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Alison Rowland

civic hacking and biggish data

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The Linux User's OS X Survival Guide

(Or… how to get work done on a Mac if you’re a Linux junky.)

While normally a Linux user, my current employer has very kindly (and through great institutional effort) supplied me with a gorgeous MacBook Air. I was a Mac user about eight years ago (OSX Tiger!), but switched to Linux full-time a couple years after that, when I realized I just felt more productive in that environment.

The few can’t live without ‘em features for me in Linux include:

  1. Remapping CapsLock to Esc (for vim).
  2. The select to copy, middle click to paste clipboard.
  3. Middle click to open a new browser tab.

We’ll tackle them one-by-one.

Remapping CapsLock to Esc in OS X

You’ll need PCKeyboardHack for this one. It will allow you to change the code generated by the CapsLock key. Set it to 53. The PCKeyboardHack site also says you should go in the OS X system preferences (System Prefs. > Keyboard > Modifier Keys) and set the CapsLock key to “No Action” to avoid experiencing a delay, although I didn’t find it necessary and haven’t noticed any sluggishness.

Emulating Linux’s Select/Copy Middle-Click/Paste

This little-known feature is totally a killer app. One-handed copy and paste with no keyboard input needed. Alternatively, if your hand ends up away from the mouse, you can also hit Shift-Insert to paste from Linux’s special clipboard. I am lost without it. The directions I found online are a bit confused, but after some trial and error, I got it working: select and three-finger tap to paste in iTerm2.

First, you need to set up the association between three-finger tap and middle click in iTerm. Go to iTerm > Preferences > Pointer. At the bottom, under “Miscellaneous Settings” check the box “Three-finger tap reports middle click to apps.” But that alone doesn’t seem to do the trick. In order to get this working, I had to install and keep MiddleClick (for Mountain Lion) running in my system tray.

Two-finger drag to select still has horrible performance in iTerm, however. Please tweet at me if you have an answer for that!

Three-Finger Tap to Open a New Browser Tab

Surprise! This one got fixed as a side-effect of installing MiddleClick. You’re welcome. :)


I am writing this post about a month after resolving these issues, so please let me know if anything here didn’t work out for you, and I will investigate my system settings further.


Thanks to my friend Eric Mill for the idea for the name of this post.