Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint

With my new computer I was thinking about actually buying Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student edition since it gives the license for 3 computers and it is not really that expensive; one can get it for around 110 US$ from eBay. So if you have 2 computers at home and a sister of brother that need Office as well, it comes down to 35US$ per computer which is a really good price. There is another side of the story when you actually need to buy a language pack for Office separately - 25US$ per each language.

My believe is that people really get carried away with the fancy stuff and do not realize that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office. They basically do not have the information. For the businesses, on the other hand it's a part of being cool and afford having Microsoft Office and do the presentations in fancy PowerPoint. There are also macro developers as well who do some things in Access and so on. Those probably cannot live without Microsoft products. Still, there is a huge number of home users that actually do not need all the stuff that Microsoft supplies with Office. Could you imagine how may people use just Word for writing some papers and checking spelling before they send essays and so on.

For people like me, it is very often a task to suggest to a person using computers which software to choose. Especially it was so back in Klaipeda when I had to make a decision about persons needs for a certain activity to be performed on the computer. Microsoft Office was one of the must-be-there things at that time.

These days I do not use word processor much at home basically because I do not write long papers for the university. For the emails in English, Firefox and Gmail will do pretty much all I need. On the other hand, for writing emails in Russian or Swedish, there is a need for a spell checker. Well, well, well – where am I heading to? Trust me it took a really long time for me(about 2 years) to persuade myself that instead of getting MS Office I really can efficiently use OpenOffice. But I did it and now I am using OpenOffice at home. I could roll on describing that OpenOffice can actually do most of the things Microsoft Office does example by example but I will just summarize the most important ones.

1. There is a free Microsoft solution to view and print (not edit) all Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint files, including 2007 formats. So you will never end up receiving a downloading Office file that you cannot view. I can provide the links to download the viewers and support for 2007 format.
2. OpenOffice does have all the features of header, footer, section breaks, graphs, text formatting and so on.
3. OpenOffice does have the spellchecker for almost all the languages.
4. OpenOffice has the output to PDF format. It cannot edit PDF files. Neither does MS Office.
5. OpenOffice is free.
6. There are some quite handy free add-ons for OpenOffice.
7. OpenOffice cannot work with macros that were developed in Microsoft Office.
8. There is a huge knowledge base online for OpenOffice and how to achieve different results with it.
9. OpenOffice user interface is multilingual. You can get all the menus and options in Russian, for instance.

I hope I didn’t roll on for too long in this posting and I hope it will make you try OpenOffice.



Friday, November 16, 2007

Travelling: Christmas Trip

The time has come for us to plan the next trip to Lithuania. We have booked the tickets for December 23. We will be flying to Riga and then taking a bus to Klaipeda. Marie and I will spend Christmas in Klaipeda but for the New Year Marie will go to Belarus to meet with her family. I am going back to Sweden from Klaipeda on January 3.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Computers: Russian Phonetic Layout (XP+, x64, x86)

For quite a long time I was using LithWin for Windows to add Russian Phonetic keyboard layout, so the letters/sounds pronounced in Russian would be the same letters pronounced in English. In other words, having a keyboard layout with the following layout:
A=А B=Б C=Ц D=Д E=Е F=Ф G=Г H=Х ... and so on.

With Lithwin, it worked on 2000, 2003, XP and even on Vista but only 32 bits. On the 64 bits Windows it didn't work. With the help of Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, it is possible to open he existing layouts and then create installations for other versions of Windows, including x64. So, I have recompiled the Russian Phonetic to make it possible to run on Vista x64. It will work on any windows starting from Windows 2000 as well. So, if you cannot find the Russian Phonetic layout for XP, you can use this one. In comparison with LithWin, it will automatically add the language to the installed/used ones. Download it here.

Update 1: Works on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 both x86 and x64 editions.

Update 2: It will not be possible to install it on Windows 8 RT. There is Mnemonic Russian keyboard layout available in RT. It has the same principle but a slightly different layout (which I actually don't like as much as the Phonetic one)

Update 3: If it installs on Windows 8 but is not shown in the language menu, try adding a usual 
Russian (touch) input method first, then installing the Phonetic layout. It should all the Phonetic to the language list. After that remove the usual Russian input method.

Update 4: 2014-10-02: Just installed it on Windows Technical Preview Build 9841. Works as expected.

Update 5: 2016-01-16: It installs OK on Windows 10 (x64) new installations but requires restart for the layout to come up in the language panel (even though it does not say that explicitly).  


Monday, November 05, 2007

Computers: Fonts, Encodings, Fun

Probably all my friends that had to deal with more than one language (Russian/Cyrillic especially) have faced the problem when a non-unicode application or the page on the web wouldn't recognize the encoding and display the question marks or the nonsence characters instead of the Russian symbols. In some Russian fairy tales, there is some kind of a knight during his long journey, on the road, faces a stone where it is written - if you go to the left, you will lose your horse; if you go to the right, you will lose your life, if you go straight ... and so on. So, I think this picture (although a pretty old one) combines both in a nice way. Very often there are things that you really need to see from the screen but it's not that easy. For the programs, things became much easier after Windows 2000 and the implementation of the Unicode. However, for the web pages it is still a problem sometimes ... Windows-1251, KOI8-R ...


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Computers: New Computer

Finally, on Friday I picked up the last parts of my computer and around 22:30 with the help from Marie we were done putting together my new computer. It became with some disappointments, such as that motherboard only supporting the raid with one internal and one external SATA drive although on the package it said it does support RAID and nothing else. That was the first time Asus disappointed me. So, I decided not to have RAID and just have 3 HDDs in the computer. Second, the processor came boxed with the cooler but I had already bought a different Asus cooler which is much bigger and more efficient (you can see that on the picture), so I have one spare cooler now.

As about Windows Vista Business 64 Bit, I was really amazed how easy it was. First, I used Memtest and tested 8GB or RAM - it actually took some time. Then, there was an option during the installation to test the RAM which I did as well. Everything was good, and it was worth investing a bit more money into good memeory like Kingston.

The rest is pretty simple, just like with XP, installation, drivers, etc.

The software part wasn't that complicated. Most of the software will run perfectly on 64 bit vista. Some issued that might raise are the programs that use drivers - like CD Burning, video tweakers, etc. The rest is ok. From the software that I have installed so far, I didn't have any problems.

So, here is the configuration of the computer:

Date / Time 2007-11-04 / 20:30

-- Computer Type ACPI x64-based PC
-- Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Business

-- CPU Type QuadCore Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850, 3000 MHz (9 x 333)
-- Motherboard Name Asus P5K-V (3 PCI, 1 PCI-E x1, 2 PCI-E x16, 4 DDR2 DIMM, Audio, Video, Gigabit LAN, IEEE-1394)
-- System Memory 8192 MB (DDR2-800 DDR2 SDRAM)
-- Video Adapter NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)

-- LG L246WP(Digital)

-- 2x Disk Drive WDC WD1600JS-55NCB1 ATA Device (149 GB, IDE)
-- Disk Drive WDC WD5000AAKS-00YGA0 ATA Device (465 GB, IDE)

Optical Drive
-- LITE-ON DVDRW SOHW-1653S SCSI CdRom Device (DVD+R9:4x, DVD+RW:16x/4x, DVD-RW:12x/4x, DVD-ROM:16x, CD:48x/24x/48x DVD+RW/DVD-RW)

-- Microsoft USB Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 (IntelliType Pro)

-- Microsoft USB Trackball Explorer (IntelliPoint)

All for now.