Friday, December 18, 2009

What is Windows doing?

Under Linux, if you launch an application, a helpful item appears in in your program list (what you might call the "Start bar" in Windows) that says "starting Firefox web browser.." You get the same thing if you double-click on a Word document, and get "starting OpenOffice Writer.." But with Windows, you get nothing. I've mentioned this problem before, but it's an issue that keeps coming back to bother me. There's just no feedback that I've started an application under Windows.

For example: this morning, I came into the office, booted my laptop. When the Windows Vista desktop appeared, I clicked on the quick-launch icon to start the Firefox web browser. Nothing happened. After a few seconds, I realized I must have clicked an edge or something, didn't really click the Firefox icon, so I clicked it again.

Again, nothing happened. My hard drive light was indicating a lot of activity, but Windows clearly wasn't launching Firefox. Maybe the quick-launch bar isn't working, for some reason? I tried double-clicking the desktop icon for Firefox, to launch the program that way. Still, nothing happened. In an act of desperation, I used the Start menu to launch Firefox that way.

When Firefox still hadn't appeared, I decided Firefox must be aborting when it tries to start. Fortunately, my laptop also has Google Chrome installed on it, so I clicked on that to start Chrome.

About 10 seconds later, 4 Firefox windows suddenly appeared, quickly followed by a Google Chrome window. WTF!?

Windows really did launch Firefox that first time I clicked on it, but because there was no feedback to let me know Windows had done something, I didn't know that.

11 comments:

  1. Half the problem is that Firefox isn't properly integrated into Windows; because most of the internet resources in Windows go to IE, Firefox gets the slower start, more resource use, etc.

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  2. PV, it seems immensely stupid that applications have to be "properly integrated into Windows" for them to run well.

    JH already did a test here showing that Fedora Linux can cold-boot, start Firefox, and display a web page in 1:07. But it takes Windows 2:04 to do the same. But Firefox isn't "integrated" into Linux.

    It's just an application. This "integrating into Windows" for performance is bullshit.

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  3. OK, I will admit that my wording was slightly off.
    In Windows, many core components of IE are loaded with the OS, leading to a much faster application loading time. Firefox didn't get any such benefit; the Mozilla team wanted to rectify this in Windows Vista, but it looks like that didn't happen.
    In Linux, no such BS NEEDS to go on.

    Also, on a side note, my parents' slightly older computer (built by my brother) is getting extraordinarily sluggish. It takes over 5 minutes for the whole thing to load and a few minutes to load a SINGLE APPLICATION. The specs are 512 MB RAM, ~160 GB HDD, AMD Athlon equivalent to Intel Pentium III (lowest end), Microsoft Windows XP.
    I've tried to convince my parents to put Linux Mint on the computer, but while my mom is all for it (she's a computer engineer who uses and programs in UNIX on a regular basis and is also somewhat familiar with Red Hat/Fedora) and has likewise tried to convince my dad, my dad absolutely refuses to learn something new, citing his "age". The only other issue is that they need to use TurboTax (and they refuse to use the online-only version).
    Would it be more advisable to reformat Windows XP, dual boot with Linux Mint, or do both?
    Thanks in advance!

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  4. actually, I suspect that Windows was probably running an at-login process that took longer to complete than normal. Windows doesn't have great multitasking, so it was focused primarily on that at-login process, and held up launching the other programs you tried to run. When the at-login job finished, then Windows finally ran the other programs.

    The reason the 4 Firefox windows appeared at the same time was that once one is loaded into memory, it's fast to start a 2nd, 3rd, 4th copy.

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  5. @PV: their hard drive is big enough (160GB) to support running both Linux and Windows. THat lets dad use Windows for his stuff, and they can still run Turbotax. And mom can use Linux, and dad can try it too.

    Seems like you know how to do a dual-boot - but for ohters here, it's safest to install Windows first, then install Linux so Linux can set up the dual-boot for you.

    You can tell the Windows installer to only use the first 80GB, leaving the rest for Linux.

    SInce your mom is already familiar with RedHat/Fedora, you may want to put Fedora 12 on there instead of Mint.

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  6. @Anon
    She's used Mint a bit on my computer and likes it a lot; most of her work-related stuff is on her work laptop, so Mint shouldn't be an issue; it will also be easier for my dad to acclimate, should he choose to do so.
    I am very familiar with the dual-boot process (in terms of doing it in the Ubiquity installer), but my dad still isn't comfortable even having it on there. Anyway, it's their computer, so while I'll try to convince them to put it on as a dual-boot system when that time comes, it's ultimately their computer.
    A similar issue arose with my friend who was interested in using Linux to revive, repair, and run his old, (Windows-)broken computer. He first had to convince his parents to let him do it, as they share the computer, and that did not go anywhere. His parents also use TurboTax and absolutely refused to let him even dual-boot the system, claiming that it would somehow slow Windows down (totally false).
    It amazes me that while people are so easily frustrated by Windows, they even more easily apologize for Windows if Linux is suggested as a fix.

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  7. It didn't launch it when you first clicked it. The software is not launced if you can't see it. Helt hostage, maybe. But not lauchned.

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  8. I have similar problems in Linux (Debian). I start Mozilla, get an indicator icon which disappears after a fews seconds - then nothing for ~40 seconds (sometimes - but not always). Since Mozilla is so incredibly complicated with the initial startup script invoking other scripts etc, I can't even use 'ps' to get some idea of what's going on. With Winduhs you can always launch the TaskManager and have a look. I consider this a very minor nuisance.

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  9. actually, I suspect that Windows was probably running an at-login process that took longer to complete than normal. Windows doesn't have great multitasking, so it was focused primarily on that at-login process, and held up launching the other programs you tried to run. When the at-login job finished, then Windows finally ran the other programs.

    This conforms to my experience with FF under Windows. It can also stall IE, or any other damn thing you try to launch at login.

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  10. "This conforms to my experience with FF under Windows. It can also stall IE, or any other damn thing you try to launch at login"

    I agree.

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  11. Pretty much any login app stalls Windows.

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