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Chicks dig RAM

Back when I was in college, I had a good friend named Ian. Ian was an interesting chap, well known for his ability to pull absurd comments out of nowhere. We were part of the upper echelon of geeks in a university known for being full to the brim already, so these witticisms of his were often of a technology-centric nature...including my favourite:

"Chicks dig RAM."

This wonderful concept came about (and was later made into a running joke) when he had upgraded his computer to play the then-upcoming Everquest 2 (or Evercrack, as we not-so-affectionally coined it). He had been in love with the original, which he skipped pretty much every class for.

I always had this mental image of a 25 or 30 year old Ian (we've fallen out of touch, sadly) wandering into a party and sitting next to some rather attractive lady. Shy on looks but long on personality, I could see him starting to flounder, made awkward by the scent of perfume, to the point where he looks at her and says "I've got 512 megs, baby...so much, you can barely hold it." It really would be an "Ian" move.

The beauty of it is, back in 2000 and 2001, 512MB was a LOT - enough that Windows 2000 only used about 15-20 percent of it at max. Often, the computer would idle with barely over 10 percent used. We could say that Win2k was efficient, but I think the more proper word is "sparse" compared to what we're used to nowadays.

"I've got 512 megs, baby...so much, you can barely hold it."

When Windows XP came out, however, that all changed. Many of us got the beta, and the Computer Science department even got full copies. It was new - shiny and pretty, though it didn't seem to me (as a more casual user at the time) that all that much outside of a prettier start bar had changed. Well, the start bar and my now newly devoured RAM - XP took up over 100MB of my precious 384MB at idle, cutting into "precious" free resources.

XP was a resource hog...and it took me a reformat to get rid of its evil clutches, 4GB of hard drive space (on a 10GB drive!) and go back to my pristine, efficient Win2k installation.

After all, as I had mentioned, XP didn't really offer that much difference as compared to Windows 2000 - at least not at the user interface level. I had the same general "start bar" design (I was quite let down by that, hoping that in this "huge leap", Microsoft may have learned to do something actually cool like think for me), the same "Explorer" feel that I was used to since practically Windows 3.1. And at the time, I didn't know enough to understand what could be different underneath the level that I worked with it from.

My, how things have changed, haven't they? We've gone from an average of 256MB for the "Technorati" to 4GB of stuff that is literally ten times faster, and from 10GB drives to 750GB. Processors? My old Pentium III 500MHz from those days was top of the line - now I've got a quad-core overclocked well above 3GHz.

But, enough reminiscing. Have you tried Vista yet? If you haven't, well, there's a lot of opinions to go read on it. But whether you like it or hate it, one thing has been constantly in the headlines and opinions worldwide - it uses too much of the resources you have. Vista, my friends, is a resource hog. At least, by popular definition.

"XP didn't really offer that much difference as compared to Windows 2000 - at least not at the user interface level."

It would be one thing if Vista provided anything that was different than XP does. But, as stated by much of the same popular clique that brands it a resource hog, about all that it has to offer is a shiny new start bar and a couple window effects ripped straight from OSX. I sure am glad we cleared that up.

Wait, hold on while I put my brain back in and stop being a sheeple...what?!

I mean, I understand there's an "I r kool cuz I hatez Redmond" fan club and all, but since when did teenage rebel-without-a-clue attitude become the only thing people will listen to? Do you honestly believe that it took MS this long to pretty up the start bar so that it could be forced down your throat at every commercial turn?

Before I get into why the Vista attitudes are really driving me batty, I want to get one thing off of my chest. Microsoft is a very big and very rich company. And if it wanted to get bigger and richer by peddling re-dressed start bars, it would be releasing them yearly (or at least bi-annually) instead of employing thousands of the world's best programmers to only release one effort after six years.

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Brett Thomas

It does not take thousands of programmers six years to simply change the graphic on a start bar and move some code from PowerPC to x86 architecture, okay? And Microsoft surely did not pay them to keep up appearances while they went on vacations and drank slurpies, all so that you would have to go spend a lousy couple hundred quid after six years. The economics to that idea are not viable - so if that's all you see in Vista, you are a lost cause and I cannot help you.

"If that's all you see in Vista, you are a lost cause and I cannot help you."

There, I have finally said it in clear enough terms. Now, for those of you who aren't wearing tin-foil hats and thinking I must also be being paid by MS in order to keep you from the truth, let's look at that "resource hog" aspect.

It's taken us six years to get Vista, right? XP sure has been around a while. In fact, you can look at the start of this whole rant and see just what kind of specs we had back then. Pentium 4 was just introduced, 256MB RAM was fairly standard, the lucky ones had 512MB and a GeForce 2 or Rage card. Voodoo had just done the fore-runner to SLI. It seems so long ago.

Over time, that hardware grew and changed - but most people, including most non-Linux users out there, aren't too keen on re-installing their OS to change with it...or even worse, having to buy new versions regularly, like most software does. Many people were dragged kicking and screaming from Windows 98, and that was a few years before - they skipped Win2k completely.

Therefore, it's prudent to make something that will make the most of the system you have today, so that it can at least run the system you'll have tomorrow. And keeping in mind that the majority of people are very reluctant to change anything, it needs to bring everything for your next six years in a package that can be related to by people who haven't even changed their radio station for the last ten. Otherwise, they won't buy it.

"The reality is that everywhere Vista is truly different is outside of view - and that's just how it should be, from a usability perspective."

I'm sorry to those of you who expected to interact in a radically different way with Windows Vista than with previous versions - but that just doesn't make sense. If you want that type of thing, go buy a Wii. Or, there are a million and one desktop replacements for XP, and there will be for Vista, too - just give it a bit. By then, you'll probably have 4GB of RAM anyway and not even feel the 1GB taken up by the OS.

The reality is that everywhere Vista is truly different is outside of view - and that's just how it should be, from a usability perspective. The goal of any "new" version of software is to increase security, efficiency and functionality without slowing down productivity. And Windows is a product that is not designed to be the "bare minimum" in any of those, so it will use resources to achieve those goals.

After all, that's why we buy computers - to run the software on them. Without Windows (or Linux, or OSX, or whatever you fancy), your hardware does nothing. So why are we complaining because something is making as much of our hardware work as it can? I didn't buy 4GB of RAM to see 256MB used, nor did I buy a quad-core processor to see three sit idle and one sit at 20% load. That would just be a waste of money.

And, let's be honest - if that was what DID happen, we'd all complain. And if the interface changed too drastically, we'd complain about that, too. So let's all quit whining about things done right, shut up, pop some RAM in our computers, and enjoy the view. It'll come with an added benefit in the form of a finally successful pick-up line:

"Oooh, yeah, I've got 4096 megs, baby."