A nice simple Vista feature

There are frequent times when I need to get a full path and file name from Windows Explorer into something else. Fortunately Vista has a "hidden" feature built in to make that easier.

For example, earlier today I had to point to a Virtual PC hard disk image that I had downloaded when setting up the VPC environment for it.  Since I was already looking at the file in Windows Explorer, I simply used Shift-Right Click and then chose Copy As Path to get the full path and file name onto the clipboard.  A quick paste and I was done.

10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy”

I’ve lived through so many of these things. <sigh>

The 11th reason is that if you’re sitting at the front desk doing something to the computer, anyone who walks in the door assumes you are the receptionist.

It’s funny, when I was CIO at a 550 person company and then Director of Technology at a Fortune 500 company, these things were just as true as they are today, when I’m "President and Chief Bottle Washer" at our tiny consultancy.

Just this morning I got an email from a friend asking what kind of laptop they should buy.  I dunno, how about one that works?  Would you like to purchase a CRM system to go with that laptop?

Of course, this is the nature of technology.  I’m sure mechanics of the early 20th century got a lot of the same thing regarding cars, and before then, a stableman probably got asked a lot about the best type of horse the questioner should get, but instead of hoping to be paid, they probably just hoped that the asker wasn’t going to stick them with something pointy if they didn’t give them the "right" answer…

Is Word 2007 suddenly not working properly for you?

A few days ago, shortly after replacing the hard drive in my notebook (upgraded to 200gig at 7200 RPM, woohoo!) Word 2007 no longer worked well for me.  The first symptom I noticed was that when I clicked on the X in the upper right of the window to close the app, it would crash instead of closing.  Word would then restart, which was kind of not what I wanted.

The next symptom I noticed a few minutes later was that if Word was in the background, I couldn’t use the mouse to bring it to the foreground if I clicked in the body of Word.  Clicking on the window frame, the menu bar or the toolbars would bring Word to the foreground.  Weird.

The real kicker was that I could no longer select any text in the Word document.  Unfortunately this problem fully manifested itself when I was trying to put together a rush quote for a prospect (of course).

Since this all occurred shortly after replacing the hard drive I thought that perhaps that might have had something to do with it.  After all, troubleshooting 101 is "what did you change last?".  It’s when we say "nothing!", while ignoring the major replacement we just did that we run into major problems. 

So, step 1 was to do a repair on Office 2007.  After that was completed, the behavior was the same.

Step 2 was to uninstall and reinstall Office 2007.  After that was completed, the behavior was the same.

Step 3 was to go to the MS newsgroups for Word and start reading.  It turns out that a recent update was causing the problem!  Following the instructions to delete a couple of registry keys solved the problem right away.  Good to know.  <sigh>  I lost about 3 hours of time to this stupid problem.

Features that Windows Live Spaces needs

Two features that I’d really like to see:

1) Notification email when someone posts a reply to a blog posting.  I’ve missed responding in a timely manner to the last two people to reply to my blog.  Sorry Joe and Jeff!

2) The feature in Live Spaces that adds grammatical and spelling errors to my posts really needs to go.  I mean, I would never type in stupid typo’s and bad grammer in a post, so it must be Live Spaces doing it, right?  Right?!  Yes Justin, I know I made a few of those in the last two posts as well!  I mean Live Spaces did it!!!!

It’s all about the tools… Russ Fustino’s developer tools presentation

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting in on Russ’ presentation called "It’s All About The Tools – Episode 1".  I’ve sat in on a couple of Russ’ presentations and always enjoyed them, and last night was no exception.

He opened the session saying that one of the reasons he does them is because it tends to get people excited about what they do and the tools they work with, and I have to agree that I feel the same way.  I will frequently go to presentations such as these, even when I believe I know the content (not true in this case!), just because it’s a nice kick start.

Last night Russ covered a lot of ground, including introducing us to a snippet tool that’s built into Windows Vista.  To find it, just click on the Start "Orb" in vista, and type "Snip".  Run the snippet tool and it will pretty much be obvious how to run it.  This is a great tool to use when you’re at a customer (or walking one through something) and you don’t want to have to explain how to do an "alt-printscreen, find and launch paint, paste to Paint, select an even smaller area, copy, new image with smaller dimensions, paste again and finally, save as jpeg" process.  In my day to day job, I’ll stick with using Snag-It from TechSmith.

A much more important tool is Fiddler.  This is an http proxy for debugging the http protocol. I’ve used similar products, but Fiddler looks like a very nice tool that’s priced right (free!), and one that I’m adding to my kit tonight.

The bad news is that this was the 42nd, and last, of Russ’ presentation on these tools.  The good news is that 1) The entire deck can be found on his site, and 2) He has begun the Episode 2 tour.

If Russ comes around to your area, make the time to sit in on his session.  I certainly learned several new things, and got my creative juices flowing in a mere 90 minutes.

Has Apple lost their touch?

Apple has been on one heck of a resurgence over the past several years.  Starting with the candy colored iMac’s, through the iPod to today’s iPhone and other Apple products, they have been delivering the goods in the consumer / home electronics space, with only the rare misfire (Cube anyone?).

Recently however, my experience with Apple has begun to go downhill.

To start with, as mentioned in a previous post, Deb’s iPhone was very difficult to get upgraded to firmware version 1.1.1.  Her phone had never been hacked in any way, but the upgrade didn’t "take" on the first try and it took hours to finally get it working.

Unfortunately the iPhone saga doesn’t end there. Ever since the upgrade the phone has been unreliable, which is the ultimate sin of a phone! It locks up periodically, has trouble during syncing, won’t sync music and using the Apple Bluetooth Headset is touchy at best.

In an attempt to solve these problems just went and completely wiped her phone and reloaded 1.1.1 on it.  Unfortunately that didn’t go smoothly either.  Once the upgrade was started on her phone it stopped responding and we got an error in iTunes.  Upon researching the error we uninstalled all iTunes / iPhone related software on the laptop, reinstalled it and tried re-upgrading the iPhone.  At this point the phone wouldn’t even show up on her iTunes!  To get the upgrade to work, we had to move the phone to my laptop (Thinkpad’s rule!) and even then the first attempt at getting the firmware loaded failed with an error.  Trying again finally got it to work. For the past two days that phone appears to have been stable.

Enough about the iPhone, eh?  I purchased Leopard a few days after it came out and upgraded my Mac Mini.  After the reboot I ended up with a blue screen and a mouse pointer, but nothing else.  After some research it appears that the problem was caused by a program that Logitech installed on the Mac (for the mouse driver).  Of course, it’s not like there are a lot of Logitech mice and keyboards out there, so I could see how Apple wouldn’t test against it (not!). 

After doing some research I knew how to "properly" install the OS to work around this problem (don’t do an upgrade, do an archive and fresh install).  In order to do this, I needed to tell the Mac to boot off of the DVD rather than the internal hard drive.  This is done by holding down the ‘C’ key on the keyboard during the boot process.  After trying and failing this about 20 times I ended up having to call Apple support.  After some trail and error we found that the Mac Mini was not recognizing Apple’s own aluminum keyboard! I had to plug in a USB keyboard (from Microsoft of all places) and use that to boot up with the ‘C’ command.  Once that was done, the install went perfectly and the OS works nicely.

Now, in all of these things, there have been plenty of places on the web to go for support, and when I had to call Apple they provided support without any question.  However, this isn’t so different from working with Windows Vista or Linux, is it?  If everything you try breaks, why is it better than competing systems?

Oh yeah, the super shiny screen on the new iMac is also a grave mistake, even the salespeople in the Apple Stores have to tap dance around this "feature".