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All Hail Bloatware

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the hehe-bwahah dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 290

Zarn writes "In Tuesday's Slate edition Andrew Shuman, in his article The Love Bloat, argues that the problem with bloated software is that it isn't bloated enough and that we, the customers, are the ones demanding bloat! " Heh. I'm wiping a tear off of my check from laughing so hard - Jonathan Swift, here we come.

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Bloat (3)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815042)

Every program expands until it can read mail!

Reasons for Bloat (1)

jonathansamuel (59294) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815045)

Consumers only want to buy an upgrade if it contains new features. But they also want backwards compatibility. Hence, bloat.

Once upon a time anything that ran in more than 512K of memory was bloated. Anything that required more than a 14.4K modem was bloated.

Love bloat. Bloat is your friend. Accept your bloatedness.

Look at this comment too (3)

haro (34457) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815048)

In Andrew Leonard has an article [] about it.

Another reason for Bloat (2)

eponymous cohort (8637) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815051)

The development tools that are used contribute to bloat as well. In the early 80's, when PC's and other computers didn't have much memory, developers often used Assembly Language, resulting in very lean, fast programs.

Of course writing a big app in assembly will drive you insane. As PCs got bigger, C and C++ were used, and developers increaingly linked in bigger and bigger libraries. This helped contribute to the bloat.

Bloat Happens (1)

AssKey (65520) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815053)

Bloat happens because you hire cheap inexperienced
programmers that you can treat like indentured
servants. Bloat goes away when you have a global
network of experienced talent working on the
code, looking out for each other.

DOH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815056)

And I just spend 3 years learning tight optimized ASM for the x86 processers! I guess I will just have to try better next time.

If Microsoft office was a human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815059)

If Microsoft office was a human it would a big 500 pound sweety guy screaming about the "voices" he hears. Bloated, buggy software, sounds like fun to me.

The thing is, some linux, has gotten bloated also. Anyone every use netscape!? It runs slow on a AMD 400 w/ 256 megs of ram.

I forgot the name, but i seen a X text editor that was also an email client, ftp client, and a address book, yea sure it was fast, but it had stuff that a text editor doesn't/shouldn't do. It also had a xproc applet, it didn't show the system down any, but wtf I need to know how much ram and what type of cpu in a simple text editor, fuck that, give me xterm & vi dammit.

Is there any open source browser that are faster, leaner, meaner, not as bloated or buggy as netscape? Just pictures and text, no java, no java scripts, no nothing , runs under X with pictures and text, that is all anything else in it, is bloat.

It happened, but it's not a ghost town... (1)

slambo (10757) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815060)

The day that Microsoft fails to convince you to upgrade--i.e., to buy a product that the malcontents call bloated--is the day that Redmond becomes a ghost town.

That day happened for us about 2 years ago when we decided not to upgrade to Win98 on one of our boxen (others running one of several Linux distros, currently Caldera 2.2 and RedHat 5.2). Now, where can I load up my truck with all the worthless (to them) hardware?

The problem is that it's not bloated enough! (2)

mmontour (2208) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815062)

This article is scary, since I don't think the author (a self-confessed Micros~1 programmer) is kidding.

>Sadly, it is you, the customer, who demands bloat, forever clamoring for new features.
> The day that Microsoft fails to convince you to upgrade--i.e., to buy a product that the malcontents call bloated--is the day that Redmond becomes a ghost town.

In other words, "the customer demands" that Micros~1 stays in business and keeps hauling in money. Yeah, right.

> Most bloatware complaints come from users who own 2-to 3-year-old machines. They don't understand that the new (bloated) versions of software are meant for the new 400-megahertz machines [...] not their Pentium 133 doorstops

This would be OK, _IFF_ there was any form of document compatibility between versions. Otherwise, it's just a forced-upgrade circle jerk with the CPU manufacturers. "Sorry, your 1997 car doesn't work with the 1999 gasoline". AutoCAD is another program which regularly pulls this scam, and I think it's about time for customers to stop accepting this philosophy.

> The elegance of the Windows 98 operating system is that it runs practically every application from the DOS days and all those goofy Windows 3.1 programs.

Insert your own sarcastic reply here.

>Software companies take your wish lists seriously, and then make them happen.

So in closing, which customer asked for dancing paperclips, and can somebody please hurt him/her???

Re:If Microsoft office was a human (2)

Sneakums (2534) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815124)

Look, Navigator is bloated on every platform, not just Linux. What an advertisment for cross-platform-icity: "Navigator! Bloated on over forty platforms!"



Re:Reasons for Bloat (1)

slim (1652) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815125)

I cannot accept that many of the "features" in (say) MS Word belong in a word processor.

I'm much happier with the UNIX way of having small applications that do just enough. vi can't format
text to a given width, but it *can* pipe a section
through "fmt", or any arbitary program.

The Gimp is a small tool, augmented with hundreds of plugins. Emacs is a small program, only bloated by the huge amount of (optional) Lisp.

So that's why my baby brother keeps growing... (1)

Gerund (17746) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815128)

Yep...backwards compatibility...
Just yesterday, I was remarking to myself, "Now if only I could run some of those old GNU/Linux programs of yesteryear, not too mention a few DOS apps and a Win3.11 proggy or two as well." But hell, goddamn it, the Linux system ain't fat enough to fit them all. We need to add another 5 meg to the kernel at least. Not to mention huge quantities of drivers and assorted garbage. Where's my code shovel?

It's not the features that bloat the ware (2)

JAZ (13084) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815130)

I hate bloatware, but, at least with M$ the problem is not the features, the problem is usually easter eggs. Why does Excel need a 3D flight simulator? why does word need a pinball game? why does outlook need a picture of the developement team. These are not features and I doubt they were on "consumer wish lists" if they are features they should be advertised as such. but they won't be because its just wasted code.

anyhow that's my $0.02

You stole my post! (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815133)

Dammit! I was going to bring that up! ;)

Let's not forget the (badly done and slow) Doom like game hidden in an older version of Excel.

If the programmers would pull their heads out of their butts and write tight code and FIX THE DAMNED BUGS instead of sticking in easter eggs MS products might just suck a little less.

I wonder how Bill feels about his employees goofing of on his dime? Me, I'd fire them.

Swift comparison (1)

arthurs_sidekick (41708) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815134)

Uhh, this article lacked the touch of Swift, if indeed it was truly meant as satire in the first place. I wasn't entirely sure this was meant as satire at all (remember, it is posted on a not-just-for-geeks site, and comes from the MS universe).

It seemed to me that Shuman's point was to blame "the consumer" for bloated software, without much of a sense that he might be joking. I mean there's the crack about SWAT teams, but a lot of the stuff he mentioned about win versions supporting legacy apps rang true (disclaimer: not being a serious coder, I don't know enough technical details to know whether it's really true that support for legacy code is responsible). I'm not asking for a "wink" tag in there, but lemme tell ya, he could have done more exaggeration if his aim was satire.

Faster browser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815139)

I use the browser built-in to KDE most of the time. It's far
faster than Netscape, and actually goes back to the previous
page when I hit the "back" button instead of reloading it like
Netscape usually wants to do.

The worst bug in it is a memory leak, which forces me to
restart the X-server every couple of days.

Uhh.... No. (2)

Sangui5 (12317) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815142)

Bloat is not our friend.

Yes, it is true that people are demanding more and more new features, and they also demand backwards compatibility, and these things do take more space.

But it is mostly the fault of the software companies.

Any large system becomes bloated. Just look any large burocracy. The problem is communication between all of the people who are writing the software. They don't coordinate, and they don't care about the system for the system's sake. They do thier job with the least amount of effort on thier part. If it's easier for them to make a new file format rather than stick with the old one, then we have a new format, and one more bit of old code for 'backwards compatibility'. Why bother coordinating this fancy feature with the one the guy down the hall is writing so that we don't suck up all of the processor. Why don't we write the same routine as ten other people because we didn't know somebody else had written it already for their own work? Why not assume that everybody who wants to run this program has a computer under 2 years old? Why not add in hard-coded limits to data sizes and whatnot just for the sake of convienience?

Why doesn't anybody put any effort into making their software elegant, internally coordinated, optimized, and expandible for the future?

Re:The problem is that it's not bloated enough! (1)

Aliera (19724) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815145)

>So in closing, which customer asked for dancing paperclips, and can somebody please hurt him/her???

Naah. First in line is the bozo who keeps demanding that the Master Document feature intermittently corrupt all included documents beyond recovery, because it's had that bug since Release 4 and his organization depends on backward compatibility.

When I find him, I'm buying him a season pass to Good Burger [] at the local $1.50 house.

Exact! (1)

bunyip (17018) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815146)

Read any magazine review, they all have feature comparison lists. This drives bloat, as corporate buyers use these to choose amongst competing products (along with free golf games from sales reps).

You can't quantify elegance and simplicity. If you do useability tests, the sales rep convinces your management they're flawed, takes them to a really nice golf course, and - voila - your recommendation is overridden.

I have spent several years at work forced to use a bogus e-mail package that has every feature you can think of, but crashes about once a day. It's the same with M$ products.

Maybe everyone on this forum is smarter than your average corporate nitwit - but think about the pointy haired manager in the Dilbert cartoons, they really do exist. Your next computer will have 14 cupholders, just because the competitors only have 6...

Re:If Microsoft office was a human (2)

Rob Parkhill (1444) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815154)

The thing is, some linux, has gotten bloated also. Anyone every use netscape!? It runs slow on a AMD 400 w/ 256 megs of ram.
Is there any open source browser that are faster, leaner, meaner, not as bloated or buggy as netscape? Just pictures and text, no java, no java scripts, no nothing , runs under X with pictures and text, that is all anything else in it, is bloat.

If you just want pictures and text, then why not run Mosaic 2.0 or Netscape 1.1? That's pretty much all they they do. And they are small and fast. Nevermind that they won't display 90% of all web pages properly, since most web pages contain a lot more than just pictures and text now.

No-one forces you to upgrade. If you want to use old software with fewer features, go for it.

Take a look at muLinux (Micro Linux) (4)

Wholeflaffer (64423) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815155)

muLinux is probably the most versatile and interesting one-floppy-disk distribution of Linux out there. (Mr.) Michele Andreoli has written some incredible apps, such as an http server that's less than 1500 bytes in size. You can get X-windows on a second floppy, too. If you want it all (gcc compiler, ssh...), you'll have three floppies to deal with. I've been having lots of fun with this package...and very little bloat.

Check it out at []

The customer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815158)

He says "the customer" demands new features, and he's
right about that. But it's THE customer, not EVERY customer,
or even a majority of them. There's probably somebody out
there who thinks a dancing paperclip is a really important
educational feature.

I'm sorry (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815159)

but I just couldn't read that beyond '... the elegance of Windows 98...'

I think their talking about conspicuous consumption and flaunting wealth - "Hey, everybody , I have a 9Gb disk and just fill it up with stuff that I don't even use, yeah!"


Error #1287: tag line file corrupt or missing

Re:If Microsoft office was a human (2)

slim (1652) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815162)

"Look, Navigator is bloated on every platform, not just Linux. What an advertisment for
cross-platform-icity: "Navigator! Bloated on over forty platforms!" "

Navigator is bloated because it doesn't know what it is. "I'm a browser" "I'm a newsreader" "I'm an editor" "I'm a mailer" "I'm a JVM" "I'm a javascript

I really don't understand why Netscape don't break it into components and market it as a "suite" of nice, small, streamlined programs.

Re:Bloat (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815163)


Every program expands until it can render all content as HTML in an embedded widget.

Re:Reasons for Bloat (1)

szo (7842) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815165)

Consumers only want to buy an upgrade if it contains new features. But they also want backwards compatibility. Hence, bloat.

True. Now please tell me, in reality, why can't I run my win3.1 applications on w95? They _claim_ to have backward compatibility, but they don't really have it. So I'm forced to upgrade the apps as well. Sheees :-(


hrm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815167)

"How many of you have programmed your VCR?"
Me. Though not lately, but I don't watch TV much anymore either...

"Minced carrots with your Cuisinart?"
With my WHAT? Pretty sure I'll never own one of those.

"Or gone off-roading in your SUV?"
I go all the time in my Jeep. In fact, I'm going Sunday. :)

"Why should software be any different?"
Exactly. Buy/get what you need/want. Not what some company or magazine tells you that you need.

Re:Another reason for Bloat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815168)

Well we can tell you are not much of a programmer.
The libs only add exactly what code you need
out of them (and if you mean dynamic libs and dlls, which in the long run save on bloat). Linux is almost all c and c++ code, uses libs and is not bloated. If they are linked statically it removes
unwanted parts from the library. So you arguement is pretty lame as a good c/c++ compiler and especially a good linker can make code that is about 98% as efficient as pure assembler code.

The article is correct. (1)

Benjamin Shniper (24107) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815169)

It is true - the bigger, newer, more bloated programs which run only on the high end computers of tomorrow... this is where the money is in software today. As they follow the money so religiously, Microsoft [] has, in its own way, won.

There have been efforts like the "good software group", or Linux or BeOS [] 's streamlined systems, or even GNU [] to an extent. I mean to be skeptical. What is "better"? [] Do we mean our smaller, more manageable systems which have less features and don't crash? I argue that anyone can make a small program which doesn't crash... it's adding features that mucks things up. Microsoft has always pushed the envelope for features, at the expense of backward compatability, robustness, and even good taste (remember the Word Paper clip?) But isn't that what their consumers wanted?

This is how they won. Now they are the biggest company in the world because everyone else just didn't get it... push the envelope on features and market those features . BeOS, Linux, and every other system has to play catch-up on the stupid features, now, if they want the Windows marketshare.

But better designed, streamlined, and fully functional unix stations seem better to us. That's because we aren't Microsoft customers, never really were, and never will be. We want something else, all we really wanted is the *choice* of which features we get. And the coolest new features, not the most. Does this mean Microsoft is wrong and we're right? In a way, no. They have more money. But we have our OS, now.


two reasons why people upgrade software (1)

Mr Bill (21249) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815173)

The two top reasons why people upgrade software

1. New versions usually have incompatible, proprietary file formats
2. And how else do you get bug fixes from Windows software

New features is not a reason to upgrade to the next version of a software package. Most IT people that I deal with are of the mind that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. But since all software is 'broke', we are stuck in the endless upgrade cycle...

Bloated Stuff (3)

Bastard Child (66982) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815174)

"Create [software] that even and idiot can use, and only an idiot will want to use it."

I don't know who came up with this quote, but it seems to fit. Seems that bloated software is mostly for people who don't "get" computers, but who *do* use them every day. This accounts for over 90% of the computer-using populous.

The downside is that the other 10% (or less) are nearly forced to use the bloatware also because the first 90% say "Here's that file I wanted you to look at, it's saved using Office 97." These are the same people who use MS Excel (or Word) to store record-and-field (read database) type info because they don't know what a database is or does.

I spend approximately 5-10% of my time writing scripts that do data conversion because someone decided to use "Bloatware" to do a particular job rather than the "correct" software. Why? Because "It's so easy to use!"

On the flip side, I *can't* use some of these products, because they're "too easy" to use. I still create HTML using a text editor. I'm the only one at my company (a multimedia company that produces web sites) who does this. Everyone else uses Frontpage, then wonders why the pages don't work right in Netscape. I will not use Word because it *insists* on correcting my "mistakes," and tries to anticipate what I want to do. If I put the letter 'c' in parentheses, it automatically converts it into a copyright symbol.
If I wanted a freekin copyright symbol, I would have used charmap.exe.

Enough soapboxing. =)

1Ghz (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815176)

Because a 386/16 isn't powerful enough for word processing.

Linux libc seems bloated! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815178)

libc5 weighs in at 600k

libc6 weighs in at 3mb!
(it also references other libraries for many functions!)

I'm sure this extra size reflects extra functionality, but creating statically linked binaries for libc6 systems seems to give them a bloated feel.

I've also had a nightmare with the libnss files, especially when running under a chrooted file system.

Developers should bear this in mind when creating new apps and system functions. Its very easy to let things get fat!

Lets learn from mistakes made by (cough) other OS's

Re:Reasons for Bloat (4)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815180)

I don't buy that bloat is caused solely (or even *predominantly*) by user-requested (user-wanted as per market study) features.

For instance, who the heck asked for that damn paper clip and his moronic friends!!?? Who thought to themselves: "Damn it! I can't do a thing with this Office97...hey! I know! A dancing paper clip would really help me a lot!"

Also...Users don't buy upgrades JUST for new features. In fact, I'd argue users buy upgrades JUST so that they can stay current enough to work with everyone (and everything) else. Maybe if Microsoft didn't break its old file formats and introduce new ones every rev then people wouldn't upgrade as much. I got Word 6.1 for free with a new computer and have to date not installed a new one. I can't use documents from work though (and NO, it was not my choice to use MS Office...).

In the same vein, I think embedding HTML functionality into everything is stupid. I hate getting those bloat laden HTML messages from people in Pine, which I have to decipher for myself. Sometimes these messages include two attachments: one HTML attachment for bloated email readers, and one plain text attachment for normal ISO8859_1 readers. Over double the bandwandth of the simple plain text message. Most people don't even know this feature is on when they sprinkle bold, italic, and font tags all through there 1 line message and 6 line sig.

Bloat is also caused by laziness. I guess nobody at Microsoft ever thought "Hey, if we actually took the 3 extra months to get this really tight we might have a product consumers would buy and not feel like it was being stuffed down their throat." The lazy approach to complexity is to just scale up the same techniques and practices you were doing before. It's easy to copy your O(2^n) parser from Bloatv1.0 to Bloatv2.0 to use with files 10 times bigger. It's harder to redesign the whole architecture.

In any case, it seems to me the bloat coming out of MS is more due to two things: 1) Introducing useless technologies and additions to 2) Position themselves strategically for even more dominance,
than attempting to add things users *want*. Heck, I've *wanted* a smaller, tighter office suite for years...they haven't added *that* feature.

browser wars and text editors (2)

Leapfrog (4220) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815183)

Ah, Emacs. It's not just a text editor, it's a calculator, web browser, mail reader, lisp interpreter, integrated development environment, psychologist, word processor, dictionary, and King James Edition all in one! gack. I'm a big fan of the theory that a mail reader is for reading mail, and a text editor is for editing text; never shall the twain meet. Give me vi anyday.

As for fast lean web browsers, chimera, arena, and amaya all come to mind, except they've all been in beta-state with no development since 1996. Arena would be great if it didn't segfault trying to load most web pages. Amaya would be even better if it didn't try to be something I don't need (an html editor) and crash whenever I try to follow a hyperlink. Chimera looks nice but I have yet to see it do anything Mosaic couldn't do. And the newest version won't even compile for me. Of course, the newest version was released over 2 years ago. I'd be willing to work on some of those older browsers, trying to get them to a functional state, if there was any interest. Anyone else? mail me [mailto] if you're interested in something like that. I don't want the newest and shiniest with all the features, like the Mozilla team, just something that works right and doesn't take up more than 4 megs of ram to run.

Netscape is bloated because of the mail, news, composer, instant messenger, and everything else even vaguely internet-related built in. I remember that 3.0 was a lot better for not using up as much ram but I had to dump it because it was hideously unstable. Heh. Now I can't even surf without filling up my 32 megs of ram and watching netscape fandango on core.

I'm really looking forward to Opera's linux release. Unfortunately, it's payware, but if the linux version is as good as the windows version, I'll shell out the $20. It's definately worth the money. Until then, I'm finding Mozilla to my liking. Everything except the hideous "chrome" bits. When I use mozilla, I only use the "viewer" part, with the bare-minimum user interface and the "my, that's alpha" feel. And it only consumes 10 megs of ram running. (heh. Only. I seem to recall running netscape 2.0 in 4 megs of ram sometime long, long ago.)

Maybe I need to try Mosaic again. If I remember my specs right, it didn't support any of the things I dislike about the "modern web", things like animated gifs, java(script), CSS, dhtml, and frames. Maybe I should just get off my duff and start coding something better. Mozilla tries too hard to be like netscape. I want something for just plain old browsing the web. Is that too much to ask? Oh, and it has to have pictures. lynx is great, but I need to get my pr0n somehow.

Enough of my ranting. Please feel free to point me in the direction of any other projects like this, or if there isn't any, I can damn well do it myself. Or die trying.

Leapfrog, (

bloat (1)

trb (8509) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815184)

For 99% of my work, I use the same 10 programs I've been using for the past 15 years. X/xterm, telnet, vi, berkeley mail, ksh, cc. The same old toys in /bin with minor changes. I do use tcl and netscape these days, but I wouldn't call that ucontrolled growth.

Even the programs I've mentioned are tainted by bloat. ksh is a pig. xterm too. Netscape, hah. Even tcl has gotten fat without much new in the way of useful features. I wish the BTL folks who gave us UNIX (and its kin, Plan 9 and Brazil) had given more direction to the modern commercial OS biz. Cruel fate.

But I'm damned sure I don't want my editor to spawn a dancing paperclip window everytime I hesitate at the keyboard. Makes a guy want to throw his crt out the window.

Definition of "Bloat" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815186)

Call me crazy, but the guy was basically saying "bloat" is nothing more than new features in a program (as well as features that allow backwards-compatibility)?
Don't get me wrong, each version of software may get bigger and consume more resources. But in my mind, the term "bloat" means that the programs are written sloppily (is that even a word?), thus consuming more resources just because the programmers are inept and/or lazy (a couple people already touched on that).
Let's say I take my time and write a really good program with all the bells and whistles I can put into it. If Microsoft wrote the same program, it'd be much bigger and be more of a resource hog, although it'd functionally be the same thing. That's what I'm getting at. It's not that Microsoft adds "features" to their new versions, it's that they're really really lazy and in a lot of cases probably just trying to push their bloatware out the door to make more money. As a side-note, the "eligant" operating systems Microsoft writes are basically beta-quality when they ship and it's takes a couple years to get things ironed out... just in time to get a new upgraded version with a lot of nice new "features" - - which in turn are buggy and beta-quality so it just keeps going, and going and going ...

Achieving bloat through RTL multiplicity! (1)

MisterX (41946) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815188)

One of the comments in the article referred to linking with ever bigger libraries. Hence after installing a few apps, the eagle-eyed will spot that there are now a number of separate copies (and versions) of various runtime libraries around such as 'MSVCRTxx' and (heh heh) 'VBRUNxxx'.

Happens quite a lot with OS/2 apps. A lot of OS/2 developers use VisualAge C++ and the OpenClass libraries. Problem is (depending on your perspective) that IBM specifically prohibit redistribution of the OpenClass DLLs unless they are renamed. So, after installing a few apps on OS/2, I see lots of DLLs called 'xxxOOB3' and 'xxxOOU3' littering my hard drive. Some apps even install multiple copies of the DLLs themselves to support different components!

Now, these libs only account for about 3MB of disk space, but when there are a few copies around it soon adds up.

Finally with Warp4 IBM released a common version of these libs called 'OS2OOC3' but (in typical IBM fashion) don't tell anyone about them. If all the apps linked to this common version, I could go some way to unbloating my hard drive. Not to mention the reduction in memory usage by having only one copy of the code in memory.

I altered my PMICS chess client recently to link to the Warp4 supplied libraries (instead of statically linking) and dropped the exe size from over 2MB to about 500k! I like that.

Anyone care to start a "Campaign for Common-Sense RTL Installation"? Maybe apps could start being nice and co-operating. E.g. "Ahh, I need V5 of the MSVC runtime but I see that app XYZ has already installed it. I'll use that one rather than copying my own version."

Wishful thinking?

Commander Burrito (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815190)

The same _Slate_ issue has a satire of Slashdot in their ongoing serial, "Silicon Follies"

Re:DOH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815193)

You will most certainly be able to find work writing driver code for high end mpeg cards and audio, etc.

Re:Uhh.... No. (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815194)

Like for instance, the fact that the Office97 buttons are Win98ish regardless of whether it is actually running on Win98. Know why? Because they embedded the darn controls in the program! They don't use the system's ComCtrl.dll (or whatever that stupid thing is), they have their own right in there!. Same for the Mac office suite. Shouldn't these programmers be coordinating with each other??

Re:So that's why my baby brother keeps growing... (1)

Croaker (10633) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815196)

Heck yeah, Linux is fat enough to fit 'em all. Just get DOSemu and WABI (or WINE) and you're all set for your backwards compatibility. I guess you could add both to the kernel, though... and add in VMware while you're at it. Oh, and why not add in Quake... kernel-based Quake would rock!

On a side note, having seen a bunch of Microsoft's easter eggs (including a pinball game and a doom-like VR thing in the Office products) one wonders how much of the bloat is just crap that the programmer's felt like putting in...

Re:If Microsoft office was a human/Netscape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815197)

It runs fast as hell on my Dual Pent Pro 200...with 128M of ram...and runs decent on a Pent 233MMX with 32M of ram here too...perhaps your linux/X is just not optimized for are probabaly running Redhat out of the box or something. Try slackware, stampede or even mandrake if you require redhat like version, I would say try SuSE as its fast, but its a little overkill on useless apps for most people (4 install cdroms, of course you dont have to install it all).

But... you can't BUY a new copy of an old version. (1)

Chad Page (20225) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815200)

This article would make sense if said companies would be willing to sell you old versions... which seems to be his take on the matter. The problem is that if you don't own copies of the old stuff (esp. before it was distributed on CD-ROM) it's a PITA to get old versions, compared to getting the current version.

Re:Another reason for Bloat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815201)

Um, no. The linker pulls in the whole object file, and can generate some pretty bloated programs on its own.

Ever build a "hello world" program in g++? Using, say, just the C calls, and #including *only* stdio.h? On, say, Solaris, the binary will be over 500k.

Re:Reasons for Bloat; not really (1)

be-fan (61476) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815203)

I think the Unix minimalism has gotten to the point where you need to use more than one app to do things. That leads to interdependancy which is bad (before you say it is not try installing X and KDE and compiling an X program on a computer that did not have X on it before. At one point I think I had to install Bison.) And one should not HAVE to use multiple programs to do tasks. People want to learn one program and have it suit their needs. However, Office apps can be bloated, I don't mind. When it extends to the OS + GUI, (ahhemm KDE, X) that is bad.

Re: bad (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815204)

Oops...I was the one who requested the doom-VR and pinball game...doh!

Re:Another reason for Bloat (2)

hanway (28844) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815205)

I am absolutely sick of hearing about how C/C++ causes bloat because of the size of "Hello, world" programs. Use the right tool for the job. If you want to write "Hello, world" use a shell script or Perl.

You mean, here's the earl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815206) er_33/index.html

This EXPOSES what's wrong with Microsoft (1)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815207)

I can't believe Microsoft would allow one of their minions to shine a spotlight on their most criminal behavior. No, I'm not talking about bloatware specifically - I'm talking about users being FORCED into buying - thus "demanding" - the latest bloatware, just to read a .doc file.

It's like saying "life" prisoners ASKED to be used in government sponsored medical testing. After all, they chose to go to jail right?

Didn't you ask for a local cable monopoly too? I get cable TV from my only provider, so I must be demanding less choice... [/sarcasm]

Re:Another reason for Bloat (1)

gorilla (36491) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815208)

Ever build a "hello world" program in g++? Using, say, just the C calls, and #including *only* stdio.h? On, say, Solaris, the binary will be over 500k.

I don't have g++ available on solaris, but using Sun's CC: WorkShop Compilers 5.0 98/12/15 C++ 5.0, the traditional helloworld.c comes to 8796 bytes.

Using g++ on Linux, gives a binary of 19410 bytes.

These are without running strip on the binary to remove debugging information. If I do that, then the size decreases to 5612 under solaris & 5668 under Linux.

RISKs on bloatware (2)

Froomkin (18607) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815209)

Best article I have seen on the causes of bloat in MS products is R.A. Downs's analysis of bloat in RegClean Version 4.1a Build 7364.1 [] . In a program of 818KB, he finds 350KB (that's over 40% of "bloat," including unused cursors, dialogs, string entries, tool bar, menus, icons, etc. You might quibble with some of what he counts, but the basic point is powerful.

A. Michael Froomkin [mailto]
U. Miami School of Law,POB 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33124,USA

Re:Reasons for Bloat; not really (1)

slim (1652) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815210)

If the "thing" you want to do is really two things, then yes, sometimes Unix minimalism requires you to use two programs. This is a good thing.

Would you have the KDE guys reimplement everything X does, just so they can avoid being dependent of it. That's just silly - making work for the sake of it.

I even get cross when a mail app contains SMTP client code, instead of just calling sendmail.


Bloat / Microsoft (1)

Vic (6867) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815211)

Am I the only one that finds it funny that a writer on a Microsoft website is defending bloat? :-)


Microsoft Corp (SLATE-DOM)
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Domain Name: SLATE.COM

Administrative Contact:
Microsoft Hostmaster (MH37-ORG) msnhst@MICROSOFT.COM
425 882 8080
Fax- .: 206 703 2641
Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
425 882 8080

Record last updated on 23-Oct-98.
Record created on 21-Feb-95.
Database last updated on 6-Jul-99 08:47:29 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:


Architecture anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815212)

Seems to me this guy doesn't get partitionning: you don't need multiple copies of features in multiple programs. Just use libraries and servers to share functionality.

a) So windows needs bloat to run old programs? Nope, you need a virtual machine like dosemu to run the older programs, which does not affect the loading speed of newer ones. Similarly for Win 3.1 support in Win 95: wipe the slate clean. The old programs get loaded by a Win 3.1 virtual machine with Win 3.1 libraries. Win 3.1 was small and loads quickly, so this should at most double the size of your OS -- less more like since you need only have one copy of the GDI, etc.

b) If Microsoft had their way every app would contain a 99.9999% voice recognition engine... well first of all he misses the point that 99.9999% voice recognition engines require really good semantics/pragmatics, which do not currently exist. But leaving that aside, you only need 1 voice recognition engine in the box that all tools use.

Re:Bloated Stuff (1)

Aliera (19724) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815213)

You can turn off Word autocorrect (generally my first task when I edit on somebody else's box)
with the

Tools | Options | Spelling and Grammar tab

Uncheck "Check spelling as you type" and "Always suggest corrections".

The annoying (p) correction (and many of its siblings) can be yanked by removing its entry from AutoCorrect.

Insert | AutoText | Autotext | AutoCorrect tab

Short response (1)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815214)


Re:The article is correct. (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815215)

"BeOS, Linux, and every other system has to play catch-up on the stupid features, now, if they want the Windows marketshare."

Stupid features for stupid people I guess. If all those Windows groupies want these useless things, fine. I just don't like being forced to use the products, which I have to if I'm to do anything with them (they sure as heck won't change *their *software).

On the other hand...I just spent several hours this morning fighting with 'sed' to print the last line of some input...

Re:The article is correct. (2)

GeekBoy (10877) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815216)

Unfortunatly you are right.

I come from a sales background dealing with the
average "joe user." (I worked sales while getting
my comp-sci degree). The only way to successfully
make a sale and compete against you competitors is

1) Find out the persons "needs" (read *wants*)
2) Tie down the customer to those "needs" that
map to a feature set in your product. Then
hammer on the features that are unique to your
product over the competition.
3) Explain each feature, the benefit of it to the
customer, and then tie down (i.e. get him to
agree with you) and then close.

It goes like this.

Feature -> Advantage -> Benefit -> TieDown
Feature -> Advantage -> Benefit -> TieDown
Feature -> Advantage -> Benefit -> TieDown

(i.e. close the sale)

In the mainstream world of computing (joe user),
it's features that sell. The feature of stability
is hard to sell to the average user b/c they
a) expect it to be stable (and if you try to
push this too much they'll lose confidence in
you and your product and go somewhere else
where your competitor will tell them all
their products are stable and get the sale).
b) It's not glamorous.

The "feature" of not being bloated doesn't sell
because it has much less "features" compared to
the "bloated software" (which normal people
really care very little about until they have
to upgrade). The software industry read *MS* has
done a good job of ingraining people with the
mentality that they NEED the latest bloat.

High tech, enterprise companies are different
b/c they have IT staff. But small businesses are
the same as joe user b/c usually the suits are
dumber than stumps.
***************************************** ***
Superstition is a word the ignorant use to describe their ignorance. -Sifu

here cheek cheek cheek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815217)

that's cheek not check ;P

unless of course you were crying over how much it costs for bug fixes in 98SE (sounds like a car to me)

Cue the Laugh Track (1)

Brent Nordquist (11533) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815218)

"If you're truly anti-bloat, there's a whole subgenre of dainty, low-bloat computers out there for you: [...] Windows CE handheld devices."

Re:The problem is that it's not bloated enough! (1)

styopa (58097) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815219)

AutoCAD is another program which regularly pulls this scam, and I think it's about time for customers to stop accepting this philosophy

If I remember correctly, AutoCAD v11-13 didn't sell worth squat. It really wasn't until AutoCAD 14, which finally stopped being a DOS program and became a Windows program that consumers started to buy their product in mass quantities again. They may have tried to pull that trick from 11-13, but it obviously didn't work. And AutoCAD 14.01 is merged with another program, the name of which escapes me, and they probably need a new format from v10 up to v14 anyway.

As for the magic talking paperclip, I think that not just the customer that suggested it should be hurt but the whole chain of people who put it on the specs and programmed it. They are all just as guilty for not fighting tooth and nail against something so obviously annoying and stupid.

seamlessness sucks (2)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815220)

"if we software developers were really doing our jobs instead of resting and vesting our stock options, word processors would have already bloated into 99.999 percent reliable voice-recognition software. Your computer would have fused the functions of your telephone, television, and fax machine into one seamless whole. Your computer would have become the instantly searchable repository of all your correspondence, financial transactions, data searches, and phone conversations. Plus, it would be making smart connections between your data and actions."

Hmmm, I thought your point was that
satisfying consuder demand was paramount. But I'm not convinced that consumers *want* all their information tools merged into 'one seamless whole'. What's so great about seamlessness?
I like modularity. Let's not forget, the entity
doing the "seaming" has vested interest in seaming together useful tools with gargabe we
don't want. Remember push-technology seamed-in
with the browsers... wasn't that just grande; advertising seamlessly packaged with the
browser (and OS?), pushed right into our faces.
Is this what we really want?

Do we really want our software to anticipate our needs. Or is MS and other corps. telling US this is what we need? When you type a search term into a search-engine, do you prefer the engine to respond to your direct request for pages containing keywords, or do you prefer the engine to figure out what you 'REALLY' are asking for?

Modularity over seamlessness, Responsiveness over anticipation, any day.

Clean, simple browser (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815221)

If you can disregard the Open Source requirement, NetPositive on the BeOS is exactly what you want - small, fast, works great.

Unfortunately, there are many sites that just won't load properly without JavaScript. Sad but true.


Re:Reasons for Bloat (1)

Uller78 (49800) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815222)

My question is, why would you want to run Win 3.1 apps on Win95? Or run Win95 at all, for that matter (except for games, of course).

As for me, I'll stick to using Word on WinNT running in a window with VMWare. At least that way when I get a BSOD I don't have to reboot...


I write bloat, and here is why... (2)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815223)

Why doesn't anybody put any effort into making their software elegant, internally coordinated, optimized, and expandible for the future?

I can give you a very serious answer to that. I write bloatware for a living. I am directly responsible for a handful of bloated DOS apps.

And the reason is this: Nobody pays me to spend the time to rewrite a system from scratch. They just want features added. And they always want the lowest short-term cost they can get.

It's just like evolution. Code is bloated for the same reason that your optic nerves are wired backwards, or that giraffes have an esophagal nerve that goes down, around their heart, and back up to the brain. Greedy optimization algorithms.

For example (this is a real life example): I just added Yet Another Report to a clinic's billing system. The report in question is very similar to one that I did last year. So what I did was this: I copied the old code and modified it. Now the program has two modules that are very similar with a lot of (nearly) duplicated functionality.

I could have rewritten the old code to be more general-purpose and called it twice: once from the "old" version of the report, and once from the "new" one. But this would have taken me a little bit longer. Likewise, you're probably wondering why I didn't just write it in a general way to begin with. Well, I try. When I know that I'm going to end up reusing some code, I'll do that. But if I don't know, then it's sometimes hard to justify the additional time taken to do the Right Thing.

That's the problem with doing the Right Thing: sometimes it just takes a little bit longer. Someone has to pay for that time, and non-programmers usually don't get what I'm talking about when I bring up issues related to the "cleanliness" of code. Quick and dirty almost always wins over long-term maintainability and elegance.

Oh, and there's another reason for bloat too: Once you have an installed base, you can never remove anything, no matter how braindead you think it is. Why? Because I never know how many (if any at all) of the end users are using some feature. Making the program better isn't worth the risk of getting complaints like, "I loaded the update and now my old inventory system doesn't work."

FWIW, in amateur projects where I don't have to be accountable to anyone, I do try to do the Right Thing. Heck, I used to be a VIC-20 programmer who would actually spend hours on a program to make it 12 bytes smaller. The part of my brain that used to do that, is still with me, it's just not the part that gets the bills paid.

Re:Definition of "Bloat" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815224)

In my humble opinion, M$ bloat is caused by the fact that they simply don't care whether or not its fast. Features and the vaunted user friendliness come first.

I'm calling bullshit. (2)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815225)

The reasons for the phenomenal bloat in many software packages (particularly MS's) my include user requests for features, but that's a minimal part of it.

In order to sell a product that's competing against another, you have two options. You can advertise that it simply does its job better, that it costs less, or that it does MORE. "More" is generally the easiest to sell. "It works better" is kinda nebulous, and doesn't hold up against a product that has "100 additional features."

Users don't ask for these additional "features"... software developers come up with them in order to better compete. This is especially true in the case of Microsoft, which is often primarily competing against itself. Need to convince users of MS Squeegee87 to upgrade to Squeegee2010 EX Plus Beta Turbo Edition Gold? You pump up the feature list. Saying "we stripped it down so it'll run faster than Squeegee87" or "Yeah, so we made it $30 cheaper" doesn't so much work when they already have a version that "does more".

It's not the coders, mind you... I'm sure the coders would love to strip Office down to a clone of Notepad and a calculator. And this brilliant professional would have you believe that the coders do the design... generally not true.

This article is a perfect example of the arrogant attitude that seems to pervade Microsoft and its ilk. "Why don't you just get a bigger machine like everyone else, you idiot?" seems to be their mantra. My reply: I will. And since it's running a real operating system and decent apps, it'll actually run FASTER than the 233MHz box I'm running now. I don't upgrade to maintain poor performance...I upgrade to better it.

Re:browser wars and text editors (1)

sterwill (972) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815226)

I'm a big fan of the theory that a mail reader is for reading mail, and a text editor is for editing text; never shall the twain meet.

So how do you send mail? :)

By the way, Emacs is only as big as you install it. To put it another way, the lisp you load is the memory you take. Emacs can be built to be quite small, take up little disk space (as much as vim), and work only as a text editor if you choose to do so.

Re:The problem is that it's not bloated enough! (1)

Bones_JB (66995) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815227)

> The elegance of the Windows 98 operating system is that it runs practically every application from the
DOS days and all those goofy Windows 3.1 programs.

Oh, my sides. Sorry I couldn't write a proper comment or sarcastic reply, but I was laughing too hard.

Micro$oft programs are bloated, because they think thats what the consumer wants. Then they tell the consumer about the new features that they asked for, and we are thankfull. Well.. thats what they want us to believe anyways. I think they just have a 'what new crap can we stick in this otherwise fine program so we can sell a new version that really isn't any better than the old one' meeting once a month.

Re:If Microsoft office was a human (1)

Exanter (2171) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815228)

I really don't understand why Netscape don't break it into components and market it as a "suite" of nice, small, streamlined programs.

Probably because Netscape/Mozilla operates like 99% of the world: If it makes good common sense, for all that is blessed and holy, don't do it. I myself see absolutely no reason why all that BS has to be integrated into one giant, POS 13MB+ binary pig. The browser should just be everything needed to render pages (which includes a jvm, javascript interpreter, CSS interpreter, etc), but which does NOT include a mail client, a useless news client, an html editor, and instant messanger client, etc, etc...

really, why selecting the mail client from the menu bar doesn't just fork-exec off a seperate mail client is well beyond me...

Re:I'm calling bullshit. (1)

dangermouse (2242) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815229)

( I can't count and/or type. You know what I'm sayin'. ;)

Bull (2)

Croaker (10633) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815230)

I don't know who came up with this quote, but it seems to fit. Seems that bloated software is mostly for people who don't "get" computers, but who *do* use them every day. This accounts for over 90% of the computer-using populous.

Trust me, I work with people who don't know computers. This is not the reason for bloatware. People who aren't nerds don't give a damn about bells and whistles, as far as I can tell. They really care if the can use the software. If they can open it up and start using with the least amount of fuss, then they are happy. Things like wizards are what they crave, not the latest bell and whistle. Wizards aren't all that bloaty... they are basically scripts that just sit on the application, taking the user through steps he or she wouldn't be able to figure out by themselves.

In addition, the vast majority of people in this situation do not have a choice as to what they use. They have to follow along what their IS department or computer manufacturer installed on their system. Blaming them is like blaming drivers for poor highway design.

The major reason for bloatware is, of course, to continue the cashflow of the manufacturer. Force people to ugrade by selling them bug fixes (which they should get free) or make the file formats incompatible.

Of course, there is also the programmer's seeming inability to declare a project "done." Take EMACS for example. It used to be a text editor. Now... it's... well... more. A lot more. Creeping featuritis is a disease that can be caught by OSS, as well as the commercial sector.

Personally, I think that every application gets to an ideal point of features/bloat. Wordprocessors, for the most part, reached that level years ago. To hammer on them more is counterproductive. Other applications, such as some 3D programs I use, have plenty of room to grow... there is always more things you can do that will add realism, for example. These I don;t think of as bloat, as long as they are easily accessable from the main application. When you start to create obscure little corners of your application that take the user minutes of hunting to find... that's when you've gone into pur bloat mode.

Re:Bloat / Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815231)

If you'd read the article, that whole 'whois' would've been unnecessasry -- the guy outright states that he's a Microsoft developer.

Re:You stole my post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815232)

I wonder how (insert name of company that pays programmers who futz around with unauthorized Linux projects on company time) feels about his employees goofing off on his dime? Me, I'd fire them.

Bloat and users (1)

SimonK (7722) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815233)

The author of the Slate article is quite right. When you spend you time reacting to 'user demands' from users you cannot get in touch with to try to question their requirements, which have probably also been filtered through a couple of layers of management and tech support staff somewhat less competent in the use of the software than the user, you do get big, ugly, baroque, bloated software. Especially when you burn on in there and make all those changes in a codebase that was never designed for them, because, of course, redesigning code you've already written doesn't provide any new marketing check boxes.

In short, users do not cause bloat. Mismanaged software companies cause bloat by trying to provide what users ask for, rather than what they really want, and by separating the users from the engineers who actually write the code behind a million walls of beauracrats.

Flight simulator (off topic) (1)

styopa (58097) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815234)

Just so long as the flight simulator in Excel doesn't do what the first releases of MS Flight Simulator 98 did to computers. I fixed several computers that had installed an early release of MS FS 98, and it had put something it the autoexec.bat file, and something somewhere else that caused the machine to load Win 95 then go directly to FS 98. If you quit, and or died due to any cause, it would reboot the machine, and you couldn't alt-tab out of it.
After I fixed the second machine I told everyone in the dorms NOT to install the !@#!ing thing.

To upgrade or not to upgrade... (1)

blakdeth (56103) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815236)

...That is the question.

The department I work for will, in the near future, be upgrading their copies of M$ Office 97 to M$ Office 2k. Why? Is it because Office 2k has features that, if gone without, would cripple the department? No. Is it because Office 2k will perform superior to Office 97. No? Is it because the deployment and maintenance is easier. No?

Well, then what is it?

The reason they so feverously upgrade is simple. They NEED to maintain compatability with other departments that are upgrading. If they don't, documents between depts will be unreadable. They are being FORCED to upgrade only because others are doing so. They jump on the bandwagon and they can't get off.

So this begs the question, "Why are other departments upgrading?" The answer to this is even simpler. If you have worked as a SysAdmin for any lenghth of time, no doubt you have realised that when one person in the dept gets a "new", "cool" toy, every other clown will whine and whine until they get the same thing. Thats it. Its that simple. They just don't want to be the only one without the latest gizzmo. And you know, there is always someone in the dept that gets the latest toy because they THINK they need it.

Thats where M$ comes in. Thats where bloatware comes in. If they didn't chock the new software full of "must have" features, no one would buy it. Nevermind that when they do buy it, they won't use any of the new features. In fact, I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone in my dept that uses anything other than spellchecker.

So, to upgrade or not to upgrade? It all comes down to who has to have the latest toy. Features are packed in, thus making the software bloated, so that one person will want it just badly enough to buy it. Once that happens, everyone else follows the herd.

Go figure.


Plug-Ins? (1)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815237)

Okay, I'm sure there are many users who want some new features. Why does that mean that every user should have to pay the price (not only in money, but also in drive space, load time, training, etc.) for every new feature? I use Word for Windows, but I doubt that I use more than a handful of the new features that have been introduced since, what, version 2.0? Background spell checking is nice, and I guess a decent scripting engine (security issues aside) is useful for any program. Oh yeah, they did recompile in 32-bit mode when Office 95 came out.

How much of the added functionality would be better implemented using some sort of plug-in architecture? Most of it, IMHO. But that's not the Microsoft Way.

The guy is basically correct... (5)

Kaa (21510) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815239)

Well, not always -- he does talk about the elegance of Windows [shudder] -- but his basic point is valid: people like to have features not necessarily to use them. IMHO bloat is caused by:

(1) One-program-does-it-all philosophy, which by, the way, is a valid design viewpoint. Emacs belongs to this school of thought, while Unix takes the opposite extreme (plenty of small interacting programs).

(2) Monolithic design, which is NOT a feature. MS Word has features targeted at lawyers (and useless for everybody else), at accountants, at writers, etc., etc. You don't need most of them, but get all of them anyway. Pluggable modules would have been a much cleaner solution (you are a lawyer? plug in the "Lawyer" module...)

(3) Feature competition between programs, which is driven by users: "What, your program cannot do a mail-merge to an index which includes animated GIFs and print out each third line?? It sucks, mine can do it!".

(4) The need for backward compatibilitly. This is less visible in application programs and more visible in system tools which often must be bug-for-bug compatible with everything going back ten years or more.

(5) The need to support all hardware under the sun. And the number of cool devices that you can plug into a computer grows and grows and grows and ...

(6) In the trade-off between a clean/tight code and speed of development, speed almost always wins. In the current business environment projects that are 50% over budget and on time are much much better than projects that are on budget but 50% late. Basically, the slogan is: "who cares whether it is optimized, if it works, ship it!" (in case of MS or games it is often "who cares if it works properly, ship it anyway!")

So I don't believe it is the malice of Microsoft or the incompetence of programmers that gives us bloated programs. Basically the definition of a bloat is "this program demands more resources than I expected it to". Having more resources available is a (not necessarily the) solution. Yes, Office 2000 needs ~200Mb of disk space to install. So what? I recently bought myself another hard drive -- it cost under $200 and is 10Gb in size. Do I care that much about allocating 2% of it to MS Office? Guess.

Bloat is bad in that it adds complexity which is the enemy. Insofar it consumes computer resources it is tolerable.


Re:Reasons for Bloat; not really (1)

AArthur (6230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815246)

Yes, making a OS moduluar has it problems, such as you create depencies. But that's life. You have to use depency every day in life (you need money before you can buy that car), the other way just doesn't work. The same thing is true with Windows, a program might require you have Windows 98 installed and some werid graphics lib before you can use it. The Mac isn't much different either, you often need shared libaries for programs to run (Word 6 on the Mac required like 21 shared libaries to just run! Forently, Word 98 doesn't require any, because of a tool that automantains the shared libaries on your system.)

Forently, packaging systems makes this easy to deal with, for example installing the qt package will tell you kindly, you must have X11, and this and that installed.

But not everybody needs/wants qt on their system. So build it as part of your X Server? That would add bloat.

So this is a good idea to make stuff modulized.

Re:Uhh.... No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815247)

Shouldn't these programmers be coordinating with each other??

The last I heard, all the anti-Microsoft people were trying to force the OS people to not be allowed to talk to the apps people within Microsoft.

Of course, anti-Microsoft people have zero interest in making constructive suggestions...

Re:Uhh.... No. (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815248)

There's a coding triangle. One point is Size, another is Performance, the other is "Lack of time/effort". Efficiency is optimal along the line connecting Size and Performance (it's just a trade-off). If something needs to get out the door fast (which has to be done), then your point will wander towards "Lack of time/effort" and you will incurr bloat and inefficiency to incorporate the same feature set. I guess with this diagram "bloat" can be considered both size-wise and performance-wise.

Re:Reasons for Bloat (1)

szo (7842) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815249)

Well, I was talking about our PageMaker 5.0a what we used to produce the university newspaper. To get the money to buy this was a major pain. We used it for years. Then w95 come along, and people said its better and more stable. We could use that feature :-), so gave it a try. Well, didn't work. Gave nt workstation a try. No luck either. We couldn't get the money to buy the new vesion of PM, so we are to stay where we was.


Re:So that's why my baby brother keeps growing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1815250)

OK, call me a newbie, but I've been assuming that this 'First Person Shooter' built into an MS app was a joke! Please tell me I've been assuming correctly. Or, if not, tell me what app it's in and how to find it. :)

- The Mysterious Voice (Forgot his password)

Bloat exists (or tries to) in all products (1)

Zoinks (20480) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815251)

I think this guy's a clown as much as any other Linux jihad member. His article is certainly worthy of lambasting on many issues. But I have to admit he does have a certain point.

Consider automobiles and their evolution, for instance. Features have been creeping in for years. Compared to software, however, the bloat rate is much slower. Why? 'Cause features cost money when you have to make them out of real hardware!

As another example, consider toothpaste or laundry soap. What ``feature'' can you possibly add to either of them to make them actually perform better? Both have hit the performance plateau long ago. So instead of adding new features, they give us the same old product in a great new package.

Software , on the other hand... Where do I begin? Where does it end? What new feature will we think of next that simply MUST be in our own free software? Don't get me wrong, I don't want to get a zillion replies to the effect that ``if you don't like (package X)'s bloat, you don't have to use it''

My point is simply that as long as machines get faster, software will expand to fill the available cpu cycles, and it doesn't cost anything more than it did before.

Re:Cue the Laugh Track (1)

Uller78 (49800) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815252)

Sadly, this seems to be Microsoft's idea of software design: Either the big, slow, bloated, shiny software with all sorts of bells and whistles, or handhelds running cheap monochrome GUI running stripped versions of their big bloated apps. I suppose it hasn't occured to them that some people might want to run fast apps on a real computer.

Yeah, but some ppl. don't even seem to try (1)

Sangui5 (12317) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815254)

I understand that it is hard to keep the bloat down, that you have to do it quickly, and that once a feature is added it can never be removed. But that still doesn't explain the sheer size of some programs.

PKLite and it's kin are a testament to the redundancy inheirant in today's software. A quick test to see if an executable is tightly written is to see how much it can be compressed. A really tight executable will be the same size or a little larger after being compressed. Sure, things like unrolled loops will give a few percent, but you get a performance boost from them. There's no exuse for having both poor performance and a large, reduntant product.

Re:If Microsoft office was a human (1)

bonkydog (17461) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815256)

"I'm a Javascript." hee.

Re:Bloat / Microsoft (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815259)

Uh, you didn't need to go to all that trouble to uncover that Slate is a Microsoft production. MSN is mentioned two or three times (depending on the banner ad) at the top of the page.

I don't find it surprising that Microsoft is promoting bloat, either. Many of the points do make sense, as long as you fit the SUV-driving, Windows-running, wasteful upper-middle-class stereotype that the article (and perhaps the whole 'zine) is aimed towards.

Bloat an option? Don't think so... (1)

afniv (10789) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815266)

The anti-bloat whiners would have you believe that Microsoft is coercing them into using our extralarded software products! I call their bluff. The elegance of the Windows 98 operating system is that it runs practically every application from the DOS days and all those goofy Windows 3.1 programs.
If you want to run unbloated legacy programs such as WordStar for Windows or Bitcom for DOS instead of new applications, be my guest. (Also, you lovers of legacy applications should know that one of the reasons Windows 95 and Windows 98 are so "bloated" is so that they can run the old applications.)

Emphasis is mine.

Well, the he negated his own comment, so I call his bluff. I don't think the arguement should be between old and new, it should be between bloat and non-bloat.

New applications are all bloated, so therefore, I have to use the bloated software. How else will I get the bug fixes? If I am not forced to buy the new bloatware, why can't I load a Word97 document with Word95 if none of the cool features are used?

I also like a previous comment. Where can I buy the old non-bloated software? Therefore, my conclusion is that purchasing nonbloat is not an option.

Then again, there's open source....

"Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"

Re:browser wars and text editors (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815267)

"So how do you send mail? :)"

I use Pine. Pine, by default, uses Pico internally as its editor (Pico is also standalone). I believe Pine uses Mail or Sendmail to send mail.

Give me Pico any day (I can't stand those obscure vi commands).

I'm wary of the Emacs monster (there is probably a dish-washing and hot-dog-preparing plugin).

Re:It's not the features that bloat the ware (1)

AArthur (6230) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815268)

Easter Eggs should not add bloat if added to a program correctly. Most good easter eggs are pretty well hidden in the program, and don't waste memory and CPU when you are not using them.

I got to say my two favorite ones are from the MacOS:

System 7.5.x - The Ignuana Flag, by Sal Slagon the AppleScript Guy.

Mac OS 8.5/6 - The interactive presentation of authors of the Mac OS.

I don't think they add too much bloat, although they may be part of the reason why the Mac OS has gotten so big so quickly.

off toic: picky technical detail (1)

Leapfrog (4220) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815269)

Why use sed when there's tail?

I believe 'command | tail -1' will do it. Or something very like that. Read the manual page.

Call our blufff (1)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815270)

Why can't we just use our old packages?

Umm becauase every new verion of MS Office has a file format which is incompatible with the old versions? And if one person upgrades then to read their documents then everyone has to upgrade...

Part right, part wrong (1)

Scurrilous Knave (66691) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815271)

He's right, in part. Ever been to a user-group meeting? I don't mean a LUG. Big companies with big programs, like Microsoft, have user groups formed more in self-defense than from the mutual enthusiasm that supports a LUG. And those groups have annual meetings, in convention gardens like Chicago and Atlanta. There, the programmers and marketers from the company see maybe one percent of their user base, if they're lucky. But it's the noisiest one percent, and they're the one percent who can afford to come to user-group conventions. And, no surprise, they're the ones who can afford the "wickedly fast machines" and "mongolarge hard drives" that are needed to accomodate the new bloatware. So of course they're going to clamor for fins and fold-outs and other Swiss-Army features.

The fundamental error Mr. Shuman makes is when he equates features with bloat. As many of us know, the two are not synonymous. In fact, true bloat usually works against extra features, by making them run inefficiently. Another error he verges on making, but backs away at the very brink, is that of thinking that more features means better. He does in fact note that many new features aren't actually used, it's just important that they be there. But that assumption--that bigger software means more features means better--lies like a distant cloud over his whole article, cutting off its light and air. Common press mistake. Ever read a software review in a major trade magazine? Did it have a feature-comparison table? And did it have a "these features are useless" table? For me, the answers are "yes" and "no", respectively.

Simply having too many features can be a bad thing. About eight years ago, my company went looking for a successor to "roff" for the developers to use to create documentation. The commitee settled on Interleaf, a full-blown document preparation system. The developers hated it, and used it only when forced. Why? Their most common complaint was that it was "too complicated". Interleaf isn't a bad program, and these aren't stupid people, just people who don't want to spend months learning how to do something that isn't central to their lives. I can't blame them.

Ding! Compile is done--must run.

1988 (1)

styopa (58097) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815273)

>DOS applications, circa 1988: WordPerfect, Lotus 123, dBase, Crosstalk, etc.

Ahh yes. 1988, 80286, 2 megs RAM, and a whopping 40 meg hard drive dual booted with SCO, DOS. I remember those grand days of the blue screened WordPerfect with the cool little plastic function sheet. And Crosstalk, dialing up to a local BBS to play hack and superrogue.
Those were the days.

Re:Bloat (1)

Matthew Kirkwood (1344) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815274)

Actually, it goes
Every program expands until it can send mail.

Except Exchange.


Re:If Microsoft office was a human (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815276)

Netscape is monolithic, archaic, years-old code. It is in the state it is in, in part, because of Microsoft's mad race to push out its own bigger, bloatier browser. Correspondingly, Netscape was forced to add on the same bells and whistles to keep step, instead of having time to improve its design.

Re:It's not the features that bloat the ware (2)

Eccles (932) | more than 15 years ago | (#1815277)

>Why does Excel need a 3D flight simulator?

Because Microsoft doesn't credit individual programmers unless they sneak it in. Most game programs have a list of contributors in the manual, down to the guy who beta-tested it for a couple of hours one day. Microsoft software? Rarely is there credit. So Microsoft programmers find a sneaky way to sign their names to the work.

If you play the flight sim, you'll notice a scrolling list of the people involved in excel on one of the terrain features.
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