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Xfile
FAQ

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Q. Xfile looks a lot like Windows Explorer.

A. So does the Gnome File Manager. So does the KDE Konqueror, the program on which Safari was based. All Unix file browsers look like this - all except Finder. Finder isn't even a Unix file browser. OS X might be Unix, but Finder isn't - it's not even Cocoa.

But it's more than a design consideration. The Finder suffers not only because it offers such a limited amount of information in a difficult format but because its design means it's going to be either a memory hog or sluggish or both. Read more here. And here.

Q. What is the difference between a Mac browser and a Unix browser?

A. OS X is Unix, not a MacOS, and yet it's retained HFS as its way of implementing the Unix file system. Unfortunately Finder gives you precious little either way: file sizes are not broken down into data fork and resource fork, there is no indication of what files have resource forks, and the Finder cannot create Unix hard links and symbolic links, to name a few shortcomings.

What's more, the Finder doesn't show you the Unix-specific data on files, such as their inodes and user defined flags, meaning you have no way of detecting hard links or knowing why some file system items are inaccessible.

Q. Why doesn't Xfile include the functionality of Xfind and Xscan? It would be a lot more convenient with search capabilities in the same program.

A. Because it's bad design. The design you speak of will only be optimal for precisely the situation you have in mind. Keep the programs separate and they're more flexible. Besides, smaller more finite bodies of code mean more rugged bug-free crash-proof programs. The difference in how one works with these programs is almost non-existent.

Q. Do Xfind and Xscan leave index files on my disk?

A. No. Index files are inaccurate and a poor substitute for speed. Write the programs right and the results are always 100% accurate with no disk space clutter and waste.

Q. How can I get Xfile to open at other than my home directory?

A. Xfile is a 'Cocoa document-based application', even though it doesn't edit documents per se. Put the directory you're after on a command line in a shell script. Xfile will always open new windows at the directories dropped on its Dock icon: drop one and see. This also works interchangeably with Xfind and Xscan.

Q. I can't drop files from the Finder onto Xfile.

A. This is by design. You can do it the other way around, as Xfile must export the common file dragging format. But the Xfile message to the Finder is otherwise clear: 'hands off!'

Q. Can I turn off display of hidden files? Can't you mark them in a different colour?

A. There are no hidden files in Xfile. The program is counting on you to be intelligent and to use discretion. Live up to its expectations. They're not in a different colour because they're not really hidden - they're only hidden in the Finder.

Q. How can you make the Xfile System programs so compact?

A. That's classified. We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you. We're selling something valuable here, Bubba - we're not about to give it or the secrets away.

Q. You say the Xfile System programs can help me find hard links. How do I do that?

A. Easy: sort your file listings by inode; if any files match, they're the same physical file. There is otherwise no facility in Unix for backtracking from an inode to a file name - that information is not stored anywhere. Xscan can audit your system for several potential security weaknesses - including multi-linked files (and you should find several hundred).

Q. There are directories on my hard drive that Xfile can't get into. I know because I can see them. But when I click them, nothing happens.

A. You can't get into them because you don't have permission to enter. The Unix file system is a 'secure' file system, meaning you have to always have permission to even navigate into directories. Xfile can escalate you beyond these limitations, but the recommended way is to drop to a Terminal (Xfile has a command which puts you in your current working directory with Terminal) and do what you want from there. Running a Cocoa application with escalated privileges is always risky: malicious code on your hard drive may be waiting for an opportunity to hijack your root account. As always, computing has to be a blend of convenience and security. If you were absolutely sure your hard drive contained no malicious code, then you could escalate Xfile (the facility is there) but who can ever be 100% sure? Better to use the Terminal: it's a lot more difficult for malicious code to hijack a system through a console process.

Q. I'd like to add my favourite applications to the Xfile menu. How do I do that?

A. You don't have to. The system automatically knows where all applications are at all times. You never need to supply a full path to an application, nor do you need to suffix the 'app' extension. Just use the 'Open' sheet in Xfile and put in the name of your application in the second field. If AOL users can type keywords instead of clicking links, you can do the same.

Q. What is the difference between a hard link, a symbolic link, and an alias? Why won't Xfile let me create aliases?

A. A hard link is simply a new name for a file that already exists on disk. Both the hard link and the original name refer to the same physical file. A symbolic link is simply a special file containing a path to another file. The alias, a remnant of MacOS, relies on the HFS catalog node ID and is not compatible with Unix. Aliases only exist as long as HFS remains in use. Unix has no clue about them and doesn't want one either - so they're best forgotten.

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