back to article A PC to call your own...

I’m a fan of shell extensions – those plug-ins for Windows Explorer which provide easy right-click access to all manner of context sensitive actions. For example, my favourite ZIP compressor is WinZip: simply right-click on a folder and you can instantly create an archive containing everything within that folder. Magic! But …


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  1. Chad H.

    Nice Article

    Good article. There are far to many pieces of software written these days that clearly are written by people who wont/dont intend on using it, and the uninstall script for that program is a case in point. We need more developers to start thinking like users, even (Shock horror) the enevitable disatisfied ones who hate their "perfect" little widget, and make the process as smooth as possible.

  2. Greg Nelson

    The Short Memory of the Long March

    I'm now an old campaigner having set out as a mere boy on the long march from DOS 3 to WinXP. While I agree with the most part of what you say, I think it fair to further your argument by mount an ad hominem attack on developers as a whole. I'm suggesting we first paint them all with the same brush then treat them as indistinguishable in their common failings. Ending by absolving MS of some guilt by pointing to innovation in Vista.

    When young and impressionable I thought DOS 3.3 running on a 386 did all an operating system need do. I saw DOS 4 and the suspect introduction of DOSSHELL as an ill omen of things to come. I now suspect I was right. From DOSSHELL on the reign of GUI as King came on the horizon. With the onslaught of GUI came whispers of multitasking growing into the monstrosity that was cooperative multitasking and so to my gross generalization about the flawed character of all developers. Cooperative multitasking damned all PC users to an unending hell of an eternal hourglass marking the complete indifference one software developer holds for the works of others of h/is/er kind and the group contempt all software developers hold for end users (lusers). All developers are secretly artistes so sure in the magnitude of their work that any one lucky enough to use their software should gladly surrender all they own for the privilege of experiencing their genius. The mindset and practices of developers hasn't changed as shown most especially in game and security software. Bringing me to Vista.

    Cooperative multitasking came to an end with the introduction of Preemptive multitasking introduced in Win95, although by then I was happily immersed in Dave Cutler's NT stuff. While Preemptive multitasking was a step out of the hell that was Cooperative multitasking IIRC Win95 introduced the registry in a form that allowed developers to practise similar "I'm the King of the Castle" dirty tricks in a different venue. Moral suasion does nothing to these people and for years following Win95 it wasn't uncommon for programs to lack an uninstall script and leave junk cluttering the Registry for other programs to trip over. WinXP integrated NT stuff with the old DOS stuff and now Vista is the first attempted giant leap forward. While I've long since moved onto Unix variants as a work platform I still use Windows as a multimedia platform. In Vista MS has setup checkpoints and roadblocks to bring developers into line, especially the game and security software writers who believe any OS should be written to their softwares' specs. Vista has broken most legacy PC games and all (?) legacy security software and good on them for doing so.

    If economics is going to dictate MS maintain its dominance then MS and the market is going to have to walk the line between MS monopoly and MS cracking the whip to bring driver writers and software developers into line with the requirements of effective multitasking and OS security.

    I now bring my long winded old guy diatribe to a close.

  3. ReallyEvilCanine

    Restarting explorer.exe

    Yes, killing the Explorer process and restarting it will work, but non-service icons in the System Tray will be gone and only re-appear after either restarting the machine or killing each program and restarting it. Some service icons may also not re-appear until the service is bounced.

    I agree with the overall sentiment of the article. Programmers in general have a pretty cavalier and arrogant attitude about others' computers.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unload it manually

    There's a Win32 unload library call - calling this repeatedly decrements the usage counter for the DLL. When it reaches zero, it is unloaded by the kernel.

    I used to manually force DLLs like that from memory (during development) on the WinNT kernel - long since I've really developed on Windows since then, but I would expect this API call to still work on WinXP.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prevx Shortcut Removal

    The Prevx shortcut repeatedly being added to the desktop is also one of my minor annoyances. I'm friends with the Prevx programmers however, so will tap them on the shoulder and ensure they have it removed in the next release!

    Hopefully one less irritation for you :o)

  6. Phillip Webster


    A handy litle shell extension I've found is Powermenu. Actually extends the standard Restore/minimise/maximise/close menu for every window adding "always on top" and "minimise to system tray" among others. BIG help with the windows XP update "Reboot your computer" window, since you can just tell powermenu to minimise it to the system tray and it no longer bugs you. Not an solution to the original issue, but one that prevents you tearing your hair out when it pops up for the 20th time.

  7. ian hewines

    we need revenge

    yup, how dare they developers presume ownership of my machine..

    so off the top of my head - write a script that detects a reboot now/later dialogue and messages a website with the offending script name. scripts get ranked onsite for their intrusiveness by number of annoying dialogues generated (+ uninstalls - how useless others have found said scripts), blog the boots off the website and sell it as a general reference point for script downloads. get rich off all they deluded developers..

    and..if you try to remove the messaging script..

  8. shaun


    microsoft will never change. it's integrated programs are designed by friends of the management instead of people who are actually competent. as is it's OS but if ya wanna play games you gotta use Direct X and they hold all the rights so what can ya do?

  9. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Get a life !

    Restart after a minor software install/removal, how quaint !

    How would you like to be able to install an OS upgrade that requires a reboot, and be able to put the installer in the background (nag free) while you finish your work and get to a convenient break to do the reboot ?

    How would you like applications that can be ininstalled simply by dropping the program folder in the bin ? And for that matter, applications that can be installed simply by dragging their folder from the CD to the hard disk ? That even applies to Microsoft Office !

    Sound attractive ? Try a Mac, or Linux !

    Signed, a smug Mac & Linux user :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind...

    ... it won't be long before Microsoft regards ALL third-party development as insidious efforts to get round Windows security (hah!) that are contrary to the DCMA and developed on pirate versions of Windows, so the BSA will come round, seize all your machines, and throw you in jail.

    And if you think this is fanciful, see:

  11. Graham

    It's amazing how users complain when they buy bad software!

    Before I start I'd like to paint the picture:

    I am an IT consultant of many years and worked with some big names.

    I started on UNIX at university but then they went NT so most of my dev work ended up on Windows.

    I worked for about 10 years on various Windows projects, commercial and goverment.

    I made a concious decicion to go down the Linux route, sonce I could see it would add to my CV and make me more employable.

    I now will refuse work on Windows for 2 main reasons:

    1. I like to be able to understand the environment in which I am coding.

    2. I like to be able to have control over my machine.

    Here, for you, the second applies.

    Linux has "shell extensions" just the same as Windows, but they are not called that because they are nothing special, just a script or something linked to an icon in a folder.

    No complicated DLL stuff.

    If I want to remove it, I simply delete the icon and script.

    No reboot, no DLLUnload.

    Also the problem with the application that keeps reinstalling:

    Here you will probably find again the installer is a script so _you_ can modify it to do the right thing and send the mod to the developers.

    Or you can create a script which is called to remove the Desktop icon after the install is complete.

    5 mins of you time at most and you can then forget it.

    If you don't know how to do any of this there is google, your help manual.

    This is the reason why I hate working on Windows.

    As you rightly pointed out, the control of the machine is dominated by this bloody stupid operating system with a bad attitude.

    My operating system (Linux, of course) is set up _exactly_ how I want it.

    I don't even know what a "nag" screen is because I simply don't get them, ever!

    All the people that I have set up with Linux have not only thanked me, but now wonder why this isn't available for everyone.

    I even installed Linux on the computer which is used at nursery for the kids to learn computing.

    It was sat on a table switched off because it didn't work correctly and the staff couldn't fix it.

    I set it up with edubuntu and they now have it as a major activity of the children's day every day.

    They have asked me to set up other systems as well since it is so successful.

    Please, think about what you are writing.

    Don't put up with rubbish on your machine.

    Like you say: It's your bloody computer why have crap software on it?

  12. Joe Cincotta


    Now, there are three fundamental laws of computing for end users which we are all driven by because they are the fundamentals of how we are driven as humans. I bet you're wondering what the hell it could be -

    1. I paid money for my computer. I own it AND I want it to work.

    2. I paid money for my Software. I own it AND I want it to work.

    3. I don't like change and when I do need to change I like them visual and simple.

    4. I don't like choice. Tell me what I need to do what I need to.

    Now, for all the people reading this who are sure saying "what bollocks" - sit back and think about the mean of user sentiment. Think about it through your organization - not the tech savvy or trend setters, the average punters who are the ones spending most of the money around the globe.

    The fundamental premise of this article is that rule number 2 is being violated in very subtle ways. BUT since it has been that way as long as most people can remember it is maintained due to a state of stasis cause by rule 3.

    Vista violates many of these rules in new ways and it will be up to the final acceptance of the implementation to determine if it really is the longest suicide note in history; with respect to the DRM issues which have been raised, I fundamentally lose control over facets of my hardware and as a simple end user it stops working as advertised depending on the kind of content I put in. BUT rules 2 and 3 are somewhat intact - so again, it makes it past the post as far as general public goes.

    I have been growing with my sense of discontent; as many others have been - with what Vista represents in regards to rule 1 violations. But lets look at what MS is doing right - even if it is a user illusion - to see why they dominate the market:

    * Whilst they have always added new features between version steps, they have always kept rule 1 sacred. They make stupidly obese bloatware, but you can generally turn it off to some extent.

    * Rule 2 is GOLDEN for Microsoft. They even make kernel patches in new versions of the OS to maintain functionality in legacy applications which are popular at the time - have a read of to get some context on this front. Raymond Chen sheds some light on the hows and whys on this front. VERY interesting reading.

    * Rule 3, well each version step has added different lipstick on the pig. When things finally went beyond the visual trappings to a general consensus that whats under the hood makes a difference (See the state of the world before XP service pack 2) and started paying attention to security, MS responded. Now, Vista is trying to balance both with the established, yet enhanced user experience feel in Aero and also the full secutiry model changes.

    * Rule 4. Well, I don't need to say much on this front - but if you ever wondered why MS seemingly does everything - its not because its good at it - its because they realize that it will sell due to the power of the brand and the drive of rule 4 in the minds of many average users.

    If you look at the four rules, you can also see why different vendors are successful in some areas and not in others. Look at Linux - RedHat has always had trouble getting traction because rule 2 is void - so there is no perceived value - and rule 4 is massively violated. Then look at the traction of Ubuntu thanks to the simplicity it introduced to the idea of a distro.

    OSX had a great transition from OS9 because rule 2 was not violated. OSX PPC to OSX Intel was the same deal. But then OSX also violated rule 2 AND rule 3 by bringing out too many versions of the OS every year which were paid upgrades which also caused many new apps to fail compatability on the older versions of the OS - but it was all OSX.

    You start to see the pattern?

  13. Paul Murray

    Dos 3?

    DOS 3? Luxury! We had DOS 2.11, and we were THANKFUL!

    Anyone remember windows 2 on a CGA card? 640 * 480 in glorious black and white.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Get a life!

    Simon Hobson said:

    >Sound attractive ? Try a Mac, or Linux !

    >Signed, a smug Mac & Linux user :-)

    I fear you are preaching to the converted, Simon. There are 4 Macs in this house (12" and 15" Powerbook G4's, Intel iMac, and Mac Mini). My 15-year old has just ordered one, so that makes five. Even when you're only 15, life is just too short for Windows, I'm afraid... :-)

    Uncle Mac

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Never Mind...

    > ... it won't be long before Microsoft regards

    > ALL third-party development as insidious efforts

    > to get round Windows security (hah!) that are ...

    For Apple's take on Windows (in)Security, go to: and click on

    the Security movie. It's a hoot! :-)

    Uncle Mac

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: DOS 3 ?

    Paul Murray said:

    > Anyone remember windows 2 on a CGA card?

    > 640 * 480 in glorious black and white.

    640 by 480 on a CGA? I wish! Unfortunately, they weren't that good. :-) There was absolutely nothing remotely glorious about CGA cards. But the black and white (ok, black and green) text display offered by IBM's original MDA card - that *was* gorgeous.

    For more info:

    Uncle Mac

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop Annoying Popup

    With the automatic update notification poping up all the time (especially annoying if your in a full screen application) simply type the following into a run prompt or cmd prompt


    and bingo - its gone for the current session. if you want to start it up again just type in


    Assuming automatic updates are set to automatic startup the next time you reboot the service will be restarted without having to start it again.

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