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Ask TUAW: Mirrored RAID, sharing disks, iPhoto in Front Row, updating podcasts in iTunes and more

Mat Lu

In this round of Ask TUAW we'll be looking at questions about setting up a software mirrored RAID with the Disk Utility, sharing volumes between Mac and Windows, forcing iTunes to update podcasts even if you haven't been listening, finding a missing iPhoto library in Front Row and much more.

As always your suggestions are most welcome, and questions for next week should be left in the comments. When asking a question please include which machine you're running and which version of OS X, as certain answers will vary between different Macs and Tiger vs. Leopard, etc. (we'll assume you're running Leopard if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions!

ucflyboy asks

I am running Leopard with two 1 tb My Book Studios acting as a sort of RAID storing my music and movies. It's not a RAID since I thought I could not move the two drives to a mac mini I plan on buying as an HTPC. My question is, is there an Applescript or Automator command I can use to automatically copy items to drive 2 when I add the item to drive 1? Thanks, I'm new to Mac.

If I'm understanding you correctly you want the drives to mirror each other. This is easily done by setting up a software RAID with the Disk Utility (in /Applications/Utilities). Just go to the RAID tab, select the two volumes, and create a Mirrored RAID Set. You can check out the relevant Apple Support Document.

George asks

Is there a way to fake your operating system identifiers, information, etc. online? For example, Netflix's online viewing capabilities are only open to Windows users at the time, but could I make my computer pretend to be running Windows XP without actually running Windows XP? I don't even know if I would be able to play the videos once I get through, but it would be nice to have the ability to fake my OS for other things too.

Certain browsers, like Firefox, do allow to spoof the identifier. However, that won't fix your problem here. The Netflix streaming relies on Microsoft DRM. So even if you spoofed your OS identifier, it still would not be possible to play the streams on your Mac. If you have an Intel Mac your better bet is just to access Netflix in a virtual machine in Parallels or Fusion. On the bright side, Netflix streaming is coming to the Mac this year.

Andrew asks

I have a few different iphoto libraries on my hard drive and on a firewire drive attached to my 12" powerbook g4 running 10.5.2. and i'd like to be able to access at least ONE or some of them through front row... Is there any way to do this using aliases or something? (it currently only show a "look for shared libraries" option when i get to photos in front row)

Front Row should automatically access your default iPhoto library. So make sure you have one of your libraries located at ~/Photos/iPhoto Library and it should be loaded automatically. If you already have your default library located there, there are a couple of other possible solutions outlined on this thread. It may be that some of your photos are blanks and the problem may be fixed by deleting them. The problem may also be with the AlbumData.xml file. Have a look at this Apple Support Doc and this website for some ideas.

Kronk asks

My AppleTV has stopped appearing in iTunes and now I can no longer sync my music. It used to work fine and the AppleTV settings are properly set up in iTunes. How can I get it to show up?

Apple has a Support Document on this question with a variety of suggestions. It seems likely that this is a networking problem; are you sure you didn't change any of the network setup, either on the Apple TV, the Mac, or your router? I'd try going through Apple's suggestions one by one until your pinpoint the problem.

charlespearce asks

I subscribe to about a dozen or so podcasts and download them into iTunes. In most cases, I drag the podcast episode over to my iPod and listen to it from that. Periodically, iTunes will gray out the icon next to the podcast and tell me that it has stopped updating it because I haven't listened to it in a while and give me the option of clicking yes or no to update. Is there some way to turn that annoying "feature" off? I really don't care for iTunes to judge me unfairly as slacking off on my podcasts when I am simply not listening to them iTunes. Thanks.

I too find this particular "feature" of iTunes quite annoying. However, there is a shareware utility Cast Away ($7) which will allow you to work around this problem by automatically playing your podcasts (which is the only way to force iTunes to keep updating them).

Chris asks

I have a 500GB external G-Drive with both a USB and firewire connections. I would like to share the drive between my two computers. One is a MacBook Pro running OS 10.5.2, the other is a Dell Desktop running Windows XP. I partitioned the drive into Macintosh and DOS partitions (250GB respectively) and I'd like to keep the drive connected to both computers at the same time (MBP with Firewire and Windows with USB) and access the two partitions at the same time. Is there a way to do this, or do I have to unplug one computer and plug in the other to switch back and forth? Any ideas?

No this is not possible. Only one interface can be active at a time. There is, I think, a relatively easy solution. Just mount both volumes on one of the computers and then share one or both of the volumes to the other with SAMBA (though keep in mind that the Mac can read the FAT32 partition; the Windows machine cannot read the HFS+ partition without extra software). You'll need to turn on Personal File Sharing (with SMB sharing in the options) in the Sharing Preference Pane.

jadedcritic asks

I'm looking into the possibility of going paperless, scanning important receipts and then archiving. While I've heard of a few mumblings of good software options, I'm having a devil of a time locating resources for OSX compatible scanners. (reviews) These days it seems like most scanners are actually multi-function printers, and I can live with that; I just don't want to end up buying a turkey. Are there any resources out there for mac scanners/multi-function printers, and figuring out which ones come well recommended?

I'll make it simple and just tell you that I think you want a Fujitsu ScanSnap for this purpose. Unfortunately, they're rather expensive but pretty much everyone who has one loves it. As we've previously noted, the much cheaper NEAT Receipts Scanner is supposed to get Mac support sometime this year, but there's no hard information yet on that.

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