October, 2008

  • The Old New Thing

    The dangers of setting your double-click speed too short

    • 31 Comments

    After I noted how the window manager uses the double-click time as a basis for determining how good your reflexes are, people got all excited about reducing the double-click speed to make Windows feel peppier. But be careful not to go overboard.

    Back in the Windows 95 days, we got a bug from a beta tester that went roughly like this:

    Title: Double-clicks stop working after using mouse control panel
    Reproducibility: Consistent, hardware-independent
    Severity: Major loss of functionality
    Description:

    1. Open the mouse control panel.
    2. Go to the Double-click speed slider.
    3. Drag the slider all the way to the right (fastest).
    4. Click OK.

    Result: Mouse double-clicks no longer recognized.

    We had to explain to the beta tester that, no, everything is actually working as intended. But if you set the double-click slider to the fastest setting, you had better be good at double-clicking really fast. You have clearly set the double-click speed was faster than you are physically capable of double-clicking. Maybe you can ask your twelve-year-old nephew to do your double-clicking for you.

    That's why there is the test icon next to the slider. Before clicking OK, make sure you can still double-click the test icon. If you can't, then you picked a setting that's too fast for your reflexes and you should consider a slower setting.

    Pre-emptive Yuhong Bao comment: In Windows 95, the test icon was a jack-in-the-box.

    [Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  • The Old New Thing

    An artist's conception of the new citizenship test

    • 69 Comments

    Today is the first day of the controversial redesigned United States citizenship examination. For the next year, candidates who applied before today can choose whether they want to use the old test or the new one.

    To help prepare for the new examination, I propose the following warm-up, which I tested (with the assistance of another United States citizen) on a foreign national, a Canadian from British Columbia, so there should be no language barrier as long as we are careful to avoid the word about.

    1. What condiment applies to French-fried potatoes?
    2. Which fires a bigger bullet, a nine or a twenty-two?
    3. Does the metric system suck?
    4. How long is a football field? (Note: Answering in metric or confusing football with soccer are automatic disqualifications.)
    5. Define class action lawsuit.
    6. True or false: You have a God-given right to drink alcohol until you pass out.

    Here are the answers the Canadian gave, along with my response and additional commentary from my co-examiner in blue.

    1. What condiment applies to French-fried potatoes?
      Vinegar... no, mayonnaise... no wait, it's that red stuff.

      No credit for not being able to name the red stuff. Negative points for even thinking of the words vinegar or mayonnaise.
    2. Which fires a bigger bullet, a nine or a twenty-two?
      That's what the NRA's 1-800 number is for, when you need to know, right?

      No credit. Every American knows the hierarchy of firearms.

      Least all real Americans.

    3. Does the metric system suck?
      Gol-dang right (scratch)

      Ding.
    4. How long is a football field?
      328.08 feet

      Bzzzt. Americans don't use decimal points and feet in the same sentence. That's treading dangerously close to that heathen metric system.
    5. Define class action lawsuit.
      When more than one American at once abuses the legal system.

      Close. It's when one American abuses the legal system on behalf of all Americans.

      Unless I am doing it, in which case it isn't abuse.

    6. True or false: You have a God-given right to drink alcohol until you pass out.
      False, because no state law is allowed to refer to God, right?

      Incorrect. You are allowed to refer to God, despite what the ACLU says. Americans are endowed by their Creator with several inalienable rights. Among them are the rights to drink alcohol, discharge firearms, belch, swear, and make obscene gestures.

      You left out scratch and drive.

    [Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  • The Old New Thing

    Why do maximized windows lose their title bar translucency?

    • 49 Comments

    If you have translucent title bars enabled,¹ you may have noticed that the translucency goes away when you maximize a window. Why is that?

    This is a performance optimization.

    Opaque title bars are more efficient than translucent ones, and when you maximize a window, you're saying,² "I want to focus entirely on this window and no other windows really matter to me right now." In that case, the desktop window manager doesn't bother with translucency because you're not paying any attention to it anyway.

    This may seem like a very minor change, but the difference is noticeable on benchmarks, and, like it or not, magazine writers like to use benchmarks as an "objective" way of determining how good a product is. The reviewers choose the game, and we are forced to play it.

    Footnotes

    ¹The desktop window composition feature that provides the translucent title bar probably has some official name, but I can never remember what it is and I'm too lazy to go find out.

    ²This may not be literally what you're saying, but it's how the window manager interprets your action.

    [Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

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