The Old New Thing

Throwing a cup of hot water into the air in sub-zero temperatures

One of my colleagues on a previous team was stationed in Alaska as part of his military service. He said that one of the things people did for a cheap thrill was to take a cup of hot water outside when it was like a bazillion degrees below zero and throw it up into the air. (Things must be really boring in Alaska in the dead of winter.) But ...

AppInit_DLLs should be renamed Deadlock_Or_Crash_Randomly_DLLs

I have no idea why the window manager team added this feature to Windows NT. It basically says, "Hi, use this key to violate all the rules known to mankind about what can legitimately be done in a DllMain function. Oh, and be an attractive malware attack vector, too." I've debugged a few crashes that were traced back to the ...
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Christmas lights in the Dyker Heights neighborhood

If you come to New York City in December, you'll find the festive Christmas season throughout the town. Skaters wobble beneath the giant tree in Rockefeller Center. Giant snowflakes adorn the upper floors of the Saks Fifth Avenue store while animated Christmas-themed window displays entertain visitors on the ground floor of Saks, as well as ...

When selecting system colors, match but don't mix

Here's a question that came in from a customer: Is there a way to view all the Windows color schemes at once? We want to display text in the COLOR_BTNTEXT color against a background of COLOR_INACTIVECAPTION, and we want to check that this looks good in all of the themes. A mistake I see from some programs is mixing system colors that are ...
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Exploiting the inattentive, episode 3: Confusing movie titles

In early 1997, the movie Fly Away Home, a film about a teenage girl and her father rescuing a family of geese (inspired by Operation Migration), was released on DVD. the movie was well-reviewed and even earned an Academy Award nomination. The very same weekend, the movie with the very similar name Follow Me Home was released in theaters. ...

Why is my starting directory ignored when I elevate a command prompt?

Take a shortcut to the command prompt or some other Windows component, right-click it, and select "Run as Administrator." The "Start in" directory from the shortcut is ignored and you are always dropped into the system directory. Why is the starting directory ignored? To avoid a category of attacks (current directory attacks). According to ...
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What seems obvious today may have been impractical then

In the discussion of the environment variable problem, BryanK posits that the real mistake was allowing batch files to modify their parent environment in the first place. Instead, they should have run in a sub-process. Try saying that when your computer has only 16KB of memory, which is how much memory the original IBM PC came with. Heck, ...

The magical healing properties of safe mode – bonus content

Okay, so you already read The healing properties of safe mode in TechNet Magazine. Here's the bonus content that was cut for space. First, the original title was "The Magical Healing Powers of Safe Mode," but it got trimmed for space reasons. (Ich bin mit der deutschen Übersetzung des ersten Satzes ein bisschen enttäuscht. Die ...

The Old New Thing (the book) allegedly now stocked at the Microsoft Company Store (Redmond)

I've been informed that the Redmond branch of the Microsoft Company Store has begun stocking the dead tree edition of my book. "But wait, your program isn't printed by Microsoft Press; it's published by Addison-Wesley Professional. I thought the company store only stocked Microsoft Press titles." I'm told that this is a pilot program. (And ...
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