Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lawmaker Roommates

This has to be one of the most amusing articles I've ever read in the NYT. Four big time Democratic lawmakers sharing a dive of an apartment, but having a good time doing it. If I ever become a senator, that's how I want to live. Sounds a lot like the old apartment on Cherry St, minus the big parties.

Absolutely classic is the last paragraph:

The roommates then repaired to couches to watch Florida-Ohio State and to stuff their faces with Sichuan beef and kung pao chicken. Mr. Durbin began talking about meetings he had last month with the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador on a Congressional delegation to Latin America. Then he and Mr. Schumer started arguing about Mr. Schumer’s refusal to make his bed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More thoughts on Office 2007

Just finished reading David Pogue's review of Office 2007 in the New York Times. Covered mostly the same points I did in my earlier post, but there were a few things I didn't know. I hadn't really paid attention to the installation size, which apparently was shrunk big time. The new .docx format is apparently also compact and easier to recover from failures. Score a few more points for MS. I also like the new Calibri font that replaced Times New Roman as the default. It's clean and elegant, though very Mac.

I learned elsewhere why they removed the ability to add custom toolbars. It supposedly was a major customer service headache. People would have custom toolbars in their workplaces and such, and when the toolbars failed, they would call tech support. When someone is pissed that their program isn't working, it can be really hard to convince them that it's not MS's fault, whoever wrote those macros (which can be extremely brittle) needs to fix it. Frustrating for me, but hard to argue with the reasoning from a business standpoint.

A few other gripes for removals that don't seem to be related to bloat that were really useful. It seems that you can't navigate around cells in the new Excel by using the arrow keys. Not sure why they would remove that feature. Also, you can't seem to Ctrl-Shft-arrow to highlight whole words at a time in Word. I used that all the time.

One point Pogue made that is more important that we might think is the change in format. He points out that Microsoft hadn't changed the .doc format in 10 years. Over that time, it has become the de facto standard for just about everything, even though it's a closed, proprietary format. The only thing that comes close is .pdf, and that's for finished documents only. If you type a document in Word, just about anyone else using whatever version of Word can open it. Not so anymore. Do we need to worry more about these formats changing without notice? What happens when years from now and .doc is long dead, no one can open them? All of this seems to point in favor of an open format, whether it's opening up .doc, or it's something like the Open Document Format, which I haven't had any experience with. It'd be ironic if by making this change to improve the format, Microsoft unintentionally made us all reconsider whether we can afford to have them define the document standard.

So still mixed opinion. I have to say that the Inquirer got it right when they titled their pre-release review of the new Word:
Word update will mess with your head

Obama '08!

Sen. Barack Obama has filed to start an exploratory committee for seeking the presidency. This almost assures that he will be running. I sure hope he does. He's the only potential candidate I personally could get very excited about. He's smart and eloquent, sharp and charismatic, and soundly progressive. He is also post-60's, which is more important than generally given credit for. This country has been stuck in that era for too long. Every politician since LBJ has been tied to that divisive era. Obama carries none of that baggage, and it shows in his poll ratings. Too many people hate Hillary because she was a 60's hippie liberal feminist. It's too bad for her, but it's time to move on from that era. Obama is also on the right side of the war, having opposed it from the beginning. That may sound hypocritical coming from me, who like Hillary, also supported the war initially, but it doesn't change the fact that it matters. He can certainly use that to counter the accusations of being a lightweight. Then again, for any George W. Bush-loving Republican to accuse anyone else of being a lightweight is absurd on its face.

Time to bring back smarts and eloquence to the White House, not to mention progressive American values and, hey, maybe even a renewed respect for the Constitution. Go Obama!

Extreme early prediction: I call an Obama/Richardson ticket, even though Richardson is an old Clinton hand. He's like the anti-Cheney, from the West, major foreign affairs experience, strong diplomat, but not an authoritarian.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Microsoft Office 2007

Just got Office 2007 at work yesterday. I didn't realize they were going to change it so much. In a lot of ways, it's like learning a whole new set of programs. It is much better looking now. MS is trying to catch up with Apple in that sense. They did do a fine job choosing fonts, which is nice. Menus are animated well. Functions are not as buried in drop down menus that have to be drilled down through layer upon layer. Desktop search, especially in Outlook is awesome. The old search was terrible, and took forever.

So a lot of things were done well. That said, I'm still nervous about it, for a couple reasons. First, I don't know where anything is any more. Despite the bad layout before, at least over time you got to know it. That will come again in time with this layout, it's just frustrating for a while. More importantly is the second reason: questionable backward compatibility. First off, there is a new file format for Word docs, called ".docx". But everyone else still uses the old ".doc", so I have to save as the old format so I don't break things. It's also been changed enough that macros that I use extensively, and are used on shared files by people with Office 2K and 2K3, don't work in some cases. That is a major productivity loss that can't be remedied until everyone migrates to the new version and someone sucks it up to re-write the macros. That will be fun.

So, still undecided how I ultimately feel about it. Anyone else try it yet?