Why Is Windows XP Bad?

A while back I wrote up a small article on Windows Me and what a bad "Operating System" it was. Much of the computer industry shared the same or similar viewpoints about it. Windows Millenium Edition really showed how something was not to be done. It was and still is slow, prone to crashing, exceptionally buggy and nontolerant of older ISA hardware even if it has the drivers to start with.

Now I'm writing about Windows XP and I don't believe that I have the same "following" if you will. Maybe I'm only kidding myself about that, or perhaps people have finally grown tolerant of poor quality and bad design? Maybe the people buying computers these days are folks who don't have much technical experience or they are people just don't care any more. Good or bad, the home computer market has exploded and computers have become the one thing that everyone thinks they need.
To start this page off, Microsoft no doubt felt a need to cater to the many thousands of people having problems with locating their new computer's power switch. The default interface is one that I find oversimplified and quite frankly I find it insulting as well. I've heard a quote that sums it up pretty well--"I was expecting the Teletubbies to jump over the hill on the default wallpaper used in XP any moment." The new interface is a toy, intended not to be powerful or even able to take much serious use--it is for beginners. I have no problem if a company wants to serve the audience who just bought a computer for the first time in their life...but Microsoft really went overboard. You don't make something easier by making it look like a toy. You limit what it can do and force everyone to relearn how to work the computer's operating software.

So far I'm nothing more than opinionated, but please allow me to continue...

The new interface also draws my ire because of the fact that it is "skin" based. For those not familiar with the concept, a skin is a set of bitmap images (maybe not in bitmap form to start with but they end up in that format on your screen) that is used by a given product to make its user interface (UI) more "attractive" or "cool looking". However, with any skin based system in use, you get quite a performance penalty not only in display quickness, but also in CPU cycles. It is much harder to draw in all those bitmaps with their many colors and shades than it is to draw a standard UI at any time. Some might think that perhaps caching of the bitmaps solves this problem, but it only makes for a more bloated program or OS that only requires more memory to perform adequately. XP does allow its "default" skin and UI to be turned off, but the "classic Windows" UI that appears after that is just another skin. Programs that use skins don't seem to be able to use a "standard" UI at any point and Windows XP appears to be no different.

The skins alone can make the system very draggy and rob you of a lot of valueable CPU cycles even if you have a system "fast enough" to keep up. You can't get the most out of your system when it is throwing around a wasteful UI like that. If you want to, compare the system requirements of Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It isn't any "improvements" that have changed the requirements from 133MHz to 300.

Microsoft's "activation technology" that appeared for the first time in Windows and Office XP has drawn a lot of angry comments and articles studying it in depth. I'm not going to touch on it very much here, but I think Microsoft is out of line to implement such a system thinking that it will totally stop software piracy and theft from occuring. In a few years, if you have a need to get XP up and going--long after Microsoft has shut down activation for it--what will you do? Hacks exist now to bypass activation, but I'm not sure I would trust any of them because they only seem to appear in some fairly seedy areas of "cyberspace".

There's the issue of stability. Upon its release to the world, XP was touted as being based on the stable and efficient Windows NT core that is also used by Windows 2000 and NT. It is questionable whether or not the home computer world ever needed more than the core used by Windows 9x family products. I won't touch on that particular aspect here--anything I could say there is an opinion when I talk about whether or not NT based products ever belonged in the home. XP gives a bad name to the NT line of products. Sure, you start with a stable and proven core (it has problems, but I think there are far less than Win9x products show) but you add what I'd call unusually gaudy interfaces on system tools--made mostly of HTML and bitmapped images--and then you throw "skinned" UIs on top of that. Has Microsoft not ever heard that the more tasks a given machine attempts, the less thorougly and correctly it can accomplish each one? Even if you've written the most stable core and shell you can, forcing it to bring in web browser components in an active role will result in a less successful recovery from a crash than if you had the UI running on just one level instead of accessing multiple software components of varying levels and quality.

XP's stability also takes another turn. Both disk manufacturers and most any disk caching software available today create and use write caches. It is no big secret to anyone familiar with computers that disaster can be the result if a drive or cache chokes on attempts to truly write out data on the disk or storage medium. XP seems to love to do this--I've seen it lock up or crash in other ways and upon a reboot the file system was destroyed because data stored in the write cache of either the hard disk or possibly XP's own caching didn't get written out. This occurs on platforms other than XP, but where I have seen it happen once or twice on Windows 98 or NT, it has happened 5 times that I know of with XP based systems.

Then there is security. No Microsoft product ever made has been truly secure or properly secure (pick one or both depending upon product) but XP touts more security than previous Windows products as I understand it. Gibson Research Corporation's Steve Gibson has written some very good articles on how Microsoft only makes XP and Windows based security more of a joke from what I read there.

I could continue this article about Windows XP, but I think you've probably heard enough to make your own decision on whether or not it is a product you want to be using. If it isn't, tell your friends, tell people considering the purchase of a computer, and tell Microsoft that this sort of thing isn't what you want.
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