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Why Windows is Slow 885

Posted by Zonk
from the i-blame-lazy-gerbils dept.
hype7 writes "The New York Times is running an article on why they think Windows is so slow. They boil it down to one key factor - legacy support - and they hold up Apple as an example of a company willing to make hard decisions around legacy support in order to provide a better product. From the article: 'Windows is now so big and onerous because of the size of its code base, the size of its ecosystem and its insistence on compatibility with the legacy hardware and software, that it just slows everything down ... That's why a company like Apple has such an easier time of innovation.'"
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Why Windows is Slow

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  • if only (Score:5, Funny)

    by deltree1010 (909548) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:21AM (#15009873)
    I'd have had first post if windows wasn't so slow. :-(
    • by Mayhem178 (920970) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @11:53AM (#15010968)
      Despite the fact that this article has little to nothing to do with the "slowness" of Windows loading/execution (which is, of course, debatable depending on the app in question), I'll indulge the M$ haters and throw this into the mix.

      If you want faster Windows, use nLite [nliteos.com]. It's a beautiful tool that lets one take a Windows XP installation CD and make any number of modifications to it: remove unwanted components/drivers, preset Windows settings, slipstream hotfixes and service packs...even completely automate the installation process by presetting all installation information (license key, etc.). Then, it generates a brand spanking new ISO for you to burn and use for installation. It's glorious.

      After nLite-ing my personal XP installation, I must say I have never been happier with Windows. I've left it running for weeks with no problems. A fresh installation of my nLited XP is just over 1 GB of HDD space (whereas the typical XP installation can top 3 GB). It could have been less, but not without removing several components that I wanted to keep.

      Granted, this tweaking is not without its quirks. I do occasionally get a warning about "unrecognized file versions", but thus far ignoring them has not caused any problems. I would suggest the following though: I know it's tempting to remove IE right off the bat, but trust me when I say don't. It is needed for some very important functions (such as updates). Also, I would caution against removing Windows Media Player as well. Sure, you may never use it (hell, I never did), but if you remove it, it takes its codecs with it, which can cause other apps to not function properly (such as Winamp). I guess you never know what you have until it's gone. If you're bound and determined to remove it, then I highly recommend the ACE Mega Codecs Pack [free-codecs.com] as a replacement.

      Happy hacking!
      • Windows XP Embedded (Score:5, Informative)

        by cecom (698048) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @01:06PM (#15011479) Homepage Journal

        Definitely don' delete IE :-)

        Windows XP Embedded lets you do a thing similar to what you are describing - you can create an image only with the components you select and the tool keeps track of component dependancies so it prevents you from creating a broken image by requiring the missing dependancies.

        This is where the fun starts. There are dependancies you wouldn't imagine. I wanted to create a very minimalistic XP image with basic API functionality and TCP/IP networking. Impossible. The DHCP component requires the SNMP component, which requires the HTML Help component, which requires, yes you guessed it, Internet Explorer !!!! DHCP client -> Internet Explorer : it makes perfect sense.

        Then I foolishly wanted to add SP2's firweall support. The firewall required all kinds of COM and DCOM components, including Microsoft Transaction Server (!!!) or similar crap and of course Internet Explorer as well. Why, oh, why, does a network firewall require Microsoft Transaction Server ?

        Of course these dependancies are not always critical - I am sure I could have deleted IE from the image and DHCP would still have worked - but nevertheless it is funny that MS claims IE is not a part of the OS, while it must be present in the simplest OS image :-)

        Getting back to the subject - I definitely wouldn't use a tool like nLite - you end up with an unsupported custom version of Windows and you never know what is going to break, which service pack or update is not going to install, etc. It is not worth the hassle.

        • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @03:56PM (#15012799)
          I agree with your sentiment, but the factual errors should have prevented an "informative."

          Why, oh, why, does a network firewall require Microsoft Transaction Server ?

          MS Transaction Server is middleware used in the development of (frequently COM based) internet/network apps. COM is pretty much the basic messaging system used for most MS app, it allows you to use modules from different programs interchangeably (like embedding explorer and stuff like that). So, those will be required for quite a bit of MS software.

          but nevertheless it is funny that MS claims IE is not a part of the OS, while it must be present in the simplest OS image :-)

          MS has never claimed this! They claimed the exact opposite in fact during the anti-trust trials as a reason they couldn't un-bundle IE.
      • by Reziac (43301) *
        Only weeks? my WinXPPro box was last rebooted in August of 2005!! and it's not nLited or XPLited, either, tho I did turn off the etch-a-sketch gunk. And it's on a lowly P3-500/768mb RAM. Runs smoothly, if not crisp. (Its jobs are Photoshop, CorelDraw, Office, multimedia, etc.; it doesn't do internet, so no one worries about patches or SPs.)

        Also, the default XP install should only run about 1.3GB, including the default swapfile (or a bit over 700mb without). I've never seen one bloat up into the 3GB range, a
  • Transitions.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:23AM (#15009881) Homepage Journal
    Interestingly, I've found Apple to be very willing to integrate backwards and forwards support in their OS. In the transition from 680X0 to PPC, Apple made sure to include some very clever programming that allowed a native and non-native apps to co-exist. In the transition to OS X from Classic, they included Classic as a virtual environment and in the transition from PPC to Intel, they are working very hard on Rosetta, another environment that preserves people's investment in their software.

    In contrast, I've had a fairly difficult time getting older software on Windows to even run sometimes. We kept a Win95 box around for the longest time because of some very specific software we needed that would not run on anything else.

    • Interestingly, I've found Apple to be very willing to integrate backwards and forwards support in their OS

      I know everything must be wonderful in Apple Land, but the compatibility issue is nowhere as good as Windows.

      The fact is that if you buy a new Intel Mac, it runs no pre-OS X software which is only 5 years old. Virtually all Windows software from 2000-1 still runs without any issues. The Mac situation is OS for most consumer users, but for larger shops, the "upgrade-cycle" can become an issue.

      Your entire
      • Re:Transitions.... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ChristTrekker (91442) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @11:11AM (#15010662)

        The Intel move is a major HW architectural shift. However, there are quite a few 1984 Mac apps that ran on every MacOS through 9.2, and still ran in Classic mode on the latest PPC Macs. That's survival through 20 years, one major HW architectural shift, and one major and numerous minor OS architecture changes already. That's nothing to sneeze at. For the Intel jump, Apple is providing Rosetta, so that at least 5 years of OS X code can be transitioned. That's not a bad effort, either.

        I'm not saying Apple or MS is better or worse in legacy support, that's not my point. But your parent certainly isn't all "spin". Apple's done a darn good job, all things considered.

      • Re:Transitions.... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Enrique1218 (603187)
        Backward compatibility is practically non existent when it comes to science software in Windows. We are still running windows 98/95 (hell we running DOS) to run our instruments because either the companies were small and don't upgrade like larger shops or they don't support the instrument anymore. Let's not talk special software to do math analysis. Backwards compatibilty is a hard target regardless of Apple or Microsoft. However, you can live off of Mac 0S 9 or Mac 10.x with no problems, but malware and vi
      • Re:Transitions.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grotgrot (451123) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @12:51PM (#15011357)
        Virtually all Windows software from 2000-1 still runs without any issues.


        You can download Visicalc from http://www.bricklin.com/history/vcexecutable.htm [bricklin.com] and it will still work. It is from 1981. It targetted MS-DOS 1.0 which was before subdirectories existed (the big feature of MS-DOS 2).

        As I like to say, Microsoft puts the backwards into backwards compatibility.

      • Re:Transitions.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Phat_Tony (661117)
        Why is it a fact that "the compatibility issue is nowhere as good as Windows?" Can you back this fact up with any facts?

        A new quad 2.5 ghz G5 with 16 GB of RAM and running Tiger does a great job of running Tetris, from 1987, and Macwrite II, from 1988. And if I use a processor-reducing utility, I can even play Snake and Shuffle Puck from 1985. That's over 20 years of backwards compatibility going on a brand new machine. Even running games, which are notoriously incompatible.

        It's true they're making a br

    • Re:Transitions.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @11:29AM (#15010791) Homepage Journal
      What's funny is, based on Microsoft and Apples experiences with virtual environments, you'd think Microsoft would take the whole backwards compatibility miasma and throw it into a Connectix/Virtual PC environment.

      Build the whole OS as a tight, single codebase that supports VMs, then let the VMs handle backwards compatibility. I never understood why 100% of the population has to suffer for the 3% that wants that parallel port handheld scanner to work.
  • That and... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    the many unneeded software one ironically has to run along with windows:
    - antivirus software
    - antispy software ...
  • Emulation Layer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NETHED (258016) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:24AM (#15009893) Homepage
    Windows Vista is coming out as a 're-write' of the code, but I don't believe they are recoding the real legacy parts of the Windows code. I think Microsoft needs to do away with native legacy support like Apple did, but keep it around with emulation. If WINE can reverse engineer the Windows layer, than why can't Microsoft, with access to the source?

    • A guy from MS told me that Vista was mainly additions to the code of previous versions.

      The next version will be a complete rewrite (so he says).
    • Re:Emulation Layer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by x2A (858210)
      Well it pretty much already is, they're called 'subsystems'... one for Win16 support, one for OS/2 support etc. But it's not so much emulation, as providing different API's through different libraries, loaded and shared when they're needed... just as WINE is (as we know, Wine Is Not an Emulator).
    • by swb (14022) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:12AM (#15010215)
      I think a better solution would be a legacy-free OS that would have XP-level compatibility but would provide a VM layer configurable as DOS, NT4 or Win2k, depending on the need of the application.

      If this isn't practical (having to run one each of the above layers could gobble tons of RAM), then at least providing a way to do a legacy-free installation with the option of adding support for older environments later. Systems that didn't need it wouldn't have to have it added, perhaps improving performance.
  • SnailSoft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ExE122 (954104) *

    But this doesn't seem to do anything to address the core Windows problem; Windows is too big and too complex

    Here's What You Need to Use Windows XP Professional [microsoft.com]
    PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended
    128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)
    1.5 g

    • Re:SnailSoft (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbolden (176878)
      They fail to mention that their use of the word "software" only applies to M$ products. Legacy support for other applications is still as flawed as it is on any OS.

      I don't think that is true at all. Microsoft spends a fortune supporting other apps that are popular. And you see the difference on Mac something like 10% of all apps need a patch to run after even minor OS upgrades. Linux is much worse. OTOH you can probably run something like 50% of your Windows 3.0 programs today. Neither OS is even clo
    • Re:SnailSoft (Score:3, Insightful)

      by failure-man (870605)
      Have you ever run XP on something with those specs?
       
      I mean, it works and all. (If you define a 10 minute boot cycle and 15 seconds to get file properties as "working.")
       
      Using the computer this way is about as exciting as watching an elderly couple parallel-park a motorhome.
    • Nice try, but Apple and Linux have far more complex operating systems that don't slow to a crawl every time you click a mouse.

      The other interesting thing to note here is the number of actual code writing engineers that are on each OS software team. For Microsoft, that number is in the many thousands (upwards of 10,000) working on Windows. For Apple, that number is in the low hundreds (around 220 last time I checked) working on OS X.

    • Here's What You Need to Use Windows XP Professional PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features) 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space

      Not to mention those are the bare minimum specs for Windows to run. Fr

    • Re:SnailSoft (Score:3, Insightful)

      by falcon5768 (629591)
      Funny I had Tiger running on a iMac G3 500 mhz (256 megs) and its completly useable, sure you cant run photoshop but you can generally run light games office, etc. Also the "stats" you quoted are full install ones, OS X can run fine with 128 meg and can be trimmed right down to 1 gig if you remove all the language and localization crap along with 99% of the print drivers you will never ever use.

      Now I ALSO had a Compaq 600 mhz with 128 megs (that I bumped to 256 megs) and it was a snail, took ages to load

    • Re:SnailSoft (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frag-A-Muffin (5490) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:23AM (#15010294) Homepage

      Here's What You Need to Use Windows XP Professional
      PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended
      128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)
      1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space

      Mac OS X Version 10.4 requires a Macintosh with:
      PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor
      At least 256MB of physical RAM
      At least 3.0 GB of available space on your hard drive; 4GB of disk space if you install XCode 2 developer tools


      While we're comparing apples to oranges, I've got a few for you too. :)

      BTW XP was releases Oct. 2001? and Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.0) was released just last year? That's like 4 years. You've GOT to be kidding me? Have you seen what's changed in 4 years? Or are you still living in a shack somewhere with your 233Mhz Windoze box?

      Here are the requirements for slackware 3.4:
      3.4 (Kernel 2.0.33)

              * Intel 8086
              * RAM - 8 MB
              * Minumum Drive Space: 40 MB

      Man, your windows is so complex cuz it requires at least a Pentium.

      Here's the kicker, if you actually READ the article, it's not even focused on the running speed of windows compared to everything else. It's saying because of all the legacy support, that adding any features requires so much work and testing to make sure it doesn't break anything else for the last 20 years of windows programs. And because of this it's "slow" in terms of being able to add features or to innovate.

      If you want a real comparison, why don't you take the requirements for Vista which isn't even out, but might have some of the features Mac OS X already! And guess what the requirements for Vista is going to be?
    • Re:SnailSoft (Score:3, Informative)

      PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features) 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space Microsoft's minimum specifications are completely ludricous. I'm sure, you COULD run Windows XP on a machine of those spec
  • They just don't carry it s far back as Windows. Moreover, when Apple releases an OS upgrade, your old machine gets faster, not slower.

    The issue is deeper: OS X was designed to make the best operating system possible for users. Windows was designed to be the best operating system possible for extending Microsoft's monopoly. And the horrific problems plaguing Windows (the Registry, gaping security holes, malware, etc.) are all a reflection of the resulting fundamental design flaws.

    • Moreover, when Apple releases an OS upgrade, your old machine gets faster, not slower.
      Nothing bad about Apple, but that really isn't because their programmers are so much better than Microsoft programmers. It's just that Mac OS X was designed so horribly at first that there's really no way to go but up in each incremental release. It was only in 10.4 that they implemented somewhat fine-grained kernel locking (10.3 used two kernel locks: one for the networking code, and one for the rest of the kernel, while 10.2 and earlier only had one Big Kernel Lock).

      If you ask me, though, that's the right design decision. First you make a system that works according the specifications, and only after that should you worry about optimizations.

      • by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:04AM (#15010162)
        First you make a system that works according the specifications, and only after that should you worry about optimizations.

        That's easy to say in 2006, but 10-15 years ago the "footprint" of the OS was a huge purchasing decision.

        Why do think Apple dumped so much money into Copeland? Because at that point in time, the average Mac had 8MB of RAM and they could never have shipped a Unix-based OS that required 64MB or so of memory.
  • by joevai (952546) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:27AM (#15009910)

    firstly i think the same could be said of pc hardware - we are still limited to the pc architecture designed decades ago, noone is willing to go out on a limb and produce truly flexible hardware given that it simply won't work with anything else. This is partly the reason why games consoles can put out much more power than an equivilent pc - they can be designed from ground up to be super-efficient without any legacy concerns at all (obviously the fact their hardware never varies makes it easier to code things more close to the steel)

    secondly, i wonder whether it's not microsoft being obsessed with legacy support, more that they don't want to spend $$$ on getting windows developers to root through the code and take it out. They simply carry legacy support through windows versions as they're always working from the same base. As always with ms it's $$$ >> quality. I'm sure a lot of their coders get irritated with legacy issues..

    • Let's do what consoles do then. PS2 had an entire PS1 on a chip. Let's make a new computer, where the old PC is a single chip, and the new stuff runs on the super-extreme-max-efficiency part. Include a port replicator for all the old serial/parallel interfaces that 99% of people don't need anymore, and only directly have USB2 or Firewire 800 support.
  • The article made much of how many million lines of code are in XP and how many will be in Vista. At one point the authors state that OS X has roughly as many lines of code as XP, but the programmers made better choices and didn't have to support legacy hardware, so OS X is a better operating system. Does anyone have authoritative information on how many lines of code are in XP, OS X, and some Linux distro respectively?
  • by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:32AM (#15009942) Journal
    Firstly, windows is not that slow... OS X takes longer to boot on my MacBook Pro than XP does... Quake3 UB runs slower on my MacBook Pro than on my old DELL notebook. When it comes down to it, the more eye-candy, the slower the machine... that's a trade I'm wikking to make with CPU cycles to burn...

    Secondly, legacy support is a sign of success. MS's Office 2004 on Mac is quite a nice program, mostly because they don't have much government users and thus little legacy support. MS's products need to be stable as MS cater for a huge amount of relatively computer illeterate users who cannot handle change.

    The difference is that lately most OS X binaries are going to get more and more bloated with the UB support being added. So soon you will see a new type of problem on OS X... until then, sure things are just peachy. :)
    • Here are two points I'd like to make. First, this article is about the speed with which new version are released, not how fast they perform a given task. Second, anyone who complains about FAT binaries needs to have their head examined. The file size difference is so small in most cases that no one will ever notice and Windows programs in general tend to be monstrous in size compared to the same program for the Mac.

    • When it comes down to it, the more eye-candy, the slower the machine

      Mac OS X and Vista both employ the GPU on the video card for their "eye candy" effects, so your supposition is incorrect.
  • GNU/Linux Legacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SWroclawski (95770) <serge@wroclawski . o rg> on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:42AM (#15009994) Homepage
    I can run 10 year old binaries yet my system is no slower.
    • Are you serious? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Yosho (135835) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:44AM (#15010465) Homepage
      You have a modern system running Linux that can run a binary that was compiled 10 years ago? That's honestly pretty hard to believe. Can you give an example? And I mean a ten-year-old binary, not source code that's ten years old and will compile and run today. I suppose it's possible if we're talking about "Hello, world", but otherwise, I would imagine that every single library that any given program depends on has changed considerably.
      • by Inoshiro (71693) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @02:15PM (#15011994) Homepage
        I can grab the statically linked binaries off of my Simtel CD set that includes Slackware 2.x and run them. The old statically linked a.out files will run if I put that executable support in, and any statically linked ELF binaries also load fine. Both of those existed 10 years ago (right around when most people had switched to ELF).

        Dynamically linked ones can work, too, provided I install the libraries that support them (and I can install them concurrently with modern libraries, since their names include the versions of their interfaces). Only libraries and programs that directly use the Linux system call interface (not the POSIX interface) are unlikely to work.

        Quake binaries of that era function. The OpenGL 1.x interface they use is provided via my OpenGL libraries. OSS is emulated by Alsa. I can use fancy new binaries given by the Quake source code, if I want, but it's not required.

        In fact, the best part about Linux you could say, is that I am not locked to archaic binary interfaces because most of my code is available in source form to everyone, including people who are willing to recompile it for me and provide it in a nice distribution (Kuuntu) with minimal interaction on my part.

        So we can support legacy, but we choose not to. This choice is important in software use freedom.
    • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:49AM (#15010505) Homepage Journal

      Funny, I can't run 2 year old binaries on my Linux. Maybe you made your system before the last changes of gcc, but if so, it is not legacy support, it is using the old system.

  • Vista (Score:5, Funny)

    by Z1NG (953122) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:43AM (#15009999)
    Maybe this is why Vista is taking so long to come out. They are programming it in Windows.
  • The Old New Thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twanvl (567252) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:44AM (#15010008) Journal
    The old new thing [msdn.com], describes some of the hacks win32 uses to stay compatible with badly written applications. Things like dummy events, hidden windows, duplicate event stacks, etc.
  • Hard decisions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frankie70 (803801) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:48AM (#15010036)
    They hold up Apple as an example of a company willing to make hard decisions around legacy support in order to provide a better product.

    It's easier to make hard decisions such as these, when there is only a small number of people using the legacy products & a even smaller number who aren't willing to upgrade.

    Plus, IMHO, amongst corporate users, I think much smaller percentage of companies
    have custom apps running on the Apple Machines.
  • Stupid article title (Score:5, Informative)

    by gatkinso (15975) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:51AM (#15010057)
    But even stupider responses below illustrating just how many people don't read the article.

    Fo those who simply refuse to RTA I will summarize, to wit: the article deals with the pace of Wiindows software releases and the recently announced delay of Vista... not the speed at which the OS loads and executes applications.
  • Apple's Advantages (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @09:59AM (#15010123)
    I was thinking about this, and it basically boils down to a simple proposition:

    People buy Macs to run OS X
    People buy Windows PCs to run Applications

    Because of this Apple has a lot more leeway on compatibility. They can break every application there is, but the users will still be happy as long as OS X and Apple apps continue to run. If Microsoft breaks Windows application support, they've removed the main reason people run Windows in the first place. (Maybe there is a hardcore 2% of Windows lovers out there, but apps are what counts for the vast 90% of the market.)

    The other issue is that Apple is heavily consumer-based and therefore can totally focus on quick-turnarounds and user-centric features. For example, there's been various complaints over the years about poor I/O speeds on OS X. This hasn't been a huge priority for Apple to fix because frankly they don't sell that many corporate server systems. Much better to put those resources into developing 'widgets' or something the end user can see. Microsoft has to spread out resources across Server systems, Tablets, Media Centers, Corporate Desktops, Consumer Desktops, etc etc, so that Windows is the single solution for every problem.

    The end result is that OS X is a pretty damn nice solution for the home or SOHO user. But whether Apple's approach would work for the market as a whole? Don't think so.
  • by dioscaido (541037) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#15010423)
    ...depended on OS9? Lets be serious for a second. While I'm sure it's a painful process nonetheless, you can't really compare Apple forcing Adobe/Macromedia and a handful of other software makers to rewrite their packages to OSX' new API, to Microsoft forcing, say, the DOJ or Siebel to rewrite their software deployments. A Microsoft deprecated API could easily cost hundreds of billions of dollars. So for Vista MS is tasked with reviewing and security testing the heck out of whatever legacy components they cannot remove. And they do often take out legacy functionality that couldn't possibly fit our security model. But the major stuff, for the most part, has to stay in some form or another.

    That said, I do wish more were done with virtualization to clean out the main OS.
  • Fresh start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfj225 (587560) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:43AM (#15010458) Homepage Journal
    What I've never understood is why a company as large as Microsoft never tried to create a second operating systems team with the goal of having it produce a new operating system from a clean slate? The original Windows team could still remain active for the short term and produce the types of updates that they have been in order to at least keep some reveneu from operating systems. This way the second team can work as long as they need until they have a good product. Even if the second operating system is a complete failure, which I don't see happening at a company with so many smart engineers, they would still be able to salvage at least some of the technology for use in the currect Windows code base. Microsoft spends a lot of money on R&D, so it doesn't seem completely far fetched that they would consider an approach like this. I know they have produced operating systems purely for research in the past (called Singularity, I think?), but why not create a second team to come up with something new, something that can avoid all the problems they've learned about developing Windows? The NT codebase won't last forever (at least I hope not), so I find it odd that Microsoft hasn't at least tried to start fresh again. I can't see NT lasting much beyond Vista and in a lot of ways I think it was a mistake to build Vista on top of NT. There has to be some point to break backward compatibilty and now is as good as a time as any. With ownership of VirtualPC, it wouldn't be hard for MS to run previous versions of Windows along side whatever new system they built, much like Apple did with OS X and OS 9.
    • Re:Fresh start (Score:3, Informative)

      by Phil John (576633)

      What I've never understood is why a company as large as Microsoft never tried to create a second operating systems team with the goal of having it produce a new operating system from a clean slate?

      What do you think NT was? Granted, they incorporated the Win16 API, but it was pretty much a new operating system. It took them many years (i.e. until the launch of Windows XP) to merge the consumer line (windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME) and business line (NT 3.51, 4, Windows 2000) into one cohesive codebase. Remembe

  • Funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenjyD (316700) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @10:55AM (#15010553)
    I guess now we get to see what fraction of Slashdotters actually read the linked articles.

    (Hint: the article makes no reference to the performance of Windows compared Mac OS X)

    Also:

    "Apple has a lean development group of roughly 350 programmers and fewer than 100 software testers,..."

    Isn't it traditional to have a similar number of testers as developers? I know we mostly do, anyway.
  • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @11:04AM (#15010619)
    The NYT titled the article "Why Windows is Slow" - it should have been titled "Why Microsoft is Slow". The article talks about the slow delivery of new versions of Windows relative to Apple deliveries of Darwin. It's got nothing to do with the performance of Windows itself.
  • Come on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @11:34AM (#15010812)
    Look, ANYTHING Microsoft does, it is held under scrutiny and generally people will bitch and complaining about it.

    Apple CAN exclude legacy support largely because they control every aspect of their products. Apple is their own monopoly.

    If Microsoft deiced, hey, lets abandon serial ports you would have an uprising of epic proportions. First, slews of customers that rely on serial port items like data entry devices or signal sampling, or a slew of other legacy devices that only support serial ports will be up in arms over the loss of support.

    Second, slews of companies will be up in arms over Microsoft deciding to drop legacy support of serial ports because they will be forced to have to redesign their products and possibly find solutions to send out to existing customers so they could continue to support that product.

    Remember Microsoft is installed on over 90% of the world's PC's. If Microsoft makes a decision to drop Floppy support, or any other legacy technology, they have to answer to BILLIONS of customers. If someone doesn't like the fact that Apple dropped floppy support, then they just won't buy a Mac. If Windows drops support for floppies, then what will that customer buy?

    It is so trite to say that Apple should be lauded for dropping legacy support while Microsoft should be reprimanded. Regardless of how people believe Microsoft owns a monopoly and controls every aspect of the PC, this couldn't be further from the truth. Microsoft has to cater to millions of consumers that can't drop their DOS games, or 10 year old devices, or legacy printers, even those applications and equipment belong in a museum (or landfill).

    I am sure that Microsoft would love to end legacy support for a slew of devices. Do you actually think Microsoft WANTS their OS to be slow? Are some of you so delusional to think that Bill Gates sits there in his office wringing his hands and finding out ways to make his OS more insecure and slower????

    If Microsoft made a grand decision to drop, say, analog CRT technology, or floppy drive support, or whatever, the uproar would be defining. Apple drops a legacy product, and largely the market say, so what, I still won't buy a Mac regardless.

    Overall, this doesn't slow down Windows while running, only on installation of the OS and installation of device drivers. If you don't have certain legacy hardware, Windows isn't slow because it is trying to detect them, or running devices drivers for non-existent hardware. At least Microsoft has made their OS efficient enough to unload drivers for devices not found.

    What truly slows down Windows is Microsoft's reliance on virtual memory, and even if you have 2 - 4 gigabytes of RAM, Microsoft still insists on a swap file. HARD DRIVES are the major bottleneck in performance on computers today, and when Microsoft forces gigabytes of data to be swapped to the hard drive, this reduces performance, PERIOD!

    I can't stand the double standards imposed on Microsoft. Apple always gets a slap on the back anytime they do something, but if Microsoft does the same thing, they will be chastised. Microsoft gets brought to court for installing media players and browsers in their OS, but Apple is celebrated by including iTunes and Safari in theirs.

    I am no big supporter of Microsoft by any means, I think they need to start getting some balls and telling their legacy clenching customers to drop DOS apps and old hardware and say enough is enough, but to laud Apple for doing that is just down right troll bait.

    The problem is Microsoft is damned if they do, damned if they don't. Millions of people complain that Windows is slow because of legacy support and complain while millions more will be very vocal against Microsoft if they ever touch that floppy interface or serial port. Microsoft can't please anybody at anytime. Microsoft has had to support millions of devices and configurations, and guess what, they have done a good freakin job of it. Apple couldn't do it, Linux can't do it. The only reason why Windows has 90% of the market is because they have supported and will continue to support millions of devices.
  • Millstones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @12:01PM (#15011011)
    Microsoft have made a rod for their own back.

    Despite the hype, by no means all establishments are using 100% Microsoft supplied software. There is a lot of dodgy legacy software out there, running on Windows, written using a variety of questionable techniques that most people don't get to know about, simply because the source code is kept hidden.

    Every new version of Windows has to support all this old, broken software, because someone, somewhere is using it for a critical business application. Some of this old, broken software does things like control laboratory instruments. Engineers, technicians and scientists are often unable to use Windows-driven equipment to its full potential, simply because the software does not allow them to do some particular operation that was easy enough with its manual predecessor -- and they cannot modify the software, nor write their own. {We tried, at my former employer; we did successfully reverse-engineer one or two things; but on the whole I, and our development manager, found it simpler just to ditch the computer-controlled test equipment and build manual, analogue test sets.}

    Yet more of this software is device drivers. Manufacturers in the Far East develop driver software on pirated Windows using pirated development tools. {They could easily develop Open Source drivers, but they don't need to: as far as the authors are concerned, Windows is available gratis anyway.} Windows needs a full complement of device drivers, otherwise existing hardware becomes obsolete and its owners become annoyed.

    If Microsoft introduce a new version of Windows which breaks compatibility with old versions, then they will lose customers. It is as simple as that. If there is some important piece of software that cannot be used anymore, then alternatives will be evaluated; and questions will be asked. One of those questions might be "Why have we been paying money for this, when this does just as good a job for much less?" Another of those questions might be "Whose freaking saved documents are these anyway?"

    So when it comes to backwards compatibility, Microsoft are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. If they keep backwards compatibility, it makes Windows slower, harder to test and more prone to errors. If they eschew backwards compatibility, it makes Windows a lot less attractive.

    It's important to point out that these problems do not exist with Open Source software. Although binary compatibility will break from time to time, when it becomes necessary to add new features to a kernel or heavily-used library, source code can always be recompiled. Sometimes a patch may be necessary; but at least it's possible for someone to figure out how to patch a piece of software, even if the original author is no longer supporting it. And since file formats are open, migrating from one Open Source application to another is invariably less painful than migrating from Closed Source to Open Source. If the new application doesn't already have a suitable import filter, then one can be added; or a conversion tool can be written.
    • Not so sure... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZxCv (6138)
      Every new version of Windows has to support all this old, broken software, because someone, somewhere is using it for a critical business application.

      I'm not sure I buy this... If this old, broken software is being used for a critical business application, who in their right mind is messing with it by upgrading the OS?

      I have a feeling the backwards compatibility in Windows, in practice anyway, actually serves to benefit the average consumer more than it does the average business.
  • by mnmn (145599) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @12:11PM (#15011083) Homepage
    Its precisely Windows' legacy support that it holds the market share. Make a new binary format, take away all the previous apps ability to run, and suddenly Windows has lost the real edge, the real reason why everyone doesnt switch to another OS. Linux/BSD are awesome, except too many apps run only on Windows. Many apple and Linux fans are sitting on Win32 machines right now because theres that one app that has no equivalent in Linux/OSX. Games are a significant part of those apps.

    Say Windows switches to a new binary format for a new processor and asks all other software and driver vendors to follow suit. Many of them wont rerelease their apps. Others will not care. Many driver makers will not bother to produce the new version (I've tried running the AMD64 Windows XP... so I know all this). The result is Linux has the edge suddenly. You dont need to have vendors rerelease drivers, except for the few proprietary drivers (like nvidia).

    Microsoft will never do that. AMD64 is giving em enough headaches as it is... and AMD64 actually supports x86 32-bit in-hardware. Take away DOS support, and all the older API in Windows, and suddenly there are more apps available for Linux than for Windows. Suddenly, MSFT stock seems overvalued.
  • by randyflood (183756) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @01:33PM (#15011698) Homepage Journal

    Suposedly Windows is slow since it has to support legacy hardware. But Linux supports more legacy hardware than Windows. So, by that logic, Linux should be slower than Windows... Since that is not the case, I don't think support for legacy hardware is the reason Windows is slow...

     
  • by ickoonite (639305) on Tuesday March 28, 2006 @04:01PM (#15012832) Homepage
    This is poor, even for the NYT - a shameless puff piece trotted out by someone presumably in Bill G's pocket. It helps to deflect attention hitherto focused on the Vista delay announcement. "Oh, poor Microsoft," we cry. "How they have suffered to make Windows so very backward compatible. This must be the reason for the delay." And so it continues ad nauseam.

    Rubbish. Utter rubbish. As numerous people have attested in this disucssion, it is often necessary to retain Windows 9x boxen in order to ensure compatibility with a particular piece of software on which one has to depend. And that ignores the innumerable hiccups encountered in the switch from DOS/Windows 3.x to Windows 95. It was ten years ago, now, so I will grant that some may have forgotten (or, at a guess, given the profusion of Myspace-era [myspace.com] teens on Slashdot these days, they were not around to even remember), but a lot broke in that switch. At that age, my particular peeve was games, although the experienced - among which I like to include myself - were generally able to continue wrestling with fancy memory configurations in order to get such software to run. Still, it certainly wasn't easy, by any means.

    The switch to the NT kernel has brought even more difficulties, many of them insurmountable. If you still have a piece of DOS software that NT won't run, there is no MS-DOS mode to restart in; the command prompt is sufficient for some but not all requirements. Certainly anyone who still wants to crack out an old DOS game under Windows XP is totally fucked, although one might like to remind them that it is time to move on...

    Still, all of this would be as naught if it were not for the perpetual insistence on attributing the resplendent brilliance of Apple's Mac OS X to its willingness to shirk a supposed responsibility for backwards compatibility, the idea being that Windows sucks because it has excellent backwards compatibility. I have never understood this argument.

    Probably because it is bunk. Among a diverse array of boxen at home - running, I might add, DOS, Linux, OpenBSD and Windows - I run Mac OS X 10.4 on a PowerBook G4. I am not about to indulge in a lengthy diatribe about the myriad ways in which Mac OS X is superior to Windows (or Linux, or...), because that has been ably done already, but I feel a short note on backwards compatibility is in order, seeing as it is that which is under attack.

    Mac OS X has excellent backwards compatibility. I would argue in fact that from a user's perspective it is in some ways better than, say, that of Windows XP. It is beyond doubt that from a technical perspective, Mac OS X's backwards compatibility is superior to that of Windows XP. Consider why:

    A quick perusal of various of the abandonware sites will render unto you a very plethora of old software for your DOS PC or Mac box. The difference is that you'll need an emulator to run the for-DOS stuff. Most of the time, anyway. On Mac OS X, assuming the Classic environment is installed (and I grant that it no longer is by default, but it is supplied on the Install DVD), you just double click the icon and within, say, a minute, you are playing a way on a classic version of Monkey Island from the early 90s. Maybe earlier. Oh, and with sound. Or perhaps the first version of Microsoft Word floats your boat. I have an old Japanese version of Microsoft Office on here which has proved indispensible on more than one occasion.

    What is impressive is that some of this software is 20 years old and still works. Not only was it written for a totally different operating system, but it was written for a totally different chip architecture too. It integrates well too. An icon for a Mac OS 9 (or earlier) application can simply be placed in the Dock like any other application, and it runs - with menu bar and everything - just as it would in Mac OS 9. Whatever you may make of Windows or the Mac, that kind of compatibility is amazing

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