Wednesday Apr 09, 2008

Mac Tips from Sun Mac Users

I recently had a problem. It was actually good news!  My niece decided to get a Mac Book Pro and convert from Windows.  My problem?  How to collect all the knowledge that Sun Mac users have collected and make it available to her.

There is quite an active Mac community at Sun.  Perhaps it's because we don't like MS Windows or perhaps it's because Mac OS is Unix-based and shares a number of Solaris technologies such as DTrace and ZFS.  Perhaps it's just because it's easier to use and easy on the eyes.  Regardless of the reason, we have built quite a bit of knowledge internally on the Sun network.  I've taken a bunch of it, stripped it of Sun specific content and made it available here.  It consists of some "getting started" tips, frequently used software and FAQs.


Some Web resources for new Mac users

Getting Started

  • Power on
  • Complete the user name creation and network configuration wizard
  • Log in
  • (optional if required) Configure network location and proxies
      • Apple Menu > Location > Network Preferences
      • Select your network device (built-in or AirPort)
      • Click Configure
      • Location Pull down > New Location
      • Enter a name such as SWAN
      • Show > Select your network device to configure
      • Click on Proxies Tab
      • For each protocol (FTP, HTTP, HTTPS) Click the check box and enter proxy name and port
      • Click Apply Now
  • Get the latest MacOS X software updates
    • Apple menu > Software updates
    • Reboot as requested
    • Repeat until no software updates are available (some updates are dependent on earlier updates.)
  • Configuration settings
    • FileVault (enable FileVault per security recommendations below or use encrypted disk images for protection of  proprietary or government data)
  • Download NeoOffice for Intel Macs and run the installer
  • Download the most recent NeoOffice patch for Intel Macs and run the installer
  • Set up Apple Mail or Thunderbird to access your mail account
  • Review all the other System Preference panels and configure as desired
Recommend Security settings for Mac OS X
  •  Apple menu > System preferences
    • Security Panel
      • Turn on Filevault 
      • Require password to wake this computer from sleep
      • Disable automatic login
      • Require password to unlock each secure system preference
      • In Leopard (10.5) the firewall settings are also here.
    • Desktop and screen saver panel
      • Start screensaver after xx minutes
    • Energy Saver panel
      • Put computer to sleep after xx minutes
      • Put Display to sleep after xx minutes
    • Sharing panel
      • Firewall Tab (in Sharing for 10.4 and Security for 10.5)
        • Click the lock and enter admin password to make changes
        • Click the Start button
        • Enable only services that are required.
        • Apple Remote Desktop must be enabled
      • Services Tab (10.4)
        • Only enable services that are required
        • Apple Remote Desktop must be enabled.
      • 10.5 Sharing panel
        • Only enable service that are required
        • If you enable file, sharing, you may wish todelete the users "Public" folders from being shared.
    • Accounts panel
      • Uncheck "allow user to adminster the computer" for non admin users
      • Delete or disable unused or guest accounts
      • Login Options tab
        • Uncheck "Automatically login"
        • Check  "Enable fast user switching"
    • Finder > Preferences > Advanced (NOTE: This does NOT appear to work)
      • Click "Empy Trash Securely" checkbox
      • Use: Finder > Secure Empty Trash when emptying trash.
    • See also: NSA Security Guidelines for OS X

Popular software tools (alphabetically) Random Tips from the Mac Masters
  • Drag Applications, Utilities, Documents, Desktop and other frequently used folders to the right side of the dock.  You can now access them with a single right mouse click using a heirarchical menu.  Dragging your Hard Disk icon provides complete access to everything.
  • Use Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility to:
    • Repair permissions after an upgrade or software install
    • Check the file system integrity (must boot from install DVD to repair)
    • Burn ISO images to DVD or CD
    • Erase R-W media
    • Build your own Disk Image files
  • MacOS Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Set your default browser using the Safari Preferences.  Set you default Mail reader using Apple Mail preference
  • Monitor and kill processes using Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor
  • Apple equivalent to CTL-ALT-DEL
    • Command-Option-Escape to bring up a dialog to kill a hung process.
    • Apple Menu > Force Quit
    • Right click on the dock icon and select Force Quit
    • Option-Right Click on the dock icon and select Force Quit if force quit does NOT show in the contextual menu
  • Buy a 3-button wheelie mouse (wireless bluetooth enabled is supported)
    • Right click works in many applications to bring a contextual menu
    • Wheel click in Safari works to open a new tab
    • Control-Click or Click and hold are one button (touchpad) alternatives to right-click
  • Drag frequently used applications to the left side of the dock.
  • Turn on Dock hiding and adjust the size of the dock.  Apple menu > System preferences > Dock
  • Put less frequently used applications in your "Utilities" folder rather than Applications
  • Learn to use Expose and Dashboard widgets  Apple menu > System preferences > Expose
  • Create an "Installers" folder on your desktop to keep all those xxx.dmg files that you download.
  • Move your iTunes, iPhoto, and Solaris images files OUT of your home directory, the large files slows down FileVault substantially.
MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard)
  •  Leopard is now shipping with all new Mac
  • Detailed Leopard review at ArsTechnica
  • Application compatibility notes (when available)
    • NeoOffice reported to work on Leopard
    • VMware Fusion latest version is reported to work on Leopard
    • Classic mode (OS 9 app support) will NOT work on Leopard
    • Disk utilities such as Disk Warrior, etc will require an update from vendor
    • Java 6 is not available in Leopard.
    • Unsanity APE apparently causes problems in performing an upgrade to Leopard.
    • Partial list of apps that don't work with Leopard at MacRumors
    • Time Machine and File Vault are apparently incompatible with each other. See this tip.
    • MacBooks and MacBook Pros keyboard becoming non-responsive has been fixed with an update.
    • When using Mail 3.1 Mail downloads go to  ~/Library/Mail Downloads folder regardless of what the mail preferences report. This can result in many megabytes of stuff (and potentially Sun or customer proprietary data) piling up in a folder that is generally "invisible" to the casual user.
  • User changes
    • Make a backup before upgrading.
      • Suggested freely available full disk backup solutions include:
      • Choose the upgrade option rather than clean install.    
  • Security Changes
    • There is currently a reported issue with the Leopard Firewall.  A SunIT warning has come out about it.
    • Enable "Stealth IP Mode"
      • Apple > System Preferences > Security > Firewall
      • Click Advanced
      • Click Enable Stealth Mode
    • Firewall Settings are now in the Security system preference instead of the Sharing preference
    • Sharing system preference for File Sharing now has an "Options" button to enable AFP, Windows or FTP file sharing separately.
  • Resources
    • Sam's Teach Yourself Mac OS X Leopard All in One at Safari Books
Apple's Boot Camp software
  •  Boot Camp is a part of MacOS X 10.5 which allows you to create a separate partition for a native OS to be installed.  Windows, Solaris and Linux variants are supported. It has advantages and disadvantages when compared to virtualized solutions
  • Advantages
    • OS runs natively on the hardware for higher performance and able to use all of memory.
    • Simplifies troubleshooting by eliminating the effects of MacOS and virtual machine
    • Allows you to claim you are running Solaris directly on the MacOS Intel based HW
  • Disadvantages
    • Requires a separate hard partition and boot loader
    • Requires a reboot to switch between MacOS X and Solaris
    • Cannot run both MacOS and Solaris simultaneously
    • More difficult to keep multiple images and take backups of images.
    • Cannot take advantage of canned VMs, cut and paste, file sharing, sleep/suspend etc.
  • See this blog entry for tips on using BootCamp with Solaris
Resources MS Windows
  • MS Windows can also be installed directly on the hardware using Apple's beta BootCamp package.  BootCamp is built into Leopard.
  • Where to I change my computer's name?
  • How do I find my MacBook's serial number?
  • How do I create an encrypted disk image
  • How do I change the Keyboard shortcuts.
  • How do I make applications start when I login?
  • How do I add/remove/change items on my dock?
  • How do I use my Apple remote to control NeoOffice presentations
  • How do I force my screen saver to start manually with hot corners?
  • Should I "Shut Down" my Mac or put it to sleep.
    • Unlike Windows, the MacOS is remarkably reliable and we know users with "uptimes" exceeding two months.  Just close the lid and go.
  • How do I change the icon on a file or folder?
  • How do I add the date to my menubar clock?
    • in the terminal type: defaults write -g AppleICUTimeFormatStrings -dict-add 2 "MMMM d, hh':'mm':'ss' 'a"
    • then: killall SystemUIServer  (to restart menubar)
    • Alternate Solution using the GUI
  • How do I take a screen shot?
  • How do I type a "forward-delete" characters on the laptop.  Use FN-DELETE
  • How do I extend my MacBook display to other monitors?
    • Open System Preferences and click Displays.
    • Click Arrangement and follow the onscreen instructions.
  • How do I change the desktop login background image?
    • The login screen is a file located at /System/Library/CoreServices/DefaultDesktop.jpg.  Just replace that file with something you like.
  • How to I eliminate the transparent menubar in Leopard?
    • With the release of 10.5.2, there is a system preference to control this
      • Apple menu > System Preferences > Desktop and screensaver > Desktop tab
      • Uncheck the "Translucent menu bar" box.
    • If usiing 10.5 or 10.5.1:
      • Open a terminal:
      • sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ 'EnvironmentVariables' -dict 'CI_NO_BACKGROUND_IMAGE' 1
      • Then reboot.
  • What is Mac OS "Safe Sleep" or Why won't my Mac wake up and what is that funny progress bar?
  • How many ways can I quickly lock my screen?
  • What is a "Sparse Bundle" disk image?
  • How do I sync my Palm using Bluetooth with Mac OS?
  • How do I reduce the size of my PDF documents?
  • How do I auto-hide the main menu bar of an application?
  • How do I add a "Recent Applications" item to my dock?
    • In a terminal (I use iTerm), type:
    • defaults write persistent-others -array-add  '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'
    • killall Dock
  • What happened to my Dashboard Widgets?
  • How do I remove language support from applications to save disk space?
    • Choose an application (iPhoto for example)
    • Click once.
    • File > Get Info
    • Open the Languages triangle
    • Select the languages you don't need (shift click to select multiple contiguous items)
    • Click the - sign
    • Close the window.
    • Repeat until you get bored.
  • Why doesn't Time Machine backup my VMware Fusion VM images?
    • Fusion sets the "exclusion flag" on images because the entire image will be backed up with every change.  See this discussion thread more more information.  Back them up manually.
  • How do I get rid of those horrible "stacks" in Leopard and revert to menus as in 10.4?
    • Drag a folder to the right side of the Dock
    • Right-click (control-click)
    • Select "Display as Folder"
    • Right-Click
    • Select "View Content as List"

Jim Laurent is an Oracle Sales consultant based in Reston, Virginia. He supports US DoD customers as part of the North American Public Sector hardware organization. With over 17 years experience at Sun and Oracle, he specializes in Solaris and server technologies. Prior to Oracle, Jim worked 11 years for Gould Computer Systems (later known as Encore).


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