Archive for the ‘Software Selection’ Category

Evernote’s watchful eye

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I note that over the weekend I twittered about my examination of Evernote 3.  I’ve been a user of Evernote 2.2, and I believe my tweet was something to the effect of:

“Struggling with Evernote 3 – wondering if I could use gmail with imap instead. Answer looks like ‘no'”

That was on Saturday.

Yesterday, www.twitter.com/evernote started following me.  That’s three days.  Interesting, particularly in the context of my recent article on online reputation management.  People do do it.  It will be interesting to see what they say when I post my review :)…

Ubuntu, Ubuntu, we want you!

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I think I have expressed an overriding concern regarding Windows Vista on both my blog and through my Twitter feed.  In essence, I feel gypped.  Vista is a great way to slow down an astronomically fast machine.  Sometimes I’ll be typing away on it and it will decide to do something on its merry own, slowing down my typing speed. 

The underlying ethos seems to be that Vista will go off and do things that it thinks needs to be done, with no intervention from you.  There is probably a frustrated scriptwriter somewhere with a proposal for a new show called ‘Vista knows best’.  Generally, it gets it right.  Generally.  Unfortunately, after six months of ‘sticking with this turkey’ because Microsoft knows its best, I’d really like to be able to dump it in a nearby bin. 

Recently, I reformatted my home PC with Windows XP.  That alone was enough grief – have you ever tried finding the WinXP DVD that came with your machine when you bought it?  Oh that’s right – no software supplied, it was all on that hard drive.  The hard drive that went bung exactly twelve months and two weeks after I bought the machine from Dell.  So that caused grief, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.

During the course of that reformatting I came to the realisation that there was a new version of AVG anti-virus.  Beaut, I thought – I’ll update the copy on my laptop.  This I proceeded to do, but unfortunately the install complained that a particular Windows Update patch was not present.  ‘No problem’, I thought (which of course would be exactly when the problems started).  I’ll go into trusty Windows Update and download the patches there.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were several updates waiting (I have been, naively, simply trusting that Windows updates will be reliable and have the critical ones automatically installed only).  Instead of looking for and installing the specific update AVG was complaining about, I simply downloaded all of the patches that were waiting there (cue Family Feud sound effect). 

Vista decided as a result that I needed a new driver for my wireless card (check), and a new driver for the Nvidia graphics card (check).  Got a coffee, rebooted & installed.  Bang – no network, no graphics display.  It took a while to work out, though, that that was the problem – a bit difficult to troubleshoot without a screen.  Twelve hours later, after searching forums ad infinitum, I finally reconnected and downloaded the proper nvidia drivers and network card driver, but even then Vista kept switching me back to the drivers it felt I needed to have.  Eventually I was able to turn that off.

After filling my heart with soft thoughts of fairy floss and candy for Microsoft, I thought – OK, I’ll try Ubuntu, I’ve got a spare external hard drive, let’s boot off that and see how we go.  That experience was actually very positive.  Quite positive.  This is a six-month old laptop, so the hardware is fairly new, and Ubuntu 8.04’s install got most of it right.  And it is lovely to look at, and on this fast machine it’s beautiful to operate.  I even managed to install new software through the lovely package manager. 

Overall – Ubuntu 8.04 = lovely.

Still, for a complete newbie, getting Ubuntu right was a steep learning curve.  It probably took about two days to come to grips with it (finicky downloads played a part in that).  I did have difficulties with the wireless driver and the nvidia graphics – I finally got the nvidia graphics sorted, but the wireless card continued to elude me as I kept needing to manually start the network.   I’m sure there are solutions there but I had already lost two days that I couldn’t afford to lose.

At this stage, out of the box, Ubuntu seems to do most of the things most people would want from a PC.  Unfortunately, that last ten percent is still a roadblock.  I have a Blackberry hosted through Managed Exchange, so I needed to have Evolution as my mail client – Web Central doesn’t seem too keen on that, and I couldn’t get that configured, so a killer application of email is still an issue.  Also, all of my accounting software needs are met by MYOB.  Cue one for Vista. 

I also looked for blogging software, which I thought would be an easy find but it wasn’t that simple to get software as good as Windows Live Writer for my WordPress blog.  Finally, as a person who does a lot of presentations and report-writing (I’m a management consultant – it comes with the territory), I need Visio or an equivalent.  There still doesn’t seem to be a Visio equivalent.

Overall, Ubuntu 8.04, you won’t let me avoid the Microsoft hegemony just yet, but you’ve come a long way baby.  If I really, really tried hard, I think I could get it work for me.  A few niggly things (graphics, wireless card), as well as some problematic (and possibly fairly specific to me) software (Outlook, MYOB, Visio, MS Project) are stopping me making the jump.  Dual boot does not meet my needs.  Open Office 2 is great for my needs (I am very cold on Office 2007), and generally the bells and whistles Ubuntu implements automatically are pretty much the equivalent of Vista, if not better. 

I am thinking of a mini-notebook so that the lump of iron I currently cart around can be the desktop replacement it really is, and if I get that I’ll run Ubuntu on it.  For now I have to stick with Vista, but I’m not a fan of it (really, really not a fan) and neither am I a fan of Office 2007, although it generally works fine.  I’ve made an investment in Microsoft Software – I have the whole suite, dabnabbit!  Legal and everything.  I have Visio, Office 2007, and MS Project – that’s about $3000 in software.  Even so, I’m keeping an eye on Ubuntu 8.04; perhaps I need a class in it.  If Ubuntu is better, I’ll walk away from that investment.  If any OS is going to replace Vista, what I saw shows that Ubuntu is the one.  Roll on the next version of Ubuntu, perhaps?

You’ve come a long way baby – just not quite there yet. 

Best practices in information technology

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Today I presented to CPA Country Congress on Best Practices in Business Information Technology in Townsville.

Objectives

  • To provide an overview of what’s on the horizon in the next generation of IT for business, and how to prepare your business to take advantage of these future IT advances.

Agenda

  • Next generation IT – what’s on the horizon in the next 2 – 5 years
  • Managing risk and protecting your systems in a wireless and mobile environment
  • System selection for your business
  • Getting your systems right
  • Creating opportunities to develop your business
  • Maximising your return from your technology investment
  • Conclusion – meeting the challenges of IT

As always, maybe I’m delusional but I think the presentation went well.  If you were in the audience, please feel free to leave feedback in the comments below.

You can download the slides for this presentation from the link below:

 

Thanks for stopping by…

Not a good decade for Microsoft

Sunday, April 20th, 2008
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I knew I didn’t like Windows Vista all that much, but apparently Gartner feels much the same.

  • Operating system (OS) development times are too long and they deliver limited innovation
  • OSs provide an inconsistent experience between platforms, with significant compatibility issues;
  • Other vendors are out-innovating Microsoft.

I have been saying for a while now that innovation does not occur in operating systems these days – it’s all on the web these days and outside of the desktop.  And Office 2007 is quite frankly a lame duck as well.  Unfortunate that I’ve spent $2000 on Microsoft software (eek).  Unfortunately for Microsoft, it takes a while to turn around behemoth operating systems and I think it may take a decade for them to get over their Vista is Fail experience.

The only troubling thought – what would I move to if I went away from Windows?  I know linux & OSX are out there but still – tranquil hegemony rules all…

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Windows Vista & Office 2007 – Captain Cranky’s Comments

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Well, what can I say?  I have had Windows Vista & Office 2007 now for about six months.  Am I happy with both of them? 

Short answer:  No.  Long Answer:  No.

Why?  Vista seems to be no major improvement whatsoever in the user experience – and as for much vaunted reliability, I seem to recover a lot from unspecified and insoluble crashes of the operating system.  Perhaps this is because I tend to push the machine and have installed a chunk of open source software and such like, but in the main it’s about as vanilla a machine as I have ever had.  I have at least one friend who bought a laptop with Vista, found it kept failing and was told to ‘go back to xp’.  So he bought more RAM (surely, 1gb of RAM should be enough?) with an OEM of XP (yay for the program!) only to find that the problem was with the graphics card. 

Unfortunately for Vista – he found that XP was much more stable, did more than everything he wanted, and was, basically, better!  So he’s stuck with XP – he’s not going to bother with the pain involved in reinstalling.

I personally find Vista to be OK – the much vaunted AeroGlass display is interesting and worth a wow or two the first couple of times but after that, you don’t use it.  And some of the things it does are, frankly, terrible (I can’t stomach  the new ‘start menu’ – it’s find for the advanced user (particularly if you type – yay me) but for the faint-of-heart?  Not so good). 

I think Vista suffers terribly from bloat and useless, pretty functions.  Stand-alone – I can’t see a compelling argument for it yet at home.  It’s a great way to slow down a terrifically fast machine.  Maybe it’s better when you have a network.

I do think that one thing going in its favour, though, is that I still think that Linux has a way to go with usability and software selection and installation – I know, there’s ‘35000 components of software’ in each standard Linux install – but here’s the thing, if it’s all dross, it doesn’t help me.  I did try to get Linux on a stick going from a USB Stick.  That’s a day of my life that I won’t get back (it doesn’t help that the magazine I was using had the completely wrong instructions – better instructions were available free, on the web!).  Post-script – Linux still doesn’t work for me on a stick.

So Vista – it’s fine, not compelling, I think it’s a pain in the rear end to have to install it and manage it, and I don’t think Linux would make me feel better.

As for MS Office 2007.  Where do I begin?  My purest vitriol is saved for this one.  The ribbon interface is completely non-intuitive; things are in seemingly bizarre places until you think like a six-year-old, and many functions that I use regularly I can only access through the old keystrokes (you have to hunt through help to find where they now live – frankly, I spent fifteen years honing my skills – why did they change it on me? God forbid that somebody else would have to learn something on their own). 

I think feature bloat is rampant all over MS Office.  It’s bizarre some of the features you get.  I think most of what I get would be able to be done with Open Office.  And the file format change seems destined to backfire – as XML the new version is basically useless, but the old file format causes Office to complain and advise about lost features and incompatibilities. 

Argh.

I used to be a Microsoft fanboy.  I think the ‘Live’ series of applications are terrific (please, someone give those guys a promotion – and head them on over to MS Office, please please please!).  Visio is great (although damnably expensive, but there you go – if it’s great, you should pay!).  And Outlook seems fairly terrific to me as well, all things considered. 

So there you go – Captain Cranky returns at his best…