FAQ - Dive Into OS X

A FAQ for Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server system administrators

I am an Apple Certified Trainer. This is a list of questions that have come up in the courses I teach on Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server. It is intended as a supplement for students who have taken those courses, and an aid for my coworkers who teach the same courses. As such, it does not cover many obvious topics, because they are already covered in the course material.

This FAQ is available in HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, plain text, and XML sources. The latest version is always available at http://diveintoosx.org/faq/.

To the best of my knowledge, the information presented here was accurate at the time of publication. Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server are constantly evolving, and software updates or third-party products may render some answers obsolete. Right or wrong, these answers are not endorsed by Apple.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in Appendix B.

  1. Mac OS X Users and Privileges
  2. Memory
  3. Classic
  4. Networking
  5. File Sharing
  6. Command Line / Geeky UNIX stuff
  7. Boot Problems
  8. Server Admin
  9. Mac OS X Server Users and Groups
  10. Mac OS X Server File Services
  11. Print Services
  12. Processes
  13. Mail Services
  14. Network Services
  15. Network Users
  16. NetBoot
  17. Macintosh Manager
  18. Security
  19. Fonts
  20. "Where's that feature?" and other miscellanous questions

1. Mac OS X Users and Privileges

Q: I deleted a user, but now I can't delete their old home directory ("username Deleted").

Delete it from the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo rm -rf "/Users/username Deleted"

Q: How do I control what's in a new user's home directory?

When a user is created, the directories and files in /System/Library/UserTemplate/English.lproj/ are copied to the user's home directory, and the new user is set as the owner of everything in their own home directory. You can edit any of the files in the UserTemplate directory (for instance, changing index.html to give users a different default web site) or add/remove directories (for instance, removing the Music folder), but be careful with permissions. Any files or directories you create should be owned by "root", group "wheel", and the privileges should be the privileges you want when the files are copied and become owned by the new user. Only the owner and group are changed when the files are copied; the privileges are left alone.

Q: I need users to see my company logo/disclaimer/vision statement on startup.

Put it in the login window. The login window is just a 400 x 320 graphic in TIFF format. From the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo cp /path/to/my_400_by_320_picture.tiff

Add a login hook, which is a script or application executed on every login, as described in ADC: Customization Techniques. Login hooks only work on 10.1.3 and later.

2. Memory

Q: How do I make a RAM disk in Mac OS X?

You can still use ramBunctious (shareware, $25), but only Classic apps will see the RAM disks it creates.

Q: How do I disable virtual memory?

From the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo pico /etc/rc

Scroll to the very bottom and comment out the line that starts with "dynamic_pager". Changes take effect on reboot.

3. Classic

Q: I upgraded to 10.1.3 and now Classic crashes.

Are you booting Mac OS X from a UFS volume? Don't do that. Although officially supported supported, 10.1.3 on UFS apparently breaks in horrible ways, including breaking Classic altogether. Stick with HFS+.

4. Networking

Q: Mac OS X tries to dial my modem on boot.

Go to System Preferences, Network pane, Internal Modem (from dropdown menu), PPP tab, PPP Options button, unselect "Automatically connect when TCP/IP applications need it".

Q: Mac OS X asks me if I really want to stay connected to the Internet every 15 minutes, even though I'm actively doing stuff.

Go to System Preferences, Network pane, Internal Modem (from dropdown menu), PPP tab, PPP Options button, unselect "Ask to maintain connection".

Q: How can I change locations without going into Network Preferences?

There's a Location menu in the Apple menu that lists all your locations and allows you to switch.

Q: I want a Location Manager (like Mac OS 9 had) that changes more than just network settings.

5. File Sharing

Q: How can I define multiple share points under Mac OS X?

Q: How do I automount servers like I did in Mac OS 9?

You'll have to write an Applescript that opens all the servers you want, and make it run at login (System Preferences, Login, Login Items).

tell application "Finder"
    open location "afp://username:password@idisk.mac.com/username"
end tell

Q: How do I connect to my iDisk without navigating through the iTools site?

Connect To Server (command-K in Finder), then type afp://idisk.mac.com/username

Q: How can I ssh into my Mac OS X (or Mac OS X Server) machine from Mac OS 9?

Q: When I browse in the "Connect to Server" window, I see lots of ghost servers that no longer exist.

If you're running a Directory Agent on your network, delete its SLP registration database. From the command line on your Directory Agent server:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo rm /private/var/slp.regfile

6. Command Line / Geeky UNIX stuff

Q: Why does Terminal take so long to start up?

You probably have lots of fonts installed. Terminal builds a font list on startup. Remove some fonts or use a font manager.

Q: How do I make the Terminal window translucent?

From the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ defaults write com.apple.terminal TerminalOpaqueness .85

Q: How do I change the shell that Terminal uses?

Terminal Preferences, Shell pane.

Q: I want Bash.

Q: I want Emacs 21.

Emacs 21 for Mac OS X. Uses real Aqua menus and windows, and has a great dock icon.

Q: I want GIMP.

Fink includes GIMP.

7. Boot Problems

Q: I'm stuck at the login screen with no username or password box.

Your NetInfo database is corrupted. Boot into single user mode and restore it.

Q: My NetInfo database is corrupted, I don't have a good backup, and I can't log in.

Every morning at 3:15 AM, cron makes a raw backup of your NetInfo database (using a command called nidump) and stores it in /var/backups/local.nidump. The niload command can restore it, but NetInfo must be running to use niload. To get around this catch-22:

  1. Boot in single user mode and move your corrupted NetInfo database out of the way
    [localhost:~] root# mv /var/db/netinfo/local.nidb /var/db/netinfo/local.nidb.corrupted
  2. Reboot into the login screen. This will recreate a brand new NetInfo database containing only a "root" user. However, you won't be able to log in, because root login is disabled by default.
  3. Reboot into single user mode, and set a blank password for root:
    [localhost:~] root# niutil -createprop / /users/root passwd ""
  4. Reboot into the login screen. Go to full-screen console mode by typing username ">console", no password.
  5. In full-screen console mode, login as root, no password.
  6. Restore the backup that cron made.
    [localhost:~] root# niload -r / -t localhost/local < /var/backups/local.nidump

Q: On boot, my machine hangs for a long time initializing Directory Services.

Your DNS is probably down/corrupted. If this happens on your Mac OS X Server which you're running as your DNS server, check in Server Admin that DNS is really running. If you have an external DNS server, check that it's running, and check your network connectivity. Use the Lookup tab of Network Utility to look up a DNS entry that your DNS server ought to know.

Q: How do I see all that stuff that scrolled by during verbose startup?

From the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ dmesg

Q: How do I boot into Open Firmware?

Hold down command-option-O-F at the boot chime.

Q: I'm stuck in Open Firmware; how do I get out?

Type "bye", "boot", or "mac-boot" (depending on your machine)

8. Server Admin

Q: When I try to connect to Server Admin, it says there's no server running at that address, but it's wrong.

No, it's probably right; serveradmind is probably not running. Check /etc/watchdog.conf. If it contains exactly one line (most likely starting with "mm:", although I have seen variations), then your watchdog.conf file is corrupted. This is a known bug, and tends to happen whenever you start the Macintosh Manager service from Server Admin. You can fix the corruption on the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo -s

[localhost:~] root# cp /etc/watchdog.conf~ /etc/watchdog.conf
[localhost:~] root# reboot

Q: When I try to connect to Server Admin, it says "Login information is not valid for this server".

Presuming you haven't done anything silly like leave your caps lock on or forget your admin password, your Server Admin preference file may be corrupted.

  1. Quit Server Admin
  2. Drag "~/Library/Preferences/Server Admin Preferences" to the trash
  3. Relaunch Server Admin and try again

Q: When I try to connect to Server Admin, it takes forever, but then it finally comes up.

Check that your DNS server is running properly. This can be the cause of Server Admin slowness, even if connecting by IP address. As a short-term solution, you can go to the Network pane of System Preferences and remove your DNS server from your TCP/IP settings.

9. Mac OS X Server Users and Groups

Q: Does Mac OS X Server support password expiration?


Q: Does Mac OS X Server support nested groups like Appleshare IP?


Q: Does Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server support disk quotas?

Q: How can I bulk-add multiple users?

10. Mac OS X Server File Services

Q: I'm running Windows File Services, but when I connect from my Windows machine, it doesn't accept my username and password.

Newer versions of Windows (98SE, 2000, and XP) only support encrypted passwords. During the Mac OS X Server install, you will be asked whether to turn on Authentication Manager; say "yes" and all will be well. If you've already installed Mac OS X Server, do this:

  1. On your Mac OS X Server, run /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Domain Setup.
  2. Turn on Authentication Manager.
  3. Reboot.
  4. Go to each user in Server Admin, re-type their password, and click "Save".

11. Print Services

Q: I added a printer but I don't see the associated print queue in Print Monitor.

This is a known bug, which may be fixed in 10.1.3 (unconfirmed). The print queue is there, but you'll have to reboot to see it.

Q: I added a printer but the printer queue in Server Admin has no name, and I can't delete it.

This is a known bug, which may be fixed in 10.1.3 (unconfirmed). The print queue is there, but you'll have to reboot to see it. You can delete it, but it will not disappear from the queue list until you quit and relaunch Server Admin.

12. Processes

Q: Process Viewer lists some processes with status "zombie". What's a zombie process?

A zombie is a child process which is no longer running but has not been cleaned up by its parent process. Zombies will show up in Process Viewer, but they do not consume any system resources. They will eventually disappear when their parent process finally gets around to cleaning them up; until then, don't worry about them.

Q: How can I send myself an email whenever Watchdog restarts a service?

Set up a cron job to watch /Library/Logs/watchdog.event.log and email you when it changes.

13. Mail Services

Q: How do I keep Mac OS X Server Mail Services from being an open relay?

14. Network Services

Q: Can Mac OS X Server integrate with my existing Active Directory?

15. Network Users

Q: When I log into my NetInfo parent server, it says "home directory was not found in the usual place".

This problem can occur if Server Admin is running on the server when the server is initially made into a NetInfo parent. Always quit Server Admin before running NetInfo Domain Setup.

This can also happen when you create a user, then later go back and change their UID. You can try changing it back (if it's not taken already), otherwise you'll need to delete the user and recreate them.

If the problem occurs even with newly created users, check permissions on the user's home directory. The user should own their own home directory, the group should be "staff", and the permissions should be "read/write" for the owner and "read only" for group and everyone.

If permissions are correct, your network NetInfo directory may be corrupted. You can delete it and recreate it. (Note: this is a very invasive and destructive solution; it will delete all users in your network user list.)

  1. Quit Server Admin if it's running
  2. Run /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Domain Setup
  3. Set your server to use local NetInfo only
  4. Reboot
  5. Run /Applications/Utilities/NetInfo Domain Setup again
  6. Set your server to be a NetInfo parent
  7. Reboot

16. NetBoot

Q: I try to netboot, but all I get is a flashing globe icon.

Even with the latest version of NetBoot (2.0.2 as of this writing), the Mac OS 9 system folder on "NetBoot HD.img" needs to be updated with Ethernet Update 2.0. Note that this is a Catch-22: you will need to boot the image (via NetBoot) in order to install the update, so you'll need to find a computer that netboots properly and use NetBoot Desktop Admin to install the update on the disk image permanently.

Q: Does NetBoot support booting Mac OS X over the network?


17. Macintosh Manager

Q: Does Macintosh Manager support Mac OS X clients?

No, but you get some of the functionality for free in Mac OS X (only adminstrators can change global system preferences) and some functionality by setting up your Mac OS X Server to be a NetInfo parent (preferences and home folders follow users).

18. Security

Q: How do I keep users from booting from CD?

There is a firmware upgrade that allows you to set a password, which is then required in order to boot from CD. It also password-protects against users holding down option to boot from a different partition, or holding down command-option-O-F to boot into Open Firmware.

Read KBase Document 106482: How to Set up Open Firmware Password Protection for details.

Q: How do I prevent the login window from displaying the last user who logged in?

19. Fonts

Q: I have 2000 fonts. Can Mac OS X handle them?

If you used a font manager like Suitcase in Mac OS 9, you'll probably still need one in Mac OS X. Suitcase and Font Reserve both have Mac OS X-compatible versions available.

Q: How do I prevent users from installing their own fonts?

Make their Fonts directory read-only. From the command line:

[localhost:~] you$ sudo -s

[localhost:~] root# chown root /Users/username/Library/Fonts
[localhost:~] root# chmod a+r /Users/username/Library/Fonts

20. "Where's that feature?" and other miscellanous questions

Q: Where's the control strip?

It's gone. Individual programs and system preferences may put icons in the menu bar, to the left of the time.

Q: Where's the PListEditor (Property List Editor)?

It's on the Developer Tools CD.

Q: How do I tell Software Update I don't want something (like all those language updates)?

Select the item you don't want to install, go to the menu, and select "Make inactive."

Q: Does Network Assistant support Mac OS X?

Apple Remote Desktop is Network Assistant for Mac OS X. It also supports Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 clients (back to Mac OS 8.1).

Q: What the heck are all these hidden files and folders?

A. Revision history

10 April 2002 (revision 5.2)

  • Moved to new domain, updated links.

8 April 2002 (revision 5.1)

20 March 2002 (revision 4)

19 March 2002 (revision 3)

15 March 2002 (revision 2)

9 March 2002 (revision 1)

  • Initial revision

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