Trevor's Rant- by Trevor Smith

Minimum!?!?! Requirements

There's something that has bugged me for a long time: the insistence by software manufacturers to print what they call "Minimum Requirements".

You know what I'm talking about if you have ever struggled with a low end machine. I have a friend who first got Warp while he was a student and only had an ancient 386DX with 4 meg of RAM. Sure I convinced him he needed to upgrade to 8 meg before he did anything foolish, but just for entertainment we had a look at what OS/2 does in 4 meg of RAM. Bear in mind that it clearly states on the Warp box that the System Requirements are:

For those of you who have never bothered to check, yes it really does say that. Anyway, if you've ever seen OS/2 with the WPS running in 8 meg, you won't be surprised to hear that IBM's System Requirements are a fairy tale. This thing chugged and spat and sounded like it would have a HD coronary until we finally practiced computer euthanasia and shut it down.

Admittedly, this particular machine might have had some peculiar system configuration that ate up part of that 4 meg before OS/2 even looked at it, but that's exactly my point. Why do companies insist on claiming their software will run on machines that they know full well are going to perform dismally or possibly not at all? I'm sick of it.

This kind of hype-selling is more suited to another platform's market and I'm sure you all know which one I'm referring to. OS/2 with any of the features that really make it glow doesn't run sterlingly in 8 meg let alone 4. Say it like it is. Evading the facts only does two things: it makes the users who get saddled with bloatware unhappy and it makes the company selling it look bad.

Let's see, what else do I have around the office? Here's an old version of Lotus SmartSuite for OS/2 (v1.1). Now, here is a box that tries to be a little more honest. Right up front, they let the customer know that 12 meg minimum is required. Ah, 4 meg breathing room. But wait. This is an old version released before Warp, when OS/2 was still being billed as needing 12 meg itself. In fact, the salesman told me that the copies of SmartSuite had been brought in to preload on 8 meg systems but were now being remaindered. Great, now the hardware companies are doing it! Why would any computer manufacturer in his right mind package a huge application like SmartSuite on a 486 with 8 meg? Is this how you show off your computer's blazing speed? I don't think so.

More recently software vendors haven't gotten over this silly habit either. While Avarice Preview is still an unfinished product and many speed enhancements have been promised in future versions, the fact remains that the version shipped by Stardock and Continuous Software Systems claims to require 8 MB RAM. Well, if you turn off all sound and reduce the graphics quality to its lowest setting, this game seems almost playable on an 8 meg system--almost. In my opinion there is still too much swapping for the game to be much more than tedious, and these results were only achieved after switching to an alternate shell (to save the ~2 meg of RAM taken up by the WPS).

Some companies argue that they have to bend the truth and claim their software will run on systems never intended for the workout or customers will be scared away. I say these companies are hurting themselves when they mislead consumers into thinking that the fancy new ultra-gridlock feature of their software will purr like a kitten on an aging system. C'mon guys and girls, I'm not asking for the world, I just want you to say it like it is. Give us the recommended requirements, not the minimum, and leave it at that. You'll be saving us all a lot of heartache.

Trevor Smith is the editor of OS/2 e-Zine! and enjoys almost everything except breaking bones and bending the truth.

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