Jun 30, 2006

Send voice email messages for free

It took me a while to find a cool freebie that would allow sending voice email messages, but finally I got it. It's called Voice Mail Compressor and is produced by Lagolento.
Couple of things I like especially about it:
- creates the voicemails in wav or mp3 format (you can compress these with different codecs to reduce a lot the size of the voicemail) - example, a voicemail of 51 seconds had 100Kb

compressed size

- you can send the voicemail automatically with your pop3 email client or you can save the voice message on your hard drive (highly visible Send and Save buttons);

Main window of Voice Mail Compressor

- is compatible with the most used e-mail clients (MS Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, ...).
- best part is that Voice Mail Compressor is freeware, no ads, no limitations, no adware, no spyware etc.... Only a small mention in the email that is sent about the program that created the voicemail.

Mention in the email sent

- no bloataware, only a 1MB installer file.

Give it a try, especially if you're not too much into typing. Also, two more mentions in the send voicemails section: PureVoice (add-in from Eudora) and Slawesome (web based voicemail software).

Jun 28, 2006

Why outsourcing customer support is a bad idea

Outsourcing helps big companies spare a lot of money. And I understand that, it's logical to do everything you can to cut down costs. I understand it when it comes to software development, graphic design, SEO and other areas where the people you're outsourcing to don't interact directly with your customers. But I blame a decision like outsourcing customer support. Why? Well I'll give an example instead of an explanation.

I've contacted recently 1and1 asking this:
I have a newsletter script installed (not from 1and1) that I use it to send ezines to my customers. If the email bounces I've seen that it goes to cgi-mailer-bounces-...@srs.perfora.net. Is there a way to change this bounce-back email address to one that I can have control over? Thank you.

And the answer I got:
Dear ..., (Customer ID: ...)
Thank you for contacting us.
Unfortunately, if the other person hit on reply and if the email got bounce back then the person who hit reply will receive the bounce back email and there's no way that you can change the bounce back email and you cannot control the bounce back email because it's server side bounce back from perfora.net. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Ri... Famador
Technical Support
1&1 Internet

Now I know that I'm far away from having good English skills, but this answer is even worse than what I could write. I mean this must be like some world record or something, as he's using the words "bounce back" five times in one sentence.

And a screenshot (if you want to print and frame it like I'll do):

1and1 email

So, is customer support outsourcing really a good idea? No, no and no.

Jun 23, 2006

Google indexing executable files

I was searching for a Firefox installation file when I've seen on Google that the setup was indexed and if you click on the Google result the download will start automatically. See this, search for "Signature: 00004550" and you'll see about 200,000 results of executable files being indexed.

google indexing executable files

This is possible because a link to a normal website was redirected automatically to an executable file (probably from apache), as you can see for skype where the page www.skype.com/go/getskype appears in the first position and if you click Skype will start downloading automatically. You also have the choice of clicking the View as HTML link and just as with other formats, the file information is displayed.

file information displayed

Anyway, this must be a bug. I mean what use is from having the executable files indexed, as in the View as HTML section there is no relevant information. Plus this is a security risk, even a high one. Because sites full of spyware might use this redirect bug to have spyware executables indexed and when the user will click it automatically installing all the malware in the world. I've tested this. For instance if you search for Backup4all (a backup program), beside normal results from clean sites, you'll get either on page one or two (depending on the google server) a link from yaguo.com that is an executable file containing spyware (yes I've downloaded this specifially and monitored it, and it installs spyware). So if a normal user searches to install a clean program it's possible to accidentally end up installing some spyware. This is wrong and should be corrected.

Jun 21, 2006

Embedding fonts in MS PowerPoint

You've worked a week for an important PowerPoint, and now you have to present it in front of your possible client. However, you didn't take into account one minor thing, that you've created the PowerPoint on your desktop computer and you're presenting it from your laptop. You open it and see that all the titles are outside of the careful selected boxes, all the paragraphs are now larger and with a strange font. Your feet are getting softer, you start seeing little stars - you're scre**d. Something similar almost happened to me, what's best is that I've tested this before actually going live with the presentation. See, if you're not using a universal font that's by default installed with Windows, you have to embed it into the PowerPoint so that you will not have surprises in displaying the text.

It's simple to do this, before saving the PowerPoint go to File and click on Save As. Now on the top right hand corner click on Tools and after on Save Options.

embedding fonts in powerpoint

Yeah, a little bit tricky seeing that Tools button. Now that the Save Options window is opened, you have to check the Embed True Type Fonts check box, and then select Embed all characters (this is the recommended option if you want to have others review and edit your file).

embedding fonts

Now a little warning. You can embed TrueType fonts if they have no license restrictions or if they come by default with Windows. If a font can't be embedded a message will tell you why, and if you ignore that, when you'll try to edit the PowerPoint you'll get "This presentation cannot be edited because it contains a read-only embedded font". To avoid this problem, the other solution is to use the Package for CD feature (PowerPoint 2003) or the Pack and Go wizard (PowerPoint 2002). Learn more on how to do this directly from the master, Mikrosoft: Package your presentation to run on another computer.

That's it for today's tutorial. If you have a tutorial that you want to share with others, send it in to spuby2000@gmail.com and I'll publish it in here (if it's good).

Jun 19, 2006

Open PDF files, faster

PDF files are now a very popular electronic document format, especially when it comes to distributing it via the Internet. Just how popular? Well a simple search for PDF on Google returns almost 2.8 billion, not to mention that Google indexes over 300 million pdf files (search for filetype:pdf). There are a lot of free PDF viewers/readers, but most popular ones are: Adobe Reader and Foxit PDF Reader.

free pdf viewers

1. Foxit PDF Reader is free and loads faster than the Adobe Reader, but you cannot have the same quality guarantee as in the last one mentioned. It makes sense that Adobe Reader is better since Adobe invented the PDF format.
Foxit PDF Reader can be downloaded here: Foxit 1.3 (direct download, about 1.2 Mb). Easy to install and configure, has other needed features like: select text and copy, print PDF files, find text in the PDF file, change page layout.

2. Adobe Reader, recently reached version 7.0.8. While is the most popular free PDF reader out there, has an inconvenience - it loads very slow, because it has to load all the plugins used (must load about 50 plugins or so when it starts, actually everytime it starts). Of course there are work-arounds for this slow loading inconvenience:

  • when you double-click on a PDF file to open it, keep the Shift key pressed, so that you skip the loading of the plugins

  • another solution is to download and install Adobe Reader SpeedUP, a great program that you can install and configure Adobe to load faster

  • last solution is to go in and change the way Adobe Reader starts. Close Adobe Reader and go to the plugins folder: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0\Reader\plug_ins and create a new folder called unused_plugins. Now move all files from the plug_ins folder to unused_plugins, except EWH32.api, print*.api, and Search*.api After you restart Adobe Reader there should be a visible reduced load time.

You can get the latest version here: Adobe Reader 7.0.8

If you want to read more tips on how to make Adobe Reader load faster, you can read this entry from a MDSN blog: How to make Adobe Reader 7.0 load faster

Jun 14, 2006

Take Picture from Movie

Now you did a great movie at the barbecue last week-end, and you want to send to a couple of your colleagues some pictures of that, not the entire movie that might be quite large. But how do you do that if you don't have additional programs installed (like HyperSnap, SnagIt...)?

Well there is a way to do that using a tool that comes with Windows, called Windows Movie Maker. It's very easy to do it, but I thought of splitting it into a 3 step process:

  1. First of all you have to start the program - yes, this is the toughest part :)). Go to Start->Programs and go all the way down until you see the Windows Movie Maker text. Click to open it.
    Windows Movie Maker

  2. Now what you have to do is to import the movie into Windows Movie Maker. Click on the Import video link from the Capture Video section. Now in the window that opens browse to your video and select it (can be avi, mpg, ...). Before clicking on Import, uncheck the option Create clips for video files (it takes less time to import it, and you don't need that option if you're taking screenshots only). Click on Import to finish this step.
    import video

  3. Last step is to click on the thumbnail of the movie, until you see an image in the Preview window (the one in the right). After that, you can either go to Tools and select Take Picture from Preview, or you can click on the Take Picture button under the Preview window. A window will open and you have to choose a location where the jpg image will be saved.
    take picture from movie

That's it. You now have a screenshot of the movie. To take screenshots of other parts of the video, just click on Play in the movie preview window, and pause where you want to take the picture from.

[Update]Now if you're using Windows Media Player, you can pause the movie and press Ctrl+I (shortcut for Capture a DVD image). You can save the image either as an JPEG (smaller file) or as an BMP image (better quality, larger file).

Another way is to go to Tools->Options->Performance and move the slider for Video Acceleration to None, and after that using the Print Screen function built-in Windows. The draw-back is that after the screenshot is taken you have to move the slider back to Full, so you could benefit from the video quality again (thanks to coolguy69 from DIGG).