January 8, 2008

Microsoft restores Office 2003 users’ access to old file types

January 6th, 2008

Posted by Mary Jo Foley

Microsoft, justifiably, has come under a lot of criticism for blocking Office 2003 users’ access to older file formats — even if it was in the name of security. But it looks like the public outcry did some good, as Microsoft has detailed options to allow users continue to access the old formats.

David LeBlanc, a Senior Developer with the Microsoft Office Trustworthy Computing Group, published to his personal blog on January 4 a number of links via which Office 2003 Service Pack (SP) 3 users can continue to use the older formats. LeBlanc pointed to the .reg files customers can use to change the security settings for the patched apps, as well as links restore the blocked Word, Excel, PowerPoint and CorelDraw file types. And on January 4, Microsoft updated the Knowledge Base article about these file types to reflect ways users can continue to access the older formats.

LeBlanc said:

“I want to emphasize that we’re not removing support – we’re making the default safer. If you’re among the users who do need to be opening these formats, we will continue to support you. We also recognize that we have not made any of this as usable as we’d like, and we apologize that this hasn’t been as well documented or as easy as you need it to be. We’re also going to take a hard look at how we can do better in the future.”

Given that Microsoft’s initial decision to block the older Office formats made it look like the company was trying to force customers to use the newer Office Open XML (OOXML) ones — perish the thought! — Microsoft’s file-format about-face was an especially savvy decision. Microsoft doesn’t need any more bad press about OOXML before the February ISO standards vote than it has already gotten ….

There’s no question that Office increasingly has become a hacker target. Microsoft is looking for ways to make the product more secure. But mucking with generic cheap cialis users’ access to their own files isn’t the way to go.

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A Must See: New Camera Features

As we all know, the speed of technology these days is lightning fast. It seems as if what you buy today becomes obsolete the next, which is why it’s important to update yourself on the newest features available for digital cameras before you think of upgrading or buying a new one. Here are some of the new features you should look out for before you zero in on any one digicam!

Pixels Don’t Really Rule

Unlike the days of yore when you couldn't fathom buying a camera above 3 megapixels, because the prices were outrageous, now you can! But then again, you need to ask yourself how high is too high? Should you go for a 5 megapixel or an 8? Experts will tell you that any 3.2 megapixel camera will give you crystal clear images that can be blown up to almost three feet. If you want to blow up your pictures even more, a 5 megapixel camera should do, because pixels are nothing more than an opportunity to blow up your picture size. Then again, if you use compact cameras that have small sensors, but offer many megapixels, there is a definite loss in picture quality. It gets even worse if you take images at a higher ISO level in low-light conditions. So, what I'm saying is, don't let megapixels be the only criteria for you to determine which camera to buy.

Zoom In

The zoom feature is largely ignored, but it's very important. With a zoom function, it saves you from having to crop things out of your pictures. Similarly, it saves you footwork, because you don’t have to move back and forth while taking a picture. Therefore, the higher the zoom, the more room for angling your shot. Most cameras come with a 3X zoom, but now, there are several cameras where the standard is a 4X zoom and they are available at the same price. So, I say go for it! If you love your zoom, there are super zoom lenses that can magnify up to 25 times and more. However, just remember to use the zoom lens only when the lighting is good. If you zoom in low-light conditions, your pictures could be under exposed. Some cameras even come with an optical zoom that stretches the maximum zoom range, without losing the picture quality.

Wide, Wide World

What was once the preserve of a professional photographer is now within the reach of an amateur photographer! There are several cameras that offer a great wide angle feature, without having to buy a stand-alone wide angle lens. This helps a great deal, because some wide angle lenses cost as much as a camera itself. Given a choice, go for at least a 28mm wide zoom. That size is great for group photography and shooting panorama pictures and landscapes.

Anti-blur Feature

This comes in handy particularly in low-light conditions and when you are taking pictures without a tripod or any stable platform. Essentially, this feature prevents blurring of images that result due to camera shake. Though most brands offer the image stabilization feature, it’s best to check them out before buying, because each brand has its own quality measure.

ISO Levels

The ISO level partly determines your level of success in low-light photography. The higher the ISO level, the better your photo will turn out, without the help of a flash. What it does is increase the sensitivity of the lens to the existing light and it captures as much detail. Of course, you should avoid using the highest ISO level, because it could lead to a lot of graininess in your pictures. Technically, cameras higher than 6 megapixels do not give better results with a higher ISO than those under the 6 megapixel range.

Ability to Detect Faces

This comes in handy particularly in group photos, where everyone is at a different distance from the camera lens. Traditional cameras aren’t able to detect all the faces in a picture and thereby, adjust their focal length to each. But now, manufacturers, like Canon, have pioneered face detection technology, which has led many more brands to provide the same. This helps in getting crystal clear images of all the faces in a picture and not just the person in the center of the frame. This feature controls the exposure to the lens and it synchronizes the flash accordingly for a more balanced output.

Red-eye Removal Feature

Photoshop should be your last resort when it comes to removing red-eye from your subject’s eyes during night shooting. Several cameras now come with a ready-made feature that avoids red-eye by throwing a pre-flash light at you so that your pupil constricts before the actual flash. While some cameras do it brilliantly, others do not. The best way to find out is to try flash photography of a person indoors and judge it for yourself.

Candle Light Mode

Look for additional scene modes not found in an ordinary digital camera. One of these is the "candle light" mode, which allows you to take pictures of anything where the lighting is nothing more than a candle light. This works well if you use a tripod and have to make do with limited lighting. All in all, it’s an effective mode.

In-Camera Panorama Picture Stitching

While most cameras have a panorama mode, they don’t allow you to stitch two pictures inside the camera itself. You have to do that in Photoshop later on. Well, not anymore! Newer cameras can stitch together two pictures taken in the "panorama" mode to give a seamless feel of a rectangular photo. It looks awesome and it saves you the bother of Photoshop!

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These are only a few of the extra features found in some of today’s digital cameras. I advise you to ask your vendor to show you extra features that most cameras don’t have and then be sure to test them before you buy.

Happy shopping!

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Unplugged: Plug and Play

Plug and play: I’m sure most of you have heard that term before, right? But, for those of you who don’t know exactly what it means, plug and play is a feature that allows a user to add a device to their computer, without having to reconfigure anything or install any manual drivers. A couple examples of plug and play devices are flash drives and MP3 players.

Okay, let’s say someone gave you a new MP3 player for Christmas and the box says its "plug and play!" So, you expect to plug it into the back of your computer and start transferring songs right away. Now, let’s say your computer does not recognize it. What do you do then? Well, let's defer throwing it against the wall for now and try some basic troubleshooting steps! The three most common ways to troubleshoot for devices like this are:

  • Unplug the device and plug it back in.

  • Restart your computer (with and without the device).

  • See if an older device works. (For example, if you're trying to plug in a new MP3 player, try an old MP3 player. If you're using a new flash drive, try an old flash drive and so on).

I don’t know about you, but these steps seem fairly easy to me. Of course, you can always call the technical support hotline, but who wants to do that if you can fix it yourself?! So, let's get started. If an old plug and play device still works, it's likely that your computer has mistaken the new device for the old one (a more formal term is device driver conflict).

To fix that, you need to uninstall the old device driver and any other drivers that could possibly cause conflict with your new MP3 player. For that, you need your device manager. Now, configuring the device manager requires Administrator rights, so if you don’t have those enabled, this will not work. When you're ready, continue on!

1.) Click on the Start menu and choose Run.

2.) Type in “cmd” (without the quotes) and click OK. A new window will then show up, which is the good ol’ DOS command prompt window. It looks like this:

3.) Next, type in “set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1” (without the quotes) and press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Note: Nothing will really happen, but you will see the command prompt again. That’s okay!

4.) Now, type in “devmgmt.msc” (without the quotes) and press the Enter key. Nothing will happen in the command prompt window, but the device manager window will appear. Click the X button to close the command prompt window.

5.) Next, click on View and choose Show Hidden Devices. This will display previously installed devices that are not connected to your computer, otherwise known as “ghost” devices.

Now, I want you to pause, smile and congratulate yourself, because we are about to get a little more serious!

Caution: Be careful with this next section. You should note that non-loaded devices, drivers and services are "grayed" out, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should delete all of them. Only remove the items you know you don't need. Also, be careful that you don't change too many devices or you might need to reactivate your Windows installation. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, please find some help!

When you're ready, click on the plus (+) signs to expand the device list. Staying with our example, we can safely uninstall the old MP3 device driver and the other ghost USB devices since we don’t need them.

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We can also safely uninstall the ghost unknown devices listed under the Universal Serial Bus Controllers section, because they are not connected and their drivers have not been loaded properly.

When you’re done, just click on the X button to close the device manager. Then restart your computer and voila! Your computer should now recognize your new MP3 device. In the event that it still doesn't, there are many other factors to consider, which I may just cover in future articles. Until then, you can refer to your user manual for some additional help. I hope this tip has helped a lot of you get your new devices up and running. Have fun!

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Outlook – No More Saving One at a Time

Tired of saving e-mail attachments one at a time in MS Outlook?

I mean, you have to save them all, but who wants to go through opening each one and saving them separately? Not me! So, how can you expedite the situation and save them all in one quick move?

That's a good question and fortunately, I have a good answer!

Here's the scoop on saving many attachments (to the same folder location) with one swift move.

First, select the e-mail that has the attachments to be saved.

Next, you'll need the File menu, Save Attachments submenu.

When the submenu opens, it will list all of the attachments and at the bottom, you should see a choice for All Attachments. Go ahead and select it.

The Save All Attachments dialogue window will then open, allowing you to modify your choice from "All" to just some of the files. You may need to use the Ctrl key to deselect something if you really weren't looking to save all of them.

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When you've made sure the highlighted list represents the files you need to save, click OK.

A window will then appear that works just like all of the windows where you save files. Navigate to the folder where the files should be saved and click OK.

That's it! They've all been saved with one quick process.

Now, obviously, that method puts all of the files into one location. If you have different locations for different groups of attachments, you will need to repeat the process and select different files to save each time.

Save one, save two or save them all. It's up to you now!

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Winamp 5.51

Are you ready for this? I've got some great news for all you Winamp lovers out there! Yep, back on December 26, 2007, Winamp 5.51 was released and it is now available for download. So, if you're a long time Winamp user (or if you'd like to start using it), you've got to check this out! With all of the updates and changes made to it, Winamp 5.51 is nothing short of amazing. I, myself, have used Winamp for a few years now and I absolutely love what this new version brings to the table. Let's take a look, shall we?!

Now, the list of new features for Winamp 5.51 is much too long for me to go over right here in the newsletter, but I will give you a sneak peek! For starters, this new release includes a completely redesigned interface with a new album art feature. Winamp also now comes with multiple device support, erectile dysfunction cialis which includes MP3 players and iPods. Plus, with an MP3 player, you can even experience surround sound effects. Awesome! Another great new feature is the Media Monitor, which allows you to organize your music into playlists for easy listening. You can also catch up on artist and concert information with the new Smart Search feature.

And that's not even half of it! With Winamp 5.51, you're granted access to thousands of online radio stations and videos. There is also a new feature called Auto-Tagger and it allows you to add automatic updates to your music files. It's just another easy way you can keep all of your music in check. There is also a new Winamp toolbar you can download that enables you to control Winamp right from your Web browser. It doesn't get any easier than that! If you want more, you can see a complete list of the new features on this Web site. Then whenever you're ready to download Winamp 5.51, just visit this link and hit the Download Winamp – Free button. You'll then be on your way to sweet Winamp bliss. Enjoy!

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