Windows bloat? It's always been that way

Windows bloat? It's always been that way

Summary: Has there ever been a Microsoft operating system that hasn’t been derided for its “bloat

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TOPICS: Windows
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Last week I wrote about the first online critiques I’ve run across that Windows Vista will be YABMOS (Yet Another Bloated Microsoft Operating System).

And it got me to thinking: Has there ever been a Microsoft operating system that hasn’t been derided for its “bloat”? Apparently not. I took a little trip in the Wayback Machine to see what the mainstream media were saying about earlier Microsoft operating systems. The dreaded b-word came up more often than not.

A few weeks after Windows XP shipped, John Naughton of The Observer called it “a monstrous, bloated brute that requires a state-of-the-art PC and two gigabytes of hard disk space before it will even say 'hello'. This means any consumer foolish enough to want to run XP will probably have to buy a new PC.”

And XP’s Service Pack 2 made it even worse, according to eWeek’s Jason Brooks, who wrote in 2004:

You need look no further than the swollen feature set planned for XP Service Pack 2 to see that a significant new version of Windows will be upon us within the year. … Microsoft should ship a new version of Windows to fill its yawning road-map void but not in the form of a bloated service pack. We're due for an update to XP on the order of what Windows 98 was to Windows 95—a set of upgrades, fixes and new features that demonstrated that the Windows team had spent at least some of the three years between releases thinking about what it could and should deliver for users.

OK, but surely Windows 2000 was lean and mean, right? Uh, not according to the normally Microsoft-friendly Paul Thurrott, who panned it as “too big for consumer machines … requiring massive amounts of RAM and high-end processors. … Windows 2000 is bloated with features designed for the customers that should be using that enterprise OS: corporations. Things like IntelliMirror, Active Directory, and the advanced security features in Windows 2000 have no place in a consumer OS.”

Ironically, Thurrott’s remarks were in the context of an extraordinarily rare positive review of Windows Millennium Edition (aka Windows Me). The more common view of Windows Me was summed up by John Sheesley at TechRepublic, who marked the 10th anniversary of Windows 95 last August by calling Windows Me “a bloated pig of an OS that made everyone beg and plead for the rapid release of Windows 2000.”

Have wistful memories of good old Windows 98? Ditch ’em. My old Ziff-Davis comrade Jesse Berst took a cudgel to that OS with this memorable screed:

Windows 98 should have been released for free on January 1, 1996 and titled Windows 95.1. If this were Hollywood, then Windows 98 would be the equivalent of "Heaven's Gate," "Waterworld" and "Godzilla" rolled into one. A huge, overhyped, bloated embarrassment.

Was Windows 95 the mother of all bloated Microsoft operating systems? Steve Gibson says Microsoft’s biggest mistake was not writing it in assembly language and junking it up with “bloated .WAV files.” After completing a killer 16-bit Windows utility, he discovered that “the world had (pretty much unnecessarily) moved over to the ‘bigger must be better’ 32-bit world of Windows 95. <<sigh>>”

Can an operating system that runs in 640K be bloated? Of course! The late, great Douglas Adams got a twofer with this slam on Windows 95 and MS-DOS:

[F]or years Microsoft managed the awkward juggling act of rubbishing Apple's user interface while simultaneously trying to devise something like it that would fit on top of the bloated clutter that MS-DOS had become. … An awful lot of people who try to install Windows 95 will end up having to spend so much money buying extra RAM and upgrading their peripherals to get features that Mac users have enjoyed for years, that they might as well give up and buy the real thing.

Ah, some things never change.

The next time someone whines about how bloated Windows has become, remind them that it has always been thus.

Me? I’m pulling the old Amiga out of mothballs. Now, that was a lean, mean OS.

Topic: Windows

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  • I'd say...

    ...a good number of people are already aware of this, but obviously many aren't. Nice of you to research and post actuall press pieces showing how shortsighted people many people are.

    The snippet from the article where the author praises ME over 2000 was particularly funny.
    toadlife
    • Or 2k over XP is just as funny

      nt
      george_ou
  • It's pretty obvious to me. . .

    . . . that people who write news columns have never had a computer science course in data structures. Nor have they even thought about what Microsoft's market research has discovered about the end user.

    First and foremost, there is no such thing as "bloated code." Here's why. There are two notions our columnists are trying to push. One is that MS has all these features and services enabled and running by default when no one needs them. Second, MS doesn't know how to write efficient code. Let's start with the first one.

    The first notion of bloat being that there are all kinds of unecessary services and features turned on is a wash. Remember that Windows must run on MILLIONS of desktops with MILLIONS of configurations. Some users may want Aero turned on, others may not. Some may want service xyz turned on, others may not. What do you do? You take the average of what your surveys tell you and turn those features on where the majority of users want them on and vice versa. That's the only choice you have. If 5 million of your 7 million survey respondants say they want xyz enabled out of the box, then guess what, xyz comes enabled out of the box (unless there is a good reason to not do so such as security). There is no sense arguing about this, it's a simple matter of majority rules.

    The second notion is that MS doesn't know how to write efficient code. This is easily disproven. For one thing, almost none of the journalists involved know anything about writing software. Secondly, none of them have seen the Windows source code. I realize some of you are going to bring up the fact that anyone can examine Linux's code, but that does not solve the first issue of journalists being able to read code and just because you can see Linux's code doesn't make it better than Windows' code.

    The real question isn't whether or not an operating system is bloated (as there is no such thing as bloat) but whether or not the operating system is efficient. Does Windows do everything I need it to do? That is one question to be asked. And most importantly, what if Windows spanks Linux when placed on identical hardware in a side-by-side speed test? If Windows spanks linux, does that mean Windows is still bloated?

    I remember when Mindcraft did a study between Linux and NT 4.0. NT 4.0 won the race and the open source crowd roared in anger. But NT was supposed to be bloated, remember? Here is that old article:
    http://www.mindcraft.com/whitepapers/openbench1.html

    Finally, I'd like to point out that George Ou laid this one to rest a while back. Here's the link:
    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=140

    Sorry, open source guys, but you'll need to come up with better FUD than this.

    Arthas
    JamesNT
    • Open source FUD? Why?

      Arthas:
      "Sorry, open source guys, but you'll need to come up with better FUD than this."

      Why do you try to push this subject into the open source versus propietary code corner?

      What is the point?
      Why call it an open source FUD?

      Do you have some problem we are not aware of?

      The orininal article was fun to read.
      It even had a lay back attitude to the 'bloatedness' of all windows versions.
      He even mentioned Doug Adams.

      Relax Arthas, nobody will take away your precious new W$ system.
      Just go buy it. No problem.
      It is your money, not mine, so why should we (as in open source guys) care where you spend it?

      Regards,
      Erwin Moller
      ZaphodBreebleBrox
      • FUD? Be Vewwwwy Quiet, We're hunting Windows...

        hahahahahahaha....

        Seriously, I'm with Zaphod on this one. Those old articles about "bloated" Microsoft OSs were probably comparing it to CP/M (how many of you remember that?) or, maybe, OS-9 (no, not MacOS 9).

        You need to get out more, Arthas. Have a coke and a smile, and don't fear the penguins. We're not here for your Windows (we don't want 'em, but you can have 'em if you must...).
        horusfalcon
        • Take my windows. Please.

          i humour myself.
          glocks out
        • What you've all forgotten is...

          ... that when these OSes were released, many PCs were not able to run them because of uncreased reqirements for the hardware. Therefore they ran slowly. That's why they were called bloated.

          Vista will be no different. On a lot of PCs that are more than 2 years old, Vista will run more slowly than it will on a spanking new PC built yesterday and most PCs are "old" PCs.

          I remember being flabbergasted that Microsoft expected people to develop C# (IIRC) on a PC that recommended 768Mb of RAM and a whopping amount of disc space. Now a lot of PCs are shipped with 512Mb- 1Gb of RAM and this requirement seems less onerous.
          bportlock
          • Begging your pardon...

            but which are "these OSes"? Surely not CP/M or OS-9, since they were designed for earlier and possibly non-Intel (Zilog and Motorola, just to name two) CPUs and architectures.

            If you're referring to Windows and MS/PC/DR-DOS, yeah, point taken, but I haven't forgotten it at all - just chosen to ignore it. When I must run Windows on a machine, I match the Windows to the hardware platform - anything else is pennywise and pound-foolish. (I manage hardware and network configurations as the defacto sysadmin for my extended family.) The XP machines are the burliest of the bunch, especially XP Pro.

            I'm glad to see that newer machines are being shipped with more RAM and faster CPUs - this is to be expected. Now why, I ask, does every OS manufacturer/distributor on the planet seem to think this means we want them to hog up more of that available resource space that could otherwise be put to more productive uses? The Linux distributors (with rare exceptions like Snappix and Knoppix) are just as guilty in this regard as Microsoft is. It's probably because users have come to expect the OS to hold their hand, and have every feature in the system enabled out of the box.

            Sorry, this is turning into a rant, and I generally don't do that. You're right about Vista, at least if past performance is a measure of future behavior. Just once I'd like to see a major distributor's newest release become smaller, leaner, and meaner than its predecessor.

            (Probably when pigs fly?)
            horusfalcon
        • OS-9

          OS9 and FLEX - now those were lean and mean operating systems - 12 KB or less of code and 12 dumb terminals running Stylograph made 12 typists happy. Sorry for the nostalgia.
          lpiacenz@...
      • Good Post

        Its absolutely true, no reason why any open source user should care about the reasons why someone wants to use Windows instead of Linux. Both Windows users and Linux users come up with totally biased ideas all the time why the other side chooses the OS it does. Its my bet the truth is both sides have very good reasons for choosing the way they do. I suspect most Linux users find Linux to provide for all their computing needs just fine, they are comfortable using line commands when they have to, they enjoy the security of an OS that is not only inherently more secure but also has a smaller profile on the internet such that it doesn?t draw the attention of hackers, and the fact it can be had for free makes the choice an easy one. Windows users love the ease of operation and the virtual plug and play compatibility for practically any hardware you throw at it, ease of installation of almost any program, ability to play games, and a vast variety of software made to run on Windows, even ever increasing freeware and shareware as well as the availability of demos for almost all kinds of games and proprietary software. And of course there is still reasonable security in Windows if one installs a few security programs which can all be found in free versions these days, so for those people who cant live without allot of those things, or just don?t want to live without those things, the $100+ price tag is worth it.

        So called blot doesn?t mean a thing to anyone, not just joe shmoe who doesn?t know squat about computers, but even people who have been using computers for years. The bottom line is, all the bloat in the world is just fine if the OS works exactly as needed. I suspect Vista will get by just fine, bloat or no bloat.
        Cayble
      • Answers

        Your question:
        "Why do you try to push this subject into the open source versus propietary code corner?"

        Because that's where it began.

        Your question:
        "What is the point?"

        See answer to previous question.

        Your question:
        "Why call it an open source FUD?:

        Because I have been hearing the "bloat" argument for years from those who are pro-open source.

        Your question:
        "Do you have some problem we are not aware of?"

        You don't know me so this is entirely possible. I could have many problems both psychologically and physically. Then again, my problem may well just be you.

        Your question:
        "It is your money, not mine, so why should we (as in open source guys) care where you spend it?"

        You seem to care a great deal. For one, I am openly criticized by my open source "friends" for my choice of operating system. Also, instead of improving linux to meet their needs, most open source morons go out of their way to talk smack about MS and tout how superior their less-than-10%-of-the-market OS is. The fear and loathing of MS by the open source community is just as pathetic as it is laughable.

        Arthas
        JamesNT
        • Arthas: Stop spreading lies please.

          Dear Arthas,

          You are ranting and behaving generally uncool.
          Get your act together and stick to facts instead of making them up for your convenience.



          Answers
          Your question:
          "Why do you try to push this subject into the open source versus propietary code corner?"

          Because that's where it began.

          -----------
          Bull. The article was about the percepted blaotedness of all windows versions by some people. It was NOT about Open Source versus M$.
          Reread it, then come back. thanks.
          ------------


          Your question:
          "What is the point?"

          See answer to previous question.

          -------------------
          Witty witty smart@ss.
          Do you actually think such responses convince anybody except yourself and your kids (if <10)??
          ---------------------



          Your question:
          "Why call it an open source FUD?:

          Because I have been hearing the "bloat" argument for years from those who are pro-open source.

          --------------------
          Actually, Open Source developers have other things to do than put a lot of time into W$, like improving their favorite apps.
          The bloat argument is heard a lot, and it is said by all.
          I am a W$ and *nix user, both for many years, and I tell you I do not favour one OS 100% over some other. Why not? Because I like the right tool (OS) for the right job.
          If you see me gaming, I am probably behind a W$ machine. If you see me producing code, I am probably behind some Debian machine.

          What is sad you didn't recognize the original article for what is is: A funny-written, joy-to-read piece of text. It made me laugh a bit.
          But humor and some self-riduculing are appearantly completely missing treats of character in your case.

          Maybe it is your reflex? If you hear somebody say something, you EXPECT a OpenSource - ProprietaryCode conflict, and you react aggessive, just to make sure your point is heard?
          --------------------


          Your question:
          "Do you have some problem we are not aware of?"

          You don't know me so this is entirely possible. I could have many problems both psychologically and physically. Then again, my problem may well just be you.

          -------------
          No comment..
          -------------

          Your question:
          "It is your money, not mine, so why should we (as in open source guys) care where you spend it?"

          You seem to care a great deal. For one, I am openly criticized by my open source "friends" for my choice of operating system. Also, instead of improving linux to meet their needs, most open source morons go out of their way to talk smack about MS and tout how superior their less-than-10%-of-the-market OS is. The fear and loathing of MS by the open source community is just as pathetic as it is laughable.


          -----------------------
          So go complain and cry at your Open Source "friends", who judging by the apostrophes, sound more like your enemies, which you undoubtely make a lot with that attitude.

          Really, Arthas, lay back.
          Take a deep breath.
          Reboot you PC, go defrag it, anything that makes you feel better, but STOP telling other people what they think.

          And who are that 'open source morons' excactly that you talk about? Are they your 'friends' who tell you there are more choices in life than the ones that drip into your concience by means of ads, brought to you via your favorite radio/telli show?

          'The fear and loathing of MS by the open source community is just as pathetic as it is laughable.'

          So is your judgement: pathetic.
          What 'fear' are you talking about?
          The laothing I know of, I feel it myself right now.
          -------------------------

          Arthas

          Yeah, bye Arthas, stay cool.

          Zaphod
          ZaphodBreebleBrox
    • If Microsoft responded to what people wanted, then

      then we'd have in Word a system that could NUMBER, INDENT, NUMBER AFTER A HEADING, CAPITALIZE AFTER A COLON, and re-spell check wihtout asking us to hit 6 more buttons and then asking us if we really want to re-spell check the document. Just for starters..
      lsmithes76
    • It is most definately bloat - by top level design

      "The first notion of bloat being that there are all kinds of unecessary services and features turned on is a wash. Remember that Windows must run on MILLIONS of desktops with MILLIONS of configurations."

      Yes it does have to run on Millions of systems but it generally gives you a grand total of 10 install/uninstall options at best. Why not give novice, intermediate and advanced options for the installation process. Advanced users could then install exactly what they want and get rid of what they consider bloat for their particular needs.

      By not giving people the option Microsoft is by default generating bloatware. Bloatware is useless software that is installed on a system. What is defined as useless depends on the user. Not giving the option to streamline and forcing people to install just about everything whether it is required or not is pure bloat.

      So by not giving the option not to install needless overhead Microsoft [b]ARE[/b] writing inefficient code. It has nothing to do with the coding style, it's the philosphy on which installation itself is based that is inefficient therefore the underlying code is inefficient because that is what it is meant to be.

      For some people what most people consider bloat may be lacking in features and not big enough. Bloat is not a generic term. Bloat is personal depending on your individual requirements. So everyone who is saying that it is or isn't bloat based on the amount of memory used can only ever express an opinion based on their own requirements.

      I designed SMP servers until recently and was told by marketing that 16GB of RAM was not enough for a particular customer and they required at least 32GB (to hold a database). Most people would consider that riduclous and bloated but not that particular customer. I've since gone for a change in power requirements and moved into the Embedded market. I've since been told that 1GB is a bloated system. So whose right?
      jumpa
      • Raymond Chen answered your question

        Raymond Chen is a Microsoft Windows developer. He answered your question here:

        http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2003/07/28/54583.aspx

        Arthas
        JamesNT
    • Security is a Feature

      What MS didn't figure out that all those millions of users might want some security features turned on by default? Or what the results might be if they weren't.

      So who said this little quotable quote, "I can't imagine PCs ever requiring more than 64kb of RAM", was that not MSs own Billy Boy.
      bigpicture
    • Have you finished your degree?

      I disagree with your statements above. I have seen MS source code, it is bloated with a bizare mix of methodologies and styles in the same code blocks.

      second, every study or comparison every commisioned by microsoft has always put microsoft out in the lead - the same is true for the Mindcraft comparisons. Its no secret the MS commisioned this test.

      In addition, computer science and datastructure courses have very little to do with operating system design and at most would not be enough to give you a competitive edge in the IT industry. OS design is one of the harder parts
      stealthelphant
      • Yes I have finished my degree

        and I truly hope no one listens to your post as you are dead wrong.

        Data Structures is a 300 level course at my school and is a PREREQUISITE to the operating systems course. In the OS course you learn about the differen DATA STRUCTURES an operating system uses to store data, manage memory, communicat with peripherals, etc.

        How anyone could ever possibly claim to understand how an OS works without a fundamental understanding of data structures is beyond me. AVL trees, splay trees, queues, binary search trees, etc etc. All must be understood since a truly modern OS uses so many of them.

        I also don't believe you have seen MS's source code. You offer no proof that you have.

        Do you have your degree?

        Arthas
        JamesNT
    • I have to take you task on this one

      The bloating issue with MS operating systems from my point of view isn't so much about what services are running by default as that's configurable. The bloat I've been seeing has more to do with the coding style MS uses with it's extensive use of tools like c++. I pick on c++ because that's the tool that started the bloat with MS DOS 4.0. Tools like c++ lead to inefficient code because when compiled and linked the resulting executable is insanely more massive. There are a number of reasons for this overloading functions and the like. But the simple fact is that if you write code in straight c or better yet assembler you get tighter, more compact code as the resulting executable does only what you told it to do. It doesn't include functionality that's been incorporated into an overloaded function and it doesn't have the hook points built in for overloading even when the functions aren't overloaded. That's what bloat means.
      maldain
      • Coding style

        How do you know what coding style MS uses?

        Here is what someone who really has seen the Windows Source Code had to say about it:


        [quote]
        Quality
        Despite the above, the quality of the code is generally excellent. Modules are small, and procedures generally fit on a single screen. The commenting is very detailed about intentions, but doesn't fall into "add one to i" redundancy.
        There is some variety in the commenting style. Sometimes blocks use a // at every line, sometimes the /* */ style. In some modules functions have a history, some do not. Some functions describe their variables in a comment block, some don't. Microsoft appears not to have fallen into the trap of enforcing over-rigid standards or universal use of over-complicated automatic tools. They seem to trust their developers to comment well, and they do.


        However, not everything is so rosy. Some of the modules are clearly suffering from the hacks upon hacks mentioned earlier. As someone who struggled immensely trying to get the MSInet control working not long after this code was released, it's a relief to see that the inet code is as bad as I thought.

        From the comments, it also appears that most of the uglier hacks are due to compatibility issues: either backward-compatibility, hardware compatibility or issues caused by particular software. Microsoft's vast compatibility strengths have clearly come at a cost, both in developer-sweat and the elegance (and hence stability and maintainability) of the code.
        [/quote]

        I got that from:
        http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/2/15/71552/7795

        Arthas
        JamesNT