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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Creating workarounds for unsupported text characters, and more covered in this week's Q&A.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions sent in by our readers.

This week readers ask about how to use an older iMac as an external display for a new one, managing an unexpected EFI firmware password on a system returned from a service center, and creating unsupported custom character combinations in OS X.

I welcome contributions from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Using an old iMac as a monitor
MacFixIt reader Sam asks:

Here's what I want to do. I have a 27-inch iMac mid-2010 11,3 that has a digital port to make it a monitor for another computer. I plan on buying a new iMac with Thunderbolt and want to use my old one as a second monitor. Will it work?

It should work, but you will need to use a Mini DisplayPort cable and not a Thunderbolt cable. These have the same connector socket, so they may be easily confused; be sure to get the right one. Apple has a FAQ on Thunderbolt that discusses the specific cabling to use for various systems.

Question: EFI firmware password on system after repair
MacFixIt reader Becky asks:

I sent my MacBook Pro for repair after spilling a cup of coffee on it. A little chip inside the laptop says it's copyright 2009. The people we sent it to report they have repaired it & cleaned it, but it is locked, requiring an EFI passcode. We have never locked our computer, ever. They want to charge us $80 to get past the lock. I'm worried they are taking advantage.

If you have forgotten an EFI passcode, you can take your system in to an Apple Store and have it reverted. You likely should not be charged for this service. If you never locked the system, then it being returned with an EFI lock does sound suspicious.

Question: Creating custom character combinations in OS X
MacFixIt reader Jorge asks:

Scale degrees in music are written primarily in three ways: First, second, third; 1st, 2nd, 3rd; and then 1, 2, 3. This last type one is actually incorrectly written; the circumflex accents should be over the numbers as in "ê."

I've been doing some searching and I've only found workarounds for Word, and I haven't been able to figure it out on OS X, either in the character palette or the keyboard viewer.

This functionality is not built into OS X's text handling routines, so you will have to use a third-party program to assemble the desired characters, and then insert them as images in the programs that do not support this. Apple's combination of circumflex and other accents is limited to the vowels and other characters shown in the keyboard layout and in the character viewer.

If you have such a program that can make these characters, creating the image can be as easy as printing to a PDF, zooming in on the PDF, and taking a screenshot of the enlarged character, which you can then crop and reduce in size to insert as an in-line image where needed in your program of choice. This is cumbersome, but is the only option for programs that do not support this.

Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
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