Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Google goof (and quick fix)

EDIT: Less than two hours after this post, Google fixed their search engine so the problem described is now gone. Hurray!

I was curious about the gadget that's been advertised on TV, supposedly you just plug it into a network jack & then plug in a telephone to call anywhere for a flat annual fee.

Being cautious about things that may be to good to be true, I thought I would just Google it first. Whaddaya know, every link related to that product had another link underneath it, stating that the site may be harmful to your computer.

Then I decided to visit PC World to see if they've done a review, so I did a Google search for "PC World". Guess what, every single link in the results had that same mysterious message underneath it.

I did try to click the warning link to find out what harm might occur, but every attempt would produce a 503 error and "try again in 30 seconds".

EDIT: As it turns out, the link for every single search result, on any topic, will take you to a "browse at your own risk" message but it does display the URL in plain text, so you can still copy the address and paste it into your browser's address bar.

Hope this gets fixed soon. Imagine how many are searching for Super Bowl info, the day before the big game.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


My last post chastised Microsoft for taking away the familiar Office interface & replacing it with The Ribbon. The very next day, an anonymous comment led me to ToolbarToggle ( which is an add-in for Office 2007 that restores the old familiar menus & toolbars of earlier versions.

I like it.

This is a COM add-in that works with the 2007 versions of MS-Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Single-user pricing is $19.95 USD, and you can get a free 5-day trial version. Volume discounts & other special pricing is also available.

I tried it with Word, Excel and briefly PowerPoint. The menus & toolbars all seem to work fine, but some of the deeper menu choices did not work as expected. For example, to print an envelope you can usually highlight the address block & hit Alt-T, E, E but the address did not copy over into the dialog box; clicking the menus also did not work, so you'd have to copy & paste the address into the box. Not a huge deal.

Judging from their web site, I think this product is still being actively developed (the PowerPoint support was just added) so this is definitely something to watch.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Microsoft 2009

Ever since the departure of Bill Gates from the helm of Microsoft, the company has changed its business model, and not for the better.

It used to be that their new product introductions made you want to upgrade for flashy new screens and features, but nowadays they mirror the auto industry with the rapid release of new models and versions, while the older products are being retired quickly which forces upgrades that only serve to increase MS revenues.

The new products lack the backward-compatibility of the old, and in some cases even alienate the users. Case in point - Office 2007 changed the entire user interface, making veteran Office users hunt in frustration for their familiar commands & features. Even the default file format is new, so in order to share files with older versions you have to Save As the older format. And developers cannot simply click, drag & drop to create custom toolbars, now they have to write XML code to modify the ribbon.

Another example of their disconnect with users is SQL Server 2008 - Notification Services, which was introduced in SQL Server 2005, was removed from the new version. If you've utilized SSNS now you're stuck.

Still another example is Windows Vista, which basically requires a brand-new PC to run effectively. Upgrading from an older OS to Vista in most cases disappoints. And will your old programs & peripherals continue to run with Vista? Oftentimes they won't.

Next on the horizon is the Azure cloud-computing initiative, where companies will trust their corporate assets to the Internet cloud and a set of MS-managed data centers. This, from a company that has a regular release schedule of security patches along with numerous out-of-band updates as well. Those patches run the gamut, from Windows 2000 and IE6 all the way up to Vista and Windows 2008 Server.

No software is perfect; Linux, OpenOffice and Firefox have their own sets of quirks and limitations; but the expectations are much higher for the #1 software company in the world.