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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a weekly feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your own suggestions in the comments.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. This week readers wrote in asking questions about the options for OS X 10.7 Lion recovery discs, CDs and DVDs automatically ejecting when inserted into the drive, and options for playing Flash media files in Keynote presentations. We continually answer e-mail questions, and though we present a few answers here, we welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your suggestions in the comments.

Question: Information on OS X 10.7 Lion's recovery disk options
MacFixIt reader "Paul" asks:

Could you please give more information on the upcoming Lion OS? For instance, will DVDs be available at all, is Lion simply an add-on to Snow Leopard, what to do if the internal hard drive malfunctions and the computer needs to be started from a DVD or other source? I am concerned that not having a Mac OSX Lion DVD is not a good idea - perhaps you can reassure those of us who feel the same.

From what Apple has mentioned so far, OS X Lion will not be available on DVD, and will only be a download through the Mac App Store. It is not merely an add-on to Snow Leopard, but is a full upgrade with new features and options for running your Mac.

Your concern about drives malfunctioning has been echoed by numerous people, and Apple so far has not made the solutions too clear. OS X Lion will create a "Recovery" partition that will be bootable and will allow you to format and reinstall the OS. However, if there is a problem with the drive that requires you fully repartition it, or if you install a new drive and want to set up from scratch, then the recovery partition will not be available, and the options Apple offers are unclear. For now we know that you can always use an older Snow Leopard boot disc to format the drive, install Snow Leopard, and then upgrade through the Mac App Store again; however, not all users will have older Snow Leopard discs.

While it is possible that Apple will include an option to create a boot/recovery disc or partition, there is little information about the options for this. New Macs that ship with Lion ought to come with some sort of external boot/recovery drive like the current gray restore DVDs, but if not then it is very likely you will be able to create one, even if it's a matter of cloning the recovery partition to another drive. At the very worst you can clone the full Lion installation to another hard drive, boot off of that, and then format and repair the main boot drive if needed.

While Apple has been shying away from discussing the options for formatting and reinstalling OS X, this option will always be required for some people, so there will have to be a way to do it, even if it takes jumping through one or two additional hoops. When OS X 10.7 Lion is released we will be sure to cover all of these options for users.

Question: CDs and DVDs ejecting from drives without mounting
MacFixIt reader "Marcia" asks:

CDs and DVDs won't stay put in the drive. They eject even before appearing on the desktop. What could be causing this?

The problem could be from dirt on the disc or in the drive itself, but since it happens to multiple discs then it could be the drive. Try using a can of compressed air to puff in the drive to hopefully dislodge any dirt, or use a drive-cleaning kit if you can find one.

Ultimately, however, this behavior is usually an indicator that the drive is dying (which is especially true if the same behavior happens when booted into Safe Mode--by holding Shift at start-up), and given that new ones are relatively cheap the most common approach is to replace them. Your system is very much supported by Apple, and you should be able to get it serviced. First I would try using compressed air to see if that helps, and in addition try resetting the system's PRAM and SMC by following the instructions in Apple's knowledge base articles on resetting the SMC and resetting the PRAM.

If none of that helps, then having the drive replaced may be the only option.

Question: Options for playing Flash content in Keynote
MacFixIt reader "Christopher" asks:

I am stumped about why Apple dropped support for Flash. I am a university professor and preferentially use Keynote for my lecture presentations. I am sick to the gills of having to spool out to a browser to show the Flash animations that are supplied by the publishers to support their textbooks. I do not want to go back to PowerPoint, in fact I am sure I will not, but I sure am stumped over how to run these filename.swf files on my MacBook.

So, I am writing to find out if there is ANY way to do this.

I think Apple has done a serious disservice to its customers by dumping Adobe Flash. I am curious why they did it, and I am wondering if Steve Jobs has noticed other companies advertising their iPad-like devices, specifically noting they run Flash.

Playback for Flash files in QuickTime was removed, and unfortunately that prevents them from being used in Keynote without third-party support (and there is none that I know of). One way you can get the Flash files into Keynote is to convert them to MPEG or a similar movie format using a tool like MPEG Streamclip, but beyond this the only way to view the SWF files is to use a program that will read them such, as a browser using Adobe's plug-in.

I personally am also frustrated by Apple's advances that leave out other options, but it is what it is.

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