Jan 29 2008
If you've ever installed Microsoft Vista yourself (or looked around in the hard drive of your brand new box), chances are you'd be surprised to find that it's a hog for disk space. An install of Vista can take up anywhere from seven to fifteen (!) gigabytes of disk space, which most people can eat because hard drives these days are typically in the hundreds of gigabytes. Still, that's a hell of a lot of binary; maybe if you've installed a load of applications and patches over a year or so, I can see that, but when you factor in everything that it comes with (bitmap backgrounds, which by definition aren't compressed; loads and loads of eye candy that are more legal than psychedelics; the latest incarnations of Outlook Express, Notepad, and what have you) that's still a lot of cruft. Things that you don't need. The complaints are such that even Microsoft has admitted that it's too big and that they're going to re-tool Windows using a stripped down core OS. A proof of concept Windows core called MinWin recently demonstrated featured a fully operational OS in 25 megabytes of disk space.
25 megabytes. That's comparable to a full install of MS-DOS back in the day (about four 1.44 megabyte floppy disks compressed, if memory serves).
Of course, they have no plans to use MinWin in any of their products; MS reps say that they're going to use it as their basis for future OS design, to which I say that it's about bloody time. Processor cores are becoming insanely powerful and much less expensive (anyone fancy a quad core CPU for $275us?) but you have to ask yourself: Do you want to spend all of those compute cycles rendering your start menu fading in and out, or do you want to spend your compute cycles crunching numbers and getting practical work done? If you're going to drop a couple of hundred dollars on RAM, do you want that memory to be used for storing bitmaps that make up the user interface, or do you want to load bigger spreadsheets and more complex databases to get your work done? What are you willing to trade off?
Or, you could use an application like vLite to go through an install of Vista and uninstall all the stuff that you don't need or want. The thing about bundling applications with operating systems is that you can pull out the stuff you don't need and replace it with other applications that do the same thing, usually in less disk space. Don't like Media Player? Why not install VLC (Video LAN Client) in its place to listen to .mp3's and watch movies? Don't feel like spending $400us on Microsoft Office? Give OpenOffice.org a shot. If Wordpad's formatting glitches get under your skin, why not try the Windows port of Vim or Notepad++?
Just because you buy your OS doesn't mean that you're limited to what a company will sell you. There are thousands and thousands of applications out there that work just as well, and perhaps more efficiently. You can tinker around with your tools to make them faster and more capable to make your work go more smoothly and your day pass more easily. You don't have to sit there and take what they hand you.
Just remember to make backups.