Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Blue Screen of Death Fallacy (Tech Post)

Notice: For whatever reason the newer blogger interface isn't letting my format this post - So just pretend that there are logical breaks in it.

Everyone hates the Blue Screen of Death (or BSoD) that Windows has when it gets certain errors. Here's an example from Windows XP. I always read whenever there a mention of Windows going anywhere except on a PC - like into a car or home automation, etc about how their car is going to crash just like the computers running Windows. Of course this is coming from the Mac fanboys and Open Source Propeller Heads.
Do I have any problem with Macs or Linux? Of course not, I'm only referring to the nuts - not those who have a level view about the role of each operating system. I think Macs are wonderful and being able to run nearly any x86 operating system on a Mac I think is fantastic - if not overpriced. Mac OS X is great and once it gets even more mainstream and more applications and games are written for it I think it has a great chance of taking over. Right now I believe if it wasn't having to be bundled with Mac hardware, it would be about a 50/50 split in the OS market. Linux - well, with Ubuntu it is getting closer to actual home user use but unless you take even more away from the command line and have a good central source for documentation, it'll never reach the mass market. Over the last 10 years, it has come a long way and based on the rate of maturity, it about another 10 it will be all the way there for your grandparents.
Back to my original topic on hand. I've only initally tested the final version of Vista Business so far, but in all honesty people need to stop picking on Microsoft for blue screens at least. You don't have to agree with the way they do things, but I see maybe 3-5 blue screens per year. I'm talking with Windows XP. Now 3-5 may seem like a lot, but considering I work in IT and work on hundreds of computers regularly, that % is actually pretty low. The most common reason for a BSoD? Hardware. Bad RAM, a dead hard drive, the file system getting corrupt because of a bad Hard Drive. I think think the OS throwing an exception like that when there is faulty hardware is that crazy - honestly I'd like to know when hardware is failing.
Windows got its reputation for the BSoD because of Windows 95/98/Me. The move to XP was so substantial for the home market because once the core became NT based, the systems became a ton more stable. Working with the Win9x core in retrospect was a nightmare because of a lack of stability that everyone just dealt with.
Back when I was using Windows 95 and 98 (never ME on my personal stuff) I would have to back everything up and do a reinstall of Windows every 9-12 months just to have a level of stability. Installing applications and it just seemed the age of the OS install caused instability that only a reformat would fix. I've had my current install of Windows XP Professional installed on my home computer since I upgraded my system last. That was December of 2003. Yes, thats over 3 years and I have no intention of doing a reinstall unless I have to, which doesn't seem likely. I've upgraded plenty of hardware since then save the motherboard and processor, but there's been no reason to do a reinstall. It has been rock solid for this long.
But what about spyware and viruses, you ask? Windows XP gets those by the truckload! Microsoft did a good job with XP in being stable. Was it the most secure? No - I'm not denying that. It wasn't designed for internet security in mind. The problems it solved with stability were then replaced by spyware and viruses. Yes I run antivirus - I'm not stupid. It just runs in the background and gets updates daily. I have a router on my network to act as a basic NAT firewall. Spyware? I have a bad habit of running IE as my default browser, although I use Firefox a lot as well. Guess what? No spyware on my computer - never really has been any. I even run my computer an administrator. Am I lucky? No - I'm just not stupid enough to click on stuff I know to be spyware. On my work network no one gets spyware anymore unless for some reason someone granted them local admin permissions - which is really uncommon. They only use IE as a browser - and IE6 for the most part at this point. And now Vista by prompting you for your password before you do anything that can alter your system (much like how Ubuntu does it) the chance of getting spyware would even be less.
So from my experience in using Windows if you:
A. Use some sort of hardware firewall (or at least software - but I don't recommend that alone)
B. Don't run as a local administrator for everything (or use DropMyRights on your web browser honestly) or run Firefox
C. Run some reputable antivirus
D. Have decent hardware
E. Have a small dose of common sense
You should have next to no issues with stability. I honestly haven't.
Windows XP as the flagship OS from Microsoft has been out since October of 2001. Thats over 5 years ago. Can't we just get away from the rumors that the BS0Ds come hand in hand with Windows? I'm not a Windows fanboy despite what this post appears to say. My only point is that the reputation Windows has gotten since XP was released is somewhat uncalled for and while based on some truth, does not properly reflect how mature of a product it really is.


Anonymous said...

Personally I miss BSoDs.. Not even religious affiliation brought as many people together as BSoDs did. Please, Microsoft, bring back the BSoD. We're all lonely.


Anonymous said...

You're preaching to the choir!

I routinely RIP on Solaris 8/9/10, since by default, a reboot makes the server inoperable (of which makes remote administration a nightmare).

And, for the record, I have not had a non-hardware related BSOD over the last six years, over the course of roughly 300 Servers, and twice as many workstations. :)