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Ask TUAW: RAW support, Randomized Playlists, recovering songs from an iPod and more

After a nice break I'm happy to be back. Many thanks to Mike R and Chris for their excellent pinch hitting. This week in Ask TUAW we'll look at camera RAW support, getting the Shuffle into the iPhone, recovering songs from an iPod to a new Mac and more. As always please leave questions for next week in the comments to this post.

Unfortunately we can't always get to all of the questions, but many times your fellow TUAW readers will have insightful advice as well. Now, let's get to it!

stephen asks

I have a friend who hates Macs, and has been predicting their demise for years. Recent increases in hardware sales and market share have shut him up a bit, but he now predicts that OS X will soon run on any hardware, and then people will choose the best software (he acknowledges that, at least) and the most affordable hardware, refusing to be held to ransom by Apple's exorbitant hardware costs! I don't know enough of the technical side to argue. Do you think OS X will eventually be able to be made to run on any hardware?

This question has been hashed out many times, but I think the simple answer is: No, it's not going to happen. The reason is simple: Apple is a hardware company and makes its money from selling hardware. It seems extremely unlikely that Apple would give up its biggest competitive advantage by offering OS X for sale on generic white boxes. As with many Mac things, John Gruber over at Daring Fireball has some of the most insightful commentary on this issue, and his reasoning is basically the same.

That said, hackers have gotten OS X to run on generic hardware, but I take it as a near certainty that Apple will not release a retail version of OS X for non-Apple computers.


sixhoursago asks

I recently purchased a new camera that is capable of shooting RAW. The images it takes have a .RAF extension. When I move them to my Mac, I am able to see the image in the preview provided by Finder's column view, but am unable to open the file in Preview.app, iPhoto or Aperture. I'm told by Aperture that the file type is unsupported. Do you know of any way to correct this problem?

You don't say which camera you have, but Apple only officially supports selected models and if your camera isn't on the list then it won't be natively recognized by any of those applications. It's like you can see the preview in the Finder because your camera embeds a JPEG into the RAW file.

That said, if you camera model is close to one of the supported models, you may be able to hack together a work-around. Over at Mac OS X Hints, there's a neat trick for editing the RAW plist to add compatibility for Adobe DNGs converted from cameras not officially supported by Apple. You do first have to convert the RAW files to Adobe's DNG using their free converter, and this will only work if your camera is on Adobe's support list.

If your camera is a popular model you can take hope in the fact that Apple is continually adding new RAW support (including in the most recent 10.4.10 update). So if you're lucky native support will be added soon (I would expect RAW support to be increased in Leopard as well).


Kenny asks

I'm replacing my iPod shuffle with an iPhone, but the iPhone doesn't "shuffle" songs. What i'd like to do is pick a few playlists of music that are always on the phone, my favorite songs, then fill the remaining space with anything else at random... any ideas?

What you need to do is create some cool Smart Playlists and sync those over. Here are just some random ideas to get you started.

Basically, the key idea is just to define a set of music you want select from and then fill the playlist selected by "random." So here's what I would do. Create a music-only playlist as described by Merlin, then define a smart playlist that excludes your playlists you always sync and then includes the music only playlist. You can also specify the size, etc. So in this example, playlists A, B, and C are already synced over and the total size is limited to 2GB. Now just sync that Smart Playlist to your iPhone.


And of course you can continue customizing to your hearts content. If you haven't filled out your metadata you may want to do that as well to give you even more control of your randomized playlist.


Patric asks

My friend synced her 5th Gen iPod to her computer at home in the US. She then moved to Sydney and bought a Macbook there. SO she would like to be able to sync her iPod with her Macbook, but she doesn't want to lose all her music. Obviously not all of it was purchased on iTunes, so asking them to send the downloads to her account again wouldn't work.

There are in fact a variety of utilities that will allow you to copy music back from the iPod to a mac. For donation-ware you could have her check out Senuti ('iTunes' backwards, get it?). For a little bit of cash, PodWorks ($8) is probably the most well-regarded of these tools and has just been updated to version 2.9. So basically using one of these she just needs to copy all of the music over to the MacBook from the iPod.

There's one very important thing to remember when using any of these utilities. When she first plugs her iPod into the new Mac, it will ask her if she wants to sync it with that Mac. Be sure that she selects no, or all of her music will be erased. In addition make sure the "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" option is checked on in the iTunes preferences Advanced tab.

Jon asks

Is there a way to get the icons of mountable drives, like iPods or external harddrives, to show up in the same spot of the desktop every time?

Frankly, no there's not. It's a great annoyance of mine as well, but there's no way built into the Finder to do this. You can show the view options for the Desktop (⌘J) and try to use one of the "keep arranged by" options, but that's about it.



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