Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Holiday greetings

I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving, especially after years in customer service and retail sales, but I will enjoy the free paid holiday off from work. Speaking of work, here's a turkey tribute to our new favorite employee that was the highlight of emails yesterday:

I'm am however a big fan of games and will probably end up playing some on my day off. The Xbox 360 debuted yesterday, but I don't have one and still don't see any games I want yet anyway, so I'll stick with my PC and PS2. Here's two mindless Flash-based games for those unfortunate souls stuck somewhere else on the holiday without their game systems:

Turkey Pluck Game

Turkey Shoot

How about a Thanksgiving flub by everyone's favorite monopoly, Microsoft? If that doesn't make you chuckle, recently posted another entertaining cartoon and this one is a parody of the annual Macy's parade. Gotta love it!

Holiday greetz to all.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Personality types

From another one of those goofy, space-filling get-to-know-me quiz things:

You Have A Type A- Personality
You are one of the most balanced people around
Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want
You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back
Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!
You live life to the fullest - encorporating the best of both worlds

You Are Internal - Realist - Empowered
You feel your life is controlled internally.
If you want something, you make it happen.
You don't wait around for things to go your way.
You value your independence and don't like others to have control.

You are a realist when it comes to luck.
You don't attribute everything to luck, but you do know some things are random.
You don't beat yourself up when bad things happen to you...
But you do your best to try to make your own luck.

You have a good deal of power, but you also know the pecking order.
You realize that working the system does get you further.
You know who to defer to and who to control.
When it comes to the game of life, you play things flawlessly.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Office 12 first thoughts

Access 12

I'm waiting on a DTS package running on our SQL Server to transform the 2.6 million rows of data one of our clients provided to us, and figured now would be a good time to take a break and post some comments on the new Office 12 beta. After a few hours of timeouts last night trying to connect and download the software from Microsoft's site, I finally managed to get a copy and burn it onto a disc to bring with me to work. The installer was very simple, giving me the standard options of which components to install and had separate tabs to choose whether or not to uninstall any previous versions, change install directories, user name/initials, and other stuff... kind of nice compared to the kludge of the standard single-form installers that you require you to hit "Next >" three dozen times before it actually does any work.

After about 10 minutes, the setup program told me it was done and I fired up Access right away. Within those first five minutes of poking around, I felt like I was going to cry because of all of the neat little features that were now included and how sleek the interface looked. I deal with Access heavily here at work because everything is data-driven and the SQL Server 2000 is probably one of the hardest working components in the company. My front-end database required only one tweak--mostly for my benefit--to use the mouse wheel to scroll through records on a form. Other than that, a few picturebox controls had minor troubles with z-ordering and things felt a little more sluggish than what I have been used to in Access 2002, but all seemed well with the new version.

Excel 12

I moved on to Excel next, loading up my budget without any problems. I added a few recent transactions and adjusted a few numbers for tomorrow's paycheck before moving through some of the new ribbons (Microsoft's term for the panes that are replacing the menus). Something that nagged me while using Access, but didn't become apparent until now were the icons. Most of them were the soft icons using the new Vista theme, but a few were red dot placeholders. A few icons didn't have hi-res versions, so a lower-resolution icon was scaled making it look a bit odd compared to the rest. Hovering over some of the icons also brought up a large help bubble, though not all of the icons have help text yet and some that do have very sparse help messages. Overall, I'm still rather impressed.

Next, I figured I'd try out Word, but I wasn't expecting too big of a shock after seeing the other two apps so far and viewing preview screenshots online from the recent PDC. This was the application that dragged the whole experience down. I am so used to the menus, and as was explained before at the conference there will be a larger-than-normal learning curve. I felt lost and out of place because I couldn't find things... I knew in which menu a certain option was buried, but with the ribbons it just seems like lots of features are missing. My guess is that they are just rolled up into more intuitive options and buttons, but they're just not obviously apparent. Well, how about the built-in help? I hit F1 and a minute later, the help application starts to show up, slowly loading something. When it finally finished, all it could show me was a screen that nagged me to take their survey online. Fiddling with the options, it appears that the help isn't completed (I guess I shouldn't be surprised) and the only available source is the online help over the internet. Unfortunately, that wouldn't work because we're behind a firewall here at work and I couldn't connect. I gave up on the online help and tried to pull up a few documents that all loaded without a problem. Giving myself a few minutes to get used to the interface, I am starting to feel more comfortable with it and realize that it now looks more like a professional desktop publishing application than a word processor.

The final checkmark on the list belongs to Outlook. Wait... where is it? I ran the setup application again to double-check that it was installed, and it showed all of the sub-components were X'ed out. I selected all of them and let setup do its thing once more. I opened my Start Menu and finally there was the familiar yellow clock icon. It showed me a box that made it look like it would import my previous settings, then gave me about three or four error messages before completely bombing out. My guess is that it relies on the other components I didn't download yet including some kind of Office server software. I guess I will need to finish downloading those other components tonight when I get back home before testing this application out.

So all in all, I'm really impressed with what I see so far. It's extremely stable for a beta product and no glaring bugs (that I've noticed anyway) have popped up yet. The whole suite has a very consistent look and feel about it (very fluffy), but the software is still definitely in a pre-release state with its' incomplete icons and features. The interface is definitely not for anyone with a small monitor (less than 17") or using a low resolution (1024x768 or less). I'd like to see more customizing available on the ribbons and an easier method of switching views in Access, otherwise I don't have many gripes about it all yet. I'm sure things will change after more use, though. This is definitely a great start for the next generation of office productivity software. Oh look, my DTS package finally finished running, too! =)

*UPDATE* 11:30PM: I found out that Outlook has more essential subitems under the main subitems in the installer, mainly the library that handles .PST files. Re-selecting and installing this finally got it to work, but I'm disappointed to say that there isn't much difference from the 2003 version so far except a "To-Do Bar" and built-in RSS feed support.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Waiting for Office 12

How could I expect anything less from Microsoft? I came home from work tonight and was excited to find my invitation from them to download the Office 12 beta. After a few long pages of notes and instructions, I finally found the downloads. I click... and wait... and wait... and wait... nothing. Why, oh why, Microsoft, do you release something big like this and have "routine maintenance" scheduled at the same time? Your 15 minute downtime sure seems to be taking more than that, by at least an hour now. I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow. More later....

Monday, November 14, 2005

What type of 'smart' are you?

All-Around Smart

You are all-around smart. Essentially, that means that you are a good combination of your own knowledge and experience, along with having learned through instruction - and you are equally as good with theoretical things as you are with real-world, applied things. You have a well-rounded brain.

40% applied intelligence
20% natural intelligence

Take this quiz at

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fortune cookie says...

It's payday... my paycheck was already pretty much spent before I even got it this morning. I have to reserve some money for a Panda Express lunch, that's a given. And in my fortune cookie this time was this fortune:


Who gets paid to sit around and write this kind of fluffy crap? Natural grace? Yeah right, like a medical cutting laser... my idea of grace is getting in and out of the supermarket in 10 minutes or less without breaking a sweat using a predetermined shopping list of necessary items. Or how about the grace of silent flatulation in public spaces? I suppose that falls under my "great consideration for others" as well. Yeah, because that attribute shows up well as I'm yelling at stupid drivers on the way home, and that's a topic for another blog entry entirely.

Someone probably already came up with this idea, but we need fortune cookies for geeks, gamers, and other stuff like that. Chinese restaurants should have fortune cookie vending machines by the exits (they would make a killing on these), with the different styles of fortunes in different machines. Maybe even have sponsored weblinks printed on the back of each one. I have some ideas to get things started:

    Geek Fortune Cookies
    "Your skills at FORTRAN programming are outdated. Learn a new, recent language this weekend."
    "It doesn't matter how good you are in Counterstrike and Halo, there is always someone better."
    "There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't."
    "Be generous. Give your less-fortunate friends your old parts when you upgrade."
    "Just because your 19'' LCD monitor is sleek and sexy doesn't mean you are."
    Miscellaneous Fortunes
    "Spread the joy, share unlicensed anime fansubs with friends."
    "In today's society, money talks. How loud are you?"
    "Master of the Force, you are not."
    "You can always find happiness at work on Friday."
    "When life knocks you down, kick it in the nuts then point and laugh."
    "You are not a cynic, you are a realist."

Shame on you, Sony!

Read this now. Sony, I'm so disappointed in your underhanded tactics. If I weren't already dependent on some of your products (especially my PS2), I would join the boycott against you. Part of me wonders if this was just a publicity stunt to take away the oomph from your competitors. It is Microsoft's month of major software releases (Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, Windows Vista Beta 2) and the big release of the XBox 360 (already going for $1000+ preorder on eBay)... not to mention that Apple released their video iPod last month and they're one of your biggest challengers in the online entertainment arena. Only days after this became news, you happily released info on what you did so that you can look like it was in our best interests. Come on, not only is the software sloppy, but the artists didn't even know about this being done to their album and they don't approve of it now that they do know.