(The following is just my tale of woe and rants, for speed-up tips, see here)

I’ve always been a little hasty in upgrading my computer to the latest version of Microsoft Windows, and this time I let it go a while to see if there were many reported problems. Nothing major seemed to transpire, so I did the upgrade.

I’ve been using it for a month or so now, and my impression is that it was a mistake to upgrade. It’s pretty. But it’s slow. Mind numbingly inexplicably frustratingly slow.

An operating system has two primary functions: It has to provide a common interface to the hardware for the software that you use. It also has to provide a fluid user experience.

I read somewhere that they spend a billion dollars on Vista. This is quite disturbing. A billion dollars to take a perfectly good operating system, and make it look prettier, but slow everything down.

I tried to like it. I tried to get along with the “do you know this program that you are trying to run, and you have been running every few hours for several days, but maybe someone changed it, or something?” hand-holding. But after I was asked this for the hundredth time I finally gave up and switched it off. It’s just so stupid. Sure the basic idea is sound, but why can’t I have a “Don’t ask me about this particular program again” button.

But the simple slowness is the biggest problem in my mind. Take something as simple as opening a folder, like, to look at the contents. I’ll even do it the way Microsoft wants me to do it. Click on “Start”, click on “Documents. And wait. For three seconds.

THREE SECONDS! Do you know how much a typical computer can do in three seconds. Never mind that, how much can MY computer do in three seconds. It’s a 3.6 Ghz dual core pentium extreme edition. With four gigabytes of ram. It can load 50 Megabytes of uncached data from the hard drive in three seconds, it can perform at least FIVE BILLION FLOATING POINT OPERATIONS.

So what am I asking it to do? Simply show me the contents of a folder. What the heck is it doing?

This kind of things goes on and on. Open internet explorer (to a blank page, no internet access required): three seconds. Open a folder with some video in it and get an error “COM Surrogate has stopped working”. Press ctrl-alt-delete (three seconds).

Here’s one that really bugs me. I have a folder open showing some photos. I right click on white space in the folder to bring up the context menu so I can change the view. FIVE SECONDS! WTF! That is just totally insane. What is it doing?

Obviously, in all these cases it is doing something that someone at Microsoft thought was a good idea. The problem is: they have let the functionality get in the way of the responsiveness. When I open a folder I don’t give two shakes about all that crap going on behind the scenes. I expect the operating system to DROP EVERYTHING (with the exception of any Audio or Video critical things, like playing music, or video chat) and bring the full resources of the machine to the task I have just demanded of it. It should display that window.

I’m in charge here. I want Vista to do what I ask, and I want it to display a window listing my files, and do it in less than a tenth of a second. There is no technical reason why not. Video games create an entire frames worth of presentation in 1/60th of a second. I’m prepared to allow a little time for hard disk seeking, but what exactly is the computer doing that is so important that it takes THREE SECONDS to show me what’s in a folder, and FIVE SECONDS to bring up a menu.

What’s this rant doing in Cowboy Programming? Well, game programmers need to remember that the player is the boss. The most important thing you can do as a game programmer is translate the intentions of the player directly into results, with no impediments. No pauses. Never.