Windows and email

Recently, I was astounded at the amount of anti-Vista sentiment at the National Auctioneers Association convention. Vista isn’t evil. It’s a much more secure operating system than XP and I rest easier at night knowing that most of my users are using Vista instead of XP. I have a bunch of complaints with Windows in general, but Vista is better than XP for the average user.

Vista has Windows Mail, which is a new name for XP’s Outlook Express. It’s the Microsoft equivalent of Thunderbird, and I can find no substantive feature differences between Windows Mail and Thunderbird in the limited investigation I’ve done. Out of the two, I’d use Thunderbird because it has an open-source community behind it.

Thunderbird is awesome, but it is email only. There are other functions of Outlook, like contacts and calendar, that Thunderbird lacks in its basic installation. If you use an Exchange server or a hosted Exchange service, which is a practice that unfortunately is still hard for me to not recommend, Outlook is about the only way to go. The closest product to Outlook as far as features go is a product called Evolution, but it only works on Linux.

My recommendation is to become one with the Google Apps suite. Their calendar is superior to that in Outlook, their email is the best anywhere, and they’re Docs and Spreadsheets package is getting more robust all the time. I wish we had taken that route instead of going with our hosted Exchange solution. Google Apps is the only realistic and free calendar-sharing system, and it also happens to be the best. Google’s Gmail product can be used by your domain, so you keep your email address, use Gmail’s absurd nearly 7 GB email limit, use Thunderbird to check your mail, and everything is in one place. It costs nothing and is a viable solution for everyone in your office to be better connected and better informed with schedules, contacts, etc.

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Auction technology Q&A

I was playing around on the NAA forum, a great member benefit for auctioneers, and I realized that what I was writing was applicable to just about anyone, not just auctioneers. Here you are, for whatever it may be worth to you.

I’ve been using Linux on the desktop for the last two years. It’s fantastic and provides many programs and packages available by simply selecting which ones you want to install. You don’t have to download and run an installer, for the most part, you simply select the programs from the list.

I can’t stand Microsoft Office or, worse, anything from Adobe, so not having these programs isn’t a problem. There are many other open-source alternatives that allow you to sleep better at night and get more work done easier.

For anyone looking for video editing on Linux, have you tried Cinelerra? I looked at it and was very impressed with the features and power offered.

For any of you who use Firefox on more than one computer, you should look at Mozilla Weave. It provides the ability to synchronize bookmarks, tabs, passwords and add-ons across different installations of Firefox. They have yet to support 64 bit Linux, which makes me sad, but it works great between my Vista notebook and my XP aux-box.

Are you still using OpenOffice or have you tried the Google Office version? I can’t remember if I asked you in Nashville…

I’m still using OpenOffice. It’s not equivalent to Google Docs in that Google Docs is a web-based product that has a fraction of the features of a complete office suite like OpenOffice, StarOffice or Microsoft Office. Google is working continuously to add features, and rumor has it that they will allow for offline Docs use via their Gears package within the next six months, but as of now they the analogy is like comparing apples to band saws.

if I decide to move to this Linux system, do I dump MS Windows completely and migrate to that desktop?…I have a computer that I need to erase a hard drive on and was thinking of using it as a trial computer.

The beauty of most Linux distributions is the live CD. My preference and recommendation is Ubuntu Linux. Download the ISO and burn it to a CD from Put it in your computer and start it up. It will load the Linux desktop without touching your hard drive or installing anything. You can browse the Internet, work on documents and browse your network without ever installing the operating system. Note that because your CD isn’t nearly as fast as your hard drive this practice isn’t a good idea for anything other than trying it out, but its a good way to get your feet wet and make sure it will run on your hardware without dumping a computer.

You know, you should really try it on your Macbook. I always wanted to get a Macbook and put Linux on it. I bet it runs like a sewing machine.

The auction panel was a blast. I love talking about auctions and the tools we use to conduct them.

What other program/software etc creates/edits etc. a .pdf? I was under the impression (wrong?) that Adobe owned that file tag…Thanks in advance.

Adobe submitted its format for ISO certification and received it. PDF is an international standard. Many programs do a better job than those by Adobe for creating and modifying PDF files.

If you’re on XP, get PDFCreator.
If you’re on Vista, get CutePDF.

Both of these free programs will let you print to PDF anything that you could print to a computer.

Regardless of your Windows distribution, get Foxit PDF reader and ditch Adobe Acrobat for viewing PDF files. Foxit loads many times faster and takes up much less space on your hard drive.

Of course, if you’re running Linux, PDF support is built into the distribution.

If you want to do things other than view or create PDF files, check out the great solutions from Lifehacker, where you can find many posts about cool tools to create, modify and tweak PDF files without paying hundreds of dollars for Adobe products that will just bloat your system and infect it like a root-kit virus.

So what do you do when a page is set up for IE only? Typically, I find this on GIS websites. Is there an add-on to emulate IE?

Use IE. IE isn’t evil. An up-to-date version of IE is just as good as Firefox, in my opinion. I prefer IE to Firefox, in fact, but I can only get IE 6 to work on Linux. When Mozilla released Weave, I started using Firefox 3 on my Windows machines, but because Weave doesn’t support 64 bit Linux, I may be moving back to IE on Windows.

Firefox 3 has a speed improvement that arguably puts it slightly ahead of IE 7, but when IE 8 comes out I’ll probably be recommending it as it will be the first Microsoft browser that will default to standards mode instead of quirks mode. I can’t wait for everyone who designed a site without using web standards finds that his or her site is completely hosed when viewed in IE 8 for the first time.

I did notice that Dell offers ubuntu as an OS on some of the newer laptops and desktops it sells.

Yeah, but they’re all Intel-based systems and I’m an AMD guy! I just can’t do it!

Seriously, they’re still not a good deal in that they’re about the same price as a similar Windows-based system. The advantage to Linux is that it should cut down on manufacturer cost, but because of all the deals OEMs make with Windows crapware companies, the systems still cost about the same.

The best thing to do is to buy the system with the specs you want with Windows, then call the manufacturer and get your Windows refund. It takes a while on the phone because most phone-grunts don’t know what you’re talking about, but there are widespread reports that many people are getting as much as $50 back by not using the Windows that comes pre-loaded on a laptop.

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