Soluto update socializes solving crashes

An Israeli start-up that began life looking at ways to speed up your Windows boot time now aims to solve and prevent crashes using crowd-sourcing and a team of experts. But is Windows 7 too good for Soluto?

Crashes and their potential to harm productivity and personal data are the bane of many computer users, but the ability to diagnose and prevent them has arrived in the latest version of Soluto (download), available exclusively today from CNET Soluto 1.12.113 beta sees two major new features, crash protection and browser add-on management, form a tripartite attack on problematic computer performance with the program's original feature, boot time management.

The Soluto dashboard. (Credit: Soluto, Inc.)

Called "Heal Crashes" within the program's main interface, the crash prevention feature takes information that Windows logs but ignores, and uses it to analyze the crash, said Soluto Chief Product Officer Roee Adler. Soluto's information is crowd-sourced, so if it's seen the crash before and has logged a solution, the program will offer one to you even if this is the first time the crash has occurred on your computer. The collection of crash signatures that Soluto is building is called the "PC Genome".

"We've been analyzing tens of millions of crashes in the field," Adler said. "Even crashes that occurred before Soluto was installed are logged by Windows, so we pull them in, too." When Soluto finds a crash solution, it highlights the option so it becomes more visible. Also included in the Soluto interface are links to learning more about the crash and data on how frequently other users experience the same problem.

Soluto: Cashing in on Windows crashes

Adler was quick to point out that he thinks that Soluto is unique, with its combination of in-house engineers and crowd-sourcing. "We have 20 engineers working on crashes, and there are very few people in the world who can do crash dump analysis, and solve data dump from a crash. We want to credit the people who can do it and crowd-source their solutions," he explained. Soluto provides people with both links in the crash interface to research the crash on the Web, and suggest crash solutions themselves.

Soluto's new crash-solving feature. (Credit: Soluto, Inc.)

Heal Crashes appeared to be a functional and versatile tool during testing, quickly scanning previous system crash logs and adding them to its local database. However, it's currently limited by whether your computer is stable. For Windows XP and Vista users, I'd consider it a must-try. For Windows 7 users, though, it depends greatly on whether your system and the programs that run it have been stable. If you're running a Firefox or Chrome beta, for example, there's little utility in learning that they crash because they're betas that are prone to crashing. Still, if you're experiencing stable program crashes, Soluto's solutions should add stability to your wobbly computer.

In a humorous touch, Soluto adds wings to the icons of programs that crash in a solution-offering pop-up. (Credit: Soluto, Inc.)

Lighten Web Browser is the new browser add-on management feature, compatible with the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. It tells you when an add-on is impinging on your browser's performance and helping you remove add-ons. As with other Soluto components, the program provides in-depth analysis of an add-ons impact on the browser, including helping you uninstall the add-on and letting you know whether other people chose to keep or remove it. It also lets you easily reset your default search provider in case that was altered by another program's installer.

Add-on performance has started to come into focus in a major way, following news that toolbars accounted for the majority of instability in Internet Explorer 8. While IE9 does its own add-on analysis, and informs people when an add-on is slowing down the browser by more than two seconds, it's exceptionally convenient to have a multi-browser, single-serving sized solution.

If you're familiar with Soluto, you'll find the Chop Boot boot-time managing feature was left untouched in this update to the program.

Going forward, Adler said that Soluto will be working on system slowdowns and non-responding windows. He anticipates the program remaining free for personal use after it eventually leaves beta, with the company making a profit from licensing Soluto to businesses.

The program certainly benefits from a clean interface that uses easily understood iconography. Some of it is even a bit humorous, such as the angel wings that appear after a program crash. Interface traditionalists might not like Soluto's look, though, with its border-free, white-space heavy approach. It definitely stands out against the field of translucent-bordered programs, though.

Soluto offers recommendations on how to manage your browser add-ons in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. (Credit: Soluto, Inc.)

Overall, it's eminently usable and highly useful for both experienced users and novices. The big unanswered question that only time will answer is whether operating system and hardware makers are getting good enough at improving stability that the program's new core feature of healing crashes comes too late to have a massive impact.