Ribbon replacement for Office 2007

If you are a long-time user of MS Office, there is a good chance that you are quite fluent in the traditional menus and shortcuts of earlier versions and might feel like the ribbons introduced with Office 2007 are slowing you down considerably.

Given that third parties are able to provide add-ins for Office 2007 which allow you to operate the applications in the way you are used to, for the most part, it is somewhat odd that Microsoft did not bother to provide Office users with a choice of either using the new ribbons or the old-style menus.

The Classic Menu for Office 2007, also available for individual components, if you feel like you wouldn’t benefit from having this feature available in all of the Office applications, provides a look and feel which is not quite identical but still very close to the “old” Office 2003 menu structure.

Screenshot of Classic Menu for Word 2007

For personal, non-commercial use, UBitMenu might also do the trick as freeware. Additionally, UBit’s version of the software might be of interest commercial users, too, since it comes in a multitude of languages and with a very competitive base price and a minimal (less than a dollar) license fee per user.

Screenshot of UBit's Classic Menu for Word 2007

How to manage privacy on Facebook

I originally started out using Xing (formerly OpenBC) and LinkedIn for social networking and only recently added Facebook into the mix. Initially I thought Facebook, just like MySpace would be geared mostly towards personal contacts rather than professional networking, but as it turns out the same amount, if not more, of my professional contacts are maintaining a presence at Facebook, several of them not even listed at either one of the two more business-oriented sites listed above.

Just today a colleague of mine skyped me to let me know that she’d take me off her friends at Facebook in an effort to keep personal and professional networking separate, since she did not want too many friends of friends knowing about the mundane things in her life. While we were tossing privacy concerns back and forth, she then came upon two links providing helpful information on how to obtain more granular control over your privacy at Facebook than is afforded with the rather limited number of default options available.



Now, if I only could convince Facebook to retain the friends list assignments I am making, instead of forgetting them within minutes without any rhyme or reason to it as to for which users it keeps them and for whom not …

Yahoo’s Web Beacons

As most of you likely are aware, a lot of websites are using cookies not only for your convenience but also for tracking purposes. Yahoo has gone a step further by adding so-called web beacons into the mix, which also track your browsing habits at other sites and lead to targeted advertising (in addition to the apparent profiling).

At least there is an opt-out link more or less hidden on their website:


(this page describes their use of web beacons and features on opt-out link to the left of the page).

If you happen to use the Adblock Plus add-on for Firefox, as I do, you will have to define an exemption in order for the opt-out to work since Yahoo! uses a cookie for opting you out. Quite obviously a cookie-based opt-out also means that you will have to do this on every computer and every account you are using.

Online database tracks sanctioned teachers

While teacher misconduct is the exception to the rule, a new Florida state website, MyFloridaTeacher.com, which will be available before the next school year, already contains approx. 1200 cases, indicating it may be happening more often than parents think, according to an April 27, 2008 article in the St. Petersburg Times.

“Little Pac-Mans that break down molecular bonds”

In an April 27, 2008 story, The New York Times reported that Fort Bragg, California, is considering the use of mushrooms to break down dioxin in its contaminated coastline’s soil, based on a recommendation by Paul E. Stamets, author of “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World“, who pointed out that at least two dioxin-degrading species of mushroom indigenous to the Northern California coast could work, the turkey tail and oyster mushrooms.

A starting point for finding out more about potential web hosters

Logo of WebHosting.info


To find out how your current web hosting company is doing, enter their domain name in the search box at http://www.webhosting.info/webhosts/search/.


OLM.NET, a company I used many years ago, but eventually left because of quality of service issues, right now fares like this:


From there, I moved on to OneOnOneInternet.com, who provided pretty good service to me until they were bought out by a larger competitor, which eventually resulted in major quality of service issues:

 As  a result, I switched my sites to 1&1 Internet:

WildWestDomains.com, an affiliate of Internet powerhouse GoDaddy was another provider I had considered switching to when it was time to part ways with OneOnOneInternet.com:

While the above graphs are mere snapshots of a five-week period, they can serve as an early warning sign in case something is up at the hosting company.

Smart Ways to Save

From the 19 January 2003 issue of Parade Magazine:

  • DO have an emergency account big enough to cover your core expenses for three months.
  • DON’T buy in repose to unsolicited sales pitches. “You might not go to a store to get  new down jacket, but it looks compelling on your computer screen with an offer of free shipping,” says financial adviser Deena Katz.
  • DO use your own bank’s ATMs. Paying an extra $1.50 a day for using a “foreign” ATM adds up to more than $500 a year.
  • DON’T put off paying your credit-card bills! In 200, late fees accounted for almost one-third of credit-card issuers’ profits.
  • DO save for retirement through automatic payroll deductions — and add half o every raise and bonus to your savings. It’s almost painless.
  • DON’T make impulse purchases. “Wait a day or two,” says J. Jay Hurford, a financial planner. “If it still seems important, then buy it.”
  • DO opt out of unsolicited preapproved credit offers by calling the Credit Reporting  Industry (+1-888-567-8688). “Themore credit people have, the more they’re tempted to use it,” says Hurford.

10 year anniversary of the paper-alternative to the aluminum soda can

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the invention of a carbonated soft drink can made of paper. British scientist Richard Freeman and his colleagues at Scientific Generics in Cambridge used four thin layers of cardboard with seems rotated by at least 90 degrees out of phase.

This was reported by CNN on 19 August 1998.

Does anybody have an update as to its success (or lack thereof) in other countries?

Be careful what you eat and drink from after having run the container through the dishwasher

In an article called “Harzards of Hydration”, Sierra Magazine in its November/December 2003 issue discussed surprise results during a 1998 animal study by geneticist Dr. Patricia Hunt at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Apparently aggressive cleaners, such as those used in dish washers, are capable of releasing bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical mimicking estrogen, from polycarbonate plastic bottles and containers. Typically these are labeled #7 on the bottom; Nalgene is one of the best-known producers.

The article points out “that endocrine disrupters like BPA can impair the reproductive organs … reduce sperm counts … and bring about changes in tissue that resemble early-stage breast cancer, among other effects.”

Hunt explains that “the [plastics] industry says this is just rodent studies, but we know that the human egg is more fragile than the mouse egg. if we wait for really hard evidence in humans, it will be too late.”

Safe alternatives, according to Hunt, are polypropylene (#5 PP), high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE) and low density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). Reusing “single use” plastic bottles and containers made of polyethylene terephtalate (#1 PET or PETE) is discouraged.

On the other hand, switching to glass or lightweight stainless steel containers would avoid plastics altogether.

To find out more about endocrine disrupters, take a look at “Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? — A Scientific Detective Story” by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and John Peter Meyers:

Phone numbers to report scams and gouging in Florida

In the aftermath of hurricane Charley, the St. Petersburg Times on 17 August 2004 published a list of numbers to call:

  • Florida Attorney General’s office price gouging hotline: (800) 646-0444
  • Florida Department of Agriculture and consumer services: (800) 435-7352
  • Construction Industry Licensing Board: (904) 727-6530

While in 1992 in the wake of hurricane Andrew, it took two weeks to top 1,000 complaints, it took only days for this amount to amass after hurricane Charley in 2004.