Casper FAQ

What is Casper?

Casper is a suite of software applications. The main components are a central server holding settings and software installers, and a client that resides on a desktop/notebook computer and checks into the server for settings and software titles to install.

Who makes Casper?

The Casper Suite comes from JAMF Software (www.jamfsoftware.com) in Minnesota. They’ve been in business developing Apple-specific management software since 2002.

Why did Middlebury buy the Casper Suite?

Middlebury College purchased the Casper Suite in order to manage the college’s growing Macintosh community. Microsoft based computers have had the ability to be managed in similar fashion on campus previously. The Casper Suite will bring Mac support on par with their Windows counterparts.

How Does Casper Work?

The Casper client (user side) has two components, an inventory component and the application delivery component. The inventory component works by running the System Profiler in the background and sending the report to the the central Casper server.

The application delivery component works by installing applications that are standard across all our computers (Anti-Virus, ArtStor, Office, etc), or offering software titles that you have requested (Adobe, FireFox, Printers, SPSS, etc).

All communications between the server and client are done via a secure channel that is activated only for the Casper installer.

When is Casper available?

All Macs that have been deployed since July 2011 have already had the Casper client included. If you know of a Mac owned by the college that does not have the Self Service application, please contact the helpdesk for assistance. Also, if there are applications that you would like to have available via Self Service, please ask. The number of applications available will continue to grow as ITS continues to develop our Casper platform.

How do I know if it is installed?

Under the Applications/Utilities folder you will see an application called “Self-Service”. This is the Casper client utility that offers application installations. If you see this application, then you have a computer that has been “Casperized” and you do not need to install Casper.

How does the college use Casper?

Middlebury College uses Casper for two things:

  1. The installation of software and printers.
  2. Safeguards against viruses that are too new for anti-virus software to protect against them (zero-day threats).

Casper dramatically decreases the amount of time it takes to install software across the campus, in both labs and offices. Casper also allows ITS to make sure that all Macs can be running the same version of software across campus.

Casper also allows ITS to handle zero-day-threats against the Macintosh community. While Anti-Virus software keeps known viruses out, a zero-day attack can be acted on more quickly by having Casper kill & remove the infection before a virus definition can be created and distributed across the country by normal Anti-Virus programs.

How do I use Casper's Self Service to install software on my Mac?

ITS uses the Self Service utility to make software installers available to you. A growing number of software titles are available to you automatically, others must be requested through the Technology Helpdesk.

Here's how to find then run the installers to which you have access:

  1. Make sure you are connected to the network via an Ethernet cable.
  2. Navigate to the Utilities folder on the Mac using the Finder menu (Go > Utilities).
  3. Double-click Self Service to launch this program.
  4. From the Categories pane at right, click the appropriate entry:
    • Uninstallers shows uninstallers that cleanly remove older versions of software that are already present on your computer (such as Microsoft Office 2011 or older Adobe software). Be sure to reboot your computer after running any uninstaller.
    • Application Installers: Self Service shows installers for all the software titles available to your computer.
    • Featured shows our most commonly-requested installers.
    • OS shows any available operating system upgrade installers.
    • Printers shows installers for all campus printers that are available via Self Service.
  1. You should now see the installer package for the desired software. Click the "Install" button for the application. (Please note: The install will happen in the background and can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the installation. You can continue other work but you may find the computer is responding slowly.)
  2. After the application has installed successfully you will find it in the Applications folder.

How often does Casper check the server?

The Casper client calls back to the server every 15 minutes while the computer is on. The only information that gets sent is a query to see if any new actions should be taken. If you are off-campus the client will not make the connection unless you have a running VPN session. The client also reports back at every start-up, login, and logout with the same query. The client will also check in when you launch the Self-Service application.

What information does Casper collect?

Casper only collects two pieces of information. Twice a week it runs Apple's System Profiler applications and attempts to upload it to the server if a connection has been made. Casper also monitors the CPU activity to look for any processes that have been blacklisted (viruses, etc).

What information does Casper NOT collect?

Casper does not read your e-mails. Casper does not care about your iTunes or iPhoto library. It does not catalog the contents of your home folder and it does not track your online activities. Casper does watch what processes are running, but does not report back on what they are, unless the process has been identified ahead of time by the server as a rogue process. Please read the Privacy of electronic files & communications from the College's privacy policy for more information.

How will Casper effect my day-to-day activities?

JAMF Software only makes Mac applications and understand that nobody wants to be continually prompted or weighed down by a buggy application. Casper was built to work quietly, with absolutely minimal impact on the computer and user. You will not even know it is there until you need it.

How do I troubleshoot Casper installations?
  • Installations work best when you are on-campus using an Ethernet (wired) connection. Campus wireless may work as well, but it will be slower. Many installers are large and take some time even when using a fast connection.
  • If you are off-campus, you must use a VPN connection. This is no guarantee of success, however, as many installers are simply too large.
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