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The Incredible Shrinking Operating System

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the good-since-you-can-only-run-3-apps-now dept.

Operating Systems 345

snydeq writes "The center of gravity is shifting away from the traditional, massive operating systems of the past, as even the major OSes are slimming their footprint to make code bases easier to manage and secure, and to increase the variety of devices on which they can run, InfoWorld reports. Microsoft, for one, is cutting down the number of services that run at boot to ensure Windows 7 will run across a spectrum of hardware. Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half. And Apple appears headed for a slimmed-down OS X that will enable future iPhones or tablet devices to run the same OS as the Mac. Though these developments don't necessarily mean that the browser will supplant the OS, they do show that OS vendors realize they must adapt as virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks, and power concerns drive business users toward smaller, less costly, more efficient operating environments."

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MySQL & LDAP? (5, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785253)

If Ubuntu is looking to unseat Windows, why do they need a SQL server and a directory service? Granted I use Apache and MySQL on my Mac so I can develop on the road, but not everyone does.

I use Black Viper's [blackviper.com] Windows services tutorial to decide what I can do without on XP. It makes a pretty decent difference in both RAM and CPU usage.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (4, Informative)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785321)

a lot of linux distros ship with everything and you choose what to install. Ubuntu is trying to cater to the non-techie so they strip out anything a desktop PC for the average user won't need without confusing them during the install process.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785627)

Yeah, but this isn't even remotely the same thing -- to add this functionality to Ubuntu takes a few clicks and downloads, all free, all easy, and with no limits on how many apps you can run, etc. You want CUPS or some other component that you consider a basic OS requirement? Click, wait while download and install completes, and you have 'em. This is simply an initially "lite" OS install, offered as a matter of convenience to the end user.

MS isn't offering a lite OS install with free option to get the parts that are useful to you. They're paring away basic functionality (like the ability to run 4 or 5 apps at a time) and the only way to get it back is to buy it. If you choose the wrong set of features, you'll probably have to buy again, unless you habitually buy the package with the complete feature set.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785953)

I hoped someone would say this. There will be a lot of people that buy the full deal because it will be sold to them with the computer and they don't know better, and it's an easy sell.

Also, the 'initially lite OS' idea is fantastic. It's one of the reasons that I like Ubuntu. The upgrade to workforce nuclear powered pro Ubuntu is the same as any upgrade; free and easy. You lose nothing by starting lite, and potentially remove a number of vulnerabilities that the end user may not be aware of in software that they may never use or need.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (4, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786099)

"Yeah, but this isn't even remotely the same thing -- to add this functionality to Ubuntu takes a few clicks and downloads, all free, all easy, and with no limits on how many apps you can run, etc. You want CUPS or some other component that you consider a basic OS requirement? Click, wait while download and install completes, and you have 'em. This is simply an initially "lite" OS install, offered as a matter of convenience to the end user. "

It struck me as kind of strange that they'd strip out something like CUPS...I mean, don't even most normal users like to print documents?!?!

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (4, Informative)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786221)

print? very rarely - only if I need to file a record (e.g. tax). if the information isn't accessible through free text search, it might as well not exist!

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (3, Informative)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786321)

"print? very rarely - only if I need to file a record (e.g. tax). if the information isn't accessible through free text search, it might as well not exist!"

REally?

I guess maybe I'm old fashioned. I mean, I read and study a LOT online, but, for things I want to really remember, to use as reference, I really like to have dead tree copies.

I often mark them up, highlight passages, doodle in the margins...etc.

I find that by doing this...I can remember and even find information faster than I could doing a web or local directory search. When I was in school, I'd often do the doodles and markings in my books and notes, and during tests...I could 'see' those pages in my head...even turn the pages in my head to find where the information was. I find I can't do that as readily on a computer screen....

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786587)

I've found I've never needed to use printouts when programming either, even in the days when an editor only showed 40 rows of text or so (ah, the good old days of VT100s!)

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786415)

Depends on what the purpose of your computer. I once built a router out of an old Pentium computer. I didn't install CUPS. For my Linux server, I have it but since it is a server, I rarely print from it. I do print from my desktop more often though.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786447)

CUPS is overkill for occasionally converting a document into a printer language and then sending it off. Worse, CUPS doesn't even do that all that reliably (OS X is stuck with the same flaky printing system as Linux).

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

spikenerd (642677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786527)

That's the beauty of a simple package manager. If it's easy, even trivial, to install functionality, then there is no need to install even things that "most" people will use. There's no reason that the few people who never print need to have it installed.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786213)

MS isn't offering a lite OS install with free option to get the parts that are useful to you. They're paring away basic functionality (like the ability to run 4 or 5 apps at a time) and the only way to get it back is to buy it.

Actually, the article is talking about Windows services that are off by default to slim down the OS. Those services are still there, and can be turned on with a mouse-click. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Starter Edition -- which is available at an extremely stripped-down price on extremely low-power computers that can't really handle more than a couple applications at a time anyway, and only in emerging markets.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786525)

my old PC in 1992 could only "handle" about two or three full-blown applications at a time. So: I didn't run more than two or three at a time.

But if every now and then, I needed to open five different things, I /could/. It was slow to the point of being unworkable, but I never got a "You can only run three of these" message. An "out of memory" error sometimes (I get those plenty today, too), but never "we've hard-coded something, sucks to be you."

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (4, Informative)

Tawnos (1030370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786223)

I have you friended, so you must have said something I thought was clever before...

The trolltastic headline this morning about "only 3 apps" is highly misleading, and it's caused by speculation and rumors. The starter version of Windows is not something that is either available to the general public (in developed countries) or will be widely deployed on netbooks. It specifically exists to target the very low end computers in third world countries, not to be what's shipped on a netbook.

Yes, features are stripped from the version of windows being sold to OEMs for third-world deployment. If they were the same, there would be a huge rise in black market sales of the "starter" OS - it would give people a "legal" CD-key for the full OS at 1/20th the price. This does not mean we are paring away basic functionality and forcing you to buy it back. In fact, care was taken to make sure Win7 didn't fall into the Vista trap with overlapping feature sets. Each version has a superset of features from the lower one.

First world markets only need worry about Home Premium or Professional, and Ultimate(/Enterprise) if Bitlocker and Direct Access are desired.

For more information, and not something that's based on /. "logic" see here [windowsteamblog.com] . It's an official source, and not speculation.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786317)

There are a couple different things here. First, the ability to download an application does not equal the ability to use the application. Many of these require quite a bit of configuration, location of dependencies, and the like. Developers are buying the Mac because Apple, as a system builders, is handling all those things i house. All I need to do is buy a mac and I have a web server, an database server, etc.If one does not need those things, they are simple to turn off. From my work in Linux,the ease of adding components is variable. I have not used Ubuntu, so perhaps there is plug and play there.

Second, there are always practical limits to how many apps can run before the user begins to call customer service. While I do not know why MS would want to limit the number of Apps that can run, one reason might be that the hardware vendors don't want the customer service called. Hey, I bought this netbook, and am running OO.org, downloading movies in Gnutella, chatting in Pidgin, and checking my mail every minute, watching a DVD, and hey, the computer is slow. It might be that the netbook people are doing the same thing that Apple did with the iPhone. Making a multitasking OS a single tasking OS until the cheap hardware becomes advanced enough to go back to multitasking.

I am not MS booster, but the one thing that MS Windows has is applications. They may be applications that I think are dumb and a waste of bits, but there are applications. And by in large they are one click installs, fully configured, ready to run. If they have made one mistake, it is building excessive number of these utilities into the base OS instead of leveraging the ease of installing new functionality.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786509)

They're paring away basic functionality (like the ability to run 4 or 5 apps at a time) and the only way to get it back is to buy it.

Where?

Windows Starter Edition was always limited to three open "apps" -

though these apps can be as rich in functionality as a full version of MS Word -

and its target is the absolute beginner in third world markets.

The alternative UI like Sugar has often been single-task.

Which makes perfect sense for an inexperienced user with bare-minimum hardware support for any mass-market OS.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785441)

I thought there were plans to internally use MySQL for OS functionality. I don't remember what features exactly though.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785559)

I'm pretty sure it's used as a part of MythTv, so by extension, Mythbuntu

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (5, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785659)

It probably wouldn't be a good idea. MySQL is not fast or efficient enough for kernel mode use and file systems, despite attempts by Microsoft and others to merge them with databases, file systems work best when they provide minimal functionality that can be built on top of (i.e. SQL implementations generally run on top of the file system as a separate service NOT as an integral embedded part of the file system). The minimal OS is really the way to go and the industry convergence on this consensus (with Microsoft being among the last to see the light on this one) is encouraging to see. The OS is supposed to mediate between applications and hardware to provide basic services; anything beyond that is an application and should be treated as such and NOT as an integrated part of the OS.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785541)

MySQL ships with Ubuntu? Since when? I've always had to install it myself :/

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786245)

It ships with Kubuntu as a storage backend for Amarok and Akonadi (Kontact/Kmail data server). It doesn't ship with vanilla Ubuntu.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786391)

Ah, thanks :)

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (2, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785651)

Ya, no one ever needs to use the Active Directory or Windows Internal Database/MSDE. Everyone only every runs a small gaming machine, why does Windows support these things in the first place?

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

kaffeinekiwi (722587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786511)

None of the windows 'home' editions can join a domain. As has been stated earlier, you can add this functionality back to Ubuntu free, but to upgrade from a home version to a business windows version costs money.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26785695)

Black Viper was copying the work of people like APK from ntcompatible.com and 3dfiles.com circa 1997 onwards in this regards of trimming and tuning microsoft operating systems at those websites before there even was a website for black viper.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785847)

Black Viper's stuff is iffy at best these days, too. I strongly doubt that it makes much of a difference anymore.

That, and he's batfuck insane [blackviper.com] .

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786169)

You're being too nice. The guy is a dolt. He's spent half his life studying and dedicating a website to what any decent IT person would consider offhand knowledge.

Re:MyFood (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786267)

"That, and he's batfuck insane [blackviper.com]."

I dunno if I'd call it insane.

I've met a number of people who are extremely picky eaters. You find that people like this, who are very limited in what they like to eat...get this way. They find a place out that has something that they absolutely love. This is a big deal to them, because of their limited appetites for variety in food, leaves them VERY few choices, especially for dining out. When something can eat...is dropped or changed, it does blow their minds a bit.

I can understand it a little...when I was growing up, I was a bit of a picky eater, that is, until I came to Louisiana for college...and discovered that people down here would eat anything that didn't eat them first....and make it taste good.

Thankfully ever since then, I'm game to try just about any food, and I find there's honestly not much I don't like.

My battle with the waistline can attest to that at times.

:)

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786277)

Personally, I consider "batfuck insane" as an admirable attribute and adds greatly to character...

However, he lost me at "I resist change as much as I can." which, as far as I am concerned, removes his batfuck status.

None-the-less I still generally point people who are curious about their Windows services to his site, even though many of his suggestions are questionable.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

omi5cron (1455851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786345)

i have been using his guides for about 4 years, and did notice an appreciable gain in performance. that was for XP, and on several machines built solely for gaming, nothing else. he may seem a bit off, but this IS slashdot, so would fit in well with the present company! having said that, i have not tried his Vista tips (no Vista for me). i was one of the ones who was worried went he went "missing" for more than a year. (thanks to all the mirrors). yes,this is offtopic, but thought i should contribute my one cent. (can't afford two cents)!

Summary is Inaccurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26785907)

Ubuntu does not come with LDAP (Server or Client) support out of the box, nor does it come with MySQL.

Summary is inaccurate.

Re:Summary is Inaccurate (1)

Inner_Child (946194) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786253)

The summary is accurate.

Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half.

I know this is /. and people have extremely short attention spans around here, but re-read that sentence. What it says is that MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, are included in what's being stripped. The wording isn't great, but really, is it that tough to understand?

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (2, Informative)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786211)

The paragraph about Ubuntu is bogus. It doesn't have MySQL or LDAP installed by default. MySQL is installed in Kubuntu though, because it is required by Amarok and Kontact/Kmail. It has SQLite, because it is needed by Firefox, but it works without a server. I don't see Ubuntu removing CUPS because that would leave us without printing support.

I think they are referring to the Netbook Remix edition, which I can imagine doing without CUPS and a lot of other things.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

lukas.mach (999732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786433)

BTW: SQLite is running on all installations of MacOS X and on all iPhones.

Re:MySQL & LDAP? (1)

Godji (957148) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786597)

Black Viper's site is great. I never noticed much of a difference on XP, but on Vista it is night vs. day.

MS is working on a new OS architecture (0)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785265)

http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=microsoft+midori&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f [google.com]

Windows 7 is getting all the media hype, but MS has been working on a new OS architecture for a while now

I think the way it works there is the Tech Fellows and a small group of their best engineers spend years making next gen tech in secret and than pass it on to the lower level coders to build a finished product around it. I remember I read about what eventually became .NET years before Steve Ballmer first hyped it. It was a pet project of one of their top engineers.

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (2, Funny)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785397)

I see your Midori, and raise you HURD.

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (1, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785507)

MS seems to me to be working on their own downfall. As RAM gets less expensive and more widely available, and processors supply more cores, and displays get less expensive and multi screen displays get easier and easier to implement...

MS is artificially limiting the number of apps you can run to just a few [slashdot.org] , releasing many varieties of the OS so that developers have a very inconsistent target to aim at, and pricing it in the $200 or so range so that it really hurts the pocketbook. It's not very compatible, very much like Vista, so that one of the key features (yes, I mean compatibility) is missing from the OS.

It is certainly their right to make these decisions, but I am just as certainly not going along for the ride.

XP will continue to work in its virtualized, insulated-from-the-Internet sandbox under OSX, and I'm perfectly happy with the performance and ability to run the older apps I came to depend upon before MS went off on the Vista/W7 boondoggle. In the meantime, OSX allows me to run as many apps as I like, including both XP and Linux in virtualized containers, and unlimited apps underneath those, too. I can't imagine what Microsoft is thinking, or if they are thinking at all.

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (0, Redundant)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785983)

Maybe, what they are thinking is this way, only a few malware apps will be able to run at a time, since that is what a windows box is for right?

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786479)

I realize that most, if not all people are not fond of the idea of having limited processes.

But seriously, XP came with a Starter edition to, limited to 3 processes, yet you are perfectly happy running an XP VM, because it is not Starter Edition.

No one ever said that every single Win7 is limited to 3 processes, only the lowest of the low edition, which is nothing new, XP and Vista both came with it, both limited to 3 [user] Processes [with windows].

XP Starter Edition [wikipedia.org]

Windows XP Starter Edition is a lower-cost version of Windows XP available in Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is similar to Windows XP Home, but is limited to low-end hardware, can only run 3 programs at a time, and has some other features either removed or disabled by default.

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (2, Interesting)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785839)

WTF will this OS be able to do?

From one of the links in the Google search:

"One of Microsoftâ(TM)s goals is to provide options for Midori applications to co-exist with and interoperate with existing Windows applications, as well as to provide a migration path."

OMFG it will run your old shit, AND your new shit!

"According to the documentation, Midori will be built with an asynchronous-only architecture that is built for task concurrency and parallel use of local and distributed resources, with a distributed component-based and data-driven application model, and dynamic management of power and other resources."

OMFG, it can run more than one program at once!

"In order to efficiently distribute applications across nodes, Midori will introduce a higher-level application model that abstracts the details of physical machines and processors. The model will be consistent for both the distributed and local concurrency layers, and it is internally known as Asynchronous Promise Architecture."

In other words, your OS is so fat when it runs applications around the house, it runs applications AROUND THE HOUSE! And what's with the Asynchronous Promise Architecture. Is this a little like I'll gladly give you an OS on Tuesday if you'll give me a little money today?

Re:MS is working on a new OS architecture (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786399)

It was a pet project of one of their top engineers.

That's back when they called it Java, wasn't it?

No, they're not. (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785275)

Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half.

First, I can completely understand the justification for not including such services in the default install. There aren't many reasons on a single-user desktop for MySQL to be necessary over SQLite, and that's just one more subsystem to have to secure. Getting rid of them, though? That's not even remotely accurate. By that logic I'm not using Ubuntu right now because I'm typing this in Konqueror.

Re:No, they're not. (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785615)

By that logic I'm not using Ubuntu right now because I'm typing this in Konqueror.

Well of course not, you must be using Kubuntu. ;)

I see what you're saying, though. It's poor wording in the article, so what they should have said was that Linux distros such as Ubuntu are simply not including those services by default with the generic basic installation. Anybody advanced enough to know what MySQL is (much less how to administrate/operate it) would know how to apt-get install it if they needed it, anyway.

Re:No, they're not. (3, Funny)

Dunkirk (238653) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785745)

Anybody advanced enough to know what MySQL is (much less how to administrate/operate it) would know how to apt-get install it if they needed it, anyway.

And anybody advanced enough to know how to actually write an application against it would know how to emerge it.

Thanks, folks. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Re:No, they're not. (2, Funny)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785997)

And anybody advanced enough to know how to actually write an application against it would know how to emerge it.

And wait 2 hours for it to compile :-).

Re:No, they're not. (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786027)

Note to self : learn to use preview button.

Re:No, they're not. (1)

Dunkirk (238653) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786389)

Sorry. I know this was a joke, but this begs a response, because it is a common misconception. My work machine is a low-end Dell business-class computer. It has a Core 2 Duo (E6550, to be precise). I've loaded 4 GB of my own RAM in it, and it has two hard drives in a mirrored configuration.

user@workstation $ time sudo emerge dev-db/mysql
real 5m43.320s
user 6m25.068s
sys 1m31.625s

Admittedly, when I made the switch to Gentoo (from SuSE) a few years ago, this was not the case. It would, literally, take me 3 days to get Gentoo completely installed on my old dual Athlon. Now, on my new main machine at home, if I can keep all the balls in the air while building up the install, I suppose it could be completely done, with both Gnome and KDE environments, in about 12 hours.

The only really stubborn package these days is OpenOffice. ;-)

I don't get the connection (4, Insightful)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785299)

Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half. ... OS vendors realize they must adapt as virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks, and power concerns drive business users toward smaller, less costly, more efficient operating environments.

I don't see what removing MySQL and LDAP have to do with "slimming an OS." These are things that very few people are ever going to use on their desktop and made no sense to install by default, anyway. Of the home users, there is surely an inflated number of users on slashdot using them, but they could just as easily go install them after the OS install is complete. And for business users, I would guess almost no one is using them on their desktop.

Re:I don't get the connection (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786151)

I don't see what removing MySQL and LDAP have to do with "slimming an OS." These are things that very few people are ever going to use on their desktop and made no sense to install by default, anyway.

That sounds like "slimming down" to me. At least, I can understand what the poster is trying to get at. It seems like we went through a period of early operating system development over the past few decades where the stress was on throwing everything in, including the kitchen sink. It's at least interesting that Linux distros are putting in some amount of effort into pulling excess functionality out of the default installation while computers continue to become bigger, faster, stronger.

And I think it is pointing at something similar to what is going on with OSX, and it is a trend. We've hit some kind of a milestone, I think, where most of our computer functionality is "good enough" for most of what we actually use them for. Something about the development of computer systems right now reminds me of... whenever it was... 10 years ago?... when people were using their computers mostly for word-processing, and their computers were good enough for that, so there wasn't a huge drive to accomplish a particular thing. Then people discovered that they could rip CDs into MP3s and share them, and there grew this whole new focus on multimedia and the Internet.

Now we have those things handled, and it seems like the answer to "what's next?" is making both hardware and software smaller and less bloated. We're getting smart phones that are becoming something more like a real portable computer, and we're getting things like netbooks. I predict you're also going to start seeing better use of embedded systems, like maybe DVRs are just going to be built into TVs soon. Not sure on that one, but I think you're going to see things shrinking, devices being consolidated, and a renewed focus on making things more efficient and refined.

Re:I don't get the connection (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786275)

Except they weren't installed by default at all, and that paragraph is bogus.

We'll see about that (3, Interesting)

Protonk (599901) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785307)

They all claim to be slimmed down and non-monolithic when they are in the development cycle. But when the rubber meets the road they have to contend with feature creep, backwards compatibility, turn-key (as it were) operation of heterogeneous devices and a finicky userbase. Sure, some of the formerly installed components can be offloaded to the download/update sites and some variations on a theme can be sold. And sure Linux distros can ship with widely varying functionality (at the cost of out of the box support for server functions). But to content that MSFT and APPL will substantially shrink their OS footprints is to be at variance with the last 15 years (or more) of software history.

We can hope. . . (2, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785535)

My main problem with a lot of O/S'es and Linux distros these days as that too much functionality is 'default on'. If a user needs MySQL, or network printing, they can turn it on, but it seems to me that having the OS install with as few background services as feasible running, is a great way to get OS'es both more secure, and more scalable. In addition, a little bit of engineering might be able to go a long way - for example, I've noticed over the last few releases of Ubuntu that the Gnome environment seems to be taking up a lot more background processes and memory than it used to. Is all that stuff in the background really necessary? Ok, I realize some of it is no doubt necessary (sound daemons, etc), but couldn't a lot of that stuff be loaded 'on-demand' as it were, and unloaded after a period of inactivity? For example - if I'm not sharing a printer on the netwrk, and I'm not currently printing any documents, does CUPS or any other printing system need to be loaded in memory? Why not load it when I actually try to send a print job from an application to the printer (this does, I realize, imply that there is a different background process extremely similar in concept to inetd which is monitoring for activity and loading the appropriate process on demand - but really, for services which aren't heavily used, what is wrong with the inetd model; I do realize that under heavy usage, the inetd approach becomes inefficient due to the overhead of starting and stopping processes, but I think that on a lot of 'personal' desktop/laptop/netbook situations, the usage would only be very occasional)?

Anyhow, you might be right that no real progress will be made on this front, but I still hold out hope - even on modern systems with lots of RAM, there is a benefit to keeping the memory usage low - it leaves more memory available for the actual applications you are using, whether that is a large database, a CAD system, 3D-or-2D graphics apps (Blender, Gimp, etc), video/audio editting, games, whatever. I believe that keeping a minimum 'background' memory profile is always a good idea for O/Ses, because people don't use O/Ses - they use applications.

Re:We can hope. . . (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785649)

One thing I wish that Gnome didn't load on-demand was the Gnome menu (the single-icon variant that people end up configuring to save screen space, not the stupid default one at the top of the screen with several menus [being confused about being a Mac] with the clumsy quick launch icons to the right).

Log In. Click on Menu Icon. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Ah, there it is!

Seriously, on a fast desktop machine you might not notice it, but on a netbook it seriously sucks, and is an immediate thing you notice.

Yep. (2, Interesting)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786577)

The Linux Kernel handles that automatically. Just because a process is in the process table, doesn't mean it is running. In fact, most processes are "sleeping" most of the time. When they are "sleeping" they are candidates for paging out. The kernel will do this if memory requirements exceed available physical RAM. In fact, the executable image itself is just "mmapped" to virtual memory and when needed to be "paged-out" it happens painlessly by marking the physical page as available and the virtual page as "swapped". If the virtual page is needed again, it is read from the on-disk image as needed.

So, to answer your question: IT ALREADY DOES THAT!

All Hail Linux!

P.S. Windows does this too!

Some anicllary concerns... (3, Interesting)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785311)

Well. There *is* an ongoing pressure to push function down-the-stack. For this reason the threat to the usefulness of the concept OS does not come from the top-side where you find application environments. It comes from the hardware side! IBM is growing a library of micro-code for the Power-Cell Architecture that allows a single image chip-set (one computer many parts) to execute multiple instruction sets, enabling multiple operating systems, running concurrently. This allows them to market a single box that hosts Unix-BSD-Linux, ISeries OS, zOS, running on Power, iSeries, and zSeries instruction sets.

Beyond that, the same architecture also hosts the Sony PS3 software stack on a Sony extended Power instruction set, and there is evidence and rumor supporting the conclusion that micro-code exists somewhere (some of it may not be IBM) that allows Power-Cell boards to run x86, Itanium, Motorola 68K, TI32K, and Mil-Spec-1750 (an imbedded 16 bit! processor) instruction-sets.

Now, "All that makes it a very flexible virtualization platform, but what does that have to do with the death of the OS idea?", you may ask. The point is this. What folks have come to refer to as a hyper-visor IS a REAL Operating System and most of that function is subsumed into the micro-code code-base for the Power-Cell architecture. I think we will be able to say the OS is dead, when the hardware takes over the function. Well O.K. hardware-microcode...

=Smidge=

Do OS's really need a diet? (0)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785329)

I mean, for cell phones and stuff they do, but, if you've got a 64 bit machine with 4 CPUs, and a couple gigs of RAM... having a database server bundled with the desktop might not be a bad plan. I think every Linux should come with MySQL and it might not be a bad idea to have a distribution where all the settings are in the database, rather than config files.

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (4, Interesting)

Imagix (695350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785457)

Every CPU cycle that the "OS" uses is stealing cycles from processes that could be doing productive work for me. So yes, OSes can be slimmer. Regardless of how much memory or CPU exists. The attitude of "eh, we've got 4 GB of RAM" is why we have such bloated OSes and applications to begin with. As for your suggestion about a distribution with all settings in a database. It's called the Windows Registry, and we all know how well _that_ works.

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785493)

s for your suggestion about a distribution with all settings in a database. It's called the Windows Registry, and we all know how well _that_ works.

Well, I think it would be a bit presumptuous to call the Registry a "Database", don't you think?

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785519)

Well, I think it would be a bit presumptuous to call the Registry a "Database", don't you think?

Well, I think it would be a bit presumptuous to call MySQL a "Database", don't you think?

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786319)

GConf is similar in concept to the Windows Registry (a unified configuration database), but it doesn't cause too many problems. The reason is that the keys are documented, and not used for settings that shouldn't be altered by the user...

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785473)

What could possibly go wrong [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (2, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785755)

Why should it be mandatory to include MySQL. What's wrong with PostgreSQL? Let's not have more people choose to use something crappy just because it is included with the base install.

SQLite is adequate for desktop database storage. It is what Mac OS X uses, and it's good enough for the iPhone.

I agree that there could be a "Developer" variant of a distro that would offer you install-time options for various databases, web servers, IDEs, and so on, on top of the basic "Desktop" variant's offerings.

I would also like to not install some of the stuff that Ubuntu installs by default. Evolution comes to mind - why not let me pick which email client I want to use. There's also all the games, which I never play.

To be honest, I will give KDE 4 a try when it hits 4.3, but am not expecting anything better in regards to not including the kitchen sink.

Re:Do OS's really need a diet? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785921)

That is really the old way of looking at things. Back in them old days dowloading apps from the net was a paid, CD/DVDs get lost or stored away where you can't find it.

Today with people with High Speed Internet you can get a Just in Time install of applications. Why wast it when you don't have too. With a lot of apps installed each one taking a few Megs or more of ram or so. Starts to add up pritty quickly and lets say App that you don't use need another app you don't use which runs libraries that you don't need... You get a lot of waste. If you do virtualization you can max out your computer very quickly. But if your Host OS runs minimum and each Virtual OS runs at a minimum you can notice real performance benefits.

Not so much (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785333)

The center of gravity is shifting away from the traditional, massive operating systems of the past

I don't see how this is "the center of gravity shifting". Rather, the examples given appear to indicate a diversification of Operating systems rather than a general downward trend. e.g. While there may be a smaller OS X revision, the desktop revision gets larger with every release.

Windows 7 is not so much a shrinking OS as it is a recognition that Vista was a mistake. A huge, crufty, useless mistake. Windows 7 cuts back some of the cruft and makes the system usable again. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to push their embedded Windows for Devices product on the low end. Nothing new there.

Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half.

Cutting out MySQL and LDAP make sense. Why install services you don't need on a desktop machine? But why cut out CUPS? CUPS is pretty much the standard for printing these days. Doesn't cutting it seem counterproductive?

Re:Not so much (1, Interesting)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785395)

I don't see how this is "the center of gravity shifting". Rather, the examples given appear to indicate a diversification of Operating systems rather than a general downward trend.

But it is clear that control of our applications is slowly moving away from the realm of our local computer. However, when some people state that "the OS may fade into irrelevance sooner than we expect" I start to call BS.

My objection has nothing to do with being stubborn. In fact, as a long time developer and consultant I realize the OS MUST STAY. The OS, at it's core, is the interface between hardware, applications and users (simply stated) and will always remain necessary. In some cases the OS is tied to the hardware, definitely making it relevant.

So the big question is will the os become irrelevant any time soon? I feel that Microsoft, Apple and others have answered that question by creating OS's that provide tools and services that reach far beyond the original purpose of the OS. By creating a rich environment these developers create a compelling environment.

In addition, some applications will likely never be appropriate in a hosted application environment. There are also the millions of computers that have limited or even no online access. So online delivery of applications is not practical for these users.

The bottom line is that I see the OS becoming somewhat irrelevant, but a lot has to happen in the mean time to make this truly revolutionary.

Meh. Just my $1.00 - $.98. :-)

=Smidge=

Re:Not so much (3, Interesting)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785489)

With E-Mail both and Instant Messaging supporting file transfer, and every man and his dog armed with a PDA or Mobile that can read typical document formats, I'd argue that NOT printing anything has become the standard these days.

Re:Not so much (4, Interesting)

spud603 (832173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785571)

I think you live in an insulated world. Most (non IT) businesses print reams of paper every day, and academia uses paper like it's going out of style (which I guess it is...).

Re:Not so much (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786537)

Maybe some academia. We use a whole lot less paper than we used to. I rarely print papers now, and if I do it's for the first reading only, rather than every time I want to give one to someone, or refer to it. We used to print a copy of a paper draft (huge, because they're double spaced etc.) for each coauthor, collect their changes, type them in, and repeat. Now we just mail around Word documents with change tracking turned on.

Still, printing is something that an OS should do. It really doesn't need to install support for EVERY printer ever made, by default, though. I trimmed gigs off my OS X install by deleting printer drivers I never use.

Re:Not so much (1)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786077)

I don't see how this is "the center of gravity shifting". Rather, the examples given appear to indicate a diversification of Operating systems rather than a general downward trend. e.g. While there may be a smaller OS X revision, the desktop revision gets larger with every release.

The next desktop version of OS X is expected to be much smaller than the current one. From http://www.apple.com/macosx/snowleopard/:

Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.

While I agree with you that this story is a vacuous mix of buzz words, I do think that desktop OSes do get smaller indeed, and I think it's a good thing. But for different reasons. To me, it signals a shift on the OS developers' behalf, away from adding more functionality back to optimizing the code-base. Partly because their marketing strategy necessitates the system to run on mobile devices (Apple), partly because they have understood that the market is fed up with bloated OSes that get in the way (Microsoft). But regardless of the reasons, it's A Good Thing.

Re:Not so much (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786363)

CUPS isn't going anywhere, I don't know where the fuck those people got that idea... It may be removed from the Netbook Remix, because printing from a netbook doesn't seem to be very common.

And I say (0)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785351)

Hallelujah... About freaking time...

Re:And I say (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786633)

Don't get too excited. As the summary says, the browser is set to replace the OS as the source of unnecessary bloat.

Sounds Familiar. (3, Funny)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785357)

Thin Clients [wikipedia.org]
Mozilla Firefox [wikipedia.org]

There's an apocryphal story that someone suggested a branch of Firefox that was leaned down by concentrating on the core browser functionality... what goes around...

Evolution (2, Insightful)

coren2000 (788204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785361)

maybe ubuntu will cut out evolution from it's default.

Good, maybe they'll boot faster then. (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785367)

I'm for it - too many services are automatically started for you by both Windows & many flavors of *nix. This leads to slow boots and reduced performance therafter...

Otherwise I'm less than impressed with this article which seems to be a sloppy Infoworld astroturf. The second link goes to one about XP, and not windows 7 for example...

Economy (3, Funny)

macaulay805 (823467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785421)

It looks like OSes couldn't escape the economic downturn as well.

promising..but... (4, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785553)

Sounds promising, until you go to open Notepad and you find out you need to install it. Or you need to install Java to run a java app on the web. Or need to install .net so you can run other apps. While some, especially the moer tech savvy, will say "bring it on", grand-ma and grand-pa will be confused. Slim-down, cut-out the fat products help the more savvy (advanced installation users) but really hurt those who have no clue.

A better way - make the install disk's advanced installation give a list of components that can be removed from the install, while the basic user can get the full install. oh, wait.

Re:promising..but... (2, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786513)

Or you need to install Java to run a java app on the web. Or need to install .net so you can run other apps.

It's this way now with these two examples on Windows. Neither are installed by default.

This is a duh moment (5, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785611)

I never understood why so many services were running by default in the first place.

I always thought it would make more sense to provide three big buttons on setup as well as an advanced tab. Those buttons are the presets: everything off, the most popular stuff on, and everything on. The advanced tabs would let you tweak the specifics.

There's so much extraneous crap running on a typical Windows install it just blows me away. I'm less familiar with Linux and OS X but from what I've seen they are as guilty at times.

Incidentally, this also brings up my beef about software updaters. I have no problem with them running once a week at startup, checking the net for an update and terminating. But these fuckers remain running in the background constantly like Google updater. Look, do I really care to know the second a new program is released, a new patch? Look, why can't you just tell me the next time I reboot? Or hell, just run the updater when I execute the specific program and piss off when finished.

I understand that modern software is really complicated and I'd feel a little less free to complain about bloat if I knew everything that went on in the background. Well, I still wonder what things would be like if I were God Emperor of the World and said that nobody could buy faster machines for a decade, they had to stick with what they had. We see that happen with video game consoles, having a fixed platform to develop for over a period of years, the optimizations that are developed. PC's move so damn fast that by the time anyone figures out the hardware there's something new to write for. And management pays for new features, not optimization. But if they couldn't just demand people buy a faster computer, if they had to work within the resources at hand, I bet our stuff would be running two or three times faster by the end of the decade, just from doing it right the second time.

Re:This is a duh moment (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786521)

Incidentally, this also brings up my beef about software updaters. I have no problem with them running once a week at startup, checking the net for an update and terminating. But these fuckers remain running in the background constantly like Google updater. Look, do I really care to know the second a new program is released, a new patch? Look, why can't you just tell me the next time I reboot? Or hell, just run the updater when I execute the specific program and piss off when finished.

I believe a windows user will want its RPC service updated as soon as an update is released since it is a very common malware vector. But I agree you don't care that much that MSN changed its fancy colors.

You probably a system to manage how often EACH software is updated. Probably in groups such as : "critical", "i am using it frequently" and "what is this software doing ?"

Re:This is a duh moment (2, Insightful)

tbuskey (135499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786617)

I never understood why so many services were running by default in the first place.
 
 

Hear, hear. With poor explanations of *why* you want that running. I never print from my home laptop. I don't want CUPS running. My wife's laptop gets spoolv.exe taking up 100% CPU all the time and she's just web browsing.

I always thought it would make more sense to provide three big buttons on setup as well as an advanced tab. Those buttons are the presets: everything off, the most popular stuff on, and everything on. The advanced tabs would let you tweak the specifics.

There's so much extraneous crap running on a typical Windows install it just blows me away. I'm less familiar with Linux and OS X but from what I've seen they are as guilty at times.

It's typically easier to find info on what those services do on a Unix box. And they're not always focused on Joe sixpack that just wants things to work.

Incidentally, this also brings up my beef about software updaters. I have no problem with them running once a week at startup, checking the net for an update and terminating. But these fuckers remain running in the background constantly like Google updater. Look, do I really care to know the second a new program is released, a new patch? Look, why can't you just tell me the next time I reboot? Or hell, just run the updater when I execute the specific program and piss off when finished.

Or one updater that *every* program can use. On Windows you have Windows Update, Java, Anti-virus, Google, Adobe, Software Manager.

On Fedora or Ubuntu, I have one.

CUPS (3, Informative)

sciurus0 (894908) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785625)

$ lsb_release -d
Description: Ubuntu 8.10
$ ps -ef | grep cupsd
root 6860 1 0 Feb08 ? 00:00:00 /usr/sbin/cupsd

Re:CUPS (3, Funny)

godrik (1287354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786639)

Using your trick, I found that the most time consumming application was:

root 7275 6982 0 Jan23 tty7 01:46:49 /usr/bin/Xorg :0 -br -audit 0 -auth /var/gdm/:0.Xauth -nolisten tcp vt7

I do not an X movie organizer, I should get rid of it.

Standard in embedded systems world (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785771)

If you really want to see "slimming down the operating system", check out QNX [qnx.com] , which is a true microkernel used mostly for embedded systems. The kernel just does memory, CPU, timer, and process management, plus interprocess communication. Everything else is optional. Networking, disk/file system support, display support, window management, etc. are all user-level processes that you can include, or not, when making a boot image.

The unusual feature here is that the components really are independent. You can have networking without a file system, or a file system without networking. If the machine has no display, you don't have to include any of the "console" stuff. Even error logging is an option, and can be connected to a display, a window, the network, or a file.

But this isn't what the original article meant by "just enough operating system". They're thinking more of bloated distros.

I hope "just enough operating system" means the ad-funded preloaded crap goes away. Remember Dell charging $50 extra to get rid of all that junk?

Re:Standard in embedded systems world (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786063)

Remember the QNX 1.44MB demo disk? That was a slimmed down OS!
http://toastytech.com/guis/qnxdemo.html [toastytech.com]

Vista (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26785825)

When Microsoft created Vista they forgot that the os is a tool not a destination. Add all the nifty features you want, but you still only use it to open other programs.

Apple doesn't want desktop OS on iPhone (0, Redundant)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785841)

Apple does not want to run the same version of Mac OS X that is designed for 1024 X 768 and above on a 480 x 320 device. That would be insanely unusable. Icons would been teeny, menus unnavigable, a total UI nightmare. If they mean the underpinnings of the OS, well that is already a reality.

2(MySQL+CUPS+LDAP) = Linux? (3, Insightful)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785889)

"Linux distros such as Ubuntu are stripping out functionality, including MySQL, CUPS, and LDAP, to cut footprints in half."

Can somebody define "footprint" in this context, and then explain how MySQL, CUPS and LDAP could possibly account for half of it?

my first UNIX was on 128KB PDP (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26785903)

It did most of what I wanted. Some tings have been added in the past 30 years.

You can try, but you will fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26785909)

Both Ubuntu and Window$ are bloated by default. It's virtually impossible to cut them down without breaking something. Only way to do it is start slim and add on, not the other way around.

Small is Beautiful (2, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786001)

Remember when Windows was called a shell that sat on top of DOS? Isn't this what the aim should be... pretty pictures as an *optional* cover *to* an efficient OS, minus all that bloat that has been added over the years?

did you read... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786331)

"The Incredible Sinking Operating System" too?

I thought "what the hell, ms. me again?"

Let's get rid of some more... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786445)

Remove some of the "essentials" as well. I don't need to telnet into my Linux box. People who do most likely know how to set it up to do so. I actually would prefer not to have a swapfile. My RAM is 8 times the size of my first hard disk. It should be possible to fit a few apps in that space. Hard disks are slow and a lot of the time when apps are swapped out, they're unusable.

What I read (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786491)

Windows 7 will run [on] a spectrum

Great! They must have really stripped down the OS.

Apple "appears headed" ? (4, Insightful)

rinoid (451982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786541)

In all fairness to the description of the story.
"And Apple appears headed for a slimmed-down OS X that will enable future iPhones or tablet devices to run the same OS as the Mac."

Am I missing something?

After 17 million iPhones and I don't know how many millions of iPod Touches sold this is more than being headed in a direction.

When Apple launched the iPhone it was announced as an OS X device.
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/09/apple-announces-iphone-stock-soars/ [techcrunch.com]

So apparently Apple is clearly in the space of running a mini version of a monolithic OS.

Anyway, interesting as heck topic.

Welcome to the death of PCs (0)

jjohn (2991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786545)

The long predicted death of PCs and the rise of compelling PDA/phones (like the iPhone) is finally here. While I won't speak to the phone bit, I will say that I've been working with thin clients from Wyse, HP, Igel and Sun for years now. They are like vt220s, but better! Better than maintaining PCs anyway.

It makes sense that OS producers are targeting these stripped-down environments. I suppose that's the essence of cloud computing -- the apps are on the net and you just need enough smarts in your device to get to them.

Again, sounds like vt220s all over again.

So does this mean.. (2, Funny)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26786551)

..that I should pull my CP/M [wikimedia.org] disks (8" DSDD floppies) and IMSAI 8080 out of storage again?

Userspace apps needs to be sanitized too... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26786619)

Well. not only OS's need to slim down. Of the ~350 MB of ram in use on my system, Firefox is responsible for 1/3 of that. Ant that is with 4 tabs ( gmail, google reader, /. and another webmail). What is going on...

One more thing that should be excluded from the default install is the mta's (sendmail, procmail, postfix etc ), very few desktop users really need those...

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