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Ask TUAW: Prepping a Mac for transfer, adding words to spell check, updating Boot Camp, and more

Mat Lu

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about preparing a Mac that you're transferring to a new owner, updating Boot Camp, adding words to the built-in spell check, dealing with flaky network disks, FTP clients, 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.

MJBauer asks

I have a Macbook Pro running OS 10.4 (Tiger) and I often have difficulty maintaining a persistent connection to my NAS... OS 10.4 sees it as a SMB/CIFS Shared Volume. It can be difficult to even find it and maintaining a persistent connection to it just doesn't work for me ... I can find it and when I access it it will mount but it may disappear and be difficult to reconnect to it... Any help?

I think that the solution to your problem is relatively straightforward: you need to upgrade OS X. This was a long-standing problem with older versions of OS X, but Apple really managed to improve performance with network disks in Leopard. So I would suggest that you at least upgrade to Leopard if not Snow Leopard.

Heimbachae asks

I'm looking at selling my Macbook to a friend of mine to upgrade to a Macbook Pro. My question is what is the "proper" way to clean out a hard drive and give a fresh new computer to my friend that has nothing of mine left on it. Note: my friend isn't a genius and doesn't plan on going through and recovering old files so I don't need to do anything crazy like hard drive shredding, just a simple solution would do.

Assuming you've already backed up / transferred your data, the easiest thing to do is simply reboot your Mac with an OS X install disc. Then use the Disk Utility to erase your boot disk. Disk Utility offers several options for erasing, but it sounds like you'd probably be fine with Zero Out (in the Security Options under the Erase tab). This will overwrite your disk with random data; it wouldn't make the data unrecoverable to sophisticated forensic procedures, but it should be more than adequate for your purposes. Once that's done, just install OS X from the disc as normal. When you're done the machine will be more or less "fresh" and will even present the new owner with the OS X Welcome video, etc. (Incidentally, it will also lack the latest updates; your friend will have to connect to the Internet and download those as soon as he's set up the Mac.)

Doug asks

Im a medical student constantly writing notes and summaries on my mac. As good as normal spell check is, in the face of such odd and specialized vocabulary that you get in medical school (i.e. postganglionic, synaptobrevin, trophotropic, ethanolamine) my pages end up so littered with red that I normally cant find the words that are really misspelled, nor can it help me with most. Is there a source of supplementary dictionaries that feature specialized terms for different fields that one can plug into the system wide spell check?

OS X keeps track of the words you add to the spell check at ~/Library/Spelling/en. If you open that file in a plain text editor you'll see that it's just a list of words. So if you could find a long list of medical terms you could simply copy and paste (plain-text) into that file and they should no longer show up with the red underlining. You ought to make a backup of that file before you modify it, just in case.

You can also check out Dictionary Cleaner, which provides a GUI for managing (including adding and deleting words from) the list. We've previously covered adding supplementary dictionaries to the built-in, but even if you added a medical dictionary I don't think that would actually add those words to the spell check.

Faye asks

I frequently see a section in my Trash called "Recovered Files". When I expand it, I see things which don't make any sense like "MaglevExpressTempnnn" (nnn is some 3-digit number). What's with this Recovered Files business? I have an iMac (10.6.1) and a MacBook(10.6.2), and they both do this.

This isn't really anything to worry about. As this Apple Support Document explains, these recovered files are basically temporary files created by applications that closed unexpectedly. You don't really need to do anything with these files and you can generally safely delete them (i.e. empty the trash).

katerina asks

I'm looking for an iPhone (3G) app for creating a new habit using the 21-day method. Basically, something like, but as an app instead of emails and a website. Does this exist?

There are actually quite a few applications on the iPhone for this kind of thing. Check out this iTunes Link to see if you might find something that meets your needs.

Le_Renard asks

I'm running Snow Leopard on a 13-inch MacBook Pro and Windows 7 in Boot Camp. If I want to update Boot Camp to the latest version (which officially supports 7), can I do that in place, or do I have to re-install Windows?

No, you shouldn't need to re-install Windows. The relevant Boot Camp update really just contains updated Windows 7 drivers. In fact, all you really need to do is download the appropriate update: 32-bit or 64-bit while booted into Windows (the download is actually a Windows executable).

jeremy asks

What's the closest thing to WinSCP for the Mac? I haven't found much of anything that has anywhere near the interface. I'm using Cyberduck right now but would like it to store connections and have a remote/local view interface.

Well, I don't know what the closest thing to WinSCP is, but probably the best regarded FTP client on the Mac is Transmit ($29.95) from Panic. Other readers also suggested you have a look at ForkLift ($19.95) from binarynights. If you want a free option with something more of a Windows ethos, have a look at the cross-platform, open-source FileZilla. All three of these can have a two-pane interface.

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