Monday, April 9, 2012

Downgrading Safari in Snow Leopard

How many of you are sick and tired of the bugs and problems that afflicted Safari since the 5.1 update? I sure have. I have wanted to go back to 5.0.5, which was much more stable than the current version. Apple has updated it 5 times now at 5.1.5, and it has only partially helped.

People have told me that you can't downgrade it; Safari is so integrated into the OS that the normal method of tossing the app and installing a previous version simply doesn't work. In Lion, this is true because Lion started with 5.1. Snow Leopard, however, used to load 5.0, and the final version for 10.6.8v1.1 installed 5.0.5.

Well, I succeeded. I have a Mini running Snow Leopard and Safari 5.1.2, and I finally got it to go backwards. This is what I did:

First, you need to make invisible files and folders visible. The simplest way to do this is to download a Dashboard widget that toggles invisibility off or on. Install it and you get a tiny window that says "Hidden Files" with a single button: Show.

To go back later to hiding them, that button becomes a Hide button when invisibles are showing. There is a Terminal command that will do the same thing, but this is simpler, especially for those who are wary of messing about in Terminal.

Next, Trash Safari from the Applications folder. Then go into the Home Library and move the Safari folder to the Desktop. Then open the main Library at the top level of your hard drive. Open Application Support, Apple, then look for the shaded, formerly-invisible files titled .Safari_Leopard, .SafariArchive.tar.gz and .SafariPath. All those files, and all other invisible files (not necessarily folders) begin with a dot. That is why you can't deliberately begin filenames with a dot; that tells the Mac that it is invisible.

Trash those three files. Then restart the Mac.

At first, I thought I could simply install Safari by running the Safari 5.0.5 DMG installer. But when I tried, the installer told me that "This file requires OSX 10.6.7 or later." Well, I had 10.6.8. None of the installers would work. However, I simply reran the OSX 10.6.8 v1.1 Combo Updater, which I had originally used to update from 10.6.7, and lo, there was a shiny new copy of Safari 5.0.5 and it ran perfectly.

Strangely, all my history and bookmarks were in place! They should have still been in that folder on the Desktop but when I looked inside, I found the contents had moved into the one in Library, and the fresh, empty stock bookmark files had wound up in the one on the desktop.

I can't guarantee that would happen to you, so you want to be prepared to do it manually: Move these files into the Safari folder in your Library: Bookmarks.plist, Configurations.plist.signed, Downloads.plist, Form Values, History.plist, and History The folders and other files you can leave behind; they will update themselves as needed. But if the Installer did it for you, skip this step entirely.

To get the final 10.6.8 Combo Updater, get it from Apple. It's okay to run it on top of your existing version of 10.6.8, and if you never ran the v1.1 updater to that, you also get some important bug fixes that afflicted the original 10.6.8 update.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Software Update Has Been Busy

I should have been more on top of this, but there have been a lot of updates for 10.6 and 10.7 users. Most important are the Java and the Security updates. There have been stories all over the Web and the semi-conscious media about that Horrible New Mac Exploit. Well, the exploit is real, but Apple is on top of it. Just go to Software Update and run it and you will be protected. No need for a commercial anti-malware program. On the other hand, that exploit was around for quite a while before Apple released the patch. If you want to doubly protect yourself, I have always recommended the open-source and free Clam XAV. Easily located through Google and easy to install.

This is NOT a virus. A virus is a specific type of malware that can infect a computer by simply receiving a piece of email with the virus attached. It can launch and install itself, scan your address book and send itself to everyone in it, while pretending to be from someone else randomly picked from that list.

Viruses run only on Microsoft computers. So far, no one has successfully crafted a virus that works the same way in Linux or Mac computers. Yes, there is malware, but only on a one-off variety; meaning they can attack only one computer at a time, and usually require tricking the user into giving it the admin password. Meaning, if you did not deliberately initiate a process (like an installer), do not give it your password!

Longtime Mac users will remember the early days of Mac viruses that spread on floppies and ran under System 7 and 8. They were quashed in System 9 and nothing like them have reappeared.

Important Safari Setting

There is a setting in Safari that Apple, to this day, has set incorrectly. Open Safari Preferences, click on the first icon (General), and at the bottom UNcheck the box that says "Open "safe" files after downloading." I think they put the word Safe in quotes to be ironic. What it is really saying is, "Do you want to open and run any strange piece of crap that downloads itself without giving you any warning?" Duh, no I don't!

This isn't as bad as Chrome and Firefox, though, which do not even give you that option. There is no such checkbox. This is why I continue to use Safari as my primary browser, using the others only on sites that it can't properly handle.


Some people don't like to install Flash at all. The reason is that it is a processor hog and can cause a runaway process from a badly coded video or just a random quark hitting your RAM at the wrong time. Since Google Chrome has their own embedded Flash-like scheme, you can use it to visit those web sites that rely heavily on Flash that you want to see anyway. Examples include FAILblog, Cheezeburger Network, and Vimeo. I do use Flash and rarely have problems and when I do they are usually fixed by quitting and relaunching Safari. I also run the add-on "Click2Flash," which blocks individual flash images from a web page until you click on them to load them. I find that works pretty well, overall. Click2Flash is free; just yahoo, bing or google it. (I'm kidding; no one Yahoos anything!)

Other Updates

There are other updates offered by Software Update. iTunes has a version 10.6.1 which you should get only if you already got the 10.6.0 version. It is required only if you rent or buy 1080p HD videos from the iTunes Store, or you got one of the new iPad 2s models. Otherwise you can stick with 10.5.3 or whatever version you are using now that does not misbehave for you. There have been reports of problems with 10.6 that led to the 10.6.1 update, but that's not news to anyone. There are no other updates to avoid, except those for programs you don't own or use, like iWeb, Pages, Numbers and other iWork apps. Do get updates for iLife because that includes iPhoto even if you don't use iMovie or iDVD.