John Topley’s Weblog

Broken Windows

I don't know about you but I'm getting fed up with patching Windows XP. I usually visit Windows Update once a week to see what's new (I've disabled automatic updates because I can decide what patches I need, thank you), and barely a week seems to go by without there being a new fix or update to download. At the time of writing, the Windows Update installation history tells me that I've downloaded 64 updates since 1 March 2002! Maybe it's a good thing that all of these fixes are coming out; perhaps it's a result of Microsoft's much–vaunted Trustworthy Computing initiative, where Bill has finally decided to get serious about security. I do worry though. I worry about the code. There must be real pressure for the developers to isolate the cause of the vulnerabilities and to find a fix. Fast. I hope they do lots of regression testing.

Lots of updates!
A list of Windows XP updates

The Windows code base must be in the process of being patched into something its creators would barely recognise. Code grows almost organically over time. The Windows Server 2003 code base is said to be 50,000,000 lines of source code. You read it right: fifty million lines of code. The entire source code tree itself is said to consist of over 100,000 files that total five gigabytes. That's an unimaginable amount of code to navigate, let alone manage and maintain. It's so big that as a result of the Windows 2000 effort Microsoft had to build a new source control system (I guess Visual SourceSafe just couldn't hack it) to cope with the demands of such a large project. People talk about Windows being bloated but I think the size is a genuine reflection of the features. Whether or not all those features should be in there is separate issue. Kudos to the people at Microsoft for keeping on top of such a beast when most organisations struggle to manage and deliver projects a tenth or even a hundredth of that size. With all this in mind, I guess I really shouldn't complain about having to download the odd update.

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The Windows code base must be in the process of being patched into something its creators would barely recognise.


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