Cocktail 3.5.2, by Szymanski
Posted: 27-Feb-2005

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Kristofer Szymanski Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Steve Lazarus Class: UTILITY
     
$14.95   Download

Overview
Cocktail is a utility for Macintosh OS X that allows access to user interface adjustments, administration of Unix functions that are underneath OS X, and access to Unix log files. It provides a graphical user interface to many tools that typically can only be accessed from a Unix command line.


Price

$14.95
A family pack (covering up to 5 household computers) is available for $29.95. Other license packs are also available.

You may try it free for 30 days.


Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.3 is required for version 3.5.2

    NOTE: Version 3.4.9 is available for OS X 10.2

Reviewed on

  • Macintosh G4 Dual 1.2 MHz
  • Mac OS X 10.3.7 (Panther)
  • 1024MB RAM


Setup
Cocktail may be downloaded from the
vendor web site. The downloaded disk image automatically launches and prompts for agreement to the software. Clicking "Agree" opens the disk image on the desktop. The application is installed by dragging from the disk image to your destination folder. I chose to create a "Cocktail" folder in my "Applications/Utility" folder and dragged the application and its "extras" folder (which contains documentation and some "droplets" into this folder.

In Use
On launch Cocktail prompts for an adminstrator password. After the password is entered, a window appears providing access to its set of tools.


Cocktail 3.5.2 Dialog

A help menu provides good built-in help, release notes, and connection to the vendor's web sit for online support.

Clicking on each of the icons selects the associated functions.

Disks
This panel allows journaling to be enabled or disabled, permissions to be repaired, and idle disk spin down settings to be specified. In MacOS 10.3 all of these options are available from Apple. On previous releases of OS X journaling is build into the system but Apple does not provide an interface to it.

Journaling, Permissions and Spindown options under Disks

System
Here Cocktail provides some functionality not provided by Apple (except perhaps from the Unix command line.) The "Prebinding" option duplicates what is happening when "Optimizing System Performance" occurs during an installation. Running this can be useful if a problem occurred during an installation. The Unix daily, weekly, and monthly scripts can be run by hand. This is is useful if your computer is not awake in the middle of then night when they system runs these scripts. The Startup button allows the system to startup with verbose logging (in the language of your choice!) or in single user mode. This can be useful if your are having a startup problem and/or know what your doing from the Unix command line. The "Misc" option rebuilds some Unix databases (whatis and locate) which are only of interest to command line users. An finally there is the item that is probably the most useful to the non-guru - force empty trash. This solves the frustrating problem of permissions preventing the Finder from emptying the trash.

Prebinding, Scripts, Startup, Sleep and Misc options under System

Files
Here there are some functions that can help the "general user". A variety of system, internet, and user cache files can be cleaned. This often can cure strange user problems. Locked files can be deleted. The invisible "DS Store" files can be deleted. These don't effect the Mac user but can appear as "garbage" when directories are transferred to a PC. System log files can be examined or rotated. Caches (including such items as cookies) can be "cleaned". Examining log files (which can also be accessed using the Apple Console application) is useful when you know what your are looking for or are being guided by a vendor seeking information. As an old Unix guy, I do find these files of occasional interest. Symbolic links (the Unix version of an alias) can be created and files or folders can be locked or unlocked.

Locked, DS Store, Caches, Logs, Links and Misc options under Files

Network
The setting of most general use here is "Optimization". This sets TCP window sizes for the speed of your network connect, increasing network performance. The speed of your ethernet card can be adjusted. I found this useful a while back when I had a flakey ethernet hub that did not properly detect the network speed. The "File Sharing" options look amusing but I've got nobody to share with.


Cards, Optimization and File Sharing options under Network

Interface
This provides the most amusement for the general user. Interface properties of the Finder, Dock, Expose, Mail, Safari, and "Misc" can be changed. The Safari "Debug" menu can be turned on, giving access to changing the "User Agent". Doing so has enabled me to fool a server which insisted that I be running Internet Explorer. Among the Finder tweaks is the ability to place scroll arrows at both ends - saving mouse mileage. Other options include showing invisible items, showing Quit in the Finder menu, setting the dock in more positions than allowed by Dock preferences, adding a custom message to the login window, and more.

Finder, Dock, Expose, Mail, Safari, Login and Misc options under Interface

Pilot
This enables scheduling some of the other OS X operations, such as managing the cron files by day of week and time, or by events such as startup, shutdown, or logout.

Tasks and Scheduler options under Pilot

Preferences
Enabled by default here is an option to automatically check for updates. This did notifiy me of an update during the course of this review.

Options under Cocktail Preferences

The Cocktail interface is clean and simple to use. A nice caution icon is displayed to warn of potentially dangerous settings. The layout of the interface makes it easy to explore Cocktail's capabilities. A Help menu provides a link to local help files, online help, and release notes. The developer has been very attentive to supporting older versions of Mac OS X and quickly adapting to new releases. This all serves to produce a very positive user experience.

With this kind of tool, one has to ask the question "But is it dangerous?" For the most part, the answer is "no" (there may be some risk when fair warning is provided, and the user proceeds anyway). Many of features are duplicates of those provided by Apple. Others use features provided by Apple or the underlying Unix OS but for which easy access is not provided. Application behavior is changed by editing default files for options not provided by the application's preference pane. For example, turning on the Safari debug menu is accessible from the command line by typing "defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebug Menu 1". This capability is unlikely to become apparent to the casual user.

Summary
Cocktail is a utility for Macintosh OS X that allows access to user interface adjustments, administration of Unix functions that are underneath OS X, enabling of hidden application features, and access to Unix log files. It can be an extremely useful tool. For the guru, it allows a lot of poking and adjusting under the covers. For the casual user it provides access to system tuning, interface adjustments, and problem fixing. If you wish to turn on extra features, try to fix Mac problems, or are just curious about how your Mac tics, Cocktail is a valuable addition to your toolkit.


Pros

  • Provides the non-Unix user access to underlying functionality
  • For the guru, it is a good centralized "management console"
  • Provides the novice some easy repair services (e.g., locked trash delete, cache cleanup)
  • Good built in help with connection to vendor online support
  • Clean well defined interface

Cons

  • Much of its functionality will not make sense to a casual user
  • Some of its functionality is redundant with OS X supplied tools


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice