Office Ultimate 2007 for £40

What a great offer. Microsoft is selling it’s top of the range Office package for £38.95. The Ultimate Steal website allows students to buy the full Office for that very cheap price or a years worth of Office for £12.95. I think that’s a great deal and it’s not only for the next few days. The offer is open until April 30th 2008.

I’ve always held the view that if major software packages like Office, Photoshop, even Windows was sold at more affordable prices then people would buy it and piracy would drop. It wouldn’t be totally gone as lower cost items like CD’s and DVD’s are pirated all the time but more people would be comfortable buying Office at £40 rather than a pirate copy. I certainly would. Even a Word, Excel, Powerpoint package for £40 would be great value. I wonder if this is the start of a shift in how Office will be priced? Maybe Google Docs, it’s online cousins and Open Office are starting to make ground.

The Ultimate Steal

One little error I forgot to mention. The Ultimate Steal website was blocked by Windows when I first tried it. Irony.

Vista Beta 2

Vista - DesktopFirst screen from my freshly installed Vista Beta 2. After partitioning my drive to allow for dual booting with XP and getting an iso image to finally burn correctly I installed Vista tonight. It took around an hour and a half to install but this was unattended so you could wander off and watch some football while it churned.

Flickr set is up although with only a few screens to begin with. Quick impressions – boot time is long, looks to be more security aware, couple of nice window opening effects, alt tab nice, speed seems ok which was surprising, Windows Update managed to install all my drivers which considering the pc is two years old was pretty impressive, XP still works, there still some Win 95 icons in there – it’s not crashed yet. I’m really wanting to test out day to day functionality like search, robustness etc as I’ve almost made my mind up that my next pc will be a mac…the beta will be a good test before I switch. More updates when I’ve used it in anger.

Ok – first night with it. Not done much except install Office Beta and also anti-virus. Thought I would use AVG free but once downloaded I tried to run it but Vista wouldn’t let me install – there are issues that might break Vista and I should contact the suppliers to pester them for a fix. Sigh. Microsoft though have sorted out a PC-Cillin anti-virus package that runs for the length of the Vista beta – that installed with no issues.

Tried Media Centre – worked OK although it seemed to crash on building my music library. Started it off well before the England game tonight but by half-time it stil hadn’t doen anything. Stopped the program, set-up library via Media Player 11 and it seems to be ok now. It’s either really slow (pc left unattended for 90 minutes yet failed to import 5000 tracks) or it crapped out.

Saying that system feels really usable. Office works well and one O/S has loaded it doesn’t feel any slower than XP. Need to delve into search though and see how that works. Pop-ups asking for permission to run apps and install programs is a tad frustrating too.

Office 2007

Beta 2 is out and can be downloaded here. Flickr set of screenshots highlights some of the new features. So far I’m impressed. This marks one of the biggest changes to Office in years. New is the ribbon at the top of the screen for easy access to features that are required for the currently selected task. In the brief play tonight it felt far more intuitive than Office 2003 – a real step forward. The ribbon will be a love it or hate it feature – those that are used to Office as it stands today may feel uncomfortable with the change.

Word - Vista colour scheme

Excel has had the 64000 row limit removed and the chart formatting options are quicker and slicker than before. Table handling has advanced and data can be more easily manipulated. Outlook has seen very little change although the searching (once you download a beta of Desktop Search) is now more integrated with the product. The rest of the apps see the ribbon applied and easier to use themes although Visio hasn’t had the same makeover as other apps – new functionality is available but no ribbon.

One snag is I haven’t been able to activate easily – hopefully this will be sorted over the coming days. Looking forward to seeing how open the new file formats are and if Access has changed much since I last used it in anger.

Genuine Windows Update

Heard it from one of the guys at work today who was annoyed that his pirated Windows was now suffering from pop-ups telling him so and confirmed on tech sites also – Microsoft are updating their Windows Genuine Advantage software this week to make sure that those without officially licensed copies of Windows will know that it is pirated and keep nagging you until:

  • You buy a Windows license OR
  • You agree to not receive Windows updates from Microsoft

I guess it’s to be expected of Microsoft but seems a strange time to do it less than 12 months away from the launch of Vista. Crackers will undoubtedly get round it and you can disable the service although you will no longer be able to download updates. Time to budget for purchasing an O/S. It seems daft that people are willing to spend £30-£40 on a variety of games but not the £60-£100 on an operating system.

Spring Clean

The PC had got slow again so it was time to format and re-install. What a difference. Applications now start quickly, disk usage dramatically reduced – feels like a fresh machine. It’s a pity Windows requires this type of start again approach and something that hopefully Vista will resolve. For the mac users out there – as time goes on does the mac O/S start to slow down? Anyway – new (old) desktop to celebrate.

XP - Fresh Start

Trying to keep to ‘core’ apps only so no Yahoo Widgets, no Objectdock, only MSN Messenger installed etc etc. Highly recommend XP users to format the disk (once you’ve backed up key data) and start again. Go on – you know you want to.

IE7 Beta 2

The IE7 Beta 2 Preview is now available to the masses – While many of the new features have been available for the last 2 or 3 years in Firefox or Opera it’s good to see the Windows O/S default browser catching up and becoming a much better tool for the average user who would never think of changing from IE.

So – whats new? The list below are the main features (links to Flickr piccies where possible)

  • Tabbed browsing is the biggie. Browse the web in a much more efficient manner. Easy to open new tabs and there’s a nice Quicktabs button that shows all tabs as small screens allowing you to easily pick the one you want.
  • Rendering – much improved. Support for png’s and better css standardisation. My site is looking pretty OK considering it’s IE. Binary Bonsai which has always struggled in IE is looking not too shabby. Pity MSN UK’s website looks shabby – a bit embarrassing.
  • Phishing filter. Will highlight a dubious website and also allows you to check against a list of known phishing sites. Should improve security alongside a pop-up blocker and also a nice tool for checking which add-ons are currently running in IE. This will make it easier for users to remove spurious search toolbars that they have installed over the years.
  • RSS support. Using the now adopted RSS standard icon you can add feeds to IE and then check via a feed view. Great to have this as built into IE instead of having to add a separate program although it’s fairly light on features.
  • Search engine selection. You can now add various search engines – Google, Yahoo, AOL as well as Amazon, EBay and others. Nothing special but good to see Microsoft opening out their software away from MSN defaults.
  • Cleaner interface. Makes for a bigger browsing window.

These features alone should have been added to IE a long time ago. It’s only thanks to the in-roads that Firefox has made that has forced Microsoft to release an updated browser. Thank heavens for competition especially as it’s the majority of users not in the ‘know’ that will benefit most from the final IE7 release.

Beta Invites

Windows Live Messenger

Been using this for the past 3 days – this is the new name and new version of MSN Messenger. Interface is much the same as before with a bit more polish and easier to use features. You can search from within Messenger to including one option to search ‘Near Me’. Enter Games and a search window for Glasgow (which is near me) will launch showing a map and addresses for Game related stores near me – hello CA Games. You can also search your desktop from here – maybe time to switch back to MSN Desktop Search as having the search box in Messenger makes more sense than on the toolbar especially as I always have Messenger running.

There are also extra options to be had when chatting. One is Music Mix which allows you to share a music playlist with whoever you are chatting with. Sounds OK but in practise was slow to download my currently playing track and also made the Messenger app pretty unresponsive. Another allows you to share a map search, another allows you to watch a video together from MSN. All tat in my book.

One feature I did like was Sharing Folders. Turn this on between you and a contact and a folder will be kept in sync on each contacts PC. Drag a file onto your contacts name and the file will be synchronised into yours and theirs folder. Makes file transfer so much easier and you no longer need to wait for the contact to say yes to the file.


Think of Digg with less geeks and more general news and you’ve got Web 2.0 (blah) app Newsvine. Three main activities – Read, Write and Seed. Read articles and comment on them to your hearts content but also control the content – the community keep alive the stories they like by voting on them.

You can also Write your own articles and they will appear like other news stories so users can comment and vote on their favourites. Seeding articles is basically linking articles from the web. They will appear within Newsvine as well and be subject to the same voting and commenting as the previous two. The main difference from other sites is that authoring and seeding can earn you money. If you add value to the Newsvine site then you earn some dollars. Interesting concept – open up journalism to the masses but surely it will end in tears as wannabe journalists write up misspelled articles in the quest for fame?

A video from CBC that can be grabbed via bit-torrent shows the very same online mechanism in South Korea – it’s amazing the amount of money an amateur can generate but South Korea is the most connected place on the planet. Still – shows the potential that this model has. I’ve been pretty impressed so far with the content and the news that I’ve found.

The above apps are still in Beta but I do have invites left for both of them – if your interested leave a comment and I’ll drop you an invite.