Tinderbox Forum

Tinderbox hardware: memory or processor more important?

Just suppose a body wanted to buy one of the new MacBook Airs announced today, and that body had to choose between upgrading the chip or the memory, which would benefit Tinderbox more…

IOTW (and I appreciate this can have only have a general answer and not be specific to the MBA) in principle, is relative processing power more important than relative memory size for Tinderbox? (BTW, you can’t upgrade the graphics chip at all.)

FWIW, the base machine comes with:

  • 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, with 4MB L3 cache
  • 8 GB memory

The first level upgrade in either case is to:

  • 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, with 6MB L3 cache
  • 16GB memory.

Any thoughts? Does anyone use a previous model MacBook Air for TBX for comparison?


Even if you have documents with thousands or even tens of thousands of notes, and complex agents, it’s not likely any modern machine will have heartburn running Tinderbox.

I run a 2020 MBPro with 16 GB memory and even with large Tinderbox files open and running concurrently with Windows in a VM, Mail and a load of other apps, there has never been any issue with Tinderbox.

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Thanks, Paul - that’s helpful.

I have a 2017 iMac with 24GB memory, and it’s OK on that, but it can stutter a bit on a TBX with 900 notes in the same container, both in Outline View and Map View.

I also used to have a first edition MacBook and that was fairly painful in Map mode, so I accept there will be compromises and in any case, Map mode on a smaller screen isn’t ideal anyway.

I just wondered whether increase in memory outweighs increased processor power in general for TBX use.

Thanks again.

Until a mid2019, I was running a shop store(-top)-configuration 2013 MBAir 13", Core i7 1.7GHz, 8 GB RAM. Running aTbRef with agent updates on turned on the fans, albeit with about 10 Safari tabs open, email, Bookends, DEVONthink Pro, BBEdit with large text files, plus twitter/netnewswire/etc. This also broke my hitherto addition to MBPros (I don’t do video or heaving gaming or other CPU heavy stuff). Actually my early 2011 MBPro (RIP 2018) with 8 GB RAM also did just fine with big TBXs

I’ve then shifted to a 2019 13 Retina custom full spec MBAir, 16 GB RAM with 23" LG 4k external screen. The latter takes the Mac more than Tinderbox.

I’m unclear if more power (CPU and/or RAM) actually affects very busy maps as I think the app itself just gets busy. In normal use, I don’t see Tinderbox caning the memory (of course, do allow for other alway open apps). My hunch is that more CPU might help, but again, I’m not sure with today’s spec laptops that there is insufficient power for Tinderbox.

I would note that you can also mitigate the effects of a TBX by controlling agents and other structural approaches. For instance, are you using agents or rules for tasks that might be as effectively done with an edict (or stamp). Are you using lots of single purpose agents to show information that might more easily be done with a single Attribute Browser or Crosstab tab? IOW, at some point more power/resource aren’t the issue, it’s how you use them.

Thanks, Mark!

Yes, I appreciate the role of agents in taking up power – I try to keep them to a minimum and design them efficiently (e.g. chaining them rather than having one big one agent; turning them off when they’re not needed, and so on.) I’m sure there are plenty of tuning tips I’m not aware of, though.

Your experience with last year’s MBA sounds comforting – the new chips are supposed to be ‘twice as fast’ though that may be marketing bollocks, of course… This will be purely a second machine, to replace my failed ’ get a cheap second hand Thinkpad and put Linux on it to see if that will do’ experiment, and it will rarely, if ever, have an external display, so there’ll be no drain on power or performance from that direction.

Thanks again.

There’s never a good time to buy … looks ebviously at the just announced refreshed MBAir specs. :frowning:

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First: maps and outlines have both received BIG performance boosts recently. For big outlines, I believe it’s an order of magnitude, and maps it’s something like a factor of eight.

There are some people with 4M Macs that have memory issues with Tinderbox. We think it’s only on macOS 10.15, and we think it may be tied to bilingual (English-Chinese) documents, but it’s not well understood.

It’s five years since I bought a MacBook – the new keyboard and the new specs have been the last straw. They’ve got a 0% interest offer on for the next few days, as well…

OK - so even 8GB will be sufficient. Good to know.


My development machine in time of plague is 8G; it’s not my great honking iMac Pro, but so far it’s OK.

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Solved the dilemma of whether to upgrade the chip or the memory by ordering them both…

Thanks for your advice!