Monday, 24 September 2007
The One Laptop Per Child charity is allowing "the first 25,000" applicants to buy one of their rugged computers on a "buy two get one" basis - you buy one for yourself and one for a child in a less developed country.
They sound a very useful device and I suspect they are going to be highly sort after because of the design features that make them outdoor-friendly - something other laptops are not.
The first thing about them is the that they are designed to be low powered so they don't need regular charging; and it appears they will have some sort of crank to charge them if you are away from the office. They use a low-clock-speed processor and best of all they replace the spinning hard drive with a solid state flash drive.
They are 802.11g wireless enabled so you can connect while sat on the hammock in the back garden.
The major feature that makes them work outside is the screen - you can set them to go black and white and work like a newspaper or an LCD watch. Bright sunlight stops being a problem.
The operating system is a version of the Open Source Linux based Fedora Core 6.
Some details are slightly woolly as the device has gone through a number of design stages with some facilities kept and others left out. I hope they keep the solar panel though.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
You can sort most sets of files in Vista in the usual way, size, name, modified but not photographs. You can sort photographs in many, many ways: how about "35mm focal length" or "Assistant's phone"?
But you can't arrange by modified. I find this unsatisfactory. There may be times when I wish to sort by Lens maker but I really would like to be able to choose the last 8 files I have just downloaded from the net.
One way I could do it is to open my XP laptop and sort them over the network.
Please when we get Service Pack 1 can we have a normal sort by facility?
Thursday, 23 August 2007
All of this is under the same umbrella with a single log in.
Both the directory and the blogs (if required) appear on the Internet without logging in so they can help your web site's search engine ranking by adding back links.
The site is free to join although enhanced listings are available for a very reasonable fee.
Take a look now: Sell to a Million
Friday, 17 August 2007
So having failed with three versions of Ubuntu I installed XP. No problems at all; I told it 18 times that I am not American, did 42 updates, added the drivers which came on a disc from the manufacturers - Novatech and off I went.
However the wireless network failed about every minute. I rang the nice people at Novatech and they asked me to post it back. They couldn't fix it either so they sent a replacement. Ubuntu still didn't like it so I now have a shiny new pooter running Windows XP.
XP has got more like Vista. They have seriously tightened up on the security - making it much harder to get on a network. The default workgroup seems to have changed from MSHOME to WORKGROUP - like on Vista - which is a potential pitfall. Anyway after more faffing than I was expecting, I have a machine on the internet, sharing files around the house.
The updates required to get Windows XP to a state of readiness are too long winded. I think it took 5 seperate updates to get Service Pack 2 and Internet Explorer 7, but not Media Player 10.
I am going to do some work with it now.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
The "sleep" mechanism works nicely now, especially if you turn all programs off first. Networking also works better than earlier with other Windows machines; less so with Ubuntu but I doubt if Mr Gates is too bothered about that.
This morning Windows decided to update my machine. I lost a monitor. I had four screens yeaterday and after the update I had three. Windows had decided to set two of my monitors to run from the same output. Took me twenty minutes to work that one out.
Now I have discovered it has unticked a little box for me. It's a really anally retentive thing they brought in with Internet Explorer that asks your permission before sending forms in case the evil internet sees what is on your clipboard (where stuff goes when you use the copy function). Any way if you are brave and you want to stop the message coming up:
Do you want to allow this webpage to access your Clipboard?
If you allow this, the webpage can access the Clipboard and read information that you've cut or copied recently.
follow these simple instructions:
Alt, T ( to get tools in Internet Explorer 7)
Scroll down to: Allow Programmatic clipboard access
Sunday, 5 August 2007
Vista is not an option. Apart from being seductively beautiful it is suffering from acute hypochondria, is incompatible with every item of hardware in my house and is rubbish at networking and file sharing.
XP is an option. It suffers none of the faults of its younger sibling and everything works on it. The one thing that puts my off slightly is having to use anti-virus software that will slow my computer down - especially if I have to renew it every year.
Ubuntu would be the geek thing to do. It's free, it works, it doesn't require anti-virus software because installing viruses requires both utter stupidity and a good knowledge of the operating system. The most dangerous thing you can do with a virus on Ubuntu is forward it to a Windows user.
I also like the challenge of Ubuntu. On a basic level anybody can use it. If all you want to with your computer is surf the net, read and send emails and use spreadsheets and documents, Ubuntu is the operating system. If you want to a little more; like play DVDs for instance (which I don't but I would like the facility just in case) then you have to talk its language a bit. All the instructions are out there on the net but it isn't for beginners.
One thing putting me off Ubuntu is the lack of a decent FTP program. File Transfer Protocol is the way that most of the internet is published - certainly the corner of it that I am responsible for. CuteFTP is the program I use for this purpose on Windows machines and unfortunately nothing gets close to it in the Open Source world - that I have found anyway. I need an application that will allow me to edit files on the server. Ubuntu's best program gFTP will allow you to do this but pressing save just saves a temporary file - it doesn't publish it to the internet.
In terms of compatibility there is not a great deal to choose between XP and Ubuntu; both know where to get suitable drivers from.
The one I haven't mentioned yet is OS X. I would like to play with Macs just for the hell of it, but for £511 I have got a machine with four times the memory and half as much again processor speed that I would have got if I had purchased from Apple - pound for pound. Unless I wanted to process big video, which I don't, I just can't justify the price of Mac hardware.
The other option is Fedora. Like Ubuntu, it is another flavour of the Linux operating systems that are growing in popularity. But unlike Ubuntu it seems to be still aiming at the bum-fluff computer nerd stereotype. A quote from their web site shows why I think this:
Why can't Fedora play mp3 files?
Why is mp3 popular? Because it's better than everything else out there?
No. mp3 is popular because its creators licensed it broadly to spur its adoption. Then, once it was the de facto format, they started to enforce their patents aggressively and restrictively.
The Free and open source multimedia codecs such as the Ogg family of codecs are superior, and they are not patent-encumbered. Never have been, never will be. That's why we support Ogg Vorbis (lossy) and FLAC (lossless) for general audio, Speex for speech, and Ogg Theora for video.
For those people who insist upon using mp3, it's not difficult to figure out how to get these players. Still, we'd much rather change the world instead of going along with it.
This is the wrong attitude to take, MP3s have won - people have MP3 players not Vorbis players. As it says, Fedora will play MP3s; so why fight against the system.
I am going to go with Ubuntu, if the machine will take version 7.04. It it answers me back I will give it the XP disc instead.
Monday, 9 July 2007
All the text still looks rubbish with the font-smoothing shenanigans.
I have always preferred the software inherent in Windows XP to third party drivers and have used these wherever possible. I ignore requests to insert printer or camera CDs and carry on regardless. It almost always works.
Similarly I prefer the drag and drop burning of CDs which is possible using XP. This facility continues with Vista. I'm not sure they have got it right though.
I wanted to choose some of the 800 MB of pictures in a folder to drag onto a CD, so I dragged them one by one, or in groups, onto the G drive which is my CD ROM drive. I was expecting it to take the files and then wait for instructions to start burning to the disc. Unfortunately it started before the pistol and set off burning the files one by one, and calculating time... and displaying thumbnails... I have at least 10 little windows open calculating time. I now have three windows counting down in geological units. See the picture.
So a word of advice. If you have been stupid enough to purchase Vista and you want to make a CD ROM, make a temporary folder first. Or just use your spare PC running some other operating system.
Monday, 25 June 2007
I opened up the new browser from the uber-cool Apple Inc and waited for the browser to detect my settings from Internet Explorer such as favourites and default home page. Of course it didn't do this because Safari knows I want my home page to be the Apple web site and that now I am a Safari user I will want to start again with a new set of favourite web sites.
I dare say I could have imported them but that was a bad start. Apple should make things idiot proof - like Mozilla do when installing Firefox or Thunderbird.
Anyway the browser shows web pages. Like Internet Explorer or Firefox.
The browser is no better looking, faster, more stable or more secure than other browsers. I have uninstalled it.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
I went to the Apple site at http://www.apple.com/safari/download/ and downloaded the Beta 3 version of Safari together with Quicktime. I gave it somebody else's email address and downloaded the software without a hitch. It asked me if I wanted something called Bon Jour to help printer sharing and as I am using XP which is able to share printers across a network already I declined the kind offer politely.
It gave me a shiny new Quicktime icon in the taskbar (at the bottom of the screen) without asking, which I thought a bit rude, but otherwise installed OK. There was no swearing allegiance to the god of Macness.
According to the Apple Mac temple at http://www.apple.com/safari/ Quote:
The fastest web browser on any platform, Safari loads pages up to 2 times faster
than Internet Explorer 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2.
So I double clicked the new Safari icon on my desktop and counted. And counted. I got to 71 seconds before I gave up hope of the browser fully opening. It's still there on my taskbar saying "Apple - Start" with about a quarter of a web page - although a quarter of which web page I don't know because the address bar doesn't show.
I thought Macs "just worked", and so all of their software must do also. As I said this is XP I am using, not the half cooked Vista I use for most of my work. XP is the operating system developers should aim for before anything else; it is stable and popular. The machine has about an acre of RAM and has 270 Horse Power processor so it's not the machine's fault.
Apple have cocked up. They have bravely announced the arrival of a public Beta-version browser, way before it is ready. I am greatly amused by this, not because I like to see development fail, but because of the religious fervour of the Apple company and all who worship the Mac as god.
This should bring Apple down to Earth. The company and its software are no better than Microsoft or Windows. They are fallible. And this time they have wasted a huge opportunity to show the computing world how good a major part of their system is; and condemned themselves to occupying a niche market for a good while yet.
Meanwhile if you want to know what the internet looks like on Ubuntu click here - http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/
Monday, 11 June 2007
The blogs, which could be utilised by the whole school, teachers and parents included, have all the usual facilities such as picture uploads, automatic linking of email and web links, archive links and lists of contributors.
The departmental pages can be edited by a member of each department and operate in a similar way to the blog. Each department can only edit their own section.
There is a gallery facility that the super user can upload an unlimited amount of images to. No editing is required and the pictures can be published straight from the camera. All resizing is done by the server.
The editable events and term date pages will automatically hide out of date items.
There is an RSS feed facility based on the blogs, department pages, news and events pages.
This web site could be easily duplicated for other educational establishments within a bespoke template and requires no knowledge of programming to maintain.
I will add a link to the first site when the school is ready to put the thing live, but if you need a sneak preview please give me a call on 01983 721264 (011 44 1983 721264 from the States).
Saturday, 9 June 2007
It likes to come with a load of rubbish such as a tree of mark-up tags and a list of attributes and styles, which I doubt I will ever use but you can drag this to the base of the page. Unfortunately it doesn't appeared to be remembered that way when you return.
The best way to access it is by adding the DevToolbar icon next to the home, RSS and tool icons - by right clicking and customising the command bar.
Give it a try.
Thursday, 10 May 2007
If you read my previous blog you will see that Vista, Paint Shop Pro and Liam are having a little bit of a falling out.
Ringing support, I was answered by somebody who appeared utterly bored with her job and was desperate to get down the pub and talk about all the freaks with Vista that ring up for help with Paint Shop Pro XI. Perhaps all you lucky people with old versions of Paint Shop Pro (probably the ones made by Jasc) and Windows XP should ring Katie at Corel and tell them their program works fine.
Anyway she clearly likes me because she sent me an email.
Dear Mr Thom,
1. Point your web browser (Internet Explorer) to the following location. This will load the Download page of our FTP Server. If you receive an error message when loading this page, you’ll need to enable "FTP folder view". In Internet Explorer Use Tools Options, Click the Advanced tab and mark the "Enable Folder View for FTP sites". ftp://ftp.corel.com/pub/PaintShopPro/X
2. Locate the file ZapPS.exe
3. Left-click and drag the file from the Download page window to your Computer Desktop (you can also copy/paste by right-clicking on the file and choosing copy and then right click on your desired destination and choosing paste). This will transfer the file from our server to your computer.
4. When done downloading the file, browse to the location of the saved file. Double left-click on it to launch it.
5. >From the Product Drop-down menu, choose the version of PSP you’re uninstalling. For example, Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI.
6. Under Actions, add a checkmark next to all 4 options - Uninstall, Run MSI Zap, Remove Registry Keys, Remove Installed Files.
7. Choose Begin. The utility will begin to uninstall Paint Shop Pro. Then the utility will remove all other portions of the program. Note: The files you have created, edited or saved with Paint Shop Pro will NOT be deleted, moved or changed.
8. Once the entire process is complete, manually delete any remaining Paint Shop Pro files. Use My Computer to access one of the following location. The locations are specific to the version of Paint Shop Pro you’re removing.
C:\Program Files\Corel\Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI
1. Go to Start Run
2. Type msconfig and click on OK
3. Go to Services and click on "Hide all Microsoft Services" and then on "Disable all"
4. Go to Startup and click on "Disable all"
5. Click on OK and restart the computer
6. Install Paint Shop Pro Photo XI and all updates
7. Go to Start Run
8. Type msconfig and click on OK
9. Choose "Normal Startup" and click on OK
_Katie Pritchard_Corel EMEA Technical Support Agent
_Deutschland 0800 101 6079
_Österreich 0800 677 027
_Schweiz (Deutsch) 0800 000 787
_UK 0800 376 9271
Liam's reply having wasted a quarter of an hour doing what I had already done:
"1 minute and 45 seconds to open up. That's actually a bit slower than before. Any ideas?"
Dear Mr Thom,
Please try creating a new user profile in Windows and see how the program runs under the new profile.
OK I smell a get-out here but I did what I was told.
"Hello Katie, that worked for the new account. Opened up in 10 seconds. Still takes a minute or more on the usual account."
Katie's reply:Dear Mr Thom,
In that case you will need to use the new account as your default account.
She wants me to reset all my favourites, addresses, passwords and emails then move 100 GB of files to a different part of my hard drive because I have a bug with Paint Shop Pro?
Wednesday, 9 May 2007
So that should work well then. You'd have thunk.
Paint Shop Pro likes to build up a database of pictures on computers, presumably so it can report kiddy-porn to the European Union and the Daily Mirror. Vista likes to protect you from this intrusion in your privacy so that while installing Paint Shop Pro on XP causes a huge crashing of hard drives, on Vista it pauses with a "erm... this isn't quite working properly, look innocent" expression.
That isn't the issue. The problem is the 78 seconds it stands about whistling while it opens up every time after the initial install. "Updating cache settings" it says. Fibber. "Trying to persuade your computer to have a peak at your piccies". Would be more correct. The Corel (makers of PSP XI) web site claims this bug is fixed. Not in the Brave New World of Windows Vista.
OK I can wait a couple of minutes for a program to open; but it is then seriously sluggish. Every task - like mousing over an icon(!) takes an age. Cropping an image takes an age because the lines move way after the command has been issued. It's like working on a satellite link.
The answer? I suspect it has to be XP. The nice people at Corel haven't come up with a solution so what else can I do?
Ubuntu isn't the answer. I am writing this on a laptop with Ubuntu running on it and I really like the operating system, but I have seven years of project files for programs that run on Windows, several of which will not run on Unix.
Or Vista, apparently.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
That said, Firefox (and Opera, Netscape etc) have been the driving force behind why Internet Explorer 7 is as good as it is now - particularly the tabbed browsing.
I now use Firefox.
Because Vista has sodded Internet Explorer up.
Two little things have got to me to switch to Firefox; tiny little things. The first is the Developer Tool Bar in Internet Explorer. This is an extremely useful tool bar for developers. Really? It allows you to do really handy things like resize the browser to emulate smaller screens, pick up colours with a dropper, measure distances in pixels and view cell and table configuration. Microsoft claims it works with Vista. My computer says otherwise. It installs without a hitch and doesn't do anything. You can download a couple of tools that do the same for Firefox which do work with Vista.
I have been uploading information to a database through a web form. Much of the data is similar so the best way to do this is to submit the entry and then click back to repeat - can't do it. The paranoid operating system wipes out the entries in the form fields to protect me from my wreckless use of the internet.
If there is anybody reading who knows how to enable me to click back to a web page without erasing its contents please let me know. There has to be a setting for it somewhere. Or perhaps Mr Gates is so concerned for our welfare he has completely disabled this facility. I can still use Firefox.
Alternatively if anybody knows a way of getting the Firefox bookmarks to work as effectively as the Internet Explorer 7 favourites then please let me know. I can then kick IE into touch.
Monday, 23 April 2007
I had a brainwave. I turned off the Windows Firewall. On XP the Windows Firewall is an inoffensive little beast. In four years of XP bliss I never noticed it working away in the background. On Vista it was turned off by default - which is really weird on a hypochodriac operating system - and I thought nothing of turning it on. Having turned it off again I can now see all the shared folders on the network. I can even go inside some of them and look at files.
One of the folders is misbehaving still. How long must I wait with this screen?
A few minutes is what it says. However the folder in question is actually usable on the network. Maybe it is just a device to keep us from using networking because secretly Microsoft know the operating system is full to the gunwales with security flaws. By making file-sharing so totally impossible we will all give up and buy memory sticks instead.
So how did I get this far? I'm not really sure. But this is something like it.
Click the Windows button and then Network. At the top is a link to Network and Sharing Center (sic - I am British damn it). You can also access this Center via the Control Panel.
Sharing and discovery needs to be turned on. You also need to change settings next to make the workgroup the same as all your other computers; which could well be MSHOME. File sharing should be on and password protected sharing off (unless you are a 14 year old hacker then you can probably get past this facility anyway).
To describe it as a bit clunky is an understatement. It is absolutely ridiculous. Vista is too busy saving you from your own feckless nature to trust you to have control of your machine.
Sunday, 22 April 2007
Vista is the new version of XP. It is therefore better. It just follows. You wouldn't bring something out that was worse than the old one. That would be rediculous! Grabs belly and laughs until the tears come.
Nobody without a degree in computers and a large amount of sedative should attempt to share files or printers on Vista. It's just not worth it. Go out and enjoy the sun. Or cut the grass with an axe or something constructive.
Firstly your printer is not going to be compatible with Vista. Nothing is totally. You wouldn't mind if it was totally incompatible - if it really didn't even try. Seen the Mac advert? Where the Mac and PC hold hands and then the printer holds hands with the Mac. The PC then tries to speak Japanese to the printer and gets it slightly wrong. "Rubbish", you cry - "that doesn't happen on Windows". That's because you run XP. I have 27 pieces of paper with "Unsupported Personality: PCL" written at the top. It did print out lots of stuff I wanted as well but that's how it works with Vista - things only stop working a bit.
So then. Printer sharing. That's easy. Just share the printer surely. Ah no. Every other computer on the network is on the workgroup called "MSHOME". So Microsoft have decided to change the default workgroup to "WORKGROUP". Oh how I laughed when I worked that one out and chaged it back to the usual one. You then have to turn on printer sharing and turn off password protected sharing. While you are at it turn on file sharing, network discovery and public folder sharing.
That's it, you can now share your printer, which doesn't have a suitable driver, with all the other computers on the network. And print out "Unsupported Personality: PCL" to your heart's contentment.
File sharing is much more fun. There is a public folder for you to share stuff in, same as the old days; and sometimes it works. But if you actually want to do something useful like share a folder you use a screen comes up saying "Sharing, this make take a few minutes". It's not wrong. It has never finished yet - even when I try sharing folders with only a few files in. It is just rubbish, absolutely rubbish.
Could it be because the folders are read only? Maybe but unticking the read only box and clicking apply doesn't work - it pretends to so you will go away but as soon as your back is turned it is back to read only.
I have given up. I have a half Gig memory stick and I run upstairs with it, either that or I drag files onto shared folders on the other computers.
But this week I am even more of a fan of Windows XP. I now have Vista installed on my machine. Vista is a thing of beauty. I am intoxicated by its beauty so much that I have resisted the urge to do the sensible thing and put XP back.
I had this computer built for me six months back with a view to installing Vista on it when it came out. It is a pretty decent machine for an office tool. It has 4GB of RAM and a dual core 3.2 GHz Intel Pentium brain. It supports 4 decent sized monitors and has never let me down. Before this week. My computer is fully up to spec for Vista. Vista installed with barely a whimper; and far less histrionics than I expected. There were no problems with any of the drivers and I got Mozilla Thunderbird moved across from the old hard drive complete with addresses, message rules and emails. All joy then.
The first little bug-ette, was trying to use Paint Shop Pro 8. This is a cracking little program; it does just about everything the full blown version of Photoshop does at a fraction of the cost or brain power. Vista welcomed it with open arms. It installed from the disc and gave no hint of disagreement. Until you try and crop anything. Then the program takes its stumps home. No problem; I had expected a few minor incompatibilities so I downloaded the new version. This works fine. I can now edit pictures. Version 11 is better anyway. And I like spending money.
Next little niggle is the sound card. As I said, everything installed nicely with Vista. The sound card is fully functioning, it has an updated driver designed for this operating system and it makes noises - but not like it used to. On XP I could have stereo sound coming out of the computer speakers and out of my audio amp via an optical output. If I wanted I could even have stereo from the computer speakers and Dolby 5.1 from the amp. At the same time. Now I can have either but not both. If I want to switch speakers I have to close Media Player - or whatever - switch default device and start Media Player up again. That's just rubbish.
All well then, apart from a few niggles.
Microsoft hath murder'd sleep. Windows 98 was renowned as a bugger to shut down but XP is usually pretty good. You can even do it without a mouse - press the Windows button and then "U" twice. Off it pops to bed. But then it can take a few minutes to wake up again, especially if you don't have much memory and you run lots of anti-virus and firewall software. So Microsoft decided that we should put our machines to sleep rather than turn them off. Good idea. The machine goes to sleep in seconds and then awakes brightly in the morning ready to start a new day. In theory. However; it hasn't quite worked that way for me yet. Each time I have reawakened it from sleep it has had a minor issue with little unimportant things; each time it's different. Problems have included Internet Explorer, the video card - in various different ways and the network. The only solution is rebooting Vista; which does sort of defeat the object. Turning off Vista is a little bit more protracted than it used to be as well. Why make things harder?
So these are the niggles. When I stop crying I shall tell you about my fun with file sharing.