Jun 132010
 

PowerPoint 2010 offers a number of compelling new features. One of those new features is the ability to publish a presentation as a movie file. This offers a handy way to share presentations of any kind with just about anyone, without requiring the person viewing the presentation to have PowerPoint or the PowerPoint Viewer installed. But it also offers a neat way to create a quick slide show of photographs that you can share with friends.

While you can use any kind of picture-editing program to prepare your pictures – removing red-eye, adjusting brightness levels, and so on – I’m going to focus on just what you can do within PowerPoint. And it’s a surprising amount.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Start PowerPoint and create a new, blank presentation.
  2. On the Design tab, you can choose any theme or color scheme you want. This can make the movie look prettier if you want to include multiple photos per slide or if you want to make your pictures smaller than the actual size of the slide. If you just want your pictures displayed, don’t worry about this step.
  3. Create your title slide.
  4. Create a new blank slide. The first time you do this, you’ll want to click the arrow under the New Slide button and then click Blank Slide. This creates a slide without placeholders for text and other objects. After doing this the first time, you can then just click the New Slide button and PowerPoint will remember that you want to create blank slides.

pp1

  1. On the Insert tab, click Picture. Locate the picture you want to insert and then click Insert. Alternatively, you can use Windows Explorer to open the folder that contains the pictures you want to use and just drag them into place in PowerPoint.
  2. Size the picture however you want it. If you want the whole screen to be the picture without any added text, borders, or other elements, just make the picture the same size as the slide.
  3. Use the controls on the Format tab to make adjustments to the picture. Note that this tab only appears when you have selected a picture. PowerPoint 2010 includes all kinds of new controls for working with pictures, including letting you adjust color levels, perform basic corrections, apply artistic effects, apply borders and shadows, crop the picture, and even remove background colors (Note: I’ll be writing an article about the picture controls in the near future and will be sure to link to it here).

pp2

  1. Repeat steps 4-7 for each picture you want to include in the slide show.
  2. By default, PowerPoint does not add a transition animation between slides. On the Transition tab, hold your pointer over the available transitions to preview what they will look like. When you find one you like, click it to apply that transition to that slide. If you want to use the same transition for every picture in the slide show, click Apply To All.
  3. Preview your slide show to make everything looks right by pressing the F5 key. Use your mouse button or arrow keys to move through the presentation.
  4. When you’re satisfied with the presentation, it’s time to make the movie. On the File tab, click Share and then click Create a Video. You have a couple of options here:
    • Set the quality of the video. By default, the quality is set to Computer & HD Displays – the highest quality. It creates a movie at a 960×720 resolution and is intended for viewing on a computer or burning to a DVD and viewing on a TV. You can also set the quality toInternet & DVD (medium quality, resolution 640×480, great for sharing on the Internet) orPortable Devices (low quality, 320×240 resolution).
    • Specify whether to use timings and narration you have already set up in the presentation. You can specify an automatic timing for changing slides and even include music or narration using the controls in PowerPoint. If you haven’t set these up (or don’t want to use the ones you have set up), turn this option off and use the Create a Video window to specify the number of seconds to spend on each slide.

pp3

  1. Click Create Video.
  2. Give the video a name and save it. Depending on the length of the slide show and the speed of your computer, creating the video can take a little while.

And that’s it. At this point, you have created a perfectly functional video slide show in the .WMV format used by Windows Media Player and supported by numerous other video players. You can even upload them in this format to YouTube, Facebook, or a number of other sites.

If you need to convert your video to another format, there are a number of free video converters available out there. Just search by the formats you want to convert to and from.

And here’s a quick photo slide show (nothing fancy) that I created using PowerPoint 2010 using some pics we took on a family vacation to Helen, Georgia several years ago. It took about 10 minutes.

May 132010
 

I’m going to hold off doing a big review of the Office 2010 Web apps until they are formally released – an event that should happen sometime mid-June, 2010. But I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion over what they are, whether you need to own Office 2010 to use them, and what the different versions are.

First things first. The Office 2010 Web apps are free, cloud-based versions of the most popular Office 2010 applications – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You do not need to own the Office 2010 desktop suite in order to be able to use them. The Web apps offer a lighter feature set than their desktop companions, but the look and feel is very much like the desktop applications. They work inside a Web browser, much like Google Apps or some of the other web-based solutions out there. Right now, supported browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. No word yet on Chrome or Operasupport.

While you don’t need to own the desktop suite, I’m personally looking forward to using Web apps as an extension of the regular applications. Since Office 2010 allows you to save documents to Microsoft SkyDrive (and other online repositories), it’s quite nice being able to work on a document in my office, save it to the Web, and then being able to view and do some editing on that document when I’m away from the office. All I need is an Internet connection.

While it may appear that there are different versions out there (you may hear talk of using them with SharePoint or with Facebook via docs.com), there is really only one version. The difference lies in how users are authenticated so that documents on the Web may be shared:

  • Businesses can hook up the Web apps inside a company to be used with a SharePoint site. This allows a business to have tighter control over how documents may be shared and also integrate the document creation processes with other SharePoint team features.
  • Regular consumers (home users, small businesses, and so on) can use these Web apps for free by logging on with a Windows Live ID. Actually, anyone can view a document stored on the Web whether they have a Live ID or not. But to create or edit documents, you’ll need to sign on with Live.
  • The new Docs service at docs.com is a partnership between Microsoft and Facebook that allows you to use the Web apps and share documents with your Facebook friends. Instead of logging on with a Windows Live ID, you log on with a Facebook ID.

The most interesting of the three to me is the co-branding with Facebook. Not that I think it will be particularly useful to me, since I don’t really need to collaborate on documents with Facebook friends. But, I suspect it won’t be the only branded version of the Web apps to be available in the coming months. I can easily see sites like Yahoo, for example, deciding to incorporate Web apps.

Aug 132009
 

Almost everything I’ve thrown at Windows 7 over the past 8 or 9 months of testing first the Beta then the RC has worked – hardware and software alike. The sole exception in the hardware realm has been the Linksys Wireless PCI Card (WMP54G v4.0) in my son’s computer.

The trouble is that Linksys has been very bad about supporting 64-bit Windows (Vista and Windows 7) for some of their slightly older products.

Neither Linksys nor Microsoft have drivers available for many models of these cards. But, I finally got the v4.0 card to work in Windows 7 64-bit. Here’s how:

  1. Download this Ralink driver (the card is based on a Ralink chipset): Linksys Wireless G (RT2500) (direct link to download).

NOTE: This driver is hosted on Dan Wendorf’s site and is just the Windows 64-bit drivers. You can also download the full driver set from Ralink’s site, but the download is quite big (lots of unnecessary programs and drivers for other versions) and the site is unbearably slow.

  1. Unzip the .rar file. You can use WinZip or WinRar to do this.
  2. In Device Manager (click Start, right-click My Computer, click Manage, then select Device Manager in the management window), locate the network controller. It may be an unidentified device or a mislabeled device depending on whether you’ve already tried to install a driver for it.
  3. After selecting the device, click the Uninstall button on the toolbar to remove the device.
  4. On the toolbar, click the Scan for hardware changes button.
  5. When windows find the new device and asks for a driver, point it to the folder you unzipped.
  6. If you get a notice saying the driver is unsigned, go ahead and allow it.

Windows should now install the driver and you’ll have wireless access before you know it. It’s sad this has to be so complicated. A company like Linksys should really get on the ball with 64-bit support.

I’ve been using the driver for quite some time now and it seems perfectly stable. Hope this helps some of you avoid the frustration I went through.

Jul 262009
 

I recently wiped my computer to do a clean install of Windows 7 RTM. After doing a regular backup with Windows Home Server, I decided to cut myself a break and buy a new hard drive. I ended up buying a Seagate 1TB to store my documents and a 300 GB Raptor for my main system drive. The 500 GB drive I had in there before is going into the home server for extra storage. My current hard drive setup is now:

  • 300 GB Raptor  – System Drive. Small on size, but at 10,000rpm, a very fast drive.
  • 1 TB Seagate – Documents, Pictures, Music, etc.
  • 500 GB Seagate – dedicated drive for virtual machines
  • 150 GB Raptor – dedicated scratch drive for Adobe Photoshop

Instead of taking the time to back up that old drive (which housed all my documents), I bought a Thermaltake BlackX Docking Station from Newegg.

It’s a clever little external bay that lets you drop a SATA drive right in. I had an extra external drive bay that I used to use for such things, but with the BlacX, I don’t have to worry about taking off the cover, connecting cables, and so on. You just slide the drive in place. And given the number of other people’s drives I work on, that’s pretty convenient.

It has eSata and USB 2.0 ports and actually comes with both cables. Most eSata devices do not include the cable.

They also have a Duet model that accepts two drives at the same time.

Jul 082009
 

On June 10, 2009, Microsoft announced that it would discontinue sales of Microsoft Money after June 30, 2009. And they did.

The latest version of the software, Microsoft Money Plus, was released in August, 2007, and after such a long time I should have known trouble was in the air.

As a user of Money for well over a decade, I was disappointed to hear the news.  I have never been a fan of the only other (or so I thought) real alternative – Quicken. Not that it’s not a good piece of software. It just never felt right to me.

Truth be told, over the last few years (from about the 2005 version), my wife and I felt like Money started going in the wrong direction. A lot of the automated, streamlined functionality they added either didn’t feel right or just didn’t work.

However, our story at least has a happy ending. I finally decided to give the online money manager Mint.com a try. And we became converts.

Three things kept me from trying out Mint.com sooner. The first was inertia. We had so many years of using Money to overcome.

More importantly, though, was that I wasn’t sure I was comfortable putting my finances online. But the security features at Mint.com are reassuring. To name the big two for me:

  • You register anonymously.  Just an e-mail address, password and zip code. They don’t require a name or other personally identifiable info.
  • You cannot move money. It’s a read-only service. You can view your balances, registers, statements, and other information, but you cannot make transfers.

The final problem I had to overcome was that I just wasn’t sure an online service would give me the same level of control I had with a stand-alone application like Money. As it turns out, I not only don’t miss those features (things like bill reminders and debt planners), but I’m now kind of relieved they are gone. Less to worry about.

I may post a bigger review of Mint.com after we’ve used it for a while, but for now here are a few things that really impressed us:

  • Setup was ridiculously easy. I gave Mint.com the credentials to log on to my accounts. That was it, really.
  • Categories work. Mint.com has some really good algorithms in place for automatically assigning categories to transactions. In Money and Quicken, you have to spend a lot of time going through transactions and making sure that it categorized them properly. Most of the time, those programs don’t get them right. Mint.com does. It also gets the vendor names right, so instead of having to go in every time and change, say, “****DEBIT: xxx…” to the name of the vendor, it just happens. These features alone make it worthwhile. We save so much time every day not having to do these things ourselves.
  • It’s beautiful. And simple. And intuitive. We find everything about the site just relaxing. That’s a nice change of pace from the glare of Money and Quicken. From the color scheme to the style and placement of buttons, Mint.com has a calming influence. That’s nice when you’re dealing with your money. The design is well-thought out. When we’re looking at something and want more information or to change a setting, the link is usually right there waiting for us. No more hunting around.
  • We’re not tied to using one computer. I can check things out from my computer, my wife from hers. We can check on things when we’re out of town, or at work. That’s nice.
  • There’s an iPhone app. I know. There’s an iPhone app for everything. But it is really handy being able to check out your balances when you’re out shopping without having to worry about how your bank’s Web site will load in your mobile browser.
  • Budgeting is simple. The budgeting tool is not as feature-laden as the tools in Money or Quicken. But for us, that means we’re more likely to actually use it.

Oh yeah. And at least for now, it’s free. So do yourself a favor and check it out. You can learn a lot by watching this great demo of the site given by CEO Aaron Patzer.

Stay tuned for more thoughts as we actually put it through its paces.

UPDATE (May, 2010): Almost a year after killing off Money, Microsoft made the Money Plus Sunset Edition and Money Home and Business Sunset Edition available for download for free (and no activation required). Both function perfectly well as a money manager and have many of the features you came to love. What’s missing is that neither offers any online support, meaning no automatic updating from banks, no online quotes, no bill payment, and so on. You can still download statements from your bank and import them into the Sunset editions, but Money can no longer initiate the download itself.

Jun 282009
 

Most programs recognize the new User Account Control (UAC) security model in Windows Vista. However, in order for this to work properly, the program must be marked by the developer (or identified by Windows Vista) as an program that requires administrative rights.

You are likely to run into some older programs that aren’t properly marked. So Vista provides a few ways to run a program as an administrator right off the bat.

Run a program as administrator from the Search box
As you probably know, you can use the new Search box in the Windows Vista Start Menu the same way you used the Run command in Windows XP (plus, it does a whole lot more). To run a program as an administrator from the Search box, type the command (such as CMD for the command prompt) and then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.

vraa1

Run a program as administrator from the graphical interface
You can also run a program as administrator right from a program icon. Instead of double-clicking the program icon to launch it, right-click the icon and choose Run as Administrator from the shortcut menu.

Set a program to always run as administrator
If you have a program that you run frequently, you can set the program to always run as administrator. To do this, use the following steps:

  1. Right-click the program icon and click Properties.
  2. On the Property sheet, click the Compatibility tab.
  3. Under Privilege Level, select the Run this program as an administrator check box, and then click OK.

vraa2

Bonus Tip: If you work in the command prompt a lot, right-click the Command Prompt shortcut on your Start menu and click Properties. On the property sheet, click Advanced. In the Advanced Properties dialog box that opens, click Run As Administrator. When you use the shortcut to open the command prompt, UAC will prompt you for administrative priveleges.
Jun 152009
 

Windows Vista includes the new User Account Control (UAC) security component. Even if you’re not familiar with the name, you’ve seen it in action When Vista pops up a dialog asking you to press Continue when you install a program, change system settings, or whatever other nefarious deed you’re up to.

In previous versions of Windows, when you logged on with an administrator account, your user account was granted a single access token that allowed you extensive rights and privileges throughout the system. The problem with this? Windows XP and earlier didn’t include any kind of checks to make sure that you actually wanted to perform an action that the system was trying to perform. So, it was easier for malicious programs like viruses and spyware to get themselves installed without you knowing about it.

In Windows Vista, when you log on with an administrator account, your user account is assigned two access tokens – a full administrator access token and a standard user access token. The standard access token is used to start the Vista desktop. During normal activities (such as running a program, working with files and folders, or changing innocuous system settings like the desktop background), your user account uses the standard access token.

When you try to perform an administrative task (changing system settings, installing programs, and so on), Windows Vista prompts you to make sure that the action is one you intended to take. If you give it the go ahead, your user account is elevated to administrator access and the action proceeds. This prevents administrative tasks from happening without your knowledge. Throughout Windows Vista, you’ll now see an icon with the Windows Shield applied to commands and user interface elements that require administrative privileges.

wvuac

May 282009
 

I hope you find this site useful.

It’s mainly a place for people to come check out what I’m up to and what I’ve done in the past – a pretty resume, if you will.

I try to post occasionally about things I find interesting, so you’re likely to see a mix of topics. That includes technology, web sites, book reviews, gaming, parenting, and whatever else I’m into at the moment.

I also just moved to another web hosting service and instead of trying to migrate my site, I just took the opportunity to rebuild it. So, you’ll see some of the older posts I did over the years pop up as I get to them.