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Give Your Windows an Apple Polish July 15, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Apple, Microsoft.
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You might not be able to make Windows perform like a Mac but you can definitely make it look and feel like one with some free tools you can install in minutes. Checkout the following tips, tricks and tools and enjoy your new Mac-lite PC.

Rainlender is a skinable desktop calendar

Trillian is a universal instant messenger that resembles iChat.

iTunes is most likely already on everyone’s system but just in case, here ya go!

Change your desktop wallpaper to one that the Mac Leopard OS uses. Search google for other images if you don’t like this one.

Change your mouse cursors to Mac OS X cursors

Apple icons are a must have to put the finishing touch on your pseudo-Leopard OS.
Here are over 1,400 icons.

Replace your Internet Explorer browser with either Safari or Firefox (if not already!).

Replace Microsoft’s Gadgets with Yahoo’s Widgets which look and feel more Mac-like.

RocketDock will probably give your PC the most Mac-like appearance and functionality because it replaces the windows taskbar and allows you to launch all of your applications from its very Leopard-style interface. Here’s a good video of how it works:

ObjectDock is similar to RocketDock. Give them both a try to see which one you like better.
Here’s another screencast:

Note: It doesn’t make sense to have RocketDock or ObjectDock and the Windows taskbar visible at the same time so it’s best to hide the taskbar. Right click a blank space in ObjectDock, go to the settings tab, select behavior then on the box with check marks select “Hide the Windows Taskbar”, and hit OK.

Installation Kit
For Windows XP users, you can try FlyakiteOSX which is a free installation kit that does most of the dirty work for you. I’m not sure it will work with Vista so I cannot vouch for it! Let me know if you get it to work though. 🙂

Final Thoughts
Yes, I know it’s a lot of work, isn’t it? Why not just get a Mac if you’re willing to go to all this trouble to make your PC look like one? Well, I actually happen to love how my Vista looks and performs and merely offered this up for those that want the Mac look n’ feel but for whatever reason are stuck with a PC (being in IT, I hold many MacHeads captive to the Windows OS because of corporate policy). Maybe I’ve done this out of guilt for keeping these Apple lovers away from their beloved OS.

1984 All Over Again July 9, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Apple, Microsoft.
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Ridley Scott has always been one of my favorite directors so you can imagine the surprise I had today when I learned that he was the one who directed the memorable 1984 Apple commercial! Obviously, looking at it now with this knowledge makes perfect sense. It does have the same look and feel as his classic Blade Runner and Alien movies. 

Here’s a special behind the scenes interview

Here’s the classic commercial that was aired during the SuperBowl

Here’s Steve Jobs introducing the 1984 commercial at the 1983 Keynote

Just for comparison’s sake, checkout Apple’s first TV commercial from 1977!

Fast Forward again this time 30 years to 2007 for the ground-breaking iPhone commercials

Final Thoughts
Even though I am a big supporter (literally) of Microsoft, I have a deep respect and admiration for Steve Jobs and Apple. I think Steve and Bill both realize that they needed each other in order to push the industry as far as it could. Because of their rivalry we’ve all benefited. Their  companies continue to innovate and take technology to the next level.

How to make Outlook the Ultimate Social Media Tool July 3, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Email, Microsoft, rss, Social Media, social networks.
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Believe it or not, Microsoft can actually help you create the ultimate social media tool! If you use Microsoft Outlook 2007 as your email client then you have the basic foundation for creating a powerful social networking monster. Here’s how I use my most important communication tool on a daily basis.

Most organizations have Microsoft Windows networks with Exchange server which means most of corporate America is using Microsoft Outlook as their email client. At the heart of Outlook is the inbox, which is where you get all of your company related emails. It also manages everyone’s calendar and appoinments as well as tasks and notes. Not too shabby right out of the box.

However, with a few simple and free plugins and add-ons you can supercharge Outlook into an even more powerful web 2.0 communication tool with built-in social networking! Here are just some of the best services you can snap into Outlook.

Here’s view of my data center, Microsoft Outlook. Click image to enlarge.

Here’s a breakdown of each highlighted section of my Outlook:

1. Business Email: The inbox is grand central station for Outlook, the heart of your mailbox. All of my corporate emails go here.

2. Personal Email: Outlook allows you to add many other email accounts to your client so you can access your personal email accounts from services like Bellsouth, Earthlink and even web based services like GMail. Here’s an excellent tutorial on how to add gmail to outlook.

3. xobni: If you want extended information about the people that send you emails than checkout Xobni which has been covered on here before. Xobnix snaps inside Outlook and displays many new details about the senders and all of the emails that you’ve exchanged with them. They now connect directly to their LinkedIn account if they own one which opens a whole new world of possibilities.

4. OutTwit: If you want to use Twitter from inside Outlook then try this gem. OutTwit adds a tiny toolbar that lets you send new posts to twitter as well as read and reply. You can now use TinyURL and send direct messages to anyone. The beauty of it all is that it looks like your working but you’re actually goofing off with your twitter pals. You can have all new tweets appear in a folder called Tweets (if desired) just like email! It’s also firewall friendly. 🙂

5. Plaxo with Pulse: The address book is very important and Outlook does a great book with managing our contacts. Adding Plaxo with pulse and its excellent Outlook toolbar turns your Outlook into a dynamic social network. In essence, it’s like having FriendFeed in your email client. Also, Plaxo will sync all of your contacts online with your local address book. The most powerful feature is the way Plaxo can manage all of your contacts from many different email systems such as gmail, yahoo mail, and more.

6. RSS feeds: Outlook can become an excellent way to keep up with all of your RSS feeds! While I still love Google Reader, I find myself using Outlook’s excellent RSS reader more and more because I am always in my email. I get notified of new blog posts instantly as they appear in my Outlook just like new emails. I’m hoping they will add the sharing capabilities that other readers have but other than that, Outlook RSS reader is a great time saver! Here’s how to add RSS feeds to your Outlook.

7. TimeBridge: One of the best features of Outlook is the ability to check everyone’s calendar for meeting availability times. The problem with that excellent feature is that it only worked inside the firewall within an organization’s private network. Well, that is no longer the case thanks to services like TimeBridge which understands how valuable this feature is to everyone. It also snaps into Outlook and allows you to share your calendar and availability to people outside of your firewall and local network! This is a powerful way to schedule appointments that will save enormous amounts of time and frustration. Here’s an excellent DemoGirl screencast.

But wait there’s more!
These are just some of the many cool tools you can use with Outlook. I also use other things that work with Outlook that aren’t as visible as these other tools. Tools such as McAfee anti-virus and c2c’s ArchiveOne for archiving older emails with attachments while leaving the headers in my mailbox giving the appearance as if everything were still there (double-clicking the email retrieves it from an archive on another server, saving tons of mailbox space). So, there’s far more than meets the eye when it comes to Outlook

Final Thoughts

Outlook is like the Swiss Army Knife of communications. Sure, it’s a master when it comes to managing your emails, tasks, contacts and calendar appointments, but as you have seen it can do far more than you ever imagined. The possibilities are endless as increasing numbers of new services are developed to work with Microsoft Outlook. Choosing the right tools can help you turn Outlook into an even more powerful communication tool.

How to clean your dirty windows June 1, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Freeware, Microsoft, Uncategorized.
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Ever notice how much faster Microsoft Windows seems to run when it’s fresh new computer or a reinstalled system?

There are many reasons why performance degrades over time, such as defragmentation of the hard drive and a bloated registry but we will focus on a lessor known reason for sluggish windows and how to fix it.

 

First, let’s explain what the windows operating system is before we reveal what slows it down so much. Windows is not a single program or application but a complex system of processes that run together in a massive symphony of bits and bytes. Want to take a quick peak at this matrix of mahem and mischef? Press your Ctrl-Alt-Del keys and select your task manager, then select processes. You will see dozens of processes going on, even if you have no applications open. This is what keeps windows running.

 

The Dirt on Dirt
As you know, windows lives on memory so the more RAM it has the better it performs. Thus, the more programs/applications that you run at any given time, the less memory the operating system will have available for all of those necessary processes and threads it needs to run. So, the goal is naturally to only keep those things open that you need, but most of the time that doesn’t seem to make a difference. Why is that? Well, even though you “think” nothing’s running, the chances are high that there are several memory hogging programs running in the background.

 

The Windows Detectives
The task manager is pathetic when it comes to revealing the whole truth about what’s really going on inside windows behind the scenes. That’s why you will need a few free tools from Microsoft that are incredibly useful when it comes to spying on your system. Best of all, they are all free, small and easy to use!

 

The first one to get is called AutoRuns , which is the best utility there is when it comes to showing you everything that runs automatically when you start your windows (hence the name). One of the best features is the ability to hide all Microsoft processes that need to run for windows which lets you focus on all of the non-windows processes and programs that runs.

You can then disable or delete them for startup, thus freeing up a great deal of memory which will in turn make windows run much better. Download it here.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what a process or thread really is or what owns it.

No need to take dangerous wild guesses thanks to the following two tools.

 

Process explorer exposes everything you’ll ever need to know about any process that is running in windows. It will reveal which program owns the process and its path and location.

Download it here.

 

Process Monitor is like the task manager on steroids and more! It’s an advanced windows monitoring system that displays real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity.

Download it here.

 

Final Curtain Call

Obviously, this is merely one simple method for cleaning your windows. There are many other things you can do to improve your performance but cleaning up your startup procedure is an excellent start.

 

 

 

How to Add RSS feeds to your Outlook May 29, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, Microsoft, rss.
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129 comments

How to Add RSS feeds to your Outlook

 

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a way for content publishers to make news, blogs, and other content available to subscribers. You can add your favorite RSS Feeds as subscriptions in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. There are a couple of ways to add an RSS Feed.

 

Adding a single feed at a time

Copy the feed URL that you want to add to Outlook

Go to the RSS folder in Outlook and Right-Click the root

The following menu will appear:

Select the Add a New RSS Feed (Third choice from the top)

Paste the RSS URL in the following box

Important Tip: Outlook seems to like XML RSS Feeds the best so whenever possible select that type of feed. It will look like this: original feed View Feed XML

If you don’t see that link, you can try adding ?format=xml to the end of their rss feed.

 

 

How to add a collection of RSS feeds

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 supports the .opml file format for exchanging a collection of RSS Feed configuration information between programs that can organize and display RSS Feeds. Such programs are known as RSS aggregators. Office Outlook 2007 includes the functionality of an RSS aggregator.

 

A collection of RSS Feeds is shared by exporting it to an XML file with the .opml file extension and sending the file to the other person. You can attach the .opml file in an e-mail message, copy the .opml file to a network shared folder that both people have access to, or copy the .opml file to removable media such as a disk, CD, or a memory device. The other person can then import the .opml file and choose which RSS Feeds to add to Outlook.

Exporting to an .opml file illustration

Callout 1 In Office Outlook 2007, a collection of RSS Feeds can be exported to a file with the .opml extenstion.
Callout 2 You can import a file with the .opml extension to Office Outlook 2007 or other RSS programs.

 

  1. On the File menu, click Import and Export.
  2. Select Import RSS Feeds from an OPML file.
  3. Click Next.
  4. Click Browse to specify where the file to be imported is located, and then click Open.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Select the Feed name check box for each subscription that you want to import.

     

    Tip Click Select All or Clear All to quickly select or clear all check boxes.

    Note You are importing only the subscription information, not the actual items from the subscription.

  7. Click Next.The .opml file is imported to Office Outlook 2007

 

How to export Your Google Reader RSS Collection as an OPML file

  • Click the Manage Subscriptions link and click the Import/Export option
  • Save the file to your local system
  • Now you can import your Google Reader feeds into Outlook (all of them or selected feeds)

Windows Live Writer April 25, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Blogs, Microsoft, Uncategorized.
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2 comments

Microsoft has actually released an excellent new application! Windows Live Writer is truly a powerful and useful tool for bloggers! It’s like Word for the Web 2.0!

I haven’t been this impressed from a Microsoft product in a very long time. Live Writer allows you to credit blog posts with amazing ease and spectacular results. It totally blows away another other blog editor that I’ve used before such as Google Docs, Zoho Writer, WordPress, Blogger, etc.

Any Blog, Anytime!
Live Writer has no problems working with just about any blog platform as well. I was able to open/edit and publish to Blogger and WordPress blogs without a hitch. What I liked best about the experience was its ability to open any existing blog post from any blog on the fly. You could then make any changes and re-publish it instantly. The results were almost always exactly what it looked like in Live Writer.

Insert This!
Inserting elements are also vastly improved on Live Writer. Simply click on the item you want to insert such as video, picture or link and Live Writer does all the dirty work for you. The options for manipulating the look and position of pictures is also very impressive.

Plug-in Mania!
One of the best features of Live Writer is the incredible amount of free add-on plug-ins!
Go to Live Writer Plug-ins and take a look at all of the things you can add to the experience! I instantly added a dozen must-have plug-ins! Plus, there are always new ones coming.

Here’s a visual rundown of the new Live Writer:

Preview before you post

Screen shot of Windows Live Writer view menu options

Know what your blog post will look like before you post it, including photos and other rich media. Writer detects your blog theme automatically, including fonts, and displays it while you compose and edit.

Works with your blog service

Screen shot of Windows Live Writer choose weblog options

Writer works with most major blog providers, including Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server, and many others. Get started with your blog in minutes, thanks to automatic blog configuration. Post to multiple blogs: themes are automatically detected for each.

Rich media made easy

Screen shot of Live Search Maps page

Turn your blog into a story with photos, videos, maps, tags and other rich media.  Writer publishes all of it automatically when post.  Quickly link to previous blog posts and other Web pages.

Powerful editing tools

Screen shot of Windows Live Writer spell check feature

Insert and edit tables directly in your entry. Inline spell checker helps you polish your text. Easy hyperlink support lets you link your blog to the online world. Use the HTML view to edit directly in HTML.

More rich content with easy plug-ins

Screen shot of Windows Live Gallery plug-ins

Use plug-ins from Windows Live Gallery to add more rich content to your blog like music feeds, emoticons and quotes of the day. Can’t find the plug-in you want? Make your own and upload it to Gallery for the whole world to share.

Final Thoughts

The only thing missing from the Live Writer experience is the ability to save drafts to online storage accounts such as Microsoft Workspace Office Live, Google Docs, Zoho Writer, or any others. I have no doubt that it will come someday, so we’ll just have to settle for saving drafts to the local drive until then.

Good Links

Download Live Writer here
Live Writer Blog offer useful information about Live Writer.
Windows Live Writer Group is a discussion forum for Live Writer users.

Here’s a good screencast on Live Writer:

Free Search Engine for Your Enterprise January 31, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, Microsoft.
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5 comments
Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express is a free (for now) search solution for the enterprise. It’s easy to install and can be up and running within minutes. It looks and feels like search engines we use every day. Includes subscription service that sends update notifications of your search results via e-mail and RSS alerts. Watch this brief video to see how it works.

What can You Search?

Network File Shares
Local Intranet
Corporate Website
Microsoft Exchange Public Folders
Federated Search Connectors

What are Federated Search Connectors? (See video)

Federated Search Connectors allow your Microsoft enterprise search solution to pass search queries to a target system and accept and display results returned from that system.

They are based on the Open Search standard, making it easy to configure federated searches for a wide variety of existing information services. The configuration data for a Federated Search Connector can be packaged and reused as a Federated Location Definition (.FLD) file.

Here are just some sample connectors you will be able to search within your enterprise:
News: Live.com News, Yahoo News, Google News, Wired, The Register
Information Resources: MSDN, TechNet, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Yahoo
Media: Flickr, Yahoo Images, YouTube, PodScope
Blogs: Technorati, Google Blog Search

Technical Resources
Here’s a
6 minute video that demonstrates what the user will see.
Here’s the Installation & Configration video.

Comparison of Microsoft Search Solutions
The chart of features will show the differences in features for Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Search Server 2008 and their flagship SharePoint Server 2007. The free express version does everything that the commercial Search Server solution does except for High Availability and Load Balancing.


Pricing
Microsoft Search Server 2008 Release Candidate is free. The RTM (Release to Manafacturing) version will also be free. Will it always remain free? Don’t count on it, bub! However, by then everyone in your organization will be so hooked on it that there shouldn’t be any problems getting the purchase order approved by the powers that be.

Free Download and System Requirements:

  • Processor: 2.5 gigahertz (GHz) (minimum)
  • Memory: 2 gigabytes (GB) RAM (minimum)
  • Operating System: Any of the following editions of the Windows Server 2003 or newer operating system with the most recent service packs: Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web Edition.
  • Hard disk: NTFS-formatted partition with 3 GB of free space (minimum)
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 with ASP.NET 2.0 enabled
  • Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
  • Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Runtime Components 
     
    Note: Search Server 2008 Express can be installed on one computer only. It supports an unlimited number of Web front-end servers, but only one application server.

Final Thoughts:
No matter how you feel about Microsoft or their operating systems, their Search Server 2008 Express is worth a look if your organization needs a way to index and search volumes of documents and other bits of information. Besides, the price is right!

By the way, Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 is also free and commonly called SharePoint-lite.
Here is how SharePoint can help you build your own social network for the enterprise for free!

Replacing the Office 2007 Ribbon Bar … January 31, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Microsoft, Screencasts, Tips.
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21 comments

How to Replace Microsoft Office 2007’s Big Ugly Ribbon bar with the old familiar Office 2003 Toolbar
Paisano’s Stupid Office Tricks Series Vol 1 Episode 1
One of the most common complaints that I’ve heard about Microsoft Office 2007 is about the big ugly ribbon bar that some GUI genius from Redmond decided was an improvement over the old interface. Its context sensitivity is supposed to make the experience more productive and intuitive but most users don’t like it. In the following 1-minute screencast you will see how to hide the ribbon bar and enable the much smaller and customizable Quick Access Toolbar (new name for the old toolbar).


Watch the PaiCast to see how it’s done in no time at all!

1 Right-Click anywhere on the big Ugly ribbon bar and select Minimize the Ribbon Bar
2 Right-Click anywhere on the Menu Bar and select Show Quick Access Tollbar below the Ribbon
3 Click on the Customize Quick Access Toolbar dropdown icon (Last item on the toolbar)
4 Select More Commands
5 Click the dropdown menu for Choose Commands from…. and select All Commands
6 Select the command you want on the left and click the add button to add it to your toolbar
7 Click OK when completed

Bill Gates eats his own dog food! November 26, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Microsoft.
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3 comments

Here is an interesting piece on Bill Gates and what programs he uses the most on a daily basis. Bill Gates: How I Use Office. It’s good to see that he actually “eats his own dog food” as they say. How much of this is true is anyone’s guess, but I have to say that the programs he mentions are actually quite useful. I’ve installed Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 and Office 2007 and love Outlook 2007 compared to Outlook 2003. SharePoint allowed us to manage all of our documents and reduced our email storage problems because everyone sends links to documents in the centralized location instead of attaching large files to emails. There’s a six month free trial if you want to play with it.