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In this course, Macworld senior editor Christopher Breen provides a comprehensive overview of Mac OS X Lion, complete with insider tips for getting the most out of the operating system. The course shows how to configure system preferences, personalize the interface, and master gestures, as well as achieve fluency with applications such as Mail, iCal, and Preview. The course also includes tutorials on browsing the web with Safari, automating complex tasks with Automator, sharing over a network, and performing maintenance operations using the disk utility, along with timesaving techniques for using the Mac efficiently.
Now let me take you on a short tour of the important elements of Activity Monitor. Activity Monitor as its name implies is a utility that allows you to peek into what your Mac is doing in the background. Let's see how that works. So we'll go to Spotlight > Activity and here it is, the Activity Monitor window. Here you can see a series of things called processes. These are things that your computer is doing. Some of these you're going to recognize. For example Finder, you know what that is, Dock, you know what that is, but there's a lot of other stuff that's going on the background that you have no idea what its purpose is.
Now this is great for looking at minutia but what you really want to do is find out what's taking up your processor's time. That's why we're in Activity Monitor. If there's an application that's eating up your processor that could cause your Mac to slow down, so we want to check in Activity Monitor and if there's a problem we can quit the problem application and then put your Mac back in good working order. So how do you tell us something's eating up your processor? Well, one way to that is to go the %CPU column, click so that the most active processes are at the top of the list.
Right now there's nothing much going on that's a problem for Mac. However, let's give this a shot. I'll choose process name, I'll organize alphabetically, and now I'm going to plug my digital camera into my Mac. When I do that iPhoto launches and it finds my camera. Now let's find iPhoto in Activity Monitor and let's see what it does with the %CPU column. Now check this out. It's using 85% of the processes currently. It's also using 15 threads, which you don't need to be too concerned about. Also the amount of RAM that it's using.
These all indicate that iPhoto is taking up a lot of my Mac's attention. Now that's not a big problem because we know that iPhoto is going to finish the job pretty soon and once it does then the CPU is going to calm down again and operate at a normal level for iPhoto. But suppose you have an application that keeps hitting the processor and won't let go? Then you seem to have a problem. Let's see how you deal with that. So I'm going to launch Safari, which I'm not saying is a problem application but I just want to show you how to quit a process that may be a problem.
So go to Safari, make this window smaller, so we can see Activity Monitor and we'll find Safari in Activity Monitor, here it is. See it's not doing very much, but if I wanted to quit Safari all I have to do is go to Quit Process and click on it. The option you should choose is Quit. However if you do that and you notice that the item turns red it means it's stuck, it can't quit. In that case you choose Force Quit. That will force it to quit and then the process will disappear and hopefully your problems clear up.
So now we'll just quit Safari by clicking on Quit. Indeed it's gone. It disappears from Activity Monitor and we're set. You can do lots of other stuff with Activity Monitor. You can check out your memory, and your disk activity, your disk usage and also your network throughput. But for our purposes we're really here to look to see what you can do with Activity Monitor to help your Mac run better, and that's Activity Monitor.
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