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Easy ways to create new folders Desktop
With OS X, Apple assigned command-N to "Make New Window" instaed of "Make New Folder", which was assigned to shift-command-N. To me, this makes sense, as I tend to open more new windows than I do creating new folders, so the easier key combo is the most used key combo.

However, some people tend to create a lot of folders on a daily basis, and the added keystroke could become quite annoying. For these users, here are two other means of creating new folders that may prove quicker than shift-command-N:
  • Control-click (or right-click, if you can) in the Finder, and you get "New Folder" as a contextual menu item
  • Place the "New Folder" widget on your toolbar, and you have one-click access from everywhere. To do this, select View -> Customize Toolbar menu in the Finder while the toolbar is visible (hit Command-B to show the toolbar)
So while one method is lost, at least there are some reasonable alternatives.
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Use 'ShellShell' to learn UNIX UNIX
Robert Woodhead has written a very useful little utility called ShellShell, which basically wraps an Aqua GUI around the terminal. You launch ShellShell, and then pick any one of a number of 'macros', which will execute terminal commands in a GUI.

If that wasn't enough, one of the really neat features is that ShellShell will show you the command-line version of what you've asked it to do before it runs. So you can see how you would do the same thing in the terminal. For example, ps (Process Status) is a command-line version of Apple's ProcessViewer, and it has a large number of runtime options. When you first pick ps in ShellShell, you get a dialog box with about 15 choices in it, with two defaults (show all, and include processes without terminals (ie Aqua programs)) enabled. It shows you that the command line version of this command is ps -a -x. If you then add a check to "Display information about processes associated with user..." and enter your username, the shell command box changes to read ps -a -x -Uusername. This is a great way to learn the obscure command-line options that exist for many UNIX programs.

Once you've set the options you want, you click RUN, and ShellShell returns the results in another Aqua window.

If you're new to UNIX and the command line, ShellShell is a neat way to teach yourself about various options without trying to decode UNIX "man" pages or using the sometimes dangerous "try it and see what happens" method. Best of all, ShellShell is 'legoware'; if you like it, Robert asks you to send his children some Lego pieces (you'll have to see the details on the Read Me file).

ShellShell doesn't include every UNIX command, but it includes quite a few and is easily extensible. Hopefully authors will chip in with new "macros" for the program in the future.
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iTunes, burn speed, and wasted CDs Apps
Over the last few days, I've been trying to burn my first CD's with iTunes for X on my G4/733 with the Superdrive. On my first attempt, I accidentally left the screensaver and drive sleep enabled, and continued to browse web sites, download files, and play with mySQL while the disc burned. I wound up with a coaster, and wrote it off to my failure to set things up correctly.

On the second attempt, I remembered to turn everything off, and left iTunes in the foreground while it worked. When it was done, I stuck the disc in the PC (as it's the most finicky machine about reading homebrew CD's), and it didn't read. On the Mac, it read, but wouldn't play at all. Coaster #2, but this time, I didn't know why.

Before the third attempt, on a hunch I went into iTunes' prefs, and set the burn speed to 1x instead of 8x. I had already set the buffer to "large", so I left that alone. Again, I left iTunes in the foreground while it worked. The play list was about an hour long, and I left for about 45 minutes. I was surprised to find the disc done when I returned, so I can't really say it burned at 1x -- I need to do some further testing to see how fast it actually burns. When I tried this disc in the PC, it worked great ... it also works in all the players I've tried it in, so it appears I had a successful burn.

Pending further investigation, I plan on burning all my CD's in iTunes at 1x; it may be worthwhile (at least for those with G4/733 Superdrive machines) for others to do the same. Anyone else had similar or different experiences on similar or different hardware?
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Compiling Apache with Secure Socket support Desktop
[5/18 5:00pm - Editor's update: Merlijn has sent me a new PDF, which includes two very important revisions. The first is the inclusion of tcsh (not bash) shell instructions, and the second is the actual compilation of mod_ssl. If you've downloaded the PDF, please do so again now to get the newest version.]

Merlijn Tishauser has written a very thorough how-to on installing:
  • The latest Apache (1.3.19) and ...
  • PHP 4.05 and ...
  • mod_ssl
mod_ssl is the Apache interface to OpenSSL, and you can read more about it on the mod_ssl web site. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which lets you speak to the web server using encrypted data streams (a gross simplification, I know, but it's the best I can do!).

Merlin has compiled his how-to into an easy-to-read PDF, which I have posted on my iDisk - Click here to download it. His how-to also contains a complete copy of his httpd.conf configuration file, in case you're having trouble getting your Apache configured.

If you're interested in creating secure servers, give Merlin's how-to a thorough reading. I have not done this on my machine, so I can't provide any first hand advice, but it looks to be well written and easy to understand.
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Creating strong passwords for OS X System
OS X brings a new requirement that every user of the system (even if they're the only user of the system) have a password. Although it's tempting to make your password as easy to remember as possible, that's not necessarily the best plan, especially if you have a full time Internet connection. Here are some tips to creating a strong password on any system, with some specific info on OS X.

In case you were not aware, OS X has a limit of eight characters for login passwords. This is not a "hard limit" (ie you can keep typing after eight characters), but rather, a "soft limit". OS X will only pay attention to the first eight characters of your password; anything beyond that is ignored. So even though you think "pastrami3tZ8n" is a secure password, it's really just the word "pastrami", which isn't secure at all.

For the most secure OS X password possible, you should:
  • Use a long password, up to eight characters, but don't bother going over that. A reader on the X4U mailing list pointed out that many cracking algorithms start at eight characters, as this has been an upper limit in UNIX for quite a while. So use what you're comfortable with, but in general, longer should be better.
  • Mix numbers and letters.
  • Mix upper and lower case.
  • Do not use dictionary words.
  • Do not use 'familiar' words such as the names of pets, kids, or other relatives, birthdates, anniversaries, etc.
  • Do not use the same password on your machine that you use online; most online web passwords are not encrypted, and can be intercepted.
  • Plan on changing your password regularly; change the length and mix of characters; don't just change the ending digit (ie don't go password1, password2, password3, etc.).
I realize this is truly basic information, but with so many people now having full-time internet connections, the importance of a good password cannot be understated!

NOTE: The info above regarding the eight character password limit is no longer true. See the comments; it has been removed...
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Change your 'root' prompt for safety System
Thanks to Keith O. for this one...

If you occasionally use the terminal as root, you should consider using a different prompt when 'rooted' - this will help you remember that you are working as root, and hopefully prevent you from doing something that you didn't intend to do.

The first step is to create a file named .tcshrc in /var/root (this file could also probably be created as /var/root/Library/init/tcsh/rc.mine, but I haven't tried that). You'll be placing your prompt in this file, so that it gets loaded each time you start a root session. Here's what Keith O. placed in his root .tcshrc file:
set prompt="%{\033[32m%}%n @ %/ on $host %#%{\033[30m%}  "
This changes the content and color of the prompt, so that it differs from that of his normal user. If that looks completely foreign to you, that's perfectly normal! Read this hint for a general overview of prompt variables, including an explanation of the color codes, which should help clear things up (a little!).

You can experiment all you like in a terminal session - whatever you set as prompt will only last until you change it again or close the session. It only becomes permanent when you place it in root's .tcshrc file. Also read the referenced hint for setting your normal user's prompt. You can do some pretty neat stuff once you figure out the structure. For instance, this is my normal prompt string:
set prompt="%{\033[0;1;32m%}[%{\033[36m%}%t %n%{\033[32m%}%{\033[33m%}[space]
%c3%{\033[32m%}]%{\033[0m%}%# "
Note: Replace [space] with the actual space character, and enter on one line; broken for easier display. That prompt string leads to this prompt display:

The colors help the prompt stand out from the text that flows as the result of whatever command I'm running. Customizing your prompt string (for both your normal user and root) is a good way to make your time in the terminal more productive.
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A guide for compiling UNIX programs UNIX
If you're interested in learning more about how to compile UNIX programs for OS X, I found a great reference on the X4U mailing list. This tutorial will walk you through the basics of downloading, expanding, configuring, and compiling UNIX programs. It's not specific to OS X, but it's a great overview of the process.

I've also added the URL to the links section of the site.
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Changing MAC Address/ifconfig? Network
Anyone know how to change the MAC Address on the ethernet card?
I've been trying ifconfig but I can't seem to get it to work.

My cable provider registers MAC address and I switch back and forth between two machines. I don't want to use a router. Any help would be appreciated.
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Repairing OS X disks in a GUI System
If you have filesystem errors, Mac OS X doesn't allow you to repair the startup disk, so you need to boot from a CD to run a repair utility. Of course if you formatted your drive in UFS, tools like Disk First Aid and Norton Utilities won't be able to do anything for you. However, Apple has provided a solution.

If you boot from the OS X install CD, you can go to the Installer menu, and choose "Open Disk Utility...". This will allow you to test and repair both UFS and HFS+ disks, without having to venture into the scary land of terminals and Single User Mode.
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PDF file as desktop background Desktop
Instead of choosing a jpg file for a desktop background, you can also select a PDF file to use as desktop background.

This is specially cool when you want to see sharp text. And most of the times a PDF file is smaller than a JPG.

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