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Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard
Learn to manage user accounts and parental controls in Leopard!
User accounts are an integral part of Mac OS X, but for many people, they're a source of confusion. No more, thanks to Kirk McElhearn's straightforward explanations, which help you understand and manage all the accounts for people who use your Mac, even if the only person is you. You'll learn how to create the right types of accounts for the different people who use your Mac, why you need at least two accounts, and what you can do with the many new options in Leopard's parental controls. Kirk shows you how to set up a troubleshooting account to solve problems, use Fast User Switching, share files between users, manage login and startup items, and more. Kirk even reveals tricks for sharing music and photos among multiple users on your Mac using iTunes and iPhoto.
"Even experienced Mac users can find accounts a minefield, but this book's penetrating content explains what you need to know, offers tips, and helps you solve problems." —Mark Willan
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About the Author
Kirk McElhearn is a freelance writer, specializing in Macs, iPods, iTunes, digital music, and more. In addition to having written or co-written a dozen books, he is a Senior Contributor to Macworld magazine and he contributes to several other Web sites and magazines. He reviews classical CDs for MusicWeb and audiobooks for Audiofile, and he is a translator from French to English.
Reviews of Previous Editions
Table of Contents
Read Me First
This book tells you everything you need to know about users and accounts for the users of a single Macintosh running Leopard. You'll learn how to set them up, configure them, and manage them. This book was written by Kirk McElhearn, edited by Tonya Engst, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
Apple has done an excellent job of hiding many of Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings, so Unix-related features such as preemptive multitasking make the Mac work better than ever before, without drawing attention to themselves. But other aspects of that Unix foundation do affect the way we work in important and noticeable ways; for example, Unix brings a full multi-user operating system to OS X, which means that each person who wishes to use the Mac must use it while logged into an account.
This book goes much further than just telling you how to set up and configure user accounts. I cover the different types of accounts, how to limit the capabilities of certain accounts, and what you need to know about Fast User Switching. I also explain why you should have at least two accounts even if no one else uses your Mac, and give you specific steps for using an extra account to isolate the cause of problems your Mac might experience.
In addition, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard has reinforced the Parental Control features that were present in Tiger. In 10.4, you could apply some limitations to user accounts, but in 10.5, not only are there many more limitations and controls, but these features have been split out into their own preference pane.
By the end of this book you'll be able to take control of all the Leopard accounts of the users working at your Mac—whether you have one or dozens—and work more efficiently with Leopard.
User accounts affect almost everything you do under Mac OS X. You must have at least one account, and, if you need to create additional accounts, you can do so easily.
Here's an overview of how you can use this book to work with accounts in Leopard:
User accounts are at the heart of any Unix-based operating system, including Mac OS X. The entire system relies on this concept, so having a basic understanding of what accounts are and why you need them will help you better comprehend and use Mac OS X.
Since Unix-based operating systems rely on the concepts of permissions and ownership, each file, folder, and application must belong to a specific user. For this to be the case, users must be declared and identified; hence the idea of creating unique accounts for each user, much as every customer of a bank has a private account that no one else can access.
When you set up or receive an account on Mac OS X, you become a user of that computer, and you are assigned a home folder (the folder with your short user name and the house icon). Your home folder holds your personal files and a number of sub-folders that help you further organize your files.
Because your files belong to you, other users cannot access files in your home folder, or in any sub-folders of your home folder. This is also true in the other direction: you cannot access files in other users' folders. The only exceptions are the Public folder and the Drop Box folder: to help users on the same Mac, or remote users with the appropriate access, share files, each home folder contains a Public folder, from which any user can copy files, and this folder contains a Drop Box folder, into which any user can copy files.
In addition to segregating files among users, Unix-based operating systems prohibit standard users from accessing, changing, or deleting essential system files. This prevents standard users from damaging the operating system. Administrators, however, can access all files on a computer. I talk more about this distinction later, in Types of Accounts.
Well, on the one hand, yes, this ebook will help you understand the whole account concept and create the necessary accounts. But, on the other hand, Take Control of Sharing Files in Leopard is the ebook you want. It assumes you have a basic grip on the idea of an account already, but it goes into a great deal of detail about the best types of accounts to set up for different file-sharing services, how much access to allow to those accounts, which areas of your Mac to make available, and so on.
Not really... but try Take Control of Permissions in Leopard instead.
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Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
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October 2009 -- We have no plans to update the 10.5 Leopard edition of this book, but a new Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard edition is now available.
—Tonya J Engst
November 2, 2009 --
Apple has publicly acknowledged a rare but nasty data-destroying bug related to using the Guest account in Snow Leopard. The bug appears to be associated with having a Guest account already set up before you upgrade to Snow Leopard. While there is currently no fix available, we hope to see one in 10.6.2. To learn more, check out my TidBITS article, Apple Acknowledges Guest Account Data Loss Bug. [This bug was fixed in 10.6.2.]
October 23, 2009 --
Now that you've wrapped your mind around accounts on your Mac, wrap your mind around this: you can now send a Twitter message to a particular account on your Mac and tell your Mac to do things such as restart or send you a screenshot. Sounds crazy? It could be. Glenn Fleishman writes about the new TweetMyMac in a recent TidBITS article, TweetMyMac Offers Remote Control by Twitter.
—Tonya J Engst
October 22, 2009 --
Listen to MacVoices #9109 and learn about author Kirk McElhearn's approach to user accounts. In this interview, which kicks off the release of the Snow Leopard edition of Take Control of Users & Accounts, Kirk talks about many facets of using accounts effectively, including—among many topics discussed—troubleshooting and limiting what certain users can do on your Mac.
—Tonya J Engst
October 16, 2009 --
Home Sharing, a new feature in iTunes 9, makes it possible to easily share media among family members (or any group where everyone is authorized on the same iTunes Store account). While the feature is a clear win for sharing iPhone apps, several Take Control authors have been perplexed by Home Sharing, either because the feature didn't perform as they'd expected, or because it's difficult to concisely explain the differences between it and the old iTunes Sharing feature. Thankfully, Take Control author Ted Landau's recent Mac Observer article tackles the subject with detail. If you're interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how to share media in iTunes, check it out!
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