July 5, 2006 10:08 PM   Subscribe

SpeedUpMyMacFilter: Is there any way to optimize the amount of memory I have to make my Mac run certain programs at a more acceptable speed?

I am both a rabid Apple geek (of the "wears scarves indoors and listens to Belle & Sebastian" variety) and completely hopelessly addicted to the Civilization game series. So, of course, as soon as Civ IV came out for the Mac, I had it pre-ordered and in my hot little hands as soon as humanly possible.

There is but one problem, with my bare-minimum-requirements-meeting 512mb of RAM, Civ takes an awful long time thinking about itself. I'm nearing the end of an Epic-length game (which in and of itself explains why I haven't oh, checked in on MeFi, in days) and it's occasionally stopping for minutes at a time - it's all but completely frozen, only mouse control is left.

Is there any way that I can, with the RAM that I have, make it not do this? Some GoFasterPlz program or something?

(Follow up: If not, where is the cheapest place to buy additional RAM online for future reference.)
posted by grapefruitmoon to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
This might not help but I have a very fast p.c. and I notice that civ4 gets slower the longer I play. Usually a restart speeds it up again.
posted by meta87 at 10:25 PM on July 5, 2006

Without know what mac you have, it's hard to say who has the cheapest RAM. I use ramjet.com mostly out of habit. But 512 is really insufficient for most purposes in OSX, so go get more RAM.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:45 PM on July 5, 2006

I get RAM from Crucial.com usually. And yes, you need more real memory. It's pretty cheap too.
posted by fenriq at 10:53 PM on July 5, 2006

You might want to pull up a terminal and read [man renice] - it's used to set the change the priority of running processes.

If you use it as root, you can set the game's processes to give them priority over other things, like (Say) the dock. I used to do this for Firefox:

sudo renice -10 $(ps x |grep firefox| cut -c 1-6)

...but I strongly suggest you NEVER type something into the terminal just because somebody told you to. Read the manpage.
posted by Orb2069 at 10:53 PM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you want to avoid the terminal, there's an app called Process Wizard that lets you set which running apps you want to have the most/least priority. You could give that a try.
(I use Process Wizard when I record streaming audio with Audio Hijack Pro and want to make sure it gets enough processing power so it doesn't get hiccup'y "skips" in the recording)
posted by blueberry at 11:29 PM on July 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't expect that renicing Civ will make it run noticeably faster, unless you've got something else eating CPU, in which case you'd be better off getting rid of that other CPU hog. Generally, the unix scheduler will do a good job without intervention, except for realtime stuff (like blueberry's example).

You can run 'top' or 'top -o cpu' (in Terminal) to see what's taking up CPU.

As for grapefruitmoon's original question: you want to see whether Civ is paging stuff in and out very much. If it's not paging excessively, adding more RAM won't help you any. 'top' can help you with that too; if the "pageins" and "pageouts" numbers on the "VM:" line near the top of the display are increasing very much over time, then the programs you're running are spending a lot of time shuffling stuff between RAM and disk. The occasional pagein or -out is normal, though.

There's probably also some graphical tool that'll tell you whether you're paging a lot, but I'm not near a mac right now, so I don't know what it might be...
posted by hattifattener at 11:56 PM on July 5, 2006

Best answer: Crucial's memory is overpriced. I've had very good luck with Other World Computing. They sell they same samsung memory that Apple uses OEM and stand by the products they sell.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:18 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, you need more RAM.

The staff at Small Dog Electronics are very Mac-savvy, and hooked me up with 2GB of RAM for my new MacBook at a good price.
posted by enrevanche at 2:54 AM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: I figured I needed more RAM, I just wanted to be absolutely 100% sure before I bought anything that the problem couldn't be solved some other way. Thanks for all the tips so far, I'll be sure to check out Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics later on.

(BTW, I forget to mention in the post, I have an iMac G5 running OSX10.4.7)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:04 AM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: (Also: When I'm playing Civ, it's the only thing that the computer is doing. Nothing else is running. A restart only helps if the game has stopped entirely, otherwise, it just takes its dear sweet time.

It's a little strange to me that the actual game parts of the game aren't running slowly at all, there's just a considerable lag while it waits to finish a turn.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:07 AM on July 6, 2006

That makes sense, actually; at the end of every turn is when the computer calculates what the AI civs are going to do, and by the end of an epic game there are lots of cities, units and resources to keep track of. By comparison, I imagine Civ only has to keep track of the immediate effects of your actions when it's your turn.
posted by chrominance at 4:27 AM on July 6, 2006

Best answer: To confirm you need more ram (you do) open the program that came with your mac called "Activity Monitor" in the /Applications/Utilities directory. When it loads up and shows the window of running processes, you'll see a list of resources on the bottom half of the window. Click "System Memory". If you have less than say 5-10 meg free, then you need more memory.

If it's true you need more memory, then here is why there is lag. Civ is making all sorts of computations between turns about what move it should make next. They computations require lots of memory. Since you don't have a lot, it does part of the computation and then writes the partial results to disk, then does another part and writes it to disk, and so on. If you hear a lot of disk activity during Civ, that's also a hint that this swapping back and forth from disk to memory is going on (It's called "thrashing").

Note that reading and writing to disk is orders of magnitude slower than working just within the RAM, hence the slowdown.

I would increase your computer to 1 gig of RAM total, and more if you can afford it.
posted by about_time at 4:55 AM on July 6, 2006

about_time: Click "System Memory". If you have less than say 5-10 meg free, then you need more memory.

Not necessarily. Most modern systems keep inactive pages in memory in case another process is going to need them again. Your free memory should be low. If you want to know how much memory is available, you should check free + inactive.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:44 AM on July 6, 2006

Crucial's memory is overpriced.

But only modestly, and you're guaranteed to get the right thing. Unlike other vendors. Buying from Crucial is usually cheaper than buying somewhere else, getting the wrong thing, and then paying shipping to return it for the right thing, twice, as I once had to do.

Admittedly this is probably more of a problem if you're buying RAM for a PC, where a stick can physically fit but not work right due to obscure specifications you've never heard of. In that case Crucial's tool where you tell it what kind of motherboard you have is a godsend. With Macs it's not such a big deal because there are fewer models and the RAM specs are not at all exotic.
posted by kindall at 8:31 AM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: chrominance: Yeah, if the problem was only happening at the end of the game, I'd be chill with that. It's just that there is always a lag and by the end of the game, the lag has built up to several minutes and I keep worrying that it's going to break the poor computor.

about_time: Thanks for the explanation! I've checked prices and can currently afford to upgrade to 1gig total, perhaps adding more in the future.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:57 AM on July 6, 2006

Where can I download more ram?
posted by stx23 at 1:35 PM on July 6, 2006

« Older Sexual humiliation by the Japanese Army in WWII   |   maybe this is a good thing Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.