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Ask TUAW: Online backup, Bluetooth with iPod touch and OS 3.0, converting DVDs for iPhone, and more

In this round of Ask TUAW we've got questions about connecting a MacBook to a plasma TV, using a Bluetooth headset with an iPod touch, backing up online, ripping DVDs to watch on an iPhone 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!

FunFred asks

What are the best options for a remote-backup of my laptop? I am a college student and don't want to risk a back hard drive being stolen or broken.

Well I suppose it's obligatory to point out that Apple's MobileMe includes online backup with iDisk. However, given how poorly it works I personally wouldn't depend on it. I've actually had very good luck with Dropbox which offers 2GB of storage for free including excellent automatic syncing of a Dropbox folder on your Mac (more storage is available for a fee). While I haven't used them myself, others have recommended the Carbonite service for $54.95 per year or MozyHome at $4.95 per month, both with supposedly unlimited automatic backup.


brando asks

I just recently bought a 2G iPod touch, and now have iPhone OS 3.0 running on it. My question is as follows: With the new "wireless headphone" capabilities via Bluetooth, would I also be able to use a Bluetooth headset with my iPod touch for things such as VOIP?

From what I can tell from reports online, the OS 3.0 upgrade only offers audio output and the iPod touch does not recognize microphone input. Therefore, it seems that you still cannot use an iPod touch for VOIP applications with a Bluetooth headset.


Lucky asks

I want to remap my Caps-Lock key to the Backspace since I never actually use Caps. I found the solution with PCKeyboardHack, but the issue is that the green LED remains on. My question is, how do I turn it off forever without having to take apart my keyboard?

Check out this post from Amit Singh at Google. He offers a little program there for controlling the keyboard LEDs from the Command Line. You'll have to compile the application yourself, but it should do what you want (though I haven't been able to test it myself).


Bryan asks

I'm new to the 3g iphone world. I have had the 1st gen iphone since january of 2008, and never got a 3g. I pre-ordered a 3gs and got it on launch day! It's been amazing, but I do have a question... I live in an area that lacks 3g still, but 30 minutes in all directions are towns that I frequent and support 3g. Am I better off leaving 3g switched off when I am at home, and then switching on when I get into a 3g zone? I didn't know if leaving it switched on meant that it was constantly searching for a 3g signal, and thus draining the battery more than normal, as it is with wifi.

I think you'd do best switching 3G off at home and starting it back up manually when appropriate. Apple has a page on iPhone battery life which says explicitly that having 3G turned on "may also decrease battery life, especially in areas with limited 3G coverage." I suspect you're probably right that the reason for this is what you suggest above.


bleaus asks

I'll be doing some flying in the near future, and I'd like to watch one of my movies on my iPhone. Is there a free program out there that anyone recommends for converting my DVD to iPhone compatible formats? I have a PowerBook G4 running 10.4.11

With the PowerPC Mac running Tiger your best best is probably the older version 0.9.1 of Handbrake. The newer versions are Leopard only. You may have to play with the settings a bit to get exactly what you want, but it does come with an iPhone preset that should give you decent results.


ralph asks

I'm trying to play video from my MacBook (13") to a Fujitsu plasma TV, which I'm connecting using mini-DVI to RGB. I'm able to get the output, which is in 4:3 aspect ratio, to fill the entire screen using the "wide" button on the TV, but it looks stretched. I would like to find an resolution (std or custom) that can correct for this. Also, is there a way to center the output? The left most 2" are being cut off, and on the right side there are 2" of black screen.

I'm not entirely sure what you're doing here. Apple does not offer a mini-DVI to component adapter (because the MacBook isn't capable of doing that directly), so I assume what you're referring to is the mini-DVI to composite adapter. If so, you're simply not going to be able to get a 16:9 HD resolution into your TV that way.

There are several options, however, depending on what inputs your TV has. If it has HDMI, then you can easily get a DVI to HDMI cable (like this one), which you can use along with the mini-DVI to DVI adapter from Apple. If the TV has a VGA input then you just need the mini-DVI to VGA adapter (plus a VGA cable). However, if it only has component inputs and you really want it to fill your 16:9 display without stretching I think you'll need the mini-DVI to VGA adapter and a VGA to component converter. These VGA to component convertors (such as this one) are not simply adapters, but active electronic devices. As such they can get a little pricey.

With all of that said, there is a software application SwitchResX (€14) which allows you to set custom resolutions on your Mac, but I think you're problem is more likely on the hardware, rather than software, side.



In this round of Ask TUAW we've got questions about connecting a MacBook to a plasma TV, using a Bluetooth headset with an iPod touch,...