Process (computing)

How to Use the Mac Terminal’s Hidden Task Manager to See Background Processes

You’re closing a Terminal window, only to be told that doing so will terminate a running process. Which is confusing, because you didn’t know anything was still running at all.

There are all kinds of reasons an application might be running in the background in a Terminal window, and it might not be a good idea to close the window while one is running, at least not without finding out what’s going on.

Which is where the Inspector comes in handy. With the Terminal open, hit Command+I to bring up the Inspector. Alternatively, you can click Shell > Show Inspector in the menu bar. Either way a side window will open.

This is the Inspector, and it allows you to change a number of settings. You can set a name for the currently…

What Is conhost.exe and Why Is It Running?

You are no doubt reading this article because you’ve stumbled across the Console Window Host (conhost.exe) process in Task Manager and are wondering what it is. We’ve got the answer for you.

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Task Manager, like svchost.exe, dwm.exe, ctfmon.exe, mDNSResponder.exe, rundll32.exe, Adobe_Updater.exe, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

So What Is the Console Window Host Process?

Understanding the Console Window Host process requires a little bit of history. In the Windows XP days, the Command Prompt was handled by a process named the ClientServer Runtime System Service (CSRSS). As the name implies, CSRSS was a system level service. This created a couple of problems. First, a crash in CSRSS could bring down a whole system, which exposed not just reliability issues, but possible security vulnerabilities as well. The second problem was that CSRSS could not be themed, because the developers didn’t want to risk theme code to run in a system process. So, the Command Prompt always had the classic look rather than using new interface elements.

Notice in the screenshot of Windows XP below that the Command Prompt doesn’t get the same styling as an app like Notepad.

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Windows Vista introduced the Desktop Window Manager—a service that “draws” composite views of windows onto your desktop rather than letting each individual app handle that on its own. The Command Prompt gained some superficial theming from this (like the glassy frame present in other windows), but it came at the expense of being able to drag and drop files, text, and so on into the Command Prompt window.

Still, that theming only went so far. If you take a look at the console in Windows Vista, it looks like it uses the same theme as everything else, but you’ll notice that the scrollbars are still using the old style. This is because the Desktop Window Manager handles drawing the title bars and frame, but an old-fashioned CSRSS window still sits inside.

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Enter Windows 7 and the Console Window Host process. As the name implies, its a host process for the console window. The process sort of sits in the middle between CSRSS and the Command Prompt (cmd.exe), allowing Windows to fix both of the previous issues—interface elements like scrollbars draw correctly, and you can again drag and drop into the Command Prompt. And that’s the method still used in Windows 8 and 10, allowing all the new interface elements and styling that have come along since Windows 7.

Even…

JeVois Machine Vision Camera Nails Demo Mode

JeVois is a small, open-source, smart machine vision camera that was funded on Kickstarter in early 2017. I backed it because cameras that embed machine vision elements are steadily growing more capable, and JeVois boasts an impressive range of features. It runs embedded Linux and can process video at high frame rates using OpenCV algorithms. It can run standalone, or as a USB camera streaming raw or pre-processed video to a host computer for further action. In either case it can communicate to (and be controlled by) other devices via serial port.

But none of that is what really struck me about the camera when I received my unit. What really stood out was the demo mode. The team behind JeVois nailed an effective demo mode for a complex device. That didn’t happen by accident, and the results are worth sharing.

The Importance of a Good Demo

When it comes to complex systems, a good demo mode is essentially an elevator pitch for the unit’s capabilities. To a user, it answers “what can this do, and what possibilities does it open for me?”

The JeVois camera’s demo mode succeeded in this by doing several things:

  1. Make the demo self-contained and easy to start. Require a minimum of parts or setup from the user to get started. After putting the system image onto the included SD card, I only needed to plug it in to my laptop and start a camera viewer.
  2. Make it interactive. Respond to user input immediately, and show the processes at work as much as possible.
  3. Keep it simple. The demo isn’t the device’s one and only opportunity to explain everything! Leave the user free to focus on absorbing what is being shown; avoid bogging the user down with figuring out an interface or troubleshooting issues.

Demo mode on hardware is frequently an afterthought if it exists at all, but it deserves attention and polish if for no other reason than it is the one element of a product that it is virtually certain every user will engage with.

Setup and Demo of JeVois

I had to copy a system image to the micro SD card to ensure I had the latest…