27 January, 2009

Fun Flash Example with Playing Cards

Here's an Adobe Creative Suite 3 ad, displaying the capabilities of Flash using playing cards.

26 January, 2009

Trim those cells in Excel

As I was working on a spreadsheet today, I realized that I had several cells with extra spaces at the end. I knew that there was a Trim function in Excel, but I didn't want to go through the hassle of determining the syntax and use, so instead I went to Google. THe third link I followed, I found Ablebits.com Trim Spaces for Microsoft Excel.

Trim Spaces for Microsoft Excel is easy to install and easy to use, and works on many version of Excel. Here are the steps I followed:
  1. Downloaded
  2. Opened the zip file
  3. Opened the Readme.txt, which contained instructions
  4. Closed Excel
  5. Ran setup.exe
  6. Closed the Zip file
  7. Opened my Excel file in Excel
  8. Highlighted the cells to trim
  9. Clicked the Trim spaces button
  10. Saved my Excel file

It doesn't get any easier! You can even use a silent installation -- great for IT groups who want to deploy. Ablebits.com Trim Spaces for Microsoft Excel is freeware, "The add-in is free for private and commercial use." That's a bargain, too.

Here's are the supported platforms:
Trim Spaces for Excel works with the following Microsoft Excel versions:
- Microsoft Excel 2007.
- Microsoft Excel 2003.
- Microsoft Excel 2002 (XP).
- Microsoft Excel 2000.

Trim Spaces for Excel works with the following Microsoft Windows versions:
- Microsoft Windows Vista
- Microsoft Windows 2003
- Microsoft Windows XP
- Microsoft Windows 2000
- Microsoft Windows ME
It appears Ablebits.com had many other Office plug-ins and add-ons worthy of further investigation. Perhaps I'll find another one worth sharing.

21 January, 2009

Electronic cigarettes for those that can't kick the habit

As we all know, kicking any habit can be extremely difficult. Now days, it's also difficult to find a public place where you can feed your cigarette habit. With the introduction of the electronic cigarette from Njoy, that no longer is a problem.

As featured at CES, Njoy's electronic cigarette gives you the experience of smoking and the nicotine and flavor you get from smoking, but it is done without burning or the nasty additives.
The non-flammable Njoy Cigarette is powered by a patented microelectronic technology, a tiny rechargeable battery, and a safe refillable cartridge which contains water, propylene glycol, nicotine, and a scent that emulates the flavor of tobacco.
Here's what you get in the Njoy starter kit:
  • 1 - Njoy Npro Electronic Cigarette (color optional)
  • 5 - Assorted Refill Cartridges (each cartridge equal to approx 1/2 - 3/4 pack of cigarettes)
  • 2 - Rechargeable Lithium Batteries
  • 1 - Lithium Battery Charger
The Njoy site advertises the kit for $64.95, but the shopping cart says $74.95. You can get a 10 cartridge refile pack for $19.95. You can also find it at fine establishments, such as Costco.

Perhaps not the best use of technology, but I'm sure it'll fill a need for many. Hopefully it wont encourage new "smokers."

16 January, 2009

Do not update to Picasa 3

I'm very frustrated to report that Google's Picasa version 3 has been nothing but trouble. I am now on Picasa 3.1, this being at least the third version of 3.x. I first noticed with the first version 3 update that a few captions were wrong. I corrected a few, but as I looked closer, many of them were wrong -- the captions and pcitures were no longer correctly associated.

After the next update, I noticed that Picasa was slower, often hanging for a while. This also included causing screen refresh problems with my other applications that were running at the same time.

I just finished allowing another version 3 update, and I notice it seems to be re-building my library -- I now seem to recall it did this with the first version 3 update. I also noticed with pictures that I've added after the prior update also have incorrect captions on some of them -- I hadn't put captions on any of them, yet.

Update 17-Jan-09: I've re-opened Picasa, and now the thumbnails are mixed up too. Wrong thumbnails compared to the photos, and the thumbnail ratio/proportions are wrong too.

Needless to say after recommending Picasa back in March of 2007, I can no longer recommend it. Further, if you have it, but have not upgrade to version 3 -- don't. I guess it's time to find a new photo management solution. Of course this means I guess it's time to give Flickr a shot, too.

15 January, 2009

Render a site in Internet Explorer every time when using Firefox

As a Firefox user, there are a few times that I run across a site that requires Internet Explorer (IE). With the right add-ons to Firefox, it's easy to switch the rendering engine with a single click. Of course it would be even easier if the site Firefox recognized sites that require IE, and switch for me. If you use the IE Tab add-on, that is exactly what you can configure it to do. Here's how to do it:
  1. Download and install the IE Tab add-on (like all add-ons, this will require a restart of Firefox)
  2. Go to the site that you want to render each time in IE
  3. Open the IE Tab Options (Tools >> IE Tab Options -- Sites Filter tab)
  4. The page you just navigated to should be in the URL box, so you just need to click Add
    You can skip step 2 and enter any URL manually into the URL box
  5. Click OK
Now every time you go to a site that is listed in the Sites Filter section of IE Tab, it will automatically render in Internet Explorer.
There's one more trick related to this that may be required for some sites. Sites will typically look at the User Agent of a web browser -- this tells the site what browser you are using -- to determine how certain aspects should render or even whether it will display a page. Use the add-on, User Agent Switcher, you can tell a website that you have a browser that is different than the one you are actually using.
The particular site I use IE Tab with will not even let me login if the User Agent doesn't indicate Internet Explorer. So in addition to adding IE Tab to my browser, I had to add User Agent Switcher. Now any site I visit, by default it thinks my browser is Internet Explorer, even though it is really Firefox.

GMT Converter

Greenwich Mean Time (greenwichmeantime.com) has a nice converter from GMT to your time. They also have a time check, so you can validate your computer's clock. And finally, an application is available that you can run on a Windows or Mac computer to keep your clock on time.
The Greenwich Meridian (Prime Meridian or Longitude Zero degrees) marks the starting point of every time zone in the World. GMT is Greenwich Mean (or Meridian) Time is the mean (average) time that the earth takes to rotate from noon-to-noon.

GMT is World Time and the basis of every world time zone which sets the time of day and is at the centre of the time zone map. GMT sets current time or official time around the globe. Most time changes are measured by GMT. Although GMT has been replaced by atomic time (UTC) it is still widely regarded as the correct time for every international time zone.

Back to the time converter, one thing required is that you need to know your own GMT offset. For example, I'm on the west coast of the U.S., on Pacific Standard Time (PST), and our offset is -8. When we are adjusted for daylight savings (PDT), we are offset by -7. All locations west of Greenwich have a negative offset, and all east of Greenwich have a positive offset. The meeting point between east and west is the International Date Line.
The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line on the surface of the Earth opposite the Prime Meridian which offsets the date as one travels east or west across it. Roughly along 180° longitude, with diversions to pass around some territories and island groups, it mostly corresponds to the time zone boundary separating +12 and −12 hours GMT (UT1). Crossing the IDL traveling east results in a day or 24 hours being subtracted, and crossing west results in a day being added.
How do you keep all these time zones and offsets straight? Well, return the the Greenwich Mean Time site and using the left-hand navigation drill-down to your region of the world.

14 January, 2009

Force IIS to Stop without a Reboot

Occasionally I find where IIS is hung, and I hate to have to reboot. Fortunately I found a web page that lists the command and switches you can use from the command line to accomplish the task. This is the same site, psacake.com that notified us of companies that would be closing after Christmas, so avoid getting gift cards from them.

09 January, 2009

Oracle works with Marvel to have an Iron Man promotion

Oracle Presents Two Worlds is a Flash-based comic trilogy using Iron Man and Marvel Entertainment to show you the features and functions of using an all Oracle solution to run your business. Due to the high-cost, complex systems of Oracle, I'm not sure how well the promotion fit the market, but it is quite entertaining.

As companions to the comic, Oracle has posted articles on how Marvel has benefited from their all Oracle solution. Read Support for Superheroes and Avengers, Assemble! to get all the details. Or, just watch the comic trilogy and enjoy.

The high-tech of days gone past

The Chicago Tribune has a photo montage of high-tech from prior generations. It includes the video phone, an unsuccessful fax machine, and those early luggable portable phones.

08 January, 2009

1 second color printers for home use

As displayed at CES 2009, we should see color printers capable of printing in 1 second available for the home budget, this year. This is due to innovative technology from Memjet, the OEM sellers of Silverbrook Research ink jet printing innovations. Memjet is actually four companies focusing on four different markets: Memjet Home & Office, Memjet Labels, Memjet Photo Retail, and Memjet Wide Format.

I might note before you read further, you might consider me biased (I don't think so) as my sister, after a long career with HP, works for Memjet Home & Office. Additionally, I spent over 9 years ('96 - '05) in the Tektronix/Xerox Phaser printer organization.

According to the Memjet website:
The technology will be available in products in 2009, starting with a 100mm printhead that will be used for Retail photo printing as well as Label printing devices. An A4/Letter printhead will be available by the first half 2009 with many variations of components and technology improvements planned for the future.
The companies that pickup this technology are going to take giant leaps in front of their competition, as speed has always been an issue for color printing. Memjet promises great color quality with 1600 x 1600 dpi in a single pass, allowing for 60 pages per minute.

You cannot buy inkjet printers at this speed today. For a very nice Xerox color printer, using solid ink, you can expect to pay $700 for half the throughput speed. Not a price for home printers. Spend nearly $1100 and you can get color laser at 42 ppm. Xerox doesn't even offer a color printer this fast in the office market at any price. Checkout HP, you cannot find a color laser at this speed, either. The highest priced (office) color laser prints at only 40 ppm, and a lower resolution of 1200 x 600 dpi, all for $4200. One final comparison, the top rated HP, the Deskjet D2530 Printer has a maximum speed of only 16 ppm.

This promises to be even a great jump in the inkjet market than Kodak's price slash for ink cartridges. Be on the lookout to see what manufacture releases the Memjet technology first.

05 January, 2009

Products that are impossible to use?

Thanks to Digg, I found an interesting website, Cool Material. Specifically, Digg had a link to Ultra-Minimalism: 19 Cool Products That Are Almost Impossible to Use. If you like new and unique ways to design products, this list is for you -- a tank-less toilet, an unrecognizable table, a hidden vacuum cleaner, and 16 others. After that, check the many interesting categories including Tech, Media, and Travel.

You would think that everything would be expensive, but surprisingly some things are actually reasonable priced. For example, the Vroom Tire Tread iPhone Case is only $15 and available through Amazon. Or there's the Laser Parking System for only $25. Many, many surprisingly good values here.

03 January, 2009

Get iTunes catalog DRM free MP3 from Amazon

Do you like using the Apple environment of iPod/iPhone and iTunes, but hate that you have to get DRM music? Using Adventageous mp3, you no longer have to. After installing Adventageous mp3, find your Artist or Album in iTunes like you always do, but then instead of purchasing, click on Adventageous mp3 to be directed to the equivalent on Amazon. Here you can make your purchase for the same music without the DRM.

Tech Predictions 2009

By now we've all had a chance to read the many tech predictions for 2009. If not, Wired has a good summary of predictions. This time of year also lends itself to reminding us of all the less insightful tech predictions of years gone past. Checkout this post at PC World for The 7 Worst Tech Predictions of All Time.

My predictions? I may have 2 or 3...
  1. Apple will become less popular. This is driven primarily out of my frustration for the buggy iPhone and AppleTV. Also influencing my thoughts are Rafe Needleman's struggle to get used to his Mac (as posted by him on Twitter).
  2. TWiT will lose its spot as the top tech podcast. I love what Leo Laporte has done for podcasting, but the quality of TWiT has really declined over the last 4 to 5 months, while others continue to enter this space. Of course if you read Jason Hiner of Tech Repuplic last February, TWiT already lost to Buzz Out Loud -- my favorite daily tech podcast.
  3. One last one... Nateli Del Conte, the video podcaster of CNet's Loaded will move back to the Silicon Valley in 2009.
Happy New Year! Here's to a great 2009.

02 January, 2009

Free audio books

Many of us find ourselves in the car or on the bus bored, as we travel to and from work every day. If we're lucky, we've got an audio player and listen to podcasts and/or audio books. If you like audio books though, they can become rather expensive leaving you back to finding an alternative.

This is where podiobooks.com comes in. Using podiobooks.com, you can subscribe to books of your choosing, and have the chapters delivered to you at a specified interval, for free. For example, you might want a new chapter a day; subscribe using your podcatcher and each night when you sync your audio player, the next chapter will download to your device. Downloading at an interval you specified is great for people who have audio players with a small amount of memory -- you don't need to store the files until you're ready to listen to them.

Podiobooks has over 270 titles and is being used by over 50,000 listeners. Categories include: Fantasy, History, Romance, and Thriller, just to name a few. There are also some well know public domain books such as King Solomon's Mines and Anne of Green Gables.

Add podiobooks.com to the books I mentioned available at Project Gutenberg back in August, and you have a large collection of free books to entertain you during those long, boring commutes.