Friday, May 05, 2006

Mossberg's Mailbox - Windows Registry - Mossberg's Mailbox: "I know that there are registry-repair and editing programs that claim to be so safe and simple that anyone can use them, and it's true that they are simpler than manually editing or repairing the registry. But I still advise mainstream users with little or no technical knowledge against touching the registry. If your computer is behaving badly enough that you'd consider trying to 'fix' its registry, then it's time to call in a pro."

Said pro will very likely run one of the off the shelf registry repair programs first thing (hopefully after doing some sort of backup).

The real solution would be for some future (and I guess it will be very distant future at this point) version of Windows to do away with the registry abomination. Yes, I know that aspects of Gnome under Linux and the Apple OS X resemble the Windows registry, but that doesn't make it a good idea. The fact that you can drag and OS X application into the trash to un-install it is a good indication that most program settings are isolated rather than being co mingled in a huge system-slowing database. Some others are also in user folder space where they are easily found and deleted.

There's no accounting for what Gnome does, but anything that has Gconf(2) as a prerequisite I simply do without. For most programs under Linux, they derive only their default settings from a central folder structure (not a database) and user changes to these defaults are saved in the users folder space, again, easily found and deleted when they are no longer needed (or as an easy way to restore all the default settings). These files consume only a tiny amount of disk space and never get loaded into memory unless the corresponding application is running. This system makes too much sense to have abandoned without significant benefits to the alternative.

The invention of the Registry for Windows was supposed to make installation and de-installation of programs easier, but instead, it forces most applications, even moderate sized user applications to require the use of an "installer" program to work though all the drudgery of setting registry entries. As the registry grows, more and more system memory is required to hold it. As anyone who tests applications for a living probably knows, a regular re-installation of Windows is the easiest way to keep your system from grinding to a halt or giving your tests misleading results.

The installers, once ensconced, have themselves become more complex, not only adding and deleting registry entries for the program being installed, but "helpfully" changing setting for other programs as well and doing nice things like deleting user created files that were "in the way" without asking.

In my list of reasons why I'll never use Windows again, the Registry and problems surrounding it rank right up there with viruses, pop-ups, and vendor lock-in.

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