Category Archives: Technology

Link to OneNote Meeting Notes in Outlook 2007

I have been spending some time exploring the UI improvements to Outlook 2007.  One of my favorite features is the ability to link to OneNote meeting notes.

Simply right click on an appointment and select the Meeting Notes option.  This automatically creates and links a new OneNote document to store all of the valuable meeting minutes/takeaways.  I was using OneNote before to record meeting minutes, but this new feature adds great integration between the two.

BlogMailr

I just sumbled across BlogMailr – a new service by Telligent.  In a word, it’s a MetaBlog API service for providing email capability for your blog (i.e. you sign up, you send an email to your account at blogmailr.com and it uploads a new post to your site).  I’ve been using a similar service on Windows Live Spaces for my family blog for sometime and it’s super useful.  I think this will be very popular.

Launching Applications in Vista 5472

Scott has a great post about replacing “start/run” to launch applications quickly – I’ve used a number of the tools he lists in the past to find optimal ways of launching applications.  One of the options he does miss however is the new start menu in Vista, which now contains a field for entering search or command line requests.

This new field (at the bottom left of the menu) gives me a few interesting ways of getting stuff done quickly:

·         As with the previous MSN Desktop search, I can search for things on my desktop or on the web by just typing in the box and launch applications on the path by just typing their name (e.g. notepad).

·         I can find and launch applications on my start menu by typing in a portion of the name.  For example, instead of going Start -> Programs -> Microsoft Office -> Microsoft Word, I can type in “word” [enter].  I use “studio” for VS.NET etc.

·         This also works for favorites – for example, I have a favorite saved as “owa” (for Outlook Web Access).  I type owa [enter] and the URL is launched.  I use foldershare to synchronize my favorites folder between machines, which works really well. 

·         I can shutdown/hibernate/standby the machine by [Windows Key] [right arrow x 3 times] and selecting the appropriate option (e.g. H to hibernate).

I’m still looking for a good way to do macros with this approach (for example, [amaz lord of the rings] or [quote MSFT]), but so far I’m finding this a very useful feature.

Saving Memories

When I was growing up I used to take a lot of photos.  Armed with an old Canon 35mm SLR, a few lenses, filters and other stuff, I strongly believe that if my current career hadn't worked out I would have found myself doing something with photography.  Like most people however, as I got older (and busier) I got swept away by the digital camera revolution – exchanging my beloved 35mm SLR for a more compact digital camera several years ago. 

Looking through our family photos the other day, I started to feel cheated.  I realized that I’d traded the quality of photos I used to take for the convenience of something that would fit into my pocket.  Of course, the first generation of Digital SLRs definitely had their problems – many functions didn’t come across well from 35mm range, they were slow to start up, and (for me) unbelievably expensive, but after doing some research over the past few weeks, I can definitely say it's now a different story.

Because there are so many choices, I started by making a list of requirements:

·         Must support functions of my previous 35mm SLR – good range of manual shutter, aperture and ISO settings – I want to be in control of the pictures I take.

·         Must support multiple frames per second (ideally 3fp/s).  I have a 22 month old who surprisingly doesn’t feel it necessary to sit still when the perfect photo opportunity arises for Dad.

·         Must have instant start up – my current digital pocket camera annoys the heck out of me when I see a shot but then have to wait for 5 seconds while it thinks about booting up.

After a long haul through all of the available dSLRs it came down to the Nikon D70s vs. the Canon Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D).  On paper and in most reviews they are virtually the same camera (with the exception of resolution – which I don’t find an issue unless you are printing larger than 12”x10”).  The major difference however is size and weight. If you have larger hands and prefer a sturdier camera, the D70s looks like a good choice.  If you can handle the smaller size and prefer something a little lighter (a priority for me as I travel frequently) the Canon EOS 350D could be a better fit.

After I’d succumbed to purchasing the Canon EOS 350D, it came down to the choice of lens (which is actually more important that the camera).  The default lenses with most Digital SLR kits tend to be wide angle (for example, 18-55mm – the lower this number, the wider the available angle of the lens).  While this is great for typical beach/sunset/view-of-the-mountains shots, it’s not so hot when it comes to portrait/family shots.  Of course, many people don’t realize this until they have purchased the lens – after which you end up buying a second lens for those closer shots. I used to have a second lens (Sigma 70-300mm) for exactly this reason.

This works well, except that now you’ve got to carry around two lenses – which added to filters, extra battery, memory, power supply, and some cleaning stuff quickly becomes a travel nightmare.  You also have to spend time swapping them when you want to switch between landscape and telephoto – which can be clumsy, especially if you are in the dark or next to water. 

A few manufacturers have started creating “all in one lenses” – one of the favorites I looked at was the Tamron 18-200mm XR Di II - it looked really good, but some of the reviews complained that the autofocus for moving objects can be a little slow.  Thinking of my son running towards me I decided instead to opt for the Canon Ultrasonic EF 28-200mm.  For what I’m after, this offers a great range (28-200mm) for both semi-landscape and telephoto.  I was a little worried that 28mm wasn’t wide enough for some shots – it’s of course not as accommodating as the 18mm wide angle with the kit lens, but it’s good enough – and if it saves me carrying two lenses, it’s a hit.  In addition, the lens is ultrasonic – which means a) it doesn’t sound like a dentist’s drill when you are using during the toasts at weddings and b) its really fast to focus on objects.

So there you go – after only two days with the camera, if you have requirements similar to mine I can highly recommend the combination of the EOS 350D and the EF 28-200mm.

My only regret?  Life’s too short for the memories I’ve already missed. (Yeah, I should have bought this 22 months ago…)

Windows Vista 5472 – First Impressions

I took the leap yesterday and installed Vista (5472) and Office 12 (4228) on my main machine (a Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet).  Although it's still been less than 24 hours, I've been very impressed so far.  Both builds seem very stable and already I'm seeing some gains over my old setup.

My initial impressions:

Installaton – I used WDS (Windows Deployment Services) to install the build, which worked really well (although a rogue Thinkpad driver crept into the build and needed to be disabled shortly after installation).  Windows Update in 5472 is good, although a little "hidden" for my liking.  It took me a couple of minutes to dig through the control panel to find it in order to get the drivers for my machine.

Display - The Tecra M4 comes with an NVidia 6200 graphics card (128M) – after finding the right driver online, the machine now has a 3.0 performance rating, and Aero glass works really well.

Gadgets – I'll admit, I was a little skeptical when I first heard about Gadgets in Vista, but I think they are going to be cool.  I'm not one for displaying clocks, slideshows, or other such things on my desktop, so I quickly turned off the default selection – but I think custom-built, RSS "powered" gadgets will be very useful (and popular) once they start to appear.  My favorite out of the default set today is the CPU load gadget.  Much more entertaining than keeping taskmgr minimized in the system tray.

Tablet – I still need to work out the automatic rotate feature on the Tecra.  Screen orientation is supported in this build, but detection of "going into tablet mode" looks to be a feature of the Toshiba driver set that isn't there yet.  I believe there is a tool called iRotate that may provide this functionality until Toshiba release a new driver set.

Performance - I've been pleasantly surprised that the performance of this build is actually better than my old Windows XP setup.  Ok, my old XP setup was in desperate need of a rebuild, but even so…   Standby and Hibernate seem to be working well in 5472 on the Tecra – although I did see one glitch this morning (I think it had to do with a 2nd hard disk I was trying to plug in at the same time).

Security – When I played around with an earlier build of Vista (on a VPC) I thought I would get annoyed at the constant "do you want to allow this?" dialog boxes as part of Vista LUA.  Having gone through many of these while installing stuff yesterday (even logged in as admin on the machine), they require extra time, but after a while I found myself left with a good feeling that I'd quickly know if something rogue was being installed.  In a strange way, I'm actually becoming a fan of this feature…

Breadcrumb Navigation – Many explorer windows now support a "breadcrumb" navigation where you can quick navigate using "breadcrumbs", but then select all the breadcrumbs and copy the physical path – very cool.

Launching Programs - On XP, I used to run (and love) SlickRun to launch programs.  The Start Menu has a way of quickly searching for things, but I don't know whether it's possible to customize it with a set of shortcuts (which I really need) – it looks like I may be able to use “pinned” menus on the start menu providing I can make them work with parameters.

Handwriting Support - Really works well – much better than XP from what I've seen.

Other Apps - I've still lots to install, but no incompatibilities yet.  Foldershare is working well (and currently updating my libraries as I write this).

That's it for now – as I said, just the first impressions after a few hours of use.  I'm sure I'll have more to say as I start loading all my applications…

*** Updated video driver section – found updated driver (see comments) ***

 

T-Mobile MDA

A couple of weeks ago I switched from Verizon Wireless to T-Mobile, and at the same time had the opportunity to pick up a new cell phone. 

After a lot of deliberation I went with the T-Mobile MDA Vario.  This is the first PocketPC phone I've owned since the Samsung i700.  The Samsung was a bulky phone so I was a little hesitant at first (and as a result was leaning towards the SDA), but now that I've used the MDA for a couple of weeks I definitely made the right choice. 

"Insufficient System Resources Exist to Complete the API"

I have a Toshiba Tecra M4 with 2Gb of RAM.  I've had the machine for a while now and every so often, when I went to hibernate I would see a message saying "Insufficient System Resources Exist to Complete the API" (and the machine would only go into standby).  On a couple of occasions I've failed to notice this before placing the machine in my bag (and as a result I end up with a hot bag, an even hotter laptop and not much battery left).

After researching this yesterday, it appears that this is a problem with memory fragmentation (a lot of applications running causes memory fragmentation which for some reason prevents the machine/kernel from going into hibernation – this affects laptops with > 1Gb RAM).

Fortunately, this seems to be have been fixed with a post-SP2 patch.  (KB909095).  You have to contact Microsoft Product Support for the actually patch file, but it is now available – and from what I can tell appears to work well… 

5 Tips for running Windows Vista 5270 on a Virtual PC

I’ve recently setup Vista 5270 as a VPC on my Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet.  I was going to install it on a separate partition, but discovered that the Vista LDDM drivers for the M4 are still under development (which at this time makes switching to an external monitor difficult – and therefore difficult for using in presentations!).

 

Despite initial fears, after a little tweaking, things are looking very slick.  I discovered some tips along the way for anyone looking to do the same:

  • You’ll need the latest Virtual PC Additions (you can get these from Virtual Server 2005 R2 or other download points via the web).  This is to primarily support the simulated S3 graphics card and pointer integration.  I’ve discovered drag and drop is not supported yet – neither is auto-resizing of the display when you go into full screen mode.  Networking and other features are running great though.
  • When you create your disk, ensure that it's a fixed size (not dynamic).
  • If you are running this on a laptop, check your power management settings. I was experiencing some very odd timing and keyboard repetition in the VPC for a while – it was almost as if the VPC was running about 2 – 3 times quicker than the host system, even before Vista had booted.  I eventually fixed this by setting the CPU speed (in the Toshiba power manager on the host) to “fixed”.  I wish I’d have found this earlier – it seems to have generally improved the performance of the machine overall.
  • Glass on Vista is not supported when using Virtual PC (as the simulated S3 card does not support it).  I’ve heard rumors that if you use terminal services from a machine that does have decent display hardware you can remotely connect the VPC and enjoyed some kind of simulated mode, but I’ve not tested it.
  • The best blog for more tips has to be Virtual PC Guy.  Subscribed!

  

So far, I have been very impressed.  I’ve been able to load the Expression suite and VS 2005 onto the VPC, and it’s been a great way to get up to speed with the new OS.  

Move to Vonage

A couple of weeks ago I switched from my current VOIP provider, SunRocket, to Vonage.  The reason to do so was fuelled by:

  • My SunRocket annual contract expires soon
  • Vonage offers an international virtual number – which means for $4.99 a month I can get a number with an area code of my hometown in the UK that automatically forwards to my house in the US
  • The quality of the SunRocket line seemed to be getting worse over the past few months

So far, I have not been disappointed.   Although a little more expensive, Vonage sent me through a single unit which has the VOIP capabilities combined with an 802.11g wireless router.  It was easy to setup and the quality of calls thus far has been very good.  Of course, I'm still waiting for my home number to be transferred – it should be interesting to see how well this is supported by two VOIP providers.