How long could you go without Microsoft Office?

I’ve recently got a new laptop (more on that in another post) and have to install the usual selection of software to get productive with it.

As an experiment / not having enough time I’ve decided to go without installing Microsoft Office. I do , however have the excellent (and free) OpenOffice installed, and use Google Documents and Spreadsheets on a regular basis.

Why would I do this?

  • It’s not about the money (as I have a copy of the Office disks paid for).
  • It’s not about the money (2) as I’ll also happily pay for something that gives me value over the free version (e.g. my subscription to LinkedIn).
  • It’s not really about getting locked into one supplier who can manipulate me at will (see the Microsoft Word 2007 File Format Conversion post) however annoying that may be.

No, it’s more about the features; with OpenOffice, I can save Word documents as a PDF , which (in my option) looks far more professional when sending to a (prospective) client.

Another reason is that as an (IT) consultant, I tend to ‘deploy’ on client sites on a regular basis, often with a bare machine to start with. Open software means that I have a ‘toolbox’ I can use to get up and running quickly , no fuss needed to raise purchase orders to buy software.

OS as alternative Logo

If you’re interested in this approach, the Open Source Alternative site is worth checking out. It’s not dogmatic; in fact it’s pretty even handed, listing commercial and open software for pretty much everything that you might need to do with a PC or Mac (business ,communications, graphics, security etc). That’s on top of the alternatives to Word, Excel , Powerpoint and Outlook.

It’s all about choice. Some are better , some or worse ; It’s up to you to decide which one works best for you. You’re a mug if you don’t know what the choice is.

Update 26th August: I lasted just over two weeks without installing Microsoft Office. Nothing bad with Open Office, just Microsoft playing around with Office 2007 file format. I have an important client that sent me something in Word 2007. The sort of client that I can’t (yet) ask to save in a different format and resend. Open Office does not (yet) open Office 2007 files, so I had to drop back to the Microsoft version (and install some filters) to be able to read it.

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Blog Name Change – Technology and People

From the ‘If-Tom-Raftery-can-do-it-so-can-I‘ school of marketing, the name of this blog has changed from Technology in Plain English to Technology and People. Justin has also done a name change, so maybe it’s something in the water (or is going to happen to everybody once they’ve been blogging long enough). On the other hand, Grandad’s Name change ended up getting voted down.

Reason for the change is that the new name explains better/shorter what I’ve tended to write about. Not just the technology (go to the wiki for a real dose of that) , but how people use the technology. It’s still all shameless self-publicity.

Url and feed address remain unchanged.

How to make your Nokia 770 think it's a Nokia 800 (OS 2007 upgrade)

If you read the comments on the Nokia 770 Review – mobile internet without holding a PDA brick to your ear, you’ll see that the following themes pop out:

– The need for a full browser : the default one (Opera mobile) doesn’t play well with Ajax, so you’re hoping that there is a functional HTML only website version available (e.g. there is for Google mail , but for a lot of other websites you’re sunk). Big problem for James.

– Skype rather than just plain VOIP for free telephone calls. Yes , I know it’s feeding the corporate monster, but it’s the one that I happen to use.

– A general feeling of being slow /being left in a Cul de Sac: Not a problem for me , but Ken is reporting that it has been discontinued.

Nokia Internet Tablet n800

Upgrading to the latest version of software (Nokia OS 2007) should solve the problems to a greater or lesser degree. It gives you a Skype client. It allows you to run a Firefox based browser. It gives you more choice of programs , both commercial and open source. Problem is that it isn’t officially possible.

Some details of how to do the upgrade are at http://nokia770.com/370 . Remember , it’s called hacker edition for a reason. While I don’t think you’ll lose the information on your flashcard, don’t quote me on that. Basically, you download the unsuported version from http://tablets-dev.nokia.com/ then use the standard PC based installer to transfer it to your Nokia 770. Et Voila! It thinks it’s an Nokia 800. I’m still playing with it , so don’t be surprised if there is another post in 10 mins cursing it …. initial impression is that it runs (noticably) faster.

Best option is to be like Elly and marry your Linux tech support.

Mobile Internet without holding a PDA Brick to your ear

For a (semi) Techie, I’m not that much into gadgets. Until now , there are only three that I’d class as ‘must haves’.

  • Vodafone Broadband internet card – it means I can get the Internet on the train. Living in Drogheda with a lot of clients in Dublin, this means about 10 hours extra a week when I’m now connected.
  • Hard Disk TV recorder – most of the good shows are on after 10pm. I’m up early most mornings and that is way past my bedtime.
  • A Phil and Ted. You either know what this is , or you don’t , but if you have one you’ll swear by it.

Nokia 770
Now I’m going to add a fourth : the Nokia 770 , bought solely on Damien’s recommendation. It’s not a phone , more of a big screen that you can add your existing phone (it connects pretty automatically via bluetooth, and will use any available wireless network). It solves the problem of using internet on your mobile ; before you had to choose between a normal-ish phone with a tiny internet screen, or a large screen but having to hold a brick to your ear to make calls. It’s almost small – about the size of 2 decks of playing cards.

I was getting a bit worried before it arrived as Elly has one and is cursing it, but it solves two problems for me:

  1. If on the train / other location, and can’t use my laptop (e.g. I didn’t get a seat and I’m standing up), then I can still get (fairly decent) access to email and other online services (Google Maps, Del.icio.us bookmarks, LinkedIn Social Networking being the ones I’ve tried so far).
  2. When I couldn’t be bothered getting out the laptop (e.g. 5 minutes before a meeting), it’s useful for a quick check.

So, it’s not perfect , but it does the job that I want it to do ; for a little over 100 Euro – Bargain. Yes , it could be quicker, but it does a fairly good job of showing most websites (including this blog, the main site and the wiki). It’s a pity it doesn’t have flash, nor play the BBC internet radio , but I’m sure I can get downloads for it. It does do GoogleTalk for free Voip calls and have other internet radio stations. And , if you’re bored you can use it as an MP3 player. Battery life (4hrs) isn’t great, but (a) the charger is very very light and (b) if I need internet that much I’ll use the laptop.

An added bonus is that I’ve been looking around for a simple ‘Contacts Management’ solution. The 770 has one built in , with more that you can download /access online. Not holding my breath that it will solve this problem as well for me (would never have considered a PDA before), but icing on the cake if it does.

As a personal quirk , I like the fact that it’s an open platform (it’s Linux based). What it means for normal people is that there are plenty of 3rd party downloads if there (I’ve added a PDA and a console to monitor web servers) without having to pay through the nose. While I’ve dabbled with development for mobile devices, that wasn’t the main reason for buying this thing.

It will be interesting to see how Conor, Niall , Walter and Gordon are getting on with theirs. And to answer Michele’s question, the email client is ok , but I’ll end up usign Gmail (they’re hosting Firstpartners email , no synch issues.)

Update: Ken also has a review, with real life pictures (give a better flavour of the size of the thing, even though the screen is much sharper in real-life.