Archive for February, 2011

Windows 7 SP1 Modifies the LocalizedResourceName

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

In a previous post I specified how to get rid of fake directory names in Windows 7. This week I’ve applied Windows 7 SP1 and have noticed that for the user accounts the service pack puts the default LocalizedResourceName back into the desktop.ini files. It doesn’t do it for the public account however.

This is just a little annoyance, but still something to look out for.

I hate Mario’s Momentum

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Some of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. and being very frustrated when Mario would fall off of edge. I would be upset because I didn’t press right on the D-Pad for Mario to move, and yet he would and he’d fall. I never remember having this problem with any other Nintendo game, just Super Mario. Now that I’ve played a lot of Super Mario Bros. 3 recently I noticed having the same problem. It’s so annoying. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad with Super Mario 64, and I never noticed it in either of the Super Mario Galaxy’s, so the problem is being address. However, the little bit of Super Mario Bros Wii (which is a 2-D side scroller) that I’ve played I’ve noticed the issue.

Either way, I just want everyone to know that for my whole live I’ve hated Mario’s momentum.

Categories: Hobbies

Inefficient Energy Policy

February 20, 2011 1 comment

I’m okay with the idea of government legislation which encourages citizens to be more efficient. At least when the inefficiencies have negative externalities, like pollution. So I’m kind of okay with the US law which takes effect in 2012 dealing with how efficient light bulbs need to be. When the law was first proposed the idea was to ban incandescent light bulbs. I’m not okay with that. If the purpose of the law is to deal with inefficiency, let the law be about that. Don’t make the law about one type of technology being bad, and another being good. Thankfully the US law is about having a certain lumen to watt ratio. Ideally I think that the law shouldn’t ban a certain inefficient way to do things, it should put fees on the item to make it prohibitivly more expensive than the efficient way. That would help with the  transition from an old habit to a new solution. But anyway, that’s not the law that we got.

The law that was passed though has two (what I consider) gapping holes in it. Light bulbs don’t need to meet the efficiency requirements if they are a three way light bulb or a candelabra light bulb. I can picture in my mind how the arguments to exclude those happened. People arguing against the law said that the efficient light bulbs don’t do a sufficient job at replacing three way and candelabra bulbs. The result of this though, is that everyone is now going to be buying three way and candelabra bulbs, when without the law they wouldn’t have. There’s nothing preventing you from putting these light bulbs in normal lamps.

Now that those inefficient light bulbs have been grandfathered in, how are they going to make them more efficient? There’s little encouragement for someone to invent a more efficient version of those light bulbs. But if they were made expensive due to government fines, people would stop desiring them, and their market would dwindle. Or bulbs which met the efficiency requirements would become invented to fill the demand for that market. I realize that the new light bulbs being invented don’t perfectly fulfill the demands of the current market, but I think the wrong thing was done to deal with that situation.

I’ll be interested to see if candelabra and three way lamps will have an increase in sales, when consumers realizes they can get incandescent light bulbs for those type of lamps. I won’t be surprised when they take over the market, and in a few years the amount of power being used to light our homes will have in no way been influenced by this law.

Categories: News and politics

Google is watching

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I logged into my laptop. Generally on the laptop the performance bottleneck is the disk. Because of this I wrote a Sidebar Gadget to track the disk usage percentage. When it’s at %100, I know that if things are slow it’s because the disk is working as hard as it can. Normally the pattern is that right when I log in, the SearchIndexer process takes up the majority of the disk for a little bit and then things calm down. But this time, things calmed down, but then started getting slow again.

With a little bit of guidance from ResourceMonitor I discovered the process consuming a lot of the disk was rundll32.exe. I’ve known for a long time that rundll32.exe is a process that comes with Windows, but I did a Bing search for it to perhaps learn a little bit more. I checked out two or three websites, but didn’t pick up a tip as to why it would be taking up all of the disk bandwidth.

Using other tools which come with Windows I learned that the TaskScheduler was using rundll32.exe to create a SystemRestore checkpoint. No problem, the computer is behaving as expected.

Since the computer was doing normal maintenance I decided to keep the laptop on until it finished. To entertain myself I decided to visit While there I noticed something suspicious about the website. Normally on gfxartist the banner ads are for art schools and art supplies, but today the banner ad was asking me to click on it to solve problems with rundll32.exe. That’s certainly out of place.

My first suspicion was that Google was tracking my Bing searches. I don’t know how it would do that, so I had to have another thought. My second guess is that the websites I visited while looking up rundll32.exe probably had ads provided by Google. Those websites told Google that was looking for information about rundll32.exe, and then when browsing a different website Google remembered that.

While I do see the advantages to targeted advertising (I virtually never see ads for feminine hygiene products anymore) I certainly didn’t expect that. Specifically because it was my understanding that if I place http://* in my Restricted Sites internet zones list, that Google can’t track me. I checked my security settings, and it was there. That means that IE8’s Restricted Sites aren’t working (unlikely), or that Google has moved away from using googleadservices.

So even though I didn’t do my searches through Google, they’re still tracking me.

Fickle Washington Rain

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

The forecast for today (12 Feb 2011) is nothing but rain. When Amanda and I woke up this morning, it was mostly cloudy and not that cold. I thought about going on a run then (my first since tearing my abdominal wall), but Amanda wanted to go do stuff. So we went and did stuff. The weather kept on looking good, and I figured I’d go running at 11:00. The weather must have heard me make this announcement.

After having finished some chores around 10:30, I looked outside and the weather was still good for a run. Some dark clouds off on the horizon, but nothing bad. Having just finished chores, I wanted to mess around for a bit, so I did. At 10:55 I got dressed to go on a run and didn’t put on my shell top and hat. If it wasn’t going to rain there’d be no need for it. It only took a few meters of running before it started raining. And not just a Seattle style sprinkle, but some decent rain.

Since I was still close to the condo, I ran back inside, grabbed the top to my running shell and my running hat. Starting again, it only took getting out of the parking lot for the rain to stop. Thinking it was start raining again, I kept my shell on, but before too long I was hot and had to take my shell top off and wrap it around my waste.

Erg, if only the rain wasn’t scheduled for 11:00 – 11:05 I wouldn’t have overdressed for my run.

Categories: Nature

Who do we want voting?

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day I was watching Faerie Tale Theatre’s Rip Van Winkle. Part of the plot is that when Rip Van Winkle heads up into the mountains King George III is king of the colonies, and when he returns George Washington is President of the United States. In the little New England town a politician is doing a stump speech trying to convince people that they need to vote the next day. During the speech a woman shouts out, asking if she can vote, and as we all know the answer to that question was no. A black man also asked if he was able to vote, and was told no as well. I liked this little scene, it had nothing to do with the plot, but was a subtle reminder of the changes which have occurred in our Republic.

A few years ago I was in a conversation with a coworker and she was adamant about the idea that people should have to take a logic test to be eligible to vote. Obviously she felt that anyone who didn’t vote along her lines, was being illogical. While I do kind of like that idea I don’t see a precedence for it. I argued that there should be a quiz based on the Constitution. My reasoning for that is that a quiz like that will help ensure that those voting at least are familiar with the system they’re participating in. She hated that idea.

In Plato’s Republic he proposes that those who are fit to lead are Philosopher kings. The idea being that democracy doesn’t work, because the majority of the people are ignorant about how to run a society.

One threat to a democracy is that a bunch of self centered, ignorant people will destroy the society. But as pointed out in P.J. O’Rouke’s Parliament of Whores, if that’s what the people vote for, that’s what they deserve. I do hope though, that something better could be achieved.

So is there a bar that people should be required to pass to be allowed to vote? I think there is one. Not that this bar would filter out everyone making bad decisions, but I would be surprised if there are those who wouldn’t see this bar as being reasonable. I propose that to be able to vote in the United States that the person must pass the US immigration exam, on a periodic basis. Since we’re not allowing immigrants the right to vote until they pass the exam, couldn’t we hold natural born citizens to the same requirements?

Obviously the citizenship exam, does not make one an expert on all of the nuances of governing a people, but think about it in another way. Would you want someone who couldn’t pass the exam influencing elections of those who will be governing you?

Categories: News and politics

What if we voted for what we wanted instead of who we wanted?

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

My mind often wanders to political systems, social contracts, and ideas that can hopefully improve society. I like thinking through different thought experiments. One of the current complaints of the current United States party system is that during the primaries, party members don’t vote for who they like the most, they vote for the candidate who they suspect is most likely to beat the opposing party in the general election. There are many types of voting systems, and I suspect that should a party be able to list two or three candidates on a ballot that preferential voting could eliminate this problem of not being able to vote how you truly feel. But I don’t know if that’s what we really want.

Why in the US do we have political parties in the first place? If we became a democracy, got rid of our representatives, and voted on every issue ourselves, there wouldn’t be political parties. The reason we have representatives is because it’s not that cost effective to go over ever single issue with every single member of a jurisdiction. And we have political parties because we don’t want to have to go over every single little issue with everyone who wants to run for office.  Knowing that someone represents what you would do in a similar situation – most of the time – is reassuring. But since that’s what we want, why don’t we vote on that?

I’ve been mulling a thought for a little while. A jurisdiction should put together a list of issues which had come up in the previous few terms and will foreseeably come up in the next term. Political parties then pick how their candidates should vote on those issues, should they get elected. The different parties decisions on the issues must be mutually exclusive. If two parties say they would vote in the same way on all of the issues they must either be forced to work together, or new issues must be added until those parties no longer agree on everything; it would be up to the jurisdiction how to handle that. On election day the voters would then vote on the same list of issues. The candidate who matches the peoples desires on the most amount of issues wins the election.

So, what do you think? Would it work?

I think it would create a lot more parties and result in elected representatives whom match the peoples desires in more occasions than what we have today. The reason it would create more parties is because if each issue-to-decide-a-representative on the ballot had only two possible outcomes (yea or nay) it would result in 2X possible ways a voter could vote on a ballot. So if there are 10 issues on a ballot that would result in 1024 possible different ballot outcome combinations. And since there is room for a political party for each possible ballot outcome there could be 1024 possible parties with candidates! I’m imagining that ideally there would be more than 10 issues on a ballot, and I don’t foresee a political party for every possible ballot outcome, so I would hope that the winners would only be able to win based on the fact that they represent the majority of the peoples wishes the majority of the time.

Think about what campaigning would look like in a system like that. Instead of a candidate saying “I’m better than the other guy.” (ie. mudslinging) they would have to say “Vote ‘yes’ on issue three.” And then they would have to explain why ‘yes’ is better for society instead of ‘no’. Campaigning would turn into a debate about the issues!

Categories: News and politics

Code Review design and performance decisions

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

An important lesson for every programmer to learn is that you should build beautifully first, and then find the performance issues. A solid design/algorithm will do more for performance than squeezing out a couple of clock cycles here and there. The idea being that when you’re writing the program, do so in a way that expresses your intent, and if it’s found to be inefficient it’ll get fixed (perhaps made less readable) later.

While I love Linq I know through my own testing that it does cause applications to slow down. If something took 100ms before, it’ll take 115 ms with Linq. That by itself is not a big deal, and totally justifies more expressive code. The problem is the death by a thousand cuts situation. Little inefficiencies everywhere can make performance less than desirable.

I was code reviewing a coworkers code the other day and saw a typical pattern of iterating over a collection and setting a boolean to true if an item met a certain condition. I suggested he call the Any extension method on the collection because it expresses his intention better. After making the suggestion though I could foresee that exact suggestion being undone. The reason is that the location of that code was in one of the more performance sensitive parts of the code. So in the near future we could very well be doing performance analysis of our code and see that Linq method was taking to long and we need to change the code to what it was originally doing.

So while I don’t mind coding for readability in the first place, the idea that later I’ll be hunting down to undo a suggestion I made in a code review bothers me.