Solving a Problem

Following is a series of steps that can help you solve a problem without asking someone else for help. Depending on your understanding of and experience with the hardware and software involved, these steps may lead to a solution.


Mac OS X comes with extensive documentation. Read the documentation on the specific hardware or software you are having a problem with. If it is a GNU product, use info; otherwise, use man to find local information. For more information refer to "Getting the Facts: Where to Find Documentation" on page 27. See Table B-1 on page 909 for other sources of documentation.


When the problem involves some type of error or other message, use a search engine, such as Google ( or Google Groups (, to look up the message on the Internet. If the message is long, pick a unique part of the message to search for; 10 to 20 characters should be enough. Enclose the search string within double quotation marks.


Use Google (or another search engine) or Google Groups to search on keywords that relate directly to the product and your problem. Read the FAQs.


Check whether the Linux Documentation Project ( has a HOWTO or mini-HOWTO on the subject in question. Material from the Linux Documentation Project does not always apply to Mac OS X, however.


When all else fails (or perhaps before you try anything else), examine the system logs in /var/log. Running as Superuser or using sudo, first look at the end of the system.log file using the following command:

# tail -20 /var/log/system.log

If system.log contains nothing useful, run the following command. It displays the names of the log files in chronological order, with the most recently modified files appearing at the bottom of the list:

$ ls -ltr /var/log

If your problem involves a network connection, review the secure.log log file on the local and remote systems. Also look at system.log on the remote system. Some systems use different names for these files, most often messages and secure.


The /var/spool directory contains subdirectories with useful information: cups holds the print queues and postfix holds mail server files. Other subdirectories of /var contain similarly useful files.

If you are unable to solve a problem yourself, a thoughtful question to an appropriate newsgroup (page 911) or mailing list (page 911) can elicit useful information. When you send or post a question, make sure you describe the problem and identify the local system carefully. Include the version numbers of the operating system and any software packages that relate to the problem. Also describe your hardware, if appropriate.

The author's home page ( contains corrections to this book, answers to selected chapter exercises, and pointers to other UNIX and Macintosh sites.

A Practical Guide to UNIX[r] for Mac OS[r] X Users
A Practical Guide to UNIX for Mac OS X Users
ISBN: 0131863339
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 234

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