Tag Archive: Outlook

Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made: Mercenary Guidelines for a Better World

Guidelines for a Better World

Sausages

Sausages

Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.  Perhaps I should re-phrase this as:

The Rules of Law and International Diplomacy are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made

It’s a strange world out there.  Two recent political events have brought two previously unlinked ideas to my mind.  The events are:

Wikileaks disclosures
Innocents Killed In Iraq

Innocents Killed In Iraq by US gunship

For the Wikileaks disclosures, I see them as a highly embarrassing thing for those involved, but an empowering thing for us mere mortals who are divorced from the diplomatic process.  Normally, all the guts of the process are hidden.

In the case of the cover-up of the turkey shoot of unarmed civilians by US helicopter crews, it is something of which we should all be aware, no matter how discomforting for us.

In truth, we need better leaders in the West, people of real morals and guts so that we do not have to see the guts of innocents sprayed on the streets ever again to realise how crap the current bunch are.

Mercenary Forces

Mercenary forces I see as a fact of current and historical life, the old colonial powers especially – indeed, the UK has its own dirty hand in this.  For nigh-on 200 years the UK has even had its own full-time mercenaries, the Gurkhas, typically used in near-suicidal conflict situations.  Also, currently, from the standpoint of an Afghan tribesman, the British Army in Afghanistan could be seen as little more than mercenaries in the employ of a puppet king, Hamid Karzai.  For the tribesman, little has changed – there’s money about but he sees none of it whosoever is in charge.

Diplomacy

Click to see Sausage Making process from the inside.

Sausage Making

In the meantime, we have diplomacy.  For the West, this is a world of essentially astute well educated  folk, usually adept in law not technology, that seek to make deals with not-so-nice folk for our own country’s benefit.

 

Because these deals are done at the guttural level, like sausage-making, it’s an unpleasant process to stumble upon – which is exactly what we’ve seen with the Wikileaks Diplomatic Cable exposures.  Naturally we are aghast that such things go on in our name.  For me, it seems to be a wholly unpleasant process in our current world and something I’d wish to eliminate.

Earth in an oil drop

Taking the current crisis in Libya;  for the previous three years the Blair/Brown Labour Government has made overtures with Libya, sold arms and even SAS training, but all with the aim of ensuring Libya kept it’s hands off the nuclear button.  Seems good-ish.  Laudable aims, jaw-jaw nor war-war and all that.

This process, now revealed, is ugly – but no more so than our current Prime Minister Cameron sucking up to some Gulf Arabs who, like Libya, run a similar kind of oligarchic, autocratic, nepotistic state, full of outlandish greed and luxury with no voice for the inhabitants!  Seems pretty bad.  ………   It is bad.  Really bad.  It’s the same process as before, and we only do it because we need their oil.   Forget about Grand Prix cars and World Cup Football – it’s all about the O. I. L.  – OIL.

So What to Do?

Use Oil?  Sell Bullets.

Most of the recent interventions of the West’s (let’s call them wars should we – after all, thousands have died?), have been into countries that maintain a nice, steady flow of oil to us rich, lazy, westerners.  We think nothing of flying the globe or motoring to the shop for a cheap item that has most probably already crossed the globe once on its way from China, so yes, it’s important we can do this, right?…

On the other hand, our presence in places like Sudan, Rwanda or Congo has been notable by our absence.  Millions have brutally died.  (a.k.a. we don’t care as you’ve no oil.)

Meanwhile our presence in places like Nigeria or Bhopal, India has been notable for our poisoning of the local inhabitants without a trace of remorse or compensation by those involved.

Not Use Oil?  Don’t Sell Bullets.

  • Self-sufficient city planned near Seoul

    A Planned Self Sufficient Korean City

    Consider our own little part of the world.  It’s a place that many people in the world aspire to live because we are essentially free and most material things in our lives can be satisfied.

  • Consider how bright and technologically advanced we consider ourselves to be.

Now consider a world where we eliminated our dependency on chicken dictatorships – a world where we used our technological prowess to eliminate the consumption of oil and our addiction to the making and selling of arms, mostly to these self-same oil rich oligarchies. It’d be a world where we, the citizenry,  didn’t have to look on aghast as all our tax money was spent on bribing simple crooks to talk to us nicely.

Surely, like Egypt & Tunisia, those sort of oligarchies would collapse if we stopped buying their oil and stopped selling them our finest weaponry?

And if they didn’t, so what? There’d be no need for us as a nation to be thrown into hypocritical situations and taking ghastly actions for which we’d later be thoroughly ashamed.  Those areas of the world could take their own destinies into their own hands.

Green Shoot Of Peace

Green Shoot Of Peace

And Diplomacy? For us, we should see more not less of the words and processes done in our name.  We are not children and sooner or later, if the diplomats have fucked it up, we’re going to find out anyway, much as we did after WW1, WW2 and anywhere else our sons and brothers get killed in someone else’s war.

  • We need a proper, ethical, foreign policy.
  • We need diplomats of guile and courage, just like now,  to promote it.
  • And really, we really, really, need to be self-sufficient for all our needs and not rely on corrupt tin-pot states that have not left the Middle Ages in outlook.  This single thing is the most important thing for us and the peaceful futures of our immediate descendants.
  • We need a bit of courage to do this – to wean ourselves off this drug-like dependency on crooks of no substance who happen to sit on stuff we just happen to need, now.  Lets use our technological nous and make the current now a thing of the past – like stone axes and bronze swords, historical curiosities.
  • Mercenaries have courage – after all, if caught they’re usually the first one’s strung up.  See Dead Mercenary Taken to Tripoli Morgue, Libia Protests 2011.   But if the mercenaries have a proper home – what then?  There’d just be the few psychos like there’s always been, because you know, most people, even young hotheads, don’t want to wind up in an early grave.

Remember;

Courage is Contagious.

Get the t-shirt!

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What is the Best Backup for Windows in a Small Home or Office?

What is the Best Backup for Windows in a Small Home or Office?

Which Windows Backup?  A History.

Over the years I’ve tried many systems for backing up crucial Windows data.  Currently for small-scale backups I use the ubiquitous and almost bullet-proof flash drives, my current one tipping the scales at 8Gb.  But for major backups, as the years have passed, I’ve used;

  1. Floppy discs – 1.4Mb
  2. Iomega Zip discs – 100Mb
  3. CDRW – 650Mb
  4. DVD-R – 4.7Gb
  5. Western Digital My Book Home Edition – 1Tb

They all had their problems and limitations.  The last one looked good with Firewire, USB2, ethernet  & eSATA connections – but it overheated and broke…..

Best Windows Backup!

My current system is from Synology and is a “DS210j – Budget-friendly 2-bay NAS server for Home and Small Business”

See: http://www.synology.com/enu/products/DS210j/index.php

I can heartily recommend the thing.  It has so much gubbins within it and far exceeds my limited expectations.  I installed two green 2Tb drives from Western Digital  in mirrored RAID for security and use the auto-backup software provided as well as Windows’ own.  This is extremely relevant for the large number of hits I’ve had to this posting where a major part of the problem is the time taken to do a backup!  In my case, the 750Gb just takes a few hours to copy across the Gigabit speed ethernet that the unit can use.

Addendum June 2011: The tool is a seriously capable bit of kit and I cannot recommend it enough. Get one!

It does everything it says on the tin, and more!  The whole thing cost me about 200 quid, plus an hour of my time to install.

Even its firewall is more configurable than any router I’ve used!  It can be used as a server for FTP or the web.  It comes with software for a host of things that mimic Flikr etc but without all the privacy or security issues inherent in off-line storage.  It’ll also run with any operating system because it itself is a mini-linux installation as it is,  and includes Windows, Apple and Linux applications.
Check it out, straight from their overview page:

Build Your Entertainment Center

Download Station 2 functions as a 24×7 BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP, eMule, and NZB download center. RapidShare and RSS download are now supported.

DLNA Compliant Media Sever ensures compatibility and interoperability between Disk Station and a wide range of DLNA-certified home devices.

iTunes Server provides an easy way to share music and videos with other iTunes clients within the local network. You can create playlists with songs that match the criteria you specified, and best of all, iTunes will update these playlists automatically as you add or delete songs.

Audio Station supports music, Internet radio stations, and iPod playback with connected USB speakers. Web-streaming mode allows your music to be shared with multiple users over the Internet.

Back Up Your Precious Data

DSM 2.2 offers comprehensive solutions for you to back up data stored on Disk Station or your desktop computer to the Disk Station.

Server backup includes two alternatives: Network Backup and Local Backup. Both allow you to back up data in the shared folders and databases. Incremental backup option and flexible schedules are available. All can be easily configured with a step-by-step wizard.

Desktop backup provides Windows PC users with the Synology Data Replicator 3 for backing up desktop data, Outlook, and Outlook Express emails to their Disk Station by choosing one of the three backup modes: Immediate, Sync, and Scheduled backup, while Mac OS X users can use Apple Time Machine backup application to back up their critical data to Disk Station.

USBCopy allows you to quickly back up your data from an USB storage device such as an USB flash or USB card reader to the Disk Station with just one single touch on the front-panel Copy button.

Enrich Your Web Presence

Photo Station 3 simplifies photo, video, and blog sharing over the Internet. The flexibility of photo theme customization, blog layout arrangement, visitor’s privilege setting, RSS feed, and the dazzling 3-dimentional photo browsing with Cooliris make Photo Station 3 your state-of-the-art lifestyle sharing center on the Internet.

Web Station with built-in PHP+MySQL allows users to publish their own websites or install numerous popular open-source programs.

Access With Your iPhone/Mobile Device

The iPhone App DS audio allows Disk Station users to stream music stored on Disk Station with their iPhone/iPod® touch where Internet access is available, while DS photo allows uploading photos from the iPhone/iPod® touch to their Disk Station.

Users with a mobile device running on Windows Mobile® 6.0, iPhone OS 2.2.1 onward, or Symbian OS 9.1 can log on their Disk Station to view photos with Mobile Photo Station and read supported file formats with Mobile File Station where Internet access is available.

Eco Friendly

Eco Friendly

Synology Disk Station is designed and developed perpetually with the concept of energy saving. Compared with average PC counterparts, Synology Disk Station consumes a relatively low amount of power and has the HDDs hibernate when not in use. This not only helps to save energy but also extends the lifespan of the hard disk.

Synology Disk Station truly earns the title of “green product” because of the unique Scheduled Power On/Off feature, and the smart fan design effectively cools down the system with minimum power consumption, yet keeps the system quiet on operation.

Finally, all Synology products are produced with RoHS compliant parts and packed with recyclable packing materials. Synology recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and is continually working to reduce the environmental impact of the products we create.

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How to Clean Up Outlook Contact Phone Numbers using VBA

Introduction

VBA for Fix Phone Numbers

VBA for Fix Phone Numbers

I got a new phone and when synchronised with Microsoft Outlook, the phone numbers don’t dial out properly because of spaces & STD bracketing.  It’s an LG – the previous Nokia was great, as was it’s synchronising software!

Solution

I used VBA in a workaround via Microsoft Excel!  (If you don’t have Excel, this won’t work…).  It will convert phone numbers like (+44) 1234 456789 to 0044123456789.  It also removes “-” entries and ones with multiple spaces as a number, like ”   ” which are invisible but muck stuff up!  [but see later addendum for later code additions, code is here: FixPhoneNumbers – SP]

First Step

Export the “Contacts” folder from Outlook as an Excel spreadsheet to your hard drive.  Give it a sensible name!

Second Step

Open the Excel file and then press Alt + F11 to open the Visual Basic Editor (VBE).  We’re gonna write code now!

Third Step

Insert a new code module.  You can give it a name if you like.  I didn’t and just left it as it was.

Fourth Step

Copy this VBA code into the module in the VBE. (That’s a screenshot of my code above!)

Option Explicit

Public Sub FixPhoneNumbers()
Dim rg As Range
Dim r As Integer
Dim c As Integer
Dim wks As Worksheet
Dim s As String

Application.ScreenUpdating = False
Set wks = ThisWorkbook.ActiveSheet
r = wks.Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
c = wks.Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Columns.Count

With wks
     .Columns("AD:AT").NumberFormat = "@"

 For c = 30 To 46 Step 1 'all phone fields
      For r = 2 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
      Set rg = .Cells(r, c)
           s = rg.Value
           s = Replace(s, "(", "")
           s = Replace(s, " ", "")
           s = Replace(s, ")", "")
           s = Replace(s, "+44", "0044")
           s = Replace(s, "+", "00")
           s = Replace(s, "-", "")
      If Len(s) < 7 And Len(s) > 0 Then s = "01278" & s 'assume local phone #
          rg.Value = s
      Next r
 Next c
End With

Application.ScreenUpdating = True
Set rg = Nothing
Set wks = Nothing

End Sub

The key is the lines with the Replace function.  Additional lines can be easily added if more gotchas are spotted in your own numbers.

If you don’t need a line to run, remark (Rem) it out by putting an apostrophe at the line beginning, like this one here… ‘

Fifth Step

From the Debug menu in the VBE, compile the code.  This ensures that no typos etc have got in.

Save the file.

Sixth Step

Now run the procedure called “FixPhoneNumbers”.  The simplest way to do this is to make sure the screen cursor is somewhere within the code you’ve copied in – and then hit F5 on the keyboard.

If this is confusing, go to the main Excel screen, hit Alt + F8 and run the macro, which unsurprisingly is called “FixPhoneNumbers”!!

Seventh Step

Save the file again if the changes look alright.

If they’re not, then close the file without saving, then re-open, and adjust the VBA code to suit your columns, which will be the most likely thing you’ll need to adjust.

Then do all the above again, from the Fifth Step onwards.

Eighth Step

Import the file back into Outlook.

Overwrite old contacts with the new ones.

There should be no need to map fields etc because we haven’t mucked about with them!

Caveats

  • The code is designed to work with a standard output dump from Outlook.  If you’ve added or removed fields from the contacts part of Outlook, the export will be different and you’ll need to check which columns contain phone numbers.  Modify the VBA code to suit.  In total, there were 92 columns in the export from Outlook, so if you don’t have this number then you’ll probably need a quick code modification. (That’s why I checked the count at the beginning of the code with the CurrentRegion bit so that I could get the dataset size.  In the end, I only needed a row count, but I’ve left the code in so that you can step through the code using F8 to check yours out.  Clear?  Don’t worry. )
  • Some entries I had were local phone numbers.  My code is 01278 so this is added and will need changing to suit your own local STD code if you’ve entered phone numbers without the exchange.
  • I check that the UK international code is correct.  Change the 44 to your own as appropriate.
  • There’s no error checking in the code.  But it should work – it did for me!

ADDENDUM: New Code Version!

This code is smoother and has more features than previously, although I still don’t error check.

It’s advantages are:

  1. It checks all columns and looks for the words “Phone” or “Fax” in the data headings.  In this way, any logical Outlook customisations are taken care of!
  2. It prompts the user for their local STD and National codes, placing these in the correct place.

Next Steps:

  1. I’ll turn the code into an xla add-in with a one-click button.
  2. I’ll make the whole thing work directly on the Outlook contacts from within Outlook.  I’ve used the Outlook object model before, just not very often!  So watch this space as current Outlook addins are pricey and a bit of a kludge from what I’ve read…

The New (Improved) Code Version

Download plain text version: FixPhoneNumbers

Option Explicit

Public Sub FixPhoneNumbers()
Dim rg As Range
Dim r As Integer
Dim c As Integer
Dim wks As Worksheet
Dim s As String
Dim LocalCode As Variant
Dim NationalCode  As Variant

Application.ScreenUpdating = False

LocalCode = InputBox("Do You want Full Code for Local Numbers?" _
                     , "Enter local STD/City dialling code" _
                     , "01278")
NationalCode = InputBox("Do You want cleaned up National Code? e.g. 44=UK" _
                      & vbCrLf _
                      & "+44 goes to 0044" _
                     , "Enter National code" _
                     , "44")

Set wks = ThisWorkbook.ActiveSheet

With wks
       .Range(.Cells(1, 1), .Cells(1, 1).End(xlToRight)).Font.Bold = True

          For c = 1 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Columns.Count Step 1 'all columns
              s = LCase(.Cells(1, c).Value)       's picks up column heading
                                                  'lower case to match search string later
                                                  'as text compare doesn't work
                'now find phone/fax fields and if found, fix numbers
     If (InStr(s, "phone") + InStr(s, "fax")) > 0 Then
            .Columns(c).NumberFormat = "@"      'make text format for tel nos
                                                'allows leading zeroes!

                     For r = 2 To .Cells(1, 1).CurrentRegion.Rows.Count
                         Set rg = .Cells(r, c)
                         s = rg.Value            're-use s
                         s = Replace(s, "(", "")
                         s = Replace(s, " ", "")
                         s = Replace(s, ")", "")
                             If Len(NationalCode) > 0 Then 'not empty string
                                  s = Replace(s, "+" & NationalCode, "00" & NationalCode)
                             End If
                         s = Replace(s, "+", "00")
                         s = Replace(s, "-", "")
                             If Len(s) < 7 And Len(s) > 0 Then s = LocalCode & s
                              rg.Value = s
                     Next r

     Else
        'nowt
     End If
       Next c
End With

Application.ScreenUpdating = True
Set rg = Nothing
Set wks = Nothing

End Sub

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Spam Disguised as Windows Live

ratherpurposedotcom

ratherpurpose dot com

Below is the plain text of an email spam I got today.  I always view as plain text and all my messages are spam checked, in various ways.  Some POP3 stuff comes in via Mailwasher Pro, which I’ve mentioned before; other stuff I forward through gmail and use the spam filters in there, which are quite good.

Above right is the email viewed in the Outlook client.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a spam claiming I was a Windows Live customer!  Maybe they know something I don’t know… ;-)

<http://ads1.msn.com/ads/pronws/CIQ4440/images/asus_r11_c1.jpg>
Do not see a picture? Visit our site now! <http://ratherpurpose.com/> <http://ads1.msn.com/ads/pronws/CIQ4440/images/asus_r11_c15.jpg>
<http://ads1.msn.com/ads/pronws/CIQ4440/images/asus_r11_c1.jpg>
*Offer expires January 31, 2009.

As a valued Windows Live Hotmail customer, we hope you find this Windows Vista Ultimate offer valuable. If you would prefer to no longer receive promotional offers about Windows Vista Ultimate please click here <http://ratherpurpose.com/privacy_policy.php> .

For general information about how to manage your Communication Preferences with Microsoft please click here <http://ratherpurpose.com/> .

If you have questions about Microsoft privacy policies, please read our online Privacy Statement <http://ratherpurpose.com/privacy_policy.php> .

Opting out of Microsoft e-mail offers will not affect any newsletters you have requested nor restrict important customer communications concerning your Microsoft products.

Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 09359


<http://ads1.msn.com/ads/pronws/CIQ4440/images/asus_r11_c15.jpg>

..
Message-Id: <[email protected]>
<http://cimail15.msn.com/images/blankpixel.gif/Key=5806.Cnx7n..D.JpQ9LD>

The point is that in plain text, it’s obvious the links are not from Microsoft, which is what one would expect.  Who are they from?

Viewing the html version above, makes it clear that it’s nothing to do with Microsoft!  It’s penis pills!  But to find out who it’s actually from, try this whois on the weirdly named ratherpurpose.com doomain:

‘http://whois.domaintools.com/ratherpurpose.com

If you’ve checked, you’ll see it’s our old Chinese friends lodged at the XIN NET TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION!!!  :-?   I get a lot from them, and so does everyone else.  I’m pretty certain that they are an arm of the Chinese State.  The way that the Chinese Government tries to control and censor internet traffic makes this supposition too obvious for words.  Because if the Chinese State feared things so much, there’s no way at all that a gangster bunch like XIN NET could continue in operation.  How so?

In a post some time ago, I wrote how I contacted XIN NET about the abuse from a host (pun intended) of domains.  Within a day, I had a surge of spam emails, all from domains hosted by….  XIN NET!! (these posts listed at the end)

This apparent lack of control, from a state (in)famous for it’s citizen control, proves that the lack of control is by a state directive.  What the ultimate end-game of these actions is, who knows?  But I can guess that it’s to do with botnet control to be used for spying, industrial espionage, personal gain of people in charge, theft, general FUD spreading…

Further Links:

  • Abuse Butlerit was 14th in the list @21:00 today
  • Uriblit was 8th on the Xin Net wall of shame at the same time

My Previous Posts about XIN NET etc:

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Ford Cuts SUVs Now!

Following on from my earlier posting mentioning General Motors cutbacks in SUV production due to rising fuel prices, Ford has now done the same.

And about time, too!

The car companies will still make pots of money by making smaller, more efficient cars.  They will actually be cheaper to make when looking at the raw materials consumed, as well.  The clever bit (which the US is historically crap at), is making the design as labour un-intensive as possible thus allowing as much “added value” to be applied and used as possible.

Get clever folks!

If common sense won’t work when trying to reduce our demand on the world’s finite resources, then market forces certainly will.  I just hope that the herd mentality doesn’t take hold and slide us all into the gloom of a world recession.  It’s only money and optimism after all.

  • Money is man-made, a creation of our minds to ease the exchange of goods and services.
  • Optimism is a state of mind and as Nichiren reminds us by the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment, what we perceive as optimism or pessimism are purely abstract thoughts, states of mind  from one moment to the next.

Maintaining an optimistic outlook is the key to looking after our lives and thus our world.

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