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Ask TUAW: Where is the new Mac mini?, turning off iPhone noises and more

Welcome to Ask TUAW, your favorite weekly question-and-answer column. Now, we can never have too many questions, so please, go to the comments of this post and ask away. To get fabulous answers, we need your fabulous questions. You can also email your questions directly to ask [at] tuaw.com, or ping us on Twitter.

Now, off to the questions! Muhammad asks:

Is there any way to set up a mode in my iPhone that's exactly like airplane mode but still allow phone calls to be received? When I sleep, I want everything like texts, email, push notifications, etc. to be off, but I still need to be available in case of an emergency.

Muhammad, unfortunately there's no magic switch to do what you need. However, if you go into the Settings app, then select Sounds, you can manually turn off notifications that you don't wish to hear. In your case, before you get tucked into bed, turn off Text Tone, New Voicemail and New Mail. When you awake in the morning, turn them all back on.

Jeff asks about the future of the Mac mini:

This machine has so much potential but is so underpowered. I have been waiting for 4 years to buy a new Mac. I don't want a big box or a big screen or a laptop. The mini is the only choice. Yet without an Intel i# processor or a 7200 RPM HD, the machine is obsolete in the box. What gives with Apple ignoring this machine?

It's true that it's been almost a year since the latest edition of the Mac mini was released, according to the buyer's guide on Mac Rumors. However, Apple hasn't waited a particularly long time to update it this go 'round. Apple isn't ignoring anything; it's just that the accelerated media cycle makes the educated buyer too eager for the next new thing, and unable to appreciate what we've currently got. Six months into the current iPhone cycle and buyers are saying "well I'm going to wait for the next one."

For many things, the mini isn't obsolete at all. If you want to use it as a set-top box to watch Hulu or Netflix, or run a home media server, it is perfect. It's also great as a small business server. It's true, though, that the mini isn't the most powerful Mac on the block.

When will the next machine come out? No one knows, but the iMac, Mac Pro and Mac mini are all due for upgrades in the next few months. I'd suggest you just wait for the new Mac mini, whenever that is!

Ryan asks:

Do you know when Apple will release a physical keyboard for the iPad 2?

If you mean something like an attached slider or hinged keyboard? Never. Ever.

If you mean a separate keyboard like the accessory keyboard Apple offered for the original iPad, that's also probably never. Word is that accessory sold very poorly, which us why Apple hasn't offered one tailored to the iPad 2.

That having been said, you can use just about any Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad 2, including the tiny ones Apple makes. If you're really hankering for a keyboard with actual keys, that's the route I'd go. There's also the Zagg keyboard + iPad Case, which was just released for the iPad 2 and is available for around $100.

Mike asks:

Question about iPad apps vs iPhone 4 (retina) apps: If the iPhone 4's resolution is 960x640 and the iPad's is 1024x768, why do retina-enabled iPhone apps look horrible on the iPad? Meaning, rather than doubling the original iPhone's resolution, just use the retina graphics for apps on the iPad. Clearly, the iPad is not using the retina-sized graphics.

I assume this is Apple (maybe developers) being greedy -- trying to get you to pay extra for the HD version that only has 64x128 more resolution. I can think of no technical reason for this. What's worse is there are several apps I have that have no specific iPad counterpart, but do have retina graphics, and are just horrible looking on the iPad when you double their size (because who wants to use a quarter of their iPad's screen?).

Put simply, the technical reason is this: just because the resolution is there, doesn't mean an app is written to be shown on a 9" screen. Developers are designing buttons and text to be a certain size in reality, not a certain resolution. If you have text or a button that is 250px high on an iPhone, that is going to look very different and not operate the same on an iPad, where those 250px are considerably larger.

It's not a matter of being greedy. Nearly every app from the iPhone is going to look terrible when doubled on the iPad. It would be worse if the apps didn't maintain the proper proportions when launched on the larger screen.

As for those apps that have no specific iPad counterpart -- if they don't exist and you believe there is a use for them, release them yourself -- or simply request that the developer come out with an iPad version. That might work, too.

Finally, a quick one from Frank:

I'd love to know if there was any way to keep my iPad from going to sleep! It's annoying when I'm using it as a reference for a recipe while cooking, and I have to keep tapping the screen to keep it awake.

Ah! No problem. Tap Settings and then select General. Tap "auto-lock" -- this controls how quickly the iPad puts itself to sleep when it's not actively being used. Just remember that you'll have to manually turn the iPad off if you turn auto-lock off entirely. Set it to whatever you prefer and go!

Thanks for the questions everyone, and remember: it's very difficult to have a Q&A column without Qs. So, put your questions in the comments of this post, or shoot us an email at ask [at] tuaw.com. Also, if you have anything to add to our answers, we love feedback and fresh ideas.

Seriously, we want questions! Now, have a great week!

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Ask TUAW

Welcome to Ask TUAW, your favorite weekly question-and-answer column. Now, we can never have too many questions, so please, go to the...