The Evil Windows Environment Editor

I think that probably any computer user who has had to maintain a complex set of Windows Environment variables has banged his or her head against the horrible interface that Microsoft has bequeathed to us for managing these important values. The tiny single-line text fields that Windows provides are woefully inadequate for manipulating some of the lengthy values that wind up in Environment variables. To heap pain upon pain, not only is it annoying to do much editing with this interface, the smallest mistake in setting a value can lead to hidden and bad consequences that go undetected as Windows gives you no warning when your Path value contains syntax errors or non-existent paths.

For many years, I gritted my teeth and endured this shameful excuse for an interface. I occasionally compensated for its vices by copying and pasting values into VIM for a more accurate editing experience. Using this method, I find that the Path variable with its large size often requires me to globally replace semi-colons with line breaks before I do any editing so that I can actually get a good feel for all the directories in my path.

During these annoying times when I do battle with the Environment, I often think that surely someone has written a piece of software to fill this enormous hole in the dark landscape of Windows.  In the past, I occasionally Googled for such software, but never found any (probably due to a lack of diligence).

But tonight’s search on Google was not such a failure!

Indeed, rejoice ye users of Windows far and wide for if ye have ever endured the bitter sting of Environment Variable Hell, then your salvation draweth nigh! Go immediately and download the excellent Rapid Environment Editor and you will find the Environment editing Nirvana that you seek.

Finger of Death

It seems that when it comes to work computers I have the finger of death. Over the last several years, I have experienced more than my share of Windows failures where through my work machine gets stuck in a perpetual state of blue screen of death. Two years ago, this happened twice within a few months and although it was really annoying at the time, the end result was that I was blessed with a much better computer. My boss cubed at the time decided that I should get a Linux based machine since I was doing some Linux related work in addition to my normal development, and since my boss was no longer needing his powerful dual processor Opteron after moving into his management position, I inherited his machine.

My Opteron is undoubtedly sweet. I have it running the excellent Kubuntu distribution of the Linux operating system and on top of that I have VMWare Workstation installed. Thanks to the power of virtual computing, I usually run 2-3 virtual computers on top of the Opteron with one of them being my main Windows development machine and the others being Linux machines on which I conduct research and experiments with new server software for my company.

For about two years now, this setup ran pretty smoothly. Then, a few weeks ago, my Windows virtual machine started occasionally showing problems. Sometimes it would inexplicably slow down unbearably. Other times it would simply lock up. Usually rebooting fixed these issues. It was still a bit disconcerting.

Last Friday though things finally came to a head. My computer started to slow down. I decided to reboot and at some point Windows got into a fit where it kept complaining about system files that needed to be replaced. No matter what I did, more of these windows started shooting up asking me whether I should replace file such and such. Quite swiftly, the system came to a halt. Continue reading →

Saving Pandora

Today I received an email from concerning a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. According to the email, “the new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays and broadcast radio doesn’t pay these at all”(emphasis added). The email then points out how these sharp increases in fees will effectively strangle Internet radio companies because it artificially inflates the cost of doing business to levels far above what such businesses can expect to afford.

Continue reading →