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Ask TUAW: Presidents Day Edition


Hi everyone! Welcome to the Presidents Day Edition of Ask TUAW -- everyone's favorite Mac and iOS Q&A and advice column. We got a nice group of questions from last week's post, but we always need more!

Here's what we need you to do: go to the comments of this post, think long and hard about which burning questions have been bothering you about your Mac, iPod, iPad, iPhone or AppleTV and ask away! You can also email your questions directly to ask [at]

When asking a question, it makes life a lot easier for the Ask TUAW team if you include what type of machine you're using, which version of Mac OS X you're running or, if you're asking an iPhone/iPod/iPad question, let us know which generation device and which version of iOS you have -- though, in general, you should always upgrade to the latest version if you can.

Now, questions!

Henry asks:

I have a large iPhoto database of about 50,000 photos. Despite having a very beefy machine (2.8 GHz 8-Core with 32 GB RAM / 4 TB Disk and the 4870 GPU) to say it is slow to work in would be an understatement. It takes almost a minute to open, and is incredibly slow to scroll through. Working in it is unbelievably slow, while Aperture on the same machine is flawless and quick.

How can I make this usable (considering I have already thrown huge hardware at it)? It seems to have ballooned to over 300,000 files with all the thumbnails, faces, etc.

Your iPhoto Library is going to be huge. iPhoto makes several versions of each photo, and it keeps a copy of the original image so that you can easily revert all your changes and edits if you make a mistake, among other things.

My question for you is, why are you using iPhoto if you have Aperture installed? Aperture is meant to be an iPhoto replacement -- it does everything iPhoto does and more, including running much more speedily with tons of photos. Among other things, Aperture libraries are quite a bit smaller than a comparable iPhoto library. Straight from Apple's Aperture vs. iPhoto page:

When you want to create an alternate version of a photo, iPhoto duplicates the photo. Aperture stores as many variations as you want in a single image file. That's big news, because it eats up far less hard drive space than storing duplicate photos. Aperture makes it easy to keep track of all those versions, too, so you can use different ones for different projects.

Apple claims iPhoto is designed to hold a maximum of 250,000 photos. Your experience may vary "depending on your computer's memory and available hard disk space," but if you have Aperture on your computer, I'd suggest you simply use that. We put a number of Aperture resources in the last edition of Ask TUAW. Check the last question we wrote about -- and good luck!

TeJay asks:

I'm looking for a way to hook my Late 2009 MacBook up to dual monitors and use it as basically some amorphous Mac desktop with three monitors. What's the most efficient and cost-effective way of doing this and also, do you have any recommendations on desk stands to elevate my MacBook up to eye-level on my desk? I'm hoping to keep the whole project under $200 for a point of reference.

The early- and mid-2009 MacBooks had a Mini-DVI port for video out, while the late 2009 model introduced Mini DisplayPort. Whichever connector you're dealing with, you can use the Matrox DualHead2Go to connect your MacBook to multiple monitors, and Amazon sells it for US$209.99. However, a MacBook with an integrated graphics card is going to have a tougher time powering two monitors than a MacBook Pro would. As far as a stand goes, I'm a fan of the Griffin Elevator, which is a tad under 30 bucks. The pair doesn't quite fit under your budget of $200, but will get the job done.

Stooovie queries:

I wonder, how does Mac App Store deal with requirements? For example, does it allow me to buy Borderlands, only to find after purchase that my older Mac isn't up to snuff and can't run it?

As several buyers recently discovered the hard way with Angry Birds, the Mac App Store does not restrict your purchases based on whether your machine meets the system requirements for the app. App developers are supposed to clarify system requirements in app descriptions, but not all of them are diligent about this.

Bottom line, if you have an older Mac with an Intel integrated graphics card, forget about downloading most games off of the Mac App Store, including something as seemingly simple as Angry Birds. (If you want a better idea of whether your graphics card is capable of running modern games or not, check out our Mac 101 on integrated versus discrete graphics. -Ed)

That's all for today, folks. Remember, we can't answer questions without you asking them. Put your questions in the comments of this post, or shoot us an email at ask [at] Of course, if you have a better answer than the ones we came up with, we'd love to hear them, too!

Have a great week, and we'll see you next time for the Where February 29th Would Be In A Leap Year Edition of Ask TUAW!

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