Top Secret OS 9

Just as Q never seems to run out of clever gadgets for James Bond, Apple keeps inventing new features for the venerable Mac operating system. OS 9 includes a slew of enhancements that make your Mac more secure, easier to share, and more Internet-savvy. (For an introduction to all the new features, see " "Inside MacOS 9" ," December 1999.)

True, Mac OS X is coming up sometime this year, but this radical new operating system won't be for everyone–at least not right away. If you have a pre-G3 Mac, OS 9 may be the most advanced OS your computer will ever run. And if your work is mission critical–for example, you put out a publication every day on deadline–you may want to wait a while until Apple works out the kinks in OS X.

In the meantime, let us show you how to make the most of OS 9 with these tips and tricks. We've also included a guide to avoiding common problems (see the sidebar "Terminate OS 9 Troubles").


In the movies, Agent 007's enemies are always out to steal the free world's secrets. In the real world, your files and other personal information are also vulnerable to tampering, especially if you're connected to the Internet with fast-network technologies that are always on, such as cable or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). Keep your secrets safe with two of the new OS's best features, Keychain passwords and built-in file encryption.

Pick Your Password

One feature in OS 9 may solve the problem of proliferating passwords. No longer will you be tempted to use the same memorable password for all your log-ons. And you won't have to scribble obscure–and fiendishly forgettable–ones on random pieces of paper anymore, either. OS 9's Keychain–a feature resurrected from System 7 Pro–stores them all in one convenient place, under the protection of a master password.

To create a Keychain, go to the Apple menu, choose Control Panels, and then select Keychain Access. Click on Create in the dialog box that appears. Name your Keychain, and type your master password. Beware: Hackers commonly run programs that try every word in the dictionary to crack into people's computers. Unfortunately, they don't usually have to try too hard since many people slyly use the word password .

Unlock File Servers

To add a file-server password to your Keychain, first make sure you've unlocked the Keychain using the pop-up menu in the Control Strip's Keychain module. Then simply follow the steps you always do to log onto your file server. To the right of the field where you usually enter your password, you'll see the Add To Keychain check box. Once you've selected this, you'll never have to remember that particular password again (unless, of course, you have a serious system crash–but heck, that's why you back up your computer regularly . . . right?).

Unlock the Net

One of the most promising uses for the Keychain is to store all your Web passwords. Unfortunately, at this point you can do this only with a handful of password-protected sites, mostly associated with professional organizations (for example, The Chronicle of Higher Education's site, http://www.chronicle.com ). Those few Web sites let you log on in a browser-generated dialog box, rather than via a form embedded in a Web page.

Still, if you commonly visit a site like this, give it a try. To add a Web site to the Keychain when you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer, go to the site and sign on using your name and password. After you're transferred to a new page confirming a successful log-on, drag the URL from your browser's address field to the Mac desktop. If you use Netscape's browser, you have to copy the URL into a word processor or text editor before dragging it to the desktop. Finally, drag the URL from the desktop into the open Keychain Access window, which prompts you to reenter your user name and password. From then on, you can use the Keychain to sign onto the Web site without reentering your information.

Web surfers who need more than the Keychain can offer may want to try Alco Blom's $25 shareware utility, Web Confidential ( http://www.web-confidential.com ). This handy program, which also stores account numbers and other sensitive information, lets you add password-protected Web sites to a new menu that appears in your browser's menu bar.

Don't Get Caught Sleeping

It's a good idea to set your Keychain to lock automatically when you step away from your Mac. After all, what's the good of a key if you leave your door unlocked? To do this, open the Keychain Access control panel and unlock the Keychain. From the Edit menu, choose Keychain Settings (the actual menu item will be the name of your Keychain, followed by Settings ) and reenter your Keychain password. At the bottom of the resulting window, you'll see an option to lock the Keychain after however many minutes of inactivity you choose. If you're using a PowerBook or iBook, also choose the Lock When The System Sleeps option.

Protect Your Keychain

Guard your Keychain as scrupulously as Bond would guard the keys to the British Secret Service headquarters. Unfortunately, with OS 9's Multiple Users feature turned on, you can unintentionally lose access to the Keychain. If you use the Keychain control panel to change your password, you will no longer be able to unlock it. The secret is, always change your password from the Multiple Users Log-on window.

Take Your Keys with You

When you travel, carry your passwords with you by copying the Keychain file to a floppy disk or other removable media. On your own computer, you will find this file in the Keychain folder inside the Preferences folder of your Mac's System Folder. When you're using another computer as a visitor (see the discussion of the Multiple Users feature that follows), the Keychain file goes in a different place–your personal folder in the Users folder at the root level of the hard drive. Once you find your folder, look inside for the Keychain Preferences folder; put the Keychain file there.

Encrypt Your Files

James Bond wouldn't leave sensitive files out in the open, and you shouldn't either. OS 9's file-encryption feature lets you protect files you don't want others to see, such as those containing your Quicken data or personal memoirs.

To encrypt a file, select it in the Finder and choose Encrypt from the File menu, or control-click on the file to bring up the contextual menu. Enter a password at least five characters long. A check box (selected by default) lets you add the password to your Keychain, so you don't have to choose a phrase that's easy to remember. You can spot an encrypted file by the small gold key on its icon. To decrypt a file, simply double-click on it.

Unfortunately, you cannot encrypt folders. But you can get around this by using Aladdin Systems' ( http://www.aladdinsys.com ) DropStuff, a compression program bundled with Mac OS 9. Drag the folder you wish to encrypt on top of the DropStuff icon, wait for the files to compress, and then encrypt the resulting file (the icon of a stuffed file, or archive, is a vise squeezing a floppy disk). When you want to decrypt the folder, just double-click on it and enter your password.

After you decrypt a compressed folder, your Mac may ask which application to open it with. Choose StuffIt Expander–a decompression program from Aladdin Systems, also bundled with Mac OS 9.

Decrypt without Viewing

When you open an encrypted file, the Mac OS launches its related application. If you're short on time and don't need to see the file, however, you can decrypt it without viewing it. Open it with the Apple File Security program, which you'll find in OS 9's Security folder inside the Applications folder. Or, if you're already running Apple File Security, simply drag the file onto the program's icon.


Mac OS 9's security features aren't as bulletproof as James Bond's car–anyone can access a Mac running OS 9 by booting from an alternate start-up volume, for example. But OS 9's Multiple Users feature does a lot to protect you against low-tech attacks on your sanity. For example, Multiple Users can ensure you'll never have to worry about your kids leaving the desktop in disarray.

Maintain a Secret Identity

The Multiple Users feature lets you set up a Mac so that more than one person can use it, each with his or her own private set of options, preferences, and files. For example, if your children use your Mac, you won't have to worry about important documents disappearing or a new 'N Sync desktop photo ambushing you.

Turn on and set up the Multiple Users option by selecting the Multiple Users control panel. The dialog box that appears asks you to decide what kind of access different users will have to the computer (you're considered the Owner and have full access): Normal (access to just about everything), Limited, or Panels (very basic access, with a simplified interface, ideal for kids and computer novices).

No matter what kind of access they have, whenever they log on, users will see the desktop just as it was when they logged out, regardless of who else used the computer in the meantime.

Make a Photo ID

The Multiple Users feature means the youngest members of your family can use your computer with ease. To help them get started, paste their photograph in the log-in screen. That way they won't even need to read their name to choose the account.

To add a custom picture, open your child's Setup window in the Multiple Users control panel and click on the small triangle to display setup details. Next, in any Web browser, open the file containing the child's picture. Finally, drag the picture from the browser window onto the picture frame (see the screen shot "Her Own Image").

Her Own Image   If you're using OS 9's Multiple Users feature, there's an easy way to make it more fun for the youngest members of your family to log onto your Mac. Include their photos in the log-on screen.


Restrict CD Access

Worried about what kinds of games your kids are playing? Multiple Users lets you control just what CDs and DVD-ROMs they can use. If you decide to restrict access, you'll need to make a master list of approved titles. To do this, click on the Options button in the Multiple Users dialog box. Click on the CD/DVD-ROM Access tab, and then insert a disc into the computer and click on the Add To List button. You can add a disc as a whole, or only specific items on it. (Of course, this can be time-consuming if you have a large library.)

Be aware that discs with separate audio and video tracks have two icons on the Mac desktop, one for the audio and another for the application (see the screen shot "Dual Personality"). You have to drag the audio-disc icon to the Trash before you add the disc to your master list–otherwise you won't be able to select the CD's program content.

Dual Personality   CDs and DVDs that have separate audio and video tracks appear as two icons on the Mac desktop. You must trash the audio-disc icon if you want to add the disc to the master list of approved titles for your kids.


Avoid the Cancel Trap

A gaping security hole in OS 9's Multiple Users software lets other users access your Mac without your password. How? If you set Multiple Users to log out after a specified period of inactivity, and you have any open documents with unsaved changes, OS 9 asks if you want to save changes or cancel: anyone who chooses to cancel gets full access to your computer. To avoid this pitfall, save all documents before you walk away from your Mac.

Install Applications Carefully

Some applications don't coexist peacefully with OS 9's Multiple Users feature. For example, the first time you run any Microsoft Office application, a special installer program copies shared libraries and other software components to your hard drive. Users that can't access the installer won't be able to run the main application. To prevent this, always install applications using the Owner account and make sure they function properly before you grant access to other users. America Online users, take note: Those with Limited and Panels access will not be able to get online unless the Owner moves the entire AOL application folder to the Application Support folder inside the System Folder.


No secret agent can survive for long without up-to-date intelligence. To help you dig for information on your hard drive or the Internet, OS 9 ships with an updated version of the Sherlock search engine. Although the QuickTime-inspired interface is drawing its share of criticism, there are plenty of new tricks worth cheering about.

Customize Channels

Sherlock 2 helps you find information on the Net by confining your searches to groups of related sites, called channels. Mac OS 9 ships with six built-in Internet-searching channels: Internet, People, Shopping, News, Apple, and Reference. You can create your own channels with other Sherlock plug-ins. (Apple maintains a repository of plug-ins at http://www.apple.com/sherlock/plugins.html.)

You can add a new plug-in to any channel by dragging it into the channel's window. To copy a plug-in from one channel to another, option-drag it to the new channel. (If you try to delete one of the built-in channels, however, Sherlock resurrects it from the Internet.)

Find Files Faster

Sherlock 2's revamped Files channel adds welcome new possibilities. When you type 1-F in the Finder, Sherlock launches with the Files channel selected and mounted volumes displayed in a list. To restrict your search to a particular folder or group of folders, drag them onto the Volume window.

Customize File Searches

Dragging any file, folder, or volume into Sherlock 2's More Search Options window copies its attributes into the search fields for quick customized searches. You can even save search criteria in Sherlock's pop-up menu for easy access–handy if you regularly search for files within a certain size range, for example.


In addition to improvements in security, file sharing, and searching, Mac OS 9 boasts an array of other enhancements that make the Macintosh more entertaining and convenient to use.

Take the Secret Entrance

In OS 9's About This Computer window, you can do more than see how much memory the system and any running applications are using. Open files by dragging them onto the appropriate application in the window; double-click on the Mac OS icon to open the System Folder.

Enjoy the Sights and Sounds

OS 9 splits the functions of Mac OS 8's Monitors & Sound control panel into two separate panels. The new Sound control panel offers several entertaining new stereo alert sounds–such as ChuToy (a squeak familiar to dog owners), Laugh (a child's giggle), and Purr (which sounds suspiciously like a Star Trek tribble)–and also lets you balance the stereo speaker volume by playing white noise through one speaker at a time.

Set Up Speedy Shortcuts

On newer Macs, including iMacs, iBooks, bronze-keyboard PowerBook G3s, blue G3s, and G4s, you can use OS 9's Keyboard control panel to program the function keys to open any application or document.

See the Campus

Option-click on your Apple menu and choose About The Finder from the contextual menu to get a view of the Cupertino locale where the magic happens.

Also see: "Share Over the Net"

Mac OS 9 may not be Apple's most mind-blowing upgrade, but if you take advantage of these tips and shortcuts, you may find that its security features in particular can set your mind at ease. After all, as any James Bond fan will tell you, it's not enough just to get your work done–you should have fun doing it.

March 2000 page: 74

If you use Macs At different locations, there's nothing more frustrating than leaving a crucial file on the other computer's hard drive. With OS 9 installed, exchanging files with a Mac on the other side of the world is as simple as accessing the computer in the next office, as long as both are connected to the Internet (and turned on). Here's a step-by-step guide.


Do this in the Chooser or the AppleTalk control panel. AppleTalk must be active for TCP/IP file sharing to work under OS 9, even if you don't have an AppleTalk network.


You'll find this option in the File Sharing control panel. Make sure to set up access privileges for anyone who needs to use your Mac. (OS 9 folds the functionality of the old Users & Groups control panel into File Sharing.)


In the Finder, select the volumes and folders you want to share, and specify access privileges using the Sharing section of each item's Get Info window.


Make sure the computer with which you want to share files is connected to the Internet, and write down its IP address from the TCP/IP control panel.


At the other end, open the Chooser and select AppleShare. Click on Server IP Address and enter the numeric IP address from Step 4. Specify the items you want to share, enter the host computer's password, and you're done. To save time, make an alias of the shared volume or folder; that way, you won't have to reenter the host IP address to reconnect. You can also add AppleShare servers to your Keychain so you no longer have to remember the servers' passwords.–FRANKLIN TESSLER

From sherlock 2 to multiple users, there's no doubt that Mac OS 9 has much to recommend it. However, as with any operating-system upgrade, you'll need to watch out for a few thorns hidden among the roses. These tips will help you make sure your upgrade is as smooth as possible. For even more troubleshooting help, go to http://www.macfixit.com.


It's the upgrade chain reaction: you upgrade your OS, you launch Microsoft Word–or some other program you depend on–and it crashes. Again and again. What you've got is an application conflict, common to any OS upgrade. And the only solution is to upgrade all your existing programs. Like any other operating-system update, OS 9 has its fair share of these conflicts–and one new snag: Error Type 119.

The origin of this problem lies in changes Apple made to the way the Mac OS keeps track of files. The good news is, you can now open larger files and have more files open at once (a maximum of 8,169) than you could with any previous version of the OS. The catch is that some software will still attempt to track files using the old method–and they won't be there. The result? Error Type 119.

Adobe quickly released fixes for a couple of its popular applications, Adobe Type Manger (both the free and Deluxe versions) and Adobe Type Reunion (the fixes are available at http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/new.html ). If you don't think you use Type Manager, be aware that some other graphics programs, such as Multi-Ad Services Creator and Creator 2, install and use it in the background.

The Error Type 119 bug also bit Netscape Communicator. However, in this case you can fix things without an update: just remove the Talkback folder from the Communicator folder. Even Apple's own software is not immune: you'll need the AppleWorks 5.0.4 Updater (included on the Mac OS 9 CD) to bring AppleWorks up-to-date.

To find other less obvious but equally stricken programs, download and run Alsoft's free utility, the Mac OS 9 File Manager Compatibility Checker ( http://www.alsoft.com/AskAl/download.html ).


Another kink you'll encounter is that a few control panels don't get along well with Mac OS 9. Some older control panels traditionally loaded into the same memory space the Finder uses. This used to be OK, but Mac OS 9 requires control panels to open in their own memory space, so these older control panels will not function.

Fortunately, Apple built a solution into Mac OS 9. You can force the Mac to let older control panels open in Finder memory space by holding down the command and control keys while double-clicking on the control-panel icon. You'll need to do this to use the Customize command of Microsoft Office 98's Office Manager, for example.


At some point after you install Mac OS 9, a folder's icon may mysteriously change into a blank-document icon. When you try opening this folder, you get a cryptic message that says: "The package could not be opened. . . . Try reinstalling the package."

A package is OS 9's way of grouping an application and related files (such as its Help files) into a single folder. The Finder views a package almost as an application. That is, the package acquires the icon of the application, and when you double-click on it, the application is launched. All the additional files in the package are hidden from view, so you cannot modify or delete them.

What's happening is that an ordinary folder has been mistakenly set to be recognized as a package (Apple claims that this could happen after a system crash). This leads to the error message and the blank icon. Thankfully, Apple has provided a simple fix. All you have to do is drag the problem folder's icon to the Package First Aid utility (which you'll find hidden at the bottom of the Utilities folder on the OS 9 CD). Package First Aid then returns the folder to its ordinary status.


There's a special OS 9 problem just for iMac DV owners. If you upgrade from OS 8.6 (the OS that comes loaded on most of these Macs) to Mac OS 9 by doing a clean install, you will discover that DVD Player no longer works. Instead, whenever you try to access the player, you'll see the error message "DVDRuntimeLib could not be found."

To avoid this, simply drag three critical DVD extensions–DVD Navigation Manager, DVD Region Manager, and DVDRuntimeLib–from the Extensions folder in your old System Folder to the same folder in your new one.–Ted Landau

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