Off to Tech.Ed Tomorrow…

And as seems traditional for me at this time of year, I’ve developed a cough/cold combination. Fan-tastic.

There’s an idea for some flair: My mucus will be there. Will you?

Please forgive me if I flick over into lockdown mode and refuse to touch anyone. Er, not that you’re going there so that I can touch you. (Please, seek help if you are).

Support Terms #194: Numbing

The Numbing

From Dilbert, we derive The Numbing – the null state following that terrible moment in which you know that there’s nothing you can do, and you might as well be fine with that.

In a support context, this is most frequently experienced in a conversation that goes something like this:

Consultant: We’ve invested $1512 million and 27,000 years in the development of this system, and it’s all based on the clever and unique assumption that blue is red.

SP: (gulp) Did you just say you needed blue to be red for this to work?

Consultant: Yes, and… (pause) ahhhh…

SP: Um… Read any good books lately?

Tabs: Convert To The Middle-Click

The first bit of feedback I sent about the IE7 Beta release was that I wanted the tabs to be double-click closable. This is a habit I’ve picked up from Maxthon and other IE-based browsers, where a double-click on a tab closes it. I can’t remember whether Firefox does it, but I suspect it’s an option.

Having had a while to get used to the idea that double-click doesn’t always close a tab simply because double-click didn’t in IE7 Beta 1, I now find middle-clicking is a more elegant solution.

Why? In short, my double clicks sometimes happen accidentally, whether it’s because the browser’s slow to respond, or because I’m clumsy, or because the tab resized under me… so many reasons I’ve accidentally closed a tab (and that’s where Maxthon’s really cool Undo button comes in handy), because it’s all that same overloaded left mouse button (none of this “primary mouse button” bumf – I’m a righteous righty, not a lefty witch).

I’m converted to middle clicking because removes all the ambiguity of the left mouse button. The application doesn’t have to wait around on a single-click to see if I’m going to click again, oh no – it just spots the middle click, and pow! Tab’s gone. I like fast response. I like disappearing tabs. I like having a “close” button on the mouse, directly. It’s good.

Initially, I was frustrated with Visual Studio 2003’s tabs (not all had a close option when right clicked, and double-clicking didn’t get rid of the little blighters), but tonight I discovered that at least in VS2005, middle-click also closes tabs in the VS UI. (If VS2003’s tabs close on middle click, I’ll be faintly annoyed, because I didn’t discover it until now. (Seeing a common thread in this week’s posts? Erk!)).

So, I call upon the double-click-tab-closers of the world to make a concession to one new, initially annoying but generally useful convention: the middle-click-to-close convention. While they could yet implement a double-click close as an option in IE (you never know), middle click appears to be the way of the future. And I don’t want double-click back any more.


Ctrl+C In A Message Box Does What!?

OK, so now searching for this reveals it as a widely-known and somewhat ancient tip, but I didn’t know until this week. I can’t remember where I saw it.

I can’t tell you how many hours this might have saved me over the years, because I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT YEARS AGO. Sigh.

Ever faced with a dialog box that you desperately want to keep the text from?

Have you been resorting to OneNote, PrintScreen (ok, PrtScn if you’re that way inclined) or screen captures for message boxes, like this?

Well, as it turns out, pressing Ctrl-C while the little messagebox has focus results in this being copied to the clipboard:



The network path was not found.


Man, if only I’d known. I will make it my personal mission to evangelize this until there’s nobody left that feels like they have to send a screenshot of a dialog box by email any more*.

Note that it doesn’t work for all message boxes, and I haven’t really put a ton of time into working out which ones it does or doesn’t. I guess just the non-custom Win32 sort – the message from Word telling me I need at least a “to:” entry in an email isn’t capturable, for instance. But anyway, if it saves eight clicks just once, it’s a good tip.

Another set everyone knows already:

Windows Key + R = Run dialog, straight away (though I find myself using the MSN Deskbar more as a pseudo-batch-file-CLI-type-thing these days). Especially useful if you’ve converted to the New-Fangled Start Menu and have more than one item beginning with R.

Windows Key + L = Lock Workstation.


New IE Column in MSDN: Exploring Internet Explorer

via IEBlog, it’s the first Exploring IE column: The Local Intranet Zone and Proxies: The Surprising Connection, by everyone’s favourite fiddler, Eric Lawrence. It’s well worth a read – if I had a dollar for every time I’d had to explain how a site was determined to be in/out of the Local Intranet Zone, I’d have about seven bucks by now*.

I’d like to see an article explaining general proxy configuration, but if there’s something you’d like to see in the series, go hit up the link at the bottom of the article.

For a basic overview of the security zones, there’s this classic KB article. If there’s one thing to remember, it’s this: dots in the URL, you’re under the Internet Zone’s Spell. (OK, so that phrase is completely counterintuitive and contrived, but remembering being annoyed by the phrase might help you remember the important part). Maybe!

MSRC Blog: Zotob Worm

Ok, earlier this morning we activated our Software Security Incident Reponse Process to respond to a malicious attack known as Worm:Win32/Zotob.A. Our investigation has determined that only a small number of customers have been affected and we’re working directly with them.  We have seen no indication of widespread impact to the Internet, but we have posted a guidance page as well as an encyclopedia entry on this attack.

via the MSRC Blog.

If you’re not already signed up for security alerts, we have 2 email options, an IM service and an RSS feed.

Strider HoneyMonkey (Gobsmack Fluoro Turbo Omega)

Man, I wish we could make our regular product names more exciting and a little less… you know. Boringly descriptive.

Luckily, we have MS Research, and it looks like they’re not only coming up with the naming goods, they’re going sploit trawling with their imaginatively named HoneyMonkey network.

Short version: Rather than set up a bunch of servers and wait for crack attempts, take a bunch of clients and go seek out servers that are waiting to attack.

64 Bit: It’s When, Not If

Harold raised the question, Clive riffed on it, and now I’m going back to the original question with this:

At the moment, is it even possible to buy a performance chip that isn’t 64-bit capable?

Any AMD Athlon64 or Opteron is AMD64-capable; Intel Xeons have been for a while, and EM64T is moving into their desktop offerings too, with notebook variants on the horizon.

So the question isn’t about whether or not to buy a 64 bit chip – chances are you will be buying an x64-capable chip anyway when you next purchase one* – the question is really about when to actually throw the switch and move to a 64 bit OS.

For most consumers, that’s probably not just yet. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, because bluntly, it’s not like we’re going to be selling a copy of X64 to my parents, and right now, we shouldn’t be trying – while it’s not a whole new architecture (unlike, say, Itanium), there are still 32 new and previously unseen bits, Drivers Will Need To Be Recompiled, Recompilation Takes Time And Is Not Always Feasible, and as a result, Not Every Driver Is Available In An X64 Version At The Moment.

The ability of users to exceed the capacity of the 32 bit architecture isn’t yet widespread outside of niche environments, but we’re not too far off that time: games regularly run best with at least a gig of memory (and let’s face it, games are the real driver of the leading edge of consumer adoption, right?), and more is usually better. We’re not yet at the tipping point of the old 640K mark – where all the band-aids had been applied, but the patient was still very much at death’s door – and that lessens the impetus for the consumer space.

So IMHO, right now, the cost/benefit doesn’t typically work for consumers. Yes, I run Windows X64 Edition at home, but I don’t have any super-concrete reasons for doing so that require bits 33-64 to be present (at least that I’m aware of at the moment). There are a few games taking advantage of the AMD64 extensions, but that’s about it for now, for me.

Servers, on the other hand, can already eat all the memory we throw at them, and don’t typically have the handicap of having to run, say, my Dad’s aging scanner, so for high-performance large-memory workloads, moving to 64-bit is a no-brainer, especially if you can do so on hardware you’ve already purchased.

On x64, being able to run a 32-bit Large Address Aware process with a full 4GB of user address space is often a compelling enough benefit on its own, but using a 64-bit native image lets you use… um, well, it’s a really, really big number, something like eight thousand gigabytes, if you can jam that much in your machine.

And multiuser scaling on Terminal Server – yes, for 32 bit applications – is from all indications Where It’s At on X64 at the moment. In the Terminal Server space, we’ve been constrained for a number of years by the 32-bit architecture (and whether to enable PAE, and whether we end up constrained by System PTEs or Paged Pool or NonPaged Pool, and so on), and the increased kernel headroom buys increased scalability. Nice.

So there’s my $0.02 x 2.

* – Intel’s processor chart seems to show gaps in the EM64T capable lineup, but it’s hard to read on a single screen, and I’ve given up. Anyway, the point is, likelihood of a given chip being 64-bit capable increases as time goes on.

** (don’t bother looking for a **, there wasn’t one in the body) And I plan on going X2 as soon as the prices drop to something a little more palatable. Like, 300-400 bucks palatable, for something that “doubles” my 3500+.

Gordon Bell’s guide to High Tech Ventures

Written back in the 80’s (it seems), but it’s kept me amused for most of the evening now.

There’s some formatting weirdness, but it reinforces my impression that Gordon has a highly developed sense of humour. Haven’t yet finished the first chapter (I’m busy searching for VAX hardware for my startup), but it’s pretty good as first chapters go (and I should know, I’ve made a career out of reading first chapters).

More at Wikipedia.