The best free open source software for Mac OS X

If you live and work on a Mac, you'll want to try these 10 killer open source apps -- InfoWorld's top picks

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Fix your Mac with AppleJack

Why is one of the simplest ways to mend a sluggish Mac is to "fix the permissions"? Who changes the permissions on my files? Shouldn't I know? Shouldn't I -- what is that word? -- give permission for the change? What good are permissions if some gremlin can just come in and change them without asking me?

One way to fix the permissions and perform a host of housekeeping chores is to run AppleJack, an open source tool that triggers many of the standard housekeeping scripts like disk repair and cache cleanup. The only limitation is that you need to run it in Single User mode (hit Command-S at startup).

[ If the screen images in this article don't display properly, view them in the original story at InfoWorld.com. ]

AppleJack won't ask you how you want to set the permissions because, well, that would shatter the myth by letting you, the system owner, know what's going on. So don't worry your pretty little head. The permissions will all be fixed and your Mac will run faster and smoother. If you ask too many questions, you'll end up burning the time you've saved by making your Mac more efficient -- so don't.

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AppleJack can resurrect a dead Mac by cleaning up the detritus left by system crashes.

Get past Front Row with Boxee, Plex, or XBMC

Apple's Front Row tool will turn your Mac into a living room computer by displaying all of the crucial media choices in big letters so that you can manipulate the menus from your couch. The software combined with the tiny, six-button mouse is one of the most elegant achievements by the Apple design team. It's not extensible, however. Perhaps Apple wants complete control. Perhaps the company is staffed by design fascists. Who knows?

There are three good alternatives to Front Row, and they all share much of the same code. The XBMC project offers a skinnable tool with many of the same features as Front Row, and it distributes builds for the major OSes. If you attach your TV to a Mac with some decent speakers, you'll get a media center that will play music and Internet video directly from your couch.

The story grows complicated because two other groups began to use the XBMC code. The Plex project is a true fork that is available for one and only one machine, the Mac. The code from XBMC continues to migrate toward Plex, but the Plex code base is optimized for Mac OS X.

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