The Null Terminator

Ethan Ram’s geeky blog on the seam of technology and product management.

Soluto Frustrations

On why I was deeply unimpressed with Soluto’s product

The last week hasn’t been an easy one… I’ve got a brand new Lenovo X220 – and it’s giving me a hard time. For over 10 years now that I’ve always had a ThinkPad laptop (except for a couple of years with a MacBook – but this story is for another post) and I was always very happy with it. But this time…

Boot is stuck for over a minute between login and getting to see the desktop!

My laptop gets stuck forever 2-3 seconds after I go wireless on my workplace Wi-Fi network!!

Changing writing language too often doesn’t work – I’m getting stuck in Hebrew forever!!!

Fingerprint software is dead…

A PCI port is missing a driver and Windows keeps complaining about it…!

The Lenovo System Updater gets stuck forever when I run it to check maybe I’m missing some updates… errr.

In general – I get to the point that I have to reboot the computer 2-3 times a day… err err errrrr!

…And I’m a software guy, expert with Windows Internals – right? So I must be able to find the cause of these. But hell – it’s a new computer running latest software – I don’t feel like spending day resolving these. Or – maybe return the thing to the IT department and let them break their heads on this (still I will have to take a day off or work on a temp PC that does not have my configuration… bad idea!)

WOW – after a couple of days I hit some major frustration loosing over ½ an hour of work. ((Remember this was actually common in the ’90… but things surly have changed since… or maybe this is only me??))

Then I remembered this slogan from a young and apparently very successful startup from Tel Aviv called Soluto – “Soluto is bringing an end to PC user frustration …killer technology”. They have millions of installations and got so many positive reviews and prizes. It seems that Yishay Green, Roy Karthy and the other guys there are really managing to create a buzz and get some heavy funding. Actually, I remember I even tried one of their early betas after hearing one of their founders talk about his former startup successes… I have to give it a try. Maybe 15 minutes with this and I can save the hours of digging into finding what’s wrong with my PC.

I’m not going to write a full review about my experience. Just a few bits. They have a smooth installer and the UI looks great although it is a bit slow to come up with answers. (I even took some time to help them defining what some of the more obscure apps I’m running on my laptop are – after all it’s much of a community project.)

But then I hit this…

So they found that Google Chrome is running in the boot taking 29 seconds of my boot time. But they cannot do anything about it. WTF?? This is simply wrong. I actually ran a boot profiler myself (SysInternals ProcMon) and Chrome does not run on boot at all… And why do they say they cannot do anything about it? Can’t they help me uninstall it?…

They are offering me to remove some 10 pieces of software from the boot process, most of them with no clear explanation on what they do, and each taking a full 0.1 seconds of my life… Who cares?! But check out this suggestion – “pause it unless you connect to a network on the internet using an Intel wireless network adapter” – Even a pro like me got confused for a minute. This is cryptic Chinese for 99% of the world population. I’m sure that those poor 10% of people who choose to follow their advice and disabled their PC wireless have really got no frustrations now…

So it’s offering me to remove 8 of the 18 plugins I have in my Chrome browser. They say I have 2 Chrome toolbars and six more plugins that I can safely be removed… WHAT??? Toolbars in Chrome?! In Chrome there are no toolbars, like they have in (poor) Internet Explorer; and those 6 plugins I use are very useful and consume somewhere between ZERO to NOTHING processing time. Why do they suggest I remove them? Why do they tell me 26% of users actually disabled their Multimedia Plugin (and forgot about having media playback capabilities in the process)!?

I have a few more examples but I think the point I’m making here was well understood. So I’ll shortly conclude with this strange behavior: it takes Soluto 6 seconds to open its own About dialog… At least in the first time after every boot.

As you can understand it did not find my issues, or help me fix them, so we parted like friends (somewhat of a frustrated PC user friend, though).

OK – OK. I know I’m probably not the average guy and probably I’m not their target customer and/or my new PC is not their target PC because it’s new. I can even think of some cases when I was called-in to help fix a dysfunctional computer where this utility application could actually do some good. Still I felt I’ve wasted time playing with it.

So here is advice for what could be some excellent features for the next Soluto version that may actually make a difference. And if they don’t add them to Soluto, still, my dear readers, you can follow and fix your frustrating computer yourself.

  1. Enable Windows update to automatically update your PC. 99.9% of ppl should absolutely automatically update their system. Always.
  2. Install a basic anti-virus, anti-malware and update their signatures. Also enable windows firewall. In 90% of the PCs I was called to help with these where not right. Microsoft Anti-Virus/Malware and Firewall are excellent free alternatives here that require close to zero user interaction/intervention and get their updates from Microsoft as part of the Windows Update service. So simple.
  3. Uninstall most stuff that comes bundled with the original PC and with hardware drivers: The HP suite to tools and games that came bundled with the printer drivers,  the Cannon suite that came bundled with your latest digital camera etc.
  4. Uninstall those Shell/Explorer extensions, Internet Explorer extensions and the rest of the known-evil-doers. If you don’t know which of those is an evil just delete them all – you want miss them.
  5. Prevent about 15 Windows services from loading in the boot. Some can be delay-loaded and some can be changed to load ‘manual’. Here’s the list I use.
  6. Uninstall redundant drivers that haven’t been used for a while. Same for applications that haven’t been used. Things like that old Printer you once had in the office, that Nokia Suite that used to sync your late mobile etc.
  7. Run a registry consistency and temporary files cleanup tool like the CCleaner that I regularly use. (CCleaner actually fixed some of the issues I’ve had – see above)
  8. Analyze the system event log and saved mini-dumps to find problematic hardware and drivers causing issues with the PC. Just recently I’ve had to replace a display adapter that was blue-screening my home PC every other day.
  9. Assist in updating the display adapter drivers to the latest – – a very common problem.
  10. Rebuild the TCP/IP stack and remove any Winsock/network providers.

Enough said. I still have a couple of issues on my new laptop to resolve today, although most issues I’ve already found and fixed 🙂

One twists I really liked in Soluto: They have this little tray-icon menu where one can click “My PC Just Frustrated Me”. I’ve clicked it a couple of times not knowing what will happen. It seems to be doing nothing – no dialog opened, no thank-you message. Nothing. Maybe they are just collecting data for their next version or something. Maybe a bug? Strangely, after clicking it I felt somewhat relieved. Like a small steam release.


One response to “Soluto Frustrations

  1. eram 2011 Nov 2 at 09:22

    so ppl are asking me if/how I’ve solved my PC issues.
    1. all the stuck/reboots issues: looking at the system events log i found that i get too many DNS resolving timeouts – mostly relating to active-directory and CIFS name lookups. Probably most are related to login scripts, outlook/communicator/phonebook resolving etc. So it make sense that once they are timing-out the whole operating system is f**ed. These are probably errors in the software configuration and name-server config made by our IT guys unaware of what’s happening with laptops on our wifi networks. I entered all those servers as static entries in my hosts file. that fixed it.
    2. uninstalled the fingerprint SW, downloaded latest SW from lenovo support site and installed it.
    3. disabled the PCI port from device mgr.
    i’m good 🙂

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