Tag Archives: imac

Now that’s what I call a memory leak

I’ve seen some impressive memory leaks before: a moderately impressive one from Safari in 2010 and a much fancier one from Firefox the following year. But I think they’ve been beaten. In this case, the application in question is NetNewsWire, but I suspect it’s not entirely to blame. I’ve noticed it eating lots of memory a few times before, but this time I managed to put two arbitrarily large numbers together and made another one. What I think is happening is similar to what broke Firefox: a badly behaved script. I’d left some tabs open in NetNewsWire when I left for work, and one of those had some ad banners and possibly even a video on it. And the result of leaving that all day? Well, my iMac wasn’t too unhappy – it responded quickly enough when I unlocked the screen, but displayed a message indicating that it was out of memory and would I like to quit some applications.

Remarkably, Activity Monitor came up without much of a struggle, which allowed me to see what was happening. Sure enough, NetNewsWire was using over 21GB of real memory and a crazy amount of virtual, taking the total to an impressive 70.96GB. I was able to Force Quit it, and then closed a couple of unresponsive applications, at which point the iMac carried on as if nothing had happened. Here’s the evidence, which will get bigger if you click on it:

I can't remember

I can’t remember

 

TextExpander: Not much to Smile about

Oh dearie me. I do get a bit annoyed when companies I’ve been doing business with for quite some time lose the plot. And that’s what seems to have happened to Smile, creators of the actually very good TextExpander apps for OS X and iOS.

TextExpander, for those not familiar with it, is, as its name suggests, a utility which lets you store  blocks of text and have them typed in for you at the press of a shortcode – before I had a Mac, I used something similar on Windows, and it’s one of those things I really like to have. TextExpander was an ideal solution for me, and it was one of the first apps I bought for my Mac Mini back in early 2008.

Since then, I’ve been happy to buy an upgrade every couple of years. It’s one of the essential things I install when I get a new Mac.

It can do clever things with variables, so you’re not restricted to fixed bodies of text – I use it for my daily report titles, so I just have to type a code of my choice to get the title filled in with the current date, which saves a bit of time, and avoids typos, me forgetting the date and other such things. It does a lot more that I don’t need, but that’s fine – it does what I need it to and it’s been reasonably priced. It happily syncs all my bits with Dropbox, so I have the same setup on the iMac and the MacBook Air, which is just how I like things to work.

But it seems the developers have decided that they don’t want to do that any more. The new version 6 is now tied to a subscription. You no longer buy software updates, you’ll just get them as they’re ready, so long as you’re a paying customer. This is all tied up with a new website, the ability to share your snippets with other subscribers (not something I need, and I suspect not something most home users particularly need). And while there’s an initial discount, the basic price of this subscription is on the order of $5 a month. With the general volatility of exchange rates, you might as well call it £3. Now that’s not a huge amount of money, but let’s do a comparison with some software I currently have on subscription:

Adobe Creative Cloud Photographer’s plan – that gives me Lightroom and Photoshop for £8.57 a month. This is actually good value, and much less painful than paying for full upgrades every year or two.

Microsoft Office 365 – gives me the latest versions of Office for all my Macs, and I can also install on Windows and other devices, all for £7.99 a month, which is again much easier than paying the eye-watering prices Microsoft used to charge for the full suites.

So, is TextExpander worth a third of Lightroom and Photoshop? Or Nearly half of MS Office? Well, no. Not even close.

It looks like they’re hoping that their even more expensive business package will catch on with businesses who want their users to share text snippets. Perhaps they’re right, and there’s a huge untapped market for this, and they’ll Smile all the way to the bank. And perhaps not…

While Smile have said they’ll continue to support the current version on OS X 10.11 and “the next release”, I’ll be looking for alternatives. I’m quite happy to pay moderate amounts for useful software, and to buy the serious expensive stuff by subscription, but I can’t see that a subscription model makes any sense for an easily replaceable utility.

It’s also worth noting that if you do go for the subscription, your data lives on their servers. If your subscription lapses, it seems the app won’t even let you see the data you’ve entered. That’s not very friendly at all.

 

Creative GigaWorks T40 Series II Speakers

Back when I got my first iMac, I decided that the internal speakers were just about good enough for me not to bother using the computer speakers that I had at the time. and when I replaced that with the current beast[1], I still didn’t feel inclined to improve the sound.

But I’ve been listening to more music on the iMac lately, and I began to think that a speaker upgrade might be a Good Thing. I approached this with a moderately open mind – all I wanted was a pair of stereo speakers – no separate subwoofers to vibrate the floor, no surround silliness or anything like that. And so I started looking, and reading reviews. I hadn’t actually thought of Creative at first – I started looking at some Bose speakers, which looked quite nice, but the more I read, the more I found people pointing at these as a better option at the price. After a bit of dithering, I decided to give them a try, and ordered them from Amazon.

As you’ll see from the image above[2] These are tall thin speakers with nicely positioned front-mounted controls on the right-hand speaker. This was important – recent experience has taught me that having to reach behind things to make adjustments is likely to hurt, so I don’t want to do that.  There’s a mains power supply (brick with separate mains lead, not the wall-wart kind), a lead to link the two speakers (quite wide enough to surround a 27″ iMac with room to spare), and a standard audio lead for connecting to your computer. In addition to the main input at the back, there’s an extra aux in connection at the front, so you can connect another device at the same time as your computer. However, there’s no input selector, so if both things are sending sound at the same time, both will play through the speakers. This seems to be a common feature, and it’s not something I find too annoying. Next to the aux socket is a 3.5mm headphone socket, which is much more accessible than the iMac’s rear-mounted one (which you can’t use as the speakers are connected to it). Above that are three nicely made control knobs – bass, treble and volume. All move smoothly and feel like good quality components. The bass and treble knobs have a distinctly feelable[3] centre position, which is more useful than the faint visual marker. The volume knob doubles as the on/off switch and has a nice blue glow so you can see that the speakers are on.

Setting up involved screwing the bases to the speakers, putting them in position and connecting everything up, which is pretty much what you’d expect.

And the sound? Well, I’m pleased. Getting the volume right is the usual balancing act between setting a suitable level on the speakers and adjusting the computer sound level – given the way different tracks can have wildly different levels, I find it easier to leave the volume control in the 12 o’clock position and tweak the level as needed from the iMac’s keyboard. And there certainly is plenty of volume for my environment. But it’s not just about volume, is it? We want a bit of quality out of our speakers, don’t we? Well, my impressions after a few days of use are that the Creative speakers deliver that quite nicely. You’re obviously not going to get ribcage squashing bass out of such small drivers, but bass sounds are nicely clear, instruments and vocals come through well, and the overall sound is a distinct improvement over the iMac’s own speakers.

As an added bonus, I’m using the aux input for my little digital radio – this is a neat device with decent performance but an internal speaker that is diabolically awful. Think of a really cheap old battery powered radio tuned into medium wave. I did have it plugged into one of those little Bluetooth speakers[4], which made it usable. But plugged into the Creative speakers makes it actually sound pretty good, so I’m nicely covered for 6 Music in the mornings.

And for the benefit of those who can’t see the Amazon-hosted image above, this is what they look like:

Toys

Toys

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/2.8
Shutter speed 1/125s
Focal length 20.6mm
ISO 3200
Taken 18:02, 13 February, 2016

[1] Which I’m surprised to note is nearly three years old
[2] If you can’t see the image, you’re using AdBlock. And quite right too.
[3] This may not be a proper word, but it does describe what I mean, so there
[4] Using its aux input. The radio doesn’t do Bluetooth

A slight memory issue

No, not me forgetting things. I’m so used to that happening that I forget all about it.  :rofl:

This is more of a software thingy. I follow a variety of sites (general tech, photography, web comics, etc etc) through their RSS feeds (yes, it’s still a thing). And for a long time my software of choice has been NetNewsWire. Well, when NetNewsWire stopped doing the synchronisation thing, I used a few other things, but never found one as much to my liking. So when it was relaunched a while ago with a sync service, I was happy to switch back.

And it works nicely, for the most part. Occasionally something funny happens with some subscribed sites, which involves a load of old posts (sometimes going back a few years) suddenly appearing as unread, but that’s a minor issue.

But yesterday, I noticed that both NetNewsWire and my iMac generally seemed a little sluggish. A quick look in Activity Monitor suggested a possible cause:

How much?!

How much?!

Yes, that’s one app using a quite impressive 41.87GB of memory, which is quite impressive.  Closing NetNewsWire and restarting it seems to have made the problem go away for now, but I can see I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Weight and Stuff Report – 7 November 2015

An insignificant rise today…

As the end of my week off has arrived, I was hoping to get out somewhere today, but as it was a wee bit damp this morning[1], I wasn’t too sure about what I’d manage to do. But just after 9:30 the decision was made for me by the arrival of an email and about a second later, a phone call. Both were from the Apple Store telling me that my iMac was ready for collection, having had its new 3TB disk fitted.

I decided to go to the MetroCentre first and actually did some shopping this time[2] before going to Newcastle where the rain had actually taken a break, so I was able to collect my iMac and get the bus home (if it had been raining, I’d have called a taxi). Got it home and connected it up, and ran into a slight issue – being a fresh install of OS X, it didn’t know about my new keyboard and trackpad, so I had to drag out the old USB keyboard and mouse. Once that was working, it asked me if I wanted to restore from a Time Machine backup (which I did), so I told it which disk to use. It then had a good look, and worked out how much work it had to do (it didn’t quite scream “how much?!?”), then let me click the continue button.

As watching that kind of thing is a bit boring, I popped out again for some more shopping (my coffee supply was getting low), and then came back home. The iMac is still restoring with one of those ever-changing time estimates. It will be nice to get back to a full-sized screen…

Today’s photo is another one from my South Shields walk. I spotted this bird[3] struggling with what I guessed at the time was an eel[4]. It kept disappearing under the water. I’m not entirely sure who won…

Lunch

Lunch

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 135mm
ISO 5000
Taken 11:28, 5 November, 2015
Location 55° 0.0906′ 0″ N 1° 26.4199′ 0″ W

[1] Note: possible use of understatement
[2] Makes a change…
[3] Ornithological updates welcome
[4] And a close version of the photo suggests that it is just that

Weight and Stuff Report – 2 November 2015

Down again as the wild oscillations go on.

Today’s fun and games started with taking my iMac into the Apple Store. This wasn’t just so it could visit its relations, it was to leave it behind for some surgery. There wasn’t anything actually wrong with it, but it’s one of a batch whose hard disk might fail at some premature point, so Apple offered a free replacement service. And so I made arrangements to drop it in today. It’ll be in for a few days, so I’ll be working on the MacBook Air…

After that, I had a look around town, popped over to the Metrocentre, where I decided not to bother going to the cinema, but did have some lunch before coming home.

This is a detail of Micklegate Bar in York:

Renovated in 1728...

Renovated in 1728…

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 122.6mm
ISO 640
Taken 15:41, 24 October, 2015
Location 53° 57.3749′ 0″ N 1° 5.4051′ 0″ W

Weight and Stuff Report – 1 November 2015

Back up a significant amount today, in the usual random way. I’ve been having a mostly relaxed day in. The most I’ve done is disconnecting my iMac and packing it into its box ready for taking to the Apple Store tomorrow. It’s not unwell, but Apple are doing a pre-emptive free replacement of the hard drive as it’s one of a batch that might fail prematurely. Nice. Of course, moving it exposed all the dust badgers[1] lurking behind it, so I had to give the desk and all the other bits and bobs a good wipe down, and rearranged things a bit ready for the iMac’s return.

Here’s a view of Tynemouth Castle:

The Gate

The Gate

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 1600
Taken 13:33, 31 October, 2015
Location 55° 1.0683′ 0″ N 1° 25.2162′ 0″ W

[1] These are like the more common dust bunnies, only larger and with nastier teeth

The case of the missing camera name

Particularly observant readers may have noticed a bit of an issue with the information displayed below the photographs on this site. Since late April, a piece of moderately useful information stopped appearing for newly uploaded images, so it looked like this:

What? No camera?

What? No camera?

Yes, all the usual gory technical stuff is there, but it’s not revealing which camera was used. I did a bit of head-scratching at the time it started happening, but didn’t get very far. I wasn’t sure if it was WordPress oddness, as it happened around the time of an update, or Lightroom oddness, as it followed the appearance of Lightroom CC.

Well, I sort of forgot about it until today, when I did a bit of looking, and the first thing I found was a thread on the WordPress forums relating to the Exifography plugin I use to display the data. This clearly pointed the finger at Lightroom, which is doing something a bit odd with the Camera Manufacturer field in the EXIF data which stops WordPress (and apparently some other software) from recognising the contents of the Camera Model field, leading to the results above.  Apparently some people were getting odd bits of data rather than nothing at all.

Anyway, the work-around, until Adobe do something with Lightroom, is to omit the camera manufacturer field when exporting images. And how would you do that? Well, it’s plugin time – in this case Jeffrey Friedl’s Metadata Wrangler, which is yours for a free trial and a donation after that. It can do various things, including allowing you to select which metadata fields to include or exclude. I set it up to omit the camera manufacturer and did a quick test, which produced the result I was hoping for.  :bouncy:

But then there was the matter of the posts from late April up to today – I really wanted to fix those, but how was I going to do it? I needed to export the images again and replace the duff ones in each post. Well, that would be easy enough, but the original images are on the iMac, which I don’t have to hand.

I took a slightly lateral approach. I knew that most of the exported files would have been backed up by Crashplan, so I used the client on the MacBook to restore what looked like the right deleted files from the backup of the export folder on the iMac. This caught a very high proportion of them, only missing those that I’d deleted too quickly after exporting for Crashplan to catch them. I then imported those into Lightroom and exported them again, with the corrected metadata.

Now all I had to do was visit each affected post and confirm the image files needed. Hovering the cursor over the image reveals all in the status bar:

Pick a file...

Pick a file…

It was then a simple matter of editing the post, deleting the current image, inserting the new one and saving the change, leading to this:

That's better

That’s better

For the remaining ten or so posts, I used FTP to download the images from the uploads folder in WordPress (yes, I could have done that for all of them, but that would have been fiddlier, as I’d have had to select a load more files). A few more quick edits and normal service was resumed.

Wasn’t that fun?

Update: and it’s not the first time! I had a vague memory of a previous issue with Lightroom. Almost exactly two years ago, I reported that Adobe had fixed a similar issue – mind you, that time the problem didn’t get past the beta stage.

MacID for iOS: Unlock your Mac without a password

Passwords: absolutely dreadful things. You want them to be complex and long enough to make it seriously difficult for anyone who gets hold of your toys from guessing them, but you’d also like to be able to remember them, and type them correctly the first time.

Newer iPhone models get around this with the Touch ID thingy, where using a fingerprint will unlock your phone (I like this, works well for me). But what about actual computers, eh? Well, some Windows PCs come with fingerprint readers – my work Dell has one, but I found the software to be intrusive, awkward and annoying. And I don’t mean Windows in this particular instance. But so far, Apple haven’t incorporated this into Macs. But there’s now a nicely cheap iPhone app that seems to do the job.

MacID for iOS by Kane Cheshire costs £2.99 or $3.99 (prices in other countries no doubt vary). Install it on your iPhone and download the free companion app to your Mac. The two talk to each other over Bluetooth. All you have to do is authorise the phone to unlock the Mac – you have to enter your password into the Mac app, where it’s stored in encrypted form, and not transmitted to the iPhone or anywhere else. The app hooks into the login screen so that when you’d normally enter your password (which you can still do if you’re so inclined), your iPhone will pop up a message stating that the Mac wants to be unlocked. Tap on the alert then press your registered finger on the button and your Mac will unlock.

I’ve got this working on my iMac and MacBook Air, and so far I’ve had no trouble at all. And I just noticed that you can also use the iOS app to lock your Mac.

Nice, and well worth a try – check out the developer’s site for more details:

MacID

Crashplan makes Les happy (again)

Update: Edited this to correct my recollection that the Crashplan family service covers five computers. Silly Les forgot it’s actually ten computers.

I haven’t mentioned my choice of online backup provider, Crashplan, for a while. That’s not because they’ve done anything to upset me, it’s just that the service basically just works. Install, configure and forget. I initially signed up for a single computer account, but was lured into upgrading to the “family” account, which lets me backup my iMac, MacBook Air and the Mac Mini (not that there’s much on the Mini, but hey…) and would let me add another couple of eight computers if I had them.

I was made even happier when I found that getting a new computer and copying all my data over didn’t require a whole fresh new backup, as you might reasonably expect. Oh no, just tell the software that the new machine is a replacement, and it does a scan, and carries on as if you still had the old computer. Nice.

But they’ve just been exceptionally nice. It’s not unusual for companies to run special discount offers to attract new customers. Nothing wrong with that, and I generally only mutter a little bit when I carry on paying full price for something that new customers are getting cheaper. But the guys at Code42 seem to have an unusual attitude, which I think goes something like this:

Hey, why not try being nice to our existing customers?

And that’s what they’re doing at the moment. They’re offering a special deal for existing customers only. It’s described as a special upgrade deal to encourage people to upgrade from single user accounts to the family deal – and it’s a pretty good deal, as it’s half price. A year’s unlimited backup for up to five ten computers is available for $75 rather than the usual $149.99, which is a very good deal. Oh? You’d like more? Well, you can have two years of the same thing for $145 instead of $289.99. What’s that? You’ve already got the “family” plan, so there’s nothing to upgrade to? That’s OK, you can just extend your current contract for a year or two at the special discount rate.

Noticing that my account would be up for renewal in February next year, I thought it would be silly not to take advantage of another two years service at half price, so that’s what I did.