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Journal Journal: Is Windows unstable? 2

(The following is adapted from a post I made some time ago, to which I find myself referring all too often. I thought I'd repost it here so that I don't lose it.)

Here on Slashdot, it is a popular belief that Windows is unstable, especially relative to, say, Linux. People don't even question it -- they act like this is common knowledge, and most definately true. Well, it's not.

Of course, like most rumors, it has some basis in truth: Windows 9x and ME were trash and crashed all the time. However, these days most people use Windows 2k or XP, which use a completely different kernel that doesn't have the problems 9x did. They may have a slew of problem of their own, but stability isn't one of them.

My win2k system was recently up for 63 days between a LAN party and my cat stepping on the power strip switch. During that time, I ran:

  • Games, including Starcraft, Warcraft III, Neocron (MMORPG), ZSNES, Half-Life (including various mods), Doom 2 (DOS, using SB16 emulation through the Win2k sound driver provided by VDMS), Doom 3 (leaked alpha), Battlezone 2, Unreal (1, 2, and tournament).
  • Servers, including Apache, Tomcat, IIS, MS SQL Server, and MySQL. Some of these remained running more or less non-stop.
  • Cygwin. Used quite a bit.
  • Various development tools, including MSVC, GCC, Java SDK, SMLNJ, and SWI-Prolog. Software produced with these was also run, obviously.
  • Internet clients, including Trillian (24/7), AIM, Internet Explorer (including many plugins), Mozilla, Eudora, SmartFTP, Timbuktu Pro, Direct Connect, and eDonkey2000.
  • Media players, including Windows Media Player, Quicktime, Real Player, Media Player Classic, and Winamp (2 and 3).
  • Editors, including UltraEdit, Word, and Visual Studio.
  • Misc.: Zone Alarm (firewall), All-snap (makes windows "snap" to each other), X-Click (allows middle-click paste and other neat things), nView (adds all sorts of display hacks), popup stopper, etc.

At the time, I was using the following hardware:

  • AMD XP 1900+ CPU
  • 1GB brand-name RAM
  • NVidia nForce motherboard (ASUS version)
  • NVidia GeForce 3 AGP video (primary display)
  • NVidia GeForce 2 MX PCI video (secondary display)
  • three hard drives (20GB IBM, 100GB WD, 120GB IBM) and a DVD drive (Pioneer)
  • Lian Li case with four fans (including PSU)
  • 400W power supply

And here's some other things that you'd think would cause stability issues:

  • Note that I have two monitors. One on AGP, one on PCI. I frequently have to disable one since a lot of games aren't written to support dual displays. I disable it, play the game, then enable it again afterwards.
  • I have a funny tendency to leave lots of windows open. Right now, I have 13 open windows. Most of them are stuff I intend to get back to later. This is about average for me. I happily leave them running all night quite often.

I have seen one Win2k blue screen EVER, and it was not even my computer. The person accidentally installed Win9x drivers for something, causing the error. The blue screen explained exactly how to fix the problem (reboot, go to the boot menu, and choose "last known good configuration"). It worked.

Late last year, I had some stability issues with the games I played. My system would spontaneously reboot from time to time. As it turns out, this was a heat issue. I bought a case with better cooling, and the problem disappeared. Strangely enough, when such problems occur in Windows, Linux fans blame the OS, but when they occur in Linux, they blame the cooling or the hardware. The fact is, stability issues in both OS's are almost always the hardware's fault.

Still, if you can get a Linux box to run games to the extent that I do without X crashing, I would be quite impressed. No, it's not OK to have to restart just X, but not the whole OS. As far as I'm concerned, on a desktop system, X crashing is just as bad as the whole system crashing. Unless X has improved by a lot over the year or two since I switched over to Win2k (I used to run Linux exclusively), I'd say Win2k is more stable. (If the question were about servers, not desktops, it would be totally different. I run unix on my dedicated servers.)

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