Bittorrent Bugginess... or how to use up 35% of your CPU doing nothing...

Looks like someone might need to add a little throttling to BitTorrent.

Build 4747 of version 6.0 of the client has a nasty little bug in it - one that should be really easy to fix, but a bug nonetheless.

On my laptop (a single core, old Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC), when I'm downloading stuff it will happily sit there, soaking up 35% of my CPU.

What's it doing when it's doing this and how did I figure it out?

Well, I looked at my TaskManager and found that Explorer was taking up 35% of the CPU. I opened up Process Explorer (it's incredibly useful - so download it here; you can find other useful tools at the site) to figure out what was going on in more detail, selected Explorer, and looked in the properties. What I got was this:

Explorer.exe Thread Properties in Process Explorer

The Explorer.exe thread properties in Process Explorer

Hmmm... a single thread is soaking up a lot of CPU. I wonder why that is? Let's pop it open by looking at the Stack for that thread by selecting it and hitting the Stack button.

Explorer.exe Highest CPU usage Thread Stack

The Explorer.exe thread stack in Process Explorer

Hmmm... well, nothing really useful at the top of the stack, and every time I break in, the thread looks the same. Which means it's mostly likely another app rapidly updating the tray icons and spamming it so much that it's just getting hammered and soaking up a lot of CPU.

But how do we find out which app?

I wussed out on this, dear reader. I just started going through the tray and closed apps one by one until I found the one that was doing it. In this case, it looks like it's BitTorrent. I close it down, and the problem goes away. Open it back up, and lo and behold, 35% CPU.

Kinda sucks. Should be an easy fix though - just update the icon on a timer instead of every time something changes in BitTorrent. Hopefully they'll fix it soon.


Doctor Who Christmas Special - Sinks like the Titanic


Can I say that again? Ugh.

Just got done watching the Doctor Who christmas special (I justify my bittorrenting by saying that ... erm... well, if my passport had arrived on time, I'd have been watching it in the UK).

Here's the short and skinny:

The pacing was totally off. I mean, totally. Not enough emotional ramp up, too many hits in too small a space... too many blindingly obvious attempts at emotional manipulation. Basically too big a story in too small a space... either that or it's just plain hamhandedness. Russell T. Davies, I'm looking at you. Occasionally you write scripts like you're a kid with a toybox... I wish you'd practice some restraint, just once. I can take pigs in space - almost. I can take Voodoo Child - I mean, ok, I get it, at this point The Master is nutso. But please, get rid of the one-note gags. Forehead zippers? Farting? Come on, man, get it together! You don't have to put every idea on the page, no matter how cool you think it is when you come up with it. Sometimes, the best thing a writer can do it not write. Kill your babies - even the ones you're fond of. The script is better off for it.

The musical score... too much music. Way too much music. Silence is useful. Bombasticness is not the way to go - it overpowers the drama. Try Battlestar Galactica on for size, they get it right nearly every single time. Murray Goldman, please, for the love of god, stop! You did a great job when Rose died in Doomsday. A fantastic job. You did a wonderful job on The Girl in the Fireplace ... You did a great job with Father's Day. Where's that subtle hand? I know you can do it. You should do it more.


Yeah, I know, I'm taking this way too seriously... but sheesh... two Doctor kisses in one episode? Hammering the fact that the Doctor can't save everyone way too hard? (It only needs to happen once - at most twice - even in a Christmas special. More than that is overt). Never mind the fact that you appeared to change your mind on exactly what way you were going to take this episode - originally you meant for that Titanic to be the real one. How do I know? Even in the special, in the scenes that you borrowed from the last episode, water came off the boat. If it's a spaceship, that doesn't make sense. So what was your original plan? And why did you change it? The whole ship is space thing seems like you painted yourself into a corner and this was your only route out of the whole thing.

As for the director... James Strong directed my two least favorite episodes last season - Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I don't know why, but they just didn't ring true for me in any sense. Oddly, he also directed two of the higher-end episodes of the previous season - The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. This episode continues with the Dalek episode streak, unfortunately.

This has to be the worst episode I've seen since ... well.. Aliens In London was bad. Rose was pretty lame. But sheesh... what happened guys? You're blowing it.

Here's to that rest year. You guys are going to need it if Season 4 carries on like this...

#science fiction, #script writing, #tv
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Surreal Game Design Blog - Gone :(

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control1, the Surreal Game Design blog had to be shut down.

Which sucks, but there you go.

I'll be dribbling out the articles I had stacked up over the next few weeks. I'll be aiming at one a week.

1Lawyers, eh?


Mission Accomplished!

Yay! I just completed one of several goals I set myself when I first went to work at Surreal.

I'm now part of the background crowd "walla" for the game we're working on. It's not exactly getting my Sean Connery impersonation into a game in any form, or doing any of my european accents, but still, it counts!

So what have I achieved so far on my list?

  • I've worked in Tech, Tools and Gameplay. I wanted to get exposure in all areas so that (heaven forfend) when I eventually set up my own company, I know how people do it these days, from direct personal experience.
  • Shipped a game on a modern architecture (the old 8 bit systems don't count for much these days) - namely, The Suffering: Ties That Bind.
  • Wrote some dialogue for our currently unannounced game (it's a couple of lines here and there in the older story pieces - most people don't even know that I did it - and that includes people working here).
  • Got my voice in a game. (Yeah, I know, as background, but still, it means a lot to me).
  • Have code shipped in some major titles - and some that haven't shipped yet. (My code is, to date, in Stranglehold, TNA Wrestling, Wheelman, our unannounced game [obviously], possibly the next Mortal Kombat game, and possibly Blitz 2008... and one of the systems I architected is used across Midway to handle crash reporting and post-mortem debugging).
  • Worked on all the major current platforms (except the Wii and the DS, unfortunately).

Not much left to do... time to come up with a new list :)


If you're flying to or from SeaTac airport this Xmas, a few words of warning

Here's some info from personal (i.e. last night) experience:

You should be aware that things are slightly nuts at SeaTac right now…

I left the office at 11pm last night. Got to the SeaTac off-ramp around 11:15. Spent the next 45 minutes in traffic waiting to get to the actual arrivals/departure/parking area.

People aren’t using the cell phone waiting area when there’s high congestion, which is making things much worse.

If you’re picking someone up, consider using the Hourly Parking at the airport itself to do so. Most people aren’t using it because the road is under construction, and it’s so badly labeled that people are missing it each time they go past. So if you want to use it:

Get left as early as you can once you’re through the off-ramps. It may help to find someone trying to get right and swap with them.

You will see a “Parking Next Left” sign. IT IS NOT LYING. Turn left the MOMENT you see an actual road that goes left, even if about 15 feet down there you see a “Road Closed” sign. You will be driving to the left of this sign; it’s badly placed and doesn’t apply to your actual destination. There is one fakeout before you get to that road, where it looks like there should be a road going left; if you can’t drive down it, it’s not the one I’m talking about.

(I and several others did at least 2 loops before we figured this out. The people who are doing the construction work should be shot for not properly putting up signs).

If you hit the Rental Car Returns, you’ve gone too far.

Use your credit card in the ticket machines. Don’t expect to get a ticket back; you won’t get one. Just use the same card again when you exit the airport, and it’ll print a receipt for you.

If someone’s arriving at the A-gates, the security exit that you think should let you out will probably be closed (it’s by Gate A2), and this can be very confusing for tired travelers. By Gate A6, there is a security exit which is open – just walk toward A6 from gates A1-A5 and pull an immediate U-turn and it should let you out onto the main concourse. There’s also another way out if you just walk to the B/C/D gates.

In short... if you’re flying, allow about AN HOUR possibly more of driving time to get into the damn airport. Allow AN HOUR in addition to your normal driving time to pick people up. And if you’re picking people up, use the incredibly awesomely sign-posted hourly parking.


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