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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

MIMEs, USB Cameras, & Controlling Someone Else's Mac
December 31st, 1999

Greetings everyone, and happy Y2K. Perhaps, by the time you read this, the witching hour will have passed and all non-MacOS machines out there will die miserable deaths. Or, of course, everything will go smoothly and even those Windows machines that fail every Y2K test possible will live on as if nothing happened. Who knows? Perhaps the people in New Zealand, do, since they've already been through it. But, enough of my yackin' -- on to today's questions! We talk about MIME files, remote controlling another's Mac, and USB Camera problems! Feel free to e-mail me your questions or join the Ask Dave Forums for an exciting round of Q&A. But for now, the answers to today's queries:

Alison Chastain writes, "Is there anywhere I can download or buy something that will open the following type of file:

Type: Unspecified type
Encoding: base 64

I get these in e-mail from family & friends & can't open them."

Alison -- What you've got here is a file that has been encoded as a MIME attachment -- a platform-independant encoding format for sending binary files via e-mail. Netscape mail uses this as its default, and AOL typically has problems decoding it. To solve this problem, we need something that will decode MIME. My favorite software for this is simply called Decoder, and will let you have access to all those MIME files that you want!

Dave Dafoe writes, "This is probably a really dumb question, but rather than expend my energy trying to find out, I'd rather you expend yours on my behalf. That being said, is there any way to connect to my Dad's Mac 9500, 8.6 with my PowerBook 333MHz, 8.6 via, say, AppleShare using an Internet connection? He's having difficulty configuring a Windows emulator which I've plenty of experience with. The long-distance calls trying to talk him through it are expensive and frustrating and I'd like to have access to his machine's HD. Possible?"

Dave -- I'm not sure you're asking the right question here. Certainly you could use something like Shareway IP to network the two computers via the Internet (note that this functionality is built-in to MacOS 9). However, this will only give you access to his hard drive as though it were a volume on your Mac. It won't really let you "control" his machine enough to configure something. What you really want is to be able to see what he sees, and to be able to "show" him (from remote, of course!) what to do. For this, I highly recommend Timbuktu Pro from Netopia. This cross-platform software (similar to PCAnywhere, which is only for Windows) will let you remote control another computer -- using your mouse as their mouse, your keyboard as their keyboard, and seeing their screen in a window on your Mac. It's absolutely fantastic for what you want to do, and I would imagine that my Mom would attest to this fact! It's saved her (and I!) from countless hours on the telephone trying to describe things to one another!

Dave Rimmer writes, "I have a PPC 7600 souped up with a MaxPower 266 G3 accelerator card. For Christmas, I bought myself a USB PCI card from Keyspan and a d-link digital camera, model #DSB-C300. Good news is that the USB card reports in as healthy, but not the camera. I get two errors on startup: "not enough power available to drive the unknown device," and of course, "unknown device." So I have two problems, the camera seems to require more power than the 500ma available through the USB card; and the belated realization that the d-link cam is not "platform nonspecific" as promised in the ad from where I purchased the camera. I have searched the d-link web site for mac drivers to no avail after finding only Windows drivers on the installation CD. I have written and called tech support only to find myself in the dark oasis of terminal hold. Because the cam is USB, I feel it has to be able to be made to work on the Mac if I only had a driver that worked. So, Dave, what can I do?"

Well, there are a couple of problems here. First off, the "not enough power" message will sometimes erroneously appear with older versions of Apple's USB software (I had this problem with the Keyspan USB Card that I reviewed). An update to your USB software should solve that problem. The next problem is trickier, of course, and your initial guess is right -- you need Mac-specific drivers for this camera. All the research I've done has not turned up a single Mac driver for this camera (and D-Link has not returned my calls or messages). However, if you're using MacOS 9, it will do its magic and automatically search online for the best driver for an unknown USB device (once it can get enough power to it, via the aforementioned driver update). So, I would try that route as a last resort before you ditch the camera in search for something that'll work on your Mac.

P.S. Happy New Year!

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....

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