Mac 911 - Oct. 2006

Get iTunes Video audio on your nano

I purchased a music video from the iTunes Music Store (iTMS). Can I play the audio on my iPod nano? Doesn’t buying a music video entitle me to enjoy the music track separately from the video?—Bill Robertson

Yes and no. Buying the music video grants you the right to enjoy it on a compatible device, such as a Mac or PC running a recent version of iTunes. However, the iPod nano is not a compatible device for video files. As you’ve discovered, your nano will reject the file if you try to load it.

You can open unprotected videos with a compatible player and editor such as QuickTime Pro and then extract and export the audio track. Regrettably, videos sold on the iTMS are protected so that you can’t do this.

But don’t lose hope: one immutable rule of media states, “That which can be played can be captured.” And your purchased videos are no exception.

Download a copy of Ambrosia Software’s WireTap Pro ($19) or Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack ($16). Each of these utilities allows you to capture the audio your Mac is playing (see “Listen In”). Just fire up one or the other, turn on capturing, and then start playing the music video. When the video is complete, stop recording and do what you will with the resulting audio file.

You can use WireTap Pro free to record AIFF files with the controller; if you attempt to use any of the program’s other options, such as scheduling, a voice-over will appear on your recording. Audio Hijack and WireTap Pro are both available as Universal applications. And a fully functioning demo of Audio Hijack is available; its only limitation is that it will overlay noise on all recordings longer than ten minutes.

The dirt on scanners

I have tons of old photos I’d like to digitize. But when I’ve tried scanning them with my HP Officejet 6110 all-in-one, I get messy streaks running down the middle of the image. I see matching streaks on the underside of the scanner glass, where no amount of window cleaner can get them off. Do you know of any way for me to get rid of the streaks? And why do so many scanners have this problem in the first place?—David Scott

It’s the nature of the beast, I’m afraid. Dust and gunk (some generated by the mechanism inside the scanner) will find its way onto the underside of the scanner glass. The trick to getting rid of these streaks is figuring out how to remove the scanner glass in order to clean it.

Some scanners are friendlier than others in this regard. Your Officejet 6110 is, I’m afraid, among the less-friendly models. HP’s official line on the matter: “You cannot clean the underneath side of the scanner glass on any all-in-one. This should be performed only by an authorized service provider.”

A more thorough explanation might read: “You cannot clean the underneath side of the scanner glass on any all-in-one unless you know how to conduct a Google search, read the English language, and operate a Torx #10 screwdriver.” What the heck, I’ll even eliminate the first of those steps for you by directing you to fixyourownprinter.com. Here you’ll find discussion threads explaining how to get inside the 6110 to clean the glass (and some other parts as well).

The usual warnings apply: If the steps seem beyond your ability, don’t try them. And if you wind up breaking your Officejet along the way, you’ve only yourself to blame.

Child protection services

I’m entirely new to computers. I just got a new Mac, and I’m wondering how to make sure my 11-year-old daughter does not accidentally open inappropriate Web sites. I recently downloaded the program LimeWire, which I’d heard can help find files online. My daughter wanted to download a song by her favorite band. But when she entered the band’s name in LimeWire, she was directed to a Web site that no child should ever see. How can I keep that from happening again?—via the Internet

Before I launch into some specific suggestions, let me point out (without leaping atop a soapbox) that giving your daughter access to a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing application like LimeWire is a bad idea. Not only can she download mountains of inappropriate material, but lots of the content on a P2P network like that is ill-gotten—pirated movies and music, for example. Moral issues aside, if the wrong people find your daughter sharing copyrighted material, you and she could be looking down the barrel of a nasty lawsuit. So, first step: uninstall LimeWire.

Next step: educate yourself about the dangers of the Internet. Regrettably, there are just as many crooks and creeps online as there are in the real world. You and your daughter both need to clearly understand that you should never provide personal or financial information to an unfamiliar source, whether it’s on a Web site or in a chat room. (An excellent source for some tips on general online safety for kids is Common Sense Media.)

Once the two of you have the lay of the land, it’s time for you to think about filtering the content your daughter sees. I can suggest a couple of options. One is Intego’s ContentBarrier X4 ($60). It offers a variety of protective measures including filtering out Web sites with potentially inappropriate content (adult or violent, for example). You can configure it to block streaming media, P2P networks, chats, and e-mail. You can also set up a “white list” of acceptable sites and create schedules that allow your child to use the Internet only during specific hours. ContentBarrier can also send e-mail alerts to parents when untoward events occur.

Another option is SafeEyes. This is a $50-per-year Web service that offers some of the same benefits as ContentBarrier (see “Hide Your Eyes”). It will block unwanted Web content, eliminate pop-up windows, and allow you to create schedules for Internet access. (As we go to press, program blocking isn’t yet supported in the Mac version.) Additionally, it monitors and logs what your child is doing, providing parents with a list of access attempts and transcripts of chats. You can give SafeEyes a free 15-day trial.

Doing the dish

I have a Dish tuner that includes a digital video recorder. That setup works fine for me, but I’d like to find a way to record a few of my favorite shows onto DVD and then export them to my iPod. I was thinking that my Mac mini might be the tool for the job, if I can figure out a way to import selected shows to it from the Dish tuner, edit out commercials, and then record and export the shows. Do you have any suggestions on software or hardware solutions?—Paul Barsa

If you had a standard TiVo, I’d suggest you wait for the TiVoToGo service, which TiVo says will ship sometime this year. While the TiVoToGo implementation on a Windows PC was underwhelming, taking way too long to transfer and burn programs with poor results, the Mac implementation I’ve seen looks far more promising.

But a Dish DVR is a different beast and you won’t be seeing TiVoToGo on it in this lifetime.

Just as there are hacks for TiVo, there are hacks for getting into the Dish DVR and copying files from it. Unfortunately, they’re convoluted and require a working knowledge of Linux or Unix, or an understanding of using OS X’s Terminal. Put Google to good use, and you’ll find some of these hacks.

If you have a camcorder that offers a video pass-through option, I’d try that. The quality isn’t ter-rific, but if you already have such a camcorder, this way is an inexpensive alternative. You plug the video and audio outputs of the DVR into the inputs of the camcorder, string a FireWire cable between the camcorder and the Mac, flip the camcorder into pass-through mode, start capturing in iMovie, and begin playback on your DVR. When you finish recording, you can edit the results in iMovie and export it for burning to DVD or your iPod.

Splitting underpowered USB

I recently bought an 80GB IO Magic GigaBank Premier external hard drive. My PowerBook G4 will not recognize it. The drive works well with my PC, so I know that the drive itself not the problem. How do I use it with the Mac?—Horacio Plotkin

Although these drives behave quite nicely when they are plugged into most USB 2.0-compatible Macs, they refuse to perform when plugged into a G4 PowerBook. The problem is that the PowerBook’s USB ports don’t deliver enough electrical power to satisfy some external USB drives. Regrettably, plugging the drive’s AC adapter into a power source won’t help—the drive still wants to see a certain amount of juice coming in via USB. When the drive doesn’t see the necessary juice, it won’t work.

What you need is a USB Y-cable. This is a cable with a squarish USB male B connector (which you can plug into your hard drive) on one end and two USB male A connectors (the rectangular USB connector) on the other; you can plug those last two into your PowerBook’s USB ports, supplying the additional power to run the external drive. Unfortunately, these cables are devilishly difficult to find. Addonics Technologies makes a Dual Inputs USB Power Cable for $10 that gets close. It includes the two USB A connectors but has a female USB A connector on the other end. You can complete the connection with a standard USB male A-to-USB male B cable.

Alarmed by port 445

Every few minutes, my Power Mac G4 (running OS X 10.4) tries to communicate with the other Macs and Windows PCs on my home network. The communications go out over port 445 and systematically try ports above 49000. I have no idea why this is happening. Is malware on my Power Mac probing my other computers to find an unguarded way in? If so, what do I do?—Steve Good

It’s not malware that’s doing the probing. It’s prob-ably your Mac just doing its job.

Port 445 is used for Server Message Block (SMB), a networking protocol used by Windows, and now the Mac, for sharing files. If you’ve switched on Windows Sharing in the Sharing preference pane, your Power Mac will occasionally check in with your Windows PC to make sure the two are still on speaking terms. That action is what’s setting off the alarms on your PC. If you’d like to put an end to these alarms—and you’re not sharing files between the two machines—simply switch off Windows Sharing.

If you need to keep Windows sharing on, configure whatever security app you’re using on the Windows PC to accept your Mac as a trusted member of your network. (In other words, tell it that any request from your Mac’s IP address should be accepted without question.) That should stop the alarms.

Listen In: Tools like Ambrosia Software’s WireTap Pro and Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack let you capture any sound playing on your Mac. Hide Your Eyes: Safe-Eyes can be configured to block Web sites that contain potentially inappropriate content.

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