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TUCoPS :: Truly Miscellaneous :: micros.txt

The Bloatware Debate

Date: Sun, 02 May 1999 16:12:13 +0000
>From: (RA Downes)
Subject: Re: Bloatware Debate (Downes, RISKS-20.35)

A certain "Johnny" has written to me from Microsoft because of my posting in
RISKS-20.35 about MS bloat. The tone was a thinly disguised threat. In his
opening, "Johnny" stated that the "bloat" of MS RegClean was due no doubt to
having static links. Discussing the sweeping ramifications of such a
statement is unnecessary here. The mind boggles, it is sufficient to
state. The MSVC runtime is a mere 250,000 bytes and in fact is not
statically linked anyway to MS RegClean, AFAIK [as far as I know]. MS
RegClean is an MFC app and will by default use the dynamically linked MFC
libraries. And even if its static code links were an overhead here they
would add but a small fraction of the total bloat, say 40KB at most.

For whatever reason, I decided to download the latest version of MS RegClean
>from BHS again and pluck it apart. This is what I found. I have tried - and
it has been difficult - to keep subjective comments out of this report.

Current Status of RegClean Version 4.1a Build 7364.1

Image Size (Unzipped and ready to run): 837,632 bytes (818KB)
(Subjective comment removed.)

Import Tables
The import section in the PE header. This gives an indication of just
how (in)effective the use of Bjarne's C++ has been. In this case, the
verdict is: "pretty horrible". A walloping 7,680 bytes are used for the
names of the relocatable Win32 imports. These are the actual names of
the functions (supposedly) called. MS RegClean does not call most of
these functions - they remain because an MFC template was originally
used, most likely borrowed from another application, and it was never
"cleaned". This is corroborated by what is found among the "Windows
resources": over half a dozen standard menus, assorted graphic images,
print preview resources, etc. that have nothing to do with the
application at hand.

Please understand that resources not only bloat an executable with their
own size, but with additional reference data, in other words the bloat
factor of an unused or bad resource is always somewhat larger than the
size of the bloating resource itself.

Sixteen (16) unused accelerators from an MFC template were found: Copy,
New, Open, Print, Save, Paste, "Old Undo", "Old Cut", Help, Context
Help, "Old Copy", "Old Insert", Cut, Undo, Page Up, Page Down. MS
RegClean uses only one accelerator itself, not listed here.

This was a particularly sorry lot. The main bloat here was a splash
screen bitmap weighing in (no RLE compression of course) at over 150KB.
Further, Ctl32 static library bitmaps were found, meaning MS RegClean is
still linking with the old Ctl32v2 static library which was obsolete
five years ago and which automatically adds another 41KB to the image

Six (6) cursors were found, none of which have anything to do with this

A very messy chapter indeed. MS RegClean walks around with eighteen (18)
hidden dialogs, of which only one or at the most two are ever used. The
others are just - you took the words out of my mouth - junk. The
findings (read it and weep):

*) Eleven (11) empty dialogs with the caption "My Page" and the static
text "Todo", all identical, all empty, and of course all unused. This is
a wonder in and of itself.
*) The main "wizard" dialog actually used by the application is left
with comment fields to help the programmers reference the right controls
in their code (subjective comment removed).
*) A "RegClean Options" dialog which AFAIK is never used.
*) A "New (Resource)" dialog, probably a part of the development
process, just stuffed in the stomach at sew-up time and left there for
*) A "Printing in Progress" dialog.
*) A "Print Preview" control bar dialog.

MS RegClean has three icons, all with images of 48x48 in 256 colors (of
course). The funniest thing here is that the authors of MS RegClean have
extracted the default desktop icon from shell32.dll, which is available
at runtime as a resident resource anyway and at no image bloat overhead
at all, and included it in toto in their executable.

MS RegClean has eight (8) menus, at least half of these are simply junk
left around by the MFC template. Another menu indicates that the authors
of RegClean have in fact worked from an internal Microsoft Registry tool
- rather bloated in itself it seems.

String Table(s)
Actually it need only be one string table, but Microsoft itself has
never learned this. The findings here were atrocious. And you must
remember that strings stored in a string table are stored in Unicode,
which means that their bloat automatically doubles. Further, MS's way of
indexing strings in a string table means a 512 byte header block must be
created for every string grouping, and strings are grouped according to
the high 12 bits of their numerical identifiers (yes they are 16-bit
WORD identifiers). Meaning indiscriminate or random numbering of string
table entries will make an otherwise innocent application literally

347 (three hundred forty seven, yep, your video driver is not playing
tricks on you) string table entries were found in MS RegClean, including
16 identical string entries with the MS classic "Open this document" as
well as archaic MFC template toggle keys texts which are not used here
(or almost anywhere else today). Most of these strings have - of course
- nothing to do with the application at hand.

Toolbars are a funny MS way of looking at glyph bitmaps for use in
toolbar controls. MS RegClean has two - one which may be used by the
application, and one which was part of the original MFC template and
never removed.

Total Accountable Resource Bloat
The total accountable (i.e. what can be directly calculated at this
stage) resource bloat of MS RegClean 4.1a Build 7364.1 is over 360,000
bytes (350KB).

Total Accountable Code Bloat
Harder to estimate, but considering that most of the code is never used,
only part of an MFC template that the authors of MS RegClean lack the
wherewithal to remove, the original estimate of a total necessary image
size of 45KB for the entire application must still stand.

In Conclusion
Bloat is not a technical issue, but verily a way of thinking, a "state
of mind". Its cure is a simple refusal to accept, and a well directed,
resounding "clean up your act and clean up your code!"

PS. Send feedback on RegClean to

RA Downes, Radsoft Laboratories


Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 01:46:36 +0000
>From: (RA Downes) 
Subject: Re: Bloatware Debate

Bloatware is something we are very sensitized to here. The way we see it,
there is no excuse, because there is no reason.

I personally accepted Brian W. Kernighan's calculations back in the old days
about a 10% bloat with C versus assembler because the rewards were tangible
and far outweighed the bloat: you got largely (according to Steve Johnson
94%) platform independent code, saving countless man-hours of work.

But ever since the popular inception of MS Windows and furthermore MS's MFC
things have been way out of control. This is partly due to C++ and partly,
if not largely, due to MS and their MFC itself. A typical Win16 application
was 5KB, yet the same skeleton if built with the MFC back then was ten times
that size. And Bjarne's words echoed in your ear: "C++ produces no
noticeable overhead versus C." It simply was not so, and never will be so.

With time the MFC overhead has been reduced somewhat, but programmers of
today, raised on OO and C++ as opposed to what others have gone through,
are simply not taught to be conservative and minimalistic.

I received a letter yesterday from someone who had been reading the Risks
Digest, and reported on a party he had attended some years earlier. The
conversation turned inevitably toward software, and he mentioned that he
often must really tweak code to get it compact and fast. Another person at
the party, from you guessed it Redmond Washington, said that was *not* the
way things were done there; she said that if they ever ran into performance
problems, they just "threw more hardware at it."

So there are several issues involved all at once, and AFAIK the only way to
fight this, for stop it we must, is to expose it and make even ordinary end
users understand what it's all about, and perhaps by a concerted effort we
can turn back the tide.

Rick Downes, Radsoft Laboratories


From Risks Digest 20.37

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