Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The recent release of LibreOffice prompted me to revisit the Office Suites battle.  I've previously told you about OpenOffice.org (OO), the open source alternative to Microsoft Office (MSO) at a decidely better price (free).

LibreOffice was developed by a group of rogue developers from the OpenOffice.org project. They objected to recent attempts to implement some fees on OO, and vowed to keep LibreOffice (LO) completely free. As with all Open Source projects, donations are appreciated.

I've read a bit about the differences and similarities between MSO, OO and LO. It would seem the major differences would be the following:
  1. LibreOffice does not come with Java, as does OpenOffice, though it is necessary to run LO. It would be hard to imagine you don't already have Java installed on your computer.
  2. LibreOffice supports Microsoft Works and Wordperfect file types.  If you used Works for a long time, then found your new computer didn't come with Works, you either had to buy Works or live without access to your old documents.
  3. Neither LibreOffice nor OpenOffice include an application similar to Outlook. This is commonly the reason people are still buying Microsoft Office. There are a few alternatives such as Google Calendar, but nothing does it all like Outlook and many businesses are still tied to it.
Here are links to the suites; compare for yourself and perhaps give them a try:

Microsoft Office
Detailed article comparing the suites

Monday, June 20, 2011


Mozilla Firefox 5 is out today, a few days early and just 3 months after Firefox 4 was released. Mozilla has adopted a fast-release platform, so perhaps we should expect Firefox 6 in a matter of hours.

After reading about Firefox 5, I would have installed it hoping for the speed improvements alone. There are a few other enhancements. Striving for even more of the minimalist look, there are even fewer buttons showing when 5 is first installed. Everything can be tweeked to your preferences, and a few minutes checking out the options should leave you with the custom look you like.

So far, Firefox 5 is really, really fast and I like it. Developers, just don't change over the IE pinned sites "feature" (my most hated thing about Internet Explorer 9) and I might just stay with Firefox for a while.

Mozilla Firefox 5 is available at FileHippo.com now, or at getfirefox.com very soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9 on March 15. Faster, more secure, and far less cluttered than ever before, IE 9 is getting good reviews.  IE 9 can be installed on Windows 7 and Vista only; XP users are out of luck. It's really time to change from XP.

Internet Explorer 9 can be downloaded from Microsoft or any number of download sites. For best performance use the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer. That goes for version 8, as well. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/products/ie/home

Mozilla released Firefox 4 on March 22, with the same goals (see last post http://cathycom.blogspot.com/2011/03/firefox-4-now-ready-for-download.html).

The Browser Wars have been going on so long the various contenders seem to be merging. The Big Three (no, not Ford, Chrysler and GM) are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The new versions seem pretty much interchangeable. More than ever, personal preference will decide your default browser.

It's still a good idea to have at least two browsers installed, and running all three is quite acceptable. There are many web sites that perform differently in different browsers. One, two, three or more browsers of the same maker or different can be open at the same time, given enough system resources.


Mozilla released Firefox 4 (the Final Version) today, March 22. It's been in beta so long we've mostly forgotten about it.  Do we want to install it now, or wait until the initial bugs are repaired?

Install now if you like adventure and aren't disturbed by change. Wait a few days or weeks if you'd like someone else to pick out the bugs and the fixed versions to appear.

To install, open Firefox, then click on Help - Check for updates. You'll be prompted to download version 4; follow the prompts to do so.  Or go directly to the web site and download fresh, then install over your current version. 

Below is a link to a good early review of the major changes. For me, Firefox 4 brings new meaning to the term "minimalist". Fewer buttons, fewer toolbars (initially), fewer controls. It looks a lot more like Google's Chrome browser. Once you find your way around, it will be as simple as using whatever you're using today.

You should upgrade Firefox to version 4 at some point. Besides the new interface, there are always security improvements. Anyone who's ever been affected by malware will appreciate the efforts.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


Very few applications have released updates over the last 6 weeks.  Microsoft always releases some updates for Windows and Office on the second Tuesday of the month (Patch Tuesday); if you have Automatic Updates on, you should get the Critical/High Priority updates automatically. iTunes and QuickTime did update last week; if you use either, you should have already been prompted to update.

Most manufacturers have stopped including software CDs or DVDs with their new computers. It saves a little money for the maker (probably not passed along to you), and many buyers immediately lose the discs and need to purchase them later, anyway.  Manufacturers DO make money selling you a new set of discs, which ranges from about $15 - $30 -- unless you're ineligible - in which case, when your drive crashes, you'll need to buy a full-blown set of discs for Windows and all the applications for which you can't find the discs.  A set of Microsoft Office Pro 2010 discs is $499, and there is no upgrade price from an earlier version.

If the computer didn't come with discs, there will be a way to create (burn) your own set. You will undoubtedly be nagged for a while to burn these discs. If you ignore this nag, you will pay for it later.  Follow the prompts and make your own Recovery Disc Set.  Or I'll do it when I set up your new computer. It doesn't matter who does it, only that it gets done and you then know where in hell the discs are when you need them.

Yes, it's still true.  If a virus, trojan or other malware has infected your computer it can travel through your home or office network and infect everyone else's computer. If you suspect your computer is infected (you'll know), do the right thing and disconnect from the network to protect everybody else. Immediately. Not after you save a few more things to the shared drive or send a couple emails. You should always know how to use your email from another computer. If you don't know, ask.

If you suspect your computer is infected, it probably is. You're familiar with how your computer normally responds; if it's slower or does things you didn't ask or takes you to places you didn't intend to go, it's infected. Get it cleaned, as soon as possible. The longer it goes on, the smaller the chance of cleaning it without a complete rebuild. Rebuilding involves removing the hard drive and attaching it to another computer to clean, fix and wipe, then reinstalling back into your computer and reinstalling Windows, drivers, all the original software and add-on applications, printer, scanner, camera, iPod, etc. and all the updates. It takes hours... many hours.

If you suspect your computer is infected and want to clean it yourself, a great procedure is found on Nick Francesco's site, Security Tango.com. Why do I tell you this when I could just insist you pay me to clean it? Because I want you to do everything you can to help yourself, and the more you know about what it takes to clean, the better for all. Of course, if you check out the Tango and decide it's not for you, I'm here to help.

Can I talk about backups yet again? Yes, and I will. When your computer crashes from that trojan, it's not always possible to save everything you'd want to save. So do it beforehand. Early and often. If you don't know how to back up what you don't want to lose, ask somebody or Google it. If you still don't know how or want to, I'll show you several ways or do it for you.  You're in control - take it!

There's one more topic I want to cover, but it does merit it's own post. I'll put it up shortly.