If you’re new to Mac, you’re probably thinking that it’s a no-brainer that you need some kind of anti-virus app. Once you start looking around the web for reviews, it’s inevitable that you’re going to come across the Great Mac AntiVirus Debate: in the one corner, those who say Mac users who forego antivirus protection are arrogant and just setting themselves up for a fall, and in the other those who’ve used Macs for umpteen years, never had or heard of any real threat, and consequently say AV software is a waste of time.
You can read round this debate for years and never come to a satisfying conclusion, largely because its as much about what you ‘ought’ to do as it is about what is the case. Just because you’ve never had any viruses, doesn’t mean you won’t get one tomorrow. And yet, there are NO viruses in the wild known to affect macs, and so when one does arrive, it will be unknown to your AV scanner. Hence, an AV Scanner is just a waste of system resources (and possibly money, if you paid for it). Yikes! What do I do!!
What you do is sidestep the whole debate and stop thinking only about virus scanners, which after all deal with only a small subset of all the possible attack vectors in the internet age, and start thinking in terms of vulnerability scanners. Unlike a simple virus scanner, a vulnerability scanner examines your system not only for malware but also for any vulnerabilities in commercial software, plug ins, your system setup (including network and other sharing settings) and other installed items. The scanner will not only explain the threat and its severity but also tell you what, if anything, you need to do, recommend patches and guide you to links for more info where available.
You can use something like Nessus for free if you are a home user, which will give you a far better insight into the possible attacks someone could implement on your system (and it will check your system against almost all of the major virus scanner databases like Symantec, etc).
Even better, a vulnerability scanner like Nessus won’t just examine your machine, it’ll look at everything else (and all the installed apps) of anything on your home network including phones (any platform), other computer systems (any OS), and even your router.
If you find you only ever go into Terminal to perform a small number of tasks that can’t be done (easily or at all) in the OS X graphical user interface, this little utility could be for you. It allows you to run a number of common tasks such as
reveal and hide hidden folders
batch change the extension on multiple files
purge system free memory
flush the DNS cache
restore system preferences to defaults
without having to bother looking up the commands. You will, however, have to do a little Terminal ‘dirty work’ to initially get the utility up and running (it’s a shell script which you need to turn into an executable file), but step by step instructions are all provided.
Here’s what you do:
2. Save the file as plain text onto your desktop with the name ‘FastTasks’
3. Open Terminal.app and paste this command:
sudo chmod 755 ~/Desktop/FastTasks
and press ‘return’ on your keyboard. You’ll be asked for you Admin password which will be invisible when you type it. If you’re wondering what you’ve just done, you’ve just changed that plain text file into an executable program.
4. Paste the next line into Terminal.app
cp ~/Desktop/FastTasks /etc/bin/FastTasks
then press ‘return’ on your keyboard.
As a result of that last command, you can now use the script by typing ‘FastTasks’ in a Terminal window or by double-clicking ‘FastTasks’ in Finder or on the Desktop.
5. By the way, if the Terminal window remains open after FastTasks has completed, change the following settings in Terminal’s Preferences:
Preferences > Settings > Shell > When the shell exits…
and change the dropdown menu from ‘Don’t close the window’ to ‘Close if the shell exited cleanly’.
And that’s it. You can now run any of the tasks in the menu without having to know the commands!
Fast tips for using FastTasks
1. FastTasks is actually quickest to run by using Spotlight and Terminal.
If you have the Spotlight hotkey set up (usually cmd-space by default), simply open Spotlight, and type ‘Term’ and hit ‘return’ on the keyboard. At the Terminal prompt type ‘fasttasks’ and hit ‘return’.
2. Running it this way has another benefit. If you want to run FastTasks again after performing one task, just hit the ‘up’ arrow on the keyboard (hitting the ‘up’ arrow repeatedly will take you through previous commands entered at the Terminal prompt. Use the ‘down’ arrow to go forward), then ‘return’ when you see ‘fasttasks’ on the command line.
If you need to flush the DNS cache in Mac OS X, be aware that the commands for this have changed through successive OSs, including Lion.
Flushing the cache is sometimes a good idea if you are unable to reach a site that you know is live but keeps returning an error (you can check whether a site is live for others by typing its address here: Down for everyone or just me?).
Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app) and use the appropriate command for your operating system:
In Leopard / Snow Leopard
In Lion and Mountain Lion
sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
With Lion, you’ll have to follow the command with your Admin password, which will be invisible when you type it.
FastTasks – a utility for ten common terminal tasks