ksurl – make yourself at home, take whatever you want…

SubterfugeThe other day I invited some friends round. I cooked them a nice meal and we enjoyed drinks and a movie, then as the hour became late we said our goodbyes promising to catch up again soon. I didn’t realize quite how soon though…  The following day I was working at home as I usually do, when I heard a noise downstairs. On investigating I found that my new friends had let themselves in, were helping themselves to my snacks and were watching a movie on my TV, using my electricity and generally making themselves at home.

Now you might think this is a bit off. It’s one thing to invite your friends round when you’re ready to entertain and give your house over to them, but it’s another thing entirely if they abuse that trust and without so much as a “Please may I…” they just do as they please with your place. Well if like me you’ve tried Google Chrome, then you’ve got these same friends as well!

You see a while ago I installed Google Chrome after reading how quick it is, and how it makes Firefox (my current browser of choice) look Google Chromelike some lardy pizza shop owner. Indeed Chrome does feel quite sprightly, and I must say I do like the Speed Dial extension, which looks far superior to its Firefox counterpart. However what I didn’t realize when I installed Chrome, and which is probably buried in the small print somewhere, is that Chrome will run a process on my Mac even when Chrome itself isn’t even running. It’s called KSURL and at least four times a day it will attempt to call home, presumably to see if there’s a new version of Chrome or some other Google component that needs updating.

In fact, had it not been for Little Snitch blowing the whistle on ksurl, I would never even have known that it was running and helping itself to my Mac’s CPU and memory resources. You see up popped a warning that process ‘ksurl’ was trying to connect to a Google web address (cache.pack.google.com), but looking in Activity Monitor there was nothing, not even when I chose to view all processes rather than just my own. So, even though Chrome isn’t even running, some process has been spawned by installing Chrome, that periodically runs and calls home to see if there’s an update. Ok, the resources used by this process are probably tiny, but that’s not the point. It’s the fact that the authors of Google Chrome decided to let it behave like this – basically to run on your Mac without your knowledge or permission.

Little SnitchNow I’ve got quite a few applications on my Mac that check for updates and the accepted way seems to be a preferences setting that says ‘Automatically check for updates on start-up, or daily, or whatever’. Basically when you run the app then with your permission the first thing it does is to check to see if there’s a newer version of itself. Why isn’t that good enough for Google Chrome? Why do they have to be sneaky about it? Sure there’s a, ‘Update now’ button on the About Chrome dialogue, but if Chrome is constantly checking for updates in the background, then what’s the point? Imagine if every single app you installed on your Mac took the same approach – you could have potentially hundreds of background processes always running, always calling home, always consuming your precious resources.

Now it just remains for me to find the process that triggers these ‘ksurl’ warnings in Little Snitch, so that I can kill it off.

‘Only’ 8Gb of RAM in a 2009 Mac Pro

Is it just me or does anyone else think that the 8Gb RAM limit on the new Quad-Core 2009 Mac Pro is a bit of a retrograde step? I keep reading reviews saying what a wonderful machine this is, how fast it is, how easy it is to upgrade the RAM etc, but no-one seems to mention the glass ceiling at 8Gb?

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I have an early 2008 Mac Pro, or a Gen 2 Mac Pro – whatever you want to call it. It’s the single 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon version and it currently has 12Gb of 800MHz DDR2 memory fitted. Yep, that’s twelve gig… and I use it. I work from home for a large part of the time, and part of my work involves supporting a variety of large corporate customers. For this I remotely access their systems using dedicated Windows XP clients which I run under VMware Fusion 2.x. Each virtual client machine has around 12Gb of hard disk space and 2Gb of RAM allocated to it, and with my current configuration I can run up four virtual machines simultaneously and get good performance out of each virtual machine, while at the same time run a pretty snappy OS X desktop for all my personal stuff. The ability to run multiple VMs at the same time and not have the whole thing slow down and start swapping is an absolute godsend, and I even run up a virtual Windows server at times for good measure.

So in the eyes of Apple, what would be my upgrade path? The new Quad-Core Mac Pro tops out at just 8Gb of RAM. Ok it has more grunt in the CPU department, but the 8Gb memory limit rules it out, and would require me to drop a whopping three grand or so on a new Eight-Core kitted out with 12Gb of RAM (obviously I wouldn’t be paying Apple’s silly prices for RAM).

I understand the 8Gb limit may be some sort of architectural limitation, but it does throw a spanner in the works when it comes to possible future upgrades. As it happens, the 2008 Mac Pro is a fantastic machine for running multiple RAM hungry Windows VMs, and unless I’m next in line for that big win on the lottery then this current machine is going to be my best option for quite a while yet. I have heard rumours that the 2009 Quad-Core will ‘unofficially’ support more than 8Gb of RAM, but I’ve yet to chase down some definitive answers.

Here’s a list of some interesting snippets I have come across. Not sure if there’s any truth in them but here goes anyway. (I’ll add to this list as I find more):

  • Optimal memory configuration in the 2009 Mac Pro is three matched DIMMs, so 3 x 2Gb would be better than 4 x 2Gb.
  • The limit has nothing to do with the architecture of the Nehalem processor, it’s artificially imposed by Apple as part of the EFI BIOS settings.
  • Someone somewhere has added 4 x 4Gb sticks in to their 2009 Quad-Core, and it ‘works’.
  • Apple doesn’t officially support 4Gb DIMMs in the 2009 Quad-Core.

By the way, have you seen the list price of eight 1066MHz DDR3 4Gb DIMMs from Apple? How does £4,880 (+ VAT) sound??!

That's something a 2009 Quad-Core Mac Pro can't "officially" do.

That's something a 2009 Quad-Core Mac Pro can't "officially" do.