Genuine Disadvantage

Filed Under Computers & Tech on August 25, 2007 | 4 Comments

I have never been a fan of any system that makes life MORE difficult for people who pay for software than for those who pirate it. I also detest any company that treats all it’s clients like criminals. This is why I have issues with those music and movie studios who force DRM on people, and also with MicroSoft and their insultingly named “Genuine Advantage” program. To treat people like criminals because they were good enough to pay for your software is insulting enough. But then having the gall to call the spyware they force upon their customers to continually verify their non-criminality “Genuine Advantage” is just adding insult to injury. It was the invention of Genuine Advantage that proved to be the final straw that drove me away from Windows to Linux and then to OS X. Today, I feel I can rightfully say “I told you so”. Genuine Advantage is now BROKEN. It’s not 100% down but loads of people are having their valid Windows installs marked as pirated and cripled because of a major problem with the Genuine Advantage servers. At the moment the best estimate for a time to repair is next Tuesday! Many people who were good enough to actually pay for Microsoft’s mediocre OS are now being denied service by MicroSoft. Way to reward your loyal customers Bill!

[tags]MicroSoft, Windows, Genuine Advantage[/tags]

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Microsoft Start to Crack

Filed Under Computers & Tech on May 17, 2007 | 4 Comments

It’s no secret that I’m no Microsoft fan. Their business practices annoy me and the way they treat their customers like criminals makes my blood boil. I mean really, what exactly is the genuine advantage consumers like you and I get from ‘Genuine Advantage’? I’m a big fan of open source. I like the openness and the community and I think that approach leads to better software in general. Having said that I’m no Linux zealot. I do use it both at work and at home and do run it regularly as both a desktop and a server OS. However, I’m also a dedicated Mac user. One thing I do not own is a Windows machine. Linux and OS X all the way for me!

This week Microsoft provided me with yet another reason to hate them. They are now threatening to sue open source users for supposedly using their patents. Leaving aside the fact that I find software idea patents objectionable and a bad idea and that I think the American patent system is a disaster, this all strikes me as a great big load of FUD. MS are not naming the patents. They are just making threats. They are trying to use fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to scare people back to MS software.

[tags]Micorsoft, Litigation, Patents, Linux[/tags]

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Create PDFs for Free on Windows

Filed Under Computers & Tech on April 20, 2007 | 1 Comment

On the Mac you can turn anything you can print into a PDF for free right out of the box because the standard OS X Print Dialog has a button for making your print job into a PDF. Now you can get the same level of functionality for Windows for free with no strings attached (released under GPL) with PDF Creator. This works by providing a special printer driver that saves your print jobs as PDFs.

[tags]PDF[/tags]

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Passwords are an annoying fact of life in our modern electronic world. If you’re any sort of regular computer user you’re going to start building up quite a collection. You could use the same user name and password for everything, but that’s very insecure. Also, you often don’t have a choice of user name, or you can run into very restrictive password policies, either way it’s unlikely you’ll manage to get the same user name and password everywhere even if you tried! Remembering the details for things you log in to every day is never the problem. It’s the passwords for the things you only use a few times a month or even a year that cause the problems. Saving passwords in browsers can help a bit but it makes things even worse when you try to use another computer and of course your browser isn’t going to be any help when it comes to remembering your domain password at work or your FTP password for that website you only update every few months. On top of all your passwords you also have software registration codes to keep track of and your browser certainly isn’t going to help you with that. Inevitably you end up getting locked out of sites or services and having to re-buy software you’ve bought before because you can’t find your registration key.

[tags]PasswordVault, PasswordVault2Go, Lava Software[/tags]

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I’m probably a very rare beast, a Mac user who uses Thunderbird rather than Apple Mail. The reason I use Thunderbird is because I don’t like lock-in. I’ve had my same mailboxes on Windows, Linux and Mac, so I know that as long as I use Thunderbird I can move to any OS I want at any time and keep all my mail, contacts and settings completely effortlessly. I’d just have to copy one folder. It can certainly be argued that Thunderbird is less polished looking than Mac Mail and it has a few less features but on the whole it’s a very capable client that works well.

I’ve been using the basic features for years but of late the sheer volume of mail I have to deal with at work has led me to start experimenting with ways of making my life easier. The first optimization people generally think of is message filters so I’m not going to talk about those because I think they are pretty obvious and people are used to using them. Instead I’m going to give two hopefully less obvious tips.

[tags]Mozilla, Thunderbird, Email, To Do, Organise[/tags]

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It’s no secret that I’m not a Windows fan. There are many reasons I don’t like windows including idealogical disagreements with MicroSoft, a lack of faith and trust in MS, security concerns, usability issues etc.. I could go on but for this post only one reason matters, I feel very vulnerable on a Windows machine because I can’t see what it’s doing as easily as I can on Linux, Unix or OS X. There are many Linux command-line tools missing from Windows but now there is one fewer missing from my Windows machine in work. TCPDump is a Linux/Unix command for analyzing all the network traffic that is going to or from your machine. Errand network traffic is a good indicator that you have some form of spyware and being able to monitor traffic can be very useful for debugging network problems. There is a Windows port of TCPDump called WinDump. It’s not entirely straight forward so I’ll just go through how to install it and how to make it work. This will not be a tutorial on how to use TCPDump, for that go here. This is very much a tool for power-users, not regular Windows users.

[tags]Windows, Security, WinDump, TCPDump[/tags]

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I just got my first go on Vista (with Aero). I didn’t get to play with it much so these really are my first impressions. I’ll be playing about with it quite a bit over the next few months so I’ll post with more details later. I’ve been hearing for ages how much like OS X Vista is so I was expecting to say ‘wow, this feels familiar’. That was my first reaction, but not because it reminded me of OS X, no, because it reminded me of Windows XP. Sure, it looks much shinier than XP but the user experience is basically the same. There is no big paradigm shift. This is not like the jumpt from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 or arguably even from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. I was basically underwhelmed.

[tags]MicroSoft, Windows, Vista, OS X[/tags]

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CodeWeavers recently sent round a mailing about the release of the second beta version of CrossOver Mac. I didn’t have time to play with it straight away but over the weekend I gave it a go. The upgrade was not problem free but it did fix one of my problems with CrossOver, IE now seems to work properly.

[tags]Apple, CrossOver, CrossOverMac, OS X, IE[/tags]

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Yesterday, Codeweavers released a public beta of CrossOver Mac. This software lets you run Windows programs on Intel Macs without rebooting, without running a virtual machine, and best of all, without installing Windows at all. I've been waiting for this since the switch to Intel, to me this is the Holly Grail! I don't consider BootCamp to be a proper solution, you have to buy Windows and you have to reboot to change OS. Parallels is a step in the right direction, but you still have to buy Windows and you have a large overhead because you have to run two OSes at the same time. CrossOver on the other hand utilises WINE technology to allow Windows Apps run straight on OS X. Your Windows Apps even share your regular file system and home directory. This means you have one file system, the OS X one, so your files are all in the one place and your Windows Apps are subject to OS X's security restrictions. The minute I read the news report on this I downloaded the beta and installed it. This is a quick review of my first impressions.

[tags]OS X, Windows, WINE, CrossOver[/tags] Read more

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I unfortunately need to run one Windows application at work (Remedy for managing user-support calls) so I need some form of access to Windows from my Mac. Dual boot is just not an option, I need remedy running in one Window and everything else I need to actually solve the users’ problems in other windows all at the same time. There is a very old Windows machine in my office that is just used for Remedy so in theory I could move over to that machine each time I need Remedy but that’s just annoying so I’ve been using VNC and it worked OK but I couldn’t copy and paste and the lag was a bit annoying. Anyhow, today a colleague was looking for something else on the MS site and found a Mac version of the Windows Remote Desktop Client and me the link. I’ve just installed it and I have to say I’m well impressed. The app is small, efficient, fast and very user-friendly to configure. I have no problem with lag anymore and can copy and paste to/from the windows machine. It even has a cute icon! Basically everything I expect from Apple Apps but it’s a MicroSoft App! Here’s the link: www.microsoft.com/mac/otherproducts/otherproducts.aspx?pid=remotedesktopclient

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