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Ask TUAW: OpenCL support in Snow Leopard, Boot Camp, automatic importing into iPhoto, and more

Mat Lu

Wednesday means it's time for another Ask TUAW! For this edition we've got questions about what Macs will support Snow Leopard's forthcoming OpenCL acceleration, using Boot Camp with multiple partitions, connecting a Mac mini to HDMI, automatically importing images into iPhoto, 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.

Jerry asks

What's the top three graphics cards for a 2008 Mac Pro to run Snow Leopard?

Stephen asks

Shouldn't a late 2008 iMac be capable of taking advantage of Snow Leopard's OpenCL? (if not the MacBook which has weak Intel graphics)

If you check out Apple's Snow Leopard Tech Specs you'll see that OpenCL is supported on the following graphics chipsets:

  • NVIDIA Geforce 8600M GT, GeForce 8800 GT, GeForce 8800 GTS, Geforce 9400M, GeForce 9600M GT, GeForce GT 120, GeForce GT 130.
  • ATI Radeon 4850, Radeon 4870

MacFixIt conveniently translates this into Mac models, revealing that, unfortunately, your iMac (and mine, too) will not support OpenCL. That doesn't mean, however, that your iMac won't benefit from Snow Leopard. Other enhancements and optimizations, including Grand Central, will benefit your Mac.

As far as the best graphics cards for the Mac Pro in Snow Leopard: strangely, it seems that the most powerful cards Apple sells aren't officially supported right now (e.g the GeForce GTX 285 and Quadro FX 4800). So at this point it appears that your best bet is the Radeon HD 4870, though it's certainly possible that Apple will expand support for the more powerful cards before Snow Leopard ships.

chowee2 asks

I have a Macbook Pro 2.4 Ghz (not unibody) running on OS X 10.5.7. My problem is I want to install bootcamp, but I have 2 partitions (system and data). Is there a way to install bootcamp without deleting the second partition (data), installing boot camp and creating the second partition again?

According to the Boot Camp 2.0 FAQ, "Boot Camp Assistant only works with an Intel-based Mac that has a single hard disk partition." So I don't think there's any way to use Boot Camp to prep your Mac for dual-boot without eliminating that second partition. In any case, you shouldn't do anything without a full backup of your disc. If you use SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner to clone both of your present partitions it should be relatively simple to restore your present setup after installing Boot Camp.

For nondestructive partition management (still back up, though!) you may want iPartition. You can also check out this guide to triple-booting your Mac, if you want to throw Linux on there somewhere.

Caroline asks

I seem to recall setting up a .mac account when I first got my MacBook, around a year ago. I have since forgotten the login details. How can I find them out again?

Apple has a couple of pages for recovering MobileMe info. If you remember your Apple ID you can get your password starting on this page. If you can't recall your Apple ID, you can click on the link below the Continue button on the same page.

gregtimm asks

I just bought my first mac, a 24 inch imac. I have a question: what is an alias, how would I use it, and why?

An alias is a "stub" pointer or link to a file somewhere else in the file system. You use them to create shortcuts (as the corresponding feature is known in the Windows world). You might use aliases for any number of things (created by selecting a file and hitting: ⌘+L), such as creating shortcuts on your Desktop to often-used folders or applications.

Aliases are Mac OS X-specific, and don't work when copied or shared to other operating systems; they are distinct from the UNIX-based symbolic and hard links, which also provide Mac OS X with methods of referring to the same file in multiple locations. Leopard's Time Machine backup utility uses hard links to do its backup magic, but 99% of Mac users will never need to know the difference between aliases and links; just make aliases like you would make shortcuts in Windows and everything will behave as you expect.

Brian asks

Getting a HTPC going, and i've decided on a mac mini. Using a 52' Sharp Aquos TV. I was just wondering which I should be using for my video mini-DVI port or Mini DisplayPort? Either way I'd be getting a __ to HDMI adapter. Is there an advantage for either one when used for a TV rather than a computer monitor?

Either should work more or less the same way, since it's going to be digital throughout the signal chain. However, I've seen some people reporting problems with going from the mini-DVI port to HDMI with some sets (perhaps related to HDCP DRM). That being the case, I would go with the mini DisplayPort to HDMI, with an adapter such as this one from monoprice.

Rob asks

Is there a way to set up "smart folders" in iPhoto '09?" I'd like iPhoto to watch a specified set of folders and automatically add photos to the iPhoto library as I add them to my hard drive. Is this possible?

Far and away the easiest way to do this is with the brilliant utility Hazel ($21.94) from Noodlesoft. It has a built-in option to allow you to set rules to watch particular folders and import their contents into iPhoto. It also does many other useful things as well.

However, as another reader suggested you can do this for free with Automator and Folder Actions. Start Automator and create a simple Action with (1) Get Selected Finder Items and (2) Import Files into iPhoto. Now save this as a plug-in for Folder Actions and attach it to the folder you want to watch. From now on anything you drop into that folder should be imported into iPhoto. You can add this Folder Action to other folders as well simply by right-clicking on a folder, choosing "Configure Folder Action..." and then adding the same script to that folder.

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