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The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 078-5342440300
ISBN-10: 0321440307
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

""Raymond Chen is the original raconteur of Windows.""

--Scott Hanselman, ComputerZen.com

""Raymond has been at Microsoft for many years and has seen many nuances of Windows that others could only ever hope to get a glimpse of. With this book, Raymond shares his knowledge, experience, and anecdotal stories, allowing all of us to get a better understanding of the operating system that affects millions of people every day. This book has something for everyone, is a casual read, and I highly recommend it!""

--Jeffrey Richter, Author/Consultant, Cofounder of Wintellect

""Very interesting read. Raymond tells the inside story of why Windows is the way it is.""

--Eric Gunnerson, Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation

""Absolutely essential reading for understanding the history of Windows, its intricacies and quirks, and why they came about.""

--Matt Pietrek, "MSDN Magazine"'s Under the Hood Columnist

""Raymond Chen has become something of a legend in the software industry, and in this book you'll discover why. From his high-level reminiscences on the design of the Windows Start button to his low-level discussions of GlobalAlloc that only your inner-geek could love, "The Old New Thing" is a captivating collection of anecdotes that will help you to truly appreciate the difficulty inherent in designing and writing quality software.""

--Stephen Toub, Technical Editor, "MSDN Magazine"

"Why does Windows work the way it does? "Why is Shut Down on the Start menu? (And why is there a Start button, anyway?) How can I tap into the dialog loop? Why does the GetWindowText function behave so strangely? Why are registry files called "hives"?

Many of Windows' quirks have perfectly logical explanations, rooted in history. Understand them, and you'll be more productive and a lot less frustrated. Raymond Chen--who's spent more than a decade on Microsoft's Windows development team--reveals the "hidden Windows" you need to know.

Chen's engaging style, deep insight, and thoughtful humor have made him one of the world's premier technology bloggers. Here he brings together behind-the-scenes explanations, invaluable technical advice, and illuminating anecdotes that bring Windows to life--and help you make the most of it.

A few of the things you'll find inside: What vending machines can teach you about effective user interfaces A deeper understanding of window and dialog management Why performance optimization can be so counterintuitive A peek at the underbelly of COM objects and the Visual C++ compiler Key details about backwards compatibility--what Windows does and why Windows program security holes most developers don't know about How to make your program a better Windows citizen

About the Author

Raymond Chen writes The Old New Thing, one of today's most influential technology blogs. A programmer at Microsoft Corporation, Chen has been involved in the evolution of Windows for more than a decade. He also writes TechNet Magazine's Windows Confidential column and has been known to make appearances at technology events.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (January 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321440307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321440303
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's a common occurrence as a developer... You go into a program in order to fix something, and you run across some quirky code. "What idiot came up with this?" The reality is that there were likely constraints and limitations at the time that you don't know about. Raymond Chen talks about those issues and many others in the book The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows. It's not a book that kept me riveted throughout, but it was interesting nonetheless...

Contents: Initial Forays into User Interface Design; Selected Reminiscences on Windows 95; The Secret Life of GetWindowText; The Taskbar and Notification Area; Puzzling Interface Issues; A History of the GlobalAlloc Function; Short Topics in Windows Programming; Window Management; Reminiscences on Hardware; The Inner Workings of the Dialog Manager; General Software Issues; Digging into the Visual C++ Compiler; Backward Compatibility; Etymology and History; How Window Messages Are Delivered and Retrieved; International Programming; Security; Windows 2000 and Windows XP; Win32 Design Issues; Taxes; Silliness; Index

Chen is a programmer for the Windows operating system, and he uses this book to tell the "history" of Windows development. The chapters are divided up into subsections that are often titled "Why..." The approach is to explain why certain design decisions were made, given the environment of the time. The writing style is conversational and somewhat irreverent, so in large part it's a book that you would sit down and read like an entertaining nonfiction essay. For instance, you'll find out that having a huge dictionary for spell checking isn't necessarily a good thing ("werre" is a proper word in the Oxford English dictionary).
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This book is a delight to read and it was my second time reading it (the first was during jury duty back in February 2007). Some chapters get pretty deep in programming, so I just skimmed over those. Mostly focuses on the Windows 95 and 3.1 era with a little 2000 and XP thrown in. Basically, this is the book form of Chen's blog "The Old New Thing" with more stories and more details.

One thing that is kind of annoying is the downloadable bonus chapters. The author gives a link to download bonus chapters in the preface. This link goes to informit.com with another link to safari.com. Even after registering the ISBN number on informit.com, it would link me into safari.com and safari.com won't let me look at bonus chapters unless I sign up for a 10 day trial. Of course, they want a credit card number. Why? I already bought the book, so I cancelled out the trial setup and did a little Google searching and found the bonus chapters in PDF format over at the Pearson site.

I went to Chen's blog to contact him about this, but there's no e-mail address in site and no comment box to leave a message. On the blog postings where he mentions the bonus chapters, I was going to leave a comment, but the comments are now closed (too much time has passed I guess). Why can't he post these bonus chapters on his web site? The second chapter is just a reprint of something he wrote in the MS-DOS days. I don't get it!
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I've been quite involved in development of open source software (and still am, in my free time) before I got hired by a company who does its development in a traditional way, behind closed door. If you're a software developer you certainly know that there are very valuable cultural foundations behind many software development communities. Funny or entertaining things happens, things break in sophisticated manners, jokes are told, experience is gained.

In open source development much of this happens in public, to amusement of many. When developing behind closed doors, funny anecdotes from development are very limited to the people actually participating in development or lost. What a pity!

Raymond Chen decided to share much of his experience with Windows NT development with the outside word and created an MSDN blog with funny anecdotes from life of their development community. The book is a printed version of many of articles, anecdotes, funny notes, and horror stories from his blog. There's probably not many people who could do as good job as he did given his years of experience in the field. For me (largely involved in development in Linux environment) the book is was very entertaining reading from a development community previously unknown to me. I can definitely recommend it to any programmer.
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Format: Paperback
Ever wondered why something in Windows is as it is? This is the book for you!

Raymond is a long-time member of the Windows development team and has blogged profusely about many aspects of development, technology and Windows since his first post back in 2003.

This book cherry-picks some of the more interesting and important posts from his blog, edited together to build a comprehensive set of background history and information about why Windows is as it is.

Whilst many developers working on Windows today (and certainly in the future) may never write apps in C/C++ for Win32, the book still provides a great deal of background to help explain how Windows' primary API and it's associated technologies is designed how it is.

One of the most enlightening things to many who perhaps weren't involved in writing apps for Windows back in the Windows 1.0/2.0/3.0/3.1/95 era are the many articles that discuss why Microsoft didn't "fix" what might at first appear to be "obvious" issues in it's API or technologies.

As Raymond clearly points out - Microsoft's obsession with trying to ensure backwards compatability across Windows versions has clearly shaped many parts of Windows and it's API, and is one of the reasons Windows has risen to the position it has - Microsoft goes to extraordinary lengths to NOT break existing apps.

However, at times, it's necessary to cause some breakage. Raymond gives many examples of where things HAD to change in the transition from Win16 to Win32. He also gives several examples of how Vista *HAD* to close down many security holes that it had kept open previously to enable backwards compatability. However, there are many, MANY post-Vista discussions that I hope Raymond includes in subsequent editions or follow-on books of this type.

Thoroughly recommended for anyone building applications on Windows.
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