Friday, March 5, 2010

SecureCRT and Windows 7 - The Case of the Magically Disappearing Window

Ever since I upgraded my copy of SecureCRT to 6.5.1 on Windows 7 x64, I started noticing really strange behavior. Occasionally, my SecureCRT window would just 'disappear'. What do I mean by 'disappear'? The SecureCRT icon on the Windows 7 taskbar, which appears like this when a window is open:

would suddenly change to this, which is what an icon looks like when the process has no windows open:

I could still see SecureCRT.exe running, but didn't find any windows for it, even in the Alt+Tab menu. Nothing appeared in my system tray either except for the network connection, volume and system time information.

Once this happened even after a system restart (isn't that the usual fix for everything?! ;)) I got curious. Eventually, I realized that this happened each time I minimized the window. Somehow, minimizing the window is muscle memory for me now and I don't really notice I'm doing it until I consciously try.

Minimizing a windows shouldn't ever cause the window to just 'disappear' so I started looking at the different SecureCRT settings and noticed a curious "Minimize to Activator" setting that was checked, and seemed suspicious. Unchecking it was all it took to restore sanity.

What is this 'Activator'? It's an icon that sits in your system tray. But Windows 7, by default, hides away all my system tray icons so I had no idea this even existed until I started investigation this issue. This is the 'Activator':

SecureCRT removes the window and sticks it into this Activator. Without any sort of visual cue or notification bubble. By default. Ugh! To restore it, you need right click the icon and select the "Restore" option. Umm... isn't that the whole point of Windows' built-in minimize implementation?

This seems like a poorly designed feature, especially given how Windows 7 treats tray icons (and I know SecureCRT v6.5.1 has some Windows 7 specific features so this isn't accidental). Making the process 'appear' like it's not running and sticking into into the 'Activator' (why isn't it called 'system tray icon'?) instead seems like bad design. If anything, this should definitely not be on by default.

Ed: Title inspired by Mark Russinovich's blog posts

Update: Just got an email response back from SecureCRT's support staff to a query about I this I had sent last night. She clarified "... the global option is **not** enabled by default. The session option by default is a "tri-state" option, meaning it uses the setting found in the global option."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Discouraging Tardiness in Social Circles

What's the best way, if any, to incentivize punctuality in a social setting i.e. among friends and family? Alternately, is there any way to dis-incentivize/discourage impunctuality?

In professional environments this isn't usually a problem. There is generally one party which has some form of authority (the boss running a meeting, the doctor who is so booked up that you got an appointment only after months, the VP who can only meet for 20 minutes before he has to run to another meeting, the senior engineer whose time really is more precious than yours) who sets an example that is expected to be followed, and can dangle a carrot or wield a stick to manage tardiness. There is also a personal incentive to be on time - you want to make a good first impression, not appear to be the one holding the team behind, or not miss out on something important if you're late.

The social dynamics that exist among friends and family are vastly different though. Often times, no one person holds a position of authority over another, the 'meetings' aren't usually that important and outcasting the offenders as a group isn't really an option either. Hence the repercussions of tardiness are pretty mild, if any. In many ways, the punctual folk have more to lose.

The ideal solution wouldn't make any individual or sub-group appear to be 'jerks' and yet make each member of the group want to be punctual. Poking fun at the offenders or just generally being prudish isn't going to help, I think.

So, any ideas? I'm drawing blanks...