Wednesday, February 13, 2008

go MinWin

two years ago, one of my relatives sent me an article (which, sadly I can't find today) about the future of Windows and asked me what I thought. the article suggested that the solution to the woes of Windows development was to move towards a virtual machine-based operating system (note: this is different than the Virtual PC application which many people use). well, I guess I was wrong about the virtual machine plan being a bad idea because that is still coming up, but some other things I wrote have aged a little better.

my response included talk of a leaner and cleaner version of the O/S. according to ZDNet (Stripped-down ‘MinWin’ kernel to be at the core of Windows 7) it seems that this may actually happen.

first my response:

"as for the article, I think that the bugs and security holes (or maybe that should be 'bugs like the security holes') are a clear indication that windows is getting into a space that has been previously unexplored in the history of software. however, the DLL example isn't as good since the .Net framework does away with a lot of the 'DLL hell' that existed previously. instead of coders having to try to nest references to DLLs, they can use the .Net framework to add their needed librairies to the GAC (global assembly cache). it's a much cleaner system and pretty much all code that can be written in .Net code (a.k.a. managed code) is written in managed code --with C# being the language of choice for lots of people.

the article seemed to skirt the fact that windows contains so much code that isn't strictly OS code. all those little add-ons, that have made it such a killer in terms of business, have also added many of those millions of lines of code.
right now what they need to do is pull off every layer of the OS and get down to the kernel (to use the UNIX term). spin off those millions of lines of code into truly compartmentalized add-ons (like minesweeper). maybe after they have shipped one release of the stripped down version then they could think about something as ambitious as virtual machines.

if you're looking for a bright light in the future of desktop operating systems, take note that Vista will ship with a desktop clock."

and now the ZDNet article:

"Microsoft has created a stripped-down version of the Windows core, called MinWin, that will be at the heart of future Windows products, starting with Windows 7, the Windows client release due in 2010.

While the Windows team has been working for years on reducing the dependencies in Windows which have made the operating system increasingly bloated and difficult to maintain and upgrade, it’s only been recently that the team has been able to create a separate, usuable new core.

Going forward, MinWin will be at the heart of future versions of Windows Media Center, Windows Server, embedded Windows products and more.
Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut described some of the work the Microsoft Core OS team has done to build the MinWin core during a recent talk he gave at the University of Illinois.
MinWin is 25 MB on disk; Vista is 4 GB, Traut said. ... The MinWin core is 100 files total, while all of Windows is 5,000 files in size."

this is fantastic! imagine the sighs of relief coming from every Windows developer on the project. "you mean I can just install MinWin and my component and not have to install the Beta version of every single component of Windows?!?! oh, thank you! thank you! thank you!"

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