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Tech

Favorite Software/Tools 2013

I recently upgraded my work laptop and as part of the process I have been reinstalling all of my favorite software utilities. I had my last laptop for a few years and some of these tools have become an integral part of my daily workflow without me even realizing it. I figured I would share a quick list of these tools as you might find them helpful as well.

  • Google Chrome – by far one of my most used applications on a day-to-day basis. One of my favorite features about Chrome is they have really simplified the customization experience. I simply downloaded Chrome and logged in with my Google account – shortly thereafter all of my favorite extensions, bookmarks, and more started downloading.
  • Google Drive – I have started relying heavily on Google Chrome for storing my most accessed documents. All of my school work and personal document get put into the Google Drive folder on my computer and are instantly accessible from my iPad, Galaxy S3, and more. It was really convenient to get back up and running on my new computer. After installing and setting up Google Drive, all of my files were synced back to my new computer and I was up and running again.
  • FastStone Capture – I take a lot of screenshots and FastStone makes it easy to get quick screenshots of just the content I am interested in. It also has a really handy editor built in which lets you add commentary, draw arrows, and blur things out among many other tools.
  • Actual Multiple Monitors – I use multiple monitors at work and it has always bothered me that Windows does not natively extend the taskbar to the second window. Actual Multiple Monitors (AMM) does a great job of recreating the Windows taskbar on your second screen. What is particularly helpful about this is your applications only show up in the taskbar of the monitor they are running on! No more looking through dozens of icons to find the right window.

Note: All of the above applications were installed on an Ultrabook running Windows 7 64-bit edition and Windows 7 32-bit edition.

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Tech

Outlook 2010 – Disable Images in RSS Feeds

When reading RSS feeds in Outlook 2010, I was always bothered when images were automatically downloaded. When reading feeds in my RSS reader, I prefer to focus on the content rather than an image. In particular, I’ve noticed that a number of RSS feeds are now including very large images in their RSS feeds which caused me to have to scroll a full page-length before I was able to read the content.

Outlook has an option to disable image downloads in RSS feeds, but it was a bit tucked away. Here’s how to enable the feature:

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Tech

Sharepoint: Love or Hate

I’ve been working with Sharepoint on and off for the past few years and it’s quite a love hate relationship. It’s empowered me to do a lot of cool projects, but it’s limitations and the way Microsoft has to come up with a special name for every feature drives me nuts. It’s a good product that is a foundation for building other applications on and while the model is different than many other content management systems it’s surprisingly flexible in most cases. There are some weird caveats to that – certain things that simply cannot be customized or simply cannot be configured in the way you would expect, but overall I think it’s been a good platform for developing on.

 

What are your thoughts on Sharepoint? How have you used it to develop other applications or used it’s built-in features?

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Josh Lyon

San Francisco: MS Project Server

I’m back from my week in San Francisco for training on a Microsoft tool called Project Server.  To fill you in, my company is looking at tools for managing projects and the visibility of projects.  We already have licenses for MS Project Server (link), have it set up on a development box, and have been looking at it as a possible solution.  I was slated with heading up the initiative and my boss wanted me to go to a training to evaluate the tool as a possible solution.

A company called EPM Solutions (link) was offering a boot camp on Project Server and it seemed like it would be a good way to get an idea how project managers, end users, and administrators would have to interact with the server.  This lined up pretty well with what we were trying to get out of a course, so I decided to go with it.

The hotel EPM suggested was about $129 / night, but it offered a shuttle to the airport and the Seaport Conference Center (class location).  I figured if I had free transportation, my boss would think it was unnecessary to get a rental car.  I didn’t want to be stuck at the hotel during the nights, so I decided to look for a cheaper hotel to make up for the difference.  I found an Extended Stay America one exit further north that was about $50 / night cheaper – so I figured I could get that and a rental car and be set.

I ended up getting a good price on a fare at about $240 roundtrip. I left Sunday morning and arrived late morning.  I picked up my rental car and set out to check out the city.  Without having any real idea of where I was going, I knew San Francisco was north of me, so I took the highway 101 in that direction. 

I saw a sign for Monster park, so I decided to stop off and see what that was all about.  I drove through a somewhat ghetto part of the city and worked my way to the stadium.  It’s sponsored by Monster – the company that does cables and power products.  At the time, they were having some sort of rally racing. It was a bunch of rice cars (Civics, RSX, etc) and a few nicer cars (BMW M3, Corvette, etc.) running around the parking lot on some coned off course.  Those guys have to be crazy. I wouldn’t want to be driving crazy on a concrete/gravel top road having rocks fly up and scratch the hell out of my paint. But oh, well – to each their own. The area just outside Monster park was really nice. There was a really pretty dock, the bay, a fence, and some mountains.

You can see those items in the photo gallery.  I was getting bored, so I decided to head to the heart of San Francisco.  I drove around the downtown area for about an hour looking for something to eat for lunch. The city was pretty packed and there was nowhere to park.  I saw a film crew shooting something at some point, but I don’t know what it was. After driving around for while and not finding anywhere to park I finally caved in and decided to just get some fast food. I spotted a Burger King attached to a gas station and decided it would do.  After looping around to get to it, I pulled into the parking lot only to find that it was take-out only.  I wasn’t about to enjoy my first meal sitting in my car.  

That being the case, I headed back to find my hotel.  After getting all checked in at the Extended Stay, I was REALLY getting hungry and decided to stick with the fast food idea.  I found a Wendy’s nearby and enjoyed a hearty triple-meat cheeseburger, a Caesar salad, French fries, and a coke. Mmmm.  With my appetite appeased, I went back to the hotel to connect to the internet and research the tourist attractions.  Did I mention I had to pay $5 just to get on the hotel’s wireless?  What kind of sham is that?  The front-desk person probably pocketed and got their own Wendy’s cheeseburger. 😉 Oh well.  I found some good info and decided to go hit up the cable cars and fisherman’s wharf.

I found a Wells Fargo (my bank) ATM and pulled out $20 for the cable car ride.  The website said it was only $5, but twenty is a good number for a little cushion. After searching for some off-the-beaten-path-around-the-corner-and-down-the-hill parking I found a spot.  I walked to the cable car platform, waited around for a few minutes, and got my first real taste of the city: the old cable cars. It turns out that $5 will only get you a one way ticket.  But who the hell only wants to go one way.  When you get there, how do you expect to get back?  So I opted for the $11 all day pass, which turns out will come in handy later.

I rode down to the Embarcadero / Pier 1-2 area and decided to hoof it (read: walk) to Pier 39.  I didn’t realize of freaking cold it was out there, so by about Pier 9 I decided I would hitch a ride on the old electric rail car.  I got to the Pier and my first task was apparent: find a sweatshirt. Did I mention it was cold there? I found a University sport-wear place and walked in.  They were watching the Golden State vs. Dallas game and I let them know how cool I thought Dallas was.  Those California Golden State boys didn’t think it was funny… but I did.  I found a cool brown sweatshirt with San Francisco written across the front of it in scripted print. It was only like $22 and I was cold, so it was well worth it.

I headed back out on my touring adventure and checked out Alcatraz (from the pier), then the Sea Lions, and finally had some dinner at a little surf place on the pier.  I hopped on the old electric rail car on my way back home.  We stopped a little down the road outside a CVS and I had to get off and switch to the next train.  We waited for about 5 minutes when our driver came back and said we had to wait – that there was a fire truck and ambulance on the tracks ahead.  Well, we waited. And we waited.  And 40-45 minutes later the emergency vehicles cleared out of the way and we headed on our way back.

I hopped back on the first cable-car I was on and got some good pictures on the way back to where my car was.  Again, you can see these pictures in the photo gallery. This day was probably the most eventful part of my trip… and I’m a little tired of writing.  So maybe I’ll fill you in on my visit to Half Moon Bay, dinner with Uncle Scott and Cindy,  and my other little side-trips while I was there later.

Categories
Tech

Microsoft Excel Error Message

So I'm working in Microsoft Excel today and I get this great error message.  It's about as unspecific a warning as you can get.  I've been working with Microsoft products for quite a while, but this message has to be one of the best (REAL) messages I've ever personally seen.  Here's the image:

 

Microsoft Excel

 

Catastrophic failure?  Ever been in the middle of writing a long paper and had Microsoft Word crash on you before you could save your work?  I always thought that was a catastrophic failure.  As a side note – always remember to save your documents often!

At least this time I was doing something that is out of the ordinary and is data intensive.  For anyone who is technically inclined, I was querying a local database and converting that data to a local data cube for analysis with ProClarity. Ignore this line – In acronym land that would be: using MSQE in Excel to hit an SQL db using ODBC to do some BI analysis on my EUs in EMA for FPD with my PC from TX in the USA. Laughing  Some of the tables have over 50,000 rows of data, but I've done the exact same query before.

 

Oh well, I thought