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Archive for March, 2011

I think Microsoft should redirect the blame more often

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

That’s a pretty dangerous title, I know. The worst thing that could happen is for a company to start blaming other companies for problems which are there own. I doubt this would happen though, because the other companies could sue the whining company for slander, and that would be the end of that very quickly. Plus, due the depth and breadth of Microsoft there’s hardly a tech company out there with whom Microsoft doesn’t partner with, as well as compete with. And if a company got in the habit of shifting the blame unjustifiably they’d lost partners really fast.

There are some situations where I think that Microsoft would benefit their customers by publicly saying what did happen in certain situations, and is happening in other situations.

Today was the announcement of the “Where’s my phone update” that was kind of a step in the right direction. Microsoft doesn’t list the carriers which are holding up the update process, but one can figure it out. Hopefully this does put pressure on Microsoft’s partners to be holding up their end of the partnership, instead of consumers thinking that it’s Microsoft that’s putting the breaks on everything.

The Yahoo! Mail Windows Phone 7 debacle. Microsoft figured out who the cause of the phantom data uploads were, but then wouldn’t say who it was. While I understand that it would be bad policy to figure out the root cause, tell the press, and then tell the partner who’s causing the problem, if some random blogger hadn’t figured it out, Microsoft never would have said who it was. Microsoft should have told Yahoo! given them a week or so for the fix, and then announced what the problem application was so consumers could make changes accordingly.

Microsoft still gets crap for the Danger SideKick debacle, and it wasn’t their fault at all.

Now the problem I’ve wanted fixed for years. One of the annoying parts of using a computer is trying to delete, read, modify, move a file and the error that’s returned is that another process has the file open and you can’t have a file handle for it. Whether it’s manually in explorer, or some exception thrown in a service and you’re pouring over log files, the first thing you want to know is “Who has it open?” I understand that if an application received the error message that by the time they crawled every processes handles, that the process which had it open could have closed the file handle. But at the time I was trying to open the file, the OS did know which process had the file open. And the operating system could have saved that information off. Windows should save off the name and PID of the process which had the file handle open, and then after receiving the error the denied process can ask the OS who had the handle open the last time it tried to open that file and the OS could tell the application. Then the application could put that information in the error message. I think if this happened that Anti Virus’s would get a lot more scrutiny than what they do today. And in other some cases this information helps find computer virus’s. Either way, I’d love it if Microsoft built a way in Windows to show who the problem is, instead of just letting me know that there is a problem.

I don’t know how many partners Microsoft could keep if they did this, but I would love it if Microsoft would publish the investigations of when updates broke applications. Microsoft works very hard to not have an update break a computer, but it still happens. If people complained to Microsoft that an update broke their computer, and Microsoft got their engineers working hard on the problem they would find in the vast majority of situations that the broken application was doing something wrong, and the fact that it was working previously was just plain luck. If instead of creating gigabytes worth of shims that Windows has to store, Microsoft made it easy for consumers to find what the problem really was, it would make for a better ecosystem. Sure, plenty of people would be mad at Microsoft because their program was working one day, and then a Microsoft update came out, and their application stopped working, so obviously the problem is Microsoft. But if the same companies applications kept on breaking, again and again, and the reasons kept on being that it was crappy code that shouldn’t have worked in the first place, I think that people would become warier of companies/developers which produced crappy code. And as a result the Windows ecosystem would be healthier because it would be more difficult to write semi functional applications, and only well written applications would become the dominant ones.

Where Magic messed up with black

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I like playing Magic: The Gathering. It’s fun. For those who don’t know the “magic” in Magic is divided up into five colors: white, blue, black, red and greeen. I generally avoid playing with black. The primary reason is that games which use black cards aren’t as fun. With the way a lot of the black card special abilities work it’s feasible to have two players with black decks facing off against each other, or two players with non black decks facing off against each other. But if one player has black and the other player has non black, the black deck tends to dominate so much that the game isn’t really that fun. True, some cards of other colors have anti black capbilities (especially white), but I don’t think that it cuts it.

One is reason is the Life Link ability. It favors black way too much, due to the fact that Vampires are a natural fit for that ability. They should get rid of that ability on permanants.

The next big reason is because a bunch of the black creatures have the ability to only be blocked by black creatures. I hypothies that the idea being conveyed is that the creature is so scary that all creatures of any other color would be too scared to block this big, evil, black creature. This is where I think Magic got it backwards. In reading any book where your in a dark and scary place, everyone is afraid of everyone else. There’s cutthroats and back stabbers everywhere. The only ones who stand up to this (generally the hero’s) are law enforcement or good-doer types. So instead of having black creatures which can only be blocked by black creatures, it should be that the big, bad black creature can’t be blocked by another black creature.

I think these two corrections would go a long way to making games with black cards more enjoyable.

Categories: Hobbies

Bump in the road from Spaces to WordPress

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I just discovered something which is something I have to deal with because of the migration from Windows Live Spaces to WordPress. If I draft a blog entry using Windows Live Writer and then publish it to WordPress, the entry isn’t publicized to Messenger Connect (the way that Windows Live Web Activities and WordPress communicate). So I have to log into WordPress and manually update the entry to publicize it. But if I draft a blog entry through the WordPress web client, publicizing to Messenger Connect is enabled by default, so I don’t need to do anything extra. How annoying is that? I thought this was supposed to be an upgrade!

Humane Hercules Episodes Messages

March 19, 2011 3 comments

Season One

Amazon Women N/A
Lost Kingdom N/A
Circle of Fire N/A
Underworld N/A
Maze of the Minotaur N/A
The Wrong Path N/A
Eye of the Beholder N/A
Road to Calydon N/A
Festival of Dionysus N/A
Ares N/A
As Darkness Falls No Centaurs were harmed in the production of this motion picture.
Pride Comes Before a Brawl No Hydras were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
March to Freedom N/A
Warrior Princess No Animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Gladiator N/A
Vanishing Dead No Dogs of War were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Gauntlet N/A
Unchained Heart No Vicious Beasts intent on taking over the world were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

Season Two

King of Thieves No Subterranean Serpents were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
All that Glitters No Stuffed Elephants were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
What’s in a Name No Mandrakes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Siege at Naxos No Barbarians were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Outcast No Centaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Under the Broken Sky N/A
Mother of All Monsters The Mother of All Monsters was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Other Side Neither Phil or Sal or any of the other Piglet Brethren were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Fire Down Below No Completely-Engulfed-In-Flames-Evil-Dudes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Cast a Giant Shadow Neither Typhon nor Echidna were harmed during the production of this motion picture. They went on to lead long and happy lives with their adopted family. However, attempts to reinflate Pylon were unsuccessful.
Highway to Hades No Rabbits or Spirits Wandering the Earth were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Sword of Veracity No Attaching Minotaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Enforcer N/A
Once a Hero N/A
Heedless Hearts N/A
Let the Games Begin The nuclear blast that destroyed those fiendish Mesomorphs was purely trick photography. The Mesomorphs are alive and well and living in Poughkeepsie.
Apple No extremely oversize clam shell wind-surfing apparatuses housing goddesses of love were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Promises No Hairy Sasquatch-Like Mammals were Battered, Bruised, Burned or Beaten during the production of this motion picture.
King for a Day No slightly soused kings-to-be who finally pull themselves up by their bootstraps and realize the true meaning of leadership were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Protean Challenge No Slightly Discolored and Impish Gods who vaguely resemble any Candidate in the 1996 presidential elections were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Wedding of Alcmene N/A
Power No Manure was harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Centaur Mentor Journey No Centaurs were harmed or discriminated against during the production of this motion picture.
Cave of Echos No Vicious Tabby Cats were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, the Pre-Hellenic Litter Box is in dire need of a change.

Season Three

Mercenary No Flesh-Eating Sandrays were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Doomsday No Silly Nutty was harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, quite a few filberts and cashews sacrificed their lives in the name of progress.
Love Takes a Holiday No Metal Panthere were harmed during the production of this motion picture. When polishing your metal animals remember to use salt and lemon.
Mummy Dearest Any similarity between our Mummy and the foot dragging classic we all know and love is purely intentional.
Not Fade Away No Bootie-kicking, Chop-sakiing She-Monsters from Tartarus were harmed during the production of this motion picture. If you can’t stand heat, stay out of the temple!
Monster Child in the Promised Land Out of respect for Baby Obie, no calamari was served to the cast and crew during the production of this motion picture.
Green-Eyed Monster No Goats were harmed during the production of this Cheese.
Prince Hercules Iolaus was not harmed or permanently stained in the production of this motion picture. In fact, thanks to the miracle of sandblasting, his skin was restored to its original color and lustrous sheen.
A Star to Guide Them No Unnamed Baby of key biblical and mythological importance was harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Lady and the Dragon No Fire-breathing, Pre-pubescent, Slightly Sinister dragons were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Long Live the King No Stags were bagged during the production of this motion picture.
Surprise Hercules’ Party Pants were not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Encounter The Golden Hind was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. To order a Hind of your own call 1-800-55-HIND.
When a Man Loves a Woman Hercules’ strength was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. In fact, Ares is storing it in a cryogenic freezer bag deep in the Olympian Meat Locker.
Judgment Day No Family Values were harmed during the production of this Blood Lite motion picture.
Lost City No Hippy-dippy, Substance-abusing, 60’s Reject Love Children were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Les Contemptibles The French accents depicted in this motion picture are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to actual accents, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Vive La Revolution!
Reign of Terror The Sheeps’ political and cultural independence was restored after the production of this motion picture. Run Free Ewe Wilde Beasts!
End of the Beginning Neither the Space Time Continuum nor any previous storylines were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
War Bride No Leather-clad, Pointy-breasted, Buffont-wearing, Pillow-smother, Two-faced Sisters were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
A Rock and a Hard Place No Convicts were squished like a bug during the production of this motion picture.
Atlantis WARNING: Crystal-waves were used during the production of this motion picture. Pregnant women should leave the room immediately.

Season Four

Beanstalks and Bad Eggs No permanent cases of Harpies were reported during the production of this motion picture.
Hero’s Heart As Fortune would have it, Iolaus’ memory was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Regrets… I’ve had a few Jaris’ cause of death remained a mystery during the production of this motion picture.
Web of Desire The original Website was severely harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, through the miracle of modern technology, it was reinvented several centuries later.
Stanger in a Strange World No Heart-throwing, Love-spewing, Smooth-talking Ares impersonators were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Two Men and a Baby No fire-belching, levitating, neo-natal sons of a god were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Prodigal Sister The Amazon Hokey-Pokey was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. In fact, this catchy number is being performed in dance clubs around the country.
…And Fancy Free The Window Twanky, once again on top of the dance world with the success of the Hercules Hustle, was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
If I had a Hammer… Hercules proved once again the true measure of a man is not the size of his grapes but the size of his heart.
Hercules on Trial Due to extensive DNA testing, Hercules was proven innocent during the production of this motion picture.
Medea Culpa No two-headed, fire-breathing, regenerating Ghidras were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Men In Pink Cupcake’s sweet tooth was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, her love life experienced a slight setback.
Armageddon Now Once again, Alcmene’s fence was not finished during the production of this motion picture.
Armageddon Now Part 2 Although Alcmene’s barn was blown to smithereens, remarkably she and Iolaus were not harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Yes Virginia, there is a Hercules Any resemblance between the Hercules cast and the Renaissance staff is purely intentional.
Porkules Hermes’s wings were clipped during the production of this motion picture.
One Fowl Day No giant poultry was tripped, plucked, barbecued, deep-fried or otherwise assaulted during the production of this motion picture. Katherine’s owners are orthodox vegetarians.
My Fair Cupcake No Bakeries were harmed during the production of this motion picture, although many pastries were burned to a crisp.
War Wounds Any resemblance between King Iphicles, Hercules’ half-brother, and Area, God of War, Hercules’ other half-brother, is totally unavoidable.
Twilight Caution: Nafoline Cannons are highly flammable and may be hazardous to your health. Keep away from children.
Top God No Boogie-Boarding, Beached-Blonde Narcissistic Gods were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
Reunions Zeus’s Godhood was not harmed during the production of this motion picture, although his short stint as a mortal was somewhat intoxicating.
Categories: Entertainment

Data Providers should not be allowed to sell hardware

March 13, 2011 Leave a comment

It should be illegal in the US for data providers to sell hardware to their customers to be used as a client to their service. I think the precedence set by making it illegal for AT&T to force their customers to use company issued landline phones is a good one that we should be following today. During the first half of the twentieth century AT&T wouldn’t interoperate with other networks, nor connect to telephones that they didn’t issue. This was deemed as being undesirable for society and so regulations were put in the place to force AT&T to connect to other networks, and to allow for any device meeting a standard to connect to their network. I doubt anyone today thinks that this was an unwise action to take. Why are we allowing current data services to not follow suit?

Three specific examples of this abuse are wireless providers selling cellphones, cable companies issuing Set Top Boxes and internet service providers offering modems and routers. If it were illegal for wireless carriers to sell cell phones, they would be forced to compete on service, whereas today they entice a customer with a shiny device and then lock the customer into a contract for multiple years at a time. If cable companies weren’t allowed to issue Set Top Boxes the market for STB like devices would be much more diverse than what it is today, and televisions would be competing in it as well. But since most people don’t use their TV’s tuner anymore, due to the STB’s, TV’s are competing on having “internet apps”. Customers aren’t purchasing TV’s with DVR like functionality (or other improvements) because customers couldn’t use it when watching a show through the cable company mandated STB. I think without cable company STB’s TV’s would be better than what they are today. While it is possible for customers to use modems and routers not provided by their ISP, most don’t know that they can use one that their ISP didn’t provide. The result is that customers who would like to get better equipment don’t, because they’re already paying for the low quality one the ISP provided. The routers and modems that the ISP’s provide just need to barely work, but be made on the cheap to be desirable for the ISPs. A consequence of this is that most home networking hardware can’t actually handle IPv6 like they’re supposed to. Also, router and modem creators don’t compete on creating devices which are more manageable or consumer friendly, they only worry about how many they can sell to an ISP.

I understand the convenience of onboarding a customer by having all of the hardware for a data connection provided by the data provider, but I think that the consequences are not desirable for society. It creates an unnatural high bar of entry into the market for either new data providers or hardware makers who would like to compete on the client side of the service\client relationship. We should see the benefit to society that interoperability creates and regulate existing and new services to follow suit.

Categories: News and politics

MSDN Contributions as of March 2011

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Having worked all day on flushing out the tests for my Unique Collections project I uploaded it to the MSDN Code Samples Gallery and it can be found at http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/Unique-Collections-a3c7df30. Most of the collections started out as a need I had in writing my FreeCell solver application. I needed a thread safe collection which was a cross between a HashSet and a ConcurrentDictionary. Now I have it in my UniversalStore.

My other contribution is an extension for Visual Studio 2010. http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/fbed99b1-1749-47f5-b7bb-adc89e72e75c. It’s a simple plugin which help when refactoring code.

FreeCell Solver insight

March 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Lately I’ve been tinkering with writing a FreeCell solver. On my phone I have a FreeCell clone and there was a game from it that I just could not solve. So I wrote a solver which relies mostly on random moves and the solver is able to solve that game pretty quickly. After having put it through some rounds I’ve noticed something: FreeCell games which I find very difficult, the solver solves in a few seconds, but if it’s average or easy game, the solver can take hours to solve the game.

I think the reason for this is that in hard games, there might not be too many options. Solving the game requires making the right move at the right time, resulting in a small number of possible moves. The solver can throw away dead-end options quickly. The opposite being that an easy game might have multiple ways to solve it. This causes the solver to waste a lot of time in trying all of the possible moves at the same time. Since one possible solution doesn’t appear quickly, it keeps working and working on possible solutions.

The one optimization I gave the solver is that it works on moves which send cards to their final piles before trying permutations of states which didn’t increase the number of “finaled” cards. Of course having someway of deciding that a certain move (or even better a set of moves) is more optimal than a random decision would be ideal, but I can’t think of a good way to do that.

After a little more refinement I think I’ll try having my solver take a stab at game 11982.

Categories: Hobbies