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ATPM 16.03
March 2010


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My First Mac

I saw an Apple ][ in 1979, not long after I bought my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80. Within a week, I became an Apple user, and have remained so ever since. I still have my first Mac, the 1984 machine that boasted 128K of RAM, and have—model by model—kept up as best I could. My current Mac is a 24″ iMac from last year, and I wouldn’t trade it for the most hyped-up PC. Unfortunately, a job I have been working on for the past five years requires me to use Windows, but only because the people I am doing this for can’t handle anything else. Of course, I run that platform on my Mac, but it is still painfully awkward by comparison.

I recall how, in the beginning, computer magazines printed program code that one had to spend a long time entering before running (usually a game), but it was educational. One saw a program’s guts and learned how to modify it. Upgrading to 32K was heaven. Yes, I said K! It was also a thrill to install a chip that gave my characters true descenders, and a CP/M card that took my text lines past the 40-character limit. I wish I could include a couple of photos from those days.

—Chris Albertson

OmniFocus, TaskPaper, and Things

Brad Hutchins is uncertain as to whether he will prefer Pocket Informant or OmniFocus.

I use both of them. Pocket Informant on the iPhone gives a calendar with tasks included. OmniFocus on the Mac gives tasks that syncs through MobileMe with the other Mac I’m using + OmniFocus on iPhone. Also it keeps my preferred Mac calendar, BusyCal, updated with tasks.

There’s no major problems with the calendars themselves; they sync through Google Calendar.

But since there’s no way to sync between OmniFocus’s actions and Informant’s tasks, I have to keep them “in sync” manually. I would really hope for Omni Group and WebIS to develop a sync between the two great applications, a sync that both applications would benefit from.

I think the best sync option would be through MobileMe or [when made possible by an iPhone OS update] directly between OmniFocus for iPhone and Informant.

—Per Rønne

Your Own Additions to the Services Menu

Up to this point I have not upgraded to Snow Leopard. As a user of services regularly, this has sold me that I need to get the lead out and upgrade.

—Heather Isaacson

Using Activity Monitor

Just wanted to clarify the term Inactive Memory:

Your explanation of Inactive Memory being “already cached to disk” seems to suggest that this memory has been stored in the pagefile. It’s actually the other way around—inactive memory is disk data (i.e. files/applications) that’s been cached in RAM so that if you re-open them or if an application needs to re-read data from a file, it will be much faster.

In general, files will remain in this “disk cache”/“inactive memory” to the point of filling all Free memory, and when your applications need more memory, the files in the disk cache are cleared to make space.

This can cause some people to believe that they don’t have enough RAM (since after, say, looking through their photos in iPhoto, they have almost no free memory), even though Mac OS X is just using the Free memory to speed up their disk access.

Programs like iFreeMem (as suggested by John Wylie) are not always useful—most of the time Mac OS X does intelligent things with its disk cache (inactive memory) and after you “free” your memory using iFreeMem you’ll notice that everything runs quite slowly for 10–60 seconds while a lot of files are re-read from the disk and put back into the cache.

“Freeing” your memory like this is only useful if:

  1. Mac OS X is mistakenly caching too much (I think a bug existed in 10.5 where it would allow the disk cache to grow too large and have to swap data to the pagefile!—seems to have been fixed in 10.6), or;
  2. If you’re doing something like processing a very large number of files (e.g. batch processing images in Aperture/iPhoto) and the disk cache is keeping every file in memory (despite the fact that they’re accessed only once each)—the only real problem with this is that there’s a time delay in clearing space from memory, and it seems to be faster to do it all at once (with iFreeMem or similar) than having OS X clear a small amount of space for each file as it’s read in.

—Andrew Hill

And the Winner Is…Who Cares?

I see Chrome is only supported on Macs using Intel processors. I’m sure there are a large number of users like myself that have both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs running on their home network. I’ve got a MacBook, two G5s, and a maxed out G4, plus the hand helds running on the network. Now, I’ve got to keep the older stuff current on Mac OS X 10.5.8, and run Snow Leopard on the Intel stuff. Great. It was nice to read about the early days. I remember playing with HyperCard back in 1995.

—Grover Watson

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (1)

Angus Wong · March 4, 2010 - 20:32 EST #1
Chris - My first "home computer" was also a TRS-80 although I never was lucky enough to get an Apple II. I stuck with the Tandy and later got an Atari 800 instead. Skipped the 8-bit Apples and went straight to Mac. (You can read my Mac journey in a past issue of ATPM.)

I don't think the CP/M card gave you 80 columns on the Apple although I could be mistaken. I'm guessing the card put a Z80 CPU in your Apple to run CP/M. Ironically, the Z80 is the same chip for our TRS-80s!

If you're missing typing in programs (love those Hex listings! Not!) all you need to do is just pick up any modern computer language book (say, Objective-C) and type in all that text! Don't even have to worry about renumbering line numbers any more!

(You know, writing about this stuff is supposed to make me sound old but I feel just the same. Computers and geek stuff is still cool and I still love video games. The games just seem to get better and better! And the computers seem to cost around the same except you get more! Weird! :-)

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