Conflict of interest in royal catfight over Windows 7 memory performance?Posted: February 21, 2010
I haven’t made an IT Punditry post in a long time. I haven’t missed doing that; I am too cynical of the IT press to enjoy punditry; most of the reporters want to be Morley Safer or Bob Woodward, but aren’t and won’t be. Others just cynically latch on to the latest factoid that can be spun to get page views.
The latest tempest in the IT press involves a researcher who claims Windows 7 uses more memory than previous versions, “alarmingly low memory”. Ars Technica’s Peter Bright, and Computerworld have reported on this and the comments have been furious.
The claims and counterclaims center around a feature of Windows 7 called Superfetch. With this feature, Windows extends the prefetch feature in XP so that it aggressively caches programs in memory that are most commonly called up by the user, based on his or her usage patterns.
The question has been whether XPNet’s performance metrics have taken this into account.
The performance tool, DMS ClarityNet, works, as far as I know, by taking certain memory-related Windows performance counters, sending them to their server, combining them into a proprietary performance figure that is calculated and displayed on a web-site widget.
I say, “as far as I know”, for good reason. Though I do remember trying out the program a few months before this controversy—I’m still listed as a customer on their website, I don’t recall if I kept it on my machine. I’m always trying out various admin and performance software to evaluate for myself and SATV. I seem to recall I didn’t like the tool and uninstalled it, for specific reasons I can’t remember. I try and discard many programs if they don’t work or they don’t do what I thought they’d do or they’re unsuitable in some other way.
Unfortunately for XPNet, I’ve found a good reason never to try the program again: Mr. Bright’s personal machine’s performance data was divulged!
But Mr. Bright didn’t stop at simply attacking our intelligence. He took the additional step of actually contributing data from his own test PC, the one he claims shows the lie in our data. And it was at this point that the story got interesting.
You see, by connecting his PC to our network, he made his raw system metrics data available to us. And after reviewing this data, it became clear why our System Monitor widget flagged his system as being low on memory.
It’s because it’s true.
A look at the Committed Bytes counter values collected from his PC…
What XPNet just did here is a Game Over by anyone’s standard of ethics.
Whatever reason I have had to try their client has totally evaporated.
There are real companies like Pingdom that monitor connectivity, uptime and availability for their customers. Could one imagine what would happen if they made a blog post saying, “Oh, we think IIS sucks. Here’s a stupid customer of ours who uses it. See how bad their availability is?!”—and they named the customer!
It would be devastating, not least to Pingdom. They would be out of business.
Devil Mountain Software, according to their business model, analyzes performance for financial-based clients.
They have no reason to break out their data by the individual machines involved.
None at all.
If I were a client of theirs I would be an ex-client. It shouldn’t even be possible for that exo.net blogger to even have non-aggregated individual data!
And they have financial customers?!?
In my first draft of this blog post, I was going to explain how I thought the metrics were flawed and how I have not seen the performance problems that DMS claims either on my personal network or SATV’s.
But with this development, it is beyond technical. Any technical points I could make are now irrelevant. I have to consider the DMS ClarityNet client as malware, on the same level as those fake antivirus programs that cause so much grief. Or the Sony CD rootkit.
I have no compunctions about reverse-engineering this client to find out what exactly it sends. I’m sure someone will if I don’t.
More astonishing, and what finally made me post this, is this morning’s post from Exo.Net, calling out the comment of one person who agreed with them and seeking to end the discussion on that note.
Past posts were signed “Performance Team”. This one: “Randall C. Kennedy”.
Houston, we have a problem…