Mac 911 - July 2006

Perplexing permissions

Disk Utility will not repair permissions on my iMac running OS X 10.3.9. When I try, it begins but soon stops, displaying the message “Disk Utility has lost its connection with the disk management tool and cannot continue. Please restart OS X.” Restarting the computer doesn’t help. I even rebuilt the hard disk with Disk Warrior. That also didn’t help.—Joe Feil

I include your question, Joe, not only because it’s a conundrum not easily solved through deduction, but also because it points out the value of Apple’s Discussions Forum. That’s where I found the solution, offered by one “ MacFool.”

It seems that when you throw together upgrades that include OS X 10.3.9, QuickTime 7.0.4, and iTunes 6.0.2, and then launch Disk Utility and run First Aid, you encounter the error you describe. It’s caused by receipts left over from previous iTunes updates.

To return Disk Utility to normalcy, quit iTunes, move it from the Applications folder to the desktop, travel to /Library/Receipts, trash the receipts for every iTunes entry except iTunesX.pkg and iTunesPhoneDriver.pkg, and put iTunes back in the Applications folder. When you run First Aid from within Disk Utility, repairing permissions should work as advertised.

The changing picture

I like to use pictures I’ve taken as my desktop background. But I recently upgraded to iLife ’06, and now I can’t get my desktop pictures to change automatically. Before I upgraded, I just went to the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane and enabled the Change Picture Every X Minutes option. Now that option is dimmed. What am I missing?—Paul Touranjoe

As originally explained by Rob Griffiths in his November 2005 Mac OS X Hints column , you can do this in iPhoto 6 by selecting the images you want to display and clicking on the Desktop button. When you do, the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane opens with the iPhoto Selection folder highlighted and the Change Picture option enabled and ready to serve.

If you’re saying “What Desktop button? I can’t see it anywhere!” you’ve discovered a quirk in iPhoto 6. For some people (me, for example), this button is missing after they install iPhoto 6; for others (Rob Griffiths, for example) it’s there. If you don’t see it, go to iPhoto’s View menu and choose Show In Toolbar Desktop, and all will be right.

That’s one way to add a new folder to the source list in the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane. But what if you’d like to add more than one folder to the source list? If you’re willing to do a little hacking, you can.

Start by moving the folders that you want to appear in the source list into the /Library/Desktop Pictures folder. Give those folders distinct, single-word names such as Winter, Vacation, and Wow.

Next, go to /System/Library/PreferencePanes, hold down the option key, and drag the DesktopScreenEffectsPref.prefPane file to the desktop to make a copy. This is so you have a backup copy that you can use to replace the hacked original if something goes wrong.

Now control-click on the original DesktopScreenEffectsPref.prefPane file and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. Navigate to /Contents/Resources and control-click on DesktopPictures.prefPane. Once again, choose Show Package Contents.

Go to /Contents/Resources and locate the Collections.plist file. Option-drag this file to the desktop to copy it, open it with TextEdit, and then find and select this text:

	{
	identifier = solidColors;
	path = "/Library/Desktop Pictures/Solid Colors";
	showScalingPopUp = NO;
	},
	

Copy the text you’ve selected; then paste the copy just below the end of the original text (just after

},
). Now edit that copy as follows:

	{
	identifier = Winter;
	path = "/Library/Desktop Pictures/Winter";
	showScalingPopUp = NO;
	},
	

Replace the word

Winter
in this example with the exact name of the first of the picture folders you created in /Library/Desktop Pictures. Make another copy of that text for each folder you added to /Desktop Pictures and edit as necessary.

When you’re finished, save the copy of Collections.plist you’ve just edited, and drag it into the open Resources folder from which it originally came. Your Mac will tell you that you need to authenticate overwriting the original file. Do so by entering your administrator password when prompted. Go to the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane, and do a little jig when you find that the folders you added now appear in the source list.

iDisk impasse

I’m bogged down trying to publish my first ever Web site for my user group, using iWeb. I just bought a .Mac account for the group, but I don’t know how to manage two different accounts and iDisks from one computer.—Madeleine Landis

It’s possible to access two different .Mac accounts from one computer by mucking about in the .Mac preference pane. Simply enter the appropriate .Mac member name and password in the corresponding fields in the Account tab of the .Mac preference pane, and forge ahead with that account.

But I recommend another way. Create two user accounts—one for each .Mac account. That way, instead of having to type new login details every time you want to switch .Mac accounts, you can use Mac OS X’s Fast User Switching to simply switch to the second user account and its default .Mac settings.

To do so, open the Accounts preference pane, click on the lock icon, and enter your administrator password when asked. Click on the plus-sign (+) button at the bottom of the window, and then enter a new user name, a short name for this user, and a password. Select the Allow User To Administer This Computer option, and click on Create Account. Click on the Login Options entry. In the resulting window, select the Enable Fast User Switching option.

Switch to this account and open the .Mac preference pane, and you’ll discover that the .Mac Member Name and Password fields are blissfully empty. Enter your second .Mac identity here and do all your iWeb work for this identity within this user account.

When you wish to work with your original .Mac account, simply switch to that user account.

Even if you don’t want to maintain two different .Mac accounts, there’s another great reason for creating a second user account: troubleshooting. If something goes wrong with your primary user account, you can just boot into the secondary one. If whatever problem you had with the first account doesn’t appear in the second, you’ll know the problem is not with the entire computer but with a user-specific setting.

Change multiple iMovie clips

I’m putting together a slide show that contains around 400 images in iMovie (I prefer to use iMovie rather than iPhoto because it includes effects not found in iPhoto). On my first attempt, iMovie refused to apply some of the effects. I’ve resolved to start over but I would like to know some shortcuts for applying those effects. Do you have any?—From the Macworld.com forums

In iMovie 6, you can save yourself a lot of extra work by applying the same effect or transition to multiple clips. Just select all the clips you want to change, and then make your changes. For example, to apply a new transition, select the Editing button, click on the Transitions tab, choose the transition you want, and click on the Add button. The transition will be applied to the selected clips. If you want to be really lazy about it, select all the clips in the timeline and apply a single transition to the entire slide show. (This also works in earlier versions of iMovie, but in these versions you access transitions by clicking on the Trans button.)

You can use the same approach to apply the same video effect—Black And White, for example— to multiple clips. (You will need to do this before you add any transitions. If transitions are in place, the video effect will be applied only to the first selected clip.)

In addition, you can change the duration of multiple slides. Select all the slides in the timeline, click on the Media button, and then select the Photos tab. Click on the Show Photo Settings button. In the Time field of the Photo Settings window that appears, enter the amount of time you want each slide to be displayed (the Time field is the one next to the slider bar with the tortoise and hare icons), and select Update. All the selected slides will be adjusted to that length (see the middle screenshot).

You can also use this window when you import your stills. Just choose a single image file in the Media window, type a time in the Time field, and select Apply. All future image imports will use this time setting until you change it.

And no, you don’t have to apply the Ken Burns effect to the slides; just remove the check mark from that box if you want to go without that effect.

Creating catalogs

Over the years, I have acquired a number of external FireWire hard drives that I use for archiving past projects. I usually keep them disconnected from the computer, but I would still like to be able to search their directories so I could keep track of the information on each drive. Is there a program that can create a directory file of an external drive and save it locally on my computer?—Ryan Shore

What you’re describing is a cataloging application. These applications can create a local directory that lists all the files on a hard drive or on removable media. They can also include other data—comments, path names, and, in some instances, the dates files were created and modified, the file types, the file sizes, and more.

Once you’ve created a catalog, you’re free to unmount the drive or disc. When you later want to locate a file on one of these unmounted volumes, simply fire up the catalog app, activate its search feature, and search the catalog for the files you want.

At the risk of intruding on Dan Frakes’s Mac Gems territory, I’ll mention Norbert Doerner’s CDFinder ($30) and Portents’ DiskTracker ($30) as two of my favorite cataloging apps (see the bottom screenshot). Each creates catalogs in fairly short order and allows you to search by various criteria.

By hacking the hard-to-find Collections.plist file, you can add more folders to Apple’s Desktop picture offerings.By opening photos in iMovie, you can easily apply effects to multiple shots.With the right cataloging application, you can easily locate items stored on unmounted drives and removable media.
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