Everybody’s more important (than the user)

After reading this post on pollution of the Windows icon tray by every Tom, Dick and Harry program in the world (Creative, are you listening?) I had to make up a list of the wacky and fun things that people think installers and applications should do.

  • The video card manufacturer who thought it would be okay to hijack “control-shift-T” to launch their configuration program.  (I use this key combo in Emacs to manipulate HTML tags).  Sheesh.
  • The sound card driver that opened several windows on startup, including a volume control and a link to the manufacturer’s web site for support.
  • Umpteen zillion desktop icons installed by yet another sound card driver.
  • Yes, I know I have a wireless adapter in my laptop.  No, I don’t need to be constantly reminded that the network is connected / the network isn’t connected / wups the network is connected again.  Balloon notifications suck.
  • Oh, someone did some typing in an IM window?  Please make sure my concentration is interrupted by a blinking red notification for every single sentence that they type.  Thank you.  I am but a slave to the tools I sometimes want to use for communication.
  • My desktop icons need re-arranging?  [cancel]  Apparently my desktop icons need to be reblorkified.  [cancel]  I want to thrash the person who thought this was important enough to interrupt me for.  [cancel cancel cancel]
  • I’m sorry, I was a moron for plugging that USB device into a different port from last time, causing your driver to choke itself and ask to be installed again, just like the last time I plugged that thing into a different port.  How ’bout I simply toss the stupid thing into the junkbox next to the Creative Labs sound cards whose drivers and ancillary software can only be described as majestic in their hideous, cravenly stupid design.

To all: The fact that I boot my WinXP machine, and before I get into the DOS prompt something is chewing up 400 to 500 megabytes of memory.  I’m not doing any work yet and half the RAM in my system is gone.  Meh.

Out and aboat

We’re headed home on I-5 north of Seattle, and we see a used boat dealership.  It’s huge.  Literally acres of boats alongside the frontage road, some looking pretty good, some looking like they might have held water once, but that was maybe before the Vikings abandoned them on the shores of Leif Ericson’s land for new models.

“Boat,” the toddler observes.

He thinks about it a little more.

“Boat,” he adds.




This goes on for a while (acres and acres…).  Finally we pass the lot.

“Okay,” I ask, “How many boats was that?”

The toddler thinks about it.


If he had been counting the ones that would still float, I think he might have been right.


Ice Scream

Quite a few of the roads around Microsoft were sheets of ice around six PM tonight (my wife left work, moved about a hundred yards in half an hour, then simply re-parked in another garage and went back to her office).  It’s one of the clearest examples of the fact that high-average ability in a group doesn’t necessarily help in a crunch situation.  It doesn’t matter that nine-tenths of the folks on the road are dealing fine with the conditions — driving slowly, watching out for icy spots, staying out of intersections, braking carefully — it’s the ten percent who have no idea what they are doing that makes the mess.  It doesn’t take much to foul up something that is marginal.

It was like Martians landed, found these funny four-wheeled things, and decided to take them out for a spin. 

“Damn, Zodnok, what is that white stuff?”

“Ezz sllllipppparrrry!  Whatch az I agzellerate and turn this wheel thing.  Wheeee!”

“You forgot to call someone on your cell phone.  I think you have to do that, too.”

 “ello?  ‘ello?  Torlik!  Iz Zodnok, am driving!  Yez, zeez wheels are turning around az fazzzzt az I can mik them go, yet vee are ztill going sideways!”

I am looking forward to the sequel tomorrow morning, when the Martian drivers encounter black ice.

“Iz black vhat?  Ice?”



“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Pool anudder one, hey?”

“No really.  You hit this stuff, you can’t see it, and you’re a goner.”

“Me theenk you lyring.  Zodnok drive into work, zoom down 40th as usual, and even wit diz ‘black eyes’ theenks can just skeeeeeeed right into usual parking spot.”  (eyetwitch)

I do hope the motorcyclist I saw leaving work amidst pea-size pellets of frozen rain made it home all right.

Key Wrods

More keywords that I keep mis-spelling.  As my editors improve (Word auto-corrects, my Emacs clone has a spell mode) my typing is going downhill.  But compilers are as picky as ever, so my recommendations to the standards committee are –

beak.  Kind of like break.  Maybe it just pecks at it and thinks about it, maybe it just does a couple of lines.

retrun.  Think of “The Shining” and pronounce this keyword with a kind of gravelly, throaty growl (“Redrum, Redrum”).  Retrun means we’re returning a value, but we don’t necessarily feel that good about it, and maybe something bad is going to happen that’s beyond our control.

nit.  A smaller int than usual.

singed.  What happens to a value after its sign bit catches fire and halts.

unsinged.  A variable that hasn’t been thrashed to heck yet.

flout.  My number is bigger than your number.

fore.  If I liked golf [I do, but I can’t abide golfers], this is probably where I’d rather be on bad days.

wsitch.  Someplace in Britain where it rains just as much as it does here.

dooble.  Oh, just do what I mean with this declaration; make it a number or something.

(Right, you can add these with #define in C / C++.  I keep wanting to keel-haul people who add their own keywords to the language this way . . . and C++ has enough barnacles on the bottom that it’s really not a nice trip).

$ecurity $ham

We visited Hearst Castle today. There was a pleasant little notice taped to the door of the visitor center, to the effect that was necessary to photograph everyone going to the castle “due to heightened security.” There is a similar notice on the hearst castle web page.

Actually, what they want to do is make money selling you photograph trinkets on the way back out. They snap your photo, then charge you $17 (or more) for the photo on the way out.

I suppose the photos could be useful for some security purpose; I’m sure they’d hand over rolls of negatives if the police wanted them. But why not use video cameras instead? (Indeed, there were video cameras installed).

One of our party wasn’t completely visible in the photograph they took of us, and he accused them of not doing a very good job. They didn’t seem to care very much.

It would be amusing to phone the office at Hearst Castle and press them on this. “Do you realize what a shoddy security job your employees are doing? One of us got to the castle without being photographed. My goodness, aren’t you going to institute more stringent controls?”

Of course, they won’t give a damn. Because that’s not what it’s for. It’s dishonesty at the level of “Now, national security requires that you remove all of your clothing.” Riiight.

Just more preparation for the Big Lie. I’ll rant about paid informants in a little while. In the meantime, I think we’re at war with … Eurasia?