Tiger secrets declassified

More Stories in this Series

Tiger Secrets: Troubleshooting and Terminal

You don’t have to be a geek to find these tips handy. Whether you’re battling backup crashes on .Mac or searching for lost files, these tips on troubleshooting and Terminal will give you some clever ways to crack Tiger’s code.

Modify the iTunes message format in iChat AV

When you use iChat’s new Current iTunes Track status-message option to show others what you’re listening to, it displays the iTunes information as Song Name - Artist Name. But many people prefer to see the artist’s name first (see “iChat Your Way”). To set your own display format, quit iChat and open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities). Enter

defaults write com.apple.iChatAgent iTunesMessageFormat -string '%Artist - %Track'

Next, to restart the background process that controls iChat, type

killall iChatAgent
. When you relaunch iChat, you should see your newly formatted message. If you see
%Artist - %Track
instead, select another status message and then select the Current iTunes Track message. All should be fine.

There are other options available, too—try adding

, or
if you want. Just remember that there’s a 42-character limit. —Rob Griffiths

Uncover unused files

Have you ever wanted to remove unused files from a folder—for example, your user folder’s Preferences folder? Finding the files isn’t always easy—naming schemes are sometimes obvious only to the developer.

iChat Your Way Change the way iChat’s iTunes track listing lists your current hits.

Enter Spotlight and the Unix

command. ( Click here for more information.) In this case, we’ll use
to look at the kMDItemAttributeChangeDate attribute to track changes to a file’s metadata, which is modified every time you or a program access the file.

For example, to see when your Dock’s preferences were last updated, you type

cd ~/Library/Preferences
(to change to your Preferences directory) and then type
mdls com.apple.dock.plist | grep kMDItemAttributeChangeDate

When I enter the command, I get back

kMDItemAttributeChangeDate = 2005-06-21 20:39:44 -0700

Now I know that the file was last changed on June 21. When you’re thinking about deleting something, use this trick first to quickly find out whether or not the unknown file has been accessed recently. —RG

Get file paths fast

OS X has always let you drag a file or folder to the Terminal window to add its path to a command. However, you had to switch to the Finder, make sure the Terminal window was visible, and then drag the item into that window. Now you can simply copy the file or folder and then paste it into the Terminal window to add its path. —Kirk McElhearn

Save time in Terminal

If you’re a Terminal maven, you’ll be happy to know that in order to correctly copy or move files containing resource forks, you no longer need to use Apple’s special

commands. The Tiger versions of the commands,
, are resource-fork- compatible. —KM

Protect information with Access Control Lists

Unix geeks will appreci-ate that Tiger supports Access Control Lists (ACLs). ACLs give you more control over permissions than you get from OS X’s Info windows or even from standard Unix commands. For example, you can use ACLs to set unique access permissions for everyone who has an account on your Mac.

ACLs are enabled by default only in Mac OS X Server. But you can easily turn this feature on in the standard version of Tiger. In Terminal, type

sudo /usr/sbin/fsaclctl -p / -e
and then enter your administrator password at the prompt.


man chmod
to learn more about using ACL features. One caution: creating an archived file, via the Create Archive command in the Finder, strips away any ACL information contained in the file. —Ted Landau

Assign stubborn Mail signatures

Mail users who upgrade to Tiger may notice that the new version of Mail has trouble applying existing signatures to Mail accounts. To fix the problem, go to Mail: Preferences, click on the Signatures tab, and drag the signatures you want from the All Signatures list to each of your accounts (see “Your Signature Here”). The signatures should now appear in the Signature pop-up menu in each e-mail message you create. —Chris Breen

Switch to Safe Launch

The Quit Unexpectedly dialog box gives you the option of reopening an application that has just crashed. But if the application quits on you a second time, Tiger now gives you a new option: Try Again. When you click on this option, Tiger opens the program in Safe Launch mode, which prevents the application from accessing its preferences file. Corrupted preferences files are a common cause of application crashes.

If the Safe Launch mode is successful, you’ll have to make a decision. When you quit the applica-tion, Tiger will ask whether you want to preserve the new settings. In most cases, you’ll want to click on Yes. When you do, Tiger renames the original (presumably corrupt) preferences file by adding a .saved extension to its name. The application ignores the old file on future launches. However, this means that you’ll have to re-create any changes made to the old preferences file. —TL

Your Signature Here If Mail seems blind to your signatures, try reassigning them from the Signatures preference pane.

Solve upgrade errors

When you upgrade to Tiger, the installation may fail, yielding an error message. The likeliest culprit here is incompatible third-party RAM. To check for this, remove any third-party RAM (making sure that you still have at least 256MB of RAM in your Mac) and try again. —TL

Polish off printer errors

If you try to add a new printer via Printer Setup Utility, and you get the error “server error service unavailable,” go to Printer Setup Utility: Reset Printing System. This will delete all printer queues and jobs, reset all printer settings to their default by deleting configuration files, and perform a permissions check on the /tmp directory. The error should go away. —TL

Battle backup crashes

If you’re a .Mac subscriber using Backup to save your data to your iDisk or CDs, you may be irked by crashes. And worse, when Backup crashes twice in a row and you use the Reopen/Retry button to relaunch it, sometimes Backup reverts to its Trial User mode. To fix this, just quit Backup. If an alert message asks whether you want to save new settings, click on No. The next time you launch Backup, your old settings should be restored. —TL

Stop Address Book crashes

If you try to print envelopes from Address Book and the printing fails or Address Book crashes, then open your own address entry and make sure you’ve entered an address for yourself. The envelope option needs that entry for the return address. —TL

Connect to an old Mac

Try to connect to an older Mac to send or get some files via file sharing, and you’ll get a “Connection failed” error because Tiger supports sharing only via a TCP/IP connection. But there’s a workaround. You can still connect from the AppleTalk-only Mac to the newer one running Tiger. —TL

Get back preferred networks

When you open the Network preference pane, select AirPort from the Show pop-up menu, and then click on the Join pop-up menu, you should see two options: Automatic and Preferred Networks. The latter option, new in Tiger, lets you add, delete, or edit the names and passwords of networks you use often. If you don’t see a Preferred Networks option, something went wrong when you upgraded to Tiger.

To fix it, open the Network preference pane and select Network Port Configurations from the Show pop-up menu. Select the AirPort configuration and click on Delete. A new, trouble-free configuration should be created automatically. —TL

[ Contributing Editor Christopher Breen writes Macworld’s Mac 911 column. Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. Contributing Editor Ted Landau is the author of Mac OS X Help Line: Tiger Edition (Peachpit Press, 2005). Kelly Lunsford is Macworld’s senior how-to editor. Kirk McElhearn is a coauthor of Mastering Mac OS X , fourth edition (Sybex, 2005). Dori Smith is the author of Dashboard Widgets of Mac OS X Tiger: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2005). ]

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter