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Thursday, 29 March 2012 10:54

Apple Software Installer Update addresses certificate woes


Did you notice last week's Apple Software Installer Update 1.0? Now we know why we need it.

Last week, Apple pushed out Apple Software Installer Update 1.0 with the bland description "This update addresses an issue that may prevent certain Apple software from installing." That sounds pretty low key, right? After all, the qualifiers "may" and "certain" tend to imply that it's a fairly obscure issue that most of us won't run into.

But there the description also included the boilerplate "This update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X 10.6.8" so cautious types would have been pulled in two directions: should I take Apple's advice and apply this update even though it provides no obvious benefit and might possibly adversely affect the smooth running of my system?

Now some users have worked out what Apple didn't tell us about the update and why it is so important.

The Software Installer as supplied with Snow Leopard checks the security certificate within installer packages, and the certificate Apple attached to a wide range of updates and software installers expired this month. Consequently, the original Software Installer refuses to install them.

So if you need to reinstall Snow Leopard from DVD, you won't be able to bring it (more or less) up to date by using the copy of the 10.6.8 combo updater that you downloaded more than a few weeks ago. Instead, you'll need to download a fresh copy of the 10.6.8 updater, either from Apple's web site or via Software Update.

Page 2: problems and solutions


You can't simply update the 10.6.0 installation with Apple Software Installer Update 1.0 and then use the old 10.6.8 updater, because the Software Installer update requires 10.6.8.

The problem apparently extends to applications, with the iLife '11 DVD reportedly being affected. But that's no big deal for most users, as they can simply apply the Software Installer update and then proceed.

Life's more complicated if you manage a fleet of Macs using an automated software distribution mechanism. So Greg Neagle, a Mac administrator in an enterprise environment, has created a python script to help remove certificates from packages.

But wasn't the whole point of attaching certificates to packages to improve security? That is, the certificate provides assurance that the package really came from Apple and hasn't been tampered with. If that was a good idea, why is it suddenly a good idea to ignore expired certificates?

Or is the problem simply that Apple used a certificate that expired far too soon?

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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