Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giggling Excitedly: A Non-Programmer's Small Trip through Windows

The trip I've just described may not be an epic one. It pretty much lasted for only fifteen minutes. It might have lasted a lot longer had I not felt compelled to blog about it... right now. If you are a programmer, or in fact have any knowledge of how to navigate an operating system without making any unintended and/or irreversible changes, I don't know what sort of emotions there would be reading about my short experience. There may possibly be groaning, and maybe a few amused chuckles. There may also be other emotions and reactions that go beyond the two aforementioned, but I'd bet on them being the most common. If I did a lot of betting.

At first, I wanted to pick back up on trying to learn Python. I've mostly heard that it's an easy and remarkably versatile programming language, tuned well to the beginner. There was also one guy at camp who said it was awkward and strange, but he wasn't sure precisely how someone as inexperienced as I would start, seeking the most effective learning experience. He just said no python. Nonetheless, I had picked up my trusty Python for Dummies book, figuring that each time I gave it a shot, a little more of it stuck after I stopped. Anyway, at the very beginning, when it gives instructions for how to actually open python, the instruction for Windows is to open the Command Prompt and type "python". Originally, I didn't even read that part; I'd already installed python, and I had a nice little shortcut to the folder with the executable in it. This time, however, I decided I'd see what it said for other operating systems. For all of them, it suggested opening a coding equivalent as opposed to doing it the lay way and entering python. I decided that I'd try this method out, just to see if I'd learn something.

I opened Command prompt from Accessories, on the start menu. It started with the location of my user folder, and from there I didn't think I could reach python. Upon some other checking, I didn't actually know what I could access from there. After some digging, I found out exactly where the user folder went. I ended up successfully looking up a .DAT file, but it belonged to a (trusted) site, and I didn't actually know how to open it. Nonetheless, I was wondering how to get it to open from a different location; I didn't know how to change it inside the prompt (though, in retrospect, there's probably a help section for that), so I decided to find out exactly where the file was located. I found it in system32, and then opened it again. This time, it started from an extension there! Now, I had found the target from the properties window, and hadn't bothered to refresh my memory with regards to the weird and exciting things that lie in system32. I started with opening Windows Accessibility from the command line, just to test it out.

It worked, and all of a sudden I had Windows Accessibility open, in the regular window format as opposed to streaming down code I wouldn't have a chance at understanding. I decided to go along with the program to see what I could find, and it first asked me what font size I wanted (incidentally, it was all in small font up until that prompt). I told it to set everything to standard font, and then clicked Next. That's when it appeared to freeze. I waited a bit, but there was no sign of activity. The blue XP bar at the top looked a bit smaller than usual, with a shortened font, but I ignored this when clicking the now mini-x-button. It told me the program was unresponsive, and then I force quit. I went on again, and took a link to magnifying glass.

This is where the giggling began. It's really a funny little program; you get a zoomed window in a section of the screen designated by the user, and at first it was set to follow the mouse. I moused around and was moderately amused by the program. I then decided that the options looked fun, and put up the magnification. This made things very difficult to find in that screen until I made it larger, and then I moused around with that a little. When I looked at 'invert colors', I got really interested. I hit that, lowered the magnification, and then I could move around a negative image of a nuclear explosion seen from the sky (I believe a rendition), and it was negative and magnified to various degrees. This blew my easily amused mind (no pun intended). Some negative hilarity later, I checked and all of the info bars had all actually taken on the shortened qualities mentioned before.

Being in extreme violation of what I consider aesthetically pleasing on a modern computer (it was in between refined in a modern sense and raw-code no-extra-graphics-added style, that when put together just looked outdated to me), I went back to accessibility to change it, without using the command line (we're out of that section of the story). I set it to display in the larger font, and then it froze again. Cursing my learning flat line, I exited and found that not only were the bars the same size as before, but all other fonts associated with the system were now large. I almost tried to find the factory reset for the system, and then remembered my good, simple friend, the properties under right clicking. After setting the font size back to normal in Accessibility (it would merrily do what it was told, while freezing), I went there and checked the display properties. There were none listed that accounted for the short display; however, after reaffirming my preference for the XP style, it went back to that. Believing there would be a cautionary tale in there somewhere, I hurried over to Blogger to post about my exciting journey.

When I arrived here, I started typing and when referring to the Dummies book, I accidentally threw up the source code for the page, forgetting that Blogger has no such underline shortcut (being Ctrl-U, for people without PCs and who don't know). That... is the conclusion to today's dose of inane and minor technical mishaps. Though our family is leaving tomorrow for Ottawa, where presumably there won't likely be much Internet access (a tenet of our trips), I believe I've learned something important having to do with using more time. That would be to make my trips through my computer much more thorough and random next time I do it; That would leave me with more to write about. In separate posts, with their own parts... just like the good old days, when I didn't only have that material, I was compelled to seek it because not finding it meant losing marks. This time, I'll do it for a reason that I love but usually ignore. The reason being because I can.

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