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Ask TUAW: Syncing iCal, Mouse Keys, encrypted flash drives and more

Mat Lu

This time in Ask TUAW we're tackling questions about syncing iCal between two Macs, using an encrypted flash drive in a cross-platform environment, changing default applications, using the keyboard instead of the mouse, and more.

As always, your suggestions are welcome. 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 Mac OS X (we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions!

bryan asks

Is there a way to activate a context menu from the keyboard, as if you were to right/control click with a mouse?

Yes, go to the Universal Access System Preference. In the Mouse & Trackpad section turn on Mouse Keys. Now the '5' key on the number pad with be a left click and ctrl+5 will be a right click.

ronl12 asks

I have Parallels but discovered that my amateur radio software needs to be 'closer to the metal' to work properly with the USB-to-radio adaptors. I know that I can boot Windows in Boot Camp so I created a Boot Camp partition in NTFS format. I have Paragon NTFS and can read and write NTFS partitions. QUESTION: How can I migrate my Parallels VM to BootCamp so that I can boot from it so that I don't need to reinstall all of my software to the Boot Camp partition?

This is, I fear, a non-trivial task. There is a user-produced guide for doing this on the Parallels forums, but it was posted a few years ago. Nonetheless, it should give you an idea of what it would take. You might want to check whether your software might work better with VMware Fusion as migrating from Parallels to Fusion is a much less tricky proposition.

iGO asks

How do I set, or more importantly, NOT SET Mail as my default email reader? I want to have NO DEFAULT email reader because at times, certain applications or links in browsers, open mail due to a url click or an application action. I NEVER want mail to start/open, unless I start it myself by clicking the Mail application icon, inside the applications folder.

I think that you must have a default mail reader (set in's preference); simply not having a default reader is not an option. However, as another reader pointed out you can set any application on your Mac to be the default mail app. So if you just choose something that's always open on your Mac anyway (e.g. Address Book), it will just switch to that application when you click on a mail-to link.

Sam asks

I can't get applications to consistently open up certain file types. For example, I want avi files to always open in VLC, not Quicktime. I've went into the "open with" dialogue and chosen VLC and checked "always open with." But whenever I double-click an avi file, it always opens in Quicktime. What's the deal with this? Is there a program that will manage this type of thing?

It will work better if you set the default application in the Finder using the inspector window. In this case, choose and avi file in the Finder and then hit the 'i' button (or simply: ⌘+i). Then in the "Open with:" section choose VLC and click the "Change All" button.

niknak asks

After once again leaving a USB thumb drive in one of my university's computers (though i got it back) i thought i would finally try and secure the data on it. What would be the best way i could go about this? I know i can make an encrypted disk image somehow, but i need something that, as well as on my own MBP, will also work on both the Windows and Mac machines in my university (so it also needs to be FAT formated). Ideally i would like something that would ask me for a password to 'unlock' when i plug it in or try to access it, and would then stay unlocked until i eject it, and which works on both Windows and OSX machines without any special client software. While i'm working I usually have it in my MBP with Chronosync set to sync my Documents folder to it every 10 minutes, so i don't really want to be bothered with having to re-type the password all the time.

I haven't used it myself, but as another reader suggested I would have a look at TrueCrypt. It's free, open-source and will run on both Windows and OS X (and Linux). According to the FAQ you can run TrueCrypt from the flash drive. I don't it will be automatic (e.g. you plug it in and then it asks for your password), but it won't be that complicated (you plug it in, then run it off the drive, mount the TrueCrypt container and you're good to go).

Shaun asks

I have an '07 iMac and just got a Macbook. What's the best way to synchronize iCal on both machines without using MobileMe? I've tried the 'import"export' function via file sharing, but it makes multiple copies of all events instead of updating events that were just added.

The best way is probably with Spanning Sync ($25/yr or $65) or BusySync ($25). You can sync with Google Calendar without these application using their CalDAV support for free, though the other two still offer more features, I think.

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