Dave Weston, Quizmaster
summary by Richard S. Russell
Q: My Camino browser has problems opening PDF files. It goes on and on but never opens it. Other browsers do it in 3-5 seconds.
A: First aid is always to try clearing your Camino cache. Another possibility is to set your Camino preferences to load the file into a separate helper application. (All browsers are able to open PDF files via some form of plug-in. Usually there's one kind that works across all browsers, not one special to Camino.) If Camino has an uninstaller, you can uninstall and reinstall it and see if that works. If all else fails, download the PDF file and open it on your local computer using Preview.
Q: Does Time Machine work with the files created by Parallels (the Windows XP emulator)?
A: Depends on whether you set up a separate partition on the hard disk or whether you're running it as a virtual disk within the Mac OS. If you'd set it up in a separate partition via Boot Camp, you'd see 2 hard-disk images on your desktop. If you're not seeing that, Finder thinks of that disk image as just another Mac file — a big one, containing everything that has anything to do with Windows, including the emulator itself, all the Windows programs, and the files they've created. Time Machine will back it up no matter how large it gets, as long as it doesn't exceed the size of the external hard disk.
Q: I haven't switched to Lion because I still use Quicken 2004 and Microsoft Office 2004. I know I could use the Mac equivalents (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) for the latter, but there's no substitute for the old Quicken. Does anyone use QuickBooks 2012? That will work with Lion.
A: Quicken 2007 (not Quicken Essentials) for Lion does work and is compatible with Snow Leopard. Can't say whether it can directly read Q2004 files or whether you have to do a 2-step conversion process via Q2005. The export function may enable you to save the data suitable for importing into Q2007. Export may also work with iBank or iMoney, if you're sufficiently sick of the games played by Intuit. You can find Q2007 at the Intuit website.
Q: What was the deal with this news story of a guy who had his iTunes and iCloud account hacked by somebody just calling Amazon and Apple over the phone pretending to be him?
A: Yes, it happened. It caused a flap. Both Apple and Amazon were embarrassed by it and took steps to prevent it from happening again. (They had had overlapping security holes.)
Q: I'm trying to synch my iCal data between home and work via iCloud but it doesn't seem to be working. One of them shows duplicate data, but the other sometimes doesn't show either of them. I'm having a similar problem with Contacts (formerly Address Book).
A: Probably a problem with Snow Leopard, which isn't as familiar with iCloud as Lion or Mountain Lion. ICloud was sort of "tacked on" to Snow Leopard. If you could upgrade that version (10.6) of Mac OS to Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), it would probably resolve the issues. Or you could take it in to the Apple Store. They see this sort of thing every day, so they know how to deal with it. And they never laff at you.
Q: I'm debating whether to do a hardware upgrade to my old MacBook's memory (a SSD — solid-state drive) vs. just getting a new computer with more memory. They cost about the same, but it's not clear which is faster.
A: The advantage to an SSD is that there are no moving parts to get bunged up. The downside is that they don't have as much capacity per dollar spent. I don't have any real-world data but figure an SSD which doesn't have to wait for a read-write head to position itself is likely to be faster, but technology keeps leap-frogging earlier generations, so it might depend on the specific device.
Q: How reliable are these portable external hard drives?
A: Simply because of portability, there's more chance that one will get banged up when being moved. The important thing is to make sure that the data are backed up, in case something untoward happens. A portable hard drive fills a need for (a) storage and (b) portability. If you have both needs, by all means, get one. There are about 2-3 manufacturers of the internal mechanism (Western Digital, Iomega, and Seagate are all reliable), but lots of vendors who wrap their own shells around them. The "enclosures" (case, cable, power supply, and interface board) mainly differentiate from each other on esthetics rather than performance. OWC (One World Computing) is good; the Apple Store has several brands in stock, and they're good; Best Buy has good peripherals, and they're tested to be Mac-compatible. However, the various office-supply stores are less fussy about playing well with Macs, and their staff tends to be much more familiar with PCs. There's also the question of whether the case is crackable by a typical end user; some of them are made not to be openable except with Dremel tools or the like.
At this point the conversation drifted over to the virtues of USB drives, also called thumb drives, pocket hard drives, jump drives, keychain disks, and several other slang terms. Many people spoke glowingly of their capacity, ease of use, relative cheapness, and ruggedness. A drawback is that they're so small they're easily lost.