Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #10

It’s time for another “Ask the Editor” post today. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their questions – it’s great to have the chance to help you out with your Mac-related queries and quibbles.

Today I’ll be offering some advice about ripping dual-layer DVDs, whether it’s worth upgrading to Snow Leopard with the imminent release of Lion around the corner, and suggesting a few utilities for “window snapping” tools.

Read on for plenty of handy Mac knowledge, and I hope you’ll find most of it useful for your own situation as well!

Is there an easy way to rip a dual-sided DVD. I would like to back up a few of mine to my iTunes Library and Handbrake doesn’t seem to support dual-sided DVDs…

– Jonathan

The best way to approach this is most likely to rip each side individually to your Mac, and then combine the two video files together afterwards. I used to use a fantastic app called VisualHub for this, but unfortunately development has now ceased (and it’s tricky to figure out where to download it…)

Another option is to use the slightly more technically-focused ffmpegX. The interface and usability is unlikely to “wow” you, but it will get the job done.

There’s a tab within the app called “join” which should let you accomplish what you’re after:

Joining Videos in ffmpegX

Joining Videos in ffmpegX

The other way to do this is using Terminal, and the following section of the FAQ from the ffmpeg X website.

What is the best way to upgrade the memory and hard drive space of your Mac?

– AK

Upgrading MacBook Memory

Upgrading MacBook Memory

As you’d expect, this process differs for every Mac model. The best place to start would be with either of the extensive guides we’ve posted on this subject:

Depending upon the type of Mac you have, this process can be remarkably easy, or impossible in a few cases. For most MacBook models, iMacs and Mac Pros, you’ll be absolutely fine. Apple provide decent guides for each of these – such as this one on upgrading your MacBook’s memory.

Certain Mac models (such as the MacBook Air) don’t allow you to upgrade the memory at all – it’s soldered on to the logic board. For these, it’s obviously important to consider your needs a little more carefully when customising your order at the outset!

I’d like a utility that will snap a window to the edges of the screen when they get near it – I haven’t found anything like this for the Mac.

– Phillip Jacobs

You’re in luck. Quite a few of these have popped up recently, and there are a several applications you can choose from. I’d recommend giving the following a try:

  • Divvy – Divvy is an entirely new way of managing your workspace. It allows you to quickly and efficiently “divvy up” your screen into exact portions.
  • SizeUp – SizeUp allows you to quickly position a window to fill exactly half the screen (splitscreen), a quarter of the screen (quadrant), full screen, or centered via the menu bar or configurable system-wide shortcuts (hotkeys).
  • BetterSnapTool – BetterSnapTool allows you to easily manage your window positions and sizes by either dragging them to one of your screens corners or to the top, left or right side of your screen.
BetterSnapTool in Action

BetterSnapTool in Action

We’ve also posted a “head to head” review covering a couple of these apps, which you may find interesting.

I’m currently using Mac OS X Tiger and I’m noticing that more and more apps are discontinuing their support for my OS. Would it be better to buy a new Mac once Lion comes out or just purchase one now?

– Tim Smith

There’s rarely a perfect time to buy a new Mac, and you’ll almost always find that there’s something just around the corner that you could wait for – a hardware upgrade, OS release, or discount (to name a few!)

OS X Tiger will be starting to show its age a little by now, and you’ll be missing out on a handful of new features such as the Mac App Store that are really worth upgrading for.

We don’t yet have a specific release date for Lion, though it’s slated for sometime this summer. Apple has a history of holding back on major OS updates until they’re completely satisfied with the finished result, so it wouldn’t be unusual to see the release date slip towards Autumn rather than “just after WWDC” as some sources are predicting.

After a big OS update, Apple has historically offered recent hardware buyers the chance to upgrade their OS for a nominal fee (around $5 to cover shipping). This is worth considering as it’ll likely cover you just in case you upgrade your Mac within a month of the OS X Lion release.

If I were you, I’d consider Apple’s hardware release cycle to determine when the best time to upgrade is. Hardware is the most important thing to consider when splashing out $1,000+ on a new Mac, and you can always upgrade the OS at a later date if you decide to!

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. I love a challenge, so feel free to ask some weird and wonderful questions…

If you’d like to submit your query, you can do so here:

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I mentioned today!