CDPUG Blog

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Green computing

Posted by Wkiraly at 3/19/2008 4:06 PM
PC Magazine published some very interesting facts and tips about “Green” Computing. Even assuming that these are mostly from environmental activists and likely to be skewed towards the hysterical, there’s a lot to think about here both personally and politcally. Below are just a few of the thoughts in the article. Go to http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2276270,00.asp?kc=PCRSS03129TX1K0000625 for the complete list of 48 items:

  • The “phantom load”—electricity consumed by “switched-off” appliances like TVs, radios, the microwaves—can add $200 a year to your bill. (Cornell University, via TheDailyGreen.com)
  • Switched-off devices account for 40 percent of the energy consumed by electronics in an average home. (TreeHugger.com)
  • Creation of a desktop PC usually requires ten times the PC’s weight in fossil fuels and chemicals, most of them toxic. (BBC News )
  • Flaws in Windows XP’s sleep mode and Microsoft’s choice of “High Performance” as the default performance option may have added $5 billion to power bills annually worldwide. (Treehugger.com)
  • If you buy a new system, Apple and Dell will recycle your old computer, regardless of manufacturer. (Dell Recycling)
  • The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle will power a computer for 25 minutes. (Think Green)

And finally, one I am trying to convince my boss of:

  • If all commuters worked from home just one day a week, we could save 5.85 billion gallons of oil each year. (Environmental Defense Fund )

Why I Love SmartDraw

Posted by Wkiraly at 3/8/2008 2:48 PM
By Bill Cohen-Kiraly

I’m not sure what choices Mac users have for charting and graphing but on the PC, as in so many areas in the PC world, this niche is controlled by the Borg. Microsoft has claimed the business standard for charting with Microsoft Visio, a software title which does for charting what MS Word does for word processing-that is, makes it way harder than it needs to be.

When I started at the Clinic, I had to brainstorm the new site for our division and rather than use Visio, I went back to the software I had been using for years and loved dearly. Oh I tried using Visio, but within five or ten minutes at each attempt, I was swearing at it–loudly. Things I take for granted in SmartDraw, connected shapes that move together, automatic formating of logic trees, multiple and controllable object formatting, all of these and more are either not in the Borg standard or are horribly unitutive and complex to accomplish in Visio.

Rather than fight, I switched back to SmartDraw, buying my own additional copy rather than using the Clinic supplied Visio. In fact, I almost convinced my boss to purchase copies for our department but we are a Microsoft shop and it wasn’t the standard. Finally this year, another person, far more important than me, also asked that we get this software and my wish was granted and I could use it without hiding.

However, when he bought it, he bought the newest version, SmartDraw 2008 and as much as I liked the older version, I absolutely love this new version. They took a great product and made it spectacular. In the new version, it is far more easy to get to the controls you want (once you find out where they got moved to) and even more chart types, object types and line and fill and shadow options are available. Only a few days experience with 2008 made me go back and upgrade my personal versions as well.

So what does SmartDraw do? In a nutshell, it is both a project design software and a graphics software. In my programming world, before we even start builing an application, we graphically document the database, hardware and logic flow as part of the design and approval process. If build a website, we create a web site map visually documenting the flow of pages. When building these applications, we may need to create graphic representations of concepts or data in charts and graphs to display in documents, on the web or in our applications. I have even found it suitable for creating quick and dirty logos and small drawings for web and application display.

This is a program designed for both business users and for people with some graphic skills to build attractive graphs and charts easily and quickly. The list of chart types it makes goes into the hundreds. I can’t find a total count but among the charting types build in are: Flowcharts (in several different common formats), Mind Maps, Gantt Charts, Timelines, Org Charts, Floor Plans, Maps, Scheduling Calendars, Forms, Bar Graphs and Pie Charts, Logical Data Flow Charts, Decision Trees, Network and Hardware Design, Web Site Maps and on and on and on.

What makes it so easy to use is the “Smart” part of the name. If you are drawing an org chart and need to add a sibling or descendant box, drag your box over and a new connector is created automatically and the existing boxes are moved to make range for their new brother. Grab the main item and the whole tree moves with you. Grab a control point and everything can be respaced to your liking. Apply color and formatting to everything on the page or to individual items. Choose from many different line, fill, arrow and connector types. Create your own symbol libraries. Easily add text connected to diagram objects which moves and formats with the parent object. It is hard to name all the little touches they have added to make this program work seamlessly and easily. Try the trial version if you really want to see it in action.

Another major benefit is extensive help and samples on how to use various kinds of charts. Even if you don’t get their software, you can benefit from visiting their online encyclopedia of charts at http://www.smartdraw.com/encyclopedia/which gives you explanation of, examples of and tips and tricks for hundreds of kinds of charts and their various flavors.

For all of these, you can start with a blank template or choose between multiple sample files. SmartDraw provides thousands of symbol libraries of all the major charting styles as well as a pretty good collection of useful symbols and business style clipart. I’ve timed it. Several charts which took me 3 and 4 hours in Visio which hardly supplies any more drawing automation that Illustrator and far less than CorelDRAW!, took me under a half hour in SmartDraw.

This software works very well with the MS office suite, copying and pasting as OLE objects directly into Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher as well as exporting to many common raster and vector formats including EPS, AI, TIFF, JPG and GIF (and many more).

Over the years, I’ve played with a lot of different charting and graphing programs and SmartDraw is far and away the easiest, most intuitive, most flexible and most efficent of any I’ve used. If you have a need for this software and have a Windows machine to run it on, by all means check out the trial version and extensive online documentation at http://www.smartdraw.com.

Some additional samples:

Smart Crooks using scam to break CAPTCHA challenges

Posted by Wkiraly at 11/2/2007 12:15 PM
These crooks have found a way to use unsuspecting humans under the influence of testosterone poisioning to break online security systems. While this is funny, it is also a serious reminder of the ingenuity people can use to break into whatever security protections we, as programmers, can come up with.The striptease is the latest attempt to defeat so-called CAPTCHA systems, which is short for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

Those safeguards require users to prove they are human by reading wavy, oddly shaped jumbles of letters and numbers that appear in an image and typing them out.

• Click here to visit FOXNews.com’s Cybersecurity Center.

In the new scam, an icon of an alluring woman suddenly appears on a Windows computer infected by a virus.

After clicking on the icon, the user sees a photo of an attractive woman who vows to take off an article of clothing each time the jumble of figures next to her is entered.

But the woman never fully undresses, and after several passwords are entered the program restarts, possibly enticing unsuspecting users into trying again.

Trend Micro researchers say the scam appears to be isolated for now to spammers trying to register bogus e-mail addresses and flood chat rooms with unwanted pitches.

But they worry schemes to infiltrate financial institutions could soon appear.

Paul Ferguson, network architect at Trend Micro, speculated that spammers might be using the results to write a program to automatically bypass CAPTCHA systems.

“I have to hand it to them,” Ferguson said, laughing. “The social engineering aspect here is pretty clever.”

–wck

SAN JOSE, Calif. —  In a new online striptease, the buxom, beautiful blonde who promises to remove her slinky scraps of lingerie doesn’t want your money. She’s interested in your brain. Really.

The creation of online scammers, she’s trying to trick unsuspecting Internet users into helping the scammers break the online barriers that banks and e-mail services set up to thwart crooks.

Absurd interpretation of the Americans With Disabilities Act Pushed Further

Posted by Wkiraly at 10/8/2007 10:40 AM
The absurd suit against Target, claiming it is violating federal laws by its web design, has been certified as a class action suit. This gives ever-greedy trial lawyers a whole new avenue to sue large and small companies and extort financial compensation from businesses and website owners. See Rueters article and Overlawyered’s take.

If this continues, we all may be required to do expensive upgrades to our sites and still be, if not be more at, the mercy of  judges who can reinterpret the law anytime they feel someone is getting a raw deal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against web site accessiblity, but I am against letting judges make the decision on when a site is accessible enough.

–Bill Cohen-Kiraly

Just a few Apropos 'toons from the Jewish World Review

Posted by Wkiraly at 10/1/2007 1:46 PM

Please note that the WebSIG is hosting CDPUG own Barbara Payne in a talk on “Five Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Business” on 10/20/2007 (Saturday at 10:30 a.m.) See www.websigcleveland.org for details.

Fonts in Road Signs, PCs and Macs

Posted by Wkiraly at 8/14/2007 8:41 AM

I occasionally puruse the Coding Horror Blog about programming and recently came across a fascinating entry regarding fontography for roadsign with a side step into the different strategies of Windows vs Apple in rendering fonts for the screen.

The real gem of an article is from the New York Times at www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12fonts-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1 href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12fonts-t.html%3C/a%3E”> which discusses how designers and engineers are trying to improve sign legibility.

Also of interest is the blog based on this artice found at www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000930.html where the author jumps from road signs to Windows vs. Apple and takes a real beating from the Mac snobs.

Police excuse angry computer user for outburst

Posted by Wkiraly at 7/17/2007 10:15 AM

Tue Jul 17, 2007 9:32AM EDT
BERLIN (Reuters) – A German man who startled his neighbors when he hurled his computer out of the window in the middle of the night, was let off for disturbing the peace by police who sympathized with his technical frustrations.

Police in the northern city of Hanover said they would not press charges after responding to calls made by residents in an apartment block who were woken by a loud crash in the early hours of Saturday.

Officers found the street and pavement covered in electronic parts and discovered who the culprit was.

Asked what had driven him to the night-time outburst, the 51-year-old man said he had simply got annoyed with his computer.

“Who hasn’t felt like doing that?” said a police spokesman.

While escaping any official sanction the man was made to clear up the debris.

Vista Claims Title of Safest Desktop OS

Here’s a link to a Microsoft employee’s blog that claims MS Vista has dramatcially reduced security vulnerabilities making it now the safest OS yet.

http://blogs.csoonline.com/windows_vista_6_month_vulnerability_report

Microsoft restricts virtualization liscence

Posted by Wkiraly at 7/13/2007 12:59 PM
Here’s an interesting article that came through an email newsletter I get. Microsoft wants even more of your money…

You Can’t Virtualize Vista Home Basic or Home Premium Editions
Microsoft is tightening its virtualization licensing in some versions of Windows Vista. The EULA for Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium states that, “You may not use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system.” However, you can use Vista Ultimate within a virtual hardware system. The biggest losers are Macintosh users. Now that Mac runs on Intel x86 hardware, many Mac users run Windows virtualized through a product such as SWsoft’s Parallels. This licensing announcement makes that a more expensive option.

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