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Ask TUAW: Mac mini HTPC, Find My iPhone with another iPhone, eliminate duplicate photos, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about Mac minis running as HTPCs, eliminating duplicate photos, using an iPhone to access MobileMe's FInd My iPhone feature (for another iPhone), automatically mounting a network disk, and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions are welcome. Leave your questions for next week in the comments section at the end of this post. When asking a question, please include which machine you're using and what version of Mac OS X is installed on it (we'll assume you're running Snow Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify), or if it's an iPhone-related question, which iPhone version and OS version you have.

Andy asks

I've got an early 2008 Mac Mini hooked up to my home theater... The Mac is configured to sleep after 30 minutes. Sometimes (but not always), switching to the running Mac will result in a blank screen. I can still control the Mac via VNC or screen sharing, and sleeping and then waking the Mac will usually solve the problem (as will switching the source on the receiver away from and back to the Mac sometimes). Is the problem with the order that the devices are powered on, or is there some setting or app I can use to correct this?

I suspect that your problem is actually not on the Mac side but on the home theater side. I think what's happening is that the receiver thinks the video source is down (perhaps when the Mac goes to sleep), and that is what's causing your blank screen. So I don't think there's really anything you can do on the Mac side to keep this from happening, perhaps other than preventing the mini from sleeping.

Peter asks

We wanted to use the "Find my Phone" feature of MobileMe... Trouble is, we only had my iPhone and could not figure out how to use my iPhone to find his iPhone. Is that possible?

Strangely, Apple has elected not to allow access to the "Find My iPhone" feature using Mobile Safari to load your MobileMe account; it's designed for access from a computer's browser. There is, however, a somewhat clunky work-around. If you use another iPhone app with a built-in web browser to access MobileMe it will allow you to view the "Find My iPhone" feature. Check out this hint from Mac OS X Hints for some suggestions. Unfortunately, this can be slow and the site is not optimized for the iPhone, but in a pinch it can get the job done.


Eric asks

I'm planning on buying an HP EX495 Mediasmart Home Server soon. I'd like to move my iTunes library from my MacBook Pro to to the EX495 to free up some space on my hard drive. Is there anything special I need to do to make it so that my MacBook constantly connects to the server whenever its on my LAN? I know in Windows you can map drives to servers that will stay in your "My Computer" upon reboot. Is there anything like that I need to do for my Mac?

You can add the network disk to your login items. To do this, first mount the disk. Next go to the Accounts Preference Pane, then to your account, and finally the Login Items tab. Now just drag the mounted disk from your desktop to the Login Items list. From now on when you login your Mac will automatically mount that disk.

Unfortunately, if you login while disconnected from your LAN you may see a pause while your MacBook Pro searches for the missing share. While Snow Leopard is supposed to improve performance of the Finder in those situations, you might want to consider a location manager that recognizes when you're on your home LAN and mounts the share for you: perhaps the $29 Snow Leopard-friendly NetworkLocation, the $19 Locations, or the open source, not quite 10.6-ready MarcoPolo. The MarcoPolo page also includes a list of other location manager utilities to explore.


Josh asks

When my PC crashed and before I took the opportunity to move everything to a Mac, my efforts to recover pictures and other files led to me having multiple copies of each file. Of course, many now have names that are unrelated to the original. Is there any way to sort (and eliminate) duplicate picture files by their content and NOT their name? I'd appreciate any suggestions you have to help me eliminate the duplicates without having to manually go through tens of thousands of files.

Check out Tidy Up! ($30) from Hyperbolic Software. It will allow you to run various searches for duplicates and should allow you to find and eliminate the dupes among your photos.


Evan asks

Basically, I want to know if I remove a previously synced game from my iPhone today and load it back on my iPhone tomorrow, will I be met with a "Start New Game" screen?

Yes. When you delete an app from your iPhone it does eliminate ancillary data (like game saves) as well. So if you were to delete the game and then reinstall it from iTunes it will essentially reset the game, eliminating your saves. Just to make sure, I tried it on my own iPhone and can confirm this.


Diogo asks

I've a brand new mac mini that I use as my main computer, and across the wall I've got my living room where I've connected my LCD to the mini to use as a media center. I use a new Apple wireless keyboard that I want to use to control the mini, but the signal doesn't cross the wall, and becomes useless in the living room. So, is it possible to add a second bluetooth receiver near the TV with an USB extension? will it work?

I suspect that what you actually need is a more powerful Class 1 Bluetooth transceiver. The built-in Bluetooth transceiver in your Mac is limited in range to about 30 feet. If you add a Class 1 transceiver by means of a USB dongle, you should get more power and better range. There are several different models available like the BTX Range Extender from ecamm. Incidentally, this would work with a USB cable through the wall, but I suspect it will work even without it, just plugged directly into the mini.

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