Feb 182009
 

One of the requests that I seem to have run into a few times lately is in assisting clients produce pdf files from word documents and excel spreadsheets. For many years, Adobe has set the standard for pdf document creation with their Acrobat product. More recently, there are more and more options available for users that don’t require an advanced feature set.

I have used Adobe Acrobat and sometimes Scansoft PaperPort for pdf creation. Since I now work about 50% of the time on my MacBook Pro, I find myself creating less pdf files in Windows. I am now less willing to spend money on third party software to gain access to capability that is a native component of OS X.

PDFCreator to the rescue! Another great project from SOURCEFORGE.NET!

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PDFCreator is a light weight, full featured pdf creation utility (print driver), that includes browser integration, integration with the Windows shell, and excellent MAPI support for your default e-mail client (Outlook). I use this software in conjunction with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on my Windows system. My favorite feature is the interface that prompts for a file name and has the option to e-mail the file as an attachment. I like this interface both for it’s utility and ease of use.

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Check it out!

BK

Feb 052009
 

When making a new computer purchase one of the components that I think most consumers, and certainly a large percentage of small business owners overlook is the level of warranty support they purchase with the system. Like most other things, Apple likes to keep their warranty options simple. With computers you get 1 year of coverage and the option to purchase “AppleCare” support for years two and three.

Note: I figure the average PC has about a three year productive lifespan based on the ultimate cost per unit. Most OEMs will balance warranty support offerings around a three year period. Computers purchased during a promotion, like most consumer electronics, come with a much shorter warranty (sometimes as short as 90 days); while computers purchased through the business channel often have a standard warranty period of three years or more. Recently, the option to select warranty coverage up to five years is available at time of purchase from online vendors such as Dell. When you consider the cost of new equipment and the potential for increased productivity (thanks to faster responding systems) versus the availability and price of a warranty extension for years four and five, you might decide to:

  1. replace some systems (possibly incurring additional expense if you outsource your IT)
  2. extend warranty coverage for critical or expensive systems such as servers, laptops, or proprietary systems
  3. do nothing
  4. throw away your PC and get a Mac

Personally, I went through several generations of Dell Latitude laptops prior to purchasing the black MacBook (Once Intel processors became standard on Apple computers, I could run my business applications and enjoy the sheer simplicity of OS X on a single computer). After awhile, I replaced that with a 15″ MacBook Pro, and I’m finding that this machine does everything I should ever need it to do for the foreseeable future. Because this laptop gets so much use, the battery has seen a lot of action in the past nine months. Still, I was a little disappointed that the battery in my MBP now only lasted a little over an hour on a full charge. Hell! It takes longer to charge the battery than it does to discharge it… sort of like fusion power, I guess.

After weeks of procrastination, I finally decided to see if I could get a battery replacement, given the fact that the laptop was less than a year old. When I looked through Apple’s online knowledge base, user forums and blogs, I found some out that a battery should still be at 80% capacity after 300 load cycles. My battery was at 46% after only 265 cycles. Ah ha! I might be entitled to a replacement.

Since it was very late when I decided to seek a warranty replacement, I went to Apple’s website and followed along to the support section. Here I was able to log in and retrieve a list of all my apple products that are currently under warranty. I filled out a form that had common issues in a multiple choice format until I selected “battery does not last as long as it should” (or something to that effect). I filled out the comments field to include information on the current capacity, discharge time, and load cycles of my battery. Since Apple tech support was closed, I was able to click a button to request a call back the next day. I selected the time I wanted my call back, and went to bed.

This morning around 10:15 am, I received a call from a number I did not recognize. When I answered it, a computer played a message prompting me to press one if I still required support. Within seconds, I had a live technician on the phone. This technician was in Texas (not Bangalore), and within two minutes had begun processing my RMA request for a new battery. He thanked me for the information provided and stated it was clearly a defective battery.

How about that? Dell’s technical support is good (if you purchase the right one), while Apple’s technical support is simply superb. Moral of the story: you get what you pay for with Apple.