Chad Perrin: SOB

4 March 2008

actual vs. perceived importance in Vista

Filed under: Geek — apotheon @ 02:18

I just read Coding Horror: Actual Performance, Perceived Performance (hat tip to Sterling). The explanation seems plausible and makes a good case for Vista (pre-SP1) on the subject of file copy performance, within the context of the information provided. Of course, that’s not the whole story.

First, consider the fact that the problem isn’t just that file copying seems slower to the user, judging by reports like the Register article Vista sets 2007 land-speed record for copying and deleting. As you’ll see if you read the article, the problem actually involves file copying that never finishes, as well as problems with file deletion — which does not have the indicated problem with write-behind caching indicated by a progress bar.

Second, take the BSD Unix FFS/UFS as an example. Somehow, FFS/UFS is able to manage delayed writes in a manner that doesn’t take three years, and also doesn’t give a mistaken impression that data has already been written to disk when it hasn’t, all at the same time.

The conclusion to which I am inexorably drawn is that Vista’s file copying has problems not addressed by the perceptual performance upgrade, aside from those problems is probably actually better than XP’s on a technical level, and for all these years XP has been lying to you about when file copies finish to keep you happy with MS Windows by making you think it’s faster than it really is.

I guess there isn’t a whole lot of new information in this revelation that Microsoft gives an impression of greater performance by lying to the users of its operating systems. This is just one more piece of evidence of the sort of conflict of interest that occurs when you want the best possible software, but you’re getting it from an organization supported by copyright law in its attempts to “get away with” something — making people think they’re getting their money’s worth, rather than actually giving them their money’s worth.


  1. They did something very similar to this in NT 4. The graphics previous resided outside of the kernel for security and stability reasons, although it was slower. To make NT 4 “feel” faster to the user, they moved the graphics to ring 0 (I beleive that’s what it is called, my knowledge of these bits of things is fuzzy, and this was 12 – 13 years ago). This made the GUI update quicker, giveng the impression of speed, at the expense of stability and security, since now problems with graphics could spill over into the rest of the kernel. I beleive (don’t quote me on it) that they reversed this in later editions of Windows, though. I will say this, when it happened, there was a huge uproar over it from experts, and Microsoft had a giant pile of communications with customers showing that they wanted to see a “snappier” OS, and they didn’t have many customers expressing concerns about the security or stability of the graphics system.

    Overall, I think what you see with Microsoft, time and time again, is that their decisions are based in their perception of what “the marketplace” wants. While that kind of customer-oriented attitude is commendable, it doesn’t work when you are operating like Microsoft does:

    • Perception skewed by internal pressures, policies, and directions
    • Customer view skewed by who the customers are

    In other words, internal corporate inertia, combined with the relatively mediocrity of the people providing most of the fedback that makes it back to the product teams, gives the decision makers a “pat on the back, we’re doing a great job, let’s give them more of the same” impression. Look at how many years customers screamed about security before Microsoft even claimed to be taking it seriously, let alone actually trying to address the issues.

    Even small shops have this problem, but it’s not quite as aggregated. What you see instead is that the product is heavily customized to make the first few customers happy, and then ends up getting shipped like that. If your first few customers are extremely representative of their industry, no big deal. But in industries where everyone is different, you end up hardcoding too much like your early customers, or if your early customers are wildly different from the rest of the industry, it is hard to sell the results.



    Comment by Justin James — 4 March 2008 @ 05:54

  2. […] Chad Perrin: SOB ยป actual vs. perceived importance in Vista “Vista’s file copying has problems…, aside from those problems is probably actually better than XP’s on a technical level, and for all these years XP has been lying to you about when file copies finish to keep you happy…” (tags: vista xp windows microsoft) […]

    Pingback by links for 2008-03-05 -- Chip’s Quips — 5 March 2008 @ 01:31

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