Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

Spotlight just kinda’ works. Except when it doesn’t. Which is luckily pretty rare, for the use cases that Spotlight was designed for. But when it doesn’t work, you have a few tools that I’ve highlighted over the years to help you out, including articles on shared volumes, manually indexing, disabling Spotlight, and a few others. But what if you need to go in more depth to isolate an issue? For this, Apple has provided us with a tool called mddiagnose, in /usr/bin. In the following command, we’ll run an mddiagnose to dump a bunch of system statistics that we can then look at. Here, we’ll do that to a folder called test in our current working directory: /usr/bin/mddiagnose -f test The output is then test.mdsdiagnostic, a directory with a CrashReporter, spindump, Samples, DiagnosticReports, a few system.log exports, and a diagnostic.log. You can then view your log using the more command (or cat or less or whatevers) more ~/test.mddiagnostic/diagnostic.log Here, you’ll see the output of a bunch of scripts that were run. I find that this is the most informational aspect of what I get from the mddiagnose output. Every time I’ve actually fixed an issue here, it’s been with this output. The other aspect of mddiagnose that I’ve found useful is checking permissions and paths. Here, you can answer the simple question of whether mdutil has permissions to check a path. We’ll do so using the -p option: mddiagnose -p /Library/Application\ Support/Appifitizer Enjoy! Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.11.01 AM

December 15th, 2015

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Mass Deployment

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Looks like I’m on the back page of the latest issue of MacTech Magazine (see Table of Contents at And it turns out I’m not there for the reason I usually adorn the back page of magazines; I’m fully clothed and for the most part it’s technical: I’m the MacTech Spotlight. If I keep this up, I’ll be able to keep my clothes on full time in the future. Not sure what will happen to my spot at Sunset and LaBrea now, though… Anyway, despite featuring me, MacTech is a great magazine. Where else can you find information on Adobe packaging, QuickLook development, building a Squid proxy, HTML5 and CSS3 design, OpenBSM, keeping nasty network attacks out of Mountain Lion and AppleScriptObjC. I mean seriously, great stuff!

December 12th, 2012

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, personal, public speaking

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When you search for files the Finder window with the results has what is known as the Path Bar. As you can see in the below image, the Path Bar allows you to click on any directory in the hierarchy up to the one you are on and open that directory in the Finder.
The Path Bar in Mac OS X

The Path Bar in Mac OS X

By default, the Path Bar is only shown in a search result, but if you like it then you can see it in every Finder window. To enable this feature, create a boolean key in the with a value of yes. To do so, you can use the defaults command:
defaults write ShowPathBar -bool YES
To go back to having the Path Bar disabled:
defaults write ShowPathBar -bool NO

February 4th, 2010

Posted In: Mac OS X

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Spotlight has had a pretty checkered past with Xsan. But things are looking a little better and if you want to try enabling it again, once you’ve fully updated to 2.2 you can do so without too much fanfare. Simply locate the config file for the name of the volume you wish to enable spotlight for, which is in /Library/FileSystems/Xsan/config and is named with the name of the volume followed by a .cfg file extension. Once located, open the file in your favorite text editor (ie – pico, vi, etc). Then, locate the entry for EnableSpotlight, which should be set to No. Change the No to a Yes. You can also enable two different levels of searching:
  • FsSearch, which only searches file system attributes (names, etc)
  • ReadWrite, which indexes content on the SAN the same way spotlight behaves for normal direct attached volumes.
To enable either, simply add a line below EnableSpotlight that reads similar to the following (based on the level of indexing you are comfortable with), starting with SpotLightSearchLevel and ending with the type of search you would like to perform:
SpotLightSearchLevel FsSearch
SpotLightSearchLevel ReadWrite
Once enabled restart the service. While you shouldn’t, you may need to run mdutil (although you shouldn’t have to any more, but I’ve had to a couple of times) to get the spotlight indexing process kicked off. To do so run the mdutil command with the -E option, as you can see here (assuming a volume name of NAMEOFVOLUME):
mdutil -E /Volumes/NAMEOFVOLUME
You can then check the status of the indexing process using the -s option with mdutil, as follows(assuming a volume name of NAMEOFVOLUME):
mdutil -s /Volumes/NAMEOFVOLUME
If for some arbitrary reason spotlight chooses not to index a folder (happens with Xsan in my experience), then you can use the mdimport command with the -f option:
There will also be times when indices are built either using the wrong UID or where a failover during indexing causes corruption (my best educated guess as to why this happens). When it happens, simply RM the .Spotlight-V100 directory of the volume as you can see here:
rm -ri /Volumes/NAMEOFVOLUME/.Spotlight-V100
Also keep in mind that the same rules of what does not get indexed apply to Xsan volumes that apply to direct attached volumes. Namely, the following will be skipped:
  • Hidden files (including those with names that contain leading periods).
  • Invisible files (those using the kIsInvisibleFinder flag).
  • Files that have been nested inside hidden or invisible folders.
Finally, if you wish to programmatically check that files have been indexed, you can use the mdfind command. This is especially helpful when comparing the results from an Xsan client and the current metadata controller in your environment.

October 8th, 2009

Posted In: Xsan

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Whether it’s an Xsan with a wacky mdworker thread, a regular old box trying to scan a whole bunch of files you want it to skip or even a directory that you want to keep private, you can tell Spotlight not to scan a specified folder on your system. Simply use the following command, with the working directory of the shell as whatever directory you want skipped:
touch .metadata_never_index
In other words, create a file called .metadata_never_index in a folder and Spotlight will skip it. This isn’t to say it skips subfolders…

August 28th, 2009

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Xsan

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Spotlight has a nifty integration of keystrokes (or the Command keystroke at least).  Simply perform a search and then use the Command key in combination with an arrow to move and up and down in search results based on section rather than line item.  Additionally, that Command key can be used in conjunction with the Enter key so that when you open an item in the Spotlight results, it actually just displays the directory so you can then open the file in the Finder (and subsequently access other files in those directories as needed).

March 28th, 2009

Posted In: Mac OS X

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To Disable Spotlight for Mac OS X you can stop the Spotlight processes from being invoked by launchd.  To do so use the following commands: launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ To re-enable it you would simply load up your launchd processes again like so: launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/ launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

November 23rd, 2008

Posted In: Mac OS X, Xsan

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When client systems need to search the server quickly you can enable Spotlight on the Share Points.  To enable this, open Server Admin -> File Sharing -> Share Points -> Click the Share Point in question -> Click Share Point -> Check the box for Enable Spotlight -> Click Save. Then have a nice long steak dinner.

April 28th, 2008

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server

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Command-Spacebar can be used to invoke the spotlight box. Then type the name for an application and hit enter. This will open the app.

December 4th, 2006

Posted In: Mac OS X

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