Linked by Adam S on Sun 29th Jun 2008 16:10 UTC
Windows "Microsoft Windows has put on a lot of weight over the years" writs Randall Stross in a recent New York Times blog entry on Windows' legacy code. "Beginning as a thin veneer for older software code," he continues, "it has become an obese monolith built on an ancient frame. Adding features, plugging security holes, fixing bugs, fixing the fixes that never worked properly, all while maintaining compatibility with older software and hardware -- is there anything Windows doesn't try to do?" Does Microsoft have the business savvy or guts to rewrite Windows?
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Actually, this is flamebait...
by umccullough on Sun 29th Jun 2008 17:02 UTC
umccullough
Member since:
2006-01-26

This is what we call the software development lifecycle.

Let's start with the misconceptions here: Microsoft basically *did* gut Windows and rewrite it *twice* (sorta, at least, when they ditched the 3.1 progman/windowing code for the 9x code, and then they swapped the entire underlying kernel/subsystem architecture (DOS/9x) and swapped to the NT kernel.

Bugfixing and patching is the process by which software *matures*... if they gut the whole thing and start over, then you lose this.

You also lose your existing customers, as they have come to learn, understand, and become comfortable with the existing system.

I got the distinct impression that Vista was largely a kernel rewrite as well... so where does this hold water?

I don't use Vista personally, but I do spend a lot of time working with XP and Windows Server 2003, and I just don't see what the big deal is - it's a fairly healthy OS platform, fast, stable, secure if you know what you're doing, but not free or Free - and I think this is why people find ways to attack it. Just don't load it up with crapware from 3rd party vendors.

Reply Score: 15

tweakedenigma Member since:
2006-12-27

Although I agree they have gone down this road before the problem is they are never willing to really start over. They always toss in things like Windows on Windows and the like too keep old hardware, drivers, and software running. I know there are some places that require this kind of use but at some point things have to evolve.

Reply Parent Score: 4

rayiner Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't disagree that Windows can be fast and secure "if you know what you're doing", but consumers by and large do not know what they're doing. Nothing is going to change that --- its just the nature of the market. As such, not being stable and secure in the face of clueless users is a design flaw for a consumer OS.

The UI brain-damage is something else, and there is nothing the user can do about it. You can be a competent user, and the Windows UI will still suck. See that Bill G e-mail about his trying to get Windows Movie Maker to work. Its pretty much exactly that sort of think that made me stop using Windows years ago.

Edited 2008-06-29 17:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 10

sonic2000gr Member since:
2007-05-20

As such, not being stable and secure in the face of clueless users is a design flaw for a consumer OS.


I agree, this *is* a flaw. And the worst part is, the infrastructure is already there. It has been there since NT. It's the default setup (everyone is admin) that is flawed. It seems though this is slowly changing. Vista is a first step to a more sane approach. They could have done better, but I think (hope) the message here is "Vendors, make your software run as standard user, cause that's what you will be getting in 7". I am sick and tired of cleaning and reinstalling infected friends' PCs.

The UI brain-damage is something else, and there is nothing the user can do about it. You can be a competent user, and the Windows UI will still suck.


A novice can not work with it anyway, an experienced user is aggravated by the increasingly more and more number of clicks (read: user friendliness) required to perform what is (for the experienced) a simple task. IMHO they should create a beginner and experts mode UI. Beginner should have much less options than the ones shown now. Expert should have everything with much less hand-holding. But then again, it seems they don't want people to know or understand too much.

Reply Parent Score: 3

John Blink Member since:
2005-10-11

I don't disagree that Windows can be fast and secure "if you know what you're doing", but consumers by and large do not know what they're doing. Nothing is going to change that --- its just the nature of the market. As such, not being stable and secure in the face of clueless users is a design flaw for a consumer OS.


You know what else is the nature of the market people who bought machines with XP with only 256MB RAM and are not willing to upgrade until the RAM is no longer available.

It make me weep. :b

Reply Parent Score: 2

Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

I don't use Vista personally, but I do spend a lot of time working with XP and Windows Server 2003, and I just don't see what the big deal is


That's because XP and Server 2003 are solid, proven platforms while Vista is, to put it nicely, not. In any way.

Reply Parent Score: 5

google_ninja Member since:
2006-02-05

Vista wasn't a kernel rewrite, it was more a core API rewrite.

and if you like 2k3, you'll love 2k8 ;-)

Reply Parent Score: 6

kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

This is what we call the software development lifecycle.

Let's start with the misconceptions here: Microsoft basically *did* gut Windows and rewrite it *twice* (sorta, at least, when they ditched the 3.1 progman/windowing code for the 9x code, and then they swapped the entire underlying kernel/subsystem architecture (DOS/9x) and swapped to the NT kernel.


But the thing is, they never gutted the whole thing; they have a great kernel and they crippled everything above it with the win32 api. There is nothing technically wrong with the core of the NT operating system. The problem the compromises that sit ontop in the form of win32.

The SDLC is as long as you want to make it. If they properly thought out the design from day one, didn't compromise for the sake of retrofitting win32 on top - we wouldn't even be debating this point. There SDLC paradigm doesn't state that a system *MUST* be gutted and restarted again. It says that it can be an inevitable consequence from years of an inflexible design and things being added left right and centre, and to top it off, very poorly documented and maintained.

There have been numerous articles on this website (and others) pointing out the flaws - alot of them coming down to internal processes (or there lack of) and obsessive backwards compatibility, or more correctly, backwards compatibility that can be detrimental to ones products health.

The problem with Microsoft is that they lack strong centralised leadership in the same form as Apple. Apple says something, and it is done. None of this wishy-washy changing of minds with the case of Windows Vista development - it just gets done. Pissing and moaning from a few third whiny third parties? gets ignored - like it should. Microsoft need to have someone willing to stand up and say, "this is our 10 year vision, this is what we're going to do - and by hell or high water, we're going to get there no matter how many complainers start voicing their demands that their 20-30 year application to keep working".

Reply Parent Score: 2

apoclypse Member since:
2007-02-17

I totally agree here. Its the stuff that runs on top of the NT kernel that is the issue as well as MS being run by bureaucrats. Nothing can get done in that environment because any suggested significant change will go through five different departments and coming back with a resounding no for who knows what reason.

OSX is not a rewrite like it was pointed out here, they took quite a lot of code for NextStep, in-fact if you program for OSX a lot of the api calls are still have the nextstep name in them. It was a smart move by Apple to 1). go with a proven working OS and retrofitting it it to what Apple needed and 2). bringing Steve Jobs back into the fold. Apple had been floundering for years before OSX, they had no direction and were in the same situation that MS is in now. They tried to do what MS is doing now, they tried to update their OS piecemeal (and Classic OS definitely needed to be updated, since it wasn't a modern OS). That didn't work, it made more of mess of things that it should have. When Steve came back into the fold the company as a whole dropped all the unnecessary cruft (knowing Jobs, people were probably fired left ad right) and focused on what made Apple great to begin with and they had a leader with a vision to get them there (no this is not a Jobs fanboy rant, just facts). They started by focusing on hardware first and foremost, they consider themselves a hardware company after all. They hired great designers to bring their hardware quality back to what made Apple great. So not long after Jobs joins Apple again you have the iMac, which proved to be rather popular with people. While the hardware was being worked on so was OSX. Apple was trying to make OSX compatible with Classic, but instead went with a kind of virtualized approach (which was brilliant, imo). Those that needed compatibility got some form of it, while Apple let all developers know that OSX was clearly the future and that they should jump on the boat before it leaves them behind.

Now the reason why I went through this whole Apple section is because, it shows the two things that I think MS needs to do to survive as a company, they need to get rid of the cruft (both as a company and in their software as well) and they need a strong leader with a vision that can do that without worrying about stepping on people's toes. Like Apple they can use an existing codebase (NT kernel) and build from there. All that really needs to be re thought is the UI layer and api. They should drop win32 completely and just focus on .net and for compatibility's sake virtualize everything else. As Parallels has shown us virtualization can be seamless and in MS's case it shouldn't be too hard to do since they already have a virtualiztion solution in the works. Another thing I would like to see MS do is to stop babying their customers, yes the enterprise is a huge market and MS is a huge part of that market, but at some point the enterprise is going to drag MS down and they have no issues moving to another platform if it suits them in the end even though they may not want to due to the epense, but trust me they will more if forced. I wish that the anti-trust decision to split MS would have gone through, we would be looking at a whole different OS today, I'm pretty sureof it. Office would probably be ported to everything it can get its hands on and the windows OS would be forced to actually compete on features.

Reply Parent Score: 2