Oct 18, 2011

-App, App, and Away!

There is very little we can do on a PC without applications, or apps. Everything from a monstrous memory munchers like Adobe Illustrator down to the itty-bitty Windows’ calculator and notepad; if it isn’t part of the basic operating system, it’s an app.
Microsoft includes a number of apps in its Windows OS package, and for a while these basic apps were so frequently used you may have considered them paramount. But that was before the Internet, way back before the crazy days that became a prologue to the Dot.Com bubble.

With the advent of the iPhone, the iPad, and indeed iTunes, the apps market isn’t just booming, it has practically become a gold rush. It is hard to say how long this gravy train will last, but so long as there are excited kids in garages tinkering with computers instead of bikes, apps will be an integral part of our PC’s, and consequentially, our own lives.

The computer world is adamantly moving in one direction, and that direction is ‘app’. Microsoft are not only keen to cash I on this by adding and improving their own apps, they are paving the way and revolutionizing the Windows OS to better cope with this new way of life.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft Windows 8 program manager, Bill Karagounis, announced that one of the key features of their new OS will be a dramatic reduction in runtime memory requirements of the core system. This is already good news as it means that Windows 8 have overshot their goal of keeping system requirements the same as Windows 7, so we need not worry about that anymore. But this is also good news for laptop and tablet users as this new step should hopefully afford low-power platforms a longer battery life. Manufacturers have been increasing RAM to cope with the growing memory demand of running apps, and an increase in RAM means an increase in power, inevitably shortening the machine’s battery life.

To make more room for memory, Microsoft has made “hundreds of specific changes” that “liberate 10s to 100s of MBs of memory” (depending the number of apps running on the system). One of these changes is something they call ‘Memory Combining’. Typically, your PC will be running a number of apps that have similar content, which is not only redundant, but memory consuming. Windows 8 will now asses the system RAM, discarding duplicated content across the entire system, keeping “a single copy”, allocating “private” copies of the file should any individual app need it for writing. Another interesting change is the “Lazy desktop”. As mentioned in previous posts, the new OS comes with the cool Microsoft ‘Metro’ style interface, which is similar to the touch screen interface that we know from tablets, touchpads and androids. Unused apps will not be left running and guzzling up memory, but rather go into lazy mode and set to snooze temporarily, “saving an estimated 23MB of (runtime) memory”.

It also looks as though Windows 8 will have an improved prioritization scheme for system memory allocation that should enable Windows to make “better decisions” regarding memory activity, recognizing processes that require a “one-time” allocation and can be dropped once that process is complete (even though the app is still running) till it is needed again. Apps that are recognized as low priority will can be dropped entirely in the event of ‘memory pressure’ to make more room, without affecting any other memory “required to sustain the responsiveness of the system.”

I personally think that this move is exactly what Windows needs now. An OS is vital but it is still a means to an end. Apps are essential to our daily desktop routine. Which is why it is so odd that after all this effort, to give apps priority and presence, that they have not taken them into consideration when designing the “Reset your PC” command. As I understand it, this new Windows 8 command enables users to reinstall the OS, much like Raimage, while preserving the user’s personal data. However, unlike Reimage, this feature erases all other data from the system. And yes, that includes all the wonderful, clever time saving apps, which the user will then have to tediously reinstall, one by one.

Meanwhile, the Windows 8 compatible Reimage PC Repair is still in development and will hopefully be available as soon as the new OS is released next year. Although, it’s safe to say that as with all current and previous versions of Reimage, replacing Windows system files, even reinstalling the entire OS is done while keeping both your user data and your apps intact.

As for the software giant, to quote Mr. Karagounis, “We’ve already come a long way but we’re not done.” Stay tuned for more new and updates.

Read the full Microsoft post “Reducing runtime memory in Windows 8“ by Bill Karagounis

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