back to article Microsoft has made excellent software, you pack of fibbers

Happy New Year, one and all. This post-festive edition of Comment of the Week will gently drop you back into the simmering gloop of El Reg's Commentry, slicing and dicing the merely-bad along with the very worst of the below-the-line offerings. Cheers! Over the Christmas season our motoring correspondent Simon Rockman took a …

  1. David Given

    Microsoft's good software

    Word 5 for DOS was pretty decent, too.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      I don't seem to remember many support calls for Windows2000, I had it as a workstation back in it's day.

      1. Cipher

        Re: Microsoft's good software


        I recall 2000 the same way. BSOD with 2k vs. NT4 saw an amazing drop. Also, they occured mainly after updates or software pushes, and a reboot cleared them, no more looking up stop code fixes for an hour before deciding it was faster to rebuild the machine.

        Our seating deal with Microsoft allowed IT staff to put 2000 on home machines. What a pleasure 2k was...

      2. N2

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        I used W2000 as my mainstream desktop OS until 2011, it did the job & never went wrong

        Cant say that about their later offerings.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: Microsoft's good software

          But MS didn't write WordStar!

      3. AlbertH

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        That was the period whenwe saw the first really concerted virus attacks from Eastern Europe. Some of the malware around then still works today!

    2. Anonymous Bullard

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      Notepad's quite lean on the memory, when I last used it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        Try opening a 2mb file in it - and then watch the mouse spin for about 2 minutes before it loads. GNU/Nano opens files a lot larger than that in seconds or less.

        (just timed it on a 2.6Mb file - about a second)

        1. Cipher

          Re: Microsoft's good software


          On a systemd distro, it'll open in half that.

          Of course it will open 12 other things as dependencies as well, and fire up an http server for deity knows why...

      2. Bleu

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        It is also a pretty crap text editor, unusable for programming, html, etc. OK for a quick note, sure.

        Try the ?ix world for some good text editors, many take up much less space and do a lot more. Ones with similar capability to Notepad are much smaller and make much smaller files, as are many that do much more.

        Bang for byte, Notepad is pretty crap.

    3. Gray

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      Word 5.1 for Macintosh OS-9 is regarded as the best ever.

      1. Inspector71

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        Totally agree. I've still got it running on a System 7 machine which I use from time to time. The perfect blend of features and functionality with a simple uncluttered interface.

        In true Microsoft fashion the next version Word 6 for Macintosh was a bit of a dog.

      2. Bleu

        Re: Microsoft's good software

        I have been forced to use that, too, it is clunky, opaque, and irritating.

        You are only saying it as an Apple cultist.

        The underlying software design for MS Word on GUIs is admirable, what they use it to write is generally not.

        A couple of versions for 2000 and XP were alright, but certainly never great.

    4. Bleu

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      I agree with both of you.

      Still have a Thinkpad running 2000, mainly for some old hardware, music (tracker) software, a couple of other things I suspect would not run well in WINE or under Win 7. It is not connected to the 'net.

      MS Word 5 had some great design points, I especially liked the clear separation between style sheets and the ability to directly edit the style files and many other points. Recent versions with the f****** ribbon (hey, let's design the new version explicitly for morons w h o a r e a l i t t l e sloooowww and don't want to do too much) instead of a visible menu and, as an added bonus, elimination of certain key sequences, are like torture.

      I taught myself VB and the relevant classes so that I could fix stupid crap MS does *every time*, decided that doing that was a waste of energy a while ago.

      I am aware of the downloads to change the latest one, but that would violate policy at work (DIY mods did not, when I bothered).

      5.5 was even better, sure not as capable as DTP programs of the time, but a great product, fantastic interface and much the same design for style and layout as 5.

      Noone much saw it because it coincided with the big shift by mgmt. to Windoze for officey stuff.

    5. Jim 59

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      DOS itself wasn't bad.

      Even Windows 3.1 was pretty good, operating reasonably well on home PCs and non-networked office machines with just the occasional crash. It all seemed to go wrong when MS addressed the network, of which it had no experience, and multi-user systems, of which it also had no experience.

    6. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      Was it NT that had, halfway through its life, the GUI engine pulled into the kernel for speed?

      Don't know much of the story, I just remember in my first systest job I sat not too far from an NT box that sat there all day drawing coloured squares in a window as fast as it could. Never did find out why, but I had my suspicions.

      Every now and then it would BSOD...

    7. Daniel B.

      Re: Microsoft's good software

      Word 5 for DOS was pretty decent, too.

      Pretty much all the applications that later were integrated into a big Office package were very decent in their original conception as Macintosh apps. Of course, once MS turned evil they proceeded to ruin the Mac versions by force-feeding it the Windows-style UI when the Mac-centric one was pretty good by itself.

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    NT was written by Dave Cutler, the guy who wrote large parts of VMS. Microsoft went downhill after he left.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Rather it went Silent Hill.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hence the VMS/WNT myth (or is it?) on lines with Arthur C. Clarkes HAL/IBM letter shift.

    3. marekt77

      Cutler never left, he worked on Azure, and most recently on the HyperVisor behind the Xbox one.

    4. N2

      David Cutler

      Yes, he was a good guy, not so sure if they have any left now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: David Cutler

        Dave Cutler is now penniless and living on a park bench. Turns out his car and home got robbed every night because he has no frigging idea about security.

    5. AlbertH

      Dave used to tell the story of NT - how it was never documented, how the kernel would only build on one toolset and failed on all others, how Gates insisted that the undocumented "demonstration" system was to be shipped "immediately", how there were so many patches and kludges that the code was spaghetti.....

  3. returnmyjedi


    Nuff said.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Minesweeper

      but Solitaire's ..

      yeah, time to go now ....

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Against my best wishes

    I am totally 100% GNU/Linux man since 2002ish - but I must admit MS make the best ever mice (the bog standard wheel/two button/LED eye type). Nothing matches them in my opinion.

    So that's one thing, in my books.

    1. phil dude

      Re: Against my best wishes

      I too am GNU/Linux devotee.

      2xApple Trackpad...


    2. P. Lee

      Re: Against my best wishes

      They used to make excellent mice.

      I don't know if they all went down hill or if they started doing market segmentation but the more recent ones are rubbish. I went with razer. Yes, they are grossly overpriced, but they feel nice and user interface is important. I also have a Logitech G5 which is excellent - I just prefer a finger-mouse.

    3. Katie Saucey

      MS make the best ever mice

      Agreed, I have a MS-branded mouse that I got back in 1999-2000 or so, it's outlasted (with the odd cable soldering job) every Dell/HP/Logitech I've had since.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: MS make the best ever mice

        My vote goes to the 1987 "Dove bar" mouse. Simple, reliable, very precise, aesthetically pleasing (deep white plastic wasn't very common back then). About the only downside was it's price.

        Successor, 1993 "banana", was noticeably worse. It was advertised as more ergonomical, but my paws didn't quite agree to that, it wasn't very comfortable to hold. Precision was gone. White plastic wasn't very white to begin with, and turned outright yellow with years.

    4. returnmyjedi

      Re: Against my best wishes

      Most of their peripherals from the turn of the century were quite marvelous. I still waggle a Sidewinder flight stick to get my X-Wing rocks off.

  5. Innocent-Bystander*


    You don't have to go way back to Windows 2000. Windows 7 was probably the best system they've made for workstations. And it works properly too.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Probably THE most stable and useable version of Windows I've ever used. Even then, it had it's glitches and BSOD moments. Everything else they made and make is even worse. Including Win 8 and 8.1, which, being 64-bit, point blank refuses to run anything 32-bit, even in compatibility mode.

    Go figure.

    Next machine? Linux.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: Win7...

      "Including Win 8 and 8.1, which, being 64-bit, point blank refuses to run anything 32-bit, even in compatibility mode."

      Are you trolling or stupid?

      Your tactic works, seeing how many upvotes you already got.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Win7...

        @ Sandtitz - Neither trolling nor stupid, fella. And check your assumptions at the door, why doncha? My old copy of Dreamweaver MX point blank refuses to run under 64-bit Win8; it ran just fine on 32-bit Win7.

    2. ByeLaw101

      Re: Win7...

      " Including Win 8 and 8.1, which, being 64-bit, point blank refuses to run anything 32-bit, even in compatibility mode."

      Complete and utter BOLLOCKS! 32bit code runs fine on Win 8 + 8.1...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Win7...

        @ ByeLaw101 - Then kindly explain why Dreamweaver MX won't run under Win8 when it ran just fine on Win7?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Win7...

          You said *anything*, dear chap.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Win7...

          Because it has to be run under compatability mode, perhaps? YOU were the one who said "Old copy of Dreamweaver MX"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I guess Microsucks must be keeping their good software for themselves...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK

      They used to - and most probably still do.

      Years ago, people writing code on Windows using the public declared libraries found that certain calls ran a far lot slower than MS's own stuff. Coders being coders investigated, putting traces on system calls etc. and found that MS's own code used a different entry path to the same *.dll but producing a faster result.

      So, for example, a routine to find the 3rd root of a number was publicly declared in math.dll at a certain offset (lets call it 0x00000BAD). _But_ MS's similar call in math.dll went to 0x00000FAB.

      So people realised that in the libraries there was two routines that produce the same result - one, the public one, was deliberately coded 'crippled' to make it slower than the unpublished routine MS used internally.

      So people started using the new unpublished call entry point, and *hey presto* all of a sudden their code ran a lot of times faster than MS's (due to better coding anyway).

      Of course, MS got wind of this, and each update they started moving the routines around in the libs (except the crippled public API's) so that anybody linking to the hidden superior code routines applications broke. Then it looks like the third party code is shite and unstable (remember WordPerfect?).

      I don't know if they still do this, but it wouldn't surprise me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK

        No one ever accused Microsucks of being scrupulous. I suspect there will be a very special place in Hell for Bill Gates.

  8. CJ_in_AZ

    M$ did make a decent "ROMable" OS back in the 80s -- it was used in the NEC 8201A, and its clone, the TRS-100 laptop computers. I still miss the <2 second boot time, and the fact that the machine would run for ~12 hours on four AA batteries.

    But anything involving something that even resembles a disk, they seem to have mucked up.

    1. Chemist

      "M$ did make a decent "ROMable" OS back in the 80s"

      Well I had (~1980) a UK101 built from a kit with a 6502 MS ROM Basic and it had a wretched bug in its garbage collector that made any kind of complex string manipulation useless.

      1. Vic

        Well I had (~1980) a UK101 built from a kit with a 6502 MS ROM Basic

        I had one of those. It had a "high-res"[1] mod that swapped out the character generator for some addressable RAM. The joys of nasty little hacks :-)

        I still have my Dragon32 from that era. That has a MS Basic in it - and it's quite clear that the testing wasn't exactly stringent. Some of the documented calls had clearly never been used, because they simply don't work.


        [1] Ha!

        1. Chemist

          "I still have my Dragon32 from that era."

          I also had one of those Vic - don't have it now but the 6809 FORTH thst I got for it still runs on a home-made 6809 system.

          (When I assembled the UK101 it didn't work - a bit of probing with a xtal earpiece established that a cheap 7400 TTL chip was faulty - phew. ~£50 was a lot of money in those days)

          1. Bleu

            OS in ROM

            The HP Journada or Jornada had an MS OS in ROM, still think it was a great machine for the time.

            I was unfortunate to buy a Psion 5mx instead, that it was designed to fail after being used a few tens of times was criminal.

            Psion should have offered a gratis fix for *all* owners.

            The mx and Journada were both popular in Tokyo, saw more people using the mx on trains, until the screen cable inevitably broke.

            Earned Psion a lot of well-deserved hatred, was probably the main factor in their collapse on consumer hardware.

            In Akihabara, you can still find a Journada in good shape.

            Haven't seen a 5mx in a shop for years, not because it is a sought-after rarity, but because everyone hates Psion for the design fault. The shops wouldn't stock them even if somebody offered an unused one that was still going (which would only be possible if it was unused).

            No fan of CE, but the Journada was a good CE-based product.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: OS in ROM

              I had a Jornada 720, a Psion 3, and (slightly later) an iPaq.

              Back around 2000... The Psion 3 and the 720 were a similar form factor, with little else in common. The Psion was a superb piece of hardware and software. The J720 hardware was rendered near useless by having Windows CE as the OS (in HPC2000 guise).

              The iPaq was an interesting albeit not very useful piece of hardware, hampered by having Windows CE as the OS (in PocketPC guise).

              Who would have thought back then that 15 years later it would have got *harder* to synchronise a handheld device (Android) with Outlook email (if you don't want to go via "the cloud"). Come back ActiveSync, all is forgiven?

  9. John Savard

    Hey, Windows 3.1 ran in 2 megs, while you needed 4 megs to run Yggdrasil Linux, and 16 megs to run fvwm at decent speed in it. Of course, Windows NT needed more memory than Windows 3.1 for much the same reason (multiuser, privilege protecting apps from each other), but if you wanted a GUI on the desktop, Microsoft let you have it with less resources. (But then a Mac pulled it off in 128 K... and it worked even better in 512 K.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hey, Windows 3.1 ran in 2 megs

      Really? are you sure? I never remember seeing Window's 3.1 run. It walked perhaps on a good day, or more frequently crawled, but I never ever saw it run. Even I could type faster than any app I ever used could update the screen. All the secretaries used to screem like mad about it, they'd start typing and it would be half a page behind them.

    2. Bleu

      On a 128-K mac,

      did you ever try anything more than changing the tiled wallpaper?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      NT vs Windows for Playgroups

      "Windows NT needed more memory than Windows 3.1 for much the same reason (multiuser, privilege protecting apps from each other), but if you wanted a GUI on the desktop, Microsoft let you have it with less resources. "

      On the other hand, 3.xx systems had less memory available to applications than NT did.

      So in the days when my laptop ran NT rather than the IT-supported 3.xx, I would frequently get people saying "can you try/print my {document|spreadsheet} for me, it doesn't work on 3.xx".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Worse, from their point of view is that if the US/UK don't need to obtain oil from the middle east then we have no further geopolitical reason to attempt to stabilise the middle east."

    I laughed out loud at this. Maybe the middle east would be a lot more stable if we stopped trying to stabilise it.

    1. Hans 1

      "Stabilizing it" means we give an unconditional free card to Israel to do whatever they see fit.

      Look at the shit that is coming out of that country since Palestine signed the Rome treaty .. popcorn time. International Court of Justice will be happy to receive what Palestine will provide ...

      Now, Israel, like the US, do not recognize the "International Court of Justice", so their perpetrators of "war crimes" and " crimes against humanity" are theoretically safe. Well, not sure that will hold out for very long, this time.

  11. Hans 1

    "Last Known Good"

    That is the best part of windows and on my system, it boots a Linux kernel ... soon to be replaced with FreeBSD.


    The LAST PIECE of MS software here at work is (wait for it)...

    Foxpro UNIX!

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: The LAST PIECE of MS software here at work is (wait for it)...

      Ooh - that reminds me - they had XENIX: The Microsoft Unix.

      The world could have been a very different place...

    2. Daniel B.

      Re: The LAST PIECE of MS software here at work is (wait for it)...

      Ah yes, FoxPro. But even that was not made by MS but by Fox Technologies, which was acquired by MS. Fox had already finished 2.5 so the FoxPro 2.5 for DOS, Windows, UNIX and Mac was basically Fox Tech code with MS branding.

      It's noticeable because the next FoxPro release basically hobbled a lot of things, turned it into "Visual" FoxPro, the Distribution Kit was gone as well as the non-Windows versions. A sad end for the DB that obsoleted dBase.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If MS actually made some good software

    They must have burned it because it's never seen the light of day.

  14. JustNiz

    NT worked because Microsoft didn't actually write NT.

    Microsoft hired a bunch of programmers from DEC, led by Dave Cutler (who had previously helped develop VMS and RSX-11).

    NT was actually pretty good/solid to start with, but quickly got much buggier, much more bloated and less useable after the Microsoft programmers got their hands on it.

  15. Dreams

    My favorite software title, and the one I use the most, is OneNote.

    Also, I don't care what others think about Windows 7...I love it. I use it for work and play and have had to reinstall it only once since 2009.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bearing in mind I'm not a DBA or a code, just a helldesker that has to do data extraction scripts to pull info for users now and then - but I quite like T-SQL. Can't think of any other MS software I like, offhand (and Outlook and Excel I positively loathe) and I'm a Penguinista at home (no, don't bother flaming me, MS fans - I'm highly critical of a lot of Linux software and desktops too. I use what I use simply because it gives me least grief, doesn't mean to say I'm actually entirely happy with it). But T-SQL - generally comprehensible (at the level I use it), does the job pretty well. Could be a tad better with the error messages when I screw up now and then, but hey, it's better than most stuff I;'e encountered. . Gets a 9 out of 10 from me. Shame about the OS it needs to run on.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: T-SQL

      T-SQL, and SQL Server as a whole is basically a fork from Sybase.

      Most of the "awesome" MS stuff is actually the product of some other company's work, or a "collaborative" project where MS broke the collaboration and poached the code (i.e. OS/2, which morphed into WinNT).

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