I'm a sucker for shiny objects. I love to try out new software utilities--usually in the network monitoring arena. This has often resulted in a problem that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet described based on a lament of ExtremeTech's Loyd Case. Loyd reported a marked slowdown in his Windows PC startup--the side effects of code rot or bit rot. Like Kingsley-Hughes, I think that code rot--caused by installing and then perhaps uninstalling, upgrading and installing competing software, or just loading too many software applications--is real. Because of code rot I had IT reimage my work system, an almost ancient Lenovo (nee IBM) ThinkPad x31 with 2GB RAM, a couple of days ago on Jan. 5. My system is now booting up much faster. Here's what I'm doing to try to keep it that way.
I've installed Sun's no-cost VirtualBox to create a virtual Windows system "lab rat" that serves as a host for any trial software that crosses my path. Now, instead of installing a trial version of, say Paessler's PRTG network monitoring software on my base system, I install it first on the lab rat. If the new software proves useful, then I'll install it in the base system. If not, it'll be no problem to zap the lab rat, having it revert to a pristine state. Using this method, I hope to ensure that only truly useful software gets installed on my base system.
Using VirtualBox or VMware Workstation will likely slow, but not stop, code rot on my newly imaged laptop. However, I expect that using a lab rat system will lessen my feelings of frustration as my system eventually slows down over time, by providing me with the comfort of knowing that at least the software I installed was actually worthwhile.
It happens that I'm also evaluating VirtualBox for an eWEEK Labs review and have already posted a preliminary walk-through of the product. In the review I'll be focusing on the new features in Version 2.1 of VirtualBox. I'll also be reviewing it from the point of view of its intended use as a development environment. The scenario I've laid out above is an off-label (but totally legitimate use) of the product. If it helps you slow down the dreaded effects of code rot, then please let me know.