(mis)adventures in software development...

18 December 2018

Wayward Windows

Category Technology

Some superficial ruminations on planned obsolescence; Or, I wrote this post on my Linux box while waiting for my Windows laptop to boot.

In some occasional but disturbing fever dreams I consider buying another Windows device.

Then I power up one of my old Windows laptops and any such desire rapidly fades.

Waiting for an old Windows machine to boot up has a way of focusing the mind on the deficiencies of Windows as an operating system. And the ever-increasing boot times provide more and more time to contemplate the many and varied ways in which Windows disappoints and annoys.

One possible way to prevent oneself from impulse buying anything online is to try and do it on an old, underpowered Windows machine. By the time it boots, you’d have forgotten what you were going to buy. By the time a a browser loads (and then probably updates itself) you’ve most likely gone away to do something else, and forgotten why you powered the thing on in the first place.

I don’t use Windows much anymore — my development work these days is done mostly on Linux, sometimes a Mac.

So booting up one of my old Windows machines is inevitably an exercise in frustration. The frustration of the long boot up time, the endless hard drive thrashing before being presented with a useable desktop. Then there’s Windows Update. The slowdown to the point of being unusable, as Windows installs updates in the “background”. Windows Update increasingly seems like punishment for using Windows sparingly — the less you use the device in questions, the longer the wait for it to update, and the less useable the device is in the meantime. Yes, I get that security is important, but all this is hardly conductive to getting anything useful accomplished.

Of course, the two ageing Windows laptops I have are hardly representative of modern Windows machines — one a Windows 7 era machine, the other Windows 8, both with mechanical hard drives, and both now running Windows 10. But they were both powerfull machines for their time — both Core i7 processors (albeit many generations old), with plenty of RAM. It’s most likely the mechanical hard drives that are the main performance drag — it really is astonishing the difference solid state drives make to performance.

Though I do still wonder if the performance has to be this bad on older hardware? I wonder if any developer in any position to influence any operating system development still encounters machines with mechanical hard drives? Probably not, so either through unconscious bias or intentional design, OS development now assumes SSD hardware, and therefore modern operating systems run far more crappier than they should on older hardware.

Either way, the crappiness of Windows running on old hardware really doesn’t inspire confidence at best, and moreover acts as a deterrent to buying any new hardware with the intention of running Windows on it. Especially pricier, upper end hardware like Surface devices. Sure, they’ll probably be nice and performative initially. But how long before the usual Windows software rots sets in? How long before the shiny new device of desire becomes another laggy mess?