Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

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linuxlove
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Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by linuxlove »

About 20 years ago, Microsoft started a project codenamed "Cairo". The goal of the project was to bring "information at your fingertips". We know that it was demonstrated at PDC 1993, alongside Chicago. The last thing we can confirm for sure is that it had an object-oriented filesystem, which years later, turned into something you might be more familiar with - WinFS.

So, we know these four things, but what was Cairo? Was it going to be the next major version of Windows NT? Was it a testbed for things to be used in the future?

If you do a little bit of looking, you can find some references stating that Cairo was going to ship with a new UI, which later got recycled into Windows 95.
Exploration Phase
In this first phase we experimented with design directions and gathered initial user data. We began with a solid foundation for the visual design of the user interface by leveraging work done by the "Cairo" team. We inherited from them much of the fundamental UI and interaction design (the desktop, the "Tray", context menus, three-dimensional look and feel, etc.). We also collected data from product support about users' top twenty problems with Windows 3.1.

Figure 2 shows a prototype Windows 95 desktop design that we usability tested in January 1993. This design was based on Cairo and incorporated a first pass at fixing some of the known problems with Windows 3.1 (window management in particular).
http://www.sigchi.org/chi96/proceedings ... ds_txt.htm
User Interface

User interface differences between Windows 95 and Windows NT Workstation are short-term because the Windows 95 interface is based on early designs for Cairo, the next major release of Windows NT.

[...]

The Windows NT Workstation interface is based on the Windows 3.1 interface and probably won't get an updated shell until Cairo ships.
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/libr ... 50186.aspx

If you check out the Comes v. Microsoft anti-trust documents, specifically PX05542.pdf, there is an internal document published by Microsoft in 1993 about some of the goals to be met in Cairo - one of them is to create a new user interface. If you want to read it for yourself, check out PDF Page 21 (the printed page number says Page 18) of that document.

Finally, we presume Windows NT 3.5 Build 854 is a build of Cairo, since it contains ofs.sys. If we assume this to be true, then we see that there really was a new shell in store for Cairo, although I believe by that point it was referred to as the "Chicago Shell".

So, this shows that Cairo had a new UI that was being developed for it. But was Cairo just that? I think the end goal of Cairo was to be the next major version of Windows NT. Look back at that Technet article:
The Windows NT Workstation interface is based on the Windows 3.1 interface and probably won't get an updated shell until Cairo ships.
Right off, we see that maybe Cairo was meant to be the next major version of Windows NT. I didn't look too close at that antitrust document, but it seems to show there that Cairo was also going to be an OS.

Thanks to Ken (you old-time beta collectors know who I'm talking about), I've gotten some screenshots of MSDN/Technet news from around 1993 which state that Cairo was going to be an OS:
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
The Technet article, the antitrust document and these screenshots all point to the fact that Cairo was going to be its own OS. If we assume that Windows NT 3.5 Build 854 is really a build of Cairo and not just a post-RTM of NT 3.5 with ofs.sys and the "Chicago Shell" in it, then this seems to further prove that Cairo was its own OS.

Finally, ofs.sys. We can confirm for sure that whatever Cairo was, it did have an object-oriented filesystem which later became WinFS. Cairo OFS is mentioned here in this ComputerWorld article, which describes a little bit of why Microsoft was developing it: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/ ... d_to_Cairo

So, what was Cairo? Was it really just "a collection of abstract design goals"? From seeing all of the above, I personally believe that Cairo was going to be the next major version of Windows NT.
But what happened to Cairo? Whatever UI they designed later got recycled into Windows 95 and Cairo OFS turned into WinFS, which later failed. From what I've read, Cairo started in 1991 and was canceled in 1993.

Perhaps Longhorn was a shadow of Cairo... Trying to pull off too many things at once with too-new tools and inexperienced developers.
Goodbye.

The Distractor

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by The Distractor »

Actually, I think 854 isn't Cairo, because when installing ofs (which isn't installed by default), I noticed that there is a registry file to import 'on Cairo' which makes ofs dependant to a service that isn't installed.

By the way, the Newshell included with NT 854 is from around Chicago 4.00.224, judging by file dates.

WinPC

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by WinPC »

"Cairo" was the codename for Windows NT 4.0.

Originally, the development started at around the same time period of which you, linuxlove, mention above, however, it was later restarted from the Windows NT 3.5 (codenamed "Daytona") codebase, and yes, it did include the updated file system, although it was still known as Object File System; this was before it was later renamed to WinFS in the Blackcomb builds, before having been reimplemented in Longhorn (the fact that it was implemented into the Blackcomb builds before later being reimplemented into the Longhorn builds is even on Wikipedia, so I'm quite certain that it was once common knowledge at one point).

The restart of its development based on the Windows NT 3.5 codebase also resulted in a temporary shift of its version number from 4.00 downward to 3.50, though by the time that the "Shell Update Release" builds (such as Build 1054 from May 1995 and Build 1057 from August 1995) were compiled, the version number had shifted back up to 4.00. Also, in Build 854, although the updated Explorer shell was included, it not only had to be installed manually, but there were also many implications resulting from having been in the process of being ported from the Windows 9x codebase to the Windows NT codebase.

Later, as we all know it, the "Shell Update Release" builds, such as Build 1054 and Build 1057 as mentioned above, were compiled as updates to Windows NT 3.51. They were mainly just shell updates (with the Explorer shell, of which now functioned properly), although they did include the earlier Windows NT 4.0 NTOSKRNL.EXE kernels, of which even stated the version number as 4.00, concluding that the version number had been shifted from 3.50 back to 4.00 by this point.

Finally, by the time of Build 1130's compilation in late September 1995, the Windows NT 3.51 code had been merged with the updates of which had been introduced in the Shell Update Release builds of Windows NT 4.0, and as such, by that point, the development of Cairo was back on track. Although the earlier post-merging builds of Windows NT 4.0 were somewhat behind in functionality compared with Windows 95 in certain aspects, over time, the Windows 95 functionality was also reimplemented into Windows NT 4.0, this time, in a feature complete manner.

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by German »

I think:

Cairo - is a codename New Technologies for NT and NT4.
Cairo, how new technologies embedded some new function (New OLE version, new shell, new Win32API, ...). Development started in 1993 year, dont 1991. In 1991 dont exist new shell. New shell and new OLE integrated in Chicago. Berofe Chicago this dont exist.

Cairo how Windows NT4 Beta - is NT with new kernel and Cairo Technologies. Started development in 1994. In NT4 Cairo shell installed with install OS, dont BAT file. In original NT Cairo Shell install without OS, from BAT file. 3.50.854 is dont NT4, is Pre-Alpha of NT3.51. On CD of 3.50.854 have folder with Cairo version 8.50.853, this install from BAT file. WINNT folder have originbal version NT 3.50/3.51

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by vasefi39 »

linuxlove wrote:Cool lack of sources bro.
From what I see, he posted his own interpretation of the known facts. I can understand if you disagree but I do not see why he should need to post sources for an interpretation or opinion. And why do you speak in such an unprofessional way?

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by linuxlove »

I suppose you're right. Let's just say that some people have associated themselves with certain groups known for twisting the truth.
Goodbye.

DeFacto

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by DeFacto »

To make it easier to understand:

-The "Cairo" codename -> Recycled for NT 4.0
-Cairo's OFS -> Recycled for Longhorn
-Cairo's UI -> Recycled for Windows 95/Chicago
Bruce Nolan wrote:And that's the way the cookie crumbles.
So, Microsoft indeed re-used several of it's previous technologies and ideas and included them in their later projects...

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by vasefi39 »

linuxlove wrote:I suppose you're right. Let's just say that some people have associated themselves with certain groups known for twisting the truth.
Well I think I know which group you mean, I was given my fair share of logs about them. But I was given my fair shair of logs about a group that opposed them too (and you seem to be a member thereof) and I can say, neither of the two sides had a great care for professionality or truth. And I largely see they have gotten over their past issues and even banned the "twisted truth" you are talking about (which is a matter of opinon anyway). So I would say the issues you are talking about are by now bygones and I think bygones they should stay.
And I do not find it right that people are treated differently based on which group they belong to solely based on your personal opinion of any particular group or invidivual.

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by Matt A. Tobin »

Microsoft does reuse ideas... look here http://personal.mattatobin.com/share/ca ... otrayd.bmp

That would be from the win2k source leak.. looks to me to be a show desktop button that was part of the taskbar and situated to the right of the clock... now correct me if i am wrong.. this was not in win2k but a decade later as a defining feature of windows 7.

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by Battler »

Matt A. Tobin wrote:Microsoft does reuse ideas... look here http://personal.mattatobin.com/share/ca ... otrayd.bmp

That would be from the win2k source leak.. looks to me to be a show desktop button that was part of the taskbar and situated to the right of the clock... now correct me if i am wrong.. this was not in win2k but a decade later as a defining feature of windows 7.
The same button is also present in Internet Explorer 4.0 Preview Build 0544's Desktop Update as well. And it pretty much also serves the same purpose as the button in the same corner in Windows 7, that is, showing the desktop.
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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by z180 »

look for cairo and OFS remains in the NT 4 leak.
You will find quite a few things.
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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by giantsteen »

Would that be necessary to say that WinFS is Protogon File system for Windows 8?
Image

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by linuxlove »

No, because it's not. PROTOGON uses database-like methods to store information, but it doesn't actually depend on a database back-end. It is my understanding that Cairo OFS and WinFS both depended on MSSQL in order to store data.
Goodbye.

hounsell

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by hounsell »

WinFS wasn't even a filesystem - it was a database-powered extension to NTFS

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by Nightsteed »

hounsell wrote:WinFS wasn't even a filesystem - it was a database-powered extension to NTFS
^ This. It was an add-on for NTFS.

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by Battler »

linuxlove wrote:No, because it's not. PROTOGON uses database-like methods to store information, but it doesn't actually depend on a database back-end. It is my understanding that Cairo OFS and WinFS both depended on MSSQL in order to store data.
Mind telling us what you base Cairo OFS having depended on MSSQL on? I'm not saying it's false, I'm just saying it's not a certainty.
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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by linuxlove »

Ah, I think I got Cairo OFS confused with WinFS - In that ComputerWorld article, it says something about an "object store based on SQL Server technology":
Having said that, an object store based on SQL Server technology is a good idea, though not necessarily the best design for a file system. I've advocated this approach for a long time, and I don't intend to stop just because Microsoft might abuse it.
I reread that article and this section seems to be referring to WinFS instead of Cairo OFS.
Goodbye.

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by GL1zdA »

linuxlove wrote:
Figure 2 shows a prototype Windows 95 desktop design that we usability tested in January 1993. This design was based on Cairo and incorporated a first pass at fixing some of the known problems with Windows 3.1 (window management in particular).
http://www.sigchi.org/chi96/proceedings ... ds_txt.htm
It seems here is the video from the 1993 usability tests (scroll down a bit): http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012 ... ience.aspx
Image

DeFacto

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by DeFacto »

Interesting... :|

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Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by linuxlove »

GL1zdA wrote:It seems here is the video from the 1993 usability tests (scroll down a bit): http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012 ... ience.aspx
I saw that, and it seems like the build of Chicago shown in that video is actually earlier than the one on the SigChi page.
Goodbye.

WinPC

Re: Microsoft's "Cairo" project... What was it?

Post by WinPC »

I would say it's later, actually, due to the teal background. As far as I'm concerned, while icons and other areas can change notably and back within the course of several months, the teal background implies a later version of the high level kernel and drivers (KRNL386.EXE, GDI.EXE, USER.EXE, VGA.DRV, etc...), whereas in the January 1993 screenshot, the background is grey.

I know some people might not completely agree with me on this, but that's just my opinion.

Of course, one or both could also be customized color schemes, but they both look to me like the "Windows Default" one, so I doubt it.

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