MemoryStick is a free download by Matt Neuburg that provides a graphical display of RAM
usage. Versions are available on Matt's website for Panther (v1.3.4) and Jaguar (v1.2.1).
MenuMeters requires Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar) or Mac OS 10.3 (Panther).
The software downloads as a disk image (380K), and is then copied onto the Mac with
a drag and drop.
MemoryStick has an extremely simple interface: a "stick" in a single pane
that shows, with colors, the memory status of your Mac.
Memory Stick color graphic
The appearance of the
stick can be modified via the preferences, but not knowing what "wired"
or "active" status referred to, I had to search for documentation, which
is not supplied with the application. Neuburg's site does not have any documentation
for the application either. Instead, Neuburg references an article on memory usage
written by John Siracusa in Ars Technica. After downloading and reading this article,
I had a very thorough understanding of what MemoryStick is supposed to do.
In a nutshell (Siracusa's article is a very interesting read), OS X manages memory
quite differently from that of the Classic OS. Under OS X, the Mac swaps files back
and forth from RAM to virtual memory. The OS keeps track of the needs of all running
applications, window buffering, and the buffer cache. MemoryStick is supposed to
help you to keep an eye (and ear) on how much RAM is being used, and how many files
are being swapped at any given time.
My G4 has 384 Megs of RAM installed. I put MemoryStick to the test by opening up
many applications, and watching the display. The display is very simple. It's a four-color
palette displaying Wired, Active, Inactive and Free memory. Each type of memory can
be displayed in any color the user chooses (changes can be made via preferences).
There is no choice for labeling the color codes, so until I could remember which
color meant what, I had to keep re-opening the preference panel.
With two applications running in Classic, and iTunes, Word 2004, Appleworks, Filemaker
Pro, Grab, Preview, Toast 6, Mail, Amadeus and Safari running in Panther, MemoryStick
displayed the following when I floated my mouse over the palette:
- 57.3MB 15%
Active - 214.3MB 56%
Inactive - 106.6MB 28%
Free - 7.4MB 2%
I closed all the applications
except for Word 2004, and shut down Classic as well. Running only Word 2004, MemoryStick
- 52.9MB 14%
Active - 157.4MB 40%
Inactive - 95.7MB 25%
Free - 83MB 22%
As expected, I experienced some slowdowns on my system when I had all of the applications
open. MemoryStick confirmed that I had very little free RAM, and also confirmed that
I had a lot of RAM tied up in active usage. Though I had a graphical representation
of the full amount of active, inactive, free and text memory being used, I really
didn't get a feel for which applications were using how much of my RAM. I opened
up the Activity Monitor (OS X Utility), and had an exact accounting for my RAM usage.
Also, the Activity Monitor has a System Memory display panel, which displays the
same information as MemoryStick.
MemoryStick is indeed
a nice compliment to Activity Monitor, as it can be left on your desktop providing
you a visual of memory usage at all times. For my personal needs, however, I did
not find it practical. The only times I notice slowdowns is if I'm burning a CD,
downloading, and working on editing audio at the same time. It's not a RAM problem,
but rather more of a CPU problem (533Mhz).
MemoryStick could do with some polishing. The interface is limited in that it is
not intuitively obvious what I am looking at. To me, this is a basic necessity of
a mac-savvy informational display. From the user's standpoint, it's meant to be a
passive utility. A quick glance should be all that is needed. But the user has to
physically move the cursor over the stick to gather details. If I were to need this
information on a regular basis, I'd have Activity Monitor either running or on my
dock for quick access - it would give me far more information with the same amount
of mouse movement.
MemoryStick displays your Mac's memory usage graphically. This information is displayed
on the desktop, or on the dock. It provides a quick, visual reference of the system's
memory usage. MemoryStick, however, comes without documentation, and does not provide
nomenclature on the memory usage "stick". I had to rely on trial and error
to determine the significance of the information being displayed. I can see it being
useful when a user has very little RAM installed in their system, or if a user has
a lot of memory-hungry tasks running. While MemoryStick works as advertised, it does
not inspire me to believe that I need anything more than Activity Monitor for monitoring
- MemoryStick displays
the four key parts of RAM in a graphical bar-chart
- Nice compliment to Activity
- It's free!
- No Documentation
- No text labels on the
- Limited information
3 out of 5 Mice