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#961: The Ben-pire Strikes Back; Master Your Memory; Email Filters

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Technophiles,

Ben Ryan here! I’m filling in this week for Mike who’s out on vacation. I would like to say thank you to all the Small Dog fans who voted in our annual Halloween contest. I am thrilled to be this year’s winner of best overall costume! As you can see from my picture, I was dressed as a Stormtrooper from the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. This was my most ambitious costume, and yes, I’m already thinking of how I can top it next year.

My prize this year was a Sonos Play 1 smart speaker. I have been using it a lot, and I have been very impressed with it so far. Unlike most wireless speakers, the Sonos Play 1 can use many different music applications like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others installed on the internal storage of the speaker. The Play 1 then streams the music from the internet through these applications. For the most part, after the initial setup, the Play 1 can function as a standalone device. There is a play/pause button on the speaker itself that when pressed, pauses the resumes the playlist it was streaming, with no other action needed from your phone or any other device. It may not seem significant, but I have found that functionality to be very convenient.

In other news, if you have recently been having problems with iPhone alarm clock not going off, I would recommend updating your version of iOS. Part of the 10.1 update released on October 24th was a fix for a bug that caused alarms to sometimes not go off as scheduled. I found out about this bug when it caused me to report for work over two hours late on the day before the update was released. However, one of the benefits of working for an Apple Authorized Service Provider is that all was forgiven when I found and provided official Apple documentation on the glitch. Another reminder to always update your devices when updates are available and to back up your device!

Thank you for reading,

Ben
BenRyan@SmallDog.com

 
   
     
  Slowing Down: Part 2  
   
 

In my last Tech Tails article we explored what RAM (physical memory) is, the different categories of memory in macOS, how they are used by the OS and its importance to system performance. I wanted to discuss this topic because at one time or another we have all experienced performance issues with our Mac computers. You may have seen that beautiful colored spinning beach ball or applications have taken longer to launch or your whole system has taken much longer to boot up. These can all be very frustrating telltale signs that something is going on. These can all be resolvable and freeing up memory should be one of the first things you should try before anything else.

Now, I bet you are asking yourself: “How can I see what is using up all my memory?” Let’s take a look, as this is a great question and macOS makes easy for us to investigate and manage memory resources.

Memory usage in macOS can be viewed by using the informative built-in Activity Monitor, stashed inside the Utilities Folder. To launch Activity Monitor, open Finder and select Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. You can also use Spotlight and search for Activity Monitor. Once you have Activity Monitor open you’ll be presented with a window displaying five tabs along the top in the main pane. Activity Monitor watches more than just how much physical memory is being used. It also monitors CPU usage, which apps are using the most energy, how apps are reading or writing from your hard disk or SSD, and what’s going on with your network. Click on the Memory tab and you will be brought to a whole breadth of useful information to assist us in memory management and where our discussion will focus.

The Memory tab window lists out all of your running applications and processes along with their individual memory usage. If you look at the bottom of the window it contains a Memory Pressure graph and information tables breaking up what is composing the graph.

The Memory Pressure graph illustration helps make it quick and easy to glance at the availability of macOS memory resources. The graph moves from right to left and updates at the default system set intervals. You can change the frequency from the default setting of Normal 5 sec to either Often 2 sec or Very Often 1 sec by navigating to View > Update Frequency in the Activity Monitor’s menu bar.

The current state of memory resources is indicated by the color of the graph. If it’s green, everything is working as it should be and memory resources are available. Yellow means resources are still available but they’re being tasked by memory-management processes such as compression. Cached files, essentially apps that are no longer active, but still have their data stored in RAM, are being compressed to create enough free memory to assign to the apps requesting an allocation. When memory is compressed, it requires some CPU overhead to perform the compression, but this small performance hit is minor, and probably not noticeable to you. Red indicates compression has reached its limits, your Mac’s memory resources are depleted, and macOS is using your hard drive for memory. When the memory pressure chart begins to reach this level, you really need to free up some memory as soon as possible by quitting one or more applications. This could also be an initial indicator that your Mac may need more physical memory installed if this is a typical level you find your macOS running at over time. To find out which process is at fault, we will now move our attention to the main pane of the memory tab.

In the main pane you will see a list of both open applications and system processes along with their individual stats. You can add additional columns to view in the main pane by going to the View > Columns menu. Expand the Columns option, choose the ones you want to view, and they’ll appear in Activity Monitor. You can also sort the list of processes by any of the columns in ascending or descending order. Click the column title once or twice to change the order. On the top right there is a Search Filter box which lets you search for a specific process if you know exactly what you’re looking for. I always like to sort by descending usage when investigating as I can see right away what the primary culprits are.

Notice how many items appear in the Process list, even when you have no applications open except Activity Monitor running. Some applications are easy to spot, while others are background system level operations you don’t normally see or directly interact with. As soon as you see an application persistently using a large percentage of memory that you are not actively using, you should ask yourself if you really need to have it open and then consider closing it. You should avoid the temptation to close a process if you don’t know exactly what that process is doing. Ignore processes which have “root” listed as the user and focus on those running from your user account. Reason is that many of these are system level processes that are required for computer to function properly. If there are some process really taking up a lot of memory and you don’t know what it is doing, some quick research online should be able to assist you.

Now that you are able to see what is gobbling up all your memory what can you do to help alleviate the problem macOS is experiencing? In my third and final Tech Tails article for this series, I will be sharing some tips on ways to relieve and free up memory to help get that youthful spring back into your Mac.

Until next time…happy computing!

 
   
     
  Filter Mailboxes in iOS 10  
   
 

If your email load is like mine or just someone who’s an organization freak (OK, also me) then you will love some of the filtering features in iOS 10. I use my phone exclusively at times so being able to better navigate through my Mail app helps a lot. Apple has enhanced the Mail app in iOS 10 to help you filter your email and focus on what’s important. The filters are like searches in that all they do is show messages in the current mailbox that match the filter, hiding everything else. They don’t move or modify messages in any way, but allow you to quickly access the e-mails you need.

To start using these filters in iOS 10 tap the Filter button in the bottom-left corner. By default, mailboxes are set to show only unread messages. You can click or tap Unread to bring up all the preset filter choices which fall into four categories:

Email Account: This section appears only if Mail checks more than one account. These choices tell Mail to include mail from specific accounts. Perhaps you want to be able to stay more focused while at work, you can specify to look only at your work email account. When you’re at home, you can help yourself to disconnect from office concerns by only viewing your personal account. You will want to make sure to specifically select “all mailboxes” or individual accounts depending on your viewing and filtering preferences.

Status: You’ll likely want to keep Unread selected most of the time, after all half the point of these features to keep things more filtered and organized! You can also select flagged emails specifically, a huge time saver for me when I’m planning my meetings.

Addressed: Sometimes it may be helpful to see only messages that have your address in the TO line, versus those where the sender CC’d you. These options will also hide most mailing list messages, automated emails and marketing offers.

Attachment and VIPs: I am constantly having to reference emails with specific attachments that I need so this is a huge time saver for me when I am on the run. Being able to specifically pull up emails with attachments has really saved me from unnecessary headaches while on the move. You can do the same with VIPs, I must admit though that I do not use this feature. I tried to use VIPs once but quickly found I put too many senders in my VIP list so it didn’t save me any time.

Any of these filter options can be easily turned on and off with a quick tap, so as your needs change so can your filters. Give filters a try, hopefully you find them as useful as I have!

 
   
     
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