How to automate your Mac OS X setup with Ansible

Last month I updated my development machine to the shiny new El Capitan. Unfortunately as a zsh and tmux user I ran into a very annoying bug and so I was forced to re-install my MBP with Yosemite. Because I belong to the power users which tend to customise their installations a lot and because I like automation I decided I was going to automate this cumbersome job for once and for all. Of course, with my favourite configuration management tool: Ansible.

It appears I’m not the only one and found Jeff Geerling’s excellent mac-dev-playbook repository. The contains a lot of useful information and the repository is an excellent starting point. I’ve also used it as starting point for my own repository. In this post I’ll explain the most important details of my setup.

Installation of Applications and packages

I like Homebrew to install packages on my Mac so that’s also what I use in my Ansible setup. There is a ready to use Ansible role available – also created by Jeff Geerling – which I recommend. To use it:

To configure the role to suit your needs you have to edit vars/main.yml. My current version as an example:

The Dock

There is a neat utility available called dockutil which allows you to take full control over your dock. You can install it via Homebrew, so just register it under homebrew_installed_packages.

I use the following tasks and vars to fix my dock:



I spend a significant amount of the day in the terminal, so I’ve tweaked the default Terminal settings a lot. The cool thing is these settings can be exported via Shell > Export settings. The Ansible task to import such a file:

Mac OS X tweaks

A lot of people don’t know you can configure a lot of settings via the command line interface to the user defaults. You can read and write these settings. For some inspiration take a look at my defaults.

Install Selenium headless on Debian Wheezy (optionally with Ansible)

When you start testing with Behat and Mink Selenium2 driver you also need a browser running. Because we develop on a virtualised server installing FireFox was a bit more tricky then I expected. Of course a search yielded some interesting results, but also a lot of crap. So here is a little writeup on how I managed to get it running to save you some time. An example playbook can be found at the bottom of this post. But beware: this is Debian only!

On Debian there is a package called iceweasel. This is a rebranded version of FireFox. Because of that there is no firefox package available in the default repositories.

We are using Ansible for configuration management (for both our production and develop environment) so I prefer a package above compiling shit because that’s much easier to automate. There are a couple of options to install FireFox trough package manager:

  1. add Linux Mint repository
  2. add ubuntuzilla repository

Using the Linux Mint repository I experienced some problems. The Ubuntuzilla repository worked like a charm. If you want to install manually just follow the instructions in their Wiki. After adding the repository you can install the firefox package:

To run Firefox headless you also need some display server and to emulate that we are going to use xvfb. Selenium requires Java, thus we install:

Download Selenium somewhere:

You should be able to start Selenium now:

Starting by hand is a bit lame, so we use this startup script:

Copy this to /etc/init.d/selenium and after that you can:

And when we create an Ansible playbook for all this we get:

How to create a VM with PHP 5.4 using Vagrant and Puppet

Everybody PHP developer who didn’t live under a rock the past few months must have heard of the upcoming release of PHP 5.4. Well, March 1 it was finally there: the official release of PHP 5.4!

Because it definately will take some time before we can install it with our favorite package manager, I decided to create a small Puppet manifest in combination with Vagrant that will build a virtual machine. Normally, you have to compile PHP from source in order to try it that quickly after it has been released. However, the nice dudes from compiled them already for us, and provide it via their repository. Nice! 🙂
Furthermore, Vagrant provides us a cool Ubuntu server image, ready to rock with Puppet. So, let’s get thing of the ground shall we? (pro tip: scroll all the way down to simply clone my git repository with all the code ;))


In order to get things running smoothly you have:

  1. Installed VirtualBox 4.1.x
  2. Installed Vagrant
  3. Some IDE for editing Puppet manifests (I prefer Geppetto)

Creating our project structure

Let’s start with creating a basic directory structure for storing our files needed. Fire up Eclipse/Geppetto and start a new project in your workspace. Create the following structure:

  • manifests
  • modules
    • php54
      • files
      • manifests
  • www

Writing the Puppet manifest

There are a few things we need to accomplish with Puppet, in chronological order:

  1. Add the repository to/etc/apt/sources.list
  2. Add the GPG key
  3. Run apt-get update
  4. Run apt-get install php5

Because we can bucket files to the VM easily with Puppet, I choose to supply a modified sources.list so Puppet takes care of copying it into the VM. Then, I download the GPG key with the famous wget utility and pipe it into apt-key. The exec call to apt-get update speaks for itself, and last but not least I tell Puppet to install the latest php5 package.

With the require directive I make sure that all commands are executed in the right order.

The contents of the init.pp file in the php54 module looks like this:

Also we create a sources.list file in the “files” directory (you could change the Debian mirrors):

Last thing I do is create the entry point for Puppet, namely the site.pp file in the manifests directory:

All I do is including the php54 module which will handle all the magic for us.

Creating the virtual machine

Now Vagrant comes in to use. Create a Vagrantfile in your project root with the following content:

I’m using a Debian Squeeze box from here, credits go to the original author. I’m making use of the VirtualBox shared folders. These are not really fast, but will do for testing purposes. If you want some more advanced sharing I suggest NFS or Samba if you are on Windows.

Now, all left to do is start the VM. Open up a terminal and do vagrant up in your project root:

Navigate to with your favorite browser and have some happy testing 🙂

For all the lazy people out there, you can start the box with just 3 commands:

Creating a CentOS 6.2 base box for Vagrant

One of the cool things I stumbled upon last year at the Dutch PHP Conference was Vagrant. After some little experimenting I was convinced: this is the right tool for our development environment!

Since we’re running CentOS at the web agency I work for, I soon started searching for a nice base box to build upon. Not satisfied by the boxes available, I decided to create a base box myself.
Today we decided to switch to CentOS 6 for all our new boxes, so I had to build a new image for our developers to build on with Puppet and Vagrant. Since I had this free hosting account from Combell sponsored at PHP Benelux Conference I thought it would be nice to give something back to “the community” by writing my first blog post :).

This tutorial assumes you have installed Virtual Box. First of all, we start with downloading an ISO image so we can install a fresh instance of CentOS. Pick a mirror nearby and download the right image. We’ll be using the netinstall ISO since we want to keep the size of the image as small as possible.
I hear you thinking: why doesn’t he use the minimal ISO if size matters? Believe me, the minimal is *really* minimal. Too minimal is you ask me!

While the ISO is downloading, let’s fire up Virtual Box and create a new virtual machine. Choose the name you want and set OS to “Linux” and version to “Red Hat”. Also create a virtual disk with the desired space and pick “Dynamically allocated”.
Once you’re done with creating the VM, don’t forget to disable audio and USB. Also make sure you set the base memory to something like 700 MB. Otherwise the GUI installer won’t work, and you get the text installer which is limited!


Next thing is to fire up the VM, and Virtual Box’s “First Run Wizard” will pop up. Pick the ISO you just downloaded and click “Start”. After it’s booted, choose the option for installation and hit “return”. If all went fine, the installer will pop up. A few things to keep in mind here:

  • disable ipv6
  • select HTTP installation method and enter a mirror nearby; for using the Dutch Leaseweb mirror like I did you enter “” (just replace the hostname with your preferred mirror’s hostname)

CentOS netinstall mirror

After the kernel is downloaded, you’ll see the GUI installer.
Follow the wizard and select partition layout (I use the default settings).
A few important things:

  • Set vagrant as the root password
  • Set vagrant-centos62 as hostname (Vagrant conventions)
  • In the software selection window make sure you choose minimal as the set, and also choose “Customize now” at the software selection:

Software selection screen

In the next window unselect all packages (only one is selected if I remember correctly). After that you’re done, and the wizard will start downloading and installing the box.

Once it’s done you’ll be prompted to reboot. Before rebooting, make sure you remove the netinstall ISO as CD attachment (in the “storage” settings). Also, to make things more easy during the configuration of our box forward the SSH port like this (select “Network,” “Adapter 1,” and then “advanced settings” and select “port forwarding”):
Port forwading settings Virtual Box
Now boot the VM (don’t forget to enjoy the new animated boot screen ;)).

Configuration for Vagrant

Once booted, connect to your VM via SSH:

Since there’s barely anything on the machine right now, I start with installing my favorite editor and some other stuff we’ll need:

Next we are going to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions. Click on your VirtualBox window and select “Devices” and “Install Guest Additions”. The option is in the VM window, and not in the VirtualBox control panel. Install them like this (ignore the erros you get, this is because we aren’t running any fancy GUI):

Because we’ll be provosioning the VM with Puppet, we start with downloading the EPEL RPM package:

Add it:

Verify with:

Then install Puppet:

I personally prefer installing Puppet with yum, but you could also install it via gems or any of the other methods on the official installation guide. Installing with yum auto resolves dependencies, and with CentOS 6 we don’t have an ancient Ruby version anymore ;).

In order to keep things speedy, add the following line to the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file (it will disable DNS lookups):

Add vagrant user and set permissions

We’re almost there. Only thing left to do is add the vagrant user so Vagrant can log in and build our box.
Start with creating the user and adding it to the “admin” group (set the password to vagrant as stated on the Vagrant base box documentation):

Now we only have to make some changes to the sudoers file. Do this with visudo (or manually edit /etc/sudoers, discouraged):

There are a couple of things that need to be changed:

  • Add SSH_AUTH_SOCK to the env_keep option
  • Find the line with Defaults requiretty and disable it by placing a # in front
  • Add the line %admin ALL=NOPASSWD: ALL so that the vagrant user can sudo without password

Last but not least we’re going to add the public key so Vagrant can easily SSH into our box. Login with the vagrant user:

Please note that I’m using the public insecure pair as described on the readme. If you’re not planning to share the box you probably want to use the config.ssh.private_key_path option in your Vagrantfile.

Package the box

Now first let’s clean up:

Shutdown the box and package it. Replace centos62-32 with the name of your VM:

Optionally you can also add a Vagrantfile into your base box.