Tips/Support

  • The Old New Thing

    What happened to the Windows 2000 "Language settings for the system" control panel?

    • 41 Comments

    In 2011, a customer had a question about migrating from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. (That's right, this customer was still using Windows 2000 in the year 2011.) Specifically, they noted that in Windows 2000, they can select multiple languages in the "Language settings for the system" portion of the Regional Options control panel, and they couldn't find the corresponding control panel setting in Windows XP.

    Regional Options
    General
    Numbers
    Currency
    Time
    Date
    Input Locales
     
    Settings for the current user
    Many programs support international settings for numbers, currencies, times, and dates. Set the locale in order to use the standard settings.
    Your locale (location):
    English (United States)
    Language settings for the system
    Your system is configured to read and write documents in multiple languages.
    Arabic
    Armenian
    Baltic
    Central Europe
    Cyrillic

    In Windows 2000, "Language settings for the system" provides the option to install support (such as code pages, keyboard layouts, and fonts) for various language groups. In Windows XP, the big list of language groups was reduced to three categories:

    • Basic (Baltic, Central Europe, Cyrillic, Greek, Turkish, Western Europe)
    • Complex (Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Indic, Vietnamese, Thai)
    • East Asia (Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Japanese, Korean)

    The Basic category is always installed. To install the Complex or East Asia categories, use the "Supplemental language support" section of the Regional and Language Options control panel.

    Windows XP Regional and Language Options property sheet, with a section titled "Supplemental language support" with options "Install files for complex script and right-to-left languages (including Thai)" and "Install files for East Asian languages

    Someday, that customer might upgrade to Windows Vista, so I may as well answer the question right now. In Windows Vista and onward, things were simplified even more: All language groups are installed at all times. The dialog box went away completely since there were no options remaining.

    As it turns out, the customer's problem had nothing to do with language support. Of course, they didn't come out and describe the problem they were having; rather, they reduced the problem into multiple pieces, and then asked for help on one specific piece. They tried out a solution based on this new information, but it didn't solve the problem, because as it turns out, the Language settings for the system control panel was a red herring. If they had told us what their original problem was, we could have told them "But this setting will do nothing to solve your problem. What you really need is over there."

    Tomorrow, we'll look at the customer's actual problem. (So please don't try to guess or you'll ruin the surprise. I can't believe I had to write that.)

  • The Old New Thing

    How long does it take for a notification icon to stop appearing in the Notification Area Icons control panel?

    • 31 Comments

    A customer reported that even after uninstalling their application, the notification icon entry remains in the Notification Area Icons control panel.

    Yup, that's right. Explorer remembers the icon, even after the underlying program has been uninstalled, because you might have uninstalled it with the intention of immediately reinstalling it, so Explorer remembers the icon in case it comes back. But after one week, Explorer gives up and finally forgets about the icon. "It's been a week, and the user hasn't reinstalled the application. I'm going to give up waiting for it."

    The customer wanted to know how they could remove their icon immediately upon uninstall. They reported that having the icon remain in the Notification Area Icons control panel made it appear that the uninstall was unsuccessful.

    There is no documented mechanism for removing the icon (and the undocumented mechanisms destroy all the icon history, not just the icon history for your icon, so don't do that either). You'll just have to wait seven days for the icon to go away.

    (One possibility that was considered was to have the Notification Area Icons control panel check if the application is still installed before showing it on the list. This runs into problems, though, if the application resides on the network or removable media. It means that opening the Notification Area Icons control panel can stall on network I/O, generate security audits if you lost access to the network share, and spin up external media. Remember how much people hated it when Windows 95 spun up your CD-ROM drive the first time you clicked on the address bar?)

  • The Old New Thing

    What is SysFader and why is it always crashing?

    • 23 Comments

    If you type SysFader into your favorite search engine, you'll find lots of hits from people asking, "What is SysFader, and why is it always crashing Internet Explorer?"

    SysFader: iexplore.exe - Application Error
    The exception unknown software exception (0xe06d7363) occurred in the application at location 0x7c812afb.

    When a program encounters a fatal error, the system crash dialog appears. And it needs to put somebody's name in the title of the dialog to indicate which application crashed. Sure, it has the process name (iexplore.exe), but it has this nagging feeling that it can do better. After all, not everybody will know that "AcroRd32.exe" is "The menu for my favorite restaurant that I was looking at in Adobe Acrobat Reader". So it goes looking for a window that belongs to the thread so it can steal the window's title and use that to help the user understand what it was that crashed.

    And if can't find any visible windows, it will go for invisible ones, on the theory that, "Well maybe the application crashed before it could show the window."

    Now let's see what happens when we apply this logic to SysFader.

    SysFader is a helper window used by Internet Explorer to perform fade-out animations. It really doesn't do much, but it is a window, albeit an invisible one when there are no animations in progress.

    SysFader happens to run on a shared worker thread. If that worker thread is being borrowed by some other background task, and that background task crashes, then when the crash dialog appears and looks around for a window to put in the title, it says "Rats, I don't have any visible windows, but I do have this invisible one, so I'll go ahead and put that one in the title bar. Better than nothing."

    It's sort of the error-reporting version of the Politician's Fallacy:

    1. A window must be blamed.
    2. This is a window.
    3. Therefore, we must blame it.

    It's like your photo appearing in a newspaper article headlined Robbery at Woodgrove Bank, Suspect At Large, not because you're the suspect, but because you happen to have been in the building at the time of the robbery.

    Bonus chatter: You probably recognize the exception code as an unhandled C++ exception. Internet Explorer doesn't use C++ exceptions, so the exception most likely came from a plug-in.

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

  • The Old New Thing

    Why doesn't the Low Disk Space warning balloon show up as soon as I run low on disk space

    • 66 Comments

    A customer reported an issue with the title "The notification balloon for Low Disk Space does not appear even if the free disk is very low." They provided the following steps:

    • Install Windows 7 64-bit on a SATA drive.
    • Copy files to the system drive until disk space becomes low.
    • Observe that the notification balloon for Low Disk Space does not immediately appear.
    • The balloon appears approximately ten minutes later.

    You read through the steps nodding, "uh huh, uh huh", and then you get to the last step and you say, "Wait a second, the subject of your report was that the balloon doesn't appear at all, and now you're saying that it appears after ten minutes. So it does appear after all. What is the problem?"

    The customer explained that on earlier versions of Windows, the Low Disk Space warning balloon appeared within one minute, whereas in Windows 7 it can take up to ten minutes for the balloon to appear.

    Yup, that's right.

    In previous versions of Windows, Explorer checked for low disk space once a minute. The Windows performance folks requested that the shell reduce the frequency of checks to improve overall system performance, and the shell team agreed to reduce the frequency to once every ten minutes. (The performance team made other suggestions to reduce the impact of that code that runs every ten minutes.)

    So yes, in Windows 7, it may take up to ten minutes for Explorer to report that you are low on disk space. But Explorer never promised that those reports would be timely. Or that they would even appear in the first place. The behavior is not contractual; it's just a courtesy notification.

    Related: How full does a hard drive have to get before Explorer will start getting concerned? and How do I disable the low disk space notifications?

  • The Old New Thing

    What are the recommended locations for storing different types of files?

    • 19 Comments

    Some time back, I provided informal guidance regarding what types of files go into which folders. Here are the official guidelines [pdf], for those looking for something with more authority than just me blathering.

  • The Old New Thing

    How does Explorer determine the delay between clicking on an item and initiating an edit?

    • 34 Comments

    Ian Boyd wants to know why the specific value of 500ms was chosen as the edit delay in Windows Explorer.

    Because it's your double-click time.

    Since the double-click action (execute) is not an extension of the single-click action (edit), Explorer (and more generally, list view) waits for the double-click timeout before entering edit mode so it can tell whether that first click was really a single-click on its own or a single-click on the way to a double-click.

    If the timeout were shorter than the double-click time, then double-clicking an item would end up having the first click trigger edit mode and the second click selecting text inside the editor.

    (If the timeout were longer, then everything would still work, but you would just have to wait longer.)

    Ian says, "Through my testing it does not appear linked to configurable double-click timeout." My guess is that Ian changed the double-click timeout not by calling Set­Double­Click­Time but by whacking a registry value directly. The values in the registry are loaded and cached at logon; you can update them all you want at runtime, nobody will care.

  • The Old New Thing

    Why don't all of my folder customizations roam with my profile?

    • 15 Comments

    A customer reported some inconsistency in how folder customizations are handled by roaming profiles.

    1. Log onto Server1 with a roaming profile.
    2. Open the following folders and in each one, customize the icon size:
      1. Library\Documents
      2. \\server\share
      3. C:\Temp
    3. Log off from Server1.
    4. Log onto Server2 with the same roaming profile.
    5. Open the same folders and observe:
      1. Library\Documents: Icon size roams.
      2. \\server\share: Icon size roams.
      3. C:\Temp: Icon size does not roam.

    Why doesn't the C:\Temp customization roam?

    Well, if you think about it, it makes sense that the setting for C:\Temp doesn't roam because C:\Temp doesn't roam either! The C:\Temp on Server1 is not the same directory as the C:\Temp on Server2.

    Let's change Step 2 slightly:

    1. Log onto Server1 with a roaming profile.
    2. Open the following folders and in each one, create a file called TEST.
      1. Library\Documents
      2. \\server\share
      3. C:\Temp
    3. Log off from Server1.
    4. Log onto Server2 with the same roaming profile.
    5. Open the same folders and observe:
      1. Library\Documents: TEST is there.
      2. \\server\share: TEST is there.
      3. C:\Temp: TEST is missing.

    I think nobody would be surprised at the results of this second experiment. The changes to Library\Documents are there because that folder is part of your roaming profile. The changes to \\server\share are there because it is a global resource. And the changes to C:\Temp are not there because the first one is "C:\Temp on Server1" and the second is "C:\Temp on Server2".

    The shell saves icon size customizations in folders differently based on whether it is a global resource (like a network share) or a local resource (available only on the local machine). Settings for local resources do not roam because, well, they're local and have no meaning when roamed to another computer.

    The Documents case manages to get the desired effect, but by different means: Settings for libraries are based on how you customized the view via things like the "Arrange by" menu. Those customizations are saved in your roaming profile, and they therefore roam with you.

  • The Old New Thing

    Sure, we do that: Context menu edition

    • 17 Comments

    A customer reported a problem that occurred only when they installed a particular application. If they uninstalled it, then the problem went away. After installing the application, the "Run As" context menu option stopped working. The customer didn't provide any other details, but we were able to make an educated guess as to what was going on.

    A common programming error in context menu extensions occurs in extensions which add only one menu item. These extensions ignore the parameters to the IContextMenu::InvokeCommand and simply assume that the only reason the method can be called is if the user selected their menu item. After all, if you have only one invokable item, there's no need to figure out which one the user selected, because you have only one to begin with!

    The problem is that a context menu extension can be invoked not because the user selected an item under its control but because a verb is being invoked programmatically, and each handler is being asked, "Do you know how to do this?"

    The result is that the context menu host calls the extension to say, "If you know how to do runas, then please do so," and the the extension says "Sure, we do that" and starts doing its thing. If you are unlucky and the grabby extension is asked the question before the actual runas extension, the runas command winds up being hijacked by the grabby extension.

    (This is the same mistake that causes the Copy To and Move To commands to behave strangely if you add them to the context menu: They assume that the only reason they are invoked is that the user invoked their command, because they weren't designed to be hosted by context menus to begin with! They were designed to go into the toolbar, and the toolbar hosting code never invoked commands by name. It's like taking a ladder and using it as a bridge between two tall buildings. Sure, you can now cross from one building to another, but you also run a serious risk of falling to your death.)

    A variation on the initial problem is "I found that after installing a particular program, I can't run anything from the Start menu." I know of at least two programs which install context menu extensions which steal the "open" command on executables.

    This problem is sufficiently prevalent that there is a special compatibility flag that can be set on a shell extension to say, "This is a grabby shell extension that steals commands. Never ask it if it supports anything, because it will always say yes!"

    Notice that the "MoveTo CopyTo Context Menu" is on the list, which I find interesting because MoveTo/CopyTo was never meant to go on the context menu in the first place. Going back to our analogy, it'd be as if the ladder company issued a safety bulletin to warn people of problems that can occur if you use it as a bridge between two tall buildings!

  • The Old New Thing

    Why can't I use the file sharing wizard if I exclude inheritable permissions from a folder's parent?

    • 34 Comments

    In Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, if you go to a the advanced security settings for a directory and uncheck "include inheritable permissions from this object's parent", then go back to the Sharing tab, you'll find that the "Share" button is disabled. Why is this? We don't see this behavior on Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

    (Yes, a customer actually noticed and asked the question.)

    The sharing wizard in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 does not support folders with the SE_DACL_PROTECTED security descriptor control bit because it isn't sure that it can restore the ACL afterward.

    And as the customer noted, this restriction was lifted in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • The Old New Thing

    How does Explorer calculate the folder size information in the folder tooltip?

    • 22 Comments

    This information is accurate as of Windows 7; the algorithm may change for future versions of Windows. The information is being provided for the edification of computer network administrators, who are curious about random stuff like this since it can affect their network load.

    When you hover over a folder, Explorer shows an infotip (a special type of tooltip) which contains information about the directory, and the information that concerns network administrators is the "Size". How does Explorer calculate the size?

    Explorer calculates the size by performing a naïve recursive listing of the directory and adding up the sizes of all the files it finds. If the enumeration takes longer than three seconds, then Explorer gives up after three seconds and reports the size as "larger than X" where X was the size it managed to calculate so far.

    If you don't want Explorer to do this calculation, you can disable it from the Folder Options control panel by unchecking the box labeled Display file size information in folder tips.

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