Meet up Notes – February 2016

Target and their EDGE team hosted our first official meetup of 2016, and our venue was the highly fashionable and welcoming Target Plaza Commons.

Target Lights

The evening started with a tour of the Target Lights, a light display hosted atop the target world headquarters. Designed to resemble the natural wispy colors of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), the system was first powered on in 2001. However, the first light show was modified and displayed early as a response to the national events of September 11th with a red, white, and blue display.

Old Style Lights Three Color Wheel

The first version of the lights consisted of 130 glass pipes, each weighing 320 pounds. The pipes were 30 feet tall and spaced 5 feet apart. Each pipe was illuminated by a 575-watt light bulb at the base that required annual changing. To achieve colors from the white light bulb, it was projected through a three color wheel (magenta, cyan, and yellow) that could be used to give millions of color combinations.

New Lights and Old Light Panel Light Crowd

In 2011 the lights were updated to more sustainable and reliable LED lights. There are now 686,880 individual lights, totaling to be a 25,000 square foot display. Thanks to Brian and Devon of Target, who lead our tour groups.

Ready for the show Pizza!

Following the tour of the Target Lights we moved downstairs and across the street to the Target Plaza Commons for social time with drinks and a fantastic array of pizza options.

News Topics:

News Time

Apple iOS Encryption Open Letter (hot off the presses from earlier that day):

  • Support for Tim Cook’s stance on security by most in attendance
  • Points for unlocking the phone provided by the audience:
    • New information in the case
  • Points for not making a backdoor to encryption made by the audience:
    • Keys falling into the wrong hands
    • Setting a precedent that could be used incorrectly down the road

Sparkle MitM vulnerability:

  • General consensus was relaxed on this vulnerability
  • No members had seen any issues with their environments
  • Most have the issue patched in their environment, where possible

VMware Fusion development moves to China:

  • “Does anyone remember VirtualPC?”- Bill Smith
    • Bill spoke how in the early 2000s Microsoft acquired VirtualPC and killed it off over time.

Enterprise Connect coming to Education customers:

  • Target’s EDGE team spoke of interest in this feature and has spoke with Apple about it
  • The general consensus was that the price of the engagement seems like an early access fee at this point in time with it being included with future OS X releases

First In, First Out – Adobe Issues:

  • Members in attendance did not have any experience with this in the wild… thankfully!

Apple School Manager coming for iOS:

  • K-12 admins in attendance welcome the platform with open arms, and are ready to test it
  • Talk of how this will affect JAMF’s Casper Focus
    • Those from JAMF in attendance stressed that they are welcoming the new focus on education management with open arms



David Federlein from Ansible took the stage to talk version two of Ansible and beyond. He talked about the changes occurring at Ansible and how their acquisition by Red Hat will help their customers. David spoke of the strong community that Ansible has, and how he and his team are there to help as well. More info can be found on the Ansible start page.

New features coming in version two of Ansible:

  • Blocks
    • Grouping of related tasks
    • Attributes like become, when, tags and others can be set on a block and are then inherited by all the contained tasks
    • Provides a method for catching and handling errors during task execution such as roll backs
  • Improved Error Messages
    • Playbook errors not related to syntax will show the file along with the line and column where the error occurred
  • Execution Strategy Plugins
    • Allows changes in the way tasks are executed in a play
  • Execution-Time Evaluation of Includes
    • Previously task include statements were pre-processed and evaluated before any tasks execution begun
    • Loops, facts and variables set during execution time could not be used with includes – this is now possible in v2
  • Improved Variable Management
    • Centralized processing and management of all variables from all sources
    • Predictable order and avoids premature flattening of data structures
    • One shot variable resolution, instead of piecemeal as before
  • Better Use of Object Oriented Principles
    • More classes doing one thing
    • More use of inheritance and base classes especially in the plugin systems
    • Well defined interactions between classes
    • Improved ability to perform unit testing

Brian LaShomb and Pete Johnson of Target’s EDGE team brought two of their latest projects along to share with us. The EDGE team is responsible for lifecycle management of Apple hardware across Target, for specialized design and graphics software, and for the support of over 3,500 Macs. The 3,500 Macs find their home in Target’s technology services, marketing, product design and development, and property development.

Pete Johnson - Target Pete

Pete presented first on Target’s project to build Casper JSS test environments with help from Ansible. The EDGE team has cooked up a way to automate the creation of JSS environments. Automating the creation of JSS environments has given Target’s teams the ability to spin up dev JSS environments that closely match production, and they are able to do so consistently and quickly. These test environments give Target great agility in testing updates to the JSS before pushing to production, as well as reducing the complexity in moving from environment to  environment (ex: physical servers, Hyper-V, openstack, vSphere). More info on this project can be found on Target’s GitHub on Auto Provisioning.

Brian LaShomb - Target Darth LaShomb

Brian (who also bore an interesting resemblance to a Star Wars character during the presentation) wrapped up the night with a presentation on OS X Virtual Machine provisioning with Ansible and Python.

The EDGE team has seen a tremendous growth in the Mac population at Target. As a result of that growth, the EDGE team could not keep pace with the app support required for the growing population. The team needed a way for app owners and developers to be able to test their apps within the flexibility of a virtual environment since many of those app owners do not have Mac hardware to test apps with.

Challenges that the team faced included OS X restoration media complexities, EULA restrictions, hardware limitations and the lack of enterprise VDI support on Apple hardware. As well as a lack of Apple enterprise-class server hardware.

Enter OS X Virtual Machine provisioning with Ansible and Python! Brian and the EDGE team cooked up a system to spin up and distribute access to OS X Virtual Machines remotely using a wide range of tools:

  • vfuse project by Joe Chilcote provides the framework to use Fusion
  • Ansible to manage VM lifecycle from build to deletion
  • Guacamole a clientless remote desktop gateway that Brian and the team used to connect back to the OS X VMs via Apple RDP

More info on this project can be found on Target’s GitHub OS X Lab page.

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