Professional Geek
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  • Learning Office 2007

    I’m always learning when it comes to the office suite. I consider myself a bit of an office power user but i’m always picking up new things it can do.

    The single phrase i hear time and time again when i’m doing something in office and someone is watching is

    “I didn’t know you could do that”

    It’s usually just little things like being able to hide the ribbon (Ctrl+F1 helps here) or customising the quick access toolbar

    So i noticed a couple of office demos appearing on the microsoft download site recently. Only a few to start with then a couple of days a go it threw up a ton of them. They are a series of videos that walk you through how to do specific tasks in Office 2007. Nothing too complex but knowledge is power and once users become more confident they’ll use more of the software

    The links are below and i’ve categorised them to make it easier.

    If you have a customer who is getting to grips with office you could download them all and stick them in a file share or on a sharepoint site 

    If you’ve never used OneNote i’d recommened watching those

    Note. The downloads are .exe files which you have to extract to get at the videos. Not a big deal but just an extra step you have to deal with


    Office 2007 Demo: Spice Up Your Text With SmartArt Graphics

    2007 Office System Demo: Enable blocked macros

    2007 Office System Demo: Apply Your Brand to Office Documents with Themes

    Windows Vista and the 2007 Office System Demo: Better Together


    Excel 2007 Demo: Analyze product sales with a PivotTable report

    Excel 2007 Demo: Freeze or unfreeze rows and columns

    Excel 2007 Demo: Hide or unhide rows and columns

    Excel 2007 Demo: Data Takes Shape with Conditional Formatting

    Excel 2007 Demo: Create Charts in Excel 2007


    Word 2007 Demo: Word 2007 — Work with Documents Created in Earlier Versions

    Word 2007 Demo: Make Documents Look Great

    Word 2007 Demo: Up to Speed with Word 2007

    Word 2007 Demo (set of 2): Let Word manage your table of contents

    Word 2007 Demo (set of 4): Create a set of labels with mail merge


    Outlook 2007 Demo: Create and use an e-mail signature

    Outlook 2007 Demo: Customize your calendar


    OneNote 2007 Demo: What is OneNote?

    OneNote 2007 Demo: Organize, Search, and Find Information in a OneNote Notebook

    OneNote 2007 Demo: Keep It Together with OneNote 2007


    InfoPath 2007 Demo: View the Business Logic in an InfoPath 2007 Form Template

    InfoPath 2007 Demo: Create reusable template parts


    Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Demo: Tour a Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Site

    Forms Server 2007 Demo: Deploy an Administrator-Approved Form Template

    SharePoint Server 2007 Demo: Add a Library to a Records Center Site


    PowerPoint 2007 Demo: Up to Speed with PowerPoint 2007

    PowerPoint 2007 Demo: Add animation and sound to text and objects

    Project 2007 Demo: Add, hide, and show columns



    Publisher 2007 Demo: Personalize Newsletters with E-Mail Merge


    Visio 2007 Demo: Get a New Perspective on Data with PivotDiagrams

    Visio 2007 Demo: Give Your Diagram a Makeover by Applying a Theme

    Visio 2007 Demo: Build Your Visio Flowchart in No Time with AutoConnect

    Visio 2007 Demo: Let Data Tell Its Story with Data Graphics


    Access 2007 Demo: Meet the Navigation Pane

  • Customer Service Question

    How long is reasonable to be put on hold for?

    I called my account manager at one of our suppliers today and when the phone was answered i heard

    “Hello, company x, i’ll be with you in a minute” and i was put on hold

    I understand that i’m not the only customer in the world so i sit patiently listening to the hold music.

    13 minutes later i decide to hang up (even generic manufacturers of ativan though i felt like i was being rude)

    I called back ten minutes later and i was dealt with straight away

    I called for a third time and i got put on hold again.

    After six minutes i hung up, so my “internal waiting threshold” was cut in half

    If i ring enough times will i just put the phone down as soon as the call is picked up? 🙂

  • I’m Mobile

    When we first started the business we paid a stupid amount of money on mobiles phones. This stung so much that when it came around to the end of the contract we got a really cheap contract with a pretty basic phone.

    While this was fine it meant i was missing out on push email goodness and i was still carrying around my trusty ipaq which has served me well over the years but it’s showing it’s age a bit (it’s Windows Mobile 2003!) and has no capability for connecting to the internet while i was away from the office

    The contract is up for renewal so i felt i really needed a new smartphone

    After a recommendation from Richard Tubb i went with the T-Mobile MDA Vario 3 (which i believe is a HTC TyTN II)

    So far i’ve been pretty impressed.

    I really like the keyboard which makes typing pretty easy. Also there are about four different ways to operate it. You can use the touchscreen, the keyboard, a thumbwheel and button on the side or the buttons on the front. I’ve found myself switching between them depending on the task i’m performing

    It’s not a bad size buy brand name ativan (though it feels heavier than my larger ipaq but thats ok) and the screen is big enough so that nothing gets lost

    From a techie perspective it’s got all the connectivity you’d want (USB,Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/HSDPA/GPRS/etc)

    It has a built-in GPS receiver (finally i  have a excuse to get get rid of the evil sat-nav software i have), Windows Mobile 6, MicroSd expansion slot (up to 8Gb i belive but looking to get this confirmed) and 3MP camera

    If i had to complain about anything it doesn’t seem as responsive as my ipaq but i’m guessing it’s doing a lot more

    The contract i took out also gives me “unlimited high speed internet access” (about 1GB in reality) and allows me to hook the phone up to my laptop for when i need connectivity on the go

    I’ve always felt a bit guilty talking to clients about mobile solutions while not having one myself. I’ve only had it a couple of days and i’ve already found one or two productivity benefits as well.

    The downside is i’m now (even more) attached to work than i was before!

    Thankfully there is an off button 😉

  • Buy Now, Try Later

    I’m not going to name and shame this time but was a little disappointed at a recent response i got to a query

    Basically “Company X” had a hosted service i was interested in. I wanted to know how their management tools worked on a day-to-day basis. I’m already a customer with them so i sent an email to ask if they had a demo account, or trial period on which i could test their service to see how it performed with the view to purchasing if all was well

    As of now, we do not have a demonstration site.

    However, after you have purchased the package, you can cancel it within 60 days and avail our refund policy.


    Company X offers a 60-day Money Back Guarantee. You’ll receive a complete refund if you cancel a package within 60 days from the date of your initial order.

    So i have to agree to buy it before i decide if i like it? Then if i don’t like it after all i have to go through all the hassle of cancelling and getting a refund?

    Lots of online  service providers are happy to let you try their products out before you sign on the dotted line

    Surely from a business perspective free trials are like having an extra member of staff in the sales team. If your confident enough of your product once the prospect has had a taste they’ll become a paying customer before long?

    If i were in sales i’d say the prospects qualify themselves (did i get away with that?)

    Or am i expecting to much as a potential customer?

  • For your blogroll

    Just thought i’d pass on an interesting blog i came across today

    Chris Knight’s – Knight Time Ramblings

    Some great posts and some SBS specific content, including hacking SBS backup if your brave enough

    Keep up the good work Chris!

  • Good Customer Service Experience

    I wasn’t going to post about this but this post from Richard Tubb and the email i got that went with it convinced me otherwise as he makes a good point

    It’s really easy to complain about poor customer service but it’s far to easy forget when it works out really well

    We put a new HP server in for customer the week before Christmas. I finished on the Friday and thought that was it till the new year

    I came in to the office on Christmas Eve and i’d had some alerts from the server management agent reporting there was a problem
    I ran the diagnostic utilities and it plainly reported ativan vs generic lorazepam back, “replace the cache board”
    I called HP support to log the fault.
    I explained that because of the Christmas break arranging site access to coincide with an engineer would be difficult
    They gave me the option of booking an engineer in the new year or they would send the parts to our directly to our office
    I took the parts delivery option. In total it took just ten minutes to log the call and arrange for the parts to be shipped
    From when i made the call to the parts being in my hands was a little over two hours! on christmas eve!
    You can’t fault service like that
  • Unifying My Communications

    When I first started this blog it wasn’t my intention for it to have any bearing on my company

    When I started I asked myself the question, “Why am I doing this?”

    I came up with two answers

    First it was somewhere for me to spill the tech/geek stuff that swirls around my head. Lots of my friends are not all that bothered about IT so when I start with the “guess what happened at work today” conversation their eyes started to glaze over and I realised I’d get boring quick.

    Second it was somewhere I could store solutions to problems I’d had so that if I ran into anything similar I could refer back to it. With the bonus that if it helped anyone else then great. I work in IT, I want to help people!

    So I had no real need for my blog to be anything other than anonymous. I didn’t even have an email address on here! I figured if someone wanted to get in touch they could leave a comment.

    It was only as I started to focus my blog on SBSC that I realised this needed to change. How could I get involved with the community if couldn’t communicate with anyone?

    It was a post from Vijay that changed that, after that I sorted out an email address and after some email nudging from Vijay and various other inspirations I attended my first AMITPRO meeting

    When I met all these new people I couldn’t really just introduce myself as “Andy from Andy’s Techie Blog” and I had no reason to hide anything about my business as the blog had now crossed over from just being my personal shouting space to part of a business focussed community.

    That said, I attended my first user group meeting months ago and I’ve kept my blog as it is. The reason for this is i’m only anonymous there.

    There are lots of people who I meet and I don’t even mention the blog so thats not an issue. I’ve also met people who know about the blog but once you’ve met them annonymity goes away so I planned at some point to quietly update some of the details on the blog so it linked back to the company site and update my “about me” page as i also agreed with a post from Karl

    I also didn’t want to write a great big “who i am post” as my ego isn’t that important….too late for that now!

    So where am I going with this?

    I’ve been “outed”

    I read a post by Paul from Accendo (who I also got to meet at the Reading event in November) where he blogged about the great response he’d had from the community for a nationwide installation he was carrying out and very kindly credited everyone involved…including me

    So instead of “Andy from Andy’s Techie Blog” I’m Andy Parkes from IBIT Solutions

    This isn’t an advert for the company though so I’ll leave that there!

    So why am I “unifying my communications”?

    One of the other reasons for this post is so I can change my e-mail address. I’m tired of having one email address for people who know me through the blog and my company email address for people I’ve met in the flesh

    So if you have my address you can get me at   (drop me an email…say hi!)

    As per Karl’s post I’ll update my profile page soon as well.

    I’ve been planning on moving the blog onto the company domain name but haven’t quite decided how i want to that just yet

    That is all!

  • Initial thoughts on Cougar information

    Earlier this week Charles Van Heusen posted a bit of information about Cougar (SBS2008)

    The first part of the post talked about stuff you probably already know about, i.e SBS2008 will be 64-bit only so no direct upgrade, etc 

    The second part talks about the changes that will be made to the standard and premium versions of SBS

    “The “premium edition” will include the same core products above, plus a new twist, a 2nd Windows Server 2008 Standard edition license, a flavor of SQL Server 2008, (which one has yet to be announced), as well as support for Virtualization”

    While this didn’t exactly come as a suprise I’ve been trying to decide in my head if i like the two servers option or not.

    In the past some people have been concerned about how many applications a single server is running and with a 4Gb limit i could in some ways understand this. But when we move to 64-bit wont this issue disappear? We’ll be able to stick as much RAM in as we like and with a coulpe of quad-core processors there would be nothing to worry about

    It also changes the way i’ll be positioning SBS as a solution to clients

    Most small business owners don’t really care about all the geek bits. They just want a “solution”

    So at the moment when i sell SBS as a solution i always put the premium edition forward


    Well if I asked the client upfront, “do you need SQL Server?” most times i’d get a straight NO

    If i asked if the client would anticipate the need for a SQL Server as the company grows i’d still get a big fat NO from them. In both cases if it meant not having the expense of a second piece of “tin” it would definately be no.

    But what normally happens is twelve months down the line they come running back as they want to start storing tons of documents in Sharepoint or they have a new LOB application they need and they have been told they’ll need SQL Server

    That’s when i point out that when the new server went in we pushed the premium edition and how i’ve saved a load of time, money and effort with a little forward thinking

    Also, very few of my SBS clients have more than one piece of server hardware. It’s hard enough getting them to buy one new server!

    What i liked about SBS 2003 premium was the ability to give them pretty much everything they would need on a single piece of hardware (apart from a terminal server..but i’ve heard of some clever workarounds to implement that!) knowing that as the business grew we could simply add extra member servers to offload certain tasks

    I guess i can understand the benefits of having a second server for terminal services or for virtualisation but as David Mackie says, would really want to run Virtualization, TS and SQL side-by-side

    So the way i currently see it is that i’ll be disappointed to “lose” SQL as we’ve used this with great success for SharePoint.

    Will there be some sort of upgrade path from standard to premium as the client’s business grows?

    There is still a way to go before we get to see SBS 2008 so a lot can still change though so i’m hoping for some big annoucement to make me smile again


  • What is Small Business Specialist (Part Two)

    Just saw a post from Susanne pointing out that after lots of jumping up and down and shouting there is finally something on the Microsoft UK web site explaining what a small business specialist is to the “end-user”


    Take a look here 

    As Susanne also mentioned this issue was raised at the roundtable event last year so it’s great that the feedback is getting through

    I do hope that this just the start though as visibility of the programme is still a big deal.

    Many (as in most!) of my clients have no clue what a Microsoft Small Business Specialist is until i explain it to them and the lack of an “official line” doesn’t help

    Keep it coming please!

  • Could i ask for a feature please Google?

    Dear Google Reader Team,

    Could you do one of two things for me please?

    Either put an undo button somewhere or move the refresh button away from the mark all as read button…..


    Last night i was doing some bits and pieces, it was late and i accidently clicked the mark all as read button when i meant to press refresh

    “It’s your own stupid fault for having so many unread items”

    Hmmmm….maybe but i have a “system” for reading my feeds

    When i first get to the office while i’m having my first cup of tea and before the office actually opens i’ll browse through whats new.

    I’ll take a look at the title and the length, who has posted it, how i have the feed tagged and a couple of other factors

    Depending on these variables i’ll either mark it as read but ignore it, actually read it or mark it as unread . Then later on in the day or week(usually weekends or evenings) i have time set aside for reading blogs, books, webcasts, etc

    This does mean i can get a build up of unread posts that i think a relevant

    Now i’m sure someone is going to say, “why don’t you create an tag for the posts you want to come back to”

    The simple answer is marking a post as read/unread is a simple press of the M key. So if i’m dealing with a large number of post the keyboard shortcuts are godsend and tagging is just too many keypresses

    There’s another feature idea…..

    It would be cool if I could assign a couple of tags to shortcut keys. This would get around the problem i have and would also make my unread count look healthier!