Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mobile Phone Friendly Blogs

I've just added a link to view this blog on a mobile phone. It's in the top section.

This feature will work on all blogger blogs, and probably on other brand blogs too. For full instructions on how to do this on your blog, see this article.

I wanted to be sure it would work on Notes/Domino blogs as well, so I used Ed Brill's to test (I hope you don't mind Ed). The RSS Feed for Ed's site is http://www.edbrill.com/ebrill/edbrill.nsf/blog.rss

So, the URL for Mobile viewing via Google Reader would be

http://www.google.com/reader/m/view/feed/http://www.edbrill.com/ebrill/edbrill.nsf/blog.rss

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Microsoft's Sad Anti-Notes Strategy

I posted this a few days ago on Network World but haven't anything new to add to this blog at the moment so I figured I'd post a link to it.

http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/24314


Basically, it's a bit of a rant about what Microsoft did around LotusSphere time (again) this year. I try to keep rants off this blog, hence I posted it elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Playing those old DOS Games

This post is probably not strictly on topic (being less serious than usual) however I have just prepared a whole heap of links for someone else and figured why not share them.

There are two things that I want to cover today;
  1. Obtaining the remakes of old games for free (full game Remakes).
  2. Running old games under newer systems (Engine only Remakes).

I have a preference for adventure games so while will be covering action games as well, I might be a bit biased.

Remakes of old Games
A lot of the open source project's have been recreating the old DOS games for free. You can usually find these by typeing the name of the game and the word "remake" into google.

I'm going to provide some direct links to save a bit of searching - the links may move over time so if this post is old by the time you read it, try searching.

King's Quest 1 and King's Quest 2
http://www.agdinteractive.com/

King's Quest 3
http://www.infamous-adventures.com/index.php?page=kq3vga

The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Online Version)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hitchhikers/game_andrew.shtml

Ultima
http://reconstruction.voyd.net/index.php?event=project&typeKeyword=remakes
http://reconstruction.voyd.net/index.php?event=project&typeKeyword=remakes3d

Manic Mansion
http://new.bigbluecup.com/games.php?action=search&sterm=maniac+mansion+deluxe&submit=Search%21

Some other Remake Sites;
http://www.newgrounds.com/collection/videogameremakes
http://www.retroremakes.com/forum2/showcase/grid.php?pr=c

The Wikipedia Page on Remakes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Fanmade_computer_game_remakes_and_sequels


Running Old Games under New Systems - Including (DOS Games in Mac and Linux)
Unlike the section above, to run these systems, you will need a copy of the original game. Many of these are still quite commercial, though some are available on Abandonware Sites .

1. DosBox
http://www.dosbox.com/
This utility is very very good and will run a lot of old DOS games directly under windows xp, Mac or Linux. It's a better, more compatible and more configurable DOS than the one that ships with XP.

2. Early Sierra Games (FreeSCI)
http://freesci.linuxgames.com/
This is for the Sierra SCI Games, like Leisure Suit Larry 2, Leisure Suit Larry 3, Police Quest 2, King's Quest 4, Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory 1, Space Quest 3, The Colonel's Bequest, Conquests of Camelot, Codename: Iceman, Hoyle's Book of Games, Hoyle's Book of Games 2

3. LucasArts and Later Sierra Games (ScummVM)
http://www.scummvm.org/
You can get a Scumm interpreter that runs under Windows XP (and on other systems too). So if you have games like these, you can copy the data files from the CDs and run them with the new scumm

LucasArts:
Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Loom, Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Curse of Monkey Island, The Dig, The Secret of Monkey Island, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

Sierra: Donald Duck's Playground, Gold Rush!, King's Quest: Quest for the Crown, King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne, King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human, King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, Manhunter: New York, Manhunter 2: San Francisco, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter, Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, The Black Cauldron

Other Game Artists: Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword and Broken Sword II, Bargon Attack, Elvira, Elvira 2, Flight of the Amazon Queen, Future Wars, Gobliiins, Gobliins 2: The Prince Buffoon, Goblins Quest 3, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb, Lure of the Temptress, Mickey's Space Adventure, Nippon Safes, Inc., Simon the Sorcerer, Simon the Sorcerer II and Simon the Sorcerer Puzzle Pack, The Feeble Files, The Legend of Kyrandia, Touché: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer, Troll's Tale, Waxworks (a.k.a. Elvira 3)

4. Ultima
Ultima 4 Recreated http://xu4.sourceforge.net/
Exult - Recreated Engine for Ultima 7 - http://exult.sourceforge.net/

5. Doom and other Shooters
There are lots of remake engines for Doom



The Wikipedia Game Engine Recreation Page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_engine_recreation


A Word about Emulators
No discussion would be complete without listing the many emulators for non-PC games, such as › GameCube
Nintendo 64, Gameboy + Advance, Super Nintendo/NES/DS, Sony Playstation 1&2 + PSP, Microsoft XBox,
Sega Dreamcast/Saturn/Genesis etc, and the various other Arcade Systems.

You can download a lot of emulators from here, though you still have to own or find the games.
http://www.emulator-zone.com/

The games can often be found by searching for "ROM" and the Game title.


I know I've missed a lot of other games and remakes. So if you're feeling nostalgic or wanting that old game to work, it's worth having a good search in google.

Friday, January 18, 2008

How to Adjust any Picture to be an Avatar for Forums using the GIMP

Why the Gimp?
I've used the Gimp because it's freely available and works on a number of different systems. It's not my favourite graphics program but it will do the job.

Where can I get the GIMP?
Download it from; http://www.gimp.org/

I'm not going to cover installation since it's mostly a matter of clicking Next a few times then finish.

Avatar Size Restrictions
Most forums place restrictions on the dimensions of Avatars. You should check your particular board for their rules otherwise you could make an image too small to be clear or too large to be used.

For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to make the following assumptions;
  • Maximum width = 130 pixels
  • Maximum width = 160 pixels
  • Maximum file size = no more than 15.77 Kb.
  • File Formats = JPG or GIF

Procedure
1. Start the GIMP

2. On the GIMP window that has a menu, select File, then Open and choose your image. The image should display in a different window (with it's own menu).

3. Now, Back on the main GIMP menu, click the icon marked Select Rectangular Regions



4. Use the mouse to draw a rectangle around the part of the image that you want to use for your avatar.

5. On the Menu above your image, choose Image, then Crop Image, you should now be left with just the square you want for your avatar. Unfortunately, it will probably be way too big.




6. On the Menu above your image, choose Image, then Scale Image - a dialog box will appear.



7. Type in the Width of 130 and press Tab. The height should adjust automatically. In our case, it went to 111 which is smaller than the restriction.



Now... here comes a choice.
We could have a wide but short image or we could try to use the full image height at the cost of some of the width. If you choose - Wide but short, you can just click the button marked Scale and skip to step 8, otherwise you can do the following;

7a. Type a Height of 160 into the Height box and press Tab - this makes the Width fill in - now the width adjusts to 187 (which will be too big but we'll trim that later). For now, just click the button marked Scale.

7b. The image should now be smaller - the next step is to reduce the width... so, Click Image, then Canvas Size



7c. In the Dialog box, click the Chain link so that the Height and Width are no longer being adjusted at the same time. Now type the Width in as 130 and press Tab

7d. A white square will appear on the Image. Use the mouse to move the image until the part you want is entirely inside the square, then Click Resize.



8. Click File, Save As, then Give your file a name. You may get some warnings, just click Export on them.
You'll also get a JPEG Quality screen - a value of 66 should be more than adequate for an avatar - change it to that and then Click Ok.

9. Your avatar should now be saved - use Windows Explorer (or some other file manager) to have a look at the file and make sure that it fits the relevant restrictions. The height and width should be right but the file size may be too large.

10. If the file size is ok, then you're finished

11. If the file size is too large, you can try the following;

12. Back in the GIMP, select, Image, Mode, Indexed... and a dialog box will appear.



13. Select Generate Optimum Palette and set the Maximum number of colors to 256 to start with. If your image still ends up with too large, you can start reducing the number of colours, particularly if you're using a cartoon or line drawing instead of a photo for an avatar. For photos, try 64 colors and for cartoons try 16.



14. Click Ok
Have a look at your image, does it appear to be ok? It probably won't look perfect but hopefully it shouldn't be too badly affected by this step. If your image is not ok, you need to use more colours (don't go above 256 though) - so choose edit, undo and try that last step again.15. If your image is ok, then you're ready for saving. This time, Choose File Save as, but expand Select File Type and choose GIF Image.

16. Click Save to save your file.

17. Check your file size using Windows Explorer (or Equivalent) - often GIFs are smaller than JPEG, but not always.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How to Convert a Floppy Disk to a Bootable CD Using Nero

Floppies are so "last week", a lot of computers these days don't even come with floppy drives.

I've got a great collection of Boot Disks for various network cards which I use when Ghosting machines across the network. I also had some boot disks which were optimized for various games.

So, in anticipation of needing to use one of these on a PC with no floppy drive, I'm posting the instructions for using Nero to convert bootable floppy disks to CDs.

I know you can do this with USB drives but if you want a collection of boot disks that work on most computers, CD is the way to go.

The Procedure
  1. Insert the Floppy Disk into Drive A:

  2. Put a Blank CD-ROM into Drive D: (or whatever you CD-RW drive is called).

  3. Start Nero

  4. In the New Compilation screen, choose CD then CD-ROM (Boot) and click New

  5. At the next screen,drag all the files from A: to the new compilation.
    (this makes your bootable CD the same as the Floppy).

  6. You're no longer bound by Floppy size limits. so you can put additional files on the CD - eg: Like Ghost, NewSid or entire Games etc... depending upon your reason for creating the CD. Note - if you're putting games on there be sure that they don't need to write back to the disk - or if they do, consider creating a RAMDisk as part of the boot process.

  7. When finished, click BURN and your CD should be made and ready for testing.

And here's a screen shot of Nero.





My giant collection of Floppy boot files are in IMG format. I use an old Digital (DEC) utility to create them from Floppies and load them to new floppies. Once I've finished burning them as CD's I'll probably recreate them all as ISO's and put them on a single CD for easy re-creation in the future.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How to Burn a Lotus Notes Mail Database to CD-ROM (or other Media) in Read-Only Format

Why would you do this?
This technique is very useful for archiving users mail files when the user has left the company. It enables you to have a look at the mail file without having to copy it off the CD and back on to the Domino server.

I have also used this technique when somebody's mail file got too big to be really useful when traveling. They were able to take their old mail on CD with them while accessing new mail from a fresh database.

Regardless of your reasons for choosing this method, make sure that you comply with your local corporate records retention regulations before deleting any databases from your server.

Before you begin
These instructions are designed for use with the standard Lotus Notes mail template. If you have additions such as archiving or document management facilities built-in, you will probably need to use the load convert command to convert the database back to a standard Lotus Notes mail database before this procedure can be successful.

Procedure
  1. Locate the Database on the Server and Open it

  2. Create a New Local Replica (File, Replication, New Replica)
    Note: If you're not deleting the original database, you might want to make a COPY instead

  3. Make sure that you do not Encrypt the local replica (the checkbox will tick automatically, so you need to deselect it).

  4. Once your new replica has been created, close the original database and open the replica. This way you can be sure that you're going to be doing the work on the right database.

  5. You should probably also delete the database from your replicator page since you don't want any of your changes to replicate up to the original.

  6. With the local replica of the database open, press Ctrl+Shift+F9 to rebuild and update all of the views. This should take a short while.

  7. Next, go into database properties (File, Database, Properties) and click on the Search Tab (Magnifying glass)

  8. Click the button marked create index. You should also consider ticking the box marked index attached files.

  9. When the indexing has finished, you might want to rename the database so that it is obvious that it is an archived database. You can do that by changing the title in the database properties.

  10. The next step is to change the ACL of the database (file, database, access control)

  11. Set the access controls as follows;

    -Default- Reader (Make sure you deselect Write Public Documents)
    LocalDomainServers Manager (It's ok for a server group to be a manager since they won't open from CD - it also helps when restoring).
    OtherDomainServers No Access

    In the example above, I have set -Default- to reader. This is okay if your CDs are well protected and if they don't have much sensitive information on them. If they do have sensitive information, you might be better off to set a particular user or group to reader and is set default to no access.

    You can put additional groups in if you like but you need to make sure that any people who may open the database from the CD have read only access. If not, the database will try to open in the read write mode which can't be done on a CD and will result in error messages.

    There's no need to put restrictions on servers and server groups because these won't be trying to access the database from the CD. Only people and people groups will.

  12. Sometimes you need to do a final Ctrl+Shift+F9 just in case.

  13. To test the database, mark it as read-only in the file system and open it - or just burn it to CD and see what happens.

How to Upgrade or Replace Design on a Domino Mail File Using Load Convert -u

So why would you do this anyway?
Initially, it seems like there is no real reason to use a command line utility when you can do everything using File, Database (or application in Notes 8) Replace Design.

I used to think that the only reason I would ever want to do this would be if I have a large number of mail files to upgrade. Then I discovered a curious thing, a simple design replace on a single database can often causes issues with the design of folders. The answer to this problem is load convert.

How to use it

PART 1: Getting to the Server Console via Administrator
  1. Open the Domino administrator
  2. Open your server, it probably will be already open
  3. Click on the tab marked server
  4. Click on the tab marked status
  5. Into the left-hand navigator, click server console
  6. If the server console isn't already live, you might want to click the Green Triangle
  7. Position your cursor in the space marked Domino command. This is where you will type the load convert command.

PART 2: Load Convert
The syntax of the load convert command is pretty complicated if you look it up in the help.
You won't need most of the syntax for a simple mail file upgrade

the syntax for a mail file upgrade is as follows;

Load Convert -u folder\mailfile.nsf * mail7.ntf

Where:
  • the -u switch Enables the upgrade of folders to the same design as the $inbox design.
  • folder\mailfile.nsf is the location and name of the mail file eg: mail\jsmith.nsf
  • * means - I don't care what template it was originally using
  • mail7.ntf is the name of the new template (it will be different depending on the version of Notes or your customizations).

Wildcards
You could replace mail\jsmith.nsf with mail\* to do all mail files but I'd strongly advise against doing this as you may find that you have special mail-in databases which need to be on a particular design. If you have a lot of mail files to process, consider getting a list and using the -f switch to process a text file.

A Safety Net
You can also specify a "before template" in the part where I have used an asterisk (*) in the example. For example, if you put mail6.ntf into this field;

Load Convert -u mail\*.nsf mail6.ntf mail7.ntf

It would upgrade only those mail files used in the standard R6 mail template to R7. This is often a good way to avoid problems with different types of databases in the same folder when using wildcards.

The -u Switch
One final warning: Although you can use load convert on the other databases, don't use the -u switch when doing them. It will do awful things to your folders.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Just how far should an automatic update service pack go? (Office 2003 SP3 Removes Functionality)

Well the breaking news at the moment is that when you install Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3 (SP3), it blocks off a number of file formats. You can read the Microsoft Technote on it here.

In particular, Microsoft is preventing office 2003 from saving (and possibly reading - I can't tell yet) a heap of Lotus and Quattro files (including the various flavours of .wk files, which will upset a lot of people who export from Lotus Notes).

They're also blocking off versions of Powerpoint older than Powerpoint 97.

The official excuse is that these file formats are less secure but I think it has more to do with making sure that people upgrade. How long will it be before they declare Office 97 unsafe in order to force a move to Office 2007 and XML?

All this seems to do is put even more weight behind the need for common file interchange standards that are owned and administered by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) rather than by a commercial entity like Microsoft.