Introducing Stunts Your Mac Can Handle with Ease

Your Mac has myriad programs, functions, and capabilities. The following sections describe some of them.

Understanding the remote

Roughly the size of a Bic disposable lighter or an iPod Shuffle, the simple iPod-white Apple remote, which the company has started including with recent Mac models, has minimal buttons: Play/pause, Volume up/down, Fast-forward, Rewind, and Menu. Its main purpose is to control the friendly icons and menus that make up the new Front Row interface that lets you listen to music and view photos, DVDs, and videos from across the room. But the multitalented Apple remote can also help you listen to an iPod, provided it has a Universal Dock connector.

Doing the math

The Grapher bundled with Tiger and accessed through the Utilities folder (under Applications) lets you graph two- and three-dimensional mathematical equations. Moreover, the program's animations are pretty darn cool. If you're curious about what the Conchoid, Lorentz's Attractor, and other 2D and 3D formulas and equations look like, click the names in the Grapher Examples menu.

Changing languages

Way back when you first set up your computer, you selected the language you wanted to use. But circumstances change. You suddenly have the opportunity to run your company's Rome office, and now you must immerse yourself in Italian.

To change your computer's preferred language, choose System Preferences from the Mac menu and select International. Click the Language tab. Drag the language you want to use for application menus, dialog boxes, and so on to the top of the language list.

Next, click the Formats tab under International to choose the region you live in; to customize dates, time, and native currency; and to decide whether to go metric or use the U.S. system of measurement.

Working with zipped files

Files you download off the Internet are often compressed, or zipped. Zipped files take up less space and arrive much faster than files that haven't been squeezed.

Compressed files are easily identified by their extensions, such as .zip (a common standard used in OS X and Windows) and .sit. Such files must be unzipped before you can read them. Prior to Tiger, Apple included a program for this purpose called StuffIt Expander from Allume Systems. But Tiger lets you decompress .zip files sans StuffIt. StuffIt still comes in handy, though, for opening other types of compressed files, notably the .sit or .sitx compressed types.

Using FTP

FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, sites are typically set up by companies or individuals to make it easy to exchange sizable files over the Internet, typically but not exclusively video or picture files. The Mac has a built-in FTP server for giving other folks access to your machine.

To grant such access, choose Mac menu --> System Preferences and click Sharing. Make sure that the Services tab is highlighted. In the Service window, select FTP Access. People on other computers can now share and copy files to and from your machine.

Capturing the screen

Unless you're planning on writing a book, you're probably wondering why you would ever want to take a picture of your computer screen. Maybe you want to take a picture for a presentation at work.

Regardless of your motivation, to grab a picture of the Mac screen (or any of its windows), it may be time to open the Grab utility. Choose Applications --> Utilities and click Grab. Through Grab's Capture menu, you can take a picture of a full screen, window, or menu.

Watching TV

For all its multimedia glitz, none of the Mac models come with a built-in television tuner. It's one of the few areas in which machines based on Microsoft's Media Center software claim bragging rights. Not only do such Media Center machines let you watch TV directly from your computer screen, but they also function much like TiVo digital video recorders or DVRs.

Just because Apple hasn't gotten around to putting a TV tuner in the Mac, the same cannot be said of third-party companies. For example, Miglia's TVMini HD is a compact HDTV tuner that plugs into a USB port. It lets you watch over-the-air digital TV and HDTV, and record high-definition programming to your hard drive. And yes, like TiVo, you can pause and rewind live TV. Go to Miglia.com for more information or visit the online Apple store.

Playing games

Your Mac can play a rather mean game of chess. The Mac's Chess program, found in the Applications folder, lets you compete against the computer or a human partner.

What's more, by accessing Preferences under the Chess menu, you can change the board style and pieces from a wooden board to grass, marble, or metal. You can also drag a slider inside Chess Preferences to make the computer play faster or stronger.

Recognizing speech

Are you the bossy type who likes to bark out orders? If so, you'll love the fact that the Mac can respond to your spoken commands, everything from "Quit this application" to "Switch to Finder." And for people physically unable to type or handle a mouse, speech recognition may be their only avenue to getting things done on a computer.

Open System Preferences, again under the Mac menu, and choose Speech. Make sure that the Speech Recognition pane is selected. Now, click to turn on the Speakable Items button.

To check out a list of the commands your computer can understand, click the little triangle at the bottom of the feedback window and then click Open Speech Commands window.

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