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Ask TUAW: AirPlay and the Apple TV, Exchange 2003, enterprise iOS management and MobileMe calendar publishing

Welcome to Ask TUAW, your favorite weekly question-and-answer column. Do you know what my favorite thing in the entire world is? No, besides grilled cheese sandwiches. That's right! Questions! We can never have too many questions! You can't have a Q&A column without the Q, 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, queries! Dan writes:

The place I work refuses to upgrade their version of Exchange to anything newer than 2003. They also won't enable IMAP for email.

On my iPhone and iPad, I have no problem using Exchange 2003, but on the Mac it's a different story. Apple Mail will only see newer versions of Exchange, and even Microsoft's Outlook 2008 can't use this version of Exchange Server.

I know you could use the God-awful Entourage software or run a Windows program in emulation, but isn't there anything else? I would have thought that with the plethora of new Mac-based mail apps, there would be at least one that could do mail as well as the iPhone. Help me!

Unfortunately Dan, you are out of luck. As you noted, your only native-to-Mac option is Entourage 2008, included in the Office for Mac 2008 package. Outlook 2011, included in the 2011 version of Office for Mac, won't work (it requires Exchange 2007 or higher on the back end).

You might suggest to your Exchange administrator that if an upgrade to a version of Microsoft's email server released in the last five years isn't in the cards, perhaps they could enable IMAP access to your mail. That would let you get to email using Mail.app, although you'd still be dependent on Entourage or Outlook Web Access (OWA) for calendaring and contacts.

Andrew asks:

I just bought an original Apple TV from a buddy for $10. I have it on my desk and am using it for music at work instead of using my laptop for the same purpose. But here's the thing... iTunes sees the Apple TV and allows me to sync my music, movies, etc. to it wirelessly (well, at least over wired or Wi-Fi, but not requiring USB). Yet my iPhone can't do the same thing. Why not? Or can it, and am I just missing something?

The iPhone's wireless music streaming, aka AirPlay, is incompatible with the original Apple TV. It will work with the Apple TV 2 (the new one that sort of looks like an oversized hockey puck), but AirPlay functionality in iOS was never designed with the original, hard-disk-based Apple TV in mind. Now if it's wireless syncing you're after, it's true that the original Apple TV can wirelessly sync media files from a Mac to its internal hard drive, but as of right now there's no way to wirelessly sync music to an iPhone in the same manner. This has been a missing iPhone feature that people have been clamoring for since day one, and we hope it'll finally be addressed in iOS 5.

John wonders:

I have a Mac mini. Sometimes when I restart it, a number in parentheses gets added behind the mini's name. For example, currently the computer's name is Mini (10). It was Mini (9) for a long time, then a couple days ago, the number increased to 10. Why is this happening, and what can I do to prevent it? The additional number makes auto-logging into the mini from another Mac impossible.

The most likely reason for the numbering is because you have two machines on your network with the same name. When there is a name conflict, OS X adds a number onto the computer name to avoid the conflict. Head into System Preferences, then to the Sharing pane. Change your computer's name to something more unique than "Mini." I'd suggest naming it after your favorite Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy character. That should solve your problem.

Bryan writes:

I have a job at which I'm constantly making appointments with student teachers for observations. Prior to my forced upgrade to the new MobileMe calendar I was able to publish my calendar to the web (accessed via ical.me.com/username/calendar) so they could look at it to find open times so they could suggest meeting times. They did so using whatever mish-mash of computers they could get access to so a Mac-specific solution won't work. My former set-up is no longer an option. Any ideas?

Well, if you want to give something new a try, check out Doodle's MeetMe service. You can synchronize your calendar and display your available time pretty easily, which should get around the core issue -- however, if you really want to show your full schedule, read on.

Here's why Bryan is hitting this problem. The old MobileMe allowed you to publish calendars so that anyone with a web browser could view them. This feature has been removed in the new and "improved" MobileMe calendar. There are a number of advantages to the new calendar, but the disappearance of web sharing isn't really one of them. From Apple's MobileMe calendar FAQ:

A public calendar can be viewed (but not edited) by anyone you have provided a sharing link. It is a good way to share a calendar with a group or team. The group or team members do not have to be MobileMe members or be using MobileMe Calendar.

To view the public calendar, the user must have access to a calendar service or software that supports viewing webcal links. Webcal links can be added to the Calendar apps on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, iCal on Mac, Microsoft Outlook on a PC, and many calendar services on the web.

The new publisher works much better across different calendar apps, which is why Apple upgraded, but removed the very basic functionality that you depended on.

Alternatives: There's free iCal hosting at iCal-Mac, which includes a web viewer. You can try converting your Webcal links with iCalStripper, which may make them more friendly to services like Google Calendar. You can also import your events into services like 30 Boxes. If there are other good alternatives to the old MobileMe calendar publishing function, let us know!

Dustin has a multipart question on iOS device management, to which we're going to provide some short answers:

I have a question in regards to "Enterprise Deployment", more specifically, constantly using "erase data and settings" then restore from backup on 10-2,000 devices for a given event (many of which occur with little time in between). I currently have an inventory of 1,200 iPod touch and 60 iPads (both of which will be growing to 2,000+ and (hopefully) 100+ respectively, in the not-so-distant future) that we utilize for live events. I really need a few things to make my life EXTREMELY less stressful:

1) Ability to conduct "restore from backup" on multiple devices with one or two clicks instead of one-by-one like iTunes makes me do now. Is there something I can do with either iPhone Config Utility, Automator, or Xcode to simplify this ridiculous process that iTunes holds me to?

As you mentioned, iPhone Configuration Utility is the Apple-provided tool for doing bulk device management. However, the restore from backup process isn't likely to be streamlined much by it, since it primarily works with configuration profiles (network settings, certificates, user permissions etc.) and not with synchronizable content. It might be worth working with an AppleScript developer to create a 'quick restore' script that would make iTunes work the way you want.

2) If that's not possible (and event if it IS possible), I'd like a way to connect a boat-load of devices (30-50+) at one time via USB Hubs to speed up the process. The iMac I currently use at work limits me to about 15 iPods at a time. I have 2,200 iPods going out to an event in a couple weeks, so you can imagine how long it will take to prep 2,200 devices when I can only do 15 at a time. If I could connect 50+ via Hubs, my life would be much easier. Any idea if the 15ish device limit is per USB port and not per machine? I only have 3 7-port hubs right now so I can't exactly test whether or not I could connect 15 devices to each of the 3 USB ports, allowing for 45ish at a time instead of 15 for the entire machine.

The maximum number of USB devices per port, theoretically, is 127. That's going to be hard to do from your iMac, even with cascading hubs. If you're looking for a true quality hub, check out the Tripp-Lite 10-port model. If the device configuration task is going to be the primary chore for your workstation, maybe you should consider (agggh!) a Windows PC with a heartier stock of USB ports. These discount Dells have eight; this HP all-in-one has six. They're cheap, so get a couple of them and set them up as pure sync stations. Use a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse to save your USBs for synching chores. (If you truly must run Mac OS X...)

3) The next thing that would relive some headaches would be a solution for managing the devices that are out on-site at events, from my desk. Something similar to AirWatch but with more basic functionality. I don't need to configure VPNs or anything crazy, OTA; I just need a way to configure the devices the way I want without having them shipped back (our iPads are in EXTREME demand and they commonly go from show-to-show without coming back to my office for several weeks). I need a way to add Config and Provisioning Files and add/remove apps OTA. Any suggestions?

The iPhone Configuration Utility is designed to allow OTA provisioning of configs, but requires some server setup. See the links below.

I, as well as many others in the Enterprise Deployment Business, are hoping and praying that with an updated version of iTunes for the iOS 5 launch that there will be more built in features for enterprise users. It's amazing how "consumer" of a product iTunes is when there are so many people using iOS devices for business and live events. If iTunes doesn't change, than I need to find some resolutions via Xcode, Automator, or the iPCU, otherwise my life will be a living hell at this point next year. If ANYONE has any advice, tips, tricks, Weapons of Mass Deployment, please help a brother out! My current moto is: "iTunes will be the death of me." I would love for that to change!

While it doesn't seem likely that Apple will add enterprise-level features to iTunes itself, the company is definitely aware of the need for better management and bulk-admin tools for the surprisingly robust iOS deployments in big business. We can hope for some interesting news out of WWDC on this front.

Obviously this is a huge topic, and one that plenty of vendors in the MDM (mobile device management) space are tackling from all sides. The best recommendation is to start with Apple's MDM resource page and enterprise support page, and see if there is a platform or set of tools that's going to give you most or all of what you're looking for. If your company has an Apple SE or sales representative, make sure they know exactly what you need & they'll probably be able to help you narrow down the options quickly.

Finally, a quick question from Matthijs:

The new 27" model iMac has a built-in SDXC card reader. Can that card reader be used in the same way as a secondary SSD to speed up the iMac?

Unfortunately no. While you can boot from the SDXC slot, putting the boot volume on an SDXC card will not speed up the Mac; in fact, it's likely to be noticeably slower. SD cards also do not have the management firmware to optimize them for the heavy rewrite cycles of boot volume use, so chances are your card would 'wear out' sooner if it was used for everyday booting.

Thanks for the questions everyone, and remember: it's tough 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. Do you know what my favorite thing in the entire world is? No,...