Though Microsoft would probably wish that things were different, these days we come across the ubiquitous PDF almost constantly. The wonderful thing about the PDF is that just about anyone can read it, which isn't always the case with documents created in a word processor. While a lot of people have Microsoft Word, not everyone does, and not everyone that does has the same version.

Creating PDF files can get expensive if you choose to do so with products from Adobe, howver, which means that getting documents that everyone can read isn't alway cheap. Fortunately, there is a solution. Using one piece of software, you can easily create PDF files from any application, and using another application, you can even edit them as well - without a huge investment!

If you have connected your TiVo to the network, then there is a good chance you have seen this message. Unfortunately, there is not much help from TiVo desktop in resolving this message, which can often be the case with errors, and can make your enjoyment of TiVo, well, much less enjoyable. Luckily it is usually fairly simple to resolve.

It's somewhat rare that I work with Cisco equipment these days, but it does happen from time to time. Those days that I do, I almost always end up glad that I don't do it more often. Of course, if I did it more often, I would probably be better at it, in which case I wouldn't have quite the problems that I do. So it's sort of a catch-22 - if I did it more often, I'd not run into all the issues I do, and since I don't, I have problems. But that's not really the point here.

I was working on a Cisco 1721 Modular Access Router - this is something like a Linksys Router on steroids, and you can even find them on Amazon (this one came from eBay, I think). There are two primary differences, however - one is that, barring some utilities from Cisco, you have to configure them from the command line and two is that it's modular, meaning you can plug in all sorts of access cards.

One of those cards, the WIC-1ENET, provides an Ethernet connection for the WAN, making it even more like your standard home router. The problem is making this card work like a typical home router.

It's not often that I use new software. Of course, new releases mean that I have to do so from time to time, but it's fairly rare that I will actually use entirely new software - it's just that I'm fairly set in what I use, and I barely have enough time to keep up with what I do now (no comments on posting frequency, please), so installing new software just to play doesn't happen often.

But every once in a while, I will come across something that I need to do, and at that point, I have to find a tool that becomes a bit of a lesson in just how difficult it is to find something that works and works right to do the job. These days, it seems like everyone wants to put every bell and whistle possible into their applications. Witness the growth of software over the years to see what I mean. That's why it's a pleasure to find two simple applications that do their jobs - and do their jobs exceedingly well - that I'd like to tell you about: FastStone Capture and FastStone Photo Resizer.

Though I've used TiVo for some time, and though I'm really quite fond of it (we actually have two), it's done little more than whet my appetite for the day that I can create an actual media server. Up until recently, the problem has been that the TiVo itself does a great job at what it does - but what it does is make you realize how clumsy all those other interfaces are at providing you with access to your data.

The primary downfall of the TiVo is that storage space is limited. Older boxes had terribly small hard drives. Newer ones have larger hard drives (while the Series 3 has a mongo hard drive), and just about ever since they came out, you've been able to expand the capacity of the device. But movies are just so big. Even though you don't have to record at best quality to get a decent recording, a movie at high quality will take up 3 to 5 gigabytes, and that means your drive is going to fill up fast. Surely there has to be an answer. Luckily, I've finally found it.

For the first time in quite a while (we're quite likely talking a measurement of years here, rather than months), I decided that I wanted to build a new system. Inspired by two things - posts such as Building and Overclocking a Core 2 Duo System and the utterly abysmal performance of an off-the-shelf HP desktop that I purchased a few weeks ago - I figured it was time.

Up until perhaps three months back, I had been using laptops for the last three years (give or take). This is because I was on the road quite a bit. But since I don't really travel all that much any more, I figured it didn't really make much sense to worry about a laptop at this point. Sure, I have a laptop if I need one. But I want to make the leap to two identical monitors. I've been using dual screens for some time, and using two that are the same, rather than a laptop screen and an external monitor seems like a good choice.

So I looked about, and found what appeared to be a reasonable compromise - the HP. It came with a video card that had dual DVI outputs, allowing me to power the monitors of choice (more on those another time). Unfortunately, that's about all it did, and I rapidly determined that my measly single-core laptop seemed to have better performance, so I needed to do something about it. Here's what I did.

VLC (initially VideoLAN Client) is a pretty full-featured media client that offers a ton of features, including one really useful one: Being able to play protected AAC files without the need for iTunes. Yes, you have to have your keys, but you don't have to have iTunes. Find your iTunes keys, copy them to your computer, and the content plays. As simple as that. Is it perfect? No, it doesn't seem to be perfect. But it's a start.

Update: It doesn't seem to work on songs purchased with iTunes 6. Sorry, didn't mean to give you false hopes.

While the ruling out of France that Apple must open iTunes continues to rumble, and some celebrate, you just have to wonder - how much is France worth, anyway? Will it even matter? Just what happens if Apple doesn't comply? They aren't allowed to offer a French version of the software, perhaps? No more iPods for their citizens maybe? I don't know.

But it seems to me that the government - and by that, I mean any government, and not just the US - to decide that Apple isn't playing fair isn't likely to make a bit of difference, unless they can get a whole lot of other counties to follow suit.

I mean it isn't like France is isolated or anything. How long can it take someone in France to get to, say, England, Italy or Spain, pick up an iPod, and get back? Or maybe they'll hop on down to pick up some alternative player instead and Steve Jobs will miss out on a few stock options. Does it really matter so much?

I recently mentioned that I had been working with BaseCamp. I also mentioned that I liked it. The product - even the free product - has a lot to like. But then, like so many other times, I hit the wall. I wanted to do this or that, and it just didn't do that. Or this. So I started searching again.

All of the extensions and plugins that I've written (I think) are licensed under the Open Software License. Heck, the site itself is too. This means, in a nutshell, that you can do whatever you want with these things, and I'm not responsible for the outcome. Even if I happen to use something copyrighted - which I wouldn't do intentionally - it's your problem to figure that out, not mine.

In exchange for not being held liable for what it does to your system, you get the right do do what you want with that product, whether it is a plugin, extension or just some random thoughts. I've "washed my hands", as they say. And in general, I have no problem with that whatsoever. It just isn't an issue.

But in recent days, weeks, months or some other indeterminate amount of time, I've decided that perhaps this isn't the best idea.

I've been using the GIMP for a while now. Part of it is that I don't really want to spend a ton of money on something like Photoshop when I really don't need to do image manipulation that often. GIMP has worked wonderfully for me. But yesterday, I needed to read in a PDF file, make some changes, and save it back out (as an image, not a PDF). The problem? When I tried to open it, I received an error saying something like "Error starting ghostscript: Failed to execute child process (Invalid argument) ". What to do?

I ran into another issue where I was trying to use the management console for the Trend Micro OfficeScan software. But as soon as I logged in, it told me that I had timed out and made me log in again. That's just insane - even the fast-talking Micro Machine guy couldn't get anything done that quickly!

So I went browsing around and finally found my way to this page that addresses the issue. This is for the dialog that says Your OfficeScan session has timed out. Please log in again. Obviously, there is a timeout built in (by default it is 30 minutes). If this is your problem, just log in again.

But in this case, it was immediate. It turns out that the problem was that the IUSR_computername user, that is used to run the IIS process, didn't have authority to the TEMP directory, found in the PCCSRV directory under your OfficeScan installation directory. By default, this is found at:

  C:\Program Files\Trend Micro\OfficeScan\PCCSRV\TEMP

Once I added the user to the permissions, the console fired right up.