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86% of Windows 7 PCs Maxing Out Memory

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the brand-new-resource-hog dept.

Windows 613

CWmike writes "Citing data from Devil Mountain Software's community-based Exo.performance.network (XPnet), Craig Barth, the company's chief technology officer, said that new metrics reveal an unsettling trend. On average, 86% of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90%-95% of their available RAM, resulting in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks. The 86% mark for Windows 7 is more than twice the average number of Windows XP machines that run at the memory 'saturation' point, and this comes despite more RAM being available on most Windows 7 machines. 'This is alarming,' Barth said of Windows 7 machines' resource consumption. 'For the OS to be pushing the hardware limits this quickly is amazing. Windows 7 is not the lean, mean version of Vista that you may think it is.'"

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When do people get this (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183000)

RAM is wasted when it isn't in use. The fact that the task manager in Windows says your RAM is used 95% tells nothing, and no it won't "result in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks". I'm actually really surprised, and not in a good way, that "chief technology officer" of the company doesn't know this.

The new memory models in recent OS's try to utilize all the available RAM (as they should) to speed up things otherwise. It makes a lot of sense to cache things from hard-drive in low-peak usage points, and in such such way that it doesn't interfere with other perfomance. When the things that are most often used are already cached in RAM, their loading works a lot faster. This doesn't include only files, icons or such, but everything the OS could use or do that takes time.

If theres a sudden need for more RAM, the cached data can be "dropped" in no time. It doesn't matter if it averages at 25% or 95%, just that the perfomance overally is better when you utilize all the resources you can to speed up things in general.

Re:When do people get this (5, Informative)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183036)

My understanding was that memory used for disk caching doesn't show up in task manager as "used".

It's been a while since I booted win7 though, so I might be mistaken.

Certainly under linux ram used as disk cache is marked "free".

It wouldn't surprise me that win7 has a heavier memory footprint though - as more applications move to .net and web browsers use lots of flash / silverlight etc - all of these things have a RAM cost.

Re:When do people get this (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183104)

I think the issue here is that the system is turning to swap. Caching stuff that may be referenced again is fine and dandy, but if the system regularly turns to swap just to keep itself afloat, then you have a problem.

Re:When do people get this (5, Interesting)

snemarch (1086057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183414)

Yep, that would be a problem - but neither the TFA nor xpnet mentions if this is actually happening, it seems that they're looking almost exclusively at "free physical memory", which isn't a useful stat in this regard. The xpnet site does say they factor in "how often it relies on virtual memory", but not how they do this (there's multiple metrics to choose from, some fairly uninteresting) and the fact that they seem to factor this in as a part of "memory usage" rather than keeping it as a separate stat makes me pretty wary of trusting any analysis from them.

Re:When do people get this (-1, Offtopic)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183110)

If the RAM is filled with a lot of crap, such that the OS must keep loading of the HDD to get information, that slooooows system performance not speed it up.

I know my brother's Windows/Vista 7 system with ~3000 megabytes still seems slower than my XP system with 500 meg. Considering he has the new dual-processor technology (AMD X2) where have an old single-core P4, it should be the opposite. I'm still trying to figure out why his new PC is slower.

Someday I'd like to have a system where I have enough RAM to turn-off HDD caching completely.

I know when I run Puppy Linux, which fits entirely within ~30 megabytes of RAM, the system is the most responsive OS I've ever seen. No HDD caching means no slowdown or pregnant pauses.

Re:When do people get this (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183174)

Here we see why /. needs a "-1, Wrong" mod.

Re:When do people get this (1, Offtopic)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183304)

Or people that take the time to explain WHY my post was wrong. Which part is wrong? Where I said my brothers Win7 machine runs slower than my XP machine? That's not something you can demonstrate, because you have not seen his machine or my machine.

What else was wrong? The part where I said Puppy Linux runs like a speed demon, because it sits wholly-and-completely in RAM? Perhaps I did make an error there, but I don't think so. Puppy IS fast.

Maybe the part about HDD caching slowing things down?

I could be wrong there, since I'm not an expert but I remember the dark, dark days when my computer when spend 2-3 minutes just to redraw a Word document. Why? Because it was using the HDD like memory, instead of using the actual memory. It seems to me that this problem, while minimized, has never completely gone away.

Anyway telling me "you're wrong" doesn't enlighten either me, or the other readers. Please elucidate.

Re:When do people get this (1)

Josh04 (1596071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183306)

Someday I'd like to have a system where I have enough RAM to turn-off HDD caching completely.

The only system where it makes sense to disable swap space is a system with no HDD at all. Why would you prevent your operating system for accounting for the possibility of filling all that RAM? Do you really think the OS is trying it's hardest to make your computer go slower?

Re:When do people get this (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183364)

The only system where it makes sense to disable swap space is a system with no HDD at all.

Or an OS with terrible swap algorithms.

Anecdotal, subjective and unscientific: I perceived an improvement in performance when I disabled swap in XP.

Re:When do people get this (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183416)


While your point may be valid, I have a system without swap but with a hard drive (three actually). Why? Because I never want it to use swap. Ever. I loathe the idea that my system should resort to that. If I ever find it suffering due to lack of memory, I shall buy more. Elininating swap is done on aesthetic grounds. I renounce it entirely!

Re:When do people get this (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183376)

Stop having such irrational thoughts.

Re:When do people get this (2, Insightful)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183380)

If the RAM is filled with a lot of crap, such that the OS must keep loading of the HDD to get information, that slooooows system performance not speed it up.

Actually in modern operating systems RAM can be used as a disk cache is such a way as it can be "freed" at little to no cost when needed by programs. This in effect means you get quick access to often used programs as they are already cached in RAM.

The only situation in which "RAM is filled with crap and the OS goes to disk" (paraphrased) is when RAM is full - with programs. In this situation yes, it has to go to disk.

Re:When do people get this (0, Flamebait)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183408)

"-1 Wrong" on so many levels.

The reason puppy linux fits in 30MB and runs so fast, is because it does barely anything at all. Whatever purpose you use it for, it surely achieves that well, but don't make silly comparisons.

Next, the swap-file isn't "HDD caching". A cache hierarchy works the other way around -- the fastest (and consequently most expensive, and thus smallest) memory types are closest to the processor (L1, followed by L2, often followed by L3), and the slowest (and consequently least expensive, and largest capacity) are further away -- that would be RAM, and then the HDD. Why add the HDD to the hierarchy? 'cos that's what enables you to simulate infinite memory (or enough for the task at hand, even if you exceed your physical RAM -- if you have enough for the task(s) at hand, it doesn't matter that your capacity is actually finite). Long story short -- in theory, you could call just about every form of memory in your computer a cache, except the HDD.

Your 'anecdote' about your brother's Win7 / Vista (were you being snarky, or does your brother dual-boot?) machine, is what is commonly known as "a lie". Win7/3GB RAM/AMD X2 running slower than XP/512MB/P4? Sorry dude -- simply doesn't add up.

And finally, yes, retreiving stuff from the swap file too often kills performance. But who said that the RAM was 'full of crap' on Win7?

Re:When do people get this (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183422)

There is no speed difference between loading data off the hard drive into empty memory vs loading the data into memory which is being used for cache. You still have to load the same memory either way, and wait for the same delays.

The reason you get memory issues when your memory is over full is because the data which is being taken out of memory may either be modified(in which case it needs to be written back to the disk cache) or reread at a later date.

If the data doesn't need to be written back to the system(because it hasn't been modified) and isn't going to have to be fetched again in a few seconds, then you get no performance degradation at all.

Generally speaking you will get much better performance having RAM full of stuff you might need, as opposed to empty since if you do need it you won't need to fetch data from the disk.

Re:When do people get this (5, Informative)

snemarch (1086057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183164)

It shows up as part of the memory commit bar - which is what regular users will look at, and then go off screaming about "OMG IT USES ALL MY SYSTEM MEMORY!1!!! one one". It's also deducted from the "free" count, since technically it isn't free (it can be freed quickly, but has to be zeroed out before it can be handed off to a new app - security and all).

The Win7 task manager does show a "cached" stat, though, so your effectively free memory is "free"+"cached". And if you want more comprehensive memory stats, you should look at perfmon.msc or SysInternals' Process Explorer.

I wonder if TFA has actually measured that disk swapping happens (easy with procexp or perfmon), or are just shouting their heads off without understanding what's going on... it's well-known that SuperFetch utilizes otherwise unused memory for disk caching, and does so proactively :)

Re:When do people get this (2, Insightful)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183210)

Ahh fair enough. "Colour me learned something today". :-)

Re:When do people get this (1)

snemarch (1086057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183362)

Well, it's easy to get wrong - and considering Windows is used by regular Joes, it's OK that task manager simplifies matters a bit instead of showing up pages of detailed information.

It's a shame when people who have no clue about how the memory manager works then start making a lot of assumptions... and even worse when somebody who's "collecting system metrics" don't seem to get it, either.

I'm not ruling out that there could be disk paging involved, and there's some actual problem, but considering my own win7 experience across a number of machines as well as the info in the TFA + linked site, I somehow doubt it :)

Re:When do people get this (1)

ysth (1368415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183288)

I wonder if TFA has actually measured that disk swapping happens (easy with procexp or perfmon), or are just shouting their heads off without understanding what's going on...

I give you one guess.

Re:When do people get this (1)

snemarch (1086057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183318)

My guess would be "nothing to see here people, move along - trolls day out, looking for publicity".

Re:When do people get this (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183434)

The article mentions that they use a program of their own creation for monitoring memory usage, so how the users interpret the data is irrelevant as the program will send what it believes to be correct.
Wether the program is accurate or not is another matter, but the fact it doesn't report every system as using 100% of its memory suggests it is at least somewhat aware of superfetch etc.

Re:When do people get this (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183418)

I had a great reply all typed up but the stupid filter thinks it used too many "junk" characters... not entirely sure what those junk characters are, but meh.

I'm on a 2-year old laptop with 4GB of RAM, which I use for gaming. Said system is running Windows 7 x64. Looking at the memory tab, there's two numbers that guage the available memory... of they're only looking at the one labelled "Free", they're going to see that I'm using 80% of my available memory. If they look at the one labelled "Available", they're going to see that I'm using 20% of my available memory right now. That's because the system is pre-caching more than 2GB of data into physical memory so that I don't have to wait for it to be read off the hard drive when I open a program. And it does make a noticeable difference... Office, Acrobat, games like WoW and DA:O all open noticeably faster than they did under XP Professional on the same system. Anecdotally, of course. But when playing games on that system, I *never* run into cache usage. In fact, out of the box Win 7 tries to avoid using swapping, and I'm currently sitting at zero swap usage.

In Linux, as you say, the "free" command simply flags cached memory as available. The breakdown of memory that is currently cached and can easily be dumped to free up memory simply isn't there unless you look at the +/- swap buffers line.

As others have said: precaching stuff into RAM is a good thing. It reduces lag when you're opening things, and can easily be dumped to free up the memory if you open something that needs the memory. I suspect that the authors of TFA aren't looking at how much memory is flagged as available, but rather how much physical memory is actually listed as free.

Re:When do people get this (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183452)

It depends what they're monitoring.

Looking at my windows 7 system. it does appear that you are correct and disk cache is not included in the "In Use" Category. However it isn't included in the "Free" category either, but rather in "Available", so if they're crappy software is reading the "free" category instead of "available" that won't include cached disk.

It's also possible of course that they're monitoring software leaks like a sieve on 86% of windows machines, which is entirely plausible.

Re:When do people get this (1)

Qlither (1614211) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183040)

Great post, if i had the points i would mod you now.
As i happens mine does not use much over 75%-85% when watching videos in firefox or playing games. It is far more effective if programs load all the common use files into ram like firefox.

Re:When do people get this (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183132)

Um, my three year old WinXP system doesn't go over 15% when watching 720p video or playing FPSes. Are you certain there isn't something horribly wrong with your computer?

Re:When do people get this (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183188)

Oh, right, I can read. RAM.

Disregard the above. I'm dumb. =[

Re:When do people get this (2, Insightful)

dr.newton (648217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183060)

If all that RAM was simply being used for a filesystem cache, the system would not have to "increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks" - it would just drop some cache when it needed to start a new task, as you said.

It seems that something else is going on.

Re:When do people get this (1, Interesting)

democomputer (1562465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183092)

The article doesn't state that they have measured increase in virtual memory usage, just that it is a consequence of running out of RAM.

Re:When do people get this (3, Informative)

dr.newton (648217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183134)

From TFA:

"On average, 86% of Windows 7 machines in the XPnet pool are regularly consuming 90%-95% of their available RAM, resulting in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks."

Re:When do people get this (1)

ThaReetLad (538112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183194)

Reads like guess work to me. This is statistical data collected by an automated tool. If this tool were ACTUALLY measuring and reporting increased swapping, then they would report that, but they don't.

I call fail on Craig Barth.

Re:When do people get this (2, Insightful)

Bazer (760541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183064)

I don't know how caching works in W7 but on Linux, if the system has to "turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks" then the memory utilization isn't caused by buffers because buffers are never swapped out to disk. If W7 behaves in a similar manner the it's either a memory leak, system bloat or the caching mechanism is broken.

Re:When do people get this (2, Interesting)

jernejk (984031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183360)

I used Ubuntu for almost a year and I think linux cachnig / virtual memory is implemented better than win7. It seems win7 cache is too aggressive and it dumps active programs from RAM to page files when it should not. Maybe it works OK for most desktop users, but it doesn't work very well for a development machine. I have nothing but my subjective feeling to backup my observations.

Re:When do people get this (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183066)

The new memory models in recent OS's try to utilize all the available RAM (as they should) to speed up things otherwise. It makes a lot of sense to cache things from hard-drive in low-peak usage points, and in such such way that it doesn't interfere with other perfomance. When the things that are most often used are already cached in RAM, their loading works a lot faster. This doesn't include only files, icons or such, but everything the OS could use or do that takes time.

If theres a sudden need for more RAM, the cached data can be "dropped" in no time. It doesn't matter if it averages at 25% or 95%, just that the perfomance overally is better when you utilize all the resources you can to speed up things in general.

Assuming your claims of how Windows 7 is implemented are true, then the claims from the person who actually collected all the empirical evidence must be false:

resulting in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks.

If the memory was freed up dynamically as needed then no processes would ever be forced to resort to disk-based virtual memory. So either you work at Microsoft and are assuring us that the implementation protects against this or you're speculating against someone who has claimed to gathered a large enough to make such accusations.

No offense but I'm going to side with the guy who appears to make his living testing these sorts of things ... the guy who is offering me numbers.

Re:When do people get this (5, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183160)

If they'd measured pagefaults, they could've reported pagefaults. They didn't. RAM usage appears to be the total basis for the article, so his concern is a genuine one. We don't know enough about the study at this stage to dismiss it.

Parent is +1 informative (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183272)

You cannot study virtual memory performance without considering how many page faults occur.

It is perfectly reasonable to use RAM as a filesystem cache, which is why Linux has adopted this approach. The effect is that almost all of the physical RAM is always in use. The cost is that pages are more likely to be wrongly swapped out - however, in typical cases, this increased cost is tiny in relation to the huge reduction in the number of disk accesses.

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183168)

>.> See, they monitor metrics like this, BUT they have no way of actually measuring what the user sees. And the "resulting in slow-downs" is amusingly unsubstantiated.

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183190)

I don't know about you, but I run W7 and I don't know about these "maxing out" 's, my computer seems to run as fast as it did when I had XP (which is actually surprising).
Maybe the man DOES have empirical data, and maybe he does work with numbers, but what I think matters the most to a user, is his/her own experience. And in my experience, my W7 runs very well, consuming the same amount of RAM as XP did (and definitely less than Vista).

Re:When do people get this (5, Interesting)

phatcabbage (986219) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183214)

Barth acknowledged that XPnet's data couldn't determine whether the memory usage was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications.
So yeah, it doesn't seem like the author really knows what's going on...

They Report Disk I/O Backlog Percentages (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183432)

Barth acknowledged that XPnet's data couldn't determine whether the memory usage was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications. So yeah, it doesn't seem like the author really knows what's going on...

While that's true, one would probably make the assumption that it is normalized in XP vs Windows 7 since they have no way of tracking it. What I mean is that you would assume the Windows 7 user runs the same number of programs as the XP user.

I actually followed the blog link [blogspot.com] in the story and while they can't pin it on application or OS, they can say that the disk I/O is backlogged on 36% of XP machines sampled, 83% of Vista machines sampled and 85% of Windows 7 machines sampled.

While they don't know anything about the applications being run, this backlog is probably how they determined that processes were being forced to resort to virtual memory running on the disk. Is there a better explanation for those numbers?

Re:When do people get this (4, Interesting)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183228)

If the memory was freed up dynamically as needed then no processes would ever be forced to resort to disk-based virtual memory.

The trouble is, the TFA doesn't actually say (at least not clearly) that the Win7 machines are indeed turning to swap more regularly. It just states that fetching stuff from the swap file is a consequence of running out of RAM and causes perf degradation. So if the Win7 machines are indeed utilizing all available RAM and yet not swapping at a significanly higher rate, it means they're making more optimum use of available RAM.

Re:When do people get this (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183428)

the TFA

At least you didn't write "the TFA article"

Re:When do people get this (1)

ThaReetLad (538112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183232)

Not on slowdowns he isn't. The data is memory usage, but the system slowdowns claim is supposition from the first number. He says the memory usage number implies slowdowns, but that conclusion is false on win 7.

Re:When do people get this (1)

snemarch (1086057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183276)

TFA (which I've just read :)) doesn't really mention whether they're looking at disk paging. Browsing to the xpnet site does say they do, but it also mentions that they base memory load on "free physical memory". The Windows APIs don't report the superfetch cache memory as "free physical memory", since it isn't.

Those Devil Mountain guys need to update the system metrics they're collecting - it should include at least cache-size in addition to free physical memory, and pagefile use (size of paged-out data and paging rate per second!) should be a separate stat, not factored in with the "free physical memory" stat.

No offense but I'm going to side with the guy who appears to make his living testing these sorts of things ... the guy who is offering me numbers.

He's offering you interpreted numbers, not raw data - and he's not offering you all the numbers you need in order to make educated statements on what's going on. He's probably doing it in good faith out of ignorance, rather than trying to spread FUD, but it's still pretty useless metrics.

Re:When do people get this (3, Insightful)

dunezone (899268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183282)

Hi there.

Ive been running Windows 7 since the BETA release. I have never experienced any issues that result in I/O thrashing against the hard drive as result of all my ram being utilized. I also have numerous friends running Windows 7 none have reported any issues like this, if anything its been praise for the operating system. So I am amazed to see a 86% number being thrown out there yet never seen this problem before.

No offense but I'm going to side with the guy who appears to make his living testing these sorts of things ... the guy who is offering me numbers.

And now lets quote something from the article...

Barth acknowledged that XPnet's data couldn't determine whether the memory usage was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications, but said that Devil Mountain would start working on finding which is the dominant factor in increased memory use.

This single sentence makes the article rubbish. They have no clue whats causing the heavy memory usage, its just an assumption that the OS is causing it and they're yelling fire before looking through all the data or completely analyzing the problem.

Re:When do people get this (1)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183310)

oh, i suddenly get why most people are uninformed. time to look like we're all super compworld pros with numbers (doesn't matter what content we put,we're trusted!)

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183356)

If the memory was freed up dynamically as needed then no processes would ever be forced to resort to disk-based virtual memory.

That's just nonsense. Assuming you're not referring to the case where overcommitted memory is actually being used, here are other scenarios where paging to disk is desirable. For example, if a process is not being used (but is loaded) then it's good if its pages are paged out to make better use of physical RAM. Applications are generally greedy and unruly kids. They will ask for as much memory as they see available even if they never use it. The memory manager is tasked with keeping the kids happy (fulfilling their memory requests) while ensuring that all the kids can play together.

But based on the false dichotomies in your post, I assume you're either trolling or have no idea how memory managers work.

Re:When do people get this (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183450)

Frightening, huh? CTO and, in fact, he has no idea what he's talking about.

Rather than blindly following presumed authority, perhaps you should make use of some critical thinking skills and a couple Google searches. You'll (apparently) be surprised what you learn.

Re:When do people get this (1)

ilovecheese (301274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183068)

Although I don't do any gaming on my Windows machine here at the office (Win7 x64), I rarely exceed 50% usage of my installed RAM (4GB). Running a lot of ssh terminals, browser, email & skype...

Re:When do people get this (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183072)

According to their website blog, they are "rethinking windows performance."

So instead of thinking about what actually effects OS performance, they are rethinking things so that they don't have to sell real solutions to their customers, "where [they] maintain several large installations of our commercial DMS Clarity Suite performance analysis solution."

Re:When do people get this (0)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183088)

Bull. Active RAM chews energy, which is terrible for a portable. It also causes problems for the (fast-disappearing) desktop, which will heat up when that much RAM is used.

And it will in fact cause a slowdown when the OS has to free up that RAM cache to load a large file from disk. Frugality is a virtue.

Re:When do people get this (4, Informative)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183138)

Using more RAM doesn't use more energy. Either your RAM is powered on, or it's not. And if it's powered on it maintains its contents, no matter whether the OS has actually written anything useful to it.

Re:When do people get this (2, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183336)

You'll excuse my ignorance, but from college I remember that usually you have 0-2V represent 0 and 3-5V represent 1. Does a 0 have a corresponding increase in amperage so that it levels out and uses the same amount of power?

It seems natural to me that it would be initialized with zeroes on power-up, so that it would minimize power consumption.

Furthermore, more advanced chips, especially in mobile devices, have a variety of power-saving tricks. I would expect RAM would be no exception in having ways to clock down in line with requirements.

Re:When do people get this (0, Troll)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183368)

I do energy analysis for systems, and "active RAM" does in fact use more energy than idle RAM. Not a huge difference but enough to add-up over multiple banks and affect the size of a power supply (for worst case). Active RAM has the same periodic refresh cycle of idle RAM, but also the constant reading/writing of data over the system bus, which means about twice the energy used.

Therefore I concur with the grandparent poster's statement.

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183264)

Bull. There is no such thing as "Active RAM". 0's and 1's use exactly the same amount of energy.
In theory you could disable the refresh cycles for unused portions of the RAM chip, but because the RAM chip decides which part to refresh, this will be very difficult.

Bull(2). The OS does not spend any time to "free up that RAM cache". the RAM is simply overwritten with new data, just like if it was free. The original data was just a copy of data from the HDD.

Re:When do people get this (1)

Tomsk70 (984457) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183112)

I'm sure the disk thrashing is a problem too, and not really the indexing service doing its' thing.

This sort of thing is what happens if you don't actually use the software you're criticising...

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183146)

RAM is wasted when it isn't in use. The fact that the task manager in Windows says your RAM is used 95% tells nothing, and no it won't "result in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks". I'm actually really surprised, and not in a good way, that "chief technology officer" of the company doesn't know this.

honestly, when have you ever seen a CIO or CTO that knows anything about technology? most of them are so out of touch that they still think that all of the computers and servers are plugged into hubs instead of switches. imho, most CIO/CTOs get there because of who they know, not what they know.

Re:When do people get this (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183150)

RAM is wasted when it isn't in use. The fact that the task manager in Windows says your RAM is used 95% tells nothing, and no it won't "result in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks".

While there are approaches using virtual memory that will limit the slow downs, the data still has to come form the HD even SSDs are not faster then ram. Grandma checking her email may not notice but data processing and other memory intensive functions need memory and putting in on a HD will slow things down.

Re:When do people get this (1, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183192)

Yes. I have a similar problem when people running servers complain that the CPU is at 100%.

If you're seeing an actual slowdown in performance, fine, worry about it.

Otherwise, 100% CPU usage is a good thing: it means there's a process that's not IO bound.

Re:When do people get this (1)

dskzero (960168) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183196)

I'm not an expert of memory management in OS, but if the RAM is being used, well, it doesn't means there is an impact on the OS. The RAM is being used for *something*, that's it.

Re:When do people get this (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183212)

The new memory models in recent OS's try to utilize all the available RAM (as they should) to speed up things otherwise.

BeOS and Haiku did/do this, but I don't think any other OS has implemented total RAM usage to such a degree.

Re:When do people get this (5, Interesting)

nmg196 (184961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183290)

Totally agree. If you don't want Windows 7 to use the 4GB of RAM you've paid for to speed up your computer, take out 2GB and put it in the drawer. Otherwise, be thankful that it's actually making the most of the RAM you're using.

What next? People complaining that games use 100% CPU to give them maximum framerate when it could just use 30% CPU and give them 10 FPS?

Re:When do people get this (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183446)

What next? People complaining that games use 100% CPU to give them maximum framerate when it could just use 30% CPU and give them 10 FPS?

That’s not a fair analogy. When you are playing a game, you are not multi-tasking. You are basically using the computer for a single task. I don’t care if the game sucks up 100% of the CPU and all of the remaining memory, as long as it frees it up when I close it.

If the system is gratuitously using 95% of the RAM nearly all the time, then it’s a completely different scenario. Everything I try to open that wasn’t cached already will force the system to dump some memory to the swap file to make room for the new application.

Re:When do people get this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183328)

RAM is wasted when it isn't in use. The fact that the task manager in Windows says your RAM is used 95% tells nothing, and no it won't "result in slow-downs as the systems were forced to increasingly turn to disk-based virtual memory to handle tasks". I'm actually really surprised, and not in a good way, that "chief technology officer" of the company doesn't know this.

You nearly nailed it.

CTO's are more concerned about getting the best performance out of their tightening budgets. Windows reporting 95% ram utilization gives them no visibility of real world performance apart from when there users get annoyed enough to start complaining about how slow it is.

Problem with that they may not have the budget anymore to speed up network, or upgrade machines etc. This may not even be driven by the operating system itself. for example Say a new CRM platform requireing more local machine resources is installed. Windows will still report av of 95% utilization but the real world performance might be completely different.

Re:When do people get this (1)

Fantom42 (174630) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183342)

RAM is wasted when it isn't in use.

You make decent arguments that I've heard before, many times. And I actually agree with them to a point. At least in theory, given somewhat unrealistic assumptions about the system. But there are two major flaws in this idea. First, in practice, where real developers are making complex decisions about how they structure their programs and the resources they use, I think this sentiment results in wasteful and excessive programming practices.

In other words, the resources programs demand may be managed very well, but programmers end up demanding more than they need, forgetting that there are other users of those resources. And a scheduler isn't psychic; it has no real way to know if a program is demanding "too much."

Second, a multiqueue system with a nonzero variance of demand (e.g., a computer's resources) has high latency if its resource utilization is also high. This is due to bottlenecks being created when there is a surge in demand, and resulting system instability as those backups are cleared. If you want to have a system with consistent and predictable latency, you need some extra resource hanging around to handle spikes in demand. Otherwise the system tends to go berserk in a way that strongly resembles "thrashing" seen on computers that are being maximally utilized. People forget (or don't know) this.

Re:When do people get this (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183402)

Windows is notoriously reluctant to invalidate caches to free RAM for applications. I don't know if Win7 fixed that, but XP would much rather send an idle app to swap than free some disk buffers. That's why switching swap off entirely tended to speed it up so much - it was forced not to swap out any active data and free up buffers instead.

Re:When do people get this (1)

djnforce9 (1481137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183424)

This is exactly what I was thinking when I read that article. That CTO must be quite ignorant of the new model (I think even Windows Vista did the same thing if I recall correctly). Hopefully someone brings him up to speed on this.

I must say though that this new model does make it very difficult to get an accurate reading of how much memory is actually being used since the task manager does not differentiate between what has been reserved as cache and what memory space is actually occupied by applications. The best you can do is look at your list of running processes and make an estimate. Some of them may actually be in the pagefile though even when there's free RAM available because they are background applications that are used very rarely (or haven't been touched in an extended period of time).

I'm sure there are third party applications available though if you need a dead on accurate reading.

Battery Problem Explanation? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183016)

If these claims are true, isn't it possible that this could be seen to the user as a source for the battery life problems [slashdot.org] ? I suppose that disk-based virtual memory would incur a little more read/write on your hard disk as well ... possibly decreasing the mean time to failure for Windows 7 users.

Re:Battery Problem Explanation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183084)

i think the battery life problems are related to some obscure task that seems to run of its own accord, even from a fresh vanilla installation... there's something called the "idle process" which I've often observed eating 90-99% cpu on a lot of machines that i've checked.

Re:Battery Problem Explanation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183256)

Users with multi-core systems might try to set the affinity for the idle process so it only chews up one core ;-)

Re:Battery Problem Explanation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183378)

The idle process is how it displays unused CPU in the task manager. You'll find that if you add up the CPU usage of every process in the list it always comes out to 100% thanks to that.

Craig Barth? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183026)

I don't know.

Depends on what kind of memory (3, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183030)

If it is filesystem cache, then it's not wasted or "maxed out". If it is application/system memory, then it is indeed a problem.

Re:Depends on what kind of memory (2, Interesting)

Bazer (760541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183090)

Would a filesystem cache cause the system to swap?

Re:Depends on what kind of memory (5, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183128)

It's Windows. It might be a bug.

Re:Depends on what kind of memory (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183250)

No, but they don't offer any actual evidence that the systems are swapping a lot, just that their memory usage is high. The "and this causes swapping" part of the claim just seems to be an assumption rather than a fact.

In XP? Definitely YES (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183370)

FIle cache will definitely swap out your applications in XP.

In previous Microsoft OSs you could set maximum file cache via the Windows .ini file (and it was like a breath of fresh air for Windows performance - suddenly you could do other things while burning CDs, etc.

On XP they took out that feature and it's performed like a dog ever since because of it. A whole new generation of CD burners had to be developed with "SafeBurn" technology, etc.

I'm sure the stupidity has continued in Vista/7 but I don't have it installed on any of my work machines so I can't be 100% sure. If it has page file right after booting up then you can be sure it does.

Re:Depends on what kind of memory (1)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183124)

Not necessarily -- it could be application / system memory that's pre-cached (based on profiling). If at any point, your machine has RAM available, and idle cycles, pre-caching would be a good way to use them. See here [wikipedia.org] .

Bogus Story (2, Insightful)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183062)

Let's start from the story (which I *did* read) - 'Barth acknowledged that XPnet's data couldn't determine whether the memory usage was by the operating system itself, or an increased number of applications,"'

Right there I'd be suspect whether this is even an issue or not. Given Windows (which I generally regard as inferior) as an OS having lots of functionality, I wouldn't be suprised if it takes up all available RAM prior to utilizing swap. I'm on my 2GB Ubuntu system right now and am running at 18% of 2GB with just Mozilla (with two tabs) and Thunderbird. But there's also my network layer (Network Monitor), KTorrent, and my bluetooth daemon running in the background. All told, System Monitor says i have 31 processes running.

Let's do a like comparison - run the exact number of apps and processes before declaring a memory leak.

Sheesh!

Re:Bogus Story (1)

IchigoKyger (1245908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183252)

Well I'm running Windows 7, in which I've never had a problem with, and running around 59 processes. Which are comprised of AVG, Google Chrome, Curse Client, Google Desktop, Intuit Update Service, Net Drive, Skype, Winamp, and WoWHead Client. With all that running I'm sitting at 33-34% Physical Memory usage of the 2GB of Memory available.

Win7 Reserves Memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183076)

Win7 reserves memory which makes it look like there's no available system memory even though the OS has plenty to share with programs once the need arises. Exchange 2007 and 2010 work the same way... they reserve all available system memory and then release it as other processes call for it. I think that if this company's CTO does not understand this concept it shows something quite negative about who they select for employees. I'm also guessing the dude's a mac fanboy. ;-)

Ah, Slashdot (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183086)

1. "CWMike" (Computer World Mike) submits Windows bashing link (to Computer World) on Slashdot
2. Slashdot "editor" blindly shoves it on the front page
3. Page hits to CW from /.
4. CW profits!
5. Mind numbing /. blather to follow.

It's called SuperFetch (5, Insightful)

dhavleak (912889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183094)

I guess Devil Mountain or whoever don't know about SuperFetch. Or need publicity.

And I guess slashdot editors don't know about SuperFetch. Or maybe an article like this gets them more traffic, revenue, etc.

The fucking bullshit that passes for articles these days..

Trollworthy rating for posting this... (5, Interesting)

hitech69 (78566) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183126)

Computerworld should just close up shop for this worthless piece of journalism, or at least give their author the boot for doing any work with Craig Barth who represents a team of morons. samzenpus should be given a troll rating for getting this to Slashdot.

Page Faults (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183152)

The metric to count is the number of page faults, an indicator of the number of times that the OS addresses memory that isn't in RAM.

As others point out, measuring just the fraction of memory consumption is stupid. I have 6GB of RAM ; my processes are using about 1.7GB of that, but the OS is claiming that 3.8GB is consumed. So that's 2.1GB of cached data that I no longer have to wait for from disk. Hooray.

TFA hints that they may be measuring page faults, and does mention that Win7 is hitting the disk for virtual memory more often. But they should make that clearer if it's the case.

Uhn...no. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183162)

People are either being unbelievably stupid, have only 1 gig of RAM installed, or this is FUD. Example: I'm currently running Windows 7 64 bit. On my secondary monitor, I have a bunch of system monitoring widgets... hard drive space, CPU load and temp, video card load and temp, memory usage, etc. Just last night I was playing Bioshock 2, all settings at max. Even with those widgets running, with Aqua Teen Hunger Force playing in MPC on the secondary monitor in a window, and Bioshock 2 running full bore, I was still using only 52-58% of my available 4 gigs of ram. I call BS on this article.

Here are my system specs, to back up my claims. As you can see, nothing special (copy and pasted from my [H]ard|Forum sig):

Display: Asus VH236H | Dell 2005FPW
Foundation: Cooler Master Storm Scout | OCZ ModXStream Pro 700w
System: Gigabyte GA-MA785GM | AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ | Corsair XMS2 4GB DDR2 800 | ATI 4850
Internal Storage: Diamondmax 21 system | WD15EADS archives
External Storage: 1.25TB in a KINGWIN DK-32U-S | WDMER1600TN
Input: Kensington 64325 Expert Mouse | Saitek Eclipse II | M-Audio Axiom 25
Audio: Logitech Z4 2.1 | Audio Technica ATH-AD700

Re:Uhn...no. (1)

Cowclops (630818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183330)

The plural of anecdote is not data... but I still have to throw in my own 2 cents. It seems that as long as you have at least 1.5GB ram, win7 will be using about 700MB of that on startup, and the rest goes to apps. I have 4GB ram and I've never seen more than 3GB of ram in use, including running Supreme Commander with other stuff open.

I agree that Win7 can't run on systems with less than 1GB ram, and only runs "alright" on systems with exactly 1GB ram, but if its using ram for something other than disk cache, then its not the OS itself using the ram, its the applications they're running.

My experience (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183182)

I'm running Windows 7 x64 with 4Gb of RAM; currently I'm running Outlook, Firefox, IE, Excel, FeedDemon, Office Communicator, AV, AD management tools, call management software, a couple of powershell instances, Context, RDTabs, Putty and the usual assortment of drivers, plugins and background apps. I'm at 2.4Gb of RAM; even on a 2Gb machine it would be usable, though I'd probably have to be a bit more zealous with closing unused apps to avoid swapping.

I can only assume that it's the usual nonsense of vendors shipping Win 7 machines with only 1Gb or 2Gb of RAM, loading them with crapware, putting cheap hard disks in, telling the users they can multitask their asses off and then acting surprised when the performance isn't up to much.

Re:My experience (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183308)

your using the wrong apps and data.

You can take small efficient application as was used to be created because ram was to expensive and run hundreds if not thousands of them without a slow down, especially if teh data they are dealing with is near empty. Or you can take one autocad application and large cad file and tax it to its limits and beyond.

I'm sure there are other such applications that are massive and resource hungryas well as data files.

Increased speed and memory of hardware is generally preceived as more for the software developers to use, not for the benefit of improved usability for the user.

I keep saying that someday they will make hardware and software that can keep up with mi thr33 fingre tpuying.You kmnow which three fingers too.

People are buying cheap PC's and upgrading old one (2, Interesting)

Nzimmer911 (1553899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183204)

"Current generation hardware"? Seriously, how many machines in this very small sample set are using i series intel chips? The way windows 7 was marketed, I'd bet that many of these machines were upgraded XP boxes. Top that with the 32 bit memory caps and people's general hesitation to install a 64 bit desktop OS, and I am not surprised at all that many machines are hitting memory saturation. Add to that that the Windows 7 interface leads to leaving more apps open at any given time than the XP interface...

Slow Slow 7 (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183222)

I agree 100% with this article, I have 4 GB of Ram in my notebook and when I'm in WIndows 7 my memory consumption is somewhere around 3.5 GB, compared to Linux 2.6.32-r6 (Gentoo) which sits around the 512 MB mark. He's my question, what on earth does Windows need that much memory for? The OS should be taking up the least amount of memory possible to allow a user to run application that actually need the memory.

Re:Slow Slow 7 (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183388)

You're a retard.

Congrats.

Oh come on (5, Funny)

megla (859600) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183258)

First we had submitters who didn't read the stories they were posting. Then we had editors who didn't read the stories they were approving. Now we have companies who don't read the articles they put out. Seriously, it's called a file cache. That's how it's supposed to work. Nice job, idiots.

New Windows OS != performance (1)

mnmlst (599134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183266)

First off, kudos to ComputerWorld for this shocking newsflash "New Windows Operating System is Bloated and Disappoints Users". Is it 1995 again when I foolishly believed Microsoft and loaded Windows95 on my happy Windows 3.1 computer only to discover the 4MB minimum RAM requirement left my computer a useless lump of plastic with an endlessly spinning hard drive? Four more MB of memory for $130 from a shady computer dealer finally slowed the paging down. I have seen this cycle repeated 6 more times since then. Go ahead and set up the fill-in-the-blank story for Windows 7.1, 8, and so on.

Here is how to get a valid test together:

1. Figure out the testing objective. Sounds like this guy should build a Windows 7 and a Windows XP box with identical hardware side-by-side.

2. Install the same applications on both machines and run the same workloads on them.

3. Measure the performance using the only benchmark users care about, waiting times for things to happen. One thing that was unclear from this article (which I actually read, must be new here) was the level of memory paging that was going on and especially the feedback from the users. The numbers he talked about are pretty much of no interest to end users, just guys in the I.T. shop.

4. Call ComputerWorld with the results, but only if they make Windows 7 look terrible...

Windows7 memory leak issues for ram even on 8GB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183268)

Windows7 has wrost memory leak issues. Running scandisk can cause memory leak. Copy files on my socket 775 intel creates memory leaks. Not sure if its NCQ causing the leaks. Microsoft updates causing memory leaks??

When memory leaks starts it loses ram space hundreds of megs at a time until its done to 0mb left. Then the program start not to work with a white screen stuck at loading. Then can't open anything up saying out of memory. The whole time the computer turns from a 4ghz super fast machine to a many thousands of dollar paper wieght 286 machine.

 

Re:Windows7 memory leak issues for ram even on 8GB (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183314)

If you are running a PC at 4 GHz, you are either running a Pentium 4 (in which case your technical knowledge is questionable at best) or are running a very overclocked system (in which case you would be smart enough to use something other than Windows 7 if it was causing you that much grief).

Considering your "4 GHz" claim combined with "many thousands of dollar" for your PC, I'm going to go ahead and call BS on you.

Re:Windows7 memory leak issues for ram even on 8GB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183352)

I have many system and I can atest to my original post. Its a Intel core 2 duo at 4ghz. I said what I meant memory leak. Its not a issue a non-technical person like your self understands. I'm a IT profession for a living and a regular slash reader for more years than you been born I'll leave it at that. Reporting memory leaks isn't rocket science du_bass.

Re:Windows7 memory leak issues for ram even on 8GB (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183412)

Quoted from a post I made earlier in this article:

People are either being unbelievably stupid, have only 1 gig of RAM installed, or this is FUD. Example: I'm currently running Windows 7 64 bit. On my secondary monitor, I have a bunch of system monitoring widgets... hard drive space, CPU load and temp, video card load and temp, memory usage, etc. Just last night I was playing Bioshock 2, all settings at max. Even with those widgets running, with Aqua Teen Hunger Force playing in MPC on the secondary monitor in a window, and Bioshock 2 running full bore, I was still using only 52-58% of my available 4 gigs of ram. I call BS on this article.

Here are my system specs, to back up my claims. As you can see, nothing special (copy and pasted from my [H]ard|Forum sig):

Display: Asus VH236H | Dell 2005FPW
Foundation: Cooler Master Storm Scout | OCZ ModXStream Pro 700w
System: Gigabyte GA-MA785GM | AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ | Corsair XMS2 4GB DDR2 800 | ATI 4850
Internal Storage: Diamondmax 21 system | WD15EADS archives
External Storage: 1.25TB in a KINGWIN DK-32U-S | WDMER1600TN
Input: Kensington 64325 Expert Mouse | Saitek Eclipse II | M-Audio Axiom 25
Audio: Logitech Z4 2.1 | Audio Technica ATH-AD700

For the record, I do mail merge programming for a living and have a collection of old systems ranging from a (fully functional) TRS-80 all the way up to my current system.

Re:Windows7 memory leak issues for ram even on 8GB (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183456)

Considering your "4 GHz" claim combined with "many thousands of dollar" for your PC, I'm going to go ahead and call BS on you.

Yeah, or he's a regular consumer who spent a lot of money on his computer and simply believed the twenty-two year old in the tie who added the clock speed of each core of the multi-core computer together while promoting the sale. After all, when you look at MS's "System Properties" it does that math right there on the screen for you and you feel all special.

-And apparently, if you use Windows 7, rather annoyed as well.

-FL

Haven't seen that yet (1)

nurbles (801091) | more than 4 years ago | (#31183286)

I've only been running Windows 7 x64 at home for about a month now and I've rarely (if ever) seen it use much more than 50% of available RAM (I have 8GB). Then again, I don't run any software from Microsoft (except Windows itself) or Apple or any other mega corp that thinks they own your machine after you install their word processor or music player or whatever. With just a few games, Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice and vlc, my Windows 7 box is much better than it was with Vista x64 and at least comparable to when it was XP (but it boots MUCH faster). Even when I had the BOINC client installed and running climate prediction and seti@home (both regular and nVidia GPU versions), the memory usage was quite reasonable.

The article doesn't appear to differentiate between the 32 and 64 bit versions or what kind of app/usage mix the machines have, which must figure in to this sort of measurement. It also isn't at all clear whether the Win7 systems are running programs built for Win7 (as the XP systems almost certainly are) or XP builds that are "runnable" in Win7, though it is quite possible that could have a significant impact.

I've been developing for Windows for 20 years and in my experience, it has almost always been bad applications and/or 3rd party drivers that cause Windows to get such a bad rap. As a counter to the typical Windows bashing, I'd like to point out that I have one customer that has been running our software on Windows NT4 machines running 24x7 for over 10 years (most of which went for 5 years or more without rebooting at all) and the only unintentional down time came from hardware failures. Another customer is using Windows 2000 (and now XP) the same way.

What a bunch of drivel. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183346)

I find it interesting the author mentions a "new" metric as part of their quantifying this problem. Huh? Has anyone tested this metric? Or that current generation hardware is being maxed out. I obviously am in the minority since my computer is in the 14% that doesn't have this problem and so is my parents laptop. Funny how just in my family we are in the minority. Been awhile since I've done statistics, but I think that works out to 1.9% chance of having two computers not having the problem. This article sounds very suspect.

Re: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31183392)

Hey samzenpus, kdawson has been using your username!

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