Slow Mac

My Mac has not always been sluggish but now it is, unless I shut it down everyday. It is sporadic. I'm afraid it has something to do with my anti-virus updates but I know nothing about computers. Anyway, it is a PowerBook G4 version 10.3.9 with a processor 1GHz Power PC G4, Memory 564 MB DDR SDRAM.

First of all, I think it’s important to say that you really don’t need virus protection on your Mac, and if it’s what holding things up, it’ll be the first thing I ditch from a Mac.

So, here’s the deal: Your Mac is slow because you have near the bare minimum memory necessary for your computer. Bringing it up to at least 1.5Gb (gigabytes) should help performance a fair bit. I encourage all modern Mac users: Install at least 2Gb (that’s two gigabytes) of RAM, and you’ll have a modern, happy Mac. And if you can afford it, and you’re going to do anything serious with it, take that sucker to 3Gb.

I have, after much observation, found that having less than 1Gb of RAM (memory) can really slow a Mac down, unless one is doing only the most simple things with it — like, word processingwhether it’s on 10.3 or 10.4. (Surfing the web is actually a more intensive task for a computer than one might think.)


#1 – If you’re still using OS X 10.2 Jaguar, you seriously need to upgrade to Tiger 10.4.

#2 – You actually shouldn't have to shut your Mac down unless you are going to be away from it for a while, or unless you have done a software installation or update that requires a restart.

#3 – There are a couple of basic troubleshooting techniques for a slow Mac, but the main one is to use the Activity Monitor, to be found in the Utilities folder inside Applications:

I'd like you to bear with me through the next couple of (brief) paragraphs. It's going to sound quite geeky, but it should help us examine your problem.

When you open Activity Monitor for the first time, you'll want to do two things: Change the "Show" drop-down menu to "All Processes", and click the "% CPU" label. This will show you which applications, or processes, are taxing your computer most.

And at the bottom of the window, you'll see a bar graph. If that graph is almost all black (and your computer is sluggish), then we're looking in the wrong place. If you have a lot of green or red in there (say, more than 20%), I'd like you to call or email me what processes are listed in the window as taking up the most of the resources.

(For kicks, here's a more complete article on using Activity Monitor.)

#4 – Now, here's another, and fairly important question: Do you use a lot of different fonts? If so, try closing them and see what happens. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, then fonts are not the issue.)

#5 – Finally, there are a couple of maintenance tasks that one can perform. I can walk you through them over the phone. I'll mention that the tool I like to use is Onyx; the version of it for your Mac can be downloaded by clicking here.

How bloggeth thou?

I need to figure out create a blog to my personal web domain. I’d like to be able to upload my thoughts/pics just as easily as you do. I would name it something like: There are several options that I’ve seen.

  • Blogger – free – but not as customizable. I’ve tried to transfer a blog to my domain but not had much luck.
  • MarsEdit – seems like a good candidate – $24.95
  • WordPress – seems like a steep learning curve but free –
  • iWeb?

There's a gazillion ways to blog now, and honestly all of the good ones (as opposed to a MySpace blog page) are going to help you create a full-fledged weblog.

So, to go through some options:

  • I would skip iWeb unless you want to keep it simple… I mean like Forrest Gump-simple.
  • Many pro bloggers love WordPress …
  • … but many also really like Six Apart's TypePad (, or their Movable Type (  if you're gonna get serious. I know a teacher who really likes TypePad for distributing information to her students.

Note that MarsEdit is blog publishing software for the Mac, intended for use with a blog service such as TypePad, Blogger, or your own server. Note, also, that MarsEdit is in transition of ownership, and I wouldn't put down money on shareware in those circumstances.

As someone who does not want to spend a lot of time maintaining a blog, I appreciate Blogger's simplicity. (It should be stated here that Blogger and Blogspot are the same service.) I really really like that I can send an email or a text message to publish to my blog.

Import a DVD

Is there any way to copy a DVD's contents to your computer. We were trying to copy some business videos to a folder on our computer so that they would be more easily accessible.

Two methods:

1) MacTheRipper is a fine app for doing exactly this: Put a DVD in. Create a new folder on your desktop and name it, perhaps, "DVD importing." Then open MacTheRipper, and go to File > Save To… to choose that folder. It will save the DVD information inside two folders called AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS. You can use the wonderful, free media player VLC to open that VIDEO_TS folder.

2) AND THIS IS PROBABLY THE WAY YOU WANT TO GO … You can use HandBrake to import the DVD content (or an imported VIDEO_TS folder) straight to a QuickTime- or iPod-playable movie.

Of course, we would never ever want to use these techniques to distribute copyrighted content, would we?

Bonjour, kemosabe. Vie gates?: iChat on your private network

Everyone do this with me: Open iChat (if it ain’t in your Dock, it’s in your Applications folder). Click on the Window menu in iChat. If you see Rendezvous, click on that; if you see Bonjour, click on that. If you’re asked to login to that network, click Login.

If everyone in your organization does this, you’ll all see each other in the Rendezvous or Bonjour window. I find sending quick text messages often more civlized — and always more quet — than phone intercom. I know of one office where they change their iChat status to show when they’re in the office or out to lunch, on the phone, etc. …

… Guess most people I know are fairly out to lunch most of the time, but that’s another story.

By the way, you can text to my AIM account s1r4real. If I’m not online, your message will be forwarded to my phone — which is easily set up, by the way, in your AIM preferences.

Also, for folks using a server, Apple is including secure private iChat in the next version of OS X Server.

Ejectile dysfunction: CD is stuck in the drive!

My CD/DVD burner drive won’t let me insert a disk. I think it thinks there’s a disk already in there but there isn’t. Is there a way to get it “unlocked?”

So, is this a “slot-loading” or do you put the disc in a tray that pops out?

Reminds me of the time at Kinko’s when the older lady put the CD into the 5 1/4″ floppy disc drive. A Windows computer, natch, and I wish I had a picture of the look on my face. I seem to recall that those damn PCs were bolted down. I giggled a lot.

Either way, try opening iTunes and pushing the eject button at bottom right. If that doesn’t work, follow these instructions:


I had a CD get stuck in my slot-loading superdrive Aluminum Powerbook, running 10.3. The CD became unresponsive and not recognized by my computer at all! Here is the fix:

Hold Control-Command-Option-Eject Button; this will shut down your computer. Turn the power on with the power button and hold Command-Option-O-F — this will boot you into open firmware. Now type
eject cd
and hit the Return key and wait until the CD pops out. Type


and you are ready to rock!
[robg adds:
As mentioned elsewhere on the site, you can also try holding the mouse button down during boot to force the system to eject any inserted CDs.]

Just so long as you call me

Would you rather I call or e-mail questions to you?

Either is fine, though my responses to emails will be slower. I can also use text messaging via mobile phone 210.367.3420, AIM chat to s1r4real
(which forwards to my Treo iPhone), Skype to jjmarcus, remote control over secure VPN, Morse code, smoke signals… 😉

What is your billing policy regarding questions by phone or email or whatnot, i.e. when you’re not on-site? 

I charge per hour, pro-rated, for whatever interaction I have with clients, excepting getting-to-know-you calls or meetings, and little one-off chat messages. See more about our rates here.

SuperDuper errors

A registered SuperDuper! user writes:

Got these errors in SuperDuper:

If SuperDuper ever throws a red “X” at you, go to the Log. See the button at the bottom called “Send to Shirt Pocket…”?

After you do what I suggest below, you’ll want to click that button, and do whatever it tells you.

It occurs to me that there is a chance that — don’t freak — you have data corruption. I’d bet even if you had it, it’s not bad, because you have been able to transfer and backup successfully at least twice.

But if you know how to run Disk Utility from your installer discs, that would be wise. Do it on both your internal and external drives. If you have TechTool, DiskWarrior, or Drive Genius, great, run ’em just for kicks.

And if you have anything with the name “Norton” on it, please put it in the nearest garbage pail. Seriously.

Almost finished at SAY Sí

I've been working on the lab at SAY Sí's new facility since the very beginning of January, and I feel like it's finally just about done (at least on the new Intel iMacs; the G4 eMacs have to wait until the students are done with their current video project).

Learning to work with NetRestore and Casper Composer, and Portable Home Folders, has been exhilarating, and doing it all with Apple Remote Desktop over Gigabit, bending the machines to my will in a single keystroke… well, it makes me giddy. Yes, I know I need to get out more…