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Ask TUAW: Online file syncing, CD ripping, Time Machine to NAS, and more

This time around in Ask TUAW we've got questions about online file syncing services, installing a faster drive for CD ripping, using a FreeNAS box for Time Machine backup, Twitter clients 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!

tukan asks

Is it possible to automatically sync a folder from your Mac to a server and then have an online access to it via web or preferably iPhone app? I've tried both box.net and ZumoDrive and they are great but offer no automatic syncing and Amazon S3 (with JungleDrive) gives me no remote access to files. Are there any other options?

You want Dropbox. I use it all the time to keep folders on several computers in sync and it includes a handy web interface. While there is no iPhone app for Dropbox, they do have an iPhone optimized website at m.getdropbox.com. Dropbox includes 2GB of storage on a free account or $99/year for 50GB. Other TUAW bloggers recommend SugarSync.


petey asks

The DVD-ROM/CD drive on my work Windows computer can rip a music CD into iTunes amazingly fast (less than 2 minutes). My iMac at home, and all of my Macs for that matter, at best are able to import at approximately 10x speed -- which takes 5 to 6 minutes. I'm assuming it is the read-speed of the drive that makes them different, as opposed to the processing power of the computer. Is there a Mac-compatible external drive that can import that fast? I'm also interested in getting a Mac Pro. Is there an internal drive I can install into Mac Pro that can import that fast as well?

Check out this article at Macworld. The short answer is, yes, that the drive speed can substantially limit your importing speed. It's certainly the case that you can install a third-party drive in the Mac Pro that will improve your importing speed. As for the iMac you may be limited by the bandwidth of the bus you use to connect it. If you want to try it I'd definitely use a FireWire 800 external CD drive (assuming you have the port on the iMac).


Thargok asks

I am looking to build a FreeNAS server for Time Machine. I know that setting up AFP is pretty easy, but I need to know if I can format the disks as HFS+ or if Time Machine really cares about the format.

I'd suggest you check out this tutorial for FreeNAS, along with this one for ReadyNAS. Basically, I think the answer to you question is no, you do not have to format the drives in the NAS as HFS+ because what's important for Time Machine is the sparsebundle (which you will have to manually create).


Olivier asks

I "switched" a little over a year ago and I'm not going back. But I still kept some of my windows reflexes. One in particular is when I double click a window's title bar wanting it to expand (windows reflex) and instead it minimizes it. Any way to reverse that behavior in leopard?

Unfortunately, I do not believe there is a way to change the behavior as you describe it. However, you should keep something in mind. There is no way in OS X to "maximize" a window the way it works in Windows. Instead, in OS X we have the zoom feature (activated by the green button), which will often expand a window, but not necessarily to the entire screen (the way it works varies by application).


Jeff asks

I'm new to Twitter, and I've been looking around and can't find reviews of Mac-based Twitter clients. Do you guys have any recommendations for the best Twitter program for mac?

Of course questions like this are almost impossible to answer because so much depends on personal preference. The standby on the Mac is Twitterrific ($14.95 or free with ads). An up-and-coming app (that hasn't yet been released) is the Mac version of Tweetie, perhaps the leading client on the iPhone. A potentially interesting new entry is the multi-service application EventBox ($15) that offers support for Facebook, etc. as well.

In addition to these Mac clients, many folks use multi-platform Twitter clients built on Adobe's AIR runtime. Popular examples include TweetDeck and twirl. Each of these include interesting features, but frankly their cross-platform nature (hence non-Macness) is readily apparent.

I'd invite everyone to chime in with their favorite Twitter clients, including any I've missed here. And don't forget to follow TUAW!

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