Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Need More Memory!

Once I had Livedrive up and running (see my blog post for January 10, 2013) I noticed that I was getting the "Spinning Beachball" a lot more frequently than I had in the past. My system really slowed down when Time Machine came on. So I was getting very frustrated with the wait times before I could do anything.

I complained to my son, and he suggested that I open up Activity Monitor to see what was going on. Activity Monitor is an application that comes with your operating system and is found in the "Utilities" folder. When you open Activity Monitor there are five tabs: CPU, System Memory, Disk Activity, Disk Image, and Network. if you click the System Memory tab you are presented with a screen that shows all the processes that are running on your computer. There are a number of columns, and you can click on the column heading to sort by that column. If you click on the Real Memory column you can see which tasks are using the most memory. If you look down at the bottom, you see a graphical representation of the memory usage.

What I noticed immediately was that the free memory was very small, often as small as 20 MB. It was no wonder I was getting the Beachball. I didn't have enough memory to do anything.

Getting More Memory

I have a MacBook Pro laptop, and when I bought it I bought it with the most memory available at the time, 4 GB. But my son did some research and discovered that I could now install double that, up to 8 GB.

The next day I went up on the Internet to try to find out where I could get this additional memory. When you are shopping for RAM for your computer you have to be very sure that you get the correct chips for your particular model. In my research the only company that offered the RAM that would work in my laptop was Other World Computing. No other company that I looked at listed my particular laptop as one of the computers for which they sold RAM.

I have always had good service when I've shopped with Other World Computing. This time was no exception. I received the box with my new RAM chips very quickly.

Installing the new RAM chips was very easy. On the bottom of my MacBook Pro there are 10 screws. It is just a matter of simply removing those 10 screws with a small Phillips head screwdriver. You have to be very careful to keep track of which screw came out of which hole. They are not all the same size. The bottom of the laptop fits snugly, and so you will have to gently pry it off to get it to come off.

bottom of laptop
The above picture shows the location of the ten screws.

Once you have the cover removed you can see the RAM chips right in the center of the computer. There is one chipset sitting right on top of the second chipset.

bottom removed

Once you are sure you have no possibility of discharging static electricity from your body, it is simply a matter of spreading the plastic tabs on each side of the RAM chipset apart towards the outside of the computer to allow the chipset to spring up. Once it has done that, it is a simple matter to just pull it out of the slot in which it sits.

top chipset released

With the top chipset out of the way, you do the same thing to remove the bottom one.

one chipset removed

both chipsets removed

The new chipsets go back into the computer the same way the old ones came out. Because of the way the chipsets are slotted, it is impossible to put them in upside down. It also does not matter which one goes in first. Aim the first chipset to go into the bottom slot. While spreading the plastic tabs apart, push the chipset into its slot and allow this chipset to drop down into the computer.

one chipset installed

The second chipset goes into the top slot the same way. The final thing that must be done is to simply place the bottom of the computer back on and reinstall the screws into their proper holes. Some of the screws are very tiny and my fingers have never felt so big as they did when trying to hang onto these tiny screws and put them into their holes.

Running with 8GB of RAM Installed

Now for the final test: to turn the computer on. There were absolutely no problems. It booted right up. So next I went to the Apple menu, clicked on it, and went to the submenu called About This Mac. There in the window that popped up I could see that I now had 8 GB of memory.

about this mac 8gb

When I ran Activity Monitor I could see that I had lots of free memory. This looked very promising.

activity monitor system memory

I soon discovered, however, that now that I have this additional memory, applications are very anxious to use it. You can see from the screenshot below how my browser, iCab, is using almost a gigabyte of real memory and that my free memory is down to a little under 800 MB. In fact I'm using 7.23 GB of memory: 1.17 GB of wired memory, 3.54 GB of active memory, and 2.52 GB of interactive memory. In addition, 448 GB are being used in virtual memory which is the memory stored on the hard drive.

activity monitor 4gb used

I did some more research in the Apple discussion forums to try to learn what's going on here. One of the things that was said is that inactive memory is just the same as free memory. It is available to be used if required. The difference is that when you close an application, some memory used by it has its status changed to inactive. When you load the same application again, it will reload faster. If other applications require memory and there is not more free available, the computer will start using the inactive memory.

One of the participants in the discussions had installed 32 GB in a Mac (obviously not a laptop). He put up a screenshot of the Activity Monitor which showed that he only had 30.9 MB of free memory. 26.77 GB of his memory was tied up as inactive memory.

activity monitor 32gb installed

More RAM Helps

So the solution to memory problems isn't necessarily the installation of more memory. It is more a matter of managing the applications that are running. Everyone on the discussion boards has said that restarting the Mac solves the memory problems. It clears out the used memory, especially the inactive memory.

Since I installed my 8 GB of memory I've had no more frustrating days with the spinning Beachballs driving me crazy. I have also changed the way I work to shut down any application that's not being used and restarting my laptop about once a week. Nevertheless, I feel that installing the additional 4 GB of memory has definitely improved my computer life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ear-horn for the iPhone

I originally saw this on Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (See the posting here.)

You know how you get better sound if you cup your hand around the speaker on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad? Well, this company in Los Angeles has developed a paper horn that you can attach to your iPhone that basically does the same thing, amplifying the sound without the need for any additional electricity or batteries. You also no longer need to hold your device in an awkward position to get the desired increase in volume.


The "eco-amp" is constructed from recycled post-consumer fiber papers and comes in 24 different designs. It costs USD$10. It can be used with the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5. You get two eco-amps with each order. For more information, this is their web site:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adding a CD insert to iTunes

I have been digitizing all of my phonograph records, my cassette tapes, and my reel-to-reel tapes and saving them into iTunes. One of the things that I really wanted to be able to do was to save the liner notes in iTunes. It is now possible to do that. You simply have to scan the liner notes and create a PDF file from your scan.

How To Do It

  • If you are working with a CD insert, once you have scanned the insert, save the file as a PDF-type file where you can find it again.
  • Open iTunes.
  • Go to the File menu of iTunes and from there to the Add to Library… submenu
Add to Library
  • Find the PDF file that you created and open it

Once you do that, it is saved in the Book section of iTunes.

  • In the left panel of iTunes under Library, highlight the Books item.
  • Make sure you have the List tab selected at the top
  • Then you will see in the main window on the right the list of the books that you have in iTunes.
List of Books
  • Highlight the PDF file that you saved by clicking on it once.
  • Press Command-I or go to the File menu of iTunes and from there go to the Get Info submenu to bring up the "Get info" window for your selection.
  • Click on the Options tab.
  • Under Media Kind: change it from Book to Music and then click OK
Media Kind

Make the CD Insert a part of the Album

The next thing you need to do is to go to the Info tab of the "Get info" window and make sure that the name of the artist and of the album are all correct and match the information you entered for the individual songs. This is so iTunes recognizes the PDF as an element of the same album as the songs.
  • Go to your iTunes Music Library
  • Find the PDF file in the iTunes Music Library. One way to do that is to select the Songs tab at the top and look for the PDF file by its name.
  • Make sure your PDF file has the correct Album title. It has to match the Album title used for the songs exactly.
Now go to Album view and find the album you have been working on. If you just see one album, click on it to open it and see its contents. You should see your CD Insert listed at the end of the list of songs. If instead you see two Albums with the same name, you need to do a little bit more work to make the CD insert a part of the same album as the music.

If the artist is the same for all of the songs, choose your CD Insert inside the Album in which it appears and bring up the "Get info" window for your selection. Select the Info tab. Type the artist name in the "Artist" field. When you close the "Get info" window and return to the Album view in iTunes, you should now only see one album.

If the artist is not the same for all of the songs,
  • Select the Album with the CD Insert. Press Command-I or go to the File menu of iTunes and from there go to the Get Info submenu to bring up the "Get info" window for your selection.
  • Choose the Info tab.
  • At the bottom, check the "Part of a compilation" check box.
  • Select the other Album with the songs. Bring up the "Get info" window for the Album.
  • Select the Options tab.
  • In the middle change "Part of a compilation" to "Yes". iTunes will go through all of the songs and change them to be "part of the compilation".
Now with the Albums tab selected at the top, scroll down to the album that you have been working on. There should now only be one Album. Once you have made the PDF part of the album, it will appear at the bottom of the song list with a little book icon after the name. If you double click on the icon, the CD insert will open up in Preview or your default PDF reader.

Media Kind
It is a little bit of work, but now all the information that came along with your album will be right there with the list of songs in iTunes.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Finally! A solution to my off-site backup needs!

I have been devoting much of this blog to my efforts to backup the files on my laptop to "the cloud". This is in addition to the Time Machine backup that I have on an external drive connected to my laptop. I have two reasons for wanting to do this. One is to provide a backup which is off-site so that if something disastrous happens to my laptop and/or my home, I will still have all of my files. The second is so I can get to my files using my iPad no matter where I am.

As I have noted previously, many companies provide partial solutions, especially those who advertise the ability to collaborate with others. They allow you limited storage of your "important" files. I wanted a complete backup solution.

The solution I had come up with was to use Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS) for my offsite file storage. The back-up program I chose was xTwin because they provided a good, stable, and secure uploading capability. The files created by xTwin are in a special format which required xTwin or another program to reconstitute them as regular files. This meant that in order to get to my files from my iPad, I would need to use GoToMyPC. That required keeping my laptop open and running at all times, but it did allow me to get to my files using my iPad. I therefore had a complete solution.

The solution was not the solution

However things turned out not to work as I hoped. When I went to the OLS-CS storage service and tried to recover a file, it turned out I could not recover it. To make a long story short, after many attempts to get information from the OLS-CS storage service, they could not provide a satisfactory solution or an answer as to why I could not recover the files that I had uploaded. In fact, at one point, all of my back-up files disappeared! So I had to abandon them and try to find another solution for my off-site storage. OLS-CS did provide me a refund of the $39 I had given them for a year's worth of service. Fortunately I finally have a good solution.

I went back to the spreadsheet I put together when I was shopping for a backup program in August. I also did some more research to see if there were other programs out there that I missed.

Based on the information I was looking at, I found five backup solutions that met my requirements. Some services only allow backups of documents and photos, for example, and do not allow applications to be backed up. These five services all said that you are not restricted as to the types of files you can store. They all provide for file sharing, automatic backups, and access to the files using mobile devices. They all provide web access to your files and access using a desktop application. All five of the services provide a free trial period except for OpenDrive.

OpenDrive provides 5 GB of free storage, and up to 100TB of paid storage. They have a daily upload limit of 5 GB. You can tailor your plan based on your needs. They provide a tool on their website which you can use to calculate what your anticipated costs will be based on how much storage you think you will need.

LiveDrive provides up 5 TB of paid storage. The cost is $79.95 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $96 per year.

MyPCBackup provides unlimited storage. The cost is $95.40 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $100 per year.

ZipCloud and JustCloud both provide unlimited storage. The cost is $83.40 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $100 per year.


I decided to go with LiveDrive because they were slightly less expensive than the other services and I didn't think I would need more than 5 TB of storage since my laptop has a 1 TB hard drive. They only charged me the $79.95 per year fee. I have not been charged extra for backing up unusual file types. Apparently the information I got while doing my research was incorrect. They will charge you an extra $17.95 per year for backing up additional computers.

Installing LiveDrive and getting it up and running was very simple. You just go to their website, There are four packages to choose from, "Backup", "Briefcase", "Pro Suite", and "Business". For my purposes, I chose "Backup". The other solutions are for businesses and people with more requirements than I have. You fill out a web form to sign up and create an account. You then have 14 days to give it a trial run.

You will want to download the application which runs on your computer (both Windows and Mac OS are supported). Once you are up and running, you also have the ability to work from within your web browser. I also downloaded the app for my iPad.

When you run the application on your computer, you will see the LiveDrive icon in your system menu bar. One of the choices on the drop down menu is "Manage Backups". Here you see in the left pane of the window that opens all of the folders on your computer. By clicking on the arrows to the left, you will see the subfolders contained within the folder. You simply check the folders you want backed up, and LiveDrive immediately begins backing up the folders and files within that folder to your account on their servers.

For my trial run, I checked just the "Desktop" folder. It contains about 5500 items. The backup went very smoothly with no problems. After it was done, I was able to see all the files using the web browser after logging in to my account on the LiveDrive site. I was also able to see all the files using the LiveDrive application on my iPad.

I can not tell you how thrilled and excited I was. After all the struggles I had gone through to find a solution for backing up my files off-site (see previous blogs), I finally found a solution that worked and with absolutely no hassle.

The next test was to see if I was going to have any problems backing up my Documents folder, which contains about 55,000 files. Backing up that folder took a bit longer. And I did notice that LiveDrive seemed to have a problem with one of my files. It kept trying over and over to backup the file, but didn't appear to be succeeding. I could see this when I looked at the status and clicked on "Detailed Status".

It turns out this was an old Apple IIgs spreadsheet file that had a forward slash in its name. LiveDrive converted the forward slash to a colon, but it was still having problems. So I went into that folder of spreadsheets and manually changed all the names, converting the forward slashes to colons. After I did that, the backup proceeded with no further problems. It was so satisfying to see "Your Backup is up-to-date" in the status window.

It is so cool to be able to go to my iPad and get to all of the documents on my laptop. Of course, as far as I can tell the files can't be opened on the iPad. You wouldn't want to go changing a backup file. Trying to then keep the files in sync would be a whole different ballgame.