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Ask TUAW: Automounting a network drive, iPhone flash memory, XMP photo metadata and more

Last week's Ask TUAW prompted an avalanche of questions, so we're going to have to pace ourselves. For this episode we'll tackle questions about auto-mounting a network drive, sending email across an internet sharing Mac, wearing out iPhone flash, using Adobe XMP photo metadata in Windows and OS X, monitoring bandwidth usage and more.

We'll get to more questions in the near future, but please leave suggestions and new questions in the comments.

Chris asks

Is there an equivalent in os x to "map a network drive" in windows? I know how to mount shares over my network but getting them to appear automatically at login is what i need.


If all you want is to mount a drive automatically at startup that's easy (we even covered this earlier). All you have to do is mount the drive in the Finder then add it to the Login Items tab of the Accounts Preference Pane for your account. Just hit the plus sign and select the (mounted) drive in the dialog sheet.


Gabe asks

I recently lost my Airport Express base station to a complete hardware failure. This was my router for internet connection for all three of my Macs. I fixed the problem by relocating a desk to have my G5 iMac with the ethernet cable plugged in directly and sharing the internet connection through the Airport Extreme card to the other two Macs in my home. Everything works flawlessly with one exception. I cannot send e-mails using the two Macs that are sharing the connection. The host iMac can send mail and the other two have complete internet connection and can receive mail. The question is, is there a proxy that needs to be set up on the iMac to allow that specific type of traffic through?

Well if you're sending mail through the unsecured SMTP protocol you can open port 25 in your firewall on the G5 iMac and see if that works. If you're using SSL you'll need to figure out which port your ISP uses, probably 465 but maybe 587. (Just for testing purposes you could try turning the firewall off altogether and seeing it works. If it does then at least you know that's the problem.)

If that doesn't work the problem may be that your SMTP servers don't recognize the other two Macs for some reason. You might then try using a third-party authenticated SMTP server such as Google's (requires a free Gmail account).


ossiejnr asks

I have a question for you regarding remote access to a mac. I have enabled SSH and want to create a user that has SSH access but is limited to staying inside their home folder. You can do this with FTP for example but is it possible with SSH?

If you create the user as a non-administrator then the user permissions should be the same over SSH as they are locally.

Update: As several folks have pointed out I didn't understand the question and so failed to answer it. Fortunately, reader KiltBear has the solution. He points us to a Chroot tutorial for OS X. Thanks to the commenters, especially KiltBear.


Macintologist asks

I recently heard that flash memory has a finite number of read/write cycles before it stops working completely. In light of this, should I turn off automatic syncing on my iPhone and only sync when necessary?

Well according to Wikipedia most commercial flash products will withstand at least 100,000 write-erase cycles. Furthermore, when you sync your iPhone you're not generally going to be erasing and rewriting the entire flash memory. So basically I would say not to worry about it. It's rather unlikely that you will come anywhere close to the fault limit within the lifetime of the device.


ghd asks

I wondered if you could give some insight / explanation into keyword tagging on the Mac. I'm a long-time Windows user contemplating switching, though I'm hesitant to do so b/c managing thousands of photos on Windows is so easy, especially with Vista's new Photo Gallery, which embeds tags (or keywords) right into the original file's metadata via XMP (Adobe's standard). I understand that iPhoto does NOT embed the keyword metadata into the original file, but - instead - stores it only in its own library, thus obviating the benefit of keywords should you move your photos elsewhere at some point (onto an external hard drive, for example, or another machine). Is there a good way to get the keyword/tag into the original file's metadata, a la Windows Vista? Does Aperture do this?

Well the first thing that comes to mind is that you could simply use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on your Mac if you want to use the XMP metadata format. As it turns out (see this Macworld review) Aperture 1.5 is able to export XMP sidecar files, but not import them. So all things considered if XMP support is important to you I'd suggest just staying within Adobe applications and you should have cross-platform functionality unless Vista messes it up.

Update: a reader Brian writes in to tell us that Aperture will embed "keywords, along with other metadata is embedded in the image in the industry standard IPTC format, which would then be readable by pretty much any other application."

Alan asks

There have been disputes in our family over what applications are causing our bandwidth issues. Are there any (simple) Mac apps that can analyze the network usage, and tell us what computer is causing all the trouble?

It's not entirely clear what you want here. I assume the issue is that you have multiple Macs connected to a router connected to the internet (cable modem, DSL, etc.) and you want to know which one of the Macs is using the most bandwidth? If that's right there are a couple of possible options. Depending on your router, it may have a network monitoring service built-in. In which case you should access your router via the web interface and check the logs (or if you're lucky there will be a dynamic graph) against the IP or MAC addresses of the various computers. It should quickly be apparent which computer is using the most bandwidth.

If that doesn't work you could instead install something on each computer like Net Monitor ($10) or even MenuMeters (donationware) which includes Traffic Totals in its Net Meter. Then you could just compare the overall network traffic for each computer.

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