The Old New Thing

When temperance backfires

[South Carolina is] the only state in the nation requiring bars to serve all hard liquor in minibottles. The minibottle's place behind the bar is even enshrined in the state's constitution. Mini-bottles are those cute little single-serving bottles you see on airplanes and in hotel refrigerators. The law was originally passed ...

The look of Luna

Luna was the code name for the Windows XP "look". The designers did a lot of research (and got off to a lot of false starts, as you might expect) before they came to the design they ultimately settled upon. During the Luna studies, that people's reaction to Luna was often, "Wow this would be a great UI for X," where X was "my dad" or "...

Where did my Task Manager tabs and buttons go?

Ah, welcome to "Tiny Footprint Mode". This mode exists for the ultrageeks who want to put a tiny little CPU meter in the corner of the screen. To go back to normal mode, just double-click a blank space in the border. This is one of those geek features that has created more problems than it solved. Sure, the geeks get their cute ...

"Special skills" draft on the drawing board

The [U.S.] government is taking the first steps toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages. Apparently, there is already a special system to draft "health care personnel", whatever that means. Can you imagine the havoc that could be wrought by disgruntled programmers ...

It's embarrassing how little Swedish you need to know

Because everybody here speaks English. Perfectly. Sometimes they'll speak English to me even before I say anything. (My comparative silence probably gives me away as a non-native.) Other times they'll notice that I'm speaking with a bad accent and switch to English. Some humor me by speaking Swedish until I finally break down and ask (in ...

Why Ctrl+Alt shouldn't be used as a shortcut modifier

You may have noticed that Windows doesn't use Ctrl+Alt as a keyboard shortcut anywhere. (Or at least it shouldn't.) If a chorded modifier is needed, it's usually Ctrl+Shift. That's because Ctrl+Alt has special meaning on many keyboards. The combination Ctrl+Alt is also known as AltGr, and it acts as an alternate shift key. For example...

The army is cool, except for the part where you have to fight

There's some to-do over a soldier who volunteered to serve in the army who has since changed his mind and is applying for conscientous objector status. I noticed this trend over two years ago, when people who had enlisted in the armed forces underwent a change of heart after the World Trade Center attacks: Many of the enlisted ...

You know you've been in Sweden too long when…

Some Aussie ex-pats developed a list of “You know you've been in Sweden too long when...”. My friend who is acting as my host (and who is himself a U.S. ex-pat) says that the list is astonishingly accurate, and that your reaction to it goes through several phases. For example, my friend explained points 73 and 74 to me...

What U.S. college students miss from home

I didn't believe it until I saw it myself: My friend asked me to bring red and blue plastic cups to Sweden because the U.S. students really miss them. It's true. Here's why. (This needed to be explained to me because this was a part of U.S. college life I missed out on.) These cups are valuable because they are opaque. This allows you to walk ...

Yahoo's privacy policy regarding web bugs

Here's Yahoo's privacy policy regarding so-called web bugs (or as they call them "web beacons") - these are the little 1x1 images that web sites use to keep track of where you're going. Halfway down the page (at least as of the time I wrote this, which is not the same as the time this gets posted since I write stuff in advance...) in ...

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