Coding Horror Strikes Again

Coding Horror is an entertaining, sometimes even educational blog. Be careful diving in headfirst, though, as the technical depth is generally so shallow you’ll be hitting the bottom before you’ve even broken through the surface tension.

It’s always a danger — in the nerdly get-some-unkind-emails way — to question it. It has quite an army of loyal fans who, I presume, have had their ego carefully stroked over the years into loyal defensiveness (“Yes you are a top notch programmer! Yes you are!”): Any prior time I’ve disagreed with Jeff on here has resulted in a flurry of emails that are the text equivalent of the infamous Chris Crocker video.

Yet Jeff’s latest entry has me unable to contain myself.

In that post, Jeff opines that Windows 7 might just be worth a look because, he says, in the latest outing Microsoft has taken to changing the visible parts of the OS, instead of, I guess, just improving the underlying awesomeness. The example Jeff draws from is that the calculator has visually changed, whereas before it was just the underlying mechanics of calculation that saw awe-inspiring improvements, all while gaggles of ungrateful goons continued to hurl insults at Microsoft, unaware of the great gift they had been handed. That Microsoft has decided to enlighten us to the great improvements they’ve made by visually making change apparent, instead of just doing their magic in secret.

As a newsgroup troll might say, errrrr…wut?!?!?!

What planet has Jeff been living on What spaceship did he just hop off of, interstellar cruise of the Outer Gamagia quadrant completed, that leads him to be so completely out of touch with reality?

Here on planet Earth, Vista was seen as largely being about changing the UI — much like XP before it — and many of the complaints were that the actual utility of the OS suffered (even basic operations like moving files seemed to have missed being QA’d, slowing to a paralyzing crawl under completely ordinary uses). Functionality got lost under layers of paint, and interfaces seemed to be changed for the sake of change.

To many, Vista was 99% visual changes and 1% detrimental functional changes. But at least it brought the unwashed masses a calc.exe that had shaded buttons and a translucent title bar!

Conversely, a lot of the excitement about Windows 7, relative to Vista, is that it fixes stuff “under the hood” (better, strong, faster.)

But I’m no Vista basher, and actually believe that much of the anti-Vista vitriol is undeserved and unfounded. While I was on the record saying that it would be a product failure because it was wrongly focused and had little that compelled people to desire it, I’m actually somewhat of a fan of the OS, insofar as the comparison is with XP. Vista even has some very cool features under the hood, such as TxF, though that’s the sort of structural change that isn’t really useful until applications start using it, but they won’t use it until it is available in a good percentage of deployed PCs.

Back to Jeff’s entry, the ridiculous example of the accessory calculator being an example of…anything…really strikes me as absurd, and it seems to be the sort of “try to draw some big observation from some small example” space filler you end up resorting to when you’re trying to hit a schedule.

To add to the march of absurdity, Jeff links to a ridiculous post by the occasionally interesting Raymond Chen.

In Raymond’s post we hear about how tough it is for poor Microsoft (sidenote: what’s with the bizarre victim complex that many Microsoft employees develop?) You see, prior to Windows 2000 someone at Microsoft made the choice that when you use a calculator in Windows, you really want to enjoy IEEE floating point rounding errors in all of your results, because the people that developed calc.exe — which would literally be a 8 hour project for an intern..you don’t even need to make an installer — decided to take the laziest route possible, implementing it in the most naive way available. Raymond goes on the defensive, telling us that those critics just don’t understanding floating-point. Not really, Raymond. They just don’t understand how Microsoft could have ever thought that it was a reasonable decision for a calculator app to use and suffer from, versus the decimal math of virtually every other calculator app.

So Microsoft swapped out the embarrassing calculation “engine” of calc.exe (Jeff got the timing of the change seriously wrong. It wasn’t between XP and Vista. It was before Windows 2000), put in the bignum-style implementation that should have been there from day one, and people were supposed to send them flowers or something You ungrateful sons of…

Anyways, Windows 7 will invariably make a big impact, so I do plan on taking a look at it soon. But I’m certainly not motivated because calc.exe got some minor changes.