?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

banazir's Window Manager Challenge

It is no longer the purpose of programs to instruct our machines; these days, it is the purpose of machines to execute our programs.
    -Edsger W. Dijkstra, "On the cruelty of really teaching computing science"

Assertion: Within all reasonable bounds of physical hardware limitations, the operating system should accomodate the users' patterns and habits, not the other way around.

I have two notebooks, both Pentium 4 systems (1.6GHz with 1Gb RAM and 1.7GHz with 512Mb RAM). Yet almost everyone who looks at the taskbar of my computer says that I use Windows in ways "beyond how it was meant to be used".


My commit charge on Laurelin, the COMPAQ SR1010NX (dinky little Celeron 2.8GHz desktop PC) where I write this is has a commit charge of 570Mb/1227Mb. This is basically a glorified web terminal with some apps (Photoshop and Eclipse) on it, so I gave it a RAM upgrade from 256Mb to 768Mb last September.

I usually have the following open:

  • Web browser: Mozilla Firefox with 15-25 tabs (using 50Mb - 130Mb RAM)

  • Mail client: MS Outlook 2003, Mozilla thunderbird or Outlook Express with 2-20 windows (the client itself, 0=4 message drafts in composition, 1-5 search windows, 0-12 messages being read)

  • Secondary web browser: another browser (IE6 for now) with 6-18 windows open (secondary Hotmail, GMail, LiveJournal, GreatestJournal, Wikipedia, and default home page)

  • File explorer: 2-18 windows open

  • Notepad: 1-6 windows

  • Penguinet: 3-12 sessions (Fingolfin SSH, Ringil SSH, Fingolfin SCP, plus up to 7 Opteron systems, CIS, and EcoGen)

  • Miscellaneous: Eclipse, Adobe Acrobat 7 Professional, Microsoft Word 2003, Task Manager, Windows Media Player 10, RealPlayer, Teleport Pro, WinXP command prompt

  • Occasional: Microsoft Excel 2003, Microsoft Powerpoint 2003, Microsoft Access 2003, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Adobe Photoshop CS, Windows Fax and Picture Viewer, Microsoft Office Picture Manager, Calculator, Paint


Now look at it. Some browsers, mail, a file explorer, a word processor, a remote shell, a multimedia player, and an IDE. The occasional spreadsheet and image processor. Is it really too much to ask?

More to the point, is it really such a novel concept that a window manager, and commonly-used multiple-document applications, should conserve memory and scale up to a document-intensive usage pattern?

I just have to say that any window manager that does not gracefully degrade when resources are reaching their limit, but rather crashes the whole OS, or opens undead windows with pieces missing (the Address Bar and Common Tasks sidebar), is a piece of crap. Let me be clear:
Windows XP is a piece of crap.

All you GNOME (Dropline, Ximian, whatever), KDE, and other Linux window manager proponents: now's your chance to sway me back. Will your windows manager support a resource of catastrophic proportions? I am talking about a Baron Harkonnen, Jabba the Hutt, and Darth Nihilus kind of gluttony. I'm talking about Homer Simpson, Fat Bastard, and Weird Al Yankovic all rolled into one professorial package!

Is your WM up to the challenge?

--
Banazir

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
yahvah
Sep. 1st, 2005 04:46 pm (UTC)
Windows XP is a piece of crap.

I concur.
banazir
Sep. 1st, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC)
Why Windows XP is a piece of crap
LOL! That was quick.

We concur, but what are your reasons?

--
Banazir
yahvah
Sep. 1st, 2005 04:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Why Windows XP is a piece of crap
My reasons are the same as yours except this desktop I also use to play games. And games can cause it to lock up to the point where the only way to get it to work again is by flipping the power switch. I don't ever make it to 25 tabs with Netscape, which is much more bloated than Mozilla. I try to keep below 15 tabs and have 7 right now. When I get past 7 tabs, Netscape has broken past 200MB of RAM usage. This desktop has 1GB and it's a 2.4Ghz P4. My T41 ThinkPad has 512MB and it's more stable than my desktop (same OS). I was surprised to find out just now that Lotus Notes leaves a surprisingly small 9MB footprint. And I have a calendar, workspace, a couple DBs and some e-mails open. I expected it to be more than that.
idigital
Sep. 1st, 2005 04:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think any of the main four Window Managers (Luna (XP), Aqua (OS X), KWin (KDE) or gnome-window-manager (GNOME)), gracefully degrade. BUT THEY SHOULD. Perhaps in 10 years someone will catch on...
twinofhugin
Sep. 1st, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
I guess they've never heard of VMware.. my usage habits are similar to yours, except running Linux and using about 3-4-6 virtual machines in a vmware workstation session. Also running a web and database server (mostly for development purposes) and yeah.
wiliqueen
Sep. 1st, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC)
should accomodate the users' patterns and habits, not the other way around.

Silly man. We're all supposed to completely change our thinking patterns to conform to what the Almighty Microsoft spews down from on high. Didn't you know? < /snark >

In all seriousness, they've already done it with PowerPoint. It's a fait accompli. Just a few short years into its incorporation in Office, virtually all corporate instruction, and quite possibly a preponderance of decision-making dialogue, is not only structured but in large measure conceived to conform to PP's organizational parameters. It's approaching the point where people seriously do not comprehend an explanation couched in any other format.

Fascinating stuff for an armchair cognitive science fangirl like me, perhaps. But hella creepy to actually see in action. :-/
wiliqueen
Sep. 1st, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
But, er, I have no suggestions for you. I'm stuck with what they give me at work (XP on a network, which is mostly well and good for what I do here, except when it gets late in the day and it decides that I'm completely for expecting it to do ANYTHING else while it takes twelve years to find a debtor record by a string not necessarily at the beginning of the name field, and the processor proceeds to have a massive stroke and has to be hard rebooted.) And at home I don't have time to power the poor thing on most days, let alone experiment with an alternative OS. :-/ Ergo, zero knowledge.

But I'll be curious to see what answers you do get.
gondhir
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:06 pm (UTC)
virtually all corporate instruction, and quite possibly a preponderance of decision-making dialogue, is not only structured but in large measure conceived to conform to PP's organizational parameters. It's approaching the point where people seriously do not comprehend an explanation couched in any other format.

Sounds like 1984. Microspeak?
wiliqueen
Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
I wish I could laugh. Work done mostly since 1949, and certainly since it would have been readily available to Orwell, indicates pretty overwhelmingly that people can think of things for which they have no words. Even the first time I read it in high school, I knew we don't think in language. But without language, ideas can't be shared and combined, so the policy would still severely hamper dissent by forcing each individual to reinvent the wheel.

What didn't occur to me at the time was that you could use the same language, but limit the structure in which it was customarily expressed, to essentially the same effect. It's really pretty creepy.
zengeneral
Sep. 1st, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
*sigh*
Windows XP is a piece of crap.
That is clearly a contradiction, so your assertion is wrong.

Thus, the operating system shouldn't accomodate the users' patterns and habit; they should accomodate the ability of the machine which the user buys. Buy a good machine, do cool stuff. Buy a bad machine, do very little.

Users, like yourself, have bad habits that need to be punished. You read material slower than you can download, so just bookmark and read in serial or print. Print* like there is no tomorrow; afterall, there wasn't one today.

*(Worried about trees??? don't be, we plant what we harvest for paper)
banazir
Sep. 1st, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow... or Not - part 1 of 2
That is clearly a contradiction, so your assertion is wrong.
Prove it.
I'm asserting that Windows XP belongs to the set of operating systems that suck and blow at the same time. I offer its lack of graceful degradation over GDI resource usage as an example. (See yahvah's corroboration above.) How is that a clear contradiction?

Thus, the operating system shouldn't accomodate the users' patterns and habit; they should accomodate the ability of the machine which the user buys. Buy a good machine, do cool stuff. Buy a bad machine, do very little.
All true. The key word is "accomodation". WinXP doesn't accomodate: it consumes; it hogs without moderation.

Why should I be able to open more Firefox tabs in Linux with the same memory? I've generally been able to do with 256-512Mb under Linux what takes me 768Mb - 2Gb on Windows. Stability is comparable. App features range from 50% to 150% of the nearest Windows analgoue. Response time is much better (all other things being equal, i.e., without thrashing).

Why should I be able to open three times as many mail, text editor, and SSH windows? Come to think of it, why the underemphasis on response time? If I haven't said it before:
Every interactive GUI feature should be a real-time feature.

Gamers are not the bellwether of userdom; they are not gods; they are just the greediest consumers. Like fire, like government, like developersdevelopersdevelopers, they are dangerous servants and fearful masters, and and they will burn your ass if you don't watch where you sit.

Users, like yourself, have bad habits that need to be punished.
Is this deserving of punishment?



(continued)
banazir
Sep. 1st, 2005 07:59 pm (UTC)
The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow... or Not - part 2 of 2
You read material slower than you can download, so just bookmark and read in serial or print.
And you don't? Are you saying you read faster than you can download?

Seriously: *hops into vim*
/home/bhsu/Misc/All/NEWURLS: unmodified: line 1 of 41604 [0%].
1303720 bytes, accumulated over 6.5 years.

Now. Do you know how much concentration it takes an average person such as me to maintain the above in long-term memory?
(I'm average in the sense that I have average LTM and below-average STM, not in wanting to remember any significant fraction of 20-30K URLs.)

In any case, there's a reason my friends call me "fishie": after all the important and personal things, there's little room left in STM. Important things are:

  • technical CS and math facts and formulas that are actually worth memorizing, as opposed to theorems we typically prove or algorithms we derive from scratch

  • lexicon

  • acquired cognitive skills (some)

  • acquired motor skills (very few)


Personal things are:

  • recreational knowledge (as taiji_jian mentioned of me and Trippy: trivia, Star Wars/Star Trek/Tolkien quotes)

  • personal memories

  • personal task and fact list: birthdays of family and friends, etc.


My point (and I did have one!) was that RAM is cheap and wetware memory is not, Gibson notwithstanding. Yu Pan and Nathan Gettings, two of my programmers who went on to become one of the founding people and the senior data mining manager at PayPal, respectively, used to laugh about this. In Johnny Mnemonic, the title character walks around with 320Gb of sensitive data in his head (at one point Keanu said 320Mb and we laughed, "get a Zip drive!"). 320Gb. Makes the guy bleed from his nose, mmkay? So why should task memory be any different? Let us open windows if we need to! Free the desktop!

I'm a very physical thinker and organizer. I've been known to lose objects as large as floppy disks, DVDs, and even VHS tapes inside books. My dad jokes that I'm going to name his future grandchildren Bookmark One and Bookmark Two. Rather than a To-Do list, I have a To-Do table: immediate priorities are the tops of piles. Stack one of of my piles on top of another and I'm like that ant in A Bug's Life that has a leaf fall across the pheromone trail: "I'm loooooost!". My electronic working habits are similar: I can't be bothered to remember mail after it's been marked as read, flagged, and closed, so let me keep important messages open!

Print* like there is no tomorrow; afterall, there wasn't one today.
You mean there wasn't a today?
See picture above: if there was a today... well, tomorrow belongs to the Microsoft Student.

--
Banazir
zengeneral
Sep. 2nd, 2005 12:06 am (UTC)
Re: The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow... or Not - part 2 of 2
WinXP doesn't accomodate: it consumes; it hogs without moderation.
*sigh*, go get linux you hippy, :)

Every interactive GUI feature should be a real-time feature.
HA! go write a GUI widget, and then make it (usable and responsive) and real-time; you will find that those two branches are xor.

Is this deserving of punishment?
The students need to (and will) be punished for buying it, but all hail microsoft for exploiting students and released teachers from obligations




And you don't? Are you saying you read faster than you can download?
I am saying you don't need more than a couple of windows for internet up

/home/bhsu/Misc/All/NEWURLS: unmodified: line 1 of 41604 [0%].
Delete it, will you ever have the time to go thru them? I have abour 30 bookmarks, every 1-2 months, I review and delete as I filter based on interesting and non-interesting... Most things become non-interesting fast

Let us open windows if we need to!
Buy more memory!

let me keep important messages open!</p>
print them! seriously, how many messages can be important?

You mean there wasn't a today?
Have you see Groundhog day?
tmehlinger
Sep. 1st, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC)
KDE has been absolutely phenomenal for me. Although it is "heavy", as far as window managers are concerned, it still has a relatively small memory footprint. Other WMs (XFCE is one in particular that comes to mind) can be very light, yet provide support for applications written for other WMs (e.g., XFCE, Enlightenment, whatever works just fine running KDE applications/libraries), so compatibility is never an issue. In my experience, not once has KDE croaked and taken everything else with it when something started hogging resources.

On top of that, Linux is far superior to Windows with respect to memory management, so if you don't mind doing some tinkering to get it all working, it's really a win-win situation.

Cue the flamewar... now :).
prolog
Sep. 2nd, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with your assertion, I just really don't know if GNOME is up to the task. I'm just a user!

It's funny - despite having a number of CS degrees (I love how having two lets me say "a number"), I really have no love of the real inner workings of things. I like things to just work. I like Java, Python, Prolog, and other nicely-high-level languages.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

December 2008
S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

KSU Genetic and Evolutionary Computation (GEC) Lab

Teunciness

Breakfast

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Communities

Fresh Pages

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Naoto Kishi