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Ask TUAW: Canceling Mobile Me, iPhone backups, playing Windows media files and more

Welcome back to another edition of our weekly Q & A column Ask TUAW. Each week this column will appear with questions and answers. If you have questions for the following week's column, drop them in the comments, and I will do my best to get to them. I won't be able to answer them all every time, so please, be patient.

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). If you're asking an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad question, be sure to note which model and version of iOS you have.

For this week we've got a new batch of questions about how to cancel Mobile Me, getting Windows Media files to play on a Mac, backing up an iPhone and more.

Rusty Cantor asks

How do I cancel Mobile Me? I can't seem to figure it out. I'm 83 and this tech life is driving me nuts.
Apple doesn't exactly make it easy to cancel Mobile Me. You need to do some digging.

If you've had your account for more than 45 days, proceed to Apple's Mobile Me Support Site and select your country. Once the page loads select "Accounts and Billing" on the left side. Once that drops down select "Cancel a paid subscription."

That will show a different menu on the right. The one you want is "Fast Lane." Once you click that you will be prompted to answer why you want to cancel. Once you give a reason and click "Continue" you will also have the option to sign in using your Apple ID.

You can bypass this by clicking "Continue" and going on. Once you click "Continue" this last time you will be given the option of chatting with a Mobile Me support person. Select to Chat and then let them know you want to cancel. They will try to get you not to cancel but just insist and they will do it.

One thing to keep in mind is that Apple won't issue a refund for any time left on your subscription. So, if you renewed a few months ago and still have several months to go, you won't be getting any money back.

Another option to try if you don't want to go through this trouble to cancel is to simply let your subscription expire. By default, all subscriptions are set to auto renew but you can turn that option off. That way when your subscription expires, Apple will have to contact you to renew it. If you don't respond they won't renew and your subscription will effectively be canceled.

To turn off auto renew log into your Mobile Me account by going to the Main Login Page and entering your user name and password. Once logged in, select your name from the upper right corner of the screen. Once you click on your name, select "Account."

When the screen refreshes select "Account Options" from the left side menu. Once that opens simply uncheck the "Renew" box next to your subscription details. Be sure to also click " Save" so your changes will stick.

That's it. Now your account will simply expire and you can go on with your life unencumbered by Mobile Me.

Nolan wonders

My parents made a slideshow of my late grandmother with their windows machine using Windows Photo Story. I cannot view that file. What can I do?

According to the Windows Photo Story FAQ, all you need to view a Photo Story video file is a video player capable of playing a Windows Media Video File. To play those types of files on your Mac, download and install Flip4Mac. It's a player that integrates with Apple's native Quicktime player and enables you to play Windows Media files.

Once you install Flip4 Mac you should be good to go.

Akfromrhill asks

I have an iPhone 4, and I've been shooting a TON of HD video with it. I've noticed that the empty space on my MacBook Pro's hard drive is slowly but surely vanishing.

I've concluded that all of the videos on my 32GB iPhone 4 are being backed up to a mysterious location on my hard drive. Is there a way that I can prevent these huge video files from backing up, or find them and delete them on my hard drive?


Currently, backing up your iPhone is an all or nothing process. That said, you can completely stop iTunes from backing up your iPhone when you connect it by simply clicking on the X next to the progress indicator that appears when you connect the iPhone. Clicking on that will stop the backup but the iPhone will still sync everything else normally.

If you want to delete the backup just open iTunes and go to Preferences>Devices and then select the backup you want to delete from the list. Then, just click delete. However, keep in mind if you delete the file it will just be created again if you don't stop the iPhone from being backed up the next time you connect it to iTunes.

However, its not really a good idea to not have a backup of your iPhone's data. If something goes wrong during an update or something you would not have a way to restore your iPhone if you have no backup. Proceed with caution.

Calereneau asks

I'm looking at charger cases for an iPhone 3GS as a Christmas gift. Any recommendations?

Personally, I'm fond of the Juice Pack Air charger cases from Mophie. They help extend the battery life of your iPhone and also provide it some protection from the rigors of everyday use.

There's also a lot of companies out there that make this type of case but for the most part I would stay away from them. The Mophie Juice Packs are well made and do the job.

That said, if any readers would care to make a recommendation I'm sure Calereneau would appreciate it.

Lady Whimsy inquires

I have some media (movies, TV shows) on my computer (Macbook Pro 15"). I'm planning to get an Apple TV, but I want to remove the media from my computer because all of it is taking up a lot of room. Is there a way to no longer have the media on my computer but still be able to watch my stuff on an Apple TV?

With the current generation of Apple TV you can't store anything on it as It has no internal hard drive. The only thing it can do is stream content from other sources like your Mac's iTunes Library, its own iTunes store portal or via a service like Netflix.

However, you always have the option to attach an external hard drive to your MacBook, move your iTunes Library to it and then play your files through your Apple TV from there. In this scenario you could delete the files from your MacBook Pro's internal hard drive and free up space.

One thing to consider if you do this is that to play anything from iTunes through your Apple TV you would always have to have your external hard drive plugged in as that's where your Library would reside. Lots of people with portable Macs do this and it seems to work for them. You just have to remember that you won't have an iTunes Library to work with unless your external hard drive is connected.

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