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Managing My Laptop With Boxen

Boxen is a framework and collection of libraries created by the fine folks at GitHub to make setting up and managing Mac OS X computers easy and repeatable. Rather than a simple set of shell scripts or other provisioning tools, Boxen uses Puppet to automate installing and configuring software. I don’t have the time or space to explain how great Puppet is a configuration management is, so you’ll have to trust me or go do your own research.

Anybody could take a stab at rolling their own collection of Puppet manifests to manage their laptop or their corporate install base. That’s actually exactly what GitHub did to create Boxen. Having tried (and failed) at doing just that before I was pretty impressed when I gave Boxen a test drive. GitHub has not only provided a system that “works for them”; they have also managed to engineer a reasonably extensible solution for a very complex problem.

You can use your favorite search engine to find folks who can wax poetic about the magnitude of this accomplishment. Let’s get on with a description of what I’ve been able to do with it.

I’m using Boxen to manage my $DAYJOB laptop. This was a great place to start because I had a brand new laptop that needed to be setup and a brand new tool to use to do it. I started by following the bootstrapping instructions to create my own copy of the template project. I made a few changes to the site manifest and then started working on a manifest for myself.

Along the way I decided I didn’t like a few of the decisions that the Boxen architects had made. As I pointed out earlier, the team behind Boxen anticipated this and changing most things is as easy as forking a repo, making your change and updating the Puppetfile in your Boxen project.

At the moment I have customized or created these repositories:

The one thing I most wish someone would figure out how to do with Boxen/Puppet is install apps from the Mac App Store.

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