back to article London Greenwich station: A reminder of former glories. Like Windows XP

Take a break from Microsoft's relentless plugging of the new with a glimpse of one of its operating systems of yesteryear doing what it does best: falling over into a heap. Spotted by Register reader Stuart at London's stately Greenwich station, the board, which is more accustomed to showing train schedules, was instead …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    How much longer will we have to endure this ?

    I wonder how much longer it is going to take for companies to remove Borkzilla bloatware from platforms that don't need it and go with a rock-solid Linux implementation that Just Works.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      a rock-solid Linux implementation that Just Works.

      Yeah, isn't there a company that sells "Unbreakable Linux"? I'm sure it never goes wrong or suffers from hardware problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        It's a matter of numbers. Functional (i.e. in active use) uptimes of a year are quite normal for Linux deployments, yet pretty much impossible to achieve on Windows.

        Unbreakable? No. More robust? Definitely.

        1. Jamesit

          Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

          Don't you reboot after a kernel update?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

            Not with ksplice. Hot patching, reboot later when convenient.

          2. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Linux

            Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

            how often do you NEED a kernel update for Linux? (my experience - not at all, for many years)

            Nearly all of the security patches are for userland stuff. I don't even remember a security vuln being in the kernel, and unless there's a serious instability in the kernel itself, you might be able to just do a driver update with a new driver [rare as it is], by removing the old one, and doing 'modprobe' [or similar] on the new one, and just keep going without rebooting.

            [I was using modprobe and similar utilities to do that sort of thing back in the day, working on kernel drivers for wifi routers, when the kernel was 2.4something]

            and last I checked the 'dpkg' and 'apt' systems will shutdown and re-start daemons after installing an upgraded package and dependent libraries. That should pretty much refresh things, without that reboot.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

              I don't even remember a security vuln being in the kernel

              There have been 743 of them listed so far.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

                Versus how many for Windows?

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        "Unbreakable Linux"?

        Isn't that what Minix is trying to achieve?

    2. Joe Drunk
      Linux

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      You must be new to El Reg.

      https://www.theregister.com/2021/06/14/bork/

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        yeah, nobody is immune to a hardware fault... [the most likely cause of an fsck that b0rked badly enough to pause for user input]. either that or misconfig. or just blame systemd.

    3. ST Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      > [ ... ] and go with a rock-solid Linux implementation that Just Works.

      I can't help but notice that Microsoft's troll bots are very busy downvoting this morning.

      It's not like we aren't all looking at a photo of an eminently fucked XP box.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        Are we sure that this isn't an art installation ?

        Following the success of the "poems on the tube", whatever Network-South-East-Is-Called-Today asked artists to come up with something which embodied the spirit of transport in the suburbs of the Capital

      2. HildyJ Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        "eminently fucked XP box"

        Not that we haven't seen eminently fucked XP boxen, but if you look at the actual message XP has detected that the system is low on virtual memory and XP is going to resolve this automatically. It is just warning the user that this is about to happen.

        Furthermore, getting low on virtual memory is probably a programming error.

        1. ST Silver badge

          Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

          > [ ... ] and XP is going to resolve this automatically.

          If there's a modal dialog window waiting for user input - click on OK, as it is the case here - then the problem isn't being resolved automatically. In fact, the problem isn't being resolved at all. There is no user that can click on the OK button in this case. Therefore, increasing the size of the swapfile does not happen.

          As it is usually the case with Microsoft Windows, the Operating System fucks itself into an unrecoverable state. We do not know if the offending process has been pre-empted, and can no longer request more memory, or if it keeps running in the background - while waiting for the OK modal dialog to be clicked - and keeps eating more memory.

          If XP decides that it needs to increase the size of the swapfile, and pretends that it is performing an automatic corrective action, then it should just do it, without blocking on user input.

          Automatic and waiting for user input contradict each other.

          To make it even worse, there is no need for a modal dialog here in the first place. It's not like the dialog offers a choice of "Yes, do it" and "No, don't do it". The only choice is "OK". What is the point of asking the user to click on "OK" when there is no other option?

          Horrible design. This should have been a notification - "As a result of pid <XYZ>'s monotonically increasing memory demands, XP has increased the size of the swapfile. Please check the status of PID <XYZ>." - and not a modal dialog.

    4. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      In fairness, that error can indicate a hardware failure, or memory leak.

      Linux is, no doubt, better protected against memory leaks, but it's not invulnerable to them, and unless you are running on enterprise grade hardware, with lots of redundancy (unlikely in this case), any OS is vulnerable to hardware failures.

      If this is a memory leak, all it likely needs is someone to hit "reset". South Eastern, National Rail or whoever manages the computer should really upgrade though. Not good to be running XP, especially as the system really needs to be connected to a network. Not good to connect XP to a network, even if the network itself is well protected.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        It may not be great to connect an old/unsupported system to a network, however it is very easy to do safely.

        Don't forget that these are are "kiosk" or "appliance" type installations, they are not configured as a general network for general use. [Well, they shouldn't be anyway]

        It is easy to configure networking such that each client is isolated from all other clients on the network and to only have very tightly controlled network connectivity to, for example, a central server system. There is often no need for a client to be able to communicate over the network with anything other than the control system.

        Things get a little more complicated where remote access to the installed client is required, inevitably for support purposes, but this is far from difficult to configure either.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

        "In fairness, that error can indicate a hardware failure, or memory leak."

        As a person who still uses XP (no point in upgrading an ancient PC that I don't use much these days), the few times I've seen that message, it was because Windows wanted to make the swapfile larger but the harddisc was pretty much stuffed. Cleaning out some old junk and defragging was the solution.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

          Probably full of log files nobody ever looks at but are generated daily by default.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      "a rock-solid Linux implementation that Just Works."

      For something like a train schedule display, even XP is overkill. A Raspberry Pi is more than enough to accept and display a new page every 5 minutes or so. A linux master computer would be far more robust and also wouldn't have the same massive hardware requirements for such a simple task. There are a whole S-ton of applications that need very little (by today's standards) horsepower to run. Windows is a horrible choice other than for the droves of people that can write really hideous code that sometimes will run long enough to get a final payment check on the contract.

      I really like the modularity of Linux. The downside is it takes more thought and design to take advantage of it. The upside is it will run really really fast on really really cheap hardware.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

      Although Linux or FreeBSD would be a good choice, I would actually expect them to go with an RTOS which might be better suited to signage.

      VxWorks (commercial OS) or FreeRTOS (FOSS) would be good choices.

      Both would certainly have a lighter hardware requirement and may even support legacy things that Linux distros might not...

      (Linksys and others have used VxWorks for a lot of their wifi router firmware, though i haven't specifically worked with it in over a decade)

      If the game is big sign with lightweight network-connected display that "just works", the RTOS could be the best choice overall.

  2. Radio Wales
    Devil

    Are we allowed to submit suggestions for improved system stability at the concept stage of Windows 12?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Something like FORMAT C: ?

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Joke

        re" FORMAT C:

        I was thinking more of a 12lb hammer. Far more permanent.

        1. Chloe Cresswell

          Re: re" FORMAT C:

          1st degree toastercide?

          1. The Central Scrutinizer

            Re: re" FORMAT C:

            Now stop that....

      2. Bartholomew Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Too much, too soon ?

        Ellen Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit...it's the only way to be sure.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Windows going up to 11 just sounds wrong, what do you think Nigel?

      Why not skip 12 like they did with 9!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Yeah, Windows 13. What could go wrong? :-)

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          but Tom Hanks looks NOTHING like Bill Gates, unless you want Anthony Micheal Hall to play Gates again... (yeah that might work). So who'd play SatNad? Or the BOFH for that matter? (I'm thinking Simon Pegg)

          "Uh, Redmond. We have a problem..."

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Dr Paul Taylor

    language practice

    Telling tourists on the DLR that they probably don't want to get off at Greenwich station. To add to the fun, "the first set of doors and the last set of doors don't open" at Cutty Sark, which is probably where they wanted to go.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    leaking memory like a sieve

    On a tangential note, my son left his minecraft session unnattended - but only on a menu screen - for about eight hours over the weekend.

    About 11pm, after the tv had gone off, I thought: "Why on earth does the computer sound like it's thrashing the disk?"

    By that stage, minecraft was up to 37.2GB in size [1] and presumably still trying to get bigger; it took me 15 minutes just to login in; and about another 15 to diagnose and fix it ... mostly involving waiting for the command prompt to return.

    -

    [1] About 10x the usual, as far as I can see

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: leaking memory like a sieve

      30 minutes? What was wrong with the off button?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What was wrong with the off button?

        About a dozen running multi-day-long simulations and a similar number of in-progress bits of workflow. Putting up with an annoyingly slow login (&etc) was less time consuming (and more reliable) than restarting all that.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: leaking memory like a sieve

      Maybe minecraft had taken up crypto-mining?

    3. Robert Moore
      Linux

      Re: leaking memory like a sieve

      Well, it is owned by Microsoft these days. So that makes sense. :)

      For the record, I am a serious Minecraft addict, and I play it on my Linux Mint machine.

      Version 1.17 has serious performance issues. Unfortunately.

  6. hamiltoneuk

    Greenwich Station and the area are indeed a delight. Good old XP thrown in too. Happy days. Computers were less boring then.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      At least I knew which control panel to find stuff! and where to find the control panel!

  7. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Windows XP's various peccadilloes

    I didn't realise Greenwich was on the peccadillo line.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Windows XP's various peccadilloes

      Yes, it's the last stop before Mornington Crescent, depending on which rules your are playing by.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Windows XP's various peccadilloes

        Unless you are in Nidd in which case you obviously have to go via Earls Court.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Windows XP's various peccadilloes

          I think Sven usually gets off at Wood Lane.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows demonstrated its rock-solid resilience with a terse message about virtual memory?

    it would have brought a smile to my face to see an 'OK' button over the message...

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