February 7, 2013

How to turn off the annoying Facebook notification beep

Here's how to turn off the annoying beep that Facebook recently starting making when you get a new notification:

1. Click on the gear in the upper right corner
2. Choose Account Settings
3. On the left side of the screen, click on Notifications
4. In How You Get Notifications/On Facebook, click View on the right
5. Click to remove the check mark in "Play a sound when each new notification is received."
6. Click Save Changes

Presto! No more beeps!

Read my book Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme

October 7, 2011

Tribute to Steve Jobs

A film made by Apple employees for Steve Jobs' 30th birthday, with an appropriate Bob Dylan song as a sound track, is a fitting tribute today (h/t Harry McCracken):



Not many people realize how much we loved Steve at Microsoft back in 1983, when we were secretly working on Microsoft applications for Macintosh. I was invited to the Mac launch party in Cupertino and remember Steve Jobs as the most captivating speaker I had ever seen. But we were so much older then.

Few men leave a shadow as long as his. Goodbye Steve.

September 1, 2011

Nine days a month

A bug in Microsoft Windows which has existed for 25 years or so has now spread to Windows Phone 7. I reported this bug back in the mid 1980s before I left the company but somehow it has never been fixed. The bug is quite visible, but only happens nine days out of every month.

I still have a lot of friends at Microsoft and every now and then I mention it to them. I've even demonstrated it with my snazzy Samsung Focus, now running the kick-ass Mango 7.5 OS, and they usually do a double take, blink, and say they can't believe it's never been fixed.

It doesn't cause any data to be lost. It doesn't cause crashes. It's simply aesthetic. Perhaps for that reason it has remained on the low-priority bug list for 25 years. But I know exactly how to fix it, and the fix involves a one-character change to Windows.

I'll explain.

Around the time Windows was released, Microsoft was building its international business by localizing all of its products. This involved taking out all of the hardwired English messages and replacing them with the appropriate text in the local language. We did this by taking all the text out of the program itself and putting it in a small database. The program would say "display message number 17" and the appropriate text would be fetched from the database in the local language.

It wasn't that simple, though. There were other local conventions such as currency unit and date format. In America we put the month first (9/1/2011) but in Europe they put the day first (1/9/2011). That is known as the "short date" format and it can be customized, both by Microsoft so that when you install Windows it uses the format customary for your location, and by the user, if for some reason you want to use a non-standard format. You just go to the control panel for "Region and Language," click on "Additional Settings," go to the Date tab, and you can create your own format. For instance, if you only want a two-digit year (as was customary before Y2K), you would modify the short date from "m/d/yyyy" to "m/d/yy". Or if you wanted leading zeroes for one-digit days and months so that all the dates would line up neatly in a column, you would say "mm/dd/yy".

There's also a "long date." In America, we say "Thursday, September 1, 2011." In England they say "1 September 2011." And of course in other places they use different languages for "September." It all works beautifully.

Except that in the very first release, some unknown Microsoft employee inadvertently put "dd" instead of "d" in the US English long-date format.

Go look. Put your mouse down over the time in the lower right corner of your Windows screen and see what it says. Nine days a month you'll see something like "Thursday, September 01, 2011."

(If you're like me and now, knowing this, it will bug you forever, just go to the control panel mentioned above and delete one of the two d's in the long date format so it looks like "dddd, MMMM d, yyyy".)

Honestly I thought someone would have fixed this by now because it drives me crazy knowing that hundreds of millions of people are seeing that extra zero nine days a month. And now with Windows Phone 7, they've copied the meme and there's not even a way to edit the format string (although they graciously give you a choice of four long-date formats, all with the bug).

I'm currently lobbying with two of my highly placed friends at Microsoft to finally get this fixed, at least for the phone where the date stares you in the face every time you look at it. But until then, I grit my teeth nine days a month.

Happy September 01, everyone.

August 15, 2011

Getting Past OK ebook introductory price $1.99 until Sept 5!

My second book Virus of the Mind is the one most people have read, but I think my first book Getting Past OK: The Self-Help Book for People who Don't Need Help is better. (So does Bill Gates, who gave me a rare endorsement on the cover: "Incredibly useful!")

If you have an ebook reader (and I think it's available for just about all of them) you can buy it for only $1.99 until Sept 1 from my awesome new publisher Hay House. Click here.

June 17, 2011

I'm in the money in the Limit Hold 'Em Championship

If you're in Vegas, come sweat me starting at 3pm today (Friday) in the Amazon Room at the Rio. There are 14 players left and my chip stack is about average. My good friend Matt Hawrilenko is also still in.

June 8, 2011

My 2011 WSOP schedule

I'm heading to Vegas with a little trepidation for WSOP. The War on Poker has caused Full Tilt to fire all their US pros and there will be no luxury suite to relax in during breaks. Nevertheless, it's the year's biggest social event for poker players if nothing else. I plan to play most of the limit hold 'em events and a couple others:

6/11 #19 $2500 LHE
6/13 #23 $2500 8-game mix
6/15 #27 $10k LHE championship
6/16 #29 $2500 10-game mix (maybe)
6/24 #41 $1500 LHE shootout6/30 #52 $2500 mixed hold 'em

I don't plan to play the main event but I might change my mind. Follow me on twitter @quietlion.

December 14, 2010

Why we're in a financial crisis

My local Bank of America branch moved to a temporary office while their building is being renovated. I pulled up yesterday afternoon in the rain behind another car, which stopped halfway between the two spots in the loading zone in front of the building.

I thought about sounding the horn. In Boston we would have sounded the horn after about half a second, but in Seattle sounding the horn is considered rude for any occasion short of a nuclear attack.

So I waited patiently for about 30 seconds for the driver to notice I was behind him waiting to pull in. He remained motionless in his car so I pulled up beside him and made the universal hand signal for "would you please move your car one way or the other?" He rolled his window down, puzzled, and I asked if it would be possible for me to use one of the parking spaces. He looked around at where he was parked (squarely in the center of the two-spot loading zone) and then said, "I guess I could move up a little." I thanked him, maneuvered into the space behind him, and then watched as he tried to get into the bank.

I say "tried" because the obvious door to the bank on the main street, Kirkland Ave., has no handle. To its left is an unmarked elevator door, and to the left of that is an ATM vestibule that actually connects to the bank but it's not obvious. Around the corner to the right, hidden from view, is an actual door that works. That's the one the man, now wet, ended up using. I went in through the ATM vestibule and made my deposit while the wet man was dripping and filling out his deposit slip.

"Why can't you enter through that door?" I asked the branch manager, who was standing behind the tellers.

"That's an exit only door," she said.

"Yes," I offered, "but you haven't really answered my question. Why don't you make it an 'enter and exit' door?"

"Oh," she said, "It has no handle."

"Very true," I said. "But why doesn't Bank of America put a handle on it?"

"Because it's an exit door."

I looked at the wet man, next in line to visit the tellers. "Surely," I said, "Bank of America has enough money despite the financial crisis to install a handle."

She looked like she was thinking hard. Finally she said, "It's a temporary location."

I smiled and nodded, then turned and walked out the exit door, steps from my car in the conveniently located loading zone.