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Ask TUAW: Migrating from a PC to a virtual machine, tweaking OS X, controlling iTunes, and more.

This week in Ask TUAW we've got questions on tweaking, migrating from a PC to a virtual machine, forcing the Leopard welcome screen, controlling iTunes with the bare function keys and more.

As always, your suggestions are welcome. 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 (we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions!

marinepilot asks

I just bought a new iMac 20" and I want to know if I can use either Parallels or Boot Camp to make a partition (or Virtual Machine) on an external hard drive and then clone my old PC "C" drive into it to use it as it was?

You can do this with either Parallels or VMware Fusion. The steps are pretty simple: 1) Convert your PC with convertor software running on the PC, 2) copy the resulting file to your Mac, 3) convert that to a new virtual machine.

VMware has the instructions for Fusion. Parallels has a similar set of instructions of their own. Personally, I use and like Fusion, but I think either of these would do good job for you. They're each $79.99.


theraf83 asks

I'm prepping an iMac for sale and will do a clean install off an original Leopard disk (10.5.0). If I want to be nice and update the iMac for its future user, then is there a way to update to 10.5.6 without losing the initial welcome/setup screen?

Yes, it is possible to do this. Reinstall Leopard, create an admin account (with password), and apply the 10.5.6 Combo Updater. Then in the terminal you'll need to delete the file /private/var/db/.AppleSetupDone . Go to the terminal and type:

sudo rm /private/var/db/.AppleSetupDone

Put in your password and the next time the machine is started it should run the startup sequence. Keep in mind that this will not delete the admin account you created. So you should probably just tell the new buyer about it.


jordanpories asks

I have the leopard w/ all updates on a brand new iMac and i wanted to know if I could run the windows 7 beta DOWNLOAD on my mac via bootcamp & partitions. I ask this because online everyone talks about their windows 7 beta disks, but Microsoft offers it as a download, too, and I wanted to know how it would work.

There are several tutorials online for doing exactly this. Check out this one from SimpleHelp.net to get the basic idea.


Paul asks

I NEVER use Exposé, Spaces, etc and would love to use the function keys for things like Play/Pause iTunes, next track etc. I have an older MacBook without the keys built-in (Mid-2007). For example I would like to assign F8 to Play/Pause, F9 to Previous Track and F10 Next Track. I understand you can go to the the keyboard pref-pane and assign these keys to iTunes specifically. However, this does not work when you using another application (for example when I am writing in Word or browsing the net). Basically I would like to add the functionality play/pause etc Universally... I would ideally like to have the functionality without a third-party app.

Unfortunately, I think you will have to use a third-party app to control iTunes with the bare function keys. Synergy (€5 = ~$6.50) specifically allows this. Incidentally, it has some nice other features as well.


Chris asks

Right-click context menu in Mail> Search in Google. This opens Safari. Firefox is set as my default browser. Any fix?

Unfortunately, I believe this feature is actually an OS X Service of Safari itself so it cannot be remapped to work with a different browser.


MadMike asks

What about custom tweaks for Hardcore users? For instance windows has 100,00 different speed tweaks (multiple partitions, separate swap partition, etc).

OS X does contain a lot of hidden preferences that you can manipulate from the command line. However, there are also many different utilities that function as GUIs for many of these. You might check out Onyx (donations requested), Cocktail ($14.95), and/or TinkerTool (free). A relatively recent addition to the list with some interesting features is Secrets (free).


spdrcr5 asks

How about a way to enable the "Ignore accidental Trackpad Input" when you're running a MacBook Pro with Leopard and a Multi-touch trackpad! This feature was removed when Apple changed over to the multi-touch track pad. Their "answer" and "fix" for this is to install 10.4! How stupid is that?

According to this Apple Support Document this functionality is now "is enabled automatically, by-default." So I'm afraid you're unlikely to get it back.



This week in Ask TUAW we've got questions on tweaking, migrating from a PC to a virtual machine, forcing the Leopard welcome screen,...