Quicken, Windows, and WTF is happening?

I just installed Quicken 2008 for Windows, and ran it for the first time. Being a Quicken user before, when I got to the following dialog box, I clicked the [Next] button.

image 

It’s been eight minutes since I clicked the Next button, and aside from massive hard drive thrashing, nothing is happening. There are no other applications open on my computer, and virtually no utilization reported in Task Manager.

So, can someone please explain WTF Quicken and/or Windows are doing right now?

Ah, by the time I finished writing this blog post, I finally received the "Open Quicken File" dialog box. Based on the initial folder in the dialog box, Quicken looked through my entire hard drive to find a Quicken file. I know this, because the FolderShare trash folder is selected — hardly the expected default folder for Quicken.

Can someone explain to me what brain surgeon at Quicken decided that a feature such as this — with no progress indicator or cancel button — was a good one?

Syncing Google calendars with Outlook 2007

I was trying to get Outlook 2007 to sync with my Google calendars. For those who don’t know, doing this takes a few quick steps:

  1. Go to your Google Calendar page.
  2. Under the My Calendars section on the left, click the down-arrow next to the calendar you want to sync, and select Calendar Settings.
  3. At the bottom, click the ICAL button in the Private Address line.
  4. Copy the URL provided to the clipboard.
  5. Open Outlook 2007 and go to Tools / Account Settings.
  6. Click the Internet Calendars tab, then click New.
  7. Paste the URL you copied in step 4 into the box and click Add.
  8. Finish as prompted.

Easy enough, and I was able to sync my personal Google calendar (linked with my bdemarzo@gmail.com account) this way. However, when I tried my hosted Google calendar (linked with bdemarzo@computersims.com), step 7 would fail; Outlook said it wasn’t a recognized calendar format.

The problem is that Outlook apparently has an issue with calendars hosted via HTTPS, and may have an issue with the email address in the URL to your calendar.

Consider the private URL to my personal Google calendar (hosted with my plain vanilla GMail account).

GMail Calendar private address window

Now, consider the private URL to my hosted domain Google calendar (i.e. my computersims.com account).

GMail Hosted Calendar private address window

When pasting the calendar address for a hosted domain Google calendar account into Outlook, you need to do the following:

  • Change the protocol from HTTPS to HTTP.
  • Replace the %40 symbol in the email address to the at symbol @.

As a result, this…

https://www.google.com/calendar/ical/bdemarzo%40gmail.com/private-0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF/basic.ics

…becomes this:

http://www.google.com/calendar/ical/bdemarzo@gmail.com/private-0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF/basic.ics

Note the emphasized sections are the only ones changed. Do this, and Outlook 2007 reads your hosted Google calendar fine!

Of course, this is all a one-way sync — you can’t add things to your Google calendar from Outlook — but it’s better than nothing at all.

Who needs Photoshop? I have Paint.NET!

Granted, I’m no graphics designer, so my graphic editing needs are pretty mundane. Still, I need to crop, resize, recolor, reformat, enhance, distort, and do all those other fun things to images from time to time. I also need to mock up web pages and graphics. I could buy Photoshop to do this, but I don’t have to, because I have Paint.NET — and it’s free!

Paint.NET: free, open-source image editingPaint.NET is a free, open source image editing application for Windows. It has a fantastic feature set and is rock solid — I have never had it crash, become unresponsive, or otherwise trash anything on my system, and that’s after using it for months (and using it on my 4 1/2-year-old underpowered home PC to do some image editing for Christmas cards).

If Paint.NET can’t do what you want out-of-the-box, then you can extend it. It offers a plug-in architecture, and there’s a nice collection of community-written plugins available to download.

Hats off to Rick Brewster and others for this fantastic product. It’s so nice that I’m going to donate as part of my drive to donate $5 per month to a free software product. Since I’m two months behind, the Paint.NET team get ten samoleans. Well worth it, considering Photoshop costs just a bit more than that.

My donation history to date far is as follows.

Defeating WebSense

I have two laptops (one personal, one work) and one home desktop PC. It would be nice to have some files synchronized between them all. I already use Mozy to back up my personal laptop, but that doesn’t address synchronization issues.

I wanted a web-based solution (similar to Mozy), so I did a quick Google search to see what my options were. The first item in the list was FolderShare (by Microsoft), so I figured I’d check it out. I went to http://www.foldershare.com Here’s what I saw:

Blocked by WebSense

Damn… Well, not a big deal. Since I’m a sys admin here, I can just configure WebSense to ignore requests from my IP address. Before I did that, I tried changing the URL to https://www.foldershare.com.

And guess what? It worked!

Apparently, WebSense sees an SSL site as different from the non-SSL site. I have no idea if this is an oversight just for FolderShare, or some weird configuration thing here, or something related to the version of WebSense we’re running… but it is interesting to know that such a simple workaround exists.

Anyway, I’ll be testing FolderShare now — and will blog about that in due time.

Excel crashes, and flooding Microsoft with error reports

Excel 2007 crashed on me while I was scrolling vertically using the mouse wheel. Impressively, Excel was able to recover, apparently right back where I left off scrolling.excel_error_reporting

I continued trying to scroll (again with the mouse wheel), and once again, after about 100 or so rows scroll by, Excel crashes again. This time, I choose to send the error report.

Recovery again works like a charm (at least one thing is working right). I try scrolling with the scroll bar; no crash. I try page-down and arrow keys; no crash. I go to a different part of the document and scroll with the mouse wheel; crash after about 100 rows pass by.

“Send error report” clicked again.

This is getting fun, so I’m going to do it about 20 more times.