Mac 911 - July 2007

Of overcharging and iPods

Q: I recently got a Bose SoundDock and wanted to know whether it was a bad thing to keep the iPod permanently mounted in the dock. The SoundDock continuously charges it. Can that hurt the battery?—Danny Sat

A: In general, you can’t overcharge your iPod. It’s a savvy little piece of gear that understands when enough is enough, even if it’s connected to a power source like the $299 SoundDock (   ) for days on end. Some folks (but not Apple) suggest that undocking the iPod once a month and letting it run on battery power for a while is a good idea. Allegedly, this will “exercise” the battery and lengthen its life span.

I haven’t tested the theory, because, frankly, I don’t have the patience to conduct multiple-year battery trials. But given that even the most devoted homebody is likely to leave the house on at least a monthly basis, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take your iPod for a walk every so often.

Another battery question I hear frequently is “So, when should I charge my iPod—should I run it all the way down first? Halfway down?” Invariably, my response is “Don’t sweat it.” No matter what you do, the battery will eventually die, and you’ll either replace it or get a new iPod.

Running an iPod all the way down and letting it sit for a week with no juice is unnecessary—the batteries in iPods don’t have a “memory” that you need to reset by running them dry, as did the batteries in some older devices. Nor will the battery become overly stressed if you recharge it at the end of each day, even though you’ve used only a quarter of its charge.

In short, charge your iPod when it’s convenient. If you’re going on a transpacific flight, then by all means find a spare power outlet at the airport and top your iPod off. Or if you’ve listened to it for only a couple of hours and don’t feel like taking it out of your backpack, pocket, or purse, then leave it where it is at the end of the day, enjoy its many gifts tomorrow, and charge it the next time you think of it.

Squeaky-clean systems

Q: I recently found a program called Disk Cleaner (for PCs) and was wondering if there was something similar for Macs.—Gordon Werb

A: Disk Cleaner is a free, open-source utility that deletes temporary, cache, and cookie files, as well as stray items in the Recycle Bin, from a Windows PC. There are loads of similar utilities for the Mac, but my favorite is Titanium Software’s OnyX (   ; payment requested). It allows you to easily muck with parts of the operating system that are usually accessible only through Terminal. But unlike many tools of this sort, OnyX helps you stay out of trouble while you do so—it clearly explains what its features do and warns of potential problems.

For example, in the Cleaning tab, where it seems that you’ll be spending the bulk of your time, you’ll discover that you can delete a wide variety of cache files, as well as form values and cookies (see “Empty the Cache”). OnyX warns you that deleting these things may mean that you have to reenter user names and passwords when you revisit favorite sites (this could cause trouble if you’ve neglected to make a note of any passwords).

The case of the missing contacts

Q: Nearly all my Apple Address Book contacts are gone. Worse yet, all the addresses in Microsoft Entourage’s Address Book are gone, too. I’m a .Mac member and use Apple’s Backup to back up my hard drive, so I think I can get my contacts back. I just don’t know where to look.—Turner Rouse

A: Launch Backup, select your regular backup plan (this plan must include either your Home folder or Personal Data & Settings), and click on the Restore button. In the Restore window that appears, select a date whose backup is likely to hold all your contacts—for example, if you recall seeing all your contacts on the day before yesterday, find the backup that most closely precedes that date in the Previous Backups column.

Click on it and then follow this path: your user folder /Library/Application Support/AddressBook. Find the file named Select the Restore To An Alternate Location option. Put a check mark in the box next to the file name to select it, and then click on Restore Selection. Navigate to the place where you’d like to put the file, and click on Choose.

Once the program is finished, open the Restored Files folder it has created and dig down through its folders until you get to the file. Go back to your user folder /Library/Application Support/AddressBook and replace that folder’s file with the one from the Restored Files folder. Launch Address Book, and it should contain all your contacts.

Now, before you move on to Entourage, do this: In Address Book, choose File: Back Up Address Book. This will do exactly what it says—back up your contacts on your Mac. I don’t know what funkiness caused Address Book to lose your contacts, but if it happens again, you can easily get the contacts back by opening Address Book, choosing File: Revert To Address Book Backup, selecting this backup file, and clicking on Open.

As for Entourage, launch it, open its preferences (Entourage: Preferences), and select Sync Services. You should see that the Synchronize Contacts With Address Book And .Mac option is enabled. Microsoft added the option to synchronize contacts between Apple’s Address Book and Entourage 2004’s Address Book in a recent update. It’s a great feature—unless Apple’s Address Book loses its contacts. When that happens, Entourage syncs with the nearly empty list of contacts. Once you restore your contacts to Address Book, Entourage will update its Address Book with those contacts, as long as this option is on.

Empty the Cache: OnyX is one of a number of utilities that can clear out cache, Internet history, and log files.

3 ways to use hidden preferences

As much as I rely on add-on tools like the ones covered in Mac Gems to make the most of my Mac, there are times when you can do the most-powerful work with capabilities built into the programs you already own—as long as you know that they’re there.

1. Unstick Entourage forum reader LarryW posted a tip about a hidden Microsoft Entourage command. Specifically, if you find that Entourage hangs or pauses for minutes at a time and your hard drive sounds as though it’s been thrown into high gear, try this: Launch Entourage while holding down the option key. Microsoft’s Database Manager will launch instead of Entourage. Select the Set Database Preferences option in the Database Utility window, click on Continue, and disable the Perform Database Integrity Check In The Background option. This will cause that seemingly endless background churning to stop.

Note that checking the integrity of your Entourage database from time to time is a good idea— all your messages are contained in that one file. You can do this from within the Database Utility window. And of course, you should have a backup of your Entourage Database file, which you’ll find in your user folder /Documents/Microsoft User Data/ Office 2004 Identities/Main Identity.

2. Update iPhoto Thumbnails If your iPhoto thumbnail images don’t match the full-size versions anymore, press 1-option while launching iPhoto. In the resulting Rebuilding Photo Library window, you’ll find options for rebuilding your photos’ small thumbnails, rebuilding all thumbnails, rebuilding the iPhoto Library database, and recovering orphaned photos in the iPhoto Library folder. In this case, choose the first option—Rebuild The Photos’ Small Thumbnails—and your thumbnails will once again accurately depict your images.

3. Create New Libraries Press option when you launch iPhoto, and it’ll give you the choice of creating a new iPhoto library or choosing an existing iPhoto library. That’s helpful when you don’t have enough storage space to hold a massive iPhoto library in one location. The same key command works for iTunes 7 and its libraries.

[ Senior Editor Christopher Breen is the author of The iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide, second edition (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]

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