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earnshaw earnshaw Jack Sleeps
  • Windows Is Like A Box of Chocolates: You Never Know What You're Gonna Get

    Typing a document into Microsoft Word is an adventure.  It pretends to know better than you do what is correct grammar and what is correct spelling and capitalization, and makes changes without telling you.  Time and again documents are delivered without realization that they make no sense because the "helpful" software made a mess of things.

    Today I tried to download Rory's 5-on-9 podcast by pressing the DOWNLOAD button.  The download took off and I left the room.  Twenty minutes later the podcast is playing loud enough to wake the dead.  Naturally, pressing DOWNLOAD, I didn't expect Windows to play the thing -- but it did. 

    Back in the days before many Microsoft employees were born, I used computers and felt like I knew almost all the time what would happen if did a certain thing.  Now, it not only is uncertain, it changes from day to day.

  • No Vista

    The general consensus seems to be that one should avoid trying to upgrade to Vista from XP.  Fortunately, upgrading from Vista to Vista seems to work quite well.

    At this late date, the availability of hardware drivers for Vista seems problematic.  Those that exist still seem to be in BETA status and not integrated for release with Vista.  All the toys that are sold in large quantities by the major PC vendors should PnP flawlessly.  But, the news on that may be grim.  Maybe it will all get sorted out once Vista starts to ship with new hardware.

    The uncommunicativeness of Windows, I believe, comes down to us from Unix, whose mantra was to keep error messages small so that the OS will fit into a limited amount of memory.  If you have two of something, say RAID controllers, and Windows reports a problem with "the" RAID controller, how is the System Administrator supposed to know which one is causing the problem?

    If I try to map a drive letter to a share and mistype the name of the computer where the share lives, the error message is "Network Not Found."  Oh, yeah?  Where did it go?  Is it hiding under my desk?



  • IBM sues Amazon

    Intellectual Property (IP) is the "Big Thing" in legal circles these days.  The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is used to awarding inventors rights in physical things like steamboats and automobile parts.   Along comes software and they think they can decide what is obvious and what is not.  Some patents are pure dreck.  I found one that claims to "understand" text by doing some simple math on character combination frequency.  I tried it out.  It didn't work.  Then you get large corporate concerns that patent the obvious like 1-CLICK shopping and how to organize a shopping web site.  Jeez Louise.  If the lawyers really got cooking, anything a decent programmer writes would infringe on somebody's patent.  It is SOOOOO nonsensical.

  • Error: You're screwed

    Microsoft is big offender on error messages and I think I know where the habit comes from:  Unix.  Unix was invented in the era of smaller-is-cheaper computers.  Memory was 'spensive.  Programs were run by the developers or the developers were down the hall and could be asked when something went wrong.  So the habit was to be vague and, by all means, brief. 

    What I find especially inept is the error message that joins two disparate causes:  Program failed because the database is corrupt or the hard disk is full.  Well, which is it?

    IBM's mainframe software is big on code numbers.  That shows that they (or their customers) considered issues surrounding error messages ought to be given much thought during development.  After all, we don't want our big, expensive mainframe sitting on a false floor in a glass-enclosed nerve center to behave like a beached whale.  A thick book of error codes and what-to-do when they occur is the next best thing to having the software guide you to a resolution.  (Microsoft is attempting to appear to help the user toward resolution.  However, at present, boiler plate stubs indicate Microsoft has no idea how to help you resolve most problems.)

    Microsoft has messages like "Network not found." when trying to map a drive letter to a share.  How unenlightening.  It may as well say "You're screwed."  Besides being unhelpful, it's misleading.  The network may well have been found.  It was something ON THE NETWORK that wasn't.

  • Frontpage replacement


    I AM SOOOOO HAPPY!  Microsoft now is producing online videos that show how products can be used and what they offer.  This is much more effective than asking your neighbor, guessing, or even reading about it in books.  Way to go Microsoft!

  • Who Do You Complain To About This? Community ​Participati​on


    The above Microsoft web UI is good for reading from and writing to communities.  When you want to ask a question, it presents a very lengthy unsorted, unorganized list of newsgroups.  It is very hard to pick an appropriate one.  When you pick an inappropriate one, an MVP will answer that you did -- pick an inappropriate one.  To make communities more effective, it would be nice to have ONE, not SEVERAL, web UI sites that presents a much user friendlier facade.

  • New Apple Ads

    Very good set of ads from Apple at http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/?restarting_medium

    Not necessarily the whole truth, but entertaining.  Making Windows and Windows applications easy to use simply is not a priority, in my experience.

  • Trouble With Using

    So, now comes Vista with everything that can be running with below Administrator privileges.  Suddenly, applications that have run for years start bombing off due to lack of necessary privileges.  Okey dokey.  Back to the code.  The .NET Framework using statement allows the coder to open a file and establish a context in which the file remains open until the context ends with a curly bracket.  Upon leaving the context, the file is automatically closed.  For example,

    using (StreamWriter sr = new Streamwriter(@"C:\SampleFile.txt"))
      for (;Wink
        string x = sr.ReadLine();
        if (x == null)

    I don't see any way in this idiom to specify the privileges one desires.   With FileStream there is.

    Isn't this a problem?

  • Emotional Software

    Emotionl Software could be the next "Bob" or "Clippy."  Or it could be an advanced program that passes the Turing Test.  If my best buddy were a computer program, it would have sympathy for me because it understands my frustration at having to repeatedly research core topics that get inadequate coverage in what passes for documentation today.  The emotional software would offer tea, sympathy, maybe a backrub, and references to the literature where I could find genuinely helpful answers to my questions in place of boilerplate.  It could send $10 bills to my favorite charity.

  • A revolution in learning tough technical topics

    "A revolution in learning tough technical topics..." is how a reviewer evaluates Head First EJB (Brain-Friendly Study Guides; Enterprise JavaBeans) (Paperback)
    by Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates.
    So, says I, GREAT!  Here I've been subjecting myself to boring, dry, and excruciatingly painful materials written to teach me (and others similarly situated) how to use Microsoft technology, and now Scott has bested Bill by coming out with a book that realizes my brain (and the brains of others similarly situated) has a sense of style, a sense of humor, and a darn good sense of what it likes and dislikes.  What it dislikes is pain and boredom and fruitless labor.

    Real programmers love to tackle tough technical topics.  The problem is, today every technical topic is tough and the tools for solving problems change every six months.

    This is a call on Microsoft to put forth an initiative to match Sun's revolution in learning TTTs.  What's available?  What does it do for me?  How do I work it?  Is there a secret Visual Studio incantation involved?  If so, let the cat outta the bag.

    [Quotes borrowed with acknowlegement from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0596005717/ref=cm_aya_asin.title/103-9261731-5733441?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155]