Archive for April 2013

Will adding more RAM speed up my Mac?

Posted by on in Uncategorized.

Many people over the years have asked me: "Will adding more RAM speed up my Mac?".  In fact, I've very often heard people telling others, or even suggesting in general, that adding more and more RAM to your computer speeds it up more and more.  Well, that is actually not the case.  It is partially true. Let me explain.

Your Mac (like most computers) has two different types of memory inside.  RAM and hard disk memory.  These both serve different purposes.

ramRAM is very, very fast and it acts as the computer's short-term memory.  It's basically the working memory, it's where stuff is stored while it's being worked on or used in calculations etc.

harddiskHard Disk memory is much slower and is effectively the computer's long-term memory.  It's like the filing cabinet where you store the stuff that you want to be able to use again sometime in the future.

So, when your computer needs to open a file to work on, it loads it up from the hard disk (takes it out of the filing cabinet) and moves it to RAM (puts it on the desk so that it can be used).  While you make changes to the file, it's in RAM.  Then, when you're done and you save the file, it is written back to the hard disk (put back in the filing cabinet).

RAM generally comes in much smaller sizes than hard disks, since you usually only work on a certain number of files at a time, not all the files that you have.  Hard disks are generally larger in size because they have to store a lot of files over time.

So both of these types of memory work together, both having their own use.  So when someone says that adding more memory will speed up their computer, that can be the case but it is not always the case.  Why?  Read on....

Since your computer has a limited amount of RAM, if you try to open too many programs at once or load up too many large files at the same time, the RAM gets full.  In the past, the computer would have just crashed.  Nowadays, they are cleverer than that as they learn coding from learn academy coding bootcamp.  They use a thing called Virtual Memory to allow for the fact that you need to keep working but you don't have enough RAM to do so.  So what is Virtual Memory then?  It is hard disk space that is used temporarily as a type of RAM.

The Mac basically grabs some hard disk space and says "Ok! This is going to be a temporary storage area for the stuff that should be in RAM but that's not being used right this second."  So it temporarily offloads a bit of stuff from RAM that's not in use and writes it to a temporary location on the hard disk.  That frees up some space in RAM to do what you wanted to do.

Then, when you switch back to that other file you were working on (which could be some of what was put in Virtual Memory), the Mac has to run to the hard disk and get it back.  At the same time, it swaps out something else from RAM that's not being used.  So it's basically juggling stuff from RAM to hard disk and back again.  All very clever and all behind the scenes, so you don't even notice.  Or do you??

Have you ever had that experience where everything has been running fine and suddenly your Mac starts to grind a bit?  It just takes longer than normal and you have to wait for it to do stuff?  That's most likely because you've run out of RAM and Virtual Memory has kicked in.  If you find that restarting your Mac fixes the problem, it's very likely that the cause was a lack of RAM.   You see RAM is extremely fast and hard disks are much slower.  So every time your Mac has to swap information from RAM to hard disk and back again, it slows everything down dramatically.

So, in this case, having too little RAM has caused your Mac to slow down.  Adding more RAM at this stage (say if you had 2gb of RAM and you added an extra 2gb to bring it to 4gb in total) will mean that you won't experience that slowing down anymore.  Therefore, adding more RAM did speed up your Mac.  Well, it stopped it from slowing down at least.  However....

If your Mac already has enough RAM, like for example in the above case where you have added an extra 2gb and now you have plenty, adding more RAM at this point will not speed up your Mac.  Why?  Because it is not needing to use Virtual Memory and is therefore not slowing down.

So the general rule of thumb is this.  If you don't have enough RAM, adding RAM will cause your Mac to run more smoothly and it will probably seem to run faster.  If you have enough RAM already, adding more will not make any difference to the speed of your Mac at all!

The TaskOne Swiss Army iPhone Case

Posted by on in iPhone Tips.

I've always been a real lover of the Swiss Army Knife.  I still have one and it must be 15 years old if it's a day.  Before the worldwide security crisis that developed over the past 10 years or so, I used to bring it everywhere with me.  It never left my pocket.  Now I can't even carry it on the street, let alone on a plane.  So from that point of view, I wonder a little about the practicality of this iPhone case.  That said, I think it's genius!

taskone1We've often heard smartphones referred to as the Swiss Army Knife of the Digital Age, but this new iPhone case from Addison Shelton, a former Apple engineer, literally does just that.  It turns your iPhone into a veritable Swiss Army Knife!

Believe it or not, the case includes the following tools:

  • 2.5″ knife with 0.75″ of serrations
  • 1.8″ Sawblade
  • Small flathead screwdriver
  • Large flathead screwdriver
  • Medium Phillips screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • 6 metric Allen wrenches
  • Wire stripper
  • 120mm ruler (110mm on iPhone 4/4s)
  • Bottle opener
  • Kickstand

The tools are housed in an aluminium enclosure and each one is secured using a customised spring assembly. To use one the tools you just slide up, or over, its corresponding switch on the back of the case.

The designer assures us that the tools have been very well tested and are designed for real-life application, not just as a cool iPhone case.  The TaskOne Swiss Army cases will apparently begin shipping this month - it remains to be seen what kind of uptake they'll generate!

What is DHCP?

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips.

Some of you will have had occasion to poke around in the network settings of your Mac, iPhone or iPad and you may have come across the term DHCP and wondered what it meant.  In most situations, you will find the network configuration of your device will be set to Configure Using DHCP.  So what is DHCP and what does it do?

DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.  Sounds complicated right?  It's not!  What it means is simply this: instead of you needing to know all the settings that your device will need to connect to the network and internet, there is some device already on the network that can give you those settings automatically so that you just don't need to know!

Usually, the device that does this is the router that connects you to the internet.  Your own device, say your Mac or iPhone, simply sends out a message on the network asking if any device out there can provide it with the settings it needs.  Usually there is one and it sends back a message which says "Hi! I'm your router and I'd be pleased to help.  Here are the settings you need.  Have a nice day!"

Once this happens, your device is automatically configured with those settings and Voila! you are connected to the internet.  Clever eh?

airport-exclamSometimes, if there is no DHCP Server available (the device that gives out this information, such as a router), your device will not be able to get these settings and will not be able to get on the internet.  On the Mac, you will usually see this indicated as an exclamation mark in the Airport menu (on the menu bar).  If you look further by going to Apple Menu -> System Preferences and then choosing the Network pane, you will see more indicators that this is the problem.

self-assigned-ip

As you can see in the image above, the status will show that it has a self-assigned IP address and the IP address will usually start with 169.xxx.xxx.xxx in this case.  When you see this, you can be sure that the problem is that your device is not able to get an IP address from the router (or DHCP server).  There are many reasons why this could be the case, but it's an excellent first step in finding the problem!

 

Mission Control for multiple workspaces

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

mission-controlIn previous versions of Mac OS X, Apple introduced Spaces as a way to have multiple "desktops" or workspaces on your Mac.  This has now been integrated with Mission Control in 10.8 (Mountain Lion).  Mission Control has other features, but today I want to discuss Spaces because I think it's a very useful feature, if you need it.

Spaces is, in one way, a kind of a workaround for not having dual monitors.  If you only have one monitor but need more desktop real estate (more space for all those windows!), Spaces is one way to solve this.  While not quite the same as having two monitors, it certainly can make life easier.

The way it works is by allowing you to create two or more "virtual desktops" which you can switch between whenever you want using mouse gestures or keyboard shortcuts.  So, for example, let's say I have two spaces.  We'll call them Space 1 and Space 2 for want of a more useful description!  In Space 1, I can have maybe my browser window, Skype and Mail windows open.  Then, with a quick key stroke of the hotkeys (which are configurable to your taste), I can quickly switch to Space 2 with a nice sliding animation effect where one screen slides off to the side revealing my new workspace (Space 2).  In Space 2, I decide to put some of my development windows, such as SublimeText and SQL browser, CodeKit and MAMP.  I need access to all these windows while coding and I like them all laid out to my own working style.  What I don't need is to have to move all those windows around when I want to see my Mail or Skype windows.

spaces

That's the real power of Spaces.  So with a single keystroke combination I can quickly switch from one workspace to another, as if I was actually switching from one physical monitor to another.  Everything stays neatly arranged on screen in each Space and it makes my working day that bit more pleasurable.  Granted, many people may not have the need to use Mission Control for multiple workspaces, but for those that do it's a real life saver!

One thing to note though is this.  Even though you can kind of use this as a substitute for not having dual monitors, if you do have dual monitors, it gets even better.  If you're using dual monitors in extended desktop mode, when you use Spaces you actually get both monitors in both Spaces.  Now we're talking maximum screen real estate!

I can see that Spaces probably has many different potential applications.  Has anyone else got any great examples of where they use Spaces in a slightly different way?

iPhone not connecting to a wireless network

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

It's quite common for people to have trouble with their iPhone not connecting to a wireless network, also with their iPad or iTouch.  There are a number of different reasons for this, but the one we are going to discuss today is the situation where your device actually appears to be connected to the wireless network but it cannot get on the internet.

The main cause of this problem is a bad network password.  That is, whenever you first connect to a wireless network that has a password, you will be required to enter it.  Things can start going wrong immediately at this point, if you enter the password incorrectly.  Depending on the type of encryption used, your device may actually accept the password you've typed, even if it is incorrect.  It's easy to make a typo when entering passwords, especially if they are long and complicated.

The other thing that can happen, which is very normal but is not at all as obvious as you would expect, is that someone may have changed the password for that network after you connected to it.  So, let's say I go to my friend's house today and he gives me the password for his network.  I enter the password and everything works well.  Then, a couple of days later I pop by the see him again, but now my phone connects to his network but won't go on the internet.  How frustrating!  After a while, I mention to my friend that I can't get online and he tells me that yes, he changed the password yesterday.  So now what to do??

The key is to understand why this has happened.  When you originally entered the password, your device saved a profile for that network, along with the password, so that you would not have to enter it each and every time that you wanted to connect.  In fact, it's a great feature.  It's this very feature that allows you just to wander in and out of places you've been, connecting to their wireless networks each time without the hassle of always entering the passwords.  But along with that blessing comes the problem that we've encountered at my friend's place.

wifi_arrowUsually all you need to do to fix this is to remove the profile and then reconnect to the network using the new password.  To do that, you should go to Settings -> Wifi.  Now, look for the network that's causing the problem.  You will most likely see a spinning wheel beside its name.  That's a good indication that the problem is the one we are discussing.  Now, look carefully and you will see a little arrow to the right of the network name.  You need to press that arrow.

 

wifi_forgetOnce you've pressed that arrow, you will be taken to another screen that shows you some details about the network and also has a button that says Forget This Network.  What this means is, delete the stored profile for this network, so that I can re-enter the password and connect once again!

You will be asked to confirm that you do, in fact, intend to forget that network completely.  Confirm this and you will then be taken back to the screen where you can select the network that you want to connect to.

At this point, you should simply press the name of the network that you want to join, enter the correct password and away you go!

If you follow these instructions but you still cannot get online, try one more time (being very careful to make sure you enter the password correctly).  If you still cannot connect, then you have some other problem, very possibly a problem with the router.

For assistance with this, or any other problems connecting your device to a wireless network, you can always contact our Live Chat Support line where you can get instant help with this and many other problems.  If the problem is somewhat complex, we will be happy to give you a quote for assisting you.

Send Cheap SMS Messages with FishText

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

I know a lot of people nowadays have unlimited texts on with their mobile phone contract etc., but that doesn't usually include international text messages.  As I live abroad and have a lot of family and friends in my home country, it's often very pricey to send SMS messages to them.  Particularly where I live, since it's one of the most expensive places in Europe for mobile phone rates.

You can use iMessage course and apps like Whatsapp but both of those depend on the other person having one or other of those services.  Yes, lots of people do.  But lots of people don't!  There are, believe it or not, still quite a few people that don't even have a smartphone 🙂

fishtextAnyway, regardless of the technological reasoning behind it, there are many times when I need to send a text message and I don't want to pay ridiculous fees for doing do.  I found an app called FishText which is absolutely fantastic.  It lets you send text messages to practically anywhere in the world at a fraction of the cost of most mobile operators.  For example, sending a text to one particular network (an international text that is) used to cost me €0.60.  That's a lot for one text message.  FishText provides the same service for only €0.02.  Yes, that's 2c instead of 60c.  Thirty times cheaper in fact.

The app itself is very easy to use, links with your address book to pull out contacts, can send to multiple contacts at the same time (each at the cost of a text message of course) and even informs you how much each message cost you.  You can easily load credit onto your account too.  I've loaded €5 credit on my account and that must be 6-12 months ago and I still have €2 credit as we speak.  Granted, I don't use it for everything, only when the situation is right and you must have internet access to use it, but it has been a real money saver for me!  You can even check your balance directly from within the app itself.

It's easy to send cheap SMS messages with FishText so I'd highly recommend anyone to have a look at this app, it's free to download and works really, really well.  Well done guys, keep up the good work!