Buzz Watch: Apple’s new iThingy

A gracious good day to you, readers.

If you’re like me, you’ll have noted with a queasiness-inducing blend of anticipation and trepidation the shift in media attention away from the plight of Haiti and toward the latest beeping gadget. That’s right, Apple has unleashed its latest Hipster Douchebag accessory: The iPad.

Or possibly the iTablet.

Or even, God help us all, the iCan.

Whatever it’s called, its potential capabilities have been the subject of endless speculation (or in my case, limited, off-the-cuff speculation for the purposes of comedic exploitation). To wit:

Features of the new iPad/iTablet/iCan/iCan’tBelieveISpent1,000DollarsOnThis

1) Recharges if you hold it aloft & shout “BY THE POWER OF CUPERTINO!” Also: your cat morphs into a badass tiger.

2) Will only open if you recite “Klaatu barada nikto” first. Otherwise, you might want to call Bruce Campbell.

3) Will come in 3 exciting colors: Chill Cherry, Awesome Orange and Bewildered Buyer’s Remorse Blueberry.

4) Will be engraved with the missing Five Commandments (e.g. “Thou Shalt Not Totally Destroy Thy Planet”).

5) Creates holographic friends to replace those you lose because you spend all your time on your damned iTablet.

6) Glows an ethereal blue whenever orcs are nearby.

7) Will not transform into a creepy robot and steal your identity and girlfriend while you sleep. Probably.

8 ) Makes that cool Star Trek “whistle-whoosh” noise whenever any nearby door opens.

9) Will obey Asimov’s three laws, unless you piss it off, buster.

10) Sifts through your address book and deletes all the people with whom you are now too cool to be seen.

11) Will love you and hug you and name you George.

12) Grants you a permanent +5 to your Hipster Cred stat, plus a free small latte at paticipating Starbucks™.

13) Opens a portal to an alternate universe where the State of the Union Address ISN’T depressing as hell.

14) Will be sun-powered. Not solar powered – there will be an actual tiny sun inside. So, y’know, get a mitt.

15) Will sing you softly to sleep & will happily open the podbay doors – as long as you don’t betray it, Dave.

16) Boasts an all-celebrity cast for its reader. First up: Keanu reads “Moby Dick” “Duude…call me, like, Ishmael.”

17) Grants you access to the tiny door that leads to the inside of Steve Jobs’ head.

18) Gives you a fuller, shinier coat, and protects you from heartworm.

19) Has an Oppenheimer app that will allow you to become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds. Plus, Sudoku!

20) Will grant you immortality and transform your enemies into fresh-baked blueberry muffins.

[Originally posted by yours truly as part of a Twitter trend tag, #iTabletMyths]

Tech Tip #2: Let’s Make A Custom Toolbar

Given the enthusiastic response to my last Tech Tip, I thought I’d trot out another one periodically to address issues I see frequently in my line of work as IT Wonk/Paper Shuffler.

Today’s tip is for those of you who aren’t content with a single toolbar for your shortcut needs. Maybe you’re a clean desktop freak. Perhaps you feel a burning desire to use a shortcut bar rather than favorites. Whatever the burr that resides under your particular saddle, you’re probably in the market for an additional toolbar.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

STEP ONE: Open up your “My Documents” folder. Right-click and make a new folder, naming it whatever you like (in the example below, I’ve cleverly named mine “CLAIRE STUFF”).

You can name your folder whatever you want. "Leroy," maybe, or "Boudicca." Go nuts.

You can name your folder whatever you want. "Leroy," maybe, or "Boudicca." Go nuts.

STEP TWO: Open the folder you just created. Drag shortcuts (or create them) to the programs you want to access in the folder. As you can see, I have a significant number of frequently-used apps and documents. Once you’ve copied or created all your shortcuts, move on to step three.

Yes, I really do use most of these every day. Isn't that sad?

Yes, I really do use most of these every day. Isn't that sad?

STEP THREE: OK, kids, here’s where things get tricky. Go back to My Documents by clicking the “Back” button (or the “Up One Level” button)  in the toolbar at the top of the window. You should see your new folder amongst the clutter of your My Documents Folder. Click and drag your new folder to the edge of the screen, and release (I’ve dragged mine to the bottom, but you can choose the top or either side if you have your Start Menu at the bottom).

Click and drag, then release. Aspirin for any headaches, Dramamine for any nausea.

Click and drag, then release. Aspirin for any headaches, Dramamine for any nausea.

STEP FOUR: The bar should appear wherever you dragged it. Note that it will be rather untidy looking, as Microsoft leaves all the labels and such turned on for maximum inefficiency and annoyance to the user. We’ll fix that in Step Five.

Not too tidy, is it? Don't worry, it's only temporary, Padawan.

Not too tidy, is it? Don't worry, it's only temporary, Padawan.

STEP FIVE: Right-clck on the toolbar (not on an icon, but on the empty space in the toolbar itself) and UN-CHECK the “Show Text” and “Show Title” items. (If you’d like, you can set your toolbar to Auto-Hide and remain Always on Top by checking those items now.)

I set mine to "Always on Top" with "Auto-Hide," but you can do whatever you want. Nobody's judging. Well, not much.

I set mine to "Always on Top" with "Auto-Hide," but you can do whatever you want. Nobody's judging. Well, not much.

STEP SIX: This is the last step. If you have a lot of items like I do, your toolbar will remain sized the way it was when you initially created it. To fix this, just grab the edge of your new toolbar and drag it toward the edge of the screen. When it’s the size you like, release.

In toolbars, as in life, less is more.

In toolbars, as in life, less is more.

That’s it! You’re finished. Your new toolbar will remain where it is until you either delete the folder it represents or you accidentally turn it off (if you do, you can restore it by following these steps again). Here’s my shiny new toolbar, which should bear close resemblance to yours:

Bask in its toolbary glory! Hey - are you basking? I said bask! BASK, CURSE YOU!

Bask in its toolbary glory! Hey - are you basking? I said bask! BASK, CURSE YOU!

Do you have an issue or question you’d like answered as a Tech Tip? Send it to me at La_Barceloneta@yahoo.com, or post a comment here.

Coming up next time: Tech Tip #3 – iTunes Stutter, or Why Johnny Can’t Sing

Tech Tip #1: The Case of the Vanishing Inline Attachments

As many of you know, in addition to being a frustrated artist and author, I toil for minor ducats during the daylight hours as the head of Desktop Support for a company that shall (at least within the confines of this blog) remain nameless.  In my capacity as such, I often encounter users with PEST (Persistent, Easily-Solved Troubles). These PESTs are not really complicated to address, but do take up a fair amount of the Help Desk traffic that comes my way, and wreak havoc on my ability to achieve Ascendancy in Guild Wars complete important Desktop Support asset management paperwork. For some issues, I’ve actually taken the time to create user guides that I (or the Help Desk) can distribute to the troubled users, empowering them to solve their problem quickly (and permanently) while freeing me up for other tasks, such as the aforementioned paperwork, creating project plans, and napping.

One PEST of particularly pernicious persistence (can I get a what-what for alliteration, word nerds?) has to do with Microsoft Outlook. With approximately 500 users to support here at headquarters, as well as a few thousand more scattered at the company’s domestic and international locations, we get a lot of support tickets dealing with e-mail. Most of these are two-second fixes, e.g.:

REMOTE USER: My e-mail is broken, and I shall hurl myself from the nearest precipice if you don’t fix it right now. NOW! Is it fixed? FIX IT!

YOURS TRULY: Um, okay, let’s all calm down, shall we? First of all, are you connected to the network?

REMOTE USER: Oh. Never mind.

And so on.

However, some problems require a little more finesse to resolve, and one of them has to do with inline attachments. With so many people sending information back and forth in the form of spreadsheets, presentations and grammatically challenged animals of terminally saccharine cuteness, many, many, MANY of the users work directly in their e-mail, editing attachments “on the fly” and then sending them on their way.

What many of these users don’t realize is that every time they open an attachment, a doppelganger of that file is created in what is known as the Outlook Secure Temp folder. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re not working with the files, but are instead saving out your attachments. However, since most of the user base here works directly inside of Outlook, what they’re really working with is the “working copy” Outlook generates, and as a result, many of them “lose” their files after they save and close them, and then we in Desktop Support have to muck about showing them how to find their Outlook Secure Temp Folder so they can retrieve their document (although opening “recent documents” inside most Office apps will retrieve them, I usually don’t get the call until they’ve worked on seventy-three other documents in a dozen other places, neatly eliminating any chance of simply going to File> in the menu bar).

In addition to losing their attachments, some users have so many attachments that they open so frequently that their Outlook Secure Temp folder becomes full and chokes when asked to open attachments or (more commonly) display inline attachments, e.g. the cute little fluffy bunny wishing you Happy Easter/the political cartoons your brother-in-law forwarded, LMAO/images from the last sales meeting where that one guy from sales gave the manager the bird, displayed as part of the message rather than discrete attachments.

So how do you fix this? What if you open your latest LOLZ-laden missive only to discover that, although you can see the text warning you to forward the message to a dozen people or your genitalia will blacken and drop off, you can’t see the totally HILARIOUS/inspirational/mind-searingly gross images?

Well, bub, you’re SOL.

Kidding! There’s an easy fix, and although it takes some tinkering in the registry, the effort is worth it if you’re going to persist in your ridiculous need to work directly with attachments, rather than saving them and working from the master copy like a sane person.

Seriously, kids, just save out your attachments. It’s easier in the long run and saves aggravation all around.

But you’re not here to listen to advice, are you? You’re here to find the band-aid for your boo-boo. Onward ho!

Before we begin, one caveat:

THIS TIP INVOLVES MONKEYING ABOUT WITH THE REGISTRY, ALSO KNOWN AS THE BRAIN OF WINDOWS. IF YOU DORK THIS UP, YOUR COMPUTER WILL MOST LIKELY BECOME A VERY ATTRACTIVE PAPERWEIGHT UNTIL YOU REBUILD THE SYSTEM. IF YOU HAVE THE SLIGHTEST DISCOMFORT WITH WORKING IN THE REGISTRY, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. IF YOU HAVE EVER USED YOUR CD-ROM TRAY AS A CUPHOLDER, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. IF YOU HAVE EVER, EVEN IN JEST, ASKED “WHERE’S THE ‘ANY’ KEY?”, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. IF, WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “REGISTRY,” YOUR FIRST THOUGHT IS OF THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB AND NOT THE COMPUTER, CALL I.T. IMMEDIATELY AND SIT QUIETLY BY YOURSELF UNTIL HELP ARRIVES. IF YOU SCREW UP, THAT’S ON YOU, BECAUSE I GAVE YOU FAIR WARNING.*

SERIOUSLY. I MEAN IT. THIS IS SOME HARD-CORE SHIT, YO.**

*I am horrified to realize that this is the same argument used by Big Tobacco. My soul hurts.
**OK, that sounds gross (“I don’t even remember eating corn!”), but you know what I mean.

There. Now that we have that out of the way, we can proceed.

OK, so let’s say you’ve received a critically important e-mail from accounting, with screenshots of some arcane process that could very well determine whether your budget is approved this year or if you’ll be sharpening both ends of the pencil and sitting on an orange crate during meetings. However, all the screenshots are big boxes with a little red “x” in the upper left-hand corner! OH NO!!! Your precious budget! Who will pay for the Panera bagels at the Friday morning meeting now???

You, my friend, have a full Outlook Secure Temp folder. However, there’s an easy way to address this (please note that these instructions are only for users of Outlook, and not Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Groupwise, Reanimated Passenger Pigeon zombies, et hoc genus omne).

STEP ONE: Make sure Outlook is NOT open.

STEP TWO: Navigate somewhere easy to access on your system, like your My Documents folder, or the root of C, for example.

That's right, the root of C

Let's make a folder!

STEP THREE: Right-click and create a new folder. Name this folder whatever you like (I recommend “Outlook Temp Folder,” but feel free to call it “Lucretia” or “Mail Stuff” or “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DELETE THIS” if you like). This folder is critical to our success later in the process, so remember where you made it. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will be creating the folder on the root of C: and calling it “OutlookTemp.”

Right-click to make it happen, Cap'n.

Right-click to make it happen, Cap'n

Behold - OutlookTemp!

Behold - OutlookTemp!

STEP FOUR: Go to Start>Run, and enter “regedit” (without the quotes). Then click “OK.”

Just type it in and go!

Just type it in and go!

STEP FIVE: See the warning above. Seriously, kids, don’t poke about in here lightly. After confirming that you’re down with doing brain surgery on your PC, hit CTRL+F on the keyboard. This will bring up the “Find” dialog box.

STEP SIX: In the dialog box, type “OutlookSecureTempFolder” without the quotes and click “Find Next.”

Hide and seek, Bill Gates style.

Hide and seek, Bill Gates style.

STEP SEVEN: Ok, here’s where it gets a little tricky, kids. Double-click on the highlighted “OutlookSecureTempFolder.” The string editor dialog box will appear.

STEP EIGHT: In the “Value Data” field, enter the path of the folder you created in Step One. In my case, I entered “C:\OutlookTemp”, again with no quotes. Click OK, then close Registry Editor. Change your pants if necessary.

Where'd we put that folder again? Oh, right.

STEP EIGHT: Restart Outlook and open your previously dorked-up budget message. If things went as they should, you can now see your attachments! Huzzah! Gold-plated executive pencil holders for all!

Why did we do this? It’s simple, really. The normal location of the OutlookSecureTempFolder, er, folder is hidden from prying eyes and difficult to find and empty. However, now that we’ve moved your temp folder to an easy-to-access location, it’s a snap to go in and empty it out whenever your attachments start acting squirrelly.

SO, the next time your attachments (inline or otherwise) disappear or won’t open, you can now navigate to your Outlook Temp folder, select everything, and delete it, flushing out the temp files and enabling Outlook to create ghosts of your files so you can just work right in Outlook instead of saving it out and working with the attachment. Or, better yet, JUST SAVE THE ATTACHMENT AND SKIP ALL THIS NONSENSE!!!

And don’t say “But that takes too long,” because if you think the two seconds it takes to save the attachment is too long, just imagine how long it’ll take when you’re sitting on that orange crate, waiting for I.T.

Stay tuned for further Tech Tips in the future! And, if you have a Tech question you’d like answered, why not RTFM?

Nah, just kidding, send it on in and I’ll do my best to answer it!