I had to switch from Firefox to Chrome in Windows 10, and I’m not happy about it. Conexant’s horrible audio software and its CPU-grabbing Flow.exe is the problem.

I made the switch from Google Chrome to Firefox at least a year ago, and I thought the Mozilla-coded browser’s performance improvements were enough to allow me to eliminate one spy-ish element from my computing life.

Never mind that I use a lot of Google services, especially in my work life. That’s another issue for another day. I just wanted a privacy-focused browser that doesn’t necessarily phone home everything I do to Mountain View.

But on my HP Envy laptop running Windows 10, I’ve noticed the fan running a lot more, and a look at the Task Manager shows Firefox grabbing a lot of CPU, as does a process that only seems to run (and hog 20 percent of CPU) along with it: flow.exe.

I’ve since learned that flow.exe has something to do with the Conexant sound card in my laptop, and it is running all the time when Firefox is running, supposedly because the Conexant software can’t figure out how to configure itself when presented with whatever it is that Firefox is doing. There was a recent Conexant driver update for this laptop, and I think that’s when the problem began.

I could try to figure this out, try to figure out how to revert the Conexant driver, or something like that, or I could just run Chrome, which sips CPU by comparison, and wait for the situation to somehow resolve itself with fixes by Conexant, HP, Microsoft or Mozilla.

In terms of a fix, I won’t hold my breath. I will keep checking Firefox, which I’m still using on my Fedora laptop. That older HP computer doesn’t have Chrome at all.

That said, here is the best post I’ve seen about how to deal with flow.exe.

My Windows 7 PC at the office doesn’t seem to be affected by this Firefox issue at all, but it’s things like this on the Windows laptop that send me running to Chrome.

Update: I’m going to try this solution.

What I did was go to the Services Control Panel (go to Control Panel and then search for Services) and changed the status of CxMonSvc and CxUtilSvc from automatic to manual. Then I rebooted.

What happened: This worked. Sounds works fine, but no flow.exe and CPU usage is normal.

Update on April 14, 2019: The problem is now worse than ever. Nothing seems to stop Flow.exe when Firefox is running. I’m considering removing the Conexant “smart” audio driver altogether because it’s not smart enough not to bring the laptop to its knees even when I’m not playing any sound whatsoever.

Update later on April 14, 2019: I downloaded the latest Conexant High Definition Audio Driver, Version 9.0.160.51 Rev.D, released by HP on March 22, 2019. It is a 220 MB file. That is very, very large for an audio driver. Most FULL Linux distributions with a full complement of software are under 1 GB. And they include the audio driver.

This means I am NOW using Windows’ Add-Remove Programs to remove the Conexant ISST audio driver. We’ll see what happens.

Uninstalling the driver: When I uninstalled the driver, I rebooted and had no sound.

Installing an older version of the Conexant audio driver: I’m trying an older version of the driver offered by HP: Conexant High-Definition (HD) Audio Driver 9.0.153.0 Rev.C.

Did that work? I am not working this week, so I am not torture-testing web browser. But in limited use, so far I’m not detecting Flow.exe issues with the “old” Conexant driver while running Firefox on Windows 10.

Update on May 6, 2019: I can’t believe that I’m still dealing with this issue five months later. My current “solution,” which I’ve seen a few other successfully try is to rename Flow.exe as _Flow.exe so the Conexant software can’t find it at all.

This is where Flow.exe lives in Windows 10: C:\Program Files\CONEXANT\Flow

My HP update software is nagging me to install a new version of the Conexant sound driver, and when I reboot I get this popup:

Windows and HP really want me to reinstall the Conexant “SmartAudio” driver. I renamed C:\Program Files\CONEXANT\Flow\Flow.exe as C:\Program Files\CONEXANT\Flow\_Flow.exe in order to keep the utility from stressing the CPU while running the Firefox browser in Windows 10.

It’s sad that this has gone on for so many months without anybody fixing it. I guess it says something about the number of Windows 10 users running Firefox, and that thing is that it’s a small number.

The Adiwata Global Dark theme is enough to get me using GNOME 3

Here is my Fedora 20 desktop running Files (aka Nautilus), Gedit and GNOME Terminal with the Adiwata Global Dark theme, which is easy to invoke with the GNOME Tweak Tool.
Here is my Fedora 20 desktop running Files (aka Nautilus), Gedit and GNOME Terminal with the Adiwata Global Dark theme, which is easy to invoke with the GNOME Tweak Tool.

Through the GNOME Tweak Tool, I discovered the GNOME 3 Adiwata Global Dark Theme, which makes GNOME 3 looks so good, I find myself wanting to use it, leaving Xfce aside for the time being.

You select the Global Dark Theme via GNOME Tweak Tool as seen here.
You select the Global Dark Theme via GNOME Tweak Tool as seen here.

It’s not all sweet darkness. GNOME 3 is GTK3-centric, and since Firefox uses GTK2, it’s not dark.
While there are ways to “force” Firefox to go dark, it’s much easier to find a new Firefox theme. I looked at a bunch and settled on one called Dark Black. Unfortunately, the title bar stays white, but you can’t have everything:

Firefox with the Dark Black theme. Note that the title bar stays in the light Adiwata theme from GNOME 3.
Firefox with the Dark Black theme. Note that the title bar stays in the light Adiwata theme from GNOME 3.

Google Chrome goes its own way, too, and I was able to go to the Chrome themes page and find a few darker choices. I settled for Dark Vibe, and now when using Chrome I’m keeping the darkness of the overall GNOME 3 Dark Theme.

This is Google Chrome with the Dark Vibe theme. It's dark. Maybe a little too dark to "match" the rest of the GNOME Adiwata Dark theme. I'll look for something that is not quite so dark.
This is Google Chrome with the Dark Vibe theme. It’s dark. Maybe a little too dark to “match” the rest of the GNOME Adiwata Dark theme. I’ll look for something that is not quite so dark.

Later: Thanks to a reader in the comments below, I was introduced to the Htitle extension for Firefox, which makes the glaringly white header bar go away when using GNOME 3 in full-screen (aka maximized) mode. Here’s what Firefox looks like on my system now:

The HTitle Extension for Firefox by Alexander Seleznev makes the top title bar go away. It's great to make Firefox look more integrated with GNOME 3.
The HTitle Extension for Firefox by Alexander Seleznev makes the top title bar go away if your browser window is maximized. It’s a great way to make Firefox look more integrated with GNOME 3.

Google Chrome is broken again on my Fedora 20 system, and the problem is the AMD Catalyst driver

My honeymoon with Google Chrome in Fedora 20 was short-lived.

The browser again kills X whenever I try to run it.

I decide to remove the AMD Catalyst video driver from my system for what I thought were unrelated reasons, and during the time I was running the open-source Radeon driver, I started Google Chrome and ran it without trouble.

So the problem is an incompatibility of some kind between Google Chrome and the proprietary AMD Catalyst driver as it runs on Fedora 20.

Google Chrome browser is working again on my Fedora 20 system

Google Chrome (using the Google repository because Fedora doesn’t package Chromium) is working once again on my Fedora 20 system.

It had been broken for a few weeks. Whenever I started the browser, it would segfault and kill X.

Google pushed a new stable version of the browser today to its Fedora repository. I did the update, started Chrome and am now running it with no crashes and no problems.

Thanks, Google.

Firefox vs. Chrome on Windows and Linux

I spent quite a bit of time running Google Chrome/Chromium on both Windows and Linux, but between feeling uncomfortable giving away so much data to Google when logged in on Chrome and Linux performance improvements for Firefox, I now use Firefox about 99 percent of the time in Linux (currently Fedora 20).

But on my Windows 7 work machine, which is a more powerful (quad-core AMD to my laptop’s dual-core, with 8 GB of RAM to the laptop’s 4 GB), I flip it, using Chrome about 99 percent of the time.

So I’ve been switching it up to see how I might like using more Chrome in Linux and more Firefox in Windows.

I’ll keep it short. There’s nothing about Chrome on my laptop in Fedora 20 that makes me want to use it. It’s no faster and no more stable. And SELinux doesn’t much like it (and I get warnings).

I spent the whole day yesterday in Windows 7 on my big box running Firefox (version 27 on both machines for the record) for everything. It was measurably slower, and I had a few periods of non-responsiveness, especially with my customary 15-20 open tabs.

This means I’ll be sticking with Firefox on my Linux-running laptop (and for my personal use, where I’m not so crazy about Google spying and Chrome on my workplace desktop, where I’m already using Google Apps and am not doing any personal business (and could care less if Google knows about my web use as it relates).

Chromium/Chrome browser runs way better with 1 GB of RAM

40111-chromium-logo.pngI’ve probably written a dozen entries in which I wondered aloud about how anybody could use the Google Chrome Web browser when, on my 512 MB Windows XP system, it literally ran aground after maybe a half-hour of use, with screens taking forever to render and sending me scurrying back to the relative comfort of Firefox.

Well since that time I’ve been running both Firefox and Google Chrome on a Windows box with 1 GB of RAM, and my opinion of Chrome has turned around: It’s fast and stays fast.

I guess Chrome is one of those applications that just doesn’t do well with 512 MB of RAM.

And now that I’m running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on my laptop that also has 1 GB of RAM — and I’m having “issues” with Firefox eating tons of CPU — I’ve installed a couple of other browsers, including the Webkit-powered GNOME browser-of-choice Epiphany and its close cousin (and Chrome twin) Chromium, both of which are easily added from the refreshingly simple Ubuntu Software Center.

(About the only thing I don’t like about the Ubuntu Software Center is its method of installing an application as soon as you select it; I’d rather make a number of software selections and then have the system install them all together. I guess that’s what the Synaptic Package Manager is for.)

So how is Chromium in Linux, specifically Ubuntu 10.04?

So far, it’s excellent. Everything happens fast. There is absolutely no slowdown when I type into a Web form. I can see in top that when not in active use, Chromium (just like Epiphany) gives back almost all the CPU it uses when rendering a Web page (most unlike Firefox, which holds onto CPU even when you’re not in a FF window).

Windows XP runs great in 512 MB. But if you’re running a modern Web browser, you really need 1 GB for things to run smoothly. This doesn’t mean a modern Web browser — especially Firefox — will run great on a Linux machine with only 512 MB of RAM. But I’ve never seen it choke so badly with 1 GB of RAM as I have in my current Ubuntu 10.04 installation.

The fact that Chromium is flawless on this configuration and with this CPU (1.2 GHz Celeron) says a whole lot.

My only problem is that the “core” of my Web-based work requires me to use Firefox. … and if Chromium runs great in Ubuntu, it could only do better in a “lighter” environment, right?

Google Chrome in Windows XP – Am I missing something, or is it crap?

I know that Google Chrome is supposed to be so gosh, darned fast, but on the Dell Optiplex GX520s with Windows XP, 3 GHz P4 processors and 512 MB of RAM (yes, we’re stuck in 2005, thank you for asking), the Chrome browser starts off the session with promise but soon bogs down. Going from one window to another not visited in the past few minutes means slow, painful redrawing of said window.

So any speed or stability advantages over Firefox 3.5.x are … just not there.

That means if I want to get work done in the browser (and that’s pretty much what I do …), I need to use Firefox.

IE – too slow, but I do use it for development because my readers use it. Opera – it just can’t handle my Web-based apps (it’s the apps’ fault, but I can’t change that equation) though it remains super fast. Chrome – those screen redraws are killing me. Firefox – it may be a CPU hog, but I can use it all day and it stays mighty consistent, plus I have my beloved Firebug and Web Developer add-ons.

I’d like to love Chrome, but in my situation, I can’t. Firefox wins.

On my XP box, I finally made Google Chrome my default browser

Even though I do a lot of work in Firefox, where Chris Pedrick‘s excellent Web Developer add-on helps me code, whenever I’m doing “casual browsing,” working in Movable Type, Google Docs, Gmail or any of the various Web-based programs I rely on that allow it, I use the Google Chrome browser.

Why? Speed.

Even though I think a 3 GHz Pentium 4 with 512 MB of RAM is adequate for Windows XP, there’s no denying that Chrome is faster to load and run than Firefox (and Firefox leaves Internet Explorer 7 way back in the dust). Chrome is right up there with the Opera browser when it comes to speed, but already Chrome does better in terms of rendering pages.

And basically Google Chrome is a nice, lean, uncomplicated browser.

I made it my default browser because every time I click on a link in an e-mail (usually in Thunderbird, by the way), the machine would open that link in Firefox. And on this box, while I am using Firefox for development, I’m happier doing the rest of my browsing in Chrome.

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to run Firefox 3.1, which is supposed to be much faster than 3.0.x.

So what if Chrome had a tool like Web Developer? And what if Chrome ran (and ran well) in non-Windows environments (Linux, BSDs, Mac OS)? Just more world domination for Google (and a faster box for me).

Web Developer or Firebug?: I should probably try to familiarize myself with the Firebug extension for Firefox. Having more than one tool to help with Web development (and I need all the help I can get), isn’t a bad thing. I guess I use Web Developer because it was the first of the two that I was able to get working the way I needed it.

Related:

Google Chrome: What does it offer developers?
Chromium Developer Documentation

Google Chrome browser: still super-fast

I’ve been getting deep into Google’s many services, and today is no exception. First I discovered a bunch of features in Gmail (Web version, print version) that are turning out to be really helpful.

10692166)

I’m using the Google Chrome browser again on my XP box today, since I’m working on our Google fire map and feeding it data from a Google Spreadsheet.

I’m also going to be looking into creating a private Web page for company use at Google Sites, which is targeted as an easy-to-use alternative to corporate Intranets. It’s also a place where you can set up a site just for your family, friends or whoever. If you wish, you can control who gets access to the pages, a feature I will be tapping for this project.

Back to Google Chrome. It’s still incredibly fast, and I can’t wait until it’s ported to OS X and Linux. As I’ve said, it doesn’t have quite the feature set of, say, Firefox, but for the most part I don’t need any of those features and will easily give them up for increased speed on the 99.9 percent of stuff that Chrome does so well.