Office 2013 Review

Microsoft recently announced the newest addition to its family of office products called Office 2013. At the moment, it is being made available as a “Consumer Preview” and can be downloaded for free (see: Office 2013 screenshot tour). I took a shot at downloading the preview and would like to share my thoughts on it so far.

Ease of Download and Installation

I found the download and installation process to be extremely easy. Pictured below, you can see what the Consumer Preview website looks like when you go to download it. All you have to do is click sign up and it will take you through the steps. Office 2013 is all designed around the Microsoft ID so you will have to use an existing login like your Hotmail account, or create a new one to get the download. Keep in mind that only users with Windows 7 and Windows 8 can download Office 2013. The installation was really quick. I was up and using Word in less than 10 minutes.

Office 2013


User Interface

The user interface is visually stunning. I give them credit for not veering too far away from the ribbon interface that we’re all used to, but they did incorporate the Metro UI look which will be the standard in all of Microsoft’s Windows 8 products. Pictured below, you can see what the Excel 2013 window looks like. If you look in the top right corner you will see your online Microsoft profile, an ever present reminder that with Office 2013 you are always connected. You can also put Office 2013 in “Touch Mode” to optimize it for use with tablets and touch screen PC’s.

Excel User Interface

Features and Functionality

I have a decent PC, but it certainly isn’t cutting edge. I am running a Windows 7 OS with an Intel i5 processor. That being said, I find Office 2013 to be extremely responsive. For instance, when I clicked Microsoft Publisher 2013, it took 3 seconds to be up and running on my screen. That was the first time too! Whatever they did to take the bloat out of the startup experience, it’s a good thing.

As far as features go, there are a few new ones worth mentioning, and I think they are good additions to the Office family. The first one I will mention is Microsoft Word’s ability to open and edit PDF files. This works very well. If you look at the screenshot below, you will see that my PDF resume shows up as an available document in the Word dialog box. I was able to open and edit a PDF with ease. It was as smooth as silk.

Word Opens PDF

Excel 2013 sports a new feature called “Flash Fill” which I think is really useful. If you look below, you can see an example where someone wanted to split first and last names. In column B they began typing a first name then hit ctrl+E and the “Flash Fill” Feature knows the pattern that you want all of the first names from column A. This is a very useful feature and will save time.

Excel Flash Fill

The last thing I want to mention is the availability of the cloud. All of your files can follow you around if you take advantage of Microsoft’s Skydrive with Office 2013. You can use Office 2013 with up to 5 different devices. This also means that you can access all your files from those devices by saving them to you Skydrive. It really shows up just like any other folder would in your Office programs. Saving to it is a breeze.

Bottom Line

Everything that I have seen of Microsoft Office 2013 so far is a 5 star rating in my opinion. However, because they have only made this available to Windows 7 and 8 users, I am rating it with 4 stars. I am sure there may be technical reasons behind this decision, but I suspect that it is mostly a financial one. Office 2013 is worth the look and if you’re still using 2003, then I would definitely recommend it for the features and the speed. Keep checking back with us because I will be adding tutorials very soon so you can see more of the great features this new Office 2013 provides. You may also want to read some of the other great articles which go into more detail about the new features of Office 2013 at

Watch the 2012 London Olympics Online

London 2012 Olympics Clock
London 2012 Olympics Clock (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The countdown is just about over and the Olympics are about to get into full swing. Opportunities for watching the Olympics this year are better than ever. As a matter of fact, you would almost have to try to miss the Olympics this year as there are so many ways to view it.

NBC has created a comprehensive website with all of the information you could possibly want out of the Olympics. Unfortunately, NBC has decided that anyone wanting to use their service to watch the Olympics online will have to verify that they are a TV customer of a cable or satellite customer. So if you’ve ditched your TV service recently, you’re out of luck. However, if you are a cable or satellite customer and want to watch the Olympics at work, then go to and get signed up.

The real news appears to be coming out of London itself. BBC is making an unprecedented move to broadcast  up to 24 live HD streams online. They are boasting 2,500 hours of broadcast time across multiple platforms. To visit their Olympic coverage online go to

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also be providing streaming video, via its YouTube Channel, to 64 territories. According to their press release,

The live-streaming on the IOC’s YouTube channel will provide exclusive digital access to the London 2012 Olympic Games in territories where digital broadcast rights have not already been acquired by the IOC’s broadcast partners:

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

And in 42 Sub-Saharan African territories on a non-exclusive basis, including:

Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

If you’re an Olympics junkie, then this is the year for you. If not, I am not sure where you’ll be able to hide from all the madness. Don’t forget that there are mobile apps available in just about any flavor. Read more about those at Mobiles Apps for Olympics 2012 page.

Official London 2012 Olympics Apps

London 2012 Olympics Clock
London 2012 Olympics Clock (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Countdown has begun and the Olympics are right around the corner. Here is a list of Olympics apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

Apps for Watching the Olympics

BBC Olympics App – The BBC app is a FREE comprehensive app with everything you could ever want to know about the London 2012 Olympics. It is available in iOS and Android flavors however, it appears for now only the iOS app is the only one that will let you watch streaming video. A screenshot can be seen below.

BBC Olympics App
BBC Olympics App

NBC “Live Extra” App – This app will give you live access to the Olympics however, there are some stipulations. To quote their website, “Access is free for subscribers to a cable, satellite or telco TV service package that includes CNBC and MSNBC.”

NBC Live Extra
NBC Live Extra

 Official London 2012 Olympic Mobile Apps

The London 2012 Olympics have come out with a few mobile apps of their own. See below for screenshots, descriptions and download links.

Official London 2012 Join In App – If you plan on being in London to watch the games, then this is the app for you. In their own words this app is a “mobile guide to help you plan, enjoy and share your Games experience”. This is a FREE app.

 London 2012 Join In app
London 2012 Join In app

The London 2012 Results App – This app is probably the one you’ll find most useful if you’re watching the games from the comfort of your own home. They describe the app by saying,”The Official London 2012 Results app provides all the latest news, schedules and results, allowing users to keep up-to-date with the latest action live across all Olympic sports and Paralympic sports.” It is a free app and so far the only one to include the Windows Phone family.

 London 2012 Results app
London 2012 Results app

Official London 2012 mobile game – Just for fun, London 2012 has launched an official mobile game that features 9 Olympic events. It comes in iOS and Android flavors and has a free and premium version. Visit their Facebook page to  learn more about it.

Official Mobile Game
Official Mobile Game

Keep checking back with Techie Buzz as we continue to update you on the latest mobile apps surrounding the Olympics!

Moon Race Team Recruits Google VIP

Moon Express, a “privately funded lunar transportation and data services company”, announced today that Dr. James (Jimi) Crawford has joined their team as Chief Technology Officer and Software Architect. Crawford had been the Engineering Director for Google Books since 2009.

Moon Express Logo

As CTO, Dr. Crawford will guide Moon Express’ technology to fulfill the company’s long term goals. He will also serve as a software architect, where he will develop software for the company’s space missions including the race to win the Google Lunar X prize. The Lunar X project is giving $30 million dollars to the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon. Moon Express is one of several teams that are competing for the illustrious prize.

In their press release, Moon Express co-Founder and CEO Bob Richards said, “We are thrilled to have Jimi join us as CTO and Software Architect…With Jimi’s combined space mission and software experience, our technical team just took another giant leap forward.” Dr. Crawford’s resume is quite impressive and one could see why the Moon Express team is encouraged to have him on board. This guy is not a newbie when it comes to space technology. He spent three years at NASA’s Ames Research Center as lead for Autonomy and Robotics. His teams “delivered the optimized activity planner used by both the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers, demonstrated next generation rovers with much higher levels of autonomy, and created optimized spacecraft antenna using genetic algorithms.”

For more information about the Google Lunar X competition, see the embedded video below.

[Video Link]


World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit Tackles Cyber Crime

The second World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit met in Belfast recently and outlined a new research roadmap to tackle the problem of cyber crime on an international scale.

Belfast 2012
Belfast 2012 Report

The summit was sponsored by the Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen’s University, Belfast. It was attended by some heavy hitters in the security industry. According to the Queen’s University press release, it “included Chief Scientific Advisor from the UK Home Office – Professor Bernard Silverman, Cyber Security Division Director of US Homeland Security – Dr Douglas Maughan, Chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Labs – Eugene Kaspersky, Director of Innovation, Connected Energy Networks Cisco – Barbara Fraser, and Raj Samani, CTO, EMEA, McAfee.”

The final product of the conference resulted in four collaborative roadmap documents that focused on four distinct areas:

  1. Adaptive Cyber Security Technologies – Systems need to have the ability to learn from cyber security events and learn on the fly. It was agreed that adaptive techniques could be risky for instance, if the system learns the wrong thing, but the consensus was that adaptive technologies were necessary and must be developed.
  2. Protection of Smart Utility Grids – This addressed both physical and cyber security. One of the big focuses was on the standardization of smart meters and grid management systems.
  3. Security of Mobile Platforms and Applications – The big challenge of this area is that mobility is too broad and it was agreed that no single source could develop security. Protecting the consumer was a big topic of conversation
  4. Multifaceted Approach to Cyber Security Research – Some topics discussed here were sort of like a wish list. For instance, getting people to be as personally responsible for their own cyber security as they are physical security.

To be honest, as an IT Manager, the information flowing out of this summit is both fascinating and overwhelming. Some fantastic resources and presentations can be found on the “Belfast 2012″ website at Anyone interested in cyber security and getting a glance at what the big players in the biz are thinking should view this material.

CSIT Principal Investigator, Professor John McCanny, said, “Ultimately our objective is to help make the Internet of tomorrow a safe and secure platform which is vital for global economic growth and societal development.” I say that is a tall order, but due to the many rogues lurking in every corner of our world, it’s an objective that has to be met. When it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t put my money on freedom as being their top priority.

Massive Vortex Discovered on Saturn’s Moon Titan

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is capturing stunning images of a high altitude vortex on the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Titan Storm
True color image captured by NASA’S Cassini spacecraft before a distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on June 27, 2012 Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

When Cassini first arrived in the Saturn system in 2004, it observed a “hood” of high altitude haze and a swirling  gaseous vortex on Saturn’s north pole. In what appears to be a changing of the seasons, the vortex has shifted toward the southern pole of Titan.  According to a NASA press release “the structure inside the vortex is reminiscent of the open cellular convection that is often seen over Earth’s oceans,” said Tony Del Genio, a Cassini team member at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y. “But unlike on Earth, where such layers are just above the surface, this one is at very high altitude, maybe a response of Titan’s stratosphere to seasonal cooling as southern winter approaches. But so soon in the game, we’re not sure.”

Cassini’s visible light cameras saw the haze forming near the southern pole back in March. Using specialized infrared instruments abbreviated VIMs, it was able to capture false color images on  May 22 and June 7.

“VIMS has seen a concentration of aerosols forming about 200 miles [300 kilometers] above the surface of Titan’s south pole,” said Christophe Sotin, a VIMS team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “We’ve never seen aerosols here at this level before, so we know this is something new.”

Below you can see an embedded video showing the rotation of the vortex.


Future observations will shed light on the composition of Titan’s atmosphere and the effects of seasonal change.  Titan is the only known satellite to have a dense atmosphere and is important for study as many feel it has all the makings to host life. For more information about Cassini’s mission to Saturn, visit

New Species Named After Bob Marley

A recent study, funded by the National Science Foundation, has resulted in the discovery of a new coral reef species which was given the name Gnathia marleyi as a tribute to the late reggae legend, Bob Marley.

Bob Marley
Bob Marley (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University initially discovered the species 10 years ago in the  U.S. Virgin Islands, but they were so common, Sikkel assumed the species had been named already. It turns out he had a hunch and decided to consult fellow researchers and the next thing you know, he’s naming a brand new species. Gnathia marleyi is a gnathiid isopod and is a parasitic blood feeder in its juvenile stages. It infests certain fish that inhabit the coral reef and is the first new species to be named out of the Caribbean for years.

Juvenile Gnathiids
Juvenile gnathiids that have recently fed on fresh blood. Only juvenile gnathiids are parasitic.
Credit: Ann Marie Coile, Department of Biology, Arkansas State University

Sikkel’s research is primarily focused on the health of the reef. Recent reports say the reef is degrading in the Caribbean. According to the NSF press release, Sikkel says,”we are currently researching the relationships between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations”. It appears that as the reef degrades the parasites that infest them gain ground. Sikkel likens the gnathiids to mosquitoes, which are known to carry blood born diseases. “Our current work is focused on how changes in coral reef environments, such as coral bleaching, influences interactions between hosts and parasites,” said Sikkel. “We’re including in our studies any effects on cleaning organisms that remove parasites from hosts.” As it turns out, there are “cleaner fish” that rely heavily on these parasites as food. Sikkel believes these little guys may be playing a large role in transmitting disease in the reef.

As to why these little guys were named for Marley, Sikkel said,”I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley’s music. Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley”. The study was published in the June 6th issue of Zootaxia.


New Dropbox Pro Plans!

Dropbox announced on its official blog today that it is introducing new plans for its Pro version customers. The blog said “we hear from families who have more than 100 GB of photos, docs and videos…as people add more stuff to Dropbox, we want to make sure they don’t have to worry about space.”

Rate Plans

Starting this evening everything changes. Dropbox Pro will now be offering 100GB and 200GB plans. The best part of the deal, is that the rate plans will remain the same as the original 50GB and 100GB plans. If you are a current Dropbox Pro user, you don’t have to do anything to get the additional space. According to the blog post, your Dropbox will “supersize” itself sometime tonight.

Honestly, I believe that Dropbox has to be feeling the pressure from some big time competitors trying to take over this marketplace. Google’s 100GB drive is going for $5/month. has a $20/month 50GB plan. Microsoft offers a 100GB plan for $50/year. As you can see the prices vary wildly and the competition, I believe, is just heating up.

Personally, I like Dropbox. It is very reliable for everything I have used it for so far. Collaborating with others is very easy. I think adding more storage to their Pro offering is a good move on their part and only time will tell if this plays out in their favor. For now, if you’re a Dropbox Pro user, enjoy your new space!

Researchers Create “MRI” of the Sun’s Interior Motions

A team of researchers from NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and its Department of Physics, Princeton University, the Max Planck Institute, and NASA have created an “MRI” of the sun’s interior motions.

MRI of Sun
Image of the sun’s surface taken by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (courtesy NASA)

Looking for Some Hot Stuff

The sun’s inner core creates heat through a process called nuclear fusion. The heat moves to the outer surface of the sun through convection. Since the sun is opaque, not much has been learned about how the process works. Scientists have had to rely on studies of fluid models and then try to apply those observations to the sun.

The sun is primarily composed of hydrogen, helium, and plasma. Plasma according to Princeton’s website is “a fourth state of matter distinct from solid or liquid or gas and present in stars and fusion reactors; a gas becomes a plasma when it is heated until the atoms lose all their electrons, leaving a highly electrified collection of nuclei and free electrons”. It is also the primary contributor to the sun’s magnetic fields. This study sought to grasp a better understanding of phenomenon such as sun spots and magnetic fields. A fantastic NASA video showing activity on the surface of the sun is embedded below.

Smile! Say Cheese

To get their “MRI” the researchers relied on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to get a high definition picture of the sun’s surface. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager measures the effects of convection on the sun’s surface using a 16 million pixel camera. No hiding any sun spots or blemishes with a camera like that!

The end result of the research showed that many of our assumptions about the sun were incorrect. Current theory about the sun’s magnetic field rely on assumptions about the speed and magnitude of the sun’s inner motions. According to an NYU press release, study author Shravan Hanasoge, an associate research scholar in geosciences at Princeton University and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences said, “our results suggest that convective motions in the Sun are nearly 100 times smaller than these current theoretical expectations” Hanasoge continued saying “If these motions are indeed that slow in the Sun, then the most widely accepted theory concerning the generation of solar magnetic field is broken, leaving us with no compelling theory to explain its generation of magnetic fields and the need to overhaul our understanding of the physics of the Sun’s interior.”

As so often happens in science, further research sometimes opens more questions and challenges the theories of the day. This research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Editorial: Creation vs. Evolution and the Fear That Drives Both

In 1859 Charles Darwin turned the world on its side by publishing the book On the Origin of Species. This book outlined his observations on evolution and introduced the concept known as natural selection. Darwin’s theories have since gained wide acceptance in the scientific community and have laid the foundation for evolutionary biology. His theories have also been used to drive a solid wedge between the religious and scientific communities. This unfortunate result can be seen playing out even today as my esteemed colleague, Debjyoti Bardhan, points out in his article “South Korea’s Scientists Strike Back At Creationism; Force Withdrawal of Omission of Evolution“. To me the fundamental problems at the heart of this debate are that of power, fear, and lack of mutual respect.

Origin of Species
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

He Didn’t Start the Fire

Contrary to the noise you hear on both sides of the creation vs. evolution debate, Darwin didn’t set out to stick it to Christians when he published his theories. Some may be surprised that early in Darwin’s life, he actually considered going into the clergy. As a matter of fact, Darwin struggled with his thoughts on God his entire life and in a letter to John Fordyce he proclaimed, “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” But the fire that burned between science and the church started long before Darwin’s time. One could point to the debate between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo correctly observed that the earth was not the center of the universe. He supported the heliocentric view meaning the earth was just a planet that circled the sun. This view got him in a lot of heat with the Roman Catholic Church. His views were deemed heretical and didn’t agree with church authorities of that day. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the tools he needed to really prove his argument. On the flip side, Galileo wasn’t entirely correct either. The sun was the center of our solar system however, as we know now it was not the center of the universe.

All of this history reminds me of the saying “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One of the things I observe in this whole debate is that both parties involved seem to get drunk with power. Nothing is more unbecoming of science than when scientists wield their power and influence to push a social or political agenda. How many studies have I seen lately funded by some special interest group with the “surprising” result that the “scientific” conclusion agrees with those of the group. In the same line of thought, nothing can be more opposite of the life that Jesus lived than these so called “Christians” who would threaten the very lives of scientists with whom they do not agree.