Mac OS X Diary: The Readers Speak

Last week I told you about my problems at home with installing OS X on an iMac. I intentionally left a few details out so that I could focus on the problem. Perhaps I shouldn't have done that.

My mailbox overflowed this week with e-mail from readers questioning my authority on OS X. Apparently, my foolishly overlooking the minimum RAM requirements for OS X fired many of you up, and led you to conclude my iMac troubles were due to a lack of RAM. Let me assure you, that wasn't the problem. Unless that RAM was bad, it would not affect the startup of my iMac, OS X or no OS X.

You see, OS X is a funny beast when it comes to RAM because it's based on Unix. Unix doesn't care how much RAM you have. (My TiVo, which runs Linux on a PowerPC chip at around 75MHz, has less than 32MB of RAM, and look at the amazing things it can do.) When Unix doesn't have a lot of RAM, it uses a swap file on your hard disk. The drawback? Performance.

My iMac worked fine with 64MB of RAM running OS X; it was just slow. Painfully slow. Thus, Apple suggests that you have a minimum of 128MB of RAM in order to run OS X. It wants those buttons to glow, not flicker.

Stability and Power of the Mac OS with the Ease of Unix?

The intention of last week's article was to point something out: this OS that is billed as "simple" and "easy" and "just works" was none of those things.

Fortunately, it wasn't your average user on the other end. It was my partner, who has a B.S. in math with computer science. He wrote a Unix-based OS at one point, so if anyone should be able to fix something, shouldn't it be him? Yes, it should.

So much for the power of Unix, and the elegance of the Mac OS.

Imagine this happening to my 73-year-old grandmother, or any other new computer user, for whom this OS is made.

So my story was more of an observation of the absurdity of this whole OS X fanfare. I received a lot of e-mail from people accusing me of being an OS X hater, spreading lies about the OS to scare people away. No friends, I'm trying to point out that maybe we shouldn't be so quick to swallow whatever Apple hands us.

Sure, OS X is great. I'd even say it's by far the best consumer OS available today, but not without noting that it has a few bugs that need working out. This is what separates enthusiasts from journalists. Were I not completely honest with you, my readers, I would be remiss in my job.

Fix for Troubled Files?

What do you do when you launch into OS X to find your 128-by-128-pixel application icons replaced by folders bearing the name of your application followed by .app? The fix is relatively painless but will require a trip into the console (command line), or OS 9.1, whichever you prefer. I'll explain how to do it in the console, as the OS 9.1 is easy to follow after you understand the other route.

Basically, you need to find the three troubled files in your System Preferences. First, log out and then log in as >console (include the greater-than sign) in the OS X log-in screen. The ">console" does not require a password.

Next, you'll be presented with a black screen and text, where you'll need to log back in as the affected user. Log in with the same user name and password you'd use at the normal-graphical log-in.

Here comes the fun part. Navigate to your Preferences directory by typing the following at the prompt:

[localhost:~] brett% Users/username/Library/Preferences

(Replace username with the affected user's username. In my case, it would be "brett.")

Now, delete the LSApplications. LSClaimedTypes, and LSSchemes files by typing the following at the prompt:

[localhost:~] brett% rm LSApplications
[localhost:~] brett% rm LSClaimedTypes
[localhost:~] brett% rm LSSchemes

You're using the Remove (or delete) command when you type rm . Use that command carefully, as there is no undoing it.

Now, simply exit out of this text-based hell by typing [localhost:~] brett% exit.

You'll quickly find yourself back in the familiar OS X Aqua user environment. Now, wasn't that an easy fix for a great, easy-to-use OS that just works?

To do this same thing in OS 9.1, navigate via the hard drive and file structure of your OS X disk to that same location, and simply drag those files to the Trash. This may be a better solution for those Mac users who are still timid in the command line mode.

Friends, now that OS X comes with every new Mac purchase (though, it won't be set as the default OS), it's time to really get in there and make sure everything does "just work." When things don't, don't sit back and think "Oh well, it's a new OS." Get on the forums at Macworld.com, send an e-mail to Apple, and call tech support. Let everyone know about the problem to make sure that it is flagged and, hopefully, fixed. Otherwise, we'll only have the best consumer OS today -- and not tomorrow.

Some say the train has left the station, but I think it just pulled away from the platform to show us all that it can run. By looking the other way, we only allow that train to stay where it is, and not move forward.

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