Making a 4K Fractal Movie with Fractal eXtreme

Four years ago I created a HD fractal movie because I wanted to see how quickly Fractal eXtreme could calculate the same movie that Orson Wang had posted to youtube. My version of his movie was antialiased and 720p and seemed pretty impressive at the time. I discussed it here.

imageI recently got a 4K TV and I realized that my “HD” video looked blurry on it. So I decided to make a new version, at 4K resolution instead of just 720p, with improved colors and other tweaks.

Standing a few feet in front of the 4K TV while this new movie plays makes me happy. It is the zoom-movie perfection that I have imagined since I released my first fractal program in 1986. I think it’s beautiful, and I also think that it is profound that all of this complexity comes from a formula as simple as Z = Z * Z + C.

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Posted in Fractals, Performance | Tagged | 12 Comments

Thread Naming in Windows: Time for Something Better

Windows lets you give names to the threads in your process which can then be displayed by debuggers. This is a great idea, but the implementation is showing its age – it’s time for some fixes, or something better.

Update, Dec 2015: the race condition has been fixed and the doc writers have been asked to fix the sample code. Bugs work!

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Posted in Debugging, Programming, Visual Studio | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

ETW Central

Over the last few years I’ve written over forty blog posts that discuss ETW/xperf profiling. I’ve done this because it’s one of the best profilers I’ve ever used, and it’s been woefully undersold and under documented by Microsoft. My goal has been to let people know about this tool, make it easier for developers and users to record ETW traces, and to make it as easy as possible for developers to analyze ETW traces.

Some of those posts have aged poorly, and the rest are hidden amongst the 160+ posts (really? wow) I’ve written. The purpose of this page is to be a central hub that links to the ETW/xperf posts that are still relevant. Also, I’ve updated many of the older posts to reflect changes in the ETW toolset (technically known as the Windows Performance Toolkit). For convenience this page is accessible as

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Posted in uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

Xperf Basics: Recording a Trace (the ultimate easy way)

imageIf your Windows computer is running slowly – if a program takes a long time to launch, if a game has a poor frame rate, or if an idle application uses too much CPU time – the best way to investigate is to record an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) trace. An ETW trace records a wealth of information (CPU sampling, context switches, disk I/O, custom data, and much more) that allows most performance problems to be understood by a trained expert. If you’re not a trained expert then you can still record an ETW trace, and then share it with somebody who is.

If a particular program is being slow or inefficient then you may be able to record an ETW trace and share it with the authors of that program. Quite often they can figure out what is going wrong, whether it is a bug on their side or an overheating CPU on your side. Tell them I sent you. They may be grateful for receiving an actionable report instead of vague complaints about slowness which they cannot reproduce.

Not all developers are equipped to analyze ETW traces, for technical and practical reasons – ask first.

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Posted in Performance, Programming, uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

New Xperf and new WPA in the new WPT

A new version of Windows means a new version of the Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT), the ship vehicle for xperf, WPA and other Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) tools.

I’m a huge fan of xperf/ETW (just look at some of the performance investigations I’ve done with it) and the new version offers enough improvements that I’m switching to WPT 10 immediately, but keeping WPT 8.1 installed, with UIforETW automatically selecting between them. You should too.

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Posted in Symbols, xperf | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Graph All the Things (Using WPT 10)

Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) has always recorded a rich set of data and allowed graphing it all on the same timeline. With the creation of UIforETW (which records more data) and the new* ETW trace viewer (which can graph custom data) the ability to visualize important patterns is better than ever before.

And, what better way to visualize how to create graphs than a video demonstrating what is discussed in this post.

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Posted in Performance, Programming, xperf | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Programming is Puzzles

When I’m describing what I do for a living to non-programmers I sometimes say that I solve puzzles. I solve fascinating puzzles that are different every day, and there’s no answer key, and very often nobody else knows the solution. Whether it’s figuring out why code is slow, or why it is crashing, or how to make code simpler and better, it’s all puzzles, and I love it.

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Posted in Investigative Reporting, Performance, Programming, Visual Studio | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments