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Ask TUAW: Arranging icons on the iPhone, installing Windows on a Mac, Airport networks and more


Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we have questions about arranging icons on the iPhone, installing Windows via Boot Camp, AirPort networks, iMac rotation support, replacing the video card in an iMac, and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions are welcome. Leave your questions for next week in the comments section at the end of this post. When asking a question, please include which machine you're using and what version of Mac OS X is installed on it (we'll assume you're running Snow Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions.

Leah asks:

Is there a better way to arrange icons on my iPhone than by trying to drag them around on the phone itself. I can't seem to get it to work very well and usually mess it up.
Apple provided a better way of organizing iPhone icons in iTunes 9. In the past, I always tried to arrange my icons on the iPhone the same way you do, by dragging them around on the device itself. This isn't as easy as it sounds, especially if you have larger hands.

Now, with iTunes 9 or higher installed and your iPhone connected to your Mac or PC, launch iTunes, click on the Applications tab, and you will not only see the apps you have installed on your iPhone, but the iPhone screens and the placement of the icons as well.

Simply drag the icons around in iTunes and put them in the desired order. The next time you sync, the icons are arranged identically on your iPhone as well. It's so much easier.

Stubby asks:

Is it difficult to install Windows on a Mac using Boot Camp and running Snow Leopard? I'm a bit intimidated.

Well, anything can be difficult if you don't know how, but installing, configuring, and using Boot Camp on your Mac doesn't have to be one of those things. You're in luck, because TUAW's very own Josh Carr recently did a great article answering that very question.

In the post, he provides step by step instructions on how to install Boot Camp, and then configure it so you can run Windows on your Mac. In his example, Josh uses a Mac running Snow Leopard, and then installs Windows 7 Ultimate as his Microsoft OS of choice.

That bodes well for you, Stubby, if that's what you're planning to do. If you have the Apple wireless keyboard and mouse, be sure to grab the recent Bluetooth update on the Windows side to enable function key control for brightness and volume.

There are also other alternatives if you don't want to use Boot Camp, which requires you to reboot your Mac each time you want to run Windows. Virtualization applications such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or Sun VirtualBox offer alternatives to Boot Camp that may be worth checking out. (Both Parallels and VMware have just released new versions of these apps.)

These programs run on your Mac and create a virtual environment for Windows to run in. When you want to run Windows applications, you launch the virtualization app in Mac OS X, and then Windows starts up in a window just like any other Mac program. You can then use Windows and Windows-only applications in that virtual environment.

This method is great for people who don't need extensive 3D support in Windows and just need to run specific Windows-only applications. I've tried both Boot Camp and VMware, and for almost every task I need, using a virtual Windows environment has proven to be more than sufficient.

Rono asks:
Can I use an Airport Express as a primary station to give an Internet connection to an AirPort Extreme wirelessly? I want to put an Airport Express with the modem and the Extreme in another room with a few peripherals attached to it through the Ethernet ports. Will the Extreme be able to share a WiFi connection from the Express? AND will it be able to share its connection through the Ethernet ports?
Apple advocates setting this up the opposite way, using the AirPort Extreme as the primary station and the AirPort Express as the secondary. That being said, you should be able to set this up the way you want with no problems. The AirPort Utility software should work to set up the network the same way no matter which device is the main base station and which is the remote.

The main thing to remember is to have the remote base station, the AirPort Extreme in this case, in "Bridge Mode." That way, it will only serve to extend your wireless signal and provide hookups for your peripherals, leaving your AirPort Express to allocate IP addresses and serve as the de facto router for your setup.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the AirPort Express and the AirPort Extreme should both be of the same type. For example, they should both be the most recent version with 802.11n capability, such as this AirPort Express and this AirPort Extreme. Mixing types is a bad practice for this kind of setup and has caused me problems in the past. If you're buying two new devices, you should be set.

Joe R asks:
I'd like matching and elegant solution for turning my new 27" iMac. Something like a low-profile lazy-susan or something. Any ideas?
Actually, this isn't the first time someone has asked me this question. Fortunately, I have an answer and it's this non-stick turntable currently available for US$5.49 at Amazon. I realize that it doesn't match the color of the iMac exactly but it is a heavy duty platform with non-stick surfaces, perfect for rotating your prize iMac. In addition, at this price you really can't go wrong. Heck, get two!

If you have a bigger wallet and want something that matches your iMac, take a look at the i360 iMac turntable from Rain Design. Prices for these turntables vary with the the model, but are currently all less than US$40.

Alex McKee asks:

I've got a 7300GT in my iMac 24" (late 2006) that's on its last legs. Apple says it isn't a known issue and they want $500 to fix it. I've sourced a 7600GT from the same year that will work for about $220, but I'd still rather find some cheaper solution. Any ideas on how to get either apple to fix my problem gratis/cheaper or some homebrewed solution?

I can't speak for Apple, but it sounds like they've made the decision that this isn't covered under any existing warranty or any extended repair program. If that's the case, your options with Apple are pretty much exhausted. The only other option is to try to find a friendly Apple Genius at your local Apple Store and plead your case to them.

In rare instances, Apple Geniuses have been able to fix things that previously were going to cost clients of mine a lot of money to fix. Granted, I've cultivated relationships with several Geniuses over the years and these occurrences were certainly not the norm. They also weren't following Apple policy, but it's worth a shot. All the Geniuses can do is say no, and all it costs is a bit of your time.

Otherwise, the solution of replacing the card with one you can obtain for US$220 seems to be your best bet in terms of actual hard cost. That being said, one big point to keep in mind is that replacing these cards is extremely difficult. If you do attempt the repair yourself, use all due care and proceed with caution. It is not something you want to undertake lightly.

I would advise you to go to Apple and have them do a repair of this type -- or find the independent Mac repair shop in your area. It may cost a bit more, but then the repair is under warranty. If they mess up your iMac during the repair, they have to fix it or replace it entirely.

For the extra US$280, you may be spared hours of aggravation. Perhaps you'll also be spared creating a dead Mac that will have to be repaired by Apple anyway. Carefully consider your skills before you take on any replacement or repair yourself.

Codi asks:

I've got a lot of Gmail accounts that I check frequently. Is there a good way to have them all in the same window or an app that I can use to keep track of them all?

There is. I recently started using an application called Mailplane (we've covered it before) that allows you to manage an unlimited number of Gmail accounts in a single app. It also has other useful features such as drag and drop for adding attachments and direct iPhoto import. Best of all, it's actually a Mac application, so your Gmail won't be confined to a web browser.

I was a big fan of Apple's Mail app, but I didn't like the way it handled Gmail accounts. Mailplane represents the best current option for power Gmail users. The developers offer a 30 day free demo, and if you decide to purchase the program, it only costs you US$24.95.

If you want to keep the browser interface for Gmail but still have separate accounts running in different windows, you might try Mozilla's Prism as a free solution. Prism is a small app or Firefox plugin that creates single-site browsers (SSBs) which run as independent applications.

Since each browser process created by Prism has its own set of cookies and credentials, you can access multiple Gmail accounts that way without affecting the logged-in account in your primary browser. (The Webkit-based SSB builder Fluid doesn't isolate cookies in the same way, so you can't log into multiple Gmail accounts using it as you can with Prism.)

It's not quite as slick as Mailplane and not quite as feature-rich, but it does work and it's free.

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