Sunday, June 5, 2011

User Beware

Ok, that's the old adage and common sense, and applies to a lot of things, so what, prey tell, am I referring to here? Well, software for one. As I have noted on another blog I replaced my 2006 Mac G5 PPC, bought 3 months before Apple changed to the Intel chips to power their Mac desktop computers.

Yeah, bad timing, as I learned in 2009 when Apple announced that future versions of their OS-X would only be for Intel chip platforms, and then Adobe announced Creative Suite 5 would be for Intel chips with Snow Leopard (OS-X 10.6). In the summer of 2010 Apple released the last security update for the PPC's.

So, in December of last year I bought a new Mac Pro which should last another 5 years and recycled the PPC to the authorized Apple recycler in California for either some worthy customer or to be parted out. Hopefully the former since it was in excellent shape, only missing the HD's which I removed and now use as external HD's with the new Mac.

So six months later I have the new Mac where it will be minus the normal software updates or upgrades. And to monitor things I bought several software packages to keep track of the Mac and do various system level checks. They're all slightly different and have different tools and features, but one thing they all do which is necessary but irritating, and the point here.

Some applications install system or user level daemons not controllable by the user once installed, except to uninstall the software. This is necessary for monitoring programs, such as TechTool and Checkup, and for backup programs, such as Intego Backup Manager. When you restart the Mac or login (I never log out as I'm the only user), the bootup or login launches the daemons for these apps.

Ok, fine if you want to them to run, but they're only useful when you need them and not 24/7. But the key is you can't remove them unless of course you know OS-X at unix level, which I do but not that well. And you have to have root access, which anyone knows is dangerous. One wrong keystroke or return key and as Michael Waltrip said, "Something in the motor which makes it go broke."

My complaint? Well, one I can't control them, but more so, two, they're resource hogs, either with memory (one takes 400 MBytes of memory) and the other runs nearly continuously. My Mac can take it for both memory and cpu, so it's not serious, but just irritating that you have no control.

But then you don't anymore with Mac's. The software is running checks for a lot of things and almost all now need or use the Internet to send or get information, like updates, eg. Apple's App store and Adobe's updater. Most of the rest wait until you use them and they check the application's Website for updates or information or your registration on their Website.

In addition, these daemons aren't found in the login apps in the system preferences under accounts and login items, or found in the preferences panel or startup items folders. They're installed at unix level in some plist or other file which is read when you restart or login the Mac. And doing anything risks breaking them.

The advantage is that all of this is keeping your Mac informed and working when you're not paying attention or even concerned. Do I like the apps? Yes. So my rant isn't really an important one or even a big one, just an after thought when the applications is installed to realize you're stuck unless you uninstall it.

Such is life these days sitting in front of a computer.

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