Useful OS X Terminal Commands

As usual, last Sunday night, my Powerbook decided to come down with a really strange problem. It slowed to a crawl and for a moment I thought my hard drive was dying a slow death. However Disk Utility, showed no problems at all, so I was a bit puzzled by the problem. Eventually after deleting cache files with Cache Out X and rebuilding Prebindings and Spotlight databases, everything was back to normal. Apparantly it does not matter if I run Windows or OS X, I still end up doing computer maintenance at late hours of the night, when I could be sleeping.

I found these terminal commands handy. Unlike third party utilities, you can run these on any up-to-date OS X system.

To update Prebindings manually:

sudo update_prebinding -root / -force

To delete the Spotlight database from the boot volume:

sudo mdutil -E /

To run Software Update from terminal:

softwareupdate -l

To install Software Updates found:

sudo softwareupdate -i -a

Notes: Prebindings usually do not have to be redone, as OS X does this automatically, but if you are having a strange problem; rebuilding might help. Deleting the Spotlight database forces OS X to rebuild it right away, so it is best to let the computer sit overnight while it indexes the vloume. Spotlight is a feature of Mac OS X 10.4. For Software Update, terminal will not prompt for restart, so you must remember to do this after the updates are installed.

To Disable DMG File Verification:

defaults write skip-verify true

WebKit Ported To Windows

For web designers who don’t have access to a Mac OS X machine, you might be interested in the Swift browser which is a ported version of WebKit. The same engine Apple uses for Mac OS X’s Safari web browser. The port is very alpha quality, but it at least allows you to see how your site renders in Safari.

At the time of this writing, the site was down. However I was able to download the msi file and install it. If you would like to install Swift, you need to know that VisualC Runtime engine is required for the browser to even load. If the main site is still down, you can download the 0.1 msi installer in rar format from this site.

Swift 0.1.msi.rar

Apple’s Big Failure

Everyone who knows me, knows I love everything Macintosh, and even in the dark days of Classic MacOS, I still did not give up and praise WindowsNT as the greatest of operating systems. The truth is that Apple makes great consumer products. The iMac was about packaging and catering to the consumer and since then Apple has excelled at giving consumers what they want in nice shiny products like the iPod and MacBook. However, after being in the business world for ten years, I have picked up a thing or two about the business world and just how this particular market segment works, and I must admit that Apple just does not get business users.

When I read statements about how Apple is poised to take over and reach critical market share growth, I cannot help but think these columnists are simply deluded. Apple will never reach a major market share without giving business users the solutions that they need. As much as I love the new Black MacBook, it is not a good business solution. In the world of business, you do not buy a laptop based on what color it is or how cool it looks, you buy it because it fulfills your needs and is cheap. Toshiba, Dell, HP, and Lenovo all have business class laptops that can be had for $699. Sure these laptops are not as nice as the MacBook, but in the business world, the boss does not care. In business, the boss gets a great MacBook Pro, and the rest of his staff will have to do with Dell Latitudes.

Being more expensive is just one of the problems Apple faces in penetrating the business world. The main issue boils down to complete solutions. Business needs reliable support, planning, and software.

With Windows, you can get support everywhere and anywhere. If you run Mac OS X, most support technicians will recoil in ignorance and question why you even have a Mac. This is a huge problem for businesses who take it for granite that they can hire or farm out support to almost anyone, since everyone knows Windows. What Apple needs to do is to really offer business users separate support and asure them that they can get on-site support if they need it. This is easier said than done.

The next step is better planning. There has to be better and more frequent documentation of Mac OS X and Apple hardware. While Mac OS X gives users plenty of powerful tools like PHP, Apache, MySQL, it has also given users, programmers, and companies plenty of problems. Like the way SMB Shares work differently on each version of OS X, or the way OS X has developed with some APIs changing throughout the process. Apple needs to be consistent and help their customers plan for these changes.

Last we have software itself. Even with the abundance of OS X apps, OS X still does not have adequate business software. What Apple needs is really iOffice, a suite of applications focused at helping business users. For example, maybe Apple could take a clue from Microsoft on this one. Why not make a professional version of OS X that includes Pro versions of applications needed only for business? The issue is that Apple really has not thought about what small business users really need? Office management, accounting, scheduling, are just some of the areas that come to mind. I would think that if there was such a thing as a $600 iOffice that would handle just scheduling and simple entry accounting, that the small business market would break down the doors to switch. My own personal experience with QuickBooks was trying and I know if Apple could come up with a simplified QuickBooks they would more than save me countless hours, they would get my praises as well.

But all of this would have to mean Apple would have to change, from being the cool consumer oriented Apple to a solutions oriented company. Most of all it would mean Jobs would have to devote some actual talented people and plenty of resources to a market that would not yield immediate profits and which could possibly damage the company’s consumer popularity. I still think Apple iOffice would be a great idea and maybe perhaps Apple could actually help all us QuickBook users who have no clue what double-entry accounting is.

15-inch Powerbook RAM

Patriot DDR RAMFor some reason Apple’s 15-inch Powerbook is notorious for not liking certain DIMM modules, and I have been meaning to upgrade my main Macintosh, which is of course a 1.5GHz Powerbook. After some trepidation and research on Google, I felt pretty confident in purchasing this 1 Gigabyte DDR DIMM module, which was the cheapest I could find on As it turned out the comment reviews on NewEgg were actually correct. The Patriot DIMM worked fine on my Powerbook and I have had no problems with the computer at all since installing it.

I’m not sure if this is true or not, but from I have read, it appears that the less accessible DIMM slot is the most compatible with generic memory. So if you buy a module and not sure if it is compatible try installing it in the bottom most slot. Of course be careful, as the 15-inch Powerbook is also known for having weak memory slots that will break if pushed too hard.

Right now I have the Patriot DIMM in the less accessible slot and a 512MB PNY DIMM in the other slot. The PNY DIMM I got from a retail store and is not part of the original Apple installed memory.

The Powerbook is slightly faster than before now with 1.5GB of memory. But the improvement is not as dramatic as passing 512MB of memory. So if you have 768MB or 1 GB total, don’t expect much improvement, unless you are running lots of applications at once.

Safari Bookmark Exporter

One of the major problems with the Digital Lifestyle, that Steve Jobs ushered in with such software suites as iLife and the iPod, is that you have to constantly synch between different applications and hardware. Most people end up giving up on a synched lifestyle. One of my major peeves is with Safari, and the lack of an Export option for bookmarks. This is no longer such a big problem, as Mac OS X 10.4 includes an export option for Safari finally, but in case you are using Safari on 10.3, you might consider Ellipsos Productions’s free Safari Bookmark Exporter. This handy little utility allows you to export your Safari bookmarks to any of these support browsers:

  • Firefox
  • Camino
  • OmniWeb
  • Mozilla
  • Internet Explorer
  • iCab
  • Opera
  • Simple HTML
  • XBEL

I use Safari Bookmark Explorer to synch up Firefox to my Safari bookmarks on both my Macintosh and PC workstations. Just arrange Safari’s bookmarks the way you want them and when you are done run SBE and it will even save your bookmarks to the correct directory for the browser you specify. To synch up to a different machine, you have to copy the file it creates and manually overwrite your other bookmarks.html file on your other computer.

Microsoft’s Vista Theme

MS Vista Start MenuThere seems to be this belief that Microsoft is the new IBM. Namely that they are no longer cutting edge and that they have no new ideas anymore. When I say, IBM, I do not mean today’s IBM, but the IBM that could not establish OS/2 as a mainstream operating system, that IBM. So if Microsoft is IBM, then who is Microsoft? Most technews junkies would say any number of companies, but the favorite would have to be Google. There is this desire to see Microsoft fail and to have it toppled by Google, RedHat, or even Apple. Microsoft clearly is seeing a lot of competition these days, and in some markets Microsoft is just another competitor, not even a leading one. However Microsoft’s dominance has always been in operating systems and productivity software, the Windows & Office Suite are what Microsoft has always been about. One look at Windows 2006 and it’s Vista theme is all the reminder I need, to know that Microsoft is not going away any time soon.

I remember that Steve Jobs once said something about how Microsoft is the Wal-mart of the computer industry, meaning that if you want functionality without designer design, you buy Microsoft. At the time Apple was touting Mac OS X and its Aqua interface. It was evident then and it is still is now that Apple knows how to implement and design slick looking user interfaces. Comparing to will immediately tell you that Microsoft is all business and is designed by artists.

Which brings me to Vista, a radical new design for Windows which implements vector based graphics, a new Start Menu, and tons of other features that make WindowsXP look down right pedestrian. Vista is Microsoft’s Aqua interface. Some Mac users are probably thinking it is an outright copy of OS X, but it really is not. Microsoft has learned quite a lot about user interface and even though they have made some horrible mistakes like WindowsXP’s Start Menu, they have also made some nice implementations like the the Right-Click Properties option. Mac OS X’s Aqua has been a work in progress and even in 10.4, Apple is still changing it and modifying it here and there. Apple can do this cause it’s user base tends to upgrade OS X rather frequently, but Microsoft cannot have this luxuyry. A Windows release tends to last years, maybe even a decade. Windows95 anyone? Microsoft has to get the new interface just right on the actual release.

Over the coming months as Microsoft gets closer to actual release, Vista will become more well known and accepted as one of the most sweeping changes in interface design since Windows95. Although I am sure Microsoft will borrow and modify some ideas from its competitors, including Mozilla’s Firefox, Mac OS X, and maybe even the Linux distros out there, it will create in the end something which its market audience will find using for many years to come. I for one welcome a change from WindowsXP, the interface which makes me think is in really bad need of a makeover.

Will Vista and a new Internet Explorer look better than Apple’s Safari and Mac OS X, probably not, but they will be much needed improvements to the mainstream platform that millions of businesses use day in and day out, and that’s what matters to Microsoft.