Norton 360: Unbearably slow

I’ve got a Windows Vista laptop that’s about five years old. It’s a dual CPU machine with 2G of RAM. After installing several bits of new software, I noticed that it was unbearably slow when logging in, switching users, and logging out. The CPU use wasn’t too high, but the disk drive light indicated that it was being kept very busy. I booted Fedora 14 Live from a USB drive, and the computer was snappy and responsive.

I monitored the system processes, and most of the I/O reads and writes were attributed to svchost. On a Linux or UNIX machine, it would have been easy to identify which service was the culprit because each service (known as a daemon) runs as a separate process. But in Windows, services run as part of svchost, making them hard to identify and monitor individually.

Since I didn’t know what was causing the slowness, I guessed and uninstalled Mozy backup. Nope. That wasn’t it. My computer was still slow. So I uninstalled Norton 360. Problem solved. The computer is responsive and snappy again, and has remained so for the past month.

Shortly after I uninstalled Norton 360, a neighbour called and asked if I could figure out why “the Internet was running so slowly”. He thought he had Windows 7. When I arrived, I found that it was Windows XP running in 512M of RAM. I booted Fedora 14 from my USB flash drive, and found that his computer ran quickly and loaded web pages quickly. His Windows XP machine was running Norton 360, and task manager showed that Norton processes were consuming large amounts of disk I/O.

I uninstalled Norton 360, and on the recommendation of a smart colleague, installed the free Microsoft Security Essentials. The computer ran quickly after that. My neighbour is pleased. I went home and installed Security Essentials on my Vista machine, with little noticeable slowdown.

My conclusion is that Norton 360 may only be appropriate for newer hardware and generous amounts of RAM (4G or more).

Gnome 3: Not quite ready for prime time

Just over a week ago, I installed Fedora 15. After using Gnome 3 for two days, I decided that I’m better off using Gnome 2, KDE or XFCE.

With Gnome 3, I like the ability to type the name of the application I want to run instead of hunting for it in a menu. This is a feature I’ve enjoyed for the past five years with Windows Vista, so it’s refreshing to finally have it appear in Gnome.

With Gnome 3, however, I miss the following:

  1. A system monitor applet. When my system starts to feel slow, I pay attention to CPU and I/O wait overhead.
  2. Multi-monitor support when changing workspaces. When I move to a new workspace, Gnome 3 only moves one of my two screens to a new workspace. The other stays the same.
  3. Quick launch icons. I use them for Firefox, gVim, Eclipse, and other frequently used apps.
I expect that Gnome 3 will be improved rapidly, and Fedora 16’s Gnome 3 will more productive.

Update: There’s a list of ways to tweak Gnome shell to make it almost bearable: http://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?t=263006. In particular, by installing and using “gnome-tweak-tool”.