Win32 and misconceptions

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Win32 and misconceptions

There has been a fear campaign targeting Win32. Microsoft is responsible for it. This site is adding fuel to the fire that Win32 doesn’t belong in a “modern” world. Let’s look at common misconceptions surrounding Win32.

One can argue that downloading programs from the Internet isn’t the safest way to get software. I can agree with that. So let’s put Win32 programs in controlled environment, a Store. This is what I always thought would happen. I’m still surprised it hasn’t happened.

If you want “modern” Win32 program management outside Enterprise you are limited to “hobby” solutions such as Chocolatey. Chocolatey gets the job done, but it isn’t something a regular Windows user installs. Steam exists for games so the lack of a Win32 application store is surprising. After all Win32 is the world’s greatest software platform for any form of productivity, at home or at work.

What makes people afraid of downloading Win32 programs from a controlled environment like Windows Store? I don’t get it. Well-written Win32 programs don’t slow down your system. In a store they would be checked for malware and annoying installers would be a thing of the past.

Let’s address sweeping accusations of “Windows rot”. I have never experienced Windows-rot, simply because it isn’t real. What is real are identifiable problems related to programs, drivers, Windows updates or Windows itself. Malware also exists.

Many “Windows rot issues” stem from OEM images. Often junk-filled with lots of unnecessary programs and processes. Starting with a clean Windows iso is the best way to never get caught by “OEM rot”. If you lose special drivers from the OEM image you can download them manually. Just make sure you have the network driver before you wipe your disk clean. OEMs have been a disaster for Windows’ reputation. Some machines are barely usable out of the box. Some Lenovo consumer machines can’t be cleaned, because Lenovo will reinstall crapware through UEFI when you reboot. I’m not making this up, but business ThinkPads seem spared.

So say you experience “Windows rot”. What to do? Well, start by looking in Windows Task Manager or use the excellent program Process Explorer. What’s eating your CPU cycles? Also look in Task Manager for start-up programs which may be legit programs, but don’t need to run all the time. Ccleaner gives you a better view of start-up programs, scheduled tasks and even browser extensions.

If a program is problematic, upgrade/downgrade/reinstall or uninstall it. Same goes for Windows updates (and drivers). If it is a System process causing trouble, use services.msc or a GUI tweak tool to disable it or set it to manual start. Black Viper (blackviper.com) has a list of services for every Windows version which are safe to disable.

I have rarely seen a Windows problem (in 20+ years) that couldn’t be identified (and solved) by basic troubleshooting. Google is there to help you. When you have identified what is causing “Windows rot”, just search for it and Internet will help you solve it. My Windows machines tend to become faster – not slower – because I optimize them more and more the longer I use them. Windows Update can be a problem, but waiting a week or two gives Microsoft the time to pull a bad update. That’s why manual control of updates is crucial, not only for Enterprise.

The problems we have discussed are related to Windows, but not particularly to Win32. Some people like to blame Win32 for “Windows rot”, when in fact Win32 is just an API for writing Windows programs. Sure, programs may cause problems, but bad programs, drivers and Windows updates will always cause trouble. Win32 programs installed from a Store would be just as tested as Windows updates, wouldn’t they…?

This may be one reason for Microsoft’s Win32 resistance. MS doesn’t want to test every Win32 program so instead they write a “UWP-sandbox” that isolates the program from the system. It saves MS a lot of work (developers have to do that work), but also enforces handicapped apps. This is the “lazy approach”. Bad UWP apps can find their way into the Store because not much testing is done. MS is confident that these apps can’t cause harm anyway.

Compare this “lazy approach” with small teams of Linux distro maintainers who build and test 40K – 50K packages every release. There is no reason MS can’t have 500K well tested Win32 programs in the Store including automatic testing of all the updates. MS could even put a few restrictions on the programs like Apple does in the Mac App Store. For example no auto-start, all installed files go into a specific folder, even not touching the registry… Portable programs would fulfill those requirements from day one, just needing the Store to put an icon in the start menu. I think developers would support Windows Store if Windows Store supported their Win32 programs with minor modifications.

Conclusion: There are no sane technical arguments against Win32 which can’t be solved with minor modifications and a Store. It’s just politics… and unwillingness to actively curate a Store. Steam can do it and so can Microsoft.

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