Monthly Archives: June 2011

Meaningless corporate evil

Sure, I have always hated meaningless evil. I define meaningless evil as something that

1) is done purposely with some effort,
2) definitely does some harm to someone and
3) doesn’t do anything good to anyone, including the one doing the evil thing.

Now, I wonder why large corporations love meaningless evil so much. I understand that some persons may do it because they are idiots. Small groups of people may do it because their leaders are idiots, and such groups won’t last long. But when we have a large, successful corporation that makes a lot of money, why would they spend their precious time doing something that won’t ever let them make a single cent and will only make things worse for a lot of people? What’s worse is that since these corporations have a lot of spare resources, they can keep doing that forever, until they go bankrupt for some reason totally unrelated to any evils they have done.

Case 1. Microsoft Office window title color

For some reason in Microsoft Office 2010 (maybe 2007 too) window title color is different from other windows. This is not something easy to do in Windows, and it is definitely not something you can do accidentally when developing an application, so this surely must have been done on purpose, and it took some effort. So this qualifies for the point 1 of my definition above.

For the point 2 I can say a lot of things here. First, it’s ugly. Second, it’s distracting. And most importantly, the color of an active window looks surprisingly similar to the default color of an inactive window, which always makes me click it, because think it’s not active, and when clicking doesn’t change the color, I start to think that it froze or something, until I finally remember that it’s the damned Office. And besides, it’s a clear violation of POLA.

Now for the point 3. Can anyone think of any case that would make some user happy about these unusual colors? Or maybe if not a happy user, then something else that would leave users unhappy, but let Microsoft make more money? I am at a loss here.

Case 2. Google Instant Previews

Lately, Google has been adding a lot of useless and annoying things to its services. Ideally, I would like them to be added in such manner that I wouldn’t notice them until I need them. Maybe some sort of “A new feature Mega Giga Search is available. More…” message, but not more. Surely I wish for a perfect world.

But sometimes these features are terribly annoying. I can disable that stupid Live Search or whatever it’s called. But why can’t I disable those Instant Previews? I think it’s perfectly clear that it qualifies for the first point, as it is definitely not something done accidentally. Let me see about other points.

Sometimes I have to click somewhere on the page to get it focused, so I can use cursor keys to move around. Sometimes I click even when the page is already focused, just in case. I don’t even think about it, just click and then put my hands on the keyboard. So why the hell, may I ask, Google activates its stupid and useless preview when I do it? Now I have to choose the place to click with great care, when I used to just avoid links and buttons before. The point two is clear.

For the point three some may argue that Instant Previews can be useful. I can hardly imagine such situation, but let’s suppose it’s true. Even if they are useless, let’s suppose they look cool enough to let Google make some money. It is not really important. What’s important is that Instant Previews are supposed to be activated by clicking on the magnifying glass icon, not on any random place on the page. And I wouldn’t mind at all if they really worked that way, only they don’t. Some may say it’s a bug, but if it really is, then it would be fixed long ago, as it would probably take less than a minute to fix. So I can only think it’s a “feature”. This way, Instant Previews, as they are now, qualify for the point three, and are indeed meaningless evil.

Case 3, which made me write this in the first place. Gmail blocking executable attachments

I needed to send a bunch of scripts packed in a ZIP file. Those were mostly Perl scripts with one BAT file to run them all. To my great surprise, Gmail refused to send it with the following message:

“ contains an executable file. For security reasons, Gmail does not allow you to send this type of file.”

Oh, really? How about following?

“This message contains some text. It could be used for many illegal purposes, including, but not limited to, international terrorism, fraud, racial discrimination, and even saying bad things about rabbits. To prevent you from doing all these evils, whether intentionally or unintentionally, Gmail only allows you to send empty messages with no subjects and no files attached.”

Now, this way it would at least be fun.

After some research, I found out that there is no way to turn off this stupid restriction, so I had to rename the file to “scripts.zib”.

The first point is clear in this case. They had to implement this restriction, and they even bothered to check archives, so this definitely required some effort.

The second point is even more clear. This “feature” prevented me from doing what I wanted to do.

For the third point, the reasoning behind this “feature” is that executable files may contain viruses. At first, it sounds reasonable, but I can give a lot of explanations why it fails to do anything useful:

1. Any sane person running Windows has an anti-virus that won’t even allow to download files with viruses. And even if someone doesn’t have an anti-virus then his PC is probably swarming with viruses already, so what’s the point of protecting him?

2. Not only executable files can contain viruses. Word documents is another source of viruses. Let’s block Word documents too?

3. Even if someone wants to send a virus through Gmail, it’s just about putting it somewhere on the Web and providing a link in the e-mail. It will even look less suspicious this way. runtomakeyourwildestdreamscometrue.exe certainly looks more suspicious as it is than hidden behind a hyperlink.

Okay, even if I agree that blocking executable files for outgoing mail is acceptable and may indeed protect people from accidentally running a file attached to a message, I still think that blocking even archives is too much. Just imagine it. Someone gets a message. Someone sees an attachment. Someone saves it somewhere, opens it, sees an executable file inside it and runs it. This is not something you’d do by accident unless you’re a complete idiot. It’s not like accidentally clicking on an executable file attached directly to a message.

Stop doing stupid things, people!