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Ask TUAW: rEFIt with Open Firmware passwords, iCal problems, iPod without iTunes, and more

In this edition of Ask TUAW we've got questions about using an iPod without iTunes, hotkey managers, iTunes locking up, getting rid of persistent iCal calendars, Open Firmware passwords and much more.

As always, your suggestions are most welcome, and questions for next week should be left in the comments. When asking a question please include which machine you're running and which version of Mac OS X, as certain answers will vary between different Macs and Tiger vs. Leopard, etc. (we'll assume you're running Leopard if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions!

cuckoo asks

A while back I did some testing with a 10.5 server and implementing a caldav server. It didn't quite work out, so i headed an other way. I deleted the caldav server account in ical and went on with my life. But since 10.5.3, whenever i restart ical there the caldav calender returns. I can delete it no problem, but whenever i open en close ical, it's right there again.Where does ical store the caldav information? or how could i lose this?

Well, this is a strange one. I don't know exactly what's causing it, but iCal stores its data in ~/Library/Calendars, so you could start by looking there for the relevant calendar and deleting it. This may be somewhat difficult as the folder names are not obvious. However, in each folder you will find an Info.plist file which contains the name of the calendar.

Incidentally, before doing anything I would suggest exporting your calendars to a safe place with the File Export command in iCal, just in case you end up deleting something accidentally.

Update: The storage location for calendars changed with Leopard. Thanks, John.


Steven asks

I've got a major problem in iTunes that has just started a few weeks ago. First off: MacBook 2.2Ghz, 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, 10.5.3, all the latest updates, etc. The music library is in the default iTunes folder. I've got almost 17,100 songs in iTunes (around 100GB). Adding songs to the library is no issue, but when I play a song, the song plays but I get the spinning beach ball, then 13 seconds later I can stop the song. Everything is fine in iTunes until I decide to play a song. Now, I do have Last.fm installed and haven't tried removing that to see if it's the problem. I do have iStat Menus installed and every time I play a song in iTunes, iTunes uses "109%" CPU usage. It goes back to normal after the 13 seconds, but a few seconds later will go back to the 109% CPU usage. So that has me thinking it's not the Last.fm app. Anyway, it's really annoying as I have to wait 13 seconds to do ANYTHING in iTunes if a song is playing. Any suggestions would help a TON.

Well, it looks like you're not alone. However if you look at the end of that thread you'll see that a number of people solved the problem by removing last.fm. Look in your Activity Monitor and see if "AudioScrobber" is hanging. If so, that's the problem and you should just remove it.


Simon asks

I have a 16GB iPod Touch and a very large collection of movies and TV shows in my iTunes library stored on my iMac. I will soon be going away for about a year to South America, will not be able to take a laptop, but will be able to use PCs at local internet cafes maybe once a fortnight. I want to put my iTunes library onto an external USB powered drive (I have a 320GB drive that should do the job) and be able to swap the films that are on stored on the iPod for viewing. Is it possible to also store the iTunes application that I need to transfer the files? I'm a bit confused about how I should set it all up. Thanks.

What you need is to run a portable version of a music manger like Floola or YamiPod. Making an application portable means that it can be run off of a flash drive without installing it on a host computer. Unfortunately, neither of these supports the iPod touch. However, I did run across a very experimental version of the ml_ipod plugin for WinAmp. So, in principle, you could run a portable version of WinAmp with this bleeding edge plugin installed. However, you might have to build it yourself. Then you'd run it off of a flash drive (not the iPod touch itself) on the internet cafe computer. Basically, it's going to be a pain in the @#$%.

Now, of course if you find that these internet cafe computers have iTunes already installed you can just select your external drive as the library and sync your iPod touch. Just make sure the drive is formatted FAT32.


Steve asks serially

1. I have two user accounts on my machine, but I have a folder or two that I want to be able to access at all times from either user account. I do not, however, want all of this data to be available to other macs on my network.

Put those folders in the /Users/Shared folder, and they will be accessible from either account.

2. Is there a way to "Share" iPhoto libraries within a network of macs in the same way you can Share an iTunes library (essentially providing read-only access)? I don't want to copy my library on three macs but I also don't want to have to teach my wife to use Back To My Mac to view my photos while she's on her laptop.

Yes. In iPhoto preferences, go to the Sharing tab and activate the "Share my photos" check box. You may also want to turn on password access, especially on any laptop that leaves your home network.



Craig asks

I'd like to set up a tri-boot between OS X, XP Pro and Ubuntu 8.04, and use rEFIt as my bootloader/menu. Now, I know how to do all that. I'm also looking at getting a program like Undercover in case of theft; they recommend a firmware password to prevent booting from another disc. Now, will that password conflict with rEFIt in any way? Or will it just make me have to type in a password every time I want to boot something other than OS X (which is not a bit deal)?

Check out this response by the author of rEFIt. He suggests creating a separate, small HFS+ partition with rEFIt and the password protection active, and then the main Mac OS X partition set as the default. I think this should give you pretty much what you want.


virusdoc asks

I have two Macs, a 24" iMac Aluminum (home) and the newest version of the Mac Pro (quad core) at work. Both of them have the same problem: they cannot seem to keep their time machine disks mounted. Both machines are hooked to external disks via firewire, the iMac to a generic firewire enclosure I built with a Seagate PATA 400GB drive, the Pro to a WD MyBook Home edition, 500GB. I have updated the firmware on the WD drive to the most recent; no firmware updates are available for the generic enclosure. Both machines will mount the drives just fine at boot or at login, and they seem to keep the drive mounted until I put the machines to sleep. On wake, there is about a 30% chance that the drive will no longer appear in the Finder, and of course Time Machine can't find it and backups fail. The lost mount doesn't occur in a reproducible fashion, but it always occurs after several sleep/wake cycles. No "you unplugged a mounted disk, you stupid user" errors are shown. No relevant error messages seem to be posted in the Console logs. Both external disks spin down at sleep, and spin up at wake-even if they are not showing up in the Finder. Since both machines do this (and have done so since 10.5.0-I keep hoping Apple will fix it with each update, but they don't), I'm inclined to believe it's a pervasive Leopard issue. Logging out or rebooting is an obvious, but temporary, fix. But one of the reasons I converted to Mac OS about a year ago is because my Mac-owning friends were always boasting about weeks to months of up time, so I'd like to find a real fix. I have perused the Apple support discussions and find a few related threads (some implicating WD drives, a factor I feel I've excluded by using a home-baked firewire drive as a control), but no real solutions.

I have experienced similar problems myself and I know of no easy fix for all your drives. For the WD drive it may help to run the WD Drive Manager we covered a little while back. In my own case, I've also found (sadly) that switching to the USB interface can help (if it's available on your drive). Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions for the home-built drive.


Josh asks

A few months ago I jailbroke my iphone with ZiPhone. A little while later I had to restore my iphone because I was having some problems, and never rejailbroke it. Later, I found out that ZiPhone changes the bootloader and once it is changed, it cannot be changed back. So recently I tried jailbreaking by iphone again, this time with Pwnage Tool. Anyway, with the impending 2.0 software release, I want to revirginize my phone. Is there any way I can revirginize my iphone and restore the bootloader back to what it originally was? Is my iphone going to be able to run 2.0?

You can't really tell for sure until iPhone 2.0 releases, but from what I can tell, I don't think it should be a problem. You'll just need to restore your iPhone with iTunes before you upgrade. Apparently, some of the iPhone hackers out there already have gotten ahold of the iPhone 2.0 software and have successfully installed it on previously jailbroken devices.


Carlos asks

Is there any app that it's only objective is to set hotkeys to open things up? I'm using Quicksilver for it, but since I recently converted to LaunchBar, I could use something with a smaller footprint just to have HotKeys.

There are many such applications. Among the more popular are Keyboard Maestro ($36), QuickKeys X ($80), and iKey ($30). However, I've seen a number of folks recommend the donation-ware Spark, so you might want to start there.


Wes asks

I'm a mac noob (switched after decades of Windows). I like running Synergy (StarDock refuses to release their mac client of Multiplicity) between my mac and my Windows box at work. Each weekday morning, I have to open a terminal window, and enter the command line to kick off Synergy. How can I: 1) Have this command run automatically every time I boot the machine, or 2) Have an icon of some sorts so that I can manually start the app without having to type in the command line with all of its arguments. I'd probably prefer #2, as I don't want it running when I'm not in the office.

There are ways to do what you ask, but wouldn't it just be better to run the GUI version of Synergy: SynergyKM?



In this edition of Ask TUAW we've got questions about using an iPod without iTunes, hotkey managers, iTunes locking up, getting rid of...