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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition by David Pogue

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Forgettable Passwords: The Keychain

The information explosion of the computer age may translate into bargains, power, and efficiency, but it carries with it a colossal annoyance: the proliferation of passwords we have to memorize. Shared folders on the network, Web sites, your iDisk, FTP sites—each requires another password.

Apple has done the world a mighty favor with its Keychain feature. The concept is brilliant: Whenever you log into Mac OS X and type in your password, you’ve typed the master code that tells the computer, “It’s really me. I’m at my computer now.” The Mac responds by automatically filling in every password blank you encounter in your networking exploits (and in your Web-surfing exploits too, if you use a Keychainsmart browser like Safari or OmniWeb). You can now safely forget all of the passwords required for accessing the various other Macs on your network.

Because it’s on all the time and memorizes most passwords automatically, the Keychain winds up being invisible for many people. Just go about your business, tapping into other computers on the network as described earlier in this chapter, connecting to your iDisk, and so on. Behind the scenes, the Mac quietly collects the various passwords so that you don’t need to enter them again.

Locking and Unlocking the Keychain

When your Keychain is unlocked, you can open your password-protected FTP sites, iDisk, network servers, and so on, without ever having to enter a password. Technically, you’re supposed to ...

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