February, 2009

  • The Old New Thing

    Welcome to Groundhog Day, a holiday where the same thing happens over and over


    Today is Groundhog Day, a holiday celebrated in the northeastern United States, the day when, according to tradition, the groundhog emerges from hibernation. If it sees its shadow, then the frightened groundhog returns to its burrow, and cold winter weather will continue for six more weeks. It has never been more than a minor holiday, good for an amusing story on the evening news, but not much else.

    I recall listening to a BBC World Service news report on the radio. They were reporting on a speech or press conference given by somebody or other, and the speaker commented on how any progress made during the day seemed wiped out by the start of the next day. "It felt like Groundhog Day." The speaker was not referring to the holiday but rather the 1993 movie with the same name.

    Since the holiday Groundhog Day is not well-known outside the United States, the BBC announcer attempted to explain for the station's international audience, but ended up confusing the holiday and the movie: "Groundhog Day is an American holiday in which the same thing happens over and over again."

  • The Old New Thing

    How do I programmatically show and hide the Quick Launch bar?


    Commenter Mihai wants to know how to show or hide the Quick Launch bar programmatically.

    That's not something a program should be doing. Whether the Quick Launch bar is shown or hidden is an end user setting, and programs should not be overriding the user's preferences. Explorer consciously does not expose an interface for showing and hiding taskbar bands because it would just be a target for abuse. Much like the program that wants to uninstall other programs, the taskbar would become a battleground among programs that each wanted to force themselves on and force their opponents off.

    The user is the arbiter of what goes into the Taskbar.

    I'm told that Windows Vista added a new ITrayDeskBand interface that does indeed let you turn taskbar bands on and off. (I don't know whether it works for Quick Launch. Heck, I don't even know if it works at all! Not my area of expertise.) The story I heard was that so many programs were doing exactly what they shouldn't be doing—namely forcing their feature on, overriding the user's preference—that the Taskbar folks decided, "If you can't stop people from doing a bad thing, at least make them do the bad thing under your supervision. That way you have just one evil thing to support instead of everybody's home-grown undocumented hack." It's sort of the Taskbar Needle Exchange Program.

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