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Ask TUAW: Return to open, messed up Mighty Mouse, PDF alternatives, Boot Camp expansion, and more

It's time once again for Ask TUAW! For this round we take questions about cleaning a malfunctioning Mighty Mouse, opening files and applications with the return key, expanding a Boot Camp partition, finding alternatives to Adobe Acrobat, caring for your notebook battery, 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!

Ivan asks

Coming mostly from a Windows world I am very used to navigating using the keyboard. But I can't see how to "launch" an application (or any other icon) without the mouse. On Windows (or on Linux) if you press while selecting an icon, you'll launch the default action for that icon (launch the application or open the selected document with the associated application). On the Mac, you get to rename the file. Which is nice, of course. But how do you tell the Mac to "execute" by using the keyboard?

I think this is yet another common switcher question that's worth re-answering periodically. The short answer is one of two keyboard shortcuts: ⌘ + o (for "Open") or ⌘ + down arrow. However, another reader (thanks, Matt!) points us to a nifty little utility called ReturnOpen which does exactly what it says. Once installed it allows you to open files and applications with the return key. The enter key (on your numpad) will still allow you to rename the file.


Dudeman asks

My mighty mouse is almost a year old. For the last 3 months, it hasn't been able to scroll down (the scroll ball itself will scroll down, but the scroll bar won't go down). It scrolls up, & I tried another mouse (only with 2 mouse buttons & a scroll wheel) goes both up & down, but my mighty mouse won't & I don't want to switch mice (i love those 2 extra buttons)... can I fix it?

I believe that the proper technical description for your problem is gunk in the scroll ball. The Mighty Mouse has a design flaw (in my view) in that the scroll ball in that it cannot be easily cleaned. However, Apple does have a Support Document with cleaning tips (and even a video). I've also had some luck with the Scotch tape flossing method.


ted asks

Does anyone know of an alternative (not necessarily free) to Adobe Acrobat for OS X? I want something that has all the capabilities as the Acrobat (creating PDF, editing, merging files, convert to doc etc). I like Acrobat for their creative suites (though I think their pricing is a bit ridiculous), I use Illustrator and Photoshop regularly on my other macs. But I just bought a new MB for work and don't want to pay $500 for the Acrobat application.

A couple of years ago we took a look at a couple of non-Adobe PDF editing applications, PDFPen ($49.95) and PDFClerk (€35 = ~$50), both of which have advanced since we looked at them. Depending on what you want, either has helpful editing features. I don't think either application converts to Word .doc files, however, there are online services that can handle that. If you want to stay on your Mac there's also File Juicer ($17.95) for "simple PDF files" or PDF2Office ($129) more complex ones. Finally, there's the extensive suite of PDF applications from Universe Software you might like to check out.


Jayman asks

how do you set up ipv6 on a mac. I got an ipv6 address from tunnel-broker.net

You might want to start with this thread at Tunnelbroker's forums. Also, you should have a look at this resource page.


whoapossum asks

I do all my work off of an external FAT32 160GB HDD since I move between Windows and Mac quite frequently. I have a 1TB networked HDD at home (2 partitions for TM backups of my 2 Macs, 1 partition as a bootable OS X DVD clone, and one 300GB partition for miscellaneous use, all HFS+), and I was wondering if there was an elegant way to back up the contents of my FAT32 HDD to a directory on my 300GB misc. network share. SuperDuper! and CCC won't play nice with FAT32. Thanks!

I'm not sure why you say SuperDuper! and CCC won't "play nice with FAT32"; if it mounts it should work. In any case, it sounds like you don't want a block-level clone of your drive anyway, but just file syncing. Our standard recommendations for file syncing are ChronoSync ($40) and Martian Slingshot ($29.99). However, you can roll your own Rsync based solution for free with arRsync.


aerohead asks

I'm concerned about the health of my macbook battery. Keeping it plugged in and fully charged all the time is bad for it, a Mac genius said, since the electromotive force effectively decomposes it. Is there a utility to stop the battery from charging when plugged in?

I believe charging happens at a hardware level (otherwise it wouldn't charge when the computer is turned off), so there's no way to stop it with a software utility. If you really want to stop the charging I think your only choice is to pop the battery. As we've mentioned before, Apple itself has some battery advice, the upshot of which is that if you fully discharge the battery about once per month you should be okay. If you're going to pop the battery to store it, they suggest doing so at about a 50% charge level.


obsidian9 asks

Running a MacPro 2,1 8 core w/ 9Gb of RAM & Leopard 10.5.7. I have Windows XP installed w/ Bootcamp that i also use Parallels 4 to run. I'm contemplating a purchase of a new HD for the workstation, a 1TB b/c the default 250 is just too small for my music collection plus programs & windows installation. If i am to purchase said HD, I know i can use Migration Assistant to move my Mac installation to the new HD. Is there anyway to open up the old HD to be all for windows? It would be a pain to reinstall windows, & i just would like to dedicate the entire 250GB HD to windows & give Leopard a full 1TB.

What you need is the nifty little tool Winclone (donations requested) to clone your Windows partition. Here's what I would do:

  1. Before you do anything else, you need a complete backup of your system.
  2. Install the new hard drive.
  3. Use SuperDuper! ($27.95) or Carbon Copy Cloner (donations requested) to clone your OS X partition to the new drive. Then check and make sure it's bootable (use the Startup Disk Preference Pane).
  4. If necessary, boot into Windows and convert to NTFS. It has to be NTFS; this will not work on a FAT32 partition because when it restores it won't expand to fill the new partition.
  5. Boot back into OS X on the new drive, then use Winclone to create an image of your Windows partition.
  6. Reformat and resize your original drive with Boot Camp.
  7. Restore your Winclone image to the original drive.

Another warning: you may have issues with Parallels, so you might have to rebuild your VM.



It's time once again for Ask TUAW! For this round we take questions about cleaning a malfunctioning Mighty Mouse, opening files and...