All I want for Christmas is my dang RAM back

I’ve recently become fascinated–fixated, maybe–by watching my Mac’s resource usage numbers.  I’ve got a pretty cherried-out MacBook Pro (top of the line a year ago), and yet more often than not the system lags as I hear my hard disk thrashing.

I’ve traced the problem, I think, to Microsoft Entourage and Rosetta.  I can boot up my system & see a nice big swath of unused memory (all green) ready to rock.  Almost immediately, however, the blue "inactive" memory slice starts ticking upwards, at a rate of several megabytes per second.  I rebooted my machine this week, then took a shower; when I was done, here’s what I saw (note the blue). I’m running just a Web browser on a system with 3GB of RAM, and yet I’m down to 16MB free? Super!

The problem seems to be that the invisible Entourage "Database Daemon" app bleeds memory like a stuck pig.  Killing the process arrests the inexorable growth of the blue inactive memory.  I don’t know whether the fault lies with Entourage or with the Apple Rosetta emulation technology on which it runs.  Doesn’t matter much to me, though: my expensive computer bogs terribly as a result.

Facing this situation, some of my colleagues have given up and moved to Apple Mail.  I’m sure Mail is great, but it doesn’t play well with our Outlook-centric calendar system, and I’ve got 8 years worth of mail organized in Entourage. Switching horses isn’t a small matter.

Now I’m drumming my fingers more than ever, waiting for Microsoft to release–at long last–their Intel-native upgrade to Office for the Mac.  I couldn’t care less what other features it offers, as long as it stops bringin’ me down (ELO-style).  It’s kind of sad to hit that point: I was once a great fan of Entourage (so much better than Outlook), and of its Mac Outlook Express forebear.  It was thoughtfully designed, replete with useful shortcuts, and able to handle whatever I threw at it.  Alas, the app hasn’t received much love in many years.

So come on, Office team: tell me to keep hope alive!  The new year–and new software–can’t come soon enough.

0 thoughts on “All I want for Christmas is my dang RAM back

  1. that blue slice in your pic is inactive ram. in theory, the OS should give it up to anything that needs it. it’s used for caching and other type stuff that doesn’t need to be permanent or long term. however if office or rosetta is leaking like mad and not giving it up, that’s not of much help indeed.

  2. this from the guy who wrote the software that completely hosed my Vista system? hey, i’m just giving you a hard time, kinda. in reality though i did have to completely reinstall Vista after CS3 installed Apple’s awful Aperture software on my machine. ick.
    why do we need auto-updating software? it strikes me as more of a mrketing gimmick than anything truly useful. i mean, isn’t it just a crutch, a way to release unfinished product knowing that the bug fixes can come later?
    whatever happened to elegant, tight software development. i installed a driver the other day for my little HP all-in-one, it was 600Mb, and that’s with everything but the bare essentials turned off. 600Mb. that’s crazy.

  3. First, if tracking system performance is your game, may I suggest Menu Meters
    Second: Hang in there with Entourage! I’m running a G5 and since installing Leopard Entourage will freeze up during sleep. So I’m looking forward to the new version as well. For me, being able to automatically route outgoing mail to a variety of folders depending on who the recipient is, is important.
    Entourage’s roots go back farther than Outlook Express. Some of the Outlook Express team moved over to Microsoft after working at Apple, on Claris Emailer. This is documented here:
    I have never heard anybody admit that Apple gave the Emailer code to Microsoft as part of the big patent settlement/stock buy/peace treaty between Microsoft and Apple. But I did see the same spelling/formatting mistake in a dialog box in Claris Emailer and Outlook Express relating to rebuilding the database.
    Third: Dragging mailboxes from Entourage to the Desktop puts them into .mbox format, which Apple’s Mail program can easily import. For somebody who does want to switch, that can make things easier.

  4. Hey John,
    Entourage 2008 will be released at MacWorld in January. The memory leak you’re seeing under Rosetta is not likely specific to Entourage (btw, we’ve seen some odd leaks under Leopard with Carbon apps that might be the source).
    We’ve done a lot of work in Entourage for 2008 and before that with several rather sizable updates to 2004. Admittedly, a lot of that effort has been on improving Exchange support in Entourage, so if that’s not something you’re focusing on, the work may have largely gone unnoticed. 2008 will bring a number of new features, in and outside of Exchange support (e.g. customizable toolbars, faster search, and, overall, much improved stability and quality).
    Give it a whirl and contact me if you have any further questions. Stop by and say hi at our MacWorld booth and I’d be happy to demo it to you if I’m around.
    [Sounds great all around, Andy. I’ve been afraid that the excellent Mac BU had been disbanded. –J.]
    Have a good holiday!

  5. You were afraid the MacBU was disbanded? Like people keep thinking Adobe is going to drop Apple software? ๐Ÿ˜›
    [Touche ๐Ÿ™‚ –J.]
    They make a big pile of money from Apple.
    I remember yelling (sort of) at one of their Entourage people at MacWorld 2005 about Exchange support. He said, “We use it too, We feel your pain.”
    My response – while laughing – was, “Apparently, your pain threshold is higher than mine.” Pretty amazing admission for a Microsoft employee.
    [In our limited interactions they’ve always struck me as a great bunch. We’ve traded a couple of employees over the last several years. –J.]
    Actually, I’m really looking forward to using Office 2008 at work – ASAP.

  6. RPVT is the only value that matters when looking at app memory usage. All other values (including RSIZE and VSIZE) include shared memory used by more than one process. You can right click the column headers in activity monitor to show the RPRVT column (Listed as private memory).
    The free memory statistic is completely useless on Mac OS X as it uses any free memory to cache files as they are opened (UBC).
    [You’re much more informed than I am on this front, yet I’ll tell you that things feel far zippier when things are all green than when they’re all blue. –J.]

  7. John,
    Had similiar issues as well, and i think it was Entourage as the culprit (think it was the logging overall). I’ve installed 2008 and it appears to have fixed this, don’t quote me on this as i don’t want to start a Microsoft said it was fixed flame match but in 2008 i’ve seen better improvements?
    Will try and pull some favors etc to get you a 2008 beta but you’ll have to wait behind for it though ๐Ÿ˜‰
    [Heh–thanks, Scott. At this point I’ll hang on just a bit longer for the GM version. –J.]

    Scott Barnes
    RIA Evangelist

  8. I noticed this with Office 2004 when I first moved over to the Intel Mac and one thing that helped tremendously was turning off “Office Notifications”. To do this from within Entourage, click on the “Entourage” Menu and then click the “Turn Off Notifications” option. This is the application that keep utilizing the database daemon even when Entourage is closed and keeps eating quite a bit of your RAM!

  9. If it’s really the Microsoft Database Daemon’s fault, you can get rid of it quite easily if you don’t need Entourage notifications.
    Just launch the Office Notifications applications (it’s in /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office), and under the application menu choose Turn Off Office Notifications. After that Database Deamon will only be loaded when you use Entourage. If you keep it running all day, this trick obvioulsy won’t help you. ๐Ÿ™

  10. For some reason I could never really get used to Entourage so I resorted to running MS Office on Parallels while I was still at Adobe. I never ran MS stuff on the Mac side, only in its nice little Windows sandbox ๐Ÿ™‚
    I ran on the Mac side but since leaving Adobe I’ve switched to iWork ’08 which I like a lot better (but deep down I feel guilty for not running OOo any more). I’ve also switched to VMware Fusion and now I run Vista (I was on XP at Adobe) and I have to grudgingly admit Vista isn’t really as horrible as many folks seem to make out. I’m glad to be free of Exchange tho’… it really is an 800lb gorilla that pretty much insists you work its way.

  11. Sure, things feel zippier. In the same way that I believe all prescription sleeping pills should come with a number of placebos in the bottle.
    But remember, if you’ve bought 32gigs of ram, do you really want 30gigs of it to go unused?
    [No; I just want them going towards things that make the overall experience faster, not slower. –J.]
    rprvt (or top -o rprvt) can tell you where your memory is being allocated. I’m guessing Safari will be near the very top of the list.

  12. At one time, I was an Entourage enthusiast. The 2GB file limit thing bit me hard at one point, but I slogged through that. However, about a year ago, I made the move to Apple’s Mail. I have never looked back. There are a few small things I miss — but there are far too many things that I really love about Mail these days. Admittedly, it sucked about 3 days of my life to make the switch (between setting up my mailboxes, rules, etc).
    I don’t have to worry about the calendar integration that you do (I don’t miss those days John), but I can certainly tell you one thing — much like moving from one house to another, when you switch email apps like, you end up throwing out a TON of junk and things you don’t need. I felt cleansed after the move… ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. All I want for Christmas is for Photoshop to run under VMware Fusion.
    I have a license for Windows (CS3 Web Premium) and Macintosh (CS3 Master Collection) and I’d like to be able to run some Windows only Photoshop plug-ins in OS X without switching to Boot Camp.
    I thought VMware Fusion would take care of this but I discovered much to my horror that starting PS CS3 in Fusion triggers re-activation even though it’s already been activated in Boot Camp.
    I’m not using Photoshop on a different machine and I have purchased a Windows license and a Mac license already and I don’t think its fair to require the purchase of a third license just to run under virtualization instead of under Boot Camp. I have used both of my activations for the Windows license (one for Boot Camp and one for a laptop), so I can’t reactivate a third time. Plus I don’t know if activating in Fusion will require reactivation in Boot Camp (in other words, constant reactivation each time a switch is made from Fusion to Boot Camp).
    It’s too late to hope for a Christmas fix but is Adobe aware of this problem and working on a fix? Thanks.

  14. Hi John,
    It surely sounds as if you are a “switcher”, as you approach the memory management.
    Not saying you’re not right about Daemon eating up a lot of resources (Since Leopard I have switched to Mail too, mainly because Entourage behaves too sluggish due to Rosetta) – I’m positive it’s not the memory allocation what is slowing your MacBook Pro down. It’s simply the Rosetta go-around working up calculating time. No matter how fast your CPU.
    As others have also mentioned, inactive ‘blue’ memory is the same as free memory in Windows. OSX is designed to minimalize ‘free’ memory, and uses not used memory to speed up future operations. The notorious ‘Mac-way”. So despite Rosetta, don’t worry about the blue stuff in the future.
    Being a switcher myself have quite some questions about the memory management that still go unanswered. But this is what I dรณ know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. MAKE SURE: Your harddrive isn’t too full. When I’ve got less than 50GB of my 120B drive free my system is slllow. I always run with 50-60gb of free space and I cluck along.

  16. Hi John,
    Funny, but the same thing happens to me just using Photoshop: the pie turns mostly blue with only a thin slice of green.
    I’ve always used Mac Mail; I’ve never installed Entourage or Microsoft Office.
    I wonder what else could cause the same problem?

  17. Entourage 2008: Cannot get calendar sharing to work – no way, no how. Our Exchange is hosted by DSLExtreme, their support guy is great, he’s tried, we’ve tried. I am running Beta version, will be trying it again when it’s officially released but for now we are hosed.

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