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Sunday, May 27, 2012


Last week, I wanted to get some writing done, but the wife was glued to the TV and Mason wanted attention. We played in his room for a while, then the old evening refrain…

“Watch George.” (i.e. Curious George)

“Grandmom’s watching something,” I said. “You can watch George when her show’s done.”

“Watch George!”

I suddenly realized: there’s a way that all three of us could be happy. I plucked a Curious George DVD off the stack and put Mason on my lap in front of my MacBook. I plugged in the outboard monitor, moved Scrivener over to it, then put the DVD in.

Soon, Mason was watching George on the laptop screen, while I was typing away onto the other screen (and balancing a toddler on my leg). Both the computer and the granddad managed without anything falling over. All too soon, Mason decided to go back to playing.

I’ve been promising the MacBook a memory upgrade for some time. But a recent update got the computer into constant swap mode, warming things up and getting the fans going, so now it was past time. I went hunting on lowendmac.com for info, and found that my MacBook was manufactured between May and October 2007. So… if it hasn't happened already, its fifth birthday is imminent. The memory came in yesterday, and it took less than 10 minutes to install. Not only did it cure the fan-spinning problem, the whole computer feels a lot snappier. No bop-to-swap when changing apps!

The MacBook continues to be plenty fast for my needs, even at age 5. It will keep going until a major hardware failure or until too many apps require Cougar Mountain Lion to run (and in the latter case, I could just go with Linux and run Scrivener in emulation).

With tablets as capable as they are, I may make my next computer an iMac or Mac mini, with an iPad paired to a Bluetooth keyboard. (That is, if I can keep Mason from stealing the iPad… that’s a problem with the current one.)


  1. LOL now that's what you call multitasking! Hope Mason enjoyed George.

    I was interested to read that you said installing more memory cured the fan spinning prob. 'cause I keep getting fan spinning on my mac book. Somtimes I shut it down and restart and that cures it for a short while.

  2. Yup, I thought it was weird too, but it did work. Try starting Activity Monitor (it's under Applications → Utilities) and click the System Memory tab. Chances are, you'll see "Free" memory down around 30MB and "Swap used" something non-zero. Over to the right, it will show you a pie chart with your installed RAM. My MacBook supports up to 2GB of RAM, and installing it was pretty easy (undo three screws and flip two levers).

    Quitting your browser can free up a ton of RAM, if you're not using it. It's probably a good idea to quit your browser at night anyway, since it does continue to eat more memory the longer it's running. And to shut down/restart on occasion, too.

  3. You sound like such a good grandpa. Hope the upgrade keeps that puppy running for many more years.

  4. Me too, John — I expect it'll be obsoleted by OS advances rather than just getting too slow now.


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