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Saturday, August 14, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Practical Mac / Glenn Fleishman
For personal reasons, focus is on micro-level


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Good things come in small packages. I'm focused at the micro-level this week, as I prepare for the arrival of my first little bundle of joy, and I've collected a variety of advice about small problems and compact hardware.

According to the best available medical science, babies are cute and require lots of attention, thus a short absence from this column. My colleague and friend Jeff Carlson, the managing editor of the Mac journal TidBITS, will fill in during the early weeks of sleep deprivation and "nappie" changes.

Change All fixes media types: You double-click a document in the Finder, and the wrong program launches. You're stuck? Not at all.

Select any file in the Finder for which you want to change the program that opens its media type when you double-click it, such as a .smil audio file. Choose Get Info from the File menu. Click the triangle next to Open With to expand it. Choose a program from the menu below Open With, or select Other from that popup menu to choose a program that's not listed. Click Change All and click Continue when prompted.

The next time you double-click a file of that type, it will open the program you selected.

Finding the real RealPlayer: RealNetworks has released an enormously improved version of Mac OS X RealPlayer software. It's a free download, but make sure you choose the correct one.

When Mac users visit www.real.com, their operating system is recognized and a special page is displayed that has two download links. To get the subscription-based player, click the gold Free Download button at the upper right. But to get the completely free player, click the blue Free RealPlayer button to the upper right of the gold button.

Invaluable assistants: I recommend two Mac OS X add-ons uniformly to everyone who asks how to improve file and program navigation.

St. Clair Software's Default Folder ($34.95, www.stclairsoftware.com) adds a row of buttons to any file-selection dialog box. These buttons serve as navigational tools. You can select from a list of the last several folders you've accessed through a dialog, immediately reach the Desktop or your home folder through a selection or keystroke, or use a list of favorites that's longer and easier to manage than OS X's built-in favorites feature.

The two best Default Folder features: Press option-down arrow or option-up arrow to cycle through the last folders you used. With a dialog box open, hover over open folders on the Desktop (even if obscured by intervening applications windows) and they light up so that you can select them and have your dialog box switch to that folder's contents.

Proteron's MaxMenus ($19.95, www.proteron.com) turns the four corners of your screen into colored dots that serve as shortcut menus. My upper-left is a list of all installed applications, while my lower right is a shortcut to the aliases in a folder I created.
 
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Both programs have a free trial period.

Sleeker Slim Device: The Squeezebox from Slim Devices brings audio to your home stereo system over Wi-Fi ($279) or Ethernet ($199). A server runs on any Mac, Windows or Linux computer and can play a large variety of music files back. It includes a remote control.

Slim Devices has just answered one of my two concerns about its excellent device: its tiny LCD screen. My wife couldn't read the display from about 15 feet away in either of its two sizes. (My other concern is the price; it's too rich for my blood.)

A newer version was just released at the same price with a substantially improved LCD panel, which has a clearer, higher-resolution and more legible display. Current users can buy a $69 upgrade kit.

The Squeezebox faces competition from Apple's AirPort Express, which can stream music only via iTunes and lacks any display or remote control, but costs just $129.

iPod music loading: The folks at LoadPod will come to your home, cart away your iPod and any number of original (not duplicated) audio CDs, and rip them at high quality for you, storing the results on your iPod within five days. They have franchised this service all across the country to avoid the cost of shipping.

The fee is $1.50 per CD with a minimum of 50 CDs and a travel charge of $20. The $20 travel charge is waived for 100 or more CDs.

If you have a large collection, and your idea of fun isn't sitting there ripping in your spare time, LoadPod can put a price on your time.

Glenn Fleishman writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to gfleishman@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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