Archive for February, 2007

Optimizing your Mac (part one)

February 6th, 2007

Well, we’ve all heard stories about Macs ruling out PCs in terms of usability and performance. But after a while comes a time for a reality check. Sure, Macs work great, but every now and then they just seem to come into that somewhat sluggish mode – spinning beach balls, choppy video, slow window scrolling….After all, even a Mac is just a computer, and if you thought you’d never have to deal with the ugly thingy like the Windows Task Manager, you’re wrong, or you are using your Mac for mostly basic tasks (net browsing, text editing etc.). Power users quickly come to discover the Activity Monitor and mark the tasks that are messing with their CPU.

So basically, there are a couple of things you should do to put the weight off processor (in Tiger OS X):

1. turn off Spotlight – surely, you are using the Spotlight to scan through the mess on your hard drive. There is a thing when you turn off Spotlight – it won’t find anything on your disk via Finder. The alternative I use is the Cocoatech’s Path Finder 4 and is a way better app than Finder. Check it out anyway. To turn off Spotlight, use a program called Spotless. Then use Path Finder to find anything on your hard drive – or more of them. It works FAST.

2. turn off animations and other unnecessary stuff. You might as well use the latest version of OnyX for such. It’ll turn off your Dashboard (which you are not using anyway :) ), turn off the genie effect (use Scale effect instead) and animations when opening/closing apps, make Finder quittable (good for getting that final squeeze when lauching games), make Safari launch and performance faster, repair disk permissions and so on. Basically, it’ll do anything except fix up Spotlight, that’s why you’ll use Spotless for.

3. turn off zooming in Universal Access – that will put ease on the cpu when switching windows or moving the mouse pointer around.

You may as well turn off other eye candy, such as Dock icons magnification and desktop background, but then it wouldn’t all look that good anymore, and it’s not what you bought Mac anyway, now is it? :)

One thing to look for is also to use apps that simply work better. That’s why I replaced BitTorrent with Transmission, for example. It has extremely low CPU usage, better reliability and performance. I haven’t found an alternative to aMule yet, or I haven’t even searched, but the 2.1.3 version simply sucks. Delivers the goods though, after all.

Check your best friend, the Activity Monitor, for apps acting weird, and find a way to get them out of the system.

So now you’re done and ready for some serious, say, gaming? Open a game while holding the Option key. Quit Finder. Launch the game. Notice the difference.

Webcam? How about miniDV cam instead?

February 2nd, 2007

If you are considering buying a webcam to plug into your Mac, but have a real camera, you might as well use the latter. I was surprised how easy it was to set up my Sony DCR-HC23 MiniDV Handycam to work with Skype and iChat. In fact, you don’t need to set up anything. Connect the pieces with a FIrewire cable and you’re done. The gadget is of course a bit bulky, but works like a proverbial charm.

Still I’m searching for a videoconferencing alternative to iChat, the one that would include multiple participants, but still work over different platforms – Mac and Windows. Skype is so far limited to 2 persons interacting over video connection, and Festoon for Mac doesn’t seem it’ll be here anytime soon. I’ll keep posting about it.

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