Over the course of a year many ideas occur to me that are important, but aren’t substantial enough to merit a full column. I’ve collected these thoughts here, in the inaugural edition of what will be my annual “Brain Droppings” column. I plan to make this a pillar of my editorial year (the other being, of course, my April Fool’s Day column). Use the comment feature on the Web site to tell me which of the following ideas resonate with you.
Many computer games display the elapsed time on their victory screens, for example, “Congratulations, you solved the puzzle in 12 minutes 15 seconds.” Suppose instead it said, “Congratulations, you just wasted 12:15 of your life that you’ll never get back again. Nice work, doofus.”
Microsoft Word didn’t recognize the word “doofus” in the previous sentence.
The mechanical hard disk is now dead. Solid-state drives rule. But do we still have to call them disks, even though they’re not circular anymore?
I was a physics major as an undergraduate, so I’m following the Higgs boson discovery with some interest. I once asked a high-energy physicist what he’d do when they finally found everything in the atom. He thought a second, then said: “First, we have one hell of a party. And then we all go look for new jobs.”
I’ve had enough. The next time I sit in a presentation and the speaker just reads off his PowerPoint bullets, I’m going to call him on it. In the middle of his session, publicly and brutally. Make sure that speaker isn’t you. Read my March 2011 column (msdn.microsoft.com/magazine/gg650665) for starters.
It should not take four Windows processes to run a graphics adapter, but Intel on my ThinkPad does: igfxpers, igfxtray, hkcmd, igfxsrvc. Guys, get with it, OK?
Here are two things I teach my daughters: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. And anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.
When Microsoft Word upgraded versions some time ago, the desktop icon changed from a freestanding light-blue W to a dark-blue W with a box around it. An IT director once told me: “I have 60,000 users in my admin space. Do you have any idea how long it takes and how much it costs me to tell 60,000 people that the thing they used to get from the light-blue W they now get from the dark-blue W with the box around it? I wish I could send Microsoft the bill for my cost of just that one change.”
I cringe every time I see a new technology intended for use by the driver of a car. It’s not just the Ford SYNC that runs on Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive (“Would you like today’s horoscope? What’s your sign?” My reply: “Caution, Merging Traffic”). This is a problem everywhere. How about we use today’s technology to help the driver do a better job of not killing himself and others, instead of distracting him even more? Like short-circuiting the driver’s cell phone so it doesn’t ring, and automatically replying, “Sorry, he’s busy driving now. I’ll have him call you as soon as he stops.” In fact, every design meeting on automotive technology should close with the question, “Are the design decisions we’ve just made going to kill more people or fewer?”
The official kilogram seems to be losing mass. I’d be lying if I said I was losing a lot of sleep over this.
If you say, “We’ll just train the users,” you’re barking up the wrong tree. Go back and figure out how to build your app so that it will just work.
I’d like to remove the function MessageBox from the Windows API. It’s just too easy to pop up a box saying, “Error 15. You’re toast. [OK],” instead of making the effort to explain the problem in terms of the user’s mental model, not the program’s implementation model. Better yet, figure out how to avoid that error in the first place.
David S. Platt teaches programming .NET at Harvard University Extension School and at companies all over the world. He’s the author of 11 programming books, including “Why Software Sucks” (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2006) and “Introducing Microsoft .NET” (Microsoft Press, 2002). Microsoft named him a Software Legend in 2002. He wonders whether he should tape down two of his daughter’s fingers so she learns how to count in octal. You can contact him at rollthunder.com.
Solid state drives, as you mentioned, are just drives, I don't see 'disk' in the word. the problem for word icon change is that there are too many morons among the 60k users, seriously. my c-max ford sync touch has the 'do not disturb' button in it but the interface is broken (especially for FM radio), it is really a shame showing 'powered by microsoft', unless microsoft is the reason it's so broken.
Maybe you could just re-title this annual column, "I Didn't Get Started, and I Didn't Finish: The First Law of Thermodynamics Remains Undefeated." Certainly, the informational entropy seems constant: I emerge from reading this with net zero new information. Claude Shannon yawns.
1) "But do we still have to call them disks, even though they’re not circular anymore?" - Of course, why do you think we still "dial the phone" even though the circular dial has been (almost) dead for over 20 years... 2) "Here are two things I teach my daughters: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. And anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for." - I feel very sorry for your daughters. If you cant win a clean fight, then you dont have a reason to fight, and overdoing is one of the biggest problems in society today. 3) "The official kilogram seems to be losing mass" lets see someone spin this to explain obesity. After all if a single kilogram is less mass, then more kilograms are needed to represent the same mass. So my measurement in kilograms has gone up, doesn't actually mean I have gained mass.
Sure the change in the big blue W for Word is irritating and expensive but what about abandoning MODI (Microsoft Office Document Imaging)? Telling n-million Office users that .TIF documents are no longer supported ... are you blank'in kidding me. So Microsoft is no longer rich enough to write a check for royalties on both .tif and .pdf patents, boo freaking hoo. Oh and Visual FoxPro should be in the "It Just Works" release program. For these and other assaults on IT departments and professional careers, any wonder why Microsoft is no longer #1? Huh, just any small ideas?
I totally agree about the MessageBox. It is so annoying and rarely necessary. You should feel real bad every time you use it in your code!
>“Error 15. You’re toast. [OK]” I'm pretty sure that some software vendors intentionally leave this kind of error message to hide the true nature of error, so that when customers demand explanations, the PM will have greater flexibility on how to interpret the seriousness to the customer.
> "Congratulations, you just wasted 12:15 of your life that you’ll never get back again. Nice work, doofus." I hope at least it says 0:12:15... 12:15 means 12 hours 15 minutes to me, and I can't help but wondering if someone temporarily placed me in outerspace and then put me back.
Wait till Windows 8 is deployed. IT Director's phone would just explode...
I can only imagine the IT director's call volume when Microsoft went from the menu bar to the ribbon.
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