foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Slow file copy bug in Vista: An excellent case for open source development

, posted: 21-Dec-2007 12:18

The Register is running an article, detailing the strange phenomenon of incredibly slow file copies under Vista. That is a known problem, and has been widely discussed before.

The article describes that some people have had success with some rather complex sounding workarounds...

To be fair, some ... have reported success in eradicating the Vista malady. Some report SP1 does speed things up. Others have seen improvements after running through a series of steps that includes disabling Windows search service, tweaking Vista's user account control settings and setting network interface cards at half duplex or auto negotiate.

... but it ends on a sober note:

But even then, there's no guarantee the problem will be fixed. With Microsoft's buggy code and non-existent communication, we'll be sitting on the upgrade sidelines for the foreseeable future, thank you very much.
Clearly, Microsoft is quite capable of implementing a decent file copy algorithm, as we have seen with Windows XP, for example, which did not have any of these problems. I'm sure they have good people working on it. Apparently, though, it can't be a trivial issue, since it's been taking them a long time already. The fact that it only affects some users and not others certainly doesn't make the debuggung task any simpler. I know from experience that those hard to reproduce bugs are the worst. But Microsoft's lack of acknowledgement keeps the users frustrated, and provides ample ground for conspiracy theories to grow, suspecting the cause of the problem in the various DRM features that are built into Vista.

But let us just ponder for a moment what would happen if Vista was open source? Well, for starters, it wouldn't have DRM in it. But even if that is not the actual cause of the problem: This is a high profile bug, and fixing this bug clearly would be a wonderful feather in the cap of every programmer out there who wants to make a name for him/her self.

Fame and recognition have always been some of the key drivers for open source developers. You can be sure that the best and brightest would be all over this bug like a rash, trying to beat each other to the finish line, being the first one to announce that they have fixed that famous bug.

Alas, Vista is not open source. So, Microsoft is left to deal with it on its own. And worst of all, so are the users who are forced to sit on the upgrade sidelines for the forseeable future. Not every bug in open source systems is instantly fixed. Not by a long shot. But I'm quite sure that something with such a high profile would be dealt with swiftly in any open source project enjoying the same level of exposure as Vista does.

Other related posts:
PC World: Move your business to Linux, not Vista
And you thought your computer would do what YOU wanted...
The great 'Windows collapse' of 2011?

Comment by j0hnnyb0y, on 22-Dec-2007 04:19

Perhaps Microsoft has finally created a foolproof system to prevent piracy. Anyone with enough know how to pirate Vista also knows that it is a bloated piece of junk not worth stealing.

Comment by paradoxsm, on 22-Dec-2007 10:15

PLEASE oh pretty please can I mention again on a blog that Vista is crap?

XP is actually a good OS, Microsft finally got many things right.
My XP is Internet Explorer and "candy" free! and runs considerably better.
(borrowed shell from Win2k first edition)

Today's task it's familiarising myself up with old Slackware on the twin-tualitin server.

Comment by Michael Fincham, on 23-Dec-2007 09:33

I cannot believe that Microsoft can bungle something as simple as copying a file.

I can't think of a single OS which doesn't have a working file copy mechanism.... what's so hard about reading from disk in to a buffer, then writing to disk?

Comment by Baronek, on 24-Dec-2007 23:09

"But I'm quite sure that something with such a high profile would be dealt with swiftly in any open source project enjoying the same level of exposure as Vista does."

Sorry to say but this is plain wrong.

DO I need to cite famouse ubuntu hard drive killing but or do I NOT?

This bug is not fixed since feisty!!!

Really, give me a break.

I'm using kubuntu BTW...

Author's note by foobar, on 27-Dec-2007 09:30

@Baronek: I know the bug you are referring to. Yes, not all open source bugs are always fixed, right away. I also mentioned that in my article. However, if you follow the discussions about that Ubuntu 'bug', you will see that it is not even certain that the bug is with Ubuntu (even though things could have been done better), or with the HD BIOS or whatever. A number of workarounds have been posted. Linux being Linux, it is all controlled via a number of config scripts. In the end, the solution is to figure out what sane and sensible default values for those config parameters should be.

Sadly, fixing that won't give anyone a feather in the cap. It's neither sufficiently high-profile (only affecting people who use their laptop on battery a lot) nor is the solution particularly challenging. No fame and fortune here.

That, of course, points to a potential problem with open source development: It's sometimes hard to get people to address the not-so-glamerous bugs and issues. That's where one hopes that the backing of companies like Canonical or RedHat - with paid developers - can help. Normally it does. For some reason, in this case it hasn't been escalated to the same level of public attention as the file-copy issues in Vista.

Comment by Erik, on 3-Jan-2008 20:43

Well, XP is NOT fast when it comes to copying. I tried, on the same hardware, to copy a 1 GB file (generated using dd count=1048576 bs=1024 if=/dev/random of=the_file) using XP and OS X.

It took 40s to copy the file on a newly booted os x, and MORE THAN 2 minutes using a newly booted XP!!! I tested it a couple of times and I could not see any reason explaining the difference. At first I expected driver issues, but after upgrading to the latest drivers for the hardware the issue remained.

Don't say that xp is fast copying - it may be faster than vista, but it is deadly slow compared to os x.

I expect it to be slow compared to linux as well, but I haven't had any time to compare this.

(Maybe MS has messed with SATA the same way thay have messed with IEEE1394/firewire - only 100 mbit/s, whithout registry tweaking, on a bus that is capable of 400 mbit/s - it is sad)

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  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
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