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#960: Halloween Recap; Mac Memory; New MacBook Pro

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Technophiles,

Halloween has come and gone. As you can see in the picture to the left I dressed up as a Trekkie which, as you faithful readers probably know, was not much of a stretch for me. I genuinely used to have glasses just like those until a mad scientist eye surgeon burned part of my cornea off with a laser and I already owned that vintage Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country tee shirt. My kid’s costume was also pretty much the outfit that he wears everyday: a baseball player. His grandmother bought him a Red Sox jersey and pants for his birthday a few weeks ago and we have struggled to get him to wear anything else.

I am looking forward to trying out the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. I use Logic Pro, Apple’s high-end audio production platform, and as a former sound engineer from the analog era I still like to turn dials and move faders by hand. While there are no actual sliders or knobs, the ability to physically control parameters is a little closer to the “real thing.” See Emily’s article below for more details on this cool new feature.

I also really love the darker Space Gray finish which will match my iPhone. No word on when the Bondi blue version will be released.

Thanks as always for reading Tech Tails!

Mike
michaeld@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Slowing Down: Part 1  
   
 

In my last series of articles I discussed various methods of removing applications from your Mac to help clean up your system for general maintenance and performance reasons. For my next Tech Tails series I want to focus our discussion on another area of importance to system performance and maintenance: Memory Management in macOS. Starting with the release of OSX Mavericks, Apple changed how memory is managed which allows macOS to do more with less memory while maintaining or increasing performance.

One of the biggest factors that determine the overall performance of your OS is the amount of memory that is available for it to utilize to process tasks. Some programs use more than others, so if you do not have much RAM installed in your system, this could become a daily battle if you run many applications at the same time.

RAM (Random Access Memory), or “Physical Memory” as macOS refers to it, is just that, the amount of memory that is actually installed inside your Mac for use. The purpose of memory is to provide your CPU with a reserve of data that it can access nearly instantaneously. It is where the operating system, programs, and data in current use are kept so they can be quickly reached by the device’s processor. It accomplishes this by allowing data to be read or written in almost the same amount of time irrespective of the physical location of data inside the memory. RAM is volatile, meaning data stored in physical memory stays there only as long as your computer is running. As soon as you turn the computer off, the data stored in RAM disappears.

Since memory is so much better performing than your hard drive, the system will make use of any and all unused memory for caching files. By keeping as many files stored in memory as possible, the system can spend significantly less time waiting on transactions with the hard drive to complete. This makes it a very valuable asset.

macOS breaks up its physical memory into different categories and it is very important to understand how the system makes use of it. The total amount of physical memory inside your computer used by apps and system processes is divided up into “App Memory,” “Wired,” and “Compressed.”

“App Memory” is the total amount of memory being used by applications and their processes. “Wired Memory” is memory that’s necessary to support and store kernel code and data structures of your computer’s core functions and the kernel itself requires wired memory for virtual memory buffer cache, I/O buffer caches, and drivers. Applications, frameworks, and other user-level software cannot allocate wired memory. The items that wired memory stores can never be paged to disk as wired memory and always remains in the physical memory. “Compressed Memory” is designed to increase OS and app performance by allowing better management of memory resources when you’re close to using the maximum physical memory available. It compresses data that hasn’t been used recently to save space to prevent or greatly reduce swapping to disk. Swapping to disk, also known as virtual memory, and referred to as “Swap Used” in macOS, is the paging of data to and from a Mac’s hard drive to make room in memory for more recently used data.

Although a small number is acceptable, if there is a high amount of swapping occurring to your hard drive, then this is an indication that the system doesn’t have enough physical memory to meet the demands of the currently running apps and processes. Swapping data out of physical memory is a much more process-intensive task, and the system only swaps to the hard drive when it does not have enough real memory, thus slowing system performance. If you’re curious where the swap files are stored in macOS, use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command + G to bring up the “Go To Folder” window and enter in the following path: /private/var/vm/

Finally, there is “Cached Files.” Cached Files references memory that was recently used by apps and is now available for use by other apps. For example, if you’ve been using Photos and then quit it, the physical memory that Photos was using becomes part of the memory used by cached files, which then becomes available to other apps. If you open Photos again before its cached-files memory is used (overwritten) by another app, it opens more quickly because that memory is quickly converted back to app memory without having to load its contents from your startup drive. But, if another app needs that physical memory, macOS will remove that data and let another app take its place.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how macOS makes use of its memory, you may be asking yourself: “Why do I need to worry about this? My Mac has plenty of memory!” Eventually though, even the best Mac can start to struggle to find enough RAM to support all those apps we love to run at the same time.

If you are experiencing performance issues where you’re getting that beautiful colored spinning beach ball, applications are taking longer to launch, or even your whole system taking much longer to boot up than previously, freeing up memory should be one of the first things you should try before anything else. In my next Tech Tails article we will look at how you can monitor usage and a few tips that could help bring your mac back to its youthful, responsive self again.

 
   
     
  The All New MacBook Pro  
   
 

After weeks of anticipation and months of speculation, Apple finally announced updates to the MacBook Pro lineup. Before we get into the details let’s pause for a moment of silence: Apple has officially eliminated the optical disk drive from the entire computer lineup by removing the entry-level MacBook Pro 13in 2.5GHz which hadn’t been updated since 2012.

{silence}

And we’re back!

The new MacBook Pro offers some pretty remarkable upgrades. They have up to 130% faster graphics processing, screens that are 67% brighter, up to 58% more storage volume, and are 17% thinner. Apple has also removed the function keys from most MacBook Pro models and replaced them with the all new Touch Bar which also allows for integrated Touch ID. The 13in MacBook Pro has slimmed down from 4.5lbs to just 3lbs. The removal of the optical drive, the traditional spinning disk drive, and most of the ports has allowed this dramatic reduction in weight. The Force Touch Trackpad is now 2x bigger on each MacBook Pro, the flash storage is up to 100% faster, and the battery life has been increased to 10 hours.

Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 has been introduced to the new MacBook Pro and now supports 5K. Like previous generations of Thunderbolt, these new ports allow the user to connect multiple devices through the same port configuration. The base model 13in unit comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports while the stepped-up 13in and the 15in models have four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The 15in MacBook pro can support up to two additional 5K displays and dual RAID systems allowing for some pretty incredible productivity and amazing work experience from a portable machine. These ports share the same physical configuration as USB-C and are compatible with that standard as well.

Touch Bar and Touch ID

The all new Touch Bar replaces the function keys on the MacBook Pro except for the base model. For those users who still aren’t ready to let go of the physical function buttons Apple still leaves these keys on their $1499 model and by pressing the function key the Touch Bar will digitally display function keys. The Touch Bar is a small digital screen where the traditional function keys once resided and changes depending on the application that you are running. If you’re in Mail you can customize your Touch Bar to be much like the graphical toolbar in the app. You can now file, forward, or delete with the touch of your finger and never have to use your trackpad. For users who edit photos you can now relocate many drop down menu options to the Touch Bar allowing for full screen editing with ease. You can accept an incoming call, text someone your favorite emoji, and now even Apple Pay all from your Touch Bar. Touch ID allows you to unlock your computer with the touch of your finger and even use Apple Pay on your favorite sites.

Second Generation Butterfly and Larger Touch Pad

The butterfly switch mechanism was first introduced in the MacBook and it’s what helps to give the keyboard on the MacBook an even lower profile and faster response time. The keys are now even more stable allowing for a more comfortable typing experience and more responsive keys. The Touch Pad is now 2x larger than previous generation models giving users more space and flexibility to work and manipulate graphics.

Faster Graphics and a Brighter Display

The 15in MacBook Pro now has up to 130% faster graphics performance than previous models while the 13in is up to 103% faster. The new display in the MacBook Pro features a 67% brighter contract ratio and 25% more colors. The new LED display delivers deeper blacks, brighter whites and more vibrant greens and reds. Just when you thought that the display couldn’t get much better Apple managed to make it even more impressive.

 
   
 

 
   
     
  Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Air 13in 1.6GHz i5 8GB/128GB  
   
 

Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Air 13in 1.6GHz i5 8GB/128GB

999.99

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  Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Air 11in 1.6GHz i5 4GB/128GB  
   
 

Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Air 11in 1.6GHz i5 4GB/128GB

899.99

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  Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Pro 13in 2.5GHz i5 4GB/500GB  
   
 

Going, Going, Gone! MacBook Pro 13in 2.5GHz i5 4GB/500GB

1,099.99

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