22 December, 2009

Count the number of Rows after Auto-Filter in Excel

When you first apply an Auto-Filter in Excel, the Status Bar indicates the number of records in the filter (e.g. 517 of 8614). In many cases when you start performing other manipulations, the number disappears. Using a simple formula, you can calculate the filtered total.

Assume you want to count all rows that are not empty -- the CountA function -- and assume you want to count the rows in column A. The formula would be SUBTOTAL(103,A:A)-1. The syntax is as follows: subtotal(function_number, reference), where function_number is 1 of many possible options as illustrated below. I included the "-1" to remove the count for the column heading row.
(includes hidden values)
(ignores hidden values)
2 102 COUNT
3 103 COUNTA
4 104 MAX
5 105 MIN
7 107 STDEV
8 108 STDEVP
9 109 SUM
10 110 VAR
11 111 VARP

Note: I used Excel 2003 for this example.

Increase IIS on XP Maximum Connections

With increasingly more complex web pages, I found myself running into a limit in the number of IIS connections allowed for the constrained web server on Windows XP. By default Microsoft has limited the connections to 10. Even when I changed the time to release connections down to 5 minutes, I was still running into problems. With a little Google searching, I found a solution (here, here, and here).

Apparently the hard-coded limitation Microsoft has set is 40 connections. The trick is determining how to raise the level from 10 to 40. There's a script, adsutil, that can do this for you.
  1. Go to the Command Prompt and navigate to C:\Inetpub\AdminScripts.
  2. Enter "adsutil set w3svc/MaxConnections 40".
  3. If you get an error message, "This script does not work with WScript," click OK and click Yes to make Cscript as the default script for VBscript.
  4. When this completes, go back to the Command Prompt and press F3 (repeats last command) and Enter.
  5. If you were successful, the command should return "MaxConnections: 40".
  6. Stop and start IIS. You can do this as the same Command Prompt by entering "iisreset".
I suspect there may be a Registery equivalent setting, but this did the trick for me. If you don't need IIS to begin with, perhaps a better solution would be to load Apache. Microsoft Visual Web Developer may also be a solution, though I haven't spent much time with it myself.

06 November, 2009

Love @ First Website 2009 notes

For the last five years iSiteDesign has been hosting Love @ First Website (#LFW). It's a half-day event where you get to listen to 3 or 4 speakers share about their business and their website and/or web presence. I've attended 3 of the 5 events and have always taken away a few nuggets. This years theme was "Dare to Delight." My notes follow.

Carri Bugbee
Owner of Big Deal PR; Instructor of Social Media Marketing at Portland State; and ghost tweeter as Mad Men's (AMC) Peggy Olson (@peggyolson) Twitter @peggyolson Lessons:
1. Get there first
2. Stay on message
3. Always listen first
4. Admit when you're wrong; Give credit due
5. Build community; everyone wants to be acknowledge.
6. It's a real job; it's a real tool (i.e. It takes time and effort to have a Twitter/social presence)

Paul Zaengle
Sr. Director of eCommerce, Columbia Sportswear
Columbia Sportswear basics:
1. Make Brand the #1 Focus
2. Be Truly Multi-channel (Zipcar demonstrated this)
3. Think Like a Customer (Zipcar demonstrated this)
4. Provide an Online Experience
5. Overload with Images & Info (i.e. Make sure that you have the content for those who are looking for it)
6. Leverage Content (At Ralph Loren/Polo, each group (offline/online) did all their own photo shoots and other collateral. At Columbia, they all share everything)
7. Socialize (When they [finally] added a Facebook Fan Page, it grew [huge number] on the first day)
8. Build a Scalable, Global Digital Platform
9. Encourage Innovation (They have innovated re-usable boxes, "A Box Life" -- 68% of online orders select to ship in a used boxed: so much that they are running out of used box inventory. All new and used boxes have a trackable re-use sticker, where receivers can log into a website and tell how they are re-using the box they have. This is not Columbia branded, and will shortly open to three other companies.)
10. Look to the Future

Lesley Mottla & Lisa Rigano
1. Understand your customer experience. ("Eat your own dog food.")
2. Get the basics right and do them really well.
3. One size doesn't fit all. (Different cultures have different things they want/like. E.g. Portland wants bike racks; London wants small cars.)
4. Schedule randomness, spot awesomeness. (You can't do something extra for everyone, but you can schedule time to do something extra for some. They had learned a customer liked Skittles. Onetime when the customer reserved a car, they surprised him by having a bag of Skittles in it for him.)
5. Get out of your own backyard.

30 October, 2009

Exclude Websites in Your Searches / Custom Searches

I've been doing quite a bit of research lately on technical topics, where the results would frequently include results from a pay site, Expert Exchange. If you;re familiar with Expert Exchange, they've been very successful in getting their pages to return high in the list of Google results. I have found it very frustrating when I inadvertently click-through on one of their pages.

With a little research, I found that Google has a custom search option, where you can include and exclude certain websites. I have created a custom search that includes all Google results with the exception of Expert Exchange. To make it really useful though, I needed it to be in my search bar in Firefox, which I use almost exclusively for new searches. I found a Firefox Add-on to do that too.

Here's how you can make your own custom search.
  1. If you don't already have one, you must have a Google account.
  2. Go to the Google Custom Search page and click "Create a Custom Search"

  3. I had to start with a search that favored a site, and then returned to their Control Panel to remove the favored search and add the Expert Exchange exclusion.
  4. Test the search
  5. Add the "Add to Search Bar" Add-on to Firefox
  6. After restarting Firefox, right-click on the search box and select "Add to Search Bar..."
  7. Click the down arrow on the search box and select "Manage Search Engines..." so I could move my new custom search to the top.
  8. Test from the Firefox search box.
Of course this is just one of many uses for Google's Custom Search. If you want the same Expert Exchange as I do, you don't need to create your own, you can use the custom search that I've created.

Clean imported Excel data

Sometimes when I get data from systems in CSV format, it includes a leading apostrophe ('). When viewing the data in a cell, the apostrophe does not appear, but when I look at it in the formula bar, it does. Without removing the leading apostrophe, any comparisons come up false.

I tried removing the first character, but it removed the first displayed character. If you have a numeric field, you can divide the it by 1 (=c2/1), but that doesn't solve the problem for text fields. The solution is a built-in function Clean: =CLEAN(C2).

22 October, 2009

Windows 7 is (finally) here

Congratulations to Microsoft for their delivery of Windows 7! You can search about anywhere and read stories from all the news outlets. Of course the industry experts have been talking about it for longer, and have reported good things. I think it's worth mentioning a couple good practices when considering new software, particularly when it's an OS.
  1. Unless you have a compelling need, don't be first. In the case of Win7, I think we can be fast followers, but give it a few weeks to be sure there are no significant, unforeseen problems.
  2. Wait and get the OS on a new machine. Why?
    • You're likely running XP, which means there's no clear upgrade path -- you need to re-install.
    • It's possible your machine is 3 or more years old -- you bought one just before Vista came out, because you knew it had problems, so it's likely underpowered for Win7.
    Benefits include:
    • Drivers will (should) work on the new hardware.
    • You wont have to go through the painful install yourself. (All OS installs are painful, this is not a Win7 issue.)
    • You can use your old machine as backup storage, connected it to your TV, and/or give it to Jr.
    • Hardware prices will likely drop as we get closer to the holidays. Some experts have reported that manufacturers have over-built.
And somewhat related, if you get a new machine so you can get Win7, and you're considering the low cost netbooks, I highly encourage you not to get one with an Atom processor. The Atom processor is under-powered, and is not up to the task for many common functions -- don't blame Microsoft for that. (The Atom may be okay if you are only reading books and email. For example, it'll likely disappoint you if you are viewing videos online or trying to work in a spreadsheet.)

18 October, 2009

IE Only - Invalid Argument

I adopted some older code that I think had been working for some time. This code is part of an admin screen, and as I was testing some improvements I noticed an error with Internet Explorer. Since I predominately use Firefox, I'd never detected the error as a user of the admin screen. Internet Explorer reported the first character as having an Invalid Argument.

The simple code was opening a new browser window. The problem was a hyphen in the window name (Help-Venues).
window.open("venue_all.php","Help-Venues","height=800, width=720,scrollbars=yes")

12 October, 2009

Firefox 3.5 is embarrassed -- not as stable as Firefox 3

I had tweeted shortly after Firefox 3.5 was released that it was too unstable for day-to-day work use, and I had to rollback to version 3. Finally after successfully using Firefox 3.5 for about 3 weeks at home I thought I'd give it a go again and upgraded late last week. Today (Monday, 12-Oct-09), I've had two crashes. I suspect it is related to memory usage, as I've had many tabs opened and closed as I do some data cleanup in our CRM system.

Below is the last message upon restarting Firefox. While I'm disappointed and a bit frustrated, Firefox is embarrassed.

We'll see whether this is a consistent problem, forcing me back again, or if other daily tasks workout.

09 October, 2009

Manage your Contacts

Most of us have Contacts spread among many systems and it takes a lot of effort to keep them in sync or they're not in sync and you find yourself re-entering contacts in each system. With the help of Outlook (2003), LinkedIn, Gmail, My Digital Life, and Contact Scrubber for Outlook, I was able to sync a majority of my Contacts.

Here are the steps I used:
  1. I downloaded and installed the LinkedIn Toolbar for Outlook. With the toolbar app, I was able to add Contacts from LinkedIn into my Outlook Contacts -- the master list.
  2. Then I used TeamScope's Contact Scrubber for Outlook to merge any duplicates that Outlook hadn't already picked up.
  3. Next with the help of My Digital Life blog, I exported my Gmail Contacts and imported them into Outlook.
  4. Again I used Contact Scrubber for Outlook to merge duplicates.
  5. Then with the help of My Digital Life again, I exported my Outlook Contacts and imported them into Gmail.
  • Contact Scrubber for Outlook is a Trial that works with 1000 contacts or less. I also had to try twice before getting it to install on my XP computer.
  • My iPhone keeps sync'd with Outlook, so I had no additional work for my phone.
  • Over time Outlook and Gmail will accumulate differing new Contacts, but a repeat of the process will bring them back in sync. (With the new LinkedIn Toolbar, those Contacts will keep in sync with Outlook.)

02 October, 2009

New Survey on Privacy and Tailored Advertising

The NY Times has posted a recent survey on tailored advertising (“Contrary to what marketers say, Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It”) released by professors from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkley. It was not a surprised to learn that 2/3 (66%) of Americans do not want online tracking. It was a surprise to learn how many did not understand our privacy laws – most assumed they provided more protection.

First I want to dig into the perceptions of our privacy laws as reported in the survey. If a website had a privacy policy, 62% of the respondents thought that meant that your collected data couldn’t be share with other companies. Another 16% didn’t know. Therefore, only 22% knew that a privacy policy was information the website provides on how they may or may not be using collected data about you. Other misconceptions in regards to privacy policies were as follows.
If a website has a privacy policy…
  • 54% assumed that if requested, the website must delete information about you
  • 46% assumed that they have the right to sue a website for violating the privacy policy
Of the 5 questions in all about online privacy, the average score was 1.5 correct answers.

Offline privacy fared very similarly, as survey participants had bad assumptions too, with an average score of 1.7 of 4. For example, 49% assumed that a store cannot sell your address and phone number without your permission.

This survey also debunked the belief that young adults don’t care about their privacy. The 18 to 24 year old group reported more than half the time (55%) that they do not want tailored advertising. It jumps to 86% of young adults against tailored advertising when it is based on data collected about them across multiple website. The number hits 90% for young adults against tailored advertising when the tailored advertising is as a result from following them across multiple website and offline behaviors.

As I had blogged about recently ("How Safe is Your Data?"), this survey also mentions the difficulty of protecting your privacy on websites through regular deletion of cookies, and how it is even more difficult to remove the Flash cookies.

There is much more information in this survey that makes it a good read for Policymakers, Marketers, and individuals with seeking better understanding of Americans’ expectations and perceptions on their privacy. Clearly people expect companies to take their privacy seriously and it’s an easy way to lose their trust. Americans also have expectations that regulations would be in place to protect their privacy.

If you want to get more involved in driving changes to privacy regulations, there are a number of groups in this space including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Consumers Union, and Center for Digital Democracy, among others. In fact I have found a Legislative Primer, September 2009 (13 pages), “Online Behavioral Tracking and Targeting Concerns and Solutions from the Perspective of Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Lives, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, U.S. Public Interest research Group, The World Privacy Forum.”

28 September, 2009

Create Hyperlinks in Excel Cells

Here's a simple trick. Some times I have data results in Excel, if combined with other URL data, it would take me to a specific record. For example, if I extracted Contact Record IDs from Salesforce.com and combined it with the URL prefix, I could view the record that corresponds to the ID.

There are a few different approaches, but it all ends up using the same function: Hyperlink. Hyperlink takes two parameters: link_location and friendly_name (optional). Here are some examples:
  • =HYPERLINK("https://na2.salesforce.com/" & B2)
  • =HYPERLINK(CONCATENATE("https://na2.salesforce.com/", B2, C2))
  • =HYPERLINK("https://na2.salesforce.com/" & B2,"Joe Smith")
The link location, in addition to being a URL could be a drive path (c:\foo\), a UNC path (\\Server1\folder1\), or even a "mailto:" (=HYPERLINK("mailto:" & H2)).

23 September, 2009

CADNA reports on House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on New TLDs

In a CADNA newsletter released today, they shared with us the results of the House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on New TLDs. In addition, CADNA has called for a full-scale audit of ICANN. For history on this issue, see my two prior blog posts here and here.)
Congressional members who were in attendance expressed skepticism about the benefits that the potential TLD rollout...
ICANN held their position that by adding the new, "potentially unlimited" TLDs, will promote innovation and competition. Further they stated that "protection mechanisms are being actively considered." If protection mechanisms are being considered, doesn't that indicate that even ICANN knows there's a problem with this? And if protection mechanisms are needed, wouldn't they wait and finish the work to have appropriate protection BEFORE rolling this out?
Members of Congress pressed witnesses with questions about ICANN’s operations—many raised doubts regarding the benefits of rolling out an unlimited number of TLDs and others expressed concerns that ICANN is not adequately addressing a multitude of complex issues and concerns as it moves forward with the rollout process.
With a week left before ICANN is supposed to roll this change out, with the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) expiring, it doesn't seem like the governement is moving fast enough. And if ICANN needs to wait for the agreement to expire to make these changes, it also points to the fact that the benefits promised really aren't there -- otherwise it seems that it could have been made while the agreement exists.

The Internet Governance Project also has an opinion. They recommend letting the JPA expire and "and immediately initiate an international agreement that formalizes and completes the transition of ICANN to a stable form of multi-stakeholder global governance rooted in a nonprofit corporation." This may well be the right approach, but only if ICANN does not make any policy changes, including rolling out the new TLDs program, until the new agreeement is in place.

This entire topic doesn't seem to get the attention I think it deserves. How is it that a resource such as the Internet, where every governement, business, organization, and consumer uses and looks for ways to utilize the Internet, and yet this (and other issue in regard to the Internet, such as Net Neutrality) get very little main stream attention? I would recommend you share this story with people in your company and organizations who are responsible for marketing and domain name management. Have them become familiar with organizations such as CADNA, the Internet Governance Project, and the EFF, to see how they can look out for the best interest of your organization and your customers (us the consumers).

21 September, 2009

Tech Support Cheat Sheet

Courtesy of xkcd.com

Lawmakers asking for information from ICANN

In July 2009 I wrote about ICANN's plans to expand the Internet's top-level domains (TLDs), and how I and others believes this will have a significant negative impact on companies, big and small. [TLDs are the .COMs, .ORGs, etc at the end of URLs.]
"...companies are already losing over $1 billion annually due to cybersquatters misrepresenting and redirecting traffic on the Internet through taking advantage of URLs not purchased by companies. The proposal being made by ICANN can skyrocket those losses and increase expenses..."
As reported by nextgov.com, 'Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith and Courts and Competition Subcommittee ranking member Howard Coble, R-N.C., said they are worried that a vast expansion of domains will carry "serious negative consequences"...' in a letter to ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom. Smith and Coble have reiterated the concerns over ICANNs plans for the additional TLDs and have asked for a reponse by September 22, 2009.

While ICANN is trying to become independant, Washington is trying to make the joint project agreeement a permanent relationship. Naturally this is a very contiversial topic, but to date, ICANN has made many mistakes that in the future could be amplified if they were an independant organization.

Back to the topic of expanding the TLDs, there is also an opposing point of view that believes this move is positive. In short, it will give ICANN an influx of money to operate and "new domains will be safer space for trademarks."

My position is still one of not allowing the expansion of additional TLDs. There is a track record of cybersquatters taking advantage of consumers by sucking up TLDs, such as getting .CO and .CM TLDs to capture traffic more typos of .com. ("Out of the 183 [.CM] domains, an astounding 97 percent are owned by a third party—only 6 domain names are owned by the target company.") There also is no real argument for needing more TLDs, when many that are available today are not being used. In fact, as we learned in the .CM situation, the ones that are being purchased are being done for defensive reasons and by third-parties.

To recap the implications -- businesses, big and small, there will be an increased expense by having to buy more TLDs for defensive reasons. And the implication to consumers is the confusion of landing on an alternate TLD (such as .CM), and the cybersquatters that are fooling them into thinking they are at the right place. So my hopes is this latest inquest by lawmakers will lead to stopping ICANN from going forward with their plans for more TLDs.

To read about this and other related subjects, there are several sites you can visit.

16 September, 2009

How Safe Is Your Data?

Yesterday I worked on a project where I needed to export many of our company contacts. I also expect to be out on medical leave soon, and suspect that there may be a need for someone else to access my computer while I'm away. This made me think about how secure is my sensitive data -- whether my own or the companies.

After reviewing my files, it turns out I've been a bit sloppy -- there were definitely some files on my hard drive that if my laptop was stolen, customer data could be harvested. Mind you it would take some effort, but all the same, the data was accessible. So, I moved those files to my TrueCrypt volume or I deleted them.

As you may recall from a March 2008 blog post, TrueCrypt is a free open-source software that you can run on your computer to provide encryption for your files. The nice thing about TrueCrypt is that the encrypted volume looks and feels just like another hard drive -- anyone can use it.

The other security practice I was already using was keeping my passwords secure. All of us have too many usernames and passwords to remember. (Remember, if you use the same password for every site, then if one password is cracked, they all are.) I use RoboForm (see prior blog post), which allows me to store and easily access my usernames and passwords, all the while being secure by a single master password -- very similar to how TrueCrypt provides a master password for your encrypted files.

So now I've re-instuted secure file management and continue to secure my passwords, but there must be more...
  • In theory, my email and contacts should be secure if no one has my login. Perhaps some research to better understand the risks and protections might be in order.
  • The same applies to the access I have to email and contacts on my phone. I've just added a password to my phone, so at least it's a little more difficult to get into it if lost or stolen.
  • My wireless network has a strong secure password, but if my laptop is compromised, what are my risks? Perhaps some additional research in this area would be good, too.
  • Of course I keep my OS patched -- auto-notification and dilligence in applying them.
  • I have current, up-to-date virus protection.
  • I only ever use Internet Explorer on websites that I know and am required for work.
  • I keep common plug-ins such as Flash up-to-date.
Looks like I have two areas that require a bit more research, but all-in-all, I'm secure and using good security practices. How secure is your data?

15 September, 2009

New "Cookies" and your Privacy

On Monday this week (Sep 14, 2009), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released the first article of a three part series on how we're being tracked on the web today. After a review of cookie technology as originally designed, the EFF article discusses new forms of cookies. The article is rich with links to more detailed sources.

What I would consider the most concerning of technologies is the use of Adobe Flash cookies. Unlike the traditional browser cookie, there is no easy way to delete cookies that are stored by websites using Flash as their storage mechanism (more on this below). I'll also add that all the new "Privacy Browsing" features in the current release of browsers apparently do not always clear all your tracks. If you found this feature helpful in your web browsing, its worth digging deeper into the limitations, and not take the vendors claim of privacy without investigating yourself.

I'm not anti-cookie. In fact I think it's extremely important to providing a good experience when I visit websites, not to mention in using on sites that I develop. What I don't like is third-parties using cookies to track me across multiple sites, and sites that wont allow me to manage cookies as I see appropriate.

There are a few defensive things we can do to help protect ourselves.
If you're a Firefox user:
  1. Go to the Options screen, Privacy tab.
  2. From this screen you definitely want to turn off third-party cookies. [These are cookies coming from www.ad_ad_ad.com when you're on www.content_content_content.com.]
  3. You can also choose any site that you do not want cookies save from at all. [Not a feature I use, but perhaps there are sites that you do not want saving any information, so your next visit you appear as a new visitor.]
  4. You can also tell Firefox to clear cookies whenever you close your browser or to ask everytime you close it.
  5. If you click the "Show Cookies..." button, you can view and clear individual cookies.
If you're a Chrome user:
  1. Go to the Options screen, Under the Hood tab.
  2. Change the Cookie settings to Restrict how third-party cookies can be used.
  3. If you click the "Show cookies" button, you can view and clear individual cookies.
As I mentioned prior, Adobe Flash seems to be the biggest problem here, as Adobe doesn't make it easy to view the Flash cookies or make changes. To get to the Flash Control Panel, you have to go to a website -- http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager07.html. [The domain is Macromedia.com, because Adobe has not moved this since purchasing Macromedia several years back.]

There are six tabs (see all six screenshots at the end of this article). What we're most concerned about is Web Storage Settings (last tab on the right) and Global Storage Settings (2nd tab from the left). Here's my recommendations.

Web Storage Settings:
  1. Go to the Flash Control Panel and click on the last tab.
  2. The list will show you all the sites that currently have stored some sort of data about you and/or your prior visit(s).
  3. Click "Delete all sites" to clear all the Flash Cookies.
  4. I haven't tested the implications, but if you move the storage (slider) to None, it implies that nothing will be captured moving forward.
Global Storage Settings:
  1. Go to the Flash Control Panel and click on the 2nd tab (from the left).
  2. Uncheck Allow Third Party Flash Content to store data on your computer.
  3. Here we see the storage slider again, and if you already moved it to None, it will be at None here, too. What's not clear to me is if there are certain Flash sites that actually need first-party Flash cookies to work. If you've made this change to None, and you have Flash sites that are important to you that fail, you might try adding some storage space back.
I've really just scratched the surface on the current and upcoming issues. I encourage you at a minimum to turn off third-party cookies. If broser privacy is important to you, you probably want to read the EFF article as a launching point for more information.

13 September, 2009

What Firefox Add-ins are you still using?

I really like the extensibility that Firefox Add-ins provides for browsing -- it is the only reason I have not switched to using Google Chrome as my primary browser. (Google Chrome is compelling due to it being faster.) With that in mind, I though it would be a good time to review the Add-ins I currently have active in Firefox. These are the Add-ins on my home pc, using Firefox 3.5.
  1. AI Roboform Toolbar for Firefox: An absolute requirement for any browser I use on a regular basis. Roboform stores all my usernames and passwords, making it extremely easy to login to all my favorite websites. Roboform has a single master password that must be entered only the first time used during a computing session.
  2. Clear Cache Button: Very convenient way to clear the browser cache when I'm working on new code.
  3. ColorZilla: Perhaps my newest productivity saver. Using ColorZilla, I can sample any color on a webpage and immediately determine its value in hex and rgb.
  4. CoLT: Makes it easy to copy link text and locations.
  5. Cooliris: I've added and removed this several times. Cooliris provides a nice interface for browsing images on your favorite websites such as Picasa and Flickr.
  6. Ctrl-Tab: Firefox tab navigation. If only Excel had this.
  7. Delicious Bookmarks: An easy way to bookmark and retrieve Delicious bookmarks. One of the few toolbars I always have enabled.
  8. Download Statusbar: Provides a tiny download indicator and manager for downloads.
  9. Forecastfox: See current and upcoming weather. Forecastfox is also integrated with sever weather alerts, for easy notification.
  10. FoxClocks: Easy to see the local time for locations all over the world. This is a very flexible add-on that can be placed almost anywhere.
  11. Gmail Manager: Shows me at a glance if I have new email. When I click, it opens a new tab and logs me into my Gmail account. It can also manage multiple accounts.
  12. Hyperwords: Double-click on any word (no need to select it first), and you get a drop-down menu with many choices from getting a definition, to searching, to translating, and more.
  13. IE Tab: Switch page rendering to IE in a single-click. Fortunately at home this is not needed much, but a must use at work.
  14. Java Quick Starter: Reduces the time required for Java Apps to load. Again not a real need at home, but a definite must for work.
  15. NoScript: By default NoScript disables scripts on all web pages. When you visit a page, you can enable scripts based on the domain. There's a lot of extra clicking when you first load, as each of your frequently visited pages needs to be authorized. It's a great tool to block advertising and tracking; in particular from those advertisers that sell on multiple sites, and therefore can gather your aggregated browsing habits. It is also very helpful to test your webpages to see how they work (or don't) if a user doesn't have scripting enabled.
  16. ScribeFire: My newest add-in -- I'm using it for the first time to write this post. ScribeFire provides an editing window within your browser to post to the most popular blogging environments. So far, I'd have to rate it higher than Blogger's own interface.
  17. TimeTracker: Tracks the time I spend online. TimeTracker does a great job recognizing when your browser is open but you're not actually using it.
  18. TinyMenu: A favorite add-on of mine, it provides the ability to compact toolbars and menus. It essentually gave me room to add one more toolbar without taking up any more verticle space.
  19. TwitterFox: Track and post on Twitter
  20. Web Developer: An old favorite, Web Developer is a toolbar with many helpful web development tools.
In addition to these 20 Add-ons, I have a few others that I've left installed, but are disabled:
  1. Firecookie: Helps manage cookies. Requires the Firebug add-in to work.
  2. FireShot: Provides the ability to take screenshots, and edit and save the screenshots. Since I use SnagIt, I never found myself using it, but if you don't have SnagIt, it looked to be a very useful tool.
  3. iMacros for Firefox: Automate various web browsing tasks. A good little tool to test web pages.
  4. RefControl: Control what's sent as the HTTP Referrer on a per site basis. More fun that valuable.
I didn't research all the links for this post. Most should be easy to find if you search for them in Google.

As you can see, I noted a few that I find to be highly valuable. There's roomer that Google is going to add add-in/plug-in support to Chrome, but it's going to take some time to build comparable functionality on top of it. In the mean time, Firefox will continue to be my browser of choice.

12 August, 2009

Word, "This file contains macros with an expired..."

I started getting this error message when I opened Word, "This file contains macros with an expired or revoked signature." In my case, this was due to a Global Template Add-in that had an expired certificate. Word behaves differently depending on the Macro Security level.
  • Very High: You only get a message that macros are disable for this project.
  • High: You get an initial error message of "This file contains macros with an expired or revoked signature," before the prompt of macros being disabled.
  • Medium: You get the option to Disable or Enable the specific macro. This dialog box will also provide some clues as to the source of the problem.
  • Low: No warning or disabling of any macros.
To change the Macro Security, go to Tools >> Macro >> Security...

With an expired Certificate, if you still want to use the macro or template, you either need to set the Macro Security to Medium or Low. A Low setting can open you up for other problems, while Medium requires a click every time you open Word. The best solution is to remove the offending macro and get a new one with an updated Certificate from the creator.

Here's how you remove a Global Template Add-in:
  1. Set your Macro Security to Medium (see above)
  2. Close and Restart Word (and Outlook too, if you use Word as your Email Editor)
  3. Restart Word and note the name of the macro template causing the problem

  4. Go to Tools >> Templates and Add-ins
  5. On the "Templates" tab, in the "Global templates and add-ins" section, find the template or add-in mentioned in the dialog box of step 3, and uncheck it
  6. Click OK
  7. Set your Macro Security back to High
  8. Close and Restart Word
If the problem persists, i.e the template persists, do these additional steps.
  1. Repeat steps 1 - 3 above, and note the name and path of the template (e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\STARTUP\sforce.dot)
  2. Close Word (and Outlook if necessary)
  3. Go to the path you just noted and delete the template file
  4. Restart Word
This solved the problem for me; Word seems to be working just fine again.

04 August, 2009

MS Access -- Run-time error '3464'

Being that I don't use MS Access often, I always look for examples of my prior work to assist me with my new problem. Today I ran into this error, Run-time error '3464': Data type mismatch in criteria expression, which was a good reminder. When writing a VBA query, Text needs wrapping in quotes, Dates need wrapping in hashes, and numbers need neither of these. If you get it wrong, you'll get the 3464 error message.

30 July, 2009

Has ICANN Gone Too Far?

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.
ICANN is pushing to expand the Internet's Top Level Domains (TLD or gTLD) from its current 21 to some staggering, unspecified new number. TLDs are the .COMs, .ORGs, etc at the end of URLs. "The advantage of all this is there will be many more ways for sites to be described. The question is whether it will really help Internet users or confuse them." asks Saul Hansell in a recent NY Times article. But that's just scratching the surface of the issue.

According to CADNA (Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse), companies are already losing over $1 billion annually due to cybersquatters misrepresenting and redirecting traffic on the Internet through taking advantage of URLs not purchased by companies. The proposal being made by ICANN can skyrocket those losses and increase expenses to try and manage the new TLDs. One estimate predicts an additional $1.6 billion in expenses for the top 1500 companies if ICANN goes forward.

That sounds like a lot of money - $1.6 billion. It is! With ICANNS proposal, if you want to get a new TLD for your company, say for example .TODD, it would cost you $185,000. All of a sudden the leveling of the playing field that the Internet has provided has been shaken up, because most business just can't afford $185,000. Mr. Hansell at the NY Times in his article "The Best Internet Addresses Will Cost a Cool .Million" estimates a cool $500K to $1 million for any given company if they want their own TLD.

Clearly this is a big issue that has folks taking sides. CADNA has members from Nike, HP, Dell, and Marriott, to name just a few, who are pushing back on ICANN. The team working with ICANN is "governments, individuals, civil society, business and intellectual property constituencies, and the technology community." The amount of technical in nature paperwork generated on this is too much for the lay person to go through and make sense of. Fortunately, someone with expertise and resources at his disposal has weighed in. Ken Hittel, Vice President of the Corporate Internet Department at New York Life Insurance Company wrote an article, "Just Wait a New York Minute"

Mr. Hittel makes some interesting points. Here are some of what he covers; click-through to read it yourself.
  1. Do we really need new TLDs? ...New York Life has a relatively small portfolio of about 400 names and 90% of these are not and never will be in use...
  2. Have we really run out of .coms?
  3. How much are the new TLDs going to cost us?
  4. How do the new TLDs benefit the consumer?
  5. Who, then, benefits from the new TLDs?
The benefit seems to be for ICANN and/or "The other party that could benefit would be cybersquatters and online criminals" concludes Mr. Hittel. The "gaming" of this new system has already begun and their is fear that ICANN is not prepared to handle it. In a paper released today, "New gTLDs: Let the Gaming Begin, Part I: TLD Front Running," Michael Palage speaks to the problems already starting and what ICANN needs to protect against.

What can we do? I would suggest a few things to begin with:
  1. Let ICANN know how you feel
  2. Join a group such as CADNA
  3. Spread this with others who care about the impact to their organizations
I'm sure there must be more we can do. If you have additional input on this for the Internet community, let me know.

29 July, 2009

You're Only Borrowing That Digital Content

With Amazon's most recent removal of content off of the Kindle, we're reminded that you're only borrowing digital content; not buying it. Farhad Manjoo of Slate wrote a great article, Why 2024 Will Be Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, that reviews the limitations and dangers of having digital content.
Most of the e-books, videos, video games, and mobile apps that we buy these days day aren't really ours. They come to us with digital strings that stretch back to a single decider—Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, or whomever else.
For me, I'm still buying CDs and paperback books because I like the physical item. I also look for low cost and garage sale DVDs. One day I might not have the choice, but while I do, I choose to own over borrow.

27 July, 2009

Browser Wars III - Revenge of the ...?

Since Microsoft killed off Netscape (Browser Wars, the original), most users were not aware of any alternatives until Firefox (FF) came on the scene (Mozilla vs. Godzilla - Browser Wars II). Actually, there was a 3rd browser that was and is quite good, Opera. More recently, Google announce their own web browser, Chrome, while Mozilla had released Firefox 3 (now FF 3.5 is available) and Apple released Safari 4.

Since Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5 (IE5), I've been quite unhappy with the browser. It has suffered from security holes (predominately due to ActiveX), proprietary solutions (ActiveX again raises its ugly head), and slowness. I've also come to really like Firefox due to its extensibility with Add-ons.

With the popularity of Firefox and now the additions of Chrome and Safari, you could say that Netscape is finally getting their revenge, sort of. Since Firefox came out of the aftermath of Nestcape and the additional fire power of Google and Apple, Microsoft is in for a fight like none before (err, except search, but that's another story).

As users and businesses, why do we care what browse I use or my customers use? I already mentioned my reasons for not liking IE and liking FF, but it doesn't end there. Google and Apple have seemed to pass everyone with the fastest browsers, using the WebKit guts and their own JavaScript engines. Opera is still in the game with their new Opera Unite product. And then there are many sites that require IE, too.
It's all about the experience!
As a user, I am impatient, so I get annoyed when a site is slow. This has led me to avoid IE (and also why I use FoxIt to read PDFs). Some companies that I deal with have forced me to use IE, and therefore have led me to also dislike them too. I don't want to have to run more than one web browser; at work I have to run Internet Explorer, so I have two going at a minimum and 3, 4, or 5, when testing our website.

As a web developer for my organization, I need to decide what browsers I will test for, and what browsers I'll support. My engineering team who develops our products has the same challenges. If we leave out a browse, our customers will blame us. To add a browser, will increase our development costs.

Let me close by saying, I love the new browsers; I love the pressure it has put on Microsoft to either fix IE or get out of the game. What I don't like is having to run multiple browser to get the full web experience I want. Currently Google and Mozilla seem content on co-existing, but how long can it really last? Opera Unite is offering some compelling options not seen in any other browser, but how much longer can they survive? Five years from now... I think we'll have 3 players: Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Until then, Browser Wars III is on, and it promises to have a lot of carnage.

24 July, 2009

Internet Strategy Forum Summit 2009

This is not my typical post, but interesting for many of us all the same...
I had the opportunity to attend the Internet Strategy Forum Summit on Thursday July 23rd, 2009, and these are from my notes and some relevant and related links. Don't take the gaps in my notes as a sign of unimportant content -- rather I volunteered at the event, which distracted me some times, and of course I networked with friends and colleagues, which created other distractions. For only $200, this is an event was and has always been well worth the cost.

(Speaker list: http://www.internetstrategyforum.org/events/Internet_Strategy_Forum_Summit_2009_Agenda_as_of_07-14-09.pdf.)

Katherine Durham, HP, VP of Marketing, Imaging & Printing Group

Shifting the Digital Marketing Mindset to Harness the power of an Integrated Approach

"Flat is the new up."

"If content is king, context is queen"

Marketing Mix by Stage in Funnel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremiah_owyang/3749801824/.

See notes at from Sarena Regazzoni: http://ow.ly/15ICLg.

And notes from Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester, who spoke later: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/07/23/how-hp-integrates-digital-and-social-kathy-durham-vp-marketing/.

Sheila Tolle, Intuit

Combining eCommerce and Community: It’s a new normal and there is no going back.

People have always talked, now it's just quicker and permanent

B2B is still B2C, i.e. person-to-person

In their QuickBooks client, they have integrated their community. Looks similar to the Help window that emerges on the right next to MS Office products -- easy to open/close; right next to the product you're working with. [Seems like something we should add to our product roadmap.]

5 Recommendations for Social Media

  1. Listen
  2. Become part of the community
  3. Live your higher purpose, i.e. see your mission statement -- its not just about selling widgets
  4. Create amazing experiences
  5. Embraces the chaos

Social Media. Start listening and have a response strategy -- be there ahead of time, so if you need to respond (to something negative that has gone viral), you're prepared. See this for an example: http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-dominos-2009-4. In this case, Dominos was ready.

Social is an opportunity to hear from your customers and it's so much cheaper than bringing in a bunch of customers for testing.

Also see notes from Sarena Regazzoni at: http://ow.ly/15ICLg.

Lisa Welchman, Founding Partner, WelchmanPierpoint

A Gossamer Ceiling for Corporate Internet Executives?

[I used to listen to a podcast she produced on content management. I think she's very competent and knowledgeable in her field.]

Lisa discussed some of the findings from the ISF annual survey on Internet Strategists -- her company sponsored the research.

And back to basics: Be systematic about your web / digital work

  1. Develop a strategy
  2. Must have web governance. It's what makes thinks like Wikipedia work.
  3. Success requires (execution)
    1. Product Manager
    2. Program Management
  4. Measure

Jeremiah Owyang, Sr. Analyst Social Media, Forrester

Between these two posts, it seems to cover what he covered in his presentation.

Contextual Ads Blog post: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/06/18/contextual-ads-based-off-social-network-profile-twitter-and-facebook/

Emerging Social Eras (read blog post on this at: http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2009/04/the-future-of-the-social-web-in-five-eras.html)

  1. [missed it]
  2. Social application framework
    1. B2B on LinkedIn
    2. Go to where your customers are
    3. Corporate websites fragment to communities
  3. Social colonization: your friends go with you
    1. You use Facebook Connect or OpenID instead of your own sign-on solution / How you get Leads will be different, but the accurracy will be much better
    2. Whether you want it or not, your site will have a community around it; when a user visits, they can see/get feedback about it from their network
    3. See Yahoo!s new home page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremiah_owyang/3743073022/in/photostream/ - and old: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremiah_owyang/3743073244/in/photostream/) that just launched as an early example -- Portals are embedded within the Yahoo! Portal.
  4. Social Context
    1. Social contracts - user opts in for exchange of something else
  5. Social Commerce: comunities define furuter products

Johan Jervoe, VP of Creative & Digital Marketing, Intel

Consumers will/are deciding how they want to consume information

Differentiation is as much about doing things differently as it is about doing different things.

Vendor ROI Panel

Craig Macdonald, Covario
Phil Lodico, FairWinds Partners
Justin Kistner, WebTrends
Eric Atkisson, FatWire
Jeff Cram, iSite Design

Craig Macdonald got the conversation really going over how businesses waste so much time of their own and vendors with long RFPs. They have gotten so bad that he no longer responds. This led to a lot of good conversation, which brought out important points about knowing your use cases before shopping for a vendor. Made me think about how bad most organizations are with requirements gathering.

Some advise / lessons did emerge (which weren't new to me), including:

  1. Start small (but with the end in mind).
  2. Don't over buy technology.

    1. Save some fo the money to help you install, configure, operationalize.
    2. Don't buy features and functions that you wont use for another 2 or 3 years. Priorities will change, and what you thought you would need, many never come.

  3. Everyone thinks they're different, so they think they need a custom solution, which increases cost, but typically has low return. Our brand, our product, our message may be different, but the systems and how we manage our business is the same.

Phil Lodico, Managing Partner, FairWinds Partners and VP, CADNA - The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse

[Phil was a sponsor, and had a short 3 minute spot. I also spoke with him later.]

ICANN is pushing to open the TLD (top-level domain, such as .com and .org) space to a virtually unlimited number. They want to sell these to the top bidder. For example, Chase could buy .bank and therefore have a URL of http://chase.bank. The question is, what happens to BoA, Citi, and other banks? If this goes forward, the likely scenario to play out would cost companies billions of dollars. It is the belief of CADNA that the only winners are ICANN and cyber squatters.

[This reminds me a lot of the net neutrality issues, and I expect that I'll be doing some more research and discovering around this. Watch for a potential post in the future on this subject.]

Duane Schultz, VP of Interactive Marketing, Xerox

  1. Web experience must cover the entire integrated experience before its put on the website. i.e. just a web page without the strategy and supporting processes will not get on the site.
  2. Build standards. Takes labor and time.
    (see Lisa Welchman: #2 Web Governance -- #1 and #2 seem to be talking at that point.)
  3. Measure the results end-to-end.

Chris Dill, CIO, Portland Trailblazers

Lots of technology happening. Current project will use CMS to run menu screens in Rose Garden. Provides flexibility to do more than menus. e.g.

  1. Brand menu for event
  2. Remove beer off of menu after 3rd quarter, since that is when they quit selling
  3. After the game, replace with arrows to exit and promos for upcoming events

CRM is a new and important technology for sports teams

Have moved Courtside Monday night to be delivered over the Internet. Cost reduction and wider reach for Blazers. I like because I can see the video version without having Comcast.


Needless to say, there was a wealth of information and networking. This is a Twitter stream graph for the #isf09 tag: http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseorganic/3750563314/sizes/o/. You get an idea of the popular topics and speakers.

08 July, 2009

Online Discounts with Coupons

Here's a little tip to save a bit.

When you purchase online, and you see the box for "coupon" or "coupon (if available)", this is your clue to search for a coupon and get yourself a discount. In most cases you can enter "[company name] coupon code" into Google, and you will find a site with a coupon code.

A coupon code for my most recent online purchase saved me 6% off the total price.

06 July, 2009

Adobe Photoshop CS Hangs on Load

One day when I tried to load Photoshop CS on my Windows XP box, it hung. I don't recall having it crashed on my prior usage. I tried killing the app, closing my other apps, and loading again. Still no help. I next tried rebooting; again no help.

After searching a bit, I found a solution within a thread on Photoshop 911. I removed all ".psp" files from the "Adobe Photoshop CS Settings" folder -- I just moved the files into a temporary folder. Photoshop recreate 3 files when I launched it:
  1. Adobe Photoshop CS Prefs.psp
  2. Favorites.psp
  3. PluginCache.psp
Depending on your specific XP installation, you may or may not find the "Adobe Photoshop CS Settings" folder in this location:
C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Adobe\Photoshop\8.0\Adobe Photoshop CS Settings
Where [username] is your login username.

30 June, 2009

Excel displays formula instead of calculating

Here's a new one I just ran into. I entered a new formula into a cell, and it just displayed the formula, instead of calculating the results. It turns out the problem was due to the field being formatted as a Text field. Unfortunately, just by changing the field to a Number does not solve the problem. You must change the field to a Number and then re-enter the formula.

26 June, 2009

Concatenate and Combine Access Rows

I was working with a dataset in Access, where I had a single field that was different to an otherwise exact data row. I wanted to merge these rows, so I had a unique record; I wanted the single field of different data to be concatenated together, as to not lose the data.

I was able to create a VBA function that I then called from a query to perform the merging of rows. It does have one shortcoming -- if you have duplicated data in the field you are concatenating, it may miss it and add it again. Here's what I mean:
  • Removed Duplicates: Data order a, a, a, b, c -- output = a, b, c
  • Creates Duplicates: Data order a, b, a, c, a -- output = a, b, a, c, a
Note that given the time/effort, you could improve my function to remove all duplicates.
Here's the function. Press Alt-F11 to get to the VBA Editor.
Public Function Concat(email As String) As String
Dim rs As DAO.Recordset
Dim strSQL As String
Concat = ""
strSQL = "SELECT [Some ID] FROM MyTable WHERE [Email Address] = '" & email & "';"

Set rs = CurrentDb.OpenRecordset(strSQL, dbOpenSnapshot)
Do While Not rs.EOF

If Concat <> "" Then
' check for duplicate
If Left(Concat, Len(Concat) - 2) <> rs("[Some ID]") Then
Concat = Concat & rs("[Some ID]") & ", "
End If
Concat = Concat & rs("[Some ID]") & ", "
End If


'remove last ", "
Concat = Left(Concat, Len(Concat) - 2)
Set rs = Nothing
End Function
In your query call the function and pass the lookup variable -- in my case, it's an email address. See "Public Function Concat(email As String) As String" -- Concat is the function name and email is that variable that you are passing. The variable strSQL uses the email address passed to the function. Here's the expression in my query:
  • Expr1: Concat([MyTable]![Email Address])
I found this to be a valuable solution that can be re-applied to several situations in working with data in Salesforce.com.

24 June, 2009

My Experience Using Blogger with My Own Domain

UPDATE June 25, 09: I heard back from GoDaddy Support this morning, we clear and accurate instructions. I think by the time you see this, you will be able to once again get to my blog at www.CHRISdotTODD.com -- now I just need to get CHRISdotTODD.com to work.

I thought I knew my way around the web, how to develop and post content and apps, etc. One area I've not spent time with is domain registration and management. When I started CHRISdotTODD.com, it took about 3 clicks and $10 to get setup on Blogger (part of the Google family). I was led to believe that Blogger would make sure I had a chance to renew, and never lose my domain -- very similar to how they remind me annually to pay an extra $10 for extra space I use. This seemed like a great way to have my own domain, and not have to learn any more about the real guts that keep the Internet working for us.

Well, turns out on May 1st my domain registration had expired and Blogger never bothered to notify me. Since I've been busy with a project at cascadeblues.org and suffering from the flare-up of chronic pain in my neck, I wasn't paying too close to what was happening on CHRISdotTODD.com. When I finally discovered what was going on on May 25th, GoDaddy had already auction and sold my domain. You see Blogger outsources its domain management to GoDaddy.

When I notified Blogger, they said it was all my fault. Apparently I could have managed this through my "control panel." Well if you're a Blogger user, you know there is no Control Panel that provides this function. To make a long story short, the Control Panel is part of Google Apps, something I was not familiar with -- something I was apparently notified of -- a part of the domain hosting through Blogger. In fact, if you use the URL they gave me, http://mail.chrisdottodd.com/, it did (and still does) go to a site called Bay Area Style Files. I did eventually figure out how to get to the Control Panel, but by this time it was too late.

By this time I figured all was lost. I re-enabled my site with my older Blogger name, Skimming the Cream Off the Top, and figured I'd give myself some time to decide what I wanted to do. In the mean time, Blogger came back and offered me a new, free domain for 1-year and admitted to an error on their side. Since I wasn't sure what I was going to do, I declined. On June 15th Blogger reached out again and offered me $250 and a new domain for a year. Again since I hadn't resolved to what I wanted to do; the principle behind it -- now it wasn't just me thinking they made a mistake, they actually admitted it; and now with some renewed hope, I declined the $250 offer too.

On June 18th Blogger contacted me and said they got my domain name back. Just provide them with a GoDaddy account name, and they'd assign it to me. Naturally I was thrilled. When the transfer was complete on June 19, I logged into GoDaddy and into Blogger, trying to figure out how to reconnect the two. I followed a documentation trail on Blogger, which gave me instructions to set a CNAME through GoDaddy. Going to GoDaddy, I couldn't make heads-or-tails of the instructions. Apparently my DNS is not hosted by GoDaddy, so I cannot set the CNAME.

This is where the area of Internet mystery starts to sink in. Remember, I took the easy path through Blogger to begin with to avoid having to learn some of these gory details. So I emailed the same support rep at Blogger:
I looked at Blogger and GoDaddy, and I don't understand how to reconnect my domain with my Blogger account. The Blogger information talks of a CNAME and the instructions it lists for GoDaddy do not seem to align with my options on GoDaddy. Can you help me on this last step, too?
He sends me the same links that I just reviewed. Now I would think after all this, the least they could do was finish the configuration, so I would be functioning again on the Blogger service. Isn't the idea behind Blogger to make it easy for the non-technical to have their own personal blog? There are countless people less technical than me doing this every day.

Well I've sent another email to Blogger and also one to GoDaddy support. We'll see if we can get this last mile fixed by July 1st -- that would mean I only lost my domain for 2 months.

Who am I to expect anything more for $10 a year? In fact I didn't choose to continue with Blogger, using my own domain, for the low price. I chose it because I was familiar with the interface; generally happy with other Google products (had one Picasa incident); and saw no need to move to a different system (since I'd been there for 2.5 yrs already). Perhaps most important, it was easy to integrate with Googe AdSense. But it turns out that Google made much for than $10 from me, as AdSense payout is real poor. Now that's another story.

Common Reasons Why You Can't View a Video

One thing I've had to deal with in my last two (day) jobs is helping solve why some customers are unable to view our support and/or training videos. A recent problem for one customer led me to document what I know about the problems and likely solutions. Your feedback is welcome!
  1. Missing or out-dated codec. This applies to video files such as WMV, AVI, and MPG. These formats are all containers that can use various different codecs depending on the tool that was used to create. For example, GoToMeeting/GotToWebinar, WebEx, and TechSmith's Camtasia could all put out WMVs and AVIs, which have the same extension, but would not play unless you had their specific codec.
  2. Out-dated or missing player. This applies to MOV and RM. Since MOV is QuickTime, controlled by Apple, I don't often see problems because Apple pushes updates with iTunes. RM from Real Media is just not found much any more. When it is, most likely their is no player at all, so the download gets you the latest version.
  3. Out-dated or corrupt Flash Player. This applies to SWF and FLV files. I don't see this too often, but occasionally you will have someone who has not updated their Flash Player when the video we produce is from a new release software. I occasionally hear about a corrupt player that usually occurs after a browser update, such as the recent IE8. Given the choice, this is my preferred video format. As you likely know, it is also the format for YouTube and other video sharing sites.
  4. Browser Security Config. I think I've only seen this with Internet Explorer, and it can be very difficult to troubleshoot. The most common solution is adding your domain as a Trusted Site (e.g. http://www.blogger.com). The Compatibility Mode is something new with IE8 -- who knows what that'll bring. It is supposed to make IE much more WC3 compliant than prior versions (IE6 was bad and IE7 was worse).
    • This could also happen with a plug-in such as No Script for Firefox.
  5. Firewall and/or Proxy Security. The most common I've seen is the blocking of EXEs, so it doesn't apply to videos. I've seen file size restrictions, video file restrictions, and filtering that's too smart for its own good. IF you can ZIP something for someone and/or use an FTP site, that's typically the best solution. The best test for confirming this being the cause is to have the user try it from home.
  6. Other Misc. Local firewalls and virus scanners are the top of the misc list. Followed closely by pop-up blockers, which used to be very problematic, but have improved tremendously in the last few years.

22 June, 2009

Unable to Edit GoToWebinar Screen Captures

I recently for the first time recorded a GoToWebinar presentation. GoToWebinar, from Citrix, provides the option for their own proprietary output or WMV. I took the WMV option, to make it easier for my viewers, and give me the option to clean up any errors in the presentation.

Upon completion of the recording, I brought the WMV file into Windows Movie Maker. The source was 80MB (1 hr), and Windows Movie Maker split it into 8 pieces of various lengths. I performed normal edits, chopping out some dead space at two points, increasing the overall audio level, and adding intro and exit info. So far, so good.

Upon trying to save my project is where I ran into troubles. Trying several different settings, closing other programs to free memory, and rebooting -- nothing worked; it would not output. I then decided to try another computer, and realized I needed GoToWebinars own codec -- this was my first clue that I may not be able to solve this problem.

I tried two different encoders and importing into Camtasia -- still no better. Back on my original PC, I found some additional ideas from http://sam.charrington.com - somuchtolearn... so little time! I tried the recommended transcoding application that comes with GoToWebinar, which failed; I tried Windows Media Encoder, which looked promising, but it too failed.

I've come to the conclusion that GoToWebinar is not a good solution for recording presentations. I've had previous experience with WebEx, and have successfully been able to perform the same functions that I am unable to do with GoToWebinar. (Monthly fees for WebEx are known to be higher.)

If presenting with GoToWebinar is your only option, I recommend a screen capture of the presentation with a 3rd party tool such as TechSmith's Camtasia or Adobe Captivate. This usually requires a capture on a different PC than the one that is hosting the presentation. There are also many free and open source solutions such as Jing (from TechSmith), Windows Media Encoder (I discover in this process that it can be used for screen capture, though I have not tried myself), or CamStudio.

19 June, 2009

Enhanced Copy and Paste

First, sorry for the large gap in posts. In addition to having problems with losing my domain -- which I should have back soon -- I've been busy on another project.

I found a slick little utility to enhances copy and paste on Windows. As you know, once you copy new text, the previous is lost. With CopyPasteTool, if you continue to press V as you hold down the Ctrl key, it will scroll through prior copies.

I've used utilities in the past where you could view prior copies in a little window, manage, and save them. This is much simpler. Just keep pressing V as you hold Ctrl, and release Ctrl when you find the text you want.

08 May, 2009

Google Analytics on the Desktop

Polaris is a cross-platform Google Analytics desktop widget with Adobe Air. With Polaris, you have easy access to your Dashboard, Map Overlay, Top Content, and more. With 8 simple reports, the interface is easy to use and puts data right on your desktop whether using Windows, a Mac, or Linux (Fedora 8, Ubuntu 7.10, openSUSE 10.3).
A single-site version is free while the full multi-site version is only $15 annually. This is just the first of 4 announced products coming from a new company, Desktop Reporting.

05 May, 2009

Botnets and their interworkings

Ars technica has posted an article about a recent University of California Santa Barbara paper on findings after hijacking the Torpig botnet for 10 days. The headline is 56,000 passwords in an hour. The botnet (research) users were also able to gather 70GB of data.

The goal of this particular botnet (and probably most of them) is to gather financial information. "In just ten days, Torpig apparently obtained credentials of 8,310 accounts at 410 financial institutions..."

Concerned that you may be a target? "The researchers concluded that victims of botnets are usually those with poorly maintained machines and who choose 'easily guessable' passwords."

I've posted many blogs on how to improve your security. Some of the basics I know people are still not getting include an up-to-date virus scanner. Those bundled, out-of-date virus scanners from McAfee and Norton have mislead many consumers. This does not have to be difficult! Go to Avast and get their free home edition. Of course if your machine is already compromised, you're going to have to start all over with a fresh install of the OS.

SSL Inventor Taher Elgamal Interview

Vivian Yeo of CNet has published a greater interview with Taher Elgamal, the inventor of SSL and recent winner of the RSA Conference Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Taher responds to these subjects:
  1. SSL man-in-the-middle attacks and the ability to intercept session cookies
  2. Logging into sites that have expired SSL certificates
  3. How do browser makers keep users and protect them?
  4. How different do you think SSL would be if it had been invented in the current security landscape?
  5. What are you most dissatisfied about in the current security landscape?
Mr. Taher also points out, "The biggest issue with Internet security today is that there are databases with a lot of important info that are available from the Internet, from the outside." I tend to agree as we hear many stories of database break-ins from stolen laptops, to guessed passwords, to poor network security.

Head over to CNet and read this article for yourself.

30 April, 2009

Vintage Computer Ads and Photos

Check out 141 vintage computer ads and photos on flickr by SA_Steve. While you're there, you might also want to view Signs of All Kinds from Sa_Steve, too.

17 April, 2009

Copy a Formula down all the rows

When working with large spreadsheets in Excel, it's very inefficient to copy the same formula down all the rows. Many of us already know that once we have our formula in our first row, we can drag the handle down to populate the remaining rows. But when we have 100s or even 1000s of rows, even this is not efficient. To allow Excel to do this for you, instead of dragging the handle, just double-click the handle. Here's the steps:
  1. Create formula in top cell
  2. Move cursor top lower-right corner of cell -- cursor should change to a plus (+) sign
  3. Double-click

14 April, 2009

Time Warner wants to put restrictive usage caps on your Internet access

The cable providers are scared of losing their cash cow by people watching TV over the Internet. In the latest volley from the cable companies, Time Warner is rolling out restrictive caps that are high priced, and extremely high if you go over.

Sure, $15 a month for Internet sounds good, until you realize it's for 1 GB of data and an additional $2 for each gig you go over. As Wired points out (in "Congressman Wants to Ban Download Caps"), that's 3 hours of Hulu video or half a standard definition movie delivered online. For a mere (cough, cough) $75 per month, you can get 100 GB per month, and only pay $1 penalty for each gig over. It sure makes Comcasts 250 MB cap at $50 - $55 per month look good.

I've heard some folks defend the caps, claiming we don't need that much bandwidth, but each argument has been based on 1 user. The typical claim has been from 50 to 90 GB average usage. Multiply that by a family of 4 and now you're at 200 to 360 GBs. And if that's not enough, we're doing more and more online all the time.

Do you want your kids to limit online research because you can't afford it? Do you want to miss out on the opportunity to listen and interact with our new President and government because it's too expensive? Or maybe you wont try your new venture after all because the bandwidth costs just got too high.

This is just one more example of old business trying to keep old business models. As long as the content providers are the same as the bandwidth providers (Internet and cable TV), we're going to continue to see conflicts of interest such as this. Lucky for us, at least one Congressman is pushing back. As reported in the Wired article:
New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa called TWC's [Time Warner Cable] proposal to switch its 8.4 million cable broadband customers to metered internet billing an "outrageous plan to tax the American people."
Don't just take my word for it, read the story. Oh, and don't forget the prior government grant to the telcos to build out the Internet infrastructure, which was never done. Then, contact your local Congressman and let them know how you feel.

Word 2003 slowly launches

I had experienced problems with Word 2003 taking a long time to launch. I'm not sure when it occurred, though I suspect it was when I tested it as the email editing client for Outlook. Even though I disabled Outlook from using Word 2003, Word continued to launch slowly.

I searched Google, but couldn't find much that would help. I resorted to using the Detect and Repair feature contained in the Help menu. After some processing, the Detect and Repair process asked me for my install disk. Since this is a company computer, Office was installed from a shared drive that I don't have access to, so I canceled the process.

When I returned to Word, it acted as though it was the first time launching, and it now seems to open faster. Unfortunately, when I opened Outlook, it also acted like it was the first time launching. My profile was gone with my settings to access my email and the pointer to my email archives. Fortunately I keep all most of my email on the server, so I can access it through my iPhone and through webmail.

To get my archive back, the following steps were required (note that I am using Outlook 2003):
  1. Reconfigure Outlook, so it will open
  2. Go to File >> Data File Management...
  3. Click Add...
  4. Select Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst)
  5. Select my archive file (archive.pst) -- I found it in C:\Documents and Settings\[my username]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
  6. Click OK and then Close
  7. Scroll down below your mailbox and its folders and I found the archive folder I just added
I think I can take away a couple lessons from this:
  1. Don't trust intertwined apps, such as Office from Microsoft to just be self-contained within itself
  2. Don't use Word as your email editor client
  3. Have regular backups of your data, including email, just in case -- I didn't need it this time, but you never know.
Finally let me add that if you're interested in other Word related articles on my blog, select the Word label from the right-nav or just click this link.

03 April, 2009

CorelDRAW X4 Crash on Startup

I had a fresh install of CorelDRAW X4, and each time I tried to start it, it would crash. After some searching through Google, I found the following fix.
  1. Open the folder C:\Program Files\Corel\CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4\Programs\UIConfig\CorelDRAW
  2. Edit DrawUI.xml
  3. Find the line <dockpage guidref="bc1e2f70-3b58-41cd-8406-aaa550482972" visible="true" selected="true">
  4. Change visible="false" and remove selected="true"
    <dockpage guidref="bc1e2f70-3b58-41cd-8406-aaa550482972" visible="false">
  5. Save and close DrawUI.xml
  6. Fold down F8 and restart CorelDRAW X4
  7. When prompted to update settings, select OK
That did the trick for me. Apparently it is caused by a conflict with MFC dlls that are installed (version 1833) with SQL2008.

20 March, 2009

Listen to iPhone videos while using other iPhone functions

The iPhone's iPod player works great with audio. Start your favorite song or podcast, and while it plays, you can use other functions on the phone. This is one of the few background processes that works with the iPhone. If you try the same thing with a video, perhaps all you really care about is the audio portion, you're out of luck. As soon as you navigate away from the video player screen, the video stops playing.

I have found a work-around, so you can listen to the video while you use other iPhone functions. Here are the steps:
  1. Find and start the video
  2. Navigate away from the video player by pressing the Home button
  3. Put the iPhone to sleep (press the top sleep/wake button)
  4. Wake the iPhone (press the top sleep/wake button, again)
  5. Double-click the Home button
    This will bring up the video, with the phone locked
  6. Press the play button
  7. Slide the slider to unlock the iPhone
Now you will be able to listen to the video while you use other features of the iPhone. Have fun!