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Bug of the moment 2007-01-01

Reinstalling Windows 2000

After a few days short of two years since installation, I finally decided to reinstall Windows from scratch. Being stuck with 16 colour icons was depressing – there is truth in the idea that that which you have to sit and look at all day, should look nice. And it didn’t, and was continually reminding me of my inability to fix it or find anyone who understands the cause. The system heartbeat had long since stopped, and Windows Explorer was even slower than it was supposed to be. Plus, I had just broken the ability to open a folder via Start > Run.

The reinstall was pretty painless, apart from an irritating zombie undead security update (more on that in a minute). The hardest part was trying to move the whole of C root into C:\Archive, since I have nowhere else to offload all my files easily (only the old Mac has a drive large enough and transferring 80 gigabytes of data via FTP did not appeal to me, even if the server on my Mac could handle directory names above 31 characters.

Still, you can imagine that plenty of goofy things cropped up during the migration process, and they did. Bugs never fail to find me.

While performing the obligatory ton of security updates for Windows (61 in total) I noticed that I was getting a curious amount of updates for Microsoft Data Access Components. After a while, the knowledge base number started to look familiar, so I wrote the number down: KB832483. Then I was notified of yet another update: to KB832483. Haven’t I see that before somewhere? I reviewed the list of updates I’d performed on the Windows Update site, and indeed, I had installed KB832483 five times already. Apparently that update is broken.

The solution is a manual install of MDAC. So I downloaded the installer and ran it. The installer opens a window and flashes various progress readouts past me, and then this:

The install dialog tells me to click 'Finish' to begin installation

That’s right: click “Finish” to begin the installation. So what do I click when it’s finished, and will that install it again?

“Close”, apparently.

Many applications, I didn’t re-install from scratch, but just drop their folder into Program Files and maybe run a Registry entry file or two. But those that had various entries in the Registry that I didn’t understand, I re-installed from scratch. This included Mozilla Thunderbird. But what I did do was preserve my old Start Menu folders, to save rebuilding them all from scratch. After all, there was nothing the matter with those.

Windows has, in the past, never shown any ability to dynamically track shortcuts whose targets have moved. However, Windows 2000 seems to have developed a Macintosh-like ability to perform this function. Right down to making the same mistakes that Apple make:

View full-size screenshot

Yes. Thunderbird is running out of my Recycle Bin. Why? I am not truly sure. The original copy was in C:\Archive\Program Files\Mozilla\Thunderbird. I installed it afresh, into C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird, but realised this was a mistake (since Firefox is in Mozilla\Firefox). So I uninstalled it, and reinstalled it to my desired location. Somewhere along the line, the Startup shortcut to it detected it had gone missing and dug out the copy in the Recycle Bin:

View full-size screenshot

Mac OS X as some of you know, makes very promiment use of alpha-blended graphics. Windows 2000 and above also have support for alpha blending, but very little use is made of it. I don’t know for sure if windows in Windows 2000 allow proper alpha channels or simply a transparency value, but what I do know is that Adobe do not use real alpha for their splash screen drop shadows:

View full-size screenshot

In the typical spirit of Windows drop shadows (cf. Windows help pop-ups) the shadow is fake. And in this case, the real window is enormous, with space all around where it draws the pretend window. The program leaves most of the window containing what was already on the screen and just draws its pretend splash screen window and shadow on top. This is in the hope that nothing below the window ever changes while the window is open. Normally it works. But in my case, I must have minimised the window below it, leaving it looking particularly broken and stupid.

Something else that caught my eye at one point:

View full-size screenshot

“Delete Me”? Would it mind if I did delete it?

Finally – how many copies of Notepad does anyone need?

Three copies of Notepad found in the Windows directory

Windows ships with at least two. Presumably since no-one can agree which directory it lives in, Windows puts it in both so that everyone is happy. I am not sure what the DLL cache folder is for, or why Windows has thrown another, identical, fully functional but compressed copy of Notepad in there.

Maybe it’s like Apple’s desire to put multiple copies of TeachText/SimpleText all over your hard drive in Mac OS 9 and earlier.

Finally, Mr Anonymous sent me this in as the last bug of 2006:

View complete screenshot

Given that this is a dual-processor Mac, he writes, the maximum amount of processor power that any process can take up is 200% (100% of each processor):

I think that this is well past the point of “She cannae handle any more, Captain!” The engines are very definitely gonna blow. Happy New Year.

Posted 1st January 2007 – Comments and questions?