Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Tips & Tricks

Warning: This article was written by a Windows/Linux User who just started to switch to OS X after a period of 10 macless years.

Two days ago I got my new Mac Mini and finally I’m serious about switching from Windows Vista to Mac OS X Leopard. It’s just too annoying to wait 4 years for a new Windows system which is worse than it’s predecessor and which might start to get useful as of SP1 which still is not out (my standby still does not work and I gave up on installing “SP1 beta pre-RC1″ – what the hell?!!). Vista is more like a blown-up XP that does everything worse than XP. I like its user interface but not if I need to sacrifice 50% of my CPU-power on a powerful IBM T60p.

My first impression of OS X Leopard: WOW!
My second impression: If you go with all the defaults, it works like a charm. If you want to get a bit further, OS X is no way easier to fine tune as a Windows OS but still much easier as tuning a Linux.
My conclusion: Cool, Leopard rocks! But hey, be realistic, each OS got his pros and cons.

Here are my Tips & Tricks of the last two days…

Mac OS X Leopard “CPU Drop-in DVD”

This actually means “Upgrade DVD”. Currently Apple still delivers its hardware with OS X 10.4 “Tiger” preinstalled. Upgrade DVDs for 10.5 “Leopard” are included in the package, but remember, those are Upgrade-DVDs only! This is pretty annoying.

As I was not aware of this, I repartitioned my whole harddisk before starting with the Leopard install. No luck, the Upgrade-DVD asks for an existing Tiger-install.
So, if you wish to split your harddisk into multiple partitions as well, either do this with the disk utility at install time by creating an image of your existing Tiger installation and recovering it back to the new partition, or just keep the current partition and fire up the disk utility after completing the Tiger installation. You will be able to repartition your unused space.

Change the login background image

This can be simply done by replacing the following image:

Here’s my favorite Vista wallpaper I am using now on my Leopard background: img30.jpg (1920 x 1200)
If you like Vista’s wallpapers as well, grab them from C:WindowsWebWallpaper

Move User to a different partition

As we have hopefully set up a separate partition for our private data, here’s the bash-way of moving a home. (based on this article)
First of all copy the whole home to your new partition:

Now we use Directory Services which can be accessed by dscl (Directory Services Command Line):

Reboot, verify if your user data is at the new spot and then delete it from the old spot (/Users/username).

TimeMachine: Change the backup time interval

TimeMachine backups way too often. We want to higher the default backup time interval of 1 hour. (based on this article)

Edit /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto.plist and set StartInterval in seconds:

Subclipse does not work due to missing JavaHL bindings

Leopard includes Subversion 1.4.4, nice! But as it comes without any JavaHL bindings, we won’t be able to use it for Subclipse.
Workaround: Install the Subversion binaries from
http://downloads.open.collab.net/binaries.html

locate does not work

locate does not work and prints something like:

Workaround:

We might as well use the Spotlight database for locate. Put the following into your ~/.bash_login:

(based on this article)

Problems with Adobe CS3 on case-sensitive HFS+

Adobe CS3 (tested with Adobe CS3 Web Premium) does not support install on a case-sensitive HFS+ “Extended (Gross und Kleinschreibung und Journaled)” partition.
Workaround: Switch back to “Extended(Journaled)” with Leopard Install-DVD (or Drop-in DVD), backup whole partition to a separate drive or another partition as an image, re-format your system partition and recover the image.
Currently there is no way of running Adobe CS3 on a case-sensitive partition. Sad but true.

Logitech diNovo™ Media Desktop® Laser

This keyboard/mouse combination works with OS X. We just need to setup its keyboard layout. No built-in keyboard layout in Leopard fits it. The following workaround is based on this article.

Download the Logitech Control Center for Macintosh OS X
As it is still buggy under Leopard and basically all Logitech drivers are pure crap, we are just going to extract the keyboard layouts and use them:

That’s it. Now you can open the International system preferences pane and go to the Input menu and see the fifteen-or-so Logitech keyboard layouts:
OSX keyboard layout
open bug: The “<>” button does still not work! It is swapped with the “°§” button. We can live with that, I guess.

Activate the root-user

OS X is a Unix system so we need a root user, right?
By default, the root user is deactivated in Leopard. We can activate it by running the directory utility in /Applications/Utilities/Directory Utility.app (Programme >> Dienstprogramme >> Verzeichnisdienste).
Menu “Edit” >> “activate root user” (to see this menu item you might first click on the lock)
(based on this article)

So, what’s the difference between “sudo su -” (by entering the user’s own password) or “su -” (with an activated root-user and by entering his password)? The root user way seems to be more secure in my eyes, but even though I have activated the root user, sudo is still active.
To deactivate sudo for admin users (no longer required as we got now a “real” root user), edit /etc/sudoers:

Damn! We can still change the root-passwort over Directory Utility without knowing the root password! I just don’t get the Apple-way of security…

TimeMachine Backup on a Samba-share

(based on the following articles: Macnews.de, Bit-tech.net)

Shortly before releasing Leopard, Apple has disabled this feature even though it was active already since the first developer releases. This was done due to some problems and incompatibilities. So be prepared, that this won’t work with your drive. We hope, Apple will re-enable this feature in 10.5.2 !
Mount your smb-share regularly in Finder with “Go to…” > “connect with server…” (e.g. smb://piposrv4/tmbackup$) and store the username and password in the keychain. TimeMachine auto mounts the drive when it needs to afterwards.
Enable this unsupported feature:

That’s it! The SMB-shares are now visible in the TM drive selection:
TM on a samba share

Cronjobs in Leopard

You might be looking for cronjobs in Leopard and don’t find any /etc/cron.d or similar. Leopard handles the whole thing differently:

Samba-shares and annoying .DS_Store

(based on this article)
OS X stores metafiles on every single spot, it clutters the whole filesystem with trash. This was one of the main reasons it took me so long to switch from Windows to Mac.
If you store your files on a Samba-share, OS X creates those .DS_Store files which we definitely don’t need. We could prevent Leopard of doing this by the following command:

This may be a bit too radical. It’s smarter to just prevent the creation of those files on the Samba-side. Edit /etc/smb.conf and add the following to your share:

17 Responses

  1. Dave Bayer
    Jan 15, 2008 - 12:37 AM

    I had for years been moving User to a different partition, and I stopped with Leopard. Why? Sometimes, the partition wouldn’t mount in time. Then, the mount path was created as a _directory_ where the mount should have been, a familiar gotcha e.g. to anyone who has played around with moving swapfiles.

    I finally realized that I was being a dogmatic control freak to _want_ to move User (feel like you’re looking in the mirror? ;-). In fact, user home directories are pretty closely tied to particular systems. When I switch systems, e.g. between 10.4 and 10.5, I _want_ to switch home directories to match. It only seems like they belong to me, anyway, with appealing names like “Library”, gee, I’ll put my math papers in there. _NO_, all sorts of programs are going to write at will in there, without asking.

    A user’s home directory is a very public, operating system version-specific foyer, and one wants a good lock on one’s inner door. What better way than to keep anything personal on an entirely separate partition? _This_ is what you wanted to accomplish by moving User. Move your private stuff instead, leave User where it is to throw the dogs off the scent.

    The ancient Unix motivation behind a zillion partitions was to preserve system integrity e.g. when an errant logfile fills its partition. This doesn’t happen so much in OS X, and one can’t control where things go in such a fine-toothed way, so give up. Just make partitions that serve a user-level modular purpose, like “I want this stuff when I boot in either 10.4 or 10.5.” Moving too much stuff around is carrying Unix baggage along to OS X, like a C programmer whose Python code looks like C, not Haskell.

    “root” is deprecated these days, “sudo” is preferred. Read any current reference like the “Linux Administration Handbook” for details, that book rocks, we’re just the blind leading the blind, trading insights on the web.

  2. Chris Patrick Schreiner
    Jan 15, 2008 - 01:37 AM

    Nice, thanks!

  3. Andreas Weber
    Jan 24, 2008 - 10:34 PM

    Thanks for the tips! As a former Windows/Debian user, it still takes a few moments to realize that the Mac world is different – and still powerful. We ol’ console hackers must somehow realize that there are easier ways to change things – isn’t that the reason why we bought ourselves a Mac?

    From here:

    Drag your home folder to that drive in the Finder, open the Accounts pane of System Preferences, unlock the pane, control-click on your account, choose Advanced Options, and change the path to your home folder.

    Damn, that easy… ;-)

  4. Craig Mc
    Nov 25, 2008 - 07:44 PM

    2 points:
    1. Changing the user folder location can also be done through the Accounts preference pane in System Preferences. Just right click (or control-click) on the account, and select “advanced options”. You can change the “home” folder right there.

    2. For the DS_store files… where exactly in the smb.conf file do I put that code? There’s a [global] section, a [printers] section (not there, duh), then space below for “site specific parameters. I assume it doesn’t actually matter, but just wanted to double-check.

    Thx much,
    Craig

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