Tag Archives: Software

GIMP UI Redesign

My favorite image editor, GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), is going through a redesign of the UI. The UI Redesign team has posted a blog where users can submit images of how they think the GIMP UI should look.

I will admit to not being a huge fan of the current UI, but I’m also not a huge fan of the Photoshop UI. I would like something that’s a cross between the 2 interfaces. I like that GIMP image windows are all separate, but I hate that it always spawns new windows when opening various tools. I end up with like 10 windows open when I’m messing around with a couple images at the same time (usually moving parts of one to another).

Anyways, if you have any interest in image manipulation and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on Photoshop, I strongly recommend GIMP. Once you learn to use it, it’s quite the powerful little program… and it’s free and open source as well. For the record, all the images I have created or edited for my sites were created using GIMP.

Discussion at Slashdot

The Morality of Blocking Ads

A recent article on Slashdot led me to start to think about this one. Is the use of software, such as the Adblock extension for Firefox, immoral?

In my opinion, no, it is not immoral. My thoughts regarding advertisements on websites is that it is a way to make money. There are ways to prevent the public from viewing the contents of your website through password protection and forcing registration or subscription (free or otherwise). If you choose to post content to a website and do not hide it behind any of these mechanisms, you are allowing the public to view it for free. It is the public’s choice as to how they wish to view web pages. Some use browsers that don’t even allow advertisements to come through, such as the text-only browser Lynx. Others use software like Adblock to prevent advertisements from displaying. My opinion is that getting paid to display advertisements on your website is a business practice. If your viewers are blocking or not clicking on these ads, it ends up being a bad business practice. Those using this technology to block ads are not stealing the content as it is available freely because they are not forced to pay for it. Again, it is the choice of the site owner as to how they pay for their bandwidth, hosting, staff time, etc.

Unfortunately, and probably because they display advertisements and need to keep those people happy, CNET has posted an editorial about this issue stating that it is, in fact, immoral to block advertisements. For the reasons stated above, I believe they are wrong on this one. If you truly cannot afford to run your site without the ad revenue, you should consider different means of paying for it, such as through the use of paid subscriptions, which sites I read regularly like Slashdot, UrbanPlanet, and Sluggy Freelance, have started to do. Relying on ad revenue for your website is like having a restaurant that relies solely on word of mouth… except that your restaurant is in a very remote area and word of mouth starts with your mother. It’s not always an effective way of paying for your site if the majority of your viewers hate advertisements.

All that being said, I do not actively block advertisements. I tried Adblock once and it blocked everything and I honestly could not figure out how to unblock certain items (like the scores on MLB.com, for instance, that are a little Javascript item). If I were to start blocking advertisements, I would only block those that take away from my viewing experience, such as the ads that appear over the text you were just reading, the ads that flash things in an annoying manner (punch the monkey anyone?), and pop up and pop under ads. I am not a paid subscriber on Sluggy Freelance or Slashdot and my subscription on UrbanPlanet does not block all ads. The ads on those sites are tame and do not distract from my reading. If the advertisers would learn that most people don’t like the annoying ads, fewer people would actively block the ads and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

6 Months with Office 2007

I made the switch to Office 2007 about 8 months ago at home and about 6 months ago at work. I decided that if I’m going to have to support it, I need to know it. Here’s my thoughts.

First, the ribbons and lack of menus was a bit daunting at the beginning. After using it for a while, I’ve gotten used to it and I have actually found the ribbons to make a whole lot more sense than the menus. Everything is where it should be rather than where Microsoft decided it should be (I realize they decided the ribbons as well, but they make more sense than many of the menus in previous versions of Office). Because everything is easier to find now, I’ve found that my productivity when using Office products has increased. You can still get to the various menu items when necessary, but the most common commands, many frequently hidden in menus, are now right at your fingertips.

Another major change is that the switch to XML-based files has decreased the file size for documents, especially in Excel.

The Office button (the big button in the upper left of the window) is the only thing that can be a bit confusing for people, as well as the quick access buttons next to it in the title bar. I had to customize that (which is easily done) to get the more common commands that I frequently use available (Print Preview, Print, Save, New File) as the default buttons there weren’t everything I use frequently. That will come to be an issue for those people who aren’t power users, like myself, but expect easy access to some of those buttons that were on the toolbar in previous versions.

Outlook adds a To-do task pane on the right hand side with easy access to the calendar, task list, and upcoming appointments. It’s a really nice feature and prevents you from having to go back and forth between your mail and your calendar just to check on appointments. Outlook is also the only Office application that still has menus. My guess is that is because the program itself doesn’t have any actual file manipulation until you go and write a message. The ribbons are present on the message creation windows, but not Outlook itself.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about Office 2007 (I’m really not a Microsoft fanboi, I just really like the new stuff). Having a new file format is a pain to deal with, but with the converter for Office 2003, it seems to work just fine (except with Access, which has always had its own issues). I’m glad I made the switch and I’m sure most people, after using it for a while and getting used to the ribbons, will feel the same way.

8 Months with Vista

I’ve been using Windows Vista for about 8 months now on my HP nc8430 laptop. It started out a bit rocky, but now I wish I had Vista at home.

When I first installed it, I performed an upgrade to my XP installation. It went as smooth as can be, though it took an awfully long time. I found out later that it was actually moving files around to new directories (Documents and Settings became Users, for example). I decided I wanted to add an additional GB of RAM. Someone gave me a stick that was leftover from some other laptops that got upgrades. It seemed to work out fine when I installed it for a while, but then things got a bit wacky. My computer became basically unusable. I tried pulling it out, but the damage was done. I guess Vista didn’t like it because I decided I wasn’t going to leave it in and performed a full format and install from scratch. This install was the fastest Windows install I had every seen. In half an hour, I had a fully functional installation and none of the issues that I had from that memory remained.

I began installing drivers and applications that I used regularly. The only one that gave me any issue was Dreamweaver MX. It always set off the UAC (which I’ll go into more later) and it always required me to reset the path to my saved site because it is on a network drive. This was fixed when I installed the latest version of Dreamweaver (CS2 or CS3 I believe).

UAC, or User Account Control, isn’t as bad as people say. If you’re a power user, administrator, or just like to play with settings, you’ll run into it regularly. If you’re just an average user, you probably won’t see it much. I see it all the time because Active Directory controls set it off and I’m always resetting passwords for people. Other than that, it’s not a big deal and I really don’t mind. I left it on to see how annoying it would get, and it’s nowhere near annoying as the Apple ads would lead you to believe.

Now, the only issue I saw with running Vista was that my RAM was always sitting at about 50-60% usage. This is because of the indexing of files. It gives it up when other programs need it, so I don’t really mind. The thing that annoyed me, though, was that my computer took forever to startup. I found out later that this was due to the driver for the fingerprint reader and HP’s ProtectTools Security Manager (it ended up losing my identity for my domain account and I had to login to my other account to uninstall those drivers and the ProtectTools). After getting rid of that HP stuff, it started up a whole lot faster. I imagine HP has some work to do on the Vista tools and drivers.

Some features of Vista that I really like include the desktop search, the crash protection (when an application crashes, it won’t take the OS with it), the new networking center, Aero (it’s sexy, I like eye candy, what can I say?), and the new Start Menu setup. I don’t like that it uses so many resources and think MS could have worked on that a bit. I am also not a huge fan of Media Player 11, though it does its job and nicely organizes music.

Of all the different versions of Windows I’ve used (starting around 3.1 for Workgroups and using every one of them through Vista, including NT 4.0, and 2000), this is my favorite. It seems to work the best, even though my laptop only has 1 GB of RAM, and it seems pretty stable (though I have heard the networking stack is not so stable). If you’re getting a new computer and it comes with Windows, don’t question whether or not you should make the switch. Just do it, but don’t get a computer with less than 1 GB of RAM (though at this point, I’d probably recommend 2 GB for longevity).

Now I just need to upgrade Susan’s computer so I can put Vista on that and Ubuntu on my own (she won’t switch to Linux, and I have some Windows apps that I can’t live without… like Quicken, because GnuCash just doesn’t seem like it’d make a good replacement for me).

Next I’ll write about my experience switching to Office 2007 and fun with ribbons!

Does Bit Torrent make you a server?

There’s a current thread on the NYCheads email discussion list (which can be found at Google Groups, for those of you in the NYC area who want some decent music discussion, though it tends to revolve around NYC and jam bands and the like) regarding OptOnline’s and Comcast’s TOS prohibiting you to be a “server”. The issue that started was Comcast banning Bit Torrent because it makes your computer a server. Some feel that peer-to-peer software does not make your computer a server, though Comcast, and most ISP’s, would probably disagree with that. Though the discussion is still fairly young, and I’m sure more people will add their 2 cents to it, I added mine… Continue reading Does Bit Torrent make you a server?