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Take Control of Users & Accounts in Snow Leopard
Learn to manage user accounts and parental controls in Snow Leopard!
Mac expert Kirk McElhearn walks you through everything you need to know to understand and manage accounts on your Mac, even if the only person using the Mac is you. You'll learn how to create the right types of accounts for the different people who use your Mac, why it's often a good idea to set up at least two accounts, and how you can take advantage of the parental controls options. Kirk shows you how to set up a troubleshooting account, use Fast User Switching, share files among users, manage login and startup items, and more. Kirk also reveals tricks for sharing music and photos among multiple users on your Mac using iTunes and iPhoto.
Coupon savings! Snow Leopard's parental controls can limit the content that a Mac user sees, but for still more control, a coupon in the ebook saves you 25% on Intego's ContentBarrier X5 (normally $49.95, so you save about $12).
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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.
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 Snow 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.
When the first edition of this book was released, in 2003, many readers were discovering user accounts for the first time. Back in the early days of Mac OS X, Macintosh users, formerly used to the classic Mac OS approach of a single user for each Mac, had to understand a number of new concepts, such as permissions and limited access to files and folders depending on their ownership. But now, 6 years later, Mac OS X and its Unix-based concepts—at least those involving users and accounts—have become second-nature to most Mac users. (Though some Windows switchers may find Apple’s implementation of user accounts at odds with their experience.)
While you probably already grasp the rudiments of users and accounts, you may not be aware of the many account-related subtleties that can help you get the most out of your Mac. 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.
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, released in August 2009, built on Leopard’s implementation of user accounts and parental controls, making many minor changes and tweaks to this part of the operating system. If you’re familiar with user accounts from Leopard, you’ll understand the basics. But there may be some tricks and tips that you don’t know about, which can help you manage a multi-user Macintosh more easily.
By the end of this book you’ll be able to take control of all the Snow Leopard accounts of the users working on your Mac—whether you have one or dozens—and work more efficiently with Snow 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 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 Mac. I talk more about this distinction later, in Types of Accounts.
Note: What Are Permissions? Permissions are special bits of information attached to files and folders that tell your Mac who owns each item; what rights users have: read (view a file, open a folder, or access an application), write (view a file and save changes, or create new files in a folder), execute (launch a program); and what others can do with the item. The term privileges means the same thing as permissions. (To learn all about permissions, read Brian Tanaka’s Take Control of Permissions in 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:
In terms of Mac OS X, there is little difference between this ebook and its predecessor, Take Control of Users & Accounts in Leopard, though I looked over the book carefully, checking for differences and retaking the screenshots so they would look just right for Snow Leopard. Further, Tonya Engst, my editor, read the entire manuscript to give it one more proofreading pass and to add a few current details, such as a brief mention of Apple’s new iDisk app.
The differences between this edition and the Tiger edition are large; see What’s New in Leopard and Snow Leopard for details.
The discussions near the end of the ebook about how to Share an iTunes Library and how to Share an iPhoto Library are revised to cover new library-sharing options in iTunes 9 and iPhoto ’09.
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
How could we not publish such kind words? If you'd like to send us your comments (good or bad, though we hope they're all good), just click the Feedback link on the cover of your copy of the ebook. Be sure to let us know if we can publish your comment. Thanks!
June 2011 -- We love this ebook, but we do not plan to update it for Lion. We are going to take a break and focus on different topics, and perhaps revisit this decision when the next big cat OS X release comes down the pipe.
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.
October 22, 2009 --
If you have Snow Leopard-related questions about accounts, the Take Control series now has the answers in the form of "Take Control of Users & Accounts in Snow Leopard," by Kirk McElhearn, and "Take Control of Sharing Files in Snow Leopard," by Glenn Fleishman.
Take Control of Users & Accounts in Snow Leopard -- Read this ebook to learn how to manage all the accounts on your Mac like a pro, even if you are the only person who regularly logs in. You'll learn how to create the right types of accounts for the different people who use your Mac, why you likely need at least two accounts, and what you can do with the many options in the 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. For those who want still more parental control options than those offered in Snow Leopard, the last page of the ebook includes a coupon worth 25% off on Intego's ContentBarrier X5. 102 pages, $10.
Take Control of Sharing Files in Snow Leopard -- Read along with Glenn as he takes you on a tour of all the nitty-gritty details you need to know to configure file sharing to be fast, effective, and secure. You'll learn how to select and configure the right hardware and software for your needs and budget, consider the pros and cons of different file sharing options, find set-up steps for each of the core Mac OS X file-sharing services - AFP, SMB, and FTP (with tips to help you avoid problems and security risks), get the details on setting up accounts, and learn how to log in to Mac file servers from a variety of major operating systems. The ebook specifically discusses the new Snow Leopard Wake on Demand feature and the quirky Snow Leopard firewall, as well as how to share files from iPhoto '09 and iTunes 9. 109 pages, $10.
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.
October 16, 2009 --
Home Sharing, a new feature in iTunes 9, makes it possible to easily sync purchased iTunes Store 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 around 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 very 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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