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Ask TUAW: Recovering pictures, updating Facebook, iPhone battery life and more

Once again, it's time for another edition of Ask TUAW: the place where we try to answer all of your Mac and Apple-related questions. This week we're taking questions about recovering pictures from corrupted compact flash cards, Twitter for the iPhone, extending iPhone battery life and more.

As always, we welcome your suggestions for this week and questions for next time. Please leave your contributions in the comments for this post. When asking questions, please include which Mac and which version of OS X you're running. If you don't specify, we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac.

Okay, let's get to it!

Nick F. asks:


I've got some pictures I need to recover from a corrupted Compact Flash card. What's the best, preferably free, software to do it on my Mac?

This is one of those questions that can get frustrating if you're a Mac user. On the Windows side, there are a few good (and free) pieces of software that can help you accomplish this task. For the Mac, you're choices are mostly limited to pay applications -- at least if you want good results. Fortunately, these pay applications are very good.

For my money, the piece of software that works best when you want to recover pictures from a bad CF or SD card is Klix ($29.95) from Joesoft. I've used it quite a bit with clients, and on my own bad cards, and each time it performed flawlessly, recovering every lost picture from the card. Other alternatives for the Mac include CardRaider ($19.95), PhotoRescue ($29.00) and Data Rescue II ($99.00).

I realize that $29.95 for a piece of software might seem like a lot to some people. But if the software is easy to use and works as advertised, I think it's a worthwhile investment in the long run. Besides, it would cost far more to go back and take those vacation pictures you lost on the card again when you could buy Klix and recover them from your bad card instead. Given that, a program like Klix is actually a bargain.

If you've got Windows running on your Mac (either through Boot Camp or virtualization) and you've had good luck with one of the tools from the other side of the fence, let us know in the comments.




Michael S. asks:

What I want to know is if using migration assistant to copy my user account back onto a mac I've just done a clean install on is self-defeating? As in, will all the badness I just wiped clean come back as soon as I migrate my old user account?

The short answer: maybe. The longer answer is that, in many cases, the "badness" might not have been a result of anything wrong with the particular user account. Instead, the problems with your Mac could stem from other files in the System, corrupted preferences or any number of other sources. So, restoring the user account from your backup will not necessarily bring back whatever problems you were experiencing. You can usually isolate user-specific problems from machine-wide issues by creating a fresh user account on your existing system, then using that account for a while to see if the wacky fun subsides. If it persists, chances are your individual prefs and settings are not to blame for whatever ails you.

That said, the purpose of doing a clean install, at least to me, is to try to get rid of any problems you may have been experiencing. Personally, I wouldn't completely restore a user account after a clean install to prevent any chance of problems coming back due to a problem with that user account. Instead, I would only restore the pieces that I absolutely needed for the various applications, utilities, etc. I was going to use.

For example, if I use Photoshop, I would install it again (after remembering to deactivate it prior to my clean install) and then move only the Photoshop-specific preferences, plug-ins, etc. that I needed for it. I would not restore any more than I absolutely had to and would move each file manually and put it where it belongs. This would be the same procedure for any other applications or utilities I was planing on using.

Also, in some cases, I don't even move any previous files and instead start completely from scratch. Obviously, this is a much more time-consuming way to do it. But in the end, if you're very careful, it usually yields superior results. This isn't to say that Migration Assistant is a bad idea; for most people and most Macs, it works well enough.

Jax S. asks:

What's the easiest way to update Twitter and Facebook status simultaneously from the iPhone? Alternatively, is there a service that monitors one and automatically updates the other?

For updating just your Facebook status from your iPhone, use the Facebook application for the iPhone. If you want simultaneous updates to Twitter and Facebook, however, the simplest way is to enable the official Twitter application in Facebook, which is pretty much the 'service monitoring' you describe above -- it subscribes your Facebook status to your Twitter status. Once you turn that on, Facebook will automatically be updated whenever you post regular updates to Twitter. Facebook will not be updated, however, from any @ replies or direct messages you send in Twitter -- only when you do normal updates.

It's worth mentioning that there may be circumstances when you don't want your social worlds colliding with every tweet (eg. your Mom is on Facebook, perhaps); in that case, the Twitter app on Facebook is probably too blunt for your purposes. Brett Terpstra suggests checking out ping.fm, which allows you to update scores of social, microblogging and status services with a single SMS (there's also an iPhone-optimized web UI). Ping.fm gives you more granular control among the services you use, so that the drunken tweets don't clutter up the parents' Facebook feeds. If you like ping.fm and you want an iPhone app that works with it, check out Pingle or Nambu.

In the comments, Scott notes the Selective Twitter app on Facebook, which will let you subselect from your Twitter updates; the TweetSync app gives additional granular controls. Be warned that you should pick one of these apps and use it; running multiple status sync tools will lead to pain.

For more ongoing coverage of Facebook and/or Twitter, check out our sister site Download Squad.

Heather M. asks:

My iPhone battery seems to drain completely in less than a day. Can I do anything to extend my battery life?

There are a couple of things you can check that may help you extend the battery life of your iPhone. One of the major culprits of battery drainage is Location Services. Turning it off via the switch located in Settings>General will greatly increase your battery life. However, if you need to access the Maps application or other applications that are location-aware, you will need to turn it back on.

Normally, I have it off and only turn it on when I need to use the map or update via Brightkite or Loopt. Other ways to increase battery life include turning off WiFi unless you're using it, turning off Bluetooth and turning off all "Push" services for Mail, iCal and Address Book. If you can get by with EDGE speeds for your cellular data, turning off 3G can improve battery life. Overall, WiFi network transfer uses less power than 3G, so if you're in a spot where you can use WiFi you should.

Turning brightness down, or switching to Airplane Mode when you're using your phone for iPod features only, are also helpful. Apple's tips page is a good resource for battery life questions, and there's also a reminder that your iPhone's temperature may influence battery performance. (If you've ever seen this warning screen, maybe it's time to invest in an air conditioner.)

Of course, users are different and have different needs. However, taking the time and testing by turning off these various features will allow you to maximize your battery life by determining which features you actually need and use and which you can live without.

Sean asks:

My mom is considering a switch to Mac from Windows. Any good books she can read that will help with the switch?

Fortunately, as the number of users switching from Windows to Mac has increased, so has the number of books and other support material available to those who are considering the switch or have already made the jump. Some good ones to consider include: Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Leopard Edition by David Pogue and Switching to the Mac for Dummies by Arnold Reinhold.

Be sure to consider some of the useful books on Leopard published by Peachpit Press. I'm particularly a fan of their book Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard: Visual Quickstart Guide. Also take a look at their Take Control ebook for switchers. If your mom is a visual learner and prefers video to books, the It's About Time To... Learn the Switch to Mac program or lynda.com's video course are worth a look.

Another great place to find information on switching from Windows to the Mac can be found at Apple's own Switch 101 site. There you can read articles about migrating your files, connecting devices and peripherals, getting started with Apple software and much more.

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Switchers Ask TUAW

Once again, it's time for another edition of Ask TUAW: the place where we try to answer all of your Mac and Apple-related questions. This...