bruceb news archives 01/01/00 - 03/31/00previousnext

OFFICE2K SR-1 WARNING 3/24
OFFICE 2K SR-1 3/22
MUSICMATCH JUKEBOX
3/22
AGENT 1.8 3/22
WINFAX PRO V.10 3/12
SURFMONKEY 3/12
WIN2000 COMPATIBILITY 2/24
WINDOWS 2000 PERSPECTIVE 2/16

AOL BACKSTAB 2/15
ACT 2000 2/9
CONCENTRIC SERVICES 2/1
IE DELAY 2/1
WINDOWS 2000 1/31
MS MOUSE SOFTWARE 1/29
SMARTNT.COM 1/26
HOTMAIL FEATURE 1/23
FREEDISKSPACE.COM 1/23

MOUSE PADS 1/18
WINZIP 8.0 BETA 1/18
REALJUKEBOX UPDATE 1/8
WIN98 SHUTDOWN 1/6
WIN98 TCP BUG 1/5
MS INTELLIMOUSE 1/5
REALPLAYER 7.0 1/5
REALJUKEBOX FEATURE 1/3
MS WORD 2000 FEATURE 1/3

 
 
USE CAUTION BEFORE INSTALLING OFFICE 2000 SR-1!
March 24, 2000
Lots of people are having trouble with Service Release 1 for Office 2000! Office 2000 SR-1 weighs in at 26 to 40MB for individual installs, more for corporate versions. There's no obvious way to download the components before installing, to avoid problems caused by a dropped connection. Can you imagine any other product that requires such a hefty Internet-based installation not having a download-only option? Of course not. But SR-1 does just that, leaving modem users wondering whether to hold out for the CD-ROM version (with its corresponding 6-to-8 week wait) or just leave their systems on all night and hope for the best. Contrary to Microsoft's public statements about learning its lessons from the Office 97 SR-1 fiasco (that update did more harm than good, requiring a re-release, a patch to fix the update, and eventually a brand new service release), the company appears to have pushed Office 2000 SR-1 out the door without enough testing of the Internet installation feature.

There is a way you can download SR-1 without installing it. But you can't use the normal Internet-based installer. Instead, go to the Office Resource Kit Toolbox site and download the 52MB file named O2ksr1dl.exe .  This download lets you retain a local copy of the SR-1 setup files.

Many people report that they've been able to install SR-1 on their systems, but when they reboot, none of the Office applications run properly. Microsoft has promised to release a Microsoft Support Online article that explains the snafu. It turns out that using an invalid product key to install Office 2000 causes this problem. The solution, sadly, is to edit the Registry fairly extensively. Stay tuned for the official Microsoft explanation. It looks difficult, and I don't want to be responsible for errant registry hacking. I've also heard that this problem might be a feature that Microsoft built into SR-1 to battle piracy, which sounds plausible.

Here's a good article from ZDNet about the features and problems with this release.

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MICROSOFT OFFICE 2000 SERVICE RELEASE 1
March 22, 2000
This morning Microsoft posted Service Release 1 for Office 2000. No new features, but all known security issues are covered, and there's fixes for several hundred little problems as well as significantly enhanced support for Windows 2000.  At the same time, Microsoft has introduced an Office Update page, similar to the Windows Update page that evaluates your system and presents you with a tailored list of the updates appropriate for you. Depending on which Office 2000 components are installed, the Service Release will be 26-40Mb, and it's handled differently if Office 2000 was installed across a network. Click here for more info from Microsoft, or click here for a summary from ZDNet.

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MUSICMATCH JUKEBOX 5.0
March 22, 2000
RealJukebox and MusicMatch Jukebox are competing furiously to be the best all-in-one devices for playing a variety of audio formats as well as recording audio CDs to your computer. The programs do a lot of different things, so the interface is important, and I find RealJukebox to be a bit less confusing. The new release of MusicMatch version 5.0 is a huge leap forward in features, however - at least until the next release of RealJukebox. Two of the most exciting new features: record MP3s up to 160KPS (CD quality) for free; and record audio CDs directly from MP3 files, just by dragging and dropping in MusicMatch. You can download from here (7.7Mb), or get more info from Forrest Stroud's review.

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AGENT 1.8
March 22,2000
If you spend any serious amount of time in the wild world of newsgroups, you quickly become aware of the inadequacies of Microsoft Outlook Express. (If you use Microsoft Outlook, it's called the "Outlook Newsreader." Same program - when you ask Outlook for newsgroups, it passes off control to a customized version of Outlook Express with a different title and no e-mail features.) Forte Agent is quirky, but one of the best of the dedicated newsreaders when you get used to it. It's particularly strong if you're working with attachments in the alt.binaries and alt.mp3 newsgroups. (You're not kidding anybody. If you're in the newsgroups, you're either downloading dirty pictures or free music. Nobody visits the other 28,000 newsgroups.) Agent's new release of version 1.8 fixes bugs and adds a handful of new features. Click here for more info and downloading (2Mb - $29).

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WINFAX PRO V.10
March 12, 2000
Symantec is rushing products out to make them compatible with Windows 2000. First out the door is WinFax Pro v.10. A couple of interesting new features. A fax can now be stored as a separate file, and it will open up in WinFax when you click on it in Windows Explorer. A fax can also be sent by e-mail as a self-executing file that will open up on the recipient's computer, even if they don't have WinFax. Symantec has also kept working on integration with Microsoft Outlook. Here's some info about the new release.
A sidelight on a Windows 2000 issue.
PCAnywhere 9.0 has to be uninstalled before a system can be upgraded to Windows 2000. It can be reinstalled after the system is upgraded, if and only if the program can be updated online to version 9.01 before the system is restarted. If you miss the 9.01 upgrade - your Internet connection fails, say, or the power goes out - your Windows 2000 system is in bad shape, potentially dead, if I understood correctly.

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SURFMONKEY
March 12, 2000
I've been testing SurfMonkey, a free service from SurfMonkey.com. It's a program for kids - a highly customized Internet browser, plus e-mail and chat. Lots of animation and cartoon graphics. It's designed for strict parental control. Inappropriate web sites are blocked. E-mail is only permitted to approved addresses, and incoming e-mail from unfamiliar addresses is locked until the parent unlocks it. Chat is filtered and can be turned off entirely. My experience has been good so far - a few odd crashes, but nothing to complain about, and a very appealing experience for my kids. The download is about 13Mb, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 or above is required. Recommended!

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WINDOWS 2000 COMPATIBILITY CHECK
February 24, 2000
The Microsoft marketing machine is starting its efforts to create massive momentum for Windows 2000. They are very good at that. All kinds of partners will announce they support it. Tons of people are going to offer Windows 2000 migration services. Lots of applications will get W2K certified and trumpet about it. A flurry of press releases will be generated. Magazines will continue to write about it. Industry 'pundits' will tell you it's the greatest thing. And after a few months you'll get the idea you live in the Stone Age if you still run NT or 98. 

In this case, you are talking about the 'Mother of all Migrations' and it would be a very good idea to prepare very, very well and plan well in advance. I'll frequently recommend Windows 2000 for clients buying new systems, but upgrading is much more difficult than any previous sytem upgrade. If you want to see if your machine is potentially ready to run W2K, DO NOT JUMP AND INSTALL IT !! Instead, get this free utility from Microsoft and check out your machine first!

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WINDOWS 2000 - TOO MANY WORDS
February 16, 2000
During the last ten years, the press has specialized in distorting events by giving them too much coverage - too many words on trivial things, a distinct lack of reflection and analysis. You probably have your own examples of that - the first ones that pop into my head are Bill Clinton's affair, the death of Princess Diana, the OJ Simpson trial, and the Microsoft/DOJ trial, among many many others. Well, bear that thought in mind as you read the coverage of Windows 2000 during its rollout. 

From articles I've read in the last few days: It's the greatest thing since the invention of the telephone and you should all consider it right away! It's got 63,000 bugs and nobody should consider it until a year from now! Twenty-five percent of American companies will have difficulty installing it! It's evidence of Microsoft abusing its monopoly position! 

Yawn. Turn the page. It's complex software and you might want to learn about it, but you're not going to find what you need to know in the newspapers for the next few weeks.

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AMERICA ONLINE CHANGES ITS TUNE ON FAST ACCESS
February 15, 2000
America Online is not your friend. It had been vigorously leading the good fight to force cable operators to permit cable users to choose their own Internet provider. It's called "open access," and it means you can choose your ISP instead of being required to use the cable company as your ISP when you access the Internet through a cable modem. Then AOL acquired Time Warner, which owns a big cable system. Guess what? AOL was just kidding! In fact, one of AOL's senior vice-presidents denies that AOL ever really wanted open access. It's yanked the lobbyists that were pressing for state legislation to ensure open access. This is important! AOL is such a heavyweight now that this could slow the rollout of broadband access nationwide and kill a lot of ISPs - especially the small and community ISPs. Can you say "monopoly"? Here's the article with more info.

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ACT 2000 PATCH, UPDATE ON PRODUCT FUTURE
February 8, 2000
Act 2000 is a strong tool for contact management, although it seems so focused on sales professionals that I've been reluctant to recommend it for other kinds of businesses. Symantec has decided that Act doesn't really fit with the rest of its products, so Act has been transferred to SalesLogix, which will take it over completely on March 31. Here's an FAQ about the details. The plans include Internet-enabled features galore, of course, but it appears even more likely to appeal only to companies with large sales forces. Current Act 2000 users should use LiveUpdate to get a patch to version 5.01. Symantec strongly urges using the LiveUpdate feature because it's faster than downloading the entire patch executable (14Mb).

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CONCENTRIC ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIPS, SMALL BIZ SERVICES
February 1, 2000
My clients know that I'm fond of Concentric Networks - solid dialup access, great tools for web hosting, great service for DSL access. Concentric announced a massive partnership program with 45 vendors, all gathered together with Concentric as the coordinator, providing services for small and medium-sized businesses. The services are in three categories: growing a web site, maximizing web marketing impact, and making business more efficient. Here's an article about the program, and here's Concentric's press release.

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INTERNET EXPLORER UPDATE DELAYED
February 1, 2000
Microsoft had been beta testing an update to Internet Explorer, but it has now announced that it is "rethinking some of our most basic assumptions" regarding the future of IE. Here's an article about the limited information that's available. A beta was expected that included features like "Activity Centers" - groupings of tools related to specific tasks, like digital photo editing or music production. Those features had also been discussed for Windows Millennium Edition, the consumer upgrade to Windows 98 expected in May. But this announcement is unclear as to what features may survive or be changed. Expect more confusion as Microsoft tries to straighten out its marketing strategy for the various flavors of Windows. 

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WINDOWS 2000 IN-DEPTH EVALUATION
January 31, 2000
Windows 2000 arrives on February 17. The coverage will be endless. If you want to get a headstart, PC Magazine has done a thorough evaluation, along with advice on who should and shouldn't plan to upgrade. The short of it:
       Business users: upgrade without delay if you're using Windows NT, hold off if you're running Windows 98. 
       Home users: The article suggests that home users wait for "Millennium," an update to Windows 98 due this summer - marketing name unclear. Microsoft is confused about what to do with home users, though, and may decide to market Windows 2000 to consumers, particularly on new systems. At the least, home users should wait a bit while the dust settles, because right now it's a chore to upgrade from Windows 98. It will be easier after the software manufacturers finish upgrading their programs and the hardware manufacturers finish upgrading their drivers.

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MICROSOFT INTELLIPOINT 3.1 MOUSE SOFTWARE
January 29, 2000
There's updated software for the entire line of Microsoft mice, including the basic mouse and all varieties of the Intellimouse. No word on what's updated, although there's a reference to Windows 2000 support that might be new. More information and download the version 3.1 drivers from this page.

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SEARCHNT.COM - WINDOWS NT/2000 WEB SITE
January 26, 2000
SearchNT.com is a new web site that looks interesting for professionals. Entirely devoted to Windows NT and Windows 2000, with news, e-mail updates, and a search engine covering several thousand NT-specific web sites.

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RETRIEVE MAIL FROM ANY POP3 ACCOUNT IN HOTMAIL
January 23, 2000
Maybe this is old news, but I just found out that having a Hotmail account allows you to retrieve e-mail from any POP3 server and display the messages in your browser. That's very hip - check your mail while you're away from your computer or travelling. On the main Hotmail screen, click on POP mail (at the top, next to where it says "Inbox") and be prepared with the name of your POP3 server, and your login name and password.

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FREEDISKSPACE.COM
January 23, 2000
As more people get broadband access to the Internet (cable/DSL/wireless), services like FreeDiskSpace make more sense. It's one of several web sites that offer storage space that you can access from anywhere, or that you can share. So far, it's free for the basics - 25Mb for supplying an e-mail address, 300Mb if you fill out a short form and agree to accept some junk e-mail. Imagine changing your habits to share documents and collaborate on projects that are available anywhere, not just while you're sitting in the offices using the company network. I'm telling you, we're in for a wild ride during the next few years . . .

2/22/00 FOLLOWUP  FreeDiskSpace turns out to be very slow, so it's not currently a good solution. Problems like that will get resolved in a hurry - if not by them, then by somebody else - so the concept is still worth keeping in mind.

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RATPADZ MOUSE PADS
January 18, 2000

Most people don't give any thought to their mouse and mouse pad, but it's worth paying attention. It's very frustrating to have a mouse cursor that sticks and slides around in unexpected ways. Clean your mouse ball and the rollers inside the mouse! Buy a new mouse (and avoid the $9.95 specials)! Buy a decent mouse pad! You'll be happy. The quality of your life will improve. You'll hum little songs to yourself. The 3M Precise Mousing Surface has finally become widely available, and it's highly recommended. But if you want the ultimate mouse pad, I'm thrilled with my Ratpadz mouse pad. It's oversized, made from rigid, long-lasting materials, and it's perfect for gaming. It also works better than anything else with the IntelliEye technology from Microsoft - the mouse with a light instead of a ball. Well worth the investment.

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WINZIP 8.0 BETA
January 18, 2000

WinZip has finally released an early look at its next upgrade to version 8.0. You can get information about the new features and download it from here. The new features in this version of WinZip are perfectly nice, but it's not a fundamental change that makes it more intuitive to work with compressed files. Folks that are confused about how zip files work will continue to be confused. Fortunately, the use of zip files is dying out a bit as software vendors get more skilled with producing downloads that unpack themselves. 

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REALJUKEBOX SERVICE PACK 1
January 8, 2000

If you're using RealJukebox or RealJukebox Plus, click on Help / Check for Update. You'll get a brand new version with some bug fixes and one intriguing new feature that won't be ready for a few more days. If you use Adaptec Easy CD Creator version 4 (not the version bundled for free with many CD-Recorders!), then you'll be able to use RealJukebox to record directly onto blank CDs. Currently that requires converting the MP3 files into WAV format, then using another program to create the CDs from the WAV files. This feature is a big step forward to making CD-Recorders a consumer item, and making the MP3 format an irresistible way to store music.

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TROUBLESHOOT WINDOWS 98 SHUTDOWN PROBLEMS
January 6, 2000
Windows 98 (original release and Second Edition) are both prone to problems shutting down - hanging at the blue cloud screen. No harm is done when you turn the computer off, but it's annoying to have to sit thru ScanDisk in the morning. Unfortunately, there's no simple way to track down the cause of the problem - lots of things lead to that result. Here's your options:

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TCP BUG IN WINDOWS 95 & 98
January 5, 2000
I'm not sure whether this is meaningful or not. Microsoft has released a fix for an apparent bug in Windows 95 and 98.   When you are transmitting data over high delay networks such as satellite links (and potentially DSL and cable as well), transfer throughput may be lower than expected and the number of packets retransmitted may be unnecessarily high. Here's a link to Microsoft's download page for the fix.

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MICROSOFT INTELLIMOUSE WITH INTELLIEYE
January 5, 2000
The new Microsoft Intellimouse with IntelliEye is interesting. It's the one without a mouse ball - an appealing concept. But there's a couple of issues that are driving me crazy:
    • There's a known bug that causes the mouse to double-click at times when you intended to single-click. This is apparently a hardware problem, and it does not affect everybody. But it has occurred for hundreds of people, including me, and it's incredibly maddening.
    • Despite the claims, it's relatively touchy about what kind of surface is best for accurate tracking. On my wood desktop, it's twitchy, while it's fine on my 3M Mousing Surface. But part of the point is getting rid of the mouse pad, eh? Some people have reported that they got good results on a piece of white paper, held down with something so it doesn't slip.

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REALPLAYER 7.0 FINAL
January 5, 2000
RealPlayer 7.0 is now final. If you already have an earlier version of RealPlayer, open it up and click on Help / Check for Update. (Be careful!  The next few screens are designed to foolyou into clicking on RealPlayer Plus - the version that costs $30. Stay focused on RealPlayer Basic.) Or click here for information and downloads. 

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REALJUKEBOX MP3 -> WAV
January 3, 2000
Cool feature of the week: RealJukebox can save MP3 files as WAV files - and that's the intermediate step necessary to turn MP3s into an audio CD that can be played in conventional CD players. Make sure you have plenty of hard drive space - WAV files take 10Mb per minute! Then choose the songs you want to work with in RealJukebox and click on File / Save Tracks As / Format: Wave.

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MICROSOFT WORD 2000 - PRINT MULTIPLE PAGES
January 3, 2000
Cool feature of the week: Microsoft Word 2000 can print multiple pages on a single sheet of paper! Click on File / Print and look in the lower right at Zoom / Pages per sheet - 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 16 pages per single piece of paper!

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