Entries Tagged as 'Software'

OpenOffice

You need to find a suite of office applications?

The place to start is OpenOffice.

OpenOffice has a long heritage, and the software was designed and built to be a cohesive set of applications (not a collection of various applications that did different parts of a job).

OpenOffice is written in Java, and if you’re running Windows you can download and install a version of OpenOffice that includes the Java Run-time Environment (JRE); on most other operating system it will already be installed.

OpenOffice is able to import and export most document formats you’re used to, plus it can use it’s own format (which is an ISO standard), and creating PDFs of the output is a snap.

Writer — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Word”.  It’s an excellent word processor, and it well suited for virtually any task you might have.  There are quirks (but hey, they are quirks in “Word” as well, and they randomly change from version to version), but overall it’s intuitive and easy to use.  Plus there’s good documentation available to answer most any question you might have.

Calc — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Excel”.  I’m not a big spread sheet user, but I can tell you that all the fairly simple tasks that I used “Excel” for Calc did without a problem; and it imported the spread sheets, converted them it it’s format, and other than a very slight print alignment issue on one they were perfect (and much smaller and faster).  From my experience and what I’ve read you shouldn’t have any issue with Calc for all your spread sheet needs.

Impress — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “PowerPoint”.  It seems to work, has all the annoying slide ware capabilities a marketing person might want.

Draw — if you’re a Windows person you might think of this as “Visio” or perhaps “Illustrator”.  There’s not an exact equivalent for this tool.  But it’s useful to do diagrams, drawings, etc.  But don’t confuse it with “PhotoShop” — that’s not really an office tool now is it?

Base — if you’re a Windows person you’d probably think of this as “Access”.  Works well and works with most any database you might have.

There is no email / calendar / contact replacement in OpenOffice, nor is there a “OneNote” replacement.  I don’t know that I feel email / calendar / contacts really belong in an office suite, but I certainly have gotten accustom to being able to collect a bunch of data together in one place with automatic references from where it came — so I’d love to see something like “OneNote” added to OpenOffice.

If you’re a casual user, a home user, a student, or a small business user (without restrictive corporate policies) you’ll find that OpenOffice will solve most all your needs.  Try it… save a little cash.

OpenOffice.org

Originally posted 2010-01-19 01:00:42.

So you want to be in pictures…

Or rather should I say that you want to be able to play “moving pictures” on your computer…

You computer may have come with software for playing back video, DVDs, etc — or the operating system version you installed might support some formats; but eventually you’re going to reach a point where you want to play something that you don’t have support for and you might not feel like spending a lot of money.

There are two major issues with playing back media:

  1. Your computer needs software that is able to decode the audio and the video portions of the media; and
  2. Your computer needs software that is able to “break apart” the audio from the video.

The first piece of software is call a “decoder” — or often times a codec.  And you’ll hear things like MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc for video and things like AC3, AAC, PCM, DTS, MP3, etc for audio.

The second piece of software is called a mux (specifically for play back a de-mux) — and those take particular containers and split them into the separate audio and video streams.  The file extension generally tell you about the “envelope” the data is contained in, or how it was muxed.  Some standards mux specifications, but even when the audio/video standard includes a way to mux the data, it might be in a richer envelope that supports alternate audio streams, alternate video streams, hyperlinks, closed captions, multiple languages, etc.

A growing open standard for containing audio and video is the Matroska format.  It’s generally designated as .mkv for audio/video files and .mka for audio files.

It’s a rich standard well supported on Windows, OS-X, and *nix platforms.

For more information visit the Matroska Offical Homepage:

You’ll not only find information on the Matroska format, but links to many free tools to help you play back that audio and video format you’re having trouble with.

Originally posted 2008-12-14 01:00:52.

SyncMate – Expert Edition

Several weeks ago I took a look at the free edition of SyncMate, and I had some fairly good things to say about it.  In fact, I was so impressed with it that I started using the free edition to synchronize my Windows Mobile device.

Eltima Software contacted me and offered me a license for the expert edition to enable to me more fully explore the capabilities of it (and to write a more in depth post about it).

I agreed, and here’s what I found…

I decided that this would be a fairly comprehensive test; it would involve a number of different operating systems, and synchronization environments.

The operating systems I tested were:

OS-X 10.6.1 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit)

Windows Vista (32 & 64 bit)

Windows 2003

Windows XP

Windows Mobile 6.5 (HTC Touch Pro 2 – XV6875)

Windows Mobile 5.1 (MotoQ)

Outlook Look 2003, 2007, 2010 on the PC

Entourage 2008 on the Mac

Windows Contact / Windows Calendar (on Vista and Windows 7)

Live Contacts / Live Calendar (on Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 7)

FireFox (Windows)

Safari (Windows and OS-X)

Additionally I took a quick look at iTunes and iPhoto (even though I don’t use either of those normally); and I took a quick look at Google synchronization (including synchronizing to an Android handset).

It’s a long list, and I assure you that the coverage of the tests were not exhaustive — but rather concentrated on suites of versions that would be most commonly found together (though I have a reasonably good feeling that unless there were some real flukes, the sample of tests I performed are probably indicative of all combinations).

My first test was to synchronize my Mac Book Pro with my Mac Pro… I’ve never really put any effort into making sure that the contacts and such agreed between the two, so I install unlocked the free version of SyncMate I’d installed on both and proceeded to enable all the plug-ins.  After fighting with both iPhoto and iTune (you wouldn’t need to worry about that if you actually used them they would have already been setup and ready to sync). the little spinners started and in just a few minutes I had everything on both machines (which also included all the calendar and contact information I’d gotten from my smart phone to start with) in sync.

I went ahead and disabled iPhoto and iTune for the rest of my tests — I’d seen it work, and certainly synchronizing those would easily be covered with the folder synchronization (which was a more generic test — but of course it was nice that the iTunes/iPhoto sync could be enabled with a simple click).

I decided next to see what the various versions of Windows and Office Suites would do… so I brought up virtual machines using various OS images and installed versions of Office in them.  I setup the Windows component of SyncMate and then decide to just do everything at once — so I added all the machines to SyncMate on the Mac Pro and hit the sync button.

It took a few minutes, but then on every machine in either (or both) the Windows Contacts and the Outlook Contacts there was a full copy of my contacts; as well as files I’d put in a test folder.

Things were going very well, so now I turned to a couple Windows Mobile devices.

Both were easy to setup via USB, and both synchronized perfectly (frankly I was a little surprised when the MotoQ running Mobile 5.1 worked as well as it did).  So then I tried WiFi sync on the XV6875 — worked just fine (there’s a nice feature of the SyncMate driver on the WinMo device that will tell you the IP and name of the device if you need).  Next was Bluetooth synchronization… and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that on either device — during setting up the connection I kept getting “Uncompatible Device” (a newer version of SyncMate has corrected the awkward english construction; but unfortunately I still cannot use Bluetooth synchronization with either my XV6875 or Q), so I’m not exactly sure what the problem is, but I would consider Bluetooth synchronization more convenient than WIFi — though I generally use USB since I can charge the device as well.

Then I decided to try a few more scenarios from the SyncMate feature list.

Folder synchronization with a USB flash drive worked perfectly.  And from that I’d be fairly confident that iTunes/iPhoto/folders could be synchronized to any USB (disk) device.

Google synchronization worked just as documented; and synchronizing an Android handset with Google just happens (all you have to do is enter you account information into the handset and enable synchronization).

Here a few comments on individual features…

Call history and the SMS manager are both very nice features of the expert edition… I’m not sure it’s sufficient motivation to pay for an upgrade, but it certainly is a sweet feature.

Mounting a Window mobile phone as a USB disk is a feature that didn’t make much sense to me; my XV6875 has the ability to select whether or not it makes an ActiveSync style or USB drive connection when you connect it; though on an older device like my MotoQ it does let you see the file system on the Mac much as you would on a Windows desktop.

Time synchronization is another feature that just doesn’t make sense; all devices get synchronized to the network (and thus to atomic clocks) so I see little value (and a number of reasons not to) synchronize them to each other and defeat the mechanisms already in place (if this were a camera, not a cellular phone I’d consider this a plus — but I’m going to say this feature should be removed; and certainly not used).

As noted before, synchronization to Windows Live isn’t support (and since this is a Mac centric product I don’t think that should come as a surprise — but, of course, some people who have Windows Mobile phones may use some of the Live services).

One thing I haven’t really covered to this point is how you setup a sync partner in SyncMate; and I guess I haven’t focused on it because it’s fairly easy, and definitely straight forward.  It isn’t “automatic” (and I actually consider that a plus — I absolutely hate ActiveSync trying take ownership of a device I just want to attach once).  A nice touch to the way you add a partner is that you can both name it, and include an image for it (though it might be a little nicer if Eltima included more stock images with SyncMate, or created a web interface to find images of handsets — but I just downloaded one of each of my phones and then used that).

The number one quality of SyncMate is that it works — and by far and large it works as advertised.  In this round of tests I didn’t have any instability in the version of the Windows sync driver I installed (unlike in the previous tests where I did have some issues with the Windows sync driver crashing).

One feature I felt might be interesting for Eltima to add would be a “mesh” type synchronization — really all they’d need to do is have an ability to synchronize the partnerships between Mac hosts (ie — all the synchronization partnerships I entered on my Mac Pro could instantly appear on my Mac Book Pro the next time the two machines sync’d — and then conflicts would just be handled throughout the mesh on a peer-by-peer basis just as they are now).

As I’ve stated previously I find the price a little steep — but you and your wallet will have to decide for yourself…  If you like the free version, and have needs for some of the additional plug-ins; I suspect you’ll be favorably impressed by what you get once you purchase a license.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-26 18:04:01.

SSH Login Without Password Prompt

Often you have a set of machines you trust implicitly and you’d like to make ssh logins and scp copies less tedious by not having the system prompt you for the password.  It used to be incredibly confusing to manually setup and install the keys on remote machines, now, though with OpenSSH it’s gotten a lot easier.

The first thing you need to do is create public and private keys; to do that you use ssh-key-gen on your machine (you’ll either need to be on the console or have previously made a ssh connection).

For this example, the “local” workstation will be superman, and the remote server will be aries.

roger@superman$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
[Press Enter Key]
Enter same passphrase again:
[Press Enter Key]
Your identification has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/roger/.ssh/id_rsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
de:ad:be:ef:01:02:03:04:05:06:07:07:09:0a:0b:0c roger@superman

Then we need to copy the public key to the remote host using ssh-copy-id

roger@superman$ ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub aries
roger@aries's password:

Finally, we can log onto the remote machine without a password

roger@superman$ ssh aries
Last login: Sun Jan 2 12:12:12 2011 from superman
roger@aries$

You can take a look at the key files that were generated; you can use ssh-copy-id to copy the keys to as many machines as you want; and you can use the same private key file on each of your machines to allow for more seamless access; but you should be aware that you should only place your public key on machines you trust.

NOTE:  If you use ssh-agent (and ssh-add) to manage keys, ssh-copy-id will attempt to access the key from ssh-agent.

Originally posted 2011-01-04 02:00:12.

Critial Microsoft Patch — DO IT NOW

Microsoft has released an out of cycle patch (they only release patches on Tuesdays), this was released today (Thursday), which means it’s an important patch for you to install now.  Get details below and use the Microsoft Update facility to download and install — don’t be part of the problem, take pre-emptive action.

Remember, in general it’s a good idea to check for updates often and install them unless you have a good reason not to.

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS08-067.mspx

Originally posted 2008-10-23 08:00:56.

conglomeration

con·glom·er·a·tion (kn-glm-rshn)
n.

    1. The act or process of conglomerating.
    2. The state of being conglomerated.
  1. An accumulation of miscellaneous things.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


conglomeration [kənˌglɒməˈreɪʃən] n

  1. a conglomerate mass
  2. a mass of miscellaneous things
  3. the act of conglomerating or the state of being conglomerated

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


conglomeration a cluster; things joined into a compact body, coil, or ball.

Examples: conglomeration of buildings, 1858; of chances; of Christian names, 1842; of men, 1866; of sounds, 1626; of threads of silk worms, 1659; of vessels, 1697; of words.

Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The SCO infringement lawsuit over the Unix trademark is over… the Supreme Court has ruled that Novell owns the Unix trademark and copyright, and SCO has no grounds for it’s litigation against.  Just as Microsoft owned and retained the Xenix copyright while SCO distributed that operating system, so Novell retained the Unix copyright while SCO distributed that operating system.

While means, Novell now has a prime asset — and could be ripe for harvesting (that’s a poetic way to say merger, take-over, buy-out).

Which will likely be bad for Linux.

WHAT?

Yep, take a look at what happened when Oracle purchased Sun (one of the largest companies supporting Open Source innovation in Linux, virtualization, etc) there’s definitely movement in Oracle to retract from the Open Source and free (free – like free beer) software efforts that Sun was firmly behind.

Consider what happens if a company acquires Novell and uses the SystemV license from Novell to market a closed source operating system, and discontinues work on Suse; or at minimum decides it doesn’t distributed Suse for free (free – like free beer).

“Live free or die” might become a fading memory.

Originally posted 2010-06-05 02:00:18.

Windows Symbolic Links

I really hate to use drive letters; that’s the one thing Windows has inherited from DOS that should have been eliminated a very long time ago; or at least made into an “alias” and deprecated as a “fixture”.

NTFS has supported reparse points for a fairly long time; you may well have seen the type “<JUNCTION>” when you did a directory list from the command line.

Reparse points are a fairly generic phrase for a set of features that have grown in NTFS over the years, and they’re effectively the same as *nix link (both hard and soft).

Here are some interesting things you can do with reparse points using the MKLINK tool that ships with Windows 7.

You can create a file reference in a number of directories; that only consumes a directory entry, the file only exists a single time on the disk… if you make it a hard link (the default is a soft link) the file isn’t deleted until all links are deleted.

You can do the same with a directory — make it appear in more than one location.

You can make references across file systems (including drives and the network) just as easily.

For me, I use it to create references to network resources so that they appear on a local machine (I used to use DFS mainly for this and map a single drive letter)…

Anyway, this is another seldomly used feature of Windows that can really help to make it a much more usable system — unfortunately for those it would benefit the most, it’s difficult for them to setup the symbolic links.

Originally posted 2009-12-16 01:00:22.

bada boom… bada bing…

Elemental Technologies, Inc in Portland Oregon showed a new type of video encoder at CES 2009 — they call it badaboom — it’s build on top of Vidia’s CUDA interface to their GPUs and largely uses GPU resources rather than CPU resources to encode (or re-encode actually) video.

You can download a free thirty use trial from their web site and test it for yourself.

Here are my impressions of it.

I did a few test encodes and played with the options quite a bit, and while I think it has a great deal of potential, it misses on quite a few points.

First, it’s fairly easy to use — and you’ll get something decent out of it even if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.

It can read unencrypted DVD, the contents of a VIDEO_TS folder on your hard disk, any media file that you have a DirectShow decoder for.

I tried this on an nVideo 8600GT, 8800GTS, 9500GT, 9800GT, and 9800GTX.  The 9500GT performed much slower than the other four cards (yeah, you could have guess that from just the Vista ratings)…

I saw about 54fps doing SD video and about 12fps doing HD… my Q9400 and Q9300 can do roughly that with a good encoder.  In all fairness, using the GPUs to encode my PCs were extremely responsive, something I can’t say when using my CPUs to encode.  Of course if you compare price of a CPU to a high end GPU — you would probably be better off spending your money on the CPU.

For $30 it wouldn’t be a bad option to have a GPU based encoder.

However (you knew it was coming)…

I can hardly call v1.1.1 a final product — and to their credit they offer free upgrades until they release v2, which they say will be about a year off.

Here’s what it doesn’t do.

Sound:

It doesn’t handle multi-channel sound, so you’re going to loose your 5.1 Dolby or DTS on your DVD movies; it does a stereo or mono mix-down of your sound.  So until it allow you to encode your multi-channel sound in AAC or to preserve your AC3 or DTS sound without touching it I’d say it’s not a contender.

It also can’t handle multiple audio tracks.  To this this it would really need to support MKV containers.

Video:

It doesn’t properly detect source video size nor does it handle letterbox crops.  This isn’t that advanced of a feature — and why they think they need to upscale the video is beyond me.  If the source was only 704×480 it’s not going to look any better scaling it up to 1920×1080… it should be encoded at the same size as the source and the playback and upscale it.  Plus many DVD are letterbox, and there’s no reason to encode those black bars, they should be cropped out (either automatically or allow a user to set the crop regions).

Subtitles:

It doesn’t handle even a single subtitle stream.

Menus & Navigation:

Doesn’t preserve any of the menus and navigation from the DVD, but I didn’t really expect it to since there’s no MPEG4 player I know of that would be able to use the navigation stream.

__________

Personally I think at the moment Hand Brake and Fair Use Wizard are better products; but they don’t use your GPU, they use your CPU.  I do think that over time badaboom will improve; and the upside is apparently you get thirty uses every time they change the version (though you’re going to have to live with their logo in the lower left hand corner).

In closing, I wasn’t compelled to pull my credit card out and buy it; I’ll certainly wait until at least the sound issue is corrected.

Originally posted 2009-02-23 01:00:09.

gOS – Nothing but ‘Net

Strike two — another candidate falls by the way side.  Don’t worry, this isn’t baseball so I’m not feeling the pressure of striking out (just yet).

gOS is a descent Linux distribution, and it works — in fact it works nicely.

The applications that come bundles are heavily dependent on Google; and it really doesn’t follow the Mac look and feel very completely (you would have to scab on a better theme and my feeling is that way too advanced for the target audience). 

gOS is also missing most every multimedia capability that an average user would want.  That’s allegedly to avoid legal issues in many countries, but the fact of the matter is if you can’t play a DVD or most video and audio streams a person is likely to find it’s just not an acceptable OS for the general public.

If you want something fairly basic that works when you install it and doesn’t require much fussing, but you’re not interested in multimedia this might be a reasonable choice; but you’re probably better off to stick with a distribution that doesn’t carry the weight of Ubuntu (something derived directly from Debian or built from scratch).

gOS

Originally posted 2010-01-05 01:00:48.

Internet Explorer 8

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 quite a while ago, and I’m not sure they fully realized how many web pages it would break.

Sure, they put a compatibility mode in it to allow some older sites to run; and they have the facility to “update” IE8 to configure it for more sites with know issues, and developers can add a header or a meta tag to their web pages to force IE8 into compatibility mode, and of course a user and select compatibility mode.

A truly sad thing is that in all this time Microsoft hasn’t issued a fix to Virtual Server 2005’s web management interface (the only way you can control Virtual Server 2005); and it requires compatibility mode to work (come on guys, how tough is it to just update the web pages to include the meta tag — or maybe you could actually fix what’s broken in the page).

My personal feeling is that we didn’t need another version of Internet Explorer; and we certainly didn’t need another version of any software rushed out the door riddled with severe bugs and deficiencies.

Why software companies spend so much time and energy making things worse (work on thing that are BROKEN) is beyond me…

Your potential. Our passion.

Maybe they should consider we could all achieve our potential if we didn’t have to waste so much time finding works around for their psychoses.

Originally posted 2009-08-26 01:00:09.