a small form of happiness is

… a USB key with the irritating U3 software uninstalled.

Seriously, U3 is a major annoyance if you:

  • use Mac
  • use Linux
  • work on a PC with locked-down permissions
  • work on a PC with a one-letter drive gap (like having D: and F:, but no E:); U3‘s read-only system will appear in the gap, but your data won’t be accessible.
    (It’s not really U3‘s fault. The fact that Windows still has drive letters amazes me; why don’t they go for the whole 70s thing and have punch cards and gargantuan 5MB hard disk packs?)

All four of the above apply to me, so u3 uninstall.exe is my friend.

the great lost opportunity

I’ve always thought that Adobe missed a great opportunity when they didn’t make their basic PDF writer freely available for Windows. Other OSs now have transparent print-to-PDF options. If you’re lucky, a corporate PC might have MS Office Document Image Writer installed, but a 300dpi monochrome TIFF can’t compare to a PDF.

Still, one can always install PDFCreator (if you have admin rights to the PC, of course). It’s a shame they decide to bundle a marginally dodgy toolbar/spyware package with it, but you don’t get that if you use the MSI installer package.

keyed up

Aiee, I forgot how a keyboard under Windows works! I’m hitting Backspace when it’s wanting Delete, and Alt when it wants Ctrl.

Macs’ll do that to ya, eh?

windows is killing usability, pt. 314

Sent some urgent data to a client yesterday. This morning, a couple of frantic e-mails in my inbox: “Our IT dept has blocked zip files ‘cos they’re a security threat. Please resend!”

So basically, Windows now means we have to:

  1. create the zip file
  2. rename it to .zap, .zep, .zop, .zup, … or whatever
  3. send the file
  4. the recipient has to save the attachment, and rename the file.

Listen, I want to go to a sensible place today. How long will it be before those alternative endings are compromised (or that Windows gets a less lobotomised security model)?

compose yourself!

Just one of the things that I really, really hate about Windows is its lack of a sane way of entering accented characters. People are forced to do is remember arcane character codes, like Alt+0235 to get ë. I’m sorry, but I don’t get why one should need to remember these numbers.

Suns have a Compose key, that works conceptually a little like backspacing on a manual typewriter. To get e-umlaut, you type Compose + (either together, or one after the other) then e. It’s a system thing, and it works in all applications. A table of compose key sequences shows the huge range of special characters you can access in this way. Most Linux machines support this too; I have right Alt bound as the Compose key.

I need the same facility for Windows. An MS tech staff blog entry basically hints that it can’t be done. But it is being done, admittedly half-heartedly, by MS-Word; if you search for accent in the Help, you can find Insert an international character by using a shortcut key. Word has done this for years, so why isn’t it in the OS?

How To Fix A Crashed & Screaming QuickBooks Timer

We use QuickBooks Timer to track our billing hours. It seems to crash with great regularity whenever you finish entering an item. When it does this, its usual two note happy acceptance chirp turns into a squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee that goes on and on and on …

I’ve found a way of fixing this without rebooting:

  1. Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del, and call up the Task Manager
  2. Select QuickBooks Timer, and ‘End Task’ (it may take several tries)
  3. Open a command prompt, and hit Ctrl-G, then Enter
  4. After beeping, and complaining that ” is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file, the beeping will stop.

This has been a public sanity announcement.

why I hate windows, part 314

I’m due to give a presentation now. It was prepared in WordPerfect Presentations. Exporting it to PowerPoint breaks the formatting. Exporting that to OpenOffice breaks it even further.

You’d think that printing from WordPerfect Presentations to Adobe PDFWriter might give bearable results. You’d be wrong; the formatting’s off, words are missing, the whole thing’s really ugly. Bleah.

using MIME::Lite from ActiveState Perl on Windows

Wouldn’t you know it, but Windows just has to do things its own way. I’ve just started writing periodic system monitoring programs for our met station network, and needed to send e-mail. Under Unix, it was a simple matter of using MIME::Lite, and calling:


But Windows doesn’t do sendmail, so you have to talk to the SMTP server directly:


That seems to work.

my monitor crashed!

I use a Samsung SyncMaster 171s, and it has this weird quirk every now and again. It decides to fade to white with chilling slowness. I used to think it was Windows 2000 crashing, but the system’s okay if I hit the ‘Auto Calibrate’ button on the monitor.

Maybe it needs exorcism.