Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MS Office 2007 Quick Access Toolbar Customization

I wrote in a previous blog that a good way to help your team transition to MS Office 2007 is to add one-click buttons to their applications. This saves them having to find where the option is to add bullets, for example, in the ribbon.

While building a new network recently we wanted to do this for the entire team. We learned that the customizations are saved as *.qat (Quick Access Toolbar) files and stored in the 'c:\documents and settings\{username}\local settings\application data\microsoft\office' folder. Armed with that, we set up the Quick Access Toolbars the way we wanted them on one system, and then copied the *.qat files to each user's local configuration folder.

And, just like that, all users had the modified Quick Access Toolbars they needed to stay productive during the transition!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

Ian Beyer wrote in his blog today about a Microsoft mess-up. Microsoft sent some patches through WSUS, one of which is slowing networks to a crawl. The offending patch is their new version of Windows Desktop Search (version 3.01). As Ian noted, they sent it right through those using WSUS that were willing to trust Microsoft (he was allowing patches Microsoft deemed critical to go right through).

MBS Clients Not Affected!
Fortunately for our firm's retainer clients who use our server as their WSUS source, none were effected. We don't automatically apply any Microsoft patches until it is tested.

Microsoft originally denied they did anything wrong, but then changed their story and apologized for it (see ComputerWorld article -- Ian, is that you they quoted?).

The Problem, and The Fix
The by-product of this error is that desktops and notebooks slow to a snail's pace while they index and re-index hard drive files. The fix is relatively easy... at least it was for me (I'm a tester / guinea pig on our system for all MS patches).
  1. Go into Control Panel's Add/Remove programs on each computer.
  2. Remove Windows Desktop Search 3.01 (it will list among all installed programs and not with updates).
I hope that works as easily for you as it did for me,


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let the Mac Adventure Begin!!

Some of my friends and colleagues are beside themselves because I'm walking around with a MacBook Pro under my arm! Yes, it's true: Nick is using a Mac!

The adventure began late last week as I began research on the merits and how-to of using a Mac in a church or ministry environment. I admit the hardware and OS is subjectively more pleasing, but the challenge is that most of the software I (and most of those in our niche) need to use will only run on a PC.

The Challenge Defined
There is increasing pressure from our team members to use Macs in the workplace. Our response to their request for a Mac has generally been that unless they had a compelling reason, the answer was most likely no because the databases and other software we run needs to run on a PC. But is that still true? Maybe not!

The Times... They Are a Changin'
The newest Macs run on Intel chips and have a few ways they can run PC environments. Typically we hear of two (Bootstrap and Parallels). Many in our niche don't prefer the Bootstrap method because (I'm told) it requires restarting the system when one wants to switch from one OS to the other-- too cumbersome. Many have good things to say about Parallels, but I wanted to test VMware's Fusion since we already run VMware on our network servers.

With Fusion I have the choice of running a virtual PC, or of unifying the two OS desktops together. I like the Unity method because I can launch my PC applications in what appears to be the Mac desktop and dock, and they run in windows that look very similar to Mac applications. Very nice!

Does it Work?
So far, it does! I have a couple more challenges to overcome to make it totally transparent, but it looks promising. And it appears the PC applications run better in this environment than natively on a PC! Go figure!

There are a bunch of little differences, like keystrokes, to get used to. But so far, the user interface is a nice improvement. Once I get the PC applications running perfectly, then I'll begin to tackle the task of looking for reasons why some things really should be done on a Mac.

To my closest friends and colleagues I can only say that I'm still the same old Nick...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Windows 2003 Server R2 64-Bit Head Scratcher

Every now and then you run into something "special" that just makes you scratch your head and wonder. That just happened to us while installing the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 R2... and you're gonna love it!

The Process
We installed the NOS, patched it, installed SQL 2005 64-bit, then installed our client's database. However, the database wouldn't run because it wanted us to have a default printer defined. So we installed a default printer, and it still wouldn't run!

The Conundrum
We installed, configured, and uninstalled a bunch of printers-- including the Generic/Text Only printer. Still, the database wouldn't launch.

We called the database's tech support and spoke with the "guys at the top", and they hadn't run into this problem. After talking about it a bit, they asked us to try a basic print job from Notepad. It wouldn't print! The error was "The handle is invalid."

We Googled, called Dell, searched Microsoft... no help. Then someone suggested we make certain we're using 64-bit printer drivers. Now remember that we were installing the printers using the Add Printer wizard that installed with the 64-bit NOS. But just to be sure, we went to HP's website and downloaded a 64-bit driver. It worked!

Just Makes You Wonder...
So we couldn't help scratching our heads wondering why Microsoft would ship their 64-bit NOS with 32-bit drivers! Oh well... on to the next challenge!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Opening Office 2007 on Older Systems

One of the complaints we often hear about Office 2007 is that it wants to save files in a new format (.docx, .xlsx, etc). As I've blogged about previously, this is because Microsoft has created what they hope will be the new XML standard.

Microsoft has released a filter that allows previous versions of Office to open these new files. But my daughter told me she had a problem at school because she couldn't open her files in their computer lab.

Thinking about Microsoft's goal, I decided to try an experiment with her. We right-clicked on a .docx file and choose Open With, then pointed to our Internet Explorer. Guess what! It opened the file!

That means sending these new file types to others can still work if they have a browser!

Let me know if this works for you too-- or if I just got lucky!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Church IT Director = Super IT Director!

While serving a large church some years ago we ran into a church IT director who proved why church it directors are a super species!

The Challenge
He had a server that only had hardware errors on occasion. Through his investigative analysis, he found that the errors only happened when the motherboard was in a vertical orientation (possibly a hairline crack).

The Solution
So, he did what any super IT director would do! He rebuilt the server so that it ran on a cardboard frame!

Was this the first open system?

You Gotta Love Mr. Excel!

Today's Mr. Excel Podcast is a fun one! He was in Alexandria, IN, where the world's largest ball of paint is, and he added the 20,405th coat of paint! Apparently anyone can stop by and do it, and get a Guinness Record Book certificate for breaking the existing record!

Check out the podcast... you'll like it! It even has a blooper reel at the end

Friday, October 5, 2007

Very Cool Technology

Steve Hewitt wrote about a coming technology in his blog recently that I can't wait for! Click here to see the demo.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fall Church IT Roundtable

Clif Guy and his team did a great job of hosting about 60 church IT geeks this week. The discussion topics, the worship, the food... way to go COR team!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mr. Excel's New Book-- For Free!

Mr. Excel publishes a two-minute podcast of Excel tips daily, and they're very good. He just released a new book of his tips, and is offering it as a free download at www.mrexcel.com/pod600.html.