Amazing Desktop Mod

I’m usually not very interested in desktop modifications, at least not on Windows. I need my computer for productivity first and eye candy second or third, so I just don’t have the system resources to spare, given how poorly Windows often runs, anyway. That said, this is amazing and sorely tempting me: How To: Roll Your Own Lightning at Sunset Desktop. I like it.

Outlook Attachment Reminder

Ever send an email without the attachment? You go on and on about what’s in it, then never send the file. I’ve done that. No more; now there’s the Outlook attachment reminder macro. Easy to install, and I just verified it works.

Hat tip: lifehacker.

Windows: Another Sure Thing?

After writing my last post, I discovered what may be another sure thing: unpredictable failures to work by Windows. Our printer is networked; it sits downstairs, connected to an old laptop, and we print everything to it over the network. It has been working fine. Well, okay, it’s been a little flaky for a few days, but it has been generally doing great since we set it up.

Today, I started getting this error: “Windows cannot connect to the printer. The server print spooler service is not running. Please restart the spooler on the server or restart the server machine.” This despite the fact that the print spooler service most definitely is/was running and the fact that the machine to which the printer is attached could print to it just fine.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to waste too much time before finding a solution. Still, it would be nice if Windows would work the way it is supposed to. I would settle for it just continuing to work, even if not everything I try to do works the first time. Sigh…

An epic Bill Gates e-mail rant

Techmeme linked me to this amazing Bill Gates e-mail rant. It’s gratifying to know that even the creator of the operating system finds it infuriating, especially when it just took me 10 minutes to reconnect my old laptop to my 802.11g (WiFi) network. I mistyped the WEP key, allegedly, either in the first box or in the confirmation box, upon which Windows repeatedly erased both entries and made me start over. Why hide my characters? I understand there’s a security value, but typing 26 hex characters blind is an error-prone activity; at least give me an option to show them. Why have two boxes? What possible reason there is that I would need to confirm a passkey when using it (as opposed to creating it), I don’t know. And the best question of all: why in the world did Windows forget the WEP key, in the first place? I did have to clone my PC’s MAC address to get my router to work with Comcast (thanks for making life that much harder, Comcast), but I didn’t think that affected the MAC address it uses internally to the network.

Errors in VShadow.exe

Alright, all you Windows geeks: I need help. I tried to implement a backup script that uses a number of Microsoft tools. I keep getting errors that look like this:

ERROR: Selected writer 'ASR Writer' is in failed state!
- Writer Failure code: 0x800423f4 ()
- Writer ID: {be000cbe-11fe-4426-9c58-531aa6355fc4}
- Instance ID: {3700a103-e7f8-4008-80f0-bc91528ae80b}

None of this (the words, the error code, the status, etc) seems to show up much in Google, and I have no idea how to fix it. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

Tip of the Day: Word Shortcut to Paste Unformatted Text

If you are not familiar with the “Paste Special” options in Word, you should read this article. If you are already familiar with it, but find it frustrating that there’s no shortcut, you should definitely read this article. Paste Special Unformatted Text At Your Fingertips [ed.: link updated to an archived link because the original was broken]. Enjoy!

Still More Outlook 2007 Stupidity

I receive a lot of newsletters as HTML email messages. For obvious reasons, I want to view the images in those messages, so I tell Outlook 2007 it’s okay to download the images from site The problem is that Outlook will download some images from a site, but not others. For example, might download, but will not, and will instead display as a blank space (no red X or anything) of a random size (not the size of the image in question or the size specified in the source code). Can anybody help me resolve this?

EDIT: I now know the problem’s source. Apparently, this is yet another result of Microsoft’s absurd decision to render HTML in Outlook using Word’s HTML renderer, rather than Internet Explorer’s. The Scoop on Outlook 2007. Seriously, what were they thinking??? Anyway, original post follows.


  • The images are all really out there on the web, all on the same domain.
  • The images are referenced in HTML, not attached to the message. EDIT: On further examination, it looks like affected images are all referenced in the background attribute of a table HTML element…
  • This only happens with specific images from specific senders. For example, the header logo from one site never downloads, but all other images in that site’s weekly newsletter display properly.
  • Telling Outlook never to block downloads of images and restarting doesn’t resolve the problem.
  • The images in question are all GIF files which display perfectly in MSIE and Firefox.
  • My only theories so far are that Outlook sends headers the remote server doesn’t like for a particular image (weird) or that Outlook is just not even trying to download the images in question.

So, loyal reader: any ideas? Thanks!

More Office 2007 Stupidity – Not Showing New Emails!

Outlook 2007 has started doing something maddening and stupid in the last couple of weeks. When I am looking at my Inbox and receive new mail, the item count at the bottom of the window and the unread message count in parentheses in the mail folders list update, but the mail isn’t listed in the Inbox! That is, Outlook counts the new message, but doesn’t show it.

Microsoft knows about this problem. As is their wont to do, they claim SP1 fixed it – even though it did not.

Does anyone know how to fix this? It looks like it could be an internal (to Outlook) timeout caused by my anti-virus program, the client-side spam filter I currently use, or maybe even the large number of Outlook rules I run on my incoming mail. If anyone has ideas, please let me know!

Spell Check Not Working in Word 2007

I recently installed Office 2007 on my new computer. Dubious judgment call, maybe, as it is bug-ridden as any other Microsoft product, but it was $25 at the campus store. Anyway, I rapidly found that spellcheck and, sometimes, grammar check didn’t work, at all. The below example, of a new document being checked for the first time, says it all:

Apparently, Microsoft didn’t bother to thoroughly check the most basic feature of a modern word processor. I found a fix, at least. Microsoft is still evil and incompetent, but at least they haven’t completely ruined my productivity…

An Obstacle to Going Microsoft-free

I recently found a major obstacle to going Microsoft-free. I could switch to Linux, if I had the time to fool with it, at the moment, but it appears I am stuck with Microsoft Word, still. While I really like 2.0 (OOo), it doesn’t have native support for creating tables of authorities (a.k.a., tables of citations). That feature is only really of interest to attorneys, but, of course, that is what I am training to be. Once I realized this, I also realized that OOo doesn’t support tables of contents, when reading a .doc file.

Of course, I still haven’t found anything that really replaces Outlook, either, since I use more than just the messaging features (in fact, I use the calendar, notes, contacts, and more, quite heavily) and must be able to sync all this info with a handheld.

Unfortunately, as frustrating as I find MS products, I think I’m stuck with Office, at least, until OOo or some alternative catches up and integrates much better support for other major file formats like .doc.