back to article Vista – End of the Dream?

You’ve probably heard of – if not actually read – that modern-day classic, “Dreaming in Code”. The book is subtitled “Two dozen programmers, three years, 4,732 bugs and one quest for transcendent software”. For those who haven’t heard of it, suffice to say that the book covers the development of Chandler, an over-ambitious open …


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  1. David Urmston

    Dream or nightmare ?

    I hate it when peoples dreams are shattered, but I hate it more when people are taken in and abused by big business.

    Then only reason companies like Microsoft feel that they have to upgrade their product every week is because of the idea that if they don't they will be left behind.

    So what is wrong with being left behind if you can't keep up. In Britain we have a thing called social security for people who can't manage to keep up with everyone else because they have some debilitating factor.

    What racks me off more than anything else is that in Britain at least we have a government which also supports big business, often when the firm is really crap, like Rover and can't keep up, we have Income Support for the industry which far outstrips the generosity we pile on our old and disabled. IMHO Microsoft has held such favoured status for far too long. As you say, besides the new party dress, we are going to be shafted by the same old tart.

    Unfortunately, I must not be a proper geek as I've always thought this way and wondered when the education sector was going to wake up. Instead I read that the Royal Navy put our Nuclear capability into the safe hands of Windows 2000 only weeks within weeks of MS announcing that they were stopping support for it.

    It all beggards belief, especially as my IT degree was largely to do with using MS applications.

    If you believe the advertising of a US company, you will get all you deserve.

    I just have to try to resolve those mistakes so that folks can just get on with their lives.



  2. Wayne Farnworth

    Give us all the facts

    You said:

    In the long years since XP was launched, Apple have come out with five major upgrades to OS X, upgrades which (dare I say it?) install with about as much effort as it takes to brush your teeth in the morning. No nightmare calls to tech-support, no sudden hardware incompatibilities, no hassle. Why hasn’t Microsoft kept up? Unmaintainable.

    And why do you think that is? Apple have half a dozen systems to make their software compatible with. Microsoft have the other billion.

    Stick to the facts please.

  3. Chris

    there's one thing that would

    When microsoft finally stops playing about on the fringes of OSS and gets stuck into being an OSS player. It would work, theres plenty of money in subscription/support contracts, as well they know.

  4. Hendrik


    We've been reading these stories for decades with each new OS version, product or market that Microsoft released or entered. Be a new Windows, the XBOX or what have you.

    Guess what? They're still around. And I'm pretty sure they're here to stay for a little while longer.

    Despite all the talking about Vista and Office not being successfull, they just released record figures. I know lots of companies who love to have products that sell as "bad" as the ones Microsoft has.

  5. Jamie

    APIs and OS messiness

    I've always thought that the APIs served up to developers lacked coherence and the MSDN example code looked like it was produced by tired people.

    To that end I've thought for a long time that Microsoft's APIs and OS code would probably hurt them badly in the long run.

    They should have written an entirely new OS and run the old Win32 environment in emulation, keeping XP patched up until the new OS was mature enough for the move. It took Apple about 5 years from release to get OS X running sweetly.

    It won't happen, so Microsoft faces the real prospect of becoming an irrelevance as a consequence.

  6. David Tonhofer Silver badge


    > And why do you think that is? Apple have half a

    > dozen systems to make their software compatible

    > with. Microsoft have the other billion.

    And of course, it's not Microsoft who writes the drivers, it's the respective producers. HTH.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vista end of a dream...

    Of course Apple's OS X installs "like a dream". It damn well ought to as they control everything from the hardware through to the packaging your machine comes in - if it was not easy to install there would be something very, very wrong. That's one of the benefits of being proprietary from motherboard to OS.

    Perhaps a better comparison might be trying to install OS X on hardware not made by Apple. Still a dream?

    Or what about those third parties who's peripherals do not quite work on OS X but work way better on Windows?

    Apple do a good job if you stick to Apple from soup to nuts but have quite been converted to being open enough to actually have an OS that supports Millions of third party applications that supports tens of thousands of third party peripherals and runs on thousands of different manufactures's hardware.

    Yes of course Windows takes a lot to support, but do you REALLY want to go back to days when every manufacturer ran a different OS? Just look at the "millions of eyes" that are working to make Linux work - they are still a long way behind Windows in terms of ease of installtion or even the number of third party peripherals that work easily. If you doubt that as an experiement select a Linux Distribution at random (there are 100s to chose from) then try and get Media Centre like application like MythTV working with tuner card and remote control. Or for that matter, try and make an Apple do something similar. Vista pretty much works out of the box on loads of different hardware doing just that.

  8. Tone

    why is the reg starting to author such crap...

    Apple have half a dozen systems to make their software compatible with. Microsoft have the other billion.

    Shame comments like these cant be seen in the half arsed article on the main page...

  9. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Backward compatibility

    In response to Jamie's comment about writing a new OS and running Win32 under emulation. They could have done that, however the Intel processor contains a lot of old compatibility elements.

    However it works and works pretty fast, just look at Itanium to see how new more elegant designs aren't always realistic. Linus Torvalds famously said they threw away all the good bits of x86.

    Have a look at the pain the Mac world has had to ensure swapping processor families. Apple have done a good job and it's good to be able to boot Windows on a Mac laptop, but they couldn't have done so without having a smaller market and loyal fans.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CP/M OEM and MSDOS

    The company I worked for in the early eighties was a CP/M board manufacturer. They did not last long and went in insolvency during 1984. However, they were an MSDOS OEM.

    I still have the assembly listing written by Gates and Allen or those parts that OEM's had access to. Allen wrote the trancendental math for MSDOS.

    Apart from its historical value, is it worth anything?

  11. Matthew

    Not the point

    The reason that people don't want vista (including me and most people i know/work with) is

    1- Takes up huge system resources compared to XP with what gain?? a shiny interface you don't need

    2-Anti piracy crap - Vista is meant to be an OS not the software police.. its just a platform to run my programs

    3- compatibility issues.. many business orientated programs fail to run correctly on the new OS.. and wont for some time to come...

    there is NO reason to want vista over XP.. Unless you want a slower computer???

    The apple being so great theory is a load of junk too.. the ONLY reason it works so well is because they design and sell all the hardware and even most software that runs on the damn things. Not because there 'better' designed OS.

  12. David Dever

    Window dressing

    It's probably fair to say that the playing field is pretty level for both Microsoft and Apple from a kernel perspective–after all, hardware is hardware, and the bigger problems come not with driver compatibility with some cheap-$#it audio IC from Singapore (you can always trade off performance for stability), but with overall stability and sustainability issues.

    Apple's first version of OS X was not anywhere near ready for prime time (10.2 is probably a minimum for most people) at its launch, and many prominent developers did not come on board until much later, as developer resources started to flesh out.

    It's worth keeping in mind, however, that Microsoft, at the top of the heap, has far more to lose if it can't develop new and exciting products, from the OS on up.

    FWIW, I just removed Vista from my MacBook Pro laptop and replaced it with XP, as half of the things I need to work, don't.

  13. Dave Jewell

    RE: Vista end of a dream

    Anonymous said: "Vista pretty much works out of the box on loads of different hardware doing just that."

    Not with my Promise RAID controller it doesn't!


  14. Dave Jewell

    RE: Backward compatability

    Giles Jones said: "Have a look at the pain the Mac world has had to ensure swapping processor families. Apple have done a good job and it's good to be able to boot Windows on a Mac laptop, but they couldn't have done so without having a smaller market and loyal fans."

    What pain? :-) To be honest, there has been almost no pain in moving from PPC to Intel. The built-in Rosetta system (emulates PPC instructions on an Intel machine) coupled with the use of their "fat binary" architecture made it almost a non-event. The only real pain was in having to wait so long for a universal build of Creative Suite which - thankfully - is now here.


  15. Dave Jewell

    RE: CP/M OEM and MSDOS

    Anonymous said:

    "I still have the assembly listing written by Gates and Allen or those parts that OEM's had access to. Allen wrote the trancendental math for MSDOS. Apart from its historical value, is it worth anything?"

    TBH, probably not. I think I've got that code as well, somewhere. ;-)


  16. Dave Jewell

    RE: Give us all the facts

    Wayne Farnworth said: "And why do you think that is? Apple have half a dozen systems to make their software compatible with. Microsoft have the other billion. Stick to the facts please."

    What "facts" are you missing? Linux installs are getting better and better and Linux has to work with many disparate hardware setups. You can't hide behind Apple's tightly focused hardware platform to justify Vista's crappiness.


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Mr Jewell links to an article about the Windows 2000 code leak. That article actually says: "Despite the [embarrassing comments], the quality of the code is generally excellent".

    Mr Jewell obviously doesn't let the facts spoil a good argument.

  18. Joe Good

    Compatibility argument AGAIN?

    "Apple have half a dozen systems to make their software compatible with. Microsoft have the other billion."

    C'mon people, give me a break! Not this tired old argument again! "Apple only runs on Apple computers, so of course it's easier to develop." Let's actually look at what you need for a running system. You've got the motherboard and processor, which Apple does control at its end, but Microsoft ensures that all processors and motherboards are compatible, so they'll all run the same assembly code. Don't believe me? I used to install VxWorks on older PCs and the same compiled code would boot and run on every single one. Not exactly a compatibility nightmare. My Linux boot CD will boot on any of my PCs, independent of the motherboard or processor. I strongly question the notion that the processor or motherboard affect the development of the Windows operating system, because Microsoft has ensured that all the hardware vendors agree to a set of standards, meaning they can write to those standards instead of to the hardware.

    Then you have peripherals. Well, I took my old Apple G4 PCI and replaced the processor and video card, put in two hard drives, and replaced the CD-ROM with a DVD-RW. And guess what? MacOS X installed on it just fine. So how is this incompatible? I have been astonished at OSX's ability to handle my internal changes to their computers. In addtion, most of the time when I install a shared peripheral (file server, print server, etc.), it's on my Windows machines where I have to install additional software; the Macs just recognize it as soon as it's out there.

    I have yet to see a good argument as to why Windows operating system development is more complex than Mac OS X development simply because of the number of platforms Windows has to support. As mentioned above, Windows ensures the hardware vendors align to their standards, so they can write hardware-independent source code. The device drivers are provided by the device vendors or a separate development team, not the OS developers. Hence just saying, "Hello? Millions of devices!" is like arguing that a system is fantastically versatile because you can plug any IDE hard drive into it and have the hard drive work. Not exactly a great argument.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OSX Hardware Support

    I run 4 machines Linux, XP, Vista and OSX on my desktop - plus several dozen Unix and Linux servers. Most irritating by far is OSX on a an G4 AGP/GigaEthernet. Since the last but one system update I can't open the DVD drive without rebooting and then have a 2 minute window for disc swapping.

    This is despite buying a replacement superdrive and 10.4.6 OSX discs last week. Talking to Apple on Friday I found that its a 'known issue' they referred me to (which doesn't list my model as effected either). Probably time to upgrade they tell me, 'its not likely to be fixed'.

    Similar recently introduced issues plaguing older hardware include loss of peripherals (mouse, keyboard, bluetooth etc) whenever the machine sleeps.

    The idea that Apple supports even its own hardware is laughable.

  20. Webster Phreaky

    Wayne Farnworth, Typical Delusional Apple Droid

    Wayne, time to dig you head out of your arse and see some daylight and REALITY. Apple ROUTINELY delivers BUGGY and FLAWED issues of OS X, whether on the initial release or the EVERY BUGGY UPDATES! Need PROOF! He is just ONE of over 450 txt file notes since 10.1.x was first released courtesy of a Mac Fanboy site - Check the DAILY list of OS X bugs! You're are truely DELUSIONAL if you ignore facts.

    Monday, April 17 2006 @ 08:10 AM PDT

    Special Report: Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.4.6 (, YOUR own Mac site!!!)

    * General purpose workarounds

    * List of updated Apple applications

    * Update process recommendation

    * AirPort network not automatically re-joined after sleep

    * Bluetooth: Connectivity issues

    * Dock Auto Hide/Show function broken

    * Double restart is expected behavior

    * Energy Saver issues -- system will not automatically shut down, etc.

    * FireWire problems

    * Font issues

    * Improvements

    * iSync Issues -- Issues with hacks for unsupported devices; Sony Ericsson K700i won't synch

    * Menu bar items missing

    * Networking issues: Problems with proxies

    * Photo booth distortion

    * Printer issues

    * Problems logging in from Windows systems

    * Reminder: Have enough free drive space before installing

    * Reverting (downgrading) to Mac OS X 10.4.5!!! Bwah ha ha ha ...

    * Safari: Image loading problems

    * SCSI drives not recognized

    * Server volumes cannot be written to

    * Special permissions messages no longer appear in Disk Utility

    * Spotlight issues -- make sure drive is not in Privacy tab

    * Startup problems -- will not proceed after update, etc.

    * Streaming Audio -- fixes

    * Third-party applications: Fix for Photoshop save on crash; Word crashes; more

    * Update Installer cannot find destination drive

    I have hundred more before and after the 10.4.6 update. Apple turns out crap and your Apple Kool Aid Drinkers are fools to accept it, least continue the out-right lie that OS X is so superior! BULL$HIT!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There's a kernel in windows?




    <laughs so hard he falls out of his chair>

    I have yet to see proof of such a thing! And yet people still claim its there... hillarious!

  22. Don Mitchell


    I followed the link to the Windows source code, and after reporting those few odd comments (out of millions of lines of code), it said:

    "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. "

    It completely contradicts what you are saying about Microsoft programming.

  23. Peter D'Hoye

    RE: Chandler bloatware because written in python

    The story of Chandler being such a slow resource hog sounds familiar.

    I'm the proud owner of a very nice piece of hardware, namely a SlimDevices Squeezebox 2 (streaming network audio player). It needs it own server software, which is written in... perl.

    As I write this, this is what the stuff is consuming:

    slim.exe 75.888KB

    mysqld.exe 18.316KB

    That's right, 94.204KB to play a bunch of (legal) mp3''s and other fileformats. Let me correct that. It's in sleep mode right now, it's not supposed to do anything!

  24. Daniel Garcia

    Microsoft's Issue

    I suppose first I'll talk about the whole Apple vs. Microsoft thing, being an Apple supporter (I try to keep perspective, but it's hard sometimes... ;) ). As to the relative load of work involved due to Apple's control of the hardware, I'm torn. On the one hand, it's mainly going to be an issue of supplying drivers, which as far as I can tell the drivers are written by the 3rd parties. I'll grant that maybe MS might provide significant assistance to the more "important" 3rd parties, and has to deal with making sure all the important drivers work out of the box (after all, who do you think the person on the street would blame if their Windows install went south due to driver issues without ever getting out of setup... some things need to work). Of course, Apple has to deal with some of that too, though probably not to the same extent. But as far as OS design and implementation goes, this seems more like a peripheral issue (sorry) than a core OS development issue, as far as I can tell.

    As to the Intel transition, from what I can tell (I'm still PPC bound), it's going well. And it aught to, seeing as Apple did the same thing about ten or so years ago in moving from 68k to PPC. Part of me wishes that instead of "Universal" binaries, Apple were still calling them "Fat" binaries. Probably some PR issues there, but that doesn't stop the nostalgia.

    And speaking of the Intel transition brings me to probably my first key point on MS: let's say tomorrow it was announced that the x86 architecture was ceasing development by all parties for some odd reason (not bloody likely, but let's pretend). So, how long and hard of a time do you think MS would have of moving the Windows client codebase over to another architecture, say PPC. Now, I know that there are server versions of Windows which run on Itanium, but I'd assert that it would be a long and hard road. I have a hard time imagining that they'd leave very long without a viable OS (after all, wouldn't want people to by Macs, or to, God forbid, install Linux on their machines, or otherwise let a viable competitor spring up). So I'd guess that they'd try to get their first version for the new platform out ASAP, and I think it would show. I'd guess that it would half work, and be an obvious stopgap. MS would then start talking up their next version of the OS with, among other features (which may or may not show up) would be *actual* compatibility with the new platform.

    Thought experiments aside, I think MS's problem is organization. I have no doubt that they have some very smart and capable people working on their OS. They probably work long and hard on it, and on an individual by individual basis do stellar work. But, with a modern commercial OS, that's not enough. You need the people organized as if their in the army preparing to fight a war. And, frankly, having followed the development of Vista from some distance, the impression I got was that this was certainly not the case. Perhaps marketing is running things. Maybe their internal documentation is piss poor (which would help explain why MS is so reluctant to show it to anyone: it's embarassing). Maybe the organization chart of the OS development team, if the lines were pasta colored, would be mistaken for a plate of spaghetti. To be honest, I don't know if these allegations are true or not, but they seem to me close to the mark. The author's statements regarding the state of the source code of Win2k seem to support the idea that perhaps no one is really in charge over there.

    That's what I see when I look at Microsoft. And Apple? There's someone definitely in charge over there (he may be a bit crazy, but he seems to be effective), though we'll see how this Leopard delay pans out.

  25. Eric A. Seiden

    Nice article. Great article.

    It's so spot-on though my initial reaction was doubt and skepticism, I've actually blogged* your article and added some of my own comments. You're a bigger geek than me (I mean that as a compliment)


    (My blog has over 120,000 hits and counting so perhaps you shall seem extra traffic)

  26. foxyshadis

    What kernel?

    "There's a kernel in windows?"

    If you're going to bitch about semantics, at least bring your own definition to the table first, please? (Some define kernel as simply any code with direct access to hardware.) Otherwise dismissing your comment out of hand is the only possible response.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My take on Microsoft & Vista

    I've been working with Apple & Microsoft products since 1983... They all have their virtues, they all have areas where the there are no adequate words in the English language (or any other, for all that matters) that can properly define just how badly they suck.

    As far as I'm concerned, you can put makeup on a pig, and at the end of the day, it's still a pig.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple is a bad comparison

    Using apple as a comparison is poor, Apple have control over the hardware and the software so they don't have to worry about 'hacking for compatibility'. They also provide a completely free development environment to make OS X apps, it's only when companies go off and try to rework legacy software for compatibility with OS X that problems arise (Quark for instance). Apple's UNIX OS's were pretty much beta versions until 10.2.6, not good getting your customers to PAY for a beta release then implement all their feedback in future versions, clever though ;)

  29. Dave Jewell

    RE: Nice article. Great article.

    Eric A. Seiden said:

    "It's so spot-on though my initial reaction was doubt and skepticism, I've actually blogged* your article and added some of my own comments. You're a bigger geek than me (I mean that as a compliment)"

    Thanks for the blog entry Eric, and the compliment....I think! :-)) I checked your blog and I understand your comments r.e. Apple moving over to a completely new OS in the way they've done. MS haven't really done this since the move from W95/98/ME over to NT. That was the biggest platform transition for them, I think.

    What surprises me is how many folks are latching onto the Apple v. Microsoft argument. I really only mentioned Apple as a side issue. Seems to me that if Apple had never existed, would that somehow make Vista more wonderful than it is? Nah.... ;-)


  30. Dave Jewell

    RE: Microsoft's Issue

    Daniel Garcia said:

    "Thought experiments aside, I think MS's problem is organization....."

    I'd certainly agree that's a factor.

    "But, with a modern commercial OS, that's not enough. You need the people organized as if their in the army preparing to fight a war."

    Yes - you need strong organization, you need a shared vision of where you're going, and you need a very well defined goal in view.


  31. Dave Jewell

    RE: Dishonest

    Anonymous said: "Mr Jewell links to an article about the Windows 2000 code leak. That article actually says: 'Despite the [embarrassing comments], the quality of the code is generally excellent'. Mr Jewell obviously doesn't let the facts spoil a good argument."

    I certainly have no intention to be dishonest. I'll admit it's been some years since I've examined the code. I found much it ugly and inelegant at the time. The same link also talks about the layers of hacks needed to support existing apps. I can only speak as I find. To you, it might be wonderful code...

    One thing's for sure: "generally excellent" code can't be immediately equated with good design. An individual brick might be a great brick, but that doesn't mean you'll get a great house when you put a few million of em together...


  32. Remy Redert


    If you must compare, simply compare to a linux distro designed towards compatibility and ease of use, like Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

    Zero hassle installing, no driver issues ever (Most things works, the rest tells you that there's no driver yet) and with wine, very good compatilibity with Windows.

    Linux supports not just all manner of different hardware configurations, it even supports a multitude of different processor architectures.

  33. Jack Pastor

    It's not Vista .... It's the rest of the world ...

    I was very happy with VISTA. I was not pleased to have to buy a new sound card to replace my (relatively)new Audigy 2 as well as my Logitech Cam.

    I was VERY displeased that my HP Laserjet 1012 was not supported (without orthodontics)and that my Pinnacle Video editing release was at best EXPERIMENTAL etc. etc. etc.

    I rolled back to XP, and the only think I really miss is using the 2GB Flash memory drive to cache my program starts.

    Overall, I don't see a compelling reason to switch

    until the AT LEAST the Big Players in the Hardware world do ....

  34. elder norm

    Now, now. lets be nice

    Now, now. Yes Microsoft supports lots of stuff but it also like to control everything. And when it cant, it does not playing very badly. If you love microsoft, then nothing it does is bad. But If your open minded, .... well. Facts are facts. And it seems that the world is finally willing to state the facts about microsoft.

    Is Apple perfect? Of course not. But they bit the big one and changed OS to take it to the OSX version. They dropped supporting all the old versions of Apple. It was a big step, but it is making a very big difference. Microsoft will have to do the same thing and start fresh. They should have started that 5 years ago. But it would mean giving up control.


  35. bloodnok

    and have you been through osx code?

    not to sound like a micro$lop fanboi (definitely not!), have you tried the unmaintainable algorithm on osx?

  36. Warren Buckles

    Mac - groans

    I had a mac once -

    It was one of the first ones, pre-1984 (fall 1983). It was the shiny new toy in the lab and I had to use it to make a presentation for a conference....

    You can guess the rest - three days of work eaten by the *$#! floppy drive I should have patented the bent paper clip trick) and I went to the conference with hand-drawn graphics.

    I have hated macs ever since.

    At the time (1983) I was building clone Apple ][s from flat boards and bags of parts bought from local electronic shops. I also used a CP/M machine I had build in 1978 (Z-80 - hot stuff!). Both of these systems let you access the hardware readily. The mac was different - they had gone to a lot of trouble to wall you off from the hardware, both in the software in in the mechanical access to the box. Apple gave my lab several binders full of documentation for the mac os, but it was mostly rah-rah stuff written by kids who hadn't learned to write English. I never trusted the thing again - sort of like in Harry Potter - 'never trust a thing if you can't see where it keeps its brain.'

    The mac works - sort of - I have supported macs, PCs and Linux boxes, and they ALL have problems - just different kinds. When a mac has problems, though, it really has problems - they are hard to troubleshoot because so much of the information is proprietary. I can always get a PC or Linux box back on the air; the macs sometimes have to go to one of their pathetic 'geniuses' to have new hardware installed (and come back with all the users data gone, just like any depot service operation).

    The more things change the more they stay the same.


  37. andy

    Apple updates

    "Apple have come out with five major upgrades to OS X, upgrades which (dare I say it?) install with about as much effort as it takes to brush your teeth in the morning. No nightmare calls to tech-support, no sudden hardware incompatibilities, no hassle."

    This is just not true, install, for example, OS X 10.4.6, do the updates then you find you have to do more updates to fix the updates.

    Then there's the fact that every single update seems to cause niggly problems (i've twice had to archive and install after updating).

    Now I trawl the Apple forums before even considering installing any updates to check on exactly what problems i'm likely to have (and this is on a MacBook Pro so no unusual hardware...)

    With regards to Tech Support from Apple - it is terrible! Go into a store, explain to the 5 salesmen that try to flog you more Apple gear that you need support then wait 30mins for the 1 techie to appear. The forums are OK but full of over protective fanboys suggesting that the problem is anything except an Apple problem.

    I am, in the main, a happy Apple user but lets not pretend they're as perfect as the fanboys would have you believe.

  38. Joe Cincotta

    The long road...

    Mr Jewel is not wrong ona a lot of points here but there is a big picture that seems to be being missed in all of this.

    Microsoft are a law unto themselves. They operate in a way which thinks on a somewhat different plane of existance. A slow, cumbersome and compatability laden plane of existance. For the armies of developers and smart thinkers they have they move very very very slowly. But with reason.

    You don't get to the top because your technology is the best. An easy choice resonates with consumers - and I promise you most consumers are not ASM geeks.

    What Apple did in three years, Microsoft will do in ten. Firstly, as some keen eyes have pointed out - they do not control the hardware and this issue of compatability is a sticky issue. If you ever want to be reminded of the insanity that is Windows compatibility have a read of Raymond Chen's blog. That should sort you out quick smart...

    Now, the reason I say that MS is on a different plane of existance is that they believe that compatability is more important than nearly anything else and this drives their approach to everything. That is why Vista is just lipstick on the pig from many perspectives - except one.

    The one reason why Vista really is different is that .Net is a first class citizen in many respects, especially when it comes to WPF. Why is this important? Well, lets think about the best way to maintain compatability with hundreds of thousands of applications with quintillions of lines of code invested in them whilst trying to move to a new operating system?

    Answer: Change the platform first and then move the operating system. How is this possible? The compilers are now targeting the .Net framework as a first class citizen. Managed C++ gets the same treatment as C# and VB.Net.

    This means that in a few years (a blink of the Micorosft eye), all code will be targetting the framework and not the underlying operating system native APIs. Once everything is 'managed' then we start to drop the legacy APIs for better designed systems much faster without having to worry about compatability with crazy people patching the Kernel and using undocumented hooks - we end up with something more powerful and secure than Apple's Objective C due to its managed nature - and most importantly - its much more MAINTAINABLE.

  39. Sead Alispahic

    Apple is not that good

    "Apple have come out with five major upgrades to OS X, upgrades which (dare I say it?) install with about as much effort as it takes to brush your teeth in the morning. No nightmare calls to tech-support, no sudden hardware incompatibilities, no hassle. Why hasn’t Microsoft kept up? Unmaintainable."

    Well actually, Apple broke heaps of interfaces built for BSD (an included in OS X) sevaral times, causing heaps of problems to me, because I was (no longer, thx God) OS X developer for 8.x, 9.x and 10.x

  40. Stuart Gray

    Stable API is the answer

    Well, to throuw a fourth spanner in the Windows/Mac/Linuz works - I am and have been using OS/2 for many years, now in its eComStation guise. Why? Because it does everything I need, often using similar software (Firefox, OpenOffice) to the other players, but in very modest hardware requirements. Even though IBM has now stopped selling and offering public support to OS/2 (contract support contimues into the next decade), there are many talented developers working on device drivers etc. The most important to me however is the stability of the APIs. OS/2, Java, Win16, DOS (OK, the last two are less re;levant these days), Win32 through emulation. all of these are supported, and the OS/2 API os stable and mature - apps written ten or fifteen years ago work flawlessly alongside today's offerings. Coupled with a rock-solid security model (hey, if it's good enough for the World's banks, it's good enough for me), networking designed by the people who invented networking, I am very happy with it. And it is a fraction of the cost of either Windows or Mac.


  41. Matthew

    Lets face it

    If you're using XP now then sooner or later you'll be using Vista. I'm going to wait until Service Pack 2 though; XP is a (relatively) stable and mature OS and can be nicely tweaked to run just as you want - whats the point in upgrading right now?

  42. Peter Kay

    MSDOS source code was not 'efficient assembly'

    From comments made by people who know what they're talking about, by the time of DOS 6.0 there was still code going back to at the very least DOS 2, parts rather spaghettified.

    Whilst MS can probably be accused of bloat, the quality of their code seems to generally have gone up

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. Clay Garland

    The Author reads backward.

    I like that he refers to pages 308-209, does he reas bottom to top, right to left, much like a cross between hebrew and japanese?

  45. Clay Garland

    @ Vista end of a dream... by Anonymous Coward

    As a matter of fact. . . You say that installing OS X on a machine not made by apple is very difficult, I beg to differ. With three simple patches, if you know where to get the patches, I was able to install OS X on my non-apple media center which is a machine cobbled together with an Asus P5LD2 motherboard, an nVidia Graphics card, and an Intel Pentium D 805. I subsequently took this drive, mounted it in a drive caddy, went to my school, dropped it in machines made by three different manufacturers, a Dell, and HP, and an IBM. The drive booted all three machines without a hitch, and all major functionalities worked. Now, considering that I can't take a windows Drive from a Dell and move it into another Dell without the OS going titsup, I think you might be wrong about this one captain.

  46. Dave Jewell

    RE: The Author reads backward

    Hi Clay. What does "reas" mean? ;-)

    By the way, I *do* know a little Hebrew.



  47. Summa

    What sales figures?

    "and remember that Microsoft doesn’t split out the figures for actual sales to people that specifically want Vista, from passive “sales” included with new PCs."

    At the release of their earning last week, they didn't release *any* Vista sales figures, even when Wall Street analysts asked. The general take on this is that Vista adoption rates, relative to the size of the market, are singularly unimpressive.

  48. Dave Jewell

    Spaghetti Code...

    Don't think the leaked source was spaghetti code? Apparently Microsoft thought it was too. :-) Point your browser at the following:

    Of course, this raises the question of why Vista isn’t a whole lot better if the developers really started with a clean slate? The answer, of course, is that they didn’t start with a clean slate. I think this would have been impossible – all vestiges of backward app compatibility would have gone out the window. I think the bottom line is they probably made an effort to untangle some of the spaghetti, but not much. A complete rewrite? No way Hosay! And if they did spend all their time restructuring code, this also explains the lack of new goodies.


  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silly, shallow minds...

    <quote>why is the reg starting to author such crap...

    By Tone...

    "Apple have half a dozen systems to make their software compatible with. Microsoft have the other billion."

    Shame comments like these cant be seen in the half arsed article on the main page...</quote>

    A comment like this is rightly not seen on the main page because it is a grossly exaggerated, idiotic claim.

    It's odd how PC enthusiasts will glibly ignore the truth of the powerful capabilities and broad compatibilities of the Mac OS. The Mac OS runs on more processors than Windows OS. And it is compatible with a vast array of peripherals.

    Get your head out of the sand! The Mac is hugely more capable and compatible than you imagine!

    Just by way of one small example, I was at a trade show with my MacBook Pro and I asked an exhibitor in the Brother printer booth if he would mind if I plugged my laptop into one of his laser printers to print my boarding pass for that day's flight.

    He said, "sure, but we're closing in 5 minutes and I don't think you can get the drivers set up and running that quickly." I assured him that I would be less than 2 minutes. In his disbelief, he said "ok". I connected his USB to my computer, selected "Print", selected his printer (which the Apple OS automatically identified), and printed - less than 30 seconds!

    He was stunned and mumbled something about how he could never have configured any PC that fast for an unknown printer.

    But that's okay, keep ignoring the facts while Apple continues to chip away at market share.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Blablabla.. None of these arguments mean anything, the only reason Vista isn't doing well yet is because there are no directx 10 games out yet, plain and simple. Everyone will have to move to vista eventually, and everyone will, especially considering xp support ends in January.

  51. Rich Harding

    Worthwhile Comparisons Please

    What are we reading all these Apple comparisons for?

    The fact of the matter is you've got to be a moron or have more time for experimentation than sense to *choose to* switch from XP to Vista at the moment, because it's quite clearly still a beta.

    And contrary to the suggestion above that "if you've got XP now you're going to go to Vista at some point", I believe you're wrong. For myself and various other programmers I've talked to (I myself am a VB programmer) this is one OS too far, I have two machines now running Debian and I'll happily move over to those during my remaining time using XP.

    Even when it's relatively "fixed", as one of the first posters says, it's too pointlessly bloated, it's DRM-infected and it's too locked down. Each a perfectly good reason why I and many other current XP users won't be touching it with someone else's 30 foot bargepole.

  52. Andre Thenot

    The infamous Quartely Report

    I'm glad Apple took the plunge to rewrite the entire OS. As a user and a developer, my biased opinion thinks they did a good job. However, this is a hard thing for a publicly-traded company to do. The board MUST show to their investors how they are moving the company towards increased profitability in the short and the long term.

    In the case of Apple, they didn't really have a choice: the old architecture (MacOS toolbox) was in much the same state as Windows: it worked but was having trouble with the explosion of APIs and features that had been added between System 6 and System 7. Therefore I'm lead to believe that it was easier for Apple to convince their investors that this rewrite must take place. It is worth noting that OS 8 and OS 9 were minor updates to get people to wait for OS X. And as others pointed out, 10.0 and 10.1 weren't quite stellar.

    In Microsoft's case, they are doing well financially, so how are they to tell their investors that they are rewriting their main product so they won't make much money on the OS front in the next 5 years? I think they'll have to wait until they are actually hurting before they can make a case for a full rewrite. Of course, rewriting Windows will go overtime and over-budget just like Apple's rewrite took much longer than anticipated. And the investors know that and are probably not quite ready for that just yet.


  53. CharlieB

    OS X on Plain Jane PC

    Apple OS X installs like a dream on a white box PC. Dual-booting with Windows XP Pro. Apple has the better OS by far.

  54. Jeremy

    Just a little aside?

    "It embarrasses me now to think about it, but in my defence, there is a definite streak of autism in the family. One of my sons has Asperger’s"

    I'm struggling to see why any part of this statement could be considered embarrassing. Why do you find it so?


  55. Mat

    Vista = Me?

    agree with the above comment that Vista is just an OS too far.

    Sure some people will buy into it and yes DX10 may make some difference eventually but overall, best case scenario, Vista has been a disappointing damp squib. More pointedly, the "bloat" that is getting passed across to end users as "progress" is in my opinion a bit shameful - I want my computer tied up running the applications I have chosen for the PC, not straining to simply maintain its OS.

    By the way, there's an interview with Balmer on USA today site where he says, whether he actually means it or not, that there will be a new Microsoft OS out in less than four years. Which would indicate that MS themselves believe Vista is simply the ME of its generation surely?

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing to be embarrassed about

    Jeremy, I believe Dave is embarrassed about his activities at the end of the day:

    "settle[ing] down to a relaxing evening poring over enormous disassemblies of IBMBIO.COM, IBMDOS.COM, COMMAND.COM and other chunks of MSDOS"

    ... and not about anything to do with autism / Asperger's.

  57. Nikolaus Heger

    Monopoly Apologists

    Let's face it the only reason Microsoft can get away with anything, even total crap like Vista is that they are a monopoly. They have everyone locked into their proprietary DOC formats and windows APIs, though with the emergence of web 2.0 and cross platform APIs the latter is less and less relevant. The DOC - lockin is the reason most companies would not even consider moving to Linux or OS X - they just can't.

    As for supporting hardware - big deal, there's this thing called Hardware Abstraction Layer built into windows, you may have heard of it. And Vista is crappy all by itself not because some drivers are bad.

    OS X - who cares, this article is about Vista. OS X shows how many things could be done more elegantly than Vista does, and that's about it. In a non-monopoly world, the better product wins - sadly for us all that's not true in a monopoly world.

    Don't you think Apple would license OS X for generic PCs _yesterday_ if this wasn't a monopoly world? If apps could run just as well on OS X as on Vista without requiring modifications and if people were using open document standards? They would be stupid not to - but they know that's not the way it works.

    My previous company, people would send us Word documents. So now what are you going to do? Use OpenOffice, which gets 95% of the layout right. Or Apple Pages which maybe also gets 98% right? Or windows which gets 100% right and you don't have to think about it. That alone makes Windows inevitable no matter if its much worse and/or more expensive. That's monopoly power.

    Or are you doing to call the customers and tell tem to please send PDFs? Yeah, right...

  58. Nikolaus Heger

    About crappy APIs

    I have harbored this theory for a long time too - Microsoft has spent a decade adding patch after patch on top of NT/Win2k without ever fixing it, and added tons of compatibility with ancient Win95 and Win98 code which also had compatibility with DOS mode programs, so of course it's an unmaintainable mess now.

    The only thing that's surprising is that they did not make a clean start with Vista. Like somebody else said, a compatibility environment + a modern, stable OS - it could have kicked ass. I have no explanation as to why that hasn't happened. It's bizarre, really. They even had the tech in place to do it with Virtual PC...

  59. Dave Jewell

    RE: Just a little aside

    Jeremy said: "I'm struggling to see why any part of this statement could be considered embarrassing. Why do you find it so?"

    'Tis a reference to the preceeding paragraph. Some people collect stamps, some folks build model boats, some like photography (I've done all those in my time) but during that phase of my life, I liked nothing better than a nice x86 MSDOS disassembly to get my teeth into! ;-)


  60. Greg

    Re: Jeremy

    Hi Jeremy,

    I think you misread the author's comment somewhat. He was saying that he was embarrassed by his geekiness in dismantling all the software he works with, BUT he feels a little less sad having discovered the streak of autism in his family, which could have been behind his drive to do such strange things. ;)


  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm using Vista at work and at home

    In my (small) company we installed Vista on 30 computers (desktops and laptops). No hassle, no panic. Only two cheap webcams (from Logitech) haven't drivers. We found drivers for printers, scanners, SATA controllers, video cards, power management chips, touchpads, webcams, sound cards, USB memory keys, smart phones. And the applications runs well, too.

    At my home I'm using Vista on my old media center with my old TV card. And my children are playing a lot of games (using a wireless joypad). My old camera and my color printer were recognized immediately. I was able to connect to internet using my old integrated router/firewall/wifi access point.

    Probably we (me and my colleagues at work) had a lot of luck!

  62. Jeremy


    Yeah, my misunderstanding <sigh>... No need to be embarrassed about enjoying pouring over 12 page batch files amongst Reg Developer friends either, though! <cough cough>


    (Read twice, comment once. Read twice, comment once...)

  63. Neil Davies

    My Vista Fun and larfs

    The most annoying thing about Vista for me is the way device drivers work - it is just as bad as in all the other versions of Windows.

    In my setup there are two pieces of hardware where the manufacturers have decided they won't be producing drivers:

    Creative Soundblaster Live

    Some Epson Scanner (don't remember the make exactly, but it is about 3 years old and came with a device for bunging slides into to scan those).

    Now I can see the execs of these companies rubbing their greasy little paws together at the sudden need people may find to replace perfectly good hardware for other hardware which does exactly the same thing and with probably exactly the same components.

    The main reason for this IMHO is that whereas Linux drivers are done by Chipset (so hardware based on the same chipset as other hardware has a fighting chance of already having a compatible driver), Windows is done by product. To make matters worse, Vista wouldn't let you install drivers which aren't certified by Microsoft, so you couldn't even write your own (if you were so inclined).

    Well, my response was to not bother using Vista except to check if Halflife 2 was stable with the latest NVIDIA graphics driver (which it wasn't last time I checked). I think I'll just stick with Ubuntu for day to day stuff, XP for games and Vista for when I really want to see a window manager which isn't anywhere near as good as Beryl but cost infinitely more.

    And don't even get me started on the environmental impact of having to replace things which ain't broken ;)

  64. Sean Nevin

    Asta la Vista...

    The very first time I installed Vista (I work part time at an OEM computer place) I got some kind of error message. I can't be more specific about it however, as it was only a small dialog box with no title, text, and only one button with no caption. When the button was clicked, the machine rebooted and came back to the same thing.

    Speaking about users shows another interesting situation. Before Vista was released, almost every customer coming in wanted their new PC with Vista. They all came in like that. "Have you go Vista yet?" "When can I get Vista?" "I think I'll wait to buy a computer until Vista comes out..." etc. After Vista was released I am now getting: "Can I still get XP?" "Do you guys still sell XP?" And perhaps most worrisome of all (at least for MS), " I got a new computer with Vista, can I get a copy of XP to put on it instead?"

    As a programmer who does most of his work in C++, I find Linux software much easier to write than Windows software (I haven't even tried to write for Vista yet and I fear doing so), mainly because of the APIs and documentation. I'll take man pages over MSDN any day. I have only written two Windows drivers, both for USB devices, and it was one of the worst things I've ever had to do. Due entirely to the messy and complicated driver systems in Windows. To quote the BOFH, it's so convoluted I think I once saw Amelia Earhart in there...

    A last personal note, Asperger’s is nothing to be embarrased about, having been diagnosed with mild to moderate Asperger's myself, I think it's more like a super-power than a 'disorder' :)

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: ridiculous

    The reason Microsoft will survive is the exact same reason the technologically inferior original IBM PC became the corporate standard over the superior Tandy Model 16 - the Fortune 500 wanted it. In 1981, the Model 16 already had a true 16-bit processor (Motorola 68000, adopted years later by the MAC), more memory than anything currently available, floppy drives standard and hard drives available, etc., etc. In EVERY way, it was a superior machine. However...

    Big Business decided to go with the IBM - even though senior people at IBM had more or less publicly declared that PCs were a fad that would soon fade away in favor of "real" computers (i.e. mainframes). That spelled quick death for the Tandy business-class machines. It was among the first of many incidents to come where superior technology didn't matter. Some bean counters made a decision without regard to technology or business efficiency and the world lost.

    Microsoft will survive and thrive for the same reason. It's already got a stranglehold on >90% of corporate America and indeed most of the world. My son has been using Powerpoint to create school reports since THIRD grade. Windows and Office are everywhere. There is no escape. Yes, I know I could use OpenOffice and Linux but that is swimming against the tide - rather tiresome. I am forced to use MS products at work because that is corporate standard. Why would I want to learn something different to use at home? Sure, something different might be something better but who has time to learn multiple standards while actually having a life?

  66. Julian Lawton


    Belated comment as didn't have time to post at work.

    I concur with Joe Cincotta's comment - if you look at what's going on with the development side at Microsoft they are definitely trying to pull developers towards a more O/S independent world (with Silverlight there's almost some truth in that too -although only a tenth of the APIs are there).

    On the other hand, there's definitely a lot of resistance (i.e. they have had to back-pedal over VB into supporting 'classic' VB under .NET). Once .NET is established as the de facto standard for development, and only then, I expect they may start changing the underlying systems (they do have an OS lab, that's produced a non-Windows experimental microkernel system). I'd actually welcome something that was both new and challenged the dominance of Unix variants.

    That said - as other commentators have suggested, there was surely nothing to stop them doing the same as Apple did with Classic (i.e. the old OS is there, running in a sandbox). The compelling reason is surely having a cut-off point for having to support 25 years of legacy code which must be costing millions - going forward you only need to maintain the virtualisation of a legacy machine (which can even be kept invisible to the end user a la Coherence mode in Parallels).

    Warren - without wishing this to turn into the usual Mac/PC debate, the whole essence of the Mac was indeed what you described - walling you off from the hardware, and a computer as an appliance (hence lack of upgradability). I recall complaints about this at the time, and it was one reason I never owned a Mac myself, as at the time I was definitely a computer hobbyist.

    But I could 100% see why they appealed to Douglas Adams, et al - it was 'a computer for the rest of them' to turn the slogan on it's head.

    What you're saying reminds me very much of relatives who are mechanics and would't own cars that they can't repair themselves. My uncle, in particular, hates electronic engine management systems as all he can do is replace the whole thing - it's a box he doesn't understand.

    But if you're not interested in cars, more than getting from A-to-B you don't care - you want one that is cheap and reliable rather than cheap and easy to repair. It may actually be instructive to look at the motoring market - in the 70s a lot of people maintained their own cars, and the cheap end of the market was still generally unreliable. Dare I also say that 30 years ago cars were a lot more of a male preserve. These days we have the Ford Ka - which most people into cars loath.


    Shiny interfaces/eye-candy - what year exactly did geeks stop being excited about graphics? Back in the day, I remember when people used to fantasise about working at Xerox Parc or the MIT Media Lab, or got excited by developments in 3D graphics.

  67. Josh

    Mac haters update your inf03z

    The anti-Mac comments made here are pretty funny in terms of their flagrant inaccuracies. At one time in their past, Macs weren't easily upgradeable, this is true. But this hasn't been true now for going on 7 years.

    I especially enjoyed the comment from the guy who last used one in 1984. Yeah, that's really relevant today!

    I think probably the stupidest aspect to the upgrading argument is that PCs are fairly limited in terms of how you can upgrade them too. Maybe slightly less-so than Mac, but barely.

    If you have the foresight to purchase a nice enough motherboard, then in theory you can put in a faster processor down the road. Of course, if there have been improvements to bus architecture in the intervening years, then you might need to swap out that mobo too. Of course, to go with the faster processor you also probably want a faster disk, and you might even need to change the format of the RAM you are using.

    I've owned numerous PCs, and upgraded them, and at times the only things being kept from one system to the next were the floppy, CD-ROM, and case - and sometimes you can't even keep the case because the power supply is inadequate.

    With Macs I've upgraded memory and hard drives. You can also upgrade video cards, DVD drives, etc.

    It's amazing how defensive Windows users get over their crap OS.

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