May 13, 2012

Almost a brick in the wall

Saten, my HP Slate 500, almost got bricked today when I ran Windows Update. Yikes!

It needed a reboot after loading all the patches (there were an unusually large number of them) but the reboot didn't work. It was trying to restore from hibernation, or something, and it said it couldn't do so. Popup on screen and ignored the stylus.

So I plugged in my USB keyboard, and caught it during the boot and told it to ignore the hibernation file and reboot from scratch. Fortunately, that worked fine. Relief!

The new computer is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. It's going to be named Merope.

Someone here mentioned that all the uTorrent status information is stored in its directory. I'm not going to try to use that, though. Right now my torrents are divided between two different directories on Deneb (the Windows Home Server) and I'm going to take this opportunity to reorganize and merge them.

Also, the existing structure has uTorrent using a network address to access those files. On the new machine I'm going to set up a virtual drive. It just makes everything easier, but it also would change all the paths.

Thing is, a lot of programs get confused by paths that look like \\Deneb\fansubs or \\Deneb\uTorrent. Z:\\fansubs and Z:\\uTorrent are more compatible. uTorrent handles both forms, but the former don't always work very well. I've had problems with that in the past. In particular, when you're starting a torrent and trying to find a place for it, it'll take the former if you directly enter the path, but you can't use the inborn directory searching mechanism on paths like that.

I considered upgrading Merope to Win 7 professional, and running uTorrent in XP mode, but that's too complicated and there really isn't any gain. And it would cost me about $90 for the upgrade IIRC.

So getting all my torrents running again (there are currently 194 of them) will take a few days. And I suspect I'll trim that back a bit; there are several that I really have no interest in continuing to support. For instance, I'm not even sure why I started seeding Bleach season 4. And I am sure I don't need to be seeding two different versions of High School Girls, let alone two different versions of G-On Riders.

It's amazing the crap that builds up when you aren't being careful. Every few months I go in and trim back, and it looks like I'm due again.

Even though Merope is inexpensive, it's got four times the RAM, and maybe four times the CPU power. Arcturus, the current uTorrent machine, has 1G of RAM and uses something called a Turion (ML-34) as its CPU, running 1.8 GHz. That's clock speed is deceptive, partly because it's sharing its RAM with the display chip, and partly because the Turion was a low-power slow CPU designed maybe ten years ago for notebook computers.

Merope's CPU (2.3GHz Core i3) is also designed for notebook computers, but these days those chips don't make so many concessions. Merope's display also shares the RAM, but the RAM is a lot faster so that won't affect the CPU so much. Merope's CPU is dual core. And it'll be running in 64-bit mode, whereas Arcturus is in 32-bit mode. (uTorrent is still a 32-bit program, but Merope's OS stuff will be 64 bit.)

When I go onto Arcturus to start a new torrent, and fire up IE or Firefox, sometimes it takes ten seconds or more for them to start. That's because all the RAM that uTorrent isn't using is taken up doing disk caching. The CPU has to thrash for a while to clear enough memory for IE to run. I suspect Merope won't have that problem to anything like the same extent, since it'll have four times the RAM.

Another place where Arcturus's weakness comes in is when I need to restart a torrent. Someone updates the torrent on BakaBT and I get a message saying I need to download the new one. That happens every couple weeks. Every time that happens, uTorrent needs to calculate checksums on the existing files to decide if it needs to download them again. That's very CPU intensive, and that Turion just doesn't do it that fast. If the torrent is 4-6G, and a lot of them are bigger than that, it can take it ten minutes or more to decide that my files are fine and don't need to be downloaded again. (My biggest torrent right now is 43G, but I used to seed one that was 81G.)

I assume Merope will be doing that a lot faster, too. (I sure hope so; it's going to have to do that for every torrent I restart.)

As part of this, I'm going to upgrade to the latest version of uTorrent. V3 has gone through a lot of changes, and it seems that uTorrent 3130 has become the consensus standard. Given that Merope is dual-core, it would be nice if uTorrent 3130 was multi-threaded, so that rehashing existing files could take advantage of both cores. I can't find anything on the web page which says so either way, though.

But first, before I can do any of that, I'll have to spend a couple of days deMacifying the GUI, and uninstalling all the crap sampleware that I'm sure will be on it (No, I do NOT want Norton Antivirus!), and otherwise decrufting everything in sight. What a pain.

Getting a new uTorrent machine was something I'd been thinking about doing for a long time, and I wanted to get it before Win 8 comes out (next summer, I've heard). Microsoft is going to do major violence to the GUI next time because they want to make it support tablets, and I don't feel like being a pioneer. (Old Oregonian joke: you know what pioneers get? Arrows in the ass.)

You know what Microsoft could do that would make me a really happy camper? Put an applet in the control panel with a single button that said, "Make everything in the GUI look like Win2K".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Computers at 03:50 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 1027 words, total size 6 kb.

1 (No, I do NOT want Norton Antivirus!)

As bad as that is, McAfee is worse.  I got my current desktop in March of 2007 and I am STILL fuming over having to go to McAfee's web site to download the uninstaller for that piece of fantastic crapware.

And getting emails from them for months afterwards reminding me that my trial subscription has expired and it only costs $XX to renew! ...and when I tried to remove my email address from their database I got a 500 error saying it wasn't possible, so I had to block their domain name in my e-mail program instead.

As a result I will never NEVER N-E-V-E-R use McAfee again.

Posted by: atomic_fungus at May 13, 2012 05:03 PM (E1y9u)

2

McAfee went out of business. (They were acquired by Intel.) A lot of that annoying crap was desperation on their part to try to avoid death.

It can result in short term increases in revenue, but at the expense of alienating the customer base so in the long run it's counter-productive. Of course, if you're facing imminent bankruptcy, then the long run has to take care of itself, or so they seem to have been thinking.

Comcast offered all its customers free McAfee licenses, but I never took (dis)advantage of it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 13, 2012 05:19 PM (+rSRq)

3 Anyway, the very first thing I do with Merope, after I get it on my LAN, is to spend a couple of hours of quality time with Windows Update. Imagine my joy.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 13, 2012 05:21 PM (+rSRq)

4 I think that uTorrent's file checking is still single-threaded, but you should still 2 to 2.5x the performance going from a Turion to an i3.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 13, 2012 08:00 PM (PiXy!)

5

I think the biggest improvement in usability is going to be because of the RAM. For one thing, with that much memory for caching it won't be on the LAN bothering Deneb anything like as much as Arcturus is.

It's kind of unfortunate that there isn't a 64-bit version of uTorrent yet. Hash calculation is a case where 64-bit code would be drastically faster than 32-bit code.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 13, 2012 09:07 PM (+rSRq)

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