WordPress scuppers my laptop!

So, a little while back I read this post about how the kindly and seasonally-minded folk at WordPress have deployed an optional “falling snow” feature for our blogs (Dashboard | Appearance | Extras | Show falling snow checkbox).

“Wonderful” thinks I in a moment of madness. “What jolly fun”.

But the madness rapidly begins to subside as I reflect on the feature, and I begin to ask myself “Do I really want to implement this?”

The pause for reflection being prompted by the recollection of so many “personal websites” that one could have seen only a few years back, when everyone and their uncle were getting in on the “you too can have your own personal space on the Web” act. Back in the days when we all had dial-up connections and such webpages used to take ages to load on account of all the… er… stuff.
You know the sort of thing I mean… atrocious layouts, garish backgrounds, glittery animated gifs and all the rest of it. (Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good description of many current MySpace pages. Hmm. P’raps that’s where all those webpage creators disappeared to.)
And there were loads of “amazing” javascript effects one could dump all over the place as well.
One of which was something remarkably similar to… guess what? Yep… falling snow. Or falling dandruff as I prefer to think of it.

I can summarise the appearance of all those really bad websites in two words… gimmicky and twee.

Thus the idea of implementing it on this blog was pretty much stillborn.

And there endeth the matter. Or it should have done. And indeed would have done, had not a couple of my blogging friends decided to switch on the feature for their blogs.
Ok. That’s fine. Their choice and far be it from me to comment thereon. After all, we can’t all like (or dislike) the same things now can we? Nor indeed should we.


I’m beginning to develop the rather nasty suspicion that this falling dandruff feature impacts system resources in a rather unfriendly way.
For whenever I visit a blog where the dandruff’s falling suddenly my processor usage rises dramatically.

Typically processor usage runs at about 2-4%, with responsiveness hovering around 98%.
Yet when I visit one of these dandruff-enabled blogs processor usage suddenly shoots up to almost 100% dropping down to around the 50% mark after some moments, accompanied by a (thankfully temporary) drop in responsiveness. And the longer I stay on such a blog the more pronounced becomes the effect. Though if I switch to doing something else (like opening Notepad for example) everything returns to normal… until I return to the offending blog.
Nor has this happened just once or twice. The effect’s consistent, and reproducible.
Consequently the frequency of my visits thereto, and the duration of my stays thereon, have tended to reduce quite significantly.

Thankfully WordPress are shelving the option on 4th January… and not a moment too soon as far as I’m concerned, for I’m beginning to miss spending time at my friends’ places.

For the more techie-minded, my system setup is a fairly typical one. I’m using v3.0.4 of the Firefox browser, running on an Acer laptop with 512Mb RAM and a 1.6GHz Celeron processor, with WinXP SP3 as the OS.
Internet connection’s 2Mb broadband through a 100Mb wireless LAN.
And I’m not one of those people who have a million applications running simultaneously, having seen through the myth that Windows is a genuine multitasking environment (indeed, if I want to do significantly different jobs at the same time then I’ll tend to use more machines… one per job sort of thing!).
So the running background tasks are pretty much the bare minimum… an integrated av/firewall suite, a bit of wizardry for real-time adjustment of screen colour calibration to allow for changes in ambient lighting, and a process monitor. And that’s about it.

Roll on January 4th is what I say!

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
This entry was posted in Not Photography, Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to WordPress scuppers my laptop!

  1. forkboy says:

    Can’t say I’ve run into the same problems as you have on any of the sites I visit, including my own. Maybe it is specs related though: I’m running 1.9GHz dual-core on the laptop with 2GB of RAM, blah, blah, blah.

    I’m sorry my snow is causing your machine some troubles though.

    Normally I wouldn’t go for this sort of twee thing, but I like the snow. I have nothing like this on any other social networking site to which I subscribe – not my cuppa either.

    Besides….your WP site has a white background and falling snow would look so lame.

  2. fotdmike says:

    Yeah, its certainly very curious, and most likely it is specs-related, but usability is one of the fundamentals of good web design, and in that context it always used to be a real no-no to incorporate a feature that would only work as intended on higher spec’d machines.

    Re your comment about the white background, another yeah cos that also occurred to me. What I will say is it looks quite good on your page with the black background… if only it didn’t slow everything down!

  3. forkboy says:

    Well I’m glad you have made something of an exception for its use on my web page. I’m touched. Really.


    You are, no doubt, correct though in that designers should always be cognizant of less powerful computers having to navigate feature-rich (if you will) web sites. Of course it probably doesn’t help that so many of those very designers are likely using the latest and greatest…..

  4. fotdmike says:

    Well, just between thee and me I’ve suspected you were a bit touched for ages.

    Yes, you’re probably right, though when I was doing quite a bit of website work I’d always checked the code on machines of different specs, and with all the major browsers, and at different resolutions. How standards have slipped eh?

  5. forkboy says:

    Are you kidding….I haven’t been touched in years! 😉

    You know…..there is the flip side to this entire situation….it’s not that those web designers at WordPress didn’t take into account those with lower spec’d equipment, but that they hadn’t depended upon you and your not-much-newer-than-an-abacus laptop!

  6. fotdmike says:

    Bloody cheek. “not-much-newer-than-an-abacus laptop”. Its only just over a year old!

  7. fotdmike says:

    Interesting bit of additional info re this… just checked some dandruff-enabled pages with my Samsung laptop (a bit of a beast with 4Gb RAM and a 2GHz dual core processor running Windows Vista) and, though there’s no appreciable impact on perceived responsiveness, sure enough processor usage shoots up once again… to around the 66% mark. Ridiculous!

  8. forkboy says:

    Oh yes, ridiculous. Heavens. See….this is what happens when the Brits stop running everything.

    Just madness.



  9. fotdmike says:

    You’re right of course. Inevitable really once the colonials get ideas far above their station and imagine they’re up to running things.


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