The Virus, Follow-Up

By Shamus Posted Sunday May 8, 2011

Filed under: Personal 167 comments

desktop.jpg

So, we’re off and running again after that nasty business.

The first thing people say when they see my desktop is, “Why is your taskbar on the left? Clearly, you are a deviant and should be put down for the good of mankind.”

The taskbar is a strange beast. I first encountered it back in Windows 95. At the time I was a 3D modeler and using a program called Truespace. Truespace is to 3D content creation what Windows Movie Maker is to video editing. And Windows Movie Maker is to video editing what a deadly house fire is to cooking. You may accomplish your goal with this software, but you will learn the meaning of suffering and regret in the process.

At the time, Truespace used these horrible, inscrutable button bars that ran along the bottom of the screen. Since the program didn’t use any sort of meaningful hotkeys, you were constantly mousing down to the bottom of the screen to navigate these branching groups of minuscule 16×16 buttons. Sometimes one operation would require multiple trips through the squinty-button obstacle course. At 16×16, overshooting the button by just a couple of pixels would mean mis-clicking on the taskbar, which would mean suddenly switching to another window. In the days of only 4MB of memory, this was extremely painful and slow. This happened so often and was so infuriating that I had to move the taskbar to keep myself sane. After all, Windows 95 was new, the taskbar was new, and so what did I care where it was? I didn’t realize I was making a decision that would affect how I used the computer for the next decade and a half.

For a while I kept the taskbar at the top, but then I ran into a similar problem with all other programs. Reaching up to click on the menu bar might mean accidentally clicking in the taskbar. So eventually I settled on the left-side taskbar. After a few months this became routine. Routine became habit. Habit became law.

The left-taskbar was a bit annoying in the days of CRT’s, but in the age of wide-screen LCD monitors, it’s actually a good system. I spend a great deal of time reading. Reading documentation. Reading code. Reading webpages. When you’re reading there’s only so much horizontal space you can use at once. You don’t want your eyes to have to track from one edge of your wide-screen monitor to the other at the end of every line of text. Until we come up with an effortless way to cut things into magazine-styled columns (I’d love a system where you scrolled horizontally at the end of a column instead of vertically at the bottom of a page) then most web pages are going to have a vast expanse of white space on either side of the page. Assuming you’re not on a mobile, you’ve probably got a big ol’ white void on either side of the paragraph you’re reading right now.

The upshot is that I generally have a lot more horizontal space than I really need, and a lot less vertical than I’d like. Part of this is a result of the multi-purpose nature of the PC. We want our games, images, and movies in horizontal boxes to more closely resemble the way we see the world, but we want our prose in vertical boxes to make it easier to read.

Anyway. Left-handed taskbar. The point is, the only reason I use it this way is because of a program I haven’t used in 12 years.

The only thing left to install is Visual Studio. (True story: I just now accidentally typed that as “Visual Stupid”. Freudian slips say the darnedest things!) Before, I had to have Visual Studio 98 (woo! got it right that time) installed for my day job. But I also had Visual Studio 2008 (free edition) installed for private projects. VS 98 was needed for compiling immense legacy projects which were too costly to convert, and VS 2008 was needed for when I wanted to walk upright and work like a human being instead of a cave-dwelling animal. The problem was that having both on my machine at once was kind of annoying.

(Visual Studio is a tool used by programmers. This sort of thing is usually called an IDE – Integrated Development Environment. Microsoft actually gives away (free of cost, not open source (obviously)) their lowest tier IDE. An IDE is used to organize programming projects, edit source code, compile source code into usable software, and sometimes even package up that software for distribution. An IDE can provide slick context-based editing that you can’t get with a raw text editor. For example:

/*-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                W i n M a i n
Why use "main"? EVERYONE uses that! So much better to use IDE-specific WinMain 
and prevent unwanted portability!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------*/
 
int PASCAL WinMain (HINSTANCE instance_in, HINSTANCE previous_instance, LPSTR command_line, int show_style)
{ 
 
  instance = instance_in;
  Init ();
  while (!quit) {
    WinUpdate ();
    BubbleUpdate ();
    ViewportUpdate ();
    WorkspaceUpdate ();
    RenderUpdate ();
    TextureUpdate ();
  }
  Term ();
  return 0;
 
}

See, a nice IDE will color source code to make it easier to read and help you spot mistakes. Back in the day people used to just edit their source code in a text editor (and some still do) but most professionals agree that you need some IDE to keep the source from overwhelming you, even if they can’t agree on which one.)

Luckily, I’ve since become a hopeless unemployed loser, so I no longer need VS 98. So, I could use VS 2008. But since I’m no longer married to Microsoft, I could also jump ship and migrate to some other IDE. So suddenly I’m free to use whatever I like. Overwhelmed by this overabundance of choice, I’ve decided to do nothing.

The only relevant project I have going right now is Comic Press. Frustratingly, it compiled just fine in VS 98, but in VS 2008 the images didn’t load for mysterious reasons. I could install VS 98 and have it work now. Or I could install VS 2008 and climb down into the guts of the thing with a monkey-wrench and figure out why that bit is broken. Or I could migrate to some open source IDE and go completely mad trying to compile deeply entrenched Windows code in a non-Microsoft environment, which is a good way of inducing suicide.

Or I could not install anything at all right now. I don’t need an IDE unless I plan to make changes to Comic Press, and right now it’s getting the job done.

 


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167 thoughts on “The Virus, Follow-Up

  1. Eric says:

    I like that background.

    1. Decius says:

      I prefer rotating through selected NASA images of the day. Hi-res pictures of Neptune with Terra visible in the background, or Hubble pictures of a nebula.

      1. StranaMente says:

        That one comes from deviantart (here). I usually go there and hunt for a while, from time to time, to update my wallpaper.
        It’s plenty of nice things.

          1. SKD says:

            Another good place to look is InterfaceLift.com. I have a rotating group of images I have picked up. There are some truly talented photographers over there and the landscapes are outstanding in my opinion.

            1. Tizzy says:

              I don’t work too hard on picking or changing my background. It’s not as if I got to see it all that often, usually, I have bunch of windows on top of it…

              1. Eric says:

                My background’s just a black screen. I’ve gotten to the point that I cordon my icons off into groups depending on what the program does: Recycle Bin, My Document, My Computer all in the lower right corner; Microsoft Office/OpenOffice (on my newer computer) in the lower left; Firefox and Thunderbird roughly in the center; games in the upper left; and various documents I’m working on scattered about in the lower and mid central region. There’s no way that isn’t going to cover up some portion of a picture, so I just figured “why bother?”

      2. Maldeus says:

        Is Terra a celestial entity I’m not familiar with, or is it just a more awesome way of referring to the planet all but six of us are on right now?

        1. krellen says:

          Terra is the “official” name of Earth.

          1. Chargone says:

            official in what sense?

            Earth is a corruption of the name of the Norse Norn of the Past (among other things) (for those of you into manga, yes, that does mean our planet is named after Urd. explains a lot when you think about it :P)

            the word sometimes used for dirt is derived from that.

            Terra, to the best of my knowledge, is … latin? for ‘land’ or ‘ground’.

            either way, for a planet which has over 50% of it’s surface covered in water, it’s a bit dubious.

            i suppose ‘Terra’ is the official name for Earth in the same way Luna is for the moon? … that is, if one is speaking latin or some latin derived language that is not English?

            1. simmuskhan says:

              The “official” titles as given by the IAU (International Astronomical Union) which is in charge of naming everything up there are:
              the Earth for the planet we live on (capitalised E)
              the Moon for our moon (capitalised M)
              the Sun for the star we orbit around (capitalised S)
              Some people like Terra, Luna and Sol, but they’re not official, just kinda cool.

              1. Mayhem says:

                Terra, Luna etc are simply latin versions of the official names, to fit in with the Roman Gods theme of the rest of the solar system.

                And because SF writers feel they look far cooler.

                1. Dumbledorito says:

                  The best reason to use them in SF is that we wouldn’t look as primitive to aliens calling the planet we live on “dirt” as well as calling what we walk on and grow food in “dirt.” This supposes that universal translators just say “Terra” and don’t have the Latin plugin.

                  I suppose we could also call it “Sol III,” but it sounds too much like a bad sequel to something.

                  1. krellen says:

                    You’d be amazed how many names of things around the world are just as obvious as calling the entire planet “dirt”. Most names fall into one of three categories: descriptive (often corrupted by time to no longer be obvious, but a large number of old-world cities have names that boil down to “town on the field” or “town by the hill”); possessive (so-and-so’s town is remarkably common – most towns that aren’t obviously one of the other two categories will, in the end, turn out to be this); and honorary (this is the most obvious, as these are typically called “new [oldname]).

                    People aren’t as creative as we think we are.

                2. Marcellus says:

                  I think Latin makes for good “international” names because
                  1. there are no native speakers
                  2. everyone recognizes it regardless

                  Which means that whatever language you use the Latin names in, they are
                  1. clearly recognizable
                  2. impossible to confuse with the colloquial words for land/moon/sun in that particular language

  2. Elilupe says:

    If I suddenly moved my task bar to the left side of the screen I would be constantly clicking down at the bottom and getting horribly confused.

    1. After getting accustomed to it, you would never want to go back to a horizontal taskbar. Especially if you have a 16:9 screen.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Isn’t it a bit like using a Dvorak keyboard, though? Like, sure – at your home pc, you’re very efficient and fast, after a painful introduction/adjustment period, but every time you go to any other pc/system (school,work,friends,whoever) – you feel like a fish out of water..

        1. Well, I find it more difficult to switch to a keyboard other than my own than to use a horizontal taskbar again. In fact – it is not hard at all. And the adjustment is really not that long.

        2. Khizan says:

          Then you grab the taskbar and drag it off to the left and you’re good to go.

          I’m a taskbar-at-the-top man myself, and I do this all the time.

          1. I switched to taskbar-on-the-left for a while when I was running PnP games online, because I’d have like 12 documents open at once and when you have a horizontal taskbar at the bottom of your screen, once you get past like 3 things open (especially if you have a bunch of icons in your system tray) you got no effing clue what anything is. So I made myself a nice wide taskbar on the left side of the screen that could list my 10 or 12 items in a nice vertical column.

            Now that I have a widescreen and Windows 7, however, open programs become rather small buttons on the taskbar and it’s much easier to switch to exactly what I want. So I went back to bar-on-the-bottom mode.

          2. Sumanai says:

            Tried having the taskbar at the top, couldn’t bear it. Some software kept popping up with the top underneath it.

        3. Ian says:

          I don’t have much of a problem switching.

          At home, I have a secondary monitor on the left side, so I have my taskbar at the right of my primary monitor. At work, I have a secondary monitor on my right side, so I keep my taskbar at the left of the primary display. I also regularly remote into two servers (one is 2008, which is based on Vista’s UI, and the other is 2008 R1, which is based on 7’s UI) and I have the taskbar on the bottom on both of them.

          It didn’t take any extra time or effort to get used to switching between those configurations.

          1. Hugo Sanchez says:

            I also rock a multi-monitor set up, But my monitors are mis-matched in both resolution and aspect ratio. I keep my taskbar on my second monitor, which is to the left of my primary one. The task bar is on the right side of the secondary monitor. It means I can get the full view of whatever is on the primary, without having to worry about the taskbar trying to poke in front (of fullscreen windows and such). Plus I can keep all my various odds and ends on the secondary, like chat windows and other readables, which benefit from the verticality. It keeps my primary monitor looking very nice and clear. The secondary is full of clutter, but who cares, I usually turn it off if I’m in a game, or watching something thats actually engrossing.

            As an aside, I don’t know how people LIVE without multiple monitors. It helps so much to be able to keep up a reference on one screen, while hapilly typing away at various documents on the others. Having to alt-tab between them seems maddening at this point, and anytime I’m forced to use a one-monitor set up, It feels incredibly painful to do even the simplest of tasks, like managing files.

            Example:
            (http://i.imgur.com/Q29Vc.jpg)

            1. K says:

              I approve of this! Very similar to my own setup. Task bars should be horizontal, or on the second screen, or both. My second screen is also 90° tilted, so I can display an A4-sheet in full size.

            2. Ian says:

              My monitors are also mismatched. My main is a 26″ LCD at 1920×1200 and my secondary is a 17″ CRT at 1280×960. Very slight disparity. :) The CRT can technically manage 1920×1200 (it’s a Dell Ultrascan with one of those heavy Trinitron-like tubes that can handle ridiculous resolutions) but that’s a little tough to read.

              I’ve been considering moving my taskbar to my second monitor for many of the same reasons, but I think I have too many icons on it to feasibly be able to do that. I’ll probably do something like that whenever I replace that CRT.

      2. Interestingly enough, Ubuntu lappy edition puts the sidebar on the let in a fun, button sort of way. Not perfectly intuitive but I installed it on my girl’s Eee PC and suddenly she had so much more screen to play with!

        Also, you will likely note that iGoogle also switched to the side tab interface– it really does make sense when dealing with wide monitors, though as always there was plenty of kicking and screaming–mostly because they pulled the switch without so much as a whisper.

      3. SyrusRayne says:

        I’m giving the left-hand taskbar a try, at the moment. 16:9 screen, here. It’s weird, but not in a bad way!

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Same here – trying this setup now..

          It’s weird as hell, and seems to be much more, err – noticeable – than on the bottom..

          Hmm.

          Edit – is there a way to get the taskbar to overlay the background image, and not squash it sideways?
          I mean – on bottom, the taskbar is over the desktop background, and it shines through – on the side, the taskbar is just a black monolith, and the background is slightly squashed.

          Kinda annoying, in fact – feels like I’m losing bit of space this way.. Is there a way to make the taskbar to be part of my desktop again, just on the side, as opposed to it being a completely other thing slapped next to it?

        2. Ergonomic Cat says:

          Same here. It’s eminently logical. Hopefully it works out.

        3. Jarenth says:

          Might as well join the trial-and-error crew, then. Though I wonder how well this’ll mesh with my entrenched habit of ‘sticking icons all over the goddamn desktop, seriously, all over the place’.

          Also, the clock shifts from bottom-right to bottom-left.

      4. Eric says:

        Funny thing – while I have a 16:10 display (bit taller than 16:9), the way I have my windows formatted during daily use, I find that horizontal space is actually at more a premium than vertical, the reason being that I have my IRC client open on the right side and web browser on the left. Both must adhere to pretty specific proportions (about 2/3 devoted to web browser, 1/3 to IRC), but depending on the content I’m viewing it can actually get awkward without having to minimise or maximise certain windows temporarily.

  3. Shamus, clearly, you are a deviant and should be put down for the good of mankind. No sane person would put the taskbar elsewhere than to the right.

    1. Audacity says:

      No, you, and Shamus are both mad! The only way to properly arrange one’s desktop is with the bar on the left and your icons across the top.

      Although for maximum text editing/coding efficiency you need dual screens with one 16:9 screen turned on its side. I just saw a system like this and am super jealous.

      1. Heron says:

        A guy at work has that monitor arrangement, but he has found that he never looks at the bottom half of the vertical monitor because he doesn’t like craning his head up and down all the time, so as with all things, YMMV.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        I have been using my LCD monitor at home in upright position to type stuff. Very cool, but it was a rather cheap model, and so both eyes see completely different colours. Even with black text on white, this is irritating and not comfortable, except if I move so far away from the thing that I have to zoom in on the text to be able to read it properly, wasting a lot more space than I gained before …
        damn!

  4. Eärlindor says:

    Great to see that things appear to be up and running again, Mr. Young.

    I have been following your blog for a little while now and I would like to extend an invitation to you for something and seeing if you’re interested.

    May I send an email?

    1. Max says:

      didn’t mean to reply to this.

      1. Nick-B says:

        Don’t you usually obfuscate your email? That’s surprisingly basic.

        Just curious. Or did you already feel the email was thrown to the wolves, and heavy filtering is the only way?

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          He said on twitter that he lost all his mail archives from several years back. Now he needs to make up those lost numbers.

        2. Shamus says:

          Yeah. That email is overrun. Another robot here or there is such a small difference as to not be worth worrying about.

      2. Eärlindor says:

        Thank you; just wanted to give you a heads-up.

        1. Eärlindor says:

          Gah! Fumbled on the website link twice, that’s a little embarrassing. >.<

          LOL!

  5. X2-Eliah says:

    Hmyeah, I get your point about the taskbar thing. Personally, widescreen for me is amazing because 16:9 relation works perfectly with two normal-layout pages/documents side by side. Or a doc and two code editors. Or a doc, a commandline/terminal and a coding/text editor. Or a web browser in place of the doc.

    Anywho, I guess it’s the same as with you, you just get used to it. And, really, it’s your fault your website doesn’t utilize full screen estate if one is available :P

    Your taskbar – slightly odd, but not irritating (well, I would say the colour scheme is horrid, but hey, XP). No, the most awful thing ever are people on their widescreens/laptops using internet browsers with FOUR or FIVE lines (toolbar, menu bar, address bar, tab bar, and the windows-windows-line-bar-thing). And that’s without some stupid msn/skype toolbars. Hell, default setting for firefox 3 is wasting taking up nearly 150 – 200 pixels, and that is an insane amount.. Sorry for the linkspam, but compare it to this: http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=fftransparent2dkp0.jpg

    That is how a browser ought to be – trimmed to minimum and still functional, NOT taking up a quarter of your screen with useless stuff & blank spaces.

    Gah.

    Okay… As for the IDEs.. Well, if you are used to the MS ways, then going opensource – especially with obtuse and old IDEs like, heck, netbeans – will probably be a bit more difficult than trying to work things out with VS’08.. But then again, it might be an ‘unfixable’ issue, who knows.

    I’ll just say this, if you want to go shopping for a new IDE, then try finding one that is actually new and has a good future/support/userbase.. Going obscure or outdated is just not an option.

    1. Sumanai says:

      I use Pentadactyl (with menubar visible) and a treeview for the tabs. Which works for me.

    2. Eroen says:

      Just submitting a slightly different browser layout (my preferred on the right, the other one not so much). This arrangement is surprisingly difficult to replicate in other browsers, I at least have not found any good substitute.
      https://twitpic.com/4vazb0

    3. Hugo Sanchez says:

      Chrome was minimalist before being minimalist was cool!

      (Opera was minimalist before being minimalist was even imagined by everyone else)

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Got nothing against Chrome :)
        It’s just that FF can be made even slimmer than Chrome if you need bookmarks, and I’m a minimalism whore – if IE9 comes up with a better layout management, I’ll very probably jump ship to that – no reason to stand behind a browser that isn’t the best at what you want from it.

      2. psivamp says:

        Pssh, links was minimalist when minimalist was all you could get.

  6. Henebry says:

    Speaking of making comics, Scott McCloud has been running an interesting series on how to do comic strips in Adobe Illustrator. He has it set up with many of the behaviors that you programmed in to comic press, but with no actual programming. It’s a template he uses over and over. Here’s the blog entry with a video tutorial.

    1. Snort, that would be great if we weren’t still using Paint Shop Pro 8 and Gimp around these here parts. Adobe products are not in the budget.

  7. Deadfast says:

    Trust me Shamus, this is nothing. You should see the look on people’s faces when I show up with my Programmer Dvorak layout.

    “Can I use your laptop for a sec? Just need to check my email.”
    Sure, go ahead.
    “Eurgh?!”

    1. Heron says:

      I once rearranged the keys on my laptop into Dvorak (alas, not Programmer’s Dvorak). My wife was not amused.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      Seriously…what is the point of putting ‘;’ and ”’ on upper and lower rows? For programming, that sounds like a nightmare – you need ‘;’ every other line…

      I’ll stick with QWERTY, thank you very much…

      1. Blanko2 says:

        qwerty is designed to make you type slow.
        dvorak isnt 100%, but it is a lot better. you just have to get past the curve. although yes, ; being out of the home row is not ideal for programming.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Really? Pretty sure that’s a myth. Either that, or it fails, as conformity takes over on the “usability” level over actual “ergonimics”. The comfiest chair in the world doesn’t matter if 90% of the chairs you spend 90% of the time sitting in aren’t them.

          The curve is a litte too strong – seriously, with QWERTY, the main thing preventing me from typing fast is *thinking* what to type (Or, in All The Right Type Land, trying to get past the barrier of typing completly random letters [Let’s not mince there – ‘q’ is almost always followed by ‘u’, but ‘fghjkd’ is NOT a common word used in the English language – American or British/Canadian] as opposed to actual words.). Once that’s done, I tend to be reasonably fast, it’s just that one hurdle first to counter.

          1. Soylent Dave says:

            It’s not a myth.

            QWERTY isn’t designed to make you type ‘slowly’, but it was designed to slow typing down in order to minimise mechanical typewriter jams (which isn’t quite the same thing).

            DVORAK does definitely allow people to type faster, mainly due to there being less opportunity for mistakes. This shouldn’t really be a surprise: that’s what it was designed to do.

            It’s also reportedly much less likely to cause or aggravate RSI.

            I’m about as likely as you are to adopt it, I imagine – I’m more than comfortable with a QWERTY layout and I don’t suffer from any RSI, so I don’t feel particularly inclined to learn to type all over again.

            But there’s no sense in pretending that it isn’t a mechanical improvement – even if it will probably never take off for social reasons.

            1. Blake Winton says:

              If it’s not a myth, then you must have some supporting documentation, right? :)

              I’m not going to claim that one layout is better than another or not, but I will say that I haven’t seen any reasonably well-put-together studies which showed an advantage for either. (Sure, the Dvorak guy ran some studies, but as I remember, the results couldn’t be replicated, and he’s not exactly un-biased.)

  8. Max says:

    Funny thing about IDEs. Most of my college courses have used Visual Studio, but one course made us write all our C source in notepad and use the command line compiler. Maybe there’s some lesson in this that I’ll understand when I’m older, but it seems pretty inefficient to do it that way when there is an IDE available. I guess if I’m stranded on an island with no IDE I’ll be okay.

    1. Sean says:

      It’s a matter of skill transfer – if you start out in one IDE, you get used to that one, and may have a hard time adapting to any other. Especially in the case of VS, and other IDEs that do a bunch of crap behind the scenes, switching can be a major pain, as Shamus is demonstrating. But if you can write in a text editor and compile on the command line, then you should have the knowledge to deal with any IDE your boss decides to throw at you.

      Besides, there are text editors that are intended for programmers, with keyboard shortcuts and syntax highlighting. Get practice with those and inefficiency won’t be a problem. Notepad, OTOH – professor’s missing the point.

      1. James says:

        Exactly, my first experience with C++ was with the Borland C++ IDE, and I wasn’t really learning C++ – I was learning Borland’s IDE with C++.

        Once I started using plain g++ and text in uni, things started to make more sense. You can find an editing/building environment that best suits you later.

      2. Nathon says:

        I use one of those other editors with syntax hilighting and keyboard shortcuts (Emacs) for work. It’s amazingly great. I’ve used VS and Eclipse, but Visual Studio hides too much and Eclipse has never run fast enough for me to use it on my chuggingly slow machines. I can run the debugger, kick off compiles, and jump around a large codebase from within Emacs, so maybe it fits the definition of an IDE. Maybe it’s the first IDE. Anyway, notepad is not even fit for editing English text, let alone code. Perhaps your professor was confused.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      The prof responsible for that program might be one of those old-timey elitists who think anything beyond text editor, paper coding and command terminal-squinting is heresy..

      1. Max says:

        He does kind of seem old timey. He allows us to use goto in our code, although discouraged, and we should avoid using it as much as possible, the fact that he does allow it is pretty surprising, considering all other profs will automatically deduct marks on any assignment with goto in it.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Hm. Goto isn’t that bad. And sometimes, if used properly, it is quite good.

          Besides, try making a Win large batch file without goto.. Now there’s a pain.

          1. Nathon says:

            Goto usage is a sign of missing language features. The most common (acceptable) uses of it in C is to break out of nested loops and to execute cleanup code on abnormal termination of a function. You can see it littered about the Linux kernel. Anyway, both of those can be done without the goto/label construct in most higher level languages.

    3. SKD says:

      I would guess that the professor is trying to make sure you learn the basics which will make you a better programmer first.

      If you depend on an IDE to point out your mistakes then you may not learn the skill to recognize errors on their own. If you learn to find compile errors the hard way you are less likely to make the same errors in the first place and recognize them when they do crop up.

      Just theorizing based on my limited knowledge of programming. The last time I wrote code was using QBasic in high school. Though I can do it at an elementary level I do not have quite the right mindset for programming.

    4. Ben says:

      To echo the other comments there is a lot to be said for not using an IDE when first starting out. Knowing how to debug your own code with judicious use of print statements is a useful skill to have even if you will be using a debugger later. Additionally certain IDEs can have some odd behaviors that are easier to understand/deal with when you are a more experienced programmer.

      Also there are plenty of text editors with syntax highlighting, I love notepad++ and there a quite a few others, off the top of my head I believe gedit does as well.

      Finally when you are writing reasonably simple code (under 500 lines/fewer then 3 primary files) the added efficiency of an IDE compared to command line compiler and text editor is quite negligible.

      1. Sumanai says:

        Gvim is good. Everyone should give a try for that one.

      2. Max says:

        What you say makes a lot of sense so thanks for replying. I guess debugging without an IDE is a good skill to have. Thanks to everyone who replied.

      3. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Heathen. Use vim.

        (Is there anything more canonical than editor wars?)

        1. Gimli says:

          ed is the standard editor.

        2. psivamp says:

          I’m a vim-derivative guy. Slack comes with elvis, and the first thing I emerge on gentoo is vim

      4. Blake says:

        On the other hand my uni course started us with a Java IDE called BlueJ which made everything really straight forward (no memory management, very useful error messages) and taught us how to write code.

        The later years moved on to c++ in Visual Studio and since we understood the basics of programming already, learning memory management, pointer arithmatic, the C build process and all many of C++’s idiosyncracies was a much easier process.

        Some people like to teach starting with the lowest level stuff, I think programming should be more general than that and that once you can code learning a new language is actually a pretty easy process.

        Uni taught me how to program using Java then how to make games in C++, then once I started in the industry I picked up Python, Git, Lua and C# as the tasks demanded them.

    5. Kyte says:

      Heh. Most of our classes (Comp. Engineering here) including coding to some degree, and since they never hint you at what IDEs to use, and you first code with plain ol’ C on Linux compiling with gcc, our first editor’s usually whatever text editor the Linux provides.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Funny thing,but I actually dont have white on the sides of your text.Since I have a wireless keyboard and mouse,I usually go to my bed when reading something,so I zoom text all across my wide screen.

    As for your dextop,whats more jarring for me is how empty it is.Since Ive switched to 7,Ive gotten used to a few gadgets hanging all over mine.

    1. Noumenon says:

      I don’t have white on the sides of the text either, because I keep my resolution at 800 x 600 so I can actually see stuff.

    2. Vipermagi says:

      I don’t have white on the side either. It’s all gray/grey, depending on where you live.

  10. HeroOfHyla says:

    The only reason I’d object to a taskbar on the left or right is that it winds up taking up more space horizontally than it would vertically, because it needs a minimum width for all the icon names. Though now that Windows 7 has the option of going icons-only, that’s not a problem.
    Right now I have my taskbar on the bottom of my 1600×1200 CRT, and then I use my 1080p LCD for things that need to be bright and large (it’s a larger screen with a smaller vertical resolution, so everything looks bigger on it).

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      It still takes up more space.. Er, let’s say it this way – it is still fatter. I think in reality you’d have less space for the taskbar-icons when on the side, at least on widescreens.

    2. Jon Ericson says:

      Did you know you could adjust the size of the taskbar by dragging the beveled edge? It can be as wide or as narrow as you (reasonably) might like.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        There are hardcoded limits that are not so ‘reasonable’.

  11. Microsoft makes a lot of crap, but Visual Studio is not one of them. It is by far the best IDE and debugger available for C++, and I would use it on all platforms if I could. Plus, it has partial C++0x support now.

    So while nobody asked for suggestions, I’ll throw in a bone for http://www.microsoft.com/express/Downloads/#2010-Visual-CPP. Much better to use that and the strong debugger than to use GDB… GCC G++ is as excellent as VC++’s compiler, but GDB is just nowhere near VC++’s debugger.

    Just be mindful to make a General or Win32 project type…woe befalls those who accidentally make a C++/CLI or ATL project.

    1. Heron says:

      Visual Studio is the highest quality IDE I’ve seen (in my opinion, obviously), and if I’m not trying to write something to be cross-platform it’s what I use. My first compiler was Visual C++ 6, which was pretty good, and things have only gotten better, especially since Microsoft has realized that giving away Express editions of their stuff is a good thing.

      NetBeans’ C++ support is actually very good; the only trick with using it in Windows is that you end up using MinGW’s version of gcc, which is several decades old (ok, gcc 3.4 isn’t really decades old, but seriously…) As a bonus, NetBeans has several source control plugins available at no cost, whereas all the decent Visual Studio source control plugins I’m aware of cost money.

      If anyone’s about to object with “But NetBeans is horrendously slow!” you’d be right, if we were talking about the version of NetBeans available in 2003. NetBeans performs quite well nowadays :)

      1. Simon Buchan says:

        If you are a masochist who still uses SVN, VisualSVN is pretty amazing. The mercurial plugins are pretty rubbish ATM, but I’m happy using TortoiseHG.

        And yes, VS 2010 is awesome, especially if you catch up with the available Extensions (unfortunately not on Express).

        1. Simon Buchan says:

          Gah, I meant AnkhSVN, not VisualSVN of course.

    2. wererogue says:

      Visual Studio is lovely for C++ – mostly because C++ is awful for compilers (speaking as a C++ professional that loves my job.) I still need Visual Assist to make it palatable, though.

      Eclipse is amazing for Java, if a little heavy, and has a project to support C/C++ called CDT which was making leaps and bounds when I used it 3 years ago.

      Otherwise, there’s always good old make/gcc/ant! You can debug in vim and emacs, but it takes a bit of setup.

      1. Nathon says:

        I’ve used VS’s debugger before and have to say I greatly prefer gdb. And I learned to use gdb after using VS’s, so it’s not a case of already-know-it-itis. Of course, I haven’t written code for Windows since 2006 and I almost never write code for the system on which it’s written.

        Also, on the subject of setup, I don’t have a single line devoted to gdb in my .emacs file. “M-x gdb” and go.

        This post is not intended to start a debugger/compiler/editor war, merely to state that there are people out there with different preferences. VS may in fact be better for C++, but I never write C++ so I don’t know. It may also be better for people whose brains are wired differently from mine, and there are something like 6 billion of those.

    3. psivamp says:

      My issue with VS is that each release is so wildly different. A project created for VS’05 won’t compile in ’08 or ’10. Instructions for ’08 lead to dummy pages in ’10 telling you that the feature you’re looking for has been removed/renamed/merged with something else and that it is not available in the edition you have installed.

      To be fair, I haven’t really put any time into VS to speak of yet. It’s just frustrating.

      1. Ian says:

        It really depends on what the project uses. Some things ended up moving to deprecated status in VS’08, but that only causes a compiler warning. Some other things that used to be included by default (I believe OpenGL support was one of these things) require the platform SDK to be installed now. I’ve generally had success converting projects from earlier versions of Visual Studio to 2010, though it usually does require a variable amount of manual work.

        Luckily, I generally prefer C# for my own applications, and that transition is only a baby-step down from being completely seamless.

        1. psivamp says:

          That’s what I hear. IF you switch to C# then you get their best effort…

          1. Ian says:

            To be fair, you end up seeing the exact same issues crop up with various GCC versions. The jump from 3.4 to 4.0 was pretty shaky, for one. I remember having to have both versions installed for quite some time.

            In the case of VC++, it seems like there’s more of a push to clean up the headers and finally remove the old, deprecated behavior. Like anything else, you’ll get rough and smooth periods. Going between 2002, 2003, and 2005 wasn’t too bad. Jumping to 2008 from previous versions was a bit rough, but moving to 2010 from there was pretty simple.

  12. Rick C says:

    If you’re going to bother putting a recent version of VS back on, you might as well use VS 2010.

  13. Jansolo says:

    Regarding the taskbar, I’m used to having some fun when I work simultaneously with windows, mac and Ubuntu. Specially in Windows, you will find out some new experiences when you move out to windows 7, with its huge taskbar and the way it manages the applications within.

    You can try some programs like this: http://www.stardock.com/products/objectdock/

    (I discovered it when I began to use http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/, which I recommend you as well)

    1. Nick Bell says:

      I’d like to point out that this IS the same Stardock behind Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire. At first I thought this made no sense, but the more you think about it, it seems a reasonable jump. Half of a good strategy game is the interface. Knowing how best to optimize usability and information is an important skill.

  14. Vegedus says:

    I get the impression VS is very much the go-to IDE for C++, which is what I assume is the coding language at hand. Myself though, I use code blocks, because I’ve had inane amounts of trouble with every bigger IDE.

  15. Ian says:

    Don’t worry, Shamus, when you eventually switch to Windows 7 you’ll be happy that you have the taskbar on the side of your screen, especially if you adapt to the icon view. I run dual displays both at home and at work, and I always keep the taskbar on the far edge of the main monitor. It was surprisingly easy to get used to.

    Getting used to the icon view might take some time when you aren’t doing much with the system but it’s invaluable when you’re switching between 20-30 windows.

  16. KremlinLaptop says:

    My taskbar is on the right, it also becomes incredibly useful when you have a million different programs open and you have to quickly switch between them while knowing where you’re going. You can stack a whole lot more while having the first five to eight characters of the program name readable. Dead useful.

    …but really my taskbar is on the right because the purchase and radar bar in Command and Conquer were on the right.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      On the right side.. Surely that’s not right. Left side is the right place to put it, or bottom (or maybe top if you are a particular kind of crazy), right? Right side *shakes head sadly* …

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        Right side probably makes more sense.

        We read left to right* – so the important bit of the page (i.e. the bit we’re reading now) gets hit first; and then any extraneous bits are off on on the right, which is where your eyes go when they’re looking for new information.

        That’s why Shamus’ links and that are on the right of his blog layout, after all.

        (Obviously I’m not about to put my taskbar on the right or anything, because I’m far too set in my ‘at the bottom’ ways)

        *Those of us who are reading the language I’m typing in do, anyway.

    2. Jarenth says:

      That might be the best possible justification for anything.

  17. But, you are a deviant and should be put down for the good of mankind, but for any number of other reasons!
    ;)
    <— joking

  18. Irridium says:

    This whole ordeal reminded me of this comic.

    But glad to see things worked out.

    1. Sumanai says:

      I think I’ve went through the Linux steps once (without the beard, learning Java and blaming Sun Microsystems. Actually, without most of the first step but I did do step 2 with some weeping.)

      1. Ian says:

        When I attempt to fix Linux I usually wind up on my floor in the fetal position, bawling.

        The only two distros I’ve used that haven’t driven me to that are Debian and Gentoo. With those I generally mutter expletives under my breath and reinstall/recompile whatever is broken. Luckily, KDE 4 has evolved enough that I no longer have to constantly delete ~/.kde to get it to start up without throwing a fit.

  19. Steves says:

    Two things.

    First off, Visual Stupid (love it!) 2010 – seriously, get with last years tech;) MS have actually done good with this one, assuming you’re running Win7 anyway. XP…it’s a bit iffy on that.

    Also, Resharper:

    http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/

    Compile-as-you-type is the main selling point, I have no idea how I lived without that, the rest of the features, and there’s a lot when you start digging, are just a bonus, but I can’t work without it these days.

    And VS now properly supports all sorts of interesting and useful addons, much like Firefox, and we all know how awesome they are.

    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/

    As the fat sweaty man said – Developers, Developers, Developers! Microsoft are charmlessly useless in many ways, but their dev tools are the dogs bollocks. Unless you’re trying to use any serious amount of Javascript of course, but that’s a whole other rant…

  20. Shelley says:

    “(I'd love a system where you scrolled horizontally at the end of a column instead of vertically at the bottom of a page)”

    I have an awesome program called MyColumn that puts text in columns and scrolls horizontally. It doesn’t have a vertical scroll bar! I use it when I go to websites that were last updated in 1995 or whose designers feel the need to use all available pixels from left to right to, I dunno, conserve space. And for other things. It’s dead useful.

    (It’s the fourth one down on that page, and it’s free.)

    It’s a Mac program, but given that there’s at least one other free Mac program that does the same thing that I know of, there must be similar ones for Windows and Linux.

  21. burningdragoon says:

    Hmm, taskbar on the side? Interesting. *puts taskbar on the side* I like this.

    Also nice to see someone else use the gray color scheme. I hate the default blue.

    1. Dromer4ever says:

      Honestly, I’ve seen more people use the gray theme for XP than the default. Add in MSoffice 2007/2010, and the gap widens. IMO the blue/green color motif looks wierd.

      1. potemkin.hr says:

        yeah, but you can more easily distinguish which window is active by it’s color.

        1. Burningdragoon says:

          That’s my biggest issue about the blue. Everything just stands out a lot more to me and I don’t want to notice that part of the screen.

      2. Ian says:

        Ever since I picked up a system with Media Center 2005 I’ve taken a liking to the Royale theme that’s included with it. The Zune theme is quite nice as well, and is like a black and orange version of Royale (which is essentially a modern Luna, keeping up with the blue and green theme).

        It looks more modern and less Fisher Pricey.

    2. Hugo Sanchez says:

      There is a theme, the Zune theme, released by MS quite some time ago. You have to actually download it, but It appeals to me far more than any of the other themes, its dark, Orange and Black, and looks tons nicer, not being nearly as bright.

  22. Chris says:

    Oh sweet irony that you didn’t want to install Ubuntu 11.04 so that you could install XP and move the start bar to the left :)

    1. potemkin.hr says:

      but, you see, there are the program compatibility issue he probably has. you simply cannot run all the programs through WINE which require windows-specific libraries.
      + He’s probably used to Windows, which he has been using for decades (like the majority of the population), and most people don’t want to change habits and re-learn the OS from scratch.

    2. psivamp says:

      Unity (the gnome plugin that puts the doc on the left) is neat, until it breaks gnome and you have to put each of your windows on a different desktop so that it doesn’t send mouse events to the wrong window.

      I’m running Ubuntu 11.04 and I use the “classic” mode because Unity keeps breaking. Also, what potemkin.hr and Shamus himself said, the programs he uses are Windows-native and he doesn’t want to learn their analogues — also the games which don’t emulate well or at all.

  23. Chris says:

    “… but in VS 2008 the images didn't load for mysterious reasons”

    Isn’t that the point of open source, someone else can do this for you. You’ve got enough readers, it’s probably already been fixed by now :)

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      And there I thought open source was so that someone else can tell you to rtfm.

  24. Primogenitor says:

    Re: Text in columns.

    I vaguely remember seeing that its a brain plasticity thing. Early computer users mostly read in paper, which is in narrow columns. So, they prefer computer text to be in narrow columns. Hence why TeX tries to average 7 words a line by default.

    Yong ‘uns today read mostly on-line so are more used to wider columns. So prefer longer lines to fit widerscreen monitors better.

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      Maybe, but they’re wrong. Around 10-12 words per line is fastest to read, although it depends on the font metrics.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      I’m probably among the ‘young-`uns’, and I’m quite used to reading text lines across the whole monitor. As long as there are proper paragraph spacings, it really isn’t a problem.

      Frankly, I’m actually annoyed by tiny columns in a way – it’s like, here, we know you have a big screen, but we’ll show our website as an 800px wide strip. Now, text? Oh, dear, no! Let’s cut out 400-500px of our site bu adverts and sidebars! Now aren’t you glad how there’s such short columns of text in those 300px?

      1. Bubble181 says:

        Of course, the most annoying bit is when you’re using an old browser, and you have whitespace on both sides of the text enforced because of banner width, but have to scroll sideways to read the text.

        I’m looking at you, Escapist.

  25. Mark says:

    I use a taskbar on the side of one of my computers. When I still ran XP on it, there was a certain registry hack I employed to allow the taskbar to shrink down to the width of just the icon, which I think is the sort of thing you could use. It went something like this:

    In HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Desktop/WindowMetrics, create a string value named MinWidth, and set it to… I forgot the exact value, but I think it was about 23 (but you can experiment easily). This will permit you to shrink the size of a vertical taskbar to just the size of an icon, in a way that even looks rather nice. With a horizontal taskbar, it causes each task to automatically shrink to just the icon as well.

    This also works on Windows 7, though it’s less useful there due to the way the taskbar has changed. If you don’t like it, you can always just go back in and delete the key.

    Unrelated: I wish to submit a bug report. Your Ajax comment editor doesn’t like backslashes.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Hmm. Doesn’t seem to work, the taskbar is still bounded by the width of the date-time indicator.

      I appreciate your help, though :)

  26. Zukhramm says:

    I’d love to use the taskbar on the side but it’s simply too wide. In Windows 7 the taskbar is very thick by default, but if you switch to “small icons” it shrinks to a reasonable size. Well, if you have the task bar at the top of the bottom of the screen, if you move it to the sides suddenly changing icon size has no effect.

  27. Sumanai says:

    I wonder how many noticed that the desktop is a 16:10, which was incidentally my fourth thought. (“Wait, is that 16:10?”, preceded by, from third to first, “and the taskbar is at the left, interesting”, “oh, so it’s a screenshot of a desktop” and “why’s there GUI stuff on the picture?”)

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Look, he’s using XP and a taskbar on the side – so a 16:10 monitor is really nothing out of the ordinary along with that :)

      1. Sumanai says:

        It’s nothing special, but a lot of people don’t realize that there are four different ratios going about (well, 4:3 has disappeared I suppose, and 5:4 is dying out).

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          I doubt those people read this blog, though.

        2. Jeff says:

          Are they dying out? I thought they still have a huge market share.
          It may be dying out to advanced users, but the casual purchasers still have quite a bit.

          1. X2-Eliah says:

            Let’s put it this way, new ones are barely produced and almost never sold. As for what is still kept around households, that’s another issue.

          2. Sumanai says:

            I’ve seen 5:4 sold only in one place, and they were used. They’re not necessarily going to disappear right now, but from what I can tell they’re in the process of getting out. Hence “dying out” not dead.

            Although I suspect I’m wrong about the 4:3 simply because some stick with CRTs for work (a good CRT should show colors better than a good TFT at the same prices).

  28. I always have my tabs running vertically in Firefox for those exact same reasons – it’s just a more efficient use of space.

  29. Kyte says:

    (ffffffffff accidentally got rid of the entire post. Oh well)

    If one thing MS does well, is dev tools. I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t (if begrudgingly) like Visual Studio 2008/2010. So if you stay in Windows-land, it’ll do you good.

    Aside from your little WinMain rant: Speculation time! Two possible reasons:
    main and WinMain take different parameters overloading main()’s just madness. Plus, you can have both.
    In the Old Days of pre-95 Windows, when you could accidentally load Win progs in DOS, main() probably had a “This is a Windows program” thunk and WinMain-starting code.

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      That stub is actually in the first 100 or so bytes of an EXE, before even the ‘PE’ header that defines the info that Windows uses to load an .exe!

      1. Kyte says:

        Derp, I actually knew that and forgot about it. Then my guess is that since, IIRC, DLLs didn’t exist in the Old Days, you couldn’t dynamic-link the CRT and so you needed the entry point in the program itself and stuff.

    2. Ian says:

      WinMain actually exists because the entry point is in the C library for Windows GUI applications. After the library goes through its initialization, it calls WinMain and executes your code.

      Here’s a bit more info about it: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2006/12/04/1205831.aspx

  30. Simon Buchan says:

    I also used to put my taskbar on the left in XP and Vista. I just felt better about taskbar at the bottom in 7 though.

    I know it’s only sample text, and that it would have been copied from some example somewhere, but I feel the need to remark on your WinMain:
    * Any new application should be using UNICODE, and therefore wWinMain()
    * PASCAL should be WINAPI (they both define to __stdcall, though).
    * previous_instance is a useless vestige of 16 windows, you can skip it:
    WinMain(HINSTANCE hinstance, HINSTANCE, …)
    * It would be nice if main() was consistantly used, but it’s not really a portability problem. Std C only defines console IO, if you want to not have a console, then you are already going to be using non standard APIs. You can have WinMain call main if you really want to keep that junk out of the way, though be careful about Unicode!

    1. Shamus says:

      VS 98 debugger can’t comprehend UNICODE, so strings go unreadable on you in the debugger. And most function names default to non-UNICODE, so you’re constantly converting and casting and basically treating UNICODE strings like some strange, exotic pointer.

      This is another drawback with moving ComicPress to anything newer than VS 98. Every. Single. Windows. Call. will need to be fixed up to use uni strings properly. Ugh. That’s four hours of brain petrifying tedium just getting the thing to compile without the OMG YOU SHOULD BE USING UNICODE YOU INGRATE compile warnings.

      Which is why I keep putting it off.

      1. Simon Buchan says:

        Hence the “new applications” qualifier :)

        tchar.h is useful for supporting both, and may be for migration, but I don’t use it myself.

      2. Jarenth says:

        I like how you keep writing UNICODE in ALL CAPS; this makes me read it as if you keep saying that word in a RAISED VOICE, as if you are QUITE ANGRY with it.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          I bet HE is QUITE angry, actually. Or perhaps unicode IS all-capsed because it’s one of the first things everyone MENTIONS and Shamus HAS a real painful past experience with IT.

  31. MichaelG says:

    Please install a programming environment of some sort, before your brain rots! Seriously, it sounds like you are deciding to give up programming to become a full time author.

    And that would be a loss to humanity. There are plenty of scribblers out there, and not enough good programmers.

    1. krellen says:

      There are plenty of both breeds; it’s the good ones that are rare, and in both fields.

  32. Factoid says:

    What happened to Hex? Is that no longer a going concern? Which environment were you using for that one?

    1. Shamus says:

      That was VS 2008.

      And that’s on hold until the book is done.

      (I’m at 88k words. A little ways into the third act.)

  33. Maldeus says:

    Not until I dragged it up to the left did I realize that 1) The taskbar can be dragged, and 2) The Vista taskbar looks way sleeker than previous versions of Microsoft. So at least they got that right.

  34. stringycustard says:

    Ah, the ol’ lefty taskbar. I tried that at work for a while and quite enjoyed it (16:9 aspect). That is, until colleagues tried to use my computer (sometimes we’ll use somebody else’s system to help them troubleshoot some code, or if they aren’t in and need to commit source, etc.)

    Decided to switch back to a bottom-aligned one after everyone complained *every* time they just glanced at my monitor.

  35. Nick says:

    Regarding IDEs, have you considered trying Eclipse? It’s more java focussed than C, but the C perspective has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, and it’s free and open source.

    1. Erik says:

      Oh god no! Eclipse is a behemoth when it comes to consuming system resources. Granted, I program in php and that’s not what eclipse is intended for, but once I discovered phpstorm I’ve never looked back

      1. Yeah, I wouldn’t use eclipse for PHP, total overkill. In fact, anything beyond vi/notepad++ is overkill for scripts server-side

        1. Erik says:

          Ehm, no. Maybe if you’re just doing a few scripts here and there, but the moment you try to do anything object oriented, you will definately find an IDE useful.

          PHPstorm is an amazing help when it comes to that. It allows me to click through objects into classes and models, does live code hinting with methods and constants, and its really quick about it too.

          You could use eclipse for much of the same, but it doesnt have native SVN support, and you need some silly plugin to enable PHP syntax support. On top of that, the moment you try to use code hinting, or simply clicking on a declaration, it either crashes, freezes up, or simply takes forever.

  36. Zak McKracken says:

    Whooohooo! You’re the first former Truespace user I meet on the net, outside the TrueSpace Forum!
    Used to work with it from version 1 up to 6.6. 7 is current, after that they were bought by Microsoft and liquidated a year later, which is still a shame, no matter how buggy that thing always was (and it was).

    Actually I never minded the interface. Since you’ll have lots of buttons to accidentally click on, no matter on which side of the screen they were, I just had to take the time and watch what I was doing. Setting the Win 95 task bar to auto hide did help a lot, though. I mean, in ’97, 17″ Monitors did not grow on trees, so I had to put that area to use.
    Did you know that starting with version 3 (I think) you could just put the menu bar on top and arrange the icons any way you wanted? And at some point you could assign lots and lots of keyboard shortcuts, too, or work with context-sensitive buttons that would pop up beside the active object, pretty cool.

    I do, however, have all icon bars in Openoffice and Spyder on the left side, for the very same reason as you,. Which also states what my favourity IDE is, but then I only ever do python, and that’s probably irrelevant for you. Putting the task bar on the left would waste a lot of screen space in my setup, since it has to be so wide in order to fit the program names into the tabs.

    But anyway, trueSpace, yeah! Version 7.6 is freely downloadable, by the way. The last thing they did before going down was to make it available:
    http://www.caligari.com/downloads.html
    … in case anyone’s interested. I’m going for Blender now (actually, not going at all, but plan on learning it properly as soon as I have the time), but I think for novices in 3d land and those not wanting to spend too much time but still getting results it’s a good thing. The user interface is a bit unusual but very efficient and usable. trueSpace does all the things the big names can do, only easier to use, quicker to setup and completely impossible if you’re planning to use it for serious, large projects. So … I think it’s not quite like movie maker. It does have all the features you’d expect in professional software, only when you try to use too many of them at once, you’ll know why it’s not used by professionals.

    1. psivamp says:

      I used trueSpace. Never made anything spectacular, but it was fun. It was better than Simply3D — some garbage program my father picked up.

  37. Thom (talzaroff) says:

    Hehe, I’ve been using the left-hand taskbar ever since I got a widescreen monitor on my laptop. Nice to see I’m not the only weirdo that does it. Other people are often flabbergasted because they’re suddenly missing stuff.
    Also: nice background :D

  38. Another_Scott says:

    Between this and the virus, miss-clicking has caused you a lot of grief.

  39. RichVR says:

    When I have to work on a computer. Any computer. My first move is to place the taskbar at the top of the screen. That’s where all of the other buttons that I use belong. In any computer that I own, the Windows taskbar is an auto-hide bar above that one.

    Since I expect to have my pointer in that general area anyway, why would I have one bar at the bottom of the screen? What kind of counter intuitive bunch of garbage is that?

    Some of you folks must be aliens. It’s the only explanation. If you want to get rid of this screen, click on the upper left to get rid of me.

    ;-)

  40. Sydney says:

    (Visual Studio is a tool used by programmers. This sort of thing is usually called an IDE ““ Integrated Development Environment. Microsoft actually gives away (free of cost, not open source (obviously))

    I noticed you opened three parentheses, but only closed two. And I tracked all the way down the rest of the article: You’ve got a parenthesis open even by the end of it.

    Yes, I am a programmer.

    1. Shamus says:

      Closing paren is after the paragraph following the image.

  41. Jeff says:

    If I didn’t have my taskbar on the bottom, Pinkie Pie would have no place to parade.

  42. Jesus! Even if Truespace wasn’t ass, I cannot fathom using a 3D program of any kind with PC resources from the days of ’95!

  43. Deoxy says:

    That particular virus is really annoying, and has hosed up a lot of computers at my workplace. Seriously, reinstalling really is the easiest way to deal with – it’s that bad (and that easy to get – One Click (TM)).

    VS 98 was needed for compiling immense legacy projects which were too costly to convert, and VS 2008 was needed for when I wanted to walk upright and work like a human being instead of a cave-dwelling animal.

    At my current job, we still use Access 97 for the same reason (too much crap written in it), but we’re in the middle of (finally) getting away from it (complete rewrites are fun…).

    We also have VS 2005 and 2008, with newer stuff in 08 and the main (internal) product in 05. Yay.

    Oh, and we have a legacy COBOL system. Yeah, making all of that work together is… um, fun. Yeah, that’s the word.

    Overwhelmed by this overabundance of choice, I've decided to do nothing.

    Congratulations, Shamus! There really IS something normal about you!! :-)

  44. jamie says:

    +1 for vs2010 :) (though most of my c++ projects are C++/CLI projects intended to tie c# to delphi or c++)

  45. GTB says:

    I’ve had my taskbar on the left since I got XP. I also have the quick launch part if it filled with the icons that I use rather than clutter the desktop. I prefer this method to installing a separate launcher application that does essentially the same thing. While this worked flawlessly in XP I have a sneaking (and unproven) suspicion that win7 treats the quick-launch icons differently, since I have noticed some weird launch slowdown occasionally.

  46. Noah C. says:

    But… but… You need an IDE to finish Project Frontier! ;(

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