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Ask TUAW: AirPort Extreme bridge, iTunes smart playlists, USB drive backup, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column! This time we've got questions on using an AirPort Extreme as a wireless to ethernet bridge, automatically backing up a USB flash drive, building smart playlists in iTunes, migrating an iTunes Library and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions 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.

Mike asks

Is it possible to use an AirPort Extreme as a wireless-to-ethernet bridge? Like, connect the router to an existing wireless network and then allow devices that are wired to it access to the network? (Specifically, I'm moving to a new place that already has a wireless network and my Xbox 360 and file server will be too far away to directly wire into the router.)

Yes, this is possible if you're also using an Apple router (this may not be absolutely necessary, but will make it much easier). You'll need to set up your AirPort Extreme as what Apple calls a WDS remote station. This is done through the AirPort Admin Utility as described in this Knowledge Base article.


Scott asks

I have a Leopard question. My old iMac G4 runs at 1Ghz, and is upgraded to 768 MB of RAM. It's currently running Tiger (10.4)...Is it worth upgrading that Mac to Leopard? I know about the new features-what I mean is, will it be a slower system than it is with Tiger, the same, or faster? I know it surpasses the minimum specs for Leopard-I'm asking about whether it'll be sluggish, and overall a worse experience than Tiger...

While I can't claim any personal experience on the question, I suggest you check out this report from Low End Mac. The upshot is: yes, it's worth it to upgrade from Tiger to Leopard on a G4, particularly if you can bump the RAM (and boot disc speed), though it may be a touch slower.

Ben asks

I have an unencrypted USB flash drive that goes with me between home and work. It's not mission-critical or extremely sensitive information so I'm not worried about it falling into the wrong hands but I'd be missing a lot of needed files if the drive went missing. What I'd like to do is set up an automatic backup of the drive's contents each time it is mounted in OS X, preferably archiving the files as a zip on my iMac's hard drive. I'm fairly positive this can be done with a folder action applied to the drive's volume but I don't possess the AppleScript prowess needed to make this happen. Are there any utilities or resources out there that can solve my problem for me? I've tried searching but with little success.

Well the easiest way to accomplish the syncing part is with ChronoSync ($40) which has a USB backup feature built-in. However, if you're willing to get your hands dirty, have a look at this tutorial. This trick uses Do Something When to trigger a rsync shell script. It should do more or less what you want, though it would be an additional step to get everything compressed into a zip file. For some help on that, check out this older hint at Mac OS X Hints.


julian asks

I am starting to get the hang of playlists in itunes; Specially smart playlists. My problem is that I also record lectures with my iphone with the new voice record app. its great that it syncs with itunes but sometimes they show up on my smart playlist....I know I could tag all of them as lectures and then exclude anything that has lecture as a tag or w.e however, is there anyway I can exclude them like you would for a podcast? without having to touch the lecture files?

If you look in iTunes you'll see that it has automatically created a "Voice Memos" playlist for all of your synced recordings. So all you need to do is modify your smart playlist to exclude anything that appears in the "Voice Memos" playlist by adding the following condition:



Macbook Server? clarifies

I failed to explain myself very well on my first question. I need to transfer my iTunes library over to the macbook that I want to use as the server. so, a zillion apologies, but let me try again: what's the best/easiest/smartest sway to transfer an iTunes library over to another computer. I want to maintain the playlists, album art, song-play counts, and all other info. for instance, can it be done over wifi lan? the only apple guide I can find advises to "archive" it to a bunch of cd/dvds. or, it describes how to do a preposterously complex thing involving an old ipod.

Perhaps the easiest way is to use the built-in Migration Assistant as described here, though this supposes that your MacBook has a FireWire port so that you can put it in Target FireWire Disk mode. If it does not, you can manually move your iTunes Library by copying the ~/Music/iTunes folder. This can be accomplished over the network with file sharing, with an intermediary drive (i.e. copy to an external hard drive then copy back on the other computer), with a direct ethernet connection, or with Target FireWire Disk mode. Just make sure you've consolidated your iTunes library first.


dion asks

I'm looking at setting up an OS-X Server box for a small site and am wondering what of the standard OS-X apps, iPhoto, Mail, APerture, Safari, etc I can run on the box with the Server OS installed? Just trying to keep costs down by sharing a machine for mostly Server use but also some desktop use. I'm looking at a Mac Pro to run this on or even maybe a iMac or Mac Mini, any thing I need to watch out for?

Anything that runs on OS X client should run just fine on OS X Server. Back in the day there was a problem with iLife, but on Leopard I don't think you'll have a problem (though keep in mind that you probably shouldn't do anything on the machine that will interfere with services for the clients).


Dan asks

What is the easiest way to do this: bring a video made in the iPhone BACK to the iPhone? As far as I can tell, there is no easy way to get the videos you create BACK to the phone once they are synched - very frustrating...it brings the videos into iPhoto... and then it won't synch them via iPhoto's album - you have to bring them into itunes you have to open the iPhoto library package, copy the file out of it and then import it into iTunes.

I'm not entirely sure what you're looking for. In any case, I will offer a couple of observations. First, to copy videos from iPhoto back into iTunes you don't need to use the Finder to open the iPhoto Library package; a simple drag and drop from iPhoto to the iTunes Movies category will work. Secondly, you don't have to use iPhoto to import the videos from the iPhone. You can also use the Image Capture application, download the videos to a folder, then drag and drop from the Finder into iTunes.

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