Creating a Public Symbol Server, Easily

I’ve been a big fan of symbol servers for years. They are a part of the Microsoft/Windows ecosystem that is far better than anything I have seen for other operating systems. With Microsoft’s and Chrome’s symbol servers configured I can download a user’s Chrome crash and start analyzing it immediately – with code bytes and symbols – without knowing or caring what OS or Chrome version that user was running. Since Chrome’s symbols are source-indexed I will even get source-code popping up automatically, and all of this is available to anyone who is interested – no special Google privileges required.

Continue reading

Posted in Debugging, Programming, Symbols, uiforetw | Tagged | 11 Comments

Bulk ETW Trace Analysis in C#

WPA CPU usage graphETW traces record a wealth of information about how a Windows system is behaving. When analyzing a new and unknown problem there is no replacement for loading the trace into WPA and following the clues to a solution. The thrill of the hunt and the creative challenge of finding a visualization that will reveal the root cause never gets old (too nerdy? Sorry – I do enjoy this).

But sometimes you want to extract some commonly found piece of information from multiple traces, and doing this manually is tedious and error prone.

Continue reading

Posted in uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , | 8 Comments

O(n^2), again, now in WMI

I recently hit some multi-minute delays on my workstation. After investigating I found that the problem was due to a lock being held for five minutes, and during that time the lock-holder was mostly just spinning in a nine-instruction loop.

Coming up with a good title for my blog posts is critical but I immediately realized that the obvious title of “48 processors blocked by nine instructions” was taken already by a post from less than a month earlier. The number of processors blocked is different, and the loop is slightly longer but, really, it’s just deja vu all over again. So, while I will explain the new issue that I found I first want to discuss the question of why this keeps happening.

Why does this happen?

Roughly speaking it’s due to an observation which I’m going to call Dawson’s first law of computing: O(n^2) is the sweet spot of badly scaling algorithms: fast enough to make it into production, but slow enough to make things fall down once it gets there.

Continue reading

Posted in Investigative Reporting, Programming, Rants, uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , , , , | 43 Comments

Heap Snapshots–Tracing All Heap Allocations

I’ve recently started using heap snapshots on Windows to track heap allocations. I was able to use heap snapshots to record call stacks for all outstanding allocations in Chrome’s browser process over a full two weeks, letting me account for pretty much every byte of memory consumed.

uxtheme.dll with its own heap inside chrome.exeSince then I have used heap snapshots to find wasteful memory usage in the Windows heap, a memory leak in a security tool injected into Chrome, and many details of Chrome’s memory usage that I was not previously aware of.

I first read about heap snapshots here. This page gives the mechanics of how to record a heap snapshot but it spends very little time explaining what heap snapshots are or how to use them effectively.

Continue reading

Posted in Documentation, Performance, Programming, uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , | 13 Comments

63 Cores Blocked by Seven Instructions

I seem to have a habit of writing about super powerful machines whose many cores are laid low by misuse of locks. So. Yeah. It’s that again.

But this one seems particularly impressive. I mean, how often do you have one thread spinning for several seconds in a seven-instruction loop while holding a lock that stops sixty-three other processors from running. That’s just awesome, in a horrible sort of way.

Contrary to popular belief I don’t actually have a machine with 64 logical processors, and I’ve never seen this particular problem. But a friend hit this problem, nerd-sniped me asked for help, and I decided it was interesting enough to look at. They sent me an ETW trace that contained enough information for me to craft a tweet-for-help which resolved the issue swiftly.

Continue reading

Posted in Investigative Reporting, Performance, Programming, uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , , | 37 Comments

We Need a Carbon Tax, Now, That Goes Up Over Time

If we tax fossil fuels – making them more expensive – then the awesome power and creativity of the free market will create diverse alternatives and efficiencies with minimal additional government intervention.  We will ultimately save money, be healthier, and slow the irreversible transformation of our climate.

Antarctic iceberg

Every year we extract billions of tons of hydrocarbons from the ground and from forests and burn them. Not surprisingly this has addedCoral lives matterhundreds of billions of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere and the oceans. CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat, and CO2 in the oceans makes them more acidic. Because of all this the glaciers and icecaps are melting, temperatures and ocean levels are rising, and corals are dying. Exxon’s scientists warned about this in 1982, but like other oil companies has continued funding climate-change denial. When the situation is bad enough to lead Bill Nye to drop the f-bomb then maybe we should pay attention. Continue reading

Posted in Commuting, Environment | Tagged , , | 69 Comments

Taskbar Latency and Kernel Calls

I work quickly on my computer and I get frustrated when I am forced to wait on an operation that should be fast. A persistent nuisance on my over-powered home laptop is that closing windows on the taskbar is slow. I right-click on an entry, wait for the menu to appear, and then select “Close window”. The mouse movement should be the slow part of this but instead I find that the delay before the menu appears is the longest component.

Sources on twitter say that a fix is in fast-ring builds as of October 2019, build 18999, but unfortunately this won’t ship to a stable release until early 2020. And in late October Microsoft said “We’ve done some work to improve the launch speed of the taskbar jump lists”, with a thank you from one of the developers.

This has been bothering me for a long time but I had been showing uncharacteristic self control and had resisted being distracted. Until today, when I finally broke down and grabbed an ETW trace.

This post was written as a test of speed-blogging. Total time from finding the issue and sarcastically tweeting about it to publishing the initial post was about 90 minutes.

The ETW trace records me right-clicking on the task bar to close two Explorer windows. I used UIforETW’s Tracing to file with the default options, giving me a 20.9 MB trace.

Continue reading

Posted in Investigative Reporting, Performance, uiforetw, xperf | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments