Sweet, Google Lovin'

>> Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm currently finding myself in possession of four useful computers, although that really seems like one more than I actually need.  My wife's computer was just so old that it was barely tolerable anymore so I had been buying parts here and there in preparation of replacing it with a shiny, fast one.  That plan had almost come to a head when my laptop up and died, so I was looking all of a sudden at being without.  I placed an order for the remaining pieces of the new computer, thinking then just to use the new one for myself, but then after trying to use my wife's computer again, I found hers unbearable - so I found a very great deal on a refurbished HP.

I finished building the new computer - which was an absolutely pleasant experience, and I would love to do it again sometimes - and the following weekend, my brother tore our two laptops apart and did a Frankenstein job to resurrect mine.  (His was entirely dead due to the trashed processor)  So, the laptop reborn, I feel a little wasteful in possession of these four, very nice computers.

I'm planning on reformatting the laptop now, sometime when I have the chance, because I have learned that setting up a new computer is a lot easier than it once was.


It's impressive to me how much Microsoft product complicate the setup of a new computer.  I know of no other company whose installations take longer than theirs, excluding of course, the hotfixes and patches of the operating system itself.  I always hated how long it took to install Office, and I resent how it embeds itself by default into the system, by setting up things like the quick loader, adding "create new office document" shortcuts in the context menu, and so forth.  It's just a freaking word processor, Microsoft!  Stop complicating it

So when I start reinstalling things, I find that the Google toolbar has an option - and indeed prompted me itself, once - for making it possible to double-click on Doc and Xls files to have them open in Google Docs automatically.  That is hella sweet (thanks, Gigglepuss, for the slang flashcards...)!  Screw office!  It dawned on me that most companies actually create products for themselves, but Google creates products for their customers.

Continuing the Office example, I am still currently stuck with the slight possibility of having to install Outlook, to which I give a huge shudder.  The problem is that my wife and I each have pocket PCs, and for some twisted reaon, the PIM information only synchs through ActiveSync with Outlook... for a little while yet:  In a very exciting move, Mozilla is on the verge of releasing Thunderbird 2.0.  I have installed the release candidate and am thoroughly impressed with the Gmail integration.  From the moment you install it, it's primed just to hook right ujp to your Gmail account with just the right settings so thbat it acts as if Outlook had merged with Gmail (but only in a good way).

Messages sent through Thunderbird appear in your online Gmail sent folder, tag and star support is right there in the interface, emails are set to remain on the server, period - unless you feel like changing it.  The only possible flaw I saw was that if I read an email in one program, it didn't mark it as read in the other, but that's a very minor inconvenience.

To bring the discussion back to the issue of synchronizing the PDA, there is an extension for Thunderbird called BirdieSync that will take care of email, contacts, calendar, and task synchronization, but they don't yet support Thunderbird 2.0.  I'm sure they will, as soon as it's released*, and when they do, mwahahah...  (Note, BirdieSync is not a free/opensource product, but as it is the best option available, I would certainly buy it, to get away from Outlook).  The FINAL final key will be when, somehow, we're able to (automatically) synchronize our contacts from PDA to Gmail, but for now manual import/export will have to do.

*Note:  Thunderbird 2.0 is released!


In addition to Google's offerings, I also find a wide array of fantastic open source software that is faster and easier than their commercial competitors.  Just as Office feels and acts bloated, Adobe's Acrobat Reader is one of the more-annoying pieces of software that people usually have to put up with.  DON'T put up with it!  Go install Foxit.  What can I say about this except that it is everything that a PDF reader should be.  Small and Fast.  The end. 

Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative are now standards on all of my systems.  RealAudio and QuickTime are two of the other prime offenders regarding software bloat / annoyances, and we shouldn't have to put up with it.

Go use 7-Zip for your compression needs, but remember that for this one you need to launch the program and manually associate .zip files with it by changing the options.

Get AVGFree for your virus scanning; as the name implies it's free, and it's actually one of the better-rated scanners out there.

Open source software is finally establishing itself as the preferred choice of software, and now it's just that the word has to get out there.  Perhaps I'll try to install Ubuntu on my wife's old system.  It still runs, anyway, and it'd be a fine playground for testing the entire OS out (even though as I understand you don't even need to install it, in order to test it; running it from a CD, I guess, is possible.)

Here's to a more user-friendly and open source future!


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