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.


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…


…becomes this:


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.

Testing Windows Live Writer with WordPress

I buckled down and installed Windows Live Writer today. Sure, I’m happy enough with the default WordPress post editors (I like simple editors that don’t do too much and give me total HTML control), but decided it was time to try it out, since others seem to be using it successfully.

So, here it goes — a quick test of inserting a picture with a drop-shadow:


(Saving draft to blog, be right back…)

I’m actually impressed! It worked rather well. The fact that Live Writer uses my stylesheets in the post editor is quite nice. Two little quirks:

  • The image successfully uploaded (to wp-content/uploads), which is very nice. I would prefer if it uploaded to a subdirectory (wp-content/uploads/images), but that can be configured by customizing the FTP configuration. Still, an option to upload images to a custom subdirectory would be nice.
  • Though I saved this post as a draft, it is being seen as a post, and my drafts are empty. Another minor detail.

One thing that’s important to me is source formatting using SyntaxHighlighter from dreamprojections. Here’s a test of that…

public static void Main()
// just a test

Well, the initial try didn’t work, thanks to HTML tags being inserted into the code. Can’t blame WLW for that. I could just edit the code in HTML view, which is fine for now. I may try a WLW plug-in for source editing, or maybe roll my own.

In the end, after a quick test, I have to say that I would use Windows Live Writer again. Hats off to Microsoft for coming up with this useful tool.

Google Reader offline with Google Gears

I noticed a new item in the top right of my Google Reader window today:

Google Reader Offline (new!)

Interesting! I clicked the Offline link and was introduced to Google Gears (beta).

Google Reader Offline with Google Gears

After a short installation and a restart of Firefox, I was greeted with a little green arrow in Google Reader. Clicking on it started a background download of 2,000 recent RSS feed items, which became available to me even when I wasn’t “on the wire”.
Once again, Google shows the rest of the world how powerful tools can be made simple. Will GMail Offline be far behind?

Excel 2007’s unresponsive autorecovery feature

For the past 15 minutes, the newly-installed Excel 2007 has been unresponsive. Well, not totally unresponsive. It is doing something in the background: saving autorecover information. I know this because, every so often, I can get Excel to show me a little something like the following:

Excel autorecover... still waiting...

Task Manager periodically says Excel is “not responding” and other times says it is “running” (maybe so, but it’s still not responding to me).

In defense of Excel, this was a rather large document: over 15,000 rows and 26 columns — 12.9MB on disk. However, there’s no reason for any background process to make an application unresponsive — especially when the background process in question is something that supposed to protect you from the application becoming unresponsive.

I also can’t figure out why saving an autorecovery file takes about 20 minutes, when saving a new copy of the same file takes about five seconds.

Disclaimer: I happily use OpenOffice for personal use and Google Spreadsheets for shared documents. Office 2007 was installed on my work desktop so I can evaluate it. Let’s say the evaluation isn’t going so well right now.

Viewing only important emails with GMail

About a year ago, I started transitioning all my mail to Google GMail, an excellent email solution (and certainly better than Outlook). When using GMail, I like to filter the inbox so I only see my most important emails — that is, those emails which are unread or starred. The simple way to do this is to enter the following as search terms:

is:starred || is:unread

The search results will show all messages which are starred OR unread. Perfect for looking at only those items in your inbox which need your attention.

SalesLogix command line switches not working?

For the better part of the past 12 months, I’ve been handling the implementation of SalesLogix, a customer relationship management (CRM) product by Sage Software (formerly Best Software), for one of my clients. In my travels, I’ve found that command line switches for the various SalesLogix applications (such as the Sales Client or Administrator) don’t always work. After some noodling yesterday, I found out why.

First, a little background. Below is excerpts from a knowledge base article outlining how to use the SalesLogix command line switches.

The Sales Client has a series of command line switches which can be used to log on to the Sales Client. For example, a desktop shortcut can be created containing parameters to log on to a specified database. The switches are as follows:
/n is the username
/p is the user password
/b is the “log on to” database alias

To point to the database “SLX”, and log on as user “jdoe” with password “mypwd”, the value of Target would be “C:|Program Files\SalesLogix\SalesLogix.exe” /b SLX /n jdoe /p mypwd“…

Easy enough. However, it doesn’t work if current user logged in to Windows has a SalesLogix account set up to use Windows authentication. SalesLogix has a feature where “users are automatically logged on without entering their SalesLogix user names or passwords. Users’ Windows IDs are stored in the SalesLogix database paired with their SalesLogix user names and passwords” (from SalesLogix Administrator Help). Unfortunately, if you have this set for a user, that user will not be able to use command line switches for the SalesLogix Client. (The Administrator or Architect, which do not allow any kind of passthrough authentication, don’t experience this problem.)

To fix the problem, remove the user’s Windows passthrough authentication. Hopefully this little tidbit helps those out there who’ve been scratching their heads over this (like I was).