Nearly every day people come up to me, or email, questions on software. Last night at the Tampa Bay Computer Society, a gentleman was having trouble getting Adobe Flash installed. I went through the installation process and it appeared to work correctly, but going to YouTube, the following message was displayed: "You need to upgrade your Adobe Flash Player to watch this video."
Since I knew the installer had completed without error, I figured that his security tools were causing trouble. We disabled ZoneAlarm and tried again. Same message. Then I checked if any Internet Explorer's Add-ons were interfering. I noticed that "Shockwave Flash Object" was disabled. Presumably, the user had disabled this add-on, and regardless of reinstalling it, it stayed disabled.
The real problem here was that most websites assume that if a particular object didn't load, it's because it wasn't downloaded by the user. With it becoming increasingly easy to disable add-ons, websites should provide more guidance.
Today I got a question in email from one of the TBCS members:
Hi Chuck. . . I love to waste time playing 'minesweeper'. Right now my percent of won games is 8%. Well, I think I've gotten a lot better (HA)! So I'd like to 'reset' this counter. Can you tell me what file I can delete to reset this counter? I know this is a nothing kind of request, but that 8% really is annoying!
Ah Minesweeper. Originally released in 1990 in the Windows Entertainment Pack for Windows 3.0, it was included in Windows 3.1 in 1992. My favorite Windows game was always Reversi, and I was upset that it was dropped in favor of Minesweeper in Windows 3.1. When I started working at Microsoft in 1994, I quickly found the source code to Reversi and kept it around. Windows XP and MSN Games introduced a multiplayer version of Reversi.
Back to Minesweeper and resetting the statistics. I knew that with Windows Vista, all the games got a common interface, and I knew that you could reset the statistics in Solitaire, so I did quick search and was surprised at the tremendous amount of serious interest in Minesweeper. There are entire websites (here, here, and a wiki) devoted to playing Minesweeper effectively.
I was able to point the user to the "Reset Statistics" button in the game, and she was grateful for the guidance. The lesson I learned in all this was that no matter the subject matter, the internet allows for people who love something (in this case a game), to meet and exchange information.