The Old New Thing

Do it for Katie

A story in honor of Katie Couric's final day at the Today show. Last month I happened to run into a former member of the shell team who worked on the Windows XP Welcome screen. He told me a story from CES 2001, where Windows XP's interface (code-named Luna) was unveiled. There was going to be a segment on the Today show, and ...

Mellifluous NPR reporter name: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

I first heard Ofeibea Quist-Arcton when she reported for the BBC. Now she's on NPR (you can listen to her discuss corruption in Nigeria in this recent report), thereby wresting the title of "most mellifluous NPR reporter name" from its previous holder, Sylvia Poggioli. (Sylvia Poggioli's dirty secret: She was born and grew up in the United ...

People are very sensitive to how the icons look

Windows XP shipped with new icons for many common items in the shell, and Windows Vista will have even more and newer icons. One of the things the designers have to be careful about with drawing these icons is to make sure they don't actually look like anything. Let me clarify. The folder icon, for example, is not based on any ...
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Wordplay (the movie)

This morning I saw a screening of Wordplay, a documentary on crossword puzzles featuring Will Shortz. If you're a crossword puzzler, this movie is a must-see. In addition to Will, there are plenty of other rock stars of the crossword puzzle subculture who play major roles: Merl Reagle, Trip Payne, and Ellen Ripstein. (I was particularly ...

Assaulting users with dialog box after dialog box

Increasingly, I'm seeing solving problems by adding more dialog boxes. Asking the user too much is as bad as not asking enough. "You clicked on the Notepad icon. Do you wish to run Notepad?" Okay, nobody would write a dialog box that stupid, would they? But the following dialog boxes don't really help much either: "You clicked on an mp3 ...
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Using Yoda on an x86 may be hazardous to your systems' health

In former times very cross-platform NTVDM was. If you view NTVDM.EXE in a hex editor, you'll find the message "Using Yoda on an x86 may be hazardous to your systems' health" buried inside it. Yoda was the name of the internal debugger that was used to debug the MS-DOS emulator, also known as the Virtual DOS Machine or VDM. (Buried inside the...

Beware the C++ implicit conversion

Today's topic was inspired by a question from a customer: I am working on a stack overflow bug. To reduce the size of the stack frame, I removed as many local variables as I could, but there's still a a lot of stack space that I can't account for. What else lives on the stack aside from local variables, parameters, saved registers, and the ...
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Raymond makes a psychic prediction for 2006

I have gazed into my crystal ball and emerged with a prediction for 2006. Revealing my prediction now may influence the event itself, so I will post only the hash for the prediction. I will post the actual prediction at the end of the year. The output of this program (after you replace "prediction goes here" with the actual prediction, of...
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