Software // Enterprise Applications
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1/7/2004
02:39 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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The Explorer: Resource Leaks, Part Two

Fred tests a dozen "memory optimizers" and finds some surprises.

SPECIAL EXTENDED COVERAGE!
After writing Part One of this series on Resource Leaks, I've been hip-deep in various software tools that claim to recover "leaked" system resources, or to prevent leaks in the first place. [If you haven't seen Part One, or if it's not fresh in your mind, please check it out as it contains information that's essential for understanding what in this column.]

In the last two weeks, I've tested more than a dozen of these tools and utilities on carefully-configured test machines. Furthermore I tested the software that showed the most promise on my daily-use PC, for an additional real-world flavor. In each case, I've carefully monitored the results. This special, extended-coverage column details what I've found:

One Approach: AntiCrash
AntiCrash is a freeware Java applet that purports to enforce proper multithreading in Windows and to prevent resource leaks: "Prevents Windows from crashing...It loads on your Windows desktop and... provides a true multi-threading environment...[A]pplications can be opened and closed without the system getting unstable or slow."

I love the name -- and the concept. An add-on applet that keeps Windows from crashing? One that actually prevents crash-resultant memory leaks in the first place, rather than trying to clean them up afterwards? Lemme at it!

Alas, just as with every other crash-proofing tool I've ever tried, AntiCrash doesn't live up to its name. I actually had more and worse stability problems with it running than without. I even had one out-of-resources crash I can directly attribute to AntiCrash. Worse, the documentation is badly written and nearly devoid of any useful information so you're left with no clue as to how the app actually does what it tries to do. (I get very suspicious about low-level apps that want to insinuate themselves deep into the guts of my system, but don't tell me what they're doing, or why, or how.)

Some readers report good results with AntiCrash, and some popular download sites recommended it. But I have to believe there's a placebo effect at work, and that people are seeing what they want to see -- they're seeing results that just aren't there. My tests were as careful as any I've done in 20+ years of software testing, and the only clear effects I can attribute to AntiCrash are negative ones. As is usually the case with simple fixes to complex problems, Anticrash is simply inadequate.

In short: Don't waste your time.

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