The next version of Microsoft Office is going to rely on XML file formats. Anyone using Office 2000/2003 will be able to install an update that will support the new Microsoft format but upgrades are required. For those who are not using Microsoft Office, a new set of import filters will be needed to access files stored in this new format.
As a preemptive response, the state of Massachusetts has adopted the OpenDocument format. This is an extensible XML document format that has been developed with a steering committee that includes Adobe, Corel (WordPerfect), IBM and Sun. In addition, the open source OpenOffice.org is already capable of authoring documents in this format and it can be freely downloaded for anyone who needs access to OpenDocument files.
In stark contrast, Microsoft Office 12 has adopted a homebrew XML format for the next version of Office without any significant collaboration. As such, there will not be a consolidated effort to release tools or applications that can recognize Microsoft Office Open XML, and at least initially only users of Office 12 will be able to work with these file formats.
Industry pundit James Prendergast claims that Massachusetts is jeopardizing taxpayer dollars by migrating to the OpenDocument format. Ultimately, taxpayer dollars will need to be “wasted” to retool for Microsoft Office Open XML. Maybe we should avoid standardization and require that everyone is capable of reading every file format? Obviously, this is an unrealistic expectation. Organizations should be able to standardize on whatever formats they wish, and government should provide access to content in a documented format that can be easily accessed by its constituency.
While we have been enjoying our 2005 Malibu, there are some technical idiosyncrasies that have manifested in the first two months of ownership.
The other night we had stopped and my wife was attempting to exit the vehicle. Fortunately, for her safety the passenger door would not unlock until the car was in park. While this might seem self evident, this is the first vehicle that has provided such an obstacle and could be considered a moderately intrusive feature. How does the computer know it is always safe to exit when the car is in park? It might be an interesting experiment to turn off the car while in drive or neutral, it’s entirely possible that egress of the vehicle may not be feasible.
Another technological marvel are the automatic lights, the computer is able to sense ambient lighting conditions and will automatically engage the lights. There is only one minor difficulty, I tend to turn on my lights at dusk by habit and the automatic setting won’t work again after doing this. So automatic is only automatic the first time, if you turn the lights on and then attempt to return them to automatic the lights remain off. This isn’t the behavior one would expect, but I am slowly adjusting to the automatic lights and have virtually stopped turning them on and off.
Of course, our other car doesn’t have the automatic lights and I now have a tendency to forget to turn the lights on when it gets dark. Maybe there is some aftermarket kit that can fix this for me.
Obviously, all of this technology is intended to make our lives easier and for the most part it accomplishes this feat. Just remember that the next time you find yourself unable to get out of your car or are driving down the road with your lights off, it might be easier just to pull over and turn your car off.
The cost of LCD technology has reached a new low, and since manufacturers are talking about a price increase it felt like a good time to jump on the bandwagon. Our Samsung 913 has a spectacular display, the brightness is comparable to a CRT and the screen refresh is immediate. Most importantly, there is plenty of space on the desk to do real work now and we can enjoy the energy savings of no longer powering a large 19″ CRT screen.
Unfortunately, like any good design the manufacturer has decided to adopt a minimalistic architecture. The monitor only provides a single power button that can be used to turn the screen on and off. While this allows the designer to make a statement with simplicity of physical design, it also means the screen does not have contrast or brightness buttons. It is also not possible to adjust the pincushioning of the display so that when the image is slightly off-center you can no longer move the image to the center of the display.
It appears other manufacturers have adopted a similiar design, with some of the systems limiting the controls to an anto-sensing adjustment that is performed by an onboard chip. This is even more limiting as you will be unable to adjust any settings for your display.
For my monitor there is a program included that provides a facility to modify these monitor settings via software. While most settings can be adjusted, some configuration options are auto-perfected. For example, the pincushioning is determine by an onboard computer and this seems to work correctly about half the time. Modifications to brightness or contrast can be executed using the program; however, the application requires a lengthly initialization before it can be used and there does not seems to be a way to auto-apply modifications when the computer is rebooted.
After reading some documentation it sounds like a DVI connection would be better supported by my new display, and this requires the upgrade of my video board. While this won’t fix the brightness/contrast of the display while running Linux on my PC, it may at least improve usability slightly.
The moral of the story is that even if a monitor is VGA compatible it no longer means that it can work with only a VGA connection. Before upgrading your LCD you should check the system requirements and if it says Windows XP is needed then you will need to determine what software is needed to control your screen settings.