People complain that AirPort can’t connect with America Online, but Paul Lorah of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, found an easy workaround. Simply get an ordinary dial-up PPP account with an ISP in your area, and connect your AirPort via this account. Set up AOL to connect through your ISP using TCP/IP instead of dialing an AOL access phone number. Offset the cost of the ISP account by signing up for AOL’s Bring Your Own Access plan (AOL keyword BYOA), which costs only $9.95, $12 a month less than the regular plan. Using TCP/IP and BYOA also lets you get to AOL through a DSL or cable modem connected to an AirPort base station or your computer.
Speedier Disk Images
I like the idea of using self-mounting disk images in place of floppy disks and installation CDs (Quick Tips, April 2000), but how can I make them skip the time-consuming checksum verification process, which checks for a corrupt disk image?
If you’re confident that your disk image isn’t corrupt, skipping the verification process is a good idea; there are a couple of ways to do it. First, there’s the free method: Turn off the Disk Copy utility’s Verify Checksum option, or turn on the Except DiskScripts/DiskSets option (Edit: Preferences). Then, instead of double-clicking a self-mounting disk- image file to mount it, drag it to the Disk Copy application’s iconit will skip the verification process.
This approach has drawbacks. It takes extra time to open Disk Copy and still more time to quit it manually (unless you’re willing to leave it open and occupying RAM). Moreover, this trick doesn’t work with the combination of Disk Copy 6.3.X and the type of self-mounting disk images that display a licensing agreement before mounting the disk image. Most Apple-distributed images are of this type.
For the fastest mounting, there’s a second method: create self-mounting disk images using the $30 ShrinkWrap program from Aladdin Systems (
). ShrinkWrap’s self-mounting disk images skip checksum verification. The program can also convert existing Disk Copy files into ShrinkWrap files, which skip the licensing agreement and verification steps.
View Help Pages in Your Browser
The benefits of opening Mac OS help pages in your Web browser instead of in the usual Apple Help Viewer program are no secret (they’re revealed in Secrets, March 2000). But if you already have a page open in Help Viewer (which you access from the Finder’s Help menu), you have to retrace your steps painstakingly from the starting help page to get to exactly the same page in your browser. The AppleScript shown in “Get Help from Your Browser” alleviates the tedium.
To make the script available from a menu while you’re using the Help Viewer program, install the OSA Menu software from the CD Extras folder on the Mac OS installation CD. Then enter the script in the Script Editor program. When you save the script, set the Format option to Compiled Script and put the file in a folder called Help Viewer Scripts (create this if necessary) inside the Scripts folder within the System Folder.
If you don’t want to install OSA Menu, you can put the script in the Apple menu instead. In this case, save the script (in Script Editor’s Save dialog box) with the Format option set to Classic Applet or Application and the Never Show Start-up Screen option turned on. Finally, put the script file in the Apple Menu Items folder.L.P.
Better Blends in Illustrator 8
The Blend tool and Make Blend command in Illustrator 8 normally produce a uniform progression from one object to another. Color and shape change at a constant rate over the distance between the objects (A). Derek Mah of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, discovered that it’s easy to control a blend’s rate of change by manipulating the direction points of its spine. Illustrator generates the spine–an invisible, centered path–when you create a blend. You can edit the spine just as you would any other Illustrator path.
To see the spine, either switch to Artwork mode (1-Y) or click the center of the blend with the Direct Selection tool. Then select the Convert Direction Point tool and drag out a direction point control handle at each end of the spine (B). Move these control handles along the spine to adjust its rate of change (C). This is similar to how you would control blend speed in a gradient mesh.
If you impose extreme acceleration or deceleration on the blend, you can prevent visible banding by increasing the number of blend steps in the Blend Options dialog box (choose Object: Blend Options).
You can vary the blend’s acceleration and deceleration even more by adding intermediate anchor points along the spine with the Add Anchor Point tool (D). These points divide the blend into segments you can control individually by dragging their direction-point control handles. However, the intermediate points don’t provide control over the position of particular blend steps. For example, a point added between the spine endpoints does not designate the location of the halfway step in the blend progression.
iMovie Audio-Track Swapping
Although Apple’s iMovie software doesn’t allow you to replace one clip’s audio track with another’s (as noted in “Home-Movie Magic,” April 2000), you can accomplish this by turning the replacement audio track into an AIFF sound file and importing it into iMovie. With the help of QuickTime Pro, it’s easy. To replace the audio in Clip 1 with the audio from Clip 2, do the following:
In iMovie, put Clip 2 in the Clip Viewer at the bottom of the screen.
Choose File: Export Movie. In the Export Movie dialog box, set the Export To option to QuickTime and set the Format option to produce the sound quality you want. For best quality, choose the CD-ROM Movie, Large setting or choose Expert and make audio settings for no compression, 44.1kHz, 16-bit stereo. Select the lowest image settings, since you won’t be using the video portion of the movie. This will reduce the file size and speed up exporting.
Open the exported movie in QuickTime Player and choose File: Export. (You’ll see this menu command only if you’ve upgraded to QuickTime Pro.) In the dialog box that appears, set the Export option to Sound To AIFF and set the Use option to the sound quality you want. Save the file. (You can now put the QuickTime movie in the Trash to recover the disk space it used.)
In iMovie, choose File: Import File, select the newly created AIFF sound file, and click Import. This places the AIFF clip in iMovie’s music track.
Drag Clip 1 to the Clip Viewer. Click the audio viewer tab and mute Clip 1’s audio track. Finally, drag the AIFF clip directly below Clip 1. You will now hear the audio from Clip 2 when you view Clip 1.
Get Help from Your Browser
This AppleScript uses your default Web browser to open whichever help page you have currently displayed in the Apple Help Viewer program. The script works correctly in Mac OS 8.6 through 9 but doesn’t work in Mac OS 8.5.1 or earlier.
You can move AIFF clips to any position on the music track (a wonderful way to provide audio for still images), copy and paste them, and crop them, all independent of the video. You can create an echo effect by turning a clip’s audio track into an AIFF sound file and importing this file to a position offset a few frames from the original clip. In this case, don’t mute the original clip.
Rounding Numbers in Excel
The spreadsheet formula you offered for rounding numbers to a given number of significant digits (QuickTips, June 2000) works only for positive numbers. The general formula for all numbers, including 0, is IF(cell0,ROUND(cell,(n-1)-INT(LOG(ABS(cell)))),0).
Replace cell with the actual cell address and n with the desired number of significant digits.
LON POOLE answers readers’ questions and selects reader-submitted tips for this monthly column. He is a coauthor, with John Rizzo, of The Little Network Book (Peachpit Press, 1999).
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