

Current Issues

So now you have a setup where if something can be installed via an Apple Installer, or direct copy, the administrator's job is simple. If you use Apple Remote Desktop, and it's an Apple Installer, you let Apple Remote Desktop handle it, or copy it over and run the installer command via SSH. If it's a direct copy, then you, well, copy it. Simple, easy, and even allowing for some of the issues with Apple's installer, elegant. With Apple Remote Desktop 3's AppleScript support, I don't even directly interact with Apple Remote Desktop to install these two kinds of items. I just drop them in specific folders and let folder actions handle them. It's pretty sweet, and lets me not waste a lot of time with installing files on clients.

However, when you hit a VISE installer, which is what the Mac BU still uses for Office updates, that system breaks, and hard. You have to either manually install it on each machine, or you have to repackage it. Since the former just is not happening unless you have a very small number of machines, we of course, will look at the latter. (Note: While I'm really only talking about Office 2004, this all should work just peachy with Office v.X)

Figuring Out What to Install

As I said before, to most tools, VISE installers are opaque. You can see the file, but you can't crack it open and see what's in it, what's going to be installed where, etc. You also can't have a tool like Apple Remote Desktop just install it. Luckily, Microsoft, bless their little IT-centric hearts, gives you a couple of ways to figure this out. The first, best method is via their updater logs. If you look in the Microsoft Office 2004 folder after an update, you'll see a folder called "Updater Logs". Inside that folder, you'll find a text file for each of the updates you've applied to that system. The updater file lists every file that was installed on the system.

Now, before you just run off and blindly use this, by "each file" I mean just that. If it installed ten files inside a bundle, then you get ten entries. Now, you can directly follow the log line for line, but that's kind of the silly way to do it. Instead, read the file, and use it to get the minimum number of files and packages you actually have to care about. Some of the lines are obvious like the ones for the main apps, (this is on my own drive, so it follows my own... unique... filing system. Normally, the Office 2004 folder is in the root of your Applications folder):

Installed Aurora:Applications:Word Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Microsoft Entourage

Installed Aurora:Applications:Word Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Microsoft Excel

Installed Aurora:Applications:Word Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Microsoft PowerPoint

Installed Aurora:Applications:Word Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Microsoft Word

So, we can see it installed new copies of each of the four main applications. Okay, that's easy. But then we see a bunch of lines like the following:

Created the Folder: Aurora:Applications:Word

Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Office:Microsoft Cert

Manager.app

Created the Folder: Aurora:Applications:Word

Processing:Microsoft Office 2004:Office:Microsoft Cert

Manager.app:Contents

Installed Aurora:Applications:Word Processing:Microsoft Office

2004:Office:Microsoft Cert Manager.app:Contents:Info.plist

And this goes on for about 30 lines. Does this mean you have to now deal with 30 separate files? Nope. It means you deal with one: The Microsoft Cert Manager.app, which lives in the "Office" folder inside of the main Microsoft Office folder. This can be kind of tedious to parse, although since Microsoft is thankfully consistent in how it does this, you can script this parsing out fairly easily. However, there is an easier way, one that all administrators will of course already know about, and that is the Read Me file.

With every update, the Mac BU has a Read Me file that lists out the files which are updated, and their new versions. (For those of you who are Britannica fans, this is the Macropaedia, whereas the installer log is the Micropaedia.) So rather than parsing through the Updater Log file to figure out what was installed, you can just use the Read Me to see what was installed. It's much simpler. Now, the Read Me won't tell you the specific locations of the files, so it's not a complete replacement for the Updater Log, but that's not a huge issue, depending on how you build your updater.

Building Your Updater

So, we now have two lists of files, one detailed, one not. Now, how do you build the updater? Well, the answer is, "Whatever works best for you". No, I'm not trying to be smarmy, it's just that there are a lot of ways to do this. If you use Apple Remote Desktop, as I do, then you can just do a drag of the files to a list of destination clients, and chose "Same Relative Location" as the destination, like in the screenshot below:


Copy Items Dialog from Apple Remote Desktop 3

Drag all the files you need to copy over, pick "Same relative location", click on copy, and watch the fun. (Yes, I realize none of my targets are currently running or running ARD). You can of course, with Apple Remote Desktop 3, AppleScript this, via Copy Items task. Just set the "location" property to "same relative location" in the properties for the task. You could even set up a Folder Action that would always copy whatever you dropped into it to the Same relative location, and be even lazier. That of course is my preferred method. Life's too short to watch file copies. If you aren't using Apple Remote Desktop, or you prefer using Apple Installer packages, you can use Apple's PackageMaker tool to bundle up the update into an install package, and then use that via Apple Remote Desktop or your tool of choice. (There's a PackageMaker article in this very issue, so I'll not get into using PackageMaker, as it would be redundant.)

If you like using Apple's Installer packages, but are not thrilled with PackageMaker, then a third party option is to use Iceberg, (http://s.sudre.free.fr/Software/Iceberg.html). Iceberg is billed as a better way to make Apple Installer packages, and in general I've found that to be true. The only issue with Iceberg is that it requires the use of a daemon that runs as root. If that's not an issue for you, Iceberg is worth checking out. I also find the documentation on Iceberg's site to be solid as well, always a welcome touch for an installer builder.

Please don't think that these are the only options out there. When you're talking about straight file copies, which is what updating Office is, once you install it on an initial system, there are as many ways to roll this out as there are ways to copy files. If you're thinking "that's a lot of ways", well, you're right. Once you know where to look for the correct information, then how you get the copies onto the end user system is totally up to you, and your normal workflow.

Two Caveats

There are of course some things to keep in mind that could trip you up. (You knew there would be, nothing's ever that simple.) First, the main applications in Office, namely Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Entourage are traditional dual fork applications. That is, they have a resource fork. That's probably not going to change until the next release of office, still known by its nom du code as "Office 12". So, when you're copying Office updates, you really want to make sure that whatever method you use doesn't do bad things to resource forks. Otherwise, the applications will break, and your users may do bad things to you.

The other thing to watch out for is the Microsoft Database Daemon. This is a daemon that runs whenever one of the main Office applications is running, or it runs at login if the user is an Entourage user and has set events or tasks with reminders. If you update the Microsoft Database Daemon while it's running, and there are changes made to it, then the end users, particularly Entourage users could get odd messages that might lead them to think their Entourage database died. That would make them flustered and stern, especially if they find out later that it was just an update doing this. Since the daemon only runs within a user login context, the obvious solution is to not run the update until the users have logged out. If this isn't possible, then I'd highly recommend adding a post install action that restarts the daemon.

Conclusion

If this all seems pretty simple, well, it is. While the Mac BU really, really, really needs to move to Apple Installer packages sooner than later, their laudable habit of providing detailed installer logs, and updated file lists in the update readmes makes what could be an onerous task into one that's just mildly tedious and annoying. As long as you keep my warnings about resource forks and the Database Daemon in mind, rolling out Microsoft Office updates shouldn't be hard at all.

Bibliography and References

Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit: various Read Me's and updater log files.

Apple Computer: Documentation for Apple Remote Desktop and PackageMaker

Stéphane Sudre: Documentation for Iceberg


John Welch (jwelch@bynkii.com) is Unix/Open Systems administrator for Kansas City Life Insurance, (http://www.kclife.com/) a columnist for Datamation, (http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/columns/appleent/) and the "GeekSpeak" segment producer for Your Mac Life, (http://www.yourmaclife.com/). He has over fifteen years of experience at making Macs work with other computer systems. John specializes in figuring out ways in which to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, showing that the Mac is a superior administrative platform, and teaching others how to use it in interesting, if sometimes frightening ways. He also does things that don't involve computery on occasion, or at least that's the rumor.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

f.lux 42.1 - Adjusts the color of your d...
f.lux makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Ever notice how people texting at night have that eerie blue glow? Or wake... Read more
Spotify 1.1.94.872 - Stream music, creat...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
Vitamin-R 4.15 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
OfficeTime 2.0.628 - Easy time and expen...
OfficeTime is time and expense tracking that is easy, elegant and focused. Other time keepers are clumsy or oversimplified. OfficeTime balances features and ease of use, allowing you to easily track... Read more
Slack 4.28.182 - Collaborative communica...
Slack brings team communication and collaboration into one place so you can get more work done, whether you belong to a large enterprise or a small business. Check off your to-do list and move your... Read more
DEVONthink Pro 3.8.6 - Knowledge base, i...
DEVONthink is DEVONtechnologies' document and information management solution. It supports a large variety of file formats and stores them in a database enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI). Many... Read more
FileMaker Pro 19.5.4 - Quickly build cus...
FileMaker Pro is the tool you use to create a custom app. You also use FileMaker Pro to access your app on a computer. Start by importing data from a spreadsheet or using a built-in Starter app to... Read more
Backblaze 8.5.0.628 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $6 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Day One 7.16 - Maintain a daily journal.
Day One is an easy, great-looking way to use a journal / diary / text-logging application. Day One is well designed and extremely focused to encourage you to write more through quick Menu Bar entry,... Read more
Garmin Express 7.14.0.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

We’re Digging ‘Shovel Knight Dig’ – The...
We spend the bulk of this week’s podcast talking about the new iPhone 14. Specifically, the iPhone 14 Pro Max which both Eli and myself picked up. The consensus seems to be: They’re great! They’re iPhones! We do lay down our hot takes on all the new... | Read more »
TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Loose Noz...
There aren’t a lot of stories like that of the development of Loose Nozzles, and of those games that do have an interesting development story, even fewer are actually decent games to play. Loose Nozzles nails both, though. The way it was created is... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Shovel Knight Di...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for September 23rd, 2022. In today’s article, we’ve got the rest of this week’s releases to look at. There are actually a few big games today, including the hot-hot-hot Shovel Knight Dig... | Read more »
‘Gubbins’ is a Way Too Adorable Word Gam...
There are games whose art style, sounds, and overall vibe just make me smile ear to ear. Games like Hidden Folks, Krispee Street, or Tiny Wings. There’s just something so cool about being able to literally feel the heart that goes into a game. Now... | Read more »
Based on the Baking Reality Show, ‘Naile...
Fans of Netflix’s reality baking show Nailed It! have a new holiday-themed season to look forward to next month when Nailed It! Halloween launches on October 5th, but the fun doesn’t stop there because the show is also arriving as a mobile game the... | Read more »
Cookie Run: Kingdom announces collaborat...
In news sure to excite fans of biscuits or K-Pop music, the Korean sensations BTS have teamed up with Cookie Run: Kingdom for a series of events. After some warm-up episodes, the collaboration will culminate in a BTS in-game concert, so if anyone'... | Read more »
‘Shovel Knight Dig’ From Nitrome and Yac...
Shovel Knight Dig () from Nitrome and Yacht Club Games is this week’s new Apple Arcade release. It is definitely one of my favorite additions to the service ever, and a fantastic game overall. I played it a few hours ago when it started rolling out... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Mario Strikers’...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for September 22nd, 2022. Hunh, lots of twos in the date today. Nifty. As those who read yesterday’s article may remember, I got a vaccine shot about twenty four hours ago and it is... | Read more »
Rogue-Like Platformer ‘Tallowmere 2’ Lau...
The original Tallowmere from developer Chris McFarland launched on mobile way back in 2015, and to be honest it did not leave a good first impression with me. For lack of a better term, it just seemed… janky, and right from the start the game sort... | Read more »
Alchemy Stars newest event launches and...
Alchemy Stars has introduced its latest event, entitled Farewell, My Wonderland, bringing with it new characters and a bevvy of rewards. The event will reportedly focus on the underlying message that even after tragic events there is still light,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Use our exclusive Apple Price Trackers to fin...
Our Apple award-winning price trackers are the best place to look for the lowest prices and latest sales on all the latest Apple gear this season. Scan our price trackers for the latest information... Read more
New promo at Verizon: Get Apple Watch Series...
Purchase a new iPhone 14 at Verizon, and get an Apple Watch Series 8 for as low as $5 per month. $120 in promo credits for the Watch are spread over a 36 month term, reducing the price of the Watch... Read more
Visible drops prices on Apple iPhone 13 model...
Verizon’s low-cost wireless cell service, Visible has dropped prices on iPhone 13 models to new low prices starting at $599: – iPhone 13 Pro Max: starting at $980 + free $200 gift card – iPhone 13... Read more
Back in stock! 14″ MacBook Pros with Apple M1...
Amazon has restocked 14″ MacBook Pros M1 Pro CPUs for $400 off MSRP, starting at only $1599. Shipping is free. Be sure to make your purchase from Amazon rather than a third-party seller. Their prices... Read more
This is the final week to take advantage of A...
Apple’s Back to School promotion for 2022 ends on September 26, 2022. As part of this promotion, Apple will include a free $150 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of any MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or... Read more
Mac Studio with M1 Max CPU back in stock toda...
Apple has the base standard-configuration Mac Studio available again in their Certified Refurbished section for $1799, and it’s in stock today. Each Mac Studio comes with Apple’s one-year warranty,... Read more
Apple MagSafe iPhone battery on sale for $84,...
Amazon has Apple’s MagSafe Battery on sale for $84 today. Shipping is free. That’s $15 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for one of these MagSafe batteries among the Apple retailers we... Read more
24-inch M1-powered iMacs available today at A...
Apple has a full range of 24-inch M1 iMacs available today in their Certified Refurbished store. Models are available starting at only $1099 and range up to $260 off original MSRP. Each iMac is in... Read more
Verizon offers free Apple iPhone 14 models to...
Verizon is offering a $800-$1000 discounts on Apple’s new iPhone 14 models for new and existing customers with a qualified trade-in. Price of the iPhone 14 will be spread over 36 months of payments,... Read more
Gazelle drops prices on iPhone 13 models to a...
Gazelle has a full line of discounted, refurbished, unlocked Apple iPhone 13 models now available starting at $469. iPhones are offered in Fair, Good, and Excellent conditions, and multiple colors... Read more

Jobs Board

Physician Assistant, Primary Care, *Apple*...
Physician Assistant, Primary Care, Apple Valley (1.07FTE) + Job ID: 65766 + Department: AV Primary Care + City: Apple Valley, MN + Location: HP - Apple Read more
Operations Manager - Mac/ *Apple* Engineerin...
…Responsible for the day-to-day activities relating to the engineering of Apple Macs in a complex, multi-platform environment. Demonstrates strong leadership, Read more
Lead Developer - *Apple* tvOS - Rumble (Uni...
…earnings, and positive sentiment About the role: We are looking for a Lead Apple tvOS Developer to join our application engineering team to expand our video centric Read more
Systems Administrator - *Apple* Devices / J...
…Administration **Duties and Responsibilities** + Configure and maintain the client's Apple Device Management (ADM) solution. The current solution is JAMF supporting Read more
Sr Product Manager, *Apple* TV Platforms -...
…an experienced senior product manager to drive the strategy and requirements for our Apple TV devices, acting as the champion and owner of the holistic experience in Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.