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Hints and Fixes

Getting Apache to run under MacOSX 10.11, 10.12

  1. ensure ~/Sites is available (can be link to e.g., public_html)
  2. check that we have index.html, index.xml in this directory
  3. edit /etc/apache2/users/ajh.conf - it should look like
    <Directory "/Users/ajh/Sites/">
            AllowOverride All
            Options Indexes MultiViews FollowSymLinks ExecCGI
            Require all granted
  4. check that the file ajh.conf has permissions 664 and owner root:admin
  5. edit the /etc/apache2/httpd.conf file, and ensure the following modules are enabled/disabled:
    LoadModule authn_dbm_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule authn_anon_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule authn_dbd_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule authz_dbm_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule authz_owner_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_connect_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_ftp_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_http_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_fcgi_module libexec/apache2/
    #LoadModule proxy_scgi_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule cgi_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule vhost_alias_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule actions_module libexec/apache2/
    LoadModule userdir_module libexec/apache2/
  6. The /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf also needs to be adjusted. For dimboola, I use
    <VirtualHost *:80>
        DocumentRoot "/Users/ajh/public_html/"
        ServerName dimboola
        ServerAlias dimboola
        ErrorLog "/private/var/log/apache2/error_log"
        CustomLog "/private/var/log/apache2/access_log" common
  7. Now restart the server
                sudo apachectl restart
    and check that the configuration is correct:
                sudo apachectl configtest
    which should reply with "Syntax OK". Rectify any flagged errors and restart.

Karabiner Keys

If you want to know what name to give various keys when redefining them in Karabiner, please refer to this page.

Mail Folder Sort Order not maintained

My (Mac OSX) mail folders suddenly started being displayed in non-alpha order whenever I added a new folder. I'm not the only person to notice this - there is an Apple Disscussion Thread on it. The original page is available, but in case it disappears, I've saved a copy at FixMailSort.html. Here is the gist:

Kenji Kono

Re: Mail Not Sorting new Folders Added Alphbetically
Jan 28, 2010 8:05 PM (in response to Matt Garr)

I'm not sure, but I suspect the new Snow Leopard feature ...
... that lets you move folders around manually might be what's causing
the weird behavior.

In Leopard, you could move a folder inside another folder but,
otherwise, they would always stay in alphabetical order, I think.

Anyways, in Snow Leopard (and Leopard for that matter), there's an
invisible file around ~/Library/Mail/<name of your email
account>/.mboxCache.plist It seems to keep a list of the mboxes in
that folder/account. In Snow Leopard, the first time you manually move
an mbox out of alphabetical order, a new key called
MailboxDisplayOrder seems to get created in that plist for all the
existing "non-special" (i.e. not INBOX, Sent, Drafts, etc.) mboxes in
that folder. Once that key exists, it seems like new folders get
appended to the end of the order.

I don't know the right way to fix the problem though. I'm really just
posting my observations, based on what I'm seeing on my computer. I'd
be very careful about manually messing with invisible files in your
mail, especially if you don't have a good backup. (No idea if you can
restore an invisible file with Time Machine.) A lot of this is
guesswork. But I thought maybe it'd help someone.


The solution is to delete the offending .mboxCache.plist file. You should exit Mail before you do this, and it will get rebuilt next time you run Mail.

Invisible files

When I first obtained a Mac, using (IIRC) Mac OS 3.1 or thereabouts, my son discovered that there was a resource fork bit that made files invisible. He delighted in changing that bit on files that I used, so I rapidly discovered how to unset it again. That facility is still there in OS X, so I have documented that little lurk to avoid any future mischief.

To make a file invisible:

$ /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V file-name

(upper case V)

To make a file visible:

$ /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a v file-name

(lower case v)

Safari Plug-Ins

I installed/updated my Adobe reader, and the next time I used Safari, it asked me if I wanted to install the Adobe plug-in to make Safari use the Adobe reader for PDF files. I said yes at the time, but after a bit of use, found it too slow. Granted, it does have more features, but not the one I wanted, which was to open it up outside the browser. With the standard Preview option, this was just a right-mouse pull down "Open in Preview", very convenient. But how to get back to Preview?

A bit of Googling revealed the answer. In Tiger (10.4) and Leopard (10.5), there is a folder /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ that contains all the plug-ins. Remove the one called AdobePDFViewer.plugin, restart Safari, and you are back with Preview.

And while on the subject of Safari, here's how to change the default browser preference:

  1. Open Safari (/Applications).
  2. From the Safari menu, choose Preferences.
  3. Click the General button.
  4. Choose a different browser from the Default Web Browser pop-up menu.

Time Machine Repair

A colleague had difficulties recovering his Time Machine backups when he had his motherboard replaced, and he sent me this URL about a fix. It seemed like good insurance to add it to this page:

OpenOffice recovery documents

When Open Office (version 3) "loses" its recovery files, and keeps asking to recover (non-existent) files, edit the file: /Users/ajh/Library/ApplicationSupport/ to delete the element nodes containing the offending file path. Then save this file, and restart OpenOffice.

Finding out the screen resolution

I run a number of different displays, and when starting up various programs I need to know the current screen resolution. This little script does the trick:

        # screenres      determine screen resolution 'HEIGHTxWIDTH'
        # screenres -w   determine screen resolution 'WIDTH'
        # screenres -h   determine screen resolution 'HEIGHT'
        res=`xdpyinfo | awk '/dimensions/ {print $2}'`
        if [ "$1" = '-h' ] ; then
          # extract height and print
          expr "$res" : '.*x\([0-9]*\)'
        elif [ "$1" = '-w' ] ; then
          # extract width and print
          expr "$res" : '\([0-9]*\)'
          # print full resolution
          echo $res

Apple's X11 Cut and Paste

Apple did a Great Thing in making X11 available as part of OS X, but it was always going to be a difficult task, given the different "look and feel" of the two user interfaces. To try and fix the inconsistency between the OS X cut and paste, and X11's cut and paste, check out this Fix for Apple's X11 Cut and Paste

Keyboard Shortcuts on Booting

To find out all those nifty keyboard things when things go wrong, here's a page to describe the Keyboard Startup Shortcuts.

Automatically changing the Desktop Picture in Snow Leopard

I had a cool little script that changed the desktop background picture (aka wallpaper) automatically, according to parameters stored in an XML file. See this Multithreaded Image Viewer for details. Most of it was pretty plain python programming (I even set it as an exercise in concurrent programming one year), but it relied upon a shell script that used an Applescript script to do the actual picture change via a set desktop picture to file MyPicFile.

Here's what that script looks like:

      # simple shell script to set the backgroup image
      # uses an Applescript call to do the actual work
      # call:
      # <imageFilename>


      #echo $FILE >>output.txt

      /usr/bin/osascript <<END
      tell application "Finder"
        set myFile to POSIX file "$FILE" as string
        set desktop picture to file myFile
      end tell

But then it broke in Snow Leopard, for reasons I do not understand. Attempts to find how to do this task via much Googling also proved fruitless. While fiddling around with the standard Apple Change Desktop Background pop-up memu, I hit on the idea of having a folder with only one image in it, and setting the reload time to 5 seconds, the shortest reload time.

Hence this new script for It looks like this:


      rm $FOLDER/*
      ln -s $FILE $FOLDER

I used a soft link without thinking about why. It could be a hard link, I guess.

(20100330:094441) And this is not perfect by any means. It breaks on my laptop when I put it to sleep, or change locations, or both, or neither (hard to say which, since it seems very erratic!) Every so often I have to invoke "Change Desktop Background", and reselect the folder in which the temporary item is placed.

(20101216:160200) The behaviour in Snow Leopard is now consistent with Leopard again. I don't know what happened, but I now use the script identified at the beginning of this item. I'm keeping the rest of the story here just in case.

Filename extensions

I noticed while using Keynote that my filename extensions were getting thrown away. I was not the only one to be puzzled by this behaviour, so I thought I should comment on the fix required.

Go to the Finder Preferences, and click the Advanced tab. Under Snow Leopard, the top check box should be "Show all filename extensions". If this is unchecked, click it, and your filename extensions will magically reappear!

For some reason, Apple appears to have changed the default value on this from Leopard to Snow Leopard, leaving many users puzzled as to what is going on.

Fixing the X11 "Focus Follows Mouse" hassle

In a terminal, type:

    defaults write org.x.X11 wm_ffm -bool true
and then restart X11.

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02 Feb 2022
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