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Windows XP served Microsoft well for over 7 years. Now the first phase of its retirement is being set into action, with the end of mainstream support. Security fixes for the OS will continue until 2014.  (Source: Microsoft)
A venerable OS is laid to rest -- sorta

Windows XP in its early years started off ambitious and enterprising.  However, in those early years (2001 and 2002), it also gave many a headache and received ample criticism.  With time (and Service Packs) it matured into what is today regarded as one of Microsoft's best operating system efforts of all time.

Now the time has come at last to take the first steps towards laying the OS to rest.  While sales of XP-downgraded computers will continue after July in the case of HP, and XP will still be installed on some netbooks until 2010, Microsoft is ending mainstream support for the OS on April 14, 2009.  The first phase of the retirement comes over seven years after the first Windows XP shipped.

The fact that it will still be selling XP machines after this discontinuation is a testament to the OS's strong public image, but it also puts Microsoft in a strange position.  Aside from new sales, an estimated 63 percent of internet-connect computers have Windows XP installed (as of March 2009), versus a mere 24 percent with Windows Vista.  In short, Microsoft is in the curious position of ending support for its most widely used product.

Laurence Painell, Windows marketing manager at Microsoft UK reassures customers that while the majority of product-related (i.e. mainstream) support will be ended, key security updates will not.  He states, "We will provide critical security fixes via Windows Update for all editions of XP until 2014."

However, Microsoft will no longer have the burden of answering any non-security issues, except for those users with an
extended support contract with Microsoft or one of its channel partners.  Microsoft says that the familiarity in the tech community with XP, should limit this becoming a problem.  It argues that customers have plenty of support resources to turn to online.

Gartner analyst
Michael Silver praises the move.  He states, "The only thing extended support buys you is creation of new non-security fixes, at a hefty fee for each one. After all these years, most people figure that most of the functional bugs [in XP] are already worked out."

Microsoft is encouraging XP customers to switch to its upcoming OS, Windows 7, particularly those who skipped Vista.  One curious aspect of Windows 7 is that it comes with an offer for an XP downgrade, again throwing a bit of a wrench in Microsoft's retirement plans.  The downgrade is a quick process, but ironically an upgrade from XP to Windows 7 requires a full install. 

Describes a Windows Team blog post, "There are simply too many changes in how PCs have been configured (applets, hardware support, driver model etc) that having all of that support carry forth to Windows 7 would not be nearly as high quality as a clean install." 

Microsoft encourages XP customers to download the Windows 7 beta to ease the transition.


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RE: They do not want to admit
By SavagePotato on 4/8/2009 10:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
The driver support for XP 64 just isn't as good as it is for Vista. I have used XP 64 in the past but Microsoft did much better by forcing driver makers to make both to qualify for whql approval in Vista.

My current system, which is 2 years old I might add, would be a waste without a 64 bit option, and that's 2 years old mind you.

I have 4gb of ram and a 2gb 4870X2, nothing all that extreme compared to the I7 systems enthusiasts are running now but still I would be way beyond a 32 bit systems capabilities.


RE: They do not want to admit
By Aloonatic on 4/8/2009 10:19:04 AM , Rating: 2
I must admit, I don't really know a great deal about the advantages of a 64bit OS over a 32bit OS, other than the 3.2GB (or something, always seems to be an argument about it) memory limit for a 32bit OS.

Are there any other areas that benefit form a 64bit OS?

4GB hardly seems way beyond 3.2GB after all.

With RAM as cheap as it is I can see why it would be tempting to have a lot more RAM, but is >4GB really that much use to average day to day users or likely to be any time soon?

Thanks for your time :)


By SavagePotato on 4/8/2009 10:39:34 AM , Rating: 4
That limit doesn't apply simply to your main system ram, your video cards ram is a factor as well. So for myself with 2 gigs of video ram and 4 gigs of system ram, It becomes a problem.

There are security improvements to Vista64 as well.

When you look at the fact that 4 gigs of ram costs as little as 50 dollars or less depending on the type of ram, and the fact that most new systems ship with a minimum of 4 gigs, yes, it is very much something a day to day user will benefit from.

When I used to repair computers for a living, most if not all of the mainstream users machines that were brought in were a combination of horrendously under equipped, old, slow, virused crap. Now obviously you speed up alot by cleaning them up, but even still you have so much more overhead for Windows use with a nice fast system with alot of ram. And you don't have to pay much more for it either, the days of the 3000 dollar 486 are long gone.

Why would anyone NOT want a better Windows experience is what I don't get. Being able to open tons of windows, multiple programs and multitask with ease, this is something a fast system with tons of ram allows. And like I said contrary to belief it does not cost alot at all.

Plus, you are going to get more life out of that system. When you buy a piece of crap that can just barely start up and browse a few web pages, it's lifespan is going to seem so, so much shorter. I mean, I game and I am still getting great use out of a two year old system because it was high end when I bought it.

If you are a casual home user, you are going to get an amazing lifespan out of getting a fast machine with say 4+ gigs of ram and a quad core processor. And to be honest you are not going to pay alot for it. This is the benefit to the casual user in NOT lowballing it, and in 64 bit.


RE: They do not want to admit
By elFarto on 4/8/2009 11:32:46 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the memory issue isn't really that important for home users. The main advantage for using a 64-bit OS and applications on a x86-64 CPU is the extra 8 CPU registers you get. It might not sound like much, but it can really help with performance when the application doesn't have to keep pushing values in and out of RAM.

But there isn't much advantage, but if you've got a 640bit capable CPU you might as well make use of it.

Regards
elFarto


By SavagePotato on 4/8/2009 12:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
Thats the thing though, Vista will use your ram if you have it. Caching all the possible stuff you may use, thus giving you a better experience. So you can open many different programs at once, faster, because super fetch has learned your habits and cached them so they are ready and waiting.

The benefits of super fetch are profound in app start time, for someone that uses multiple apps and opens and closes them frequently this is great.

One thing I came to find in the course of servicing the general publics computers, is that they were more bogged down with crap than my system and I am an enthusiast.

Because what do those users do? they install everything under the sun, pmp software, camera software, printer software, multiple applications that do the same thing often...

More ram is good, no matter who you are or what you use your machine for.


RE: They do not want to admit
By MrPickins on 4/8/2009 1:29:24 PM , Rating: 2
Having done a bit of x86 assembly programming, I definitely agree that 8 extra registers would be a godsend.


RE: They do not want to admit
By tastyratz on 4/8/2009 11:44:50 AM , Rating: 2
>4g total addressable is definitely usable these days. While many people don't use over 4gb of memory, they are running dual or triple channel motherboards. That means either 2x1, 2x2 or 2x4 for the dual channel setups, and 50% more for triple to take advantage of the bandwidth and proper size. That considered and you are already bouncing off the limitations. Match that with not being able to find a decent gfx card these days with less than 512mb of ram - and you are looking at a limitation. A decent video card will take away from your total ram and that's where you hurt' the most. ~3.x gb limitation wouldn't be as bad now if gfx ram wasn't factored. Throw a 1 gig gfx card on and see your limitation drop under 3gb.

People are increasing the ram they run at a pretty fast pace now, so newer programs are taking advantage of this and paging less.

64 bit is also a larger chunk of information to process at once. A program PROPERLY designed to operate on a 64 bit system will run faster than the 32 bit equivalent.

Think of it like trying to eat cookies by the crumb or by the half as you start from being a kid to getting older. Eventually you can shovel in cookies by the half faster than you can grab all of the crumbs. as programs have become increasingly more complex, and computers have become increasinly faster - they now benefit from "bigger cookies"


RE: They do not want to admit
By EasyC on 4/8/2009 12:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
64 bit OS's offer almost identical performance to their 32 bit counterparts when running 32 bit applications.

For example, Vista x64 offers pretty honorable execution for x86 software. At the beginning of its inception, Vista was highly criticized for its performance hit over its predecessor XP. With that said, I've done comparable benchmarks in performance between a Pre-SP1 Vista x64 and XP SP3 x86 on the same machine. The results were nearly identical. Of course with the release of Vista's SP1 (and its kernel enhancements), the performance exceeded that of XP by a small margin.

The only x64 architecture that required properly coded applications was Itanium, but for all intensive purposes, a huge portion of the market is AMD64/EM64T. This is nothing more than an extension of the x86 architecture to handle 64 bit CPU registers in addition to adding more of them. The amount of addressable memory has nothing to do with x64/x86 CPU performance, since you are using 4GB in your point.

To use your own analogy, 4GB is becoming less and less of a cookie jar. I run 12GB's on both my work and home machine and find myself utilizing an average of 4-5 GB's with a normal amount of windows open. I've hit peaks when diving into obscure projects of up to 7 GB's of ram usage. Even with all that memory usage, none of my programs used more than what a 32 bit OS could address on their own.

I've veered off track a bit. My point is unless you're running Itanium hardware (which a completely different 64 bit architecture), you don't need specially designed applications within the current market. Also, with 4GBs becoming a minimum for an average workstation, having the x64 bit version of an OS to handle addressing ALL of your memory should be standard IMO.


RE: They do not want to admit
By TomZ on 4/8/2009 1:32:31 PM , Rating: 3
The problem with 64-bit Windows IMO is that it doesn't support 32-bit device drivers. I have a number of devices (engineering-related) that don't have 64-bit drivers available. I have 64-bit Win7 on my desktop and 32-bit Win7 on my laptop, and consequently, I end up doing much of my work on my laptop because I've had to plug in hardware that only has 32-bit drivers. Now I have to decide whether to downgrade my desktop to 32-bit...yuck.

I wish Microsoft had found a way to support 32-bit device drivers within 64-bit Windows.


RE: They do not want to admit
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 4/8/2009 3:42:22 PM , Rating: 1
That would not be possible given the driver models.


RE: They do not want to admit
By TomZ on 4/8/2009 9:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's software - anything's possible - the only question is, what are the tradeoffs and costs?


RE: They do not want to admit
By Pirks on 4/8/2009 9:22:30 PM , Rating: 2
It's possible on Mac OS X tho :P Kernel (and drivers) is 32 bit and apps are 64 bit when necessary, i.e. when developer decides to compile them for x64. Definitely much more user friendly model. I wish MS would do the same.


RE: They do not want to admit
By tastyratz on 4/9/2009 1:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
Yes a 64 bit os running a 32 bit application is not faster than a 32 bit os running a 32 bit application... but that was not my point and invalid here. Its arguing legacy when I talk about pushing forward. a 32 bit program on a 64 bit os is "legacy"
a 64 bit application on a 64 bit os runs faster than a 32 bit application on a 32 bit os (all things being designed properly).

The switch 64 bit is important - not to run your 32 bit apps faster, but to stop running your 32 bit apps and going 64 altogether.

Also,
The 32 bit limitation is total addressable memory, not addressable memory per application (which I believe is what you are implying in your post)


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