I’m sure it makes perfect sense to Windows folks

From this Microsoft Knowledge Base article, we have the following gem:
  • The 32-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%\Windows\SysWoW64 folder.
  • The 64-bit version of the Odbcad32.exe file is located in the %systemdrive%\Windows\System32 folder.
It seems the location of operating system programs was not changed when the OS became 64-bit native. So  OS binaries stil reside in System32, even though they are 64-bit binaries! SysWoW64 is short for Win32-on-Win64, and is the location of 32-bit binaries on a 64-bit version of Windows.

Why isn’t it like this?
  • 32-bit binaries go in System32
  • 64-bit binaries go in System64
I suppose that would be too logical.


An open letter to President Obama

This morning, I received an email from President Obama (sent by way of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). In the email, the president asked me to make a monetary donation to the DCCC to help Democratic candidates campaign for the upcoming mid-term elections.

In the past, I have answered these emails with a donation; but not today. Below, in full, is my response to the president.
Dear President Obama:
My patience is running thin.
Many times in the past, I have been there when you or the Democratic party needed help, because I believed you would bring fundamental change to our government. However, several of your decisions have diminished my enthusiasm:
1. The bank bail-out helped Wall Street, but did almost nothing for the average American. By propping up the value of toxic assets, you perpetuated the lie of these assets’ outrageously overstated values, merely pushing the problem further down the road. It’s also theft. The government has taken trillions of dollars from future generations of Americans and used the money to prop up the net worth of a bunch of capricious thieves who gambled with other people’s money. Private gains & public losses—an old tune I’m getting tired of.
2. The financial reform measures put in place were watered down so much that they do almost nothing to prevent a repeat of the crisis. Banks will continue to gamble with investor’s money, and to lend out many times what they possess in liquid assets. This is a giveaway to banks, and promotes growth at the expense of stability. The new rules have the appearance of having been written by the banks. This does nothing to allay the impression that some on your financial team are serving their former employers first and the American people second.
3. By failing to put a moratorium on foreclosures, and failing to give judges the authority to adjust the terms of mortgages (reducing the principal and not just the interest), you have turned a blind eye to the plight of millions of families whose home values are now much lower than what they owe on the loans. For these families, it now makes more sense to walk away from their homes than to stay. Foreclosures also have the effect of blighting neighborhoods, further depressing home values and making the problem even harder to solve later.
4. You have not properly acknowledged the human causes of the tragedy in New Orleans. Each time you refer to Katrina as the cause, you repeat a lie. Improperly designed levees and flood-walls led to this catastrophe. It was not a natural disaster. Sure, it’s easier to lay the blame on mother nature than on human incompetence and bureaucratic obstinacy; but it’s wrong. Failure to admit the true causes of this tragedy is a great sin because we also risk a recurrence of the problem if the Army Corps of Engineers is not held responsible for their past mistakes. Even today, the Corps is the body entrusted with evaluating its own performance. This is like letting the fox guard the henhouse.
5. Lastly, I know you are facing problems that you didn’t anticipate. But instead of proposing solutions that had the scale necessary to deal with the problems (the stimulus packages, financial reform, and health care to name just three), you instead brought forth lame compromises and half-measures. Instead of using your bully pulpit to stand up for what's right and shame the opposition into silence, you gave even the most intransigent obstructionists a seat at the table, interminably delaying much needed reforms.
I am gratified to see that you have begun to publicly challenge the opposition to propose better (and workable) solutions. But I wonder if it's not too little, too late. I am also pleased to see that Summers is finally on his way out; on financial matters, you would do well to listen more to the likes of Paul Krugman in the future.
I cannot at present convince myself that a donation to the DCCC would be money well spent. I still have hope for the future. But if you want my financial support, you will have to earn it.
Sincere Regards,
Michael A. Lowry
I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I hope the president gets the message.

iTunes app update bug

I opened iTunes this morning to see that 5 new app updates were available. Yay!

I clicked on the Apps category in the left sidebar, and then clicked on the tiny arrow icon at the bottom.

No updates for you!



The evolution of iTunes from app to store

Some failed to grasp the sarcasm in my previous post. This is inevitable when one engages in satire. The ongoing discussion on iTunes 10’s bland UI led one commentator to write:
I think the real motivation behind this is to [...] make what you can buy colourful and what you already own bland.
He hit the nail on the head.

From Apple’s point of view, the iTunes/iOS ecosystem has reached a level of market penetration where the focus has shifted away from improving the app and moved more toward exploiting the app’s ubiquity to sell more content.

Since the introduction of the iTunes Music Store, Apple has made each release of iTunes more focused on directing users to stuff they can buy. Here’s just one example: If you click the little gray arrow to the right of an album name, you might expect iTunes to take you to that album in your own music library; but instead, it redirects you to the album in the iTunes Music Store.

Here’s another example: the Ringtones button reappears periodically in bottom row of icons in the iOS iTunes app, and the Podcasts icon disappears. The user can change this, replacing the Ringtones icon with the Podcasts icon; but after a while, it will change back again. Again, this has the effect of directing you toward stuff you can buy (ringtones) instead of stuff that’s free (podcasts).

And one last example: it is not possible to have iTunes save your password for free downloads only. If you want iTunes to save your password, simplifying the downloading of free apps, music tracks, and podcasts, then you must also have a valid credit card on file, and allow iTunes to save your password for purchases too.

Apple’s engineers are well aware that bland, colorless portions of the UI are less likely to capture and hold the interest and attention of the user. This is by design.

From recent updates to the iTunes app, we can infer the following design objectives:
1. Reduce the user interface to its spartan, utilitarian minimum, and focus the user’s attention on the content area of the window;
2. Lead the user quickly to purchasable or promotional content in the Store, and do this from as many places in the app as possible; and
3. Make it as easy as possible to purchase content.


Desaturate now!

Since Apple released iTunes 10 yesterday, some people with far too much time on their hands have complained about Apple’s decision to remove color from the iTunes user interface. “Grayscale icons are harder to identify than color icons,” they whine, “low contrast icons and UI elements are more difficult to read!”


These complaints are groundless and hysterical. The geniuses at Apple knows what they’re doing. These are the user interface professionals, remember? You know—the same perfectionists who invented the fucking GUI? Apple doesn’t make mistakes when it comes to the user interface of one of the company’s most vital applications! Trust Apple, and update your personal preferences. Color UIs were just a passing fancy, anyway.

I have long wondered when Apple would jump on the desaturation bandwagon. IBM boldly removed color from its UIs years ago. A directive was handed down that all user interfaces were to be harmonized—all across IBM Software Group. Professional graphic artists were brought in to do the meticulous and painstaking work of replacing confusingly colorful UIs with broad swaths of beautiful grayness (and subtle hints of blue). I am glad to see that Apple has finally chosen to embrace IBM’s proven leadership in user interface design.

My only small quibble would be that the iTunes 10 user interface still has too much color. I suggest that Apple follow through with what it has started, and complete the job of removing color from the UI. The capacity display for connected iOS devices is one of the worst offenders.

It’s so gaudy and crass, like a cheap toy prize from a gumball machine. All those colors, screaming for attention! They are more likely to distract and confuse users than to help them. Moreover, even if colors do help the user, relying color cues in the user interface amounts to discrimination against those with color vision impairments.

I’m sure you’ll agree that my proposed improvement is much more professional looking, conveying all the necessary information through a subtle yet rich palette of shades of gray.

Keep up the good work, Apple!


Proof of identity in the digitial age

I recently contacted my bank in Texas, and requested that they change my billing address. I sent this request in an email via the bank’s secure and authenticated online banking web site. A day later, I received a reply stating that the change-of-address request had to be submitted in writing, and that a fax would suffice.

So a fax, which can easily be forged and can even been sent from a computer, is acceptable as proof that the request comes from me; but an authenticated email, sent via the bank’s own secure online banking system, is not.

This is insane.