Sunday, April 19, 2009

Enterprise Class Menstruration Calculation

Every once in a while, the Internet leaves me speechless. I'm not refereeing to disgusting pictures or videos.  I'm talking about things that make you stop and ask "why?"

Today I found one of those things why seeing what sort of PDF software was available at sourceforge. It was an open source J2ME software project, called Bloody Mary, for keeping track of ones menstrual cycle. This in and of itself was pretty mundane and sensible. I'm sure many such things exist. 

However, what really made me say WTF?!? was the server side component of this application. Apparently you can create PDF reports of your menstrual cycle with this report. Why one would need such a report is beyond me. I think an alert from the device running this software of the probably onset of menstruation would be enough. Of course, not being a woman or a gynecologists, I lack expertise on the subject.

However, I did stop and think, "How can this be made useful?" and did come up with an interesting idea. A large company like google could market this program and get millions of women to use it. They could also collect all the data into a central repository and associate it with demographic information such as race, age,  number of children, etc. Once we have all this data, some researcher will find a use for it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Process Hacker: Thoroughly Awesome TaskMan.exe replacement

Process Hacker is a thoroughly awesome task manager replacement.

I have nominated it for a sourceforge community choice award. You should too.

Open source PDF utilities for Windows

Adobe's PDF format is the de-facto standard for printable read only document exchange. Adobe has added some new features to the format recently. As a result, Acrobat and Acrobat Reader, both currently at version 9, have become somewhat bloated as it has picked up these features.

That's not to say these features have no merit. My employer uses the electronic signature and form features of Acrobat for their ISO Quality Management process. And while the main feature of Acrobat is the ability to "print" any document to a PDF file, You can certainly do a lot of manipulation of acrobat files such as marging and adding form fields.

However, outside of work, I just need to be able to view PDFs and "print" documents to PDF format. I'd also like to avoid the bloat of Acrobat Reader 9. I do so via two open source utilities.

The first utility is Sumtra PDF Reader. This is an open source windows app that makes use of several open source libraries to view and print PDFs. Its very simple and light weight. It just works.

The second is PDFCreator. This is a PDF print driver. It allows you to save any document you can print to a PDF or email the PDF directly. Their is also a network feature I have not experimented with. I'm not sure the benefit of a network PDF generator. Perhaps its intended for rendering large documents. PDFCreator also exposes a COM interface for making PDFs programatically. I have not experimented with this, but it apparently comes with samples.

My only grip with PDFCreator is that it attempts to install a toolbar on Internet Explorer and FireFox. Its pretty explicit about letting you know you want to do this, and Acrobat Distiller 6.0 does the same thing. I can only assume Acrobat 9 Standard and Pro do the same.

WinCalendarTime, customize your windows clock

Have you ever said to yourself, "If only I could display the date as well as time in the windows task bar without making it take up more than one row?" Well I used to, until I discovered WinCalendarTime a few months ago. Its a simple windows C program that allows you to format the time display your windows desktop. You can chose to hide either the date or the time and there are three date formats. You can also display seconds of the minute. Unfortunately, it does not allow me to display the date in ISO format (e.g. 2009-04-18 23:34) . One day I might write a patch for that.