My Experiences with Google Calendar Part 2.

In Part One, I described my experiences with trying to sync Google Calendar with Microsoft Outlook and FranklinCovey PlanPlus.  I also discussed how this creates a security issue—as I’m forced to run three programs as an Administrator, and two of them are Internet-facing programs.

In this post, I’m going to lay out why they’re at fault, and touch on what each company should do to make life easier for their users.  So, here we go.

Microsoft is at fault because they designed Outlook to require Administrative privileges to perform some action on the calendar that Google Calendar wants.  They are also at fault because they are blocking access to their Live products from third-party applications.  Originally it was to prevent “spammers from creating millions of accounts”—but everyone saw through that to the real reason—money.  They are charging for the access to Live Calendar from e-mail clients.

Google is at fault for two reasons.  One is that they are trying to do something with the Calendar Sync that requires Administrative privileges—even though Vista and the “new way” have been out for almost four years now.  Before you say “Well they HAVE to do it that way”, my argument is this.  PlanPlus seamlessly works with the same Outlook API for the calendar—without administrative permissions.  So, why can’t Google Calendar Sync?  The second thing is this:  They stopped developing this application. It’s at 0.93—and has been for almost a year now.  The error that I had was first reported in March, 2009.

FranklinCovey is only at fault because they’ve moved from their desktop application to an Online format.  That’s not really a bad thing—just not something I’m up for.  The downside is that they don’t offer features like synching to your Google Calendar or other online calendars in the desktop application—and probably never will.

It’s almost time for a Perfect Storm.  Microsoft needs to wake up and realize that as more people realize that they can access Gmail and Google Calendars (along with other Google Apps and Docs) from ANY email client, they will stop paying for the ability to access their Live products from MICROSOFT’s email clients.  Truth is, the only reason I won’t drop my hotmail/msn emails is because the msn one is tied to my ISP, and the rest are secondary accounts.  So, I’m paying for it whether I use it or not.

So, here’s the end of my rant.  This is what I want to see (although it won’t happen). 

MICROSOFT—Open up the live.com products to third party clients again.  The idea that it was to prevent spammers is BULL.  It didn’t do anything to curb spam.  It didn’t do anything to curb porn.  It caused you to close your chat and groups—because the revenue increases that someone claimed you would get didn’t materialize.  People said “Screw off” instead, and moved to other sites.

GOOGLE—Open the source code for the Calendar Sync up.  If you’re not going to develop it on a timely schedule, then let someone else pick up the torch and run with it.  You have the potential to steal a lot of Microsoft’s thunder. But, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  Why? Because you haven’t updated the Calendar Sync site since it was put up.  Your error message section is a joke.  You haven’t developed the application in about a year—and you haven’t fixed any bugs in it.

FRANKLINCOVEY—You’re not really doing anything wrong, but I would ask you to not stop developing the application.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket (PlanPlusOnline).  There are people who don’t want to pay a monthly fee for the service (or who can’t afford it).  I would actually encourage you to take a look at JetBrains and their Omea Pro application.  You could take a hint from them, and create the potential Outlook killer.  They incorporate limited (stress limited) time management with the ability to access your emails, feeds, documents, and even web pages.  All from one application.  YOU could do this too.  Except yours wouldn’t be a limited time-management program.  It would be a Time Management Program that integrates all aspects of productivity in one place.

Have a great day:)

Patrick.

It’s Good to Be Home… Maybe not.

This morning I switched back to Windows 7 from my Kubuntu linux week.  Before I did though, I decided to take the plunge and upgrade to Kubuntu 9.10 again.  Ironically enough, the upgrade installed all of the available security updates (and all but the XBMC updates).  And my computer booted fine on the next restart.

I ran into one set of problems immediately though.  My GPG keys were wiped out.  This wouldn’t be a problem—except that I moved the backups to a server.  Kleopatra (and GPG in general) won’t import from a non-local drive.  And when I tried to copy them from the server, they wouldn’t copy.  So, I left Kubuntu slightly defeated…

So, it’s good to be home then, right?  Well not exactly.  I booted into Windows… And blue-screened.  Rebooted into Windows… And blue-screened again.  After the third or fourth time, I did the startup-repairs and did a System Restore. Possibly, it was caused by my going into the drive in Kubuntu—but since I’d gotten blue screens before last week, I doubt it.

Then, I couldn’t open my encrypted e-mails in Outlook.  Not because I didn’t have the keys for the accounts that I mailed them from (I did).  Not because I didn’t have gpg or my S/MIME certificates set up (I did). Why?  Because I had imported older keys for my hotmail account (which I no longer have the passwords for), and it used those to encrypt the e-mails.  Luckily, I can view/send them from my gmail account.

I’ve copied my keys over to a local drive and will be able to go back into Kubuntu and fix the issue with GPG.  And I’m finding and signing more keys for sites that I use regularly.  I may do a series of posts on GPG and other digital certificates again.

I’m almost prepared to move my site.  The hosting company will most likely be BlueHost, unless I find a better deal within the next three months. 

So, overall I still love Windows.  But, I’ve found that I can easily do things in Kubuntu.  If you’re the least bit curious about Linux, then I highly recommend that you check it out (http://www.kubuntu.org)  You can download a Live CD (which is a good idea if you’re doing online banking or shopping), or you can install it alongside Windows (wubi or a true dual-boot setup).  And if you find that it’s up to your standards, you can easily install it in place of Windows.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

What do I do with this brand new computer?

So, you got a brand new computer (either a Windows 7 based or Macintosh based) for Christmas, and now you’re trying to figure out what to do with it.  Hopefully these steps will provide you with some guidance and answers to the questions.

  1. Update the operating system.  Regardless of whether it’s Windows 7, Mac OSX, or even a Linux variant, there have been security and bugfix updates since the operating system was released.  These should be your FIRST things to download and install.
  2. Make sure you are protected (antivirus and firewall).  Most PC’s and some Macintosh computers come with some form of antivirus.  In the case of PC’s, it usually is a trial version.  They don’t advertise it very well, that in 30 to 90 days, you’ll no longer be protected.  So, you need to either purchase their full version, or uninstall the antivirus/security suite, and install one of your own.  At the most, I would wait a week or two for this.
  3. Update the antivirus, antispyware, and firewall (if necessary).  Like your operating system, your antivirus, antispyware, and firewall programs will have updates available.  You absolutely need to get these, so that you’re protected against the latest threats (and protected against bugs in the programs themselves).
  4. Migrate your data over (if you have a computer already).  If you have a computer, and your new computer has Windows 7 installed, you can use the Windows Easy Transfer program to move your data and settings over to the new computer.  Simply run it on the old computer first, and save the files to another location (network computer or an external drive).  Then run the program on the new computer, and transfer the settings over from the saved location.

    The report at the end will tell you what applications were installed, and provide you with links to their installers (where possible).

  5. Start backing up religiously.  You should actually do this before you migrate your settings over.  However, you can do it afterwards as well.  Either way, there are plenty of options for backups available.  Both computer/disk based and online.  Find what works best for you, and use it.  Every dayEvery day. (I can’t emphasize that enough)
  6. Set up accounts for all users.  Make the accounts limited users (Standard Users).  Put a password on the original account (typically “Owner”).  Make it a strong password.  Put passwords on the other accounts (and make sure your family members use them).  If someone wants to install a program on the computer, you have to do it for them (as you will be the only one that knows the “Computer Administrator” password). 

    You should create one for yourself as well.  For two reasons.  1) Because it sets an example that you aren’t any more special than they are.  2)  Because you don’t need to be an Administrator either.  You have the Administrator account, and the password for it.  Use it when necessary, and no more often than that.

    If you find that other users are installing programs and shouldn’t be able to, then check to ensure that they are limited users.  If they are not, then you need to discipline them.  Strongly.

Some of the reasons behind these are my opinions.  I feel strongly that by following these steps, you will decrease the chances that your computer will be hijacked, and increase your enjoyment of the computer and Internet. 

Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy that new computer. 🙂

Patrick.

Windows 7—UAC

Ahhh UAC.  This was one of the most despised features of Windows Vista.  It was intended to improve security by creating the equivalent of “Super User’” (su) or “Sudo” in Linux.  The concept is that if the action that you (or software) is taking could change the system (for good or bad), you had to be an Administrator or super-user to do it.  Normally, you ran as a standard user.

However, Microsoft messed up.  Where Linux only requires super-user or sudo (Sudo allows you to use the super-user mode for the specific installation or command that you’re performing—without having to essentially log in as the super-user.)  for certain things, Microsoft required it for virtually everything that you did on the computer.  They also had two options:  On (full) or Off.  Typically users would either turn it off, or just click “Yes” or “Continue” for everything.  Either way, it’s not secure—and it defeats the purpose.

With Windows 7, Microsoft went a long ways towards improving UAC.  Now, it has a slider with three settings:  High (Full like Vista), Medium (the default) and Off.  Technically, there are four settings.  The only difference between the higher and lower ones are whether it dims the desktop.  The triggers are still the same. With the default, you’re only prompted if software tries to change something on the computer.  So, you can move things, or delete things without an annoying prompt.  While a lot of actions will show the “Shield” for UAC, only a few of them actually generate a prompt.

With Windows 7, Microsoft has gotten a lot closer to the Linux version of super-user.  This is good for two reasons.  1)  There’s a good chance that the average user won’t ignore the prompts and will be more secure. 2) If a Windows user migrates over to Linux or vice versa, they’re already familiar with the concept.  An unnoticed bonus is that Apple won’t be able to use the UAC in their ads now.

So, if you are a current Vista user, my suggestion is this:  When you upgrade to Windows 7, leave UAC on for a while.  Give it a fair shake and see if you like it.  If it’s still too annoying, see if it’s set on High.  If it’s set on the default, you could try the lower setting (Notify me if programs try to make changes on my computer- but don’t dim the desktop).  If that still doesn’t satisfy you, then you could turn it off.

I’ve been running Windows 7 since the Beta 1 was released in January.  When I tested (and used Vista) I turned UAC off within a few days because a few programs wouldn’t install properly with it on.  I haven’t changed UAC once on Windows 7, and installed all of the programs plus more.  Hopefully you’ll find that UAC is better, and that you’ll let it do it’s job—protecting you.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Windows 7 – Day 2 (Day 1 post launch)

Ok, so you’ve purchased your copy of Windows 7, or your computer with it preinstalled (or upgraded to it).  Now you’re sitting here looking at this new operating system and trying to figure out where to go next.  If you’re like most people, you’ll start looking at all of the websites—and be inundated with tons of information about what Windows 7 can do, should do, and won’t do… 

I say relax.  While there are changes, at the heart of Windows 7, it’s just an operating system.  It’s going to do the same things that Windows 1.x through Windows Vista did.  And in most cases, you can still do those things the way you’ve done them in the past.  The changes are just there to try and make a simpler way to do those things—but you’re not required to use them.

Remember that unless you choose to delete or format something, or you just yank the power cord out of the wall, you can’t really do anything to mess up the computer.  So, take a few minutes to look around and get used to the place.  After all, you’re going to be living here for the next couple of years (unless you decide to purchase a Mac, downgrade to XP if it’s an option, or switch to Linux).

The first thing you should do (as you always should) is go to http://update.microsoft.com (like Vista, this will open up the Windows Update pane of the Control Panel) and get your updates.  Do this BEFORE you start listening to your music, or watching your TV.

If you installed Windows 7 clean (or upgraded from your previous Operating System) then you need to make sure that your antivirus and firewall are running properly.  If you purchased a new computer, then you need to decide if you want to keep the antivirus that came packaged with it, or switch to another one. 

While all of the blogs and sites will post their opinions about the different antivirus programs that are bundled with computers, one thing that all of us can agree on is this:  You need to pick one, make sure you can get updates, and update it.  If you like what came with your computer, make a note to purchase it (since most likely it’s a limited trial).  If not, then wipe it off now and put one on that you do like.

Remember that regardless of whether you purchased a PC with Windows 7, installed it, purchased a Mac, or even switched to Linux, the computer is only as secure as you make it.  Practice safe computing, and you’ll fare pretty well—regardless of what issues there are with the Operating System.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Windows 7 is available today… Go Get It….

Today is the day that Windows 7 is officially launched (General Availability).  You can probably find it at your local Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  And you can get some pretty decent deals online as well.

Newegg is offering Home Premium for $99.00, Professional for $139.99 and Ultimate for $179.99.  These are pretty decent rates for the product.  But, you’ll have to act fast.  These deals are only good for  a limited time.  Also, it should be noted that these are the OEM versions of Windows 7—not the retail versions.  The main difference is that with an OEM version, it’s locked into the first computer that you install it on (where a retail version can be transferred to another computer).  Also the OEM version comes with no support from Microsoft (as it’s intended for computer manufacturers or builders).

If you are considering the retail versions, then there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of.

  • If you purchase a copy that says “Upgrade” on it, you need a valid Operating System on the computer that you’re upgrading.  This locks the keys together so to speak.  What this means is that you can’t transfer the original operating system to another computer (because it’s tied to the license for Windows 7).
  • If you purchase a “Full” version of Windows 7, you can upgrade from another operating system, or do a clean installation.  The main difference between this, and the upgrade version, is that you can then transfer the original operating system to another computer (if it’s not an OEM copy).  This is also why the “Full” version is more expensive than the “Upgrade” version, and why they are both more expensive than the “OEM” version.

If you purchase an “Upgrade” or “Full” retail version, you will get both the 32-bit and 64-bit DVD’s in your box.  However there are a couple of limitations that you need to be aware of.

  • If you have a 32-bit processor, the obvious limitation that you can’t install the 64-bit version on there applies.
  • You can only install one copy.  So, if you install the 64-bit version on your main computer, you cannot install the 32-bit version on a second computer (without an additional license) or transfer that copy to someone else.
  • Also, if you install the 32-bit version and later want to migrate to the 64-bit version, you can use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate your files and settings.  HOWEVER, if you install the 64-bit version, and later decide that you want to go to the 32-bit, it won’t work. You will have to copy your files manually to another drive, and reinstall and reconfigure your settings.

Hopefully with this quick guide, you’ll find what you want.  And I hope that you’ll enjoy Windows 7 as much as I do.  I really liked Vista (although on one of my computers it didn’t run as well as expected), but I’ve upgraded completely to Windows 7 and won’t look back.  It’s quite possibly one of the best Operating Systems that Microsoft has released.  I won’t say it’s the best Operating System out there, because that’s a matter of preference and a matter of specific situations.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

From Windows XP To Windows 7

There has been a lot of discussion about the upgrade paths to Windows 7.  And most of the latest have focused on the lack of upgrades from Windows XP.  This would seem to be a daunting issue—especially for corporations.  And it would seem like a daunting issue for consumers as well.

In truth, it’s probably more of an issue for corporations then it is for the average person.  But here are some things to know.

Installation methods:

Your only real option is a custom install (a fancy way of saying clean installation or wipe the drive and start over from scratch).  If you’re considering this type of installation, and are a consumer, the first thing you need to do is run the File and Settings Transfer Wizard from the Windows 7 disc (Windows Easy Transfer).  You will want to save the files and settings to an external drive or DVD’s.  And you’ll want to make sure that you don’t password protect the file.

After you have installed Windows 7, you will have to reinstall all of your programs.  You may be thinking “How do I know what I had installed, and what I want to reinstall?”  That’s one place that your Windows Easy Transfer comes in.  The first thing you’ll want to do is re-run that application and restore the files and settings to the new (upgraded) computer.  At the end of this, you’ll have the option to view a report.  This report will list all of the programs that you had installed (and in some cases, will provide you with links to the programs).

My Programs won’t run on Windows 7

Undoubtedly you will run into this situation eventually.  One or more of your programs won’t want to run in Windows 7.  You have two options at this point.  You can try to install them in Windows XP compatibility, or you can see if there’s an updated version of the program that runs in Windows Vista/Windows 7.  The only problem is in some cases, you’ll have to pay for the upgrade.  However unless the upgrade breaks features that you need, or the cost is so high that you can’t afford it, you’re better off buying the upgrade.

You have one other option that corporations will most likely have (and use).  If you choose to purchase a copy of Windows 7 that is “Business Professional”, “Enterprise (for corporate users)”, or “Ultimate”, you will have access to “XP Mode”.  XP Mode is similar to Virtual PC—in that it uses VPC, but it’s a specially configured copy of Windows XP.  There is an issue though that needs to be considered here too.  Your computer must be new enough and have the right BIOS and hardware configurations to support XP Mode.  The computer must support “Hardware Virtualization”.

If your computer doesn’t qualify for XP Mode, then you still have options.  If you had purchased a full version of Windows 7 (not an OEM version that comes with your computer, or an “Upgrade” version), and you don’t have an OEM copy of Windows XP installed on the computer (preinstalled from the manufacturer), you can install Virtual PC and install Windows XP inside of the Virtual Machine.  You may run into issues with activation, but probably nothing that you can’t take care of over the phone.

Final thoughts

Finally, before you take my word for this (or the word of the other news reporters and bloggers) do some research.  As of this posting, you have 10 days before you can get a copy of Windows 7.  Probably more—depending on how you’re going to get your copy.  Research the programs that you use on a regular basis.  Find out if they will work with Windows 7, or if you can upgrade. 

If it’s going to cost you money to upgrade, find out if you can use Virtual PC/XP Mode.  Also find out if there are trial versions available for your programs.  This will allow you to start using them now, and put off the cost for a short time.  But most definitely research all of your options before you rule out anything.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Restoring your GRUB bootloader after upgrading Windows (or installing Windows)

There’s a story behind this.  I am triple-booting my laptop:  Windows XP Media Center 2005, Windows 7 RTM Ultimate, and Kubuntu 9.04.  When I installed Kubuntu, GRUB was the boot loader that I chose, and it worked perfectly.  However, when I installed Windows 7 RTM, Windows overwrote my GRUB boot loader, so I no longer could boot to Kubuntu. 

This is a pet-peeve that I have had with Microsoft’s operating systems for a long time.  Linux will happily move things around, so you can boot to either Linux or use the Windows Boot loader to boot up whichever versions of Windows you had installed.  Microsoft, however, just writes it’s boot loader over whatever is there—which will break your dual-boot of Windows and Linux (or multi-boots) or Windows and whatever other Operating System (non-Microsoft) you have installed.

I’ve searched the Internet for easy instructions for repairing GRUB—but never really found anything good. Until today, that is.  The closest that I found was the Super GRUB Disk or Auto Super GRUB Disk, which didn’t work on Windows 7.

Today, I read an article about the SystemRescueCD releasing their 1.3.0 version.  So, I downloaded it and looked for any articles on repairing GRUB with this.  I found some very simple instructions, and successfully repaired my GRUB installation.  Now I can boot to Windows or Kubuntu with all of the kernels that I had before.

The instructions

The instructions come from Tutorial on Repairing GRUB.  Here they are step by step.

  1. Boot to the SystemRescueCD or any liveCD for Linux (SystemRescueCD is preferred as it automatically sets you as root).  If you booted another Live CD, open a Terminal and either use “sudo” or su to get to the root prompt. The rest of the instructions are assuming that you have a root prompt or will use “sudo grub” to get into the grub program.
  2. type grub or sudo grub at the prompt (enter your password if necessary)
  3. At the grub> prompt, type find /boot/grub/stage1

It should return a value such as (hd0,1) or whatever your grub location is (Mine was hd0,3)

At the grub> prompt, type root (hd0,1) or whatever value was returned previously  (mine was “root (hd0,3)”)

It should return a value such as filesystem type is ext2fs, partition type 0x83.

At the grub> prompt, type setup (hd0) or whatever the first number in the value you used earlier is.

You should see grub running through some tests then installing itself and your menu.lst file with “Yes” or “Succeeded” depending on the action—then “Done.”.

If you see that it was successful, you can type “Quit” at the grub> prompt.

Something to note.  Linux, like most Operating Systems and programs, begins everything from 0—not 1, as you would normally think.  So, seeing “hd0,3” would mean the fourth partition on the first physical drive.  If you have Grub installed on a second hard drive, it will most likely show up as hd1,x where x is the partition that Grub is installed on.

Typically, your hard drive will have Windows on hd0,0 and then whatever other operating system on hd0,1 or whichever partition it is placed on.  In my case, my swap file (Linux’s version of the pagefile on Windows) is on hd0,2, so my actual Linux installation is on hd0,3.

So, if you’re needing to install GRUB or reinstall GRUB, I hope this helps you out.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Windows 7 Features – Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts and tricks

Microsoft added some interesting features or “bling” to Windows 7 in mouse actions and in keyboard shortcuts.  This includes the Aero Peek—although that’s actually a button in the taskbar.

Have you ever been in the position where you needed to compare two documents or work on two items side-by-side?  And you had to move the windows to each side and resize them so you can see them both?  There have been third party applications that attempted to solve this for you in the past.  Microsoft added this, amongst a few other functions into the User Interface.

So, here we go.  This is the list of things that you can do with Windows 7 either by using the mouse or the keyboard.  By all means this list is not complete, and I will update it as I learn of more things.

ActionKeyboard ShortcutMouse Shortcut
Maximize WIndowWindows key + up ArrowDrag the title bar to the top of the screen
Minimize WindowWindows Key + Down Arrow None*
Minimize All but current WindowWindows Key + Home KeyShake the window side to side (Aero Shake)
Enlarge on Right half of screenWindows Key + Right ArrowDrag the title bar to the right edge
Enlarge on Left Half of ScreenWindows Key + Left ArrowDrag the title bar to the left edge
Show Thumbnail above TaskbarWindows Key + THover over the icon for the open program
“Aero Peek”Windows Key + SpacebarHover mouse in the far right of the taskbar (next to the Systray)

 

For clarification, the “Windows Key” is the key between your CTRL and ALT keys on the left side (desktop) and possibly in the upper right hand corner on a laptop.  It may say “Start” or just show the flying Windows emblem.

Some other common Windows key combinations include the following:

ActionWindows Key +
Minimize WindowsWindows Key + M
Show Desktop/Restore windowsWindows Key + D
Show System PropertiesWindows Key + Pause
Run…….Windows Key + R
Open Windows ExplorerWindows Key + E
Tab between WindowsAlt + Tab (Windows + Tab for Aero-style)
Open Mobility Center (laptops)Windows Key + X
Lock your ComputerWindows Key + L
Zoom in or outWindows Key + + (Plus) to zoom in
Windows Key + – (minus) to zoom out

 

Here are the links for more information about the various key shortcuts http://www.mydigitallife.info/2008/12/30/new-keyboard-shortcut-keys-hotkeys-in-windows-7/ (where I gathered the specific shortcuts)

Microsoft Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows 7 (All of the shortcuts for Windows 7)

Something to note is that some of the “Common” shortcuts work in previous versions of Windows. And there are hacks available which will give you the Aero Shake on Windows Vista (although I don’t recommend using them and haven’t explored them).

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Windows 7 Features—The Taskbar Revisited

I was reading a review this evening about Windows 7.  It was posted on MSNBC and called Windows 7 – The Good, The Bad, The Unknown.  In this review, while they liked the taskbar, they still complained about something that I don’t think is an issue.

Their complaint was that Microsoft could have made the open programs a little easier to distinguish.  I looked at the Release Candidate (that I’m typing this on) and the Release To Manufacturing (the one that you’ll buy in October) and I can’t see where the confusion is.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe it’s just how I have my desktop set up.  I’ll let you be the judge though.

Here is a picture of my taskbar from the RC:

Taskbar-RC

And here is a picture from the RTM version (note that I am using Remote Desktop to access it—as it’s installed on my laptop):

Taskbar-RTM

So, I want your opinion.  Can you tell me what programs are open on each of them?  I’ve enlarged the pictures, but I should add that they appear smaller in my editor than they do on my actual computers.

Let me know if you can tell what’s open and what’s not.  If you can’t, then let me know what you think Microsoft could do to make it more obvious.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.