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Ask TUAW: iTunes libraries, Mac data recovery, Snow Leopard on older Macs and more


We're back with another edition of Ask TUAW. This time around we've answering questions about iTunes libraries, Mac data recovery, Snow Leopard on older Macs 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.

Daneel asks:

I'm running OS X 10.5.7 and Windows Vista (via Bootcamp) on my iMac 24". I was wondering if there was any way in which I could make the iTunes apps in both Windows and Mac use the same iTunes library. File access is not a problem as I've got the ntfs-3g driver on the mac side and mac drive on the PC side.

I have my iTunes library on an external hard drive. To make iTunes use this particular folder, I create an alias of the folder on the external drive and replace my iTunes folder located in Users> "User Name" > Music with the alias. iTunes has no problem with this setup.

You should be able to do the same thing in both the Mac and Windows versions of iTunes. Just set an alias of the iTunes folder you want to use in Windows pointing to your Mac iTunes library and you should be good to go.

Friko asks:

My iMac failed and didn't let me do an archive and install, so I had to make a clean install. Is there any way to transfer to the new install not only the music, but the contacts and calendar info that's in my computer?

Sadly, you are probably at a point where data recovery software needs to be used. Fortunately, you didn't do what's called a "low level" format of the drive which would have pretty much ruined your chances of recovering any data. In your case, the data may still be on the drive but the formatting just won't let OSX see it.

Data recovery is not an exact science and there are several programs you could try including Data Rescue from Prosoft, Stellar Phoenix from Stellar Info Systems, Boomerang, Kernel from Nucleus Software and Virtual Lab from Binary Biz. Plus, I'm sure you will get many more suggestions from our commenters about what software to try. Good luck.

Faye asks:

I have a fairly-new (purchased Fall '08) iMac 20" - 2.66GHz and a not-quite-as-new MacBook (purchased Jan '08). As a relatively recent convert, I'm trying to understand this: If Snow Leopard is more sparing of system resources than Leopard, why is it said that I won't get the full benefit of Snow Leopard with my pre-2009 Mac's?

Snow Leopard accomplishes its "spare resources" magic by dumping as much of the workload onto the Mac's graphics card as it can. Unfortunately, you need a very modern graphics card to do this and your Macs simply don't have one that's new enough. Therefore, you won't get the full benefit from Snow Leopard's most advanced features such as support for OpenCL.

Ricardo asks:

I like to play some FPS's and use Photoshop so I need a precision mouse. Any good gaming mouse for Mac (and with support for PC) besides the Razer DeathAdder?

Mice have come a long way over the years and several companies make some very good ones. Even though this is an Apple and Mac-centric site, I'm going to recommend a Microsoft product to you: The Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer 3.0. I use it for gaming on the Mac and it works quite well. It also works for Windows.

Of course, it doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of the Razer, but its also a bit less expensive. Plus, it works very well with Photoshop. However, if you really want the ultimate gaming mouse for the Mac, you should just stick to the Razer. Plus, its got a much cooler name.

Bryan asks:

In the network settings of the iPhone, you can switch 3G on and off. i live in an area that lacks 3G but 30 minutes in all directions are towns that support it. Am I better off leaving 3G switched off when i am at home, and then switching on when i get into a 3G zone? i didn't know if leaving it switched on meant that it was constantly searching for a 3G signal, and thus draining the battery more than normal.

According to Apple iPhone customer support, having 3G on or off does have an impact on battery life but not a significant one. The iPhone is designed to be in 3G mode all the time and the battery figures are based on that fact. That said, there's no harm at all in turning it off when you are not in a 3G area and then turning it on when you are.

Personally, I've found having 3G on does tend to drain the battery a bit faster, but it was not significant enough for me to be too concerned about it. Plus, I keep an iPhone charger in my car just in case I run low on juice. You might want to do the same thing.

A.J. Wiese asks:

I got the new 2.53GHz 13" Macbook Pro. I'm looking at getting 2 external monitors is there an adapter to give the mini display port dual monitor capability? (preferably DVI). if so how much would said adapter cost?

Pretty much the only way I know of to make this work, at least at the moment, is the Matrox DualHead2Go. However, it only supports two external monitors at 1024x768 resolution, so I'm not sure if that would be good enough for your purposes. Plus, it will run you around $225.00.

Instead, you might want to consider getting one big monitor such as the Apple 30" Cinema HD Display. It works out of the box and this way you can still get all the screen real estate you want.

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