98% Remaining…

While the concept of a %-complete progress bar while installing computer applications or browsing web sites is, in theory, a good idea, the reality is somewhat different.

There’s a fundamental concept that is missing from the %-complete indicator: the unit of measure.

That is, does the progress bar an indicator of the Volume of data, the number of files to be written, or the duration of time expected for the process to finish.

I’ve had users say, “The progress bar in IE is all the way to the right, but there’s still nothing on the page… your system sucks!” Well, in that case, the progress bar is an indicator of time, not volume. That time value can vary depending on different factors.

How about waiting for an application to install–there’s that effing progress bar, scrolling across the page. Just when you think it’s finished, it jumps back to 0%, hoping you didn’t notice. In this case, it’s actually an indicator of the volume of data read or written to the drive for each file, not for the entire program–which, in some cases, may consist of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of files. But it doesn’t say that.

I just spent an hour freezing my ass off in a datacenter waiting for one of those stupid progress indicators to go from 98% complete to 100%. The first 98% went by in about four minutes.

Tip: When you write an application that uses a progress bar, get out your stopwatch and time the process on an “average” computer. Do it a few times and record the highest number. Then, write your code to show the user how much time it’s expected to finish the needed process. 


It’s clearly a rare occasion when I actually write anything in my blog anymore — work, general photo stuff, my house, and my son keep me quite busy. Hopefully around October, things may lighten up a bit.

Couple of things to share quickly for those interested:

The house is coming along–rather slowly, but still coming along

– We’ve just had our floors delivered and I’ll be installing them sometime in June. Bamboo. Inexpensive but hopefully they’ll last and, if needed, tolerate refinishing in 15 years.

– Over Memorial Day weekend, I sprayed the ceiling in our bedroom (4 coats) then painted the walls (2 coats). Looks pretty good. As an aside, whenever I paint a room now, I start wishing I had new windows… someday.

– I also, while waiting for coats of paint to dry, laid all of the full 6” slate tiles for our new entryway (layout, test fits, Hardibacker, tile). This is the project that I was most pleased with; I’ve never done tile work before and it looks rather nice. Granted, it still needs grout, oh, and being a natural material, they’re not perfectly level, but I really like the results so far. Besides, Daisy called me a perfectionist while doing all the prep work for this, so I decided that they didn’t need to be absolutely straight and level. At some point, I’ll need to get a wet saw to do the cuts on the remaining tiles. Fortunately, the cuts are all in the coat closet.

Next projects will be installing wood floors, replacing doors and jambs, trim work, new windows. Wow… this is like work.

In other news, I’ve had a realization. Sure, this is something that others perhaps have realized before me, but it seems appropriate given the state of the nation and the world:

Frodo Failed:
George Bush Has the Ring!

From the Help Desk…

In the office, we share real stories from callers–here’s a gem that happened several years ago, but it’s still hilarious. Names changed to protect those involved:

Earlier today, xxxxxxxxx from xxxxxxxxx e-mailed the help desk explaining that a student in an online course was claiming to have received a virus from the course platform. Here’s the e-mail we got:

Hello …

I’m the Tech Q&A person here at the xxxxxxxxxx. I just picked up a voice mail from one of our students saying that there is a virus going around in two courses, disabling her computer which she tells me is affecting other students as well. The courses are xxxxxxxxxx and xxxxxxxxxx.

I have not gone into the course yet to see if there have been any postings in the Tech Q&A to that effect. Please check yourself.

If you need more information from this student, her name is xxxxxxxxxx (xxx-xxx-xxxx), xxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.

Thanks for any help you can provide.


Of course, I was quick to respond that it couldn’t POSSIBLY have come from us, that we scan everything, and that it’d be a disaster for us to have a virus on our system with as many students as we have on our system every day.

Well, about half an hour later, xxxxxxxxxx called to say that she’d told the student what I told her and that the student was POSITIVE that she had a virus from our course platform. She said that she could SEE the virus and was looking at it right then. So, I told her to walk me through how to get there. I got into the course and entered the threaded discussion where the “virus” was located. I expanded a student’s posting as directed, and guess what I saw? An angry, little red-faced emoticon. I REALLY wanted to burst out laughing, but, being a consummate Help Desk professional, I very calmly said “Oh, that’s not a virus, it’s an emoticon.” I then had to explain what an emoticon was to her and the admins at xxxxxxxxxx. Then they wanted to know why they weren’t informed that we had this new feature, and I explained that it had been explained in a System Update that they received weekly. She said “Oh, we never read that stuff” and asked me to call the student.

So, I called the student and asked her why she thought she had a virus, and she showed me the emoticon and said that she just knew that the “Angry little red man” was trying to tell her that she had a virus on her computer, and that was how her computer showed her that it was mad at her. I explained about the emoticons, and she didn’t sound relieved at all, she said “I NEVER typed those keys!” really loudly, and then she paused and started whispering: “I only copy and pasted my response. Is my computer putting them in there?” I explained that even though she hadn’t typed the message, she had copied and pasted the right combination of characters to create this particular face. She kept telling me that this face was SO ANGRY, she knew she’d pissed her computer off. Finally I convinced her that the emoticons were there to express some sort of emotion and that I had deleted the emoticon from her posting. I told her that she might see these faces in other students’ postings and that was OK, they were supposed to be there. She didn’t seem to believe me, and she asked if the “angry little red guy” would come back again–I told her only if a student used that emoticon. She paused and said “He scares me.” in this sad little voice–EVEN at this point, I didn’t laugh at her. I told her that I was sorry the face scared her, but that there were a lot of those faces–there were happy yellow faces, sad blue faces–any color you wanted, there’s a face for it. I advised her that if she saw other faces, not to worry. If she really had a virus, she’d notice it in her system performance and ability to open programs and not in pictures on a website. She sat there and then said “Well, if you say so.” and hung up.