Stuff I Hate

Originally published 2001 in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing
Last modified 03-Apr-2013.


You want to know what annoys me?

Oh, all sorts of things. Some of them even have to do with computers.

The way Windows handles monitors, for instance. That annoys me.

What's so hard about this? A monitor supports a particular range of resolutions, at a particular range of refresh rates for each one. That's pretty much all there is to it. Yeah, there's the power save stuff and the Plug and Play extras, but you can get away with two small lists of numbers to describe any normal display.

Disturbingly often, though, you take a Windows box of any flavour, and you plug it into some other monitor. Then you restart in Safe Mode to tell it not to try to use a refresh rate the new monitor doesn't handle. Then you restart it several more times, while cursing. Then you plug it into a THIRD monitor that pretty much works but at only one resolution for no doggone reason at all. Then you bring it back to the monitor it started with, and it works just fine. For one session. Then, when restarted, it drops to 640 by 480 and professes total ignorance of the specifications of the screen.

I have a little song that I sing in situations like this, when Windows has restarted in 640 by 480, obligingly rearranged all of the icons into that screen area, and, of course, saved their position when you restart again.

The little song is to the tune of "Camptown Races", and it goes "All my icons in a pile, doo dah, doo dah..."

Yes, I know there are utilities that save your icon positions.

Don't make me hurt you.

I should count myself lucky, I suppose. The last time I went to the place that caused the above to happen, my computer turned out to be pretty much all right - I plugged it into a Mac monitor and it just decided that the only resolution that monitor could do was 1280 by 960, despite working properly with it the last time.

OK, whatever. It's a Tiny God, it can play Tribes 2 just fine at that resolution.

The guy next to me changed his monitor driver (which is just a dinky little text file with display specs in it), and Win98 helpfully corrupted a vital VXD. And needed to be reinstalled from scratch.

What else annoys me?

How about mathematical na´fs who get all hot and bothered about a bodacious RAM latency tweak that gives them another 158 points in ZootyBench 2002? They draw an impressive graph that gives the idea that this represents at least a 50% improvement. But if you read the actual numbers, it becomes apparent that their score actually increased from 30,584 to 30,742, this difference being noticeable only to Commander Data. Unless you draw a graph whose Y axis starts in the stratosphere.

Half of these schnooks have their own domain names.

I'm just getting going, folks.

You know how much heat sink grease you need between a CPU cooler and a CPU? A thin smear. A really thin smear, if both the CPU and the cooler you're putting on it have a nice flat surface. The grease is just meant to fill the air spaces, not lubricate the joint.

But this doesn't stop people putting a big dog-turd Swirl O' Grease on their chip and smushing the cooler down into it.

Don't think it's just newbies that do this - you should have seen the P4 review box Intel sent me, and how much cleaning it took to make the CPU suitable for photography. I think parts of me are still grey.

While I'm on the subject, let's have a big hand for a more recently arisen variant.

Many CPU coolers these days come with a little square of pre-applied "chewing gum" thermal compound on the bottom, covered with a piece of tape. You're meant to pull off the tape, then install the cooler. The tape is generally an eye-catching colour, with a prominent pull-tab, to alert you to this fact.

If you don't remove the tape, you'll end up with what can safely be described as a "nasty melted mess" on the bottom of your cooler, and your CPU may or may not have survived the event.

OK, sometimes the tape's clear, and there aren't usually any instructions. But when the tape's absolutely one hundred per cent visible, and your computer keeps going beep-beep-beep in alarm at its CPU sensor temperature before the Windows boot process is complete, you'd think that the sensible path to solving the problem would not involve just unplugging the PC speaker cable to silence the alarm.

Dang it, now I'm out of space. I didn't even have room to talk about Macintoshes.

They don't annoy me for the reasons you might think.

Find out why they do, here.

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PFC decoded

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The modular car

Dumb smart houses

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Inching toward the NAS of our dreams

Older than dirt

The Synthetics are coming


Game Over is nigh

The Embarrassingly Easy Case Mod

Dumb then, smart now

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A PC full of magnets

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One Laptop Per Me

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Doughnut-shaped universes

Grease and hard drive change

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Wi-Fi pirate radio

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Meet the new DRM, same as the old DRM

Your laptop is lying to you

Welcome to super-surveillance

Lemon-fresh power supplies


Internet washing machines, and magic rip-off boxes

GPGPU and the Law of New Features

Are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?

We're all prisoners of game theory

I think I'm turning cyborg-ese, I really think so

Half an ounce of electrons

Next stop, clay tablets

A bold new computer metaphor

Won't someone PLEASE think of the hard drives?!

Alternate history

From aerial torpedoes to RoboCars

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How hot is too hot?

Nerd Skill Number One

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500 gig per second, if we don't get a flat

No spaceship? No sale.

The shifting goalposts of AI

Steal This Education

Next stop: Hardware piracy

A hundred years of EULAs

The triumph of niceness

The daily grind

Speed kings


Game crazy

Five trillion bits flying in loose formation

Cannibalise the corpses!

One-note NPCs

Big Brother is watching you play

Have you wasted enough time today?

The newt hits! You die...

Stuck in the foothills

A modest censorship proposal

In Praise of the Fisheye


The death of the manual

Of magic lanterns, and MMORPGs

When you have eliminated the impossible...

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Welcome to my museum

Stomp, don't sprint!

Grinding myself down

Pathfinding to everywhere

A deadly mouse trap

If it looks random, it probably isn't

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A comforting lie

Give Dan some money!
(and no-one gets hurt)