[OS X TeX] Re: More questions on MacTeX

Rob Rye rye at usc.edu
Tue Mar 11 13:04:15 EDT 2008

> - In the MacTeX readme file it is mentioned that the real directory
> structure of the MacTeX installation (e.g. usr/local or /usr/local/
> texlive/2007) is not visible in the Finder. Instead only Alias of
> these directories are accessible under Library/TeX/Root.
> 	Why is it so?
> 	Is there a way to see the real directory structure either in the
> Finder or somewhere else?

Just a quick note on the question of viewing "hidden" files in the  

If you want to view /usr or some other hidden folder in the finder  
you certainly can follow the shift-Command-G shortcut and enter /usr  
or whatever other entry point you want, as has been suggested.  
However, if, for some reason you want to view these files in the  
finder on an ongoing basis, simply follow the above procedure and  
then drag and drop /usr into your favorites list at the left side of  
the window (the list with Desktop, username, Applications, Documents,  
Movies, Music, and Pictures by default). From now on, until you  
remove it, this folder should sit in the favorites list, and can  
therefore be accessed by click on it at any time. In fact, this  
favorites list is a useful place to put any folders you wish to view  
regularly without having to dig for them. As a general rule, nearly  
everything that you can do via the Terminal there is a way to do it  
via the GUI, either built in or created by a user out there who  
wanted the look and feel of Apple even when doing purely Unix tasks.

Then there is the question of why...

Others have weighed in on why, so I am probably overdoing it, but to  
badly paraphrase Mr. Spock when he was on trial in "The Menagerie",  
when you ask why you have to listen to whatever the defendant wishes  
to present as evidence...

Apple markets computers to users with no understanding of how a  
computer actually works. They like the GUI. The GUI is their friend.  
They know of nothing else, and they like it that way. For their  
sakes, and for the sake of the stability of their operating systems,  
users never should directly interact with the Unix side of the house,  
and so it is hidden by default.

Apple makes fantastic computers, with an incredibly flexible OS, that  
geeks love to use. These users appreciate the GUI and use it, but  
they are not wedded to it. Rather, they often make extensive direct  
use of the Unix-underbelly of Mac OS X. MacTeX is one of myriad  
packages out there that allow still others to take advantage of the  
Unix-underbelly via a GUI. There are standard ways to make use of the  
Unix side directly, most of which involve using the command line  
interface, which Apple makes most easily available via the app they  
call Terminal (for obvious historical reasons). By hiding many files  
from the typical user they protect them from themselves. Only those  
who know what they are looking for will go and look for these hidden  
files. The assumption is that if you know what you are looking for  
and you find it you will be able to handle it without doing any damage.

As Captain Marko Ramius, said "most things in here don't react well  
to bullets." (Hunt for Red October) Someone blundering around in the  
files Apple has chosen to make hidden would probably shoot things  
they should not shoot. Of course, most critical things are also  
protected by belonging to root. Again, Apple, by making it impossible  
for the average user to accidentally login as root protects the user  
from himself. Yes, there are ways around these protections, but you  
have to know what you are doing to get around them. You have to know  
how to login as the sudo user in Terminal, if you want to pretend to  
be root for a few minutes. The vast majority of Mac users will never  
do this. You have to know how to boot the machine in single user mode  
in order to have absolute power over the whole shooting match, free  
to defeat all the protections Apple has put in there for you... don't  
do this at home!!! The vast majority of Unix geeks who use Macs will  
never do that, nor should they. If you do either of those things and  
then make a mess, that is your fault, not Apple's. Ah, so there is  
the heart of their philosophy: Apple does not want the user to feel  
that a problem they have introduced themselves on their machine is  
somehow Apple's fault. Smart marketing...

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