Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reliability Monitor on my home PC

(This article is the third in a fascinating series which includes analyses of my work laptop and my Media Center PC.)

Though I've had Vista at work for longer than I've had it at home, the longest-lasting OS install is my home PC, a Dell XPS 710 with the factory load. Reliability & Performance Monitor on this PC has data going back to May 2nd or just about 8 months. Here are the application crash statistics collected in that time:
















mostly 11.0.6000.6344











… and 11 other one-off crashes.

I can explain this. I was testing various software to convert videos from my camera to YouTube-suitable format and also to iPod MP4 format. One such piece of shit software called Apex Video Converter installed some ancient-ass xvid.dll that basically threw these errors every time I opened an Explorer window in a directory containing some videos. That was an annoying couple of days until I tracked this down.

As I said before, I think Firefox can be unreliable on Vista, particularly with a bunch of add-ons. But at least it saves state periodically so it's not such a big deal. Lately the problem has gotten worse, but, without going into too much incriminating detail, I have started leaving something called NOVA running which runs up Firefox's RAM usage from its usual 200MB to numbers as high as 600MB or however high it gets until I catch it. So it's easy to blame Firefox but it probably is poorly written code in the NOVA interface. Or Java. Seriously, whenever sites launch the Java tray applet, I cross my fingers against a crash.

This was the winner in the video conversion testing but mostly for convenience reasons that I won't go into and are probably the cause of the crashes. The less said, the less trouble I get myself into.

I only use IE7 at home to check my work email through OWA 2007. And, if left running for some period of time, IE won't restore and instead shows the title bar with whatever is behind it, behind it. I don't know if this happens with other websites because I browse everything but work stuff with Firefox.

I have a slight suspicion that the indexing process that Media Player uses is not stable or handles ripped audio and video material from, er, various sources without much grace. Most of the time wmplayer is doing something with its database when it crashes.

See the first (DllHost) explanation.

This is standard Acrobat Reader. A program I hate with a passion.

This I think is the HP Image Zone (or whatever) thing that installed with a photo printer I bought. I actually thought it might be nice to try another tool besides Windows Photo Gallery to manage my photos, particularly if it offered features like printing four wallet-sized photos on 4x6 glossy paper, but every time this thing indexes my pictures it gets about 96% through them in 10 minutes and then crashes. I have a lot of pictures in my \Users\me\Pictures folder but Pictures\Public Pictures are the ones from my camera. (The rest are my digital artwork and found pictures (mostly source material for art).) So something is not in whatever format HP_IZE can handle, and it crashes. Sloppy...

I had to look this one up to find that it's the McAfee Proxy Service. My feelings on the McAfee security products which came bundled with my Dell are in a previous blog entry so there's not much more to say about this piece of crap software.

Several crashes are related to the bad xvid.dll that I got from the wonderful Apex Video Converter -- they're other video conversion products that presumably called upon xvid.dll to try and convert the sample file (a downloaded episode of Grey's Anatomy for my wife to watch on her iPod, if you must know). The rest are just random crashes that you pretty much expect. I also averaged one "disruptive shutdown" a day from early August to early September, which I determined was due to problems with SATA Native Command Queuing. And, I've had five blue screens. Can't remember what I was doing and Reliability Monitor doesn't say much about it.

There you go. This concludes a fascinating examination of problems with my three computers. Stay tuned for an analysis of my event log, followed by the contents of my Start Menu. I hope I'm kidding...


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