Panther’s useful utilities

A wealth of new features has been introduced into OS 10.3, quite apart from the many upgraded bundled applications and user interface enhancements of Panther. Here we look at Fast User Switching and Apple’s own bundled utilities for file encryption (FileVault) and font management (Font Book).

Fast User Switching

If you share your Mac with other users in the workplace, home or educational institution, Fast User Switching is ideal, as an administrator user can create separate and secure profiles for each user. This allows one user to switch out (without disturbing open applications, files or windows) and another to log-in to their own custom profile, all without restarting.

To enable this ability (and manage user accounts), go to the Apple menu-System Preferences and select Accounts (FIGURE 1). Click the Login Options button and tick Fast User Switching. To add a new account, click the + button (the – button deletes a selected account). If there’s only one user it will be the administrator account, which can’t be deleted until a second administrator account has been created. This is important to remember if you ever wish to change your admin log-in name.

When creating an account, first enter your name and password details. From the Picture tab you can add a thumbnail for your log-in, choosing from the supplied OS X images or your own. Users with a webcam can even take a still shot.

From the Security tab you can choose whether or not to grant admin privileges and, if logged in at the time, you can turn on FileVault (see below).

The Limitations tab allows you to place restrictions on the account that include use of available applications, Dock configuration, Finder use and CD/DVD burning. When logged into an account, the Limitations tab is replaced by Startup Items. Here you can use the + and – buttons to select applications and documents to open automatically when you turn on your Mac.

Now that you’ve configured user accounts and Fast User Switching, click your log-in name at the far right of OS X’s menu bar. A list of user accounts will drop down (orange ticks indicate if they’re in use). Once an account has been selected, you are required to enter your password. The current desktop then maps onto a cube and spins around to the new user’s desktop — functional eye candy. To log out of an account completely, select Log Out from the Apple menu.

FileVault

The FileVault system uses 128-bit AES data encryption security to protect the contents of your home directory, with files encrypted and decrypted behind the scene. You need to be an administrator (covered above) to turn on FileVault. Be sure to set a master password, as this becomes a safety net should you forget your log-in password as used by FileVault. Forget this with no master password in place and your data is pretty much gone for good — a fact made quite clear before you activate FileVault. Once you do, the initial encryption process can take about 10 to 20 minutes.

Be warned that if you use OS 10.3’s Keychain password storage system and haven’t downloaded the latest OS updates, you could run into damaged data problems, a bug which was fixed in Panther’s first update (10.3.1). To download the latest updates, go to Apple menu-System Preferences and select Software Update.

Font Book

Users with font management needs beyond the scope of OS 10.2’s Font Panel often resorted to third-party utilities such as FontAgent X (www.insidersoftware.com) or Suitcase X1 (www.extensis.com). OS 10.3’s Font Book utility (which lives inside the Applications directory) begins to change this (see FIGURE 2).

Need to install a font you’ve down-loaded? Double-click it for a preview and simply select Install Font to have it automatically placed in your /Library/Font folder.

When you start Font Book, you’ll notice that the view is split into three columns: Collection (for group management), Font, and a preview pane. Font Book inserts a Font Panel into most applications using fonts, which allows you to customise which fonts a program has available plus search and group customised effects with fonts.

To manually add a font within Font Book itself, click the + button at the bottom of the font column and locate the font on your hard drive. You can disable/enable fonts at any time using the buttons so labelled.

If you click on the downward (disclosure) arrow to the left of All Fonts, you’ll see a list including User, Computer, Network (if available) and Classic Mac OS. Dragging and dropping fonts into these folders makes them available to these categories.

Next timell take a look at Apple’s own X11 windowing system for Mac OS X, which allows us to run ported graphical UNIX/Linux software.

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