The “Business Fax” in Outlook

Over the years, people have levelled thousands of complaints against Microsoft Outlook. To Microsoft’s credit, they have listened to their customers, slowly but surely fixing bugs and interface annoyances over the years. However, a few of these “annoyances” remain, and none is more annoying to some people than the “Business Fax” number being listed in the Outlook Address Book.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: if you open a new email in Outlook and click the “To:”, “CC:” or “BCC:” buttons on the email, you’ll be presented with a list of email addresses and “Business Fax” numbers from the selected Address Book.

For most people, these “Business Fax” numbers just get in the way. If they’re sending out a mass email, they can’t just select all the addresses in the list, as sending an email to a Business Fax address makes Outlook (and\or Exchange) throw a hissy fit. And it’s easily to accidentally click on “Bob Smith (Business Fax)” instead of “Bob Smith (Email)” and end up sending Bob… nothing.

You might ask why Business Fax numbers even appear in the Outlook Address Book in the first place. That’s because many companies have fax servers – a computer with one or more fax modems installed. Instead of walking across an office to a fax machine, you can simply send a fax over your local network to a fax server, which then sends it out. Microsoft Exchange (and other third-party software programs) have integrated fax servers with Outlook, so if your company has Exchange and a fax server, you can easily fax someone simply by creating a new email, addressing it to a “Business Fax” address, attaching a Word or Excel document (if desired) and sending it on to Exchange, which then forwards it on to the fax server. It’s quite handy, actually.

But for people that don’t have a fax server, it’s a pain to have to sift through fax number when sending an email. Thankfully, though, there’s a simple workaround: just put a letter (any letter, although I use “F”) in front of any “Business Fax” number entries (e.g. change Bob Smith Enterprise’s “Business Fax” entry from “704-555-1212” to “F704-555-1212”).

This will prevent the “Business Fax” numbers from appearing in the Address Book, but you will still be able to view the numbers in Outlook’s “Business Card” view (and, as you might guess, you can also see the information by opening the Contact).

Life On Mars US Leaks, Sucks

The first episode of the American remake of Life On Mars has leaked to the Internet… and it sucks, but not for the reasons you might expect.

But first… a brief recap from Wikipedia: “Life On Mars tells the story of DCI Sam Tyler of the Greater Manchester Police, who, after being hit by a car in 2006, finds himself in the year 1973. There, he works for Manchester and Salford Police CID as a DI under DCI Gene Hunt. Over the course of the series, Tyler faces various culture clashes, most frequently regarding the differences between his modern approach to policing and the more traditional methods of his colleagues. Mixing the genres of science fiction and police procedural, the series centres around the ambiguity concerning Tyler’s predicament: it is unclear whether he is insane, in a coma, or if he really has travelled back in time”.

The original British series was incredible television, perhaps my favorite TV show of all time. My stomach turned when I heard that ABC was interested in an American remake of the show. I was conflicted: on the one hand, I didn’t want my favorite TV show “ruined” by a crappy American remake; on the other hand, I was happy that millions of people might be exposed to the awesomeness of the Life On Mars story.

So when the first episode leaked online a few days ago, I eagerly downloaded it… only to have major mixed feelings about the U.S. version of the show.

Have you ever been to Disney World? EPCOT? Disneyland? Disney does an incredible job at copying things, down to the seemingly last tiny detail. Many people have gone to the World Showcase at EPCOT and, in the heat of the Florida sun, almost convinced themselves that they’re really in England or Mexico or Japan. But yet, they’re something just “off” about the whole thing. Like Uncanny Valley, there’s just something that’s not quite right about the World Showcase. Even though most people could almost convince themselves that they’re in England… something isn’t quite right. It’s not the obvious stuff – the heat, the crowds of people speaking in American accents. There’s just an indefinable something that lets you know you’re looking at a forgery – a well made forgery, mind you – instead of the “real deal”.

And that’s exactly what the American Life On Mars is like. It’s a Disney-fied version of the original series. Although I have several specific complaints about the American version (which I’ll get to in a minute), there’s just something about the new version that simply doesn’t add up.

Life On Mars US 01
Worst CGI ever?

I guess my first specific complaint is about the CGI cityscapes. Look at the picture above… is it not 100% completely obvious that this person is standing in front of a green screen? The halination – the halo that appears around “real” people when they’re inserted into a digital landscape – is simply awful. It looks so bad, in fact, that it completely pulls you out of the story. There’s nothing worse than being completely immersed in a show, only to be jarred back into reality by awful CGI.

Continue reading “Life On Mars US Leaks, Sucks”

Great Ashes Blog

The Life of Wylie blog has this great post about the second season of Ashes to Ashes. The post is a summary of a “BBC Writersroom” talk held at the Soho Theatre in London on April 4th, 2008. The two main writers at the talk were Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, creators of Ashes to Ashes.

There aren’t a lot of spoilers in the write-up, just a lot of talk about the “overall feel” of series 2 of the show (hint: it only gets darker). They also state that they envision three series for the show in total (and, given their slow production schedule, that means that the show might finish up in 2010).

There’s a lot of great stuff in the post – any Ashes fan should check it out!

What’s Your Compass?

For years, the Libertarian Party has argued that the traditional “Left vs. Right” argument in politics is meaningless. And they have a point. One can be a “right winger”, but that doesn’t take into account that there also an “authoritarian\libertarian” element to your beliefs. George W. Bush, for example, could be a right winger that leans to the authoritarian side, while Ron Paul would be a right winger that leans (heavily) libertarian. On the other hand, traditional communists would fall on the “left wing, authoritarian” side, while a “libertarian socialist” like Noam Chomsky would fall under the “left wing, libertarian” definition.

I’ve taken the “Political Compass” quiz in the past, and I recently took it again. Here are my results:

My CompassThink you’d be interested in finding out where you fall on the compass scale? Click here to go to the main site (or click here to go directly to the quiz). If you have a few minutes to spare, you should take the quiz… I think you might be surprised at where you fall on the compass!

COOL APP: Desktop Teleporter

Are you one of those people that always seems to download files to his or her desktop? If so, are you also one of those people that lets files and folders build up on the desktop, such that on a bad day you have 100 icons cluttering your desktop?

If so, you might be interested in a free program called Desktop Teleporter. You basically install this little app and define a set of file types and destination directories for those files. Desktop Teleporter then sits in the background and periodically moves any matching files to the destination you set during setup. For example, you could set all .JPG files to be moved to your “My PIctures” folder, and Desktop Teleporter would move all pictures saved on your desktop to the “My Pictures” folder every few minutes or so.

Desktop Teleporter

Desktop Teleporter is free and works with most flavors of Windows.

IE7 and SP3

From the “better late than never” department:

If you’re one of the last people that prefers IE 6 to IE 7, you might want to tread carefully when it comes to installing SP3 for Windows XP on your computer.

If you have IE 7 installed before the SP3 upgrade, you will not be able to go back to IE 6 once SP3 is installed. According to this article, this is “because the service pack includes newer versions of the old browser’s files. If Microsoft had allowed users to revert back to the pre-SP3 version of IE6 – the one saved on users’ PCs when they upgraded to IE7, and what was used until now to back out of the newer browser – Windows would have ended up in a ‘mixed file state’. This state is not supported and is very bug prone. To ensure a reliable user experience, [Microsoft] prevent[ed] this broken state by disabling the ability to uninstall Internet Explorer 7”.

If you want to retain the ability to uninstall IE 7 from your computer, remove IE 7 before installing SP3, then reinstall IE 7 once the Service Pack update is complete.

COOL SITE: Torrent2Exe

Have you ever wanted (or needed) to have one of your technically-challenged friends download a file via BitTorrent? It can be a huge pain, because that friend would need to install a BT client, go to a tracker and download the torrent file, and then seed it to completion. Hell, a lot of my “less than technical” friends can’t even wrap their heads around BT lingo, much less actually download stuff.

This is where Torrent2Exe comes in. You upload a torrent to the site (either via direct URL or from a local torrent) and the site packages the file along with a lightweight BT client. All the end user has to do is download (and execute) the packaged EXE file… really folks, BT just couldn’t be any easier!


COOL APP: Lebendig

If you like the desktop animations provided with Windows Vista, but aren’t ready to trash Windows XP just yet, you might enjoy a handy lil’ freeware app with a strange name: Lebendig. Lebendig adds Vista-like animations to program windows in Windows XP. You can have windows fade in and\or out, spin in and\or away, or lots of other nifty combinations.

I really like this lil’ app, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to play well with Outlook 2007. Once you start Lebendig, minimizing Outlook causes the app to “disappear”. You can try to maximize it again (and you’ll briefly see the full-screen Outlook window), but then the Outlook window will simply “disappear”. The only way to get it back is to use Task Manager to kill OUTLOOK.EXE and start the program over again (but remember, you can’t minimize it again!). Also note that I’ve only seen this behavior with Outlook 2007 – other programs seem to work just fine with Lebendig (although I’ve only tested the few apps that are on my system).

I like Lebendig – I just wish they’d fix that Outlook bug.

Windows 7: Supporting VHD Natively?

This post over at talks about a (possible) groovy new feature in Windows 7: built-in support for virtual hard drive (VHD) files.

VHD files are the “virtual hard drives” used in Microsoft’s virtualization software, like Virtual PC and Virtual Server. Normally, one installs Virtual PC on a Windows XP or Windows Vista computer, then generates a VHD file to act as a “virtual hard drive” for a virtual computer. You then install Windows XP, Windows Server, or whatever operating system you need on that virtual hard drive. You can then boot up the virtual machine and use it exactly as you would a “real” computer.

Adding native support for VHD files means that you could boot directly into a VHD file without having to run Virtual PC on the computer. This would allow you to run VHD computers at “native speed” without first loading a host OS. Even better, you could have multiple virtual hard drives on a system: you could have a “work” virtual hard drive (with Office, QuickBooks, and whatever else you need to do your job) as well as a “play” virtual hard drive (with games and music files). And if Microsoft’s talk about Windows 7 is to be believed, you could even optimize the “play” VHD for gaming by giving Windows 7 the smallest possible footprint.

There are also huge implications for system administrators, too. With Windows 7, an administrator might be able to make an VHD image using Virtual PC, then push that image out to corporate desktops so that everyone is using the same desktop computer image. Now that would be cool!

Any thoughts about this?

Anti-Gun Campaigner… stabbed!

How this for irony?

The 20-year-old grandson of a prominent anti-gun campaigner in West Yorkshire has been charged with her murder.

Patricia Regan, 53, was found stabbed to death at a property in Marlborough Grange in the Hyde Park area of Leeds on Sunday.

I guess she should have stopped wasting her time trying to ban guns and instead spent some time trying to ban kitchen knives, huh? And yes, there are people in the UK that want to ban kitchen knives!

Read the whole story about Ms Regan’s murder here.