Mac OS X Fun
By Damien Gallop

October 27th, 2001

This week's article received its name before the October 23rd iPod announcement from Apple. How perfect! Catch the commercial, and you'll want to catch an iPod too.

iPod is Apple's first non-Mac device in a long time. AirPort and the like don't count, because they directly expand the usability of your Macs. Arguably, though, so does iPod. Would that make iPod a Mac of sorts too, then? You be the judge. There is one thing it definitely is, beyond doubt. It is made for OS X. Check out the tech specs for it. It clicks into the latest iTunes seamlessly. At first one might not appreciate the facility here. But think about it. It's opening up a whole new set of possibilities for OS X. The 10.1 upgrade already did that, but those of us who have been "in" OS X for a while might tend to overly identify it with unix. Yes, OS X is unix, but it's not your father's unix. Did you ever imagine OS X as a medium for MP3? iPod may well go to the moon all on its own. It will surely place OS X onto the radar screens of mainstream computer users.

Because iPod connects to your Mac via FireWire, it appears to your Mac as an external drive. So you can use it to store documents and whatever on it as well as your tunes. Trust Apple to think of everything.

Apple is something of an industry leader in packaging a lot of punch into a relatively small package with a reasonable price tag and excellent energy efficiency. iPod looks like it will be a showcase for Apple's expertise here. I wish Apple well on this, yet another, blockbuster product.


We don't normally get the high winds in these parts that hit so many places. Consequently, when we do, things happen. Today was such a day. Actually, it was a day to fall in love. Perfect skies, beautiful sun-lit leaves, and gusty winds. Upon sitting down this evening to peck out a few lines, I found my iMac off, which struck me as a little odd. You see, I usually just let it go to sleep. It also took an extraordinarily long time to boot. Then I remembered. We had a major power outage at work today. It knocked out anything that required more than two wires to run. It even smoked a power supply on us. Spectacular. Obviously the same outage had knocked out my home for the duration also. My old NT machine was running perfectly, as it is powered by its now-old but ever faithful APC Personal Powercell uninterruptible power supply. The two are fast friends, and I wouldn't think of separating them. So it's about time I considered the APC BackUPS Pro USB for my iMac. Besides flawless UPS functionality, it matches my Mac. If power outages aren't your kind of fun, then this is for you.

There continues to be interest in thwarting those online ads. My original article on the subject drew together several resources for a specifically OS X solution. More and more Mac owners these days have found themselves managing multiple platforms (that's techspeak for the old Windows machine in the basement) on their home networks, so may be interested in cleaning up network noise on them too. For Windows 9x users, there is a pithy how-to on smartin-designs.com, from where I first sourced a suitable hosts file. For other platforms, check out Gorilla.com.

I just noticed a letter from BK in the macwrite forums. BK did not have success installing the Xfree86 X Window server on his machine, even after presumably reading my three articles on the subject. By now it all might be moot. But just in case, let's take a quick look. When I started that series - I didn't expect it to be a series at the time - X was bleeding edge technology for OS X. It has evolved quickly. Now you can download a complete and rootless X package from osxgnu.org. No fuss, no muss. The latest version incorporates compatibility patches for the OS X 10.1 upgrade. My guess is that it will run just fine on earlier versions of OS X also. If you do this and then do the OS X upgrade later, plan to reinstall Xfree86 also. So try that, then see where you are. If you still can't keep X alive, drop me a line and we can talk.

Speaking of X, a while back I profiled an open source X application for OS X variously called MacGIMP and The GIMP. I wrote how I experienced a disappearing cursor in The GIMP's editing windows. Today on my iMac I ran a Linux version of it over an X connection, and experienced exactly the same phenomenon. The cursor is perfectly fine on any other of our proliferating X machines, including MacX under OS 9 and Xfree86 under Linux. So it has to be a glitch in Xfree86 for OS X. I'm using The GIMP increasingly these days, so hope that some Xfree86 expert out there catches this and cooks a patch. Meanwhile, The GIMP provides X and Y cursors that help the situation a lot.

So, after writing my feverish thoughts on the matter some time back, I'm still getting bulk email with my address in the message for all to see. Frankly I'm getting tired of asking people nicely to use Bcc instead of To or Cc when they include me in bulk mailings. What would you tell 'em? I'll tell you what I am going to do. Write an article, of course! And I'll be happy to incorporate your good ideas into it. Feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts on the matter.

Here's a topic I thought I had dealt with already, but now I can't find the reference. How does one uninstall anything in OS X? Let DAVE explain. Start the installation program. Select Uninstall from the Easy Install menu. And go! To my mind, DAVE is an example of excellent programming. As you may know, I always look for an uninstall option before installing anything. It's a bigger issue now than before, since it's far more likely that software components get installed into copious locations on your hard disk. Uninstall must be programmed into a software package by the author; it doesn't appear automatically. I did expect every package made with Apple's PackageMaker to have an uninstall option, but it just isn't so. It seems to me that including an uninstall option is a mark of quality software. Developers, take note!

If an iPod makes it into your jacket pocket imminently, I'll congratulate you! Life is about to become a whole lot more fun. Ciao.