Ask TUAW: File ownership and permissions, converting FLV and OGG, extra displays, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we have questions about changing file ownership and permissions, adding two external displays to a MacBook Pro, converting OGG and FLV files on an older Mac, transferring a Time Machine backup to a new disk, 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), or if it's an iPhone-related question, which iPhone version and OS version you have.

Juan asks

I was getting sick of my startup speed and huge libraries of each program so I decided to start sort of "from new" What I did: I created a new user account as an administrator, and moved all my files to this new account, and deleted the old one and its library. Everything sounded good except for the PERMISSIONS. Now if I want to modify.. hmmm let's say a file name, I have to make sure to get the info, change the permissions, etc etc and that is a PAIN!... Anyway, please is there I way that I can just change ALL the file permissions at once? through terminal maybe? I fixed permissions with Disk utilities but that has nothing to do with read and wirte and stuff.

While you can do this in the terminal, of course, with the CHMOD command, you don't have to. There's a nice GUI application that should do what you want in BatChmod (donation requested). While in principle you should actually be able to use the Finder Get Info window to do this (select the highest level folder and at the bottom you'll see the Sharing & Permission section; click on the gear and make yourself the owner, also making sure it's applied to the enclosed items), some folks have found BatChmod more reliable.

Laz asks

I'd like some advice that perhaps only TUAW or its readers can answer. I've just purchased a new macbook pro and I have an odd problem and it has to do with my palms. I don't have a problem with overly sweaty palms, but for some reason, the paint on the top of my last macbook pro and before that my titanium powerbook would rub away in the spot where my palms rest when I type. I use this macbook to death, all day and into the evening. The only thing I can think of is that the moisture in my palms may be more acidic than normal? Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

I would suggest having a look at a plastic film guard such as the moshi PalmGuard. Apple sells them online, and you can also get them from Amazon. The reviews seem overwhelmingly positive, and I would suspect that it should help a lot with your problem.

howiegroove asks

I have a new MacBook Pro running OSX Leopard. I have a 32" 1080i HDTV and am inheriting a 50" 1080i HDTV. What is the best way to connect so that I get the best picture possible on the HDTV, running as a dual screen or mirroring? Also, is there a way to connect two HDTV's to a MacBook Pro to run a dual screen setup (with reasonable pricing) without having to get a Mac Pro?

If you're only connecting the MacBook Pro to one HDTV, I'd use a MiniDisplay Port to HDMI adapter, like this one from If you want to connect both HDTVs to your MacBook Pro, however, the only possibility that comes to mind is a USB video card DisplayLink device like this one from OWC. The main issue is that the resolution of this device tops out at 1680 x 1050, so you won't get a full 1080p image on the second HDTV. Video performance will also be slow on this USB device, though it would be fine for regular GUI windows, etc.

Eug asks

I have a 200GB HD that I originally partitioned as 100GB Time Machine, and 100GB as NTFS to back up my parents' PC. I've since lost the need to back up a PC, and repartitioned the 100GB as HFS+Journal. I am also to the point where the TM partition is full and TM is deleting old backups to make room for new. is there a way to merge the 2 partitions while still retaining the current set of backups? Also, I'm thinking of getting a larger HD such as a 500GB-1TB to serve as TM drive. can I copy the existing TM backup to this larger drive so that i can recall those files if needed?

All you need is Disk Utility. You can actually use it to transfer your existing Time Machine backups to a new disk using the Restore function. All you have to do is turn Time Machine off, plug in the new disk and start Disk Utility. In the Restore tab, select the Time Machine disk as Source and the new one as the Destination.

You can also use Disk Utility to non-destructively repartition the original disk. You'll need to delete the second partition and then use the Partition tab. Now keep in mind that while this is supposed to be a non-destructive process, you should never re-partition without a backup (well for that matter, you should always have a backup no matter what). So in your case I would actually first buy the external disk first and restore the Time Machine backup to it before attempting the repartition.

Jason asks

Is there any other place I can get a Remote Shared Folder to show other than the Desktop? Ideally, but completely unlikely, when connected, a Server will be collapsable/expandable like a folder. Less ideally, semantically speaking, a share would be listed in the "Devices" section of Finder. I never look at my Desktop!

Remote Servers actually should automatically appear in your Finder sidebar, not in the DEVICES section, but the SHARED section. If you don't see a SHARED section, it may be turned off in the Finder Preferences. Open the Finder Preferences, go to the Sidebar tab, and make sure "Connected servers" is selected under SHARED.

Stephen asks

I'm running Tiger on a PowerMac G4 Quicksilver. I can not find a way to convert my ogg and flv files (the latter from YouTube) to mp3 and mp4, respectively. All2MP3 crashes when I try to use it, and ffmpeg won't compile correctly. I think I'm a "power user", and I don't mind mucking in, but I can't find anything that works. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

For the OGG to MP3 conversion, check out SoX Wrap which is apparently compatible with 10.2.8. I don't have a comparable machine to yours to test, but I would expect that to work. Though in your case with an older machine, I would actually suggest that you might check out an online convertor, such as Media-Convert which will do both the OGG to MP3 and FLV to MP4 on files up to 200MB. If you have the bandwidth (and assuming the content of the files is not that sensitive) I'd give that a shot. There are actually a lot of online video convertors, some of which can work directly from a YouTube URL.