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Ask TUAW: Switcher questions, WiFi stumbling, dual-band WiFi, hard drive upgrading, and more

Mat Lu

We're back with another shot of Ask TUAW! This time we've got a couple of common switcher issues, as well as questions about upgrading a hard drive, using WiFi stumbler software, setting up a dual-band WiFi network, 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!

Brassen asks

I'm considering upgrading my standard HD to a Seagate 320gb 7200 RPM, which is a SATA II, and as far as I know, my MacBook is SATA I. Will there be a problem or it will automatically "adapt"? Also I plan to make a clean install on the new HD, so I'll put the old one on a external USB enclosure. When on the new install will I be able to access my files/folders from the older drive to drag (eg. iTunes, documents) to the new or it will be blocked (i have a password to log in to my account)?

SATA II drives are supposed to be backwards compatible with SATA I, so a SATA II drive should work in your MacBook; however it may require you to set a jumper on the drive. You'll just have to check the specs on the particular drive you're thinking of buying.

As for your second question, the easiest way to access your old data in the USB enclosure would be just to import it with the Migration Assistant. However, you will be able to get at the data either way using an Administrator password, or by checking the "Ignore permissions on this volume" checkbox via Get Info for the drive.

sn0man1 asks

I have an aluminum macbook which I just bought in February. I also am an avid fan of my wired Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer... Onto my problem. When the computer sleeps for a longer amount of time, and I wake it, the mouse doesn't track right. The buttons work just fine, but i feel like i have to pick it up and scroll 30 times to move just a couple inches. When I say longer amount of time, I mean over an hour at the least. I know this because if I go up to the apple menu and click sleep... then come back 15 minutes later and wake it up, the mouse tracks fine.... I took it in to the apple store... [and they said] it was an issue with the microsoft mouse combined with my preference to have a password on wake from sleep/screensaver. They further said that if I disabled password on wake that I would not have the problem. They also pointed out that if I bought a mighty mouse I would not have the problem.

I'm afraid I don't have an easy solution for you. It sounds like the problem lies with how the Microsoft driver software is interacting with the screensaver. I think my primary recommendation would be to see if you can live without the drivers (after all, you don't really need them for basic functionality). However, if that won't work my other suggestion would be to try a third-party USB mouse driver.

The biggest problem, of course, is that you have to pay extra, but it would probably be worth at least trying the demos of USB Overdrive ($20) or SteerMouse ($20). If you install one of the demos and your problems go away, then your issue is with the Microsoft software. Then it's up to you whether the extra functionality is worth the Jackson.

Patrick asks

When I attempt to connect to a public wireless in a new location (say, on the commuter train), I can frequently see a bunch of different base stations available. I can't connect to any of the encrypted base stations, so that knocks out about half of them. How can I tell which one has the best signal strength or signal quality? In my specific case on the train, there are sometimes 2 base stations on different cars one the train, one close to me and one further away, as well as one on the platform (perhaps) or one in the coffee shop near the platform. I would like to select the best one. How can I do that?

You need a network stumbler tool like iStumbler (donation requested) or KisMAC (donation requested). It will show you all the available base stations along with the signal strength. That way, you can easily choose which one you want to join. I think iStumbler (above) is probably the easiest to use, provided that you have the stock Apple Airport card.

Sigbhu asks

I use to access my GMail account via IMAP. I have a problem I can't seem to fix : I want to delete a lot of old mail in my GMail account. So I go to "All Mail" under my GMail account in Mail (the application), sort the messages by sender, and junk the ones I don't need. The problem is, they don't go. They pop back after a few minutes. I tried using "Erase deleted messages" by right-clicking on the folder, but that does nothing. How do I delete these mails from within Mail?

You have to make sure that Mail is using the correct Gmail folder for Trash, by mapping it with the Mailbox > Use This Mailbox For command. As another reader suggested, have a look at this tutorial.

Scott asks

In Windows, when a dialog box appears (i.e. to choose save/don't save/cancel) you can tab between the choices and select with the Enter key. I have been unable to duplicate this in OS X. Is there a way to do this, or is the mouse needed to click on my choice?

This is a common switcher question that's worth reiterating. In the Keyboard Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard & Mouse Pref Pane you need to turn on "All Controls" in the Full keyboard access option at the bottom. This will almost make Tab work as you you expect, with one significant change. You have to use the space bar (not the enter key) to actually select the highlighted button. Unfortunately, that's just one of those Mac things you'll just have to get used to over time.

David asks

I've like to use my iPhone to record dialogue for audio documentaries. Is there a professional microphone that I can plug into my iPhone?

No, not really. Basically your only option at this time is just to use an RCA breakout cable or a mic headphone adapter like the Monster iSoniTalk, but either one is going to be far from pro-level performance. With the forthcoming iPhone 3.0 upgrade Apple has promised hardware access to the Dock connector. That may mean in the future that a higher quality audio interface will be developed, but as for right now your options are rather limited.

Mike asks

I have an Airport Extreme using 802.11n/2.4 Ghz, however my Macbook is the only n-device on the network, the rest being g. I'd like to use the 5GHz band so that communication with my file server (connected to the router via 1Gbps Ethernet), since my computer is the only one that does. I have a spare D-Link 802.11g router collecting dust, is there any way I could also hook that to the Airport Extreme and have two wireless access points on the same network?

Yes, we've addressed a question like this before. You need to turn off the D-Link's router functionality (via the web interface) and convert it to a simple access point. Then you just connect one of the D-Link's LAN ports to one of the LAN ports of your Airport Extreme. Our blog buddies over at Engadget recently had a Mac-centric tutorial on doing exactly this.

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