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Ask TUAW: Optical out, default Docks, dual wifi networks, virtualization and more

In this edition of Ask TUAW we'll be looking at questions about using the Mac's audio optical out, setting up a different default Dock, using Time Capsule to set up a dual wifi network, getting birthdays on the iPhone and much more.

As always your suggestions are most welcome, and questions for next week should be left in the comments. And now, on to the questions!

ChrisC asks

As a soon-to-be Mac switcher, I have a question for next week's feature: audio output. Specifically, I'd like to hook up a simple, unobtrusive, relatively inexpensive 2.1 speaker system to my new Mac; what are my options? Do I have to go the TOSLINK route and buy a digital receiver? Any/all suggestions appreciated-I'm going to use the new Mac as a workstation primarily, but I'd like something that makes for an enjoyable occasional DVD or two. Thanks!

I'm going to assume you actually meant to say you want to hook up a 5.1 system. A 2.1 system would just be stereo (plus subwoofer) and if that's all you want you can just plug in a standard analog 1/8" stereo plug. If you want 5.1 you will need to go TOSLINK from your Mac to something that can decode it. I have a Logitech Z-5450 that I really like for the wireless rears. However, if you have a MacBook (Pro) or iMac you'll also need a 1/8" Toslink to Optical mini adapter like this one at Amazon. The reason for this is that the optical output on most recent Macs is shared with the headphone jack, so you'll have to get this adapter. If you have a Mac Pro you won't need the adapter as they have conventional TOSLINK ports.


juwanjali asks

I've been given a CD with pictures on it, but I can't read it on my MBP. When I stick it in, it shows up as a blank disc. But when I stick it in a Win PC, it shows the pics. I've even tried opening the disc up on my Bootcamp partition. Am I needing some type of driver for my MATSHITA optical drive? When I open the properties of the CD on a Win PC, it shows up as a CDFS format. Thanks for any help you can give.

I assume it's a burned disc. If you can't see the disc contents even in Boot Camp, then the problem is probably with the drive's ability to read the disc. OS X has native support for CDFS (i.e. ISO 9660), so I do not think this is a driver issue, but a hardware one.


Tomahawk asks

I don't like it that the iLife applications are spread out amongst all other applications in the Applications folder. i like to create subfolders for each category (ie. MS office, Browsers, video tools, games, etc.), and then I move each of the applications into the appropriate subfolder. Now I have no problem moving into a subfolder name "iLife", however I noticed if I create a new user account, the new user's default iLife alias's in the dock are invalid because something somewhere thinks that the application should be in the Application folder. Is there some Terminal command I can run to update whatever this is so that this doesn't happen?

No, I don't think so. Those are hard-coded into the default Dock. However, all of the Dock preferences are stored in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.plist So what you could do is fix these aliases one time then make a copy of that file. Then just copy that to your new installs. Alternately, you can edit the plist directly.


iGO asks

I already have an excellently working wireless network using a Linksys Wireless router running 802.11g. I want to buy a time capsule and take advantage of the 802.11n spec it provides. How do I set up two separate protocols on my same network. One using 802.11n, for all me hardware that can run at that spec, and a second running at the 802.11g spec. I understand this is possible and that it will provide the best performance overall, so the g hardware won't slow down the n hardware.


The best way to do this would probably be to run the Time Capsule as your gateway (DHCP server). Set the Time Capsule's radio to run as 801.11n only with the Airport Setup Utility. Then plug your Linksys into one of the Time Capsule's LAN ports. That is, run a patch cable from one of the Time Capsule LAN ports to a LAN port on the Linksys. You'll also need to disable the DHCP server in the Linksys and use it just as an access point (so that it does not interfere with the DHCP from the Time Capsule). Now you should be able to run your n network separately from the g, but everything should still be able to see everything else.

Naturally, since the Time Capsule has not been released I can't confirm that this will work, but it should.

Update: I think I was mistaken before. As several people have pointed out, you want to bridge the Linksys so the patch cable should go to a LAN port on the Linksys, not the WAN port.

caleb asks serially

I just ordered an iMac to replace my iBook, so I will finally be joining the rest of the world on the Intel platform. With regard to Boot Camp/Virtualization, I'm still not clear on some of the details. I would ideally like to have my system setup to dual boot with Boot Camp, and be able to access the Boot Camp Windows installation through virtualization as well. My questions are basically the following: 1) Are either or both of Parallels/Fusion capable of this?

Yes, both Fusion and Parallels can run a Boot Camp partition as a Virtual Machine.

2) Office 2007 or Office 2008? I use and really like the ribbon interface at work. Will I be frustrated with slowness by running 2008 virtualized? Is saving and accessing 2008 files going to be painful from OS X? I would Ideally like to be able to for example double-click on an excel file on my mac filesystem and have Excel pop up in Unity/Coherance mode.

This is a little bit confusing. I think you'd be fine running Office 2007 for Windows in virtualization, but why bother? I think it'd make much more sense to run Office 2008 for Mac which has a kind of faux-ribbon interface as well. But yes, I know with Parallels you can associate file type to open with Windows applications (which I don't think Fusion has yet).

3) Should I use Vista or XP? I like the fact that XP is proven and I think some of the games I would be dual booting for aren't supported by Vista. I've also heard though that Office 2008 is much faster on Vista, and I do think that Vista will eventually become more accepted and mainstream, just like people bitched about moving to XP from 2000

Given that people are downgrading all the time from Vista to XP (together with its stiffer system requirement) I'd recommend sticking with XP if you want to run it in virtualization as long as the software you want to run is supported.


DJFriar asks

I have a horrible memory when it comes to my extended family, most of which are very young (like 1yr-6yr). They don't have their own phone numbers/email adresses, so I'd rather not have a contact entry on my iPhone. But I would like to have their b-day on my iPhone so I can be alerted.... So the question is: How can I add B-Day's with out having to have a contact entry for them on my iPhone?

Aren't you making this too complicated? Why don't you just create a calendar in iCal with just those birthdays (just add each one and then make it recurring yearly). Then sync that calendar with your iPhone.


Rob asks

Anybody know of any Trip/Journey planning software to create a good smart looking itinerary for when I go on various journeys and plans. I usually find myself looking for various booking confirmations, maps, directions and stuff in various places on my person and would like this all taken care of in a handy document.

I'm not aware of a dedicated application for doing this. As another reader pointed out, however, Numbers has a template for Travel planning that might help some. You might also check out the website TripHub.com. Otherwise, it would surely be easy enough to modify some other database type application to do this, either a snippet keeper like Yojimbo or even the new FileMaker Bento.

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