Beware The Evil Screensaver

I want to get to work early – there are already thunderstorms on the radar, but I want to make mention of a little computer trouble I’ve been having lately. This way, maybe you won’t have to go through the same trouble.

It’s a computer I use at work. It’s constantly bringing in fresh data. It uses as large a pipeline for it’s raw info as the rest of the TV station combined!

We would notice from time-to-time this server would fall behind. But, as soon as we’d notice it, it would catch up and be back to normal in a matter of minutes.

Maybe it was doing this fall behind/catch up thing ’round the clock. We suspected as much, but didn’t know. All we knew was, anytime we started to look at it, the problem didn’t persist for long and we had fairly good tipoffs to tell us when to look.

No one at the vendor, or at the station, could figure out what was going on. We checked the local network (it is on a gigabit speed LAN) – nothing. We checked the incoming T1 data line – fine. The vendor looked at their servers upstream – nope.

Then today, while a service tech from the vendor was poking around, a “Eureka” moment&#185. I’ll pause ten seconds while you see if you can guess.


Our server had a very pretty screensaver (thankfully, installed by the vendor and not us). After a period of keyboard inactivity the screensaver would kick in painting pretty blue boxes on the screen.

The screensaver activity was so CPU intensive – so taxing – the server couldn’t do its real job! So, it would start pushing things back.

Here’s why it was so touch to pin down. When we’d go to look, the screensaver would stop. So within a few minutes of discovery the server would catch up. And, of course, it never fell behind while we were looking.

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this was. It was the bane of our existence. Now, it’s over… well I think it’s over.

I’ll let you know later if it’s not.

&#185 – eu

One thought on “Beware The Evil Screensaver”

  1. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal at work – the system was changed the moment it was disturbed for observation!

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