Three Essential Microsoft PowerToys

If you plan on sticking with Windows XP for as long as you can, there are a lot you can do to optimize it and better your XP experience. Even though a lot of us are guilty of not performing it, basic maintenance is essential. If you don’t already do so, you should run Disk Defragmenter (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter) or another defragmentation tool on a regular basis. Not only will this speed up hard drive access times, but it will reduce the chances for data and operating system corruption. If you add regular anti-virus and anti-spyware scans to your maintenance regiment, you will keep XP running for longer periods of time without error. Performing maintenance is not all you can do to keep XP running optimally. Microsoft has also released some free tools that will help you use Windows XP more efficiently.

Microsoft’s SyncToy allows you to synchronize data between folders. This utility is easy to use, and it will allow you to quickly set up synchronization rules, and ensure that your data integrity is maintained while synchronizing. This is especially useful when synchronizing files between a flash drive (or external hard drive) and your desktop or laptop. It is easy to use and freely downloadable from Microsoft.

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Calgoo Is Now Free

The Calgoo team has decided to make the full version of Calgoo 2.0 free. Calgoo is a desktop calendar management application for Windows, Linux, and OS X. It allows you to manage your calendar, and synchronize it with Google Calendar, Outlook (2003 and 2007), 30 Boxes, and iCal. Not all of the Calgoo features work  calgoocalendar-logowith every calendar service it syncs with, but you can easily manage multiple calendars in one place. It’s also a great cost-effective alternative to Outlook’s calendar, because you can use it offline, and it will synchronize your calendars at regular intervals.

Previously, the basic version of Calgoo was free, but a few premium services were reserved for paying customers. Now all of their software, including Calgoo Calendar, Calgoo Connect, and Calgoo Hub are free. The company intends to deliver ads to Calgoo Hub, their calendar sharing service, and ads will possibly appear in Calgoo Calendar and Calgoo Connect when they are used with Calgoo Hub.

Since Calgoo is multi-platform compatible, it makes it easy to keep your Mac in sync with your Windows and Linux machines. You can synchronize across systems via Calgoo Hub, or you can install it on multiple systems and point them to the same Google or 30 Boxes calendar. Either way, you don’t have to worry about porting information back and forth among machines, or attempting to synchronize your calendar from a PDA or Smartphone in multiple places.

Calgoo can also interact with your Facebook account via the Agenda Share Facebook application. Once you’ve added it to your Facebook account, and run the setup in Calgoo Calendar to give the application permission, it will add your calendar information to your Facebook profile. You can limit the information displayed on Facebook via specific tags, or you can choose to share one or all of your calendars. If your Facebook friends need to see your schedule, this is a convenient way to share it with them.

If you’re looking for a robust Outlook calendar substitute, Calgoo is a great option. It may not replace your other calendar software, but it is a great synchronization conduit for those of us managing multiple calendars.

Facebook: What to Expect with the New Interface

I enjoy using Facebook. After using Friendster, Tribe, MySpace, and Orkut, Facebook was a breath of fresh air. I have never received Spam, and I’ve only had facebook-logoone or two random people try to “friend” me during the 2 years that I’ve been a member. Since Facebook evolved from a university setting, it lends itself well to interaction (unlike Friendster), it doesn’t assault my senses with horrendous themes or auto-playing multimedia files, and people are usually clothed in their profile pictures. It’s really a very positive experience after using MySpace.

Facebook is getting ready to launch a brand new interface (which you can see at, and the changes promise to be for the better. Everyone I know has a mild case of Facebook Application fatigue. For at least two months, I fought my way through Zombie, Pirate, Snowball Fight, and Knighthood requests, just to see if there was any legitimate communication from my friends. Unfortunately, there were far more application referrals and updates going on than anything else, and communication was reduced to a lot of clicking on links and buttons. The new Facebook interface will change this by significantly tightening up application security. Application developers will no longer be allowed to force you to invite your friends in order for you to see the outcome of a quiz, test, or any other information you’ve submitted. This should dramatically reduce the application clutter that everyone is experiencing. Applications that don’t meet certain privacy requirements and applications that continue to force users to promote them will be banned. Maybe this will force the developers to work harder to keep user interest instead of trapping them in an unbreakable invitation loop.

Privacy is also going to be a much bigger priority on Facebook . There have been several complaints, petitions, and requests from the user community for additional privacy controls, information from application developers about how their information is being used, and ways to prevent Facebook itself from distributing their information (remember Beacon anyone?). Facebook is changing all of that by allowing users to try the applications before they allow their information to be shared with the developer. This gives me a little more piece of mind about my application use, and I think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Facebook is learning from their previous privacy mistakes, and these new changes will give them a significant edge over the competition.

What’s Missing from Google’s Office Suite

Since the launch of Google Docs, it’s been obvious that Google is slowly constructing a full-scale online office suite. Even though Microsoft’s hold on the market is loosening, the vast majority of web-based office productivity applications still have a long way to go before they can replace their desktop counterparts. So far, Google is holding their ground against the web-based and desktop application competition, but there are still a lot of features missing from existing applications, and some applications have yet to materialize.

Task Management

Gmail was launched in 2004, and Google Docs (including the word processor previously known as Writely, and an Excel-like application) was launched in 2006, but Google has only insinuated that they’re working on a task management application. If this suite of applications is going to seriously compete against any desktop-based office applications, task and project management will prove to be the cornerstone that will hold the suite together. Google Calendar, although very adept at helping me schedule my time, does not replace a task management application.

I have virtually abandoned Microsoft Outlook, but task management is one of the only things that forces me to launch it. Right now, it’s the easiest solution to get tasks to my Blackberry. Google has been very friendly with Remember the Milk, and it does sync with the Blackberry, iPhone, and iPod Touch. This could turn into a permanent relationship, and it would be immensely beneficial to the collective user base.

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Retiring Old Gadgets

Gadget lovers all want the newest, fastest, most feature-rich gadgets they can afford. Those of us who surf the bleeding edge usually end up with a bunch of cell phones, Blackberries, computers, and music players, that have a lot of life left in them after we’ve done using them. The question is, what is the best way to get rid of these devices?

The vast majority of people don’t want to throw working electronics away. It is an ecological nightmare, and you could be depriving someone of the joy of a gadget that will be new to them. If you have friends or family members that are technologically inclined, handing gadgets down to them is usually a good thing. Unfortunately, you may also become the default tech support person for that device if it’s kept in the family. You can donate these devices to charity. The Body Shop (which is in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, as well as online), has collected cell phones for a charity that distributes them to women in danger of domestic violence. There are a myriad of organizations that will provide your old cell phone to individuals in need or recycle your phone for you.

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iPhone 3G: Another Rough Launch for Apple and AT&T

A little over a year ago, people lined up for hours (or even days) to get the original iPhone. After an enormous amount of hype, and a lot of media buzz, the first iPhone owners finally got their hands on their new devices. During this launch, customers were allowed to take their iPhones home, and activate them over the Internet. Needless to say, the first wave of activations were plagued by well documented problems. Since customers were essentially forced to pay the full price of the device, going home to activate your iPhone was a small concession. These problems simply foreshadowed more serious launch problems to come.

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Battle of the Office Suites: Adobe’s

It seems that every few months, a new web-based office suite is born. Since I spend a good deal of my time writing, having a reliable word processor is paramount. Over time, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated with the size, cost, and inexplicable changes to Microsoft Office. Combined with the failure of Windows Vista, the massive changes to Office 2007 has caused a lot of people to reconsider spending so much on future Microsoft Office releases.

In the past 3-4 years, a lot of companies have introduced web-based office suites to compete directly with Microsoft’s offerings. A little over a year ago, I was just learning my way around Think Free Office, and hitting a point of frustration with Google Docs. Microsoft has recently felt the pressure to bring their office products to the web via Microsoft Office Live. The public has embraced these tools, and it has created stiff competition among these companies. They are all scrambling to bring the public the features they need and want, without the enormous overhead of a desktop office suite. Recently Adobe has taken the plunge into this arena.

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