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Ask TUAW: Taking apart a MacBook Pro, installing Leopard on a Mirror Door G4, streaming movies and more


Once again, it's time for another edition of Ask TUAW: the place where we try to answer all of your Mac and Apple-related questions. This week we're answering questions about taking apart a MacBook Pro, installing Leopard on a Mirror Door G4, watching movies streamed from a Mac media server and more.

As always, we welcome your suggestions for this week and questions for next time. Please leave your contributions in the comments for this post. When asking questions, please include which Mac and which version of OS X you're running. If you don't specify, we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac.

Jim asks:

Hey guys, Jim here. I am running OS X 10.5.6 on an Intel 2.4Ghz MacBook Pro (2007 model). Lately, this thing has been getting really, really hot. I've tried a lot of things, fresh OS X installs, laptop cooling pads, but none of it seems to work. A quick Google search told me that my laptop's innards might be clogged with dust, blocking its airflow. I'm thinking of opening it up and using some compressed air to clear out some of the dust. What do you guys think?

Opening up any computer can be sometimes lead to difficulty; opening up an Apple laptop even more so. Apple packs their computers into as small a casing as possible. Consequently, they are sometimes difficult to work on and may require a trained Apple tech.

That said, you can take the MacBook Pro apart successfully if you are very, very careful and make sure to keep good track of all the parts and pay close attention to what you are doing. Of course, Apple always recommends you seek help from an authorized repair facility but if you decide to take the plunge, the guides provided by iFixit are especially useful. Check out their MacBook Pro guides here to find your specific model.

Liam asks:

I have an old G4 Power Mac (mirrored drive door) and it's running Tiger -- is it worth upgrading to Leopard or would it be so sluggish as to be unusable?

According to Apple, if your G4 is at least 867 Mhz, has 512 MB of memory, a DVD drive for installation and 9GB of available disk space, you can install Leopard on the computer. So, assuming you meet those specs, you could use Leopard on your Mac.

If you do decide to install it, keep a few things in mind. First, you will want to max out the amount of RAM in the machine, which in this case tops out at 2GB. Also, if you still rely on any OS9 applications, utilities or whatever, Classic mode does not work in Leopard. Also, make sure to update your machine to the latest firmware version pre-upgrade

Do you want Leopard? You can install it and it will probably work. However, the performance will not be anything spectacular. If you are relying on the machine for basic email, web browsing and other "lite" use, it should be adequate. Just don't expect much more from it than that.

Matthew asks:

I watch a lot of movies on my Mac (which is hooked up to my TV) and I primarily use Boxee to watch movies, but I've noticed that programs like iChat, iTunes and others like to steal the focus and put pop-ups on top of the movie when there is an alert. How do I stop them from stealing focus when I'm in full screen mode?

At the moment, this is a problem for many users. Sadly, the best way to prevent background applications like iChat and iTunes from stealing focus is to quit them while you are watching a movie. You could turn off all iChat's alerts in the preferences for the app, but then you'll likely forget to turn them back on again

Obviously, this isn't ideal but if the idea is to watch and enjoy a movie, removing these distractions while doing so seems like a small price to pay. Perhaps one day soon Apple will offer this option in System Prefs or one of our TUAW readers may know of a Terminal hack. Until then, quitting these applications is your best option.

Besides, all your AIM friends and your music will be there when you open those programs again, so don't worry.

Olivier asks:

I want to set up a home network that will include a media server to feed music and images to a flat screen TV using a mac Mini and I'm planning on acquiring a 24" iMac as my main computer. The house will feature network plugs in all the rooms. What do I need to make all those computers work together seamlessly?

If I understand your question correctly, you have pretty much all you need to make these computers work together seamlessly. They are all Macs which means they will be able to share files and media very easily.

The simplest way I've done this is to enable iTunes sharing on the iMac that's going to be your media server. Next, on the Mac Mini attached to your TV, use Front Row to play music or media files shared from your iMac on your TV.

In the past, I've had some issues with Front Row playing shared media over an Airport network but as you are going to be using Ethernet, these issues shouldn't be a problem for you.

David D. asks:

I have a question about my iPhone battery. Sometimes it will lose all charge (down to 10%) two hours after I leave my house and its charger. What could be causing this "battery diarrhea" and how can I fix it?

Unfortunately, while the iPhone is a remarkable piece of technological innovation, it still has some issues -- the battery being one of the biggest. There are many things that could be causing your battery to drain. Some of these include the use of location services, 3G data usage, moving in and out of coverage areas, and other gotchas.

The simplest thing I've found to help prolong my battery life is to let it drain completely until the phone turns off and then recharge fully -- at least once a month. Also, even if the phone is running fine, I do a complete restart by holding down the "Home" and the "Power" buttons at the same time until the slider appears asking you "Slide to power off." Once the phone is off I press the "Power" button again to turn it on.

Though somewhat radical, these two steps have enabled me to prolong the battery life in my iPhone 3G and seem to prevent, or at least minimize, most battery-related issues. Most issues except, of course, the issue of the battery not lasting very long no matter what steps you take. Maybe that will be fixed in iPhone 3.0?

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