Ghost of Clippy-past

Cortana has some great functionality crippled by an obsolete, out-of-date set of concerns generated, perhaps, by Windows 8. Cortana wouldn’t be terribly out of place in 2010, but today?
A few days ago, Windows bamboozled me. A little pop-up appeared (grr, and stole focus): “If you tell me which teams you like – or don’t – I can tell you how they are doing”. My third thought(*1) was “who is this message from?!”
I’m just guessing it’s from Cortana, if so it seems like the Cortana team is for some reason resurrecting the worst of Clippy… (*2)
Thanks to daily interaction with Google, Amazon, Facebook, Siri, etc, a modern user will interpret “Ask me anything” on a device differently than they would have in 2010.
disablesearchIf your plumber has to google every step of a basic repair job for you, you’re going to try another plumber next time. You don’t hire an accountant on the basis that they “know the URL for TurboTax”.
When someone says “ask me anything”, the response “you can look that up on the web” quickly becomes a contradiction of the original statement.
Eventually, it feels like they lied.
That’s the current presentation of Cortana.

Windows Phone conclusion

Some time ago, I wrote about my transition from Android to Windows Phone. I don’t regret having gotten a Windows 7 Phone, but I do resent having one. Allow me to explain…

Transferring Putty settings

Ever tried to migrate your Putty settings from one system to another? It turns out it’s a one-liner. At the Start > Run or “Search Programs and Files” input box, simply paste:

regedit.exe /E "%UserProfile%\Desktop\putty-settings.reg" "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SimonTatham"

For some reason, under XP, doing it from the Run prompt mean’t fiddling with case, whereas doing it from a DOS command prompt didn’t care about case (“%UsErPrOfIlE%” and “%USERprofile% and “%userprofile%” all worked, and so did “/e”).

One folder apps: a win for Windows

In the fight to battle malware and piracy, we – the end users – get overlooked.

This is most notable in the way that Windows apps are become so horrendously spread out. C:\Program Data\, C:\Users\Public, C:\Users\myname\Documents, C:\Users\myname\Application Data, C:\Program Data\, C:\Users\Program Files (x86), C:\Users\Program Files\, and then … the registry.

Applications should be Plug and Play – like hardware. The reason they aren’t? Piracy. But there’s a solution for that…

Login Queues

Just got done adding a Login Queue system to the auth host (I have to add it to Playgate too, but it’s the weekend and it’s late and I’m gonna do that later).

The nice thing about working on this particular piece of “sigh” was that I got to work mostly in Visual Studio. I used CMake to rustle up a quick .sln for the host files and the code I was writing was isolated enough that it didn’t run into any cross-platform issues.


Sunday evening, my motherboard died. I didn’t mind quite so much, the mobo/ram/cpu combo had been a thorn in my side since I built this system. So if I was going to buy parts, I was going to buy matching parts this time. But just in the process of checking out my existing parts, I scraped knuckles, tore the skin over finger joints and gouged a deep hole into my index finger, causing blood to spurt out all over the components inside the case. Ugh.

Building a box… I just don’t want to do it anymore. Sure it’s cheaper, if you count out the cost of neosporin and bandaids and carpet cleaner.

I’m going to access the web now…

More experimentation with Managed C++ I mean C++/CLI and running in to an old friend: The Windows Firewall. My code wants to access the Internet, and Windows – properly – wants the user to approve this random piece of code doing that. It’s doing the right thing.

But the problem is until the user clicks approve, my application can’t access the Internet. I wouldn’t mind if it just sat there and waited. But that’s not what happens.

In-place preview

Would love to see Vista/W7 do this:


Not going to be for everyone, but if you have lots of “activity” windows – Visual Studio doing a long compile, email, instant messengers, command prompts running long batch files … Instead of dropping them into the one-dimensional task bar, why not go 2D and allow the user to keep them as previews (not just icons) on the desktop? Shift-click on the minimize button and plop a sticky preview “icon” that can be moved around on the desktop until you’re ready to restore state…

Giving Ubuntu a whorl

Thanks for the votes :) I’ve just burned an Ubuntu 8.10 DVD. I’ve got NeoSmart’s EasyBCD installed, I’m going to try installing Ubuntu and seeing if it gives me the option of installing other than to the MBR so the default boot manager is still Vista’s. I really hope I’m not having to reinstall tomorrow :)

Microsoft tip of the hat

Following my mention of ‘autoruns’ while revealing (to no-one) that Adobe is evil, I thought I should follow up with an ironic little tip of the hat to, who else, but Microsoft :)

Microsoft’s SysInternals site is just a swiss army knife of goodness…