July 30, 2015 11:48 AM PT
We’ve all probably encountered a problem like this: you’ve gotten up to get a snack or take care of something around the house (or office), returned to your desk and realized that your Mac is behaving oddly—frozen, perhaps, or simply very sluggish. Too often that means shutting down the whole computer, but that can be disruptive or, if you have unsaved data, worse. Depending on exactly what has your Mac locked up, however, there could be another way.
Yes, it’s our old friend Terminal. In order for this tip to work you’ll need to have previously enabled Remote Login in the Sharing preference pane. You’ll also need to have another Mac handy, or an iOS device with an SSH app; I recommend Panic’s excellent Prompt.
First things first: open up Terminal on OS X or your SSH client on iOS and connect to the troublesome Mac. From the command line, you can enter this:
Username is your OS X account’s “short name” (the name of your home directory) and computer is your computer’s name, as specified under the Sharing pane. So, for example, if my username were
dan on my computer
Athas, I’d write:
When prompted, enter your password1—depending on just how locked up your Mac is, this might take a while. (In some cases restarting is faster, but if you’ve got unsaved work, this method may still be preferable.)
Eventually a command line for the remote computer should appear (usually prefixed with the name of the computer) and the current directory. In the previous example, I should see something like this:
As the movie hackers say: “we’re in.”
Okay, now to figure out what’s got your computer grinding away. As you probably know, the probable culprits include a program using excessive CPU or one that’s eating up too much memory. If you were sitting at your computer, you could pull up Activity Monitor and look—of course, if you could do that, you wouldn’t need to resort to this whole rigmarole.2
Fortunately, Activity Monitor has a command-line analog:
top shows you a live, updating table of the processes running on your computer, along with some overall stats on memory consumption, CPU usage, and so on. Here’s an example:
Most of that probably looks like gibberish, but don’t worry too much: with a little extra garnish,
top can also help us pick out our offending apps.
-o switch lets you specify what to sort the processes by. If you want to sort by CPU usage, for example, you’d issue this command:
top -o CPU
Memory usage, however, is a little trickier. Sorting by
MEM might seem the obvious choice, but that actually only accounts for physical memory. These days, modern OSes rely almost as much on intelligent usage of virtual memory as they do physical.
If you don’t see any obvious culprits using
MEM then consider instead sorting by
vsize, which might help give you another angle on the problem.3 (To re-sort the columns, you need to quit
top which you can do by simply hitting the
Should you spot a process that seems like it’s misbehaving, you’ll want to make note of the number in the PID (“process ID”) column. Then quit the app and issue the following command, substituting the number for PID, to try and off the offending program:
sudo kill -9 PID
The account you’ve logged into should be an administrator in order to do this, since you’ll need to enter your account password.
If all goes well, this should kill the problematic process and return your system to a more usable state in short order. You can leave the remote session by quitting Terminal or your SSH app, or simply issuing a
Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of this will work—in the end, force-rebooting your Mac may be the only real solution. But if you’re concerned about not losing work, it might be worth your time to give this a shot.
If you’ve never before used SSH to access your computer, you may be prompted to accept the “fingerprint” of that computer—essentially confirming that machine is the one you believe it to be so that an encrypted connection can be established. ↩
You can, however, force the remote computer to try and launch Activity Monitor by entering
open /Applications/Utilities/Activity\ Monitor.app, but depending on the state of the machine, that may take a very long time. ↩
In particular, Safari—often a memory hog—is divided up into many separate processes which seem to make extensive (and sometimes excessive) use of virtual memory. ↩
July 30, 2015 9:07 AM PT
I’m not a frequent GIF-maker by any means—and there’s no shortage of excellent GIFs out there—but sometimes an animated image is the only real way to convey exactly what you’re feeling.
I’ve played with a bunch of different tools for making GIFs, and I’ve found them to be a mixed bag—especially the web-based ones, which all too often restrict certain features for “premium” users, or produce less than great quality results.
But I’ve been pretty pleased with GIFBrewery for OS X. It handles the videos I’ve imported with aplomb, supports cropping, resizing, and very easy trimming, which is key when making a good GIF.1 And because producing a compact animated image is important, it also lets you reduce the number of frames, change the delay between them, and simplify the color palette.
GIFBrewery also has probably the strongest text tools I’ve found, giving you full control over fonts, colors, alignment, and even when the text fades in or out.
Honestly, my GIF needs are pretty simple, so I haven’t even had a chance to use all of the advanced features that GIFBrewery has: image overlays, visual filters, rotating/mirroring frames, and so on.
For the $5 asking price, seems to me you can’t do much better.
I’ve recently been importing video clips from playing Destiny, which the Xbox One by default records in 30 second increments—too long for most GIFs. ↩
July 29, 2015 • 29 minutes
This week on Clockwise, Dan Moren and I are joined by Brianna Wu and Scholle McFarland to discuss T-Mobile’s crazy iPhone deal, the arrival of Windows 10, when advertisements are actually worth seeing, and buying a kid a Kindle.
July 28, 2015 12:13 PM PT
Like many of you dear readers, I end up doing a lot of the support for the less tech savvy members of my family. While in general they’re pretty good about not messing with things that I’ve configured, sometimes accidents happen.
But here’s a tip I recently discovered: Did you know you can hide preference panes?
For example, say that you’ve set up a family member’s Mac with an unusual network configuration, and you don’t want them to change anything in the Network pane, or you’ve installed a third-party preference pane on your machine that you don’t need to configure regularly. Fire up System Preferences, go to the View menu, and choose Customize.
You’ll see checkboxes appear next to each preference pane. Uncheck the ones you want to hide, click the Done button at the top, and there you go.
Of course, those preference panes are still accessible, either via the search feature in System Preferences itself, or via Spotlight. So you don’t have to hide and unhide them each time you want to make tweaks, but you can still make sure that those settings stay the way you configured them.
July 28, 2015 8:29 AM PT
Of all Apple’s attempts at social sharing, iCloud Photo Sharing is probably my favorite. The ability to quickly share photos with (or among) a set of people is great for collecting disparate pictures of a single event, and a perfect way to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family members.
But one place iCloud Photo Sharing falls down is in that last word: sharing. While sharing pictures from those albums is a simple matter of selecting the images in question and tapping the Share button, the same isn’t true for videos.
See, getting videos into iCloud Photo Sharing is easy: it’s the same as sharing photos. Tap a video in your Camera Roll, select Share, and then tap iCloud Photo Sharing and select the album you want to post to. Voilà. If you then go into the Shared Album in question and select the video you just posted, you’ll even see the full complement of sharing options under the Share button.
The problem arises when someone else deposits a video in an album that’s shared with you. Select that video and you’ll find you don’t have any sharing options at all.
This is a bizarre distinction, because when it comes to photos that others have put into your Shared Albums, you can share those just as you would any picture that you’ve taken.
It’s one of those things that seems like an oversight1, but it can be particularly annoying in a few circumstances. Recently, my girlfriend was trying to make a video for work by assembling clips shot by her colleagues; she and I use a Shared Photo Album, so she naturally assumed that’d be a good solution for her co-workers.
However, it proved to be a pain, because of the fact that there was no way to easily get the videos they shared with her into any other app: you can’t AirDrop them, iMessage them, email them, or even save them to your own Camera Roll. Even Apple’s own iMovie app can’t see videos from Shared Albums, though it can see photos from those same albums.2
Again, I’m not entirely sure why this strange exception exists, but my hope is that it’s a misstep that Apple will at some point correct.
Okay, I guess it’s iCloud Photo Sharing, not iCloud Video Sharing, or iCloud Photo and Video Sharing. But still. ↩
When I went into Messages, tapped the Camera button, and chose Photo Library, it told me that the list item in a Shared Album was a video, but wouldn’t display that item when I tapped on it. The same when I tried to Insert Photo or Video in a Mail message or even import a photo using GoodReader. ↩
July 27, 2015 • 1 hour, 39 minutes
This week on Upgrade, Myke Hurley and I discuss Apple’s enthusiastically vague approach to Apple Watch sales figures, Myke’s fear that content blockers could wreck the livelihoods of members of the media we admire, and classic iPods. Plus, I take a European geography quiz!
July 25, 2015 • 1 hour, 36 minutes
It’s time for The Incomparable’s annual dive into the Hugo Awards, which are intended to celebrate the best in Science Fiction and Fantasy media. Our podcast episode focuses mostly on the five nominated novels, but also touches on short fiction, comics, films, and TV episodes, as well as this year’s big Hugo controversy. I’m joined by big readers Scott McNulty, David J. Loehr, and Erika Ensign.
July 24, 2015 2:10 PM PT
Our family minivan came with a USB connector in the glove compartment, and so for years I’ve kept a 60GB fifth-generation iPod Classic1 in there, loaded up with as much music as I could fit. But lately it’s been showing signs of age that made me fear for the life of its internal spinning hard drive, and I haven’t been able to load our entire music library onto it for years.
But recently I got a chance to try out Other World Computing’s $49 iFlash, an upgrade that replaces the iPod’s hard drive (5th and 6th generation models only) with an SD card reader (with inserted SD card—I used a 128GB SDXC card that cost about $70). Now my old iPod has doubled in capacity, enough to fit every song I own. It’s also no longer relying on a spinning platter as a storage mechanism, which should extend its life dramatically.
Cracking open an iPod and replacing its hard drive isn’t for the timid. If you’re not comfortable poking around in the guts of electronics, you might want to find a friend to perform the installation for you. I’ve never cracked open an iPod before, and I managed to do it just fine, though the install process was a little harrowing at a few points. (It would’ve been much easier had I watched OWC’s how-to installation video, which hadn’t yet been posted when I installed the product in my iPod. I did use iFixit’s guide, which was helpful… up to the point when I needed to install the iFlash.)
I don’t carry this particular iPod around anymore—like I said, it lives in the glove box—but every time I pick it up I’m also struck by how much lighter it is. It feels more like a movie prop than a real device, because that metal drive has been replaced by a very light card reader.
In any event, even with my troubles (I installed the product upside-down and so I had to disassemble and reassemble it), it took me less than a half hour from start to finish. It helped that I had some spudgers, but otherwise the installation didn’t require any tools that I didn’t have at hand.
Look, the iPod isn’t a cool product anymore. But if you’ve got an iPod Classic around—in your pocket or car or kid’s room—and want to keep it running (or return it to relevance), this is a relatively low cost way to do the job. Not everyone needs (or wants to pay for) streaming music—and now I’ve got 14,000 songs at my fingertips whenever I’m driving.