Oddly named Preferences folders

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The TV franchise known as Law & Order —currently, I think there are about 19 versions with 625,000 episodes in syndication—occasionally teases an upcoming episode with the phrase “ripped from the headlines!” I guess the intent is to get us all excited about how closely this as-yet-unseen episode is based on some actual event. I’m not sure about you, but when I hear it, the first thing I think is “Geez, yet another week where the writers couldn’t come up with something unique?”

What’s all of this got to do with today’s hint, you’re probably (rightfully) thinking? Well, today’s hint was also ripped from the headlines, as long as the headlines include certain threads on the Macworld forums. Hopefully, though, you won’t write this tip off to lack of creativity on the author’s part!

In the linked thread, user tfindlay posted that their user’s Preferences folder was littered with oddly-named (but empty) folders, and they were wondering just where they came from. Enter yours truly. A couple months ago, shortly after switching to the Mac Pro, I had noticed the same thing. And these aren’t just oddly-named folders; bizarrely-named folders would be a better description. As an example, here’s a selection from my own machine:

As you can see, very strange names indeed. Every folder is empty, and no harm seems to come from erasing them. At first, I thought it might be due to some sort of odd hard drive corruption, but the problem occurred only in my user’s Preferences folder, so I quickly decided it must be application-related. After a few months of sort of idly wondering what might be causing the problem, the forum post finally got me searching for an answer…which I eventually found, in this post in the Mac OS X Hints forums. As noted there, the problem is caused by the Epson TWAIN plug-in for Photoshop (Elements, CS2, etc.). With the TWAIN driver installed, each time you launch Photoshop, you’ll get a new empty folder with a very odd name.

I’ve had this driver installed for years, but don’t recall seeing this problem on my Dual G5—a quick check of its Preferences folder finds no oddly-named folders. I’m not positive this is an Intel-only glitch, but it seems that way based on my experience.


At present, I’m only aware of one “solution,” assuming you want to keep using the Epson plug-in: manually delete the added folders. Since they’re empty, they don’t take up much space, so it’s more of an aesthetics issue than anything else. If you want to try an alternative TWAIN plug-in, the TWAIN SANE interface for OS X may offer a solution. Note, however, that this is not a simple plug-and-play solution. You’ll need to install a few Unix packages, and possibly also edit some configuration files to make things work. I gave it a shot, but didn’t have any luck with my Epson Perfection 1660.

After reinstalling the Epson drivers, the scanner is now working again, albeit with the oddly-named folder issue. I guess I’ll just continue to manually remove these, and keep my fingers crossed for an Epson driver update.

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