Microsoft Office 2010 Beta Now Available

office-2010-betaMicrosoft Office 2010 has recently been released as as a public download.  The download weighs in at a fairly light 685 MB and includes Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace, and Communicator (which is an instant messenger for Outlook).

If you’re working in the IT field and want to prepare for the future, I would suggest downloading this software and testing out the new products (especially if you or your clients use them every day).

The system requirements for Office 2010 are relatively low so you won’t need to perform a serious computer overhaul to install it:

  • Processor: 500 MHz or higher
  • Memory: 256 MB of RAM or higher
  • Hard Disk: 3 GB
  • Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7
    • Supports both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows

My initial impression of Office 2010 is that the software is very promising.  Although it looks similar to Office 2007, I can see that the program is much more customizable to an individual’s needs and wants.

office-2010-screenOne new feature that I think most people will enjoy is a line preview for cutting and pasting.  This lets you view what the paste would look like before actually performing the paste, which can save you a lot of undoing.

Word 2010 now comes with built-in photo editing tools which is great for users that have to edit pictures in their documents.  PowerPoint has much better support for videos in presentations (which I wish was available when I was going to school).

That’s my two cents on the new version of Microsoft Office, I’ll have more to come after I’ve used it some for longer than the time it took to write this article.  Cheers!

[Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 Beta Download]

How to Install Flash Player Updates on Citrix/XP/Terminal Servers

Anybody who has had to deal with Citrix servers knows that it’s a pain getting anything installed without affecting end-users.  Adobe Flash Player is no different – it must be installed a specific way to make it work properly without getting the dreaded “Application was installed previously with administrative permissions, please install again” error.

Procedure

Step 1: Download the latest .msi version of Flash Player from Adobe’s download location.

Step 2: Open your Start Menu, click Control Panel –> Add or Remove Programs.

Step 3: Click ‘Add New Programs‘ on the left side of the window.

Step 4: Click the ‘CD or Floppy‘ button, which will open a prompt to select your installer.  Locate and select the .msi file you downloaded in Step 1 and click ‘Next’.

flash-citrix-dialogStep 5: You will now see the standard Adobe Flash Player installer, which can be installed just like a normal program.  And you’re done!

Author’s note: This guide also works with Windows XP for administrators looking to push patches to client workstations.

Game Review: Combat Arms (PC)

combat_armsCombat Arms is a free online first-person shooter developed by Nexon.  Combat Arms is entirely multiplayer (with no single player mode), and contains multiple game modes and levels.  Players can earn experience and in-game money (known as GP) by completing matches, allowing them to rank up and buy new weapons and equipment.

Players can purchase armor, uniforms, and backpacks for their characters which are persistent and follow you through the game.  Each new piece of equipment adds a level of personalization to the character, making it unique for the player.  Over 100 real-world weapons are available in Combat Arms and each weapon is customizable to add larger clips, silencers, etc.

Publisher: Nexon America Inc.
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: July 11, 2008
ESRB Rating: T
Platform: PC

Combat Arms has a very gentle learning curve and is beginner friendly.  The game includes ranked matches (meaning experienced players only fight other experienced players), so beginners won’t be trampled by long term players.  Combat Arms also supports clan play, making it easy for friends to communicate and coordinate while playing together.

While the game is an enjoyable first-person shooter, it does have some drawbacks.  Repetitive gameplay is the biggest problem, mainly due to the limited number of maps available to play.  To provide more variety, Nexon has recently released  Quarantine Mode (aka Zombie Mode), which allows players to go head-to-head against an unstoppable horde of zombies in a quest for survival.  Players can also play as the zombies, and the goal is to infect as many humans as possible.

combat_arms-gameplayVisual effects continue to improve with every update to the game.  No matter the size of the match (which supports up to 15 players), the game provides fast and lag-free action.

Pros:
Fantastic graphics
Intense first-person action
Well designed maps
FREE

Cons:
Very similar to Counter-Strike
No vehicles
Repetitive gameplay

Bottom Line:
If you are a fan of high action first-person shooters, this is the game for you.  You can’t beat the price tag!

Final Score (out of 10):

8.9

Synchronize and Backup Your Files with SyncToy 2.0

synctoyAre you tired of trying to keep up with synchronizing files on more than one computer or external storage device? SyncToy 2.0, a free application from Microsoft, solves this problem by allowing you to copy, move, rename, and delete files between storage devices or computers quickly and easily.

Getting started with SyncToy is very easy:  Simply download the application and install it.  Once you’ve installed SyncToy, open it from the Start Menu and you will be brought to a welcome screen.

synctoy_2_welcome

To create a folder pair (which means the folders will synchronize files together), click ‘Create New Folder Pair’ at the bottom of the screen.  You will then be able to select the folders you want to synchronize.

synctoy_2_pickfolders

Once you’ve selected the left and right folders, you will be able to choose the type of synchronization that will be used:

synctoy_2_echo

Synchronize – This should be used when you want to edit files in both folders and want the changes to be made on both ends.  Therefore, if you add a folder on one drive, it will be pushed to the other.

Echo – This means folder pairs are going to be exact copies, and it will use the left folder as the source.  Any changes made to the left folder will be copied to the right folder, but if changes are made on the right, they will be over written by the files on the left.  This is nice for backing up due to it overwriting anything different on the back up drive.

Contribute – This option is the same as echo, only added or modified files will be synchronized (no deletion will occur).

After you’ve selected the type of synchronization you would like to perform, you will be shown a summary screen with the option to change settings.  You will also be given the option to preview the synchronization, which will show you exactly what files will be moved, updated, or deleted.  You should always preview the sync before running it the first time to make sure your settings are correct.

synctoy_2_summary

synctoy_2_preview

Once you think your sync is ready to go, click ‘Run’ at the bottom of the screen.  The speed of the synchronization process will depend on the amount of files being synchronized as well as the speed of the media you are using.  When it is finished, the program will display results and shows you any failures that may have occurred.    If all is well, you are done!

SyncToy is an excellent tool, but you have to remember to run it manually.  If you want to make SyncToy to run on a schedule (which is a great idea to ensure consistent backups), check out this guide.  Data redundancy is the key to surviving in the computer world, so keep up on your backups!

SyncToy 2.0 is a free download for Windows and can be downloaded here.

Encrypt Your Data with BitLocker

bitlockerData security is more important than ever in modern times, so to help keep your files safe, Windows Vista (Enterprise and Ultimate editions), Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 include an encryption program called BitLocker.

BitLocker is essentially a software encryption program that encrypts a drive in such a way that if credentials are not verified, it renders the drive completely useless to thieves.  In Windows 7 and Server 2008, BitLocker extends support to removable drives by storing a copy of itself locally on the encrypted drive and and installing itself as needed on any additional computer.

How to Use BitLocker

To enable BitLocker, open My Computer, right click the drive you would like to encrypt, and select “Turn on BitLocker”.

bitlocker_rightclickIn the next screen, you will be asked if you want to use a password or a smart card to unlock the drive.  Since the average user doesn’t have a smart card, we’ll be sticking with a password for this guide.

bitlocker_setpass2_usethisAfter clicking the Next button, you’ll be asked how you want to store your recovery key.  It is a good idea to store this somewhere safe; you’ll need it if you ever lock yourself out of the drive.  This key can be printed or stored in a file.

bitlocker_storekeyTo actually start the encryption process, you need to click “Start Encrypting” in the next window.  Encryption speed will vary on the size, speed, and connection of the drive you are securing.

bitlocker_readyencryptbitlocker_encryptingOnce the encryption process is finished, you’ll see an “Encryption is complete” message.  You can then check out your drive by going to My Computer – you’ll now see that the drive icon is different, indicating it is now secured with BitLocker.

bitlocker_securedriveIf you ever need to change the password on your drive you can simply right click the drive and select “Manage BitLocker”.  You will then be presented with a screen giving you several options including the ability to change or remove the password.

bitlocker_changepassFor more information about BitLocker, check out Microsoft’s BitLocker Feature Guide.