I installed Windows Vista Ultimate on my laptop on the 17th and have been very, very happy. I'm running it on an IBM T42P (1.8Ghz Pentium M, 1GB of ram, 5400rpm disk) and it has been smooth as silk. The UI is extremely pretty and responsive, the various interface improvements are excellent, and I've encountered no bugs whatsoever... until today.
One of my favorite applications is called Notepad2. It's a free replacement for the tired old Notepad application that has come with Windows since the days of Windows 3.x. It has a lot of great features, include syntax highlighting for a wide variety of programming languages.
Notepad2's developers take the minimalist approach to almost everything. The application itself is only 540KB and it doesn't even ship with an installer. Alas, the lack of an installer exposed a bug in Vista.
After extracting Notepad2.exe into a new folder in c:\Program Files\, I attempted to run it. I was presented with the dialog to the right. It's the same dialog you get on XP SP2 when you try to run an EXE that came from another computer. Pretty standard and expected.
Obviously having that dialog popup every time I open a txt file is not exactly what I'm looking for, so I unchecked the "Always ask before opening this file" check box, figuring that would be the end of that.
Just to make sure, I closed Notepad2 and tried opening it again. Damn. The dialog is back. How annoying. Ok, this must have something to do with User Account Control (UAC). I remembered that XP had an "Unblock" button in the File Properties dialog that allowed you to get rid of this warning as well, so I opened up the dialog and clicked the "Unblock" button you see in the screen capture on the left.
I was surprised to not see any UAC confirmation dialog, but I figured that ought to do it. I clicked OK and tried opening the program again.
Guess what. The same security warning is still there. Ok, this is getting silly.
I looked around online for a few minutes to see if anybody had similar issues, but I only found a couple of unanswered forum posts that were of no help. I then tried to run explorer.exe as Administrator, only to realize that the Administrator account was disabled. This makes sense, however, as a dedicated admin account isn't (or shouldn't be) necessary in Vista thanks to UAC.
I then tried to see if I could get the properties dialog of the file to run as admin, but I couldn't figure that out either. I'm sure there is a dll I can run as admin to get this to work, but I couldn't find any documentation.
Then I realized that the reason I am unable to unblock the file is because that button modifies the file itself. When I had extracted the files into c:\Program Files\Notepad2\, Vista had prompted me via UAC to perform the action. This means that the file permissions only allowed administrators to modify the file, and since Vista was not prompting me with UAC when I clicked "Unblock", the permissions changes were silently failing. That, my friends, is a bug.
Vista should be prompting me with a UAC dialog anytime I try to do something that I don't have permission to do. With the exception of certain compatibility redirections, there should be no silent failures due to permissions.
The fix was simple once I realized what was going on. I simply edited the file permissions of Notepad2.exe to give me full control and then unblocked the file. This permissions change caused a UAC dialog to appear, just as it should have.
Admittedly, this bug won't come up a whole lot as the vast majority of programs include an installer. But I have to wonder how this bug was missed. I know for a fact that many people inside Microsoft use Notepad2. I'm fairly sure I heard about it for the first time on Channel9. The only thing I can think of is that many people inside Microsoft don't follow their own advice and end up turning off UAC.
Sigh... oh well. Vista still rocks.
While browsing around for a copy of the debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on the topic of religion and science, I happened upon an infuriating article written by Brad Harrub, Ph.D. The article has the typical attacks on science and evolution, and, as a bonus, includes an attack on Dawkins.
Naturally, I was none too happy, although completely unsurprised, that an organization called "The Apologetics Press" would publish this pile of baloney. So I decided that I should write a letter.
Since I highly doubt anybody will ever read the letter I sent them, I figured I would ever so slightly increase the odds of its dissemination by publishing it on my ever so popular blog. So here it is, for your reading enjoyment.
Regarding your article titled "Nature Attacks Religion" (http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2981)
I must say I'm continually dismayed by the either ignorant or willful misinformation put forth by the religious community regarding topics such as Evolution. Is the religious argument so weak that these tactics are necessary to retain the flock? I suspect my complaint will fall on faithfully deaf ears, but I will persist nonetheless.
I will not analyze the entire article, but instead will concentrate on your attack on Richard Dawkins. You state the following:
"'That is a perfectly reasonable political stance, but it has nothing to do with truth.'" (Dawkins) One might ask to which truth Dawkins is referring? Perhaps the long parade of evolutionary errors that continue to be recycled in students' textbooks? Or is the "truth" found when alleged "missing links" receive front-page attention when first announced, but rarely any notice when disproved? Or is it the "truth" that evolutionists can't explain the expansion of the Universe or the characteristic of altruism in humans? To what "truth" does Dawkins subscribe?"
Dawkins is referring to scientific truth. Scientific truth is the description of reality that best matches the current evidence. It is, by its very nature, tentative. Unlike religion, which historically must be forced through violent upheaval brought by outside forces to change its stance on what it considers truth, science abandons theories as soon as they no longer match observation. That's what makes science so successful at improving our lives; it is a self correcting process. There are countless examples of major "pillars" of science being completely thrown away when a new theory explains reality better, such as the publication of Einstein's papers on relativity in 1905 that invalidated the Newtonian world view. 500 years of science were rendered obsolete by a single man. Indeed, there are few things more rewarding to a scientist than to disprove a prevailing theory, since disproving that theory is nearly as beneficial to our understanding of reality as the creation of a brand new one.
As far as the textbook errors, you must realize how silly that is. Regardless of the fact that science is an ever-changing and progressive understanding of the universe, mistakes by textbook publishers hardly undermines all of the Evolution, nor does it have any bearing on the argument Dawkins was making. It is, very clearly, a straw man.
Furthermore, your "missing link" statement is a complete fallacy. There is no such thing as a missing link. Your attack on Dawkins obviously didn't require you to read any of his books, since he clearly addresses this silly "missing link" story in several of them. The very idea of a "missing link" is one born out of ignorance of the facts of Evolution. Again, a straw man, despite the fact you probably didn't realize it. There is a decent explanation of why the concept of a missing link is invalid here: http://atheism.about.com/b/a/196538.htm
In addition, Evolution makes no claims about the expansion of the universe whatsoever. It's like saying that algebra is invalid because it can't tell you how to bake moist cake. They are two different topics which you just happen to explain with the same answer: God. That said, science certainly doesn't have all the answers. Science is a process for discovery of the truth. In may lead to a fundamental understanding of the universe one day, or it might not. But as Dawkins correctly points out, suggesting that everything science cannot currently explain is a result of God is the biggest cop-out of all. It's the "God of the Gaps" argument.
Lastly, you have certainly proven that you don't bother to research the topics you attack. Your claim that Evolution cannot explain human altruism is quite ironic considering it is the primary subject of Richard Dawkins' extremely popular book, The Selfish Gene. Although I doubt you are receptive to the explanation, altruism in nature is a result of natural selection not acting on the level of the species, group, or individual, but instead on the level of the gene.*
The fact of the matter is that Evolution is damaging to religion and religious zealots because it takes away a huge underpinning of the modern belief in God: ignorance. I'm not using that term in a derogatory way. I'm simply saying that one big reason for the widespread belief in God is that the world is a very complex and mysterious place and there are many things we don't understand about it. It is both comforting and useful to be able to cite something greater than ourselves as the answer to all of these questions. As science has slowly but surely removed the mystery from many of these aspects of our world, religion's territory has been getting smaller and smaller.
Evolution is a wrecking ball taken to the pillars of religion. That is why you fear it, and that is why you attack it.
What do you think? Too harsh?
*After I had already sent the e-mail I realized I forgot to address the author's claim that altruism in humans cannot be explained by Evolution. I didn't want leave it out from my blog posts, but I didn't want to suggest I had included it in the letter I sent.