The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Tracing two more Vista issues

After successfully defeating Windows Vista in the media playback department, I’m tracing two more issues. I only noticed these issues last week when trying Futuremark‘s latest incarnation of the PCMark benchmark: PCMark Vantage.

The first issue doesn’t really have a performance impact. When starting PCMark Vantage, it told me Windows Mail was running. Ehh? Unfortunately it was not a detection error because Windows Mail was really running. That’s pretty strange because (a) I haven’t even configured any email client on my laptop and (b) I would certainly not use Outlook Express or its new version as my email client. But there’s even more weirdness involved. By tracing the winmail.exe process, I found out it was launched by the same process that caused the media playback issues: “svchost.exe -DcomLaunch”. What the hell?

I’m still trying to find out why Windows Mail gets launched by the Dcom server. The bad part is that there’s much less information available than with the media playback issue. If anyone has any clue, please let me know through the comments.

The second issue surfaced when copying the PCMark installer from my main machine to my laptop. Transferring files across the network is SLOW! And it can’t be the network… Initiating the transfer from my PC results in a sustained network throughput of 90%. Initiating it from my laptop makes the throughput peak very briefly, followed by a stall in network activity. The net result is a 20 second difference doing exactly the same transfer. For a ~650MB file on a 100 megabit network, that’s a huge difference.

A search on the internet quickly revealed I’m not the only one. I’ve tried several suggested fixes, but none of them improved the performance. I had my hopes set on a tweak of the new TCP/IP stack in Vista, namely:
netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled
but that didn’t help either. Again, magical solutions or hints are much appreciated.

Aside from those issues, I’ve been much happier with Vista once I disabled the indexing service (it really does trash the HDD) and system restore. Both “features” put a high burden on the HDD and the system feels much more responsive with those two things turned off.

Choices: the lottery of life

Choices are a common thing in the life cycle of a human being. They’re some kind of puzzle, often with many solutions and not always resulting in a predictable outcome. Sometimes, those “puzzles of life” are easy to solve but they can also be quite hard to solve.

An easy choice was the direction of my IT education. We were the first “generation” to actually have a choice. The education used to be a mix between development and networking/system administration but the main focus was on development. We were offered a choice for the third (and thus last) year of the education: software development or networking/system administration. With two years of software development being part of history, I figured I would have enough background to do fine in software development (and web development in particular) and decided to explore new horizons. Looking back at that decision, I still think it was the right one.

Time warp to the present which is a gap of 6 years and I can see the choice reappearing on the horizon. I’ve spent 5 years doing web development mixed with very brief moments of maintaining two Linux servers. While short in time, those moments have provided a welcome distraction from the development job. In fact, taking them away from me would really piss me off. So I feel I’m rapidly approaching a crossroad and I have no idea what direction to take. I would like to remain active as a web developer but I also feel an increasing desire to do system administration.

Web development is an exciting area when you can live on the proverbial edge: trying new and emerging trends/technologies. But the fun is completely gone when you’re not allowed to create new challenges or to be innovative. If the only goal is to get the job done (that means without any interest in the user experience, the quality of the product, the architecture of the backend, …), web development becomes just as boring as looking at an old sock. The real thrill comes from e.g. playing with new technologies and then incorporating them into your projects ending in a better user experience ultimately making users happier. We are not drones, we’re creative minds!

It’s probably that frustration that drives the system administrator in me. It’s like going from the front lines to the supply lines. You’re not taking commands all the time and you’re fine as long as the supply line doesn’t collapse. Managing servers, a domain, network infrastructure, user policies, security, … are things I really enjoy doing.

Eventually, it all comes down to who I am as an IT guy. I’m not an analyst, I’m a technical guy. I love to get a deep knowledge of the product I’m working with, I love diving in APIs to find hidden features or nifty things, I love pushing things to the limit just to see how far the tech can go, I love trying new stuff and I love looking for other ways to accomplish the same thing. But I can only reach my full potential when I’m given some room to be creative and innovative. And I do have a real-life example to back that up.

And after all that text, I still don’t know what to do…