Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brain Scans: Running the Task Manager

Twenty seconds is so much worse than two seconds. You know what I mean?

It's so annoying when the computer is technically working, but it's doing everything really slowly. And so, you don't want to take it to your handy nerd because 1) they haven't run out of cookies yet from the last time, and 2) because like I said, it's technically working. And you really don't want to admit that you got impatient over 20 seconds.

It's okay, I'm not judging. I'm completely there with you - those extra 18 seconds really are inexcusable. I also understand how frustrating it is that something as instinctive as the keep-clicking-until-it-does-something method never works. Ever.

Instead, what you have to do is close your Facebook.


Goes against your instincts, right? Yeah. I know. But I'm not kidding.

Your computer has what's called a CPU. Now last time I wrote to you, I didn't know what that was. But now I know. It's a "Central Processing Unit." A very silly name. What the nerds mean to say is "Computer Brain." The CPU is the computer's brain where the computer thinks and works things through.

Now Facebook takes a lot of the brain's power. It fills our computers' brains. And when Facebook is open, the computer works slowly. Funny. I thought I was the only one.

BUT. You don't have to take my word for it. You can take a brain scan of your computer's brain. Taking a brain scan of your computer will show you exactly what your computer is thinking about. Not what it's got stored. Just what it's working on. Pretty cool, huh? Here's a picture of mine.

In the first and the last columns, you will see the names of the programs your computer is currently using. Now some of these will not look familiar to you. That's okay. I don't know what they are either.

The second column tells you which person is running which program. Sometimes, if a bunch of people use the same computer or network a specific program will be run by the computers as a whole instead of an individual person. So don't panic if this list includes a name other than your own or no name at all. Your computer is not being taken over by hostile alien computers. I promise.

In the middle, we have CPU. This tells us the percentage of brain that each program is using. As you can see, it does not add up to a hundred percent. Well, like humans computers don't use all of their brains. The unused percentage of brain is called "System Idle Process". (I don't know why they don't just call it what it is: The Nothing Box.) It can be found somewhere else. Or you could just do math and figure it out yourself.

The fourth column depicts exactly how much memory is being used to run these programs while the computer is on and the programs are open (i.e. this number does not include the documents and such you have stored on your computer). As you can see in the picture, my Firefox is currently using 131,776K ("kilobytes" - that's about 164,720 pages of a Word document). However, the only thing I'm running in the browser at the moment is this blogger. Also notice that Microsoft Outlook and Skype are using a lot of memory. This is because programs that use the internet typically need more memory to temporarily store and relay information to its user. Firefox temporarily stores the web design, data, and ads for your open web pages; Outlook is storing emails, calendars, and contacts; and Skype is storing messages, contacts, and statuses.

This is why I wasn't kidding when I said the first thing you should do is close Facebook. Just opening Facebook on my computer caused my Firefox's memory use to jump to about 170,000K (212,500 pages). It takes a lot of memory to project all those targeted ads, the stalker ticker feed, news feed, notifications, chat windows, and profiles. The news feed in particular is a real culprit, because it's basically an infinite amount of information to temporarily store and relay. The more I scrolled through the News Feed the more kilobytes of memory Facebook was using. I clicked "more stories" twice and the kilobytes used doubled to about 300,000K (375,000 pages).

Okay, so here's the scenario. Your computer is running slowly. You've closed Facebook. You've closed all those extra tabs in your browser you forgot to close down from last week. And it's still running slowly.

1) Move your mouse to the blue bar at the bottom of the screen. This bar is called a "Task Bar" because it shows all the little icons of the programs you currently have open to do your various tasks.

2) Right click, and select "Start Task Manager." Make sure the "Processes" tab is selected. OR you could just press and hold the following keys in order: Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Mind blown.

3) Click on "Memory." This will sort the programs based on how much memory it is using. If you prefer, you could also sort it by CPU (percentage of brain being used).

4) IF you recognize a program that is using too much brain power and memory and wish to stop it, then you should click on that program's row and select "End Process." For example, I don't want my computer working on Skype, so I'm going to end it. Since this process forces a complete shut down of the program without saving squat it's usually not a good idea to close a program that way. Saving and closing from the program itself is a much safer route.

Computers delegate tasks and memory based on what you're doing on the computer. So any program can fluctuate up to using as much as 80% brain power (CPU), but it usually only does so momentarily. However, any program that uses more than 20% brain power (CPU) for longer than just a few seconds could possibly pose a problem. Since ending a process is a forced shut down don't end anything unless you know for sure what it is. You can find out what program it is by Googling it or calling us, your beloved LeTourneau IT.

5) When you are done analyzing your computer's brain, be sure to select the red "X" at the top right of your task manager. It would be awful if you clicked "end process" when you thought you were clicking "ok" or "cancel". Don't be ashamed. I almost do it every time.

Blogger. End process.

Sincerely, The Fly

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