Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tech fun

One of the things that didn't make the transition from my old computer to this new netbook is Microsoft Office. It's not impossible for me to load Office on this computer, but since Office comes on a CD-ROM and this computer has no CD-ROM drive, you must admit that the process would be more difficult than normal.

To remedy that, the computer comes installed with StarOffice, which is a re-branded version of the OpenOffice platform. That's all fine, except that it wasn't concomitant with the latest version of OpenOffice. I probably wouldn't have noticed, except that the latest version supports the "new" Word files of 2007, which is essential. During the period when I was using Word on my previous computer, that's the only thing I saved. So, I chucked out StarOffice and replaced it with it's more capable sibling.

I lost Microsoft Outlook in the switch, so I replaced that with Mozilla's Thunderbird. I had been using Thunderbird for a long time prior to trying out Outlook last year, so it's no big switch to revert back. Thunderbird works great for fetching emails from the UMKC server, but there's one part of Outlook that I miss: the calendar. It worked really well and was very easy to deal with.

Yesterday, I tackled the problem of calendars. I've got online calendar software available from both Yahoo and Google, as well as a desktop client from Mozilla: Sunbird. None of them are totally what I'm looking for, in terms of features or usability, but they ARE all free. So...

I was able to do something with the calendar programs that felt like another small computing milestone for me. Since Google Calendar and Sunbird both use the same open standard for their files, they can easily talk back and forth to one another. I've managed to get my desktop Sunbird calendar linked with the Google one.

This provides several exciting benefits things to think about:
- Changes made from either my netbook OR Google's site are instantly changed in the other location. This is referred to as syncing, a term I may use here and there.
- The calendar file doesn't actually exist on my netbook. The program simply pulls the data from Google and feeds it back if I make changes. So if I use my netbook without a Wi-Fi signal, then no calendar.
- Sunbird is technically still a beta pre-release product. It's version 0.9, so it's very close to a "release", but there's still some things that don't work quite as efficiently as I'd like. For example, a function that may allow me to keep a working copy offline on my netbook is marked EXPERIMENTAL, which causes me no small doubts.

It may be that this cobbled-together solution is no long term friend. We shall see. For now, since the only places I tend to take my netbook are places that have Wi-Fi (home, school, library), it's not a problem. I can't access my calendar on the road, but that would almost certainly end up with my car in a ditch; perhaps it can be considered a safety feature.

Looking into the future, the purchase of a cell phone which can have it's internet access "tethered" to the phone would solve this problem. Another thing to think about when shopping for a replacement phone.

Speaking of phones, I applied for a job from a store that sells phones. There was a long and tedious survey of how suitable I am for a sales position, full of lots of questions regarding how I treat customers. "Would you step over your own grandmother to get a sale?" and "How many times would you continue to offer your client a service or item after they've said 'I'm not interested'? - Zero, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, or As Many As Required Until I Get The Sale."

Don't worry, grandma: I don't think I'm cut out to be a salesman, by their definitions.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, OpenOffice.org is a rebranding of StarOffice that resulted when star off was (briefly?) open sourced several years ago.

    As for the Calendar, I think Google Calendar supports Google Gears, and if you use it with something like Mozilla Prism, you can use it while offline, and it will automatically sync back whenever there is a connection.

    Yeah, I suppose that could be confusing. Prism and Gears working together can be really nice, though, for things beyond just the calendar. All of google's apps work like that, and gears is an open standard, so other websites can support it.

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