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That's not a bug, that's a feature!

I just read this article by Joel Spolsky called How Microsoft Lost the API War. It has some really good information about what MS has been doing sort of behind the scenes for a long time and the things they are trying to do as their enormous steam engine loses speed.

The most startling thing I learned was about how the Windows programmers used to handle backwards compatibility. This is a little geeky, but bear with me:

I first heard about this from one of the developers of the hit game SimCity, who told me that there was a critical bug in his application: it used memory right after freeing it, a major no-no that happened to work OK on DOS but would not work under Windows where memory that is freed is likely to be snatched up by another running application right away. The testers on the Windows team were going through various popular applications, testing them to make sure they worked OK, but SimCity kept crashing. They reported this to the Windows developers, who disassembled SimCity, stepped through it in a debugger, found the bug, and added special code that checked if SimCity was running, and if it did, ran the memory allocator in a special mode in which you could still use memory after freeing it.

So... the Windows programmers decided the best way to handle the situation was to build specific exceptions into their code for programs that weren't known to work properly. *shakes head* That makes a certain amount of really sick sense... but god it answers so many questions about why Windows is so weird and so unstable at times.

If you're a geek, I think you should definitely read the article. If you aren't a geek, you may or may not want to, Joel tries to make it more accessible with sidebars that explain what the hell he's talking about.

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