Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lab logs and weblogs

My first job out of college was in the Engineering Dept. at Hammond Organ Company in Chicago. The founder, Laurens Hammond was an incredible genius, who invented the tone wheel generator that was responsible for the Hammond Sound that powered the famous B-3 organ. Other diverse inventions included the synchronous electric motor (that kept constant speed regardless of the AC line voltage, making an electric clock that kept perfect time) and a device that would automatically deal playing cards (OK, so that one didn't catch on).

He held numerous patents, and everybody in engineering was required to keep a "lab log" which was serialized, dated, and then archived, to document our daily work just in case something special came out of us. During my six years there, four of my circuit designs went through the patent disclosure process.

I like to use my blogs in a similar fashion - not that I'm inventing anything, but simply to record things I run into & how I deal with them. I hope that the reader finds that useful.

Nowadays it's so easy to just tell somebody to "Google" something, but after the first couple of 1,000 hits you realize how vast the Internet really is. It's like going to the public library and just walking up & down every aisle until you find what you're looking for.

I'm hoping that my posts will help others find their way through today's technology.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FoxIt Reader for PDF's is updated

The remarkably fast, efficient FoxIt Reader for PDF files has been updated to version 2.0. The file size has grown from about 3 to 4 Megs, but is still half the size of Adobe's Acrobat Reader.

The new version includes support for interactive fill-in forms. However, that feature requires another little update for JavaScript support, but FoxIt tells you that & directs you to the proper site to install the 30-second update. This new version even has an option to highlight the fill-in fields, making fill-in forms easier to use than ever.

To install, all you need to do it download & unzip the file into a folder. You might need to remind Windows and Internet Explorer to use it as the default "Open With" for PDF files - just right-click on a PDF file, select Open With, Choose program, and then select or browse to the .exe and check the box "always use this program" and you're done.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Vista - house of cards?

The May 2007 issue of PC World Magazine describes more issues with Vista security, this time it is IMHO the worst possible type of insecurity - the Malware engine that drives Windows Defender can choke on a specially-crafted PDF file, and hand over control of your system to the bad guys. So MS security makes your PC less secure.

So much for Trustworthy Computing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vista + Linux = no-go

After attempting to install Ubuntu Linux in a dual-boot with Vista, apparently the GRUB loader spoiled the Vista boot record. I could boot into Linux, but Vista only presented the progress bar and a black screen. I Googled that problem, but the solutions (using ntfsprogs and ntfsfix) did not do the trick for me; still too much of a Linux newbie I suppose.

Back to square one - I decided that I would repeat my install sequence: Win 2000, then SP4, then the Vista upgrade. Unfortunately 2000 would not install - the partition table was corrupted on the disk. Luckily the Western Digital "Data Lifeguard" software repaired the partition table & I was able to proceed. Whew!

I did learn that Vista has it's own disk partitioner, and provision for adding other OS's to the boot menu. But that's for another day.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vista and Disk Defrag

I'm preparing my Vista test PC to install Ubuntu Linux in a dual-boot configuration. According to my copy of Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks they recommend doing a disk defrag before re-sizing the hard disk partions to accommodate Linux.

From the (Windows Classic) Start menu, I clicked Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter, and to my surprise the disk defrag was set by default as a scheduled process. No wonder the disk would spin uncontrollably at times. I turned that rascal off.

I proceeded to run the disk defrag (last auto-run 3 days ago, but you know how Windows can be) so I let it run through to completion. The last repair I made to this PC was replacing the disk with a 160 GB (smallest I could find in the stores) so I ordered a pizza and went off to watch some TV. More to follow...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Future of EMail

My first experience with email was using Compuserve back in the mid-90's, when it was pretty much a dial-up world. Their email client was quite versatile - you could view the mail messages pending in your inbox, and then choose to download them (or not) which really saved precious bandwidth back then.

Today, the future of email is rather bleak. My Web site displays my public email address, which is routed from my Web host thru my ISP, then to Yahoo mail, then arrives in my Outlook 2003 inbox (with Junk Mail filtering enabled). After all those layers of filtering, my "ham to spam" ratio is still about 1:10. Not taking into account the 50-60 messages per day that Yahoo's excellent bulk mail filter screens out.

Something certainly has to be done, otherwise email will no longer be useable in business settings. Of course, you can use a whitelist to allow only known contacts through, however if you're growing your business & you want people to be able to message you, they'll wind up in the spam bucket. I wonder what happened to the MS initiative "Sender ID" which was supposed to work similarly to Caller ID for the telephone.