20 July 2012
I seem to be losing my memory
For the past few weeks my blogging has slowed down because my computer has slowed down. It's gotten to the point now where it's frankly unpleasant to surf the 'net looking for material. I will probably have to take some time off to get this figured out.
I search for blogworthy material using tabbed browsing on Firefox (14.0.1) on an iMac (2 GHz processor, 1 GB memory, running OSX 10.6.8). When I turned it on this morning, I looked at the Activity Monitor utility and found the numbers embedded at top. I don't know if there's anything ominous there, but I do know that as soon as I turn on Firefox and open just one tab, the free System Memory drops from 300+ MB to about 100MB:
And after checking my mail I then open my first set of 12 tabs to check the news of the day, and...
... the memory plunges to 10-20 MB. I've noticed some sites that seem to slow things down more than most (Salon being the biggest offender for me), but by the time I'm able to get through about eight of the tabs, Firefox is using about 750 MB of memory and is "not responding." If I go to breakfast and let the iMac sleep, the situation improves...
... but that's only temporary, and pretty soon I'm once again waiting for pages to load or scroll.
I suppose I could have acquired malware somenhow, because I do wander the fringes of the 'net looking for material, but my basic antivirus program hasn't detected anything. I never used to have problems (visiting the same sites 12 at a time), and I think this has developed after upgrading to Firefox 13 and then 14. It seems to not "let go" of RAM after I close tabs. Or perhaps there are some caches somewhere that are full that I don't know about?
It may be that I need to get some new apps to clean up my rather old iMac. Perhaps I should download OnyX or something equivalent. I'm dreading digging through my system files, but I'll need to do something to get back on track. Fortunately I do have some time this weekend, as my invitation to play in The (British) Open seems to have been lost in the mail. And perhaps I'll use this downtime to do some selling on eBay.
If I don't get this solved this weekend, what I'll probably do is go full "retro" and start posting some of the thousands of bookmarks I've saved over the years but never used, or transcribe some material from magazines like Smithsonian, Harper's, and The Atlantic.
I'm open to suggestions, but wanted to post this for now to let people know the reason for my current absence from the blogosphere.
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I have the same problem with Firefox which is awfully slow, but never with Google Chrome. That goes to say that I stopped using Firefox almost entirely.ReplyDelete
iMac, eh? Does the same scenario persist using Safari?ReplyDelete
Can your iMac hold more RAM? 1gb is REALLY low for this day and age, and as long as the motherboard supports it, it is an easy and inexpensive upgrade with huge results.ReplyDelete
I have to smile, because my first Mac had 20 MB of RAM (and 20 MB storage on the hard disk).Delete
I agree with Barnabas -- adding more RAM is the best long-term solution to your problem. Even if you find that Firefox is the culprit, at some point you're going to have the same problem with another program. If your iMac can support it, adding RAM is cheap and extremely easy as a DIY project. (At least, it is for iMacs!)Delete
There is another trick you can try in the meantime, which is to release your inactive RAM and add it to your free RAM. There are several ways to do this; the easiest is to open Terminal and type in
du -sx /
…then hit Enter. This asks the computer to use the disk utilization process to see how much RAM is being used by real files. To get an accurate count, the process goes through and frees up inactive RAM. It can make a big difference. (Note: this will only work if you are using an administrative account.)
But it's still a stopgap solution. You'd be amazed at what more RAM will do for your machine.
I have a RAM alarm on my PC for any process that goes over 500 megs and I am amazed at how often my browser windows tax the machine - almost a gig at times.ReplyDelete
As Dutch said above. My first thought would be to try Safari and see if you can duplicate the issue. If not then it's definitely the new version of Firefox. If FF is the problem, hopefully you can go back to v13 until they resolve the issue.ReplyDelete
Side note: I've upgraded 3 Linux systems to FF 14 in the last couple of days and have no memory problems.
I was having a similar problem with my iMac recently. It helped to switch from Firefox to Chrome. Then I went from 1GB of RAM to the full 4GB it would handle and that made a huge difference.ReplyDelete
I'd like to be the sixth person to offer:ReplyDelete
1. Firefox is pretty bad with memory usage, although FF 15 is focused solely on fixing memory leaks so try installing that if you really like FF. ( http://www.webmonkey.com/2012/07/firefox-15-beta-plugs-memory-leaks/ )
2. Switch from Firefox to Chrome or Safari.
3. Upgrade the RAM. In an iMac it's super easy, and RAM is dirt cheap right now. For the RAM I'd go to www.crucial.com, they have a guide that will ask what computer you have and only display the right memory.
For more RAM install help select your exact iMac from iFixit and they'll show you step by step with pictures: http://www.ifixit.com/Device/iMac
One more thing: Firefox add-ons are notorious for leaking memory. Perhaps you could try deactivating your add-ons to see if that helps. If it does, you've pinpointed the problem.ReplyDelete
Wow, thanks, everyone. A little while ago I downloaded and installed Chrome. When I restarted it used up most of the available memory, so it looks like I'm heading toward a RAM upgrade. Or I'll steal my wife's iMAC with its 4 GB.ReplyDelete
In the meantime I'll do some "retro" blogging of old bookmarks.
I'll just chime in to say that I agree that 1GB is pretty low these days, so I'm amazed you're so productive with that little. While FF is superior to IE any decade, it is a resource hog, and the latest "upgrade" has not improved that, sorry to say. My free AVG power monitor confirms it at least once during any net session. Adding a card could only help, if it's not over-priced. Bon chance. --A.ReplyDelete
There are great video tutorials for iMac RAM installs - it really won't take you long, and probably could be done for under $50 and 15 minutes. If you need an assist, get in touch.ReplyDelete
If you put up a tip jar for "Buy Stan a new computer" I'm sure you'd have something that would turn any gamer green with envy in about three days. It would be interesting besides.ReplyDelete
FF has had a lot of problem with hogging memory. A poorly written plugin just makes it worse.ReplyDelete
I switched to Chrome a couple of years ago and have never looked back. However, I do miss some of the FF plugins. They were pretty handy.
And lastly, 1GB is not enough. Once you get above 70% usage of any memory, your performance goes downhill fast and the system spends more time managing memory than doing real work. Your performance gets exponentially worse.
More thoughts for ponderance:ReplyDelete
Once your memory starts to get full you start thrashing the hard drive as it moves things from memory to disk to memory, rinse lather repeat. Your hard drive might be on borrowed time with that kind of abuse.
If it is available for your OS, Opera I found to be one of the least memory intensive.
As others have noted you have very low total memory. You don't mention what OS or firefox version you are using, but most of the newer OS's require 2GB. My first computer had 8K (not meg) of memory, and my first hard disk had a megabyte, so I appreciate you thinking that 1Gig is a lot. But it ain't anymore. Fonts, graphics, caches, and lots of dancing squirrels just eat it all up.ReplyDelete
The graphs you show indicate your computer is using your hard disk as it's main memory since the free space is smaller than that required by either the OS or your firefox App. Your computer will be abysmally slow. If you have noted a sudden change it's probably either an application update or some change in a website you like that is breaking the camels back.
Memory is cheap so the only limit is if your old machine can take it. Note that many macs are specced as taking less memory than you can actually put in them. (e.g. specs say 2gb but they take 3 or specs say 4 and they take 6). Look your mac model up on everymac.com to find out what it can hold, then buy this.
Go back to Firefox 12 and turn off the setting for automatic updates. There is a problem with Firefox 13 that makes browsing the web unbearably slow, and it's a cross-platform issue. I've already gone back to 12 myself and all this behavior you've describe has gone away. Also, it looks like you're using a Mac, there is always Safari.ReplyDelete
Firefox 13 and the beta release for 14 both have the same problems. Firefox 12 is very stable. I'll admit that 14 seems to be pretty stable for the Android, but not for the PC and not for the Mac. 13 is unusable on any platform, so far as I've found.
You can find your version of Firefox 12 here: https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/12.0/. I'm guessing you would follow the "mac" link, then "en-US" link, at which point you'll see the DMG files for Firefox 12. Might be a good idea to first uninstall 14 before reinstalling 12.
Many browsers purposely use as much memory as they can to (supposedly) make browsing faster by caching everything. While this kinda makes sense if the browser is the only running application, it fails when you have 2 applications that think the same way.ReplyDelete
Zakly. Which is absurd since home computers were intended to facilitate multi-tasking, not reduce it. But paradoxically, tech "advances", such as the mouse, which reduces five fingers to one, human brain memory usage to CPU usage, and from lighting onto the text (reading light) to text on top of the lighting (monitors), almost as homages to QWERTY (don't get me started), conspire to achieve the opposite. GAH! --A.Delete
It's not 'the British Open', it's 'The Open'. Yours is called the US Open to distinguish the two.ReplyDelete
You're quite correct. (Amended)Delete
I miss CP/M and its 64k of memory ...ReplyDelete
I concur on the tip jar!ReplyDelete
Ditto on the RAM. 1 GB these days is just asking for problems. I run 16 GB in my Mac Book Pro and open 25-30 tabs at once with Safari, no problem.ReplyDelete
PS, my first machine had 4 KB memory (yes K as in thousand) - a TRS-80 mod 1 in 1975.
http://www.webmonkey.com/2012/07/firefox-15-beta-plugs-memory-leaks/ seems relevant to your woes.ReplyDelete
Ah on a 4gigabyte mac mini same thing running firefox (memoryhog)ReplyDelete
Sometime for no reason at all it eats all the inactive memory.
What i do using a terminal shell with the startup command ' purge '.
This will free the RAM memory.
Also thinking of upgrading to 8 gig! What a wonderful world.
Started out with a 1 megaByte Atari which i had upgraded to 4 megaByte.
Wow, and now with an abundance of memory to be confronted by programs who eat it all.
Though I'm on a pc laptop, not mac, I've suffered slower and slower computing and clogged memory for a while.ReplyDelete
Firefox 15 is dramatically faster with multiple tabs open.
My first computer was a Sinclair ZX 81, with 1k RAM.
I bought the 16K add-on pack for blazing speed!
You need to preinstall your windows. Or just change to linux. At my home I use linux and I think that it is better then windows :)ReplyDelete
My Mac started getting slower and I started using Onyx, which has made a big difference. But my computer is over 6 years old and I'm thinking of getting a new one. I did hear somewhere that recently a new update (from Apple)has caused some problems with performance. But I can't recall where and what else there,other than they were working on a fix.ReplyDelete
I had read that at least some of the new Mac laptops have soldered-in components, which would make repair or upgrades difficult and expensive.Delete
Not RAM. Never RAM. You can always upgrade RAM to the highest capacity supported by the system architecture.Delete
I would recommend putting up a tip jar and we will buy you a new iMac. You could add a FLATTR button that you blogged about some time ago: http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/search?q=tip+jarReplyDelete
I say you go for it! And we could all chip in and even make it a nice Mac Book Pro for you so you can take it on the go. :)