Ask TUAW: Silencing iPhone notifications, remote control a PC, printing over the internet, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about controlling a PC over the internet, silencing iPhone email notifications at night, replacing a MacBook Pro SuperDrive with a hard drive, printing over the internet, setting iCal as the default calendar, 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). And now, on to the questions.

Jacob asks

Every morning, and sometimes more often than this, iCal pops up with "Would you like to make this the default calendar program" (or words to that effect). How do I stop what is I assume Microsoft Entourage daily deciding to change this setting? (I rarely even run Entourage, so I assume the setting is being changed by something that runs on startup).

I suspect what's actually happening is that the preference is not sticking because the iCal plist is not being saved properly. So try this: Go to ~/Library/Preferences and move the file to the Desktop. Now restart iCal and it should ask again if you want it to be the default. When you check yes this time it should stick (hopefully).

You might also try installing the RCDefaultApp Preference Pane and selecting iCal as the default application for ical URLs.

Will asks

On my iPhone... whenever I get an email, my phone beeps, and vibrates. The problem is, that I receive emails constantly, 24x7, and even if I flick the switch on my iPhone, and turn it to vibrate, it constantly vibrates all night. Currently, just prior to going to bed, I go into 'Preferences' and disable the push for the exchange email, and make the imap email, only fetch manually. Then in the morning, I switch it all back. This is quite clumsy, and takes up to 5 minutes, to navigate through it all. In addition to this, I often forget, and subsequently don't receive my notifications until morning. Do you guys have a better solution, or am I the only person in the world who doesn't read their email all night!

Unfortunately, the iPhone does not have a native setting to do this. Probably the easiest thing to do would be to turn vibrate off in silent mode in the iPhone Sounds Preferences. If this is the last thing you do before you go to sleep when you pick up the iPhone the next morning that preference screen will be the first thing you see and you can just flick the switch.

Interestingly, if you dock the iPhone into an audio device it will apparently silence notifications, but still allow the phone to ring. That might be another solution for you.

Christian asks

I would like a way to do a remote screen sharing with my parents PC. I have a MacBook Pro and constantly need to help with the most mundane tasks that would be much easier to simply do than explain.

While you can certainly use Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection to do this, that would require some setup on your folks' end. Probably the easiest thing to do would be to use a web-based service like LogMeIn or GoToMyPc. I'd probably try LogMeIn Free first since, well, it's free. You can also set up a VNC-based solution, but that would require even more complicated setup on your parents' end. It's also easy to set up screen sharing with Skype.

Alexis asks

I have recently upgraded my internal hard disk to an SSD. Is there a way of removing the Superdrive and instead put another hard disk there? I have a late 2006 Macbook Pro.

Yes, check out the OptiBay Hard Drive from MCE Technologies. From what I can tell, the model for your MacBook Pro starts at $179 for a 250GB hard drive and goes up from. It also comes with a USB 2.0 enclosure that you can put the SuperDrive in for use as an external drive. asks

Can you recommend a replacement battery for a non-unibody Macbook Pro 15'?

Given the possibility of problems with non-original batteries, I would really recommend getting your battery from the Apple Store. That said, there are third-party batteries available, like these from FastMac that claim improved battery life over the standard Apple batteries.

kingdavidd asks

I have a unibody macbook (late 2008) running os x 10.5.8 I'm trying to decide if i should by the 24" LED cinema display for my macbook or get one of the new 21.5" imacs ($300 cost difference). what would you recommend i go for? And how can i use the new 21.5" mac as a secondary display for my macbook?

As far as I know, there is no way to use the 21.5" as a secondary display except through the rather kludgy VNC-based application called Screen Recycler. Only the new 27" iMac can be be used natively as an external display (the Mini DisplayPort on the 27" is bi-directional; the 21.5" only has output).

Frankly, if I were you I'd probably just go for a non-Apple external monitor with a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter (or cheaper generic).

Frank asks

I want to be able to print from my house to my parents house. Is there a way to connect a printer to the Time Capsule and share it over the internet using bonjour? I have them connected with the usb cable. I have also set up an account at

What you need to do is set up a VPN with Bonjour support. Probably the easiest way to do that is with Share Tool ($30 for two computers). While I haven't used it myself, if you install it on both your Mac and a Mac at your parents' house it should allow you to access the Time Capsule-connected printer over Bonjour as if you were connected to your parents' Time Capsule network.