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Ask TUAW: Joystick as mouse, remote access, PC friendly zip files, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about using a joystick as a mouse, remotely accessing a Mac from a PC, creating zip files without the Mac-specific metadata, replicating certain Windows features, 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 and which version of Mac OS X you're running (we'll assume you're running Snow Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions.

Joe R. asks

I have SL running on a Unibody Macbook (before it was a Pro). I have a Dell 11z on the way that will run Windows 7. What's the best, current method for accessing my Mac @home via the Dell net-ish-book? I assume it's still some sort of Screen Sharing & FTP Server via Snow Leopard but that's the best client for Windows 7. I am concerned about security.

While you can definitely use a VNC client with Screen Sharing I'd suggest that the easiest way to do this kind of cross-platform remote access is through as service like LogMeIn or GoToMyPc. In either case, you run a small server application on your Mac and then login remotely with the PC. Logmein has a free version, though you'll need the paid version to transfer files.


CozartDono asks

I'm looking for an app, (for OS X or for iPhone 3G) that would allow me to download a file from the internet using my iPhone's 3G network, and then move it to my Macbook Pro using a USB cable. I've looked at iDownload but while it lets me download files, I usually don't have a wireless signal to move the files, which would defeat the purpose of iDownload because I could just download the same file on my Macbook Pro and be done with it. In other words, I want to be able to download a file from the internet using my iPhone, and then transfer that file to my Macbook pro via USB or Bluetooth. (Not the internet).

I think you can actually still use iDownload. All you have to do is download the file to your iPhone. Once that's done just create a Computer-to-Computer network by going to the Airport icon in the menubar and selecting "Create Network..." Now you should be able to connect your iPhone to that network and then use iDownload's built-in server to transfer the file into your Mac. Your Mac should not have to be connected to the internet for this to work.


Brian asks

A physician recommended a joystick instead of a mouse because of severe RSI. I presume that Leopard or Snow Leopard do not support joysticks as a mouse replacement. My questions are therefore pretty basic:

1) Do I need a special driver for a joystick-mouse?
2) And which combination of driver and joystick works best?

Yes, you will need a special driver. I would suggest you have a look at ControllerMate ($15) from OrderedBytes. What you'll need to do is create a joystick controlled virtual mouse. As far as which joystick to use, any USB joystick should work. Things like this are so specific to the situation that I think you'll just have find something that's comfortable to you.

Incidentally, there are actually custom joystick mice, but as you can see they are rather pricy. I'd also suggest checking out some other mouse alternatives like the Wacom Bamboo Touch or a special ergonomic mouse like the Evoluent VerticalMouse or the 3M Ergonomic Mouse (pictured). Incidentally, I got some of these suggestions from this thread at Apple Discussions.


vulgo asks

I have been using Microsoft Entourage for the past years to organize my calendars. I would like to switch to iCal but one thing makes this impossible. You sure can equally easy manage the headlines of calendar events like in entourage but if you want to add a note into a calendar event after opening it it is really a challenge compared to Entourage. There is just not enough workspace available. I mean how shall one get a good overview with only two super short lines and the need of scrolling back and forth? I often have lots of information in my Entourage calendar events and can easily adapt the size of the textfield and the window. In iCal that is not possible. Or did I miss something?

Many folks (myself included) find iCal's editing sheet annoying. One thing I suggest is having a look at BusyCal ($40) from BusyMac. They like to say it's iCal Pro, and it does have some nice features. Pertinent to you is a substantially less annoying interface for editing events, including quite a bit more space for notes.


Maxintech asks

Building a zip in Mac OSX is easy. But, when I send it to a person with Windows, those OS show the metadata included. Is there any way to make a zip metadata-less for Windows users? I can use terminal and zip command, but I'm looking for a GUI tool.

Have a look at the free application YemuZip which has a PC-compatible format that is designed to do more or less exactly what you want.


Wickedbliss asks serially

In windows vista/7, multi-tasking i.e. Safari and excel opened, I can right click on the desktop and click "show windows side by side". Can this be done snow leopard?

Since I don't use Windows I'm not that familiar with the functionality you're trying to replicate. However, I've got a couple of suggestions that might be helpful. First is OS X's built-in Exposé. Assuming you have the default settings, if you hit F9 it will show you all of your open windows. But if I'm understanding you correctly you just want to show two windows side by side. In that case, have a look at the free application TwoUp from Irradiated Software. It allows you to define keyboard shortcuts for sizing and moving windows. You might also check out their SizeUp which offers more features for a fee (minimum $4.99 / $12.99 suggested).

In a windows network (client/server or peer to peer) a user can map a network drive to any node on the network. That mapped drive can then be fond under the user's "my computer icon" or "my network places" without the user having to re-establish connection. Is there any way to have mapped network drives on a windows/mac network? Clicking "connect to server" under finder and then selecting the server/ share is a bit annoying.

Again, I'm not completely familiar with the Windows behavior, however I think you can get most of what you want by adding the server to your login items. All you have to do is connect to the server then open the Accounts Preference Pane. In your account go to the Login Items tab and drag the server (from your desktop) onto the list. Now every time you login the Finder will automatically connect to that server.

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