Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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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?

Tags: applications, computing resources, dropline, gnome, linux, memory, memory management, processors, quotations, usability, user interfaces, windows

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