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View your system update history System
In another example of overlooking the obvious, Jim C. pointed me at the Show Log... button in the Software Update system prefs panel. This gives you a nicely formatted list of all your software update activity, including what was installed (name and version), when it was installed, and whether the install was or was not successful.

A click on a column heading will change the sort field, and you can reverse the sort order with the small triangle. So, for example, you can sort the list by Name and see all updates to any given app, or sort by Date to see what's happened chronologically. Viewing my log chronologically, I see a total of 15 updates since May 1st, all but one of them successful - the first try at IE 5.1.1 failed for some reason.

I'd been browsing the /Library/Receipts folder to find this information, and all this time it was a simple button-press away. Sometimes, it seems I overlook the obvious in search of the obscure! Thanks, Jim!
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Try Apple's new KnowledgeBase System
Thanks to some recent improvements, Apple's KnowledgeBase has become a valuable troubleshooting tool for resolving OS X problems. This wasn't true in the past, as I found the interface difficult to use and the search engine seemed limited in its ability to find what I thought I told it to find.

However, Apple's been hard at work on the KnowledgeBase, and the new system is (in my opinion) quite impressive. You can create a customized "home page" with preference settings for what type of search you wish to be the default, how many articles to display per page, and what categories of news you are interested in seeing.

The search engine itself has also been greatly improved with "smart searches" and (something I hope to add here in the near future) keyword searches to help narrow your results.

But the most useful new feature is the ability to save favorite articles and favorite searches to create a personalized support page. For example, I've added the What's New, New Software Downloads and OS X Manuals articles to my Favorite Articles section. I also created a search that finds any OS X articles that have been updated within the last two days (using the new OS X keyword and the timeframe-based search criteria) and saved it as "OS X Recent News". All of these saved articles and searches show up as hyperlinks on my support page.

Although Apple's taken some well-deserved flak in the past over the KnowledgeBase, the recent changes have made it a very powerful tool. Spend some time with it if you're looking for answers to OS X questions!
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Navigable 'Volumes' pop-up in dock System
In systems prior to 10.1, you could use some trickery with the /Volumes folder to keep a navigable list of internal and external drives as a pop-up folder in your dock. With 10.1, something changed in the manner in which links and aliases are resolved, and this no longer works. It's still trivial to have your internal drives in such a folder, but CD-ROMs and other removables will no longer show as navigable via drop-down menus.

David Nelson, author of two recently published scripts here, has written another AppleScript which handles this process in 10.1 and later. Due to the size of the script, it's not reproduced here, but is available on my idisk; click the link to download Drive Alias Tender. The archive expands into a folder containing the script and a ReadMe file. It's simple to use - find a place to store the folder, double-click the script, and you're running.

David hasn't tested this script extensively, but I've been running it (with a much slower update interval) for a few days with no problems at all.

The only downside to the script that I see is that it creates a dock icon, since it must always be running in order to update the drive folder's contents. I haven't played around with it, but it seems you could probably change the script from always-run to run-once, and then set a cron job to run the AppleScript at certain intervals ... but that's pure conjecture on my part. If there's anyone with some time on their hands who wishes to experiment with it, it would be interesting to find a way to make it work "in the background".

Read the rest of the article if you'd like to see the steps David took to develop the script; it's sort of interesting to see what he had to do to make this thing work (reposted with his permission)...
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A solution for 10.1.1 energy saver problems System
Ever since I installed the 10.1.1 update on my PB (G4/400, 384 MB RAM), I noticed this weird problem.... When I was logged in (plain vanilla admin type account, NOT root), the system would go into sleep mode after 10 minutes, the amount I set in the Energy Saver prefs panel. No problem. But when my wife was logged in, it would never sleep! (It went to sleep for both of us just fine using 10.1) A peek at her Energy Saver panel showed the same settings that I had established, except they were dimmed, meaning that she couldn't change anything without an admin user & passwd. OK, so I "clicked the lock to make changes," supplied my admin user/pass, moved the sliders around a bit, eventually setting them back to where I wanted them (and where they were originally). Quit System Prefs, and wait for the system to go to sleep.... Never happened. :( The backlight shut itself off, but the HD didn't spin down, and the sleep light never started pulsing.

The only way I could get the system to time out to sleep while she was logged in was to copy the com.apple.PowerManagement.plist file from /Library/Preferences to the Library/Preferences directory in her home dir. After doing that, the System Prefs window for Energy Saver still looked exactly the same, but the system now goes to sleep for her!

I don't know if this problem is at all common -- I couldn't find any messages anywhere I looked (on several discussion boards) about this particular problem. But I'm glad I found a solution!
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OS X Guidebook 1.1 released System
Now at version 1.1, the Mac OS X Solutions Guidebook has been converted from the original AppleWorks source into a Word v.X source. This major conversion allowed me to tackle the other important issue I wished to address - replacing all the screenshots with higher resolution versions. This was the single biggest request I had after the release of the first version, and I agree - the original screenshots looked bad and printed worse. Please note that this change does not affect the requirements for using the Guidebook - it is distributed as a PDF file, but it lives as a Word document on my machine now.

The downside of higher quality images is much larger file sizes. So there are now actually two versions of the book available. The high quality version is a 5.5mb download; the medium quality version is 2.9mb. Both offer significantly nicer graphics than did the first release, and the high quality version is especially suitable for printing.

There are also about 10 new hints, a number of modified hints, a new three-page overview of the OS X folder structure, a "command line vs. GUI" comparison table, and another dozen or so online resources.

So if you didn't like the image quality in the first version of the guide, download the new and improved version.

December 11 Update: I invested in Acrobat 5.0 tonight, so there's a new copy of the guidebook online. The version number is the same, and there's no new content, but all the URLs and email addresses are now functional links, and there's a rudimentary bookmarks section to quickly jump from chapter to chapter. Sorry for the rapid update, but I thought the bookmarks and links were worth it.
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An AppleScript workaround for login items bug System
There are some reported instances, as well as an Apple KnowledgeBase article, concerning OS X hanging when multiple login items are specified. David Nelson, the author of the "Is Classic running?" AppleScript mentioned here recently has written a script which addresses this issue.

David explains it much better than I could, so here's what he said about the script:
This script is a workaround for the issue of applications hanging or causing the system to hang when multiple applications are specified as login items in System Preferences > Login panel.

The workaround is accomplished by specifying the script as the sole login item. When the script runs it opens any aliases it finds in a "Login Items" folder of its own, which resides in the same folder as the script. The script waits five seconds between opening each alias, which avoids the bug that is causing problems when multiple apps are launched at once. If you want an application to be hidden after it is launched, simply do a Get Info on its alias in the script's "Login Items" folder and enter the word "hide" in the comment field.
A simple, effective solution to the problem, at least until its officially addressed by Apple.

Read the rest of the article for David's script...
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OS X and metadata and the future... System
Metadata is "data about data" -- stealing from babbage's excellent explanation below. On the Mac, one piece of metadata is the type and creator information that is stored with each file on the system. These are the bits that tell the Mac which application should open which file, regardless of the file's name or extension. Metadata has long provided an advantage over Windows - no need for filename extensions. The downside, however, is that Mac files are more difficult to exchange with PC users, and lose their metata in the transition. With the release of OS X, Apple has headed away from metadata as the sole means of identifying a file, and has added file extensions. While improving cross-platform compatability, this change has been the source of tremendous debate among Mac users -- do filename extensions mean the end of metadata on the Mac?

John Siracusa, who has written exensively about OS X for Ars Technica, has put together a thorough proposal for Apple to retain and improve upon metadata in OS X, while still maintaining cross-platform compatability. Take a few minutes to read what he's written, and if you agree with the sentiments, sign the online petition which will eventually make its way to Apple along with the proposal.

I realize that the issue of metadata is near and dear to many Mac users' hearts, but I would rather not see this article serve as the igniter for yet another debate on the issue. macosxhints is definitely not the right forum in which to be arguing the merits of metadata, but I felt the issue was important enough to merit a mention.

If you have comments on John's proposal, please send the feedback directly to him - siracusa@mindspring.com.
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Startup and shutdown key combos System
I went looking for a quick reference containing all of the known OS X startup, shutdown, and sleep command keys. I couldn't find one, so I put this together after a little research. Most of these are the same under OS 9 and earlier.
Startup Command Keys
Close Open Windows              - Shift
Start from CD - C
Start from OS X - X (some machines)
Select Start Up Disk - Option
Reset PRAM - Cmd+Option+P+R
Start Up in Single User Mode - Cmd+S
Start Up in Verbose Mode - Cmd+V
Boot into Open Firmware - Cmd+Option+O+F
Eject CD at Startup - Hold down Mouse button
Shutdown, Restart and Sleep Keys
Deep Sleep                      - Cmd+Option+Eject
Shutdown, Restart, Sleep Dialog - Control + Eject
Shutdown, Restart, Sleep Dialog - Power key on keyboard
[Editor's note: Although many of these have been posted here before in various hints, I thought it might be worthwile to have them all in one article -- thanks to autohag for submitting the nice compilation. If there are any missing that you know of, add them as a comment and I'll revise the original article as necessary.]
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AppleScript Studio released to developers System
The December Developer Tools download and mailing contains AppleScript Studio, previewed earlier this year to great reviews.

This story originally stated that the tools were available for general download by any registered developer (including free online-only developers). Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. I had followed a link off the VersionTracker page, logged in, saw the tools, and assumed they were being generally distributed. This was an incorrect assumption on my part. At this point, it appears that only those developers who receive the Developer Tools' mailings on CD-ROM have the ability to download the December release which includes the AppleScript Studio.

UPDATE:

Quoting Apple: "The December 2001 Mac OS X Developer Tools will be available as a free download or for purchase on CD-ROM from the ADC Member Site during the week of December 10. All ADC Online members will be notified via email when the Tools become available."
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Set User ID bit very important! System
I have now found out on two separate occasions that the set user ID bit is very important, even for GUI apps where you might not expect it to be. This is because some GUI apps require to be root in order to get their work done.

I have had problems using both NetInfo Manager and Disk Utility after copying them over from another machine and thus not having their set user ID bit set. In the case of Disk Utility, the situation is worse because there are several executables in the application package, all of which need their set user ID bit to be set in order to get anything done.

The solution to this is use chmod to set the set user ID bit on the executables stored within each package. In fact, you can just to set the set user ID bit for everything in the package. This can be done as follows in the Terminal:

[For NetInfo Manager]
sudo chmod -R 4775 /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Manager.app

[For Disk Utility]
sudo chmod -R 4775 /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app

NB: This relies on everything in the application package already being owned by root. If this is not the case, just do the following:

[For NetInfo Manager]
sudo chown -R root /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Manager.app

[For Disk Utility]
sudo chown -R root /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app
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