No autorecover in PowerPoint 2004?!

I made the switch from Windows to Mac last spring, a decision for which I have only one regret — that I didn’t do it earlier.

Well, now it’s actually two regrets — that I continued to use PowerPoint for Mac instead of switching to Keynote.

Here’s the short version of my recent pain and suffering. The first wave of pain is actually the simple fact that PowerPoint 2004 (the Mac version) is a pretender compared to the very easy-to-use PowerPoint for Windows. Lots of little goofy things that seem unnecessarily clunky. For example:

1) Go to open a file. Default is to show me “All Readable Documents” rather than PowerPoint documents. I’m running PowerPoint, for crying out loud. How about defaulting to that?

2) Open a PowerPoint file, go to normal view. On the left is the outline view of the text. Long lines of text disappear under the slide pane on the right. Along the bottom of that window is a scroll bar. Grab that bar, slide it all the way to the right. The text shifts left about 1/4 inch, leaving all the rest of the text still hidden.

3) Speaking of the scroll bars, rather than shifting the contents of the window while you slide them, the contents just sit there until you release, and then jumps to the correct spot. Wasn’t that de rigeur like 15 years ago?

I could go on, but you get the idea. (I’ve considered doing a point by point comparison of the two versions. Maybe in the future.) In any case it seems clear to me that there is less commitment on the part of Microsoft for the Mac version of PowerPoint than for Windows. I wonder why that might be?!

But like I said, that was just the first wave of pain. The acute symptoms struck Friday afternoon.

I’m in a massive flow, amazingly productive. The kind of productive flow that you get into after several hours of spinning your wheels before all the lights come on. The kind of flow where you get as much done in two hours as you had in the previous six. The kind of flow where you’re reaching a zenith of productivity, almost completely done with this amazing……

Huh? Shoot. PowerPoint just died.

Totally killed itself. That’s never happened before. Well, no problem. It’s been autorecovering every 10 minutes all afternoon. I’ve seen the little banner message across my screen. The most I’ve lost here is 10 minutes. Painful, but I can manage.

Before relaunching PowerPoint, I look around for autorecover files. I always like to do a little manual maintenance in these situations in case something stupid happens next. No autorecover files that I can find. I can see Word autorecover files, but nothing relating to my presentation. I poke around a bit more. Look in the Preferences… Hmm. In Word there’s a preference for the autorecover folder, but not in PowerPoint. Finally, after dinking around for a bit, I just decide to trust PowerPoint and relaunch. It comes up and shows me the Project Gallery, rather than something about autorecovered files. The help screens tell me that PowerPoint is supposed to give me a selection of autorecovered files when the death thing happens. But it’s not offering up anything. More research. More futility. I finally click on the presentation as an act of ultimate desperation. It’s my version from 2:52 p.m., the last time I manually saved. The version just before all the beauty and productivity gushed forth.

I’m now livid. And depressed. I know, I know. Save frequently. But I’ve been using Word and PowerPoint for Windows for almost 15 years, and ever since autorecover showed up as a feature, I’ve had a good sense of security, and have seldom been burned. Heck, I stayed with Office when I went to the Mac because it’s been such a reliable and usable product. Alas. It appears my PowerPoint days are over. I installed Keynote yesterday and am preparing for a learning curve/paradigm shift of at least modest proportion.

And that’s the story of pain and suffering, courtesy of whoever forgot to actually make the autorecover work in PowerPoint 2004 for Mac. I could continue whining and venting my pitiful spleen, but… I, ah, have a presentation to re-generate.

Politicians press for antispyware law yet again

Politicians press for antispyware law yet again by Anne Broache

I don’t know the current status of this proposed federal legislation. But the article is relevant and the issue is huge.

Among other things, the proposal would make it unlawful to engage in various means of “taking control” of a user’s computer, to collect personally identifiable information through keystroke loggers, and to modify a user’s Internet settings, such as the browser’s home page.

The bill would also broadly prohibit collection of information about users or their behavior without notice and consent, and it prescribes specific notice requirements. Exemptions from the regulations would go to Web cookies, law enforcement and national security activities, and software intended to prevent fraud.

Previous versions of the bill drew support from a number of high-tech companies, including Yahoo, eBay, AOL Time Warner, Dell, Microsoft and EarthLink.

The FTC has also lamented not having the ability to levy large monetary penalties on spyware purveyors. The Spy Act would put in place such an increase, allowing the FTC to seek fines as hefty as $3 million for the most egregious violations.

Obviously technology laws emerge as inappropriate usage emerges. So effective legislation will always trail intrusive technology. But this one has seemed so obvious for so long. If some guy pulls a pickup truck onto my front lawn and dumps a load of garbage, there are laws to prosecute him. But if he does the same thing to my computer’s hard disk, there’s little or nothing we can do.

IT workforce development: Losing the numbers game

IT workforce development: Losing the numbers game by Joe Vanden Plas

This article is somewhat regional, dealing with the software industry in southeastern Wisconsin, but the topic of declining enrollment in Computer Science and other computer technology fields is dealt with very well.

Fundamentally, there simply are not enough students in the pipeline to replace the technologists that soon will be retiring in droves, and with computer science enrollment dropping precipitously, IT jobs are either being unfilled or are taking long periods of time to fill.

As a result, businesses are having difficulty finding creative problem solvers in an era where “IT genes” exist in just about every job, even those that seemingly are irrelevant to technology.

Robin Pickering, a recruiting manager for Manpower Professional in Milwaukee, said the talent shortage started several years ago when colleges and universities experienced a dip in the number of students going into computer science and engineering.

That’s a good characterization of the problem. This next quote is, in my opinion, right on in its assessment of some of the key factors in the current crisis.

Several culprits have been cited. Certain segments of the media are blamed for the way they covered the dotcom bust, which coincided with the start of declining enrollments in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines, and their inability (or unwillingness) to cover issues like offshoring in their full context. The coverage has played a role in creating the myths that IT salaries are low and all the jobs have been moved overseas.

I believe the market for software and computer talent in the U.S. has never been stronger (and that’s even in the presence of offshoring and outsourcing).

MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders

MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders by Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

MySpace.com has found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular social networking Web site – more than four times the number cited by the company two months ago, officials in two states Tuesday.

“I’m absolutely astonished and appalled because the number has grown so exponentially over so short of time with no explanation,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who also had pressed the company earlier for sex offender data.

Let me offer a potential explanation. Broadly speaking, there are two types of social networks on the Internet: 1) Those that offer an online mechanism for interaction between people who already know each other in the real world; 2) Those that offer complete strangers an opportunity to meet other strangers on the Internet.

In the first category are sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn, which are philosophically founded on the principle that relationships must exist before online links can be established. In those environments, it’s considered very bad form to solicit a link with someone you’ve never met in person.

In contrast, the second category includes chat rooms of all shapes and sizes as well as sites like MySpace that actively encourage (or at least fail to discourage) individuals to expand their personal network to include many people that they’ve never met.

If you were an Internet predator, which type of social network would you frequent?!

MySpace declined to comment on the figure, focusing instead on its efforts to clean up its profile rolls.

“We’re pleased that we’ve successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site and hope that other social networking sites follow our lead,” MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a prepared statement.

I would suggest that other networking sites that require (or at least attempt to enforce) that individuals know each other before forging online relationships will have far less cleaning up to do than MySpace.

Students give up social networks for Lent

Students give up social networks for Lent by Katie Hawkins

Lent was over a few months ago. But the story’s so compelling I couldn’t let it go.

For some, it’s chocolate. For others, it’s coffee or cigarettes. But as this Easter approaches, some young and devout Christians are anxious to return to what they gave up for Lent: Internet sites Facebook and MySpace.

“Some of my friends think it’s silly, since people usually give up food,” said 16-year-old Emily Montgomery, who says she’s given up her access to MySpace. “I wanted to give up something that’s really hard for me.”

A definite sign that social networking is here in a big way.

Graham said giving up Facebook has helped her distinguish between her real friends and those of “convenience.” Montgomery says she now plays tennis and focuses on schoolwork more often, and Chiu has been studying, reading the Bible and spending time with friends.

“It’s a nice change,” said Chiu. “The human interaction is so much more personal than anything you could have on the Internet.”

Virtual friends… Real friends… Virtual friends… Real friends… For this generation it’s a non-trivial issue to say the least.

Warning! Pool unsafe for use by anyone!!

We recently bought a smallish pool for our back patio — an attempt to beat the recent heatwave in the intermountain desert. Pool depth is around 3 feet, diameter around 10 feet. Turns out there are some dangers that we would have been entirely unaware of, if not for this handy warning label sticker that the manufacturer thoughtfully provided.

pool-warning-1-small.jpg

Warning!

Do not bloody your head at the bottom of the pool and/or snap your neck off in 18 inches of water.

Alien emos will attack your children with deadly laser beam vision.

Ladder does not belong in the pool where children can climb and enter.

Ladder belongs three feet from the pool where children must apparently levitate to enter.

Warning!

 

True stories from the TSA

From natch dot net:

When he finds the MintyBoost! charger he gives me the evil eye.

Now if I was stupid I would have shut down the airport when I saw such a device. It doesn’t look like *anything* they sell at Walmart.

He asks what it is. I tell him it is a battery charger for my iPod. He asks if I made it myself, to which I reply that I purchased a kit over the internet. He says that he can’t let me on the plane with it. I explain to him that I have flown with it 4-6 times a month for a year now and nobody has questioned it. He says, “Not on my watch and not with my people.”

Read it for yourself: http://www.natch.net/stuff/TSA/

This sort of thing just can’t be scripted.

Milk for sale!

This picture was taken last week by my colleague Dr. Bryan Morse in a Utah County grocery store that will remain nameless (since I don’t know which one it was).

But when you see the “Power Price” advertisement! Boy howdy! Load up while supplies last. :)

milk-for-sale.jpg

Computer Science seniors: We’ve taught you to write… um… code.

So you’re Computer Science seniors. Congratulations! We’ve taught you to write…

code.

And you’re darned good at it from what we can tell. Some of you are elegant composers of programmatic poetry, others architects of grand software structure, and others are codeslingers — the last programmer left standing when all the shots have been fired. Truth is, you’re good at what we’ve trained you to do. And the industry will reward you for your aptitude and your perseverance.

To a point….

Until it’s time to write your annual report and convince your managers that you’re all you think you are. Heck, maybe you are. But they won’t know it until you express it… In writing.

Until the time that you see a critical technical need in your organization and set about to write a persuasive memo (in English!) to convince the powers-that-be that the collective captains should change course quickly. “Trust me because I’m smart,” won’t cut it.

Until the time that you find that you don’t work alone anymore, and that others must come to understand what you understand, using your arcane scribblings as their primary source of enlightenment. Or when those naïve newbies find themselves maintaining the software that you wrote, struggling to understand your code because the comments are, shall we say, terse.

At these junctures, I hope you come to understand more deeply that while code controls computer behavior, prose is better suited for persuading people.

And while your computer delivers perfect, blind obedience to your incantations…

People distribute the promotions… and the praise… the respect… and the raise.