Friday, October 23, 2009

1980 Ford Fairmont - Abuse of Convention

This was our 1980 Ford Fairmont.

Purchased in the depths of an "Energy Crisis" - oil would soon be non-existent and we would all be walking or biking - here was my contribution to solving the world's problem!

This baby came with a 2.3L 4-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual transmission achieving an EPA rating of 23mpg. (The estimated MPG numbers for other similar sized cars ranges from 07 to 24 MPG.)

I remember this car as fondly as I do the 55 MPH National Speed Limit of the time. But we were in the Second Oil Crisis and still wanted to make trips to our lake cabin. And we needed enough room to haul that Afghan Hound too! What's a guy to do?

My least favorite feature on the Fairmont was its horn. Ford violated the common sense practice of putting a horn button where everyone else had been putting it for about 60 years - on the steering wheel. Someone had a better idea. The horn was activated from the turn-signal stalk. No I am not making this up!

Oh, what kind of actual mileage did I get? Mostly 27-28 with an occasional 30-31 for all highway driving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Many Processes Should be Running in a Clean Version of Windows XP?

Now there's a question that should be easy to answer. Just Google that phrase and see what you get!

If that weren’t bad enough, there are plenty of libraries of processes around the Internet.  But the one that I’ve run into seem a little shaky – especially when they allow readers opinions that then vary from “Part of the Operating System – Don’t delete!” to “Was a virus that killed my system”

I asked myself the “How Many” question a couple of years ago when I brought up the Task Manager on a friend's machine and saw 112 processes running. I knew that was bad. But what was good? I tried my own machine and found about 70. I vowed to answer the question for myself the next time I had to do an XP Install.

So, here we are. I put a brand new 500 GB hard drive in my Dell Vostro 1500 and re-installed Windows. This is the story of what happened, process by process. I will show you the processes as they are displayed in Task Manager. I operate under user TOM.

First I did the basic install and took a look before adding any drivers or utilities.


# Image Name User Name Belongs to
1 svchost.exe LOCAL SERVICE Windows XP
2 alg.exe LOCAL SERVICE Windows XP
3 svchost.exe NETWORK SERVICE Windows XP
4 svchost.exe NETWORK SERVICE Windows XP
5 System Idle Process SYSTEM (Not really a process!)
6 System SYSTEM Windows XP
7 smss.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
8 csrss.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
9 winlogon.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
10 services.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
11 lsass.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
12 svchost.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
13 svchost.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
14 spoolsv.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
15 wmiprvse.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
16 msiexec.exe SYSTEM Windows XP
17 explorer.exe TOM Windows XP
18 taskmgr.exe TOM Windows XP
19 wscntfy.exe TOM Windows XP


That's pretty much basic Windows XP. Seventeen processes if you don't count taskmgr.exe which is required to display the processes and "System Idle" which is simply the processor not running anything.

Needless to say, things are not going to stay at seventeen very long!

My first surprise, though was this:
After sitting idle a bit, msiexec (the Windows Installer) and wmiprvse (Windows Management Instrumentaion) fell off leaving 15 real processes - seventeen displayed on the Task Manager list.

If you start Windows up in Safe Mode, by the way, you will find these same fifteen processes running except for:
alg.exe – part of Internet connectivity
spoolsv.exe – the print spooler
wscntfy.exe – the Windows security center
and one of the svchost.exe processes
so perhaps eleven processes is “minimum windows” or maybe as much as fifteen.  You make the call.  Either way, there’s not much happening at this point.  And what is happening is pretty slow going, especially on the screen.  Program windows and icons don’t move around very fast because the video acceleration capability of your video adapter is not being utilized.  So let’s add some drivers!

After adding drivers for Intel and Roxio chipsets, Nvidia Video card and both wired and wireless networking cards, we picked up 8 new processes, for a total of 23 real processes (again omitting Task Manager and System Idle) . From now on, with processes coming and going, I will just keep track of the numbers of new ones showing up.

18 wuauclt.exe SYSTEM Windows auto update
20 BCMWLTRY.EXE SYSTEM Broadcom Wireless
21 nvsvc32.exe SYSTEM NVIDIA graphics card
22 rundll32.exe TOM  
23 rundll32.exe TOM  
24 WLTRAY.EXE TOM Dell Wireless Tray
25 msmsgs.exe TOM Windows Messenger

again, after sitting idle a bit, one process, wuauclt.exe went away.

After adding some more drivers, the Firefox web browser, the TrendMicro antivirus system and the Dell Utilities to "make it a Vostro" we are up to 33 processes. Also we have used 4.91 GB on the hard drive and still don't have an honest application installed! Hey, does anyone remember the IBM PC XT with a 10MB hard drive? Here we have used 491 times as much disk space as there was on the XT and can't do a spreadsheet yet. Ah, progress.

New processes are:

26 firefox.exe TOM Firefox
27 quickset.exe TOM Dell Vostro Buttons
28 SfCtlCom.exe SYSTEM Trend Micro
29 stsystra.exe TOM Audio Driver
30 TMBMSRV.exe SYSTEM Trend Micro
31 TmPfw.exe SYSTEM Trend Micro
32 TmProxy.exe SYSTEM Trend Micro
33 UfSeAgnt.exe TOM Trend Micro

I use TrendMicro for my antivirus since it hasn't "broken" anything on any of my computers yet. This is much unlike Norton and McCaferty (yeah, I know the real name) whose annual upgrade processes have made some of my computers sicker than any virus and me madder than hell!

After adding Microsoft Office, a lot of data files, firing up Excel, running several tabs in Firefox and starting up Outlook Express for e-mail, I found myself at 36 processes.

New processes are:

34 ctfmon.exe TOM MS Office 2007
35 EXCEL.EXE TOM Excel 2007
36 msimn.exe TOM Outlook Express

Also another copy of svchost was added but msiexec.exe went away.

36 svchost.exe SYSTEM  

Not bad!. 36 processes running, very snappy performance! And in the process of adding a good amount of data, I increased disk usage to 17 GB.

Then I installed a copy of Zune software for my wife's Zune player that I gave her last Christmas. (Why a Zune? The FM Radio.)
This got me two Zune Processes

37 ZuneBusEnum.exe SYSTEM Zune
38 ZuneLauncher.exe TOM Zune

and as a surprise bonus, I also found

39 mscorsvw.exe SYSTEM  

running on the system!

I had to install an operating system upgrade to get the Zune program to load so this might have been the real culprit here.

It is hard to find a good description of what this process does, but it appears to be compiling some code on my system and some descriptions indicate that it may go away after awhile. We'll see.

This got us to a total of about 39 running processes. (37 without Task Manager and Idle)

Now actually connecting the Zune and synching it got me two more processes:

40 ZUNE.exe TOM Zune
41 WUDFHost.exe TOM Zune

for a total of 41 processes.

Overnight, Windows shut down after downloading a "critical" update. With the Zune disconnected, ZUNE.EXE went away but not WUDFHost.exe

And, O yes, mscorsvw.exe did go away.

Next I added in Photoshop Elements 3.0 plus did a reboot or two.
This gave me a total of 8 copies of svchost.exe running
Plus three new processes for the Photoshop Organizer contained in Elements.

42 PhotoshopElementsDeviceConnect.exe SYSTEM P.S. Elements 3.0
42 PhotoshopElementsFileAgent.exe SYSTEM P.S. Elements 3.0
44 PhotoshopElementsOrganizer.exe TOM P.S. Elements 3.0

After transferring 35,000 photos into the organizer, disk usage was up to 55 GB. The first computer I ever worked on held about 2mb on each reel of magnetic tape. So this is about 27,500 reels of tape.  Quite a tape library I have.

And with the comings and goings of a couple of the processes such as wscntfy.exe and wuauclt.exe we are at 44 processes - 42 without Task Manager and Idle.

For me, this should pretty much be my base system:
Multi-tabbed Web Browser
Photoshop Organizer with my photos
Either Word or Excel
Zune awaiting connection

Anything over 44 processes is probably unnecessary or suspicious for me.

And, of course, as always happens, I missed one driver that comes with a running process:

45 SynTPEnh.exe TOM Synaptics Touchpad

that one is for the Synaptics TouchPad on the Vostro.
So make the new total 45.

I also noticed that TrendMicro received a quick update and that added two processes very briefly. I didn't get the names.

Well, of course your mileage will vary, mostly depending on your applications.  But I have now vowed to run task manager when I first fire up a new computer and store away what is running in the "initial state." By the way, if you do that and find much over 40 processes running, it is because your new computer is loaded with "crapware" and "nagware." In this case you must "de-crapify" the computer or do what I just did and reload the Operating System from scratch.

Or, I suppose you could just buy a Mac. But then, where's the fun?

And so now, as a public service to everyone who has read this far, lets conduct a poll:

How Many Processes Are Running on Your Copy of XP at the Moment?