Thursday, December 04, 2008

QuickTime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.

So you've been laboring over that PowerPoint presentation or Word document on your Mac for hours or even days.  When it was time for final delivery you opened it up on a Windows OS based computer under Office 2003 or Vista or some other version and found that wherever you put a picture the image isn't displaying and instead it just says
QuickTime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime and a TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor are needed to see this picture.

Also note that the file compatibility toolbox on the Mac version will not warn you of this issue when that's the whole point of that toolbox.  As far as Office for Mac is concerned, the file will be 100% compatible with Office for Windows.

I'll first explain what causes this problem and then we'll talk about a fix.

So the only time you will see this is if you were woking in Office on the Mac, added pictures to your document via either drag and drop or copy and paste, and then open your document in Office for Windows.

Ok so what causes this issue?

The truth is it is a bug in how Office for the Mac supported drag and drop and copy and paste.  It used a Mac OS Specific way of embedding the image that Office for Windows can't understand.  Even if you install QuickTime in Windows, Office for Windows still can't make sense of the image information.  This bug was finally fixed with the Mac Office 2008 Service Pack 1 (12.1.0)

Great, what's the solution?

If you've created/edited the document using Office 2008 with SP1 (or a newer version since that one) you shouldn't have the problem.  If you've created the document in an older version of Office for Mac, then as long as you have access to Office 2008 with SP 1 or newer all you have to do is open and save the document in the newer version of Office for Mac and the problem will be fixed.  It says so here, and I've verified it worked.

Another solution that I've tested is to import images using the Insert menu instead of using drag and drop or copy and paste.  Yes that means if you are trying to use an image from the Web, you must save it from your web browser to your computer's disk first, then import it into Word.  In fact, you can safely drag and drop an image file from your computer's disk drive (from a window in the Finder) to Word and it works fine.  It's only if you drag and drop (or copy and paste) an image from your Web browser or another application and drop it into Word that causes the issue.  

Another solution is provided here by Stephen Rindsberg.  He provides some VBA code that you could run on a problematic document in Mac Office 2004.  I tried it and it worked...some.  I found it fixed about 70% of the images, but several were still not working in Office for Windows.  Also any image it fixed it brought to the front of the document, so for example, if you had a back ground image in a PowerPoint file, after running the VBA code, now it would appear in front of all of the text on that slide.

So the best solution seems to be to use the latest version of Office for the Mac 2008 or always import your graphics files from local copies on your computer's drive.  BTW If you need to use Office 2004 (for example you need support for VBA which was dropped in 2008) you will be happy to know you can safely install 2008 on a Mac that has 2004 (as I indicated in my previous blog entry about why I'm still using 2004), and at the end the installer will ask you if you want to remove 2004.  Just say NO and both 2004 and 2008 will exists happily together on the same Mac.  

This doesn't cover movie files, only images...
If you are searching you may find this Microsoft Support article: You receive a "QuickTime and a Video decompressor are needed to see this picture" error message when you try to play a movie in a slide view in PowerPoint  Although the description of the problem seems similar, it's a different situation and is specific to movie files and not images.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why not to upgrade to Office 2008 for Mac and to keep using Office 2004

Ok, so when Mac Office 2008 came out this year, I was pretty happy to upgrade.  After all, 2004 was four years old, and because I had an Intel Mac it had to run under Rosetta which means it ran pretty slow.

Office 2008 promised faster speeds for Intel Mac owners as well as more formatting options and file compatibility with the new Vista Office (DOCX, etc.) formats.

Well, I've installed 2008 and decided to go back to 2004 and here's why...

First Excel and PowerPoint for 2008 do seem improved and ran at least as good if not faster then theri 2004 versions on my Intel Mac.  They had obvious improvements in the user interface and PowerPoint had some really nice graphic enhancements.  Word however, actually runs slower.  Even though now it is running naitive on my Intel processor.  Worst, Microsoft removed Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) from Office 2008 so all those Excel spreadsheets with fancy Macros that I have to use for my job won't work on it.  Lastly I have a relatively simple newsletter template that I use a few times a year, and in 2008 it has some formatting issues.  It's hard to explain but if a Microsoft engineer wants to get in touch with me, I'll explain how to reproduce the problem and send them the file.  (Hello Microsoft Mac Business Unit?)

Also Microsoft has released a converter that now allows Office 2004 (and the older v.X even) to open the new Vista DOCX Open XML file format, so another motivation for upgrading to Office 2008 is eliminated.  You can get that upgrade here.

Anyway, so what I've decided to do is keep both 2004 and 2008 installed on my Mac.  They actually run fine side by side.  Just make sure at the end of the 2008 installer app, you do NOT check the "remove 2004" option and you can keep 2004 around for faster Word editing and VBA macro support.

Update:  I've applied the latest Mac Office 2008 updates bringing me to version 12.1.5.  It does seem Word performance has improved a lot.  However, it is still having problems formatting my newsletter template, and I'm seeing this a lot more too:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Excel Password Crack

Have you ever been handed an Excel spreadsheet and needed to modify it, only to find it had Workbook Protection enabled that requires a password?  

To unprotect the workbook, you would go into:
Tools->Protection->Unprotect Workbook.

Of course, the person who gave you the file doesn't know the password or they would have given it to you when they gave you the file.

Well a quick search will find there are several hacking utilities out there to break the password in Excel workbooks.  Some of these are free and some cost up to $30.  Some run locally and some require you send the file to them (not usually a good idea if your file contains confidential information.)  

So I decided I'd try a free utility.  The first one I grabbed was kind of large and including a full installer.  I was concerned it could install spyware or other unwanted software and I wasn't anxious to run an installer for something that really should just be a simple little app, so I kept looking.  Then I found something better.  A single file that was an Excel Add-In.  Using an Add-In isn't as dangerous as running an installer (perhaps an Add-In could be malicious, but I've never heard of a rootkit being created via an Add-In) and it was provided on a web site that had other useful information.  So since this wasn't the publisher's only application it seemed to me they would be more concerned about their reputation then a website devoted only to a password cracker tool and therefore would not tend to include anything malicious in their code.

Anyway, I added the Add-In, opened the sheet, and in a few minutes (it's a brute force password attack) I had a working password!  Fantastic.

If you need this, I highly recommend the tool provided by Erlandsen Data Consulting called Find Lost Passwords.

This is a Windows only solution.  This Add-In will not work in Office 2008 for the Mac because it relies on VBA which is not supported in Office 2008.  This also will not work in Office 2004 although I'm not sure of the reason.  It's possible it references compiled Windows only code.

One thing to note, the password you get will work 100%.  However, it will probably not be the original password.  The way Excel hashes passwords, there are actually a lot of letter combinations that result in the same password "hash" so in other words if you protected a file with the password "ILoveChocolate" there are actually a lot of other letter combinations that will still open that Excel spreadsheet for you.  This application simply gives you the first letter combination that has the same hash as "ILoveChocolate."  So if you test it on a spreadsheet that you actually knew the password on, don't be surprised if the password doesn't come out to be a the one you expected.  But it unlocks the spreadsheet just fine because inside Excel's security procedures, the passwords look the same.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Outlook won’t send email, it just sits in your Outbox

Ok, so first if you also can’t receive email, this isn’t your problem.  This is about a send only problem.  I could receive email just fine.

If your problem matches the helpful description here:

Also a similar article on Microsoft’s official Office support site here:  

Then you have the same problem I did.  I wanted to specifically mention that it was LANDesk Antivirus causing the issue as that hasn’t (so far) been listed as one of the Outlook add-ins that causes this issue.

The registry key I had to modify was here:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\Outlook\Addins\ LDOutlookAddin.Addin

This was installed with LANDesk Antivirus and is identified with the FriendlyName of "LANDesk Outlook add-in" and Description of "Scans email for viruses" (all items a user could search on.)  I'm running version which I believe is the latest.

Once I set LoadBehavior to 0 it solved my issue.

Big thanks to Diane Poremsky for writing the post linked to above which helped me debug my issue. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why I would spend $150 on a USB Keyboard

Ok, in my previous post I bemoaned the fact that my 19” flat panel monitor broke and took my $150 Matias Tactile Pro 1.0 keyboard with it. I thought I’d follow up on an experience that made me have a huge amount of respect for the Matias company.

Why a $150 Keyboard?

I realize most people purchase keyboards that cost $30 to $40 US dollars these days. Often they don’t purchase keyboards at all but use the ones included free with their computers. So knowing one can buy a completely usable keyboard for $30 then why would I spend $150 on a keyboard? There are actually several answers but I’m only going to discuss one in this post. (For more information on the history of this keyboard read this article on TidBITS.)

Now That’s Customer Service

I type A LOT. It's basically my livelihood. If I couldn’t type, I’m not sure how I could support my family. Because of the fact that I probably spend 10 hours a day typing and it’s so important to my family’s well being I’m willing to invest in a decent keyboard. The keyboard I’m talking about is the Matias Tactile Pro 1.0. It’s a wonderful keyboard that feels great and supports your hands long into the night. When I found my flat panel monitor had broken the keyboard stands off of the back basically making the keyboard useless I was crushed. I went to the Matias site to even see if they were making a Tactile Pro keyboard (I knew they had long discontinued the 1.0 version.) I also knew that due to a tight budget lately, I might have to replace it with a $30 keyboard. I found Matias was no longer making a Tactile Pro keyboard. They will release a 3.0 version next year but the 1.0 and 2.0 versions are no longer available. I know they make a really nice USB 2.0 keyboard but it isn’t anything like the Tactile Pro.

Disappointed, I filled out the web form to be notified when the Tactile Pro 3.0 keyboard becomes available. There is a message section and I just put in pathetically that the feet had broken off of my Tactile Pro 1.0 keyboard so I needed to purchase a new one.

Ok, now you know how web forms work. The email address goes into a database and no one ever reads the message section.

Except at Matias!

Less then 24 hours later I was contacted through email by a customer service representative.

She wrote to me that if I give her my address she would mail me replacement feet. That’s right. I sent her my address. And a few days later, Matias paid $6.50 CAD to send me an envelope with two replacement feet.

Canadian Postage

My new Feet

Truly amazing. Matias, you have a customer for life!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

19" Samsung Flatpanel broke away from its stand

This morning I walked into my office to check email and saw this.

That’s my Samsung flatpanel sitting on my keyboard.  

You can see the stand is no longer attached to the back of it.  Last night it was fine and hadn’t been touched or moved since then.  So sometime during the night the metal bracket holding it to the stand simply gave up.

Now that’s depressing enough as it is, but if you look a bit closer you’ll notice that the weight of the monitor broke the feet off of the bottom of my Matias Tactile Pro keyboard (which cost me $150 USD.)  

Why someone would spend $150 on a keyboard will be my next blog entry, but to give you an idea you can read this   (You have to at least read the section entitled Protecting the Alps.)  

Now I think I should point out this monitor has had a very easy life. It just sits on my desk.  It doesn’t move around or travel. It just sits there. It literally broke due to its own weight.  I think it is still under warranty so I’ll have to try and find the original paperwork (which reminds me, I need to clean up and organize my office.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPhone 3G, still missing features

Well, the iPhone 3G has been released.

The two new features over the previous generation iPhone are realtime GPS and 3G data speeds.

The sad part is really what it doesn't have:
  1. Stereo Bluetooth headset support (A2DP)
  2. Copy and Paste
  3. Video recording
  4. Global search (they let you search contacts now, but not notes or calendars, Palm OS has had this for years!)
  5. DUN tethering (so I can use the phone as a 3G modem on my laptop either over Bluetooth, or preferably, USB)
  6. Notes syncing with Outlook (on Windows) or Mail (on Mac OS X)
  7. A ToDo app with syncing with Outlook (on Windows) or iCal (on Mac OS X)
  8. MMS (picture messaging, so far they still only support text messaging)
  9. Chat/IM support for popular chat apps (MSN Live Messenger, AIM, GTalk, etc.)
  10. Voice activated dialing
  11. Syncing music/video/podcasts and calendar data over Bluetooth or WiFi. Why should I have to connect a USB cable just to sync?
  12. Forward camera and video chat support
  13. Undo in most apps (something PalmOS apps have had for over a decade.
  14. Turn by turn GPS
  15. Bluetooth support for keyboards and standard devices other then headsets and headphones.
Oh there is also a $99 a year fee for Mobile Me to get some of the live syncing features.

AT&T is also raising the unlimited data rate from $20 a month to $30 a month. Their cheapest family share plan is still $59.99 (plus the iPhone data of $30 a month per iPhone) although it is now 550 minutes a month instead of 450. Assuming you wanted two iPhones (the situation I'd be in with my wife) you'd be looking at $59.99 + $30 + $30 = $119.99. Just prior to the announcement it would've only been $99.99.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reducing a Printer Driver from 80MB to 9MB

Ok, so how many times has this happened to you? You just got a freshly formatted computer, and you need to print something, but it has no printers on it. No problem, you check to find your nearest printer (I’m in a client’s office today) and then download the driver right?

Ok, so the nearest printer to me happens to be an HP OfficeJet L7780 all in one. Now I don’t need the scanner or other features accessable from my computer, I just need to print. So I go to HP’s website to download the printer driver. I know that they will try to give me an installer with scanner software, etc. on it, but I just need a printer driver.

I get here pretty quick with a little searching:

I choose Windows XP ‘cause that’s what I’m using. And finally I get here:

Now it has a few options. There is a full feature software and driver. No doubt that includes the scanner software and more that I already said I don’t want. It comes in at a whopping 314MB. Good thing I don’t need all of that. Let’s see what else? There is a CD ordering option. Two software removal utilites. A wireless configuration utility. A Basic feature software/driver at 68MB (still too big to be what I want) and a Basic Features software/driver 'for IT professional use only' at 43.39MB (oh, BTW the IT pro only is at version 7, where as the others are at version 8.0.1 AND it was updated 2 months prior to the 8.x versions.) Nice eh?

Well I go for the one for IT pros anyway (hey I’m a pro right?) even though it is a full version older. I like the idea of it being over 20MB smaller, and the new software is probably just for the scanner.

Ok after the rather long download across an overburdened wireless network I get my .exe file. Double clicking it expands to a new folder with my drivers in it. That folder is a whopping 80MB with 280 files and 26 folders. Wow that’s some printer driver.

I decided I couldn’t stand it and had to dissect the driver installer and see what extra stuff I could eliminate. Once I eliminated anything that wasn’t needed, this is what I finally had:

The 80MB folder with 280 files and 26 folders is now 9MB with 7 files and 0 folders. Yes that’s right.

Now let’s see what I kept. One of the space savings was eliminating languages I didn’t need, so I go rid of several .cab files for foreign languages and just kept for English. This eliminated a few MB but wasn't too significant.

I also kept the .cat file which provides the driver signature. Without this the driver will still install but you’ll get a nasty warning from windows that the file could be malicious and asking if you are absolutely certain you want to install it.

The other files you see there have necessary driver installation information.

All the other files I eliminated, I didn't need. A lot of them were HP's picture viewing software, scanner software, OCR software, etc. Like I said, I just needed to print!

Doesn't seem like too much to ask they make just the printer driver available to download, at least for "IT Professionals." Oh well, I saved it on our workgroup file server for everyone else to use as needed.

Hope this helps you streamline your printer drivers.