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Author Topic: WTF utility??  (Read 2325 times)

rhuppert

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WTF utility??
« on: September 13, 2007, 05:35:46 PM »
I was wondering if anyone can recommend a utility that could easily let me know when some program or process takes over a machine.

For example, I was at a client site and unbeknownst to me or the client, something slowed things down to below a crawl.  In fact, the client said this happens periodically and they end up rebooting.  I explained it was not a good idea and that something was running in the background to the detriment of anything else.  In this case it was a Quickbooks POS background download, but it could have been anything.  There was no obvious notification that this was happening (other than broadband activity).

On my development system, I had a recurring issue that completely tied up my mouse cursor.  I was dead in the water for as much as 30 minutes several times a day.  It went away after I removed the disk backup agent software. 

I wish there was some type of WTF (what the f---???) key for this purpose in Windows.  Does anyone know of anything better than using task manager to identify ill-behaved software?

mouser

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Re: WTF utility??
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2007, 06:02:51 AM »
That's kind of an ironic request to post on this site because one of the more popular programs I've written is called "Process Tamer", which many use for the exact purpose you are describing:

http://www.donationc...proctamer/index.html

You might also like to read this writeup from gizmo's techsupportalert newsletter describing how he used it for the kind of thing you are talking about:

Quote
6.1 A Free Utility That Stops Programs From Hogging Your PC

It was driving me mad. My laptop would sporadically run at 100% CPU utilization and lock up. It defied all attempts at analysis as the PC was seized and I couldn't do anything. Only a hard reboot was possible, but on rebooting the problem was gone.

Eventually I solved it with a superb little utility called Process Tamer, written by "Mouser" over at Donation Coder. Process Tamer is a monitor that watches the CPU utilization of all running processes. Once the usage of a single process gets above a certain level (by default 70%) Process Tamer reduces the usage by lowering the process priority.

It's a simple idea and Process Tamer implements it immaculately. With Process Tamer installed, the next time the problem occurred on my laptop it didn't totally lock up but rather just ran very slowly. This allowed me to do a quick diagnosis. The problem turned out to be simple but non-obvious. Two programs, Diskeeper and X1, had been accidentally scheduled to start at the same time and were getting into an embrace of death. It was unexpected, as these two normally peacefully co-exist. Simply re-scheduling the programs to start at different times solved the problem.

I couldn't have solved the problem as easily without Process Tamer. However Process Tamer has much broader application than just this kind of problem.

It's a great tool for preventing any one program from hogging your processor. Every user has experienced the situation where their PC has been slowed down to the point of being unusable, by a background program such as a desktop search program, that starts and takes all the resources. Process Tamer will stop that from ever happening again.

For the same reason it can also help speed up your Windows Startup. Make sure though, that you enable Process Tamer to start automatically with Windows. By default it does not, but it's easily changed from within the program's options.

Yet another use for Process Tamer is intra-server load balancing. It's near ideal for this task.
If you actually want a program to able to use all available resources, such as a digital editing program, you can set the program to be excluded from Process Tamer's watchful eye.

I was so impressed with Process Tamer that I've permanently installed it on my laptop. It takes only around 6MB of memory space and its own CPU usage is so low I could barely measure it.

Process Tamer is available for free from the Donation Coder site. They use a novel licensing system: you have to register to get a free license key which allows you to download any number of programs on the site. This key lasts six months after which you must return to the site to download another free license key. After a year you are given a permanent license. Alternatively, you can make a once-up donation of any size and get a permanent key straight away. It's a clever and ethical way to encourage users to recognize the work done by freeware authors and I support it fully. I donated generously and I hope you do too.
Donationware, Windows 2K, XP, 2.23MB

Note that the Process Tamer includes a process viewer which by default only shows the very top resource eating processes.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2007, 06:28:21 AM by mouser »

rhuppert

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Re: WTF utility??
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2007, 11:19:43 AM »
Thanks, Mouser. 

Actually I do use process tamer (which is a terrific tool), but it did not give an indicator (or log data) of any suspect process or programs in these cases.  Perhaps it may have been a combination of issues I do not understand or in one case the offending program may just have hijacked the mouse driver.  I'll play with it some more.  BTW, PT has resolved a number of nagging issues for me.  Something I did not do is run PT high priority.

Cheers,  Ron

mouser

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Re: WTF utility??
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2007, 11:41:10 AM »
It might be interesting to have PT check and report other high-cpu events that still fall short of the threshold where taming would kick in..

ps. there is no harm in not having PT run high priority as you have done.

f0dder

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Re: WTF utility??
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2007, 12:30:14 PM »
You don't want a WTF-utility, you want a router doing NAT, a different browser than internet explorer, windows firewall enabled (don't really need anything fancier), and perhaps a decent antivirus package :)
- carpe noctem