Thursday, April 21, 2011

Microsoft's "Killer" Update for Powerpoint 2003

This morning I got a call from a colleague who was having problems opening one of our Microsoft Powerpoint files. After quite a while of saving back and forth (My newly created and not-yet-updated PC had no problems with the files), we discovered that it affects everyone in the office - in fact, everyone in the world.

As it turns out, Microsoft issued a "Killer Update" on 12 April which causes Microsoft Powerpoint to fail when opening presentations or presentation templates which have a graphical background (like our company logo for instance).

Microsoft's "Workarounds"
They've acknowledged the problem here.

Their fix generally suggests that you upgrade;
  • Workaround 1: Open the Affected file in Powerpoint 2007 or 2010.....
  • Workaround 2: Open the affected file in PowerPoint 2010....
  • Workaround 3: Open the affected file in PowerPoint 2007...
  • Workaround 4: After the error message is displayed, save a copy of the presentation, and then perform edits on the copy.
Workaround 4 is the only one which doesn't specify the need to upgrade Powerpoint. It's bad for two reasons;
  1. They're expecting you to basically redo your presentation.
  2. It doesn't work anyway - saving in Powerpoint 2003 only causes it to freeze.
In all honesty, I don't believe that Microsoft was that oblivious to the problem - don't they test these fixes. I think they were using it as an underhand tactic to get people to upgrade.

How to Fix the Problem without Upgrading
Microsoft reported the problems at least two days ago and still there's no fix so I'm writing to highlight the issue and to tell you how to get Powerpoint 2003 working again.

These instructions are for Windows XP but should work on other platforms too.

  1. Make sure that you close Powerpoint before trying to do this update.

  2. Start Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel)

  3. Double-click on Add or Remove Programs.

  4. Make sure that the box marked Show Updates (at the top of the screen) is ticked, then scroll down until you find Microsoft Office.

  5. Look for an update under Microsoft Office called "Security Update for PowerPoint 2003" which was installed on 15/04/2011 (or thereabouts) and click on it.

  6. Click the button marked Remove.

  7. You'll be prompted to remove the program. Click Yes.

  8. The process should take seconds and then you'll be able to use Microsoft Office again.

Just a Reminder
Of course, no post about Microsoft's underhand forced-upgrade antics would be complete without a reminder about the alternatives - specifically that;
...and all of these are compatible not only with each other but also with Microsoft Office.

Lotus Notes 8.5.2 and Microsoft Windows 7 64 Bit

We're currently testing Windows 7 - Not because we actually see a business need. It's not about support, applications or even new features. It's simply that it's too hard to buy PCs with Windows XP loaded on them these days.

Over the last few months, I've learned one very valuable lesson: There is NO benefit in Windows 7 unless you go 64 bit! Of course, that doesn't mean that there are many 64 bit applications out there to run on it.

Why is 64 bit so important for Windows 7?
Well, like all new Microsoft Software, it uses a bit more disk space and a bit more memory that its predecessors. Unfortunately, there's a 2GB memory limit in 32 bit windows - and it still applies to Windows 7.

That means that now Windows itself takes up more space but your maximum memory remains the same. Even if you have a PC with 4, 6 or 8GB RAM, 32-bit Windows will only use 2 GB.

Windows 7 64-Bit is a different story but weirdly, the limits aren't imposed by the bit-space but by Microsoft themselves - and it's different depending on which version of Windows you're running;
  • Starter: 8GB
  • Home Basic: 8GB
  • Home Premium: 16GB
  • Professional: 192GB
  • Enterprise: 192GB
  • Ultimate: 192GB

Where's the 64 Bit Version of Lotus Notes
Good question. There doesn't seem to be any answers on this one and even the IBM Helpdesk tech I spoke to yesterday was surprised that it didn't exist. I'm sure they're working on one though.

So.... The short answer is that There is NO 64 bit version of Lotus Notes 8.5.2, you need to use the 32 bit version instead.

But wait .... there's more.

I tried and Lotus Notes was so slow that it barely ran at all.

I've since applied Fixpack 1 and Fixpack 2 and it's back to normal - perhaps better than normal because it's got more memory space to run in (Windows isn't taking a big bite out of the 2GB space).

In reality, I think you only need fixpack 1 but it's good practice to add both.

Another short answer; When using 32-bit Lotus Notes 8.5.2 on 64 bit Windows, make sure that you have Fixpack 1 and 2 installed.

I hope this saves some people a bit of time since it's not quite so clearly stated elsewhere.
(and in the meantime, keep petitioning IBM to hurry up with the 64-bit version)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What do I have on my Blackberry?

A couple of weeks ago my Blackberry Bold suffered misfortune during a canoeing event with the Scouts. I had to temporarily revert back to a barely functional pearl. Now however, I've got a replacement Bold and I'm reloading all my "stuff" onto it.

I could have simply restored my settings from a backup of my old Blackberry but I figured that I'd rather exclude applications which I haven't used. So I did a manual reinstallation.

I thought this might give me a chance to talk about some good blackberry apps. So... what have I got on my blackberry now?

The Default Applications
It goes without saying that I have mail, calendar, SMS, Messenger (which I never use), MemoPad (which I use heaps) and all of the rest of the default Blackberry apps.

Google Applications
Google Mobile App ( - FREE
This is usually the first thing that I put back on the blackberry. It gives you a google search portal but more importantly, it's a great starting place to launch the installs for Gmail, Google Maps and Google Sync. I'm a big Google junkie and these apps are my lifeline. When set up properly, Google synch will synchronise your Google contacts with the phone - that's a nice feature and very handy to have if you need to suddenly restore data.

I should point out that I don't synchronize my Blackberry and Lotus Notes contacts (so I never sign into Notes via the Blackberry Desktop software). I don't do this because our corporate contacts are all in our server's address books and I find it's much easier to manage personal contacts via Gmail.

Also in the Google App is;

Google Talk - FREE
Since Gmail is my platform of choice, I use Google Talk. There are other apps for Yahoo and Windows Live - and even apps which combine them all but I've converted most of my chat buddies to Gmail, I don't need them.

Google Maps - FREE
This has been an amazing resource on my driving and scouting trips. It gives you satellite maps and street maps. I don't have a GPS so this is the next best thing.

Other Applications
Moving away from Google, we have;

OperaMini ( - FREE
This is a much better web browser than the one that ships with blackberry (although I'll admit that the BB one has gotten a lot better). If you find that your blackberry browser sometimes runs out of memory downloading a page, then try Opera-Mini. You'll find it works there. It's also very good practice to have a second browser at your fingertips.

Blackberry App World ( - FREE
This is a great launch pad for installing lots of Blackberry Applications. For some reason, it doesn't seem to be installed by default on Blackberries. Since I'm a fan of free stuff (who isn't?), I'll usually sort items by price.

From Blackberry App world, you can install lots of great apps. I haven't included URLs for these because you can simply search for them in Blackberry App World.

Applications from Blackberry App World
Twitter for Blackberry - FREE
If you've used twitter this is fairly self explanatory. You can set your status, view other people's tweets and watch trends.

Facebook for Blackberry - FREE
If you've used facebook this is fairly self explanatory. You can set your status, view and comment on other people's status, mail your friends and upload photos from the blackberry camera.

Evernote for Blackberry - FREE
This is (hopefully) my cure for constantly sending myself emails. If I need to remember anything, I simply type it into EverNote. I have Evernote on my work and Home PCs too so it's easy to look through my outstanding Notes.

The Weather Network - FREE (has adverts down the bottom of the page)
I've tried several weather applications but so far this is the best. Unlike many weather apps, it includes weather outside of the US. You can get short and long term forecasts. Even better, it displays an updated icon on the blackberry desktop so you don't even have to open it (if you want current conditions).

LocalPedia - FREE
This is a weird little app which allows you to look up a town and get information on the facilities. I'm not entirely sure that I'll use it a lot but it's good if you're in a new place.

Mobiola xPlayer - FREE but has Adverts
This has a bit of a weird interface which takes a little getting used to but it's still a great player. I find that I like to listen to music and to talking books on the blackberry but I don't like having to constantly juggle playlists and sort order settings. Instead, I set the blackberry media player up to play randomly (and point it to my music playlists), then I set the Mobiola xPlayer up to sort by filename and play my eBooks using it. It works a treat!

Well, that's it for now. I'm going to see if I can reload Sametime on the blackberry although I hardly ever used it. What I am surprised about is that sametime isn't in Blackberry App world - and also that my old instructions no longer work. IBM, are you listening?