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I hate that rainbow beach ball

Things have been so busy at my end that I barely have time to be online at this point. I answer some emails–usually days after I should–and post silly tweets once in a while. Sorry, folks. I have interesting things planned for March.

In any event, I’m quite concerned about my laptop. It’s a MacBook I bought in 2007 (bottom of the line, frankly) and it’s the machine I use for all of my writing.

Sadly, it’s not running very well. I get the Spinning Beach Ball of Death every day, and my programs (Safari, Thunderbird, iPhoto, YoruFukurou, Scrivener) become non-responsive for frustratingly long times. Often I’ll type a word and sit back while each. Letter. Slowly. Appears.

I just deleted the contents of my OS trash, some 13+GB, because my hard drive was nearly full (now it’s down to 57GB). Writey runs 10.5.8 and has been really great so far but as the day goes on the performance become worse and worse. I don’t want to have to replace it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for fixing this sort of thing?

I’m turning on comments on my main blog (for those of you reading this at a mirror site) to see whether my spam issue has abated. I’m heading off to do some work and I’ll check back later. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here or there.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2012 05:14 pm (UTC)
You can check for programs that automatically start when your computer starts (stuff like Dropbox, autoupdaters for some programs, etc) -- go to System Preferences, click on the Accounts button, and then click the Login Items tab. Anything that you don't recognize, you might want to google to find out what it is, but it's probably safe to remove. Anything you do recognize is probably also safe to remove so long as you remember to run it manually once in a while if need be.

I'd also disable Dashboard unless you use it -- I almost never have a use for its widgets and, again, am fine opening them manually on the rare occasion when I do want to use one.
Feb. 17th, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
Also, you may consider clearing your browser cache and see if that helps. Your system might be churning through a gazillion cookies and passwords and search histories every time you're online. . .

EDIT: Also, it really can help to quit any program you're not using. I know some of my family members close the windows without quitting out of programs and end up with 27 different programs running at a time.

Edited at 2012-02-17 05:19 pm (UTC)
Feb. 17th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
Upgrade your RAM. It's actually pretty easy once you get the right screwdrivers, you pop a panel, flip a switch and slot stuff in. Check macsales.com for cheap ram, *and* they provide phone support after you've bought it. Also, you can call in, get help on the model, and they'll tell you what to buy.
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
I have no helpful suggestions, but I am amused by the different terms people use for that thing. I call it "the whirly rainbow ball of death."

"Ball of Death" is clearly the meat of one's feelings about it.
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Your drive is probably failing. Buy an SSD.
Feb. 17th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
Spirit Of Laptops Yet To Come, I fear you most of all.
Feb. 18th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
An SSD is a fast, reliable option, but at least wait until they become reasonably cheap. Fast new 2.5" drives can be found at $80 for 300 GB these days.
Feb. 18th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
Also, buy an Intel SSD. They are more reliable.
Feb. 17th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
are you using any new programs or any recent updates?

I had this problem with Safari, fwiw, on my old machine. One of the updates for safari, post 10.7 made it eat, oh, everything system resource-wise. I don’t know if that’s your problem. My old machine was a 2009 macbook pro, and I didn’t bother with 10.7 on it. But that update made Safari unusable, and it made everything much, much slower.

I like Safari, but ended up using Firefox instead, because it didn’t seem to have the same problem.

But it sounds like some sort of memory leak or a shortage of RAM from this magic 8 ball distance.
Feb. 17th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
Not a huge mac expert, but...
I assume you have an external drive that you do Time Machine backups to? I'd test the backup (open it in Time Machine and poke around), then boot of of your CDROM drive (or what ever) and restore from your backup. That's probably the simplest thing, but also the least effective. If it is a bad disk, replacing it is not too bad.

And if you haven't maxed out your ram, you should do so, I expect your machine takes at least 4GB.
Feb. 17th, 2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Not a huge mac expert, but...
And don't leave so much stuff in the trash, you want to leave 10% of your disk free, at a minimum.
Feb. 18th, 2012 01:15 am (UTC)
I'm far from being a Mac Genius, but I used to have a similar problem which I found a solution, if not an answer for: I didn't have a bad hard drive, but if I used Firefox with multiple tabs open and one was Facebook I had the same thing happen. I continually had to close the browser and reopen it, which got me a couple of hours before I had to do it again. I concluded that I was having a really, REALLY strange memory leak, switched browsers, and quit leaving Facebook open beyond 20 minutes. That did it.

I strongly second the recommendation of OnyX. It's free, it helps most problems (I used it for years until I won a free copy of Cocktail), and I believe the current version can check S.M.A.R.T. Drive status to see if your hard drive is dying. I'd download it from the developer's site if you don't run Snow Leopard or Lion or MacUpdate if you do--there seem to be a lot of shady websites offering it as a come-on for other software of a suspect level of quality and benign intentions.
Feb. 18th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC)
For anyone wanting to cut down on Firefox memory usage/leaking, I highly recommend Flashblock. It makes Flash opt-in, which has the side benefit of stopping most autoplaying video and audio.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )