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Ask TUAW: Charging MacBooks, securing passwords, color matching and more


Welcome to Ask TUAW, your favorite weekly question-and-answer column. Now, we can never have too many questions, so please, go to the comments of this post and ask away. To get fabulous answers, we need your fabulous questions. You can also email your questions directly to ask [at], or ping us on Twitter.

Now, off to the questions! Daniel asks:

I have a original MacBook for which I am currently on my third charger. And for the third time, it's no longer working. So I need to buy a new one, but was considering buying the 85-watt adapter (with the new metal end) meant for the larger MacBook Pros. This way, I can use it as a spare charger when I eventually buy a new MacBook Pro.

What I'm wondering is if I can use the 85-watt charger with my 60-watt MacBook without any adverse effects? The general idea I've gotten from forums is that it is OK, but is there any documentation from Apple on this?

Great question, Daniel. Here's what Apple's Knowledge Base has to say on the subject:

Power adapters for Intel-based Apple portables are available in 45W, 60W, and 85W varieties. Although you should always use the proper wattage adapter for your Apple portable, you can use an adapter of a higher wattage without issue.

For instance if you have a MacBook (13-inch Late 2009) that normally uses a 60W adapter, you can also use an 85W adapter with that computer. You would not use a 45W adapter with that computer; it would not provide enough power for that MacBook. Using an adapter of higher wattage than the adapter that came with the computer will not cause the computer to charge more quickly or otherwise operate any differently than using the adapter that came with the computer.

There you have it. Apple says you can use whatever wattage charger with your computer, if it's at least as powerful as the one that came with the machine originally. The charging board in the MacBook is smart enough to know that it must draw only the correct amount of power from whatever charger it's plugged into, so even though the MagSafe charger itself is rated at 85 watts, the MacBook's MagSafe board will only draw 60 watts from it. (Using a lower-wattage adapter is not supported, although in a pinch you can use one temporarily -- you probably won't be able to charge and run simultaneously, but you can limp along.)

There used to be some issues with using the newer "L-shaped" MagSafe adapters with some older notebooks, but there is a firmware update that should solve those issues. See this article from and make sure everything is properly updated. Best of luck!

Stephen asks:

I recently got an iPhone 4, and I would like to find a good app with which I can store my information securely, namely insurance cards, credit cards and the like. It would be great to trim down my wallet and reduce the number of cards I carry around, especially if the physical card itself isn't really that important, only the information contained on them.

What you're looking for is 1Password from Agile Web Solutions. We've covered it quite a bit in the past. The software, available on a number of platforms including your iPhone, allows you to securely save username/password pairs, plus any other information you might find in your wallet, like your insurance information, credit cards, etc. It's also a great way to save information if you should ever lose your wallet -- you can put all of the emergency contact numbers for your banks and the like in there as well. You can also automatically sync with 1Password on your Mac or Windows box using Dropbox.

Check Agile's website for more information. If you're looking for an alternative to 1Password, SplashID and eWallet offer some of the same features. Got a favorite secure data manager? Let us know in the comments.

David inquires:

Just downloaded Pages from the Mac App store. I am finding it a delight to use. I am making a pamphlet for my business. Inserted my logo and text. No problem. Now I need to match the color of my logo for a font. Aside from trial and error what is a good way to do this? Also, is there a way to make it one of the standard color choices?

The gold standard for color matching is to specify a Pantone color or set of CMYK (for print) or RGB (for screen/web) values, which you should be able to get easily by talking to the designer of your logo. For speed's sake, however, you can get a quick and easy color match using the 'eyedropper' feature in the Colors palette in Pages, or for that matter in any application that uses Apple's default color picker.

In the top right corner of the standard Pages toolbar is the 'Colors' button. When you click that, the Colors palette appears with the standard Mac OS X color picker. If you click the magnifying glass near the top left of that window, you can hover over any color on the screen and click to sample it, allowing you to easily color match your font to your logo.

As to your second question, if you select the middle option at the top of that window, with three 2x2 overlapping color swatches, you will see a selection of color palattes. The standard one is Apple's normal color palette, but there are others for web-safe colors and for developers. If you click the gear to the right of the palette drop-down menu, you can add your own custom palettes to that list.

Create your custom palette, give it a good name, and then you can add all the custom colors you wish, using the plus button at the bottom left of the window. As an added bonus, because Pages uses the standard Mac OS X color picker, you'll be able to get that same custom color palette in every application that uses that picker, including all the other iWork apps and a ton of others. Sweet!

Finally, John asks:

Is it possible with the iPhone to change the name of the phone categories? My father has a house in Indiana and in Florida. It's easy for me to keep them separate because they are different area codes, but it would be nice to be able to call one Indiana and the other Florida.

Yes, it's straightforward to change the phone labels on the iPhone. When you are viewing an entry in the Contacts app on your iPhone, click the "Edit" button in the top right corner of the screen. The standard edit window will appear; instead of tapping on the phone number to edit that, tap the label. In your case, they might be labeled mobile, home or work. If you scroll to the bottom of that label list, you should see an option labeled "Add Custom Label." Tap that, and you can custom label to your heart's content.

Thanks for the questions everyone, and remember: it's tough to have a Q&A column without Qs. So, put your questions in the comments of this post, or shoot us an email at ask [at] Also, if you have anything to add to our answers, we love feedback and fresh ideas.

Seriously, we want questions! Now, have a great week!

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