Organize Feature in Outlook 2010 – Where Did it Go?

Posted by Andy on September 15, 2010
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This is one of my favorite features of Outlook 2003/2007.  Using it, you are able to change the way messages from certain people are displayed in your inbox.  For example, mails from my boss can be in bold, red, and a totally different font and size from the rest of the text in the inbox.  This is immeasurably helpful making important mails stand out from the crowd.

Much to my chagrin, the familiar organize button is missing from Outlook 2010.  I was concerned, but didn’t panic, since I was sure that Microsft just hid the feature somewhere else – I was right, they combined some features and put it in what I think is a better place, albeit harder to locate.

This what it used to look like:

In Outlook 2010 the Organize functions are grouped with what Micrsoft calls Advanced Settings and are found under the Condictional Formatting button.  To get there, go to the View tab, choose View Settings, then Conditional Formatting.

This brings up the conditional formatting window.  And yes, I have 4300 unread mails, but close to half are mails that go right to trash, so get off my back.

From here, just click on Add to create a new formating rule and give it a name.  Click on the Font button to change the font, color, size etc.

Once that’s done, click on the Condition button.  Here you can set the conditions incoming mails must meet to have the color/font rule applied.  For example, if you want all mails from john@doe.com to have the fint settings you made above applied, put John’s email address in the From entry bar. 

Click OK three times to get out of all of the windows and you are done.  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.  You can experiment with the serch features and other items in the conditional rule settings – there is alot you can do.  For the most part I just use the color/font combinations by sender, and occasionally I’ll add an alert window for those mails I want to hit me in the face.

Happy formatting!

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Computer Jargon Explained

Posted by Andy on September 14, 2010
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I’m a Technology Geek – I admit it

It’s true.  And as a Geek, I am immersed in jargon.  Tons of technical words, abbreviations, acronyms, short hand and nicknames.  Unfortunately, it’s a world full of WENUS’s.  When explaining technical concepts or processes it is easy to slip into jargon that not only non-technical people find difficult to follow, but also techies themselves find baffling.  Often I have to force myself to stop mid explanation, regroup and continue without the acronyms and techie-speak so that the person I’m speaking with comes back from the glassy-eyed stare that clearly shows I’ve lost them.

So, below is a list of items that, although very basic, may help you when faced with techno-speak.  There are thousands of words to explain, so here are a very few.  Thanks to these guys for the inspiration.

Internet, World Wide Web

We all know it was invented by Al Gore, right?  Well, no.  Here’s a history of the origin of the Internet.  The Wiki on this topic isn’t bad either.  The Internet is the network of computers we’re all familiar with. It’s quite common for the terms “Internet” and “World Wide Web” to be used interchangeably, but these aren’t actually the same thing. The Internet is essentially the wiring that allows computers all over the world to communicate. The World Wide Web is a system that operates via this wiring. Web pages are transmitted via Internet connections but there is more to the Internet than just the web. Many other types of data travel across the Internet too, for example email.

Bandwidth, Broadband

Bandwidth is an indication of how quickly data travels along a connection. The greater the bandwidth, the faster data will be sent and received. Broadband is a rather vague term that refers to bandwidth somewhere above that of an old dial-up modem, although there is no precise definition of the term. Broadband connections are generally “always on”, unlike modem connections. There are various technologies which provide “broadband” speeds – such as ADSL, cable, satellite etc.

Have you ever heard of a T1?  Broadband speeds are measured in Megabits Per Second (MPS) – see the section on bits and bytes below for more information on the definition of a megabit.  Once you get beyond cable modems and ADSL, the next step up in broadband speed is a T1 which is about 1.5 MPS.  T1’s can be “bound” together in groups to provide more bandwidth.  Each of these has its own acronym too, T3, DS3, OC3 etc, each being more costly as the speeds go up.

Memory, Disk Space

Another very common source of confusion. In computing, “memory” generally refers to the temporary storage used by a computer whilst it is switched on. A computer loads programs and data into its memory in order to carry out tasks. This is more accurately called RAM or “random-access memory”. Disk space (or “hard disk space”), on the other hand, is a more permanent store that holds files even when the computer is switched off. It’s from here that the computer loads things into its memory. Strictly speaking you don’t store things in the computer’s memory as that vanishes when you turn the machine off.

Memory is generally measured in Megabytes, while disk space is generally measured in Gigabytes.  You may hear memory referred to as a “500 Meg Chip” or a 500 Meg DIMM for example.  Memory, unlike most hard drives, is made up of silicon chips put together to form an integrated circuit.  A DIMM is a specific kind of circuit – a Dual In line Memory Module.

 

Hard drives historically are made up of round, very thin magnetic platters that spin at high speed  and are read by small electronic “heads’.  The disk and spindle act very much like an old school vinyl music record.  The disk spins, the head reads the data and sends it to the guts of your computer. 

 

More and more, however, hard disks are moving toward “Flash Disk’ technologies.  These are storage chips (like memory chips) that are very small but can contain a lot of data.  Most smart phones use these storage mediums as do iPods, iPads etc.  Until very recently Flash storage was too expensive and drive sizes not large enough for realistic use inside a computer.  This is rapidly changing, and the days of the palette and spindle hard drive are numbered.

Virus, Spyware, Trojan, Worm, Malware

These terms are often confused, although they have distinct meanings.

A virus is a piece of software that can copy itself and which attaches itself to some other program in order to survive and replicate. It may have some malicious intent or it may exist simply to reproduce. A worm is similar but it can exist independently; it doesn’t need to attach to a separate program. A Trojan – or Trojan Horse – is a piece of software that gains access to a computer by pretending to be benign or by hiding within some innocent-looking application. The name is obviously derived from the wooden horse employed by the Greek army during the Trojan Wars. Spyware is software that secretly monitors computer activity, attempting to gain private information without the computer user knowing.

By and large, all of the above will have some malicious intent – to harm data, spy on computer activity and so forth. Malware is a general term for all such programs – it simply means any software, of whatever sort, written with a malicious intent. Viruses are generally malware but there is more to malware than just viruses.

Bits, Bytes

At a basic level, all computer data is just a series of 0s and 1s. Each of these is referred to as a “binary digit”, for which “bit” is just an abbreviation. A byte is (generally) a collection of eight bits, so called because of the pun with bit and bite. Similarly a collection of four bits – half a byte – is sometimes called a “nybble”.

In order to refer to large numbers of bits and bytes, various prefixes are used, as in :

1 kilobyte = 1024 (or 1000) bytes
1 megabayte = 1024 (or 1000) kilobytes
1 gigabyte = 1024 (or 1000) megabytes
1 terabyte = 1024 (or 1000) gigabytes
1 petabyte = 1024 (or 1000) terabytes

Reboot

To switch a computer off and on again, allowing its operating system and programs to be reloaded. Note that this is not the same as placing a computer into standby/hibernate and then resuming. A reboot requires that all software is completely reloaded.

The term derives from “bootstrap”, as in the phrase “to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps”, because of the similarity to that seemingly impossible act (as a computer can’t run without first loading some software but must be running before any software can be loaded).

Cookie

A small text file sent to your computer by a web site you have visited. These can be very useful in that they can allow the web site to recognize who you are when you return. Cookies cannot store viruses or other threats, although they can be used to track your activity across different web sites in order to provide, for example, “targeted” advertisements.

Firewall

A firewall is a piece of computer software or hardware that restricts the data that is allowed to flow through. Firewalls block traffic that is undesirable in some way, the intention being to prevent infection by malware and so on without restricting the user from carrying out legitimate activity.

Spam

Unsolicited email messages sent out in bulk and generally commercial in nature. In fact the term is used more widely these days to refer to such messages in a variety of places, not just on email – for example comments on blogs.

The origin of this sense of the word spam is unclear.

CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA checks are the strings of letters and numbers that have to be typed in on some web pages before something can be saved. They exist because, although humans find interpreting these strings relatively easy, computers do not. Setting up these checks therefore blocks an automated process – such as one generating spam – from using the page, whereas a human is still able to.

The acronym CAPTCHA actually stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” – a rather contrived way of arriving at an acronym that sounds like the word “capture”.

 

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Ford’s SYNC AppLink Brings Android and BlackBerry Apps to Your Car

Posted by Andy on April 20, 2010
Cool Tech, Toys / No Comments

So glad to see this stuff happening.  Finally, the  car manufacturers are getting it right, and believe it or not, Ford is on top of the mass market, consumer accessible devices.  Very cool!  I can’t wait to have Pandora in my car…..

http://mashable.com/2010/04/20/ford-sync-applink/

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Opera – and alternative browser for the iPhone

Posted by Andy on April 12, 2010
Apple, iPhone, Tech Tips / No Comments

Apple approved Opera Mini, an alternative browser for the iPhone.  Cool!

It’s not really a browser in the truest sense of the word, since it doesn’t actually render web pages.  The pages are rendered on Opera’s servers, then the results are transmitted to the iPhone via OBML.  This should make browsing very fast, so it should be a nice improvement over Safari.

I’ll download it shortly and report, but I’m optimistic!

Couple of articles on the subject:

PC Mag

CNET

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Google Alternatives

Posted by Andy on March 20, 2010
Gmail, Outlook, Tech Tips / No Comments

I love Google, I really do – they generally get it right, but I’m getting concerned.  I rely on Google for so much I worry that too much of my life is in one place.  And although the Ad’s they push are relatively unobtrusive, I’m starting to feel very much “watched”.  Like they know what I do, where I go.  Big Brothery.

So what are some good alternatives for Google services?

Search

How can we live without Google Search?  Let’s face it, they are the best.  Bing is ok, but I generally feel like I get what I want from Google faster than Bing, MSN or Yahoo.  There are a couple of good alternatives out there though that are worth a look.

The best of them is scroogle.org.  Scroogle is a web search pluggin that does some really nice things.  It uses Goggle search but isolates you from the cookies that Googles writes to you , and doesn’t send your IP address to Google.  Most importantly, you don’t get any Ads!  As an added bonus, you get 100 search results per page.  Very nice.

Browser

I use several browsers – IE, Firefox and Chrome.  Chrome is usually the fastest, but I use Firefox more than the others.  A good open source Chrome alternative is Chromium.  It’s basically an open source version of Chrome.  The user interface is nearly identical, and it doesn’t track your info like Chrome does.  The home page for the project is here, and the latest windows build is here.

Google Calendar

There are loads of online calendars out there, MSN, Yahoo, MobileMe just to name a few.  I’d like to stay away from the big names – they aren’t better than Google and have many of the same privacy issues.  I’ve been looking at 30 Boxes (http://30boxes.com/) and so far I really like it.  The format is really nice, and it’s iCal based, so there are lots of ways to view the calendar (mobile devices, desktop, web) and there are tons of calendars to add in (holidays etc).  They calendar will send appointment reminders to your mobile device, and yes, there is an iPhone app.  I have not tried to hook it up to my iPhone calendar directly – would be great is that worked too.

This is a short list – just search for Google Alternatives and you will get plenty of reading material.  Other honorable mentions – OpenOffice.org, Zoho.com (very cool office tool, has email, CRM, project, docs etc).

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Buzz updates comming

Posted by Andy on March 12, 2010
Cool Tech, Social Networking / No Comments

Have you been using Google Buzz?  I’ve been playing with it, and I like the way conversations flow, but honestly it’s just a little too much at the moment.  I follow just a few people, but some are verbose and have lots of comments.  The nice thing is that you are not limited to 140 characters, but the really really really BAD thing is that you can’t collapse the comments at all.  That means that if I have 100 new posts to read, I get through about 3 before I give up.  With all of the comments displayed, you have to scroll through endless nonsense to just see what you might want to read.  totally annoying.

At least Google seems to be addressing things that people complain about, and is adding some control options to help limit the inbox flow for Buzz.  Specifically,  the ability to choose which items get sent to your inbox.  If you just want an e-mail when someone comments on your post, it will soon be possible.   If you want just posts where you are @replied, that’s possible as well.   The second feature is a “Mute” link on individual buzz posts, which will stop a buzz post from reappearing in your inbox every time someone comments.

Good starts, but where is the supress comments??!!??

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reMail aquired by Google – app removed form the App Store

Posted by Andy on February 19, 2010
Apple, Gmail, iPhone / No Comments

BOOOO!!

reMail is/was a great email search app for the iPhone, and now that Google has purchased the company.  I have to believe this is strategic for Google and they will use the technology exclusively on Android phones, but from a consumer’s point of view, this sucks.  I hate it when anyone is proprietary about useful technology!

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How do I delete a Printer Driver in Windows 7?

Posted by Andy on February 14, 2010
Tech Tips, Windows / No Comments

Windows 7 has some great features, but some things are very different from what you may be used to.  Mirosoft has strived to extract the user from things like driver installations and other technical tasks so that “things just work”.  A fantastic goal, but the reality of Windows is that as an operating system that serves the enterprise, all of the complex underlying tasks that most users don’t need or want to know about still need to be accessible to  technicians.

Once such task is printer driver installation and removal.  Windows 7 is really good at recognizing new devices like printers, cameras and mobile devices and for the most part will find the correct driver for the device, add it and you are off to the races without a hitch.  What if the device is not recognized or the wrong driver is loaded?  In previous Windows versions you would just bring up the Device Manager, go to the properties of the device in question, go to the driver tab and remove the incorrect driver before installing the new one.  In Windows 7 it is more complicated than that. 

When you want to remove a printer driver in Windows 7, you need to remove the driver from associating with the printer, but you also need to remove the driver from the machine. 

First, remove the printer/driver association.  This is what you would expect – remove the driver from the properties of the printer.  Go to Start, then Devices and Printers. Right click on the printer in question and click “remove device”.  This will uninstall the printer, but not the driver. 

To uninstall the printer driver, go to Start then Control Pannel.  Once in Control Pannel click on System and Security.  From there, click on Administrative Tools.  In Administrative Tools, click on Print Management to bring up the Print Management Console (PMC).  Click on All Drivers to see what print drivers are installed.  To uninstall a driver,  just right click on the driver and choose “Remove Driver Package”. 

The PMC is actually a great tool that is used not only to manage local printers and drivers, but also print servers in the enterprise.  There are a lot of great features introduced in Windows 7 for printer management that do a lot to improve management of printers, ease driver deployment and protect the print servers from bad drivers.  You can run drivers in Driver Isolation mode which will isolates the driver into a separate process so that if it crashes, is doesn’t take down the rest of the print system.  ACL’s can be managed form the PMC too – much needed improvement.

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iPad – my .02

Posted by Andy on January 27, 2010
Apple, Cool Tech, iPhone, Toys / No Comments

Apple’s big reveal of the iPad today had the tech world on the edge their seats, ready for the “next big thing” from Mr. Jobs and the Cupertino crew.  Does the iPad live up to the hype?

Here are the basic specs:

9.5 inch x 7.5 inch multi touch capacitive display

.5 inches thick

1.5 lbs

1024 x 768 pixels at 132 ppi

1 Ghz Apple A4 processor

Available with 16, 32 or 64 GB flash drives

10 hour battery

WiFi by default, 3G models available too

Price starts at $499 for the base WiFi model, runs up to $829 for the 3G 64 MB model

I have not had one in my hands, but the device looks impressive on the surface.  It runs the iPhone OS, so all of the iPhone apps you know and love are there, plus some tweaks and additions, notably the addition of iBooks.  Sort of iTunes for books.  I like the idea of books on demand (I’m a big fan of the Kindle app for iPhone) so the addition of e-Books on the iPhone platform is welcome.  Several apps look like they have been upgraded – mail has many more options, contacts, calendar, maps all have much needed upgrades that make use of the additional real estate on the iPad.

The iPad also builds on the iTunes store in the video arena.  Movies and TV shows will look great on the device, as will You Tube and streaming web content.  There are a couple of downsides – it looks like the display is only 720p, and for Apple only knows why, they STILL won’t display flash.  That said, given the display size video will likely look great.

Is it a game changer?  I’ve been thinking about that since the demo ended and honestly I just don’t think that it is.  I do think that in its category it will be the clear leader, and its competitors will be scrambling to follow.  That is the key though – in its category.  The iPhone was a game changer because it dominated its category (cell phones) with must have added features.  Web browsing, music, video, maps and of course, the app store.  It was revolutionary because it brought all of these things together on a device that everyone already used every day, their cell phone.  I don’t see the same demand for what is essentially a really big iPhone.  Sure there are people for whom this device will be the end all be all, I can’t live without it, greatest thing since sliced bread.  Commuters, techies, travelers will benefit from this device.  Most people though just don’t need it, and there was nothing in the demo today that makes me think people are going to look at the iPad and say – OMG I NEED THAT. 

Is it cool?  Yes.  Is it great technology?  Absolutely.  Is it great design?  Sure, but really just more of the same iPhone design.  Is it going to be as big as the iPhone?  No way.  Will it “change publishing as we know it”?  I really don’t think so.  It’s hard for me to believe that a device as costly as this is will be ubiquitous, or even really popular in the average household.  People like to read papers and books, share them with friends, leave them on trains.  Yes, the content you can get from an eReader is way beyond what a magazine or newspaper can deliver, but I don’t see people paying $500 for the privilege.  Especially when you throw netbooks into the mix.

Think about the average household and what people’s computing needs are.  Email, web browsing, games, some word processing (homework, letters), spreadsheets, pictures.  I can do all of this from a netbook for $299, almost half what the iPad will cost.  Also, the netbook will likely be windows based, so will use MS Word and Excel, not iWorks (eeeww), so I can edit documents for school or work without an issue.  If iPad can run Office for Mac, that would be great, but there is no indication that this is possible.

Here’s another measure I use for the iPad.  If I am going on a trip for a week, can I get through the trip with only the iPad?  For me, the answer is probably not.  I’m going to need a device I can edit word/excel on.  I can view the docs on the iPad, and iWorks allows me to save MS Office documents, but will specific formating in Excel and Word save too?  I don’t know the answer here, and it’s important.  If I can safely edit anything that Office throws at the iPad in iWorks, then I’m all set.  If, as in the past, the formating gets messed up, that means I have to take either a netbook or a laptop with me which means I’m not likely to take the iPad with me – too many devices.  Which in turn means that I probably wouldn’t buy it if I can’t use it on trips.  Oh I wish there were open standards for documents.  Oh wait, there is.

So, what do I make of all this?  I love that the iPad exists.  It means that people are thinking about how we look at our online universe.  It didn’t WOW me, but something will.  Maybe it will be an app for the iPad, or some yet to be released feature, but it’s not there yet.  C’mon Steve, make me NEED THS!

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Internet router in Space

Posted by Andy on January 24, 2010
Cool Tech, Networking / No Comments

Speaking of the internets, Cisco is going extraterrestrial.  “In a move that could revolutionize satellite communications, Cisco extends the Internet into space for testing by the U.S. government and businesses”. 

Yep, cisco has a router on Intelsat 14 launchedNovember 23.  The router has passed initial testing and is ready for use.  Cisco’s goal is to have “a router on every communications satellite”.  A lofty goal to say the least, and is part of Cisco’s IRIS (Internet Routing In Space) initiative.  The goal of the initiative is to route traffic (voice, data, video) between satellites directly rather than down to terrestrial routers and back up to space.  The implications for the communications industry (and the military) are tremendous, engendering heady comments from industry players.  Don Brown of Intelsat General says “IRIS is to the future of satellite-based communications what Internet forerunner ARPANET was to the creation of the World Wide Web in the 1960s.”   I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it is a pretty big deal.

The big advantage of direct IP between satellites is decreased delay in communication.  Signals between people on opposite sides of the world often have two or more satellite hops to get from one place to another.  If IRIS gets traction, then speeds could be greatly improved.  Think about that the next time a CNN reporter and anchor are staring at dead air while they wait for the other’s words to reach them.

Here’s the press release from CISCO – cool stuff.

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