Friday, July 11, 2008

After Extensive Study...

Windows Vista doesn't suck.

No, really, it doesn't. If you turn off all that stupid, slow, 3d transparent desktop crap, and tweak the services so that most of them aren't starting up every time you boot up; it's at least acceptable.

But MAN is it a resource hog.

Basically because I was irritated at how little free physical memory my computer systems with 3 or 4 gigs of RAM actually have while running Vista, I decided to figure out just how small a footprint I could get Vista down to.

Unsurprisingly, the answer was "not very small".

A default OEM install, with nvidia drivers, but with no extra applications or services running, starts over 120 processes, with over 1200 threads; and a physical memory footprint in excess of 1.5 gigabytes.

With superfetch enabled of course that footprint will simply grow larger over time, until the memory is at least 2/3 filled with crap.

By uninstalling every single thing not necessary to the operation of the computer, and disabling every single service that could be disabled and still have the computer function properly (including sound and network), I was able to get down to 40 running processes, with 650 threads, and just over 700mb memory footprint.

That by the way, includes shutting off every little bit of the graphical stupidity of vista; which reverts to a Win 2k style interface; along with all the "protect myself from myself" features like the automatic backup functionality, the indexing server etc... Basically all the power hogs on a system.

The hard disk footprint of this stripped install, not including the pagefile or hibernation file (but including all current patches, and windows updates, with their install files deleted) was 18gb.

Jesus H. Frikken Christ on a Pogo Stick.

Now, this was on Vista home premium, 32 bit. I have another machine running 64 bit, but it's a laptop so there is a little bit of extra crap that has to run in the background, but the big difference is that Vista 64 runs more and larger threads by default, because it runs 32 and 64 bit threads for many different processes.

By default, running as booted without any extras starting up etc... The system runs over 110 processes, and over 1200 threads; with a memory footprint of around 1.7gb.


After judicious trimming, uninstalling all unnecessary programs, and stopping all unnecessary running proceses and services; Vista 64 still leaves a footprint of 45 running processes, 60 running services, 580 running threads, and 900 megabytes of memory.

I just happen to have boxes here running XP and several versions of Linux for comparison.

Not that XP was any speed demon, and lord knows it can have very high process counts as well; but I know from previous tests, that I can get a fully stripped XP install down to about 14 processes, and under 64 megs of memory used; with a hard drive footprint of under a gig (though it wont install unless it has something like 1.4 gigs available).

That's a ridiculously stripped down image though. This machine, jsut running standard XP sp3, with all patches and updates, has a footprint of 21 processes, 310 threads, and just over 100mb of ram; with a windows disk footprint of 1.6 gigs.

Now, it's not exactly fair to compare Linux and windows, for one thing, Linux manages processes and threads very differently; so the process counts are much higher. That said, we can compare memory footprints quite easily.

Right now, today, I can run a fully functional linux distro, with a standard desktop environment and window manager, and all the normal processes and services running, (and I do, with a testing virtual machine), in just over 128 megs of RAM, and 500 megs of hard drive space.

A more "normal" desktop install runs with about 300 megs of RAM used, with a BUNCH of stuff running in the background, and normal desktop type applications. The total hard drive footprint on that install is just under a gig.

Our computers today have over 6000 times the processing power (and that's not hyperbole) 8000 times the memory, and over 1,000,000 times the storage capacity of the original IBM PC; and yet our basic tasks are only marginally faster.

Ok... a fairer comparison...

When I first got "broadband" in my home, almost exactly ten years ago, in the spring of 1998 (I had a high bandwidth connection from college, the Air Force etc... long before that, but not in my home); I had a 300 mhz PII, with 512mb of RAM (a huge amount at the time) and two 32gb hard drives.

That was pretty kick ass at the time by the way.

I tri-booted windows NT 4, windows 98, and slackware.

As of today, my primary desktop is a 3ghz Core2 quad (that's effectively four processors), with 4 gigs of RAM, and three 500 gigabyte hard drives.

Oh and I dual boot Win Vista, and Kubuntu; with Solaris, Ubuntu, Redhat, FreeBSD, and XP virtual machines using virtualbox (I can't get the hackintosh disk to install on a VM yet)

So in ten years, my processor has become 10 times as fast (actually a lot more than that with the efficiencies of new microarchitectures), I've got four of them in one box, I've got 8 times the memory, and 25 times the storage.

Thing is, for all my basic tasks: Checking web pages, checking email, writing documents, listening to music etc... my actual speed to perform these tasks hasn't become appreciably faster.

You can't even make the claim that I'm seeing far more features etc... Because really I'm not. I'm using pretty much the same features... and often the same programs, though of course greatly updated versions.

Now some things are FAR better, like video encoding and playback, music encoding and playback, and game performance (well... game performance isn't better, but games are doing 10 times as much graphically and with their artifical intelligence so it comes out even); but still, the same old office and network apps, still run the same old way in the same old time. The only real change, is that I can have more windows open at once without slowing down or crashing... usually.

This is the dilemma that has faced the PC industry since the massive spending orgy that was Y2K. Lots and lots of folks upgraded for y2k to the best thing they could afford, and then, instead of upgrading every three years as had been the previous pattern, they basically stopped upgrading.

Most people who bought a computer in 2000 or 2001 didnt bother upgrading until 2005 or 2006. If they bought in 2003, they probably haven't bothere to upgrade until.. right around now, if at all.

No-one who isn't a hardcore gamer, media freak, or early adopter/gadgethound has really bothered to upgrade their 2ghz machines with 2 gigs of ram, running XP; that they bought in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, or 2007 (yes really, that was pretty much the default config for a full four years), and which still run just fine today.

Now, as of this month, XP is officially no longer being sold; and as of August of 2009 all support for it will be dropped; theoretically forcing everyone to upgrade.

Of course many large corporations have announced they won't be doing so even if MS tries to cut them off; and I'm sure many consumers are going to follow suit.

So MS... please tell me why Vista is SO DAMN HUGE? ...I mean other than because it had to be, to force consumers to upgrade; thus continuing your cash cow cycle with major system vendors paying the microsoft tax, as we consumers are forced to fork over our hard earned cash for ever decreasing efficiency.

UPDATE: Just today, I had to wipte and install a system for my father in law; and I took the opportunity to use a slipstreamed OEM install with asolutely NOTHING in it.

After disabling all unneccessary services and background processes, I was able to get down to 32 processes, 490 threads, and 390mb memory footprint, with a total disk footprint of abouyt 7 gigs.

Now remember, that is literaly nothing else installed but windows; not even the drivers for the machine.