The Adventures of Systems Boy!

Confessions of a Mac SysAdmin...

Tiger's Inspector: A Persistent Complaint

For those who don't already know, the Inspector is a variation on the "Get Info" window that appears when you select a file and choose "Get Info" from the File menu (or press "command-i"). To call the Inspector, add the "option" key to the Get Info call — in File->Get Info, holding "option" will cause the text to change to "Show Inspector," or you can simply press "command-option-i." The Inspector differs from the Get Info window in that it shows dynamic information based on whatever file you select. That is to say, Get Info will only show you information about the file you just selected, but the Inspector will update the information dynamically as other files are selected. It's unbelievably handy. Or at least it was.

The Inspector: Once Very Handy
(click image for larger view)

There has been a bug in Tiger's Inspector that has persisted right up until the latest 10.4.7 release. In Tiger, the Inspector updates its display to show the information for any given file as normal, but the permissions information — the owner and read/write access of a given file — is not updated and remains the same as the originally selected file. The only way to get an accurate view of the permissions is to close and then reopen the Inspector on the given file, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of the Inspector in the first place. I've written about this bug since the inception of 10.4. I've filed bug reports and feedback to Apple. Yet the bug remains, and it looks like it's here to stay. With Mac OS X 10.5 right around the corner and Tiger in its final stages I hold little hope that this bug will ever get fixed.

Inspector: Incorrect Values
(click image for larger view)

It's a real shame. Permissions inspection has been a remarkably helpful tool for me in the GUI, and I miss it a lot. But it also speaks to Apple's lack of quality control in Tiger, and particularly in the Finder. I've been bitching about the Tiger Finder for over a year now. It was one of the initial impetuses for this blog, in fact. I'm more than a little surprised and disappointed to find that a bug perhaps not of major importance to most users, but still one of significance, particularly to power users and admins — an inaccurate view of data — persists in the Tiger Finder to this day, over one year later. I can only hope things improve in 10.5.

Inspector: How It's Supposed to Look
(click image for larger view)

Strangely, I've heard very few people on the Big Bad Internet weigh in on this issue. I'm curious to know if anyone out there besides me has a problem with this. Am I the only one who uses — or attempts to use — this feature? Am I the only one who's bothered by the broken Inspector? Am I the only one complaining about this?

Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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12:25 AM

There are so many things broken with viewing permissions in the Finder, particularly with complicated ACLs... that I just give up and use the shell.    

3:18 AM

Too true. Permissions in the Finder are hosed. I'm comfortable with permissions in the CLI, but most of my students and assistants are not, so it can be a problem. Plus, it's just annoying. The old Inspector was great (and better than the shell for certain things). Though regarding ACLs, I'm still new to them, and I find the CLI output really hard to read. I guess I'll eventually get used to it. Been using Sandbox 'til then, which helps a great deal.

BTW, just looked over your blog. Looks nice. I'll check it out more thoroughly when I get a chance. Nice to hear from a fellow admin.



7:35 PM

Not just a fellow Mac admin, but a fellow Mac Art School admin. :)

Maybe we should try and organise an exchange program... :)

mmm. Nothing like that particularly unique blend of artist and academic...    

11:13 PM

The Finder in OSX has improved a lot since it appeared in OSX public beta, when it was so bad, I remember using rbrowser, an ftp app, just to move files around in the GUI. He he. But the modern finder in Tiger is still flawed, very much so. I never realized how bad until I left my art mac admin job and became a VFX tech. Dealing with 100,000 files in single folder makes the Finder severely barf. I have taught the use of Terminal successfully to editors, artists and others. But those resistant can use some Applescripts which do the shell scripts for them. Don't even try to use the finder.... As for permissions, something we have to deal with all the time, it's Terminal or nothing. ls -lh (not using ACLs in our Xsan centred environment).    

4:52 PM


"Maybe we should try and organise an exchange program... :)"

Maybe a support group is more in order.


5:00 PM


I agree with you on the Finder improvements (I remember RBrowser from my ORIGINAL OSX Server — pre-Aqua), which is why this Inspector bug seems like a step backwards to me. I certainly do all my permissions changes from the Terminal, but when you just need to quickly check permissions on a bunch of files in various directories, that Inspector trick was damn handy and I miss it. But more than anything it just sticks in my craw that it's gone unfixed for so long. Argh!

Guess I'll really have to work on teaching my assistants some UNIX.


10:12 AM

I suspect this bug may be related to an even worse bug I reported to apple regarding the finder and apple script. If you query permission and ownership info from the finder via apple script, then change the permissions (with say a shell script) and requery, it does not return the updated changes.    

7:06 PM

Wow. That's actually pretty shocking. I just assumed that this was a display problem in the Finder's Inspector. But it sounds like it's much deeper than that.

Thanks for the info.


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