Jane McGonical: Game us a better reality

This TED video is definitely worth sharing. Jane McGonigal, a game designer and researcher, makes a bold and entertaining claim that we actually need to play more online games to solve the world problems. Not convinced? Maybe you need to hear what she has to say:

Going back to Outlook

After several more or less happy years with Thunderbird as my default email program, I have now made the move “back” — I am now using MS Outlook. There were some mysterious crashing problems with Thunderbird: after the latest 3.x.x update, the damned program would not close without crashing. But the ultimate reason was support for synchronization and compatibility. Outlook calendar is “better” from my perspective, due to the support it receives from third parties: it is easier to make it sync with my various mobile devices and online calendars. There was the Lightning extension for Thunderbird, but even together, they just could not compete with the flexibility and range of features in Outlook (I am using Office 2007).

One obvious issue, though, that I have found out in Outlook. It does not include option to send automatically a “blind carbon-copy” (bcc) to a message of your choice — this is something that I need, because of the multiple email systems that need to keep in sync). I tried various solutions to come around this, including installing and editing some Visual Basic code, but to no functional result. There were several commercial add-ons that promised to do the job, but really: paying 20-30 dollars/euros just to get auto-bcc feature? Finally I did find this free component, Alan McGrath’s AutoBCC:


This seems to work. You input the bcc: address into Tools > Options > AutoBCC settings (and it does not appear in the actual bcc field of your message that confused me a bit), but it seems to send the bcc copy nevertheless just fine. Hope it will work for you, too.

Dropbox issue deletes all files [daily bug]

Another favourite entry to the daily bug series (I did find out about this the hard way few days ago):

Dropbox.com is an excellent ‘cloud service’ for online file storage, synchronization between different devices and OSs, and sharing, but I have to warn about a particular issue. If you relocate (e.g. move to another drive or partition) the default My Documents folder of Windows, and your Dropbox resides inside it, it will (or at least that is what happened in my case) break the link to the service, the partially unlinked device effectively sending a message that you have suddenly deleted all your files! What is worse, is that Dropbox will then proceed to delete all your files also from all the other machines where you have Dropbox installed — the moment you switch the computer on, and it gets connected to the service it starts the deleting process and does not stop until the very last of your precious files is gone. Yikes.

I managed to work around by taking the remaining copy at the original machine that got partially unlinked (the files still were in that one device), making a copy to a USB stick, and then using it to restore the files on another (fully linked machine). As to getting the “partially unlinked” computer back in line, I received these instructions from Dropbox Support, which appeared to do the job:

Please save and quit all programs that access files in the Dropbox folder.

1) Click the Dropbox tray/menu bar icon, then click ‘Preferences’
2) Click the ‘Unlink’ button
3) Afterward, your Dropbox will prompt you to re-register. Click ‘Existing user’
4) Enter your account info.
5) Complete the rest of the process.
6) You will asked if you want to choose the location of the Dropbox folder. If you moved your folder then you want to give Dropbox the new location. Otherwise, let Dropbox do it.
– Select the folder that CONTAINS the Dropbox folder, not the Dropbox folder itself.
– “D:\” (correct) vs “D:\My Dropbox” (incorrect)
7) When Dropbox finds your Dropbox folder, you want to yes to merging your existing Dropbox folder.

If your Dropbox was already in sync, it should only take a little while for the indexing to finish. Any files that need to be synced will sync now.

Note that it would still have been possible to restore the deleted files also from Dropbox web interface, but since more than 3000 files were lost, I was not interested to go through them manually. This most [must] be what the Dark Side of Cloud Computing will look like…

iPhone 3GS battery issue [daily bug]

Starting a new series under my ‘technology’ category: the daily bug. At least lately it seems that there has been some major bug in some device or service emerging about every day.

Today’s bug: the iPhone 3GS ‘battery issue’. What happens is that a fully charged iPhone goes fine until c. 70-80 % of battery, then suddenly it jumps down to c. 20 %, and then goes fast down from that, 15 %, 10 % … and soon it will switch itself off, and is not able to wake up any more. But: if you plug it in, it takes a few seconds for it to “find itself” again, and suddenly, the battery meter is back at 80 % level again!

I think this issue started appearing after the recent 3.1.3 firmware fix that Apple pushed to iPhone users — which was actually advertised to “fix iPhone battery issue”! Did the opposite to me… There are some reports of similar experiences in the net (see e.g. http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-10449664-233.html & http://nexus404.com/Blog/2010/02/10/iphone-3-1-3-firmware-issues-widely-reported-iphone-battery-life-issues-itunes-playlist-syncing-problems-–-are-you-affected/ among others.

Samsung N220

Samsung N220, originally uploaded by FransBadger.

After a longish, administration-overkill-caused break, a short notice. I finally got fed up of my Acer Aspire One (A110, the 512 MB model), as it was pretty impossible to do anything except the very basic html–surfing, even Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition was almost unbearably slow. After considering the options, I took the new Samsung N220 netbook model; it is a pretty basic system with Intel’s Atom N450 processor, 1 GB central memory and 250 GB disk. The positive sides are on the rather sturdy construction (they even claim the keyboard is ‘spill-proof’ and can take some liquid on top of it — I have not tested this). Keyboard feel is nice and the non-reflective 10,1″, led-backlighted display is also ok. The battery is advertised to enable 12 hour non-stop use, but to my experience if you do anything except hold the system on dark, quiet idle mode (the golden standard of battery testers, obviously), you will get something like 7-8 hours of battery life. That is also pretty good; if you plug the system in at the evenings, there is no need to load system during even a full working day. And this is with the standard battery, rather than an extended life battery.

A couple of minor irritations. One of the reasons I picked this particular system was its advertised dual-OS configuration: it has the Windows 7 Starter (I like it) and an “Instant-On” option called HyperSpace, which is actually a slim, stripped-down Linux version (see e.g. this story). This is supposedly fast, simple and substantially more energy efficient than Windows, which all might be true. However, I am not able to use it since it does not allow using Finnish keyboard layout (how silly, they ship this preconfigured with such keyboards that are not yet supported by the OS). It might get an update at some point, but for now, I need to stick to Windows.

Another irritation strikes even while I write this text, every few seconds. On their web pages, Samsung advertises N220 by boasting about its “strategically placed keys ensure that you’ll experience fewer errors – and faster typing”. All well, except the European N220 model actually has its “arrow bracket” (<>) key placed at an non-standard position next to the right shift key, which is made smaller than normal. This means that every time I try to have a capital letter, I will get < << plus a small letter. Oh well, need to just retrain my fingers…

And finally, if you decide to get N220, try disabling “One-Finger Scrolling” — it was just causing trouble by trying to scroll when I was trying to move the mouse/touchpad pointer. It has Two-Finger Scrolling (multi-touch gesture), if you want to use the touchpad for scrolling.

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