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Chapter 8. Customizing User and System Settings
IN THIS CHAPTER
Mac users wouldn't be happy without the ability to customize their systems. Although Mac OS X is a secure multiuser operating system, it gives individuals a great deal of freedom to customize their settings. Even though some restrictions might initially seem odd to users more familiar with a single-user OS, in some ways, Mac OS X users have considerably more freedom than was available in the past. As in versions of the Mac OS before Mac OS X, different desktop backgrounds, screen savers, color profiles, and even speech recognition settings can be customized. However, with Mac OS X, these settings can be customized on a per-user basis so that from any individual's point of view, the machine appears to be configured to exactly his favorite state.
As in previous versions of the Mac OS, a large portion of a user's personalization of his environment is stored in preference files. Under Mac OS X, these files are stored in the user's home directory, which enables each user to personalize his own settings. This also provides a very useful service in allowing those customizations to be shared across multiple machines, although the details of this are a topic for a later chapter. The notion of control panels has given way to the Mac OS X System Preferences panel, but the idea is still very much the same. Using System Preferences, users can choose an individual panel to change a series of related configuration options. Unlike previous versions of Mac OS, however, some user settings and preferences are stored in a network-accessible database. This database (NetInfo) enables certain user settings to be more easily shared among groups of machines.
This chapter covers the available System Preferences panels, as well as an introduction to the NetInfo database. You learn how to interact with the NetInfo database, how System Preferences controls work, and what they change on your system. If you want to fine-tune any areas of the operating system, this is the first place to look.
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