Oracle, Are You Really Hurting for Cash This Badly?

Saw this just now via MacRumors – a wonderful note that our friends at Oracle have decided to bundle the toolbar (an invaluable tool if there ever was one) with the Mac version of Java (as they’ve done with the Windows version for some time)…

For years, Oracle has been bundling an search toolbar with Java for Windows, relying on what some call deceptive methods to get users to install the add-on to their browsers. Now, the company has extended its adware strategy to Java for Mac, according to ZDNet.

Thanks Oracle, now this is another thing I get to think about next time I have to install Java on something. The question is – are you really hurting for cash so badly that you need to bundle things like this in? And for that matter, are large companies really getting that much money from this stuff.

Wait… of course they are… otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Oh what a stupid sad maladjusted state of affairs. Friendly PSA folks: Watch your install wizards closely!

Why Do Printers Still Suck?

The Installer failed and looped endlessly. You should be ashamed.

Recently I bought an HP Photoshare 7510, a pretty nice printer/scanner that brings me up to the wireless age.  I’ve had a few problems setting up the software though. My Mac had a few hiccups with the scanning from the printer feature, and Karey’s Windows 7 laptop refuses to have the printer installed. After spending an hour with it, I told her to simply email the printer a PDF to print, the software is just hopelessly broken.

Frustration © by music2work2

How broken? Well after downloading 3 different files from HP, the last being a wizard, the software just endlessly loops through the entire installation, saying “Downloading drivers”, then when that install fails, the same wizard picks up again and says “Downloading drivers” and launches the install all over again. This prompted me to leave the above snarky-yet-true quote on HP’s web survey. It didn’t help that pressing the “Details” button on the installer error page just brought up a dialog box that said “Installation Error”. Those are some deep details.

But the bigger issue – can anyone explain to me why in the last 10 years we’ve made enormous advances in all areas of technology except printer drivers? They’re still bloated and buggy, even as the hardware has gotten better. The software simply is horrendous.

Better yet, the companies are still in the mindset of “Bloat it on up, we don’t care if it drags the computer down”. Windows installers are horrible in this respect. The HP installer I just looped through 5 times required me to press a button to show checkboxes, which I could then uncheck, for a bunch of useless things I knew Karey wouldn’t want on her computer. It was purposefully built to be a pain to do.

Oddly enough, the Mac version of the same software had far less bloatware (i.e. nearly none) and all its optional stuff was “opt-in” (i.e. I had to check it to get it to install). All i can figure is that the Mac software is programmed by Mac users who think “I wouldn’t want this junk on my system” and disregard upper management’s “Make them opt out” cries (call it “corporate disobedience”). While the Windows software is programmed by someone who is an inch away from unemployment and will do whatever horrible thing upper management says. Reminds me of a car dealer mechanic once who confided in me that he felt horrible drilling holes in brand new cars just to screw on a dealer nameplate. He knew no one cared to advertise where they bought their car for free, but if he didn’t screw that sucker in, he’d be in the unemployment line. Probably the same for the Windows guys (since there are obviously more of them on the market than the Mac guys – something related to that huge number of people who use Windows over Mac OS)

In the end as much as I hate to admit it, I have to print things sometimes. I also have to scan things (a lot). I can’t get away from these monsters anytime soon. I just wish companies would get a clue about how to build decent non-dysfunctional software.

Seamless Mode in VirtualBox Plays Nice

Last I checked, Seamless Mode in VirtualBox was buggy, and really annoying to use. I’ve recently switched to my Macbook full-time (My big Windows Machine stays plugged into the LAN and is able to be remotely turned on via LogMeIn in case I need it), which means that I’m good for most things, but certain items on Windows are still essential. One great program is WIndows Live Writer, which I haven’t found a free Mac counterpart. Recently I figured I’d try installing it in my Win7 Virtualbox machine, and then try out Seamless mode. The result is the following screenshot:

Screen shot 2011-04-02 at 9.53.05 AM

You’ll notice that’s an IE window, a Live Writer screen (With this post) and a Windows Taskbar on the bottom of the screen above OS X’s Dock.

When I last played with Seamless Mode, on a WIn XP Virtual Machine a year or so ago, it had a lot of issues with rendering properly (artifacting, etc..), however I haven’t had that with Seamless on Win 7 & VirtualBox 4.0. Nice setup for those of us not committed to one platform Smile

Backup & Restore Android Apps Using ADB

Android is an interesting platform for a number of reasons, one of which is it’s openness to developer and debugging tools, and the fact that it runs a modified form of Linux as an operating system. If you’re like me and quite fond of jumping around from ROM to ROM on your Android devices, a quick and easy way to backup your program files (and even settings) is quite desirable. Here’s my solution, hopefully it will help you. I know there are easier ways, but for a diehard geek who has the setup ready, this is the fastest way.

First step: Install Android Debug Bridge (adb)

adb is a tool found in the Android SDK, which you can download here. Once you unzip the SDK, add the directory to your path so you can call adb.exe from the command line (or just always run it from it’s tools directory). Once the SDK is installed, you can connect your device to your computer and make sure you SKIP the driver detection Windows automatically starts. If you don’t, Windows will install a generic USB device driver and adb won’t work. If you accidentally do this, follow the steps outlined here to fix the problem. You may want to use pstools to run Registry Editor as System to fully delete out the entries that the fix tells you to delete, otherwise it’s a long process of taking ownership of directories, giving yourself permission, and finally deleting the directory. Repeat 15 times. Sounds like fun right?

So how do you know you have adb installed and working? Well if you plug in your device and run the following command:

adb devices

and you get back something that looks like this:

List of devices attached

HT845GZ67642 device

then it’s working. If you get a message saying that no devices were found, then it isn’t!

Second step: Backup the applications (and settings)

Now that you have adb working, open a command line and make a new directory. To backup the apk files (The package files that store the program’s executables and libraries), run the following command:

adb pull /data/app ./

and you should see a long list of apk files being downloaded to your computer. UPDATE: if you’re using a ROM that places your applications on the SD card for speed and backup purposes, the above command won’t work. Instead use the following command:

adb pull /system/sd/app ./

Settings are a slightly different beast. They’re stored under /data/data on the device, and you may have to hunt around a bit to find what you’re looking for. running the following command will let you access your phone in the same way you’d SSH into a unix/linux machine, or work at the Mac command prompt:

adb shell

Some examples are below of often-backed-up files you may want to grab off your device:

MMS/SMS data: /data/data/

Browser settings: /data/data/

System WiFi Settings: /data/misc/wifi

Once you have everything you want backed up, it’s time to restore!

Third step: Restoring data

Assuming you want to restore APK files, and you have all of those in 1 directory, you can run the following command on a mac to install all those apk files:

find ./ –exec adb install {} \;

If you’re on a Windows machine, your command is a bit longer, and this assuems your apk files are in c:\backupapps

for %%f in (“C:\BackupApps\*.apk”) do adb install “%%f”

Alternatively, from a command line window in the directory you have your backed up apps, you can run the following on a Windows machine:

adb install *.apk

After the applications, you can restore whatever data files and settings you backed up. Oh, and for you apps2SD users that may have a really bloated extended partition and want to wipe clean, try the following to clear the EXT partition on your SD card so you can move new apps over (useful for those who are doing completely clean installs on SD cards that were previously used with apps2SD). You should do this from the Recovery image, not the actual live running version (e.g. reboot and hold Home to get to recovery image.)

mount /system/sd
rm -rf /system/sd/*

Hopefully this little walk-through was somewhat helpful for you! If so, leave a comment!

Amazing what we can do these days eh?

Automation is pretty crazy. As I type this, I’m unsure what is actually going to happen when I hit Publish. You see, up until a week ago, I had a pretty jury rigged system where I posted something to a Joomla based CMS that was rather clunky, and then I twittered about it, and that twitter post went to my facebook status. Along the way a component for Joomla would download entries from my other blogs and Pocket PC Thoughts and dump them into the database. This seemed to work out pretty well, but I thought perhaps a more up-to-date system would be nice. Especially with all the changes coming up in the next few months, why not have a better site?
So I’m typing this in the backend of WordPress (Being on a Linux laptop I’m unable to use Windows Live Writer or Word right now), and I have a bunch of gizmos turned on to do various things. First of all, I’m tagging this with a Twitter tag, which I THINK is supposed to trigger some plugin I have to push this out to Twitter and a bunch of other websites (e.g. statuses on Facebook, Myspace, etc..). I’m not sure if it will work. At the same time, the same plugin should push this out as a note on Facebook, but who knows if it will (If you’re reading this there, then I guess it worked).

Now Twitter poses a bit of a problem for me because when this publishes out, I don’t want it sucked back in. Why would it do that? Well, my status updates need to be archived for glory on JonWestfall.Com, and if my status update advertises my blog item and then the status update actually upstages the blog item, it just creates a self-referential storm of junk on the homepage. So I hopefully found a solution using Yahoo! Pipes that should block from my twitter feed any items with [JonWestfall.Com] in them from EVER appearing back on the homepage. Ugh.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it really is. All I want is everything I write to A) appear on JonWestfall.Com in some form and B) my friends to know I’ve posted something (in whatever medium they’re using or accessing). I guess those two are mutually exclusive to some extent. So what will happen when I press “Publish”? Who knows, but hopefully something good.

Fennec Pre-Alpha Released…windows-mobile/

“This release is pre-alpha, and intended to get the product into the hands of early adopters in order to get feed back and bug reports. In order to focus our efforts on getting this release out, we have targeted only one device, the HTC Touch Pro. This has a number of user interface implications, including graphics designed for a 300 dpi screen, control layout intended for a vga screen and reliance on a hardware keyboard for text input.”

Fennec has reached a milestone release – a milestone of not-quite-ready-for-primetime-ness! But if you’re psyched to try out this Mozilla project on your Windows Mobile device, feel free to enjoy it’s pre-alpha goodness. Although be preparred for a bit of an experience with it – I’m already hearing reports that WinMo enthusiasts are giving up after taking a quick look this morning! Why even try it then? Well to summon the spirit of Brad, W?BIC!

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One Line Wisdom: Windows Mobile Edition

In the past we’ve asked you to share your best tips with the community, and in the same vein comes my newest talking point, the elusive yet useful joys of a small nugget of wisdom. Your mission, dear community, is to share one short line of wisdom that you might give to new users of Windows Mobile devices, old vets, and recent converts from “dumbphones”. Feel free to expound on your one-liner, but the one-liner should be able to stand on it’s own. Here’s mine:

When it comes to software, less is more

My line refers to the temptation some users get to trick out their phones with every conceivable application under the sun. And trust me – I was no exception to this when I started out with Windows Mobile. I had (still have actually) registration codes for easily the top 30 applications for Windows Mobile. I tried everything, bought most of it, and today use almost none of it. Aside from 3-5 applications I install, my device remains stock. Why? Well it isn’t that the software isn’t well written, it’s simply that I know what I use and try to avoid the clutter of unused doodads. When you find the software that really works for you, you don’t need to spend hours tinkering with everything else. Your smartphone just works, smartly, for you.

Now it’s your turn – share your line of wisdom and explanation (Perhaps it’s When it comes to software, use everything!”)!

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Why So Much Difficulty Outlook?

OK, so today I’m taking a break from the world of Linux to focus on the world of Windows. Windows 7 to be exact, which now lives on my Toshiba L305 alongside Ubuntu (dual-boot). I’m putting 7 through the paces which for me means installing Office 2007 and setting up Outlook 2007. I have a somewhat screwy outlook 2007 setup to begin with since I run my e-mail off my own server with it’s own self-signed certificate. So I did what I felt I had to do: Exported the root certificate from another computer, started up mmc.exe on the Win7 box and added the “Certificates” snap-in (Under the Machine account) and then imported the root certificate to the “Trusted Root Certificate Authorities” folder.

So far so good. Outlook Web Access (OWA) popped up in IE without any complaining about my cert, but Outlook on the desktop (Formerly known as RPC over HTTP, now known as Outlook Anywhere) was being a pain. Luckily I found this page on Technet Social which talks about similar issues. One post mentioned formatting the username as \ which I thought was nuts as I’ve always used my e-mail address. But I tried it and…. amazingly… it worked. So that’s what it took to get Outlook setup!

Strangely enough it now always requires I use the \ format. I don’t know if this is inherent to Windows 7 or what. Not ready to rule it a bug as it may simply be I messed up something on my Exchange server since I last set up Outlook.