One year of “Packaging for Apple Administrators”

I published my book “Packaging for Apple Administrators” one year ago. Flashback time (insert harp chord sounds)!

When I started out the goal was to write the big guide on everything a Mac Admin needs to know. It quickly dawned on me that this would result in a huge tome which would be impossible to write and maintain. I realized that with digital publications, I could publish smaller books and could “publish early and often.” I would publish a specialized book and update that when I learnt new information or when software updates revealed or retired certain strategies. That realiziation freed me of “perfection anxiety.”

The choice for the first topic was easy. Analysing and creating package installers is an essential skill for Mac Administrators. But it is also poorly documented. Apple has no real documentation on the package format on their website. Also no best practices. For years the Mac Admin community has been very helpful on guiding newcomers through the process, but in the end everyone relied some information transfer through “osmosis”. New admins would pick up bits and pieces on how to build packages, what to do and what not to do from posts in IRC and Slack, the occasional blog post and maybe a presentation or workshop at a conference.

This was the perfect “low-hanging fruit” topic to start out with. After about six months of part time writing it was in some form that I was not embarassed too much about any more. That was last November.

I have since pushed four updates to the books. (The first 1.1 update was to remove some placeholder text that was persisting in the default Glossary entries. The iBooks store reviewers don’t like that.) The other four updates have added two appendices, eight new sections and countless other fixes, extensions and clarifications. And everyone who bought the book got the updates for free.

I believe I now have included most of the fundamental concepts on packaging. However, some sections might profit form having more examples. In particular more complex examples would be useful. My main challenge in providing complex examples is that I cannot use software which requires pricey software licenses. However, this is usually the most problematic software which requires complex and challenging workarounds. (If you have recommendations for useful, free software, which requires complicated packaging workarounds, please let me know.)

So keep expecting updates and new content!

So what’s next? The obvious sequel for “Packaging” seemed to be “Automated Packaging” and would cover AutoPkg. The AutoPkg book is sitting, half-written, on my computer. However, it turns out that AutoPkg requires much more prerequisite knowledge. I found myself adding chapters and sections on other topics. One of these topics grew enough that I published it as its own booklet: “Property Lists, Preferences and Profiles for Apple Administrators” or “PR3” for short.

While “Packaging” and “PR3” are selling and I am getting lots of wonderful feedback from the readers, the numbers sold do not justify going in on writing full-time. This does not come as surprise, since Mac Administration is quite a niche market and I have neither time nor budget for any form of marketing, other than word-of-mouth. (So, please, if you liked the books and want to do me a favor, tell some fellow Mac admin about my books, and/or leave a review on the iBooks store.)

Also at that time (Spring 2017) the rumors of Apple drastically changing access to macOS, even (or especially) for administrators and their tools were rampant. Finally, Jamf was promising a great new “Patch” feature for the long-expected Jamf 10. All of these trends together might have invalidated the information in a book on AutoPkg (and maybe even the Packaging book). It seemed like a good time to put the AutoPkg book on the back burner and write about something else.

I have written a lot of blog articles over the summer. I am currently sorting through them, filling in the sections and chapters and trying to assemble useful books from them.

I have also presented at MacSysAdmin in Göteborg and am looking forward to presenting at more conferences in the future. Finally, I recently started working as a System Engineer/Consultant for a Dutch reseller. While all this other work is limiting the time available for writing, I also expect it to inspire real-world experiences which should lead to better writing, both on this weblog and the books.

So, one year after “Packaging”: the books are still being updated, the Macpocalypse did not happen and packaging is still a skill you need to have as a Mac Admin! Expect more books sometime in the future! Until then, buy the books I have!

(If you have already purchased and read the books, please leave a review on the iBooks store. The iBooks store segregates reviews per territory, so every single one counts! Thank you!)

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