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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fixing Windows

Ok, I used to do technical support a while back (for a local computer retailer). The trouble is a person can only take so much technical support work before they do all they can to avoid it (ask any geeky computer scientist type whether they'd prefer to troubleshoot a problems with some Windows drivers or write a Sudoku solver). It becomes far to easy to write off the majority of computer users as porn addicts on a kamikaze spyware installation mission and one even tries as hard as possible to avoid ones own problems.

Well, I'm not a spyware junkie, but my computer has had a problem for a while now. After it has been on a few days it will decide it doesn't want to draw any more windows. You'll try to, fire up a new browser window, maybe even right click on a button in the task bar, each action ends in the same "Exclamation" sound, a sudden beep, no new browser, no context menu. You have to close one window before you can open another (by double clicking the control box of course -- remember, no new popups allowed). Quite frustrating, and most unexpected for a computer with 2GB of physical RAM and large page files on two different physical hard drives to choose between.

It was time to act, be my own technical support expert, and there is no easy way out with blaming the user here...

At first I wanted to blame Directory Opus or GVIM, these were usually the programs I was dabbling in when the problem occurred. One or both may be at fault, or I may be jumping to conclusions as very often when I am in a frenzy of work new instances of both of these applications will be loaded at an alarming rate. I went looking for a more low level solution and came across this little gem: <hi84d.130$hIO1.7@news04.bloor.is.net.cable.rogers.com>

Adjust your desktop heap size: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\SubSystems.

The "Windows" value has a long string, including "SharedSection=xxxx,yyyy,zzzz". The second number (yyyy) is the one that you want to increase. It is probably at 3MB (3072) which allegedly supports 15,000 elements (windows, menus, etc.). While arbitrarily high values are not recommended, other users found 8MB fixed the problem (8192).

I took the advice, and all seems good so far. Quite possibly I have some software somewhere to blame. Maybe I have just delayed the time it takes for this behaviour to occur. But initial tests are looking good.

What a 5* service, I wont even test my prediction that a call to technical support for my hardware vendor would result in the good old format/reload.

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