Adding graphics, comments to PDFs

I needed to fill out a PDF document today, date it, and sign it. It took me a good hour to accomplish the task as while the latest incarnation of Acrobat has custom stamp feature, annotated text doesn’t print by default (I also wanted to avoid having to print out the document only to scan it back in). In fact, I found no way to print text annotations. Whether “Documents and Stamps” was selected in the Print properties or not, the text annotations would remain missing from the printout. It should not be this difficult to add a text box to a PDF document and then flatten it to be part of the document, and not an annotation per se.

After some more Googling later I happened on this page that outlines a simple way to add “flatten” options to the Acrobat document menu. The associated script to be placed in “Program Files/Adobe/Acrobat 9.0/Acrobat/Javascripts/” folder (the script works with older Acrobat versions, too, as the mentioned instructions are for Acrobat 7.0) is just two lines long:

app.addMenuItem({ cName: "Flatten page", cParent: "Document", cExec: "flattenPages(this.pageNum)",cEnable: 1, nPos: 16});
app.addMenuItem({ cName: "Flatten document", cParent: "Document", cExec: "flattenPages()",cEnable: 1, nPos: 17});

With the above script installed, the task was a snap: I added my signature from a transparent PNG as a custom stamp, added the text annotations, and then flattened the document. Done! Now the annotations print out as they should (whether or not “Documents and Stamps” is selected in the Print properties as now the annotations are part of the ‘base’ document). I can’t imagine why Adobe doesn’t include “flatten” as a default feature!

End of C·O·M·O·D·O Firewall (only)

For few years now I’ve used the lightweight C·O·M·O·D·O firewall in conjunction with ESET nod32 AntiVirus. Both are lightweight and effective. Or were. ESET nod32 is still getting better with every consecutive release (the recently released 4.x, for instance, it lighter on system resources than its predecessor). But C·O·M·O·D·O just merged the “Personal Firewall” with their AntiVirus product hence effectively discontinuing the separate, lightweight and easy-to-configure firewall. Time to part ways — I’m not willing to use C·O·M·O·D·O’s A/V.

ZoneAlarm Pro may be the next good choice.

Dumping Schedule Wizard for VisualCron

For several years I’ve used Schedule Wizard scheduler for Windows Server task scheduling.  For a long time I haven’t been totally happy with its stability (or lack of).  During any given year there has generally been a handful of incidents where I notice the tasks haven’t been running, and often the problem could be traced back to Schedule Wizard. For example, forgetting to close the tray icon and the clip-board manager (if running) before installing an upgrade will result in a broken installation. It won’t tell it to you – it just won’t run. And when a new version has been properly installed, there’re often issues about getting the service stable again (so that it’ll actually execute the tasks on schedule).

After the most recent upgrade I could not get the service running again so that the tasks would be run. The service starts ok, but then nothing happens. I reinstalled half a dozen times, tried to run the service as the Local System, admin, and as a special user with sufficient privileges, to no avail. Tasks run fine using the interactive scheduler, but on a server that won’t do.

So once again I started to review the other possible schedulers out there. I had done this several times before, always returning to Schedule Wizard as, for example, I found AutoMate 7 too heavy and too expensive (I’m always dubious of software packages that don’t tell their price on the web site upfront, but instead ask you to “request for a quote” — it usually means that the software is overpriced and the sales people want to be able to talk you in buying it).  Automize, on the other hand, uses Java (not JavaScript) for task coding, and I don’t write Java well. Then there’s Robotask, which looks cool, but it doesn’t run natively as a service on Windows Servers (one could try to run it under FireDaemon or AlwaysUp, but I really think a scheduler should have a native service mode).  There’s of course WinCron but while I use cron (or bcron) with Unix, for some reason it feels out of place in Windows.

But on different passes at finding the windows task schedulers out in the wild I had missed two products: VisualCron and Macro Scheduler Pro.  Both are very clean, stable, moderately priced, and they just work! For most operations VisualCron is just perfect (running programs, external scripts, etc.) while Macro Scheduler Pro reminds a bit of AutoMate in that it’s “more than a scheduler” – the scheduling function is part of it, but overall it’s a workflow automation software.

FTP Client Update

Last fall I wrote about various (S)FTP(ES) clients, and in that article mentioned that secure authentication with popular open source FTP server pureFTPd did not work with VanDyke Software’s SecureFX FTP client as it lacks the option to use unencrypted data channel – a requirement with pureFTPd. VanDyke Software is now working on a version 6.3 that will introduce that option; the new version should see daylight (in production) sometime toward the end of this year.

On a related note, I’ve been recently using for (S)FTP(ES) connections the winner of my FTP client comparison in the fall, Ipswitch WS_FTP Pro.  Ipswitch just recently released the version 12 of the software.  A quick run-down between the SecureFX and WS_FTP Pro quickly reveals that WS_FTP Pro gives more fine-grained control over many operations, and that the GUI of the product is more up-to-date than that of SecureFX (see screen shots below). While the SecureFX interface is rather utilitarian and is in need of an update, it has the benefit of being able to share the session list with VanDyke’s excellent terminal/SSH client SecureCRT. So perhaps you won’t need the extra features/options of WS_FTP Pro, and find the singular session list handy, then SecureFX is certainly worth a look. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for the best FTP client, I’d be inclined to recommend WS_FTP Pro at this time. The price tags of the products likely reflect the differences in features and looks: SecureFTP is priced at $59.95 compared to the $89.95 price-tag of WS_FTP Pro.


Ipswitch WS_FTP Pro