Software

NTFS for Mac OS X

I ran into a problem recently where I wanted to copy some files from my Mac to an external hard drive to take to an office. Unfortunately the hard drive was formatted NTFS which Mac OS X cannot natively write to. I went to Paragon Software’s web site and downloaded a trial version of their product NTFS for Mac OS X. The trial was good for 10 days and since I did not know if I would need it again, I just used the trial version.

I downloaded and installed the software without issue. A reboot was required to finish the installation. After restarting, my external hard drive contents were available and I could drag files from the Mac and copy them to the drive normally. I was able to copy the files from the drive to a PC and they worked just fine.

NTFS for Mac OS X is only $19.95, so if you need this capability on your Mac a lot it is a pretty good deal. Paragon Software makes many other fine products so check out their site if you have other cross platform and native storage, backup, and partition needs.

VMware Fusion 4 – First Impressions

Just installed VMware Fusion 4 on the Mac. Electronic download version is a nice price at $50 for upgrade or new users. This version’s supposed to have some new features like HD audio and faster VM performance. The best thing I noticed so far is you can add an icon to the icon bar at the top of the VM window to “Send Ctrl-Alt-Del”. Thank you VMware!

This version also has a more Mac-like appearance. They also moved the device icons from the bottom of the window to the top on the icon bar with an open and hide arrow. Support for OS X Lion is also included.

If you are a VMware Fusion user, you probably want this upgrade. If you are not using VMware Fusion and need to run other OSes on your Mac, what are you waiting for?

Real VNC Free and Windows 7

I just started deploying Windows 7 on computers a little at offices and started running into a problem with the Free Edition of VNC. The version is 4.1.3 I think (though the Personal Edition is up to around 4.6). The software installs, but the first thing you notice is the lack of an icon in the system tray. The service says it is running, but when you attempt to connect the connection is refused. I did some digging because I had a Windows 7 computer I had to make work with VNC. I found an article that pertains to Windows Vista but also applies to 7. The article mentions unregistering VNC as a service, then using the software in user mode. I had to run the unregister service command from the start menu as an administrator, but it worked. In user mode VNC will now work on Windows 7, but I also added a shortcut to the startup folder so VNC would load at login.

Apparently the Personal Edition does not have this problem (maybe Real VNC is in no rush to update their Free Edition and would rather have you buy a license). I have a license of the Personal Edition for one computer at each of our offices, but I am not going to buy a license to connect to the computers occasionally. I like the Personal Edition, though, because it encrypts the connection and lets you print from a remote computer locally.

Another online post suggested using the free version of TightVNC which works with Windows 7. I did try TightVNC and have decided to use it for now because it installs easy, works with Windows 7, and even creates a firewall rule for itself during install (something RealVNC’s Free Edition does not). Using RealVNC’s personal edition viewer I had no problem connecting to a computer running TightVNC.

Active Boot Disk 5.3

I have already written a post on my good experiences with the Active Boot Disk product from LSoft technologies. Recently I had to work on a messed up system and I upgraded to the latest version of Active Boot Disk (5.3). The new version is more polished and includes instructions on downloading an open source anti-virus program that you can run while working inside of Active Boot Disk. The software includes other new features and updates to the included utilities, but overall I was impressed with how much easier it was to use.

If you haven’t used Active Boot Disk before, I highly recommend it for PC repair on software problems. It is also useful for backing up data from a bad hard drive (if you can read the drive), resetting user passwords, making partition changes, disk images, and wiping hard drives. The new version also lets you load drivers and other software into the boot CD image. If you have an older version of Active Boot Disk, check out the new features and see if it’s worth an upgrade.

Go to LSoft’s Active Boot Disk page for more information on this product.

Blogging on the iPhone with Safari and Opera

I tried for the first time to blog from my iPhone the other day. Unfortunately Safari would not recognize the large post area as something in which I could type. So I went to the App Store and downloaded Opera for the iPhone.

Opera claims to load pages faster; it seems a little faster but it is hard to say. Opera did solve my blogging problem though. It also allows you to save user names and passwords for sites as well as save frequently visited pages as shortcuts on its start page. If you use an iPhone and need more from a web browser than Safari, give Opera a try. Its available free from the App Store.

iPhone Backup Extractor

My son recently had a problem with his iPhone. Between too many drops and plugging it into an incorrect power source he rendered the phone inaccessible. The only thing on the screen was a message saying the phone needed to be restored. When he plugged it into his PC to restore it, iTunes said the phone had a passcode and could not be restored. Through research I found that in this case you can power off the iPhone then power it on again while simultaneously holding the power and home buttons. Then you should receive a message that the phone is in restore mode and you can restore it through iTunes. Unfortunately my son’s phone’s power button was broken through a drop so I could not perform this procedure.

Getting him another iPhone was not a problem, but he wanted his contacts and pictures. Unfortunately he had not setup an Outlook storage file and his contacts were not synced with Outlook. I did more searching and I found some software that could extract his data from a backup. It is called iPhone Backup Extractor and is available at www.iphonebackupextractor.com. A limited version of the software allows you to extract 4 contacts total and 2 other files at a time. I used the limited version to see if his backup was good, but was surprised that some of his contacts had no phone numbers. I paid $24.95 to register the software (it is only good on one PC and is tied to the hardware). With the full-featured program I extracted the Address Book SQL file from his backup then exported it to an Excel spreadsheet. I then saw that he had many phone numbers styled incorrectly (with +1 or 1 in front of the area code but bracketed with the area code (1234)). After I corrected some of these in Excel and imported them into Outlook, I had contacts which could be synced back to a new phone.

iPhone backup Extractor is a powerful program and can retrieve your iPhone data from a backup if you lost or broke your phone. The trial version is nice because it let’s you see if the program will work for you before buying. Check out this software if you need your data, your iPhone is unusable or unavailable, and you have good backups.

I am tired of companies dumbing-down web sites and software!

Today I experienced what is one annoyance in a long line of frustrations with computer software companies thinking everyone is a freaking idiot who uses a computer and therefore the software companies need to hold the users hand to do every simple task. Microsoft has been doing this for years with Windows, making every new version more idiotic than the last by hiding advanced controls, but making lite (read useless) controls available for idiots. As in, “Yes I know how to share files on a network, I don’t need to be warned about dangers” a la Windows XP in workgroup mode.

Microsoft has also been on my list for making it difficult, but still doable, to download an entire service pack file. No I don’t want to just install it on one computer or go through Windows Update on every computer I service to download the stupid SP over a high speed (slow) Internet connection.

But today’s culprit is Adobe. They have been making it more and more difficult to just download the installer for Reader since about version 7 or 8. First the Adobe download manager was a suggestion, now it is mandatory. Good luck finding a place on their site to simply download the installer. “You want to install Reader without going to our awesome website. Well now you have to sign up for some ridiculous license agreement just to install Reader to your 100+ computers on your company LAN.” Total BS!! How about making a link to¬† an IT support area of your website for people who work in IT and actually know how to fix computers? Hey Adobe, spend more time fixing your buggy, security-holed software and less time making it impossible for IT people to download an installer.

For anyone who knows how to do more than power on a computer and check their email, you can still get Reader from Adobe’s ftp site:

ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/

choose the subfolder for your OS and the version of Reader you would like to download. Get it while you still can!

AVG Add-on for Outlook Prevents Outlook from Starting

I had to tackle this issue on a computer recently. The computer was running Outlook 2003 and AVG 9, but could no longer open Outlook. The first in a series of error messages that popped up when you tried to start Outlook said “Unable to start out-of-process scanning server” then “The add-in “C:\PROGRAM FILES\AVG\AVG9\avgxch32.dll” could not be installed or loaded. This problem may be resolved by using Detect and Repair on the Help menu.” Too bad you cannot get to the help menu in Outlook (although when I finally could, running Detect and Repair didn’t help).

I found one tip that said run the Inbox Repair Tool on the pst file. I did that, it found some errors and repaired them, but the AVG error persisted. Then I found a page on AVG’s site which discussed the problem. The answer was to download a utility to address the problem. The link provided was for AVG 8 (guess this problem’s been around for a while), but I changed the link to reflect AVG 9 and it worked. The utility finally let me start Outlook, but when I restarted, the problem came back. There is a log file generated that you can send to AVG for analysis, but I finally used the utility to get into Outlook and just disabled the AVG add-on. I figure when the next version of AVG comes out, maybe the add-on will work again.

APA Template

I recently wrote about buying a new APA template for Word 2010 from Reference Point Software. The template works great even in the 64-bit version of Word 2010 I am using. I have used an APA template from Reference Point Software since 2002 for Word XP, 2003, 2008 for the Mac, and now 2010. Of all of the versions (XP and 2003 were essentially the same) the Word 2010 version seems to be the best and easiest to use. The template integrates into the accursed Ribbon (which I have grown to accept now that it is customizable) and this makes using the template easier to use. In previous versions of the template for Word for Windows a menu called APA was added to Word and the options were accessible from this menu. Now a tab is created with its own ribbon interface making all the commands easier to see all at once and easier to use.

If you have a need for using an APA or MLA template, I highly recommend checking out the templates from Reference Point Software. This company was recommended to me in my first Master’s class and I cannot thank my instructor enough for suggesting them.

Upgrading VMware tools in Fusion

I ran into an annoying problem with this a few months ago when I upgraded Fusion. Since I just upgraded Fusion again today to 3.1.1 and had to go through this again, I figured I would mention it so no one else has this problem. The VMware tools upgrades automatically now when you boot a VM after upgrading Fusion. However, the tools upgrade will fail if another VM is running while you are trying to upgrade the tools. With one VM already running, if you boot a second VM, the tools will attempt to upgrade, but you will receive an error message stating the tools upgrade failed (although it does not tell you why). Simply shutdown the first VM, then manually upgrade the tools by double-clicking the VMware tools icon in the system tray (it will have an exclamation point on it because the upgrade failed). In the properties window that opens, click the “update tools” button. The update will run successfully, the upgrade tools button will gray out, and the exclamation point will disappear from the VMware tools icon in the system tray.