A Free Viewer for Microsoft Outlook .msg Files

In my day job I ran into a situation where one of my users needed to read the contents of a bunch of .msg files. We use Google Apps and don’t have Microsoft Outlook installed anywhere, so this was a bit of a problem. I hate slogging into the seedy world of Microsoft shareware, but after a quick search of my Linux tools that’s where I ended up.

To make a long story short, I eventually found a free cross-platform viewer for these Microsoft Outlook .msg files so I thought I’d share it with the Internet. Hopefully someone will stumble on this post and won’t have to download crippled trialware or risk viral infections from seedy software sites.

The aptly-named MSGViewer is what worked for me. It’s a Java webstart application, so it’s cross-platform. However it did not run on Java7; I had to downgrade to Java6 to get it to work. It is lacking print functionality, but you can copy and paste the email contents to something else if you need to print it.

[Update]
I haven’t had to use it in a long time, but some of the comments below indicate that it now works with Java7.

Posted in grlug, java, linux, planet-ubuntu-users, tech, troubleshooting, ubuntu-michigan, wmlug | 29 Comments

Four Forty-Five This Morning

I was making out with my wife in our bunk in a mining colony on an alien world run by our teleporting trans-dimensional sparkly vampire overlords who prefer to travel by miniature steam train when I woke up to George’s softly padding feet and dragging Ledo (blanket) as he plodded into our bedroom. It was 4:45AM.

George: Momma, Daddy, can I have a Yoshi?
Me: It’s very early, go back to bed.
George: But can I have a Yoshi?

I could tell this wasn’t going to end soon, so I grabbed my pillow and blanket and we went back to his room. We laid down on his futon and I closed my eyes.

George: So can I have a Yoshi?
Me: Sorry, buddy. Yoshi’s aren’t real.
George: Yeah, but can I have a Yoshi toy?
Me: We’ll see.
George: Is there a Super Mario Brothers Store around here?

He had taken my sleepy “We’ll see” as a “Yes” and was ready to go get it right then.

Me: I don’t think there are any Super Mario Brothers stores. Maybe in Japan.
George: Like Choo-Choo Soul?
Me: Right, like where the bullet train is.
George: OK! let’s go!
Me: It’s very far away.
George: Where is it?
Me: It’s across the Pacific Ocean.
George: Can we walk there?
Me: No, we can’t walk to Japan. It’s way too far.
George: Well, can we go there?
Me: Maybe someday.

At this point I had woken up enough to realize we had gotten way off the original topic.

Me: OK, look, we can get a Yoshi toy next time we go to Toys ‘R’ Us. Now please lay down and go back to sleep.

Two minutes later we were downstairs eating breakfast because he was “not too sleepy”. I think he wrangled a Yoshi toy and trip to Japan out of me.

Posted in fluff, george, personal | 1 Comment

Remote User Group Meeting Participation

Remote participation in a meeting is one of those would-be-nice things that comes up with every user group. Most recently someone requested it via the GR Mobile Dev discussion list, which is what prompted me to finish this neglected blog post.

I’m not completely opposed to remote participation, but I have not personally seen it work at any user group meeting. Here are a few of the reason I’ve identified for why this is so:

A Bustling GRWebDev Meeting

A Bustling GRWebDev Meeting

1. Quality: Streaming a meeting via something like Ustream or Skype produces low quality video unless you have good video equipment and a lot of spare upload bandwidth. You also need a decent microphone to pick up the presenter while ignoring ambient sound. The hardware is not cheap, and when you have a dozen or more heavy Internet users in the same room, the bandwidth is precious.

2. Personnel: It can be hard to find people willing to spare the time to attend a user group meeting. Finding someone willing to spare the time so that other people can “attend” the meeting is even harder. Due to unavoidable distractions, if you are the cameraman or camerawoman, you will not get as much value out of the presentations as a fully-engaged audience member.

3. For actual two-way participation you need some kind of physical presence at the meeting. A laptop sitting on a table in the back of the room isn’t going to be loud enough to be noticed, which means someone at the meeting has to babysit the remote participants to relay their interactions. Similar to reason #2, you’re going to have trouble finding that babysitter.

Obviously these problems are not insurmountable, but so far they have been enough to prevent any of the meetings I attend from doing remote participation. That doesn’t mean it can’t work, it just means I haven’t seen it. If you’re willing to commit to being the streaming cameraman, microphone wrangler, remote presence babysitter, or whatever else needs to be done to get it to work, please get a hold of me.

Now if you’ll indulge me a bit, I will explain why I think remote participation isn’t really even valuable for a user group.

To be frank, much of the information coming out of the typical user group meeting is not groundbreaking. In most cases, you can find presentations with similar information on YouTube, Slideshare, or SpeakerDeck.

You don't get this by remote participation.

You don't get this by remote participation.

As an attendee, what really makes a user group meeting valuable is the opportunity to meet and engage with other enthusiastic local developers – something you will not get via remote participation. If you attend the meetings and put a little effort into engaging and talking to people there, you’ll make new friends and you’ll build a valuable network of peers. These are people you can consult when you need a new job, when you’re learning a new technology, or when you need to refer someone to someone you trust.

I was a hermit for a decade before I put aside my fears and started coming to user group meetings. It’s worth it. Trust me. You’ll get to know some awesome people.

As a viewer, I personally find a streamed presentation less valuable than one which has been recorded and posted to YouTube. If I had that particular time slot free, why would I watch from home instead of going to the event in person? Why passively consume the meeting instead of actually shaking hands with the people presenting? Also, if it’s on YouTube, I can watch at my own pace on my own time while I’m doing something else, such as riding the exercise bike. The recorded and uploaded version just makes more sense than a streamed version.

To this end, I have started recording some of the meetings I attend and putting those videos up on YouTube. For each two hour meeting I end up with about 1.5 hours of presentation footage. Afterwards, it takes me about two hours of editing, then one night to render and another to upload (1.5 hours of HD video is big). I have decided to take on this task because I think the videos will be good for helping groups to promote themselves. Hopefully some folks who have heard of the groups but don’t know if it’s worth taking the time to attend can find out what they’re missing. I also think that having the meetings online may bring in bigger presenters because we can give them a little bigger audience.

Now I know a lot of you think you don’t have the time to attend a meeting. Hey, I have a wife and a kid, so I know it’s hard to justify being away from home. Do it anyways. Being gone a few nights a month does not make you a bad parent, husband, or wife. Swap a night with your spouse and you each get some one-on-one time with the kids, as well as a night off from them. I’ll bet your parents want to spend time with their grandkids. By the time the meeting is over, the kids are in bed, so you might as well go have a drink at the after-party – that’s where you really get to meet the interesting people.

To sum up, I don’t like remote participation for several reasons: it distracts organizers, volunteers, and attendees; a recorded copy of the presentation is better than a streamed version; and you will get none of the real value of a user group meeting by sitting at home.

Posted in grlug, grpug, grwebdev, internet, linux, personal, planet-ubuntu-users, python, rant, tech, ubuntu-michigan, wmlug | Leave a comment

My Principle

I watched Bret Victor’s talk “Inventing on Principle” last night and since then I have been thinking about what My Principle could be.

Bret Victor – Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

The most troubling “bug” I see today is computing devices and platforms which cannot be used to create programs that run on themselves. Today’s tablets and smartphones have more processing power, more pixels, and more RAM than a desktop computer from a few years ago. Yet you need a laptop or desktop to develop for Android, you need a Macintosh to develop for iOS, and you need a Windows PC to develop for whatever Microsoft’s mobile operating system is called these days.

This means our children are growing up with computing devices they can’t easily program. An entire layer of complexity, annoyance, and additional cost has been added to the programming environment. I can’t just hack away at a program on my Android tablet without bringing a whole other computer into play. Schools are giving iPads to every kid, but they can’t actually learn to program with them. They can’t discover how the programs they are using are created or how they work.

This does not make sense to me.

The web is in a similar situation. You can’t make a website from within a web interface. Why can’t we bootstrap a website from a web small stub, and then develop the site from within that web environment?

I know of one in-road which has been made on Android: the SL4A project lets you use various scripting languages to program right on the device, but it’s cumbersome when you go beyond basic features.

I think WordPress comes pretty close to this on the web side, which may explain it’s popularity, especially among non-hardcore programmers.

I’m going to put a little more thought into this situation and see what emerges. If you know of any existing solutions to this problem that I’ve overlooked, please let me know.

And if you need want motivation for determining and following Your Principle, watch the video.

Posted in android, grlug, grpug, grwebdev, internet, linux, planet-ubuntu-users, python, rant, tech, ubuntu-michigan, wmlug | 2 Comments

Getting a Dropbox Public Link in KDE using Dolphin

I recently switched to Kubuntu and am falling in love with it, but I’ll talk more about that in a future post. This post is just about getting the Dropbox “Get public link” functionality working in Dolphin’s right-click menu. Under Gnome and Unity the default file manager in Nautilus so this functionality works after the standard nautilus-dropbox install, but KDE uses Dolphin as its file manager so we have to do a little bit of fiddling after the standard install to get it working.

I came across an old Dropbox forum post that has a simple way of adding the public link in the right-click menu. The final working version is scattered across a few posts and a blog, so I thought I’d pull it all together here for the rest of you migrating to KDE.

As usual, it’s pretty simple once you have it figured out. All you have to do is put a single file with the right commands in the right place. So open your favorite text editor and create the following file: ~/.kde/share/kde4/services/ServiceMenus/dropboxpublic.desktop . Then paste all of this stuff into it and save it:

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Service
ServiceTypes=KonqPopupMenu/Plugin
MimeType=application/octet-stream
Actions=CopyPublicLink
Encoding=UTF-8
Version=0.1

[Desktop Action CopyPublicLink]
Name=Get public link
Icon=klipper
Exec=dbus-send --type=method_call --dest=org.kde.klipper /klipper org.kde.klipper.klipper.setClipboardContents string:`dropbox puburl %f`

Now you should have a “Get public link” entry in the Actions sub-menu if you right-click a file in Dolphin. This will put the public URL in your clipboard so it’s ready to paste into your web browser, email client, IRC session, or whatever. Usually only files in the ~/Dropbox/Public directory have a public links, so if you use it on something outside of that directory nothing will be added to your clipboard.

P. S.
The original forum post is here: http://forums.dropbox.com/topic.php?id=12034&replies=2#post-76494
And the original blog post is here: http://ustunozgur.blogspot.com/2009/09/kde-submenu-action-for-getting-public.html

P. P. S.
If you’re not a Dropbox user, but you’d like to be, please use this Dropbox referral URL to sign up. If you do, you’ll get an extra 250MB of storage for free, and I’ll get and extra 500MB.Thanks!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments