How to Fix 10 Mac OS X Annoyances

Like anything in this world, OS X isn’t perfect. As much as we wish it were, there’s a few annoyances that can drive even the most devout fanboys mad. That doesn’t have to be the case. The following list of my personal OS X annoyances are easily fixed if you either know what to do or know what to download. Let’s take a look.

1. The Startup Chime:

Ever since my first Mac, I’ve found the “bong” on startup to be annoying. I used to just stick a broken headphone jack in my Quicksilver G4′s audio out and leave earbuds plugged into my iBook but the Intel Macs changed this little loophole. Even with headphones plugged in it still chimes.

There’s two ways to solve this problem. One way is to mute the sound before you shut down or just keep the sound muted all the time. It’s easy to forget to do this though. The second way is to download either Psst or StartupSound.prefPane.

2. Choose Your Own Default Apps:

I make it no secret, I don’t use iTunes. So when I double click on an .MP3, I don’t want to see iTunes open up. I also want files with extensions like .html, .php, and .css to open up in TextEdit, not Dreamweaver or Firefox. Luckily OS X makes this one easy to fix.

- Open the file’s location in the Finder.

- Select the file and from the File MenuBar item, choose “Get Info”.

- Expand the “Open with:” box if it’s closed.

- Choose the Application you want to use.

- Click “Change All…” to make it your new default application.

3. Right Clicking:

This one is most annoying for recent Windows switchers as OS X veterans know how to right click on a Mac. For those new to OS X, you can right click. Here’s three ways to do it.

- Press the Control Button and Click.

- Put two fingers on the Trackpad and Click.

- OS X responds to a two button mouse.

4. Apps Stay Running Until You Quit Them:

Some like how OS X doesn’t quit the application when you close the last window. Some forget that the app is still running, hogging resources and stealing precious memory from the system. Apple doesn’t provide a way to fix this, however Andy Matuschak and Joe Osborn wrote the incredible open source application, Stoplight to fix this.

5. Time Machine’s Backup Interval:

Sometimes Time Machine’s hourly snapshot is a bit much. You can change it and it’s easy to do.

- Open the /System/Library/Launch Daemons folder.

- Open the file called “com.apple.backupd-auto.plist” in TextEdit.

- Find the following code:

<key>StartInterval</key>
<integer>3600</integer>

- Change the 3600 to however often you want your backups.

Note: 3600 seconds is one hour, 43200 is twelve hours, 86400 is 24 hours.

You can also use Time Machine Scheduler by Stefan Klieme.

6. Unnecessary Spotlight Indexing:

Spotlight is great except when it wants to index portable USB drives, external hard drives and every machine you attach to your Mac in Target Disk Mode. This can be turned off easily in the Privacy tab of Spotlight’s System Preferences pane. However, its annoying if you have to do this for every single thing you attach to your computer.

The best solution I’ve found is Spotless by Fixamac. The feature I like best about Spotless is that you can temporarily turn off Spotlight when you don’t need it and then turn it back on when you do.

7. Annoying Application Installs:

Being asked for Administrator access to drop a file in the Applications folder isn’t such a pain if you have Administrator access. If you don’t, it’s a royal pain. Here’s the solution:

- Create a folder called “Applications” in your Home folder.

- Drop the program there. It will install without Administrator approval.

Next on the list is the unnecessary Package installers that just drop a single file / application in the Applications folder.

- Right click on the Package Installer.

- Choose “Show Package Contents”.

- Open the folder called “Contents”.

- Unzip the “Archive.pax.gz” file.

- Drop the Application in your Applications folder.

Note: If the Package installer is installing more than just a single application in the applications folder, I recommend running the Installer so it installs properly and sets the appropriate file permissions.

8. FileVault Eating up your Free Space:

This isn’t annoying if you practice good computing habits like shutting down your system and emptying the trash every now and then. If you use FileVault and subscribe to the “Close your lid and go” method, you’ll find yourself running out of disk space.

This isn’t something fixed via OS X or a tool, it’s because FileVault operates as an encrypted sparse image. When you log out, you release the sparse image and OS X can resize it without problems. At least in 10.5, this process is much quicker than in 10.3 and 10.4.

My recommended solution to this is to Shut down the computer when you aren’t using it. Upon logout, OS X will resize the folder and release the newly freed space.

9. Limited Power Management Schemes:

Ever take a look at the “Better Performance”, “Normal”, and “Better Energy Savings/Battery” power schemes in OS X? They’re really not that different from each other. Performance lets the screen stay on a few minutes longer than the pitiful 60 seconds you get under battery power with the “Better Battery Life” scheme.

You could set your power management to something you are more comfortable with by using the Custom setting but that’s the annoyance – You only get ONE custom setting. Maybe Snow Leopard will fix this, yet I’m not holding my breath.

Your best bet is to create a custom power scheme with your personal options for both Battery power and A/C Power. Then, if you have a situation where the computer must stay running at all times, download the wonderful freeware Caffeine to keep your Mac awake. Just be sure to disable the unnecessary Screen Saver.

10. The Overly Sensitive Ambient Light Sensor:

Anyone with a backlit keyboard on their MacBook Pro knows the annoyance of this one. Basically as you type, both the screen’s brightness and the keyboard’s backlight go in and out. It’s because your hands create a shadow on the sensor and it thinks the light in your workspace has changed. To fix this:

- Open System Preferences and choose “Displays”.

- Uncheck the “Automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes” checkbox.

These ten annoyances are some that I’ve personally experienced but I’m sure it’s not all of them. Tell us of your own OS X annoyances and how you solved them in the comments below.

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