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Ask TUAW: Open Firmware passwords, Desktop pictures, folder syncing and more

We've got a bumper crop in Ask TUAW this week! We tackle questions about about setting an Open Firmware password, changing Desktop pictures, folder syncing, external hard drives, video adapters, Palm/Mac personal finance packages and more. Let's keep it going! Please include your questions for next week as comments below and thanks to all the questioners from last week.

josh asks

I travel occasionally with my iBook G4, and often I'll put the laptop into my checked luggage. Since there's a possibility it could get lost/stolen, I'm concerned about locking the machine down as much as possible. I know I can encrypt my home folder to protect those files, but I also know it's possible to boot into single user mode or even boot with a Tiger DVD and access the HDD. Is there a way to tightly lock down a Mac when physical access is not completely unavoidable? Can I set a boot password (similar to a BIOS password in the PC world) that would prevent booting at all (either from disc or to the HDD) without the password?

You just need to set the Open Firmware password as described in this Apple Support Document. That should do just about exactly what you want.


Tim asks

I am having some trouble changing my background......I added new photos to iphoto and then try to make them my background with system pref. but it just turns blue........photos that were already in my iphoto library work but the new ones don't........HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

I would really need more information to help, but I do have a couple of suggestions.

1) Put the images a new folder in iPhoto and try again. You might also try logging out and logging back in.

2) If that doesn't work, export the images you want to use to a sub-folder in your Pictures folder (preferably at your desktop's resolution). Then go to the Desktop tab of the Desktop & Screen Saver Preference Pane. Pick the "Choose Folder" option and select the sub-folder you just created. Now you should have access to your images.


Frank asks

Say I tried to share my internet connection with another computer, and failed but everytime I start my computer it wants to share. Is there any way to get rid of this fake network I created?

Go to Internet Tab of the Sharing Preference Pane and turn Internet Sharing off. That should do it.



Alexandre asks

The ones who are using leopard, any news about a update on iWork? Pages is lovey, however it obviously miss some things. I would love to know about some news on it...

Anyone who is supposed to have Leopard is under a NDA and shouldn't say anything. However, I'm reasonably confident that iWork has not been included with the Leopard betas as no information has leaked out on the Mac web. So I'm afraid you're probably going to have to wait until October like the rest of us, but if you're lucky you might hear something next week.


Michael asks

I would like to sync the contents of a number of folders on a MacBook and a thumb-drive, with newer versions of files replacing older versions (in both directions). In other words, I need something like the Windows program SyncBack. Can anyone suggest an equivalent?


If you're seriously geeky you could work up something with rsync . However, there are much easier ways to do this. I have previously recommended ChronoSync ($30 demo available).


KR asks

While using Parallels, is there an easy way to move documents from my mac partition onto the windoze partition in Parallels, and vice versa? For example, say I had a few mp3's or something that I wanted to put onto my Parallels XP. And then if I wanted to move a word document from XP to my mac HD?

Parallels now supports drag-and-drop from one desktop to the other. I'm not quite sure which version you're using, but if you have an old one you should update.


Hunter asks

1.) im getting an External Hard Drive and I need some help finding a good one in the range of 200 -300 500GB or up I was wondering witch one should I look for.

You don't say which Mac you're using, but any USB or FireWire hard drive should work. I personally would recommend the My Book series from Western Digital as I've had good luck with them. FireWire still generally provides better performance then USB 2.0. If you have a MacBook Pro or Mac Pro you can use an eSATA drive with the appropriate adapters (MacBook Pro or Mac Pro). If you want to go high end, the G-Drive Q has gotten very good reviews.

2.) I currently switched, and im really happy I made this decisions. but i remember that in windows I use to emty up disk space by going to the control panel and stuff, and I could also defragment files and such, how can I do this in mac to keep performance well?

Welcome to the Mac; don't worry, be happy! OS X should take care of most of this kind of stuff by itself. If you're really paranoid about it, however, there are a number of Mac utilities that will allow you to perform a variety of maintenance tasks. I would suggest taking a look at Macworld's exhaustive round up and going from there.


Alan asks

I have a Macbook, and a boring Standard TV (not even widescreen). I want to be able to use the TV as a monitor, for those random times when 13.3 inches isn't enough. I already plan on purchasing a Mini-DVI to DVi cord, along with a DVI to VGA cord. With all that in mind, what is the best way to get stuff onto the TV? It has standard RCA input, and I believe it also has Composite and S-Video.

You actually need the Mini-DVI to Video Adapter ($19), which will give you both Composite and S-Video out. That said, you probably don't want to do this as a way of getting an external monitor. The resolution will be quite poor and text very fuzzy. It will be okay for video, but not for general computing. LCD monitorss are getting very inexpensive these days. You'd be much better off getting one.


Matt asks

Is there a good money software out there that has both an OS X and Palm OS componenent and can sync between my Palm and Mac?

I've had this same question myself, and have never found anything particularly good. Splash Money includes a Mac conduit that will allow you to import and export data in QIF format which can be used in a number of personal finance packages on the Mac including Quicken and others. As far as I know, there is no fully native syncing solution available for the Palm and Mac.


Wow, that's the most we've ever done! As always, please include questions for next week in the comments.


This information is provided for your entertainment. Neither TUAW nor this author can be held responsible for any problems arising from the use of the information provided here.



We've got a bumper crop in Ask TUAW this week! We tackle questions about about setting an Open Firmware password, changing Desktop...