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A corporation run by BillGates? and based in Redmond, Washington. They produced or at least marketed MS-DOS, Windows, WindowsNT, PocketPC, InternetExplorer, and a number of other things. To the world, they are the people who brought computers and computing to the masses, and this is pretty much true. To others, including Linux users, they are the embodiment of all that is wrong with today's computing, and I feel this is pretty much true, too.


The assertion that Microsoft was somehow not responsible or credible for MS-DOS is false. They certainly bought v. 1.0 (most large companies buy many of their 1.0 products; this is a good thing). However, later on they took control of the code through future versions. I don't think anyone seriously considers DOS to be what it was in its first release, or even before v. 3.1 (v. 2.1 if you're really old). -- SunirShah

The interesting thing, to me, is that MicroSoft, at the time they bought DOS from tim Patterson was NOT a large company. They were a very small company writing Basic interpreters in assembler. BillGates? saw the business before the others could even think about it and the money was well deserved. -- AndreaDalessandro

"The money was well deserved" is rather a non-sequitur. And in any case, Bill Gates's money is hardly the main issue when it comes to evaluating him and Microsoft with yay, nay, or something in between.


True about DOS. I thought that putting in a starting paragraph with a long explanation of what happened with QDOS wouldn't be good. (I figured someone would put it in sooner or later.) In my mind, MicroSoft has been a decent applications company but a fairly bad OperatingSystems? company, and the QDOS story plays into that. I thought my self-control was pretty good for allowing myself to say a single nice thing about them. -- DaveJacoby

I'm running with NT4SP6a at work, and it is relatively stable. Until today, I could get it to tell me it had run out of virtual memory by three steps: Log in, open Outlook and open IE. Now I'm running this 350MHz chip with double the RAM (128MB) and it is somewhat decent. I've gotten it to BlueScreenOfDeath? once or twice, but this was via totally squashing memory. Of course, I've found that there are things you can add to WindowsNT to make it acceptable to a unix fan: CygWin?, ActivestatePerl?, ActivestatePython? and Mozilla (I actually like it). At home, add PuTTY? for SSH and that's good stuff. --DaveJacoby (Linux advocate, BeOS fan and neophyte OpenVMS? SysAdmin. Kill me now.)

2K seems better than NT4, but they are still both based on really bad design. Lots of things in them seem to have just sort of grown, rather than been designed. Brings to mind mushrooms in damp places. I've had 2K server crash on me several times since I downloaded Netscape 6. If a user app can crash an OS, there's a major problem with the OS (not to mention the app). --ErikDeBill

So Mozilla must die because NT must die? The way I've always looked at it was that most programmers get their first system done some time in college. (We're talking about Brook's definition of first system.) So, programmers are then hired by MicroSoft and put to work. They come up with their second system with Windows, and because stuff is based on it starting with released, the cruft of many generations of SecondSystemEffect? piles up.

We're looking at a HandHeld solution using PocketPCs?, WirelessEthernet and all that. I hope that's better, but I'm sure there's too much in their micro-OperatingSystem and it sucks the batteries dry.

Blame the hardware first. Software can only drain the batteries if it continually pulls the processor out of sleep mode. Schedule-based operating systems that are spooged onto embedded devices (including Linux for you zealots out there), drain the batteries quite quickly as they are always waking up the system. Event-based operating systems fair better because they only activate when needed. Nonetheless, the chief drains on battery life are the wattage requirements of the processor, the clock rate, and the screen.


About 2 more edits and this page needs to be refactored :-) Especially as I'm about to move this even farther off topic. This next bit will probably need to go under OperatingSystem - I just haven't figured out the best glue.

To my mind, there are 2 kinds of OperatingSystems?. The first is a dedicated OS. It's what you use when you are only concerned about doing 1 or 2 things. You want it to work like an appliance. Dedicated webservers are a good example. So are the embedded computers that control manufacturing equipment. In this situation you can very carefully test everything that's going to run on the computer (because there isn't much), and a system that can be broken easily isn't a problem. You just don't do whatever causes the breakage.

Much harder to produce are general purpose Operating Systems. These are what you use on someone's desktop. They have to run a huge variety of software, on a wide variety of hardware. They have to protect the system from the software which runs on it. They have to deal with users. They need lots and lots of features (e.g. a file server OS like that used on a Network Appliance doesn't need to be able to run Java. A GPOS does.) For a long time, this has been what people thought of when you said OperatingSystem.

Microsoft markets Windows ME and Windows 2000 as general purpose OperatingSystems?. ME fails miserably (remember, you don't want to have to worry about random software crashing the system... ) 2000 comes closer. But both are insufficiently bullet proof. Microsoft has also marketed 2000 and NT as special purpose, dedicated OperatingSystems?. In some niches, they work well. In others they fail miserably (don't try to use NT in a realtime environment - you end up making your hardware pick up the slack for an OS that can't get it right).

That said, they may be the best general purpose solutions for nontechnical users with minimal support. MacOS is less stable. Linux/Unix is still a bit rough around the edges. I'm going to be looking closely at MacOS X to see how that works out...

Windows would be the perfect example of WorseIsBetter if only it had one key ingredient it dearly misses: the ability to be improved to perform the "other" 20% - and that's tainted because of the policy they use. Now to explain. I'm most certainly convinced that Windows is the best general purpose solution for nontechical users at this time (I'm 100% convinced Linux will catch up - it's already much more than I hoped for a couple of years ago when my Linux partition crashed after having to reset the machine using the button because it simply stopped doing anything - and that you won't see on Windows). The first thing I see as working incredibly poor on Linux (as compared to Windows on the same machine) is the graphic interface. Yes, call me stupid, but I want to use a Notepad-like editor instead of vi when I don't have to, I want to have a stable simpleton's Word-like text editor and I want to have an overall feeling of being obeyed when I open a new browser window rather that feeling like waiting for the OS to pop it up (it takes almost a full second for a bloody empty browser window to pop up on my 600MHz PIII). Now that's the bad of Linux, and on top of that is the far inferior filesystem, from the loser's point of view (slower and more prone to problems after a crash). Those things will keep newbies away from Linux and will send them directly into the greedy arms of Mr. Gates. And that's why Windows is WorseIsBetter. The problem with Windows (and the problem with WorseIsBetter, as I see it) is that a WorseIsBetter system never evolves in a right system (if you're unfamiliar with the topic, do read DickGabriel's [Worse Is Better]). But let's pick up the newbie's story: after a couple of years she's newbie no more - she understands how the system works, and she starts to feel the limits imposed on her by MicroSoft: she'd like to further customize her applications, she'd like to write some clever pieces of code to automate some tedious daily tasks, or maybe even write some new functionality into an existing program. [I'm avoiding the money topic deliberately.] But she can't do either of those things. Although she may not know it, what she feels now is the regret of not starting with the right thing instead of the WorseIsBetter thing - but, alas!, it's too late! Because as much as hackers generally ridicule the typical Windows user, it's really hard to start from scratch learning the basics when you know that on the other operating system you would've done this and that and that in no time - instead you have to read through obscure documentation sources, "Google stuff out" and be treated rude when not following the netiquette on a mailing list. So, she most certainly will stick to Windows until Linux bla-bla, you know the story. What I wanted to point out here are two things people generally miss when talking about this over-discussed issue: on one hand that Windows (and WorseIsBetter in general) will never be the right thing, so it will lose in the foreseeable future no matter what, and on the other hand the fact that Windows users genuinely want to switch to Linux - if only it would be easier to install/use/maintain, of course. --BogdanStancescu

The question here is "Is Windows an example of WorseIsBetter" I don't think that Windows is an example of what people mean by that phrase --DaveJacoby I agree on the two types of OperatingSystems? up there. To my mind, you need to armor-plate the OperatingSystem and clean up the UserInterface so you have a powerful, working operating system for the computer to work with, but you don't have to put the keys into the hand of a user that doesn't want to drive it like that. To my mind, the combination of BSD and Macintosh in OS X is what is necessary. I of course still like Linux. --DJ

Windows Notepad is an excellent example of what is bad about Windows. I'm told this has been fixed for 2000 and XP, but in Win95 and 98, the Notepad application doesn't conform to the (supposedly) standard interface shortcuts -- CTRL-S for save, O for open, Q for quit and F for find -- none of them work. MS can't even be consistent across its bundled apps.

Perhaps MS is opposed in principle from its lightweight apps benefiting from an API. MS seems opposed in principle to lightweight anything. What on earth do the weigh down .pst files with? Or .rtf?

They have added the control key things to Notepad in Windows 2000. Remember when Notepad had a 64k ceiling?

Notepad is bad, I know, but I'm guessing that it's bad partially so that people still have need for things like UltraEdit?. If you're the only one developing for your operating system, you have a problem. --DaveJacoby

I feel utterly compelled to point out that if you have a nice computer, with a ethernet card (and or modem) a cd burner, a printer, a scanner, a mouse and graphics tablet, and a digital camera... for example, and you then get yourself a shrink-wrapped, brand spanking new windows 98 (just what I had access to) installation CD, the installation will fail somewhere near the end because of missing drivers, and you will be just plain stuck sitting there with a useless computer.

Now do the same thing with ANY Linux distro. First thing is, it will take about 1/3 the amount of time for the installation... second thing is almost everything will work as if by magic when the installation is finished... third thing is you will be on the net before you even realise it has happened and you will be able to find somebody to help you configure whatever it is that doesn't work.

And, of course all the apps are already there with the Linux distro... you don't have to go out with a well-primed credit card and buy a cartload of buggy proprietary malware.


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