Category Archives: MS-Windows Platform

Small & Fast Adobe Acrobat Alternative for Windows

If you regularly use Adobe Acrobat Reader on Windows then I am sure you have come across the problem that certain documents load and display unacceptably slow, even on a fast dual or quad core CPU and on machines with ample memory. In particular, I am talking about quickly scrolling through a graphics or photo intensive file in continuous display mode. I want to be able to grab the scroll-bar, or alternatively, use my mouse wheel to very quickly scan through the whole document, and frequently, Acrobat halts briefly while (presumably) buffering the content on the next few pages. Why is that? I don’t know, I find it exceptionally frustrating that a program made by the company who set the standard is not able to offer good performance and recent hardware.

Now, one might be inclined to blame the hardware, alas, that’s not the case. Continue reading

Rescue Application-Windows Lost in in Monitor Nowhere-Land

If like me you have two monitors connected to your MS-Windows laptop at work, I am sure you have experienced the nuisance of “loosing” your application windows. Basically, the window manager appears to be smart enough to remember a window position, i.e., which monitor it was on last, but too dumb to realize that that monitor might not be connected sometimes, e.g., when using the laptop in a conference room. If you open up an application that was previously on the second monitor, it will open but not be visible. Continue reading

MS-Office SP3 Overrides “.mat” Matlab File Association

This morning MS-Office SP3 was pushed onto my machine, and afterwards I noticed that all my former “.mat” files were missing their file extension and were identified as “Microsoft Office Access Table Shortcut” as can be verified by looking at Tools -> Folder Options -> File Types.

Deletion of this file association, and creation of a new “.mat” file extension and associating it with the recommended Application, Matlab, restored the “.mat” data files.

Putting MobileMe in Perspective

At first glance, Apple’s MobileMe, as previewed at the 2008 WWDC keynote presentation, sounds like an excellent way to stay in sync across multiple platforms. What concerns me is the $99/year fee. It is a much better deal than the .Mac of the past. You get calendar and contact syncing, IMAP e-mail and photo publishing, and 20 gigs of hosted webspace.

While the new interface is beautiful indeed, I was a bit embarassed by the way some of its features were presented by Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. Some of the features, especially with regard to calendar and e-mail are far from new and quite possible today for much less money, i.e., free.

Let’s tackle the various features one by one:

  • Calendar: The presentation of calendar features was a bit embarassing. Drag-and-drop editing is cool, no doubt, but Google Calendar has it already. Google Calendar can also easily be sync’ed with iCal via BusySync which costs a one-time fee of $25. It doesn’t offer pushing, but then again, how likely is it that you edit a contact on your iPhone and need it on your desktop 20 seconds later? This is a nice “wow” effect, but not so useful in practise. Another question is how well Google calendar works on the iPhone. If it works well, instant updates are possible, if not, updates are available after the next sync which I believe is sufficient. Google calendar also offer an immensely useful calendar sharing feature. At this point it is not clear if MobileMe will allow this, too.
  • E-mail: MobileMe offers IMAP e-mail that syncs atomatically no matter where you check it. That’s not exactly new. Gmail has it and many others do, too. Gmail has, in my opinion, the most uncluttered UI of all webmail offers. It is not as beautiful as MobileMe, but very practical. What Gmail does not have is the drag-and-drop feature. Given Google’s philosphy of “all mail in one pot” that can be searched efficiently, they may not add it either. Over the past 3 years, I have come to love this concept. It has simplified my life tremendously b/c I don’t waste time any more sorting my e-mails into folders.
  • Contacts: At the present time, this is the only feature of MobileMe that would make it worthwhile for me. I have not figured out how to keep my contacts in sync between my two Macs. BusyMac plans to offer sync with Google Addressbook, but I am worried that it won’t be comprehensive because the Google Addressbook does not have the same, or as many fields as OS X’s Address Book. For people with just one Mac I again don’t think that this is really necessary. Just as with the calendar, you won’t add a contact on your iPhone and need it on your Mac right away, or vice versa. And all it takes to sync the contacts is to sync your iPhone. This will be necessary for syncing music to it anyway. I don’t have an iPhone, but I sync my iPod Nano every day to update my Podcasts. Problem solved.
  • Photos: Photos is another item where MobileMe has something to offer with regard to ease and design. Being able to post a picture from the phone straight to the website is certainly intriguing. Since I don’t have an iPhone, I am not sure, if photos on the iPhone are sync’ed back to iPhoto. If so, the Google’s Picasa plugin for iPhoto would do the trick.
  • Storage: With 20 GB, Apple doubled its previous .Mac offering, yet for $99/year, this is still nothing compared to what can be had with conventional webhosting. I have been using BlueHost for 2 years now. Most recently they offer unlimited hosting for $95.4/year or $83.4/year for 2 years. While you don’t get synchronization services, you get Fantastico and SimpleScripts to easily set up your own blog, photo gallery, or content management system. You get FTP and Shell access as well. You don’t get a Finder-like column-based UI.

In summary, I cannot find a single feature of MobileMe, that could not either be accomplished via free applications right now (Google Calendar, Google Mail), or that can be had at the slight but in reality uncritical inconvenience of having to sync the iPhone first (Picasa, Contacts), or that can be had at much smaller cost per GB hosting space (BlueHost).

What these solutions don’t give you is the convenience of having everything in one place, of having a single integrated environment, and of having beautiful Apple design throughout. This convenience must not be underestimated, assuming it works as promised, of course.

For the time being I will stick to those free solutions. Once I have an iPhone, not sure when that will be, I most likely will test-drive MobileMe and re-evaluate. I am curious for your feedback!

June 19 UPDATE
As I read in this Computerworld Article, the push technology seems to have other key advantges than just the convenience I was alluding to above:

When it comes to push technology, the iPhone currently has to “poll” or constantly ping a server for status updates, usually at set intervals. E-mail on the iPhone, for example, currently uses this polling technique to check for new mail—a setup that hits battery life and can eat up processor cycles. That’s because this polling often runs as a background application. The reduction in battery life is noticeable when the iPhone is set to check for e-mail every 15 minutes instead of, say, every 30 minutes. Once the push technology is in place, the iPhone will be automatically alerted when e-mail arrives or when any actions occur in applications that take advantage of push.

If this is true, then there clearly is a major advantage to MobileMe, at least, if you’re interested in having up-to-date e-mail throughout the day.

What’s so special about running Windows on a Mac?

It seems to me that ever since Apple switched to Intel CPUs there is no more exciting topic than the ins and outs about running Windows on a Mac. Macworld is running an article called “The Best of Both Worlds” and argues that you need to run Windows just so that you are able to run Office 2007.

I just don’t get it. Continue reading

Windows Tweaks Repository

In my search to turn off the annoying beep when changing the volume in Windows (see previous post), I stumbled across this site that has a host of tips and tricks how to customize and tweak various versions of windows.

Among other things, there are lists discussing of common annoyances, customizations, networking, clutter reduction, and performance.

Turn-off Beep When Changing Volume in Windows

Read on to find out how to turn off the annoying sound when changing the volume in Windows. Two steps are necessary to make sure no beep will be heard. Continue reading

Disable Image Resize Dialog in MS-Outlook

If you select an image file and choose “Send To — Mail Recipient” in the context menu, the Send Pictures via E-mail dialog appears to ask you if you want to resize the image. To disable the dialog and to directly open the email client with the image attachment, follow the instructions below. This tip was hard to find with Google, so I pasted it here verbatim: Continue reading

Disable Reading Layout in MS-Word

When opening Word documents from Outlook, they are by default displayed in the reading layout which is supposed to make the document easier to read. I do not like this very much, however, and fortunately, there is an easy way to turn it off; the trick is just to know where to find the option. Continue reading

Disable Review Toolbar Annoyance in MS-Word

Ever since my version of MS Office was upgraded from 2000 to 2003 was I very frustrated that very frequently, but not always, the reviewing toolbar popped up when opening a Word document. No matter how many times I closed it, it opened again, eating away at my screen real estate. Today I finally decided to try to remedy the situation. This great article explains how to do it. Thank you!