back to article Why do GUIs jump around like a demented terrier while starting up? Am I on my own?

“For heaven’s sake, stop waggling it in my face! Kuh-rist, keep still! Right – you’ve asked for it!” Alerted by the commotion, colleagues struggle to hold me back as I try to give my computer the damn good kicking it deserves. That’s unfair: the computer itself didn’t deserve such rough treatment. More importantly, it is not …

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  1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Microsoft time

    Re. progress bars, I've always felt that if Microsoft tells you that you have only 6 months to live, you'll either expire in the next 15 seconds or be around to see the next epoch.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft time

      I'm curious - what's the longest "X hours remaining" any of you folk have seen Windows display?

      We can't post scteenshots here, but we will trust you!

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft time

        About 56 hrs

        1. Marshalltown

          Re: Microsoft time

          Actually, Microsoft isn't the only random "time-to..." reporter. I ran an "update" of Opensuse from 13.2 to LEAP 42.2. The "time left" randomly flicked around from in excess of five days worth of 24-hour days to 2 minutes in random fashion. Ultimately it took six hours. Even so I went back and ran a clean install to get thing running sanely. So - as pleasurable as it is to blame Microsoft, they were merely trend setters. I can't even find a decent desktop look now. For some silly reason the developers of KDE have concluded that someone actually likes the cartooney Windows 10 and cell phone look. They never asked me though.

          1. truetalk

            Re: Microsoft time

            Totally agree re the KDE default look, what are they thinking ?

            1. Delbert Grady

              Re: Microsoft time

              KDE died when it went to version 4.

              bastards .

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft time

        Of course there is an XKCD

      3. gerdesj

        Re: Microsoft time

        I recall a download (14400 modem) progress estimate that managed >100,000 somethings remaining.

        It doesn't really matter what the time unit actually was and I recall seeing it several times and having a snigger about "MS time".

      4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Zombie hard disk

        I really must get diagnostics on my media library external USB hard disk - replacement purchased: the sick disk rattles while reading files, and sometimes just stops - file unreadable. And at this point, the remaining time (Windows 10) goes from minutes to days. Or it may be "more than one day". Eventually, an error message does appear.

        Re dancing interface... I'd approve a general rule that a user interface element can't be clicked or keyed when it has only just appeared on the screen. I don't know if that could be done without rewriting the OS. Maybe with a third-party utility that spots the screen or the focus changing and then blocks inputs for a couple of seconds, beeps at you instead.

        1. taxythingy

          Re: Zombie hard disk

          Re: general rule that UI element can't be clicked when it just appeared.

          Eh, what? Do you realise that is going to piss nearly everyone off nearly every day to fix an infrequent problem of the few?

          How about a blanket OS rule that shit apps can't grab focus unless the last user command was to launch that app? How about shit devs go die in large holes rather than allowing elements to move after display, unless user directed?

          NB: last coffee was three hours ago and ive got kids inside on a rainy day. It is possible my tolerance is lower than normal.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            @taxythingy - Re: Zombie hard disk

            NB: last coffee was three hours ago and ive got kids inside on a rainy day. It is possible my tolerance is lower than normal.

            Nah... you're just a normal tech type who's spent too long in the trenches. I think any of us who have been doing this more than year are like that. In WWII, they called it "combat fatigue".

            1. Arctic fox
              Joke

              @Mark 85 Re: "In WWII, they called it "combat fatigue"."

              It is possible that what they called it in WWI is even more appropriate in this context. "Shell shock"

          2. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: Zombie hard disk

            > How about a blanket OS rule that shit apps can't grab focus unless the last user command was to launch that app?

            I've written software that needs to grab focus (yeah we all claim that). In my case, it is in response to a biometric hardware events​, so you need the "interruptions" and you are pretty forgetful if you don't remember presenting yourself for authentication under a second earlier.

            Just here to point out that Microsoft have made this harder to achieve over the years. Back in win 9x, there was a pretty simple call. It got abused. They then changed what it did in XP to flash the window orange and introduced some other method to do it. That got abused too. So i think they just dropped support for that. There is an always on top mode that the OS these days basically ignores too.

            I'm not going to share publicly how it gets achieved, but it's a big waste of everyone's time but at least bofh would get a snigger. All they needed from the get go was a control panel applet where users could whitelist applications they want to do this and ignore the request from anything else.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Zombie hard disk

              >> How about a blanket OS rule that shit apps can't grab focus unless the last user command was to launch that app?

              >I've written software that needs to grab focus (yeah we all claim that). In my case, it is in response to a biometric hardware events​,

              So that's a user command, it's just not a mouse/keyboard command.

              Rule not violated (in fact it is supported).

              Anything that want my attention can send a terminal bell, which can be represented by some audio and/or visual representation of a toddler.

              Flash the task bar button, IIRC MacOS does it by bouncing items in the dock.

              The PC speaker beep used to be a good option, but I'm not convinced they even exist any more on many machines...

              In any case the OS can have the appropriate response configured.

          3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Zombie hard disk

            "Re: general rule that UI element can't be clicked when it just appeared."

            "Eh, what? Do you realise that is going to piss nearly everyone off nearly every day to fix an infrequent problem of the few?

            "How about a blanket OS rule that shit apps can't grab focus unless the last user command was to launch that app? How about shit devs go die in large holes rather than allowing elements to move after display, unless user directed?"

            Punishing developers is attractive but sometimes I am one. A developer can't anticipate every circumstance where a program is used. On the other hand, sometimes the intruding message comes from the same application.

            I say that a new prompt or dialog shouldn't accept input until a user has had time to read what the prompt says, textually or iconically. If that means waiting a little longer while you're working.... how often aren't you doing that with your computer?

            Or how about this - a new dialog or whatever has to slide in quite slowly from the side of the screen to the centre, and until it gets there you are still typing in your original focus...

            ....or even, while you're typing, a new prompt isn't allowed to appear? Except by projecting noises at you.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Zombie hard disk

              Slow doesn't help people who can touch type, and so are reading a document off to one side, typing away merrily only to find that some shitty app has decided to tonoffer a reboot, with the yes button as default

        2. cd / && rm -rf *

          Re: Zombie hard disk

          "blocks inputs for a couple of seconds, beeps at you instead"

          That'd be even more annoying than the jumping-around crap.

        3. cosmogoblin

          Re: Zombie hard disk

          "a user interface element can't be clicked or keyed when it has only just appeared on the screen"

          This exists. When installing extensions in Firefox, the install window needs focus for a couple of seconds before the "Install" button will activate. Until then it sits there greyed out - just long enough so you can't accidentally click to install malicious software, but not quite long enough to annoy you. Very well designed, but nobody else seems to have copied them.

      5. BlartVersenwaldIII
        Terminator

        Re: Microsoft time

        I don't have a screenshot (t'was lost in the mists of time), but back in about 2004 we were copying a bunch of files from a 250GB external hard drive - t'was a forensics dump of several million email messages all in single small files, typically 1-4kB in size (and over the brand-spanking-new USB2) - and from the number on screen the estimated completion time to begin with was longer than the current estimated age of the universe.

        This is the closest equivalent I could find with some google-fu, a scant 9 years.

        1. salamamba too

          Re: Microsoft time

          i remember this, but a few years earlier

      6. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft time

        Trying to upload a 150 minute 1080p 60fps fraps file to skype over a 1Mbps upload speed (at the best of times) connection. 1.5 years.

        Admittedly, this was mainly to see how high that number would go.

      7. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft time

        "I'm curious - what's the longest "X hours remaining" any of you folk have seen Windows display?"

        Sufficiently long that I was pretty confident the the HDD would die before the transfer completed is MS was to be believed (it was several decades, but is now so long ago (hey it might have finished) that I genuinely cannot remember exactly how ridiculous it got)

        (This would have been with Win95, maybe 98, with thin coax)

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Microsoft time

          "(This would have been with Win95, maybe 98, with thin coax)"

          Ah, Win 98! Back in the day, the latest version of Firebird no longer supported Win 3.11, so I reluctantly* decided to retire my old 486 after over a decades worth of use, and purchased a second hand PII machine with Win 98 loaded on it.

          Hooked up the two with a LapLink cable, and started transferring the hundreds of megabytes of files across.

          The transfer time was given as 1. (string of numbers)E(two digits) minutes!

          Left it running nights, and every night the 98 machine would crash, leaving the Win 3.11 machine waiting**.

          The transfer took the better part of three weeks.

          *I had beaten, bullied, and abused that machine into performing exactly how I wanted it to perform, I was loath to give it up.

          **Used Calmira as the UI on Win 3.11. It made it remarkably bulletproof. http://www.calmira.de/

          1. Michael Thibault

            Re: Microsoft time

            "Used Calmira as the UI on Win 3.11."

            Although the years won't release information on whether I used its predecessor, I did use Calmira II. Did you get to ride on a dinosaur before they went extinct, too?

            1. Captain DaFt

              Re: Microsoft time

              "Did you get to ride on a dinosaur before they went extinct, too?"

              Nah, I rode that dinosaur (486), long after it was supposed to be extinct! (until 2002) ☺

              Never had a computer/OS combo I liked as much since.

              1. P. Lee Silver badge

                Re: Microsoft time

                >Nah, I rode that dinosaur (486), long after it was supposed to be extinct!

                Was it as frustrating as having a 286 with 512k base memory and 512k extended memory and no way to get at the extended memory?

                Moving GUI elements? In my day, we 'ad an IBM text-only display... an' we were glad of it!

                But yes, I'm looking at you, iphone, with your "all appearing buttons shall be in this place, especially the 'reject call' button when pre-empting my current application."

                One of my favourites is MS having the menus alphabetically for (file) explorer, so "edit" and "delete" are next to each other.

                1. Delbert Grady

                  Re: Microsoft time

                  Yeah .. and Windows explorer' right click menu, 'Format' option is just pixels away from 'eject USB' in the menu, so a mis-click can see you about to format your USB data into oblivion instead of unmounting and removing it. dunno if thats still there in Win 8 / win 10 .. i gave up after 7 ..

      8. Rabbit80

        Re: Microsoft time

        Not sure what the longest I have seen is, but it was several decades..

        We run a scanning bureau and in the past we have had to dump several hundred million tiffs from one hard disk to another.. Through Windows this turned out to be so time consuming that in the end I just wrote a batch file and did it through dos / command prompt.. the copy took about a week that way!

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Microsoft time

          "I just wrote a batch file and did it through dos / command prompt.. the copy took about a week that way!"

          I hope you used xcopy instead of copy then! IIRC, copy did one file at a time, in 64KB chunks if the files were big. xcopy would fill a ram buffer with as much as possible then write it out, noticably faster on big files, but lots faster when coping many small files.

      9. Haku

        Re: Microsoft time

        "I'm curious - what's the longest "X hours remaining" any of you folk have seen Windows display?"

        Not strictly Windows, but it was on my Microsoft Xbox 360; for a while GTA Online was telling me that my average session time was over 584 million years...

        http://www.haku.co.uk/pics/GTAO-SessionTime.jpg

        1. esharpmajor

          Re: Microsoft time

          213504016584 days, 16 hours, 56 minutes and 40 seconds -> maximum 64-bit integer when expressed as milliseconds. Apparently GTA Online uses unsigned 64-bit ints to store play time?

        2. Netgeezer
          Trollface

          Re: Microsoft time

          Those last 40 seconds must have really taken the biscuit...

      10. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Dave, re: times.

        My favorite has always been when the timer shits itself & gives me a remaining time measured in negative numbers or, and this made me go crosseyed in confusion, alien looking symbols that I couldn't make heads nor tails of at all.

        "Let's see... that's a squiggle with horns, five radiating lines, & a splat effect... the symbol for roadkill perhaps? Ok, next rune... That's a... monkey being buggered by either a space alien or Tom Cruise... Rune 3 is, OH!, that's obviously the hubcap off an old VW Westfalia camper van!"

        I'd waste hours trying to figure out the math for negative numbers, or the "runes" on the "alien messages" in the progress bar.

        By the time I thought I'd figured them out, the bar would vanish & the program either start or crash.

        Does that count?

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: @Dave, re: times.

          They're epoch times.

          squiggle with horns, five radiating lines

          Cthulhu arrival event

          splat effect

          Post Cthulhu

          monkey being buggered by either a space alien or Tom Cruise

          Bacterial evolutionary phase

          OH

          Universe has recycled to original Hydrogen (restart error)

      11. Not That Andrew
        Windows

        Re: Microsoft time

        397680 minutes remaining. Just checked the sceenshot I did (about 276 days). About 15 years ago, at home, copying something to an extremely slow external HDD over USB (HDD supported Firewire but computer didn't).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft time

      sftp happily says that a big file has been sent much faster over the WAN link than physically possible and then is stays at 100% until the file has actually been delivered.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Unicornpiss

      Microsoft should not be taken too seriously. Back in the days it wasn't even uncommon for them to display warnings such as: "Unable to delete files: disk full" idiocy. If they can come up with something like that, then obviously a progress bar is waay too complex :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Unicornpiss

        > "Unable to delete files: disk full"

        And today you need ZFS to duplicate that problem.

      2. PeteA

        Re: @Unicornpiss

        What do you mean, "back in the day"? I routinely get this still on Win 8.1 (corporate install, not my choice). Combined with the other silly things like being able to checkout files with a path length >254 chars but then being unable to delete them. And of course, the all-time classic message "Access Denied" when you try to delete a file, which really means "Hey sucker, somebody else has it open and our file sharing model's broken".

    4. Bryan Hall

      Re: Microsoft time

      I always enjoyed it having negative time.

      So... it's already done - or what?

    5. andrewj

      Re: Microsoft time

      My Mac would tell me what % of my life remains, but not my current age.

    6. el_oscuro

      Re: Microsoft time

      It wasn't a progress bar, but an older POS that probably ran Windows XP. Buying about $30 dollars of stuff, and it rang up to $2,147,483,618.

    7. Tim99 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Microsoft time

      I gave up using a browser to actually download stuff; and now copy "whatever" to the paste buffer and use curl -O http:/www.whatever... in a terminal window. I get a nice restful screen that shows how big the file is, how quickly it is downloading, how much has downloaded, and a reasonable estimation of how long the rest will take.

      Tools like curl and wget are roughly 20 years old. Why can't the GUI/Web people get something as basic as this right?

  2. Franco Silver badge

    Not just you Dabbsy, I was once looking at the network card properties of an ISA Server in Aberdeen and got the similar jump. And of course the disable button is next to the properties button, it's after lunch on a Friday afternoon, I'm in Stirling which is at best a 2 hour drive and the client whose server it is wouldn't splash the extra cash for iDRAC in his servers.

    Much sweet talking of the office manager got it sorted without a trek north thankfully.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "And of course the disable button is next to the properties button"

      A few years ago I was using xemacs which by default included a button bar of "frequent actions" that in reality I rarely used. One day when moving between windows I think I was aware that I'd accidently clicked as I passed over this and had prbably selected "print buffer" but thought nothing of it. Next day someone sent an email around (fortunately they said they would not reveal names) suggesting that the person who had printed a rather large file might like to colelct their output and I had a sudden bad feeling. Went to the printer (a *big* Kodak network printer) to find a huge pile with my name on the coverr sheet - turned out xmeacs focus had been on a "buffer" where one of the modes I used was dumping copious diagnostic info which had been enough to cause the pritner to empty both its A4 paper bins (probably 1000 sheets each) and then decide that as it had no A4 left it better shift to A3 and emptied the A3 bin before running out things to print on!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
        Stop

        xemacs

        Schtop. I see your problem right there.

        Emacs is evil. The Spawn of Beelelzebub. The foetid aftersweat from the devils underwear.

        All hail the Might Vi!

        1. Alan_Peery

          vi and emacs -- the Janus faced god of editors

          The wise man sayeth:

          The manifold path of editing on the world of the file system is best followed by worshiping both aspects of the true editing god(s), vi AND EMACS.

  3. Ben1892

    I have always wondered why dialogue pop-ups never have a "wait" command to see if you're moving the mouse or typing at that very moment

    1. fuzzie

      Firefox has that count-down-to-install for installing plugins/extentions. It means you can't accidentally click on "Install" just because it happened to pop up as you hit space/enter. The bigger evils in my book are applications who believe they're so super important that they have to raise themselves to the foreground and/or insist on stealing focus from the entire desktop.

      That, combined with incremental rendering, makes for occasional crap shoot interactivity.

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        RE: "Firefox has that count-down-to-install for installing plugins/extentions"

        I think that's a security thing rather than a helpful thing, otherwise they wouldn't bother doing it. It's so that anything with less cognitive ability than a human is less likely to install something behind the users back. A definition which fits several acquaintances.

        "I can't install this!"

        "What's happening?"

        "............Oh....Its working now."

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