OS X Recipe: Setting up a New OS X Installation at Work

I installed a new hard drive in my work computer, and I'm taking this opportunity to do a clean install of OS X. And I'll be documenting that here, both for myself and because my choices may be instructive to some of you.

I have a Mac Pro from 2006 with dual-core Xeons, 6 GB RAM, and a 250 GB 7200 RPM drive. I replaced the drive with a new 10k RPM hard drive because my system was dog slow whenever I tried do something disk-intensive, such as run a Windows virtual machine. Since I'm now doing a lot of Windows testing, that became a problem.

For the clean install, I booted off a Snow Leopard installation DVD. Once you select the language, go to Disk Utility and repartition the hard drive as a single partition. (Give it a more descriptive name than "Macintosh HD." I called mine "Startup," but "Bob" would also work -- if you'll remember what computer "Bob" is.) Choose a custom install, and deselect the extra languages and language fonts (unless you're going to use one of those languages.) Simmer slowly while it installs. Once it's installed, apply all updates. Apply them again. Apply them until there's no more to be applied. Set the system to NOT auto-login. Let's not just invite the world in, mkay? For the same reason, let's set it to require password to wake from sleep or screen saver. And let's turn on the firewall and open holes only for specific services and applications. Also, take this opportunity to go to the preferences and set a hot corner to start your screensaver. Give your laptop a good name in system preferences, sharing, and turn on Remote Login. Because a computer you can't SSH to isn't much good.

I removed my Downloads, Documents, Music, etc. folders, and replaced them with symlinks to folders with the same name in my DropBox folder:

ln -s ~/Dropbox/Desktop Desktop

I've got the habit of putting all the manually-installed applications (where you drag the program to the Applications folder) to an Applications folder inside my home folder. It makes it easier to keep programs I install separate from programs that came with the system.

I manually install the following programs (in no particular order):

  • LaunchBar - Quicksilver replacement.
  • CrashPlan - Best OS X backup program.
  • Delivery Status (I run it on my iPhone as well. Love this app.)
  • Dropbox - My beloved "magic folder.'
  • Flash Player Update - I yearn for the day when I don't need to install this.
  • CoRD -- simply the best Microsoft Remote Desktop client.
  • Adium - My preference for a chat client.
  • Emacs - The one editor to rule them all.
  • SuperDuper - Best whole-disk hard-drive backup software ever.
  • Timer - For setting a timer when I'm doing something monotonous and need motivation. (Pomodoro technique.)
  • Google Chrome - Best web browser
  • VMWare Fusion - A VM that doesn't show ads.
  • Divvy - Move windows around quickly. A must for shuffling a half-dozen terminal windows.
  • MailPlane - Best way to use gMail on your Mac.
  • Git - Version control tool for programmers.

From the App Store:

  • 1Password - If you get nothing else from this post, get 1Password. It's life-changing. That good. Syncs passwords with Mac, iPhone and iPad.
  • MailMate - My new favorite mail program.
  • JustNotes - Excellent note syncing with the Simplenote web site, Simplenote iOS app, and Dropbox (via Simplenote Web).
  • Soulver - Math problem solving -- I use it as my scratchpad and calculator
  • DaisyDisk - Where did all my hard disk space go? DaisyDisk answers that question.
  • Apple Remote Desktop - Essential for work. I connect to other people's desktops for troubleshooting and updates.
  • PDFPen - Edit PDF files.
  • ReadLater - Desktop Instapaper client
  • Growl - Not sure if I still need this...
  • Kindle - For reading reference books on my Mac
  • Reeder - Google Reader desktop client. Excellent.