Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for April, 2007

Explaining the basics – Why Microsoft & Office 2007 don’t get it.

Posted by shannonclark on April 7, 2007

The version of Office 2007 which Microsoft gave me for attending the launch a while back includes a product called Outlook with Business Contact Manager.

As an entrepreneur and founder of a business dedicated to networking business people I decided to install this feature and see how it might help me as I organized my large stack of pending contacts to enter from business cards. My plan for this new laptop is to migrate my old data over slowly, taking advantage of the relatively clean system to cleanup, organize and enhance my data.

However as I looked over the product I realized I was not 100% clear how Microsoft intended certain fields to be used. Specifically what are the intended distinctions between “accounts”, “contacts”,  and “opportunities”? I think I know, but I’m not sure – nor is it clear on first glance if I’ll be able to move things around in the future (i.e. if I put in every contact, can I later designate that some represent opportunities? that some will become “accounts”? further, my business will have a couple of really different types of business relationships – I’ll have (we hope) many many 1000’s (hopefully millions) of users of NELA, a large number but a subset of the total users whose companies pay for commercial features of NELA, and finally a very different set of business relationships with companies that advertise on NELA to our users. We may also have a number of other different types of business relationships – partners, service providers, companies for whom we resell or recommend their products etc. Will I be able to customize this tool to help me track these nuances of business relationships?

So, I went to what seemed like a good starting point – Microsoft’s help page for the product.

Here I encountered one of the really fundamental areas where Microsoft gets it absolutely wrong.

Take a look at the following page, which claims to help you understand how to add data. The title of the page is “Getting started with Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007” (side note, look at that URL – SEO hell, garbage data in the URL)

Microsoft actually does embed definitions of the various categories on this page – but quick, take a look, do you see the links?

Nope?

Try scrolling down, click on the “add this … ” links.

Anything useful there?

Didn’t think so.

Turns out, if you hover your mouse over the words “Account”, “Business Contact”, “Opportunity”, or “Business Project” in the first paragraph you’ll note that there is embeded Javascript so that on click a definition of that term is displayed inline on the page.

BUT

This runs counter to all good web style. Other than hovering your mouse over every bit of text on the page, there is no visual clue that these words are anything different from everything else on the page.

When I was starting to write this post, in fact, I was going to say that there was NO definitions for these terms on the page.

And I’m a pretty advanced user of the web (been online, running my own servers since 1991, have helped define standards, built pretty complex web apps etc).

Turns out phrases all over this page have the same treatment.

But I, for one, am not in the habit of following with my cursor every word of a webpage I am reading just on the off chance that something is a link which does not look like one (or as in this case, has javascript surrounding it to do something on mouseover or click – so not actually a “real” link in fact.

As a further experiment, take a look at each of the “creating a … ” entries on the page.

One of these is not like the other.

All but the Opportunity section are just step-by-step instructions on how to create (of the form like click the create … button”. Pretty brainless and useless for nearly anyone who can read. No context or significant help in understanding the intention of the software.

In contrast, the Opportunity section starts with a definition of what this is intended for.

 Opportunities are chances to sell your products or services. Opportunity records help you prioritize your sales information, track your sales process and customer interactions, and forecast your sales.

And actually, in that block above, the Opportunities and Opportunity records phrases are further javascript links to definitions – though the UI expert who suggested that people would expect to click inside of a block of text which had, itself, only shown up as the result of a click should probably be looking for work in a different field.

I will give the application a bit of a try, though I am not optimistic that in the end it will prove all that useful for my needs.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, microsoft, tablet pc, working | Leave a Comment »

Outlook 2007 bugs and UI issues

Posted by shannonclark on April 7, 2007

As I continue on my path of setting up my new laptop, I have been working on getting Outlook 2007 configured and working. Working as in, spent many hours this afternoon and missed lunch trying to get what should be simple things set up.

So, in this post, a few of the bugs (my opinion), user interface (UI) gripes, and other problems I have found with Outlook 2007, all in just the initial getting it setup. I’m sure when I also go to importing my nearly 9+ gb worth of archived mail in previous versions of Outlook formats, I will find new and different sets of bugs.

I should note, that even in my current relatively quiet mode being pre-launch with my new company NELA I still receive hundreds of emails, to put it into perspective in the past <10 days I received over 4000 emails, of which Outlook 2007’s junk filters determined that about 2500 of which were spam. And that does not include how ever countless spam messages are sent to random addresses at one of my multiple domains and are promptly just automatically deleted.

So for me a highly functional email tool is not a luxury, rather it is a necessity. For about the past 6 months or so I have mostly used gmail, via the web or my cell phone, as my primary mail client. But that has been mostly possible because I have been doing relatively low volumes of outbound email, and my needs have been relatively minimal. I have gmail set up to auto-label and sort most of my active mailing lists and generally enjoy using it. But there are some issues with the mobile version (not the Java client but the mobile web) and my cell phone (around sending outbound messages).

But most seriously I do need to in the near future send out lots of emails – at least hundreds, possibly close to 1000 or so, as I start inviting the 100’s of people I have met recently to NELA, and as I begin ramping up our sales, marketing, and PR efforts.

So, on my new laptop I installed Office 2007 (Microsoft gave me a full license for attending the Office 2007 launch event in San Francisco).

When I booted up Outlook for the first time, set up my initial account, I encountered my first problem with Outlook UI (and one that I would nearly call a bug).

That is, it was all too easy to set up the account and not realize that it was set to auto send & receive, both on starting up Outlook and every 30 minutes. Further, by default, mail is set to be deleted from the server.

My practice has long been to retain mail on my pop3 server for 10 days as an automated backup. More than once this has saved me in the past – when Outlook or my local disk crashed, when something went wrong, when I have moved to a new machine, the ability to get caught up with my past 10 days worth of mails has been very important.

And yes, perhaps I should look at moving to an IMAP server seup (as many of my alpha geek friends have done).

Earlier today, however, I also found a rather odd bit of behavior on Outlook 2007’s part, and one that is symptomatic of a fundamental UI issue.

I had two accounts configured, one for my old company JigZaw, one for gmail. I set these up in part to test outbound SMTP service via my DSL (which I thought might be an issue). Running into issues with my old company’s outbound SMTP server settings, I decided to try to remove that account and just use the gmail account for the moment.

So, naturally I looked at the Send/Receive settings (under Tools, Send/Receive, Send/Receive Settings) where I saw a menu option of “Define Send/Receive Groups”.

First minor UI nit – the dialog box that opens up is titled “Send/Receive Groups”, dropped the “Define” somewhere.

This is where I turned off the auto send/receive every 30 minutes (I don’t like my mail clients fetching mail – and thus using bandwidth etc when I don’t ask them to directly, all too often this would happen as I want to shutdown while mobile – say at/during a meeting, in a cafe etc).

From here, I had to click “edit” to select the All Accounts group and edit it.  That led to a very new looking dialog where the three accounts I had set up were displayed on the left (apparently RSS which I hadn’t configured is considered an account by this dialog – more on this in a bit).

I selected the JigZaw account, and asked that it be removed from the All Accounts group (by unselecting a checkbox)

Fine, I thought, that’s great. I did a send/receive – and yes, it only checked my gmail account (didn’t seem to that time at least check RSS).

So I went along, read some emails, and then had something I had to send to my business partner. I opened up a new email, composed the email, and sent it.

Then I selected the send/receive.  And I noticed a problem It was trying to send via TWO accounts. Via my gmail (which happened very quickly – nothing to send as it turns out) and then via JigZaw. Which failed (as I mentioned, the outbound SMTP server configuration was not working).

So now I tried to figure out what was happening. I went back to the send/receive settings, and yes, only gmail and rss were set up there.

I did some more digging. Down a bit farther on the Tools menu, I saw a line “Account Settings …”

I opened this up – a very different looking dialog opened up. And in there, I saw that my jigzaw account was still set as the default for sending mail.

I think this is a bug. If you remove that account from the All Accounts group – shouldn’t it no longer be the default? At the very least, why do you have to go to two different dialogs which look and feel very different to change that behavior?

Now about the RSS feeds. I could have sworn that when I installed and first set up Outlook 2007 I had removed all of the default feeds (so as to have no feeds at all configured). But just now, I looked, and all three default feeds from Microsoft were set for me to download. I will now try to remove them entirely – I wonder how many different dialogs I’ll have to use to do that.

My UI gripe is that all of these dialogs look, feel and act differently from each other. And that menus that imply one thing then open up boxes that call themselves something different. I am a seriously advanced user (I’ve looked deeply into the Sendmail manuals, remember helping people set up their mail routing paths in the early 90’s, heck I even helped edit some of the calendaring IETF specifications). Outlook 2007’s maze of options and dialogs, each looking and acting differently and with no single, unified way to get to all of the options that effect how my system works is confusing for me.

For everyone else, I can only imagine it is even more so.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, mobile, tablet pc | 8 Comments »

Setting up a new laptop – Tablet, Windows Vista

Posted by shannonclark on April 3, 2007

My new Lenovo X60 tablet arrived today.

In this post and likely some follow on posts, I will document what I have done to make the tablet functional for me – for anyone less technical than I, this is by no means an easy or simple process, and very likely there are some steps I haven’t yet done that I will learn about and do in the upcoming days.

After picking up the box and carefully opening it, here is what I did.

1. Opened all parts of the new laptop and confirmed that everything was there and as ordered. I then carefully removed any packaging from the tablet and installed the battery (I ordered the 8 cell battery that does stick out a bit, but gives much better battery life)

2. Booted up the system (and then quickly also plugged in the power to charge up the battery to full – possibly I should have run it down to zero and then done this but too late now).

3. At boot for the first time I was prompted to set up a few key things – my main user account (with admin privileges), the machine name, my name etc.

4. Though I did get a few minor errors initially (from the sidebar for example which didn’t work well without a connection active), once I told the tablet which SSID to use and the wep key for it, I was good (and the connection very very fast).

5. I then had to run a bunch of updates and configurations. For the fingerprint system (which required system reboots – and which is still not fully functioning, more on that later), and then for the first of many windows updates. I also had to set the schedule for the system to check for Lenovo updates and turned down some offers from Lenovo.

6. Norton Internet Security tried to insist on me updating it and running it for a 90 day “free” trial. I have not as my plan is to remove Norton entirely and replace it with better, more friendly and accurate antivirus tools.

7. I went to http://getfirefox.com and downloaded Firefox.

8. I went to the preinstalled (on my request) Microsoft Office OneNote (2003 – a mistake on my part) and activated it (entering the key).

9. I then went to the Microsoft updates page and installed the microsoft updates tool (which though I had thought was already installed and running apparently was not), this time it found 9 more updates that were needed

10. All this required a number of reboots.

11. I customized the sidebar, removing the Lenovo ad, the feeds set to pull from somewhere random, the large analog clock, etc. I added the weather for San Francisco and the contact widget (which I’ll have to see if works well once I get my addressbook data installed here).

12. I went and installed the Google Pack and deselected their anti-adware and antivirus offerings and their screensaver. I added skype. After running and updating my pre-installed version of Google Desktop was updated, Skype was installed, Picasa 2, Google Earth etc.  This in turn required yet another reboot for everything to install.

13. I downloaded Mindmanager for my new tablet (trial of the latest version, assuming it works well in Vista I’ll use it frequently.

14. Having been given a license to Microsoft Office 2007 (full) from Microsoft a few weeks ago, I am now in the midst of following their installation instructions for that and then for Groove 2007 as well (which since my Uncle Lou is now the PM in charge of the next release of Groove I figure I should take a look at and try).

15. Once Office is done installing, is activated, and I do yet another cycle of updates at Microsoft to make sure it is fully patched. I open Outlook 2007 and start configuring it. I will also make sure that however it is installed the features of the tools I will be using are for the most part installed – and won’t require me to go to the network to get (such as dictionaries for spellchecking when I am next working on a plane etc).

16. I also tested that the dock I purchased works and that my old CDRW/DVD drive from my last ThinkPad T40 did indeed work with this new one via the dock. So I won’t have my cd drive with me most of the time, which will be one thing to keep in mind – though increasingly companies do not give me software on cd but ask that I download it anyway. I will, however, probably invest in at least a 2 gb, probably even a 4 or 8 gb flash drive to have with me most of the time (and/or will set up my iPod to use a few gigs as a disk).

After I install Office 2007 I have many more tasks to do on this machine to make it really work for me.

1. Make the fingerprint security system fully functional – so that my stored passwords can be accessible only with my fingerprints

2. If iTunes Vista issues have been resolved, install iTunes on this machine.

3. Install Microsoft’s Expression suite (they gave me a license at Barcamp Austin)

4. Install one of my two Visual Studio licenses on this machine, not that I will use it heavily but just in case.

5. Download and install the same Java IDE which my business partner uses so my laptop can work as a development platform.

6. Install better security software than Norton.

7. Migrate my key data from my old laptop/imac desktop to this laptop. In a few cases also investigate how to keep the datasets in sync in some manner (i.e. my archives of business documents, business plans, financial spreadsheets etc). Most complex, yet also most important, is my Outlook archive assuming that with Outlook 2007 I once again use Outlook to some degree (I have been mostly using gmail for the past months)

8. Migrate my core bookmarks. Also, for my own sanity, visit most of my primary sites and store key passwords (such as for my blogs, for google reader, etc)

9. Install the google reader subscibe link in firefox on my new machine

10. Install the Google toolbar for Firefox and look at what other (select) extensions would be worth installing.

11. Migrate my photos and decide what, if any, of my media to migrate to the laptop (not enough room for all my files, but may decide to keep my current podcasts here?)

12. Speaking of podcasts, look for a podcatcher that is both good, fully functioning and runs under Windows Vista (may not exist).

13. Once set up, try syncing my cell phone with the tablet (i.e. testing sync capabilities of Vista). If it works, look for updates/bug fixes to the version of Windows Mobile now running on my phone. Also look at how to sync/update my phone’s addressbook.

14. Call T-mobile and cancel my paid subscription (for at least the next few months they are running a special for Vista users to get free access, so why pay for it?). And on a related note, do more research into EVDO options including Rev A (and the pending Rev B) vs. the possibly rollout of Wimax etc)

15. Look into what, if any, training is needed for the handwriting recognition to work better. Also learn how to use ink (and probably start subscribing to blogs covering ink and tablets generally).

16. Configure my tablet for access to our corporate VPN.

17. Look for drivers for my current network printer for Vista. If they do not exist (a possibility, it is an older Panasonic laser printer and not very common), then I will likely have to start researching color laserprinters with duplex options (black and white would be manageable but having a color option would be great – and a network printer is strongly my preference).

18. Configure the power options on the laptop and test the battery life claims. (and repeat again when my extra batteries arrive in a day or two).

19. Test that my camera will connect.

20. Download and install the Flickr uploader tool on the tablet.

21. Make sure that all my external drives work smoothly with the new tablet. Also decide on one that will be my backup drive (or buy a new one for this specific purpose) and make sure it is left plugged into the quickdock all the time. Ideally also schedule a backup to run – and then get in the habit of putting the thinkpad in the base all the time. (I may decide to buy another charger so the base is always powered and I have a travel charger with me at all times).

22. If Microsoft Expression suite does not come with the tools to do so, install an SVG editor, for example Inkscape (though since that requires X11 may be more complex).

23. Install a couple of simple, mental break, games on the tablet (vista business edition does not seem to preload ANY games)

24. Install a vista compatible version of Trillian and configure Gtalk on the tablet.

25. Look for a vista version of Twitterrific (and/or get my IM configured for twitter)

26. Set my default home page in IE and in Firefox to something at least as useful as myYahoo.

27. Assuming there are versions for Outlook 2007, considering adding the Plaxo.com toolbar, possibly (though less likely) the LinkedIn.com bar as well.

So quite a list. And I’m sure I missed many things. I’ll add to this over the next week as I explore more of my laptops capabilities and what I am missing having at my fingertips (and now pen).

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, mobile, tablet pc | 5 Comments »

Passover and Easter for an Athiest

Posted by shannonclark on April 2, 2007

This year Passover and Easter week overlap, as is not uncommonly the case. For the past few days, my many Jewish friends have been making Passover plans – I’ve watched twitters from some friends on their way to Israel to celebrate Passover with family and friends, others as they have prepared brisket and observed slight cluelessness by local businesses. I’m sure that my Christian and Catholic friends have been making similar plans for Easter.

But this year, at least as of this afternoon, I have no plans for either holiday.

I should explain, if you haven’t been reading this blog for a long time or if you don’t know me well, though my name gives no hint of it (i.e. Shannon Clark), I am, in fact, Jewish. Could even emigrate to Israel if I ever wanted to – as my mother’s side of the family is Jewish. My father, on the other hand, is Roman Catholic (albeit of the science following, social justice, more left leaning branch).

Growing up I was raised Roman Catholic, even attended a Catholic elementary school for many years, though I was not confirmed so am not, by the Catholic Church’s standards a Catholic adult.

My Jewish identity was less emphasized, though every Christmas my sister and I did get Hanukkah Geld in our stockings, and besides learning to love bagels there was also plenty of Yiddish phrases used growing up (my grandfather’s first language though now long forgotten was Yiddish in fact). But I never did learn Hebrew, nor did I have a Bar Mitzvah. Though I did learn enough about the rules of kosher to help an Israeli friend in college who did not at that time cook much cook a Friday Shabbat dinner at the college Hillel.

When I am asked, on surveys or the like, about my religion I usually state Atheist if that is an option, or often Jewish if the survey is more about ethnic identity than religious practice. But somehow, though I am Jewish, my name does seem to make it easy for even my friends who are Jewish to forget that I am as well.

So this year as we enter into the Holidays for both of my family’s faiths, I find myself without either a Passover Seder or an Easter meal to attend. At the moment I plan on remaining here in San Francisco, a bit too last minute to fly back to Chicago (though I may check last minute deals and see about going for Easter weekend).

If I get ambitious I may see about inviting friends for a meal or two during the week. Any excuse to make lamb is a good one in my book, so that would be fun. And though a bit more challenging, Passover dishes if done well are very tasty as well (and I don’t even mind the lack of bread, good horseradish makes up for a lot in my book).

But if I’m not, then I’ll likely spend the week working on my new business and cleaning my apartment for the spring (I’ve always thought that the model of cleaning out your kitchen for Passover was a good one even if you don’t otherwise keep kosher – good excuse to go through your cabinets and fridge and clear out old stuff). I have lots of good books to read, a new laptop arriving tomorrow (hopefully) to configure and install my tools and data onto. In short plenty to keep me busy, if not in the company of friends, family and loved ones.

Posted in personal, San Francisco | Leave a Comment »

My reasons to celebrate April 1st

Posted by shannonclark on April 1, 2007

and no it is not the many great amusements posted online today

Rather it is that today, on a more serious note, is the day that Doctor Who returns for Season Three!

Okay, so it will be a while before it is available here in the US directly (I’ll buy the DVD’s when it comes out as I have previous seasons) but let’s just hint at that I will be watching it as soon as I possibly can. Yes, technically it was broadcast on March 31st 2007 in the UK, but close enough.

I spent tonight (well last night) at the SuperHappyVlogHouse where though I missed Justin.TV’s appearance (but did see the signed copy of today’s SF Chronicle they left behind) and I then had the great pleasure of making new friends, helping out with a few vlogs (and was recorded for a possible show). A truly fun way to spend the evening.

In any case my reason to celebrate April 1st is not the silliness which will take many forms all day, but rather new friends and the return of my oldest of TV friends. All in all, what more could make for a better day?

Okay, two other things – it is likely that in a very short while, possibly even later today my new company NELA will be ready for our first beta users. And on Monday (April 2nd) my new, replacement Lenovo X60 tablet should arrive having left Shanghai China just days before – UPS Ground apparently covers the ocean rather quickly!

So all in all, a really great weekend – and it’s only halfway over.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, mobile, podcasts | Leave a Comment »