Never Forget an Email Attachment Again!

March 23, 2009

email_attachmentIf you’re using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, here’s a nifty utility that will check your email message for the keyword “attach” and will display a popup reminder if you forgot to specify the attachment. It’s a simple VB Macro that you can cut-n-paste into MS-Outlook and forget about. I’ve often forgotten to attach documents, and this little VB Code offers a nice simple popup reminder.


Upgrading My Desktop PC

March 21, 2009

mechanicFor the last several years, I’ve always built my own Desktop PC instead of buying a pre-built system (from HP, Dell, etc.). I like the fact that I can select every single component that gets installed in my system, and thus have control on issues like quietness, speed, etc. So far, my current system (Intel Core 2 Duo at 1.83 GHz, and 2 GB RAM) seems to be running fine with Windows Vista 32-bit. My primary usage for my Desktop PC is web surfing, email, programming, web page building and testing, and TV recording and processing of video files. I don’t do any gaming, so I don’t have a need for a super-high powered system with intense graphics. But, every few years I decide on upgrading my system for faster hardware based on the latest technology.

I’m at the two year mark now with my current system, and I’m considering my upgrade options. As it turns out, my system is still close to the current technology and far from being obsolete. So what options do I have for upgrading?

First, I was thinking of upgrading the CPU from a Intel Core 2 Duo (1.83 GHz) to a Intel Core 2 Quad CPU (3.0 GHz). Having effectively four processors instead of two (at a higher clock speed) would certainly help when processing videos in the background while I’m using my PC for other tasks. Luckily, my current motherboard (ASUS P5N-E SLI) will take the Intel Quad processor so I won’t need to swap out the motherboard for this upgrade.

I was also thinking of switching from Vista 32-bit to 64-bit to have access to more installed memory. I currently have 2 GB of RAM installed, and it would be nice to increase that to 8 GB and have access to all of it using the 64-bit Vista OS. RAM is pretty cheap now, so now’s the time to upgrade. But that brings up another big issue: Moving to the 64-bit OS. Read the rest of this entry »


New Dell Adamo Slim Laptop

March 17, 2009

dell_adamoI noticed that Dell announced their new slim laptop,  Adamo, was available for sale today. It’s a very thin laptop with an Apple-esque design, created to compete with the Apple MacBook. It looks great to me, but has a rather large price tag starting at $1999.00 US. What really caught my eye, was the 128 GB Solid State Drive (SSD)  inside the Adamo. SSDs are popular with the smaller Netbook laptops since they are very low-powered and are much smaller than most conventional laptop hard drives. The 128 GB size of the Adamo SSD is quite amazing, since most Netbooks only have 32 or 64 GB of space. A very pricey component that certainly increases the overall price of the new Dell laptop.

Also, SSDs don’t have the access speed of the normal spinning disk drives, so you’ll probably notice some performance hits when reading and writing to the drive. Installing 2 or more GB of RAM should help with the SSD slowness, as it should limit how much virtual space (disk space being used as slow RAM memory) is used by the operating system when running multiple applications.

So, if you want the latest and coolest laptop for running Windows Vista 64-bit, check out the new Dell Adamo!


Switch to a Mac? (Wife’s Turn)

March 16, 2009

One of my first postings on this web blog was titled the “The Great Mac Experiment“, where I describe my investigation into switching to a Apple Mac Mini system. This exploration was brought on by some difficulties my wife was having with her HP Vista System, and her off comment of, “…maybe I should switch to a Mac!”

As I stated in that posting, I concluded that it was much better for me to stay with my current Microsoft Vista PC than switch over to a Mac Mini. When you compare the hardware between a current Mac system and a PC, you can get a much more powerful and faster system with the PC hardware for the same or less price than a Mac system.

For example, compare an Apple iMac system (where the components are integrated into the LCD Monitor display) with these features:


Apple iMac – $1,349 US

imac

  • 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 4 GB Memory
  • 320 GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth
  • 8x Double-layer SuperDrive
  • 20-inch LCD Monitor
  • Built-in Speakers
  • Mac OS X
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse

With this Windows PC system from Dell.com:

Dell Studio Slim Desktop PC – $879 US

dell_slim

  • 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Quad
  • 6 GB Memory
  • 640 GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • 16x DVD+/-RW Drive
  • 22-inch Dell LCD Widescreen Monitor
  • External Dell Speakers
  • Dell 19-in-1 Media Card Reader
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit OS
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse

Note, that the Dell price is with a $230 discount (which Dell seems to always have available). So, you can see that there’s a $470 difference in price, and the Dell system also comes with more memory, more disk space, faster DVD burner, and a larger LCD screen. It also uses a Intel Quad Processor versus the Intel Duo Processor in the iMac (so that’s basically 4 CPUs over 2 CPUs). In addition, the Dell system has internal slots allowing the user to add in higher performance graphics card, TV Tuner Card, etc. while with the iMac you would need to add on extra components as external USB devices. Read the rest of this entry »


Blocking Troublesome Pop-ups in Firefox

March 16, 2009

firefoxI use the Firefox web browser almost exclusively on all my computers and laptops, as I find it works much better for me than Internet Explorer. Although Firefox has its own built-in pop-up blocker, it seems that a few pesky pop-up windows appear in the background whenever I visit certain web pages. For example, I like to read the spoilers for Battlestar Galactica at this site, and when I do so I almost always get a pop-up window in the background for http://www.doublediet.org, http://www.double-diet.com, etc. So, it seems that Firefox’s built-in popup blocker can’t seem to stop this particular pop-up window.

As such, I’ve searched around and found a Firefox ad-on plugin called AdBlock Plus that is suppose to block specific web addresses listed in a file. You can either create your own list from scratch, or “subscribe” to a growing list of ad sites. I chose to subscribe to the “EasyList (USA)” subscription which contained hundreds of known ad sites, and so far the troublesome doublediet pop-up window no longer appears! In the Firefox statusbar you can hover your mouse cursor over the AdBlock Plus Icon, and a notification window will appear showing how many pop-ups were blocked on a specific page (see below):

adblockplus_1

Hopefully, this add-on plugin for Firefox will help with blocking ad sites and not block out the good ones! 🙂


Microsoft Following Other Smartphone OSes

March 11, 2009

smartphoneYou often hear Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer use the word “innovate” or “innovation” when they talk about Microsoft, but they seem to always follow or copy the competition. In my previous posting I mentioned that Palm WebOS and Google Android OS are using web-based technology (HTML, Java, Javascript, CSS, etc) for developing and running applications on their platforms, and it appears that Microsoft is doing the same thing with Windows Mobile 6.5. Called “Widgets”, these are applications that use HTML and Javascript to run applications inside the Pocket Internet Explorer web browser. The site PocketPC Thoughts has some comments on this, and a few pictures of such applications running in Windows Mobile.

It’s probably faster and easier to develop such applications for the Internet-connected smartphone devices, but you’ll certainly be limited in what you can do as most higher functions and capabilities probably won’t be available using this system.

One thing of concern to most developers is protecting their applications, as these web-based programs are usually simple text files that can be read by anyone with a text editor. As such, anyone could “steal” your coding and make their own application, distribute it for free, etc. This topic was brought up at a recent Palm webcast, and the Palm developer didn’t have an answer to this question. Time will tell on how developers can protect their property under this system.


Smartphone Application Programming

March 9, 2009

smartphonesSince about 2001, I’ve been developing applications for the Microsoft Pocket PC and now Windows Mobile devices. It’s been a part-time effort, where I spend evenings and weekends creating the Windows-based applications. Since the Pocket PC/Windows Mobile OS is basically a slimmed down version of Windows, all the programming structure, function calls, etc. are the same. So, if you know how to develop executables for the Desktop Windows machines, it’s nearly the same thing for the Windows Mobile devices.

Originally, writing Windows programs meant you needed to use a C++ or Pascal Compiler to create binary executables. After a few years, Microsoft introduced their .NET product which was suppose to make it easier for developers to create applications that will run on both the Desktop Windows systems and Windows Mobile systems. I never got into the whole .NET thing, since it required certain libraries, DLLs, and modules to be installed on systems to run the .NET applications. I liked the executable method, since you can compile everything into a single, compact application executable. The only problem with that approach, is that the binary executable you create will only work for a specific CPU processor, but fortunately Microsoft standardized on the ARM processor after 2003 for the Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices.

Moving forward to 2009, you don’t see many people using Pocket PC devices. Instead, they use their cell phones (or, smartphones) for tracking appointment, emails, and reminders. Although some smartphones run the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS, there are plenty of other devices running the Blackberry OS, Nokia OS, Apple iPhone OS, and Android OS. Read the rest of this entry »


DriveHQ – Online File Storage

March 9, 2009

drivehq_0As you may have read in some previous postings, I’ve examined and reviewed several of the available online file storage offerings. Currently, there’s several different systems that will auto sync files or do auto backups, or allow you to upload files for online storage. For my needs, I want a method for storing files off my Desktop PC for safe keeping (in case my hard drive blows up, or my house burns down). So, I don’t need the file syncing features. Most of the online file storage solutions that I’ve come across don’t allow you to directly upload folders containing files or other subfolders. You have to select and upload individual files, or a group of files. For me, that would be very time consuming and not acceptable. I wanted a system that would allow me to select a folder and have it and its contents uploaded to an online storage system.

Luckily, I came across one solution called DriveHQ (offered by Drive Headquarters) that does what I need. It has an easy-to-use interface that allows me to simply drag-n-drop my folder into my “DriveHQ” drive on my PC, and begin the uploading process. It will actually upload the files in the background so I can continue working on other things and leave it unattended. Great!

DriveHQ currently offers 1 GB of free storage, which works fine for me since I just want to upload client web page files for safe storage. If you want to backup large files (such as video files, pictures, etc.) you’ll probably fill up your 1 GB allotment very quickly. Then, you’ll be looking at paying for more storage space as explained on DriveHQ’s web site.

In contrast, SkyDrive (by Microsoft) offers you 25 GB of free online storage, however, you can’t upload folders. You have to upload individual files (or a group of files) which is a time consuming process. So, I’ll probably stick with DriveHQ for a while and see how easy and effective it is, and will decide whether to upgrade for more storage space when the time comes.


Missed Your Favorite TV Episode? Just Watch it Online!

March 9, 2009

tv_setSometimes I’m out of town on a business trip or are too busy and forget to watch one of my favorite evening TV shows. I normally set up my Vista Media Center to record the show, but in some cases I forget or my computer is shut off for some reason. Well, never fear– you can watch your missed show online!

For example, I missed one of this season’s episode to Teminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, so I went to http://www.fox.com and was able to watch it online on my Desktop PC in a web browser. I’ve done this a few times before, but I noticed last night that Fox has some new player technology that produced a really clear video on my monitor. I’ve got a 1600×1050 wide-screen LCD display, and I was able to play the streaming TV show full-screen with great clarity. It was amazing. Now, I do have relatively high-speed Internet access via a Comcast cable connection, but nevertheless, I was suitably impressed.

It seems that with today’s technology, we might see more and more Internet streaming of TV shows and movies. It may be that in a few years, we all have a digital media center connected to our big, flat screen TVs (or monitors) and watch all our programming via the Internet. I can’t wait! 🙂


Netbooks Bring On Alternate Operating Systems

March 9, 2009

dell_netbookHere’s an interesting article on wired.com that describes the use of alternate operating systems for the new Netbook computers. Netbooks are designed to be small, lightweight laptops that run a low-powered CPU to maximize battery life, and are used mainly to connect to the Internet. So, these machines are designed to do just about everything via the Internet. As such, hardware manufacturers are starting to install Linux-based operating systems on these machines since Linux is inexpensive and can easily run web browser and email applications.

Internet-based tools already exist for calendar, word processing, and email functions (e.g., Google), and there are lots of online storage options available. So I can see very customized operating systems ranging from a standard Linux installation to some reduced, optimized version of Linux. This will certainly challenge Microsoft in the area of Internet Netbooks operating systems.