Mac OS X Diary: The OS Grows Up -- a Little

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Apple released the much-anticipated first update to OS X last week with all the fanfare of a Vanilla Ice comeback album. OS X 10.0.1 first appeared on Apple's Web site late on Friday, before the Easter holiday -- a release time sure to generate as much buzz as the one-time rap sensation's big screen debut in Cool as Ice .

That's a shame. Because the OS X update, though not revolutionary, does add some nice features for early adopters. And when you're facing an entirely new operating system, every little fix helps.

Apple says the update adds more support for third-party USB devices, better Classic compatibility, and overall stability. The update also includes SSH, an open-source secure shell service that lets you access remote servers securely. And, if you happen to be using OS X in Japan, you'll get updated Epson printer drivers for Japanese fonts.

Some OS X users argue that the update also boosts OS X's speed. Macworld Lab ran the same benchmark test we used on the initial OS X release -- which we'll be featuring in our June 2001 issue, on newsstands May 15. Our tests didn't find any noticeable speed difference. But if you want to believe the update is faster, who am I to convince you otherwise?

Faster or no, I've been running the update for a week now, and I have noticed improved performance and stability. Classic is a little more responsive and stable. I've also noticed the Dock has been more responsive and fluid, as it's supposed to be.

Users of portable MP3 devices will be happy to know that iTunes in OS X should now recognize your player if it didn't before the update. For example, OS X sees my Nomad II MP3 player -- it didn't until I added the update last week.

Is OS X 10.0.1 worth the effort to download? Generally, Mac users shy away from fractional updates because often they introduce more bugs than they fix (think OS 9.0.4). But OS X is a different beast, as well as a work in progress. I'd suggest grabbing any updates when they come around.

Once you've learned of its existence, the update is easy to acquire. If you haven't switched your default setting on your Software Update application to Check Weekly, you'll be greeted at startup with a message about the new software's availability.

If you have changed the setting, follow these simple steps to retrieve the update from within OS X. Open your System Preferences folder -- the icon, by default, is located in the Dock -- and select the Software Update panel. Click on Update Now. You'll get a message telling you what updates are available, with the option of downloading any new programs. Once you update, you need to restart your Mac.

More Lessons in Unix

In our last installment, I explained in great detail the wonders and mysteries of the chmod command. Since then, readers have sent dozens of e-mails taking me to task for not talking about the other way to run chmod.

I'm aware there is another way to use chmod other than the method I talked about last time. I chose the seemingly more complex, yet more efficient use of the command. But if you want to try another way, here it is. Once you're in the terminal and you want to change the permissions of a file or directory, simply type:

chmod string filename

Now, isn't that simple?

Filename, of course, represents the name of whatever file you're working with. As for string, it's a combination of letters and symbols that specifies who has permission to read, write, and execute that file.

It breaks down like this: first, you specify who's permission you're changing -- the user, the group, the world, or everybody. Unix uses lowercase letters for each category:

u for user
g for group
o for world
a for all

Next, specify the operator, or what you want to do. Your commands are remove permission, add permission, and set permission -- all of which are represented by mathematics symbols.

- for remove permission
+ for add permission
= for set permission

Finally, change the permission using the familiar commands of r for read , w for write , and x for execute .

Let's say you have a file called "bretts_permission_file.txt." If you want the group and the world to be able to read that file, you type:

chmod go+r bretts_permission_file.txt

Now the tricky part: if you want to take away the world's read permission while adding that permission for group, you have to run the command twice. That's why learning the binary flags for chmod -- those number combinations used to set permissions -- is faster and easier.

While we're on the subject of Unix, here's a fun trick I like showing my friends when I'm running OS X. It's the uptime command, a quick way to see how long your machine has been running since your last restart. In the command line, simply type uptime. The output will show you how many hours (or days or weeks) your Mac has been cooking along. As of this writing, here's my output:

11:48AM up 8 days, 1:56, 1 user, load averages: 0.76, 1.15, 1.17.

Consider Yourself Uninstalled

A reader sent an e-mail to ask how to uninstall the OS X beta. To my knowledge -- and please send me an e-mail if I'm wrong -- there is no OS X beta uninstaller. The best way to get it off your system is to reformat the partition on which it resides. If you installed the beta on the same partition as OS 9, drag all the OS X-related files into the trash, and then empty your trash. Be certain you save any documents you want to keep, or preferences such as your mail settings if you use Mail in OS X. Some of those preferences will still work in OS X.

Finally, check your extensions. Turn off any that are for Classic Compatibility. You can either throw those out, or leave them turned off. If you go on to install OS X later, it will replace or update the extensions in 9.1 as needed.

And just like that, the beta will disappear from your Mac without a trace. Sort of like Vanilla Ice, come to think of it.

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