The IT tools I promised sooo long ago…

Posted by on December 28, 2006

So, it’s been a bit since I have had a chance to post to the ol’ blog. I apologize to the non-geek crowd, as this week I’m going to talk a bit about my day to day job here at

Originally, this blog was going to be a bit of a mixture of power tool news, observations from the IT department of a Internet Retailer Top 500 company and just personal observations. I haven’t posted anything in that second column, so today I will rectify that situation. I will still talk about tools a bit, but today it is tools for doing my job.

We utilize Google Calendar for scheduling our conference room and training room in our facility, and currently I print out a daily schedule to place on the door for people to know if it is safe to head in there for a quick 5-minute discussion, or what not. Google Calendar works great, but there is one hint I have for people working with it. When you print a day’s schedule, if there is a meeting in the morning, but no afternoon meeting that day, Google tries to be “helpful” and skews the day to center around that meeting. This ends up shifting the printed hours to 4am to 3pm, for example. Obviously this looks a little silly, as we are not expecting impromptu meetings at 4am. Until the Google Calendar team gives us an option of a set printing schedule, my solution is to add a 1 minute meeting with no title later in the day to counteract the skew. Works like a charm… but I’d still like an option to set what hours print.

Another thing I get to do frequently is troubleshoot a problem PC. A while ago, we bought a power supply tester, thinking that it would be nice to quickly see if the problem was related to a bad power supply. Well, I have now replaced my second power supply which tested fine. All the lights go on as they should, but the tester doesn’t test any load beyond what it takes to light up 9 LED’s. So much for saving time. Brian suggested a switch to test for a rated draw, but I think just testing for 50 or 75 watt draw would be enough to catch most of the offending power supplies. In the mean time, I have a very high-tech paperweight.

Today’s final tool will be OpenOffice.Org‘s office suite. Version 2+ of the suite has brought it to the point that I have not needed to open Microsoft Office in 6 months. And with the recent round of Zero Day exploits that Microsoft seems to have no quick responses to, looks much, much business friendlier than Microsoft’s suggestion of not opening Word documents “even from trusted sources.” The only things keeping me from rolling out version 2 exclusively are the people using Outlook for scheduling and the few people using shared workbooks in Excel. I know Sun has contributed some people to work on the calendaring support in ThunderBird and last I looked on the to do list at OO.o they were promising shared workbooks in the next major version. If you are tired of paying high Microsoft prices and then enduring Genuine Advantage check / redesign / re-check, perhaps you, too should consider 2.0. A handy hint if you are thinking about it: Go to Tools, Options, Load/Save – General and set the Default file format for Text Document and Spreadsheet to their Microsoft counterparts. It makes sharing your documents nearly seamless.

One Response to The IT tools I promised sooo long ago…

  1. Matthew

    You should try the Kill-A-Watt watt meter, it would be great replacement to your paperweight ;).

    I wrote a little review of the one I bought.

    I would like to switch completely to OpenOffice2 as well, but Outlook has a tight noose around my neck! Everything just works with it and some things just don’t with Thunderbird. But to their credit, OO and Thundebird have come a tremendous way from what they once were. I think though for the moment I will stick w/ Office 2003 until Thunderbird is feature-feature with Outlook.

    Great Post!