Configuring Mac OS X for Interactive Installations

Posted by Jan Vantomme on 10 March 2013.
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When you’ve created an interactive installation, and you want to show it in a museum or gallery, you’ll need to configure and optimize your computer. Just in case something goes wrong. In this article, I’ll take you through some steps you need to keep in mind when you need to configure Mac OS X for use in a public environment.

Energy Saver

Your computer, display and hard disks should never sleep. The computer should also restart automatically when the computer freezes.

Energy Saver

Start and Shut Down Automatically

Add a schedule to energy saver so that the computer can start up before the exhibition begins, and the computer shut down after the exhibition is closed. This is quite handy, as nobody needs to boot or shut down the computer manually.

Start and Shut Down Automatically

Screen Saver

Make sure your screen saver never starts. We’ve all seen the flurry screen saver in museums or galleries, and it doesn’t look very professional.

Screen Saver


Make sure the background of the desktop is set to something that looks like the output of your installation. If your application crashes, the visitors to the gallery will get to see some art, (and not that sexy picture of your girlfriend).

You should also hide all icons on your desktop. Type this into the terminal:

defaults write CreateDesktop -bool false 

If you want to reverse this afterwards when you need to use the computer for regular work again, you can do it by typing this into the terminal.

defaults write CreateDesktop -bool true 

Hide the Dock

Go to the Apple menu > Dock > Turn Hiding On, or press Option + Command + D while in Finder. This will hide the dock so it doesn’t show up when the visitors see your desktop when your app has crashed.

Login Options

Make sure that you use Automatic Login when your computer starts. Otherwise, the start up and shut down schedule you’ve set to boot your installation without any human interaction will fail.

Login Options

Automatically Start Your Application

Add your application to the Login Items of the user you log in with, so your installation will boot automatically. This way the people at the gallery won’t have to boot the installation by hand. Make sure to remove all other applications from that list so they don’t take up any resources.


Set up your network (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) correctly if your application uses the internet. If you don’t need any network connectivity, you should disable it.


If you don’t need Bluetooth, turn it off. Your mac may search for a mouse when you boot it up. If no mouse is available, it will ask for a mouse and your computer won’t start up.


Disable Alert sounds and mute the output volume if you don’t need audio for your installation.

Universal Access

Disable universal access. You don’t need it.


Make sure your display settings are correct, set the correct under scan if you use a TV screen for output.


Disable dashboard, as this usually takes up resources (CPU). You don’t need it for your installation.

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES 

If you want to enable dashboard again afterwards, you can use this:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean NO 


Disable Spotlight. You don’t need it.

sudo mdutil --i off 

To enable it again afterwards, you can use this:

sudo mdutil -a -i on


Restart your applications after they crash by using LaunchAgents. This is an xml/plist file put in a specific directory somewhere in your Library folder. You can use the Lingon app by Peter Borg to create these files if you don’t want to write it yourself.


Disable the Apple remote, or pair your computer with your remote. If you computer is visible and somebody brought a remote (yes, there is always that one funny guy that will mess things up), they might be able to start front row, or mute the volume of your audio output.

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Oldskool Comments (6)

Gravatar for Raphaël de Courville

From: Raphaël de Courville
Date: 10.03.2013

That's a great article. Thanks! Do you also have a trick to deactivate notifications, software update popups and calendar alerts? On ML, deactivating “Show Alerts and Banners” in the notification center works only until the next day.

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Gravatar for kikko_fr

From: kikko_fr
Date: 10.03.2013

nice sum-up! You could even add a checkbox on every headings ;)

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Gravatar for Andrew Roth

From: Andrew Roth
Date: 10.03.2013

Great article. I'd also probably add turning off automatic updates to the list.

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Gravatar for Jan Vantomme

From: Jan Vantomme
Date: 11.03.2013

@Raphael: I don't know how to disable those. Haven't used Mountain Lion in a production environment yet.

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Gravatar for Aaron Westre

From: Aaron Westre
Date: 11.03.2013

I would add remote login/VNC to the list, especially for non-local installations... very useful for fixing those inevitable problems that crop up.

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Gravatar for Jonathan Dahan

From: Jonathan Dahan
Date: 11.03.2013

Heres a screenshot of turning off automatic updates on mountain lion :

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