Swift 5 for MacAdmins

macOS 10.14.4 also includes Swift 5. The main new feature of Swift 5 is that Swift is ABI stable.

Simply said, ABI stability allows swift binaries to use a Swift library on the system instead of having to bundle the libraries with them. This will, of course reduce the size of the binaries.

For example, my desktoppr tool compiles to 6.5MB with Swift 4.2 and 56KB with Swift 5.

However, command line tools built with Xcode 10.2 now rely on the Swift library to be available on the system. macOS 10.14.4 and future versions will include the libraries, but older macOS versions did not. There is no option in Xcode 10.2 to keep the old behavior of bundling the libraries in the tool.

This means that when you re-build a tool in Xcode 10.2 with Swift it will not run on older macOS version:

$ sw_vers -productVersion
$ ./desktoppr 
dyld: Library not loaded: @rpath/libswiftAppKit.dylib
  Referenced from: /Users/armin/Desktop/desktoppr
  Reason: image not found
Abort trap: 6

Apple provides an installer for the Swift libraries for “earlier versions of macOS.” (The package installer declares a minimum OS version of 10.9.)

The libraries are installed in /usr/lib/swift, where your binaries can find them:

$ ./desktoppr 
/Library/Desktop Pictures/BoringBlueDesktop.png

Note: these libraries are used by compiled binaries. Installing the runtime libriaries will not allow you to run swift script files, i.e. text files starting with the #!/usr/bin/swift shebang. You still need to install Xcode or the Developer Command Line tools for that.

So far, only command line tools written and compiled in Xcode 10.2 will require the libraries. Application bundles will continue to include their own libraries.

As Swift gets updated, you will need to update the installed libraries as well. You can get the installed version of the Runtime with pkgutil:

$ pkgutil --info com.apple.pkg.SwiftRuntimeForCommandLineTools
package-id: com.apple.pkg.SwiftRuntimeForCommandLineTools
volume: /
location: /
install-time: 1553789052
groups: com.apple.FindSystemFiles.pkg-group 

However, on a Mac with 10.14.4 the swift libraries are present but not installed by the same installer package, they are part of the entire system:

$ pkgutil --file-info /usr/lib/swift/libswiftFoundation.dylib
volume: /
path: /usr/lib/swift/libswiftFoundation.dylib

pkgid: com.apple.pkg.update.os.
install-time: 1553765876
uid: 0
gid: 0
mode: 755

If/When Apple updates the runtime libraries, this might be a challenge to track and update properly.

Note: While I used my tool desktoppr as an example, I have not updated the version available for download to Swift 5 yet. So, that is still built with the “old” Swift and Xcode and should work everywhere without the runtime libraries.

Nevertheless, it should be prudent for MacAdmins to install the Swift 5 runtime libraries on their fleet. At the very least be aware that these errors can occur and how to fix them.

MacAD.UK Presentation Notes

The slides, notes and links for my MacAD.UK presentation from this morning: “Modern Deployment Workflows for Business” are available now.

Modern Deployment Workflows for Business

Despite the title, I think there should be some choice moments and things to learn in there for everyone. Once the sessions videos are posted I will update the page.

I am having a great time here at MacAD.UK. If you are here as well, be sure to say hi!

Apple Remote Desktop, Screen Sharing and Mojave

Last week, Apple posted one of the first support articles specifically for macOS Mojave:

This article is not quite the bombshell that the infamous HT208020 for High Sierra is. However, in contains a few firecrackers which will affect many Mac deployments. You can test deployments with the public beta or developer release of Mojave right away.

Update: Apple has posted a new article describing how to avoid this with a Privacy Configuration Profile. Ben Toms has a wonderful summary.

The piece of information I want to focus on for this post affects Apple Remote Desktop client configuration (called ‘Remote Management’ in the ‘Sharing’ preference pane). Mac Admins have been using the command line tool kickstart to enable and configure Apple Remote Desktop access on clients with scripts through a management system.

In macOS Mojave, Apple will restrict the functionality of kickstart:

For increased security, using the kickstart command to enable remote management on a Mac will only allow you to observe it when sharing its screen. If you wish to control the Mac while sharing its screen, enable remote management in System Preferences.

This continues Apple’s effort to require user interaction for every configuration that can provide on going access to sensitive data or the system a Mac, like User-Approved MDM and the new privacy controls.

What this means for Admins

If you rely on Apple Remote Desktop for remote control and remote assistance, this will disrupt your installation workflow. The kickstart tool will enable ARD access and configure the users but not enable any access privileges.

You get a nice (red) warning in the shell and when you go into the Remote Management preference pane, no active access is enabled. You can only manually enable the access privileges in the ‘Sharing’ preference pane, which requires administrator privileges to unlock.

You can still use kickstart to disable Remote Management access.

This limitation extends to Screen Sharing. You can enable Screen Sharing (when ARD/Remote Management is disabled) from the command line with:

$ sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.screensharing.plist 

You have to restart System Preferences to pick up the change in the UI. This command will enable Screen Sharing access, but it will be observe only. (Note: you can use launchctl unload ... to disable.)

When you enable Screen Sharing manually in the ‘Sharing’ preference pane, it will grant full access.


I have (so far) been unsuccessful in determining where the restricted access setting is stored. My suspicion is that the TCC database is involved. If the setting is controlled from a protected settings file or database, then you can at least read that to determine the state and use that information to trigger a notification to the user that action is required. So far, however, I cannot get this information yet.

If you find any means of determining the state, please let me know and I will update this post.

Unfortunately, Apple has provided no alternative means of controlling screen sharing or ARD with configuration profiles from a UAMDM, leaving admins stranded without an automated solution.

Update: Rich Trouton’s recent post on an managing ARD access with with user groups is of interest to admins encountering this problem.

Admins that require ARD or Screen Sharing will have to rely on users actively enabling the settings. To make things worse, unlike the approval of an MDM profile or a kernel extension, the ‘Sharing’ preference pane is locked for standard (non-admin) users.

You can either provide a way for users to be temporarily promoted to admin or modify the Authorization database to allow standard users to unlock the ‘Sharing’ pane. However, unlocking the Sharing pane allows access to many more critical services, which is untenable from a security perspective.

It will have to be seen how this affects third party remote access applications. I have tried setting up Edovia Screens Connect on my Mojave virtual machine, but that currently uses the native Screen Sharing/Remote Management client, so it will encounter the same limitations. Other third party tools may have their own clients.

As usual, please, provide your feedback to Apple through the usual channels (macOS beta Feedback app, bugreport, your Apple representative, SE or technical support).