Viewing the Library Folder in OS X October 21st, 2013
Ever since the good old faithful OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard days Apple has decided to remove by default users access to the Library folder, now I guess this makes a lot of sense given the popularity these days of OS X but for users who are familiar with the operating system and may need to access frequently, it can be quite a pain. Fortunately it really isn’t difficult to re-enable permanent access to ~/Library/ and all you need to do is launch Terminal and enter the following command:
chflags nohidden ~/Library/
Your Library folder will be immediately visible once again.
To undo the changes simply enter the following command in Terminal once again:
chflags hidden ~/Library/
Again, changes will take effect immediately. Enjoy.
Ideas? Contributions? October 16th, 2013
I haven’t forgotten about my blog I promise.
Things have been very busy for me over this past year meaning I haven’t had the time I once did to regularly update my blog; it’s made me think. I was amazed by the popularity of some of my articles when I first put this blog together, it wasn’t too long before these pages were getting tens of thousands of unique monthly hits, not bad for a no-one like me scribing some random words together! So how do I go forward? I’d really like to get things back on track, add more quality posts and interest and get the monthly hits back to where they once were, but how?
I’ve just spent some time clearing out SPAM from the comments and was genuinely surprised and impressed by the contributions that you guys have made to help one another out over the last year, it’s great to know that whilst I haven’t added much content this year people are still visiting frequently; not only new visitors either, a lot of you are coming back to answer comments time and time again – I thank you all.
With this in mind, I’d like to make an open invitation for anyone who wishes to contribute articles to let me know; hopefully this will continue to add interest and attract more visitors but also give you an audience if you don’t have a web presence of your own. All I ask is that the articles are of a technical nature, or, a random post that is topical and not offensive in any way. Simples. Needless to say you will take credit for your own work.
So if you are interested, click here and drop me a note.
Linebreak in Excel for Mac 2011 May 28th, 2013
I regularly have the need to use a linebreak in an Excel spreadsheet but annoyingly whilst I know to use Alt-Enter within Windows, I have been unable to figure how how to add a linebreak in Excel for Mac. It turns out after a lot of trial and error the solution is actually quite simple (aren’t they always?), so, to enter a linebreak you simply need to hit Control-Alt-Enter (or for my American friends Control-Option-Enter).
Windows Control Panel Applets March 14th, 2012
I was working on a machine earlier today that had seemingly lost a number of control panel applets. Of course, just because the control panel applets were not visible doesn’t mean the features themselves had gone; so just how do you access an applet when seemingly it’s no longer there? Well, the control panel itself only shows shortcuts to the actual applets, the applets themselves are located elsewhere. Each applet is stored individually as a separate file, folder or DLL and can also be launched manually using the ‘Run’ command.
The locations of the applets can be found in the following locations within the registry:
- HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Control Panel\Cpls
This registry location contains the location of all .cpl files on the hard drive that are used within the control panel in string format.
- HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\ControlPanel\Namespace
Here you’ll find the location of the CLSID variables for all applets on the local machine not included as .cpl files; these are normally folders or shell applets.
It’s these locations that the control panel would normally use to locate the available applets and load them into the control panel.
In case you come across this yourself, here is a list of the commonly used applets:
- access.cpl (Accessibility Options)
Here you can configure and control a number of accessibility options on your machine; it contains a number of settings aimed mainly at users with disabilities or who may be experiencing hardware issues preventing normal interaction. Some of the options that can be set are: the behavior of the keyboard (Sticky Keys, Filter Keys and Toggle Keys for example); behavior of sounds (Sound Sentry and Show Sounds); high contrast mode options; keyboard cursor and the ability to control the pointer with your keyboard.
- hdwwiz.cpl (Add New Hardware)
Here you can invoke the new hardware wizard, allowing you to scan your machine for hardware changes and install the appropriate drivers either from the manufacturers driver disc, or directly from the online Windows repositories.
- appwiz.cpl (Add or Remove Programs / Programs and Features)
Probably one of my most frequently accessed applets. Here you can view and interact with installed applications on your machine in a number of ways. You can for example uninstall or change existing applications on your system and manually install software from an optical drive or floppy/USB drive. You can also view and change installed Windows components from here (for example enable the Telnet client).
- control admintools (Administrative Tools)
Here you can launch the administrative tools folder where you’ll be able to launch tools for various aspects of your systems administration including security, performance and service configuration. Here you’ll also be able to access the event viewer.
- wuaucpl.cpl (Automatic Updates)
Here you can change how you would like your machine to handle Windows Updates.
- timedate.cpl (Date and Time)
Here you can change the date and time of your system clock, it also allows you to enter details of an Internet Time Server to automatically synchronize the clock; you can also change the time zone.
- desk.cpl or control desktop (Display)
Here you can change various display options on your machine; things such as the desktop wallpaper, the screensaver, the screen resolution and the system theme. You can also change some advanced options such as which default icons will appear on the desktop, ClearType settings, and monitor settings such as colour depth and refresh rate.
- control folders (Folder Options)
Here you can configure how files and folders are shown in Windows Explorer; specifically it allows you to change a number of general settings for example, whether a folder will open in a new window or an existing one. You can also change advanced settings such as whether system files and known file extensions should be hidden or in view. You can also modify file type associations from this applet.
- control fonts (Fonts)
Here you can launch the font viewer which allows you to not only see what fonts are installed on your system but also install additional fonts.
- inetcpl.cpl (Internet Options)
Here you can change how your computer manages internet connections as well as enabling you to change various browser settings for Internet Explorer; this is the same applet you would normally launch from Internet Explorer directly.
- main.cpl or control keyboard (Keyboard)
Here you can change and test keyboard settings, including cursor blink rate and key repeat rate.
- mlcfg32.cpl and mlcfg.cpl (Mail)
Here you can configure your mail accounts using Microsoft Outlook. If you’re using Microsoft Office 2010 64-bit then use mlcfg.cpl otherwise, mlcfg32.cpl.
- main.cpl or control mouse (Mouse)
Here you can configure various aspects of how you interact with your computer using your mouse including visibility options such as pointer trails.
- ncpa.cpl or control netconnections (Network Connections)
Here you can edit and create network connections including DUN and LAN connections. It’s a useful applet to help with troubleshooting connectivity issues and allows you to administer advanced network card properties.
- powercfg.cpl (Power Options)
Here you can manage your computers energy consumption and set things such as the delay before the display turns off, and the delay before your system enters standby; you can also decide what you would like to happen when you press the on/off button. Here you can also choose hibernation options and how you’d like your machine to interact with a UPS (if connected).
- control printers (Printers and Faxes)
Here you can display all of the printers and faxes currently installed on your computer, you can also look at all of the print jobs queued for each printer (you can also pause, cancel or change the priority of existing print jobs). You can also view and edit preferences for your printers including sharing them on your network making them available to others.
- intil.cpl (Regional and Language Settings)
Here you can change the regional settings globally on your machine; you can change, for example, how numbers are displayed, how currency is displayed, time and date notations and language options (including the system locale).
- mmsys.cpl (Sounds and Audio Devices)
Here you can choose which sound events are used for various system events as well as choosing which input and output (audio) devices are used if more than one exists. You can change various sounds card settings and configure whether to show the volume icon in the notification area.
- sysdm.cpl (System)
Here you can view and change a number of core system settings, for example you can do the following: display general information about your machine such as the amount of system RAM, CPU, Windows version and manufacturer information; change the computer name and join a domain; manage and configure hardware devices in Device Manager and, specify advanced features such as performance logs and virtual memory options. Along with appwiz.cpl this is one of my most used applets.
- nusrmgr.cpl (User Accounts)
Here you can configure the local user accounts on your machine including username, password, and display avatar. If you’re logged in with an administrator account, you can also change other’s account details and enable/disable the guest account.
Needless to say the above list is by no means exhaustive. Depending on installed hardware and attached peripherals, there are also a number of hardware specific applets that will become available; you’ll be able to see what you have available on your machine by looking at the registry locations mentioned above.
I hope this list may prove useful, feel free to add any others you may use in the comments box below.
OS X Understanding & Enabling SSD Trim Support December 31st, 2011
Over the past few years, our understanding of SSD technology has advanced significantly. In theory, SSDs are a massive improvement over conventional spindle drives with no major weakness to speak of. No longer does your computer have to wait for a motor powered platter to rotate into the correct position every time you want to access a piece of data; it can now grab it instantly from a bank of memory cells inside the SSD. As well as this dramatic increase in performance gone is the noise, the heat, and importantly the power consumption, and in its place smooth, silent, virtually instant data transfer.
Well, that’s the theory anyhow.
The reality is that whilst a lot of the above is true, an SSD is not immune to problems like any other hard drive; one of the biggest of these problems is the way in which SSDs handle deleted data and the way this causes overall performance to tail off after continual use.
First, we need to understand the problem.
SSDs are split into multiple cells. Imagine for a moment a brand new SSD with a clean 20kb cell, the drive writes two 10kb files into this space at its full write speed, so far so good. Later, you delete one of these 10kb files as it is no longer required. The SSD will now simply mark the unwanted 10kb space as an area that is available to be rewritten, this is exactly the same behaviour you’d expect from a conventional spindle drive; the important point to note here is that neither the SSD nor the conventional spindle drive actually deletes the physical data. The difference comes when you need to right new data into the 10kb space.
The conventional spindle drive will simply write over the 10kb of space when the new data comes along however when the SSD comes to rewrite data to the 10kb of free space in the now dirty cell – in order retain the 10kb file still there – it must first read that data to its controller, wipe the whole 20kb cell clean and then rewrite the complete set of valid data, old and new, into the cell. Over time, this continual rewrite process has very little impact on the performance of a conventional spindle drive however the read-modify-write process employed by the SSD will drastically reduce performance on the SSD in comparison to writing data to new, clean cells. This behaviour is the main cause of SSD performance degradation over a period of time, especially for heavy users accessing data daily.
Ironically, for a device which can, at least in theory, address any given cell at the same speed, SSDs can also become subject to fragmentation as a side effect to dirty NAND. Having numerous cells filled with deleted data means the drive needs to perform more and more read-modify-write cycles when writing files to the drive which over time causes yet more performance degradation. A heavily fragmented SSD will also have no choice but to spread files over even more cells, forcing the drive to address all those cells too when reading data; this of course has the effect of reducing the overall read performance of the SSD as well as the write performance.
SSD manufacturers are aware of these issues of course and there is a fix by way of the TRIM command. TRIM reorganises written data on the SSD and scrubs deleted data as soon as it has been deleted (this is triggered by a delete command, clearing the recycle bin or, reformatting the drive). This means that when the drive needs to write data to that cell again, there is nothing but clean NAND waiting negating the need to perform the read-modify-write process, therefore ensuring the optimum write performance is maintained and does not degrade with use. However, in order for TRIM to work, support is required not only within the SSDs firmware but also the host OS. Windows 7 shipped with TRIM support out of the box and I can say from personal experience, it makes a huge difference. The problem with OS X is that TRIM support is very limited.
TRIM is officially supported in OS X 10.6.8 or greater, but is limited by the fact that it only supports Apple branded SSDs.
Take a look at About This Mac>More Info>Serial-ATA and you’ll notice unless you’re running an Apple SSD the TRIM support flag is set to ‘No’. It seems a deliberate oversight on Apple’s part, no doubt to try and convince you to buy their own branded drives (which by the way you should never do, they are way over-priced and old technology) but as always there is a way to enable TRIM for other manufacturers SSDs. To enable TRIM support, simply download an app called TRIM Enabler which works by loading a kernel extension from MacBook Pro 2011 models (with TRIM support) into your Mac OS X kernel, this forces TRIM to be enabled; all you have to do is download and mount the DMG file and click on Patch. Simples!
Caveat: This is completely unsupported software and is not endorsed by Apple. I am not responsible for any damage or data loss that may result from enabling TRIM. Always have a backup of your data and proceed carefully at your own risk. If you decide to download the above patch and enable TRIM, you do so of your own choice.
Notes: I have tested TRIM Enabler on my MacBook Pro (early 2011) i5 running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard without issue. After a reboot, the TRIM support flag changes to ‘Yes’ and the system runs normally without any issues, it’s too early to tell if having TRIM enabled will keep my read/write speeds consistant but I will run some benchmarks and report back at a later date with a comparison.
I hope this may be of use to someone, please feel free to share your experiences in the comment box below.