The martial arts logon picture

Along the lines of Windows as Rorschach test, here's an example of someone attributing malicious behavior to randomness.

Among the logon pictures that come with Windows XP is a martial arts kick. I remember one bug we got that went something like this:

"Windows XP is racist. It put a picture of a kung fu fighter next to my name - just because my name is Chinese. This is an insult!"

The initial user picture is chosen at random from among the pictures in the "%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Application Data\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\Default Pictures" directory. It just so happened that the random number generator picked the martial arts kick out of the 21 available pictures.

I'm also frustrated by people who find quirks in spellcheckers and attribute malicious intent to them. You know what I'm talking about. "Go to Word and type in <some name that's not in the dictionary> and tell it to spellcheck. Word will flag the word and recommend <some other word that is somehow opposite to the first word in meaning> instead. This is an insult! Microsoft intentionally taught the spellchecker to suggest <that word> when you type <this word>. This is clear proof of <some bad thing>."

More on spell checking tomorrow.

[Raymond is currently on vacation; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (20)
  1. Brad C. says:

    I always wondered about the "random" picture assigned to you by Windows XP. It seems to me that the selection is not as random as it could be. I do a lot of unattended installs and every time I install with the same unattend.txt file I get the chess pieces. If I modify it slightly I tend to get another picture. How are the pictures assigned really? Is there some way to pre-select a picture?

  2. So are you saying that Microsoft don’t do a lexical analysis on the user name and then use the results to look up the correct stereo type for that name in a large data base and use the results to select the ‘correct’ icon? How lazy are you people?

  3. redvamp128 says:

    Actually find something of Very humor that is uninentional.

    Download the Microsoft reader.

    Also if you don’t have Office installed they have a way of adding Voice (Text To speech)

    Then Goto this site and download a free EBOOK. Baum, L. Frank

    The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tim Woodman … a Sequel to the Wizard of Oz.

    The same is also true of his other book

    It becomes the Wizard of Ounces.

  4. njkayaker says:

    Why select the picture randomly? With the random selection MS is sort of saying "This computer behaves in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Welcome to Windows".

  5. Anonymous Coward says:

    One of my friends claims that it does at least figure out the gender of the name, and divide the pictures that way.

  6. mike says:

    find quirks in spellcheckers and attribute malicious intent to them

    One of the really great things about conspiracy theories is that they can’t be disproven. If someone is convinced that the Word spellchecker is communicating secret messages about how Strom Thurmond was actually Hillary Clinton’s illegitimate daughter ("See, if you type in ‘Strom’ and then convert his name to WingDings and then …"), by golly, nothing that anyone says can disprove that. On the contrary, any discussion is obviously just part of the coverup. :-)

  7. Mario Goebbels says:

    Nice bug report. That’s one of the reasons why I’d like to see an intelligence test attached to some signup forms.

  8. J. Peterson says:

    Sometimes the spell checker "bugs" can be intentional. In Adobe PageMill (anybody remember it? Early web page editor, c. 1996) the spell checker would flag "FrontPage" as a misspelling and suggest "PageMill" as a replacement.

  9. Mike Dunn says:

    I always get a chuckle when XP picks the palm trees picture for me. I figured it looked at my time zone (Pacific), guessed that I live in LA (based on probability and the relative population size of LA to other major cities in the time zone), and picked the palm trees. ;)

  10. Catatonic says:

    On my computer, the kung-fu guy (or gal) is assigned to the mysterious ASP.NET account.

  11. Roger Bagel says:

    I was horrified when I was assigned the Frog. I look a little bit like a frog and took it personally. I changed it to the dog and my girlfriend got offended. I’m now running with the snowflake!

  12. Pookie says:

    You get what you deserve for adding useless eye-candy doodads instead of fixing all the broken stuff…

  13. Norman Diamond says:

    4/1/2004 3:25 PM Pookie:

    > You get what you deserve for adding useless

    > eye-candy doodads instead of fixing all the

    > broken stuff…

    Unfortunately no. They got garbage complaints about the garbage, instead of getting real complaints about the real broken stuff. So they didn’t get what they deserved. They got an opportunity to continue to ignore the real broken stuff and instead complain about the garbage complaints about the garbage.

  14. Robert Jacobson says:

    I find it curious that Windows just assigns the icon randomly. The downside is that if I set up the same accounts on multiple machines, I won’t have the same icons for the same people by default.

    (Yes, I know how to change the icons in the user settings page, but I’d bet that many "typical" users dont. Plus I’m lazy. <g>)

    It would make more sense to me if the icons were assigned randomly, but consistently for any particular name. E.g., a good algorithm might be:

    1. Get a hash of the user name.

    2. If there are 24 icons, assign the icon of (hash value) mod 24.

    Then the icon would be pseudo random, but a user would get the same "random" icon on every computer.

  15. (6) says:

    Robert: your algorithm would still suffer from the problems which are described by Raymond. Whenever the Chinese user created an account using your hash they may always be presented with the Kung-fu fighter (depending on their name, of course).

    At least Microsoft can currently claim it is completely random.

  16. Sean says:

    Just change your picture. I keep a 48×48 bmp around just for that.

  17. redvamp128 says:

    Just be thankful however that the randomness did not include a random picture upon each boot for all assigned users.

    Then that would be trouble would it not.

  18. MilesArcher says:

    The real solution is to provide a camera with every copy and have the system prompt the user to smile for the camera when creating the account.

    kidding of course.

  19. (6) says:

    In my case, Windows would crash then! :)

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