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  • Blog Post: For Honor, For Excellence, For Pizza

    Hacker News member citizenlow recalls the time I went over after hours to help out the Money team debug a nasty kernel issue . They were running into mysterious crashes during their stress testing and asked for my help in debugging it. I helped out other teams quite a bit, like writing a new...
  • Blog Post: What happened to the Shut Down menu in classic Task Manager?

    The great thing about open comments is that anybody can use them to introduce their favorite gripe as long as it shares at least four letters of the alphabet in common with the putative topic of the base article. xpclient "asks" why the Shut Down menu was removed from Task Manager . I put the...
  • Blog Post: 10 is the new 6

    While it may no longer be true that everything at Microsoft is built using various flavors of Visual C++ 5.0, 6.0, and 7.0 , there is still a kernel of truth in it: A lot of customers are still using Visual C++ 6.0. That's why the unofficial slogan for Visual C++ 2010 was 10 is the new 6 . Everybody...
  • Blog Post: Who would ever write a multi-threaded GUI program?

    During the development of Windows 95, the user interface team discovered that a component provided by another team didn't work well under multi-threaded conditions. It was documented that the Initialize function had to be the first call made by a thread into the component. The user interface team...
  • Blog Post: The code names for various subprojects within Windows 95

    Most people know that Windows 95 was code-named Chicago. The subprojects of Windows 95 also had their code names, in part because code names are cool, and in part because these projects were already under way by the time somebody decided to combine them into one giant project. Component Code Name...
  • Blog Post: When was the WM_COPYDATA message introduced, and was it ported downlevel?

    Gabe wondered when the WM_ COPY­DATA message was introduced . The WM_ COPY­DATA message was introduced by Win32. It did not exist in 16-bit Windows. But it was there all along. The The WM_ COPY­DATA message was carefully designed so that it worked in 16-bit Windows automatically...
  • Blog Post: Letting the boss think your project is classier than it really is

    Once upon a time, there was a team developing two versions of a product, the first a short-term project to ship soon, and the other a more ambitious project to ship later. ( Sound familiar ?) They chose to assign the projects code names Ren and Stimpy, in honor of the lead characters from the eponymous...
  • Blog Post: Why does the common file save dialog create a temporary file and then delete it?

    When you call GetSaveFileName , the common file save dialog will ask the user to choose a file name, and just before it returns it does a little create/delete dance where it creates the file the user entered, and then deletes it. What's up with that? This is a leftover from the ancient days of 16...
  • Blog Post: Why is Rundll32 called Rundll32 and not just Rundll?

    There is an oft-abused program named rundll32.exe . Why does its name end in 32 ? Why not just call it rundll.exe ? (I will for the moment ignore the rude behavior of calling people stupid under the guise of asking a question.) Because there needed to be a way to distinguish the 16-bit version...
  • Blog Post: What happened in real-mode Windows when somebody did a longjmp into a discardable segment?

    During the discussion of how real-mode Windows handled return addresses into discarded segments , Gabe wondered, "What happens when somebody does a long­jmp into a discardable segment ?" I'm going to assume that everybody knows how long­jmp traditionally works so I can go straight to...
  • Blog Post: New Year's Eve is sometimes a stressful occasion

    Today is New Year's Eve, another opportunity for to mark that an approximately-integral number of revolutions of the earth have occurred since some point in time that wasn't even calculated correctly in the first place. (We retain it for backward compatibility.) December 31, 1999 was a particularly...
  • Blog Post: Turning off the disco lights on the Start screen

    On the Windows 8 Start screen, you can pan left and right, and if you are using touch, you can whip the entire screen left and right and send all your tiles flying past. One of the effects we saw when you panned quickly around the Start screen was something we called disco lights , but which formally...
  • Blog Post: Why is the Program Files directory called Program Files instead of just Programs?

    Some people suggest that one thing Microsoft Research could do with that time machine they're working on is to go back in time and change the name of the Program Files directory to simply Programs . No, it really should be Program Files . Program Files are not the same as Programs. Programs...
  • Blog Post: I wrote FAT on an airplane, for heaven's sake

    When you wrote code for 16-bit Windows, one of the things you spent time doing as part of performance tuning was deciding which functions should be grouped together in which segments. Code in 16-bit Windows executed out of code segments, each of which could be up to 64 KB in size. When a code segment...
  • Blog Post: The management of memory for resources in 16-bit Windows, redux

    Some time ago, I briefly ran down how 16-bit Windows managed memory for resources . But there's a detail that I neglected to mention: Ownership. As we saw, a resource handle HRSRC was really a pointer to the resource directory entry of the resource from the corresponding module. This could be done...
  • Blog Post: Early versions of Aero Peek: Aladdin, Bat Signal, and Squeegee

    The feature now known as Aero Peek wasn't born that way. It went through several iterations before becoming what eventually shipped in Windows 7. At the MIX09 conference, Stephan Hoefnagels showed some of the precursors to Aero Peek . Here are the highlights, and the corresponding time codes if...
  • Blog Post: From Microsoft's mail room to the board room

    In the early 1980's, Microsoft moved its headquarters from downtown Bellevue to Northup Way in Bellevue, a building which later served as a training center (Microsoft University) and is now the North Campus of Bellevue Community College. This is the building in which the infamous Bill Gates Tiger Beat...
  • Blog Post: Why is the syntax for touching a file from the command prompt so strange?

    The magic incantation for updating the last-modified date on a file is COPY /B FILE+,, What strange syntax! What's with the plus sign and the commas, anyway? The formal syntax is the much more straightforward COPY /B A+B+C+D This means to start with the file A , then append the files...
  • Blog Post: The credit card with a half-million-dollar credit limit

    Corporate policies for acquiring hardware typically require going through a bunch of procedures, like issuing purchase orders, getting appropriate approvals, all the usual red tape with the purpose of preventing fraud. But the Windows 95 project was so notoriously behind schedule that upper management...
  • Blog Post: Why was the Windows source code trunk called the Blue Line?

    The nickname doesn't get used much at all any more, but back in the day, the Windows source code trunk was called the Blue Line. Where did it get that name? From the color of the whiteboard pen . When the branching structure was worked out , the trunk was drawn with a blue pen. If you were...
  • Blog Post: Where did the names of the fonts Marlett and Verdana come from?

    Commenter BAA says that the -lett part of Marlett comes from the designer Virginia Howlett . BAA adds, "I forget the 'Mar' but I believe it was a co-creator." If so, then that co-creator was Suzan Mar ashi, if Vincent Connare is to be trusted. On page 17 of the PDF document From The Dark Side...
  • Blog Post: The most expensive notepads in Microsoft history

    Many years ago, I visited the office of a colleague who worked on Internet Explorer in order to work on some problem or other. As we investigated the issue, we took notes on a 5"×7" tear-off notepad which bore the logo Forms³ . My colleague then pointed out to me that we were taking notes...
  • Blog Post: Where did the research project RedShark get its name?

    Project code names are not arrived at by teams of focus groups who carefully parse out every semantic and etymological nuance of the name they choose. (Though if you read the technology press, you'd believe otherwise, because it turns out that taking a code name apart syllable-by-syllable searching for...
  • Blog Post: Some trivia about the //build/ 2011 conference

    Registration for //build/ 2013 opens tomorrow . I have no idea what's in store this year, but I figure I'd whet your appetite by sharing some additional useless information about //build/ 2011. The internal code name for the prototype tablets handed out at //build/ 2011 was Nike . I think we did...
  • Blog Post: What's the story of the onestop.mid file in the Media directory?

    If you look in your C:\Windows\ Media folder, you'll find a MIDI file called onestop . What's the story behind this odd little MIDI file? Aaron Margosis considers this file a security risk because "if an attacker can cause that file to be played, it will cause lasting mental pain and anguish to...
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