Is Aperture 3 sucking up memory?

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Ahhh, new software. It's just like Christmas! You excitedly unwrap the box, pop the install disk into your machine, get everything set up, have the entirety of your computer's free space sucked away and your system grind to a halt—

Wait, that can't be right.

And yet, when it comes to newly released Aperture 3, online support forums have been lighting up with reports of massive virtual memory leaks in the program.

The premise behind such a leak is simple: when doing a data-intensive task that might be too much for the RAM installed in your computer, the program (in this case, Aperture 3) can call on bits of your hard drive to be appropriated as virtual memory. The problem here is that for whatever reason, Aperture doesn't know where to stop, and ends up gobbling every last byte of free space on the disk.

Apple declined to comment on the issue, but users in the Support and Discussion forums have come to several different conclusions over what processes may cause these particular system slowdowns. Faces is one rumored culprit; the feature analyzes all pictures in the library to pick out individual people and group their photos. Forum-goer James Stratford's hypothesis? "Perhaps Faces is trying to scan images that are busy being processed rather than restricting itself to fully imported/processed images."

However, the same memory issue is also being reported during the conversion of older Aperture libraries and heavy editing of RAW images, which may mean that the problem lies in the overall way Aperture handles its virtual memory assignments during processor-heavy interactions.

Former Macworld editor Rick LePage found the program "well-near unusable on my dual-core Mac Pro… importing my iPhoto library brought my entire machine to a halt, though [the photos] seem to have imported fine." Constant lags during brush use and abrupt crashes convinced LePage to shelve Aperture until Apple provides an adequate update. "I want to use it, but right now, I don't have time to deal with these things, so I'm shelving it until they come out with an update."

For those of you who want to brave the potential ordeals of updating or those who need a quick fix until Apple's official patch, here are a few suggestions from users in the Apple Support forum:

  • For problems with Faces, forum user Traversario suggests turning off Faces entirely while importing (done in the Preferences pane of Aperture). After a restart, he turned the setting back on and the issue seemed to disappear, but this may not be true for all users.
  • Importing or converting an old library: Keith Stead from Melbourne suggests manually converting the photos by opening the package contents of your old Aperture or iPhoto file, dragging your photos to the desktop, and then reimporting them month by month into a fresh Aperture 3 library. Slow? Absolutely. Tiresome? Most definitely. On the upside, he reports no problems following these steps.
  • A possible fix for a library lagging after conversion comes from Matthew Bergsma: rebuilding your photo thumbnails and updating your image previews. Other suggestions included forcing the program to run in 32-bit mode (which seems to cap VM access).

Unfortunately, while these solutions may work in the short term, all eyes are on Apple to deliver a permanent fix. In the company's defense, within Aperture's first week of release, Apple already addressed several alternate issues: a patch went out within twenty-four hours addressing video playback problems, and on Wednesday, it posted a support article regarding crashes after upgrades from Aperture 2. Apple has already posted a number of Aperture 3 support documents on its site.

Still, it's strange that so many issues slipped by the alpha and beta tests of this program, especially considering that a good percentage of users rely on Aperture for their livelihood. The last thing anyone wants to do is jury-rig a fix for a brand new upgrade. Hopefully, the Apple software engineers are listening.

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