Best Practice Ezine #64 Beware the Horseless Carriage

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Best Practice Ezine #64 A Syndrome That Everyone Suffers From

Everyone suffers from what I call the Horseless Carriage syndrome.  Computing provides prime illustrations of people who foolishly continue employing old methods on new technology.  However, we can also find examples of the Horseless Carriage syndrome in the way that people use their phone, car any piece of machinery.Horseless Carriage Syndrome

Time to introduce you to the original Horseless Carriage story.  Think back a hundred years to the early 1900s when the motor car was evolving from the stagecoach.  At first, the driver was seated on the outside, because, on the stagecoach, that is where he had always been positioned.  Hence, an obvious name for the new invention was ‘The Horseless Carriage’. Then, someone checked out the new automobile features and said, ‘Why don’t we put the driver inside with the passengers?’  What a great idea.  As a direct result of this breakthrough the horseless carriage was transformed into the car.

If you are willing to take on board this syndrome then you can have lots of fun.  Once alerted to the symptoms, you are sure to spot other people suffering from this affliction.  One reason that you are going to find Horseless Carriage examples is that no one is an expert with every machine or gadget.  Everyone is a beginner with at least one piece of equipment.

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It is well-known that I am not a hardware expert – as this tale will amplify only too well.  Now, I have been clicking with my trusty USB mouse since the last millennium, it fits my hand beautifully, and so I keep my old mouse despite upgrading the rest of my computer.  Unfortunately, last week the mouse stopped working.  I tried the simple troubleshooting technique of swapping mice. The result was my mouse worked on the other machine, but the new mouse would not work on my machine.  OK, even I can see it’s a problem with the mouse port.  Firstly I examined the adapter which allows a USB mouse to dock into the traditional 6 pin circular slot on the base unit.  Suddenly, I had a eureka experience.  I thought, what if I throw away the adapter and simply push the USB plug directly into a USB port?  Wonderful, PnP detected the mouse and it started working immediately (as you knew it would).  All those years I had believed that the mouse had to go into the color-coded mouse port, well that is the Horseless Carriage Syndrome for you.

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In many ways, I would like to leave the Horseless Carriage idea to rattle around in your imagination, however it beholds me to give you some computing examples.  But first, I cannot resist another car example.  My Uncle Jack bought a new Ford.  He asked me if I would have a look at the internal courtesy light.  He complained that when ever he got out of the car, the internal light stayed on.  I had to explain tactfully that this was by design.  You and I know that light stayed on to help him get out of the car safely in the dark and to give light as he walked up his drive.  If only he had just waited a minute, he would have seen the light switch off automatically, by design.  The reason that Uncle Jack could not see the feature was because he would not give the light more than 30 seconds before going back to his car.  It gets worse, he kept hunting for a non-existent switch.  Until I put him right, his solution to the ‘problem’ was to take the bulb out!

Computing Examples of the Horseless Carriage Syndrome

Let us start the computer section with migration.  Anyone who moves to a new system is particularly vulnerable to doing things the same way that they have always done them.  It is actually much more interesting to actively seek out new ways to do old tasks than fall for the Horseless Carriage trap.

  1. Windows Server 2003.  Raise domain and forest level.  Take advantage of nested groups, forest trusts, renaming DCs.
  2. Exchange 2003. Investigate Query-based Distribution Groups to replace Distribution Lists.
  3. Apply Logon Scripts via Group Policy (not individual on users’ property sheets)
  4. Mapping network drives – Run UNC path
  5. Home directory – Group Policy, redirect folders
  6. Run CMD – Run Command  (cmd.exe v
  7. Edlin v Notepad


My old friend ‘Barking’ Eddie has many talents particularly in the dark world of security.  He is also the greatest living expert on Edlin.  In fact, I suspect that Eddie is the only living expert on this primitive command line text editor.  Perhaps he is winding me up, but when ever I go around to his place, Eddie wastes no opportunity to use Edlin.  Take a recent example, he edited boot.ini by firing up Edlin rather than notepad.  It does not get the Guy seal of approval, in fact it’s a pointless exercise, but if you want try edlin, open a cmd prompt, navigate to the C:\ prompt, type: edlin boot.ini.

I would like to end with a challenge.  Everyone, or everyone’s ‘friend’, suffers from this Horseless Carriage syndrome in some aspect of their life, therefore, if you see any good examples, then do email me, a reply to this letter is fine.

Summary of the Horseless Carriage Syndrome

Beware of persevering with old fashion methods which are well past their sell by date.  Play the game of – spot the Horseless Carriage Syndrome.  All you need to do is observe other peoples actions on new technology.  Watch, learn, and avoid the mistakes when you use your technology.  Always take a moment to seek out and test new features of any program, gadget or machine.

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