www.canawm.org – Another Successful Web Implementation Project Complete

Between doing Video Shoots and Website Upgrades for New Divine Mercy Church as well as functioning as their Webmaster and Project Manager, I was busy working on a new website for the Central Area Neighborhood Association for Wilton Manors.


Today, all the technical details were completed and the website for CANA went live.

This is the fifth website that I have created for organizations using the Google Sites technology.  Google Sites is a great way to get a basic website up and running, especially for Not For Profits as those organizations have been granted free space on Google’s Servers.  I have heard that they may or may not begin charging for that service in the future, and I have heard that it may or may not go Fee Based. 

The benefit of using the technology is that it is completely “Cloud Based”.   Got a small organization and you don’t want to have to worry about whether you have a dedicated server architecture built in an office server closet?  This works for you since Sites is hosted by Google.  You get access to a limited number of free services such as Google Docs, Gmail accounts, and other things so in theory you can completely run an organization virtually without ever buying a corporate computer.  Feel like making a change on a website from your laptop on vacation in a far flung corner of the world – you can do it if you have internet.

I wouldn’t personally put any financial information on a “web app” but that’s my security preference, you may not agree.

At any rate, CANA has their web site, it’s up and running.

The other sites I have created were for the Joe Angelo for Mayor Campaign, the Celeste Ellich for Commissioner Campaign, New Divine Mercy Church, as well as working on my blog

I am also the Social Media Director for Wilton Manors Main Street helping to voice their public presence on Facebook and on their blog.  I also have worked on their current webpage that is expected to go through some changes and a refresh soon.

Having done web development as a Programmer and as a Project Manager as well as doing Implementation of Websites, Large Scale implementation of Legacy systems, and Accounting Systems help in rounding out that list. 

I’m also That Guy that people call up for help with their PCs since I’ve implemented more desktop systems than I would care to count.  I’ve also implemented Servers running Windows Server 2003 and 2007,  implemented SQL Server (various versions) as well as created servers running Linux and the LAMP Stack.

The Lamp Stack is a set of technologies that will allow you to serve out web pages to the world as well as function as a regular file server as needed and it’s all free.

Most of that stuff can run “virtually” and on a computer using VMWare or Microsoft Virtual PC.

Not a bad cover letter, I may have to use this since I’ve done this and more.

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached

This is the kind of post that I do from time to time that sticks around.  I have a couple “Helpful Hints” (you can search that) that get read every day by a couple folks.   This particular one is how to remove an annoyance from the Thinkpad when Windows is installed.   If you are following along on how to do a “Bare Bones Install” of operating system and mostly open source software, hop onto this link after you read my rant below.

To whoever is in marketing at Lenovo that made this decision, I hope you end up working as a fry cook in a low end burger joint because you truly have no clue how to market to your customers.

After going through all the steps of installing software, I had been constantly annoyed by a pop up… but I am getting ahead of myself here.

The laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad T60.  I installed Windows 7 64 Bit onto it, and all the Lenovo software and drivers.  I also installed a laundry list of software onto it that you can see by doing a search back for anything with the tag “Implementation”.

Since this is a laptop, it gets plugged into the wall from time to time or the plug gets kicked out when I’m half awake at 6am trying to get the dog out.

Here is my complaint.   When ever the power state changes from plugged to unplugged and vice versa, I get a rude message that begins with “Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached”.

Don’t
Care.

The person who upgraded the battery in this machine made the choice for me, repaired it for me, and was kind enough to give it to me complete.  It works.  The battery works.  The battery holds a charge and will power the laptop for an acceptable length of time.

So who are you, my dear friend, the Marketing Drone at Lenovo to question the wisdom of the market by putting this 6 or 7 line bubble up on my desktop and hold it there longer than I would prefer questioning my sanity with “Genuine Lenovo Battery Not Attached”?

Now I went out and found out how to turn that rude message off.   There should be a check in the message to allow me to dismiss it forever, but no, you in your infinite lack of wisdom deigned that from on high I should have to see this blather until I get annoyed enough to try all sorts of things.

Including search on the web on how to turn that hateful message off.

I found it and will share it.

First, with Windows up and running, mouse down to the task bar.

Find the Power Management icon that resides next to the Wifi Icon on the right of your task bar.

Right click on Power Management (The Battery Icon) and click on “Launch Power Manager“.

When the window comes up, click on “Options” tab.

There is a check box next to “Show Power Manager Gauge in Task Bar” – clear that box, then click on “Apply“.

You will now not have the battery in the task bar from Lenovo but SURPRISE! under Windows 7 you will still have the battery information reported from Windows itself.  If you right click on the Windows battery, you can get to the Power Manager by selecting it there.

There.  Message Banished.  Now lets find that Marketing Drone and tell him just what we think of him.

Stupid.

What would this blog be without a rant, now and again, I ask you?!?!?

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – CDBurnerXP

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on…

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

I covered the install of the instant messaging client Pidgin.

Now I need something to burn CDs.

Actually, I needed something to burn a DVD since I downloaded something from a website, Ubuntu, to get the latest version of the operating system.  I ended up having this file on my computer that was too large to fit on a single CD, needed to go onto a DVD as an image and resided here as what they call an .ISO file.

An .ISO file is an image of a CD or DVD.  The software that comes with Windows 7 promises to burn that image to a DVD but I personally couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Open Source Software to the Rescue.

I was very used to software that works a certain way when it comes to burning a CD or DVD.  You grab the files up into a directory, you start a program, you drag them into the handy little window and you click burn.  Assuming that your PC has all the hardware, in a while you end up with a disc that can be used for many different purposes.

It’s just that I tried to convince Windows’ default software to work and got frustrated so I went “all old school” on it.  I burned a disc that actually turned out not to be a disc that was burned.  After two tries at it I gave up.

First, I went to the Nero Lite suite.  When I went to this free version of Nero, it said it wanted to install Microsoft Silverlight.   Silverlight is an alternative to Adobe Flash, and while Flash is waning, Silverlight was just “deprioritized” in the market by Microsoft.  They will continue to support it but won’t push it for it’s programming capacity – in short, Silverlight is going to die a lingering death.  Obviously I don’t recommend Nero Lite 10.  I used Nero Lite 9 for quite a while on Windows XP and it worked well for me.  I won’t install 10 or Silverlight.

Remember, a lean laptop is one that will last longer on your lap than one that is chock full of software you don’t need. 

So after saying some rude words to my laptop, I cancelled the install, and looked elsewhere.

I have worked in the Philadelphia School System and at Temple University as in progressively more technically involved positions in IT, ending in where I am now, a Consulting IT Project Manager.  In the roles I played at the School Board, I learned that Open Source software can be very useful when your department budget is small or non existent.   To this day, I will look at “Free or Open Source Software” or “FOSS” first before considering pulling out the credit card.

CDBurnerXP is one of those “FOSS” programs and it works exceedingly well.  Where Windows’ built in software to burn a DVD was confusing and intractable, CDBurnerXP worked for me, and did so exactly how I expected it to.  Drag and drop with lots of numbers to read if I needed to understand what the details were about the “project”.  In short More Info Than I Needed meant All The Info I wanted.

And did I say Free?  Open Source?  Put the wallet away.

You can read more about how it works on the site, but this is all about how to actually get the software on your PC in case you need it.

First, surf the website.  There is a lot of information on there on what it does, how it does it, and how you can get it, but basically you have to get here first.

Then click the big green button that says “Download”.  Firefox asked me immediately if I would like to save the file and I clicked “Save File“.

When it was finished downloading, I went to my downloads directory and launched the file.   cdbxp_setup(Version_number).exe

I got the Open File – Security Warning window and clicked “Run” which was followed by Windows’ warning me that a program wanted to make changes to the hard disc which I accepted by clicking Yes.

The Setup Wizard was launched and if you’re actually following how to install all this software, this will look very familiar.  Open Source Projects tend to use similar installer programs on Windows, at least the last few programs did.  

Click Next to get to the License Agreement, then click the button next to “I Accept The Agreement” and then Next again.

You will be asked where to install the software to, and I decided that the default of C:\Program Files\CDBurnerXP was fine, so I clicked Next.

I was presented by a window asking me to “Select Components”.  Since I only need English as the local language, I unchecked the box next to Languages and Next.

The window asking to “Select Additional Tasks” then presented itself.  Since I don’t particularly need a desktop icon nor do I need it in the Quick Launch bar, I made sure both of those were unchecked.  On the other hand I wanted CDBurnerXP to be associated with .DXP/AXP and ISO files… so I checked both of those boxes.  Then I clicked “Next“.

It then put up a window asking me if I wanted to install Internet Explorer 9.  No, I really don’t like Internet Explorer.  It is my opinion that it is bloated and overly large.   I already have what ever version of Internet Explorer that came with Windows 7, I believe that it is Version 8, I hardly ever use it, and don’t want to be annoyed with configuring it until I am told that there is a compelling reason to “upgrade”.   So I clicked the box that says “Do not install Internet Explorer 9” and then Install.

At this point, CDBurner XP is installing/has been installed.

You have a window saying “Completing the CDBurnerXP Setup Wizard” and if you click Finish you will see CDBurnerXP launch.  Since I don’t need it at this time, I cleared the check box that asks if I want to “Launch CDBurnerXP” and then clicked Finish.

To burn that pesky ISO file, all I had to do was double click on the .ISO in Windows Explorer, and have a blank DVD in the drive.   A click on the Burn Icon later and I had my Ubuntu DVD for that old computer that I need for a server.

Pretty easy and no mental gyrations at strange times in the middle of the evening!

Can’t beat that, huh?

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Pidgin

There are a few more holes in the implementation of the new laptop.  But the story goes on and on and on…

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Then I installed Inkscape which went about as well as you could hope.

Now I’m moving on to Pidgin.

What’s a pidgin?  Something spoken in Papua New Guinea?  Something that is better known as a flying rat?  No, this is something different.

I use the chat networks to keep in touch with clients, family, and others around the world.  There are a number of applications that I use, and Pidgin is one of them, that tie together multiple chat networks like AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, IRC, MSN Messenger and others into one piece of software.   I also use it to monitor my three email accounts on Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail.  It puts up a helpful notice when I get mail.

Yes, complicated.

The software though isn’t tough to use and it would allow people to stop using the bloated AOL client all the time, or having AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger all running at once.  It gathers all the functionality into one place.   There are competing software, but this is the one I use.  I tried Trillian and some others here and there and it just felt like it went too far.

1) Surf www.pidgin.im and download and save the installer for the client remembering where you put it.  The helpful Orange Download button is there for you to click.  You may also explore the site and find out more about this program.

2) Run the installer from where ever you hid the thing, and when it puts the window up, select the language.

3) You will now be presented with the Pidgin Setup Wizard.  Click Next to get to the GPL, then click Next to the Components to Install window.  The defaults should be good for you with one exception.  Click the Plus Sign next to “Spellchecking Support”.  It won’t break the bank if you don’t have spell check turned on, but it certainly will make you sound more intelligent.   Select your language (or don’t but I will judge you if you misspell things) and click on “Next”.

4) Now that you have done all of that, click “Install”.  The installer will count up the percentage of progress at this time until done.  It will be done when your window stops changing and you see “Completed” in the status window.  Click “Next”.

At this point you are through the basic install.   I check the box that says “Run Pidgin” and Finish at this point so I can configure the program.

Accounts window:  Pidgin works with your current chat accounts.  In this case I am going to add AIM to Pidgin for the blog, but it works with my Yahoo Instant Messenger and MSN Instant Messenger as well.

Click “Add”.  You will get an “Add Account” window.

On the basic tab:
  The Protocol is the Chat Network you want to configure.  Select AIM (or any other you need).
  The Username is your sign on.  You’ll have to supply that one.
  The Password is the password you type to get onto AOL or AIM.
  I recommend checking the box that says “Remember Password” even if later down the line it means you’ll forget your password for AIM.  Do what everyone else does – write it down on a post-it note and lose the note when you clean house.
  Check the box for “New Mail Notifications”.  You’ll get a handy notice in the Pidgin Window when you get email on this account that you will forget you ever had after you forgot how to log into it with the password that is on the post-it note that got cleaned up 2 years ago when you had visitors.
  If you have a small picture, you can add it here for your avatar by clicking the box for “Use this buddy Icon” and clicking on the default Icon.   At that point you will have to find the picture that you want to use for this account.  Easy enough to do, you have thousands of pictures on your PC.  Just remember not to use the “rude one” that you have on that “special” chat site showing you in front of the mirror that got you all those complements about your “abs”.  Mine is a boring G Rated “Head Shot”.  I’d go with that.  Leave those special pics for special times.  🙂

When you click “Save”, Pidgin will go out and try to log you onto the network.  If you put in the wrong password it will tell you in the main window which was covered up by the accounts window.  Not to worry, you can click back on AIM and the “Modify” button to enter in the correct Password. 

Of course I did forget mine, and you can surf http://www.aim.com and get it back by trying to log in.  AIM itself is kind of annoying in that your password can’t contain “part of” the user name – but they don’t tell you “how much” of that they need for you to enter it.

The process for any other network that Pidgin supports is identical.  Just click “Add” in the account window and you’re on your way.

One other thing that you will want to do is to configure sounds.  I usually have mine only set to tell me when “Message Received Begins Conversation”.  You can edit those preferences by clicking “Tools” then Preferences” and “Sounds”.  You will also want to make sure chats open in their own window.  This is done on the “Interface” tab of the Preferences window and unchecking “Show IMs and Chats in Tabbed Windows”.  I just happen to prefer having lots of little chat windows than having to shuttle between tabs.

The Pleasures of Upgrading A New PC – Inkscape

At this point, the frenzy of installing new applications and programs is slowing.  The machine is beginning to get more complete, but there will be other tweaks down the road.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled

The fifth step was the install of GIMP that was surprisingly less painful than most.

In the middle of all of this, I found that I needed to upgrade Firefox.  It was a happy coincidence that it was on the same day that they released Firefox 4.

Today I am beginning the install of Inkscape.

I would be willing to bet that most of my regular and irregular readers won’t ever need this program.  I do…. but why?

Gimp will allow you to take a picture and type graffiti all over it to give your message.  Then typically you will save your new artwork as a JPG.  When you do, take a nice close look at the text.  It won’t be crisp with clean lines.   There are times that you need that.  I have been “watermarking” my pictures that I put on the blog for quite a while now simply because… they’re mine.  I’d rather not stumble across a website using my pictures because Cease and Desist orders can get expensive and all the content that I put on the blog is my own, unless expressly said otherwise.  Or perhaps I forgot.  I’ve only grabbed other people’s pictures once in a while, maybe 5 postings in all the time I have had the blog.  Plenty of Velma Posts but that’s a different story.

So in your JPG, if you “zoom in” to an area you notice things get fuzzy very quickly.  Having your text get fuzzy makes for sloppy work.  It isn’t the fault of Gimp, but the fault of the way a “raster image editor” works.  They all do that.

Inkscape is a “Vector Graphics Editor”.  It saves things as points in an array… yeah I know “Science Content” as they say on Mythbusters.   Look at the picture on your monitor very closely, it’s made of a lot of dots.  Put one finger at the top of the monitor, another one at the bottom.  You have just drawn a Vector.  That basically is what Inkscape does – sets out a lot of points and says what will connect them.   It makes for a very sharp picture.  Read this link if you’re interested in a bit more deep detail. 

Inkscape also implies that it is “Alpha” or “Beta” software.  This means it is a work in progress.  If you break it, go back to Inkscape.  They may have a fix already or they may not know about it so you can report the problem and help them out.  I use Inkscape fairly heavily and I’ve been happy with the results.  The program may be rare, but it isn’t a raw burger so to speak…

So how do we get it installed?

1) Surf http://inkscape.org/ and see if you really need it.  I do, but you probably won’t.  I’m finding it’s simplicity makes it very easy to use to get the kind of results I want.

2) In the upper right corner there is a “Download Now” link.  That is to the latest version, but this link will put you on the Download page for all versions.  It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and is probably available for more platforms than you will ever want to look at.  You most likely will want “Windows – Installer” which you will find under Official Release Packages.

3) Clicking on the link sends you to the Sourceforge download page and will start the download for you.  Save the file.  You will want to make a note of where it puts the file because I doubt you will have “C:\Users\Bill\Downloads” on your PC.  When complete, start the program.

4)  It will ask you to “Please Select a Language” and welcome you to the Setup Wizard.  Click next when you get there.

5)  You will click Next once you get to the GPL General Public License, and then you will be presented with a list of choices of features.  The only feature you may want to look into is whether you need an alternate language.  I did not need any extra features, so I clicked “Next”.

6) Inkscape will then ask where to install it, and it does not have to be in the Program Files group, but you will most likely want to let it go there by clicking “Install”.  It then will write the program out to the hard drive.  My installer ran almost to the end and inexplicably hung there for a while.  After it “woke up” eventually it came to say “Completed” and the Next button lit up.  It literally fell asleep 3 or 4 times waiting on background installs of subsystems.

7)  Click Finish and it will launch Inkscape.

Inkscape will present you with a window for “New Document 1”.  It is here that you can build your projects by adding layers.   A picture can be layer 1 to use as the background, and you can add other pictures or objects by drawing them onto the page.  Basically you can save the file as a .SVG file, and export as a bitmap your project to show it to everyone on the web.  That’s the very basic view on how to do things, you’re going to want to play around with the program.  I go in and change the size of the document, add graphics, move things around and add text.   All of this can be done easily and sounds much more difficult than it actually is.

You have control over all the bits and pieces that you are adding to the project.   If you think of the project as a Collage, you’re going to have a very good idea of how this all will work.

21st century scissors and magazine articles in elementary school art class is a good metaphor.

Another very complex program, and all Free and Open Source Software just like almost everything I run here.

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC – GIMP

The most work when you move into someplace new is making it your own.  Arranging the paintings on the wall, changing the carpets, and the drapes.  There is a very similar process going on when you get a new computer.  I am in the process of creating a workbench that I will be using for quite a while.

The first step was triaging all the old hardware and finding which laptops needed recycling.

The second step was installing the operating system, and the minimum software.

The third step was convincing PDF software to actually install and work.

The fourth step was installing the excellent IrfanView and beginning to get my graphics software settled (Link Needed)

Today it is the install of GIMP that I am attacking.

What is GIMP? To borrow from their web page, it is the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  That doesn’t tell you much so we can break it down for you easy peasy!

GNU means it’s Open Source and therefore free to download, use, and enjoy.
Image Manipulation Program means that basically you can use a picture as a canvas to change things, add text and drawings, change colors, move bits around.

GIMP is a “Free or Open Source Software” (FOSS) program that will let you do just about anything you can do in Photoshop.  It is not necessarily THE standard tool for graphics editing, Photoshop seems to own that title, but if I need to work on Photoshop, I need to pay for it and install software that snoops in the background to phone home and tell Adobe where I am.  Not really fond of that idea here… Privacy and all that.

I’ve never really progressed to the point where I need to shell out for Photoshop, and many graphics artists use it at a professional level in order to get their work done.  It is so complex that years later I still have to think how to do some subtle task, while to get some basic things done are fairly straightforward.

On the other hand, I had the experience recently to try to use Photoshop on its own on a professional workstation with no training.  I need the Photoshop for Dummies book… I’ll admit it!

So to get Gimp installed on your PC, here is what you do:

1) Surf http://www.gimp.org and let the page load.  If you want a somewhat more indepth idea of what GIMP can do for you, you can check out the features link and read for yourself.  I Grossly Oversimplified GIMP!

2) Select the orange on black link for Downloads.  (Halloween anyone?)  I’ll forgive the colors, the software is worth the effort.

3) GIMP comes from the world of Linux and isn’t directly supported by the project on Windows.  On the other hand, there’s a handy package for you to download and I’m going to step you through it.  The link for download is the third link on the body of the page, but you can grab it from here until it’s changed.  You may also want to grab the manual, again on the downloads page, but here’s the direct link until it is changed for the English book…

4) When fully downloaded, launch the setup program.  You will be eventually presented with the GIMP Setup Program, and click Next, Next at the GNU General Public License, and Install Now button.

5) That is it.  It will present you with a helpful check box asking if you want to launch the program and a button that says “Done”.   It took about a minute on my now becoming more trusty T60.

The program will launch, and load. It warns you that it will take some time, and it isn’t kidding.  I’m glad for once they give you a little progress bar to tell you that it’s loading because it takes more than a full minute here to load. 

At this point you will be presented with the “GNU Image Manipulation Program” main window, the “Toolbox” window and the “Layers, …” window.  To close the program you click on the X Box at the upper right of the GNU window.   Alternately you can load in any picture and start to edit.   This is not your Grampa’s Paint Program, its seriously powerful and if you need some pictures to edit, this is a good way to start.

I’ve been using it for years and frankly I don’t know a third of the software.  I get things done, but in a lot of cases, I get things done by brute force.  You will want to read that manual that you downloaded at some point.

Also there are all sorts of extensions for The GIMP.  You can find them online, and since it is released under the GPL, you should be able to get them for free. 

If you can’t “get the job done” with The GIMP, there’s another piece of software called Inkscape that I’ll be writing about shortly and show you… tomorrow.

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC – Irfan View

I’m in the middle of a migration.  No, I am not flying North for the Summer!  I am moving into a New-To-Me laptop.  The oldest one died, the daily driver is getting unreliable but will be “repurposed”, and this is the newest one of the lot.

If you’re so inclined, you can read the story here:

First the story of how I decided that it was time to move with limited funds.
Second, how I actually installed the Operating System and the minimum software needed.
Third, how annoying it can be to get PDF to work smoothly on a new install.

Today, I have to install graphics software.

As a part of the volunteer work that I do and all of the web development work that I have picked up over the ages, I require better than the very basic software that Windows 7 comes with to get pictures and text to the web.  Sure, for most folks this is enough, but you can get much more without spending any money.

Here is how I do it.

Irfan View – a Swiss Army Knife for picture viewing.
Ifran view does a lot more than just view pictures.  The software is amazingly flexible and takes the attitude that you don’t need to be complex to get a lot of complexity done.  You can do some simple editing with crop and paste, play around with editing color schemes and remove things like that annoying kid who insisted on putting gang hand signs on his chest when you got the family photo back in 2005 at Christmas.

Yes, Jonathan, I am talking about you.

I have been using Irfan View for more than ten years now.  It is so easy to use that you forget just how much power you have at your fingertips.  If I need to take a picture for the web, I’m not going to post the original.  Typically I shrink them down from the massive to slightly smaller than “standard def TV sized” with this software.  I have used it to snip a single flower to share with my growing audience, and to have a little fun playing with pictures.

But enough of that.   Here’s how to get it… and you really do want this software as your default viewer on Windows!

1) Surf http://www.irfanview.com

2) Click the handy “Irfan View” link on the right under “Downloads”.  I’m not giving you the direct link because he really has done some amazing work and your going there directly will help him know how many people like his software… so play along, ok?  🙂

3) That previous link will pop you onto another page with a link to download the base software.  Click on the Download Now link and it will ask you to save the file.  Remember where you put that file…  This time I’m downloading iview428_setup.exe from CNet.com

4) Run the file, and once it launches it gives you the option of Creating Shortcuts, selecting how many users, and where to install it.   Simply accept the defaults and click “Next>”. 

5) You will see the window change to “What’s New In This Version?” and just click Next.

6) the next window asks if you want to associate any extensions with IrfanView.  I click on “Images Only”, and Next.

7) Unfortunately he has a deal here with Google Chrome to push a download of it to your system.  Reject this.  Uncheck the box with Include Google Chrome…   You can always get it on your own.  I don’t want Google Chrome and am wary of that software due to my concerns about Privacy.

Remember Uncheck the box for Google Chrome and then click “Next”.

8) There is a question about “Set INI Folder”.  I’m ok with what is happening here so I clicked “Next”.

9) I then got a warning about resetting my file associations – and yes, I am really sure – so click Yes.

10) Installation Done!  When you click “Done” Irfan View will launch.  It starts a browser window with a lot of questions and the program which really doesn’t look like it has much other than a black window and options.  Since the purpose of this is to get the software on the machine … I’m done here… start to play around with the program, it’s one of those rare programs that you can use with the keyboard extremely rapidly to view your pictures once you learn how you want to work with it.  It’s beautifully integrated with the mouse as well and I find it to be extremely fast at getting chores done.

It’s not the Be All And End All of graphics processing, but a great shortcut.  Since I needed this for a task TODAY, I’m going to cut off here, do some work with it, and post tomorrow the next steps.

For Picture Editing, Gimp.
For Vector Graphics like web page headers, Inkscape

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC – PDF

I started this whole mess a couple days ago.

First I had to decide which machine to save and which to recycle.

Then I had to load in the operating system and the basic software. 

Next are the PDF programs.  I use PDF very heavily.  I print to it from all my programs and I read the things I have printed.  It is easier for me to keep my documents in PDF on a memory stick than buy another filing cabinet.  So first, it’s time to install Acrobat Reader.  Going to Adobe.com puts up an annoying survey.  I don’t do free surveys – No Thanks.

Then off to the download page with the little grey box with the little lighter grey text.  Really, Adobe, how about something that is easy to read.  Are you so busy being a fanboy of your own work that you’re forgetting that there are all sorts of people trying to use the site?

On the download page, there is a red box with white text (Bad color choice – ADA Compliance?) with “Download Acrobat Reader on it.  I’ll save you all the effort, the link is here.  After clicking the Download Now link I was presented with a page telling me how to get past the browser’s setting to allow the download to continue.  Probably that is the best way to manage that, since you should not download software without actively thinking about it.

Here’s another annoyance I have with Adobe, they force you to use their own download manager.  Nobody else seems to use this software so I allow it to install then immediately uninstall it once I have finished with it.  Kind of a waste of time and effort if you ask me just to show me some annoying advertisements.  Ok Adobe, here’s the worst thing about it… now that I have downloaded your garbage download manager, it wants me to close the browser.  That little dog is chasing it’s tail.  So That just won’t happen just yet.  I’ve got the blog article to finish.

Sidestepping the abysmal Adobe Acrobat reader installer, I’m going to get the printer.  Or rather CutePDF.  CutePDF is one of many free pieces of software you can install on the computer that will act like a printer and produce a PDF Document out of anything you are going to print.  Really sweet little piece of code and it makes life easy. 

Surf http://www.cutepdf.com to get all the info on it.  Basically, you can download the CutePDF Writer from this link and use it for personal or not for profit use.  When you install it though, it asks if you want Yet Another Tool Bar so you will want to make sure that you DO NOT install the toolbar.  In this case it was the “Ask Toolbar” a worthless blemish on the browser world.  The installer has three check boxes asking nosy questions.  If you uncheck the first one where you do not accept the end user license, the others are turned off and you go on to install the Cute PDF Writer.  The next time you go to print a document you will notice a new printer called CutePDF.  It doesn’t really need any configuration, just remember where it puts the PDF Documents so you can save them or print to paper later.

CutePDF does depend on something called PS2PDF and wants to install it, so it will pop up a window asking yes or no.  Select yes so you can go on with it.  When through, Cute PDF will open a browser window with documentation on how to use it, but basically it’s easy as pie.

Since Adobe doesn’t know how to install their reader without clobbering my browser… I’ll continue this post… Tomorrow.  Basically if the survey magically appears, I’m going to slam that practice.  There is no reason, AT ALL, to force someone to download a magically delicious download manager just so you can install some free software.  Another problem with the way software is delivered these days.  You just never know what it’s doing in the background.

OK, maybe not “tomorrow”…

After having gone through the Browser Restart nonsense, I ended up watching this install happen.  Or rather just the install of this abysmal “Adobe DLM”.   It did not actually install the software.  I had to go in and re-download the software and have it install again.  It dutifully put up a window saying it was downloading and installing “McAfee Security Scan Plus” – something that I DID NOT WANT.  That will be uninstalled immediately after I get this install to work with Adobe Reader.

Theoretically, it went through and installed both Adobe Reader and McAfee Security Scan Plus, but I wouldn’t have known that unless I went and looked at the Adobe Download Manager.  Mangler more like it…

Closing the Download “Mangler”, I noticed that all my icons for PDF have changed to the official Adobe PDF graphic.  Having an old PDF on a memory stick, I double clicked on it and lo and behold, I was presented with a Personal Computer Software License Agreement.  Pretty worthless, clicked through.  I’m not in the business of reverse engineering this steaming pile of software, and frankly if I knew of an open source alternative that actually worked in order to read PDF Documents, I’d uninstall Adobe Reader in a heartbeat.

Accepting the agreement and signing my life away, I was able to view the document.

Now to get rid of the hitchhikers…

Going into Control Panel on Windows 7 I found everything in Confusing Categories, so I selected “Small Icons” and it broke everything out into a large list.  They’re not quite as easy to deal with but categories imply someone else is deciding how things are, and frankly it’s easier to hunt for something in front of you than have something arbitrarily packed into little groups and given hints on how they are grouped together.

I selected Programs and Features to get the list of programs to uninstall.

First program to uninstall: McAfee Security Scan Plus.  I was presented with a small Uninstall window upon double clicking the name which allowed me to get the offense off of my computer.  From their own site you can see that all it does is go through and check your current firewall and virus scanner as well as some other things.  Useless since all of this is managed by Windows Firewall under Windows 7.  You can view that under Windows 7 in the Control Panel.

Second program to uninstall… Adobe Air.  I have never been able to find a site that uses it.  I have never been able to find a use for it.  I am not clear as to how this would make my life better by having it on my machine.  It reminds me of Silverlight, which is another “internet platform” that has not taken off.  The description I got from Adobe’s website is this:


Adobe AIR, a key component of the Flash Platform, unleashes the creativity of designers and developers by providing a consistent and flexible development environment for the delivery of applications across devices and platforms. 

Thanks, but you’re not needed.  It warns you that those applications that require Adobe Air will no longer work if you uninstall it.   If I find a site that uses it, I’ll reinstall it – or more likely go to another site.  Buh Bye!

Next to go is the Adobe DLM.   It forces you to install this bit of crapware when you install anything by Adobe.  I don’t need it otherwise and now that I have Acrobat and Flash on my computer, I can get rid of this bit of Computer Chaff….  Except it magically disappeared when I uninistalled Adobe Air and double clicked on the uninstall within the Windows Programs and Features list.

Remember, this is YOUR computer.  An application running on it will only slow you down, so if you don’t need it, get rid of it.  If the program is suspect, search online as to what it does.  Take the time to read about that machine that you paid all that money for. You’ll be surprised as to what you learn.

One other hitchhiker.  Apple Quick Time.  It decided that it needed to be installed on one of the pieces of software that I downloaded.  It is only very slightly more useful than a toolbar since just about everything else is compatible with Quick Time and on a PC it acts only a little more stable than a virus.  Time to get that particular program if not removed, at least neutralized.

In Windows 7 there is an area that all the currently running apps go to.  It used to be in the far right next to the clock under Windows XP, they grouped them together in a little triangle to hide them away.  In my case, it’s to the right of the battery and to the left of the clock/speaker/wifi sentry/battery/Windows Action Center.   There’s a little white triangle that you can click once on and it brings up a pop up.  If you hover over it, it shows the phrase “Show Hidden Icons”.  Helpful but why hide them?  Sure, its all minimalistic, but not exactly helpful.  Ok, we can live with it this way, so click and find the Q for Quick Time, right click on it and select Preferences.

Under the “Update” tab I turned off “Check for Updates Automatically”.  Quicktime is a bit of a security hole, and normally I uninstall it completely but I do that only after seeing if I have any QT movies to watch.  Usually that takes a week, so until then, I will just tell it to play well and leave me alone – don’t check for updates until you’re banished.  Furthermore on the Streaming tab, I’m turning off “Enable Instant-On”.  I hardly use Quicktime so why keep it up and running?  Finally under the advanced tab, I select all the way at the bottom “Install QuickTime Icon in system tray” and turn that off.   I just don’t need it.  Uncheck that box, select Apply and hope it actually goes away until I get annoyed and fully uninstall Quicktime.

After I click “OK”, it goes away and I get a helpful pop up from Windows 7 “Program Compatibility Assistant” asking whether it installed correctly.  I tell it yes, because I really don’t use Quicktime, but if you click that there was an error, it will submit a check to Microsoft to help you further check for problems.  Helpful, useful in determining problems if you need them, but not really a problem Right Now.  Thanks, Windows, I’ve got it from here!

Mind you this is just getting the computer up.  All this day’s Blog posting was about installing three programs so I can watch movies on You Tube and the like, and read and print PDFs.  It should not have taken this long.  The Application Development Manager in me has come out in full force, gathered all the Project Managers and Business Analysts into a room and say “You Can Do Better!”.

Software does NOT have to be this bad!

One last helpful hint for today.  Once Adobe Reader is installed, launch it with a file to read.  If you have the version 10.1 that I got, you will notice helpful little bubbles showing up under the tab that says “Comment” in the upper right.  I didn’t like that so I went in to turn it off.   To do that….

Under Adobe Reader, Select Edit and Preferences.
Click on the General Categories and find the check box that says “Messages from Adobe”.
I cleared both boxes in that group.  I don’t particularly want messages from Adobe like they’re a needy ex-partner.

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC – Reloading

Part Two of a series.  The first part is at this link.

Having gone through the decision process of whether to stick with the old or get new, in this very tough economy, I went with Repair and Upgrade.

To get this Thinkpad T60 repaired and upgraded, I sent it off to have the dim panel swapped out and got it back from IBM/Lenovo repair within the week.  Out on Monday, back on Friday.  Had I had the parts, it was something I could have done on my own – I’ve done it on an old Mac iBook and if you can work on Apple Hardware, you can certainly do it on a Thinkpad.  After all, all the repair documents for a Thinkpad are on the web and available.  If you were presented with a box of parts, you could literally build a Thinkpad for yourself.

The Apples were not meant to be repaired… so think about that if you are planning on getting one. 

On the other hand, I have had good luck with Dell machines.  The one that failed me I had used for four years AFTER the corporation retired it and I got it on a bet.

While the machine was away I ruminated and finally decided to go at it full force.   This machine would take a maximum of 4GB of memory, and would take a fast for today 7200 RPM hard drive.  So I ordered a 500GB 7200 RPM Drive and the memory and it got here a week later.  Plenty of time for me to shake down the Thinkpad and make sure everything worked and could be moved off onto the server when the reload was going to happen.

Yesterday the hardware arrived and the great upgrade began.

First.  Ground myself, and open the machine up.  The old Thinkpads used to have a convenient door you could easily open and pop memory out.  User Upgradeable Parts are meant to be accessible like an old Tube Radio set. This thing made you take out four screws, snap the hand rest slash trackpad out and unplug it from the machine, then swap out the memory.  I wouldn’t tell “Mom” to do it, but it isn’t all THAT hard.  It took me 10 minutes and would have been less if I hadn’t dropped a needed screw under the couch.

Second.  I tied the machine back together and swapped in the brand new hard disc drive.  Five minutes max.  Yes, I dropped the screw on the floor, what did you expect?  Easy replacement, really.  I’ve done it dozens of times.

Now I have a machine with 4GB of memory, new hard drive, and no operating system.

Since it was 5pm, I grabbed my official shiny and Oh So Legal copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64bit that I had gotten in a care package for answering a survey along with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, and Visio.  Yes, I’m that guy who LEGALLY has all that stuff.  Just wanted to make that clear.

I dropped in the copy of Windows and started the installer.  It wanted to format the hard drive into one partition of 100MB for scary weird unknown System Stuff and a 465GB partition for what we call “userland” where we put all our “stuff”.   You know, pictures of LOLCats and links to You Tube and the operating system.

When the format was done, I nudged the installer on to load up the operating system with Redmond’s Finest and of course fed the dog.   While Lettie was eating, I grabbed her gear, checked that the machine was still installing and went out for a lap around town.

When I got back, it was asking another question and was done.  Restart, clear it’s head, prepare for first use.

Been there and done that.  Windows 7 Pro install is pretty painless.  It asks you which network you want to use, a password if you have it, whether it is Home/Public/Private… all straightforward questions.  It was basically installed.

The rest of the night I was spending getting the required software on the machine for a bare bones minimum for what I need to do my 160 web pages worth of job search this morning.

Not knowing where the Microsoft Office discs were (They were hiding inside my credenza behind the old equipment, later found late that afternoon), I installed Libre Office.  I needed a spreadsheet, and Libre Office is a Free and Open Source alternative that 99% of the people out there could use instead of using MS Office.  If you don’t use Excel or Word as a power user, Libre Office is a great alternative.  What it doesn’t tell you is that if you download it you need to grab JavaOpen Office, from which Libre Office is derived, was a Sun product.  It was packaged with Java and now both Open Office and Java are part of Oracle.  Libre Office is not.  So download Java and all is well.

The problem is that Java seems to feel that you need some piece of garbage that is called the “Yahoo Toolbar”.  Under no circumstances does any user need a toolbar from any of the search engine companies, nor from any virus company or any other.   It merely is spyware.  It watches what you do and reports back to the company what you’re doing.  Toolbars are evil.  Got it?

When you install your software, take the Expert or Custom install and watch for that “Free Software”.  Make sure you uncheck that box because when you ask me why your machine is slow, that will be the first thing I will look for.

I needed Firefox and grabbed that installer.  Got through the install easily and installed two required “addons” to Firefox that makes life easier.

1) Adblock Plus which will block about 90% of those annoying blinky advertisements as well as a significant amount of spy sites and spyware from ever infecting your machine.  When you install it on Firefox, it forces you to restart your browser and asks you for a subscription.  I took the Easylist subscription that was offered when I restarted the browser.

2) Forecast Fox which merely puts the temperature and the weather conditions along with radar on the bottom stripe of your browser.  It strictly speaking is not a requirement, but if you live in a Hurricane or Tornado zone, it will tell you when you have an event coming.  Peace of mind is a requirement.

Virus Scanner.  For Windows, I use Microsoft Security Essentials.  If you have a legal copy of windows like I do, Security Essentials is completely free.  It also is seen as one of the best virus scanners out there and you won’t be forced to click through a lot of nonsense to do your work – like McAfee or Norton will make you do.  It is highly effective unlike AVG or Trend Micro.  It has caught quite a few trojans trying to install themselves on my computer in the past and it is what I recommend.

Or you can pay through the nose and be annoyed.

When I got all that installed, I found I needed the annoying to install Flash from Adobe.  Why is it annoying?  Well you start the installer and it will glower at you until you close the browser window that you had open in order to get the software in the first place.  So make sure you save all your web pages and all your work in this time that we’re transitioning to The Cloud.

One other install that was a requirement for me is Winamp. I start the morning grind and I have a lot of websites that stream music that I like instead of listening to commercial pablum on the radio here out of Miami.  The nice thing about having Winamp playing music is that I will know if Comcast and their shoddy infrastructure here “burps” and I lose connection.  I pay for an always up connection, I expect it.

When you install Winamp, take the custom install path, do not take the Yahoo Toolbar, and don’t take the extra links to the 50 free MP3s.  I’m sure you have enough music to listen to.  If you don’t surf DI.FM or the excellent Discover Trance for their 192KB Streams or if you don’t like trance, theres always my disco fix at Deevaradio.net for your listening pleasure.

That got me so I could get online, listen to music, and go through the morning routine.  There are a few things that are still missing, but that got me through the Morning.

Tomorrow, I start on installing PDF Reader and Writer software.  Yes, all for free.

The Pleasures of Upgrading a New PC – Triage

More like the trials and tribulations, but that is entirely a different story.

I am what you call a “Power User”.  I am that guy that people go to after they have found that their computer has stopped working, they went to a shop and found that a complete reload costs $200 and that they followed through and now it’s not working like it used to so “could you help me fix it”.

Er… maybe… depends on whether I’ve got the time, the inclination, and if I’m getting paid.

Hey it’s a capitalist economy, innit?

Recently I was handed a laptop.  It’s “surplus”.  It’s an older machine, specifically it is a Thinkpad T60.  Core 2 Duo processor that is still being sold as a bottom of the line machine today, but this is 3 years old.  The monitor was very dim to the point of not really being usable over long periods of time.  The hard drive was too small for my video editing and web development chores.   There wasn’t enough memory in it.  It ran Windows XP.

Since it is a Thinkpad, it will have a longer expected life than a bargain basement computer.  This one was loaded to the gills and was the “Screamer” when it was bought three years ago.

I had started to use it as my Multimedia Workspace when I got it.  It was more than adequate to do video editing.  I’d grab the video and “render” it into a final form after clipping out such things as I would not want to see in a finished product and it will render that video in less time than it takes to watch it.  If it’s not showing me the preview window, it does a 21 minute video in about 3 minutes.

The problem is that the panel was too dark to do “fine” work like the graphics that I am doing for the blog and for the various websites around town that I’m beginning to work on.  So this machine went back home to the repair centre in Memphis TN and got a brand spanking new panel.  Shiny bright and lots of little pixels for me to spread out on after being cramped on my old Acer.

Basically it’s a solid machine, although were I to buy a new in box machine, it wouldn’t be this one, it would be one with an i7 Quad Core Processor since I run a virtual PC in background as a rule, not an exception.

It will do, and it will do nicely, but it wasn’t my first choice until the visit of a client a couple weeks back.

As I was doing some changes to a flyer for the church, I handed him the laptop to show him live what the changes would be like and found that the old graphics workbench had locked solid. The only thing I did on that machine was to do Desktop Publishing and it just had locked.  Again.  I turned it off, recovered and the creaky six year old laptop that was “good enough” failed me again.  Clearly it wasn’t going to survive.   The data was safe on the hard drive, but the machine was giving up on me.

I switched over to my “production machine” a 5 year old Acer Aspire 5610 with a very cranky Left Mouse Button.  That machine was my “daily driver” that I did everything on it.  Much better than I expected an Acer to be, I forgave the cantankerous mouse button for its brilliant display that was just a wee bit too small at a widescreen 15 inches with the same resolution as a 720p HDTV.  Cramped for video editing and graphics work.

The Acer worked fine but as I handed it to the client, it too locked solid.  I questioned my technique but clearly there were two machines that needed to be retired.  The old Dell Inspiron was a Pentium M 1.6, way too slow for what I was doing.  The Acer was starting to act up.

Turning to the Thinkpad, we decided to get it fixed since the guts were new and the only thing wrong was the panel was dim.

I got it back last week and decided that while I could spend $900 to get the new machine it just was not happening.  Consulting is just barely breaking even for me, and this black T60 would have to do.  

So basically I’m going to recycle the Dell, ‘repurpose’ the Acer as a server (yes, a laptop server for low power consumption), recycle my old desktop server (P4 3ghz just doesn’t cut it) and move into the Thinkpad.

One for the price of three.

I’ve been living on machines that people have decided were not worth using any more since 2000 when I bought the last parts to upgrade the machine that eventually became my Server.  In all the time I have used PCs, I have bought exactly zero computers “New In The Box”, preferring to build my own desktops.

You see, I’m the Cobbler’s Child in a way.  My shoes are scuffed but serviceable.  They have to be because I have to fix them.