Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I make the rules

All mail programs let you set up filters to manage what gets into your inbox.  I find that people don't use these nearly enough. Not every message needs immediate attention; some can be moved to different locations. In addition, creating filters means you don't have to move messages into folders manually.

For instance, I get messages from a writing group I'm taking part in. In my Eudora mail client at home, those messages are put into their own folder so I don't have to have them clogging my inbox.

Here at Siena, we use Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web Access. Microsoft, as is all-too-often their wont, has given the filters a different name than what everyone else uses:  they call them rules.  I never could understand that thinking.  When there is a standard term for something, shouldn't everyone be using it? (Though I will give Microsoft a pass for not using the term "MAC address.")

In any case, you create these in Outlook by using the rules wizard.  In Outlook Web Access, there is a rules creation form (discussed as a part of forwarding e-mail, but the same instructions apply to other rules).

Using rules is especially useful when you subscribe to a mailing list. Some lists have hundreds of messages a day, so by creating a rule, you can keep them out of your inbox. It's also easier to manage them:  if you want to get rid of them, just highlight and delete.

With a judicious application of rules, you can save your inbox for messages that you really want to be notified about, while still keeping the others to read when you have the chance.

*The worst example was when Lotus Notes used "database" to designate what were essentially discussion boards.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Office 2007

No, not this one:

The Office Cast 

This one:

office logo

Siena will be deploying Office 2007 over the summer. It's a big change from Office 2003, and the biggest change in Office software in about 15 years. For the first time since then, things look different.  It's not hard to figure it out, but the first time you'll probably be confused. 

The first thing you need to know is one simple fact.  This:


is a button, not a design element. It's called the Office Button (sometimes, to add confusion, people call it "the pearl") and it works like the "File" menu in previous versions of Office.  I expect that most of our helpdesk calls from new Office users will be about issues that can be solved by clicking the Office Button.

Information about the roll out, plus some ways to get help, are on our Office 2007 page. It's still being built, but already has some tips and suggestions on how to use it.

I think overall most people will like using the new programs.  The menus, though different, are more logically designed. The new ribbon bar shows more options, and there are some great features built in. There are also new Office programs like OneNote (which I find a great tool) to make things easier.

I'll be talking about some of the new options from time to time here on the blog.  If you have specific questions, contact the call center.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best Game Ever

I've enjoyed several of the "missions" of Improv Everywhere, which sets up surprise -- well, I guess you'd call them performances -- in public places. The latest, though, is just wonderful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


We've been getting some complaints about e-mail messages flooding people's inboxes. It's evidently an issue with spoofed e-mail address.  As I said previously, Don't Panic.

I wish there were a solution to the problem, but spam is here to stay, and spammers don't care how many people they inconvenience.  If you're using Outlook, you can set up rules to keep these from being delivered to your inbox.  However, with bounce messages, it may be difficult to find a common phrase.

For faculty and staff, I'd suggest you create a folder in Outlook. Right click on your name in the list of folders and create a new folder. Then click on "Rules" under "Tools," and follow the prompts to move mail to the folder.  You can then check the folder to make sure that nothing important was accidentally sent there.

Students can also set up folders (using the same directions as in the previous paragraph) and rules in Outlook Web Access (there is a button for rules at the bottom left of the screen, but there are fewer options than with Outlook on the desktop).

These mailstorms pass. After a few days, the spammer will chose another e-mail address at random and you will stop getting the messages.  It's a pain, but there's just no way to stop someone from spoofing your e-mail address.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bungle in the Jungle

Back in July, I reviewed the major web browsers, including Safari. My conclusion then was that, for any practical use, Safari was by far the worst web browser of those I tried.

Well, it's been some time, and Safari has come up with a new and improved version (the one I reviewed was a beta version, too). So I decided to revisit.

The good news is that Safari is no longer #5 of the five I've tested; the bad news is that the reason for this is that Netscape is no longer being made.

At the time, I said the following about Safari:

The first problem is that Safari just doesn't get tabbed browsing. The default is to always open a new window for any links that require one; in order to use a tab, you have to hold down CTRL while clicking.

No change.  You still need to hold down the CTRL key to open a new tab.  Why is Safari the only browser that requires this?

There's also the built-in search. Where other browsers give you many choices of search engines for the bar (and MSIE and Opera allow you to add any site's search engine to the search), Safari gives you two: Google and Yahoo.

No change. Again, why is Safari the only browser that doesn't offer this?

The way Safari handles bookmarks is different without being better. Other browsers have a dropdown list of bookmarks, along with a way of creating a toolbar of your favorites. Safari has no dropdown list, just the toolbar.

No change.  And I didn't mention that managing bookmarks is fairly complicated (MSIE leads in that category).

The handling of RSS feeds is crude to say the least.

This has been improved slightly -- the feeds do notify you of changes.  But adding a feed is much more complicated than for other browsers:  it takes an extra step in Safari and is complicated to manage on the bookmark bar. 

In addition, there are no add-ins available, so what you get is what you get.

No change.

On the plus side, it does seem to be fast.  On the minus side, the text has a very blurred look, due to Safari's refusal to use Microsoft's text smoothing in preference to their own.

So, ultimately, the latest Safari is still just lost in the jungle again.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Look Ma. No Cable.

Whenever I'm at a loss for something to write here, I can always count on Kim Kommando to come up with an interesting web page to talk about.  Today it's

If you have a cell phone or PDA, it's sometimes inconvenient to have to synch to your PC in order to transfer files from your PC to your PDA.  There are also problems if you're not in the office. You may want to move a file to your PDA while you're at a conference, but, without your cable, you're out of luck.

So, what the solution?  Obviously, it's Beam-it-up-Scotty, or I wouldn't be asking the question.

It's simple to use.  Go to the site and upload the file. Then enter your phone number.  In a few moments, you'll get a text message with a link to download the file onto your phone.

The first time you try it, you'll be sent an e-mail to confirm.  Once you've done that, the text message will display, and you won't need to confirm again.

I wouldn't expect to use it often, but it's certainly a nice alternative if you left your cable at home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Just for fun: Hulu

If you need to kill some time watching movies or TV for free, you might want to check out

The site had dozens of movies and TV shows available to watch on your computer.  Think of it as the pro version of Youtube.

Some of the TV shows are currently in production, and others are old favorites.  I could find gems like the entire run of Arrested Development (a favorite of mine.  I didn't have to buy the DVDs) and the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The movies also include some nice surprises, from horror to Oscar-winning films.

The movies are free -- sort of.  You do have to watch ads in order to see them, but that's no worse than broadcast or cable, and you can watch whatever you want whenever you want to.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blogging made easy

Microsoft is trying to googlize itself by competing with the various Google apps (Just as Google is doing the same with Microsoft applications). They've rolled out their Windows Live service with a bunch of features.

I haven't been able to try them all, but the most impressive one is Windows Live Writer.

I've been using Googles Blogger/Blogspot for my blogs.  It's good, but I've had problems with formatting.  When start a new paragraph, I want a new paragraph, and Blogger seems to mash them together when you add a graphic.  I also don't care for the fact that when you add a graphic, it's always at the top of the post and wrecks havoc with the paragraphing.

Microsoft's Live Writer is desktop blog writing software. It works like a word processor, but takes into account how blogs work. You write your entry and then publish it to your blog, and yes, it works with Blogger/Blogspot.

There are also other features.  I haven't tested them out yet, though the mail looks interesting.  But you may want to check out Live Writer at the Windows Live website.