MacJanitor 1.2.1, by Brian Hill
Posted: 4-Nov-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Brian Hill Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: John Gebhardt Class: UTILITY
     
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Overview
Most OS X users are aware of the fact that the Unix heritage of the OS means that various housekeeping tasks are run by the system on a periodic basis. Most of the significant jobs are scheduled to run in wee hours of the morning on a daily , weekly or monthly basis. The problem is that, unless you leave your Mac on continuously, most of these jobs will never run. Most home based Macs and PowerBooks are not left on all the time. How, then, can we be sure that we keep the machine "clean" and prevent unnecessary performance degradation? If you are an experienced Unix user, you could write your own "chron jobs" to schedule the maintenance at more convenient times or reschedule the exiting jobs. Or you can take the easy way out and install MacJanitor. MacJanitor is a small (680 kb), FREE, application that will run these jobs on demand.

Requirements
MacJanitor 1.2.1 is an OS X only utility. I have used it on 10.2.8 and it is reported to work with 10.3.x

Setup
The software is available as a download from VersionTracker and the
developer's site. Installation consists of mounting the .dmg file and dragging the application to your Applications or Utilities folder. Double clicking the MacJanitor icon opens the application.

In Use
Use of MacJanitor is very simple and direct. Upon opening the application, you are presented with options for Daily, Weekly, Monthly or All Tasks. Clicking on any one will initiate the OS housekeeping related to the time period that you select. Recommendations are that you run the tasks as they are named, but this is not absolutely critical. As you would expect, the more your Mac is used, the more frequently you should perform the housekeeping. I usually end up running the Daily and Weekly once a week, or when I forget I just run the "All Tasks" at least once a month. There is no harm in running the tasks more frequently than required.


The MacJanitor application icon (above) and the MacJanitor Console window (below)

Given its name, I was expecting to see an option to perform permission repairs as well, but there is no such option available.

Here are brief descriptions of what MacJanitor is doing:

Daily Script

  • If the rwho system has been configured, clear out the old files in /var/rwho (rwho - who is logged in on local machines)
  • Clear out files old files and directories in the /tmp and /var/tmp directories
  • Remove system messages older than 21 days
  • If system accounting is on, process the accounting files and gather daily statistics
  • Backup the NetInfo database (network administrative information)
  • Output to the console window the disk capacities and storage available
  • Show in the console window which filesystems haven't had 'dump' performed on them in a while (helps identify unused or bloated files)
  • Show in the console window the accumulated network statistics and network uptime (ruptime)
  • Rotate the system.log file and restart the syslog process
  • Clear out the webserver log files older than a week
  • Run the /etc/daily.local script if it exists - this is the standard daily housekeeping script that exists by default. It would normally run automatically in wee hours or can be run from the terminal.
  • Run a /etc/security check script if it exists - this checks control routines for "terminal special files"


Weekly Script

  • If the /usr/libexec/locate.updatedb database exists, update the 'locate' database - The locate database is a database for all pathnames which match the specified pattern(file name or description). The database is recomputed periodically, and contains the pathnames of all files which are publicly accessible. The data base is used to expedite the "locate" command to quickly find files.
  • If the /usr/libexec/makewhatis.local file exists, rebuilt the 'whatis' database - The 'whatis' database is a set of database files containing short descriptions of system commands for keywords.
  • Rotate the following log files: ftp.log, lookupd.log, lpr.log, mail.log, netinfo.log
  • Restart the syslog process
  • Run the /etc/weekly.local script if it exists - this is the standard weekly housekeeping script that exists by default. It would normally run automatically in wee hours or can be run from the terminal.


Monthly Script

  • Run the login accounting process - This outputs (to the console window) a history of user logins showing the duration of each access and the total access time since the last run of the process.
  • Rotate the wtmp log files
  • Restart the syslog daemon
  • Run the /etc/monthly.local script if it exists this is the standard monthly housekeeping script that exists by default. It would normally run automatically in wee hours or can be run from the terminal.


I have used MacJanitor for several years with no problems. The documentation indicates that there are no known bugs, which seems reasonable since its basic function is pretty simple. At the discussion group on the developers website, a few people have reported problems, but they are probably traceable to other issues. You can, of course, perform the same functions using the Terminal window by issuing these commends:

sudo sh /etc/daily
sudo sh /etc/weekly
sudo sh /etc/monthly

For me, it is more convenient to use the MacJanitor GUI than running the Terminal program and typing in the above commands. The application produces a log of it's actions which can be saved or deleted from the same window used to run the commands. All of the tasks are also controllable from the Menu bar.

Summary
MacJanitor is a simple, friendly, reliable and useful utility for keeping your OS files clean and tidy. It does not do much more than you could do yourself by other means. It is not really necessary for use on servers or other machines that are "always on". It has a small footprint and is easy to install. MacJanitor is very useful for people that are occasional users and not comfortable with the Terminal, and also useful for PowerBooks or secondary machines that may only see intermittent use.

Pros

  • Simple GUI to perform cleanup jobs
  • Small footprint and easy to install
  • Conforms to Mac interface standards
  • Free


Cons

  • Does not include an option to repair permissions
  • Unnecessary for computers that are always on


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice