Monday, March 30, 2015

Google Drive vs. Dropbox - Episode 237

Over the past year of using both Dropbox and Google Drive to send files and folders to clients and consultants we work with I've encountered some strange things.

Usually it's someone who can't comprehend the fact that the file isn't in the email and subsequently has problems with clicking on the link and not understanding that they have to download the file.

I think both Drive and Dropbox ask people to sign in when they click a shared link which is annoying and unnecessary. But where Dropbox has the edge is when you go to download you can either save the files to your personal dropbox or download the files as a zip file.

They give you the choice! Imagine that!

But Google Drive just says "Open in Drive" which completely confuses people who don't use or have never heard of Drive.  There should be another blue button beside it that says "Download".

So the only way to download multiple files is to go into each file and click the download button. This can take forever if there are several files.

They have to slowly ease people into this new world order of cloud storage rather than force them to learn how cumbersome it can be.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sperry Software: Attachment Save

My office uses email a lot and we push it to it's limits. Much to my chagrin my coworkers and other offices continue to insist on sending emails of drawings, products, photos etc. all of which are large attachments.

In the early years this would have been less of an issue if we used Google Apps as the file size limits and the inbox limits are much larger. However because of legacy and systems (too long to get into) we are still using Microsoft and Outlook. Recently we switched to Office 365 which was an experience in itself (read about that here) and I thought these issues would basically go away. They say that your inbox can be 50GB so I figured this would be huge. No longer would we have to worry about large attachments, at least not for several years, when I assume that limit will go up.

BUT I was in for a surprise when Microsoft Tech Support told me that Outlook doesn't like to sync more than 3-4 GB onto your computer from the cloud. So it was back to our old way of doing things.

We have used Sperry Software's Attachment Save Outlook add-in for years and it has always worked with the various versions of Outlook that we installed. So I installed it on Outlook 2013 and it seemed to work perfectly. But I discovered a bug where you can lose all the text from an email.

Steps to recreate issue:
1. Click ‘reply’ to an email in our inbox (or presumably anywhere in outlook)
2. then start typing up a reply.
3. Close the reply but save the draft
4. Delete/Discard the draft
5. Go back to original email in inbox and the body and subject text has disappeared. Any attachment will still be there.

Windows Version: Microsoft Windows 8.1
Outlook Version:
Engine Version: 5.1.5250.14242 (32-bit)
Language: English

The Sperry add-in is causing a bug that deletes all the text from an email if you view the draft it deletes all the text from the email.

This is a major problem for us as emails are legal records of decisions made and we are required by law to keep them on file for 7 years.

I have since started a bug report with Sperry and they say they are looking into it which is nice but it's been a couple months and I haven't seen any progress. 

I could try another add-in as there are several that do the same thing (here is a list). But that would mean training everyone and buying another product. They say they are working on a fix but we are getting desperate. Losing emails is bad for business.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

WARNING: Canadians Renting Cars with Expedia & Hertz

Recently we went to Grand Cayman and had a great time. However the rental car experience was not so great.

The car we rented was clearly the cheapest car on the island but that wasn't the issue.  The issue was we reserved the car on which gave us the final cost in CAD. So that was what we expected to pay.

One unexpected surprise is that Hertz (and probably most companies on the island) make you pay a $20 USD licence to be allowed to drive. They say it is a government fee but it was not on any documention that Expedia sent us.

But the bigger surprise came when upon returning the car to Hertz they charged us in USD instead of CAD. So because of the exchange rate on our credit card and the extra licence the cost of the rental car went from $270 CAD to $340 CAD.

So I called Expedia and after sitting on hold and talking to a rep for almost 2 hours they told me that they could not refund me. It would have to be Hertz since they are the ones who charged me. So he said they would talk to Hertz for me and gave me an expedia email address to send my documentation to.

So I crafted an email and included the Expedia quote and the Hertz bill. The next week I get an email saying that this email does not support Canadians and and they gave me a 1-800 number to call which matched the original number that I called.

Apparently I am stuck in a vortex of corporate game of "screw the customer"

Needless to say I will never reserve a car on Expedia again. I think it is unethical that they can give you a quote and then completely change it when you show up to pay.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Office 365: A Warning

I recently went through this month long saga of switching our office email system from Bell Microsoft Hosted Exchange to Office 365 Exchange Online. This was because Bell was shutting down their system and pushing everyone to Microsoft which you could conveniently buy through them.  I couldn't handle that thought so we went to Microsoft directly.  This is a warning.

Switching the DNS settings turned out to be relatively easy despite it being the part I was most worried about. Since we use GoDaddy we could use a special app that does the switch for you. There was a bit of a hiccup when it seemed it wasn't switching but it soon became clear that it takes several hours for the change to fully come into effect.

That resolved I started to install Office 365 and the latest version of Outlook on the office computers. I took the exported pst file (all 5.5 GB of it) and imported it into the new Outlook. Then I waited for it to upload and sync to Office Online.

I may have been a bit naive about this working but I figured if it worked on Bell's old system then surely it would work on the new and improved and much touted Office 365. After all they are giving me 50GB of space and Bell was only offering 5GB.

Needless to say I realized very quickly that not everything was syncing and even more worrying emails were not going out and being received consistently. Fairly quickly I switched everyone to use outlook online which seemed to be sending and receiving just fine.

NOTE: The only account that seemed to have issue was the account that is shared among everyone in the office and where all the email gets stored while projects are ongoing. The individual accounts (with less data) were working fine.

So I called up Microsoft and was helped by a some nice people, notably Shane who elevated me to Margo. They ran me through several tests and we had a lot of back and forth trying different things over the course of a month.

Finally in one of my Google searches of frustration I came upon this site. Even though I had asked Microsoft about limits such as this being a problem they had dodged my questions. Now I sent them this link and asked them again: "Is the limit on number of folders really 900?" After a few days they finally confirmed that yes this could be the issue.

Now because of our filing system we had probably 10000 folders so I had some work to do. We redid our filing system and archived many older projects and brought it down to 500 folders. Now the system seems to be working and everyone is somewhat happy.

Apparently the flat, white UI of the new Outlook is annoying to some people....

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

AutoCAD and Network: Why so slow?

This is some of my musings on the IT systems in my office. I will you take down the rabbit hole of why our office network is slow. (Spoiler: I have no idea). These are basically notes to myself to record what I decided at a certain point in time and figure out if any improvement happened. That said, if anyone stumbles on this site and has some insights it would be greatly appreciated.

Over the years in our office we have adopted the incredibly useful AutoCAD tool called Sheet Set Manager. However as you add references to your drawings and link everything up (I've learned to do this towards the end of the project) it really slows down AutoCAD.

Over the years I've searched online for solutions to this but only recently did I stumble on this page. Yes, it turns out that Autodesk is acknowledging that it is slow and they blame it on slow network speeds.

I have followed their advice and now disabled the auto refresh (which will be annoying, no doubt) using the SSMSHEETSTATUS system variable set to '0' and I will report back with any speed increases I find.

BUT the second issue I'd love to address is our network speed. We use a standard peer to peer network with Cat5E cables. The computers are all set up for gigabit speeds but I doubt we actually get it. I am unsure as to what the bottleneck in our network actually is. I used to think that it was the hard drives with all our data (and this post seems to confirm that) but I have my doubts now.

I'd love to know of a good way to test network speeds if anyone stumbles on this site and knows an easy way to do that..... I found this software but do I trust it?

I'm also wondering if switching to a Synology drive system would speed it up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Ultimate Cross Canada Motorcycle Trip

My friend Mike recently completed an incredible month-long trip from Ottawa to Vancouver on mostly TCAT trails. You can read about it here. I highly recommend it.

I put together a google map of his trip and intended to embed it here or on his blog. It turns out you can't embed Maps Engine maps which is crazy so I just did a screen shot.

If you want to see the actual map you can check it out here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Aaaaannnd I'm Back....maybe

I just noticed today that Blogger now has Google+ integration. I am actually surprised it took this long.

This post is basically just to test that and see how it all works. I'd actually like it to be possible to post to my blog from G+ since the interface is so much nicer and it would be easier to share stuff.  I used to post to facebook from this blog but good ol' facebook killed that to force bloggers to use their own in-house blogging/notes feature.  I think that was the beginning of my real dislike of facebook. I want integration!

I still read blogs occasionally (primarily through Google Reader for Android on my phone and now nexus7) but the number of regularly updated blogs is diminishing. I switched to Twitter for a while which is great for following interesting people and getting news fast. But although hashtags are cool tweets of links are boring to look at so when Google+ came out I jumped on that even though there wasn't much on it. Now there are some huge communities being built and I have met some very interesting people.  The stream is beautiful (especially on my new nexus7) and it is so much easier to use than facebook.

I still have a facebook account because some people only use that for contacting them. I guess it has it's place. I heard a neat quote 'Facebook is for people you like and Google+ is for people like you' and I guess that is why I will need both for a while I'm sure. And now that Flipboard for Android is out, I can now read twitter (and google reader) from a much nicer interface.

So where does that leave this blog? I don't know yet but if it gets more integrated with G+ you might see more action here.

More action like this:
Yes this is an actual product that exists. Why?