Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Creating PDF files

Portable Document Format, or PDF is a file format created by Adobe Systems early in the last decade to help save documents.

As for casual users like us, PDF is a good way to archive our documents, whether it is a web page, reports, spreadsheets, and presentations. I usually use the format to archive web pages because it will only create one complete file instead of creating a html page with an accompanying folder as with the "save" option. A PDF file will also retain it's looks wherever it is viewed on, which is important for obvious reasons. We won't want our documents to change it's looks and formating when we take them out for printing (disasterous when your hard created 100 page thesis gets skewed at the printing shop :P, happens with Word files all the time).

To create PDF files, we will first need to install a PDF creation software, a popular one is the PDF Creator. There is of course the allmighty Adobe Acrobat Professional, but the software is usually out of our (wallet's) reach. Mac OSX users are lucky because they will have PDF creation capabilites built into the operating system. Install the related software and you will notice a new "printer" installed into your system. This is the main way to create PDF files, you "print" them.

To create a PDF file, open the "print" dialog from the related document that you are working on and select the PDF printer. Note that the name of the printer will differ by software. It will be known as PDF Creator if that is the software installed. For Mac OSX users, click on the PDF button (shown to the left) from the print dialog to do the same thing. Click on ok and you will get a "save" dialog.

From the save dialog you can save your to-be-created PDF file to anywhere in your system. Save it and (usually) the PDF file will open by itself in your PDF reader program (My favourite PDF reader software remains Foxit Reader).

That's all for today's guide. Till next time ;)


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thunderbird 3 (beta 1)

The email/messaging/contacts management counterpart to Firefox, Thunderbird had just reached the beta 1 milestone, almost 2 years behind firefox. I guess the spinoff to Mozilla Messaging had really gotten things moving again, after the neglect shown to it.

New features include:
  • Tab interface for Mail
  • Improvements to IMAP for faster message viewing
  • Improved message reader view
  • New Add-ons Manager
  • Improved Address Book interface
  • Improved import of mail from other Mail clients
  • Integration with Windows Vista search
  • Integration with Mac OS X Address Book
The tab interface will be my favourite feature out of the list. Finally I can open a few mails open in tabs for later viewing while skimming through the various newsletters that I get daily. This is much more convenient for me since i don't have to locate the mails again after I've finished processing the whole inbox...

The integration with Mac OS X  Address Book is also nice since I don't have to keep separate address books for 2 different programs. And hey, since my phone also syncs with the Address Book as well, I can always be sure that the contacts stays identical across my devices.

The Growl integration is a very very nice feature as well... Now I get all notifications coming from just one system wide notification software.

The next thing on my wish list will be integration with Quicksilver... It will be awesome when I can manipulate my mails anytime and anywhere in the system by using a simple keyboard command ;)

I'll be testing this program over the few days, though a bit unwillingly. This is because I've lost my appetite for beta programs while still learning about a completely new platform :P

Before I log off, I would like to complement Mozilla Messaging for that very nice looking page as displayed at the beginning of this post.

cheers people


Upgrading your RAM to 4GB?

While reading the "Road to Snow Leopard" series on Apple Insider, I've came across a very interesting bit:
Prior to using the Santa Rosa platform, Apple sold its laptops as only supporting a maximum of 3GB RAM because of this. However, many Original Equipment Manufacturer PC assemblers represent their machines as supporting 4GB of RAM even though the operating system can't actually make any use of a big chunk of it. With hardware that only supports 32-bit addressing, no operating system can make use of the full 4GB. However, even with Santa Rosa-style hardware that can make use of the full 4GB, the mainstream 32-bit Windows Vista still won't use more than 3.2GB or less because it can't remap MMIO.

This means that 32 bit windows systems (Vista 32 bit and Xp x86) won't be able to maximize the usage of at least 25% of the RAM should the user choose to ugrade based on recommendations by "experts" wanting to upsell more stuffs. The issue is made worse by computer systems intergrators trying to make more profit from unknowing users as stated in the following paragraphs:

One developer we consulted about the issue noted, "consumers are being scammed by [PC] OEMs on a large scale. OEMs will encourage customers to upgrade a 2GB machine to 4GB, even though the usable RAM might be limited to 2.3GB. This is especially a problem on high-end gaming machines that have huge graphics cards as well as lots of RAM."

"Microsoft even changed the way the OS reports the amount of RAM available; rumor is, due to pressure from OEMs," the developer told us. "In Vista and prior, it reported usable RAM, while in SP1 they changed it to report installed RAM ignoring the fact that much of the RAM was unusable due to overlap with video memory." And so many PC users are installing 4GB of RAM in their PCs and thinking that it is being used by the system, when in fact it is no more beneficial than if the RAM were simply poked halfway into the CD slot.

For example, Dell's top of the line $5799 Alienware gamer PC comes standard with a 1GB video card, 2GB of RAM, and 32-bit Windows Home Premium. That means the system can only possibly use 2.3GB of RAM, but Dell "recommends" users spend $250 (or $8 per month with financing) to buy a 4GB upgrade (below) that will offer them little more than bragging rights, as the 1GB video card and the roughly 750MB of other MMIO will make the extra 2GB unusable. Dell says "Upgrading your memory allows you to take full advantage of system capabilities as well as increasing system efficiency," but that's simply not true on this page.

Simple solution here. If you want to install more than 3GB of RAM, get a 64 bit Windows, else your money invested is wasted.

Do note that many older devices won't work with Windows Vista x64 because of non-existing drivers. Notable are the webcams from Logitech (they are trying to sell me newer webcams instead of writing drivers that supports vista :S).

Cheers people,

ps: On the brighter note, I am pretty happy with my new Macbook. It certainly is a lot user-friendlier than a comparable windows system, to the point that I kinda miss the gesture based UI when i get back to my old system for maintenance

Monday, December 01, 2008

White Christmas (?)

I's snowing heavily here... after 2 years or almost no snow, we finally get to experience >1 inch thick snow again...

Let's see if the snow can hold itself until christmas time :P

and yes, I am back to full online capacity, due to my new Macbook. The old laptop had been relegated to a new role as a file/private test web server. Should I be writing an introductory crash course on the various features of a new Macbook as well?