18 May, 2010

Sync Your Outlook Contacts and Calendar to Your Droid

As nice of a phone as the Droid is, its Outlook integration is not yet up to what you can accomplish with the iPhone. Previously I blogged about how to get your Outlook email onto your Droid, as the instructions that come with the Droid are not clear. The rest of this post will tell you how to sync your Calendar (events) and Contacts between your Droid and Outlook.

It takes three things to make this work.
  1. Compatible version of Outlook: Outlook 2003 or 2007 on Win XP (32-bit only) and Vista.
  2. Gmail account: You should already have this, since it's required for the Droid.
  3. Google Calendar Sync application: The Google Calendar Sync program will sync your calendar and contacts between your Outlook account and your Gmail account -- your Droid can interact with your Gmail account. Download this from Google onto your computer that's running Outlook.
Once you've downloaded the Google Calendar Sync program, install it. Just a few simple steps, and you'll have your Contacts and Calendar on you Droid.
  1. Accept the Terms of Service.
  2. Enter your Gmail account credentials (username and password)
  3. Select the sync option you want.
    • 2-way: Sync from Outlook to Google/Gmail and Google/Gmail to Outlook.
    • 1-way: Sync from Outlook to Google/Gmail.
    • 1-way: Sync from Google/Gmail to Outlook.
  4. Select the sync frequency: minimum time frame is 10 minutes.
That's all there is too it. Now any time your computer is running (and the sync program is running), the the accounts will sync based on the setting choice.

Notes and Tips.
  1. Google Calendar Sync should start every time you start your computer -- running in your Taskbar. If not, put an application shortcut in your Startup folder.
  2. Only pop-up reminders will be synced. Google/Gmail Calendar SMS and email reminders will not sync.
  3. Only your primary Google/Gmail Calendar and default Outlook Calendar will sync.
  4. All Calendar events are synced. There is no way to configure a specific time-frame.
Still want more information? http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?answer=98563 has information posted by Google.

14 May, 2010

Office Ribbon Frustrations: Use the Quick Access Toolbar

I continue to find new and frustrating things when using Excel 2007. For example, in most spreadsheets I want to freeze the top row and sometimes columns. To do this, I need to remember that I first need to go to the View Ribbon. If I want to use a Macro, it's not on the Insert or Data Ribbon, as I expected, but it is also on the View Ribbon. For Print Preview, you need to go to the Office Button and select the Print arrow. Needless to say, some of the most common tasks I perform are now hidden and/or further clicks away.

One way to make some of these tasks easier is to use the new Quick Access Toolbar. The Quick Access Toolbar is the toolbar just right of the Office Button, above the Ribbons. By clicking the drop-down arrow to the right of the toolbar, you can customize the toolbar with your favorite shortcuts.
Here's how to customize the Quick Access Toolbar.
  1. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of the Quick Access Toolbar
  2. Click on "More Commands...". This should open the Options dialog, with the Customize window open (see the left menu to change the open window).
  3. In the window, the left column displays possible short-cuts, while the right column displays your current shortcuts. Select from the drop-down above the left column to get a list of Popular Commands, Commands Not in the Ribbon, All Commands, Macros, or by various Ribbon Tabs and sub-Tabs.
  4. Once you find the short-cut you want to add to the Quick Access Toolbar, click it to select it.
  5. Now click the "Add>>" button that is between the two columns.
  6. Select others and click "Add >>" again to add more to the Quick Access Toolbar.
  7. In the right column, by selecting a short-cut, you can then remove it or change its order.
  8. When completed, click "OK"
This same process should also work for you in Word 2007 and PowerPoint 2007.

06 May, 2010

Block Offensive Facebook Ads

Updated May 6, 2010, due to new information.

Are you tired of giving Facebook feedback on offensive ads, and yet they keep re-appearing? Just because I'm single doesn't mean I want to continually see ads to meet women! In general, I believe displaying ads in an unobtrusive way is okay, as it is what helps pay for free websites. But why even offer a feedback mechanism, if you're not going to incorporate it into future ads?

Well I did some digging, and found a Firefox Add-on, Adblock Plus, that will block ads. Adblock Plus will work well beyond Facebook, but so far I've only configured it to block Facebook ads. The easiest way to make this work is to also install the Element Hiding Helper Add-on too. Here's the steps:
  1. Download/install Adblock Plus Add-on.
  2. Restart Firefox.
  3. Download/install Element Hiding Helper Add-on.
  4. Restart Firefox. You should have a new ABP icon to the right of the Firefox Search Box.
  5. Login to Facebook.
  6. Click the down arrow and click "Select element to hide" or press Ctrl+Shift+k
  7. Move your cursor around the Title element until the Title is circled with a red box the Sponsored heading on the right until the entire ad is circled with a red box.
  8. Click your mouse.
  9. A new ("Compose element hiding rule") dialog box will open. Click "Add filter rule".
  10. Repeat this process (6 - 9) for the Image and Body Text sections of the ad.

  11. I continue to find new flavors that have forced me to be more specific (i.e. more difficult to only exclude the offensive ads). With the image filter, I went to the Advance View, clicked the "src" box, and deleted everything after the domain (left "http://creative.ak.fbcdn.net/").
  12. Now the entire Sponsored section on the page should have disappeared, leaving just the thumbs-up image.
That's it!
If you want to remove the rule, so an element is no longer blocked, these are the steps:
  1. In Firefox, go to the Tools menu and click "Adblock Plus Preferences...".
  2. Right-click on the filter and select Delete. Alternatively, you can uncheck the Enable box and test how the page looks without the filter. BTW: The Hits column tells you how many times the filter has blocked an ad.
  3. This is my current rule set, which is more complex than what I had originally posted, but still easy enough to develop.
Let me reiterate, I don't support ad blocking in general, as website owners need revenue to continue to offer free services.

In a case like Facebook, where many ads are offensive and they ask but don't use our feedback, few options are left. In fact using the Element Hiding feature, the ads are still loaded, they are just blocked from view. So in fact Facebook will report page views and collect revenue from the ads, we just wont have to see them. Seems to me this screams for a review of when and what ads are posted on pages. Advertisers don't want to spend money on ads that will never have a chance of getting clicked.

One final note as I've already mentioned, Adblock Plus has many more features for blocking ads, including subscriptions to lists which are maintained to block known offensive and malware ads. In general (IMHO) I think if you avoid the more "questionable" places on the Internet and have good virus protection, it's likely these other features are not necessary.

View and Manage Your Social Networks in One Place

Update Aug 25, 2010: After 3 1/2 months of using Yoono, I've removed it from Firefox. It had a tendency to crash Firefox, particularly if it contained a lot of unread messages. In addition, it quit updating my Facebook feed, except for notices, around the 1st of August. I've switched back to TweetDeck and Trillian.

Earlier this week I installed Yoono's (Yoono.com) Firefox Add-on, as a test to see if it can successfully be used to manage all my social networks. Today I removed my other client tools from my auto-start, as I have been very happy with Xoono.

As I mentioned, Xoono is a Firefox Add-on (it's also available for Windows desktop) that you can use to manage all my social network interactions. It supports Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, and 4 instant messaging (IM) clients: AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk, and MSN. Each of these can show in one feed or you can select a tab to see the individual feed. I have been using 3 of the social feeds (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and 2 IM clients (AIM and MSN). So far I have been very pleased with the easy of use and functionality. I have not used it with multiple IM sessions going at once.

Since it's a Firefox Add-on, the feed window is a left side-bar within the browser. It has a collapse button too, when you want the extra screen real estate. When collapsed, it displays the number of unread messages. With the 7 different skin colors, I found it easy to pick a color that is distinctively enough different from my browser skin to standout, but the palette choices are pleasing enough as to not be distracting.

When posting, you can post in one feed or all feeds. If you were in the All Feed tab, by default all the feeds for posting will be selected. Likewise if you are in a single feed tab, just the single feed will be selected. You can add and remove feeds through a simple checkbox.

I could go on about the many features, or you can visit the Yoono website and check it out for yourself. Needless to say, right now I think I've found a great new tool.

Office Ribbon Frustrations: Document Properties

Remember it used to be easy to look in the File menu and find the document properties of an Office document? This was an easy way to make sure you didn't post documents with personal information you didn't want shared.

In Office 2007 the feature still exists, it's just hidden like so many other things.
  1. Click the round Office icon in the upper-left
  2. Click Prepare
  3. Click Properties
You will also find in this menu the Inspect Document feature, where you can do further analysis and clean up of a document, including the items found within the document properties.