Category Archives: Snow Leopard
FastTasks has been updated to version 1.17 to support users who have installed their own SSD drives.
FastTasks now makes it simple to check the current TRIM status of your disk, and to either enable or disable it with a simple click, particularly useful if you find that TRIM has been turned off by an OS X software update or upgrade.
Note that you need to restart your mac after using the radio buttons to change the TRIM status in order to complete the process.
I’ve been planning this ever since I first wrote a shell script along the same lines. All it needed was a nice interface, and that’d be something I could use almost everyday. Well, it only took me 8 months to get round to it, but here it is.
FastTasks allows you to achieve a number of things that you would normally have to roll up your sleeves and do in Terminal or AppleScript.
The window consists of two columns: left-side for info, right-side for actions. Here’s a detailed breakdown of functions with possible uses.
OS X Version:
Displays your current OS Version and build number
Displays your boot volume
I sometimes forget which particular volume I’m booted into, so this is vital info for me and anyone who’s regularly booting in and out of different installations.
The IP address of your network router
This can be useful for troubleshooting or if you need to access your router’s Admin page.
Just select the address and paste it into Safari’s search bar.
Your node on the local network
Useful to copy and paste if you need your local IP/ network node.
How the rest of the world sees you
Very useful if you’re using proxies and want to check whether they’re working.
Just a courtesy reminder, but the real value here is the summary of usage stats underneath. These are pretty good approximations to what AM shows on my 10.8, but there are discrepencies on some versions of OS X between what ‘top’ shows and what Activity Monitor shows. FastTasks uses the same information that you’d get if you used the ‘top’ command in Terminal.
By the way, there’s a refresh button (keyboard shortcuts shown) for both the memory usage and network addresses, as the displays do NOT update continuously. Using the refresh buttons does not CHANGE anything on your system: They just update the display to reflect the current state of the system.
Show hidden files:
Reveal or hide the hidden files and folders in the Finder whose names begin with a period
This is probably the most useful function of the app as it provides a dead easy way to hide and unhide system files without messing around in Terminal.
Show User Library:
Reveal or hide the User Library in the Finder
Likewise, this hides or unhides the ~/Library folder in Finder. This is ‘hidden’ in a different way from files that begin with a period, and its setting can be manipulated independently of that setting, so you can have the User Library showing, but ‘hidden’ files still hidden.
Flush DNS Cache:
Flush the cache that resolves internet domain names into IP addresses
Flushing the DNS cache can sometimes help resolve problems when you can’t access certain websites. Depending on what system you’re running, you may or may not see a ‘Requires Admin password’ warning next to this button. If you see the warning, then when you press the button the system will ask you for your password. The password request is from OS X and it goes to OS X: It’s not called, seen or stored by the app itself.
Purge the RAM of inactive memory
Again, depending on what system you’re running, you may or may not see a ‘Requires Admin password’ message. On Snow Leopard, this requires the Command Line Tools supplied with Xcode, so if you see a message telling you to install Xcode, you may have to live without it (availability of Xcode for Snow Leopard these days is a bit hit and miss). You’ll also see the information on the left-side refreshed under ‘Usage’ when you use the free memory function and it successfully completes.
NOTE: on some systems where both Flush DNS Cache and Free Memory display ‘Requires Admin password’, note that after supplying the password for one of those actions, the user will be able to perform the other action without authenticating for a period of around 5 minutes (unless the sudo timeout setting has been altered by an Admin user).
Lastly, at the bottom of the window you’ll see a tiny plea to donate if you find the app useful ;). Note that the underlined text ‘Applehelpwriter’ and ‘Donate’ are hotlinks that if clicked will launch Safari and load a tab with this site and a Paypal donate page, respectively.
I hope you enjoy using FastTasks. Please read the provided Licence and User Guide that are in the download. Thanks!
While professional troubleshooters will use software like fseventer or the Instruments.app that comes as part of Xcode, there’s an easy way for anyone to see which files have recently been accessed on their Mac.
1. Open any Finder window and hit ‘command-F’.
2. Click the ‘Kind’ button and choose ‘Other’ at the bottom of the menu:
3. Next, scroll down the list till you see ‘System files’ and check the box and hit ‘OK’.
4. Change the button that says ‘aren’t included’ to ‘are included’.
5. Now hit the little ‘+’ button over on the right side of the window.
6. Again, change ‘Kind’, this time to ‘Last Modified’ and change ‘within last’ to ‘today’.
7. Finally, go to Finder > View menu at the top and choose ‘Arrange By > Date Last Opened’.
You can save the search in the Sidebar for convenience. Give it a more useful name like ‘latest changes’ or ‘fs events’ (“fs” stands for filesystem) and click on it whenever you need to check what’s just happened to your Mac!
Ever wondered if a link you clicked sneakily downloaded and installed some unwanted software on your mac? Or have you suddenly found your mac behaving weirdly, a situation that is often a result of installing new software that conflicts with something else on the system, but can’t remember what you recently installed? In these sorts of scenarios, what you need to do is check your install logs.
I’ll tell you how to do that in a moment – in a number of ways – but first let’s just make a few notes. Firstly, chances are you’ll find more than one install log in your logs folder. The most recent one is simply called
install.log, older ones will have a filename ending with
.bz2, indicating a compressed file. Secondly, the reason you may have more than one install log is that OS X creates new install logs every time the log file gets to around 1MB in size. It then compresses and keeps the old logs, typically up to five logs prior to the current one.
Pro Tip No.1: if you’re a Terminal whizz and you want to change how many old logs are kept or at what size the log file gets turned over, you can edit the
/etc/newsyslog.conffile, but be sure to read the
Typically, we’re only going to be interested in examining the most recent log file if troubleshooting new problems, but the process that I’m going to describe here can also be used to view the older logs, too. Apple buries the logs deep into parts of OS X that ordinary users typically don’t reach, but fortunately, there’s numerous ways to get at your install logs, and though some of them may be unfamiliar, none of them are particularly difficult or dangerous.
1. View only recently installed items
Open the Terminal.app (Utilities/Terminal.app) and copy and paste this command:
grep 'Installed' /private/var/log/install.log
This will return a list of every item successfully installed since the new log file was created. If there’s nothing of interest there, but you think there should be, then you’re going to need to see a bit more of the log file, and perhaps find out when it was ‘rotated’ or ‘turned over’ (i.e., the last time the system archived the install.log and created a new one).
2. View the entire install log
If you’d like to see the whole log for this reason, or perhaps you want to see whether something failed to install, it’s probably best having the log displayed in TextEdit rather than Terminal, so copy and paste this command into the Terminal window:
cat /private/var/log/install.log | open -f
You’ll see at the beginning of the file it’ll tell you when the file was turned over. Don’t forget you can use TextEdit’s search facility (Command-F) to search for particular instances or items you’re interested in finding. When you’re finished viewing this file, you can simply close TextEdit and discard it. It isn’t the actual log file, but rather a local copy of it.
3. Using Console
Alternatively,, if you don’t feel comfortable in Terminal, you can view all your install logs in the Console.app. You can open Console either through Finder by navigating to /Applications/Utilities/Console.app or just by typing ‘cons’ in either Spotlight or Launchpad. Once Console is open, scroll down the sidebar, looking for /var/log. Click the disclosure triangle if it’s not already pointing downwards and look for install.log. Click on that, and then in the filter bar in the main window, type installed (unlike the grep command I gave you above, this one is not case sensitive and will return both ‘Installed’ and ‘installed’).
Notice in the screenshot above, I’m examining a turned over log, not the current one. As this particular install of Mountain Lion was only done on May 3rd, there’s only one turned over log file.
Pro Tip No.2: You can force the system to turn over all the log files, including install.log even if they haven’t reached their maximum size. As it says in the
newsyslog, this can be “useful for diagnosing system problems by providing you with fresh logs that contain only the problems.”
To force all log files to be turned over, simply enter
sudo newsyslog -Finto Terminal. Hit ‘return’ and supply your password, as always with the
4. Using Finder
If Console is a bit too off-territory for you, there’s nothing wrong with viewing your logs in Finder and TextEdit. To do that, click on the Finder, then hit ‘shift-command-G’ on the keyboard (or click ‘Go’ in the menu bar and choose ‘Go to Folder’). Type or paste this into the dialogue box:
and hit the ‘Go’ button.
Right-click on any of the logs you want to open and choose ‘open with’ from the contextual menu. Choose ‘TextEdit’ or your favourite plain text editor app. If none of your text editors show up in the menu, click ‘Other’ and change the ‘Enable’ menu to ‘All Applications’. You will now be able to choose TextEdit or some other editor if you have one. Note that unlike Step 2 above when we used a Terminal command to open a copy of the install log in TextEdit, here you are viewing the actual files rather than a copy of them. Although the log files are not important to the running of your system and can be deleted or altered without causing any consequences, they do provide useful records for troubleshooting so its always good practice to keep them in tact if you can.
And that, in a nutshell, is how you view your install logs!
Featured picture: Rectangleum by *Eccoton
If you have multiple accounts on your mac, you may sometimes wish to log out one or more of those accounts without actually having to sign in to them first via the fast user switching menu. There’s a couple of ways to do this. First, if the issue is just that you want to shutdown the computer, you can log out all users by entering an Admin user name and password when this dialogue automatically appears after hitting ‘Shutdown’ (it won’t appear if no other users are logged on):
However, there are times when you may just want a quick way to log out users without shutting down and without wasting time logging in to their accounts first. Be aware that in killing a user’s process without logging in to the account first, any data in that user’s account that is not already saved (or autosaved) will be lost. If you’re sure that’s not a problem, then follow this short procedure:
1. Open up Activity Monitor (/Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor.app)
2. Use the drop down menu in the Task bar to change the menu to ‘Other User Processes’ (note: you can use ‘All Processes’ in the menu if you wish, but that is less safe as it makes it possible to accidentally click on your own user process in step 4 below!).
3. In the filter bar, type
4. From the list of users that show up, for each one that you wish to log out:
- click on its row in the Activity Monitor pane to highlight the process
- press the ‘Quit Process’ icon in the Task bar above
- from the resulting dialogue window, click ‘Force Quit’
- supply an Admin password if requested.
Repeat for any further accounts that you wish to quit. (Tip: If you want to kill the ‘Guest User Account’, you’ll need to switch back to ‘All Processes’ and kill the loginwindow assigned to the ‘root’ user).
And that’s it. Your unwanted users are now logged out!
Ever called up a HelpViewer window in an app only to find that you have to close the window in order to get back to the app and start following the instructions? That can be highly annoying if the instructions aren’t easy to remember.
That’s because the HelpViewer.app is by default set to always be on top. If you want to change that, here’s a nice little Terminal trick that will let you manage HelpViewer windows just like a normal window, courtesy of new tipster site defaults-write.com. Here’s what you do:
1. If you have any HelpViewer windows open, close them first.
2. Open Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app) and paste this command into the window:
defaults write com.apple.helpviewer DevMode -bool true
and press ‘return’ on your keyboard.
That’s it! From now on, you’ll be able to switch focus between the app and the HelpViewer window so that you can work with whichever one you need on top.
Tip: If you want to reverse the behaviour, use the same command as above but replace ‘true’ at the end with ‘false’.
If you like exploring the various things you can do with defaults preferences, have a rummage around the defaults-write.com site, a nice little addition to our bookmarks list!
Whenever I’m helping customers with a misbehaving Mac, one of the most common things I hear is ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could do that with Spotlight!’ Whereas the average user will navigate around their computer by trawling through Finder, the savvy user knows how to get to places, launch apps, search the internet and calculate their tax with a few simple Spotlight tricks. In this post we’ll look at how to increase your productivity by using Spotlight for fast access to a variety of common functions. But first, we need to get Spotlight set up for maximum efficiency.
Set up the hotkey
To get the most out of Spotlight, the first thing to do is set up the keyboard hotkey. By default, this is usually ‘command-spacebar’, but if you are using multiple languages you might want to reserve that for the Input Switcher. Instead, I use ‘option-command-spacebar’, not least because this nice 3-finger combination can be executed with the left-hand while the right hand is reaching for the coffee mug…
Whatever your choice of hotkey, keep it close to the bottom of the keyboard, as the other keys that you will want to be able to rapidly access are the cursor arrows and the ‘return’ key. If you haven’t set up your Spotlight hotkey yet, the fastest way to do so is to click on Spotlight on the top right of your screen with the mouse or trackpad and type
After hitting ‘return’, you’ll be presented with the Spotlight preferences panel. At the bottom, you’ll see fields to define both the Spotlight menu keyboard shortcut and the Spotlight window keyboard shortcut. For the purposes of this post, we’re only interested in the menu shortcut (but feel free to set up the window one too, if you wish!). Once your hotkey is set up you can forget about the annoying inconvenience of dragging your cursor up to the top right corner. Just hit your hotkey combination to open the Spotlight search field.
But don't close the Spotlight prefs just yet. The main pane in the window is the Search Results panel which lists the order in which results appear. You can alter the order of results that Spotlight shows by dragging items up and down the list. Altering this to your likes is a big part of getting the most out of Spotlight. If Spotlight is always showing you lots of results from Mail that you don't want to see, for example, drag "Messages & Chats" to the bottom of the list.
For the purposes of this tip, make sure Applications is no.1 in the list and System Prefs no. 2, and Folders at no. 3. Follow that with Documents, Images, PDFs and so on according to the kind of files you access most often on a daily basis. A set up like this will make Spotlight much more efficient at navigating around your mac, and once you get the hang of it you’ll find yourself trawling through Finder much less often.
Incidentally, I don't recommend unchecking any of those boxes. We want more power in our searches, not less; you never know when you might be looking for something that just won’t show up in a search because you’ve forgotten that you excluded those results in Spotlight’s preferences. Besides, there are better ways to restrict your searches in Spotlight like this and this.
When you're done with setting up Spotlight’s preferences, hit 'command' and 'Q' to close System Preferences and read on.
1. Use Spotlight as an App Launcher
Long before the Apple engineers dreamed up Launchpad, many of us were already launching apps in half the time it takes in the Dock, Finder, or (now) even Launchpad itself. You can open any app with Spotlight just by typing three or four characters. Sometimes, just one is enough! All you need to do is hit your hotkey (see above) and type the first three or four letters of the App’s name and hit ‘return’.
tex and hitting ‘return’ to instantly open TextEdit, or
act for ‘Activity Monitor’. iPhoto should be the top hit with
ip. If you use Terminal a lot, there’s no need to go rooting around in the Applications/Utilities menu to open it. Simply hit the Spotlight hotkey and type
and hit ‘return’.
If you have Carbon Copy Cloner, type
CCC, and if you use 1Password, just the number
1 and return should do the trick.
saf will open Safari and
mai will launch Mail in an instant. Experiment with your favourite or most commonly used apps and you’ll find that using Spotlight is twice as fast as any other method.
As a bonus, if you moved Folders up to no.3 in the Preferences list, experiment with the first few letters of your favourite folders. Try some of these and see what comes up as the top hit:
2. Use Spotlight to access System Prefs
We already saw one of Spotlight’s hidden uses – fast access to System Preferences. In fact you can do this with any of them. Want to check your login items in Users & Accounts | Login Items? No need to go clicking all round the desktop, hit your Spotlight hotkey and type
if you want to change your Security preferences quickly.
Don’t hit ‘return’ just yet – check to see what is the ‘top hit’, as you might find that you have to “arrow down” an item or two. Even so, this is a whole lot faster than wading through either Finder or the menu.
and hitting ‘return’ is also a fast way to open the main System Preferences panel.
Hit the Spotlight hotkey and try typing the word
Look right down at the bottom of the Spotlight results window and you’ll see the Dictionary icon. You can jump there in leaps and bounds by holding down the ‘command’ key and pressing the down arrow key (each press of the arrow key conveniently takes you to the top of each section; release the ‘command’ key and use the down arrow alone to move one item at a time within the section). Notice that when the highlight reaches the Dictionary icon, the definition just pops up for you in a side panel. No need to press ‘return’ or actually open the Dictionary,.app. Just hit your hotkey combination again to dismiss Spotlight. You can also use the ‘esc’ key here: one tap of ‘esc’ will clear the Spotlight search bar, two will dismiss it.
4. Website search
But suppose you type in a word that Dictionary.app doesn’t know? Try
Again, use your command and arrow key to jump down to the bottom of the results and this time choose ‘search the web’. That will automatically open Safari and put the term in the search bar and return the results. But you’re not limited to dictionary searches, you can use Spotlight’s search bar just like the Google search bar in Safari. Try typing in
mini ipad versus samsung galaxy review
best small car of 2012
or anything else you might want to search the web for. Yep, Spotlight isn’t just a file finder on your mac – it’s a google search engine, too!
5. Use Spotlight as a Calculator
Want to quickly know what 17.5% of $45,000 is? Hit your Spotlight hotkey and type:
Don’t press ‘return’ – difficult to break that habit, I know! – the result is already listed next to the ‘Calculator’ icon, just look down to see the search results and the answer is already there!
You can of course do all the standard calculator functions like / for divide, * for multiplication and + and – for addition and subtraction. You can even do powers (3 to the power of 5 = 3^5) as well as bracket expansion. Try
(3x5)^2 and compare the result with
So whether its App launching, web searching, opening system prefs or using the dictionary or calculator, hitting your Spotlight hotkey is a habit you want to develop for faster computing. At least for me, it’s probably the most frequent keystroke I use on a daily basis.