I’m dating myself here…but I remember about twenty years ago when the Novell NetWare operating system was compiled from components. In the earlier case, the operating system was linked to include object files for specific networking hardware. I recall provisions for up to a dozen different hardware manufacturers and topologies, including ArcNet, Ethernet, IBM Systems Network Architecture, and something called OmniNet. The linking and build process used 30 or more floppy disks, and the process was fraught with errors and mixups. The target hard drives were tested with the infamous CompSurf program (for Comprehensive Surface Test), and this could take several hours to run if the disk was a large one, like 40 megabytes. We would routinely let these tests run overnight, and hope in the morning that our disk would have a clean bill of health.
So it is interesting to build a Windows XP embedded image, which basically gives you 1200 possible components that can be selected to build a version of Windows XP that will run on embedded hardware or for a dedicated device. This is displayed in the Microsoft Virtual Labs, which create a virtual PC environment ActiveX control that shows up embedded in an Internet Explorer Window. Pretty slick actually. And, as the second picture shows…it is just like real life. Here is what I ended up with after working through ninety minutes of the lab when I attempted to reboot the virtual machine.