Help Desk

Like the gophers who decimated my recent agricultural efforts, this month's Mac 911 digs beneath the surface to expose the difficulties of converting iTunes music files, extracting video files from DVDs, putting an end to Office snooping, and bringing light to dim PowerBook keyboards.

Becoming a Convert

I imported my CDs into iTunes as AIFF files. Now that I have an iPod, I'd like to convert those songs to the AAC format. Is this possible or must I rerip all my CDs?

Steve Hawley, Jacksonville, North Carolina

You don't need to feed the CDs to your Mac again, as you can use iTunes to convert files from AIFF to AAC. To do so, launch iTunes and select Preferences from the iTunes menu. Click on the Importing tab in the resulting window, select AAC Encoder from the Import Using pop-up menu, and click on OK to close the Preferences window.

In the iTunes window, select all the songs you want to convert, and choose Advanced: Convert Selection To AAC. All the selected songs will be duplicated, leaving you with two copies of each song -- the original AIFF file and the new AAC version.

To easily locate and delete the AIFF files, choose View Options from the Edit menu, and in the View Options window that appears, enable the Date Added option and click on OK. Click on the new Date Added heading in the iTunes window to sort your songs by the date they were added to your iTunes library. The new AAC files will appear at the top of the list; the older AIFF tunes, at the bottom. Select the AIFF files and press the delete key to remove them from the library.

Move Videos onto Your Mac

I recently purchased a Sony DCR-DVD100 camcorder that writes its output directly to DVD. Although I can copy the output files to my hard drive and play the video clips using Apple's DVD Player, Sony didn't supply Mac-compatible DVD-editing software with this product. Is there any software I can use to edit my movie clips?

Stephen Hart, Houston, Texas

The difficulty isn't so much finding software to edit the movie clips -- you can use Apple's iMovie once you get your video out of the camera and onto your Mac. The problems are that the DCR-DVD100 lacks a FireWire port and that, as you've discovered, the bundled software is incompatible with Mac OS.

To move video from this camcorder to your computer, you must either use the camera's S-Video port in league with an analog-to-digital converter such as Canopus's $299 ADVC100 (888/899-3348, http://www.canopus.us) or extract the video from one of the finished DVDs the camera produces.

To extract the video, convert the VOB (Video Object) files on the DVD to a format compatible with QuickTime. For this task, I use OpenShiiva (donations accepted; http://openshiiva.sourceforge.net) to convert the VOB files to MP4 files. After the files are saved in the MP4 format, drag them into iMovie, where they'll be automatically converted to a format acceptable to the program.

Note that this technique is also useful when you've burned a video with iDVD and deleted the source files from your hard drive, and you later need to extract the video files from the DVD for re-editing.

Office Annoyance

I'm on a closed Ethernet network within my company and use Microsoft Office v. X. Everyone in the office has his or her own copy of the software, yet my copy of Entourage quits at least twice an hour due to a license-conflict message. I have installed a brand-new copy of Office, and the same problem still occurs. Any thoughts on this?

Paul Rosenblit, Freeport, New York

What you're seeing is the license-checking "feature" that was built into early versions of Microsoft Office v. X. It was created so that you couldn't run the same copy of Office on multiple Macs. Fortunately, this feature disappears after you install the Microsoft Office v. X 10.1.2 Update (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/ DOWNLOAD/OFFICEX/OfficeX_1012.asp).

The Art of iTunes

Where does iTunes store its album art files?

Erik Davila, San Antonio, Texas

Album art is stored in each song file. The advantage to this scheme is that when you move a song from one computer to another, the album art moves with it. The slight disadvantage is that song files with artwork are a bit larger than those without.

To see the difference for yourself, drag a song file out of iTunes and onto the desktop. Select it, press 1-I, and make a note of its size.

Now go to Amazon.com and download the album art for that song. (For example, I downloaded the cover art from the Who's The Ultimate Collection.) Highlight all the songs from that album in iTunes' main window, press 1-I, and drag the JPEG art file you grabbed from Amazon into the Multiple Song Information window's Artwork field. After clicking on OK to close the Multiple Song Information window, you'll find that all the songs you selected now carry the album art.

Drag the original song's file to the desktop and press 1-I to view its size. The file is larger -- how much larger depends on the complexity of the album art.

Console Capers

While glancing through the console.log file on my computer, I found an entry that reads "I got a control baby!" Am I being hacked?

Fausto E. Castillo, Buffalo, New York

No, what you see is an example of programmerspeak. That message is generated by Microsoft Office v. X's WordPDE.plugin and is completely harmless.

Rummaging through page after page of a log file is more likely to confuse -- rather than inform -- the average user. But you can put Console and log files to good use.

If, for example, an application crashes every time you perform a particular action, launch Console (found in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder), click on the Clear button to remove other entries from the log, and then perform that action. After The Bad Thing happens, return to Console and see what it has to say.

Granted, a message that reads "Assertion failure in -[NSMenu itemAtIndex:], Menus.subproj/ NSMenu.m:638" won't enlighten most of us, but the person or company responsible for the well-being of your ailing application may appreciate such an informative bug report.

Losing the Light

Since installing Panther on my 17-inch PowerBook G4, my keyboard doesn't always light up in dark conditions. Do you have any suggestions?

Mitch Santell, Oceanside, California

Judging by messages posted in Apple's Discussions forum, robust keyboard backlighting on the latest PowerBooks remains a work in progress. Although some people found relief only by returning the PowerBook to Apple for repair, others fixed the problem by performing some of the following actions:

1. Cover the speaker grilles with your hands. The ambient light sensor is under the grilles, and covering them briefly may force the keys to shine.

2. Reset the Power Manager and zap the PRAM.

To reset the Power Manager, turn off the PowerBook, simultaneously press and release control-shift-option and the power button, wait five seconds, and then press the power button to restart the PowerBook.

To zap the PRAM, restart the Mac while holding down the 1-option-P-R keys and wait for the Mac to chime three times. Let go of the keys and the PowerBook will start up.

3. Repair permissions with Disk Utility (Applications: Utilities).

If none of these procedures work, it's time for your PowerBook to take a trip to Apple.

TIP OF THE MONTH

Occasionally I'll download a disk image that doesn't mount due to a "no mountable filesystems" error. I've recently learned that I needn't discard these seemingly broken images. Instead, I launch Disk Utility, drag the disk image into the list of volumes in the Disk Utility window, select the image, and click on Repair Disk. If the image can be repaired, Disk Utility will fix it, and afterward the disk image mounts.

Nathan Wilairat, Berkeley, California

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

With the introduction of iTunes 4.2, Apple allows not only those with Apple IDs to shop at the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) but also AOL members who've created credit card accounts through the AOL Wallets feature. If you have both an Apple ID and an AOL account, you're welcome to create an iTMS account for each.

Why bother? This is a useful option if you'd like to purchase and play music from a host of computers. When you purchase music from the iTMS, you're allowed to play that music on as many as three computers per account. If you've already authorized your two Macs and PC at home and later attempt to purchase and play music on your computer at work via your Apple account, you'll find that you can't, because you've exhausted your authorizations. With the additional authorizations that come with your new AOL account, you can purchase and play music at the office as well.

Note, however, that purchased music is identified by the account that purchased it. If you buy music via your AOL identity at the office and want to play it at home on a Mac authorized with your Apple ID, you must authorize that Mac for the AOL account. To do so, simply attempt to play the file. You'll be prompted for your AOL ID and password.

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