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Friday, July 30, 2010

Why no portable Office from Microsoft? OpenOffice is portable.

When .Net was introduced to the world, one of the features touted was an XCopy Deployment mode. That is one can simply copy a software suite from one location (a remote server) and drop it onto your local drive and it just works. None of these heavy weight installation program requiring administrative rights. In .Net 2, Microsoft further enhanced this with the ClickOnce deployment.

Sadly, there is still not one product from Microsoft that utilizes this XCopy deployment - this is a classic case of "Do as I preach and Not as I do". There are plenty of products from other parties that have achieved this 'XCopy Deployment' mode and they fall into a class called the Portable Applications. Notice the complete absence of any Microsoft's contribution in this area.

Just about every competitor to Microsoft has portable version: Browser - Portable Firefox, MailClient/Outlook - Portable Thunderbird, Office - Porftable OpenOffice, Messenger - several portable ones, such as Portable Pidgin, the list goes on. Even poor old Microsoft's WordPad has been made portable and enhanced but not from Microsoft.

The Portable OpenOffice is so convenient not having to install the 500lb Gorilla called Microsoft Office just to write some documents. So why Microsoft has tried to preach the features of XCopy/ClickOnce while itself refrain from using them?

Sure, the portable version does not support the Object Linking And Embedding or OLE Automation. In most cases, people do not need them. Besides there are portable applications that when installed into the hard drive can provide that kind of features. I am sure Microsoft can figure that out.

It is not a technical impediment. I think the main reason Microsoft has not dared to venture into this area is MONEY. How can you force someone to activate when it is a portable application? If Microsoft cannot force people to activate their 'portable' application, it can't force people to pay them. The only way Microsoft's money tree continues to thrive is to force the users to cement the applications deeply rooted into the machine's hard drive. To hell with users' convenience.

Back to Portable OpenOffice's (version 3.2.0) word processing module. I am extremely impressed with its capability and pound for pound matching the expensive MS Office. Sure no eye-candy of MS Office 2007 but who cares. Sure there are quirky stuff in MS Office that OpenOffice can't do but are they in the frequently used features demanded by majority users? The best part is that I do not have to install it. If I am working on a Virtual Machine and needing something to write with more capability than Wordpad, I simply operate either from a USB drive or drag the suite onto the Virtual hard drive. Not need to go through the pain of installation followed by dreaded activation which disturbs the machine's environment. Often activation will fail because it has already been activated previously!

Previously I have been rather skeptical of the performance and reliability of OpenOffice but after having spend days on it writing lengthy document recording my experiment, I am mightily impressed by it. It is free and it does not bother me with Activation. That's how software should be deployed.

If it can function with the Tablet PC's TIP (Tablet Input Panel), I will install it into my Tablet PC and ditch the 500lb gorilla.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One would expect an online bank to know QIF file format? Don't count on www.ingdirect.com.au

INGDirect has been caught previously for corrupting the download transaction data, now it has even failed to encode the download transaction data in correct QIF format.

Consider the following excerpt of the downloaded transaction in QIF format:

PDeposit - Interest Credit
PDeposit - Deposit from linked bank account
The bit in red should not be there. I have to run a filter to get rid of those offending records before it can be imported properly.

Sad to find an online bank does not know basic stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No need to use VPC2007 or Windows Virtual PC in Windows 7

If you are using a home edition of Vista or Windows 7 and is discouraged by the money grabbing exercise of Microsoft trying to frighten you into buying a Pro or higher edition just so that you can run your VPC Virtual Machine in peace don't worry.

There is a better & free way to run your VPC VM by following these steps:
1) Get a copy of free VMPlayer 3.0 and install it into your machine. The installation does not contain any frighten languages like installing VPC2007SP1 in Vista or Windows 7.

2) Then download the Converter and install it. This converter can convert your VPC VM to VMPlayer format without loss of data. You don't even need to have VPC installed in your machine to convert, just the VMC & VHD files will do. After that you can ditch Microsoft's VPC for good.

This converter is more powerful than converting VPC VM to that on VMPlayer, it can convert a physical machine to a virtual machine, something even Microsoft's tool can't do.

I have just converted one of my VPC VM in my Windows 7 Home Edition to VMPlayer and thoroughly enjoying it. I don't know why anyone would want to bother with Microsoft's VPC which is hostile to Home Edition owners.

Friday, July 2, 2010

KeePass v1 or KeePass v2

The pros and cons of KeePass V2 and V1 have been discussed previously.

Finally I have decided to switch allegiance to V1. What sways me over is the problem in V2 needing .Net framework 2. While progressively more and more machines are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, but there are still plenty of WinXP machines out there.

In fact, I was using one that does not have .Net Framework 2 and I was going to use to configure my modem/router. In that situation, I could not use my KeePass v2 database and I did not feel like installing .Net Framework 2 just to run this program. It is kind of defeating the portability advantage of KeePass.

With XP, you cannot count on it having a .Net Framework 2 on it. Without it, your KeePass V2 database is as good as corrupted.

To avoid being left out in the cold, I exported the KeePass v2's kdbx file format to KeePass V1 database format and use the V1.17 instead.

Performance-wide, it starts a lot faster. Until the day when .Net Framework is so widespread that it is not a issue or KeePass organization stops maintaining V1, I will then upgrade to V2.

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