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Date: Sunday, 30 Mar 2014 15:18

Not content to over-block or over-filter perfectly innocuous websites, it seems that the UK nanny state's ineffective over-cautiousness is spreading… to TV programmes.

Note the warning in the programme info (shown on my, generally pretty good, Humax Fox T2) for a TV show depicting an elderly couple pottering gently along the canals of Wales:


Needless to say, the programme contained no "very strong language", nudity, violence or indeed sexual scenes!

Although occasionally they did grumble about the weather, and there was the odd swear word when their boat bumped against a canal wall…

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "funny, humour"
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Date: Wednesday, 05 Feb 2014 09:46

If you visit certain sites using Google's Chrome browser, and give the site permission to use your computer's microphone (to use speech recognition navigation etc), a researcher has discovered that the website could keep your microphone on even when you've left the site and think it's off - with no warning indicator that it's still on.

To secure your computer and stop sites using this vulnerability to eavesdrop on you using your mic, El Reg has suggested that you simply disable websites' access to your mic and camara. Here's how to do that, with pics:

1. In Chrome, go to the Settings menu (top right, click the 3 horizontal lines icon), then choose the Settings item from the drop down.


2. The Settings page comes up. Scroll all the way down to the end, and click "Show advanced settings":


3. Now in the "Privacy" section that appears (which in my view is an essential basic requirement and not an "advanced" setting, but another time…), click the "Content settings button:


4. Then you have to scroll down again to find the Media section, and make sure you select "Do not allow sites to access my camera and microphone", then click the "Done" button.


That's it! Obviously you'll have to change it if you actually want a particular site to access them, but remember to change it back afterwards.

I rarely use Chrome myself (here's reasons why I don't use Chrome), and this sort of security issue isn't exactly going to persuade me to change my mind!

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Chrome, Google, security"
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Date: Monday, 03 Feb 2014 09:17

If you'd like to right-click on a Word or Excel document in Windows Explorer to open it as read-only, supposedly you should be able to hold down the Shift key, rightclick on the filename, and there should be an option to "Open as Read-Only".


However, choosing this Shift-rightclick option doesn't actually open the document as read-only. This seems to be a known bug in Office 2003 and Office 2007, and also in Office 2010 and Excel 2010.

There's one workaround and one fix.

Open in protected view

The workaround is that, if you Shift-rightclick on a Word or Excel .xls file in Windows Explorer, there's also an option to "Open in Protected View".

Choose that, and it works pretty much as read-only: you can't change anything, you can't save, but you can copy/paste from that document. This works for Excel as well as Word.

Rightclick context menu item

What solves the problem completely in Word, which I used myself, is to edit things to add a new rightclick Open Read-only context menu option that actually works to open Word documents as read-only. I based this solution on a combo of this post (which wasn't actually on opening read only) and this page (about opening read-only, but for XP only, not later versions of Windows).

Here's how to add a right-click context menu item to open Word files as read only, properly - works for me using Windows 7 and Word 2010:

First, download FileTypesMan (free, but donate if you can, the man certainly deserves it!) - you have to scroll quite a way down for the "Download FileTypesMan" link (I used "Download FileTypesMan for x64" as my computer is Windows 7 Pro 64-bit).

Next, unzip/extract the files (rightclick on the zip fiule downloaded and Extract all to create a new unzipped folder) and open the new folder, then run FileTypesMan.exe.

On the left, scroll down till you find and highlight .docx (or use menu Edit > Find and and type docx to find it, make sure you then highlight that line):


Now in the menu choose Actions > New Action (or press Ctrl-n).

In the box that pops up, fill it in like this (and see diagram just above the list):


  • Action name - I used  "Open read-only" without the quotes, you could just use "Read only" etc as you prefer
  • Menu Caption - I used "Open read-only" again
  • Command-Line - you can click Browse to find your Winword.exe under Program Files or Program Files (x86) (you will have to drill down to find Microsoft Office, Office14 or Office11 etc depending on your version), or Select from Running Programs if Word is already running, which is the easiest. You could alternatively enter the full path to Winword.exe, with quotes around it, as shown below, but it's easiest to Select from Running Programs (you can launch Word just before you click Select and it should work, just scroll down to find it in the "Select Process" list, possibly to the end):image

After you've used Browse or Select, it will fill in the Command-Line box for you with something like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\WINWORD.EXE" "%1"

Now, you have to edit what's in the Command-Line box, by inserting after the "%1" the following (which you can copy/paste from the next line) - just after the 1 but before the close double quotes, and make sure there's a space between the 1 and the first /:
/h /n /dde

In my case, the Command-Line box ended up reading like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\WINWORD.EXE" "%1 /h /n /dde"

Next, in the DDE section in the Message box, you should enter  the following, which again you can copy/paste:
[AppShow][REM _DDE_ReadWriteOnSave][FileOpen .Name="%1",.Revert=0,.ReadOnly=1]

(In the Application box you can enter Word if you like, but it will still work even if you don't.)

Finally, click OK. This adds a new Action to the bottom half of the FileTypesMan window, which you can doubleclick to edit in future.

Now, when you rightclick (no need to hold down the Shift key) a docx document in Windows Explorer, you will have a working "Open read-only" menu option (or whatever title you gave it in the "Menu caption" box above).

Furthermore, in FileTypesMan you can select (in the lefthand column) the type .doc for old-style Word documents, and rinse and repeat the steps above, if you wish.

Excel protected view - rightclick only

For Excel spreadsheets, unfortunately the above fix doesn't work, so you have to open them in protected view.

But to make life easier for yourself, you can use FileTypesMan to change things so that you don't have to Shift-rightclick to get the "Open in Protected View" menu option. Here's how to get that option to display just on a simple rightclick:

In FileTypesMan, find and highlight.xls on the left (scroll or search, as with docx above).


Now in the bottom half of the window, find and doubleclick "ViewProtected" (outlined in red above).

In the box that pops up, UNtick "Extended", and OK:


Now a simple rightclick, as opposed to Shift-rightclick, will call up the "Open in Protected View" option.

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "annoyances, fix, office, solution, Windo..."
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Date: Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 09:32

Which hard drive to buy? A helpful report by cloud backup provider Backblaze, which uses consumer hard drives, summarised its experiences with over 27,000 drives: of the following 3 brands, Hitachi did best in terms of both annual failure rate and cumulative survival rate (see the report for detailed info on specific models etc). The survival rates over 3 years were:

  1. Hitachi 96.9%
  2. Western Digital 94.8%
  3. Seagate 73.5%.

Interestingly, the latter two reflect my own experience.

I use 4 external hard drives as standard. Two are Seagate and two are Western Digital (WD). One is for my documents (I moved 'My Documents' and similar folders from C drive to an external drive, to protect myself against Windows problems or C drive failing - I wish Microsoft would store user data in a different partition from Windows!). The others are for backup.

One WD recently died, but I've had it for years, and the other one (equally old) is still going strong. One 2TB Seagate also died just after that - but it's less than a year old! And to add insult to injury, one of my WD drives was bought to replace a drive that died a few years ago - a Seagate, again. So, to add my own review, the failure rate I've personally experienced is 2 Seagates (including quite a new one) to 1 WD.

That's nowhere near as statistically significant as Backblaze's results, of course. Still, I'll have to buy at least one more hard drive soon given the 2 dead ones - and guess which brand I'm considering now? Hitachi!

I'm thinking of getting this one:

Or this 2TB one (though two of the 1TB seems better value, and one customer says the 1TB is USB 2.0-compatible, which I need as my KVM switch is USB 2.0 and I don't want to buy another one till the price of USB 3.0 KVM switches with DVI comes down a lot more!):


Backblaze noted that WD acquired Hitachi's disk drive business a year and a half ago, but given that WD ranked only just behind Hitachi, I'm not too worried about buying those Hitachi drives. Also, entirely subjectively, a relative who's a hardware whiz (always builds all his own PCs etc), has always sworn by WD drives. So I might go for this instead:

That's because I have so little desk space that I need drives that stand up vertically with a small footprint, so I may have to buy the WD given that it's not clear whether I can use the Hitachi Touro drives vertically on their side - does anyone know?

One thing's for sure, after two Seagate drives going dead parrot on me, the second one being my newest hard drive, I ain't gonna buy Seagates no more, no sirree!

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "hard drive, hard drives, review, reviews"
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Date: Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 09:14

If you get no sound, and there's a white cross on red background against the speaker icon in your Windows 7 system tray (bottom right hand side), with the message "The Audio Service is not running" when you hover your mouse over the speaker icon, there is often a simple solution to this problem.audioWin7

Restarting the audio service usually works to fix the lack of audio sounds in Win 7 (follow this link for instructions on how), just like it usually does in Vista.

A simpler solution may be to just move your volume slider (click the speaker icon then move the slider).

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "audio, problems, sound, troubleshooting,..."
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Date: Monday, 23 Sep 2013 10:27

This post shows how to highlight selected text in Adobe Acrobat using just the keyboard, after you select text with the keyboard.

In Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional and other versions of Acrobat, you can highlight text using the Highlight Text tool by selecting the tool, then dragging the cursor over the desired text using the mouse.

Not good enough for me. I don't want to highlight text with the mouse, I want to select text with the keyboard, then use a keyboard shortcut or hotkey to highlight the selected text.

I tried selecting text first with the keyboard (using the Select Tool and the usual Shift keyboard shortcuts), then clicking on the Highlight Text tool, but that didn't work to highlight the selected text.

The secret workaround? After selecting text with the keyboard (by holding down the Shift key then using the arrow keys, End, Home, PageUp, PageDown etc to navigate in the usual way):

  • rightclick the selected text or
  • use the Windows key for the rightclick context menu (usually to the immediate left of the right Ctrl key on the keyboard), or
  • press Shift+F10 (ie while holding down the Shift key press and release the F10 key)

This brings up a context menu which, aha, allows you to  highlight the pre-selected text with the h key. In other words, to highlight text using only the keyboard in a PDF: select text with the keyboard, press the context menu key or Shift+F10, then press h, and voila!

Unfortunately sometimes (not always) the Select tool that lets you select text with the keyboard may vanish or turn into the Hand tool. To get the Select tool back again using the keyboard, try pressing the Esc key, or either press e (quickest, but sometimes inserts the letter e instead!) or press the context menu key or Shift+10 again and then press e. As usual, Ctrl+z is the "undo" hotkey combo, and tapping the Esc key after pressing the e helps if you find it's adding text rather then selecting them or moving the cursor when you try to use the keyboard.

This tip might seem obvious to some but it escaped me for ages, so I thought it was worth blogging this.

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "keyboard, PDF, tip, tips"
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Date: Monday, 01 Jul 2013 11:39

Here's how to fix very slow display of text and pics on Powerpoint 2010 / 2007 slides on the screen, whenever you change or even edit slides? A big annoyance - it affects productivity, as sometimes Powerpoint becomes unresponsive and won't refresh, redraw or update the screen at all unless you change slides away and back (only a workaround, and slows things down).

Below is a step by step 'howto' solution to solve this problem of the slow graphics rendering in Powerpoint (others have solved it by changing to the Windows 7 Basic theme, this suggestion has the same effect, on my system at least, and changes the theme for you when you use the shortcut icon concerned to launch Powerpoint):

  1. Rightclick the shortcut icon that you use to start Powerpoint
  2. Choose "Properties" from the menu
  3. Now click the "Compatibility" tab (outlined in red below)

  4. Make sure "Disable desktop composition" is ticked as shown (also outlined in red, above).
  5. Then click "OK".

That's it. Worked for me on a Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit desktop, Powerpoint is a zillion times faster now. I hope it works for you too.

Thanks qwerty15!

Background - after a recent Windows update I started getting this problem of Powerpoint is displaying slides too slowly (and it seems a common problem) when moving between or editing slides.

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "annoyances, Microsoft Office, powerpoint..."
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Date: Monday, 24 Jun 2013 11:26

Have you had events appear in your Google Calendar from people that you don't know? Anything from fraudulent requests for money to other stuff like pron. They appear without your accepting the invite, taking up space in your calendar, and you can't delete them without hitting "Decline". A real annoyance.

I recently helped a friend troubleshoot to prevent such spam event invitations showing up in her Google Calendar.

Others have already produced howtos, so I'm posting links to some pages providing the solution to stopping spam invites from appearing in your Google Calendar - the main fix being to set "Automatically add invitations to my calendar" to "No":

  • with screenshot - the best one, as it has a screenshot that also mentions disabling "Show events you have declined" (ie set that to "No"), which may help
  • similar advice

This way you'll still get emails of invitations, which you can choose to accept or decline (or 'maybe'), but the events won't automatically get added to your diary even before you'd chosen to take any of those actions.

But I'd add one more comment. Some people have suggested hitting "Decline" on the invites in question, to stop them from displaying in your Google Calendar, ie get rid of the spam events completely from your calendar.

My reservation about that is that it may send an email back to the spammer, so that they know that your Gmail address is active, and can keep on sending you spam calendar invitations or spam email!

When I set "Automatically add invitations…" to "No" for my friend, doing that immediately stopped the spam event from showing in her Google Calendar. And it didn't send the spammer anything to prompt them to keep pushing spam calendar invites to her!

So I'd recommend trying to disable "Automatically add.." first, before you start hitting "Decline" or "Reject" or the like on the spam event. And only if it doesn't work, consider doing that.

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "annoyances, Google, Google Calendar, tro..."
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Date: Sunday, 16 Jun 2013 13:51

Too many times, when I want to close the current window in Word, I accidentally hit Alt-F5 (instead of Alt-F4) which means it then 'restores', ie reduces the size of all my open Word documents. Every single one of them. I then have to maximise them one by one, individually going to each window first. This is a big annoyance as there is no single command to 'Maximize all windows' in Word, as far as I can find. What a pain.

My solution or workaround, short of finding a way to maximise all Word document windows together at once in one go, is this fix: simply disable the Alt F5 hotkey! Then it does nothing if you hit that combo inadvertently, instead of reducing all your Word windows to tiny unusable ones.

Here's how to disable that hotkey.

  1. In Word, rightclick an empty spot in the toolbar and choose "Customize the Ribbon".
  2. Towards the bottom against "Keyboard shortcuts", click the "Customize" button (outlined in red below):image
  3. Now on the left under Categories, scroll down to highlight "All commands":image
  4. Then click in "Commands" at the top right, and scroll down to find and highlight "App Restore".
  5. Under "Current keys" (outlined in red above) it should now show "Alt+F5".
  6. Click on the line that says "Alt+F5", then click the button (also outlined in red, above) saying "Remove".
  7. Then click the "Close" button.
  8. Then "OK".
  9. That should be it, you should be rid of this nuisance!
Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "annoyances, fix, howto, keyboard, Word"
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Date: Tuesday, 14 May 2013 12:37

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom intends to make calls to 080 and 116 numbers free from all telephones, fixed and mobile, with
03 to be the only non-geographic number range linked to the price of a call to a geographic number (ie an 01/02 number).

But this is only its intention at the moment, it may change its mind. So if you want calls to 080 numbers to be free from your mobile phone, you've got until 28 May to respond to Ofcom's consultation to tell Ofcom that you agree, yes please!

It's been a big bugbear of mine for years, that calling supposedly freefone 0800 phone numbers in the UK is not free on most mobile networks - ie it doesn't come out of your allowance of minutes if you're on a monthly plan, instead you actually get charged extra by the phone company for making 'free' calls from your smartphone or other mobile phone.

Hence the rise and popularity of services like SayNoto0870 and apps like my pal Simon Maddox's 0870 app.

I hope lots of people will respond to Ofcom so that they change the current consumer-unfriendly situation. Please pass it on!

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "consumer, mobile, saving money"
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 11:01

Can't delete folders or files? I kept getting error code 0x80070052 in Windows when trying to delete files, and they just wouldn't delete. Bit of a problem.

However I found that I could permanently delete files (hold down Shift when selecting Delete or pressing the Del key). Ie bypassing the Recycle Bin.

I kicked myself when I realised the answer was simple. Just empty the recycle bin first! (Just rightclick it and choose Empty, for those unfamiliar with the process. It make take a while.) Then you can delete documents, pictures and other files again.image

Nothing to do with file or folder rights or permissions, just as well as I couldn't take ownership of files where I was already the owner!

I just wish the error code was "Recycle Bin too full, please empty it!". That would have been rather more helpful.

Hope my posting this tip saves others some searching.

(If you get error 0x80070052 with USB flash drives apparently the solution there is to move files at the root into an existing folder, or new folder if you can create it.)

Author: "Improbulus (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "tips, troubleshooting, Windows, Windows ..."
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