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Giving iMovie more memory

By HENRY NORR
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2002

Q. I am using iMovie 2.1.1 under Mac OS 9.2 on an iMac with 384 megabytes of random access memory. I love the program, but sometimes it feels sluggish, and I have a fair number of freezes and crashes, especially when I'm working on a big project with a lot of clips and transitions. I've heard it runs better under Mac OS X, but I'm not ready for that. Can you suggest any other remedies?

A. When it comes to iMovie, I'm strictly an amateur, but I have a couple of suggestions that might help. Both involve work-arounds for problems in the way Mac OS 9 (and earlier) manage memory.

The first is to allocate more memory to iMovie, even though you have a lot of RAM in your computer, pre-X versions of the Mac OS aren't smart enough to give the program as much of what's available as it could use. By default, in fact, iMovie uses less than one-tenth of the memory you have -- only 29.8 MB, according to my copy -- unless you tweak its settings to grab more. To do so, quit the program if it's running. Then find the application icon, which is normally in a folder called iMovie, nested inside another with the same name, inside the Applications (Mac OS 9) folder. Single-click that icon, then choose Get Info from the File menu or press Command-i.

A window called iMovie Info will open. From the pop-up menu labeled Show, choose Memory. You should then see editable fields labeled Minimum Size and Preferred Size. Assuming you don't need to run a lot of other programs while you're editing your video, I'd enter something such as 200000 (with no commas) as the minimum and 300000 for preferred.

That way, iMovie usually will have access to 300 MB of RAM, which should make it faster and more reliable.

My second suggestion: the "Late-breaking news" section of iMovie's electronic Help file suggests turning virtual memory off if you have at least 128 MB of RAM. It says doing so will prevent clicking noises during capture and playback, but there's at least a chance it will help with the other problems you've run into.

I won't urge you to switch to Mac OS X if you don't want to, but it's worth noting that the new OS handles these memory-management issues automatically.

Multiple font size options

Q. Previously, you responded to a question about making text more readable on an iMac by enlarging it with any of several utilities, including CloseView, or copying it to another program and changing the font size. Why didn't you suggest simply changing screen resolution from 1,024 by 768 to 800 by 600 or 640 by 480? Granted, you lose a teensy bit in character crispness, but text becomes very legible at the larger size, without the hassle of trying to scroll in CloseView.

A. Good point. CloseView and its commercial cousin, inLarge, are intended for people with fairly limited vision. That was the situation in the message I was responding to, but the solution you suggest is probably good enough for many people with less seriously impaired eyesight. And as you point out, CloseView and inLarge can make screen navigation a real challenge, whereas lowering the resolution at worst involves a little extra scrolling.

To switch resolutions in Mac OS 9 or earlier, go to the Apple menu and choose Control Panels, then Monitors, or click on the black-and-white checkerboard icon in the Control Strip, and choose among the alternatives listed. In Mac OS X, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click on the Displays icon.

Tip of the month

Spam has been an annoyance for e-mail users for a long time, but it's getting worse by the month: Brightmail, a company that tries to filter the stuff for several large Internet service providers, recently reported that the volume of online junk mail more than doubled from September to February. Jupiter Media Metrix estimates that by 2006, the average user will receive 1,400 such messages a year.

Although most ISPs and e-mail programs provide some tools for fighting spam, they all seem to be losing ground, but a new program called Spamfire from Matterform Media looks like a heartening step in the right direction (www.matterform.com/?page=spamfire). It works with any POP3 account (the most common variety of Internet mail), it doesn't care what program you use to read your messages, and it runs under Mac OS 9 and X. A limited 15-day demo version is free, the "Lite" version is $19 and the "Pro" version is $29.

* * *

- Send questions to Henry Norr at mac@sfchronicle.com. Please specify what Mac model and what version of the Mac OS you're using.

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