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Seesmic.com and High CPU Utilization

Posted by Aaron West at 10:41 AM in Flash

This morning I sat down at my desk, opened up my MacBook Pro and started my day; with a cup of coffee mind you. After checking e-mail I decided to plug in my Iomega hard-drive in order to initiate a backup of my system using Apple's Time Machine. It hadn't been long since I backed up so Time Machine had very little to synchronize with the external hard-drive. During the 2-3 minute sync my CPU - a 2.6 GHz Core 2 Duo beast - sky-rocketed to 100% CPU utilization. In fact, when looking at Activity Monitor, Safari reported it was using over 110% of available CPU power. Huh? While sitting baffled, Time Machine finished its task and shut down. CPU remained pegged for another 2-3 minutes as I monitored Activity Monitor. The entire time I was watching the culprit was Safari. All other applications were either idle or using a very small amount of CPU.

Wondering what in the world Safari 3 could be doing to require so much juice I quickly strolled over to the Space (you use Spaces on Leopard right?) occupying the browser. The tab immediately visible was Seesmic.com. I created a Seesmic account yesterday after receiving an invite from Critter, and had been watching several recent user videos. On a whim, I closed the Seesmic tab, switched back to Activity Monitor and waited. About 6 seconds later CPU returned to normal.

The conclusion: Something on Seesmic caused my browser, as a client to the Web site, to need way more resources than normal. Given Seesmic is built very heavily on Flash technology and utilizes the Flash Player in the browser, I'm guessing my problem began in the player. The Flash Player, as awesome as it is, has a tendency to run away with the CPU on occasion. During my 7 years of developing software for the Flash player I've seen it happen dozens of times. In some cases it was programmer error; writing bad code (typically loops or errant Object/MovieClip creation). In other cases, the Flash Player seemed to leak memory on it's own until it was shut down (typically requiring an entire restart of the browser).

I don't know what caused the problem on Seesmic, and I guess there's a slight chance it had nothing to do with Seesmic. Nevertheless, their huge use of Flash video technology - and the amount of resources on the client needed to consume the video - could've been part of the problem. Who knows whether the issue could've been resolved by the Flash developers or whether it was just a problem with Flash Player 9. The site is still in very early alpha release, so I'm expecting things to get much more buttoned up.

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This entry was posted by Aaron West on January 1, 2008 at 10:41 AM. It was filed in the following categories: Flash. It has been viewed 7997 times and has 7 comments.

7 Responses to Seesmic.com and High CPU Utilization

  1. It runs heavy on mine as well..as you said, not sure if it's a player issue or just the heavy use from the site.. my SeesmicAIR app runs lighter, but it doesn't make /all/ the calls that the website does..

  2. I often find my CPU pegging as a result of Flash content in my browser. It could be a combination of Firefox and the extensions I've got installed, though IE tends to go pretty slowly when viewing a Flash intensive site as well. I've got an XP3200+, so it may just be time for an upgrade ;-)

  3. Hi, thanks for trying Seesmic, I am its founder :) I have forwarded your post to Johann our tech lead (johann at seesmic.com) we are very aware of that issue and working on it without a solution now. It looks like it is the camera recorder inside flash that causes the problem and Adobe is aware of it themselves, so we are trying to fix it. If you have any ideas or suggestions, we will take them :)

  4. We notice heavy CPU usage when using the flash encoder (the part that uses your built-in camera) to do our weekly show on Ustream. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and I have no idea or can find any suggestions on how to drop the CPU use down. Come on, Adobe--let's get this problem solved.

  5. amg

    every flash based websites typically eats up my old laptop cpu. youtube, veoh, yahoo video, google video, and others. this is even more significant when i am viewing the video in full screen mode. any sugesstions other than getting a new machine? by the way, my old laptop uses pentium M 2.0 GHz, 2Gb of RAM.

  6. Grandpa

    I have 100% cpu intermittently, about once a minute, videos freeze on youtube or any other google video. any flash application, my kid cant play games on nickjr.com any more, it pegs 100% it never did that before, i tried Adobe Flash Player 10 beta and it seems to have the same problem. before i tried that i installed firefox, it does exactly the same as internet explorer. i have been into msconfig and shut down every other running process, and i still get 100% cpu as i watch the Usage History in Task Manager (WinXP) it has a pattern like i said, pegs it for 10 seconds, then drops back to 30% CPU and remains below 40% til the next spike a minute later, its consistant

  7. @Grandpa Are you really "grandpa" or just disguising your name? I don't have any recommendations for you except to maybe reinstalling one or more of your browsers and then install the Flash Player to see if that fixes your issue. I've heard these reports of spiking CPU and I see it too for really intensive Flash applications but it's few and far between (for me).

    Perhaps something is wrong with the Flash Player installed in your browser(s) and a re-install of both browser and FP would fix it. Worth a shot I guess.