Archive for May, 2008

Mac OS X Tip: Setting PATH environment variables

I’m still getting to grips with this OS X malarkey, and my latest challenge was how to set the PATH environment variables.

I started out wanting to add some aliases for the mysql and mysqladmin commands as I’ve just decided to have a bit of a play with django. On linux I used to edit my .bashrc file to do this, but the version of bash on Mac OS X (10.5.2) doesn’t seem to support this. Hunting around I realised that I should just add the path to these commands to my PATH environment variable, but again: not quite so simple.

I want these commands to be available to everyone, so it turns out you have to edit a file called paths in /etc:

sudo vi /etc/paths

And that was it. Easy when you know how! Oh, and remember to run vi as root using the sudo command….

Switching to Mac: the challenge continues…

I recently got myself an Apple Mac so that I could find out what all the fuss is about. In many respects it doesn’t matter what sort of a computer you use these days, so long as you have a web browser… However I’m still finding it a bit of a challenge to switch over. The most recent challenge has been finding the hash (#) key on the ‘English (UK)’ keyboard.

As you can see I’ve now got it sussed, but it took a bit of messing around. The keyboard is on a Mac Book Pro, and to get a hash you need to press Alt-3 (or ‘Option’ as I think they call it, and the key with the pound (£) symbol on it). Those funny Americans…

I’ve been having all sorts of problems getting my networked attached storage working too. I have two of these devices: and old LaCie Ethernet disk mini and an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+. The ReadyNAS works fine if I set it up as a Windows share (ironic, I know…), but it just wont work at all if I set it up as an AFP share and enable ‘bonjour’. However, the LaCie device (and I always had the impression that Lacie were more of a mac shop than a windows shop) just won’t work at all. I can try it as a windows share or an AFP share with bonjour, and neither setting will work. It’s very frustrating!

The next hurdle has been screen calibration. I’ve been trying to get the laptop screen and my 19″ LaCie 319 set up the same so that I can run both displays at the same time and have images on either look the same. I set both to the same colour temperature, gave them the same luminance and gamma setting and ran some calibration software that came with my monitor and the Blue Eye Pro colorimeter. No matter what I do they just won’t look the same. The curious thing is if I measure the response of either screen (using the colorimeter) they both report to be the same! Very perplexing!

At the same time I’m playing with Adobe Lightroom, and although I think it’s pretty good software, neither the laptop screen or my LaCie is big enough to make it ‘nice’ to use. I really need to close the laptop lid and use an external display, but have you seen the price of a LaCie 324 Monitor with hood?! They don’t come cheap!

So what other issues am I having?

Well there is mouse that goes exactly where I want it to on my Windows computer, but seems to have a mind of it’s own on the Mac.

And then there is the terminal/shell that doesn’t automatically copy selected text to the clipboard and paste on a right-click.

Talking of shells, the backspace key seems to want to do a forward delete instead in some circumstances. I’ve not worked out the pattern yet, but it’s a very strange thing indeed. And trying all the combinations of Ctrl-Backspace, Alt-Backspace and Cmd-Backspace don’t seem to help this time around. Again, a small annoyance on it’s own, but taken along with all the others it’s getting to be a major irritation!

Finally we mustn’t forget the lack of support for automatic window focus (where the cursor focus follows the mouse). This is a real pain indeed! Most linux window managers that I’ve used over the last 10 years (in fact all that I’ve ever used) have done this without a problem, and you can even do this on Windows, so why on earth doesn’t OS X support it?!

So despite being praised for it’s usability, I’m still having some issues using my Mac.

On the positive side, I discovered is that Safari (which I previously couldn’t stand) supports embedded colour profiles in images. This means that when I look at my photos on flickr, they look exactly how I meant them to look (assuming the viewing monitor has been calibrated). I don’t know if Safari does this on Windows, but it makes my flickr experience much nicer. So much so in fact that I now won’t use firefox to surf flickr! So that’s a good thing.

But I’m nearly there. I’m trying to reduce my clutter so if I can decommission my old NAS and sort out the display problems then I should be able to get rid of some old and bulky hardware and free up some well needed space!

So enough rambling. In conclusion maybe I need to think about installing Ubuntu linux on this laptop instead…. at least things would be more predictable… wouldn’t they? I’m dreading the thought of actually becoming a fan of Windows (XP, not Vista), so perhaps if I avoid installing Linux I’ll never know if it’s better or worse and I can live in the vague hope that it simply must be better, and one day if I ever need it I can switch over… That day must never come.

Right, I only started this post so I had somewhere to check back to when I needed reminding how to get the hash symbol…. so that’ll be Alt-3 then. Remember?