Utility software

Mac 911

Crossed Signals

To boost my wireless network’s signal strength, I have an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station on the second floor of my town house and an AirPort Express on the first floor. Aside from the neighbors’ occasional 2.4GHz phone call, everything has worked fine. Lately, however, several 802.11 networks have popped up in my vicinity, and one of them has a signal strong enough to prevent me from connecting to my network when I’m on the first floor. How can I improve the signal strength?—Chris Tatian

Instead of attempting to boost the strength of the signal, try avoiding interference from your neighbors’ wireless networks. How? Change channels.

To change the channel that your AirPort uses, launch AirPort Admin Utility (in the /Applications/ Utilities folder). Select your base station in the resulting window and click on Configure. If asked to, enter the password. Click on the AirPort tab, choose a new channel from the Channel pop-up menu, and then click on Update.

Ideally, the channel you choose should be at least four or five channels away from that of the adjacent wireless network or phone—for example, if a nearby network is broadcasting on channel 1, you’ll choose channel 6 for your network. To learn which channels nearby networks are using, download Spintriplet’s free Air Traffic Control widget if you’re running Tiger; give the free MacStumbler a go if you’re using an earlier version of OSX. Each of these utilities lists local wireless networks along with their channel information (see top screenshot).

Avoiding interference from the phone will be trickier. At one time, 2.4GHz phones used just one channel—usually 11. Newer phones use something called frequency hopping technology that allows them to leap from channel to channel, looking for the strongest one. If the phone lands on the channel you’ve assigned to your base station, you could get interference even after switching channels.

Typing Toddler

I love using iChat AV to video-chat with my distant family. However, when my 16-month-old is “talking” to Grandma and Grandpa, he pounds on all the keys on my iBook. I’d love to find a way to disable the keyboard temporarily while chatting. Since this is a laptop, I can’t just unplug the keyboard’s cable.—Eric Greene

A common technique in jiujitsu is to use your opponent’s strength against him. That’s a sage practice in this case, too. If he’s a typical 16-month-old, your son undoubtedly has the patience of a tsetse fly and quickly bangs out a staccato series of tattoos on the keyboard before moving on to variations on the same theme. To prevent his playing from having an effect, you needn’t disable the keyboard—just slow down its responsiveness.

To do so, open the Universal Access preference pane, click on the Keyboard tab, enable the Slow Keys option (at the bottom of the window), and drag the Acceptance Delay slider all the way to the left (toward the Long setting). With your Mac configured this way, the user must hold down a key for a full second—which in toddler terms is an eternity—before your Mac registers it.

A Matter of Some Import

When I launch Mail 2.0 in Tiger, it starts importing old messages from Mail 1.0. Apparently, there’s an old sent-mail message that Mail 2.0 doesn’t like: the application hangs on one message and stops importing sent mail. When I cancel, the whole thing stops. I’ve tried launching Mail again, but the whole process repeats. Where does that old message live? I’d like to delete it before I launch Mail 2.0, and skip the import step altogether.—Jeff Hounshell

You’ll find all of Mail’s mailbox files (called mbox files) by following this path: / your user folder /Library/ Mail/ name of account, where name of account is the name of your e-mail account—POPtestingmail .example.com, for example. Inside this folder is a Sent Messages.mbox folder. Give this folder the bum’s rush (in other words, delete it); that should fix the problem.

You can also choose to import some of your old mail by choosing File: Import Mailboxes. In the Import dialog box that appears, select the Mail For Mac OS X option, click on Continue, and select the account folder from which you want to import messages. In the next window, choose the mailboxes you want to import and click on Continue. This will place your old mail in an Import folder in Mail’s sidebar. Alternatively, you can enable the Other option in the Import window and selectively import individual mbox files.

Internet for All

Is it possible to share the DSL broadband connection I use for my iBook with my Bluetooth-equipped Palm?—Christopher Mahoney

It is. Bruce McKenzie offers instructions for sharing just such an Internet connection over Bluetooth on bioneural.blog. His instructions require some work in Terminal, as well as a fair amount of mucking about in the Mac’s and the Palm’s preferences, but after some trial and error, you might make the connection.

You can tell from my lukewarm recommendation that I have a better scheme in mind. That scheme is Mark/Space’s The Missing Sync for Palm OS ($50; download, $40). As evidenced by it’s   mouse rating, Macworld has found it to be a very capable tool for synchronizing your Palm device with Apple’s iCal and Address Book and Microsoft Entourage (and unlike Palm’s HotSync Manager, The Missing Sync works with Tiger). In addition to offering syncing capabilities, The Missing Sync makes it a snap to share an Internet connection between Bluetooth-equipped Macs and Palm devices.

After enabling Bluetooth on both devices, select The Missing Sync’s Internet Sharing Assistant (Help: Internet Sharing Assistant). Walk through Sharing Assistant’s instructions, and you’ll be browsing the Web with your Palm in no time (see middle screenshot).

Bookmark Management

Is there any way to alphabetize my bookmark collection in Safari?—Christian Gilbert

You could do it by hand, of course, but what a bother—particularly if you routinely add new bookmarks. If you’re using Tiger, you can alphabetize your Safari bookmarks with Sheep Systems’ Bookdog —priced at an introductory $10 as I write this, but it’ll be $15 when version 2.0 ships. It can orga-nize not only individual bookmarks, but also the folders containing those bookmarks. You can also use Bookdog to track down and delete dupli-cate bookmarks.

Use the company’s free SafariSorter if you’re running OS X 10.2 to 10.3.8 (it’s not compatible with 10.3.9).

Crippled QuickTime

In QuickTime Player 6, the video controls let me lighten, darken, change the contrast of, and tint videos. I upgraded to QuickTime 7, and that feature seems to no longer be there—the A/V Controls cover only audio and playback speed. Is there any way to access the video controls in the new version?—Rich Root

QuickTime Player 7’s A/V Controls allow you to edit video only on Macs with video cards that support Apple’s Core Image technology—generally video cards made by ATI and not those from Nvidia. You’ll know that your video card lacks support if you can’t see the video adjustment sliders in the A/V Controls window—you’ll be able to adjust only speed and audio settings. This is the case in both the free version of QuickTime and the $30 Pro version.

However, this limitation doesn’t exist if you use QuickTime Player 6.5.2 with QuickTime 7. Hopefully, you still have a copy of this older version of Player. If you don’t, download the QuickTime 6.5.2 Reinstaller, and extract QuickTime Player with CharlesSoft’s $20 Pacifist. This version of QuickTime Player, coupled with QuickTime 7.X, will offer a video option in A/V Controls even if your graphic card doesn’t support Core Image.

Dodgy Discs

I routinely receive large files on CDs that were created on a Windows PC, and those discs fail to mount on my Mac. What instructions can I give those Windows users so that the discs they send me will mount on my Mac?—Gregory Payne

Politely ask your PC pals to stop using Roxio’s DirectCD or Drag-to-Disc utilities to burn their discs. These programs support packet writing, which allows you to burn files to a CD-R or CD-RW multiple times using a file format called UDF (Universal Disc Format). This format is a convenient way to append files to a disc designed as write-once, but discs produced using it aren’t Mac-compatible. Discs made by other means on the PC will almost certainly be burned in the ISO 9660 format, which the Mac understands completely.

If the disc format doesn’t appear to be the problem, check the kind of media people are sending you. The Mac loves CD-R media but can act finicky with CD-RW discs.

Slugging Slide Shows

Is there a way to put the file name of each picture somewhere on screen during a slide show created in iMovie, iDVD, or iPhoto? This would be helpful for viewers who want to extract a few favorite photos from the DVD.—Doug Fehr

While you can configure Apple’s iPhoto 4 so that it displays the file name of each picture during its slide shows, it won’t export that slide show to iDVD with the file name in place. If you want the name to appear in iDVD (or in a QuickTime movie you export to iDVD), you must use iPhoto 5 (part of the iLife ’05 suite, $79). Here’s how:

Assemble a slide show in iPhoto 5 (File: New Slideshow) and click on the Settings button at the bottom of the iPhoto window. In the resulting sheet, enable the Show Titles option and click on OK. Choose Share: Send To iDVD. This creates an MPEG-4 QuickTime movie file that’s stored in the Movies folder within your user folder. You’ll see the title of each picture in a small box in the movie frame’s upper left corner (see “Name in Frame”).

iDVD will open with the slide show in place. If you like, burn it onto a DVD. Otherwise, open your Movies folder, locate the QuickTime movie that iPhoto created for iDVD, and do with it what you will.

[ Contributing Editor Christopher Breen is the editor in chief of Playlistmag.com and the author of Secrets of the iPod and iTunes , fifth edition (Peachpit Press, 2005). ]

Wireless interference bringing you down? The Air Traffic Control widget can help you avoid crowded wireless channels. Use it to find out what channel other networks are on (circled) so you can avoid them.The Missing Sync’s Bluetooth Synchronization Assistant is the easiest way to share your Mac’s Internet connection with a Palm device.If you enable the Show Titles option in iPhoto 5’s slide-show settings, you can plaster titles of your pictures on your iDVD slide shows.

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