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Ask TUAW: Taming unruly windows, updating OS X, booting from an SD card, and more.


We're back with another edition of Ask TUAW. This time around we've answering questions about how to resize windows too big for the screen, "compulsive" updating, booting from an SD card, Open GL in Snow Leopard, and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions 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.

Steph asks:

I recently switched from an iMac to a MacBook Pro and now many of my windows are sized to big for the screen of my laptop. I can't reach the corner to resize them and clicking the "Plus" sign in the corner doesn't help. What can I do?

Fortunately, this is very easy to fix. Instead of clicking on the "Plus" sign (the green button) in the top left corner of the window you are trying to resize, Option-click it and the window will fill your new screen size instead.

John asks:

I realize there's a method for updating Mac OSX all the time and sometimes I get the window popping up saying I have updates. Should I always update immedietly when it tells me I have some?

That's a good question and an important one to keep in mind as a user of Mac or Windows. In most cases, updating the computer is an important step and the updates will provide added features, security or other improvements or various enhancements that will benefit the user.

However (and this is more frequently the case with Windows than Mac OS X in my experience), the patches or updates can actually cause other issues on your computer while they are trying to fix something. That's not to say updates on the Mac to the operating system never have problems or cause issues. For some users they do.

In the majority of cases, however, Mac users can feel pretty confident that when an update is released it has been pretty-well tested and will fix problems instead of causing others. Still, caution is not a bad thing and nobody wants to be, nor should be, an inadvertent beta tester for a software company -- be it Microsoft or Apple.

So even when updates become available, I always advise users to wait at least a week or two before downloading and installing them. That way, if there are issues with the update, you will hopefully hear about it before you update your computer and run into trouble. Really, if your computer is working fine, waiting a week or two to update won't hurt.

I also advise users, especially with updates to OS X itself, to download and install the "Combo" updater instead of simply updating the OS via Software Update; these packages include all the intervening updates from the 10.5.0 release up to the current patch level. Sure, these updates are far larger and require a bit more effort, but they are often much better at preventing any problems associated with upgrading your OS. These updates can be found over at Apple's download site.

Nathan asks:

I have an iMac. I put the Mac to sleep and plug in my iPhone to sync and charge. Unfortunately, as soon as I plug in the phone, the iMac wakes up and that big, bright screen turns on. Not the best lighting for sleeping. Is there a way to make it so that the screen doesn't turn back on when the iPhone is plugged in?

Unfortunately, just like when moving the mouse or clicking a key on the keyboard, the Mac is designed to wake up and be ready when you do other things like plug in an iPhone. You can turn down your screen brightness to the minimum but that may still be too much light for comfort. You could also set your screensaver to a black screen, and activate it via a hot corner as soon as you plug in the phone.

My other suggestion would be to simply plug the iPhone into the wall via the charger at night instead of plugging it into your iMac. That way, the iPhone can charge at night and your iMac can rest in peace.

Alex asks:

I'll soon be getting a 17", but the SD card sounds nice, particularly the ability to boot from it. What I'd like to know is: if I got an x-in-one card reader for the express card slot and used an SD card with it (or any card), could I boot off of that?

From what we've seen and heard about the new MacBook Pros... probably. At the moment, Apple only supports SD booting from the internal card slot, but you've long been able to boot from USB media, so a properly-formatted and configured SD card in a USB or ExpressCard reader may work. Check out this Apple Tech Document for all the details on the SD card slots.

Huxley asks:

I've got a 17" MacBook Pro with Intel Core2Duo running at 2.33GHz, and an ATI Radeon x1600 graphics card with 256MB of VRAM. Will the OpenGL features of Snow Leopard will work with the ATI chip in my MacBook Pro?

According to Apple's Tech Specs page for Snow Leopard, the following graphics cards are required for full OpenGL support: NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GTS, Geforce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130, ATI Radeon 4850 and ATI Radeon 4870.

So, it doesn't look like your card is supported and you won't be able to take full advantage of OpenGL.

Ralph asks:

Any specific recommendations for a VESA arm for Apple's 24" LED Cinema Display? I'd need something that clamped to a desk, not a wall, and full compatibility with the ACD 24 is, obviously, a must.

In order to make this happen you'll need some things. First, and most obvious, is you'll need an Apple 24" Cinema Display. Second, you will need to get the VESA Mounting Adaptor for the display from Apple. Finally, you will need a mounting arm to secure the monitor to your desk. This is the one I've used most often.

It features tilt and pivot function, fingertip tilt and swivel for viewing at any angle, self-adjusts to securely hold monitor, built-in cable management and comes in silver of black.

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