High-priority media apps

For most people, most of the time, a faster computer won't make much of a difference. There's nothing CPU-intensive about reading and writing email, surfing the web, or using most other applications. The notable exception to the rule, of course, is audio and video processing. Nowadays I often find myself staring impatiently at progress meters in Audacity, Audition, Camtasia Studio, and iMovie while I filter and compress large media files. No matter how fast your computer, in these situations you need it faster.

To hurry things up, I boost the priorities of these apps. If a process is already running you can do that with Task Manager on Windows, or the renice command on OS X. But since I nearly always want to give these media apps as many cycles as I can, I'd rather just bump their priorities at launch. You can do that with scripts containing, for example:

Audacity on Windows:

start /high "c:\program files\audacity\audacity"

iMovie on OS X:

nice -20  '/Applications/iMovie HD.app/Contents/MacOS/iMovie HD'

But how do you empower the less geek-inclined to do these things? I worked through the exercise on Windows, but it wasn't pretty. To avoid a double-quoting problem, I needed the startup icon's launch string to simply be:

cmd /c "start /high audacity"

which meant I had to add Audacity's directory to the path. Then, because the launch was indirected through a command shell, I had to use the startup icon's Change Icon feature to rebind the Audacity logo. Inured though I am to these indignities, I've learned to pay attention to the glazed look that comes into the eyes of civilians when you subject them to this nonsense.

I'm sure there's a similar procedure for the Mac but, to be honest, I just type the name of my priority-boosting iMovie launch script.

So back to the question. If you want to transfer this capability to friends and colleagues, what's the path of least resistance? I've looked around and, of course, there are a jillion shareware priority adjusters for Mac and Windows systems, but these tend to be Swiss army knives that are also likely to cause the dreaded eye-glaze effect. Suppose all you want is for a nontechnical user to be able to pick a couple of apps that will launch at high priority. The solutions should require as little non-native software as possible, ideally none. Do they exist?

Update: Tom has a nice solution for the Mac:

I'd recommend wrapping the unix command in an applescript. That way you could send it to non-tech adept friends and all they'd have to do is click on an icon and it'll run.

In script editor

Something like do shell script "nice -20 '/Applications/iMovie HD.app/Contents/MacOS/iMovie HD'"

Save it as an application and give it a custom icon and you should be all set.
Perfect, thanks Tom! Here, for future reference, is how to tweak the application icon.

On the Windows front, Douglas Deden has a partial solution:

I created a batch file, called high.cmd, and placed it on my desktop. It is just one line:

start "dummy title" /high %1

I can now drag-and-drop an executable (even one with a long filename) on to it, and it will start it with a high priority. The dummy title prevents the start command from interpreting a long filename, which will be automatically enclosed in quotes, as the title for the command window that will appear briefly.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, this works fine if I drag the executable on to the batch file, but if I drag a shortcut (a much more useful feature), it still starts the program pointed to, but the priority gets reverted to normal.
We're still awaiting further enlightenment.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/08/08.html#a1502