Archive for January 2009
While recently browsing through today's "The Hindu", I came across an interesting article indicating about offline access capability that Google Mail labs is introducing step-by-step into each of its webmail users' accounts. Check out the news article here. A quick note on the features of this facility are:
- Supported on IE 7, FF 2.0 and FF 3.0
- Mail Downloads upto 2 year old only (depending on mail volume)
Check out the newest set of CodeProject MVP Winners chosen by CodeProject in the new year 2009 here. Let us use this opportunity to congratulate the winners and wish them more success in the new year.
Our laptop had been an inseparable component in our day-to-day life. Wherever we move, we carry our laptop to ensure the following:
- Keep us hooked on to our organization network
- Help us in storing and noting down important things besides helping us keeping in touch with others
However, the laptop itself, by virtue of different dimensions had been the bone of contention for many particularly with regard to the weight and the burden of carrying it. I just came to know of a new product launch called 'Microsoft Rolling Laptop Bag' on a duffel style from SamSill website over here. Besides being the normal laptop bag, it also serves the valuable duffel role for our other belongings. However, please be aware that the things you carry in the bag along with you in the cabin should conform to your airline and security restrictions, rules and regulations. Check out this TSA page for more details.
Just a while back, one of my friend called me and asked what WebCam to purchase? I asked him why. He was telling me that one recruitment consultant just called him a while back towards some opportunities in 'Tata Interactive' (Mumbai) and if shortlisted for the interview, the interview procedure is like through a webcam between 11 AM and 5 PM during weekdays. I was wondering about this peculiar interview strategy.
Well! I launched Windows Live Search to find out more about available WebCams. The one that appealed to me was LifeCam NX-300 which seemed to be a compact web cam with some of the cute and innovative features, at least from the website point of view:
- HD 1.3 MP Photos
- Video support
- 3x Zoom
- Focus Field: 21` to 60`.
Again the price is about 59.95$ and hence I have asked a couple of my friends in US to see if there are better deals to avail for the same. Anyways, I just thought I would also share this with other interested readers.
Check out the product's official website over here.
I was just browsing through Microsoft Hardware for new stuff and came across an interesting hardware called 'Microsoft Arc Mouse'. I observed that the following are the good features of this new launch:
- An elegant blend of serving as a desktop and notebook Mouse by elongating and compressing its size and dimensions.
- Wirefree nature.
- A cool, clear and succinctly distinctly visible battery indicator.
The downside is that I feel the price is however is little costly to about $59.95. I just thought I would anyway share this with other interested readers.
If you have previously attempted to use Windows Live Manual Help from within the small 'Help' icon of your Windows Live Hotmail, you would have realised that it is a half-duplex conversation in that you (as a user) ask question to Microsoft/Windows Live helpdesk consultant and the call center sends a personalized reply to your mailbox. I have been observing the following change about a couple of weeks back. The 'More Help' goes to a forum called http://windowslivehelp.com/, which is branded as 'Hotmail Online Solutions Center'.
Though it is linked to Windows Live ID, it asks you to create another username. There is also one bug that intermittently it forgets to link the username with Windows Live ID. I have also reported the same to Windows Live Team. However, the significant feature of this move, as I feel, would be colloborative solution of the problem leading to enhanced user experience.
If you have recently logged onto your Windows Live Hotmail or Windows Live Calendar, you would be greeted with more pleasing interface accompanied by more powerful features as well. Alongside with that, there is a note that erstwhile MSN Calendar is being supplanted by Windows Live Calendar which is slowly coming out of beta shell. Going the FAQ about migration of MSN to Windows Live for Calendar services, the following are some of the dates that we may need to remember:
- Possible Date of Calendar Moves Completion: March 1, 2009
- Retiration of MSN Calendar: July 1, 2009
- The FAQ however also mentions that these dates are subject to change.
At least from a quick tour of Windows Live Calendar, the following are some of the good features I could see:
- Shared Calendars like 'Holiday Calendar'.
- Third Party Calendar Import through URL or ICS file.
- Calendar sharing
These moves should help us plan and coordinate our activities more clearly and help us in streamlining our time management more effectively.
Whilst casually surfing on the Internet, I just came across another novel venture from Microsoft, by name 'Microsoft HealthVault'. You can access 'HealthVault' at this URL. Some of the features that I could learn from HealthVault are:
- A one-stop place to organize and record health related information about us and our family.
- Have calculated decisions about health in good advance.
- The website is currently in 'BETA'.
- The website uses Windows LiveID for authenticating yourself and hence you may need to confirm to additional terms and conditions of Windows LiveID as well.
- At least as of now, HealthVault services are restricted to United States signup only.
The most coveted Sun Solaris Unix is now available without even pinching your poor dialup modem. Sun OpenSolaris is now accepting requests for FREE OpenSolaris CD. Check out the following OpenSolaris CD request form over here. You may need to register for a free Sun Online account and logon to request for the free OpenSolaris CD.
Whilst casually browsing Microsoft Learning website, I came to know about a novel learning methodology that is being developed and introduced over there. They have named it as 'Learning Snacks'.
"Learning Snacks" is a series of short interactive presentations about most popular topics and these topics are created by experts from Microsoft. To view and use Snacks, you need to use a web browser which is enabled with Microsoft Silverlight. Don't worry. Silverlight is just a four mega byte download and a 10 second install runtime for your web browser.
Check out "Learning Snacks" website from here.
For those interested in taking Microsoft Certification examinations and for those who have taken but have not been able to see through it successful, Microsoft has come out with a lucrative time-limited 'Second Shot' offer where you avail a unique discount voucher which entitles you to take the second shot at no cost. You can find more details about it over here.
How it works?
- Register for Second Shot on the Microsoft Web site and receive an exam voucher number.
- Schedule and pay for your initial exam through the Prometric Web site, call center,* or test center.
Note You must have the voucher number before you register.
- Take the exam.
- If you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, register for your free retake exam through the Prometric Web site, call center,* or test center by using the same voucher number. Then, take your Second Shot
The offer expires on June 30, 2009. [Source Courtesy: Offer Details]
Whilst casually visiting Microsoft India website, I came to know about another set of Microsoft Virtual TechDays that are being scheduled to be organized between February 18, 2009 to February 20, 2009 between 1000 hours to 1900 hours Indian Time (Feb 17, 2009 2330 Eastern to Feb 18 2009 0830 Eastern).
Unlike other events that are being organized where one needs to travel, this is now a more comfortable learning of new things from Microsoft. I hence thought of sharing the same with other interested readers too. Check out Microsoft Virtual TechDays website here for more details and registration over here.
With these days, websites designing multiple small pieces of information gathering in a single website, it is always a safer way to first HIT escape to instruct the web browser to stop loading any of the information, trigger onLoad script and then to manually focus on the username/password dialog to enter the credentials. The reason being, if we directly focus on the username field and type the username. By the time we tab to password field and start typing the password, if the page (automatic) load completes, there might be a script which would cause a setFocus to another search textbox. If that is the case, the password might start appearing on that textbox.
I have observed the following crazy behavior with a few websites:
- Inbox.com The cursor auto-focusses on the search and it would start autosuggesting the moment it gets the keystrokes.
- Yahoo.com There are very many times when Yahoo login page shows a distorted screen and then automatically resizes itself bringing the DIV up. When this happens the following breaks happen:
- The credentials box are reset. [No Problem]
- The password half appears on the login field.
I just came across GoogleMail's cool way of editing or delinking the automatically hyperlinked text because of rich text editor in Compose Box. The following are some of the cool features of this applet which popsup when you mouseover near the hyperlink in your Google Mail compose dialog:
- Option to change the hyperlink or remove it.
- Ability to quickly edit the text and link target
- An ability to test the hyperlink to see what has been typed is without any errors.
- A link to a search engine to get the URL
Though it looks a very simple feature, it is very helpful in that it is able to comfortably edit the hyperlink instead of going deeper manually editing the HTML source and hyperlinks.Check out a presentation on the various screenshots of this feature here.
Just whilst casually browsing through Microsoft website, I read the technical announcement about Microsoft TechEd 2009. The event details are hereunder:
Date: May 11 to May 15, 2009
@ Los Angeles, California
You can check out more details from Microsoft TechEd page and proceed to register here.
I just came to know from a mailer regarding open registrations for Microsoft Mix 09 from March 18 to March 20. You can check out the Mix 09 homepage from here. The registration website is available here. The event pricing table is as below:
|Conference Registration:||$1395 USD|
|Workshops Registration:||$295 USD|
|Academic Discounted Registration*:||$595 USD|
Workshops: March 17, 2009 Conference: March 18-20, 2009
The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South
The event team has also given the following email address for any details MIX09 (at) ustechs.com. There are discount offers too. Registrations by February 13 using RSVP code MIX09offer can help save upto $400 and to get you a discounted conference pass.
There are cases where the name field should be able to take first name and middle initials and the best design would be to allow intermediate spaces too. Similarly, allow free form telephone number instead of masking them country wise since there are cases where phone numbers are shared with a pilot number by an organization and extension number might be the only way to route calls.
http://www.community-credit.com/ is a very good example of having usernames with embedded spaces since migration of their old login system to new one. They have pleasant script validations which don't scare you with popup message boxes but just flag the required fields.
One of my friend got the habit of using Shift+Delete always instead of Delete. Windows has the good habit of moving the files to recycle bin when using Delete*, so that in case you discover that the deletion is inadvertant and/or accidental, you always have an opportunity to resurrected the eliminated entity from the Recycle Bin/Trash Can^. Once he ran into deleting an important application folder and he had to spend countless hours in troubleshooting the system repairing it and reinstalling the application besides the untold misery of recovering the data from backup and a little re-work in making up the loss due to his negligence and overlookup.
Let us try and make use of builtin Windows safeguard+ for our file system entities.
*Does not work for removable drives and network volumes.
+You may also debate that over a period of time, there might be disk full conditions because of temp drive space. There are the following workarounds for the same. You can periodically run through a space reclamation process on your temp volumes. You can read through my recent experience in a periodic disk space reclamation process.
^ Please note that Recycle Bin is not an infinite Sink. Recycle Bin can be configured a single per centage space for all disk drives or as a percentage of space in each disk volume. When there is no space available to hold the deleted items, the DELETE automatically behaves like SHIFT+DELETE and Windows would throw a warning message similar to this effect. You may also observe a similar warning message for Internet Explorer, Inbox icon in Deskop.
All File Deletion is a Disputed Transaction in Windows Explorer but an Iterative Delete in Dos Prompt
I normally have the habit of cleaning up the temp folder in my Windows on a regular basis so that it does not unnecessarily eat away the hard disk space. However, I observed two distinct behavior between Windows Explorer and MSDOS prompt of the temp folder.
- To avail the friendly GUI services, we normally resort to CTRL+A and DELETE.
- Attempts to delete the folder and files one by one. But even when one file could not be removed due to permission restriction or 'The process can not access the file because it is being used by another process' error, it just aborts without visiting remaining files in the folder.
- Moves the folder to Recycle Bin
- A generic progress bar of the progress of deletion is indicated by a GUI popup.
- Recurses into folders and repeates (2) through (4).
- Command Used: del . and press y when prompted.
- Attempts to delete the folder and files one by one. But when a particular file could not be deleted, it emits an appropriate error message along with the erring file but resumes with the next file.
- Does not move the file to Recycle Bin but permanently purges it.
- At least the command used in (1) does not recurse through the folders.
Windows, at least a quick layman's view seems to be nurturing an incomplete transaction implementation. If one debates that the file deletion should be aborted like in a transaction, then the files/folders that were deleted should also be rolled back and restored to the current state right?
It is said that we should never keep lock and key very close to each other. Similarly, the ATM Card and its pin should never be kept together. ATM Guard is like a guard for our savings account and the associated PIN is like a key. Having them together is like crazily opening a red carpet welcome to the burglar.
Humorously, I just found a very similar combination in the Windows Security dialog of Windows XP today. The 'Lock workstation' and 'Logoff' has keyboard accelerator keys like k and l very near to each other. When the system is open and I want to logoff, in more cases and in particular hurry, I often dip the K key instead of L, which forces me to login and again and then logoff. Interestingly, even in keyboard (QWERTY), the K and L are quite to close each other.
Just thought of sharing this little humor on a weekend Saturday.
Starting Windows XP, there seems to be a promising feature of having arbitrary volumes to be write protected. However, there aren't any free or easy to use tool that is available towards making use of this feature. Joeware has released a free tool towards filling this gap. The tool is a small commandline and is available for a free download after you enter your email address (optional) on his website over here.
I think, this should be a very good tool for Windows administrators to add to their routine debugging toolbox.
Recently, a friend asked me if there is an easy way to calculate the distance between two zipcodes of US. I was suggesting him that he can give a try on Google Maps API. A little more deeper research on the Internet gave me a nice opensource tool called ZipDy which is based on PostGreSQL database to store all zipcodes and distances.
You can download ZipDy from here.
- Calculate the distance between any two zipcode
- Query the database for all address records within a specified mile direction of a particular zipcode.
- Script confirmations like 'Are you sure ...' to be used only when it is absolutely necessary like deletion of a problem (where the action reversing is too difficult or cumbersome or is impossible).
- Inputs through scripting is indeed a very bad practice. As a security precaution, web browsers like Internet Explorer block script based inputs.
- Popup flooding is one another bad thing that most of our Indian websites resort to. Typical ones are Rediff. I really don't find a valid reason for that much amount of popup flooding on the users. When a gentle text based advertising like Google Adwords, TextAds could be used, I really don't find a valid reason on why people still keep subscribing to weird ideas like rude popup windows.
- Whenever a content is to be indicated like Terms and Conditions, preferably show them as inline HTML in the same theme as the website instead of hyperlinking to a .DOC or a .PDF page.
- Avoid Mailto URLs
- Have the images compressed and do not try including a 1 mega byte BMP for a normal website image.
Readers: What do you feel? Please share about what type of features you like and what you don't like in a typical web presentation?