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Why does the "bloat" have to continue?

Way back in the '80's, I remember being irritated, as a user/gamer, that the Sierra, et al., went through a long interactive install routine, configured the game according to your/its responses/findings, and then went and stuck every driver to every known machine on your machine, anyway.  Now as a developer, I have tools that sometimes take a full 1Gb of space. Lots of us complain about bloatware, and generally rightfully so, but will there ever be a way for a program to never "download or install anything until it's needed"? Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird may be a small step in the right direction, but could "web services" or somesuch really be used as a, say, namespace for only using s/w when needed, and, say, after XX days, returning the s/w via, say, "remote garbage collection" to get stuff off one's h/d that is rarely, if ever used?  Ideas?
Lao Xuesheng
ps. "Back then", a 33Mb drive was paradise, too. Maybe this question is just OBE with the huge and inexpensive drives out these days, but with music and video making their moves, maybe this will become an issue, again.)

Lao Xuesheng
Friday, June 18, 2004

Microsoft was originally going to have that feature on XP, that it would first compress software not used recently, then automatically uninstall it if it wasn't used in a long time. But test groups hated it, so they'd probably be against a web scheme like that for the same reasons.

Friday, June 18, 2004

will there ever be a way for a program to never "download or install anything until it's needed"?

Office works this way - if you customize the install, you can pick the options you want installed. The installed footprint ranges between something like 150MB and 450MB depending on the options you pick.

You can do the same thing with VS.Net.

FWIW, I always do a blanket install of both products, because quite simply I don't need to be hunting for the damn Office CD at 2am when I have a presentation due the next day. [grin]


Friday, June 18, 2004

The office way is pretty good when it works. Sometimes it buggs out and like refuse to open a document because the spellchecker for US english is not installed. I suspect this is less of a problem if you only work with one language though. (That was office 2k btw)

Personally though, I just look for leaner apps to begin with. There is such an abundance of software out there so you can often find an app that fits pretty closely to your ideal.
So, for me, bloat only become a problem when an employer/client requires me to use a specific app.

Eric Debois
Friday, June 18, 2004

Bloat is only a real problem for people who are overly anal.

I've got a giant harddrive and a really fast processor.

I don't even blink at 2 gigabyte installs anymore.

So stop whining, boy!

Mr Fancypants
Friday, June 18, 2004

I was involved with the group that integrated the Office MSI technology into Windows (Windows Installer) and a major part of the original reasons for MSI was that it would allow clean componentization of the application and reduce the storage footprint.

The key scenario that the Office team saw (this was in 1998) was addressing customer complaints that the install size of Office was too large, and so this was a major feature of the new installer - "Install on Demand." The idea being, customers could mix and match components and only install the features they used. If they tried to use a feature that wasn't installed, it would just magically install at that time. Life would be good, customers would be happy, etc.

We even went sort of crazy, including a feature in our Active Directory-integrated deployment technology (this is what I worked on, among other things) that allowed install-on-demand by CLSID and PROGID activation - i.e., you run something that tries to instantiate a COM object you don't have installed already, it just magically gets pulled down to your system. No bloat necessary, you only use what you need...a blissful nirvana of componentized software and lean-and-mean installations.

What happened? Most people hated "install-on-demand" - much to my surprise, I turned out to be one of them. The first time you browsed to some web page and suddenly saw a Windows Installer dialog saying "Please wait while Office 2000 is configured", you wanted to throw the computer out a window.

The reality: hard drive space is cheap, customers did not exactly respond glowingly to efforts like MSI's attempt to make features necessary for "light" installs only install when you needed them, and most people couldn't care less how much hard drive space an applications uses.

Also, "bloat" is an overused term - the "bloat" usually includes massive amounts of new functionality (most often developed directly based on customer feedback) that adds value, not some unnecessary waste. If you really are pining for your old copy of WordPerfect 5.1 that fit on a 320K floppy, by all means go installs it and use it. It probably works with all the app compat shims in XP.

Mike Treit
Friday, June 18, 2004

Yes, especially when "install on demand" means you had/have to go find the darn install disks, which you may not have even received on many machines or inconveniently just can't locate in that pile of junk in the corner. (Especially after you have already paid for it, in the first place.)  I have to agree with those that think that space (or speed) is not *now* a problem, yet, for argument, why should I pay for the many tools in, for example, Studio.Net when I may only want the VB.Net or the C#.Net.  I don't really mean to pick on Microsoft; it has no monopoly on "filler material".  (Even our genes have it, they say, though they are beginning to wonder about that, too.)  Though long in the tooth, I am new enough to CS to have an idealist attitude, I guess.

Still, for the sake of argument, take it down to the bone: in many small devices, the size of the OS and the apps. is critical.  One size does not fit all.  I assume the the Mars rovers didn't take many bytes of software that weren't expected to be frequently needed. Couldn't we extend the "only what is necessary" to make the machines smaller, faster, more efficient?  (Our new slogan -- "What would the Mars Rover Programmers do?" :))

Unless the s/w is freeware, upgrading is rarely an option of mine, mostly due to cost.  Maybe if the software only installed what I really needed as I needed it (perhaps on a leased basis) and removed all traces of the pieces I no longer need, with my permission, , the price would be lower and I would get to upgrade the pieces I do use more often.  I realize that commercial software reality (read: bundling) is not on my side, but that argument sounds a bit like saying you shouldn't mind having to drive an Abrams tank with radar, IFF, satellite connectivity, etc., when all you want is a motocross bike.  Maybe costs would come down, too. Maybe not.  Have a good weekend all.
Lao Xuesheng

Lao Xuesheng
Friday, June 18, 2004

Yeah, the install on demand feature of Office 2000 was really a bad idea. It always asked a CD when you didn't have it near you. Uninstall, install a service pack, and you needed the damn CD ! They sort of improved that with Office 2003 and it's good. Anyway, I always do a full install : HD space is soooo cheap nowadays, why bother to gain 0.01% more space ? That makes no sense.
Nobody wants to put the CD in the drive to work with an application. Even Encarta is fully installed on my system : 2-3 Go, who cares ? You can buy a 200Gb HD for about 100$. I really don't care about bloatware anymore. Same for internet downloads : I have a broadband cable and tonight I downloaded Opera at the rate of 500Kbytes/s (yes bytes, not bits). So Firefox could be 100Mb, I wouldn't care if it has all the features I want.
My point is this : bloatware is only relative to the resources you have.

Friday, June 18, 2004

>>"Bloat is only a real problem for people who are overly anal.
I've got a giant harddrive and a really fast processor."


Having started out in the days when 20 meg was considered a big hard drive,  it took me a long time to quit being so anal about "bloat".  But now that I've stopped worrying about it and just went ahead and loaded everything onto my pair of 120 gig drives, my life is much more enjoyable.

Nigritude Ultramarine Hater
Saturday, June 19, 2004

And, sometimes, ms does fix things, and reduce things by a huge amount.

The access 2000 runtime could be as much as a 150 megs in size (it forced IE4 as part of the install).

Today, the brand new access 2003 royalty  free runtime system (which uses the msi installer) now can package up ms-access in only 30 megs.

While 7 or 8 years ago, 30 megs seemed like a huge runtime install, today, that installing is VERY light in terms of disk space. Heck, 30 megs is even downloadable by anyone with high speed net.

And, burning a ms-access runtime install to a cd occurs in a flash with any cd burner. I can’t even copy files to a floppy disk that fast.

I mean, just the full Visio 2003 can be 500 megs.

So, I was bracing myself for what the size of the new ms-access runtime was going to be when I use the package and deployment kit.

It turns out it is the smallest it has been in years! A very nice surprise.

So, with some reduction in the size. and the low cost of disk drives…I can’t remember the last time when I felt that the cost and size of installing my software seemed so low….

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, June 19, 2004

These days I don't mind the install _size_ of software, including Microsoft's.  The install _time_, however, is actually getting worse than it was in the 20 floppy disk days. The Visual Studio .NET installer is so slow, it feels like I'd be faster typing in hex dumps!

Chris Nahr
Saturday, June 19, 2004

That, too, is the fault of another MSI feature: self repairing installations.

It's always pleasant to install something that predates the MSI craze, like SQL Server 2000.

Brad Wilson (
Saturday, June 19, 2004

The clutter bothers me more than the size.  I would prefer if applications went back to installing everything in their own directory and nothing but their own directory.

It would use up extra space because some DLLs and other files would be duplicated, but there would be less clutter since all you'd have to do remove an application is delete the directory.

T. Norman
Saturday, June 19, 2004


I'll second your comment on the .Net installer.  Arg.

Only one guy in my group is actively using it now.  I was using it for a while, but after losing that machine, I'm not willing to give up a day to put it back on....

Monday, June 21, 2004

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