“Change is the only constant.” I think it was Einstein who once said that. I also think it was Microsoft who tried to prove him wrong over the last years by constantly looking the other side whenever users did complain about their operating system. The ultimate proof I guess was Windows Vista. I don’t really hate it as much as most other people out there and I’m actually quite fine with it, but it took Microsoft way too long to get it released, the update, version and compatibility lists were way to complicated, it took them months after the initial release to get the system really stable and usable and finally, it’s hard to neglect the fact that Vista’s needs regarding memory, hard disk access and CPU load are quite a bit over the top, which is especially problematic for notebooks or even more netbooks. While I’m still quite ok with Vista though not particularly fond of it, I can absolutely understand everyone sticking with Windows XP for the time being. Microsoft never really admitted that Vista might have been a mistake, but obviously they must have taken note of that. Otherwise it’s inexplicable how they come to do so perfect with their next operating system, Windows 7. Continue Reading
I didn’t actually think about this when I “rediscovered” OpenStreetMap the other day and wrote my blog post about it; there’s yet another feature that OpenStreetMap doesn’t offer… routing! I didn’t really notice that as I’m hardly using this feature on Live Maps or Google Maps, but in fact, there’s no from-to route finding service on OSM.
I’d like to help and spread the word about a project I actually came across quite a while ago but which I’ve rediscovered recently: OpenStreetMap (German version here). In short, this project is a community effort to create a copyright-free world map.
The look and feel is basically the same as with Google Maps (without the satellite coverage of course) but the big difference is, that OpenStreetMap maps are completely free. Not like Google’s maps which are “free” as in “you can do this and that with our maps BUT YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO …………………. <LONG TEXT FOLLOWING> …………”.
Of course they don’t have all the features of the big players like Google or Microsoft; there’s no Street View, no Bird’s Eye View and sadly but understandably no satellite coverage but the maps (and the data behind them) are completely free and you can use them for practically anything. You can even download the world database which the maps are based on onto your computer and use it for whatever you like. Besides, in some of the more crowded areas, OpenStreetMap maps are even more accurate then Google’s version, as you can see in the following picture. Continue Reading
For those who read my post on tablet pen input regarding your name that possibly has a non-English character in it, e.g. German or French, here’s my current solution to the problem!
Doesn’t matter if you’re surfin’ the web or just writing an email to an English colleague. There’s many times when it makes perfect sense for a non-English user to set the Tablet PC input panel to English language. Unfortunately this makes it a total pain in the a.. to write down your name on your Tablet PC since Vista doesn’t give you the slightest chance of writing non-standard characters such as ä, ö or ü or any characters with accents. Continue Reading
Are you a hardcore user of Outlook 2007′s new color categories feature? Maybe even using it instead of folders and maintaining a single giant inbox using color categories as I do? Then you’re probably as annoyed as I am by the fact that Outlook can’t be taught to label replies and forwards to received message with the same labels / categories as the original message. Not even that Outlook can’t do this automatically, you can’t even do it manually in an efficient way as Outlook doesn’t offer any category button in the ribbon for replies and forwards. You can of course always type your reply, hit send and go to the ‘Sent Items’ folder afterwards to categorize your message but that’s soooooo inefficient and annoying!
Long speech, short conclusion: Here’s the solution!
- Add a new DWORD type registry key using regedit.exe at the following location:
- Name it “SendPersonalCategories” and set its value to “0×00000001” (1).
- Restart Outlook!
That’s it! Now Outlook will tag replies and forwards with the same categories as the message you’re replying to.
Thanks to the guys at http://www.tutorials-win.com for the hint!
Yet another short spread-the-word post. I just came across the Museum of Modern Betas which basically is a list of the 100 most bookmarked (del.icio.us) software projects in the field of online Web 2.0 style applications.
The range is from file conversion, video encoding, web analysis to business travel and groupware tools. It’s a nice long list with a lot of entries on it you probably already know but I’m pretty sure there’s some projects on it you haven’t ever heard of but which you might find pretty interesting. It’s worth a visit!
I’d like to point out the blog post found here. It’s about free mindmapping software. Since I’ve known and been a user of Mindmanager for years now, I was quite surprised by this blog post. I didn’t know either of the two pieces of software. An open-source freeware alternative to Mindmanager called FreeMind as well as an online Web 2.0 style alternative at www.mindmeister.com.
I don’t have much more to say about it. Just wanted to help spreading the word. Give it a try for yourself!
As a Tablet PC user I’m relying on stylus input and handwriting recognition a lot. So let’s start with the good news: Microsoft did a hell of a job with Windows Vistas handwriting input panel. Recognition accuracy is really astonishing and though some third-party product like Firefox leave room for improvement talking about the input panel’s integration, it works well and fast in most other situations.
Now the bad news. I can’t get that freakin’ thing to learn my name. I must admit there’s no way my parents could have known that I’d be using handwriting recognition on a computer one day when they named me over 20 years ago. So I can’t blame them for deciding on Jürgen.
As long as I’m using German as the selected input language on the input panel, I’m fine. But since I’m dealing with English most of the time and since I’m also talking to some Spanish guys every now and then, most of the time my input panel isn’t set to German. Unfortunately Microsoft didn’t consider that case as relevant and there’s no way of teaching Vista my name with the input language set to English, not even using the handwriting personalization tool as it won’t allow me to enter any characters that aren’t part of the selected language’s keyboard layout. Automatic learning and correction tools aren’t an option either since whatever I write on the input panel gets changed into the closest fit of a standard character. As soon as the correction tool is running out of close matches to "ü" it just comes up with not-so-close matches. This turn’s out to become an extremely funny game that in no way I can win.
Finally as a another little side note on handwriting recognition in Windows Vista let me mention that I started training the system (in English) using the handwriting personalization tool to improve accuracy even more. This again works great just that I can’t run this tool for any language other than English. Especially not for German, Spanish or French input. It took me a while to find that information on the web but turns out that this is in fact true. Handwriting personalization is only available for English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
To be precise, automatic learning of handwriting style and targeting specific recognition errors is available for these languages and only these. Automatic learning of vocabulary and teaching the system your handwriting style by feeding the system with handwriting examples is even supported for English exclusively. Check for yourself here.
Microsoft could really care a bit more about DETAILS!!!
I’ve been planning to exchange my current notebook for a Tablet PC for quite a while. Few weeks ago, I finally got it over with and now I’m a proud owner of a HP 2710p convertible Tablet PC.
Needless to say that during the last weeks, as always with new toys, I spent an excessive amount of time configuring my new device and installing and trying out every application I could find out there. So why not share a few of my discoveries?!
My favorite application for Tablet PCs absolutely is OneNote 2007. I’ve been using this application even on ordinary computers over the last months and it’s still a whole lot better on Tablet PC. Take (handwritten) notes, organize stuff, capture web pages, screenshots, … and all with just a few easy clicks with your stylus. Fantastic!
As said before, OneNote can also be used on ordinary PCs which means there’s has to be a certain compromise regarding its interface to be usable by both stylus and keyboard / mouse users as well. For the heavy stylus users among you, I found another application called InkSeine at Microsoft Research. It’s not an actual product but as one might guess an application with the purpose of research and testing of new techniques in mind. Nevertheless it’s user interface is designed for heavy pen use and even better, searching the Internet or documents on your computer and linking or inserting the results is completely integrated into this interface. This application is really worth a shot. Nevertheless I should mention the lack of textual input and support for non-Microsoft applications such as Firefox or OpenOffice. Besides, there is a problem with the integrated search functions not being compatible with the current Windows Search 4 Technology Preview.
Having said that, I’d like to make a short side note: You should definitely try out the tech preview of Windows Search 4 (available for Windows XP and Vista). It’s just so much faster and more responsive than former version that I wouldn’t wanna live without it anymore. But remember: InkSein’s integrated search functions won’t work anymore after installing the tech preview of Windows Search.
Another note taking tool by Microsoft. Ink Desktop allows you to take handwritten notes directly to your desktop. That’s a really handy thing for stylus users. Now you won’t only put recently downloaded files or documents you’re currently working on on your desktop but important notes, too. Handwritten, quick, easy!
Now the last tool for today, finally a non-Microsoft application:
The Vista Snipping Tool, OneNote 2007 and InkSeine are already doing a good job on taking screenshots quickly and easily, nevertheless there’s an even better way. SnagIt allows you to easily take screenshots not only of your whole desktop, a single window or a certain region of the screen but also of webpages, preserving links (if you wish so) and windows with content that requires scrolling. SnagIt’s the definite standard when you’re talking about screen capture. Try it out!
More tools coming soon … Ink Crosswords, Tic-Tac-Toe, Sudoku, Calculator, Inking Math Formulas, Physics Illustrator and personal fonts
Since quite a while Microsoft is pushing 64-bit operating system versions. In fact, talking about most of Microsoft’s current server products they’re even exclusively producing x64 versions. Now I’m a Windows Vista user since November 2006 and for half a year now I’m using the x64-version.
I’m quite satisfied with it as almost all of the hardware manufacturers of my devices provide the necessary drivers BUT I’m quite disappointed by Microsoft itself regarding their 2007 office series. I’m ok with its not being available as a 64-bit version, but I’m definitely not ok with messages like "Internet fax services are not available on 64 bit operating systems" which comes up when you click the Send as fax button in Word 2007. Same thing with Groove 2007 Filesharing Workspaces: "Filesharing workspaces are not supported on 64 bit operating systems". Neither is the Send to OneNote printer driver and as far as I remember the office problem solution assistant.
For months I’ve been waiting for a fix to this now, as none of the issues have
been addressed with SP1. Today I found a note on this blog stating that Microsoft isn’t planning to take care of the Send to OneNote printer driver in the current 2007 version of Office at all. It’ll probably be fixed in the next version of OneNote but there’s not gonna be any patch, update or fix for the current version.
This really disappoints me! It’s not just that Microsoft is taking care of those things very slowly, seems they’re not even caring about them at all. Considering that Microsoft Office isn’t exactly the cheap or free open-source office suite this makes me really hate MS a little bit. It’s just not ok like this!
Although the blog post mentioned above doesn’t say anything about the Groove Filesharing Workspace and Internet Fax service issues with 64-bit operating systems, I’d be surprised if they were facing a brighter future than OneNote.