Is this your desktop? Simple tricks to cut OSX lag

Hey Mac folks, this desktop look familiar? Does it belong to you, did you leave it on my computer?


Seeing that this morning inspired me to dig up some old useful advice I’ve know for a while but never thought to share before.

Some simple advice on cutting lag on Mac OSX… Not Second Life lag, but system lag that specifically affects graphics performance… ie: Lag you will feel in SL that has absolutely nothing to do with SL…

This article’s advice generally comes from around the web. Much of it is something I found burried very deep in the pages of a forum thread on an MMO fan website through a random search some time back. The sort of place that could easily vanish someday.

It is the kind of advice useful for any Mac user, but specifically Mac users that use a lot of intense graphics. Like Second Life users.

Tip 1:

Have a blank desktop:


You can have background pictures, I only removed mine from the first screenshot to make what I was referring to obvious. 🙂

This is an issue where OSX does a preview render of everything on your desktop. This includes things like text files. All of that is using up system resources… resources you could be using on SL.

Tip 2:

Don’t have 3,274 apps running at once. Don’t even have 3,273. Best to just have one. But if not that, just the ones you need right now.

To close an app you MUST do “Command-Q”. Hitting this button:

Doesn’t do anything but close that window. The application is still running and using up all its active resources.

OSX is NOT Windows… Hitting that red ‘X’ in Windows will close an application. In OSX it is the same thing as putting your head in the sand to ignore the lion gnawing on your left leg…

Tip 3:
I read advice that says avoid Firevault:

Yes you will go faster if you avoid it, but consider that the first confirmed encryption ransom malware has now occurred in OSX. I think this one might be better to call for safety over speed.

Tip 4:

Keep your system up to date. This one applies equally to OSX and Windows users. And don’t think you can escape it by hiding on some other OS either… whatever you use, keep it up to date. Updates will keep your graphics card working with enhancements, and keep away known security flaws. Most hacked systems are systems people were not updating.


(You don’t need Xcode unless you’re developing applications for OSX and iOS – which is part of what I do.)

Now we get into the ‘wait what?’ weird stuff…

Tip 5:

Repair your disk permissions. Because they routinely get out of step with what they should be, and if you’ve ever run an analytics report side by side with looking at console logs of what is going on in your application… you know this is a big pain… everytime a “minor oh it doesn’t REALLY matter we can fix that next release, we got bigger bugs right now” permission warning pops up… that uses resources for your applications to decide they can keep working despite that flaw…

This one is on you though, not the developers who made all your shiny programs. This one is because you used stuff, and then other stuff, and then stuff got confused, or stuff crashed before stuffing its stuff back into the stuff box before stuff could happen…

So just run this stuff and get your stuff in order…

Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility


Click the First Aid button


Tip 6:

Apple Icon -> System Preferences -> Accessibility
Reduce system UI Transparency. Those nice semi-transparent window borders in OSX… they use up a lot of graphics resources. Transparency in Second Life drives up the ‘Render Cost’ of something by a factor of 4 in their Draw Weight equation… This is done because it eats a lot of graphics resources. The same is true if you’re letting your computer’s operating system do it to all the bars on the edges of things that you’re probably not even looking at anyway. And being solid gives them more contrast to find your stuff, so its better to turn this off from a design perspective as well:

Tip 7:

Turns off everything from Spotlight you don’t absolutely need:
Apple Icon -> System Preferences -> Spotlight
Spotlight is just going to be constantly scanning your system for things to pre-fill into all of this, and that’s slowing you down. Keep it to the minimum of what you need.

If you really want to fully kill spotlight, type this into a terminal window:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

And this will turn it back on:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

Tip 8:

Keep a lot of unused space around in your hard drive. If you have a LOT of files of data you like to have stored for ‘stuff’… get an external drive or cloud backup and keep all of those screenshots of your avatar in the free-xxx club… off of your hard disk.

Its useful to have your data on an external not-always connected disk anyway, in case your system ever gets hacked… you just laugh at the hackers as you reformat your operating system, and then plug your data drive back in and continue (OK that is still a major hassle, but at least it is a recovery plan).

Guys: There is no need to download all of those porn videos. The stuff is free and all over the internet anyway. Don’t fill up your disk with copies of porn… Obama isn’t taking your guns, and he isn’t coming to take your porn stash away either, because its all over the web anyway… Yeah I know, you can clear up about 70% of your hard drive if you delete those files…
And it will be a lot less embarrassing in church next Sunday when Obama finally does send the FBI in to take your guns and ship you to a FEMA camp and they see what’s on your computer… 😛

Free space on the drive means more space to used for caching, and for applications to be installed without fragmentation.

Do NOT go out and get some third party “clean up your disk” application. Even if other blogs about keeping a clean system suddenly shift into marketing mode halfway through and tell you to get their app.

Guess where malware comes from?

Tip 9:

Get the application gfxcardstatus. Oh yeah… I just told you not to go out and get crazy third party apps. Now I’m telling you to go out and get some crazy third part app.


This only applies to Mac users that have a Mac with a graphics card. Welcome to the reason the VR companies have said they aren’t even bothering with us Mac people… Most Macs don’t have graphics cards… but use an integrated board solution. A high end Mac is often graphically no better than a $300 PC…

It hurts to say that, as a Mac user… but it is true. For most Macs.

If you have a higher end Mac, and if you do you know about it already because you paid another $500-1000 for it and you weren’t stupid enough to pay all that without finding out why…

Well, if you do have one, you want the ability to actually tell it to use your graphics card when you load up something intense like Second Life.

Not only does OSX not tell you when it turns on your pricey GPU, it often only makse the decision to do so when its good for Apple’s marketing… So the shiny Apple apps that will run better with it will use it, many other apps won’t, and if you go into bootcamp and run Windows they will turn it on all the time so as to heat up your system and overtax things so that Windows seems to not perform as well…

I don’t have the solution for keeping it off when not needing it bootcamp side. I need to read up on that still.

But OSX side, you want “gfxcardstatus” so you can turn have it get turned on by default anytime you flip on an application that has 3D graphics, and flipped off otherwise:

You really want this one. Google it and read about it to be sure on the security issues.

Tip 10:

Disable uneeded notifications.
Apple Icon -> System Preferences -> Notifications
If you don’t NEED it, disable it. This is just slowing you down for spam most of the time.

Tip 11:

Apple Icon -> System Preferences -> Dock
Change the dock from Genie to Scale.
That Genie effect may look cool, but that coolness is at a cost of advanced rendering to warp a window and slide it around.

Tip 12:

Cut out startup applications:

Apple Icon -> System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Login Items
If you don’t need it or recognize it, uncheck it or remove it.

Also check your Library:


You need to look at both LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons.

Where I put “/Library” up there, also look in these two:


“~/” is a shorthand for: “/Users/[your computer account name]”

In the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons you want to delete anything that is not from apple or a source your recognize. Malware commonly gets into Macs by placing itself here.

If you find something on the list that looks like it might be important but you’re not sure – google it and look for a link that is on a website for info. Be wary of links about malware found elsewhere – I’ve had co-workers get malware by searching on how to clean out malware…

PS: If you are unlucky enough to get malware on your system, NEVER download an app to ‘easily clean out that malware’. Always follow the absurdly long overly complex manual instructions to clean it out by hand. They may be annoying and worded badly… but if you have to sit there and type in manual commands and find files the hard way, you can at least do so making sure you’re not adding in more malware…

Tip 13:

This one is highly technical.

PRAM / NVRAM Reset :
Shutdown your Mac:
Apple Icon -> Shutdown
NOT Restart or Sleep, but Shutdown.

Start your computer again & hold Alt+Cmd+P+R before the bootup noise.
This will reset your PRAM.
PRAM used to need regular resetting. These days it shouldn’t ever need it, but if your system has gotten a bit corrupted it will help.

SMC Reset:
Shutdown your Mac again:
Apple Icon -> Shutdown
NOT Restart or Sleep, but Shutdown.

From here it depends on how your battery is connected, if you have one.

Desktop or MacBook With Removable Battery
Shut down the computer.
Unplug the power adapter.
Remove the battery (if there is one – a desktop typically just needs to be unplugged).
Press and hold the power button for five seconds.
Replace the battery.
Plug in the power adapter.
Turn on the computer.

MacBook Without A Removable Battery
Shut down the computer.
Plug in the power adapter.
On the built-in keyboard, press the Shift, Control, and Option keys on the left side and the power button, all at the same time.
Release all three keys at the same time.
Turn on the computer.

A little side note for people in bad weather: Your computer can’t get friend in a power surge if its unplugged. If the power goes out, unplug all the expensive stuff in the house…


New Theory on SL signups that never seem to join: They’re forum spam bots

Hamlet AU on NwN blog wrote in the comments:
“The AdSense ads for Second Life bring in a ton of new users — trouble is, most of them go away because they can’t be bothered to download a client or figure out how to use SL”

My response is part of a loose theory I am currently mulling over:

Pussycat: “Or they go away because they never arrived.”

I suspect 99% of them are automated spam bots registered for what in the SEO world appears to be an online community with a forum.
– Spam Bots target these with 10s of thousands of account creations per day, on even small forums, just to register sleeper accounts.

Its like a flu infection – the virus sends millions of copies of itself out, assaulting immune systems, and millions of these germs land on you every day. Most of them never doing anything once they get there.

Forum Spam Bots seem to work like that. Creating accounts on open registration systems in the thousands per day with no human involvement.

They will then cycle back months later and post up a random worded post with all kinds of odd phrases compiled together. The purpose of which is to hide what terms in there apply to their actual client, and to make that client’s terms appear to be related to the forum, in order to ‘ride the coattails’ of the forum’s organic search ranking in google and bing.

– It only takes a post or two per week to do this. But you need to get a few hundred thousand accounts injected into a target system in order to hope that the system’s admins fail to catch and ban / delete all of them.

If you’ve ever seen spam that seems to talk about some news item, and then randomly in mid sentence switch to shoes or special medicines or study help or talk as if a friend… but with odd grammar and a few weird words… that’s the spam bots. If you have a blog, you’ve probably seen them in your comments filter. I’d wager they’re about half the comments I get here, which is why I moderate comments here. And my blog has bad SEO…

If the forum or site is run by people who do not know how to look for invalid accounts, or how to recognize the difference, you can easily put in a million or two accounts with no one the wiser…

Where I work in RL, we were up to 250,000 of them before I figured out what they really were, and came up with some patterns among our real customers that let us wipe the database with as low risk as possible of hitting real ones.
– And that was in a span of about 4 months. Being a ‘social scientist’ rather than an IT person (by education, I work in graphic/web arts/design), I see these patterns from a different angle – though I fuddle through the solution implementation part.

LLs / SL has been going for years being run by people who show all the signs of not knowing how to manage a community both in terms or customer relations, security, and awareness of who their customers even are. People who likely do not know how to recognize the difference between a human user and a spam bot. Especially given how quirky some of their real users are (in terms of name and sign-on details) – seeing the difference is not easy.

Consider that SL doesn’t even run Captcha software… although with OCR (my guess), some bots can blast past that now. When we put it on our system, it merely reduced bot accounts from about 10,000 per day down to about 100 – significant, but still a good number getting in. It took a change in our SEO to finally shake the bots. To make our forum no longer look like a forum, while still looking like a forum… 🙂

(Convoluted… we basically made it look like a branded FAQ page, but left the word forum in place in the link and in our marketing material. We down to about 1-10 spam bots a day now, and they seem to be focused in on specific old user posts -before- they arrive. Google Analytics is handy. Automated tools from the forum service we use knocks these out so I can focus on my real work: putting colors and letters on web stuffz… :p)

So my new theory is that most people who sign up to SL actually enter the world, and stay. Probably only a few dozens per day (but I have no idea on the actual rate of people that create an account and stay).

But most bots that sign up, never enter the world, because they never were even designed to. They are just like ‘bacteria’ crashing up against the walls of the internet, and in this case, getting into the skin… but not further because what they land on is not what they were designed to target.

What I do see inworld, is that people who are day one newbs, quite often become week one newbs, and many even month one newbs. Once they hit this point… I almost think its fair to shift any blame for their loss on the community’s ability to invite them in and socialize with them…
– And I’m suspecting almost half of them reach month one. But I have no data on that. Its just a feeling from what I see looking around in world and the newbs I regularly run across.

The ‘humans’ that signup, by far, actually give it a good try to make it stick. Being past the hype days, more often now they’re slightly dedicated before even hitting the signup page. Its a 10-year old platform now, and the humans who arrive, are more likely now to have looked for it before arriving.

But the spam bots, they just trigger on what web crawling or something leads them to…

So new theory:

Most of the signups are bots. So it makes sense that they never seen to enter the world or ‘stick around’.

Only a small handful are real accounts. A hundred a day might seem dangerously small, but for a 10-year old platform, its pretty good. Most of these actually go inworld, and I suspect most of them stick past a few days.

-1L$ Balance – Are ‘keep up to date’ groups using members to covertly fund merchant advertising?

-1$L… Logged into some alts that get little use recently, and found this as my balance on the both of them. Account Manager page – nothing. Only goes back a month. The thing ought to show the greater of the last month or the last 30 entries…

Look through my groups, notice something.

A lot of purely social groups, or merchant advertiser groups – the ones that spam you into submission to get you to join… are now setting regular customers as ‘pay into and out of group liabilities.’ So apparently my funds on those alts got drained to pay for their search listings, land fees, and adverts. Good thing I likely had less than 10L on them each…

But its a cautionary tale: Should we leave all the groups we’re in if we don’t have strong reasons to trust who’s running them (if they’re owned by strangers)? Is it time to get out of customer groups…

It would be nice if the bottom rank of groups could not have the ‘pay liabilities and receive group dividends’ option checked, and if being added to another rank in a group required a second permissions acceptance check.

As it stands… there’s some folks out there right now with some pretty shady ethics…

Been silent a while, but still out there

I haven’t been around much lately, here or in Second Life. But I am still about.

I’ve gone through pending comments and cleared through the list. Also changed my ‘Callouts’ links on the right to a Tutorials section. Hopefully that will make it easier for people to find some things.

Second Life… Not sure why I’ve been quiet of late. Just kind of have. I consolidated a few bits of land – expanding what I had in Bay City but getting rid of some pieces here and there. I’m still working to get rid of a water lot I bought on a whim some time back.

I seem to have completely lost access to two old alts. But for different reasons that form cautionary tales.

The first one – they have a system on “forgot your password” where they will suspend your account if you don’t answer the security questions within a hidden number of tries. The problem is they don’t show the security question most of the time. Instead they pull from your friends list. If you have some people you friended that you don’t really know… you can get locked out – permanently.

Well… I can get that account back if I send them a copy of my state issued ID card… My RL one. Even though the account does not even have my RL info entered into it… (not even PIOF).

It was my old roleplay alt, so it had a long list of friends from old Pandaria Roleplay who were people I’d met once at an event and never spoke to again.

The cautionary tale is for businesses in Second Life. Quite a few merchants have sent me friends requests as a part of the conversation. If they don’t still remember me a few years later, and then they forget their password.

It won’t ask you if your pet is named “Muffykins”. It will ask you this:

[**********] Catnap
[**********] Resident
[**********] Oh

– So um… Maybe you remember me, and Resident, surely you can remember one of those folks (it doesn’t seem to care which of them). But do you remember your friend who’s name ended in ‘Oh’?

What if it was

[**********] Gossipgirl
– And you couldn’t think of -anyone- you knew with that handle, because the person was some random newbie who logged in for a day, bought your item, asked you how to use it, ran around with a box on the head for 3 hours, and quit – all back in 2010 during the few months that name was allowed.

Yeah… you just lost your Second Life account.

I recently went through and did screenshots for my friends list, on every alt…

But the real problem… if you hack my email, and you know my friends list – can you steal my account?

Because a lot of people kind of figure out each others friends over time.

Especially the ‘ex’ you’re having lots of drama with…

So the other account I lost I lost because it was proof against the above problem. Somehow I made it either without ever using an email address, or at least – I never recorded what that address was…


On the two accounts combined, I’ve probably lost 30,000L worth of goods. But that’s small for me for the length of time. One of these alts was almost as old as my main – but rarely used. The other was very recent and made to theme with petites (actually she was made to grab screenshots for updating my ‘Getting Starting’ guide to V3, and then I gave her a Petite avatar makeover)…

But neither was a very “personally attached” avatar. Though I had a lot of Pandoria stuff on one made by folks who’ve moved on from SL.

Some basic hints here:

  • Use an email on your account that is not used elsewhere. But write it down so you remember it.
  • Write your password on something physical and physically secure (kept at home).
  • Screenshot your friends list regularly.
  • Keep your enemies further, and your friends secret.

As for what kind of password to use:

Password Strength
– But you still have to remember it…

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