PC lost connection to network: Solved

September 26, 2016

One of the PCs on my network lost connection to the other computers and the internet yesterday. All the other PCs were fine. After trying many options to get it reconnected (see the list at the end of this post for the things I tried that didn’t work, just in case one of them works for you), I narrowed the likely culprit down to a faulty network cable or network card. I then called my PC Guru people for help and after they listened to what I’d tried, my Guru asked me to check the network adapter settings — the ‘Ethernet’ one on that computer was disabled. He got me to re-enable it and everything worked again! No, I still don’t know why it would inexplicably lose connection.

Here’s how to re-enable it:

  1. Right-click the network icon in the System Tray on the Taskbar (or go to Control Panel).
  2. Click Open Network and Sharing Center.
  3. Click Change adapter settings in the left panel.
  4. Look for a grayed out icon — on this Windows 8.1 machine it was called ‘Ethernet’ and said it was ‘Disabled’ (Note: On my Windows 7 machine it’s called ‘Local Area Connection’, so the name may vary depending on your version of Windows).
  5. Right-click the grayed out icon, then click Enable.
  6. With luck, all the connections will re-establish themselves, as they did for me.

One other thing to try is:

  1. Right-click the network icon in the System Tray on the Taskbar (or go to Control Panel).
  2. Click Open Network and Sharing Center.
  3. If you’re meant to be on a domain, but the View Your Active Networks icon has Public Network below it instead, click that Public Network link and then select Work (or Home) network.

Things I tried that DIDN’T work:

  • Rebooted the PC (this often solves many problems)
  • Rebooted the router (I didn’t think this would work as the other computers had internet access, but tried it anyway)
  • Removed the network cable from the back of the PC and clicked it back in again
  • Rebooted the network hub
  • Removed the network cable from the network hub and clicked it back in again
  • Checked that the network cable plugged into the PC had a flashing green light — it did
  • Removed the network cable from the PC and replaced it with another cable plugged into the network hub that I knew worked (by this stage, I was thinking it was likely the network card that had stopped working); yes, the green light flashed for that one too, but still I didn’t get a connection. It was at this point that I called my PC Guru guys.

Loud hum from speakers: Solved

September 13, 2016

I had the devil of a time trying to get rid of a really bad hum in the speakers of a new mini hifi system that I’d connected up to a PC. I could hear the music faintly so I knew I had it connected properly, but that music was totally overridden by the loud hum.

I checked the manual, the manufacturer’s online support (useless) and forums, Dr Google, and tried various online advice about plugging the power cable into the same outlet as the PC, etc. Nothing changed.

Next, I checked listening via the FM radio option — no hum! That was my first clue. I pulled out the ‘audio in’ connection and the hum went away. Clue number two — it was somewhere in the connection from the PC to the unit. I crawled on the floor to the back of the PC, where the audio cable came out just a little too easily… I pushed it back in fully and restarted the hifi. It worked brilliantly — no hum!

Such a simple thing, but it caused me a lot of frustration for an hour. Hopefully this helps someone else.


Noises in manuals

September 7, 2016

I purchased a new freezer this week. One of the first things I do when I get a new appliance is read the instruction manual. Yes, I know that only about 10% of the population reads an instruction manual, but I consider it a way to learn about the product AND a professional courtesy I extend to all those fellow technical writers who write them.

What made this manual different? It has a ‘noises’ table! After reading it, I think ALL appliance manuals should have one of these, if the appliance makes various noises during its operation. I know that products like UPSs have info on the various beeps and alarms, but this table listed the normal operating noises the freezer makes. So simple, and just brilliant.



EditorsWA Winter Seminar: Sex, lies and editing

August 31, 2016

On 13 August 2016, I attended and spoke at the annual Winter Seminar, held by EditorsWA, the Western Australian branch of IPEd, the national professional association for editors.

Here are my notes from the three sessions; the second session (on plain language) was mine, so there are no notes for it.

Session 1: Sex, lies, and blogging (Amanda Kendle)

  • Tweets – 140 chars forces you to be concise, remove redundancies, ignore punctuation, and abbreviate
  • Blog/social media writing is quite different
  • Style tends to be casual
  • Repetetive words/phrases may be there for SEO purposes, so not just redundancies
  • Each type of social media requires different styles of writing (Facebook vs Twitter vs LinkedIn)
  • Tips for developing a good blogging voice:
    • write like you talk
    • consciously choose your level of informality/casualness
    • use contractions and first person
    • read other blogs and identify styles you enjoy
    • tell a story, no matter what the topic is.
  • How to edit content for blogs and social media:
    • read aloud to get a good feel for appropriate ‘friendliness’
    • communicate clearly with clients about the style they want to use
    • give clients examples of blogging and social media posts that are of a suitably informal standard
    • suggest clients do voice recordings to transcribe from if they are writing in an overly academic or formal way.
  • NOTE: the rules are ever-changing and highly flexible.

Session 3: To ‘do it’ or not to ‘do it’: Things to consider before including a sex scene (Chloe Stam)

  • Various types of sex scenes
  • Should there be a sex scene?
    • in some genres, it’s expected.
    • some publishers have quotas!!! (e.g. three sex scenes, this many pages apart…)
    • realism – sex is part of human life, and in current culture
    • relevance to plot — if no function, don’t do it.
    • sex scenes in YA novels — if true to the characters, don’t avoid, but tone it down, especially as written from first person; sex is a reality with YAs, but don’t centre entirely on sex; don’t introduce unrealistic/harmful ideas (e.g. BDSM, ‘porny’ sex)
  • Even if graphic and anatomical, sex is ultimately about emotion and communication; emotion doesn’t mean love.
  • Editing sex scenes:
    • male or female point of view?
    • senses — use sensual impression to pull readers in to the story
    • conflict of the characters — what’s at stake? is something holding them back?
    • pacing — build-up to the sex scene with increasing sexual tension
  • Character development:
    • how does the act change your characters, show who they really are, or what they’re afraid of?
    • who initiated the intimacy, how is it displayed, what happens when it’s over, are their reactions equal?
  • There’s a ‘Bad sex in fiction award’!
  • Representation of sex and people:
    • diversity — normal in life, therefore should be normal in books; POC, queer, other minorities struggle to find positive representation in mainstream media; not about meeting a quota or making a statement; makes the book more interesting
    • default — characters are seen as white unless otherwise stated
    • asexuality — don’t find other people sexually attractive; often depicted as non-existent, needing a cure, robotic characters
    • people with disabilities — how are they portrayed? are they shown as sexual, or just dealing with their disability? Are they 3D characters and a real part of the story?
    • exoticism– calling someone ‘exotic’ reminds them they are different and emphasises their ethnicity; lots of stereotypes!! (mostly around women, esp. black, Asian)
    • queer – LGBTI etc. Often written about negatively; rarely a 3D character where their life doesn’t revolve around sexuality
    • elderly — seen as sexless and infantilised; disparity between men and women
    • self-love — seen as natural for men, but deviant for women
    • BDSM – requires trust, communication and emotional maturity. It is not sex and violence with emotional manipulation.
  • Sexual violence — avoid:
    • rape to punish female characters
    • rape as a backstory to make a ‘strong female character’
    • rape/murder only to affect male protagonist (women in refrigerators)
    • rape for shock factor/titillation
  • Disproportionate levels of rape against women as opposed to men – therefore masks issues of sexual assault against men
  • Journalistic reporting on sexual violence, victim blaming etc.

Session 4: The plagiarism games (Ffion Murphy)

  • What constitutes originality and does it matter any more? Literary theft, mimicry, borrowing, homage, or inspiration?
  • Universities invest huge amounts of $$$ in detecting plagiarism (e.g. Turn it in)
  • What is ‘originality’? where is the line? Is this idea of a line or border misleading even corrosive or stultifying?
  • Transformation — can be derived from another but must be significantly different and must transform the ‘original’, re-patterning of earlier works.
  • Inspiration vs copying:
    • work needs to share at least some qualities of what has been judged ‘good’ in the past
    • value is located in an act of digression, transgression, homage to, or transformation of what has come before
    • must be an acceptable type of copy



Word: Cross-Reference Manager add-in: Review

August 26, 2016

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post pleading with Microsoft to fix/enhance the cross-reference functionality in Word. Others commented on that post, offering their own suggestions and venting their frustrations with it as well.

Well, someone did see that post and has done something about it, though they aren’t from Microsoft. Lene Fredborg from DocTools (and a Microsoft Word MVP) has written a Cross-reference Manager (CRM) add-in to Word that addresses all my woes, and more. It costs just under US$50 per license for 1 to 4 licenses, and the price per license goes down the more licenses you buy.

Several months ago, Lene asked me to beta test the add-in and make suggestions. Anyone who’s done beta testing knows that process takes longer than expected with the to-ing and fro-ing over time. My tests were done on a 200+ page, 73,000-word document that had more than 350 cross-references, so I really put it through its paces! Lene released the final version in July.

In the interests of transparency, yes, because of my contribution via beta testing I have a free license for my copy of the add-in, but I was not asked to do this review, nor do I receive any financial benefit from it. My aim is to let my readers know that it exists and to test it out for themselves (there’s a 15-day free trial period).

So, on to the review…

Who is the add-in for?

This add-in is for anyone using Microsoft Word on a PC (NOT Mac or tablet versions), from Word 2007 onwards. For those of us who work with long complex Word documents where we use automated caption numbering, outline heading numbering, and the like, and need to insert multiple automated cross-references (to tables, figures, sections, appendices, references etc.) into our documents, CRM is a major improvement on Microsoft’s Cross-reference dialog box.

However, if you don’t use cross-references, or only do a few per document, CRM is probably not for you.

What happens to my ribbon?

Once installed, CRM doesn’t replace the in-built Cross-reference dialog box; instead, it lives on a new DocTools tab (Manage Cross-references group) on the ribbon. You can use whichever you prefer — you aren’t forced to use one or the other.

You can add the functions on the DocTools ribbon to the Quick Access Toolbar by right-clicking on the function and selecting Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Note: DocTools makes other Word add-ins, which get added to the same ribbon but in different groups.

What does it do?

CRM adds a huge amount of functionality to cross-referencing in Word. Essentially, it’s cross-referencing on steroids! It addresses most (all?) of the issues I raised in that post from 2010, and issues raised in several of the comments on that post, as well as other issues that frustrated Lene.

There are three icons in the Manage Cross-references group of the DocTools tab:

  • Insert Cross-references:
    • Use this instead of the standard Microsoft dialog box.
    • Has a filter function to just show items with the character you type (e.g. type ‘3’ to see all Headings with a ‘3’ in their outline numbering, such as 2.3, 2.13, 3.1, 3.2, etc.)
    • Can resize the dialog box and increase the number of items displayed at once.
    • Can set your cross-reference defaults from this screen (as well as via Tools).
    • Target types don’t separate Figures, Tables, Equations — the more sensible Captions is used, and then you select the type of caption.
    • Your most recent settings are retained for the next cross-reference you add.
  • Cross-reference Tools:
    • All sorts of functions to identify and fix broken cross-references. (Note: Any highlighting you add/remove via the tools will NOT change any existing highlighting you’ve added to the document for other purposes.)
    • Set defaults for the Insert Cross-references dialog box.
    • Set custom text to go in front of a cross-reference (e.g. ‘See Section’ xx.xx; ‘Refer to’ Table xx-xx; etc.)
    • Update all fields.
    • Toggle display settings for field shading, bookmarks etc. (much quicker than doing it via Word’s Options dialog box)
    • And many many more…. (see the More Details tab on the webpage for CRM for full descriptions of all functions, screenshots etc.: http://www.wordaddins.com/products/cross-references-word_doctools-crossreferencemanager/)
  • Help: Lene has written a very comprehensive Help file to go with CRM. Read it to see all the things CRM can do — I only skim over the main functions in this review.


This is a terrific add-in that improves on Microsoft’s own cross-referencing function, and makes it much easier to assign cross-references. It’s a great tool for all power Word users.

I highly recommend it.


Word: Assign keyboard shortcut to paste unformatted text

August 11, 2016

I’ve previously written about using toolbar icons, macros, or other features of Word to paste copied text as unformatted text (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/word-keyboard-shortcut-to-paste-unformatted-text/ and https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/word-2010-keyboard-shortcut-to-paste-unformatted-text/).

However, if you have to do this a lot, there’s another, much easier, way — assign a keyboard shortcut to the ‘paste as unformatted text’ command.

Note: As far as I’m aware you can do this in all versions of Word from at least Word 2010 onwards.

  1. Open Word.
  2. On the File menu, click Options to open the Word Options dialog box.
  3. Click Customize ribbon in the left panel.
  4. Below the left panel of commands, click the Customize button (next to Keyboard shortcuts) to open the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  5. Scroll down the list of Categories (top left box) to All commands and select it (number 1 in the screenshot below).
  6. In the Commands list (top right box), type p to get to the commands starting with ‘p’.
  7. Scroll down to PasteTextOnly and select it (2 in the screenshot).
  8. In the Press new shortcut key field, PRESS the keys you want to use for this shortcut. Do NOT type them. For example, if you want the keyboard shortcut to be Alt+p+t (‘p’ for paste, ‘t’ for text), then press those keys as though you were using them in the document. They will display in the field similar to this: Alt+P,T (3 in the screenshot).
  9. Checked that Currently assigned to has [unassigned] next to it. If it doesn’t, then the key combination you chose is already used for something else and you’ll have to assign a new combination in the Press new shortcut key field.
  10. Click Assign (4 in the screenshot). The new keyboard shortcut will shift into the Current keys box.
  11. Click Close.
  12. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box.
  13. Test your keyboard shortcut by copying some formatted text from another source (web page, another document, etc.), then use the keyboard shortcut you just assigned to paste it into your Word document as unformatted text.

[Links last checked August 2016]


Visio: Open two windows

August 5, 2016

I’ve been doing a bit of work with Visio files for my main client. I am NOT a Visio expert in anyone’s imagination, least of all mine!

One of the things that’s frustrated me as I’ve tried to copy objects from one Visio diagram to another is that, by default, Visio only opens a single instance of the program, with each file within the same window. This is REALLY frustrating when you have two monitors and want your files side-by-side for comparison or copying purposes. There had to be a way to open the files in separate windows that you could move around the screen(s). And there is.

There are a couple of simple ways to do this, which I’ll discuss here. There’s also a way to do it via a Registry setting so that Visio always opens a new window each time you open a file. I won’t discuss that method — you can Google it.

The instructions below are for Windows 7 and Visio 2010, though I believe the same/similar techniques also work in later versions.

Simple method 1

  1. Open Visio from the Programs list off the Start button.
  2. Repeat step 1.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (yes, you can have more — just keep repeating Step 1), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.

Simple method 2

  1. Open Visio.
  2. Hold down the Shift key as you click the Visio icon in the taskbar — this opens a new instance of Visio.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (for more, repeat Step 2), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.

Simple method 3

  1. Open Visio.
  2. Right-click the Visio icon in the taskbar and select Microsoft Visio — this opens a new instance of Visio.
  3. Once you have your two instances open (for more, repeat Step 2), use File > Open or File > Recent to open an existing file.