May 28, 2007
- Boot up time
- Programs running on Task Bar
- Legacy code
- Easter Eggs
- Hardware Drivers
- Crashes tend to be devestating
- Crashes happen at all
This one is not really fair to tell the truth. Pleanty of operating systems have a much longer boot time, but that’s to be expected when a hardware check it ran on every component and the machine’s uptime is measured in years. It’s really born more out of my frustration at actually having to reboot my Windows machine at all. Please Microsoft fanatics, don’t tell me it’s because I’m doing something wrong, or that I must have too many third party applications loaded. I’ve heard every argument and can only point to my direct experience. I’ve dealt with Windows since Version 2.0. The only versions I have not run were ME and now Vista. I’ve also worked in a call center supporting Mac, Windows, Linux and Sun machines. Inevitably the standard fix for Windows was “Reboot, try again and call me if it keeps happening.” We also got a large number of calls saying “Windows server XXX is hung, can you put in a ticket to reboot it?”
This coupled with my direct experience on home machines – even the XP-Professional that I use to play a single online Java-based game. That has no anti-virus. No 3rd party programs at all, programs running in the task bar are minimized, and all updates are appiled. I still have to reboot every two-three days. My main Macintosh machine, which does every thing else I need, email, web surfing, game playing. The uptime is currently 9 days. And that is only because of some security updates that came out then.
This is by far my biggest problem with Windows in general. The concept of the Task Bar was a good idea which I give MS full credit for. The execution has been terrible. Instead of using the Task Bar to access something like Task Manager, it’s become a dumping ground for every program that wants to be in your face and give you “control” over it. Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Spyware, Blackberry synch, Network connection (why?!?!,) driver configurations for sounds cards and modems, etc, etc and ad infium. I have litterally seen a computer’s task bar take over the entire menu bar with these “helper programs.” Please tell me why a sound card (for instance,) needs to have a program in the Task Bar to adujust it’s settings? This is the kind of thing that is done once and usually left alone. Why does Anti-virus need to have a program running down there when you can simply go to Start->Programs->Anti-Virus to run it manually. Yes that is one program that should be in memory, but why that invasive?
While it is true that Unix has had a virus and the possibility of more, Unix programmers immediatly figured out how to make Unix a lot more invulnerable to Virus, trojans, script attacks, whatever. Windows on the other hand, was given a millions ways to BECOME infected. Adding automatic execution of Active X code within a web page for instance. Unpatched security holes and vulnerbilities. And of course, “unpatched” machines running virus spreading bots. I will freely admit that Apple is far from guiltless in this regards too, but Microsoft got the head start and the Script Kiddies have gotten the free ride.
By far Microsoft is the king of this little problem. On one hand I do realize that they need to keep a certain amount of code around to support ancient pieces of software and hardware. Especially given the install base and the number of slight variations in hardware that exist for the PC platform. On the other hand, why don’t they make it into a loadable module like Linux does? This would reduce the size of programs when running memory, it would give a way for modules to be deleted to save hard drive space and it would help reduce the number of active vulnerbilties in the software.
Easter Eggs are little pieces of code included in software that are “fun and humourous.” Microsoft is not the only one who did this, but they were certainly the most prolific about it. Please tell me why Excel 97 had a flight simulator in it? I’m very glad that Microsoft has been a little better about it. I’m all for the developers getting their credit, trust me I know that sometimes the paycheck isn’t enough. But do like the Adobe team does and put all their names in the startup box. Or you know what, who really cares other then the guy who programmed it anyways? Adding extra, frivilous code into software does one of two things, it bloats the size of the application and it’s memory foot print (see above,) and introduces a possible security vulnerbility. While I don’t know of any real security breaches via an Easter Egg, I can easily imagine it happening.
This is a lot more subjective then some of my other points. But in my opinion, the over all useability of Windows Vs. Mac OSX is not that great. Even my Significant Other has tendered up unsolicited commens on this very subject, which is impressive coming from someone who just wants to get work done and doesn’t care about the OS. Little things like being able to put all the most used programs on the Dock are a plus. Microsoft has the same thing, but they are tiny little icons by default. Getting in a specific control such as printer setup takes several clicks. And once you’re there you’re presented with a whole new set of choices and settings, most of which nobody ever changes. That is if they even know they need to change them in the first place. Microsoft proponents believe that this is to give the user the largest number of choices possible to configure it the way they want, I call it overkill. What really ticks me off the most is that some of these settings can be changed in other places but the screens do not look the same. They even sometimes go so far as too call the same thing by two sligthy different names. I know this is because the different teams do not collaborate across projects very well. These same mistakes just are not made by Apple. On the other hand I will grant that these mistakes are made by KDE/Gnome too.
Hardware Drivers are really the crux of Window’s issues. Due to the large number of manufacturers out there it is really hard to guarantee that each driver doesn’t cause other issues. But this causes those of us who support Windows no end of troubles. As an example take a look a the driver for an HP4000 LaserJet printer. Just off of HP’s website alone there are copies for each version of Windows. Once the correct file is downloaded, unzipped (and hopefully you’re not getting nag screens to pay for your zip program,) you have a large number of files. Some are installers, some are just text files. In theory the installer is supposed to be ran and the printer gets installed automatically. I’ve yet to ever see this actually work especially when the printer is networked. Once the computer recognizes the printer which may even include a reboot or two there are a dozen choices of drivers for the HP4000. At least one for every major model, a couple of extras that mean little, and then a Postscript, a PCL5, PCL5e, and a PCL6 version. So the next step is trial and error to see which one prints out readable text and hopefully does not crash the entire computer. Now Linux deals with this same issue a bit, but a much lesser extent. Instead of a multitude of drivers there is selection of PCL files that tell the printer how to process such and such file. Mac OSX though is simplest. One driver for the HP4000, which is usually automatically chosen even with a networked printer. After that it either works or doesn’t work, and thus begins the troubleshooting which usually boils down to a configuration problem on the printer side. That being said I have had my share of troubles with OSX and printing, but the overall driver problem is greatly reduced because OSX supports a finite list of hardware, and that is it. When having driver problems in Windows it’s hard to tell if it’s a real driver problem, bad hardware, misconfigured hardware, or that time of the month.
Overall the crashes I’ve had and seen on Windows have been pretty bad. The FAT filesystem just has never seemed reliable to me at all. I will grant that NTFS has gotten a lot more stable with each OS release. I’ve still seen more data losses with FAT and NTFS then HFS or anything Linux uses, especially when adding in Journaling. What is really annoying is that when Windows crashes, it likes to take the filesystem on the hard drive too. Even when the cause had nothing to do with the hard drive anyways. The biggest annoyance of the crashes is the good old BSOD or “Blue Screen of Death.” Back in the old days it meant wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything. These days it means, start backing up all your data, find your software install disks, wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything. If Windows was able to isolate crashes from the rest of the system like Linux and OSX do, this single point alone would make my life and job a ton easier.
See above. I just thought this was important enough to have it’s own point.
The argument can be made both ways about this one, but in my opinion innovation in Windows has been greatly lacking. Either a company or a patent is bought by Microsoft then bastardized and rolled into Windows. Or they took someone else’s great idea and broke it. While I’m very sure Windows has had some great innovations, off the top of my mind I’m failing to think of a single one that didn’t end up causing more problems (like Active X.)
So there it is, my ten things I hate about Windows. Fix these and I’d be more willing to use Windows in day to day business instead of just the occasional game.