26 October 2009

Windows 7, iTunes, Windows Media Center

Big tip: If you are an iTunes user DO NOT RUN WINDOWS MEDIA CENTER. It will change permissions and make iTunes unusable if you allow it to access any of your media libraries.

Think of the children - don't do it!

Oh, and it broke synching with my iPhone - iTunes now says it doesn't have enough permissions to synch.

The issues:

If you point WMC at your iTunes library it will try to reorganise things, and then iTunes will try to fix things, and if you backup your music you will backup both versions, and it all ends in tears.

So you decide to remove your iTunes music, photos and other media from WMC's libraries. Under Windows 7 this removes those folders from your Windows 7 libraries, and iTunes gives its unhelpful error message.

The fix:

Once you've gone into services.msc and disabled all the Media Center services, go into your photos and music folders in the Start menu - you may find they're empty. Add in your actual folders (and optionally check permissions) and you're good to go in iTunes again.

Oh, and iTunes is such a bad application - it locks your PC while it tries to talk to your devices, it's slow...

15 October 2009

Sale of CCH Workflow

CCH Workflow is being sold by Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific to e-law.

CCH Workflow Solutions was originally Diskcovery, a litigation support company. Wolters Kluwer bought them out some years ago and brought them under the CCH banner. However, to most industry players this was an 'interesting' play, because litigation support wasn't really part of CCH's core functions of professional services information provision.

So, somewhat unsurprisingly it hasn't really worked out for Wolters Kluwer, and is probably a good acquisition for e-law. However, a lot of CCH Workflow customers would also have been customers of e-law, so the buying price may not have been too high!

The first retrenchments have been announced.

14 October 2009

Cyberspace November 2009

Extending the browser

I rarely use Internet Explorer as my web browser; I mainly use Firefox 3.5 because of Firefox's superior and extensive range of "Add-ons" (http://addons.mozilla.org/). These add-ons, or extensions, extend Firefox's abilities and you only need to install the ones you need. Here are a few I regularly use...

Research Do you regularly do research on the internet, especially in relation to useful parts of cases and legislation from sites such as AustLII (http://www.austlii.edu.au) or the NSW legislation site (http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/)? I regularly copy and paste information into a new document and track the url where I found it. Microsoft OneNote is good at that, but requires Internet Explorer, so I've tried a few other ways and have settled on iCyte (http://www.icyte.com). It's a Firefox add-on that lets you select and clip parts of web pages, saving the selection, url, tags and notes in one step into logical collections. I very quickly found it enormously time-saving, and a great way to do any kind of internet research. It even works on large Intranets.

Passwords I go to hundreds of web sites that require a login of some sort. I have a couple of low security passwords that I regularly use, but I require a number of complex one-time passwords for several important sites. I just can't remember those passwords, much less which one I used at a given site. Roboform (http://www.roboform.com) and lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) are both excellent password managers, but I'm a longtime Roboform user and prefer it. Lastpass is free and almost as good.

Favourites Bookmarks or favourites are great to have, but by default they only exist on one computer. If you go home or change computers you don't have access to your other bookmarks. There are many solutions to this problem, but I prefer Delicious (http://delicious.com/) which is owned by Yahoo! You can store and categorise and even share your bookmarks, and the Firefox plug-in is quite powerful. You can also access your bookmarks if you are using someone else's computer or at an internet cafe.

Switching While Firefox is a better web browser than Internet Explorer, there are times when you need IE. The add-on IE Tab solves this by allowing you to stay in Firefox but use the IE rendering engine either on a custom basis or permanently for selected sites.

Task management Outlook's task management is pretty crude, and I've found that RTM (http://rememberthemilk.com) provides far greater ease of use, it's not bound to one computer or system, and plugs into GMail and iGoogle. Creating a new task by typing "Tomorrow at 9:30 ring James" or "Get haircut every three weeks" is pretty intuitive, and repeating tasks can be made to reset when the previous task is actually done, not when it was scheduled to be done (useful for haircuts).

Speeding up the browser While advertisements help fund a lot of internet sites they are often obtrusive and particularly slow to load, which makes the whole page slower. Adblock Plus comes with a preconfigured list of sites that supply advertising copy, and it prevents data and images from those sites loading. You'll be amazed how much it cleans up a page and speeds things up. However, sometimes you will miss content because some suppliers provide both content and advertising from the same system.

Snapshots of web pages If you practice in intellectual property you may need to grab screen shots of web pages at points in time. One way is to use Adobe Acrobat, but FireShot is free and flexible.

13 October 2009

Consumer VoIP

I've been using VoIP at home for a while now, and it has been great value. A landline to mobile (cell) phone call on an Optus $49 cap for 9 minutes would cost AUD$7.55, but on my VoIP plan with www.pennytel.com it is AUD$1.00.

I found out recently that Pennytel is also a Virtual Mobile Operator, reselling Optus SIMs. I subscribed to one of these at $8 per month and set up their 'smart dials' which leverage a few tricks, and that $7.55 call cost me $0.14! I'm still amazed.

NB: the Optus call was calculated using their published rates of 0.35 flag fall plus 9 x $0.80 per minute.

12 October 2009

Why copyright is abused by booksellers

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 12 October 2009:

Australian Kindle users will have to pay about 40 per cent more than Americans for books on the Amazon e-book readers and the local publishing industry has expressed serious reservations about supporting the gizmo.

Given that the USD is worth less than 10% more than the AUD, one has to wonder why... The article quotes Amazon as saying that 'operating costs are higher outside the USA'. Is Amazon really trying to say it costs AUD$4 more to deliver a $10 book over an automatic purchase and delivery system? Oh please.

The Australian Society of Authors is advising members not to deal with Amazon on rather reasonable grounds though - apparently the deal to the authors and publishers is worse than the print version.

But there are still 'territorial lockouts' so Australians may not be able to buy books freely available overseas.

The final picture is that most of the players are shooting themselves firmly in the foot:

  1. Amazon is going to lose market share due to the poor deals it offers to the content creators and publishers;
  2. The market for other e-book readers is consequently wide open;
  3. Australian publishers are going to simply miss out on extra sales - the Kindle with wireless purchasing and delivery means that impulse purchases are easily made;
  4. Australian copyright law continues to block freedom of choice and create artificially high prices for Australians.