As the parent of a two-year-old, I’ve learned that to remain sane, a person has to set limits. Yet as a Mac user, I understand my toddler’s tantrums — when my Mac and its applications present seemingly arbitrary limitations, I sometimes react with a grown-up tantrum. If computer restrictions are giving you a case of the terrible twos, join me as we overcome iDVD’s 30-second motion-menu limit, short-circuit the Dock’s Turn Hiding Off command, capture audio snippets from commercial DVDs, and play Riven and Myst III: Exile without once having to swap discs.
There is — with the help of the Property List Editor application in OS X’s Developer Tools.
First you need a copy of Developer Tools, included with the full version of OS X 10.2 and bundled with new Power Macs and PowerBooks. With Developer Tools installed, open an iDVD project, create a motion menu, and save the project. Switch to the Finder, control-click on your project file (called name .dvdproj, where name is the project’s name), and select Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. Open the Contents folder in the resulting window and then the Resources folder inside Contents. Double-click on the ProjectData file to open it in Prop-erty List Editor. In the untitled window that appears, you’ll see the word Root with a triangle next to it. Follow the path of subentries by clicking on the triangles next to these items: Root: Menu Folder: Base Info: Children: number: Base Info: Inspection Property List: MotionDuration: Value. The number entry varies depending on which menu you’re editing; 1 is the default motion menu included with many iDVD 3 templates. Additional motion menus bear higher numbers (2 would be the second motion menu created, and 3 is the next menu created).
To change the length of time the motion menu plays, double-click on the 30 entry next to Value and enter a higher number — 60, for example, causes the motion menu to play for 60 seconds before repeating. Save your changes and close the file. To confirm that your motion menu will play for the length of time you chose, open your project, click on iDVD 3’s Customize button, click on the Settings button in the resulting drawer, and make sure the Motion Duration slider is now set to the value you entered. Don’t touch that slider, or the duration will revert to 30 seconds.
Dicker with the Dock
You can break the Dock’s hold on this key combination with the help of the right macro utility. Using either Michael Kamprath’s free Keyboard Maestro (www.keyboardmaestro.com) or Script Software’s $20 iKey, formerly known as Youpi Key (www.scriptsoft ware.com), you can create application-specific menu shortcuts that allow XPress to Step And Repeat like nobody’s business when you press 1-option-D. Once you leave XPress, this command causes the Dock to leap about like a jack-in-the-box, as Apple intended.
Amble over to www.rogueamoeba.com and download Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack. Among other things, this $16 OS X-only utility allows you to record any audio played on your Mac — a Real Audio stream, for example — and save that audio as an AIFF file. In this specific situation, launch Audio Hijack, click on the Select button in Audio Hijack’s window, and choose DVD Player as the target application. Click on the Launch button to launch DVD Player (see “Hello, Jack!”). In DVD Player, navigate to the piece of dialogue you’d like to capture, switch back to Audio Hijack, and click on the Start Recording button. Click on Stop Recording when you’ve grabbed the goods. Audio Hijack will save the audio it captured as a 16-bit, 44.1kHz AIFF file that you can then play in iTunes.
Trim the sound in an audio editor such as TC Works’ free Spark ME (www.tcworks.de) or Felt Tip Software’s $50 ($60 on CD) Sound Studio 2.1 (610/293-0512, www.felttip.com). Then save the file with an .aiff extension (.aif won’t do) and drop it into the Users: your user folder: Library: Sounds folder. You can now select the file within the Sound system preference.
Audio Hijack Pro ($30) lets you save files as MP3s and supports VST and AudioUnits plug-ins — handy when you want to process an application’s sound with effects and equalization.
It’s usually a cinch to place multidisc games on your Mac’s hard drive by mounting virtual discs in the form of disk images. Just launch Disk Copy (Applications: Utilities), insert the first disc into your Mac’s media drive, and drag it into the Disk Copy window.
In the OS 9 version of Disk Copy, a Save Disk Image As window will appear. Select Read Only from the Format pop-up menu, leave the Size pop-up menu alone (by default it creates an image the same size as the disc you’ve inserted), and click on Save to create the image. For those of you following along with OS X’s Disk Copy, an Image Volume window appears when you drag a disc into the Disk Copy window. In this window, select DVD/ CD Master from the Image Format pop-up menu, leave the Encryption pop-up menu alone, and click on Save to create your image. Repeat for each disc in the set.
Once you’ve created images of all your discs, double-click on the images to mount them. Now launch your game and shimmy with delight when it treats those mounted images as the real deal and ticks along without begging for additional discs. To slicken this trick (and save some hard-drive space), burn the images to a DVD-R disc. When you’re ready to play your game, insert the DVD-R, select all the disc images on it, double-click on them to mount the images — and play on, brothers and sisters, play on.
And now for the fine print. Although this trick works a treat for most games — Myst III: Exile included — it falls flat with Myst’s sequel, Riven.
To keep Riven from demanding platter after platter, you must install Riven (creating a Riven folder on your hard drive), open the Data folder on each disc, and copy any files with the .MHK extension (p_Data.MHK, for instance) into the Data folder within the Riven folder on your hard drive.
Word’s Paste Special command offers the assistance you desire. The somewhat tedious way to invoke the command is to choose it from the Edit menu, select Unformatted Text in the resulting Paste Special window, and click on OK. Text will appear at the insertion point, with the current formatting for that paragraph.
I term this tedious because it requires taking a trip to the Edit menu. To save yourself the journey, do as I did and create a macro. Select Tools: Macro: Record New Macro. Assign a name to the macro and click on the Keyboard button in the Record Macro window. In the Customize Keyboard window, press a keyboard combination (I chose control-option-V) and click on the Assign button. Click on OK to dismiss the window and produce the Macro Recording palette.
Now run through the procedure I outlined in the first part of this response. Click on the Stop Recording button when you’re done. When you next need to paste unformatted text into a Word document, press your macro key combination to tidy up your text.
Recent Macs (all iBooks, slot-loading iMacs, FireWire PowerBooks, AGP and later Power Macs, and the Power Mac Cube) let you create an Open Firmware password if your Mac’s firmware version is 4.1.7 or higher (you can find the version number in the System Overview section of Apple System Profiler). Open Firmware is a cross-platform standard for controlling hardware on PCI-compatible Macs. Although there’s very little mere mortals can do in Open Firmware, even the merest among us can enable a kind of password protection that prevents others from creatively booting a Mac running OS X. Such creative booting includes starting up from any volume other than the one designated in the Startup Disk system preference — for instance, booting from a CD or FireWire drive — or booting into Single User or Verbose mode.
Should a passing rapscallion try to skirt this protection by holding down the C key at startup with a bootable CD in the media drive or by mashing the option key at startup in an attempt to choose a different volume, he or she will encounter a screen that features a large lock icon and a field for entering the Open Firmware password. Anyone who doesn’t know it is out of luck — the Mac won’t boot.
There are two ways to enable the password. The easy way is to travel to http://docs.info.apple.com /article.html?artnum=120095 and download Apple’s Open Firmware Password 1.0.2 utility. Run the utility, select Require Password To Change Open Firmware Settings, create and verify a new password, and click on the Change button.
If for some reason you don’t have online access, there is another (though harder) way. Hold down 1-option-O-F at startup to boot into Open Firmware. When you see the Open Firmware prompt, type password. Enter the password you want to use for Open Firmware and verify it when prompted. Now type setenv security-mode full. This enables the same level of protection as the Apple utility. Finally, type reset-all to restart your Mac.
To get rid of this protection, either run Open Firmware Password and deselect Require Password To Change Open Firmware Settings, or boot into Open Firmware, type setenv security-mode none, enter your password when prompted, and type reset-all.
Speak the Speech
I perform the very same job each month when I produce Breen’s Bungalow, the QuickTime tutorial found on the disc bundled with newsstand copies of Macworld. The tool I use is iMovie.
Drag your QuickTime clip into iMovie. (If you’re using a version of iMovie prior to 3.X, you must convert the movie into a DV stream with a utility such as QuickTime Player Pro. iMovie 3 converts QuickTime movies to DV streams during import.) Now click on the Audio button.
Here you’ll find controls for recording audio from the input device selected in the Sound system preference. Click on the red Record button and begin your voice-over. If you make a mistake, click on the Stop button, delete the audio file that now appears in iMovie’s timeline, and record a new take.
To edit a voice-over, open the movie’s project folder and then the Media folder, where you’ll find files with the same name as your voice-over tidbits — Voice 01, Voice 02, and Voice 03, for instance. Edit the appropriate file in an audio editor (such as Spark ME or Sound Studio, mentioned earlier), save it, drag it into iMovie, and position it wherever you like.
Tip of the Month
I recently brought a movie I made in iMovie 2 into iMovie 3, created chapters, and exported it to iDVD 3. After burning the DVD, I discovered that the soundtrack was totally out of sync with the video.
After some experimenting, I found that the problem was with the way I’d originally recorded the sound with my DV camera. Like many DV camcorders, mine records sound as 12-bit audio by default. Regrettably, recording at this bit rate can lead to audio-sync problems in iDVD 3.
I’m routinely awed by the usefulness of FireWire Target Disk Mode — the function built into FireWire Macs that allows you to easily access the hard drive on a Mac connected by FireWire. My most recent moment of awe came when I wanted to back up the Users folder on my PowerBook. Said PowerBook lacks a drive capable of burning CDs or DVDs, and I wasn’t looking forward to copying 4GB of data to my SuperDrive-bearing Power Mac over a fairly poky AirPort connection.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. Wait a minute — why not string a FireWire cable between the PowerBook and the Power Mac, restart the PowerBook with the T key held down to boot into FireWire Target Disk Mode, boot the Power Mac (where the PowerBook’s hard drive will appear as a local FireWire drive), insert a blank DVD-R into the Power Mac’s SuperDrive, and burn the Users folder to the DVD?
Why not, indeed? I did. It worked. You, too, might want to try it.