Monday, August 31, 2009

WINXP - Applications to Look At

Normally I do not intend this blog to suggest specific Applications. I do make suggestions on Utilities to use to maintain your WinXP system.

There are 2 classes of Applications where I'm making an exception:

Finance Applications

I suggest that my readers look at Intuit, specifically:

  • Quicken

  • This is the personal and home-business bookkeeping software (I use this at home for years)

    Tracks your accounts (checking, savings, credit cards, investments, mortgages, etc) and Categories for transactions (utilities, interest income, pay income, mortgage interest, and whatever category you want, and budgeting).

  • TurboTax

  • This is what I use for making out my tax returns, Federal & State. Take a look.
    (By the way, looked at your H&R Block tax return, at the bottom? They use Turbo Tax, at least the last time I used them.)

  • QuickBooks

  • This is the small-to-large business professional version of Quicken. Includes several pre-configured Account Setups like Property Management, but you can make your own.

Database Application

This recommendation is because of a problem with database software I use at home.

Some personal background on this. Way in the past I actually wrote database programs in Ashton Tate's dBASE 3 & 4. This included a program for the Navy (NAVAIR) that was popular when the PC was new to the Navy.

A specific example of a database I use: I have a database for tracking the servicing of my car.

  • Title of the service (like 10k Oil Change)

  • Date of last service

  • Last Service at (mileage)

  • Interval (mileage interval, like every 10000 miles)

  • Description of service (a text block aka Memo Field)

  • Next Service (aka mileage_due = Last Service + Interval)

The Next Service is where the problem occurred with newer database applications, especially those base on SQL.

This is called a Calculated Field, in this case the sum of Last Service & Interval.

There are some database software that have a problem with this when it comes to sorting or reports. Also, SQL database does not normally include Memo Fields (text entry with carriage returns like a Notepad document).

The old dBASE 3 & 4 standard was a Calculated Field was just another type of Numerical Field but it's value was calculated. You setup this field just like any Numerical Field so it was part of the Database Record. Therefore you could sort on this field and easily include it in a report.

I want to stress that there are database applications that have these features, but many are not "user-friendly" IMHO. And I have tried several. One of the best, that I used in the past (and is my benchmark), was the database module included in IBM's Lotus Suite. Unfortunately IBM has discontinued support of Lotus Suite, so I've been hunting for a replacement.

What I've found is MyDatabase Home and Business (aka Database Pro)

This is a very user-friendly database Application that has all the features found in Lotus Suite AND more, at a very reasonable price. Suggest you take a look if you use database Applications of course.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

WINXP - Harmony Universal Control

This may not seem to be a WinXP subject except you setup this Universal Control using your PC via a USB cable.

The Harmony Universal Control is from Logitech, and comes in several models. I have the 520 at home. It is for those who have a multi-component Home Theater system.

As you can see from the pic of the display to the right, you can setup Activities that can be executed by using any of the buttons next to the display-text. Want to watch TV, including starting with everything off, just push the button next to "Watch TV." Your Home Theater's AVAmp will turn on, your Cable/Satellite Box will turn on, and your TV will turn on.

During initial setup, you start by telling the Harmony software what components you have by type (TV, AVAmp, Cable Box, DVD Player, etc.), brand (Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, etc.) and exact model number (like TX-4560MX, which you type in).

Then the software will even ask questions like; what device to you want to control channel selection (TV or Cable Box), or which device you want to control your audio (TV or AVAmp), even asks if you want your Cable Box on all the time or off when not in use.

When the setup is done, you [Update Controller] to write your current setup to the Harmony.

AND you will actually have almost every device-control's options available, either from the Harmony control buttons OR via options presented on the display (when [Devices] button is used OR if Help-text is hidden IF you set that during the setup).

If you can operate your PC, the Harmony setup is very user friendly AND easy.

I found one operational problem. When you use Activity, Watch DVD (assuming you have it setup), the DVD will ALWAYS start from the beginning. This is NOT how DVDs normally operate. IF you stopped viewing BEFORE the DVD was finished, when you return it will start where you left-off on the DVD. I have posted this problem to Harmony Support to see if there is a way to fix this.


Operator Error, Operator Error! Turns out I missed 2 Watch DVD custom options. You have to set both Do not send Start and Do not send Stop in the Custom settings for this Activity to have DVD play to restart where you left-off.

Harmony is a dream when compared to using several remotes, or the complex setup required by other Universal Remotes (and you don't get all the control options with just a code entry). It is available at BestBuy, (yes, they exist as a WEB site only), and Radio Shack, just to name 3 that I know of.

Take a look at the Harmony site via link near top.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WINXP - Neat Desktop Calendar

I found a very neat Desktop Calendar while looking for one to put on my Linux Ubuntu Notebook. There is a Windows version.

I like the default transparent skin shown in screenshot.

Also see the screenshot on their Home page showing Alarm features (which I do not use).

The Rainlendar Lite (freeware version) is all most users should need.


WINXP - How-To Make Your Own WinXP SP3 Setup Boot CD

I ran into this via the WinXP Help & Support Newsgroup.

"Slipstreaming Windows XP Service Pack 3 and Create Bootable CD"

Excerpt, first paragraphs

Slipstreaming a Service Pack, is the process to integrate the Service Pack into the installation so that with every new installation the Operating System and Service Pack are installed at the same time.

Slipstreaming is usually done on network shares on corporate systems, but it also makes sense for the home user or small business user to do.

Microsoft added the ability to Slipstream a Service Pack to Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It not only has the advantage that when you (re)install your OS, you don't have to apply the Service Pack later, also if you update any Windows component later, you'll be sure that you get the correct installation files if Windows needs any.

The rest of the article details the procedure.

Monday, August 17, 2009

WINXP - Cleaning Up Your System, New Utility

As I stated in a previous post, for your WinXP to be efficient and run smoothly you should run Disk Cleanup, which is found in the System Tools folder of the [Start] menu.

Step in an "improved" version, CCleaner and it's freeware and Win7 compatible.

See the screenshot. It even will clean Applications that keep references/links applicable to the app (suggest you be very careful about using this option since you WANT apps to keep pertinent info use by the app).

(click for larger view)