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"[Machinery] will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true." — Charles Dickens

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NVivo 10 Playing (Quite) Nicely On A Mac

From the outset, this isn’t a beginner’s guide. It’s pretty complicated to get this up-and-running: but, it could be worth it. The fact is that NVivo 10 doesn’t work very nicely on a Mac (using VirtualBox and a copy of Windows 7 Professional). (You could, of course, use Boot Camp but I like being able to switch between Mac and Windows. Things will also change when NVivo 10 for Mac is released at the end of the year.) I have a new-ish MacBookPro (not the one with the retina display) and the thing is really, really sluggish. But, I think I’ve found a cure. At least, one that balances speed with performance. If you haven’t set up VirtualBox and Windows 7 on your Mac yet, here’s a tutorial on how to do that. I use the following settings (you could play with these to find the optimum settings for your Mac):

Within Windows 7, I made sure to disable pretty much every ‘cool’ effect that I could. To do this I went to the following places:

  • Right-clicking the desktop and going to Personalization. I then set a block-coloured desktop background, disabled effects and all sounds.
  • Right-clicking on Computer and going to Properties and then Advanced system properties. I then deselected all of the visual effects. From the Advanced tab I set the Processor scheduling to Application. I also manually set the paging file size to be between 1,024 MB and 2,048 MB.
  • I also disabled Avast! Free Antivirus and told Windows 7 not to bug me about doing so.

My desktop looked like this:

image

Next, I installed NVivo 10 using the default settings. Once the installation had finished I shut down Windows 7. I then created an AppleScript by going to Applications > Utilities > AppleScript Editor. I typed in the following:

do shell script "purge"
tell application "VirtualBox"
  try
    activate
  end try
end tell

I then went to File > Export… and used the following settings:

image

What this AppleScript does is clear all of the ‘inactive’ memory on your Mac prior to opening VirtualBox. (Effectively, you could run the purge command from Terminal each time but it’s easier to let an AppleScript do it for you.) I found that if I closed most (all) of my applications on my Mac first and then ran the AppleScript I gained the most benefit. Use this small ‘application’ to run VirtualBox rather than opening the VirtualBox application itself. (I placed it on my Dock.) Applications such as Google Chrome for Mac eat up a lot of memory so I would avoid using them if possible!

You can view your memory consumption by going to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. You will be presented with the following screen:

image

When you run VirtualBox and Windows 7 you will see that your ‘free’ memory will reduce significantly. However, what the AppleScript should do is give your Mac the best chance possible by ‘clearing’ its memory. As you can see, my Mac is holding 1.54 GB hostage that it could be letting VirtualBox use. (‘Inactive’ memory is used, for example, when you close an application and then re-open it within a reasonable amount of time; it ensures that it loads quicker because it already has it ‘stored’ in memory.)

If you then run Windows 7 and start NVivo 10 you should see, albeit with a bit of lag to start up the first time you run it (not entirely sure why this is the case; it took about 60 seconds to load for me and then almost instantly after that), that it works pretty much in real-time. And that’s it, hopefully. Remember also that your mileage may vary!

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