17 November 2005

Does Bill Gates' Computer Crash?

Does Bill Gates' computer crash? I presume that it must. Surely, the CEO of Microsoft corporation has a computer that uses Windows rather than Linux or the Macintosh OS. Presumably, there is not a better version of Windows out there which is made available only to Microsoft executives while the general public suffers. And, I have never observed a Windows machine that does not crash. I have worked for publicly held corporations, for small law firms, I have run all manner of computers at home, and I simply have never seen a Windows machine that doesn't routinely crash.

We are not talking about uses that are unexpected here. I use my computer for word processing, an occassional Xcel spreadsheet, and internet browsing. I don't do high end graphics applications, don't play computer games and don't do sophisticated mathematical calculations. Yet, invariably, something goes wrong. Error messages pop up, programs shut down for no apparent reason, and occassionally the whole system just locks up.

The crashes happen even when you have a machine that uses nothing but Microsoft software in the most recent versions, and a couple of industry standards like the Adobe Acrobat reader. Even when there is no sign of Netscape, Firefox, Open Office, or Wordperfect anywhere to be seen. The processers are typical the Intel products for which the programs were designed.

Is it really so hard for one of the biggest corporations in the world with thousands of employees to produce less buggy software? Linux and the Mac OS generally do not crash. Neither effort was developed with anything approaching the resources that Microsoft has available to it.

Surely, Microsoft knows that the problems exist. Surely, those thousands of top flight computer programmers have a better idea about what causes those problems than I do. Why don't they care?


Unknown said...

When you've got a near monopoly, you don't care what happens to your customers.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of Windows, but I am one of those top-flight computer programmers you reference (OK maybe not top flight, or I'd be a lot richer by now).

It has a lot to do with buggy device drivers. Macs are so stable primarily because it's rare that you use any hardware that isn't Apple-branded, and in the case of such things as cameras and laser printers, they conform to a standard and use generic drivers that are written by Apple.

In the Windows world, on the other hand, nearly every device driver is written by someone other than Microsoft. And unless you specifically buy products that are certified by Microsoft, there is no guarantee that the driver isn't horribly buggy. Even in the case of buying certified products that work well on their own, there is no guarantee that some interaction between certified drivers from disparate manufacturers won't expose a bug that went undetected through the certification process.

As far as Linux is concerned, it's somewhere in between. In general, Linux device drivers simply don't exist for most hardware, so you end up using generic drivers that don't expose all of the features of your various pieces of hardware. So you generally end up with one or more pieces of hardware running in a standards-compliant compatibility mode, which often restricts the functionality or performance of that hardware. Or your hardware just doesn't work at all.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

All computers crash for all sorts of reasons regardless of OS. More often than not, it is the softbody south of the keyboard that is to blame, not the software.

Steve Ballmer is the CEO of Microsoft, not Bill Gates.