Help with OS X customization (for a Linux user)

Discussion in 'macOS' started by dpope, Nov 24, 2006.

  1. dpope macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2006
    I'm a linux user and I just bought a shiny new MBP and suddenly find myself confronted with the very unfamilier environment of OS X. I would like help in several areas - particularly in figuring out how to customize my environment, if that is possible. This is something Mac people often misunderstand when I tell them I'm worried about missing features in Linux: its not that I want to run Linux software, its more that I want to set things up my own way and linux lets you do that down to the last detail and OS X (at least superficially) does not seem to. In any case, this is not flame-bait I really want help to avoid installing Linux on this machine (down that road lies many wasted hours of potential productivity).

    I would appreciate it if someone could point me to a few resources on advanced configuration of OS X. Something geared particularly towards Unix/Linux users (rather than Windows converts) would be preferable. I'll give a list of a few features things I would like to be able to do:

    - Get Alt-Tab to switch between Windows, not applications.
    - Customize the fonts used on the desktop, windows, menus, etc...
    - Get some nice software that shows CPU temp, processes, etc... I know this stuff exists for OS X (I've seen people running it) but I don't know where all this sort of software is to be found.

    This is just a list of things I'd like to do but haven't been able to figure out how to yet (I'm sure I'll be able to add to this list in the next few days). It would be nice if someone could guide me to a site about advanced power-user features of OS X.

  2. clevin macrumors G3


    Aug 6, 2006
    core duo temp can show cpu temperature.
    about changing sys fonts or looks of the system, under osx, u probably have to pay for stuff like shapeshift.
  3. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    iStat Pro for CPU temo etc.

    in /applications/utilities there is an application called Activity Monitor which gives you a lot of info on your system.

    I can't think of a way to get apple tab to switch between windows and not apps. The best solution I can come up with is F10 and tab. (Open a few apps/windows before you try this.)

    This tabs between open apps whilst showing the windows in exposé - not quite the same I know.

    There is an application called onyx which may be worth looking at for customisation.

    Having never used Linux that's as much as I can helo you with.
  4. Lixivial macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2005
    Between cats, dogs and wanderlust.
    As for your alt-tab request: Peter Maurer's Witch should be able to cover it.

    Switching fonts, etc, can be done via a haxie known as Silk. The same company makes a program called ShapeShifter, which allows for different system themes.

    Note that ShapeShifter is not fully compatible with Intel Macs yet, and the beta has known issues with Rosetta apps. I don't generally recommend haxies, but they're your best bet for some of the more advanced system theme modifications you're looking to do.
  5. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2006
    Thanks all for the feedback. I'm already enjoying having installed firefox and having tabbed browsing again. I tried camino but it seems a little heavy (are the default binaries not compiled as universal apps)? On that note, how can I tell if a binary/program is universal or if its running in rosetta. So far I'm happy to say that everything seems blazingly fast ;->

    Other things that cropped to mind are:

    - Virtual desktop (I've found but are there also other options)?
    - Focus follows mouse.

    Perhaps, once I've gotten enough feedback I'll write this up and post a Linux-to-OSX-howto.

    thanks again
  6. Mernak macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2006
    Kirkland, WA
    Activity Monitor will show whether or not an app is running as intel or PowerPC on the rightmost column.

    Another Virtual desktop app is VirtueDesktops, I have never tried either so I can't say which is better. I can't wait till leopard so Spaces will be available.
  7. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    command-~ switches between open windows in the current app being used.

    Check out Shapeshifter, people seem to use that for customisation.

    iStat nano and iStat Pro are great little widgets that can do the job.
  8. Counterfit macrumors G3


    Aug 20, 2003
    sitting on your shoulder
    Safari has tabs, but they're not on by default for some reason

    And just what is "focus follows mouse"? I think I've heard the term before, but never had an explanation?
  9. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    It means that the active window (the one that the keyboard responds to) is whichever the mouse is in. I hate it, but it's common on Unix systems.
  10. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    I came from the Linux side about three years ago. In general OS X is not as customizable in a lot of ways; I have no doubt that's by design. But it seems like, as OS X matures, they keep adding more Linux-y stuff in (e.g. Leopard will have Spaces, which is a virtual desktop manager). But whereas Linux is all about choice, OS X is more about offering a smooth, homogeneous operating environment that "just works". It takes some getting used to, but I've come to love it.

    If you don't already know about the Fink Project - it's a good source for a lot of those command-line programs and utilities you probably liked on Linux. But you can also easily build a lot of stuff yourself, since OS X includes autoconf, GNU make etc. (if you already know this... sorry!). Especially easy now that OS X is on x86.
  11. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    Use Get Info in the Finder.

    Kind: Application (Universal)
    Kind: Application (PowerPC)

    With Universal applications, there is also a "Open using Rosetta" option, although quite why you would want to do this I have no idea.
  12. iSaint macrumors 603


    May 26, 2004
    South Mississippi y'all, near the water!
    Apple - ~ changes windows within an application. Apple - tab changes between applications. I like the way that's set up myself! :)
  13. gekko513 macrumors 603


    Oct 16, 2003
  14. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    This one is kind of a non-starter on the Mac because of the single menu bar. You can enable it for some individual apps though (Terminal for one can do it, and of course the X11 swerver).
  15. Nuks macrumors 6502a

    Feb 25, 2006

    i never knew about and I really like it, but is there anyway to set things up so that when you press command+~ once it switches to the next open window, and when you do it again, it switches back, instead of going through all available windows? Kind of like what command+tab does in os x and alt+tab (i think) does in windows..
  16. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    There are also shareware apps that will add this erm...I guess I'll call it a feature... to all apps.
  17. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    Yeah, with a delay built in to deal with the menu problem. It's faster to just click the window, kind of defeating the point :D
  18. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I've never tried it actually, sorry. :eek: I actually can't stand that feature. It drove me insane on old Sun boxes.... :rolleyes:
  19. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2006
    Thanks again everyone. I've adopted Witch which seems to do most of what I want. I also switched ^F4 to just be F5 (this is a personal convention I've had for years). This feature is not exactly like the X-windows Raise-Lower which, for a long time, replaced Alt-tab for me, but it is close enough that together with Expose, Witch, Alt-Tab and F5 I think I can manage for now ;->

    As to focus follows mouse, I see why the top menu bar makes this hard but, for those of you who've never tried it, believe me it can save a lot of time (especially on a laptop) not having to click on a window to get its focus. Of course these are all habits but I happen to be pretty fond of mine.

    On other fronts, I skimmed through most of the O'Reilly book "Mac OS X Tiger" in the book store today and realized that, under the hood, OS X is very very similar to Linux, particularly to modern distributions (which have many of the advanced features of OS X that diffrentiate it from older Unices - such as journaling filesystem, spotlight, opengl enabled gui, etc...). Also, kudos to apple for making launchd open source. I'm not sure why Linux distros have not adopted it yet. Anyway, I am still looking for a nice "linux users guide to OS X" but if I can't find one maybe I'll eventually compile one. For those of you who haven't already done so I suggest you learn more about the underlying Unix part of OS X since it will give you a lot more control of your system.

    A few more questions: regarding getting the CPU temperature, it seems that I have to install a kernel extension to enable temperature readings. I'm a little hesitant to install a kernel extension that doesn't come directly from Apple or some other very trusted source so does anyone know if there is a good trusted source for such an extension (I don't want to just download anything i find in google).

    As a Linux user I generally run as a completely unprivilaged user and then su to root when i want to do something. I know OS X now has admin user setup and I could use root if I wanted. I would like to know what security minded people using OS X typically do. I'm worried that an "admin" user still has too many privilages to make me feel safe so I would rather use a non-privilaged user. If I do so can I still install programs, etc..., by just entering a password or do I have to switch to an admin user to do this?
  20. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 5, 2006
    I guess I'm not the first one to have these issues:

    This brings me to another feature request:

    - Copy to clipboard every time text is highlighted. This is how X-windows (used to) work (though now its much more of a hybrid with more manual copying methods). This is sometimes annoying but overall i prefer it ;->
  21. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    Sort can use Command+Shift+~ to go "backwards".
  22. mallbritton macrumors 6502a

    Nov 26, 2006
    If you are mindful of security when using your computers (a good idea at any time) then you should never, ever, under an circumstances log in as root. In Mac OS X the root account is disabled by default, and does not have a password assigned to it. Leave it this way. But which account should you use? This is up to you. There are two types of user accounts in Mac OS X, which I'm sure you will be familiar with, coming from Linux.

    Administrator-level accounts, like the same type of account in Linux, will allow you to do pretty much anything you want to do on your Mac without being prompted for a username/password. About the only thing you won't be able to do with impunity is modify anything in /System or /Library. You also won't have access to files in any other user account. Pretty standard stuff, yeah?

    A Standard-level account, like the same type of account in Linux, is a reduced permissions account that will prompt you for an admin-level username/password more often. For example if you are installing software, or deleting an app from the /Applications folder. You will have full, unfettered access to everything in your Home directory (~), but access to many other parts of the system will prompt you to escalate the privileges for that particular action. For example to change things in System Prefs, a standard user must unlock the control panels with an admin-level username/password, whereas an admin-level user account does not need to.

    This I how I run on my PowerBook. I have an admin-level account, that I hardly ever log into, and my everyday account is a standard-level account. If you are at all security conscious I suggest you adopt this method.

Share This Page