Thursday, July 10, 2014

MVPs and the Evolution of Windows

I’ve been mentioned on the Microsoft MVP Award Program blog. The post is about MVPs and the evolution of Windows.

From the article:

For more than two decades, MVPs have been on the forefront of helping people around the world make the most of their Microsoft technologies, including its centerpiece, the Windows operating system, from Windows 3.1 to Windows 8.1 and all the releases in between. Today, with Microsoft’s new rapid release cadence, their expertise is more important than ever…

In Canada, five MVPs produced guidance for the Windows XP End of Life campaign. Here are some highlights:

Brian Bourne | Windows XP End Of Support – Mitigating the Security Concerns
Yannick Plavonil | Chères entreprises, réveillez-vous Windows XP c’est fini dans un mois!
Sean Wallbridge | I Love My Surface Pro 2 and Windows 8.1
Colin Smith | XP End of Support – Do You Need New Hardware?
Stephen Cawood | Windows XP End of Life Is Coming

Turn off Image or Video Prompt in Snagit 12

If you haven’t tried Snagit, you should check it out. It’s much better than relying on the old school screen capture mechanisms. When I was taking screenshots for my books, Snagit saved me a great deal of time. As just one example, try capturing an open dropdown menu using just Windows screen capture shortcuts—it’s like trying to catch a greased pig.

I just upgraded to Snagit 12 and found that every time I take an image capture, I’m prompted to select either a video or image capture (see the big blue buttons in the screenshot below). I rarely use the video capture, so this is a waste of time. Here’s how to turn it off.

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First, check if you’ve got an old version of Snagit installed. I had 11 and 12 installed and was not getting the behaviour I wanted. I had to uninstall Snagit 11 to get rid of the old editor.

Next, go to the preferences window and check the hotkey associated with the default capture profile. I like to use print screen, so I’m going to change the “Global capture” shortcut key to something else. To get to the preferences window, you can right-click the icon in the task menu (bottom right corner of your screen with the hidden icons), then choose Preferences and the Hotkeys tab.

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After I’ve freed up the right shortcut key, I’m going to associate that key (PrtScn) with a profile that doesn’t ask if I want to take video.

To do this, choose the “Send to Clipboard” profile from the Manage Profiles dialog, and then click the Hotkey button at the bottom to associate this with the keyboard shortcut you’d like to use. Note that I wanted to go directly to the Snagit editor, so I have that enabled.

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Now I’m back to the lightning fast capture that I’ve come to love. When I use the hotkey, I go straight to the Snagit editor. If I wanted, I could add styles (such as borders) as part of the profile and they would be automatically applied.

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p.s., If you’re wondering how I captured the Snagit windows. I cheated. I used Alt+PrtScn to do it old school.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Aquatic Informatics Blog Post: AQUARIUS: Where Smart Water Data Meets the SMART Tunnel

Check out my first blog post on the Aquatic Informatics blog: AQUARIUS: Where Smart Water Data Meets the SMART Tunnel

In this post, I discuss the engineering feat that is the SMART (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel) Tunnel. It stretches 9.7 km beneath Malaysia’s capital and function both as a roadway as a storm drainage system.

SMART Tunnel Aquatic Informatics Blog by Stephen Cawood

- Image Courtesy: ENTURA, Hydro Tasmania

From the post:

The “Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel” (SMART Tunnel), has been featured in many news stories and television shows such as Extreme Engineering on the Discovery Channel, Build It Bigger on the Science Channel, Megastructures on the National Geographic Channel, and Man Made Marvels on the Science Channel. The reason the Kuala Lumpur tunnel is so amazing starts with its length: it is the second longest storm drainage tunnel in Asia at 9.7 km (6.0 mi). The truly amazing aspect of the SMART tunnel is that it’s the first dual-use storm drainage and road structure in the world. The tunnel is mainly used to ease traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur, but there is a storm drainage system under the two decks of cars. Essentially, the tunnel acts as a reservoir to decrease the peak of water flows of the Klang river and therefore mitigate the severity of floods. However, that’s not all. In the event of a bad flood, the road decks can also be used to drain the storm water away from the city. That’s right. The car levels can be completely filled with water as well!

Update: It was recently announced that a similar tunnel project is planned for Jakarta:

Jakarta Announces Plan for Integrated Tunnels to Manage Traffic and Floods

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Windows XP End of Life Update: Win a Microsoft Gift Card for Commenting on This Post

A while back, I wrote a post about the Windows XP End of Support date (yes, it has already passed). Microsoft has generously donated a Microsoft Store Gift Card to help get the message out that it's time to upgrade.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think is the single most important reason to upgrade from Windows XP, or your favourite new feature of Windows 8.1 and you will be entered to a random draw for a $100 Microsoft Store Gift Card. Winners will be selected on July 15th.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Add Wikipedia App to Microsoft Word 2013

Office 2013 and SharePoint apps are great, but I have to admit that I haven’t done much with them yet. Today, I found myself wondering what I’d have to do to get Wikipedia to open when I right-clicked on a word or phrase in Word 2013.

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To add Wikipedia, all I had to do was choose Insert from the Ribbon menu at the top of the screen and then click the Wikipedia icon. If you click “My Apps,” you can navigate to the Office 2013 app store and check out what other interesting apps are available.

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Once you click the icon, you’ll need to confirm that you trust this new app.

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After you’ve trusted the app, you can now quickly look up words or phrases from your Word documents in Wikipedia. Very cool!

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Switching the app that opens by default when you choose the “Define” option is not obvious. To choose a different app, you first need to hide the Wikipedia app my clicking “My Apps” in the Ribbon and then clicking “Manage My Apps.”

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For example, let’s say you wanted to use the Bing dictionary for the Define option. You can add the Bing app, then choose Manage My Apps—which opens a web page—and hide Wikipedia from that page. Once you hide an app, you should be able to click the “Refresh” button in the My Apps view and see that the app is no longer there.

After you’re done, you can unhide Wikipedia. Note that some people have reported that they had to restart Word after hiding Wikipedia.

I should mention that it’s also possible to have multiple apps running. In the screenshot below, I have both the Bing dictionary and the Wikipedia app open.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

U.N. World Water Day 2014

Today is U.N. World Water day!

My smartass Twitter comment was that I’ll spend the day reflecting on things, but seriously… water is our most precious resource and we really need to start taking care of it. Since joining Aquatic Informatics software, I’ve had much more exposure to stories of water-related issues around the world. We’re working to provide the software the world needs to make smart water policies based on actual data rather than speculation or lobbying. We need to let science decide how we can provide better access to clean drinking water and more widespread use of renewable resources for power generation.

From the U.N. Water Day Facebook page:

“Did YOU know that… by 2035, the global energy demand is projected to grow by more than one-third and demand for electricity is expected to grow by 70%.

22nd of March is World Water Day. The theme for this year is Water & Energy.
Share this picture and help us raise awareness about UN-Water World Water Day

UNWorldWaterDay

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Windows XP End of Life is Coming

It's time to move on. Although Windows XP was an important release when it came out, and a surprising number of people and organizations are still running it, it's time to upgrade.



If you know someone still running XP, you should remind him or her in no uncertain terms that 2001 is over. On April 8th, 2014, Windows XP support will end. After that date, there will not be any updates--most notably security updates--for the O/S that should probably be called Windows Classic at this point.

One of my responsibilities at Aquatic Informatics is the supported systems matrix for our software. We had deprecated support for Windows XP a couple of releases ago, but as of our next release, we'll officially be dropping support. There's no doubt that most software companies have already done the same or will be dropping XP support in the near future. So boldly step into the present and take a look at Windows 8.1.

Update: Microsoft has generously donated a Microsoft Store Gift Card to help get the message out that it's time to upgrade.

Leave a comment on my update post and let me know what you think is the single most important reason to upgrade from Windows XP, or your favourite new feature of Windows 8.1 and you will be entered to a random draw for a $100 Microsoft Store Gift Card. Winners will be selected on July 15th.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Mystery of Why People Use SharePoint

I had to laugh when I read this blog post from the Calgary Herald: Is SharePoint a pain point? Maybe it’s time to ditch it. They used the image below (slightly modified here) to distance themselves from the "righteous" supporters of SharePoint.

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Of course SharePoint isn't perfect, but if you require some features that SharPoint provides, then you should run a pilot and try it out; base your decision on your actual use cases. This quote from a white paper that I co-wrote with Colin Spence (he wrote this particular text) sums it up nicely:

“If end users already know how to use SharePoint and have received training on the key tools provided by SharePoint the organization can be more ambitious in the implementation. On the other hand if end users are completely unfamiliar with SharePoint and in general not open to change and not willing to take training, IT should carefully control the complexity of the SharePoint configuration. Projects can be seen as “failures” if a few important end users complain that the SharePoint solution is ‘too complicated,’ or ‘too time consuming.’”

It's a classic case of people believing that there is a perfect system out there and all they need to do is pick the right one. It's simply not reality.