The Old New Thing

Where does the taskbar get grouped button titles from?

If the "Group similar taskbar buttons" box is checked (default) and space starts to get tight on the taskbar, then then the taskbar will group together buttons represending windows from the same program and give them a common name. Where does this common name come from? The name for grouped taskbar buttons comes from the version resource...

A very brief anecdote about Windows 3.0

In an earlier comment, Larry Osterman described why Windows 3.0 was such a runaway success. He got a little of the timeline wrong, so I'll correct it here. Windows 2.0 did support protected mode. And it was Windows/386, which came out before Windows 3.0, which first used the new virtual-x86 mode of the 80386 processor to support pre-...

Reference counting is hard.

One of the big advantages of managed code is that you don't have to worry about managing object lifetimes. Here's an example of some unmanaged code that tries to manage reference counts and doesn't quite get it right. Even a seemingly-simple function has a reference-counting bug. The point of this function is to take a (pointer to) a ...

How can I format my USB drive as NTFS?

You have to promise to play friendly. Go to Device Manager and set the policy of the USB Stick device to "Optimize for Performance". The default is to optimize for Quick Removal, which restricts you to the FAT filesystem. If you do this, then you absolutely must go through the the annoying removal dialog to unmount the filesystem ...

Why a really large dictionary is not a good thing

Sometimes you'll see somebody brag about how many words are in their spell-checking dictionary. It turns out that having too many words in a spell checker's dictionary is worse than having too few. Suppose you had a spell checker whose dictionary contained every word in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then you hand it this sentence: ...

The martial arts logon picture

Along the lines of Windows as Rorschach test, here's an example of someone attributing malicious behavior to randomness. Among the logon pictures that come with Windows XP is a martial arts kick. I remember one bug we got that went something like this: "Windows XP is racist. It put a picture of a kung fu fighter next to my name - ...

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 ...