don’t save me from myself

October 11th, 2001

I use UltraEdit as my source editor. A nice thing they have is a notepad.exe replacement so you can trick unconfigurable programs into using your preferred editor rather than notepad. I rename the original notepad.exe to np.exe and copy the Ultraedit notepad.exe into winnt\system32, start it up, I get UltraEdit – cool. Five seconds later, I try it again and it’s back to notepad. I try this a few times to be sure.

Hmm. Ahh – turn off Norton Antivirus, try again. Within 5 seconds, it does the same thing again. Out of nowhere the file is replaced with the original.

After some investigation, I find there is a copy of the original in system32\dllcache. I delete it, then overwrite. Now Windows pops up with a window saying something to the effect that it can’t find the original to fix this with, please put in the Win2KPro CD. I hit cancel, it warns me that I shouldn’t do this sort of thing.

In the event log, there are a bunch of entries showing how it silently “fixed” notepad.exe. Another where it shows that I overrode the request to get it from CD.

I really wish Windows wouldn’t do this sort of shit without telling me about it.

Reminds me of another pet peeve – the hidden file extensions bullshit. It’s impossible to rename a .txt file to .bat without turning this off, for instance. It’s a feature that has absolutely no value, everyone who has a clue turns it off, yet it’s there “for our own good”, whatever good that is. Although, it is a good indicator of a user’s lack of initiative to find that they have never changed this option or the ridiculous default that opens a new window with each explorer click.

I guess I’m a dyed-in-the-wool commandline nerd type of guy, but I really do think that the computing world’s going to hell in a handbasket mollycoddling users of operating system functionality. I think it behooves computer users to take some responsibility for understanding the tools they use, not to be insulated from both calamity and usefulness at the same time for the sake of letting idiots do a job that idiots should be kept far away from.

Making SQL Server DBA functions easy enough for your floorsweeping staff to do doesn’t mean they will make good DBAs. Adding a graphical interface and wizards to make hard drive partitioning childs play doesn’t add any value, it just lowers the bar for people to assume it’s not a task of any import.

There’s no way on earth, for instance, that a metal stamping or molding company would let an untrained novice operate their machinery – a false move could mean a broken mold, days or weeks of lost production, you name it. Yet the same company will give admin passwords and responsibilities to clerical staff with little or no computer knowledge. Their critical network, servers, etc in the hands of neophytes.

Easy-to-use shouldn’t imply not-worth-understanding.

From a much-forwarded email:

This question was raised on a Philly radio call-in show. Without casting stones, it is a legitimate question. There are two men, both extremely wealthy. One develops relatively cheap software and gives hundreds of millions of dollars to charity. The other sponsors terrorism. That being the case, why is it that the US government has spent more money chasing down Bill Gates over the past ten years than Osama bin Laden?

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