Mac 911 - Nov. 2006

Remotely PowerPoint

I recently bought a MacBook, which comes with Front Row and an Apple Remote. Is there any way to use that remote for Microsoft PowerPoint presentations?—via the Internet

You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to controlling PowerPoint presentations with the Apple Remote.

The first is a bit of a kludge: you can export your slides from PowerPoint as graphics files, import them into Apple’s iPhoto, and use Front Row and the remote control to play them as an iPhoto slide show.

To do so, open the presentation in PowerPoint and select File: Save As. In the resulting sheet, choose JPEG, PICT, or TIFF from the Format pop-up menu; then provide a name. Click on Save, and each slide will be saved as an individual graphics file inside a folder that has the name you just provided.

Next, drag those files into iPhoto’s library. Click on the Last Roll entry, select the images you just added, and choose File: New Album From Selection. Select the album and click on the Play button at the bottom right of the iPhoto window. In the Slideshow window that appears, disable the Automatic Ken Burns Effect option. Click on the Music tab and disable the Play Music During Slideshow option. Click on Save Settings to dismiss the window.

Now fire up Front Row, choose Photos, and select the album you created. When you click on Play, Front Row will try to play the presentation as a slide show. To prevent this from happening, click on the Play/Pause button to pause the presentation. Then use the Forward and Previous buttons to move from slide to slide.

While this solution works OK for basic slide shows, it has a couple of flaws. First, you’ll have to put up with the gray Front Row navigation overlay. Second, any music and video elements in your presentation will be lost in iPhoto.

Your second option, which avoids these pitfalls, is to use the Apple Remote to control PowerPoint natively. To do this, I get help from IOSpirit’s Remote Buddy ($13), which uses plug-ins to control a bunch of applications, including PowerPoint; Apple’s iTunes, Keynote, Photo Booth, QuickTime Player, GarageBand, Exposé, and DVD Player; Elgato’s EyeTV; VLC Media Player; RealPlayer; and Adobe Reader and Acrobat Pro (see “Who’s Your Buddy?”).

I’ve tried Remote Buddy on my Intel Mac mini, and it works as advertised. A free 30-day demo is available for your testing pleasure. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can create your own plug-ins, using the included Behaviour Construction Kit or using Xcode and Cocoa with the free SDK. Remote Buddy also works with Keyspan’s RF Remote for Front Row.

Managing .Mac and IMAP

I’d like to use Microsoft Entourage to create e-mail messages and save them as drafts when I’m offline, and then send them later via my .Mac account. But, whenever I save one of these drafts, my iBook wants to connect to the Internet—a problem when I’m using a dial-up connection while on the road. How do I make it stop?—Sibylle Eichstaedt

By default, Entourage IMAP accounts are configured so that messages, drafts, and junk mail—as well as inbox messages—are stored on the IMAP server. If you have an always-on broadband connection, this isn’t a problem; Entourage saves everything to the server in the blink of an eye. But when you’re logged off and your Mac is configured to use a dial-up account, it’ll try to connect to the Internet every time you save a draft.

To put things right, open Tools: Accounts, double-click on your .Mac account, click on the Advanced tab, and deselect the Store Drafts In This IMAP Folder option. (You’re welcome to deselect the sent-messages and junk-mail options, too.) Your drafts will now be stored in Entourage’s local Drafts folder, and your iBook won’t try to establish an Internet connection.

You can do the same kind of thing in Apple’s Mail: open the Accounts preference pane, select the IMAP account, click on the Mailbox Behaviors tab, and deselect the Store Draft Messages On The Server option.

Dual-monitor MacBook Pro

Is it possible to use a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display and a 23-inch Cinema Display at the same time with a 17-inch MacBook Pro?—Richard Troxel

It is. You could try using Matrox’s DualHead2Go ($169) to split a VGA signal and send it to two attached monitors. (Blogger Aniel Sud describes doing so.) But there are two catches: I honestly don’t know whether the DualHead2Go has enough power to drive the 30-inch Cinema Display (Aniel was using two Westinghouse 17-inch monitors). And the picture in this setup will be split between the two monitors, so windows and dialog boxes that would normally appear in the middle of a single monitor may straddle the two.

The preferred way to handle this task is to install an additional video card. You could do this with an older PowerBook via its PC Card slot and a device such as VillageTronic’s VTBook ($249) or Digital Tigers’ SideCar Mac ($1,299). Unfortunately, the MacBook Pro doesn’t have a PC Card slot. Apple may have been forward-looking in equipping the laptop with the faster ExpressCard/34 slot, but there are precious few ExpressCards out there and no ExpressCard video cards. A Digital Tigers rep said that an ExpressCard version of the SideCar may be available by the time you read this.

Go mono, young man

I can hear out of only one ear, so I’d like to adjust my iPod’s left-right balance. I can’t see a way to do this on the iPod itself, but is there by any chance a balance option in iTunes?—Ross Morris

Neither the iPod nor iTunes offers a balance control. But there is another solution: Go Mono.

The next time you’re ripping music into iTunes, go to its Preferences, select the Advanced pane, and click on the Importing tab. Choose the encoder you like from the Import Using pop-up menu, and then select Custom from the Setting pop-up menu. In the resulting window, choose Mono from the Channels pop-up menu. Then rip away.

You can also convert songs already in your library to mono. To do so, select some tracks in your iTunes library and choose Advanced: Convert Selection To Name Of Encoder. The files will be encoded so that all the music is offered in both the left and the right channels (see “One Track Mined”).

To avoid compressing your files with different encoders (and thus altering the sound more than you need to), use the same encoder the files were originally encoded with (unless they are uncompressed AIFF or WAV files).

You could reencode your entire library, but it would be much easier to get a cable with a male stereo miniplug on one end and a female miniplug jack on the other; it will combine the two stereo signals in one mono signal. Plug your headphones into this cable, and you’re good to go.

iSight alternatives

Other than Apple’s iSight, which Web cameras can I use for video chatting?—Beth Belmonte

By default, iChat supports the iSight and Fire-Wire Web cams. You can also video-chat your way to happiness with a USB Web cam (assuming it’s compatible with OS X, of course) if you get a copy of Ecamm Network’s iChatUSBCam ($10). This utility convinces iChat to accept input from USB cameras. It also enables videoconferencing on Macs that iChat doesn’t natively support.

Ecamm provides a list of the cameras that iChatUSBCam works with. Note that many of those USB Web cams require the open-source Macam driver to work with OS X.

Better living through iPhoto sharing

I often travel with my laptop and store trip pictures in iPhoto. When I return home, what’s the best way to transfer my photos from my laptop iPhoto to my desktop iPhoto?—H. Thomas Staton

There are many ways to do this, but I prefer the sharing method. For this to work, the two computers must be able to talk to each another over a Bonjour network.

First, launch iPhoto on both computers. On the laptop, enable the Share My Photos option in iPhoto’s Sharing preference pane. On the desktop Mac, turn on the Look For Shared Photos option in this preference pane. On the laptop, create a new smart album that’s defined by the dates when you loaded your travel pictures on your laptop—Date Is In The Last 2 Weeks, for example.

On the desktop Mac, select the laptop’s shared photo library, click on the triangle to reveal that library’s albums, choose the smart album you just created, and drag its icon to iPhoto’s Library icon (see “Snaring through Sharing”). The photos will be copied from one Mac to the other. Unlike iTunes, iPhoto allows you to copy shared files.

There are other ways to accomplish your goal. You could use iPhoto’s Share: Burn command to burn photos to a recordable CD or DVD. You could sync a color iPod to your laptop, turn on photo synchronization in iTunes, enable the Include Full-Resolution Photos option, plug the iPod into your desktop computer, and copy those images from the iPod into your iPhoto library. Or you could set up a traditional network, mount your desktop Mac’s hard drive, select the album you want to export on your laptop, choose File: Export, click on the File Export tab in the Export Photos window, enable the Full-Size Images option, click on Export, and choose your desktop Mac’s networked drive as the destination for the exported photos.

Who’s Your Buddy?: Remote Buddy lets you use your Apple Remote with a host of applications.One Track Mined: Use the Importing tab of iTunes’ Advanced preference pane to turn two stereo tracks into a mono track.Snaring through Sharing: You can snag the images from a shared iPhoto library simply by dragging images or albums to your library.

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