Archive for August, 2006

Mac OS X annoyances, part 2: The startup chime

August 20, 2006

Among Windows users, those who haven’t changed the default “tam-tam-tam-tam-taaaaa” start-up sound are often ridiculed by those who consider it an unnecessary disturbance from the computer. And while playing the default sound in your own home is one thing, disturbing others with it is generally frowned upon – like having an overly annoying cell phone ring tone.

Of course, it is possible to turn off this start-up sound, or change it to whatever you like. Personally, I turned it off. Now, I am a Mac user, and OS X is generally more sophisticated and more elegant than Windows. (Some even say “more stable”, which is a statement I cannot entirely support after using OS X Tiger for a month’s time – more on this in a later post.)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Mac startup chime cannot be turned off. You switch on your Mac, and it will say “daaaaa!”. If you mute the volume in OS X before you shut down, the “daaaaaa!” will be muted also, but that’s hardly a consolation. You have to remember to mute the sound before shutting down your computer, and if the startup sound is the only sound you want to mute, you’re out of luck.

Obviously, there should be a setting for turning off the chime. For some reason, there isn’t any. You can, however, get third-party programs that do this – but it’s pretty ridiculous to depend on third-party software for something this basic.

I would’ve liked to know why this feature is missing. Mac fans on the net would say what they nearly always do when confronted with an obvious lacking of the Mac platform (like no right-click button on trackpads) – “Oh, but Mac is different; you just have to get used to it. It’s actually better this way.”

No, it isn’t. There is no good reason why I shouldn’t be able to disable this chime without any further ado. Unfortunately, it appears that the chime has been present in Macs since 1989. Considering the still-missing right button on trackpads, that is not grounds for optimism.

Here’s hoping that the next version of OS X is advertised like this: “The new feature Super Shush enables you to turn on your computer – without a noise!” The fanfare with which the allmighty Wireless Mighty Mouse was launched can still make me laugh (“Now Apple Engineers have made the Mighty Mouse wireless – and that’s without losing a button along the way!”).

If you are still on a PowerPC Mac, it might be worth checking out StartupSound.prefPane: http://www5e.biglobe.ne.jp/~arcana/StartupSound/index.en.html
It should be possible to mute the sound on shutdown and unmute on boot using a shell script. I haven’t tried this, but you could check out http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20051013141919568 and give it a go.
Psst is an application that uses the shell script approach to quiet the chime. It works, but must be running in the background when you shut down.

PS: I know that it’s supposedly possible to mute the chime during boot by pressing F3 or Apple+F3 when the computer is turned on. However, it did not work for me, and it is not a viable solution in any case.