Mac 911

In this month's Mac 911, the "eyes" have it. The column begins with all things visual -- from driving multiple monitors, to capturing pictures from a DVD, to adding material to a DVD, to making an LCD display shine. Then we explore a few less-visual topics, including speed-testing Web browsers, revealing what's on your Mac's mind, and examining Sherlock indexing in Mac OS X.

Double Your Pleasure

My Power Mac G4 display card can drive either a flat-screen or a CRT monitor. Is there OS X-compatible software that will let me drive both monitors simultaneously, or does that require a special video card?

-- John Garrison, Orinda, California

The ability to drive two displays is determined by hardware rather than software. To run both displays, you must pony up for either a separate display card or a replacement graphics card that supports simultaneous display on two monitors.

Most new graphics cards support two monitors. ATI Technology's entry-level offering, the $129 Radeon 7000 Mac Edition (905/882-2600, http://www.atitech.com), sports DVI and VGA connectors, as well as an S-Video connector for sending video output to a TV, but it doesn't support Apple's proprietary Apple Desktop Connector. It can display video on two monitors at the same time, either mirrored or in extended video mode (which divides the viewing area between the two monitors).

The Radeon 7000 is a capable card, but if you're a hard-core gamer or a graphics professional who needs more oomph from a graphics card, you may want to opt instead for ATI's $299 Radeon 8500 Mac Edition. This AGP-based card (compatible with both 2Yen and 4Yen AGP slots) also carries DVI, VGA, and S-Video ports.

If you're a bargain hunter, check eBay for the original ATI Radeon Mac Edition card. Although ATI continues to sell this card for $179, you should be able to get a used one for a lot less.

Color Bind

My new Titanium PowerBook G4 has a tiny red spot in its display that won't change colors, no matter which program I'm running. What can I do?

-- Molly Cruz, San Diego, California

Take up massage. Wait -- before you dash out for a gallon of almond oil and a case of frangipani-scented candles, allow me to explain.

Your PowerBook is suffering from a stuck pixel -- meaning that the light-emitting element responsible for changing that pixel's color is jammed or broken. LCDs commonly have a few stuck and dead pixels. To create nothing but pixel-perfect displays would be too costly for manufacturers, and a few of these faulty elements are therefore considered acceptable.

That doesn't prevent them from being annoying, though -- particularly on a PowerBook that set you back the equivalent of half a San Francisco mortgage payment. You might be able to coax this pixel back to life by gently pressing and massaging the screen directly over the pixel (you may have to add a little pressure from the back as well). This technique isn't guaranteed to revive the pixel, but it's worth a shot.

Frame Game

How can I capture screen shots of a DVD video that's playing on my Mac?

-- Sam Inglis, Springfield, Massachusetts

If you have a Mac that's running OS X 10.1 or later and that has an Nvidia graphics chip set, you can capture screen shots from a DVD with Ambrosia Software's Snapz Pro X version 1.0.1 or later (http://www.ambrosiasw.com). Just start playing the DVD on your Mac, pause playback at the point where you want to capture an image, invoke Snapz Pro X, and use the Selection tool to capture the screen.

With the $49 version of Snapz Pro X, you can create QuickTime movies of the material playing from a DVD. Note that Snapz Pro can't capture the DVD's sound, and the resulting QuickTime movie will stutter badly unless you reduce DVD Player's screen size by at least half before capture.

A host of other tools can extract files directly from DVDs instead of capturing their output (these applications require only a graphics card that supports DVD playback). The film industry would like you (and members of the U.S. Senate) to believe that employing tools such as Yet Another DVD Extractor, or YADE http://www.opuscc.com/download/FTP/yade.sit), and Fair Use (http://homepage.mac.com/fairuse) -- free tools that you can use to extract DVD data and, potentially, to copy a DVD -- violates the law. Until more laws are passed, that view remains opinion, not fact. If you extract material from a DVD and distribute it -- for profit or not -- you've certainly violated the law and can be prosecuted. However, if you capture a frame of a DVD for your own use -- to create a Spinal Tap desktop picture, say -- the feds are unlikely to toss you into the hoosegow.

For more information, take a look at this discus-sion on Ric Ford's MacInTouch site: http://www.macintouch.com/dvdcapture.html#apr15.

Making Movies

How do I create a DVD of files I've downloaded from the Web?

-- Joe Moilaneu, Tukwila, Washington

Please bear in mind that downloading and using copyrighted material without the owner's permission is of questionable legality. Therefore, let us confine our discussion to legal material -- the movie your son took of your granddaughter and posted on the Web, for example.

You may be stopped before you start if the downloaded file is incompatible with QuickTime. In the March 2002 Mac 911, I discussed the difficulty of playing certain types of video files on the Mac because the codecs necessary to play these files aren't available in Mac-compatible form. To determine whether a movie will play on your Mac, attempt to open the file in QuickTime Player. If it opens and plays, you're well on your way. (Note that MPEG-1, QuickTime VR, and QuickTime movies that feature sprites won't play from a DVD.) If the file isn't QuickTime compatible, either follow the advice in the aforementioned column and try to convert it, or contact the person who created the movie and ask him or her to create a Mac-friendly version. When you have that Mac-friendly file, just import it into iDVD or DVD Studio Pro and burn like there's no tomorrow.

Browser Battle

I hear a lot of arguments about the benefits of one Web browser over another. I care only that my browser runs as quickly as possible. Can you give me a rundown on how the various Mac Web browsers perform?

-- Jackson Lowe, Houston, Texas

With pleasure. I asked the Big Brains in Macworld Lab to devise a test suite that would measure each browser's performance in both OS 9 and OS X.

To keep Internet congestion from influencing the test's results, the Lab folk created a Web site on a 500MHz Power Mac G4 running Mac OS X Server and used a crossover cable to connect that server to an 800MHz Power Mac G4 running first OS 9.2.2 and then OS X 10.1.3. The test site consisted of four pages of images, text blocks, and QuickTime movies. The testers measured how long each browser took to fully load the site.

In the OS 9 tests, Netscape 6.2.2 (650/254-1900, www.netscape.com) took the prize by loading the site in 48 seconds. Mozilla 1.0.0 Release Candidate (http://www.mozilla.org) came in next, at 53 seconds. Internet Explorer 5.1.4 (800/426-9400, http://www.microsoft.com) and iCab Preview 2.7.1 (http://www.icab.de) lagged way behind -- the first took 2 minutes and 22 seconds; the second, 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

In OS X, Internet Explorer 5.1 bested the rest, at 33 seconds. Netscape 6.2.2 followed close behind, at 35 seconds. Mozilla 0.9.9 took the bronze, at 40 seconds. OmniWeb 4.1 beta 1 (800/315-6664, http://www.omnigroup.com) was just behind, at 41 seconds; Chimera Navigator .02 (http://chimera.mozdev.org) finished in 45 seconds; and iCab Preview 2.7.1 clocked in at 49 seconds. Opera 5.0 (http://www.opera.com) took an astonishing 13 minutes and 21 seconds.

The browsers bogged down in different places. In OS 9, for example, Internet Explorer had a tough time with the last page, which was heavy on text and GIFs. iCab had an equally difficult time with animated GIFs in OS 9. And the first page, which contained four QuickTime movies, nearly killed Opera running in OS X.

Bear in mind that we designed these "torture tests" to expose obvious weaknesses and provide a general idea of how the browsers performed when pushed. Your mileage may -- and probably will -- vary.

Regardless of which browser you choose, you can do a few things to speed up its performance. For example, you can switch off images, disable the JavaScripts that produce pop-up windows, and either completely allow or deny cookies so you're not constantly bombarded with requests to accept or reject these little info nuggets.

Hot Topic

My 600MHz iMac running OS X bogs down after I've worked with it for a while. I launch ProcessViewer to see what's causing the slowdown and notice that something called LaunchCFMApp is using a high percentage of the CPU. I've even seen multiple instances of this thing. What is LaunchCFMApp and how can I keep it from slowing down my iMac?

-- Robert Cattel, Cincinnati, Ohio

The LaunchCFMApp name is deceptive. It refers not to a specific application but to any Code Fragment Manager Carbon application that runs natively in both OS 9 and OS X. AppleWorks and Adobe Acrobat 5 are examples of this kind of application. That's why ProcessViewer may reveal several instances of LaunchCFMApp.

You can determine which of these LaunchCFM-App applications is putting the hurt on your iMac's performance by randomly quitting running applications and seeing if performance improves. But you'll likely encounter more success if you launch the Terminal application and type top instead.

The top command lists all running processes and, among other things, tells you what percentage of the CPU each uses. Unlike ProcessViewer, this command displays the actual names of your applications rather than the obscure LaunchCFMApp.

Top itself will take up most of your processor's attention, but if you scan the list under the %CPU heading, you should get a good idea of which applications most tax your iMac.

Inscrutable Index

How can I force Sherlock to index my OS X volume?

-- Scott Girardot, Wolverine Lake, Michigan

You can't, for good reason. Sherlock's inability to index an entire OS X volume -- and the fact that your Users folder appears within Sherlock's list of searchable items -- is Apple's fairly broad hint that OS X views the world differently from OS 9. OS X is a multiuser environment where each user owns his or her own files. A pretty shoddy multiuser environment this would be if Uncle Karl could grab Auntie Di's Users folder, index the items in that folder, and then search for the phrase "Karl is a fathead" in her personal correspondence. And do you really need Sherlock to index the tens of thousands of files -- full of so much gobbledygook -- that the OS X installer shoves onto your hard drive?

Instead, Sherlock asks that you drag folders you want indexed into its main window. (Unlike OS 9, OS X doesn't let you index an item by control-clicking on it in the Finder and then selecting the Index Selection command from the contextual menu.) If you don't have privileges to index a particular item -- and yes, Karl, this means you -- Sherlock will tell you so and refuse to index that item.

If all this folder dragging sounds like a drag, I suggest that you download a copy of Christian Grunenberg's free EasyFind 2.5 (http://www.devon-technologies.com/freeware.html). EasyFind allows you to select an entire volume and rummage through the contents of any file that you have permission to see on that volume.

Tip of the Month

Are you seeking an easy way to log on to your iDisk in OS 9? Use AppleShare. After establishing a connection to the Internet, open the Chooser, click on the AppleShare icon, and click on the Server IP Address button. In the resulting dialog box, enter idisk.mac.com and click on Connect. The next dialog box will prompt you for your iTools user name and password. Enter this information, and click on Connect. A dialog box will appear, containing the name of your iDisk. Click on OK, and the iDisk will show up on your Mac's desktop.

-- Nathaniel Black, Lancaster, California

Unsolicited advice

Some Mac users who have moved to OS X miss OS 9's Encrypt, an often underutilized command, found in the File menu, that allows you to easily password-protect a file. OS X's Disk Copy lets you create encrypted archives, but using it is a frustrating experience. You must create a new blank image, size the image so it will hold whatever it is you want to encrypt, mount the blank image, copy the stuff you want to encrypt to the mounted image, unmount the image, convert the image so you can choose the Encrypt option, enter and confirm the password, and finally save the dratted thing. Yeesh!

Thankfully, there's an easier way if you're running OS X 10.1 or later. That way is Michael Tsai's $5 DropDMG http://www.c-command.com/dropdmg). Just launch DropDMG, select Preferences from the DropDMG menu, and select Encrypt Images in the resulting window. To cre-ate an encrypted image, just place the items you want into a folder, drag that folder onto the DropDMG icon, and enter and confirm a password when you are asked to do so.

Some of you may already have an easy-to-use alternative on your hard drive -- Aladdin Systems' DropStuff (831/761-6200, http://www.aladdinsys.com). Part of the $80 StuffIt Deluxe 6.5 (or sold separately for $30), DropStuff works with both OS 9 and OS X and can compress and encrypt a file or folder dropped on its icon. To turn on the encryption option, launch DropStuff, select Preferences from the DropStuff menu (or from the File menu if you're running OS 9), choose the Stuffing option in the resulting window, and select the Encrypt Archive With Password option.

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