• The Old New Thing

    The historical struggle over control of the Portuguese language


    Portugal has been going through a rough patch. Its international stature has diminished over the years, its economy has always struggled to remain competitive, the government had to accept a bailout to avoid defaulting on its debt, and on top of it all, it is losing control of its own language.

    In Portugal, the latest round of Portuguese spelling reform takes effect over a six-year transition period, leaving the Portuguese dismayed that the spelling of their language is being driven by Brazil, a former colony. I sympathize with the plight of the Portuguese, although I also understand the value of consistent spelling. (The rules for the English language are established not by any central authority but rather are determined by convention.)

    I wonder if the U.K. feels the same way about its former colony.

    Bonus chatter: The Microsoft Language Portal Blog reports that Microsoft intends to phase in the spelling reform over a four-year period for Brazil-localized products. A quick glance at the Microsoft style guide for Portuguese (Portugal) says that the spelling reform has yet to take effect among the Portugal-localized version of Microsoft products.

  • The Old New Thing

    The alignment declaration specifier is in bytes, not bits


    Explicit object alignment is not something most people worry about when writing code, which means that when you decide to worry about it, you may be a bit rusty on how the declarations work. (After all, if it's something you worried about all the time, then you wouldn't have trouble remembering how to do it!)

    I was looking at some customer code, and there was a class who had a data member with an explicit alignment declaration.

    class Whatever {
        __declspec(align(32)) LONG m_lSomething; // Must be DWORD-aligned to make writes atomic

    I pointed out that the comment didn't match the code. The comment says that the variable needs to be DWORD-aligned (which in Windows-speak means aligned on a 32-bit boundary), but the code aligns it on a 32-byte boundary, eight times as generous as required. On the other hand, maybe they really did want the member aligned on a 32-byte boundary (say to put it on its own cache line).

    Turns out that in this case, the comment was correct and the code was wrong. To force a variable to align on a DWORD boundary, you want to say __declspec(align(4)). Save yourself a bunch of unnecessary padding bytes.

    But in fact, in this case, the customer was simply trying too hard. The code was compiled with default alignment, which aligns integer types on their natural boundaries anyway. The compiler was going to align the variable even if you didn't specify anything.

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

  • The Old New Thing

    That guy in the neighborhood who has way too many Christmas lights


    Weekend America profiles Dominic Luberto, that guy with his house so covered in Christmas lights that you're sure it's a fire hazard or something.

    I like how he pulls out the classic argument stopper when challenged that his display is too much. "Whoever comes against me - listen - goes against the kids." There you go. In the United States, all you have to do is accuse your opponent of hating children and you have instantly won the argument.

  • The Old New Thing

    Only senior executives can send email to the All Employees distribution list, but mistakes still happen


    Some time ago, a senior executive sent email to the All Employees distribution list at Microsoft announcing that a particular product was now available for dogfood. The message included a brief introduction to the product and instructions on how to install it.

    A few hours later, a second message appeared in reply to the announcement. The second message came from a different senior executive, and it went

    I got your note and tried it out. Looks good so far.

    Oopsie. The second senior executive intended to reply just to the first senior executive, but hit the Reply All button by mistake. This would normally have been caught by the You do not have permission to send mail to All Employees rule, but since the mistake was made by a senior executive, that rule did not apply, and the message went out to the entire company.

    People got a good chuckle out of this. At least he didn't say anything embarrassing.

    Bonus chatter: I'd have thought that these extra-large distribution lists would be marked Nobody can send to this distribution list, and then when somebody needed to send a message to the entire company, the email admins would create a one-day-only rule which allowed a specific individual to send one message.

  • The Old New Thing

    Enumerating bit strings with a specific number of bits set (binomial coefficients strike again)


    Today's Little Program prints all bit strings of length n subject to the requirement that the string have exactly k 1-bits. For example, all bit strings of length 4 with 2 bits set are 0011, 0101, 0110, 1001, 1010, and 1100. Let's write BitString(n, k) to mean all the bit strings of length n with exactly k bits set.

    Let's look at the last bit of a typical member of BitString(n, k). If it is a zero, then removing it leaves a string one bit shorter but with the same number of bits set. Conversely every BitString(n − 1, k) string can be extended to a BitString(n, k) string by adding a zero to the end.

    If the last bit is a one, then removing it leaves a bit string of length n − 1 with exactly k − 1 bits set, and conversely every bit string of length n − 1 with exactly k − 1 bits set can be extended to a bit string of length n with exactly k bits set by adding a one to the end.

    Therefore, our algorithm goes like this:

    • Handle base cases.
    • Otherwise,
      • Recursively call BitString(n − 1, k) and add a 0 to the end.
      • Recursively call BitString(n − 1, k − 1) and add a 1 to the end.

    This algorithm may look awfully familiar. The overall recursive structure is the same as enumerating subsets with binomial coefficients; we just decorate the results differently.

    That's because this problem is the same as the problem of enumerating subsets. You can think of the set bits as selecting which elements get put into the subset.

    It's not surprising, therefore, that the resulting code is identical except for how we report the results. (Instead of generating arrays, we generate strings.)

    function repeatString(s, n) {
     return new Array(n+1).join(s);
    function BitString(n, k, f) {
     if (k == 0) { f(repeatString("0", n)); return; }
     if (n == 0) { return; }
     BitString(n-1, k, function(s) { f(s + "0"); });
     BitString(n-1, k-1, function(s) { f(s + "1"); });

    If k is zero, then that means we are looking for strings of length n that contain no bits set at all. There is exactly one of those, namely the string consisting of n zeroes.

    If k is nonzero but n is zero, then that means we want strings of length zero with some bits set. That's not possible, so we return without generating anything.

    Finally, we handle the recursive case by generating the shorter strings and tacking on the appropriate digits.

    Since this is the same algorithm as subset generation, we should be able to write one in terms of the other:

    function BitString(n, k, f) {
     Subsets(n, k, function(s) {
      var str = "";
      for (var i = 1; i <= n; i++) {
       str += s.indexOf(i) >= 0 ? "1" : "0";
  • The Old New Thing

    Overheard conversation fragment: Shrimp is not vegetables


    I walked past a woman in the grocery store who was talking on her mobile phone. I only caught one sentence. She said, in an annoyed voice, "Shrimp is not vegetables."

    (Then again, purple is a fruit, so anything's possible.)

    Update: manicmarc correctly deduced that the tone and body language of the person on the phone indicated that her previous sentence in the conversation was something like "What vegetables do you want to have with dinner?"

  • The Old New Thing

    Why don't all the Control Panel applications show up when you open a menu from the address bar?


    One of the features added to the Explorer Address Bar in Windows Vista is the ability to navigate quickly to an item by clicking on its name, or navigate to a folder's children by clicking the arrow that appears next to the item and selecting your destination.

    One customer reported that there appeared to be a problem with the Control Panel: Switch to Classic View, and then click the arrow next to the words Control Panel. The result is a dropdown menu that shows some but not all of the Control Panel applications. Is this a bug?

    No, everything is behaving normally. Recall that the dropdown menu shows things that you can navigate to; in other words, it shows you a list of subfolders of the Control Panel. Since you can't navigate to non-folders, they aren't listed as options.

    Notice, for example, that when you go to your Documents folder and click the dropdown arrow, not all of your documents show up in the menu. Only things which Explorer can navigate to appear in the menu (mostly subfolders but occasionally you'll find subfolder-like items such as compressed folders).

    The customer replied with a simple, "Thanks. That makes sense."

    Obligatory link: The so-called God Mode.

  • The Old New Thing

    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 with a 16-bit pointer because the segment portion of the pointer could be inferred from the module the resource belonged to. In fact, since modules could be relocated in memory at run time due to compaction, you had better not try to remember the segment portion of the pointer since it could change!

    The Find­Resource function located the resource directory entry. The Load­Resource function allocated memory for the resource and loaded it from disk. The Lock­Resource function locked the memory so you could access it. If two people tried to load the same resource, the memory for the resource was re-used so there was only one copy in memory, and if both people free the resource, the resource is cached in case somebody asks for it again soon.

    Now things get interesting: When does the resource get removed from the cache? What actually controls the lifetime of the resource?

    Answer: The resource lifetime is tied to the module it came from. When the module is unloaded, all its resources are unloaded along with it. (Note that even if a resource is cached, its contents can get discarded if it is tagged as DISCARDABLE.)

    In Win32, modules are directly mapped into memory, and along with it, the resources. Therefore, accessing the resources of a module is a simple matter of figuring out where they got mapped (Find­Resource and friends will tell you), and then reading the memory directly. So despite the radical change to resources work, the basic rules haven't changed: The resources are good as long as the module is still in memory.

    But there are resources and then there are resources. So far, we've been talking about resources in the sense of Find­Resource, which I will call module resources for lack of a better term. But people often work with objects like icons and bitmaps which are not literally resources but which are derived from resources. Next time, we'll look at the relationship between module resources and resource-derived objects in 16-bit Windows.

  • The Old New Thing

    Otaku cosplay culture makes another inroad into North America


    In the summer of 2006, a Japanese-inspired maid café opened in Toronto. Known as the iMaid Cafe, it offers Chinese food served by young Chinese women in French maid costumes, while Japanese pop music plays in the background. Owner Aaron Wang explains the concept to Canadian television.

  • The Old New Thing

    Puzzling out the upsell-o-meter


    As I noted before, many grocery stores in the United States have a printer next to the cash register which prints out coupons customized to your purchases. Here's a purchase and the accompanying coupon. What is the story behind this pairing?

    Purchased: Diapers for newborn baby.
    Coupon: Save 75 cents on ice cream.

    Bonus chatter: While waiting in line, I read the warning label on the diapers. It went on for quite a bit, but one part triggered my "I wonder what lawsuit led to this warning" sensor: "Like most articles of clothing, XYZ brand diapers will burn if exposed to flame." Did somebody say, "Oh no, there's a fire, what will I do? I know, I'll smother the fire with my baby's diapered bottom!"

Page 378 of 450 (4,499 items) «376377378379380»