Do modern computers make us more productive?
May 31, 2007 7:23 AM   Subscribe

1986 Mac Plus vs. 2007 AMD Dual Core "When we compare strictly common, everyday, basic user tasks between the Mac Plus and the AMD we find remarkable similarities in overall speed, thus it can be stated that for the majority of simple office uses, the massive advances in technology in the past two decades have brought zero advance in productivity." Factor in the internet, and the technological advances have brought me negative productivity.
posted by jdroth (77 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
They forgot to test the synergy levels.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:27 AM on May 31, 2007


They forgot to hook up the doll.
posted by Flashman at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2007


After all, most users don't know or care whether their computer has a 65nm dual-core CPU or a tiny midget wizard squatting in their cases.

i care ... tiny midget wizard poop is stinky
posted by pyramid termite at 7:36 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Looking at the nature of the tests performed, this is more a brutal condemnation of software bloat than of "advances in technology". It would be interesting to see how much faster the Macintosh tasks were when running in vMac emulation at full speed compared to the 68K hardware.

Also: 63 seconds to boot a vanilla installation of Windows XP on a modernish Athlon? What are they using for a disk, a wind-up gramophone?
posted by majick at 7:37 AM on May 31, 2007


I've been saying for years that basic office tasks have never really been simplified much, and my grandfather's Apple ][ got his spreadsheets done just about as fast as my 2002-era PC.

But, mine use neater fonts.
posted by The Giant Squid at 7:37 AM on May 31, 2007


This proves everything!
posted by grubi at 7:38 AM on May 31, 2007


After all, most users don't know or care whether their computer has a 65nm dual-core CPU or a tiny midget wizard squatting in their cases.

*Opens case and checks, just to make sure. Disappointed not to find midget.*
posted by chillmost at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've always thought that the way to get optimum efficiency was by using applications that are two versions older than the computer you are running it on. (E.g. buy a computer today and run Office 2000 on it, not the current version.)
posted by Pastabagel at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


1986 Mac Plus vs. 2007 AMD Dual Core

As discussed yesterday on MeFi.
posted by humblepigeon at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2007


The classic Macs were much zippier in many applications. But, you know, you can't send email and go to Metafilter, so what's the point? Even so, I still miss the Banana Jr. 2000.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:46 AM on May 31, 2007


But, you know, you can't send email and go to Metafilter

And your point is?
posted by humblepigeon at 7:48 AM on May 31, 2007


Yes, but can they play Bioshock 2 on a 1986 mac plus?

come to think of it, I probably can't run it, either.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:51 AM on May 31, 2007


This is all fair and good, but I have a strong suspicion that people who use computers for things such as 3D modeling, music production, and image editing would see a large gap in their productivity if this were to be repeated using software in any of those niches (to be at all fair, it would also probably need to be tested with different 'old' hardware, something that was actually a viable solution for those tasks).

There's a whole lot of very unfortunate bloat going on today, but I think the implicit message of the article that all this technological advance has brought us very few results is a little disingenuous.
posted by invitapriore at 7:51 AM on May 31, 2007


Are these midget wizard things new? How much do those run?
posted by The Straightener at 7:52 AM on May 31, 2007


Ah, I suppose I'm ignoring the point of the article. But still...
posted by invitapriore at 7:53 AM on May 31, 2007


Dave Faris typed "Yes, but can they play Bioshock 2 on a 1986 mac plus?"

That pretty much affirmed my prejudice about the first-person shooter/cane-hitter genre. Aside from the annoying groans of the hero, what makes this different from Doom?
posted by roll truck roll at 8:00 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is all fair and good, but I have a strong suspicion that people who use computers for things such as 3D modeling, music production, and image editing would see a large gap in their productivity

a "gap"? ... more like a gaping abyss ... i had to wait for years for a computer to get fast enough to do real music recording ... in fact, my current sempron 2600+ is the first computer i've had that's actually dealt with everything i've thrown at it

i find it curious that they didn't pick an x86 with windows 3.11 to test this with ...

*remembers and shudders*

no, actually, i don't
posted by pyramid termite at 8:09 AM on May 31, 2007


My TRS-80 CoCo runs Tele-writer 64 screemingly fast but I am unable to download endless supplies of teenage a2m horse porn with it.

I'll stick with XP and OSX, thank you very much.
posted by bondcliff at 8:16 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


what makes this different from Doom?

There are actually (some) areas that aren't in complete darkness?
posted by porpoise at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2007


The biggest enhancement to the personal computer in the last 10-15 years boil down pretty much to prettier interfaces, and cheaper and smaller hardware. For a more accurate comparison, they should have paired a Mac Plus with a Blackberry.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:21 AM on May 31, 2007


But, you know, you can't send email and go to Metafilter, so what's the point?

My Mac+ sends and receives email just fine.

Most websites require javascript, CSS, and a host of other modern features (like 1024x768 resolution) that an older browser simply can't handle. Unfortunately, browsers also suffer from the same bloating (Firefox is currently using 90MB of RAM [wtf for?!?] on my XP box) that the articles decries has happened to OS and office software.
posted by Revvy at 8:22 AM on May 31, 2007


What's truly depressing to me is that a fair chunk of the performance "missing" from new computers is spent on anti-virus scanners, e-mail filters, network firewalls, etc. The average Windows PC today probably spends most of its CPU cycles trying (often futilely) to protect lowest-common-denominator users from evil geniuses. With such security geegaws disabled, even an older PC can run a modern OS and basic office/internet applications pretty snappily. The evil geniuses of the world have hijacked a hefty fraction of the power of the computer revolution.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:24 AM on May 31, 2007


i had to wait for years for a computer to get fast enough to do real music recording ... in fact, my current sempron 2600+ is the first computer i've had that's actually dealt with everything i've thrown at it

Huh. I had no problems doing sequencing, multi-track recording, wave editing, composition, and scoring on my Mac+. Not all at the same time, but I could do it all. So could a lot of other people.
posted by Revvy at 8:25 AM on May 31, 2007


what makes this different from Doom?
posted by roll truck roll at 11:00 AM on May 31


You can jump and look up, for a start. You can also put rooms above rooms.

A better question is what makes this different from Doom 3 or Half Life 2, and the answer appears to be "monkey wrench".
posted by Pastabagel at 8:25 AM on May 31, 2007


That pretty much affirmed my prejudice about the first-person shooter/cane-hitter genre. Aside from the annoying groans of the hero, what makes this different from Doom?

An entire world of gameplay that you're simply not going to bother learning about.
posted by shmegegge at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wonder when companies like Microsoft will realize that it is time to reverse the normal software development process.

They should be putting their effort into reducing the amount of code in every module. They could have teams set up just like they do now, but each team would be graded on how many lines of code they can reduce rather than on how many lines of code they write.

Instead they are going the usual bloatware direction. Since processing speed is no longer following the normal steep upward curve, they are talking about writing code to take advantage of more and more multiple cores so we'll have bloatware squared.
posted by eye of newt at 8:30 AM on May 31, 2007


What's truly depressing to me is that a fair chunk of the performance "missing" from new computers is spent on anti-virus scanners, e-mail filters, network firewalls, etc.

Sounds like you're ready for the wonderful world of linux. My ubuntu boxes are snappier than windows on the same hardware.

Don't get me wrong, linux has it's share of bloatware *cough*openoffice*cough*, but in general, things are smaller, faster, and more responsive than windows, in my experience.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:50 AM on May 31, 2007


you know, openoffice is bloated, but i suspect that's more because they have to mirror the bloated over-extended functionality of office in order to gain in marketshare. I'd like to think that those guys really could code a lean mean office suite if they weren't stuck trying to code animatey menu bars or whatever other bullshit microsoft keeps building and trying to call vital office functionality.
posted by shmegegge at 8:52 AM on May 31, 2007


Huh. I had no problems doing sequencing, multi-track recording,

that's tracks recorded from outside, right? ... guitars and vocals, right? ... 16 or 24 tracks as wav (or aiff) files, right?

oh and you had a cd burner, too, didn't you?

oh, and you managed to get that all on a 20 meg hard drive

somehow, i don't believe we're talking about the same kind of multi-track "recording"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2007


As a joke, many moons ago, I installed Windows 3.1 (all six floppies!) and whatever the Word of that era was onto a Pentium III 800Mhz, with something like 64MB of RAM and a couple of gigs of disk.

This was, to the user, the fastest machine ever. I set it to start Windows on boot, and, by a noticeable amount, the POST was the longest part of the boot sequence.

Double clicking on the Word icon was a revelation -- Word would be open before you could lift your finger off the button.
posted by eriko at 8:58 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seconding shmegegge. You can't really blame OpenOffice for having a bloated piece of software whose primary goal is to emulate a bloated piece of software, including reading in files produced from said bloated piece of software. They've done a smacking good job of making me not need to boot to Windows every time somebody sends me another *@#$! *.xls file...

If you want a small footprint office app in linux, there are tons of them.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:05 AM on May 31, 2007


They should be putting their effort into reducing the amount of code in every module.

Why? No one EVER asks for that, and I develop software for a living. They want additional functionality, even if they're never going to use it. It's nice to have. How many times have you used the cupholders in the backseat of your car? How many times have you used your fog lights? Everyone wants the ability to do more, no one wants less.

Developers want east of use, common functionality, and faster coding. To do that you need more shared-libraries, more options, and yes, more bloat. But that bloat enables functionality that was never thought of by the original designers. God bless bloat!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:12 AM on May 31, 2007


This is a double from comments a day ago.

Also, just as pointless as it was on Wednesday.
posted by Muddler at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2007


Fog lights and cup holders don't slow down the car. Offer two SUVs for the same price. One has fog lights and cup holders. The other has an extra 20 MPH on the speedometer (even if its not legal to use in the U.S.) I bet I know which one sells better.
posted by The Bellman at 9:21 AM on May 31, 2007


The beauty of Linux is not that it isn't bloated. It can be - dreadfully. The beauty is that it doesn't have to be. You can get versions of Linux with much more functionality than the Mac + that fit on a quite modestly-sized USB stick. My low-end laptop is virtually unusable when I boot into the Windows XP installation it came with, but Ubuntu works like a charm on it. Linux gives me the opportunity to actually keep my OS at the same size and level of complexity as my computers get faster, so my user experience actually improves rather than degrades from year to year.
posted by Jimbob at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2007


Why? No one EVER asks for that, and I develop software for a living.

I'm sure no one ever goes to you and says "Write leaner code" although I find that surprising. But people certainly do ask for smoother and faster running software. Ask any 3d app developer, ask the guys who coded Guild Wars (the only 3d pc game I've ever played that minimizes to taskbar with no hang up or delay, or really even minimizes to taskbar with no problem at all. period.), or recall the reviews of early OSX, where the bloat and sluggish responsiveness was principal among complaints. then ask the guys who coded the subsequent revisions to OSX and made it the lean and mean beast it currently is, and recall the current reviews of Vista, which frequently complain of the OS's sluggish behavior and bloat. People ask for lean code all the time, even if they don't know that's what they're asking for.

The only thing that makes me think MS might actually fix the bloaty problems in Vista is that almost 10 years ago they released Windows 98, which while certainly imperfect was head and shoulders improved over Windows 95, and almost entirely in performance and bloat terms. But that was almost 10 years ago.
posted by shmegegge at 9:31 AM on May 31, 2007


System 6.0.8 requires 1MB, Windows XP requires 1.5GB and Windows Vista 15GB.

What is it doing with all that space? The only thing I can think of is aero and the entire office suite, but 15gb is still a lot of room.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 9:45 AM on May 31, 2007


Fonts, shared DLL libraries, drivers... still no excuse for >1GB.
posted by odinsdream at 10:12 AM on May 31, 2007


Sure, people ask for software that's less bloated. But has anybody, neckbeards aside, ever paid more for desktop application software that uses less memory or less hard disk space? Of course not; people care about features, and software that's released on time.

In the real world, storage isn't measured in megabytes, it's measured in dollars. And by that measure, the only measure that has any meaning, software is getting less bloated.

"In 1993, given the cost of hard drives in those days, Microsoft Excel 5.0 took up about $36 worth of hard drive space.

In 2000, given the cost of hard drives in 2000, Microsoft Excel 2000 takes up about $1.03 in hard drive space.
"
Joel
posted by Aloysius Bear at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


But has anybody, neckbeards aside, ever paid more for desktop application software that uses less memory or less hard disk space?

Trick question - of course not, because the majority of software fitting these criteria is open-source and freely available.
posted by odinsdream at 10:32 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what desktop application software exists (that people actually use) that is open-source or free? The only thing that provides any competition to Word and Excel is OpenOffice.org, which uses vast amounts of memory and takes far longer to start up than any Office product.

I'm not some Microsoft fanboy — loyalty to or affection for technology companies isn't really my thing — but the more I try the alternatives (OpenOffice, LaTeX/LyX etc), the more I realise that for people just trying to get stuff done, Word and Excel are so far ahead of the competition it's unbelievable.

I think it's fair to say that Microsoft knows how to make money. If the vast engineering effort involved in reducing the memory usage and hard disk requirements of Office actually generated a real return on investment, they probably would have realised that by now.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


They should be putting their effort into reducing the amount of code in every module. They could have teams set up just like they do now, but each team would be graded on how many lines of code they can reduce rather than on how many lines of code they write.

Lines of code as a metric is functionally useless. There is no correlation between number of lines of code and performance. It's like trying to determine the quality of someone's writing by looking at how thick their book is. If you want to optimize something, you put it in a profiler and see what's being called the most. Bloat is a function of poor design, not poor implementation.

System 6.0.8 requires 1MB, Windows XP requires 1.5GB and Windows Vista 15GB.

There is no way Windows Vista requires 15 gigs of hard drive space for an install. That is an outright lie. I re-installed Vista Ultimate last night and it took 4 gigs of hard drive space on a clean drive. Even if you add in the full Office suite (Office 2007 Ultimate) you're still looking at only 5.5 gigs, give or take.

The only thing that makes me think MS might actually fix the bloaty problems in Vista is that almost 10 years ago they released Windows 98, which while certainly imperfect was head and shoulders improved over Windows 95, and almost entirely in performance and bloat terms. But that was almost 10 years ago.

Where exactly is the bloat in Vista? I've been using it since rc2 to run my media center, and other than some nvidia mpeg2 decoder problems, it's been the best version of Windows I've ever used. What do you consider bloat?
posted by SweetJesus at 10:54 AM on May 31, 2007


What do you consider bloat?

It takes longer, quite simply, to open a directory on a hard drive, for one. It takes longer to boot. It takes longer to do a search if the material searched through is not indexed (the new indexed search, on the other hand, is my favorite new feature and I'd commend MS for it if they'd thought of it less than 2 years after Apple had already implemented it,) applications such as Photoshop do not run as well, and games take a significant hit in performance. Aero is very pretty, but it comes at a cost and that cost is overall performance. It takes longer for the start menu to pop up. No, none of it is a deal breaker and most of it isn't even a matter of seconds. But where XP used to open as soon as I clicked it for most things, I can discern a gap between when I've finished clicking in Vista and when the thing I've clicked performs its function. I think Vista's great, but it's not lean, yet.

And I don't know if this counts as bloat, so disregard it if it does not, but I'm getting good and god damned tired of the stupid little pop ups all the god damn time. If I'm watching a video, I don't want a god damn pop up showing up asking me if it's okay to run the divx codec so that I can watch it. If I'm deleting something, I don't want to have to click through THREE god damn pop up confirmations to do so. I do not want to have to click "Ok" every single damn time I boot windows because the logitech drivers for my keyboard set off some damn alarm that causes windows to ask me if it's okay to run it. I understand the security benefits, but this seems like the long way around the problems of XP. No other OS forces me to agree to every damn I action I try to perform, and certainly never multiple times, so what's their secret and why can't MS figure it out? alright, I'm done ranting.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on May 31, 2007


I still use office 97 for all my word and excel needs. It does 90% of what I need, starts instantly and takes up a whopping 36 megs on disk. Plus all the new versions of office are more or less reverse compatible to 97. Now if I only kept a copy of Photoshop 6 around to replace this CS2 boatware..
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2007


First, some basic gaming talk: There is no Bioshock 2. The first Bioshock, which is what was linked to above, hasn't even come out yet. And so far as anyone can tell, the difference between it and Half-Life 2 is, indeed, the monkey wrench. And I guess the art-deco motif. System Shock 2 this ain't, yet.

If we stop thinking of this as "objective test between 80s computer and 2007 computer" and start thinking of this as "guy trying to make a point by doing some stuff and putting them on graphs," then the article will make a lot more sense to everyone. Take a look at the Word and Excel graphs—in the vast majority of cases, the times are very close. Considering that a) we're talking about user experience, and b) the guy probably did this with a stopwatch, I think it's safe to say that the margin of error is pretty close to the gap between the two machines. 0.6 seconds is probably a slightly perceptible difference; 0.2 seconds, not so much.

And then take a look at the actions he's timing. Leaving out the silly ones (type lag? really?) the majority of the actions where the AMD machine lags behind have to do with disk performance. I'm not sure what this means; file formats and applications are more bloated, I suppose, but apparently only enough to impact app loading times by a second, and save/load by a fraction of a second.

Moreover, all of the actions are extremely simple and probably optimized a long time ago. I doubt find/replace algorithms have changed very much in the past twenty years. That's not to say there couldn't be improvement in performance, but if you were a project manager on Excel and you had to figure out how much developer time to devote to shaving 0.2 seconds off the arrange function's execution time, what would you say? We've already been over the "performance vs. new features" argument but even the way that debate is framed implies that the increase in performance would be sizable. We're talking about fractions of a second here.

"We are in the third decade of global personal computing, and have we really progressed that far?" the author asks. Well, if all you're doing is typing out letters to mom in Word and reproducing the ol' 3rd Quarter Results pie charts in Excel, and avoiding "processing-heavy modern software like Photoshop or Crysis," then no. That's not the fault of application developers or bloated operating systems; that's your fault for remaining firmly mired in the 80s, where no one burns DVDs or listens to MP3s or watches YouTube videos. Last I checked, "Curmudgeon shakes cane, rants about walking to school uphill both ways" is not a newsworthy story.
posted by chrominance at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


Except, chrominance, the article isn't about a loss of performance, it's about a loss of gain in performance. You argue that the experience hasn't gotten worse, which is fine, but the article is, at least in part, arguing that it could have gotten a lot better but hasn't. I think it's a fair point to raise, if a bit overdone.
posted by OmieWise at 11:30 AM on May 31, 2007


What chrominance said!


Only in fewer words because holy shit, what an unecessarily bloated post.
posted by sparkletone at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2007


There is no Bioshock 2. The first Bioshock, which is what was linked to above, hasn't even come out yet. And so far as anyone can tell, the difference between it and Half-Life 2 is, indeed, the monkey wrench. And I guess the art-deco motif. System Shock 2 this ain't, yet.

I would beg to differ, but until the game actually comes out we can't tell how many of their promises the game actually delivers on. But so far, they're telling us that the story is at least partially non-linear where half-life 2 was decidedly linear with no deviation. Further, the behavior of characters, except for certain enemies which simply attack no matter what, will depend in part on your behavior throughout the game. For example, since you will have to choose between helping the creepy little girls or killing them for their resources (long story) as one of the main plot points, those girls and the people that depend on them will treat you differently based on which you choose. On a more surface level, this game looks to be incorporating a number of non-weapon based magical abilities, and a weapon modification scheme a la System Shock 2.

Also, does being scary count as a difference? The impression I get is that, due to ammo and resource scarcity reminiscent of System Shock 2, this game will be scary as hell much as SS2 was, while HL2 was not. now I'm done nitpicking.

until someone else gives me something new to nitpick about.
posted by shmegegge at 11:42 AM on May 31, 2007


You argue that the experience hasn't gotten worse, which is fine, but the article is, at least in part, arguing that it could have gotten a lot better but hasn't.

Fair enough, but that's not really much better an argument.

I'd rather have new applications that do more/new things, etc, etc. than roughly the same application I was using 10 years ago, only now it's a little bit faster because it's got a decade of extra optimizations put into it that it wouldn't have otherwise received.
posted by sparkletone at 11:43 AM on May 31, 2007


You can't really blame OpenOffice for having a bloated piece of software whose primary goal is to emulate a bloated piece of software, including reading in files produced from said bloated piece of software.

I sure can, since OpenOffice is even more bloated than what it supposedly replaces.
posted by grouse at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2007


ahh. I think they were getting 15gb off of the system requirements. That lists the space required for the installation and the OS.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 12:04 PM on May 31, 2007


Where exactly is the bloat in Vista? After installing only a few programs, the size of the winsxs folder in Vista was over 3 GB. In XP (with many more apps installed), the winsxs folder is 9 MB. In fact, the entire XP installation on my computer is half the size of that one folder in Vista.
posted by landis at 12:09 PM on May 31, 2007


It takes longer, quite simply, to open a directory on a hard drive, for one. It takes longer to boot. It takes longer to do a search if the material searched through is not indexed (the new indexed search, on the other hand, is my favorite new feature and I'd commend MS for it if they'd thought of it less than 2 years after Apple had already implemented it,) applications such as Photoshop do not run as well, and games take a significant hit in performance. Aero is very pretty, but it comes at a cost and that cost is overall performance. It takes longer for the start menu to pop up. No, none of it is a deal breaker and most of it isn't even a matter of seconds. But where XP used to open as soon as I clicked it for most things, I can discern a gap between when I've finished clicking in Vista and when the thing I've clicked performs its function. I think Vista's great, but it's not lean, yet.

Yeah, but none of what you're talking about is application bloat. When I think of application bloat, I think of something like the new social networking features being added to Firefox 3. I think of software like Real Player which attempts to do 27 things within one software package. I wouldn't think of any of the things mentioned above as "bloat", at least in the traditional sense. It takes longer for Vista to start up on your system than for XP to isn't because Vista is bloated, it's because Vista was designed to run on a newer generation of hardware than XP. It's doing more things, but not necessarily superfluous (bloaty) things. I think a lot of what people consider to be bloat is caused by third party applications installed by an OEM. For example, the retail copy of vista I've bought runs a lot better than the Dell OEM disk that's floating around torrent land. Why? I'm not sure, but I bets it's third party services installed by Dell.

Personally, I see little to no difference in disk access or boot time between XP and Vista, and I use both every day. My XP box can be a little bit quicker to boot, but it's running a core 2 duo vs a core duo on Vista, so it's negligible in my book. Vista doesn't like to have less than 2 gigs of ram, for sure, but rams' cheap and Vista is a lot more efficient with 2 gigs of ram than XP would be (even if the task manager tells you otherwise). The Media Center functionality alone is enough to make me leave XP MCE behind for good. The network auto discovery makes setting up a wireless network take one click and 2 minutes, where XP would sometimes put you in domain hell. The only thing I can really fault MS for is purposely disabling dynamic drive support from non-business versions of Vista - not fucking cool guys.

And I don't know if this counts as bloat, so disregard it if it does not, but I'm getting good and god damned tired of the stupid little pop ups all the god damn time. If I'm watching a video, I don't want a god damn pop up showing up asking me if it's okay to run the divx codec so that I can watch it. If I'm deleting something, I don't want to have to click through THREE god damn pop up confirmations to do so. I do not want to have to click "Ok" every single damn time I boot windows because the logitech drivers for my keyboard set off some damn alarm that causes windows to ask me if it's okay to run it. I understand the security benefits, but this seems like the long way around the problems of XP. No other OS forces me to agree to every damn I action I try to perform, and certainly never multiple times, so what's their secret and why can't MS figure it out? alright, I'm done ranting

Turn off the UAC warning in the control panel. Problem solved.

Except, chrominance, the article isn't about a loss of performance, it's about a loss of gain in performance. You argue that the experience hasn't gotten worse, which is fine, but the article is, at least in part, arguing that it could have gotten a lot better but hasn't. I think it's a fair point to raise, if a bit overdone.

That's great and all, but completely untrue. System 6 doesn't run more than one program at one (multitasking) where as XP/Vista/Insert Modern OS here does. It's like comparing apples to helicopters. Want to really compare application speed in the real world? Encode some FLAC files on both, and see which one is faster. I'm going to guess it's the AMD box...

The article is full of specious reasoning that sounds good to people who don't really know what computers are doing (magic wizards!!!) but like to think they can at least sound knowledgeable enough if they throw enough power point graphs and statistics at you.

Where exactly is the bloat in Vista? After installing only a few programs, the size of the winsxs folder in Vista was over 3 GB. In XP (with many more apps installed), the winsxs folder is 9 MB. In fact, the entire XP installation on my computer is half the size of that one folder in Vista.

That means absolutely nothing, and tells you very little about performance.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2007


That means absolutely nothing, and tells you very little about performance.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the definition of the word bloat?
posted by landis at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2007


Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the definition of the term "software bloat".
Software bloat, or bloatware, is a term used in both a neutral and disparaging sense, to describe the tendency of newer computer programs to be larger, or to use larger amounts of system resources (mass storage space, processing power or memory) than older versions of the same programs, without concomitant benefits being provided to end users.
You have no idea of the benefits or drawbacks from using that amount of storage in Vista, versus XP. You can infer that because it's taking up more space it's less efficient, but you have no proof and are simply jumping to conclusions. Perhaps Vista is now storing temp files in a different place than it was in XP, or storing them in different way than they were stored in XP. You can't make these conclusions without knowing whats going on within the new architecture. Saying "this directory takes up less space in XP than Vista, so therefore Vista is bloated" means nothing...
posted by SweetJesus at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2007


And let us talk about performance. XP uses about 120 MB of RAM at idle; Vista uses over 400. Moving large files takes much longer in Vista. Just sitting there, XP's CPU usage is between 0 and 1 percent: Vista, 2 to 9 (occasionally spiking to 17). And I second the complaint about Vista's sluggishness with even simple things like opening the Start menu.
posted by landis at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2007


And let us talk about performance. XP uses about 120 MB of RAM at idle; Vista uses over 400

Vista is much more efficient with ram on setups that contain greater than 2 gigs. As posted above, the performance monitor in XP is lying to you about ram usage, where as Vista isn't.

XP's CPU usage is between 0 and 1 percent: Vista, 2 to 9 (occasionally spiking to 17).

Again, that's anecdotal and pretty meaningless - it just means Vista is running more background tasks than XP, with no metric to their usefulness verses similar tasks in XP.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:50 PM on May 31, 2007


And just so I'm clear, the numbers I gave above were taken from a laptop running Vista Home Premium, which I then wiped and put XP on. XP ran faster, smoother and more reliably than Vista. Given Vista's larger footprint (mass storage space), gobbling of memory and CPU, etc., one would expect it but run faster and more efficiently; but it didn't. This user found no concomitant benefit from Vista. Therefore, I call Bloatware.
posted by landis at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2007


And just so I'm clear, the numbers I gave above were taken from a laptop running Vista Home Premium, which I then wiped and put XP on. XP ran faster, smoother and more reliably than Vista. Given Vista's larger footprint (mass storage space), gobbling of memory and CPU, etc., one would expect it but run faster and more efficiently; but it didn't.

Why would you ever expect that? Of course XP is going to run faster on newer hardware than Vista because XP was designed to work with a previous generation's hardware. I bet if I wiped down your laptop and installed Windows 3.1 it would boot faster and be more stable than XP, but so what? It was designed for hardware 4 generations ago.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:59 PM on May 31, 2007


From the link SweetJesus posted: Vista is trying its darndest to pre-emptively populate every byte of system memory with what it thinks I might need next. Great, it's a mindreader as well. I don't need my computer second guessing me. And as to the "usefulness" of all the background tasks in Vista, I believe that much of the activity is DRM related.

Vista's DRM runs 30 checks per second.
posted by landis at 1:03 PM on May 31, 2007


No not bloatware! See, much of that added functionality that SweetJesus preaches the praisefulness of usefulness is the wonderfulness of DRM. Yay!
posted by telstar at 1:04 PM on May 31, 2007


Of course XP is going to run faster on newer hardware than Vista . . . . Then what is the effing point of Vista? Shouldn't the latest software on the latest hardware kick the sh*t out of any combination of previous releases? Doesn't the fact that this isn't the case illustrate the problem of bloated software?
posted by landis at 1:16 PM on May 31, 2007


SweetJesus' abject defense of the MS bloatbeast twitched my google finger. Up popped this, which means I am now making firm plans to abandon Windows ASAP. Bloatware is beside the point. M$ is now selling crippleware.
posted by telstar at 1:35 PM on May 31, 2007


SweetJesus, even in the link you post as "proof", the poster comments that Vista's new memory allocation strategies mess up his gaming.

Personally, I'd say that proves exactly the opposite of your stance. Vista takes a ton more RAM and very obviously performs worse with applications that are large and time-critical, like games.

Office may run faster under Vista, but here's a clue: that doesn't matter. Office is fast enough as it is. About the only time you really NEED your computer to run like the dickens these days is when gaming, so in the one situation where you really need your computer to perform at top speed, Vista is notably inferior to XP.

That's clueless design, and it fills the 'bloat' definition pretty damn well.
posted by Malor at 1:35 PM on May 31, 2007


It just gets worse. Vista removes non-M$ software it disapproves of.

And now for a real shocker: Upgrading to Vista is banned by the FAA, DOT, and NIST.

Software so bad that even the government won't use it?

*Shudder*

Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said Vista was so good a service pack would not be needed. Service Pack 1 went into "critical" development even before Vista's public release at the end of January.
posted by telstar at 2:17 PM on May 31, 2007


the article is, at least in part, arguing that it could have gotten a lot better but hasn't. I think it's a fair point to raise, if a bit overdone.

Really? Yeah, I guess Microsoft could've spent years getting file saves to work in 0.5 seconds instead of 1.2 seconds. Would I care or notice? Not bloody likely.

Now, the ludicrous DRM protection and suspicious driver doublecross clusterfuck in Vista? That's bloat, right there. Criticize that. Ripping on current computers because they don't do basic file I/O twenty thousand times faster than a Mac Plus? Yeah, whatever.

to sparkletone: your mom is bloated! oh snap!
posted by chrominance at 3:31 PM on May 31, 2007


SweetJesus, thanks for the UAC switch recommendation. You're my hero.

As for bloat: I'll take your defintion since I'm not a coder, but my understanding of bloat wasn't application specific, because I've always understood bloat to be a combination of inelegant coding and unnecessary features leading to an ultimately poorer performance benchmark for the same task on comparable systems.

That being the case, I don't see Vista performing worse on my Opteron with 1 gig of RAM than XP did as all that bad an indicator of bloat. I won't insist that everyone look at things the way I do, but if I hear that it performs proportionally better above a certain hardware threshold I think "Well, why can't it perform proportionally better at my hardware level. My box ain't that ancient. I'm not trying to run it on a 486, here, and if it takes 2 gigs of ram to get the start menu to pop up as cleanly that's a pretty serious problem." You know? There shouldn't, to my mind, have been a point in the development of vista where the act of opening up my system drive contents should have required more resources since my gfx card (ati radeon X800 pro (AGP)) can easily handle Aero and my current hard drive is newer and MUCH faster (SATA drive as opposed to IDE, for one thing, but just generally furiously fast). So I wonder, where's the hangup? Indexing should happen in the background, so I can't see why that would have anything to do with it. Seems Windows is just busy thinking about something else, and nothing should be that taxing to MY machine in particular when the computer is at rest.

Yes, it's anecdotal, but I see little reason to think of Vista as being in any way lean. I think it's great, for the most part, but it needs some tweaking.

Also, Media Center I love but it drives me crazy. Damn thing crashes constantly, and for some reason it stopped playing sounds when I navigate its menus, and yes I checked the settings and checked and unchecked and rechecked the "play audio in menus" option. but that's just me ranting some more. have a nice day.
posted by shmegegge at 3:54 PM on May 31, 2007


SweetJesus, thanks for the UAC switch recommendation. You're my hero.

You're welcome. It is quite annoying.

"Well, why can't it perform proportionally better at my hardware level. My box ain't that ancient. I'm not trying to run it on a 486, here, and if it takes 2 gigs of ram to get the start menu to pop up as cleanly that's a pretty serious problem."

Eh, it's a resource problem. All the problems I had with Vista running with 1 gig of ram (and there were lots of problems and general instability) have vanished after I added another gig. It's a memory hungry os, and with memory prices being what they are, I don't see this as a truly prohibitive problem. 80 bucks and you're fine.

Also, Media Center I love but it drives me crazy. Damn thing crashes constantly, and for some reason it stopped playing sounds when I navigate its menus, and yes I checked the settings and checked and unchecked and rechecked the "play audio in menus" option. but that's just me ranting some more. have a nice day.

The second MediaCenter rollout update takes care of a lot of the problems associated with running Vista Media Center out of the box. I had initial problems with the guide not being very responsive, but the update smoothed everything out. I get very few crashes with constant use.

About the only time you really NEED your computer to run like the dickens these days is when gaming, so in the one situation where you really need your computer to perform at top speed, Vista is notably inferior to XP.

If you're a gamer, I guess. If you run a business, it's different.

Vista's DRM runs 30 checks per second.

So what? My screen refresh happens 75 times a second, what's your point? Are you talking about PMP? If so, go take your beef to the MPAA and RIAA who strong-armed it into Vista in the first place. Microsoft could either give you HD with DRM or no HD at all, so place the blame where it's deserved - the RIAA, MPAA and CableLabs.

Software so bad that even the government won't use it?

The government doesn't update until well after the OS and the first service pack has come out. It has nothing to do with the quality of Vista, it has to do with standard operating and procurement procedures. In 4 years I almost guarantee that the government will be upgrading to Vista.

Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said Vista was so good a service pack would not be needed.

No he didn't. He said that the company had no plans for releasing a service pack prior to the release of Vista. Seeing as how most businesses don't upgrade until after the first service pack, I don't think Ballmer would say this.
posted by SweetJesus at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2007


So what? My screen refresh happens 75 times a second, what's your point?

Que le fuck? Are we really gonna have to explain the difference between hardware and software to you? But hey, in a perfect M$ world, all e-policing would be done in every piece of hardware, right SweetJesus? Luckily for all of us, I believe I'm hearing M$'s swan song. Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.
posted by telstar at 6:59 PM on May 31, 2007


Okay maybe "bloat" isn't the word. Maybe we're just talking about wasteful and inefficient coding. Once upon a time, when CPU cycles and memory was expensive, programmers were forced to optimize the shit out of their code in order to make it run as fast as possible.

Now people are spoilt - you've got so much RAM to play with, so much processing speed, that coding for maximum efficiency and simplicity seems to be considered no-longer necessary. The end result, however, when you add up all these inefficiencies, is less responsive software.

The Windows XP desktop I'm sitting at now is great at straight-out processing. And I need that for what I do with the PC - complex database queries, statistical modelling, GIS, warping and stitching satelite images and aerial photographs together. It does stuff that a computer 10 years ago simply wouldn't have been able to do.

But it still takes 3+ minutes to boot. Clicking on an email to read it in Outlook can, sometimes, take up to 15 seconds. Opening a folder can take 5-10 seconds sometimes. And these are the things that matter. Yes, the raw processing power is brilliant, but my day-to-day frustrations would diminish if these little every-day things happened faster. And the linked article shows that, in this area, there really hasn't been much improvement.

And no-one here has addressed why Vista needs 2gb of RAM. My laptop is running Ubuntu in 256mb of RAM. For the basic functionality of the OS - running everyday programs, typing documents, browsing the web, all that - can sometime tell me why Vista requires that much memory when Linux can do things quite efficiently in 1/8th the amount? I don't see why you wouldn't call that bloat. That memory, those CPU cycles are being used for something unnecessary - how do I know it's unnecessary? Because Linux isn't doing it, isn't using that memory, and it's still 100% functional for my purposes.
posted by Jimbob at 7:10 PM on May 31, 2007


Telstar: only happens when you're using a DRMed data path and DRMed media. I think SweetJesus' point is that lots of things happen on the machine at a rate that seems 'excessive' but when measured objectively don't mean much at all.

And good luck with that demise prediction; you're in esteemed, visionary, and thus far very mistaken company.
posted by abulafa at 7:56 PM on May 31, 2007


I found this article nicely outlined what's happening with Vista.
posted by juiceCake at 8:08 PM on May 31, 2007


That pretty much affirmed my prejudice about the first-person shooter/cane-hitter genre. Aside from the annoying groans of the hero, what makes this different from Doom?

Aside from the different actors, what makes Apocalypse Now different than The Patriot?

Why do people always make the same stupid argument about any genre? "lol, what makes I Am Legend different than Buffy the Vampire BBS fan fiction? lol, they both have vampires and tell a story using first-person pronouns!

I mean, sure, by all means, you can make an argument that a lot of FPS games are derivative (of course, you'd then have to successfully argue that a videogame has to be original in order to fulfill it's aim). But you're cracking on Bioshock, of all things?! It looks utterly enthralling. A pox on you.
posted by The God Complex at 10:35 PM on May 31, 2007


Saying that Vista is banned by the FAA etc, is silly. I worked in IT for the government and despite the fact that Win2000 was better than windows 95 in nearly every way imaginable, it still took about 2 years after its release for it to get rolled out even to secretaries' desktops, let alone mission critical stuff, which had been running on various Unixes for decades, probably.

Vista is a piece of shit, but some government agency declining to roll it out right away doesn't mean much.
posted by empath at 8:13 PM on June 1, 2007


I'll say this though, I work with a lot of end users in a lot of small businesses in my current help-desk job, and the vast, vast majority of them are running windows XP.

I've run into more Mac users than vista users, I think.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on June 1, 2007


And let us talk about performance. XP uses about 120 MB of RAM at idle; Vista uses over 400.

If an OS is not using your RAM, what is the point of having it? Vista pre-caches common tasks to boost performance; an OS can release memory in milliseconds if it is requested for something initiated by the user.

If anything, you just misunderstand what kind of performance indicator memory usage is.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:15 PM on June 1, 2007


Well, certainly this article is extremely flawed. On the other hand it basically reaches the same conclusion that has been reached every time people have bothered to look at actual productivity and computerization since the 1980s. To sum up the argument: Human processes are often the rate-limiting step in any real-world productivity system. The word processor did not produce substantial gains over the typewriter, because business secretaries went from a process involving two versions to a process involving dozens. (Actually, I've found when writing on a deadline that it helps to go back to the two-version write-proofread-edit process. It removes the temptation to twiddle every sentence.) Meanwhile, on-screen edits and copy and paste introduced new types of errors.

The companies that won big by computerization are those that were able to automate entire systems and lay off hundreds of employees in the process.

Of course someone will say something like, "what about mail merge?" They are good questions but an interesting effect of some types of technology is that improvements in X means that the requirements for X are raised to sap any actual productivity gains. You can't send a single letter to a Xerox machine and stuff envelopes with labels printed from a database, you have to set up a mail merge with a custom salutation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:09 AM on June 2, 2007


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