January 28, 2005

Expose for Windows?

Filed under: — 12:15 pm

I’ve been playing with Macintosh computers in stores lately, and one of my favorite features is Exposé. Today my wife found an O’Reilly Article that mentions three Exposé-alike programs for Windows, all shareware in the $10 range. Here’s my quickie review of all three plus another option:

  • Winplosion: I tried this one and it works, although the animation is a bit clumsy (and this is a fast Windows XP machine.) You can set it to use F9 just like the Mac, but you have to press ESC rather than F9 again to exit. Worse, while it was running in the background I experienced some nasty delays—my computer suddenly couldn’t keep up with my typing. Needless to say, I uninstalled it quickly.
  • Entbloess: I read a brief review here that mentions that it (1) crashed, and (2) messed up the order for Alt-Tab switching. That’s enough to convince me to avoid it entirely.
  • Exposer for Windows: I tried to configure this one to use F9 as the hotkey, but it requires a Ctrl, Alt, Shift, or Windows key modifier, which misses the point of making it work just like a Mac. It makes no attempt to do graceful Apple-style animation when you hit the hotkey, and is slow—I actually laughed the first time I hit Alt-F9 and watched the windows disappear one at a time over a few seconds. It did speed up on subsequent uses, though, and at least it doesn’t crash or slow down the machine.
  • TopDesk: The article missed this one, but I found it in a Google search. It defaults to the Mac standard F9 key, and the animation is the best I’ve seen outside a Mac—but there’s still a disconcerting 2-second delay between the keypress and the animation. The tiled windows look great, changing color as you hover the mouse over them, and the window-opening animation is perfect. Alt-Tab seems to work normally. It’s even smart enough to know that Konfabulator isn’t a normal application that it should tile. If not for that delay and the hefty system requirements, it would be a great choice.

Conclusion: If I were desperate for this feature, I’d go with TopDesk. But that’s just the point—nobody is desperate for this feature. It’s a convenient luxury, but it’s not worth spending money or destabilizing your system, and if it’s the slightest bit slow, you may as well use the taskbar instead. So the snarky comment under the O’Reilly article that says “Just get a Mac” is, essentially, correct.

July 20, 2004

MSN Buys LookOut

Filed under: — 12:31 am

I wrote about LookOut, a great Search add-on for Outlook, a while ago. Now MSN has purchased LookOut. I hope this means it will become an official part of Outlook. Then again, it is owned by MSN, not the Office group, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s destined to become part of an ill-conceived combined Web and Local search on MSN.

But that’s the future. For the present, Microsoft’s first action as LookOut’s new owner was to take it offline. The LookOut site has been stripped down and conspicuously lacks a Download link. LookOut will still work, and will even update itself to version 1.2, if you already had it installed.

I’ve received a few emails asking me how to get a copy of the LookOut installer. I personally had good luck emailing LookOut as mentioned in this forum thread. If you have trouble finding a copy, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

July 14, 2004

Stupid Error Message Award

Filed under: — 1:43 am

An unknown error has occurred.I’m no user interface expert, but I suspect this may be a poorly-designed error message. For the full effect, imagine it popping up out of nowhere while you’re just sitting at the desktop doing nothing, and imagine having no idea which program has an error.

After a bit of investigation, it turns out this message is from The Weather Channel’s Desktop Weather tool, which spends most of its time at the more productive task of displaying your local temperature in the Windows taskbar tray. It means it was unable to connect to a server, probably a network connection problem.

I guess these sorts of problems are bound to crop up when you’re using a combination of software on your desktop, a Web server, and a distributed network of worldwide monitoring stations all connected via a public Internet to act as a cheap thermometer

June 18, 2004

Bonsai: Outliner for Palm and Windows

Filed under: — 4:23 am

I’m trying to make more use of my PalmOS smartphone, so I’ve been looking at Palm software again. My favorite discovery at the moment is Bonsai from Natara software. Bonsai is an outliner, planner, and to-do list. I like to use outlines to manage projects, tasks, and for brainstorming, and until recently used Microsoft OneNote for the purpose.

Bonsai is a bit limited compared to OneNote–your outline can contain only text, and no formatting like boldface or fancy fonts–but it does what I need it to do. More importantly, Bonsai includes nearly-identical versions for Windows and PalmOS that synchronize perfectly. I’ve moved most of my project planning to Bonsai and it’s really nice to be able to glance at my outlines right on my phone, or add to them.

I’m always a bit reluctant to use software from a small company–it might not be supported in the future. But the desktop version of Bonsai can export outlines in text, CSV, HTML, and even XML formats, so if I ever need to change outline programs, it will be a simple transition.

April 20, 2004

28 Spyware programs per PC?

Filed under: — 5:27 am

I’m sick of hearing about Earthlink’s Statistics on Spyware. Clickz.com says the average computer houses roughly 28 items of monitoring software. According to the BBC, the average computer is packed with hidden software that can secretly spy on online habits. Most of the articles are just regurgitating Earthlink’s vague and inaccurate press release.

These highly suspect statistics come from Earthlink’s Spy Audit service, which has a generous (and wrong) definition of spyware that includes "Adware Cookies"–any advertising-related cookies. A scan of my spyware-free PC revealed 80 such items, including legitimate cookies from several advertisers I use myself, not to mention one from Clickz.com. Despite what you might think about cookies and privacy, cookies are data–not spyware by any stretch of the imagination–and they make up a full 80% of the "total instances of spyware" in this survey.

Assuming the Spy Audit numbers are correct, they found an average of 0.35 items of actual spyware per computer scanned. One item of spyware per three computers. That’s a scary statistic, but there’s no need to blow it ridiculously out of proportion. Unless you have a Spyware Blocker feature to promote, of course.

March 25, 2004

Lookout: Search plug-in for Outlook

Filed under: — 2:45 am

Say what you will about Microsoft Outlook, but I rely on it more than the telephone for work-related communication. I also use it to keep records–if you’ve ever sent me a message, it’s in my Outlook folders. Somewhere.

While I’m pretty good at organizing messages, I found something better: Lookout is a plug-in for Outlook that adds a search toolbar and a powerful search engine. It’s far faster than Outlook’s built-in search–to the point of being nearly instantaneous. It has a handy search toolbar and a background indexing system.

Lookout has a nice Google-style search syntax. You can type a keyword or two and get quick results, listed by rank, or you can use modifiers like +word and -word and specify dates, subjects, and other fields. I haven’t spent much time figuring out the syntax, since it usually finds what I’m looking for with keywords alone.

Lookout is free while it’s in beta, but I’ll gladly pay for it. I rarely used Outlook’s search feature, since I could usually find things faster by browsing through my semi-organized folders. By contrast, I’ve found myself using Lookout’s search several times a day, and it hasn’t failed yet. [Found via Marc’s Outlook]

January 14, 2004

RIP: NetLoad, automatic FTP sync

Filed under: — 10:56 pm

For years I’ve used a Windows program called NetLoad to post updated files to my Web sites. It’s an automatic FTP client that does a pretty good job of uploading only the files that have changed. This sounds like a simple task, but I have never found any program as convenient. It’s shareware and I gladly paid for it.

Unfortunately, NetLoad is off the market. Its site has been replaced by this notice that NetLoad is no longer available, and that the source code and customer list is for sale for the absurd sum of $25,000.

So… I’m looking for a new tool to deploy files to my servers. In the meantime, Google found the NetLoad download page, now unlinked, so I can at least get it working on my new PC.

March 26, 2002

Microsoft has security advice for you

Filed under: — 5:31 pm

In their continuing quest to appear to care about security, Microsoft has released Personal Security Advisor, a web-based vulnerability checker for NT WKS 4 / Windows 2000 Professional. Here’s Wired Magazine’s article. I tried it myself and am somewhat impressed… (more…)

August 27, 2001

Microsoft hires fictional “Lobbyists”, completes Win XP

Filed under: — 8:04 pm

Microsoft has apparently been spamming state representatives, with letters from supposed concerned citizens. The trouble is that the citizens were coerced or duped into sending them, or sometimes weren’t even real people. Meanwhile, the Judge has been named for the penalty phase of the anti-trust appeal, and Microsoft is rushing Windows XP out the door so it won’t be affected.

July 2, 2001

Breaking up (Microsoft) is hard to do

Filed under: — 7:27 pm

I’ll officially be the last to report that the appeals court overturned the Microsoft breakup last week. However, it appears that this strengthens the government’s case for other remedies against Microsoft. As usual, both sides are claiming victory.

June 29, 2001

Microsoft listens to customers?

Filed under: — 1:21 am

Microsoft has been causing controversy lately with the smart tags feature of the upcoming Windows XP and IE 6, which would essentially allow Microsoft to add its own links to anyone’s Web page. Now they’ve backed down: the feature won’t be included, and the Wall Street Journal reports that this decision was actually a response to negative feedback from users. (more…)

June 27, 2001

What’s worse than an IRS audit?

Filed under: — 6:03 am

Microsoft is attacking software privacy by auditing 5,000 of their best customers. It’s probably a ploy to make their new Product Activation scheme look good by comparison. According to an IDG survey, though, it’s looking bad to just about everyone.

May 31, 2001

Microsoft releases Office XP

Filed under: — 3:13 am

Microsoft’s Office XP is officially available. Yawn. Here are ZDNet’s reviews of the various applications. The short version: the biggest new feature is a licensing scheme that will make more money for Microsoft. It even has David Coursey reconsidering his anti-Microsoft-breakup stance.

May 3, 2001

Lernout and Hauspie go to jail

Filed under: — 12:46 am

Lernout and Hauspie, the company that makes my favorite voice-recognition software, has been having legal and financial troubles for years. Now the founders themselves are in jail, according to CNET. I don’t know what I’ll do if they go out of business.

April 28, 2001

Correction: Bill Gates still richest

Filed under: — 12:10 am

According to this Forbes article, the Sunday Times gave Walmart’s Robson Walton more credit than he deserved in their Rich List, incorrectly moving Bill Gates to #2. I apologize for passing on what was probably incorrect information. It sure was fun to imagine, though.

April 25, 2001

Poor Bill Gates

Filed under: — 2:58 am

It was an inevitable consequence of the dot-com doldrums: Bill Gates is no longer the world’s richest man, according to The Sunday Times. I’m not sure how Gates feels about this – perhaps these pills will cheer him up.

April 20, 2001

Bill Gates on the compelling value of .NET

Filed under: — 3:57 am

eCompany has a short interview with Bill Gates. My favorite part: when asked to name a “compelling use” for .NET, Gates said that HailStorm would allow eBay to offer wireless auction updates to their customers. Apparently he’s unaware that eBay already offers this service.

April 13, 2001

Microsoft makes fun of…Microsoft?

Filed under: — 4:04 am

First Microsoft promoted Windows 2000 by lambasting Windows 98’s Blue Screen of Death. Now they’re making fun of Clippy, the annoying Office Assistant that plagued Office 2000. Clippy’s new site is amusing, although it’s a thinly-disguised Office XP advertisement… (more…)

April 7, 2001

IE6 Makes Email Disappear

Filed under: — 12:54 am

The Register reports that a bug in the recently-released Internet Explorer 6 Preview can cause Outlook to lose the contents of email. Ouch! This is what happens when software is more integrated than it needs to be.

March 31, 2001

Today’s Forecast: Hail

Filed under: — 5:12 am

Last week Microsoft unveiled their HailStorm strategy. I’m still not sure what it is, and neither is Forbes. IT-Director.com has a decent summary. The Register and Wired News think it’s a plot to take over the world. Jakob Neilsen likes it. I’m so confused…

March 28, 2001

Windows XP Hardware Requirements

Filed under: — 3:22 am

Microsoft has released some preliminary hardware recommendations for Windows XP, including the questionable “does not allow end-user access to expansion bus cards”. Here’s ZDNet’s report . (more…)

March 26, 2001

Be the First to See Windows XP’s New Bugs

Filed under: — 12:46 pm

As of today, you can pay Microsoft $20 and get the pre-release version of Windows XP when it’s released. The first 20,000 orders will also get a beta version next month. Here’s the report from NewsBytes and the Order Link.

March 12, 2001

Newsweek Interviews Bill Gates

Filed under: — 7:39 am

Newsweek has a slightly interesting interview with Bill Gates, including a “no comment” on the appeal. I find myself agreeing with Gates more and more these days. Either I’m getting old or he is.

March 4, 2001

Microsoft Appeal: It’s the Waiting

Filed under: — 5:00 am

After the two-day arguments in the Microsoft case, Microsoft is still standing and hopeful for a victory. A break-up seems unlikely now, but there may still be consequences. The actual result of the appeal may take some time.

February 27, 2001

Microsoft Appeal Continues

Filed under: — 5:38 am

Microsoft goes to court again today to continue their appeal, and there’s no clear winner yet. Wired news, The Standard, ZDNet, and Reuters have lengthy analyses. BBC News, always with a unique perspective, noticed that five of the seven judges were using Windows-based laptops. Hmmm.

February 26, 2001

Microsoft Begins Appeal Process

Filed under: — 4:49 am

Microsoft heads back to court today for their appeal in the antitrust case. CNNfn has a good summary of what’s going on. Meanwhile, ZDNet’s David Coursey’s very silly article begs for forgiveness for poor Microsoft. (more…)

February 24, 2001

Another Outlook Security Problem

Filed under: — 12:07 am

Wired news reports on a new vulnerability in MS Outlook, this time related to those annoying VCard attachments. Here’s The Register’s take on it, and ZDNet’s report. A patch is available from Microsoft. (more…)

February 14, 2001

Microsoft Demos Windows XP

Filed under: — 1:13 am

Microsoft has officially started the hype machine for Windows XP, formerly Whistler, their combined consumer/business OS. CNNfn, InternetNews, Reuters, AP, and even USA Today reported on today’s demo. Meanwhile, CNET wonders where Microsoft’s hazy .Net strategy fits into XP, and Wired News notices that Bill Gates just sold $193 million worth of Microsoft stock.

February 8, 2001

Windows 2000 Server: One Million Served

Filed under: — 1:34 am

ZDNet reports that Microsoft expects to sell its one-millionth license for Windows 2000 Server this month, but that only a small percentage of installations bother with the much-hyped Active Directory.

January 31, 2001

And Only Five Years Late

Filed under: — 2:30 pm

Microsoft, according to CNET, is phasing out Windows 95 – OEMs can’t include it with new systems as of January 1st of this year. I had no idea it was still available before then – haven’t we had two versions of consumer Windows since Win95?

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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