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Friday, 27 April 2007

Open Office Calc - Solution For Formulas Not Working

I've been trying to use Open Office Calc as a spreadsheet for some time now. Although it is very similar to MS Excel, there are a few bugs that really bug me. One problem I had recently was that a formula that was working was suddenly not working. I had the format correct, including using ; instead of , to separate items in an IF formula (Calc uses ; instead of , as in Excel). But it just wasn't working. I tried it in a new file and it worked fine. Through trial and error I eventually discovered that I had to reformat the whole column to accept 2 decimal places and then it worked. Then I had to go in and manually reformat individual cells where I did not want decimal places to show. What a hassle. Anyway, that is the way to get it to work if you have this problem.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

What Is RSS?

Here's a great little post from Commoncraft that explains RSS and shows you how to set up and use RSS and an RSS reader service. If you read many news and blog sites, it can save you a lot of time.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Mozilla Thunderbird 2 Is Finally Ready

Thunderbird 2 is finally available. Download here. Install it on top of the old Thunderbird (1.5...).

Some of your old extensions and themes might not work (at first). The theme I was using did not work and things looked very messed up. I switched to the new default theme and things were fine. If you use small icons on the toolbars, you may need to Customize and uncheck and then re-check Use small icons to make this work.

Release notes are here if you are interested in all the details of what is new.

The only problem I had was with my Hotmail that I had set up with 2 extensions so I could read and send Hotmail email via Thunderbird. To fix it, I had to delete my Hotmail account within Thunderbird and recreate it using the new Webmail feature in Thunderbird. If you are dealing with this situation too, make sure to include "" in the user name, and for the outgoing server, use the one you were using with the old Hotmail extension set up. The new account will default to an outgoing server of: "Webmail - localhost" which is a weird combination of your regular ISP account and hotmail and this does not work. Use the hotmail - local outgoing server that you set up previously - it works.
Then, I went onto my hotmail on the web and marked everything as UNread and then re-downloaded all the messages into Thunderbird. Adjust the account settings for the newly set up Hotmail in Thunderbird to keep messages on the server.

My Gmail, that I had set up as a POP account in Thunderbird still works fine.

If you want to force some old extensions to work in the new Thunderbird, install the Mr Tech Local Install extension (Firefox and Thunderbird) and then configure it to allow the old extensions to work (this doesn't work for the old webmail/hotmail extensions though). It may not work for some extensions.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Music To Go - Which Machine To Buy?

There are many different machines on the market for playing audio files. So, which one do you buy? Which is the best deal? Which will play what you want it to play, when you want it to play them. Which is most versatile?

I'm not going to tell you which specific make and model to buy, but I will tell you a few things to beware and be on the lookout for.

The media and the big advertising campaigns would make you think that Apple's iPod is the thing to get. Or, maybe a Sony machine. But there are major drawbacks here.

The most common music format is MP3 followed by WMA. Some machines will allow you to drag and drop these files onto your music player, or back. However, iPods and some others, make it so you have to convert the files to a format that can only be played on that machine - you can't copy this file back to your computer or to another computer or different music player. You want to look for a machine that you don't have to convert files for. If you have a machine that doesn't use any conversion, you have more freedom with what you can do with your music.

Batteries - iPods have the battery built into them, so when it goes (when it can no longer recharge), your iPod is gone. In other machines, you can use use regular or rechargeable batteries, so the battery life doesn't limit the life of your machine.

DRM - some machines, like iPods and Sony's, for example, don't allow you to copy certain music to them due to licensing issues (DRM) even if you own the CD you are getting the music from. But there are machines that don't have this problem.

Price: The biggest advertised and most talked about devices are also the most expensive. But why pay more for a device that
- you have to convert the music file format and then you can't use this file on anything else
- you are limited to what files you can convert to it
- is useless if the battery no longer charges

There are devices that cost less, give you total freedom regarding what files you can transfer, and what format, let you control the battery situation, and come with a lot more features (added FM radio and recording from FM radio, voice recording, direct MP3 encoding recording from a live audio source, display ...)

So, when you are shopping for a music player, keep these things in mind. Look for something that
- is reasonably priced
- requires no file conversion
- is not limited by DRM
- supports a variety of file formats
- allows replacing the battery easily and inexpensively
- has additional features you want (display, FM Radio, voice recording, direct live audio MP3 encoding, can be used for file storage, etc)
- works with your computer/operating system

Did I miss something? Add a comment.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Flash Security fix from Windows Update Won't Install

Problem: you can get and install all the security updates for Windows except for the Security fix for Flash Player.

This is due to the Flash Player plugin for IE being out of date. If you use Firefox all the time, you will probably have the Flash Player up to date for it, so you may have had trouble trying to figure this one out.

Solution: Open Internet Explorer, go to the Flash Player site and install the latest version. You might have to restart the computer after this to make the little yellow shield go away.

Laptops, Firewalls and Windows Update

I recently encountered this issue. Windows Update stopped working properly on an Acer laptop. If I manually ran the update, it would loop at some point and I could not get the updates. I found out that the Generic Host now needed to be completely trusted by the firewall. This was not the case a while ago.

It may have been caused by something in the Zone Alarm firewall due to the major update (although the program settings were not changed), or something in a recent Windows Update itself.

To fix this issue if you are using Zone Alarm: open the program, go to the Program Control, find Generic Host... and make sure it is now allowed in all 4 columns. You should be able to run Windows Update now.

New Computer? Strip out the Gunk first.

I just read a posting about all the mess you have to deal with on a new computer. The mess being all the advertising and trial-ware that comes with many new computers. Sony, Dell, HP and pretty much the biggest culprits in loading up their computers with junk.

When you first boot this machine up, you should go to Add/Remove Programs and strip out all the junk, including trial-ware for security programs, as what usually comes with the computer, programs like Symantec, are not worth the hassle. The big-name computer companies get paid by these other companies to include their trial-ware software on the new computer. It's too bad they don't come with the type of trial-ware that is free all the time - basic versions - that give you the choice of continuing to use it, or upgrade to a more advanced paid version.

When I deal with setting up a new computer for a client, I strip out all this gunk and install free, and easy to use security software programs that give you good security. I also remove a lot of unnecessary programs and services from starting up with Windows so the computer boots up nice and fast and runs fast, as it should.

If you know that you need to expect that you will have to clean out this stuff when you get a computer, it's not so much of a hassle. Don't check it out, just clean it out and be done with it. Every computer needs to be customized when you first get it. ALL PCs, including Macs come set up in a way that may not be how you like it set up. Brand-name computer and software manufacturers like to assume that they know how you want your computer to be set up (with influence from the trial-ware software companies). But, they way they set things up is often not the way you need or want it to be set up.

Once you clean up the mess they put on your computer, it will boot up fast and run fast. Think of the mess as just extra packaging. Yes, it would be great to not have this mess to deal with, but it often results in your computer costing less, and the odd time, you will actually like a piece of the trial-ware and want to use it.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Rthdcpl.exe - Illegal System DLL Relocation

If you receive a message pop-up that starts with this, most likely a recent Windows update is conflicting with your Realtek HD Audio Control Center.

To fix it, go here, download the Microsoft hotfix, run it, and restart your computer.

If this doesn't fix it, it is possibly a spyware/virus issue and you need to run your antivirus and/or antispyware scans to find and fix it.

UPDATE: The recent Windows security fix for animated cursor problem caused a number of other programs to not work properly, including the above issue. For more information and Microsoft's fixes for these problems, check out their page here.

Blogger and Internet Explorer

If you have a blog via Blogger, you may notice that, after you sign in and you view your blog, there are no Edit Post (pencil) icons at the bottom of each post. So, if you are browsing and you want to edit a post, you can't directly from this page

The best solution is to use Firefox instead of IE. The Edit Post icon shows up when viewed with Firefox.

Or, in IE, you will have to click on Customize at the top and navigate to the Edit Posts page.