Monthly Archives: April 2007

Opera M2: not just for Norwegians anymore

There are people in the world who like being intentionally difficult. A few years ago that is how I would have classified Opera users. The last time I actively sought out Opera they were still at version 5 or 6. It had fancy tabbed browsing but once Firefox added that feature there wasn’t any real incentive to go Scandinavian with my web browsing.

Well, I read a brief post on a message board suggesting Opera as a replacement for Thunderbird. Yes, that is right, there is now an integrated mail client built inside Opera.
I have been pleasantly surprised with the product thus far. It is truly integrated, too – each message you open is actually a tab within the browser. The Mail folder list is actually just one of eight interchangeable sidebars, including Contacts and Bookmarks. The Mail app is quick to respond (hello!? Outlook!? Pay attention!) and appears to function flawlessly with IWU SSL settings for both incoming (using IMAP…I haven’t tried POP) and outgoing e-mail. The Opera developers have jumped on a popular bandwagon and are including something similar to what Apple calls “Smart Folders”. These are essentially folders that dynamically display messages which meet certain criteria. This is another extension of the Google mentality – why should I organize things when it is faster to search for it? One example of this within the Opera M2 app is an “active contacts” item within my mail folder hierarchy. If I click on this I see all the messages to or from that contact. If I click on “active threads”, I see messages in a thread-based gmailesque style.

I like it quite a bit so far! Next I’ll try importing local folders and Contacts from Outlook. Too bad there is no calendar component!

reuse or recycle?

I talked to a computer recycler today and for once it wasn’t about getting rid of the tons and tons of old and broken computers, printers, and monitors. I think we can get some printers for parts at an extremely low cost to the university. In particular I’m trying to find a way to refurbish an old Laserjet 5si printer for pocket change.

“Get a new printer!” might be your response when I tell you that the printer in question has a manufacture date of August 1997. “Not in the budget, lets try to fix it” is what I would tell you in reply. 

Unfortunately if you go through traditional parts depots for a 10-year-old printer it costs an arm and a leg. One alternative might be eBay but those transactions are risky and require a credit card. I actually feel better about reusing something semi-local (the recycler is located in Peoria) from a guy I’ve dealt with before. It turns out that they might be able to supply some legacy parts for old Point of Sale systems too! My hope for humanity and the environment is somewhat restored from my recent post-bee low point.

I got a new Thunderbird! no, not a car.

I see that Thunderbird has been released for Mac and Windows. Neat! I’ve been waiting a long time for this one, especially on the Mac side. I’ve got a few clients with idiosyncratic problems with the app and Mac support and documentation has been slim thus far.

Why do I care about Thunderbird? Well, it is free and not advertising supported. It does a nice intuitive job of managing IMAP folders (no confusing “expunging”…it just puts things in the trash) especially in respect to our e-mail system here at Illinois Wesleyan. For example, Tbird puts messages in the same Sent folder as our webmail client. Other clients like Eudora use their own proprietary local Sent folder. Tbird also allows for separate credentials to be used for incoming and outgoing mail. That is nice for those still checking mail on the older non-LDAP servers but using the newer SMTP server for outgoing mail. And last but not least, the SSL implementation seems to be solid.

We’ll see if version 2.0 continues to be such a nice fit!

PDF and fillable forms

We’ve been going through some testing of different online forms here at IWU. We can now use Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional to make fillable PDF forms that users can save on their local computers. The neat part is that the users don’t need the full version to save and pass along these fillable forms – they just need Adobe Reader.

Now, for other uses, there are already free alternatives. If we need to create a static, flat PDF, PDF Creator has been quite effective. It works like a virtual printer so any printable document could be converted to PDF free of charge. No need for touchy MS Office plugins either. Of course if a Mac user wants a PDF it is already integrated into the Print dialog in OS X.

I’ve also been looking into the quality of output from these various sources. There have been a few font embedding issues from Quark on Macs that don’t happen with Acrobat. hmmm….