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Windows Operating Systems Software Bug Networking

Playing Music Slows Vista Network Performance? 748

An anonymous reader writes "Over the months since Vista's release, there has been no doubt about the reduced level of network performance experienced compared to Windows XP. However, some users over at the 2CPU forums have discovered an unexplained connection with audio playback resulting in a cap at approximately 5%-10% of total network throughput. Whenever any audio is being sent to a sound card (even, several users report, while paused), network performance is instantly reduced. As soon as the audio is stopped, the throughput begins to climb to its expected speed. It's a tough one for users — what do you pick, sound or speed? So much for multi-tasking."
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Playing Music Slows Vista Network Performance?

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  • DRM strikes again? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:07AM (#20304859) Journal
    I wouldn't be surprised if they find Vista is spending all its time making sure those precious audio tracks aren't being illegally copied during playback...damn those thieving music lovers...
    • by smooc ( 59753 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:46PM (#20306541) Homepage
      It more or less is actually. The design of the new audio infrastructure is indeed partially done because of DRM

      See 1/31/what-is-audiodg-exe.aspx []
  • Conspiracy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:07AM (#20304861) Homepage Journal
    This is clearly an attempt by Microsoft to encourage people to buy more music to listen to while waiting to download the the upgrade to Vista SP1. I have pictures of a meeting between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at a Carl's Jr. Steve handed an envelope under the table to Bill. Who knew?!?! Now it all makes sense why iTunes was promoting a track last week called "The Biggest EULA of Her Life" by Randy Newman.
  • how on earth? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:08AM (#20304877) Journal
    How on earth does the sound and network subsystem overlap?
    PCI resource scheduler issue? I'd love to see Disk I/O on a fast RAID Vs sound usage...
    • by sunami88 ( 1074925 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:18AM (#20305003)
      How on earth does the sound and network subsystem overlap?
      My 0.02? Its all the DRM piling up at an astounding rate, bringing the network to its knees.


      And so on and so forth. Could be wrong though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tgatliff ( 311583 )
        My thought is that it is not an overlap, but rather an "future upgrade reason"... Think about it... When the next version to Vista comes out, seeing as Apple is demonstrating that DRM is going way, M$ can simply remove their slow DRM support, in addition to removing the Accept/Deny screens, and then talk about a HUGE performance and productivity enhancement for the user. Of course they would basically be releasing XP SP2 again, but talk about brilliant marketing... :-)

    • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by glop ( 181086 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:19AM (#20305019)
      Well, the CPU scheduler could be at fault. They might want to make sure that your audio does not skip. Therefore the sound-using application might get a higher priority, or other I/O bound applications may be throttled to leave room for the audio and make sure there are not too many network interrupts to service that may block the sound.

      So, you see, it's a feature, not a bug ;-)
      • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:26AM (#20305157) Homepage Journal
        Actually that sort of makes sense. The question then is does it effect other IO? Maybe writing to a drive? Would it show up in task manager?
        So far I find you explanation the most likely if unpopular.
        I sort of want some proof before I start stringing people up.
      • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Informative)

        by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:32AM (#20305269)
        That's great but my Pentium 1 - 133Mhz CPU could play MP3s. The tiny 'couple mW' CPU in the ipod shuffle can play MP3s. You expect me to believe that a modern computer is having CPU contention issues over the processing power to play a MP3? Even with the bloatware that is know as Vista...playing a MP3 can't need more power than opening Excel or Word.

      • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:21PM (#20306089) Homepage

        Vista does put in place measures to ensure that multimedia applications have a higher I/O priority than other operations.

        Whoever did these tests should try again with the Multimedia Class Scheduler service disabled to see if it makes a difference. Also they need to try multiple multimedia applications (WMP would benefit from MCS, but other multimedia apps may not yet).

        • Except... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:36PM (#20307333)
          Except that the Windows Audio service depends on MMCSS, so if you try to disable the Multimedia Class Scheduler, you can't listen to any music at all.

          For the record, I just tested this bug on Vista Small Business and found the same result. If I load WMP, I can still utilize ~35% of the network, but as soon as I start a song, or have a song paused (or even stopped but still loaded) it drops down to 8-10% every time.
      • Re:how on earth? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by trogdor8667 ( 817114 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:23PM (#20307091)
        Actually, if I remember correctly (and I very well may not), we had a Microsoft Recruiter on campus late last year, and he was demoing the final release of Vista (not yet released), and I remember him talking about the priority of threads in Vista. He showed us WMP with no other applications running (music played fine, the visualizations ran flawlessly). Then he closed WMP. Opened a program he had written to basically cause increased CPU usage. He then opened task-manager, and then WMP again, and played the same track. Everything on the system slowed, but the song never missed a beat, and the CPU usage was at 100%. He ended the program, CPU usage dropped back to normal, and the song (and visualizations) didn't miss anything.

        So, based on this (and how accurate my memory is), I'd say that Vista definitely gives priority to audio over other resources.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      My guess is that it's a deliberate attempt to make sure that users aren't streaming the music out over the network.

      DRM sucks... it's gotten so bad that they're interfering with all sorts of normal (non-infringing) activities in the hopes of getting the genie back in the bottle. When will they learn that it's too little, too late.

      I mean, what? I'm supposed to choose between listening to music, or doing my job? BAH!

      Every day, MacOS and Linux are looking better and better.
      • Re:how on earth? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:37AM (#20305335)

        My guess is that it's a deliberate attempt to make sure that users aren't streaming the music out over the network.
        Nah, this looks far more like run of the mill incompetence.
      • Re:how on earth? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:03PM (#20305839) Journal
        I have a hard time believing that DRM alone would be responsible for this overhead. This sounds much more like some sort of scheduling problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bzipitidoo ( 647217 )

        ...too little, too late.

        Are you implying DRM would have worked if only they'd done more, sooner? I try to avoid such phrasing. DRM-- the entire idea of DRM, not just the implementations-- is fundamentally flawed. Don't want any non-tech people who happen to read these posts to get the wrong idea. DRM works about as well as a locked door in a free standing wall-- a few people will be fooled and not notice the wall can be walked around or that they can be on either side of the wall anytime they want, and that in turn fools a

    • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:21AM (#20305061)
      How on earth does the sound and network subsystem overlap?

      The smoke from the cigars mixes in the air of the smoke-filled back rooms where these things are decided between the content cartel and the company that makes Windows Media Central or whatever that thing used to be called.
    • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:29AM (#20305201) Journal

      My guess would be that it's a bug in the PCI code. You interact with network and sound hardware in roughly the same way; write a memory address to a control register and the device DMAs it across. If there's a race condition or stale lock in the code that deals with the PCI bus then data being sent from the network or sound card drivers down through the PCI abstraction layer could be delayed. My guess would be that someone decided to optimise things for media playback, and so put the sound drivers at a higher priority than the network drivers (since most of the time you are more likely to notice audio skipping than slight drops in network performance), and the sound card driver is not releasing a lock in a timely fashion.

      This, of course, comes with a huge disclaimer to the effect that I have no inside information as to the structure of the Vista kernel, and might be completely making all of this up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NekoXP ( 67564 )
        Sounds very reasonable to me. TCP/IP is meant to deal with a couple dropped packets here and there, but audio protocols are generally very sensitive.

        I wonder how it affects systems where the networking is not on PCI (maybe an integrated northbridge component which is not glued to an internal PCI bus), or the audio controller is on a completely different PCI host controller (this scenario is practically unheard of on most x86 systems though.. would be intriguing to find out nonetheless :)

        Ooh. Could it be tha
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ari_j ( 90255 )
        What sound is being sent to the card when the track is paused? It sounds like a scheduler issue, probably combined with an issue in the media player being used that grabs the CPU even when paused. Unless I'm missing something and "pause" really means "tell the sound card to play 44.1kHz 16-bit silence" instead of "stop sending audio to the sound card until I tell you otherwise."
        • Re:how on earth? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:38PM (#20306395) Journal
          What sound is being sent to the card when the track is paused?

          Don't rule out the possibility that they have the sound card "playing" silence when you pause the player. Particularly if they use fade-cuts, dynamic range compression, or really any time-lagged processing of the sound, it may take considerably less effort to feed the buffer with silence rather than actually stopping playback.

          Of course, that still has nothing to do with slowing down the network, but I'd consider it as the most likely explanation for why paused playback still causes the problem.
      • by eggoeater ( 704775 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:11PM (#20305957) Journal

        This, of course, comes with a huge disclaimer to the effect that I have no inside information as to the structure of the Vista kernel, and might be completely making all of this up.
        Yeah, I think that might be Microsoft's problem as well.

    • Re:how on earth? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Gibbs-Duhem ( 1058152 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:19PM (#20306065)
      Back in 2003, my ethernet card (under debian) would *only* work if I was also playing music. Granted, that was because my ethernet card was broken and didn't properly send interrupts (so the sound card was sending them, and the ethernet driver was being activated when it noticed that it had an interrupt too), but it was still pretty awesome. Perhaps Vista has a similar problem... =)
  • Could be DRM related (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:09AM (#20304889)
    There's probably a very good chance this is related to Vista's heavy handed DRM software. It's been reported that Vista does constant checking to see if you (gasp!) might be playing a file it thinks you don't have rights to. I could certainly believe that this kind of overkill DRM might effect network performance.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:10AM (#20304893) Homepage

    It's like the Top 40 of suck.

    Okay, it's a lot of little things but those add up for many users and businesses. I'm sure MSFT will get all the little niggling things fixed...eventually. The main issue I see is that MSFT really needed a home run with Vista and what they fielded wasn't much of an improvement even when it's working properly. And certainly not worth the cost differential.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gravyface ( 592485 )

      Vista network performance is *supposed* to be better: "support for the Next Generation TCP/IP Stack" and "TCP/IP window size auto-tuning" are two features that the Que book, "Using Microsoft Windows Vista" describes. This audio issue is probably related to DRM, however.

      There are some things that sound good, but I had to dig to find them -- "I/O cancellation" is one of them. I don't know how many times I've had a client crash their desktop when trying to access a non-synched shared folder when disconnecte

  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:11AM (#20304903) Journal
    However, some users over at the 2CPU forums have discovered an unexplained connection with audio playback resulting in a cap at approximately 5%-10% of total network throughput.

    Wow! I bet streaming audio must suck!
  • coldplay (Score:3, Funny)

    by raffe ( 28595 ) * on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:11AM (#20304917) Journal
    What if you play the song Speed of sound [] by coldplay []??? What will Vista do then?

    Sorry, could not resist.
  • by MarkToronto ( 1145669 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:19AM (#20305013)
    Interesting... I thought I was going nuts the other day... I was Transcoding Video from my (powerfull) Vista PC to my XBox360. I noticed that if I was using Media Player to do anything on the PC, that it was slowed my network performance down quite a bit. I thought at first it was because of the transcoder working hard to buffer the other video, but realized the two cores weren't even being used that much, and memory was fine.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:21AM (#20305051) Homepage Journal
    For those of you thinking this is a hardware or a driver issue, RTFA. In the posts in this thread, many many different hardware combinations were tried, including one guy who used USB audio hardware. Sorry, but it ain't a hardware or driver's almost certainly a flaw or a bug in Vista.

    Could be DRM, maybe, but that's just speculation. One guy said he stripped the audio from a video and played just the video, so I'm not certain it's DRM, either.
  • Microsoft user here. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:21AM (#20305055) Homepage
    I have been a long time Microsoft user (notice I didn't say supporter, simply user) I've given OSX and various flavours of Linux a shot, but for whatever reason I decide to stay with Windows every particular reason, I just like the interface the best...maybe it's cause I was raised on it, I dunno. Been using windows regularly since Windows 3.1.

    Now. That being said. Ever since I saw screens of "longhorn" and the list of proposed features, I was excited. I knew a lot of it wouldn't be in the retail release, but still...Microsoft had me more excited about an operating system than I had been since the first press releases of Windows 95. It wasn't just Aero (which frankly doesn't really sway me one way or the other), it was primarily the little tweaks and things that they were talking about. Vista looked like it was going to be mind blowing.

    And then it was released. Every week, some new story surfaces about something not working right, or something being broken, or some kind of fucked it stands, I don't think Vista will ever be on my computer. XP works fantastic for me (although I do have an Ubuntu box hooked up to my computer for movie and TV show playback), and Vista seems to case more problems than it solves.

    Grats, MS. Unless you pull something out of your asses soon, you are going to lose more and more users such as myself. And we are important insofar as your desktop buisness goes, because we KNOW you are full of shit and we still don't care.

    We are starting to care, though.
  • by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:22AM (#20305081)
    Could this be audio fingerprinting - where the audio is examined for a signature derived from the audio samples themselves and then compared against a database of tracks? this system has been mooted as a "perfect DRM" vehicle as is does not matter what audio compression, or file format is used as the audio itself is used to generate a fingerprint license checking.

    I can find a reference for video fingerprinting which quite explains things more eloquently then me : rinting []

    I could imagine this would come at quite a hit in terms of processor bandwidth and hence slowing down the whole system.

    Of course I would expect this would be visible in Task Manager, I would be tempted to check myself except that I do not (and do not intend to) use Vista.

  • Synopsis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan DOT stine AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:24AM (#20305109) Homepage
    The forum goers seem to think the problem lays with something called MMCSS that boosts audio priority when files are being played back. This looks to be a buggy scheduler rather than nefarious DRM checks mucking up performance. The problem hasn't been pinned down by a long shot, but the scheduler makes the most sense.
  • by gsfprez ( 27403 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:24AM (#20305115)

    there are any number of operating systems, even some by Micorosft, that do not have this problem.

    I'm sick of the going in asumption being "well, you have to use x". No. You don't. There are a cacophany of choices everyone makes. And it drives me batshit when people assume that buying Microsoft anything is not a choice.

    Every time your mom or Joe down the street or some multinational company buys Microsoft's wares - its a choice. Whether or not its a good choice is strictly up to the situation.
  • by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:25AM (#20305141)

    Wasn't there a story on Slashdot a while back about how multimedia apps in Vista would take priority over others whether you wanted to or not? This summary [] (you'll actually have to RTFA since it's not in the summary, sorry ... or just look through some of the comments) might be the one I'm looking for...

  • by Enonu ( 129798 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:26AM (#20305153)
    I really hope Microsoft adopts an iterative development and release cycle on the order of around every six months for Windows some time in the future.
    • Bugs like this get noticed sooner and are easier to fix since they are fresh.
    • QA cycles are more focused.
    • Customer feedback helps drive the product to something the customers actually want to use.
    • Customers can have an easier time adapting to smaller changes.
    Please note that OS X has proven that a faster iterative development model can work for a desktop operating system. They're releasing every year or so 0_.28Cheetah.29/ [], which might be the sweet spot, but I bet they could do better.

    Big-bang software releases, ala Vista taking years to develop, are destined for bugs and customer rejection like this. If you, as a software developer are stuck in a project with a release date longer than a year away, please take the time to set your project manager straight.

  • by UdoKeir ( 239957 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:31AM (#20305237)
    I run Mandriva at home and my wi-fi would grind to a halt if I played any kind of audio. As soon as I stopped the audio, the network came back. I found a couple of reports online from people that appeared to have the same problem, but never a solution.

    I had to change out the motherboard for an unrelated reason, and the problem went away. It was a completely different chipset on the new motherboard, so I figure there was a problem with the drivers for the old one. I think it was C-Media audio.
  • Windows 3.11! Boost your network performance with our TRULY multitasking system!

    Music Benchmarks:
    Windows 3.11_ **********
    Windows Vista ***

    And it comes with Reversi, too!
  • Clearly (Score:5, Funny)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:36AM (#20305325)
    Microsoft's customers, the music industry, have to make sure that the criminals who play music over the internet are very limited in the amount of intellectual property they are able to steal.

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me. If you don't like it, there are plenty of alternatives out there.

  • by this great guy ( 922511 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:43AM (#20305457)
    I am surprised no slashdotter mentionned this already... But could it be caused by the fact that, in Vista, the audio drivers are implemented in userspace ? My guess is that an actively used audio driver in userspace causes roughly 5,000 to 10,000 extra context switches per second. I didn't RTFA but this kind of CPU overhead would definitely be big enough to cause a visible reduction in network throughput when trying to max out a GbE link... Either because of the CPU time spent dealing with the context switches, or the extra latency it can introduce if some locks have to be held too long by the Vista kernels on some data structures concurrently used by the audio and network layer. Keep in mind that GbE network cards generate roughly 10,000 to 50,000 interrupts/sec when transferring at speeds approaching 1 Gbit/s, so a low latency in processing these IRQ is also critical.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Malc ( 1751 )
      From the very post of TFA:

      "I can see it's not cpu usage, as it happens even while the video/audio is paused"
  • Make it work / DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @11:55AM (#20305667) Homepage Journal
    How many YEARS now has the goal for software been to simply, "Make it work," and we STILL haven't been happy.

    But Vista is something absolutely new under the sun. Vista is the first time that a major portion of the goal has been to, "Make it NOT work, some of the time." That's right, non-functionality is a key goal of Vista, because that's really what DRM is. Under the "wrong circumstances," don't work, or at least degrade operation. (Who knows, maybe "degrade operation" is an even tougher goal than "don't work.")

    So here we have it, conflicting goals:

    - Work! Do what the user wants you to do.
    - Don't work! The user is naughty even asking you to do that!
    and the hardest...
    - Figure out when to work, and when to not work.

    A much more subtle set of requirements than normal software. An important facet is that it blurs the notion of "who's in charge?"

    - With OSS, the user/programmer is in charge.
    - With Windows up to XP, the user is in charge, though Microsoft has a few deeply-buried probably-static exceptions.
    - With Vista...
  • by NeuroManson ( 214835 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:11PM (#20305955) Homepage
    Just bought a Toshiba laptop that was new, on clearance, for $359 this month. Of course, it came with Vista, Home Basic. First thing I did was research replacement drivers for the audio/network/video chipsets, blanked the HD, then installed a slipstreamed Windows XP Pro. So now I have a perfectly legit license for a POS OS I never wanted (took me a day just to verify for myself why everyone hates Vista). The laptop, for the record, runs at almost 1/3 to 1/2 faster than it did under Vista.

    Anyhoo, my question is, does Microsoft offer license exchanges or refunds? Before you laugh, I recall sometime or another, that a PC manufacturer offered refunds on PCs shipped with XP, when the end user wanted to build a Linux box, or an XP box with a preexisting license. Hopefully I can at least try this with Toshiba, I could use the beer money.
  • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:19PM (#20306063)
    The solutions people have mentioned so far are very possible (user space audio drivers, PCI bus conflicts, scheduling).

    Another possibility is the media timers in the microsoft API. I don't know about Vista, but under XP, the system timers by default are not very accurate, because higher accuracy timers taking more processing time to update. However, this isn't really acceptable for audio/video and gaming, so they have a special Multimedia mode you can set that will make them update at a higher frequency.

    Unfortunately... this is a system wide setting. Which means if their network application is doing a lot of system time lookups for timestamps or something, it is incurring the extra penalty as well.

    We noticed this at some point when a particular simulation application ran correctly - only when windows media player was also running. WMP enables this multimedia mode, affecting every other application using timers on the system.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:31PM (#20306249)
    <theory type="conspiracy">
    Perhaps they're sending your music up the network pipe for comparison and analysis as you play?
  • My Guess (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:36PM (#20306363)
    My guess is that Vista is intensively scanning the sound hardware to ensure that all the voltages and other parameters remain in compliance -- and hiding this fact from the user. It's well known that part of the Vista DRM infection is that it checks to ensure that the Secure Audio Path remain intact, and that part of this is that it tries very hard to detect any "illegal" modifications or equipment.

    Vista is just overall a hugely bad idea -- the idea being the Hollywood now owns your PC.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"