Question Time: iPod Battery, Remote Folders in Finder Sidebars, and More!

Tuesday, 2005-01-25; 20:40:00

Question Time reader questions are answered, with some bonus iTunes tips

(Originally posted on AppleXnet)

If you're worried that Question Time has been cancelled after only one article, don't worry. Question Time's not going anywhere, it's just late to the party this week. But the party's going to be a good one, because this week, I'm going to start answering questions offered by Apple-X readers. And as always, a few bonus tips are going to come at the end. So without further ado, I present the first Question Time article where I actually answer questions!

Apple-X forum reader zenlibra asks: "Is it my imagination or does using a playlist on the iPod (I have a mini) use more battery power? If I simply use the 'Shuffle Songs' feature the battery indicator barely moves over a 2 hour period. Yet playing songs from a Smart Playlist shows the battery indicator dropping steadily."

Good question, zenlibra. Since the iPod mini only has an 8-hour battery life, and it doesn't use AA or AAA batteries that you can easily bring with you to give it more juice, Apple-X readers may want to know how to get the most out of their iPod battery. In answering this question, I can offer a few tips on how to maximize your iPod's battery life (this applies to all iPods except the iPod shuffle, since that's a flash player and has a lot fewer features compared to the other iPods).

One of the biggest ways to drain your iPod's battery is by accessing its hard drive, which has moving parts that really suck up power. The iPod is engineered precisely to access the hard drive as little as possible. One of the ways in which the iPod does this is to store the current and a few subsequent songs on the iPod's cache, temporary storage for your songs in memory that has no moving parts. Once your iPod finishes playing all the songs in its cache, it will access the hard drive for a few seconds to load a few more songs into cache, and then it will spin down the hard drive to save power.

The weak point in this implementation is that the iPod is attempting to predict to what song you will listen next. If you have your iPod set to shuffle, it will just take a few random songs out of your playlist or library. If you have shuffle off, your iPod will cache the next songs in the playlist. The point is, it's extremely hard to create playlists that are exactly what you want to hear, so often times you might skip songs by pressing the forward button on the iPod. When you do this, the iPod will get to the end of its cache sooner, and therefore will need to access the hard drive more often. This, in turn, means that your iPod's battery will drain faster.

So to answer your question directly, zenlibra, if you compared playing a regular playlist to the "Shuffle Songs" feature on your iPod (assuming you never use the forward button on your iPod), then neither will drain your iPod's battery faster than the other. This is because you're accessing the iPod's hard drive just as much with either method. However, it's likely that you're subconsciously using the forward button when using your playlists, but not when you use the "Shuffle Songs" feature, which makes your playlists use more battery power.

Another explanation could be the use of equalizers. Using equalization on your iPod also drains your battery faster than when it's off. Your playlists might be using equalization, whereas using "Shuffle Songs" would make it less likely for your iPod to choose a song with equalization. That could also explain the discrepancy.

A few other tips on saving your iPod's battery power: use the backlight as little as possible, and when you turn it on, always use the "Backlight Timer" feature. This turns off the backlight when you haven't touched any of the iPod controls in a certain amount of time, thereby making sure that you don't accidentally leave it on. If you do leave the backlight setting to "Always On", there's a shortcut to toggling the backlight: simply hold down the Menu button. (This simply activates the backlight instead of toggling it, however, on iPods without a click wheel.) Also, using the contacts, calendars, and notes features also accesses the hard drive, so use them as infrequently as possible when you're low on battery power.

Nathaniel asks by e-mail, "I would like to put folders from remote disks in the sidebar in my Finder windows, but [...] I have to first mount the remote disk [...] which involves clicking through several dialog boxes as well, and then click[ing] on the folder icon in the sidebar for this to work. Is there a way to streamline this process [...]?"

Since you said that you have a sidebar in your Finder, I'm assuming you're using Mac OS X Panther. However, the problem you describe isn't present in Mac OS X Panther 10.3.7. If you put a folder from a network share into the sidebar in this version of Mac OS X, unmount the share, and then click on the folder in the sidebar, the Finder will automatically mount the share, using your keychain password if applicable, and display the contents of that folder. That sounds just like what you want, Nathaniel.

The latest incremental updates to Panther have included a number of networking enhancements according to their detailed update information, suggesting that this may have been a problem with previous versions of Panther. I've tested this on both an iMac G4 and a PowerMac G4, and they both performed flawlessly. So it seems like upgrading to Mac OS X 10.3.7 will allow you to do exactly what you want.

One thing you might want to keep in mind is that you might be having keychain troubles. To check to make sure that your keychain isn't damaged, open the "Keychain Access" utility, located in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder. Go to the Window menu and choose "Keychain First Aid". Then enter your login and password into the appropriate fields, and start the repair process.

kylebragger asks in the Apple-X forums, "I am thinking of selling my iBook G4 and getting a Mac Mini. I need to transfer my entire iTunes music library, as well as some applications to the new Mac. Is there a way to do this, i.e. transfer files between Macs I own?"

The best way to do this is to use Mac OS X's built-in Migration Assistant. When you get your Mac mini and boot it up, the Mac OS X Setup Assistant will automatically start, assisting you in setting up your Mac. One of the very first screens instructs you on how to connect your old Mac to your new Mac using a FireWire cord, and after doing that, the Migration Assistant will automatically transfer over all your files, user accounts, settings, and the like.

Here's what you'll need: a 6-pin to 6-pin FireWire cable. This is very important, because some FireWire cables have a 4-pin end, which you can't use. Below is a picture of an both ends of an appropriate FireWire cable. You can identify the correct kind by looking inside both ends of the cable. You'll see six small, gold-colored strips (i.e.: pins) where the connection is made. The end of the cable itself measures about 1 cm by 0.5 cm. Most FireWire cables also have the FireWire logo pictured on both end connectors, allowing you to distinguish them from other kinds of cables like USB cables. If you don't have one of these cables lying around yourself, you can probably go to your local computer shop and get one for under $10.

A 6-pin to 6-pin FireWire cable, and the FireWire logo

All new Macs have at least one FireWire port that matches up with the cable shown in the picture, and most Macs that are 1 or 2 years old also have these ports. This includes your iBook G4 and the Mac mini.

Here's how it works: you connect the FireWire cable to both computers. Then you restart your old machine, and hold down the "T" key right after you hear the startup chime (unplug your headphones, or you may not hear it). The computer will then enter what's called "FireWire Target Disk Mode". The screen should be all blue except for a jumping yellow FireWire logo. In this mode, the computer simply acts as a hard disk, and mounts on the other computer to which it is connected.

Now, all you have to do is go back to your new computer and let the Migration Assistant do the work. You can choose what files and settings to transfer over, and best of all, you can go away and do something else while your new Mac is working. The amount of time this takes varies, depending on how many files are in your old computer.

If you've already gone through the Setup Assistant on your new computer, don't fret. Simply follow the steps above to put your old computer into FireWire Target Disk Mode. It will then mount as an external hard drive on your new computer, and you can manually drag all your files and settings over yourself. It's not automated like the Migration Assistant is, but it's still a very easy way to get all your files over to your new Mac.

Another good way to connect your two computers together is by using an ethernet cable. An ethernet cable should look like the one below, and you should be able to see 8 different gold-colored strips when you look inside the connector. If you only see 4, you've got a modem cable. Also note that the color of the cable does not matter.

An appropriate ethernet cable will do the job nicely

Connecting two Macs using an ethernet cable is a bit more complicated. You can't use the Migration Assistant with an ethernet cable, so you'll need to go through the whole Setup Assistant on your new Mac before going through this process. Then, plug in the ethernet cable to both Macs (all Macs in at least the past 5 years have ethernet ports). Now, go to your old Mac and open System Preferences. Click the Network button. Create a new location using the Location pop-up menu (call it "Comp-to-comp via ethernet"). Click the Show pop-up menu and select "Network Port Configurations". Uncheck everything except "Built-in ethernet", and drag it to the top of the list. Now select "Built-in ethernet" in the Show pop-up menu. Make sure the "TCP/IP" tab is selected, and then make sure the Configure pop-up menu says "Using DHCP". Finally, go to the "AppleTalk" tab and check "Make AppleTalk active". The Configure pop-up menu should say "Automatically".

We have to do one more thing before your old Mac is ready for sharing. Click "Show All" in the toolbar of System Preferences, and then click the "Sharing" button. In the "Services" tab, make sure that "Personal File Sharing" is checked. Now your old Mac is all set up.

If you're not running Mac OS X 10.3 Panther on your old computer, the process is still very similar for Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar or Mac OS X 10.1. However, if you're using Mac OS 9, the process is different. You'll first need to go to the AppleTalk control panel and select "Built-In ethernet" in the pop-up menu. Then you'll need to go to the "TCP/IP" control panel and make sure the Connect Via popup says "Built-in ethernet". As a last step, you need to go to the File Sharing control panel and start up file sharing.

On your new Mac, follow the same process as above. However, you do not need to go to the Sharing preference pane. When you've finished configuring the Network settings of your new computer, go to the Finder. Now select "Connect to Server..." from the Go menu. If using Panther, press the Browse button, and then open the "Servers" folder. Your old computer should show up. Double-click on it, enter your username and password for your old computer, and click "Connect". Double-click on your hard drive name, and then it will mount on your new computer. Go wild copying all your old files and folders over! If you're connecting two Macs which are both using Jaguar, your other computer should just show up in the "Connect to Server" window: double-click it, enter your username and password from your old computer, click "Connect", double-click on your hard drive name, and then it will mount. You too can go as wild as Panther users!

You've got yet another option if both your new and old computers have AirPort cards in them. On your old Mac, go to System Preferences, click the Network button, select the AirPort tab, and check "Allow this computer to create networks" as well as "Show AirPort status in menu bar". While you're in System Preferences, click "Show All" and then click the Sharing button. Click the Services tab, and make sure "Personal File Sharing" is checked. Now, in the Airport status item in your menu bar, pictured below, select "Create Network...". In the dialog that pops up, give a name to your network, and leave the channel to "Automatic". I would also suggest clicking "Show Options", checking the "Enable encryption" button, choosing "128-bit" as the WEP key, and then choosing a password that is exactly 13 characters long.

The AirPort status item and its menu

Now go to your new Mac. Just like connecting your computers using an Ethernet cord, you cannot use the Migration Assistant with AirPort. So go through the whole Setup Assistant. Then make sure the AirPort status item is showing by going to the Network pane in System Preferences as above. Select your newly created network from the AirPort status item menu. Then, to connect to your old Mac, simply follow the previously described process by using the "Connect to Server..." dialog from the Go menu.

Note that using AirPort will be significantly slower than using a FireWire or an ethernet cable, so if you do have one of those cables around, I'd suggest using that instead of using AirPort.

One last option you have: you can simply use an external hard drive. Just connect it to your old Mac, copy all your files over to the hard drive, disconnect it from your old Mac and connect it to your new one, and transfer your files to your new computer. If you have an iPod, you can easily use it for this purpose: open up iTunes, select the iPod in the list on the left side of the window, and click the iPod prefs button in the bottom right-hand corner of the window (this button is pictured below). Now simply check the "Enable disk use" button (it will be hidden in the General tab if you're using iTunes 4.7 or later). This will make your iPod show up in the Finder, and you'll be able to copy all your files to it just like a FireWire hard drive.

The iPod preferences button

Phew! That was a lot to go through. Hopefully one of those options will allow you to transfer your files over to your new Mac, Kyle!

That's it for the questions. Now for today's hints, all dealing with iTunes. Did you know that you can get a URL for anything in the iTunes Music Store which you can then send to a friend? This URL will go directly to the desired song, album, or even music video. All you have to do is control-click on any song, any piece of album art, or any text for the title of an album or artist. Then simply select "Copy iTunes Music Store URL". Now you can paste the URL where you want it. You can also simply drag the song, album art, or text, and when you drop it in a text file, it will be replaced by the URL.

You might be a little stumped as to how to do this with a music video. Well, instead of trying to drag the movie, simply click and drag on the tab near the top of the window where it says "Video". After finishing the drop, you'll get the URL. (You can't use the "Copy iTunes Music Store URL" feature with music videos; you have to use the drag and drop method.)

On the subject of music videos, suppose you want to save the music video to your hard drive. How would you do this? All you need is a little help from our friend AppleScript. First, go to the Finder, open your home folder, then the "Library" folder, and then the "iTunes" folder. If it doesn't already exist, create a new folder in there called "Scripts". Then go to the Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes website, and download the "Save Current Music Video v1.2" script. After downloading it, unstuff it, and then drop the script (just the file with the ".scpt" extension) into the "Scripts" folder you just made.

Now go to the iTunes Music Store and find the music video you want. Let it finish loading into the iTunes window. With the music video still showing, go up to the Script menu bar -- the menu actually just looks like a picture of a scroll, and it's between the Window and Help menus -- and select "Save Current Music Video". You can then choose a name for the video and save it anywhere on your hard drive. Ta da!

Here's another little tip: if you find something in the music store you like and which you might want to buy in the future, bookmark it! To do this, you simply have to drag the song from the iTunes Music Store to a playlist. You'll then have the 30 second preview of the song right in iTunes without ever going to the music store, and you can even buy it right from your playlist.

One last, little jewel that I came across recently: if you've downloaded songs with album art and you're a bit lonesome for actual physical CDs, you can almost get the whole way there with JewelCase, a great visualizer for iTunes. You can download it from Optical Alchemy. After installing it, simply go to iTunes, select "JewelCase" from the Visualizer menu, and then activate the visualizer. The JewelCase plugin will then take your album art, and display a virtual CD case for the current song. It's pretty sleek, too -- it takes the album art and blurs it to create a back cover, puts the list of other songs on the album on the back (assuming you have them in your library too), and also creates a spine for the CD case. And, by the way, you can change the speed of the rotation -- simply click and drag a little bit on the CD, and depending on how fast you drag, the CD adjusts the speed of its spinning. Here are a couple screenshots of JewelCase:

The JewelCase iTunes plugin

Well, that about wraps up this issue of Question Time. Next time we'll cover a question about cascading view options in the Finder, as well as a problem with an Apple printer. And, of course, I'll cover new questions as they come in. If you've got a question, just e-mail me or leave a message in the Question Time Q&A forum (free registration required).

Have a happy week everybody, and tune in next week, when Question Time will (hopefully) return to its originally scheduled time slot, Tuesday. See you then!

-- Simone

Technological Supernova   Publications   Older   Newer   Post a Comment