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Webroot taking up most of CPU

January 13, 2021

On bootup this morning, the fan noise indicated that my computer’s CPU was burdened with some resource-hungry process. Task Manager showed me Webroot—a program I’ve used for several years without a single issue—was using between 60 and 90% of CPU resources. I figured it was doing some sort of scan in the background and listened for it to finish. It didn’t (I waited an hour).

Other things I checked while Webroot was active:

  • System tray icon — missing
  • Right-click option to scan a particular folder/file — the option was there, but nothing happened when I clicked it
  • Open Webroot — wouldn’t open
  • Searched Google for possible solutions — several were listed on the Webroot forums, including reinstalling the program. However, I decided to try the least invasive first, which was reboot my computer.

After restarting my computer, all was well:

  • The CPU fans were no longer going crazy and the Webroot CPU usage was around 2% or less
  • System tray icon was back
  • Right-click scan of a file worked
  • Webroot program opened without issue.

So, a simple reboot worked for me.

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Good article on the differences between line and copy editing

January 12, 2021

Based on the definitions Jane Friedman uses in her article (https://www.janefriedman.com/the-differences-between-line-editing-copy-editing-and-proofreading/), my editing involves a blend of line and copy editing, with some Word formatting magic thrown in, if required by the client. I don’t do proofreading, developmental editing, or substantive editing. NOTE: Her examples include some from fiction, whereas I only edit factual materials (typically corporate/business/government reports and other written communication). And she uses CMOS as her main style guide, whereas I use the Australian Government Style Manual for works for an Australian audience (https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/).

The list of the things I include in an edit vary according to what the client wants—I offer clients my ‘triage list’ of editing tasks from which they can choose: https://cybertext.com.au/editing_levels.html

[Links last checked January 2021]

 

 

 

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Clipboard popup in system tray area

January 5, 2021

Here’s a weird one. J was copy/pasting from Firefox into Notepad. He had Word open in the background but wasn’t using Word. All of a sudden, he started getting a popup in the system tray area for ‘1 of 24 items on the clipboard’ every time he copied something from Firefox (text, URL, etc.). He’d never seen it before, and nor had I. Because the popup showed from the system tray, and because he wasn’t using Word at the time (although Word was open), I assumed it was Windows 10 was creating this popup, but it wasn’t—it was Office.

My first check was the Windows 10 system settings. However, the clipboard history option was already turned off (Settings > System > Clipboard). A bit more Googling and I found another possible solution that didn’t involve modifying the Registry (last resort option!). I tried it—and it worked! But it certainly wasn’t an intuitive place to look.

  1. Open Word (if not already open). (Note: These steps may work in any Office program, not just Word).
  2. On the Home tab, click the small dialog launcher arrow at the bottom right of the Clipboard group. This opens the Clipboard panel.
  3. At the bottom of the Clipboard panel, click Options.
  4. Check the settings—if Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying is checked, click it to clear the check mark.
  5. Check the other option settings as well and turn off those you don’t want.

After turning it off, J did another copy/paste and the popup had gone. Problem solved!

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Update on DeskCycle Ellipse usage

January 1, 2021

Back in mid-November 2020, my DeskCycle Ellipse arrived and I started using it (details: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/11/26/attempting-to-combat-a-very-sedentary-lifestyle/).

So, after 6 weeks, how’s it going?

  • I still really don’t notice myself using it—it’s where my footrest used to be and I just cycle on it steadily all day when I’m at my computer.
  • After 2 weeks on Level 1, I went to Level 2, and after another 2 weeks to Level 3. I’ll probably switch to Level 4 in a week or so.
  • My stats are impressive (for sedentary me!), but I’ve noticed NO difference in eating or sleeping patterns, and my weight has decreased by *maybe* 2 kg. I say ‘maybe’ because my weight has always fluctuated up to 2 kg from day to day when weighing myself under the same conditions each morning. At best, I would say I may have lost 1 kg, which, if the stats are to be believed, is a very small amount for the energy I’ve expended (see screenshots below). Weight loss was never the aim, but I had an expectation that it may occur.
  • I have noticed that my lower legs are a bit stronger.
  • As expected, doing the equivalent of 250,000 steps per month hasn’t been hard to achieve, and in 41 days I did more than half a million revolutions.

I’ll likely give you an update again in a few months time. Meantime, here are screenshots of my stats, as at 31 December 2020.

Table of monthly totals for the first two months of use

Monthly totals for the first two months of use. Note: I didn’t start using it until mid-November 2020.

Statistics of 'all time' totals for number of days, calories burned while pedalling, equivalent distances (cycling and steps), equivalent steps, number of revolutions, and number of minutes spent using the machine

Statistics of ‘all time’ totals for number of days, calories burned while pedalling, equivalent distances (cycling and steps), equivalent steps, number of revolutions, and number of minutes spent using the machine

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2020 blog statistics

January 1, 2021

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, and what a year it’s been! I’ve compiled my blog statistics for 2020, and I’m curious to see what effect, if any, COVID-19 and working from home without usual means of support (co-workers, IT people etc.) has had on those stats.

In late May 2020, this blog hit 15 million views then 16 million in the last week of December. This is the total since I started blogging very late in 2007. Some 1.55 million views occurred just in 2020 (surprisingly, about the same as 2019). These figures don’t include any visits I made to my own blog (yes, I use my own blog for stuff I can’t remember—I consider it my memory bank).

16,016,840 views to 31 December 2020

I only wrote 57 blog posts in 2020, so many of these visits were to posts I’ve written in previous years. I’ve written 1917 posts since 2008, with an average word count per post of between 400 and 500 words.

Despite those large numbers of views, only about 850 people subscribe to this blog (you can subscribe by clicking the ‘Sign me up!’ button on the right sidebar and entering your email address to receive an email alert each time I post a new article), and I have just over 920 Twitter followers for @cybertext. From these figures, I have to assume most readers are ‘hit and run’ readers—those who have a problem with Word or whatever, find one of my posts via Google etc., read the post, get what they came for (or not), and leave without checking out anything else.

Where do these readers come from? Not surprisingly for an English language blog, most of my visitors in 2020 were from English-speaking countries, with a heavy dominance from the US (>505,000), followed by the UK, India, Australia, and Canada (all between 96,000 and 150,000). Since WordPress started recording this information (not necessarily when I started blogging in 2008), most visitors have come from the US (nearly 6 million), followed by the UK. Australia, and Canada (about 3.5 million combined). The first map shows country of origin visits for 2020; the second, for all time. NOTE: These stats represent where WordPress thinks these readers are located based on their IP addresses—anyone using a VPN to mask their location would be listed under the country that they chose in their VPN settings. (Click on images to view them full size)

Map and list of top 10 countries where readers came from in 2020

Map and list of top 10 countries where readers came from in 2020

Map and list of top 10 countries where readers came from: all time

Map and list of top 10 countries where readers came from: all time

Below are some graphs and tables of the 2020 statistics for this blog, as well as some comparative ones for ‘all time’ (‘all time’ is actually 2008 to 2020 — I started this blog very late in 2007, but didn’t really start posting until January 2008, so the 2007 statistics are too low to be significant).

Total views by month/year

Table listing total number of views by month for each year from 2007 to 2020

Total number of views by month for each year from 2007 to 2020

Column graph showing total number of views for each year from 2008 to 2020

Total number of views for each year from 2008 to 2020

Average daily views

Graph showing average number of views per day over each year from 2008 to 2020. The highest was about 5500 in 2015, and about 4000 per day in 2020

Average number of views per day for each year from 2008 to 2020

The average views per day decreased a little in 2020 (about 4000 per day) compared to 2019 (4280 per day). The graphs above and below are for the full seven days per week, though most views occur during the five business days of the working week, probably reflecting the need to find answers to Word questions and the like when people are stuck with a problem at work. Weekends and major public holidays (particularly in the US) see a noticeable drop in views, as does the December/January holiday period and the northern hemisphere summer (July).

In 2020, I had to look for any possible influence of COVID-19 affecting the results, and there was. Compared to the 2019 graph for average views per day by month, there was a noticeable change in the shape of the curve from May onwards (see the graph below). There was a small dip in July and August (northern hemisphere summer months), but instead of declining between September and November, as in previous years, the numbers were high and steady over those months. I suspect the stats from May onwards may have been the influence of working from home and having to figure out how to solve problems without help from colleagues who previously were in the same work location.

Graph showing average number of views per day for 2020. The highest months were May, June, September, October, and November (all over 4500, with some over 5000)

Average number of views per day in 2020, by month

Top 20 posts

Table listing the top 20 posts of all time and the top 20 for 2020. Posts that are in both lists are highlighted in blue.

Top 20 posts of all time compared to the top 20 for 2020.

Some posts are just more popular than others! Those highlighted in blue appear in both lists — the top 20 posts of all time (2008–20209) on the left, and 2020-only on the right. Those without highlighting only appear in one of the top 20 lists. The numbers to the right of each title are the number of total views for that post in the time period.

Long tail

As expected, there’s a significant ‘long tail’ for this blog’s views. The top 20 posts (each has more than 19,100 views) in 2020 garnered the most views, with the top 6 clearly ahead of the others (>45,000 views). Everything else was a poor cousin to these top posts.

Graph showing the 'long tail' of the top 20 posts in 2020. The top 6 of these had as many views as the other top 14 combined

Long tail of the top 20 posts in 2020. The top 6 had as many views as the other top 14 combined

When I extracted out the views just for the top posts for 2008–2020 (using 50,000 views as the lower limit), the long tail was very evident. The top 10 posts for all time garnered the most views, with posts 10 to 76 tailing off and flattening out. Remember, I’ve written some 1917 posts, and this graph only represents the 76 posts that have had more than 50,000 views since 2008—most posts have far fewer than that and aren’t represented in this graph. (For perspective, the least-viewed posts have had about 1,100 views, while the single most-viewed post has had nearly 1 million views.)

Graph of the long tail of the 76 posts with more than 50,000 views, over all time. The top 5 posts have had between 300,00 and 1 million views.

Long tail of posts over all time (only those with more than 50,000 views are graphed). The top 5 posts have had between 300,00 and 1 million views.

So, there you have it. Thirteen years of blogging, 1917 blog posts published, and just over 16 million views (with 1.55 million of those in the past 12 months).

I guess I must be doing something right, even though the monetary return is close to zero. I pay an annual fee to WordPress to NOT show advertisements on this blog (I wouldn’t get any return from these even if I allowed them), and I refuse to try to ‘monetize’ my blog posts by hosting them elsewhere and running ads—I don’t like ads cluttering up and getting in the way of good content and potentially trapping readers into clicking on them, and I suspect my readers don’t like them either. Instead of ads, I have an option for readers to donate to this blog’s expenses if anything I’ve written has got them out of a bind, saved them time (and therefore money), or helped them be more efficient. In 2020 I received perhaps the equivalent of one week’s worth of groceries in donations. I use that money to pay my annual bill to WordPress to keep this blog free of ads and to have the convenience of adjusting the style (CSS) of this blog.

As for what happens in 2021, I’ll continue to write posts sporadically—I still have a day job that I’m committed to, and paid work always comes before unpaid work. Stay safe, and remember the three Ws: wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2021]

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Definition of technical editing

December 30, 2020

An editing colleague posted a link to an article by Tom Lang on technical editing and the tasks and thought processes involved, with some excellent examples: https://ese.arphahub.com/article/53691/

In the article, he cited a thesis by Natalie Peterson that lists some 410 (!) technical editing tasks. So I went hunting down rabbit holes for the thesis, and finally found it. Not only does it list and categorise those 410 editing tasks (in Appendices 1 and 2), but Peterson also offers a new definition of technical editing that resonated with me:

Technical editing is the suggestion of improvements to a document or other communication product to help an author increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the transmission of information in a specialized subject to the author’s intended audience.

(Peterson, Natalie L, Revising Theory: A Universal Framework for the Comprehensive Editing of Technical Communications, 2017, Masters Thesis, University of Wisconsin-Stout; available from: http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/thesis/2017/2017petersonn.pdf)

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Foxtel: Smartcard is not authorised

December 21, 2020

I have a love/hate relationship with Foxtel (or Fuxtel as we tend to call it), Australia’s main ‘cable’ TV provider. Last night was not the love side of the equation. At around 8:38pm, Western Australian time, the recorded program we were watching suddenly stopped and was replaced by a F114 error message that said ‘This Smartcard is not authorised’. What?

My immediate thought was that the replacement IQ4 box (which still hasn’t arrived some 11 days after ordering it; initial phone call from Alex at Foxtel offering the IQ4 box and activation for free was 26 Nov 2020; called 9 Dec 2020 to take up the offer and order the IQ4 from Jack) and package was now in play, even though I’d asked the sales person on 9 Dec 2020 if we could wait until after Christmas/early January before installing the new box and had clearly been told that we could. Then I thought about the date—we get direct debited from our credit card around the 20th to 22nd of each month, and this was the night of the 20th.

I did what the message said and called Foxtel, expecting they had 24/7 technical support. They don’t. (I found out today that tech support is 8am to 10pm Melbourne time, 7 days a week—10pm Melbourne time is 7pm Perth time. Thanks Fuxtel. And checking the support area on their website gave no information as to the possible reason for this message that related to what we saw.)

I called again this morning (Monday). The tech support person tried to send a message to my Foxtel box, but I saw nothing on screen as she had expected. Then she got me to read out the serial number and smartcard number and told me that she didn’t have those numbers on her screen for our account (!!!). She asked if we had a second box—we do, it’s in the bedroom and we never use it, so I’d turned it off months ago. She said that second box was listed with them as the primary box, and because the new billing cycle is for the IQ4 box and because we weren’t getting a replacement second IQ4 box to replace the second IQ2 box, our primary box (which Foxtel considers our secondary box) got deactivated as the new billing cycle/plan kicked in.

She asked me to wait 30 mins to 2 hours for the reactivation request she had put through to come through, and said she would call after about 30 mins to an hour to check. I’ve already waited close to on a hour, and the ‘smartcard is not authorised’ message is still on the screen.  And I haven’t received a call back.

She did confirm that we could install the new IQ4 box at any time—it would only get activated once we called them, and that the activation would be instant. It’s a pity the re-activation for our current IQ2 box isn’t instant too!

Update: She called again just over an hour later. Still nothing, so she re-authorised again and within seconds all was back as it should be. Or so we thought—see ‘And the saga continues’ secton below.

Update on the IQ4 box: It was ordered on 9 December, and we were told and had emails to say it would take ‘1 to 10 days’. Today (21 Dec) is Day 12 and no box. But I did get a message about 2:30pm today that the box has now been dispatched from the warehouse, wherever that is…. AusPost’s system doesn’t yet have the tracking number Fuxtel gave me, so I can’t even see where it’s being sent from let alone when it might arrive. Further update 22 Dec: The new IQ4 box is scheduled to be delivered between 5 and 14 January. Certainly not ‘1 to 10 days’ as stated by the Foxtel person I ordered it from, nor the email I received. Further update 31 Dec 2020: The new IQ4 box arrived today.

And the saga continues…

We sat down to watch TV on the night of 21 Dec 2020, expecting all to be as it was prior to the disconnection/reconnection. Well, some things worked, but some major functions didn’t:

  • Anything recorded onto the IQ2 box’s hard drive before 20 Dec was no longer available. It was listed, but we just got an error message when we tried to view it. NOTE: This box is INSIDE OUR HOUSE and the recordings are stored IN THE BOX. This is not some live connection to the satellite.
  • No On Demand functions work, and I don’t think we can go back in time for 24 hours to watch something we may have missed either. So we can’t even watch via catch up the programs we’d recorded before 20 Dec.
  • The Favourites list is all screwed up and seems to reflect a list from years ago. I re-added Favourites channels, but nothing held. I didn’t get any message that these wouldn’t be saved—they just weren’t.
  • New recordings and series linked recordings seem to work for now, but I’m not sure if we will lose those too.

As we discovered this loss of functionality before 7pm, I called Foxtel tech support. After 45 minutes on hold I got put through to a support person who explained that the reason we didn’t have these functions is that we were on a ‘temporary signal’ (whatever that means—it’s a signal from a satellite, so I don’t know how it can be ‘temporary’!). She indicated that it was because the second unused IQ2 box was considered our primary box (by them, not us) and so they’d auto disconnected what they thought was the secondary box. She admitted it was Foxtel’s fault and that they messed up. Ya think!?? A quick 10-second phone call from them would’ve have told them which box we considered our primary box and prevented all this!!!

So, we cannot do anything except watch Foxtel in real time for at least the next few weeks until the IQ4 box arrives and is installed (actually, recordings seem to be working, as do series link recordings). We’ve had a Platinum Plus pack and been loyal customers for 20+ years, yet according to tech support NOTHING can be done to restore our functions.

When I asked about what happens if we have a power outage (as sometimes happens here, even just for a few seconds), I was told we’ll lose the Foxtel signal again and will have to have it restored. Of course, if an outage happens after 7pm, we won’t be able to get it restored until the following day as Foxtel tech support finishes at 7pm for Western Australian customers. Not impressed. Update 31 Dec 2020: We had two power outages after I originally wrote this—one for a few seconds, which reset the Foxtel box, and one for about 45 mins, which also reset it. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go through the process of reactivating, as both outages were outside Foxtel’s support hours.

We are VERY angry at this mess that ISN’T OUR FAULT. A single phone call to ask us which box we no longer wanted prior to disconnecting anything would have averted all these issues.

Making a complaint

To add insult to injury, I decided to lodge a complaint with Foxtel on 22 December. The only way to do that is via their standard phone number for everything or via the complaints form on their website. There are character limits for the complaint text on the form, so I made sure that I was well under that limit. I completed all fields, mandatory or not, and did the CAPTCHA thing, then clicked Submit. And got this error message: You don’t have permission to access http://www.foxtel.com.au/bin/foxtel/genericForm on this server. Reference #18.98464868.1608627165.1ec5ba69

Great. You can’t even complain to them!

I tried this form several times with the same result, whether I was logged into my Foxtel account or not. And just in case the character limits were wrongly described on the form, I tried it with a very small amount of text—still got an error. I contacted @FOXTEL_Help on Twitter, and was told VPNs often cause this, but I DON’T USE A VPN!! I haven’t heard back from the Twitter account again. (Update 23 December, afternoon: Heard back from Twitter account, suggested try a different browser, tried on Firefox—same error)

Wednesday 23 December: I tried the online complaints form again—same error. So then I called the 131999 phone number and asked for ‘Complaints’ and got put through to tech support. Again.

I explained to the tech support person that the online complaints form wasn’t working, that our new box still wasn’t here, and, most importantly, that we had lost major functions on the box—functions that worked perfectly fine on 20 December. He said he would escalate it for me and typed up the complaint himself (which I haven’t seen, so I have no idea what he typed). He gave me a complaint case number, and said someone would call me within 24 to 48 hours. Yeah, right—that lands right in Christmas and unless someone calls later today or tomorrow, I doubt I’ll hear from them before 27 December. They have my mobile number, my landline number, and my email address. And hopefully all the text from the support people about what has happened. Update 31 Dec 2020: Someone called on Christmas Day, right in the middle of Christmas lunch. I didn’t take the call as it was from a Melbourne number I didn’t recognise—and it was Christmas Day! Based on the voicemail left for me, I called the number back later that day, only to get a message saying that the phone number wasn’t attended and that someone would get back to me. No-one did. I called again on 30 Dec 2020, got tech support again, quoted my complaint number, and he told me he had emailed the supervisor who the complaint had escalated to (the same person who called me Christmas Day), and had requested that she contact me ASAP. It’s now 31 December and no-one has contacted me. Update: It’s now 6 January and still no-one has contacted me.

NONE of this would have been necessary if they’d just called and asked which box we used and were going to replace. And this question probably should have been asked by the initial sales person who had asked at the time whether we wanted to continue with two boxes.

One other thing… the online complaints form asks what resolution we would like. Simple, really—We want ALL our old functions restored and working until we receive and install the IQ4 box (due mid-January, some 6 weeks since ordering). If that’s not possible, we would like at least 3 months subscription compensation for this inconvenience, right at Christmas time when we’d saved up movies etc. to watch while on leave. We can no longer access these as we can’t access any recordings or On Demand functions. And a year’s free subscription to Netflix.

Update 6 January 2021: My cabling guy came yesterday afternoon and swapped out out the old IQ2 box for the new IQ4 box. That process was simple. The rest? Not so much… I did the activation by phone (all voice activated, no person to speak to), and after a couple of restarts I had the home screen. But as soon as I tried to access a channel, I got an ‘Update Required’ message with no info as to how to do that. I called Foxtel tech support, and the helpful woman at the other end of the line got me to read out the serial number and version number and SIM number—she said that the software needed to be updated (it was a BRAND NEW box!), and got that in motion. She said it would take 15 to 60 mins before I had full functionality again, and to call back if it still didn’t work. The box rebooted itself a couple more times, then I was back to the Home screen after about 20 mins. I checked the settings, which listed a later version and the SIM number info said N/A (it seems there’s no SIM in these new boxes, just an internal smart card). I tried to access a Foxtel channel again, but all I got was an info banner about the channel/program across the screen for a few seconds and black behind it—no picture, no sound. ABC and SBS worked OK, but none of the Foxtel channels worked. Back on the phone to tech support, this time with a 15+ minute wait. The next person to answer my call checked a few more things at her end, said our account was all correct (I’d also received an auto email from Foxtel during the first phone call to tech support that our account was being ‘voluntarily suspended’ [at a cost of $10] for 24 hours!!! She told me to ignore that email). She rebooted the box remotely from her end again, and when it came back I had picture and sound for the Foxtel channels I tried. So far, it all seems to be working. She also helped me pair the Bluetooth for the voice-activated remote. Now we just have to get a handle on the new way of navigating the screen and the redesigned remote control, set the settings to how we want them to be, set up favorite channels, set up the internet connection (I got a text to say that Netflix was included in our package), and rerecord or download some of the programs we missed while it was off the air.

I still haven’t heard back from Foxtel Complaints, some 14 days after making my initial complaint.

Update 8 January 2021: Still no call from Foxtel Complaints… They obviously really care about their customers (not!). However, I discovered that we can use the old IQ2 remote with the new box. Most functions work, except the settings button, as far as I could tell. This is good news for my husband who hates learning new things, so he’ll be happy with that old remote, while I use the new one.

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Testing a Dyson battery

December 14, 2020

I have a 4-year-old Dyson stick vacuum cleaner (V6 model), and it seems to be cutting out well before the usual 20 minutes of use is up. I used it yesterday and it cut out after about 2 to 3 minutes. I checked the Dyson website for troubleshooting information, in case it was anything more sinister than a battery. And wondered if I might have to replace the whole thing if the battery couldn’t be replaced.

The good news is that the battery can be replaced (and you can purchase a new one direct from the Dyson website; at least, you can from their Australian website). And the second good news was that they have phone support available 7 days a week (more limited hours on weekends, but available). The person who helped me diagnose if the battery was the issue was just wonderful and gave me all sorts of other tips on cleaning the machine too (when I asked). She had plenty of opportunity to sell me a new battery right there and then, but didn’t. Instead, she told me how to diagnose if the battery was at fault and based on my testing to then make a decision about replacing the battery.

How to diagnose if the battery is the reason for the Dyson cutting out:

  1. Fully charge the vac (at least 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight).
  2. Once charged, you will do a time test with the vacuum set to MAX, so get out your phone and set the stopwatch function for time to 0:00.
  3. Start the vac and with it running, press the MAX button at the back of the unit until it starts flashing blue. (No, I didn’t know about MAX either!)
  4. Start the stopwatch.
  5. Run the vac until it stops.
  6. Take note of the time.
  7. Check your results:
    • With the unit set to MAX and a full battery, you should get about 6 minutes of run time. You don’t need a new battery. Something else might be an issue, so call Dyson.
    • If you get 3 minutes of run time, you need a new battery. Perhaps not now, but likely within a few weeks or months, depending on how often and for how long you use the machine.
    • If you get less than 3 minutes of run time, your battery needs to be replaced. This was the case with mine—I got less than 2 minutes.
  8. Recharge the battery a little again and reset the MAX button to off (no blue flashing light around it) so that it doesn’t inadvertently remain on MAX once you get the new battery and install it (two screws only).

 

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Attempting to combat a very sedentary lifestyle

November 26, 2020

A bit of backstory… Prior to 1992, my work as a teacher involved a lot of incidental walking and standing each day, and I rarely sat except when I got home from work. Between 1992 and 1998 I worked for a software development company, and was involved in training, installations, writing user manuals, and answering help desk calls. Training and installations required me to walk and stand, but I spent much of my time sitting on a chair at my desk and staring at a computer screen. I lived about 5 km from the office, so would ride my bike to work when the weather was suitable, and I attended a gym close to work for about 30 to 60 minutes most days. From 1999 to 2006 I worked for other software companies much further from home and with no nearby gyms, so riding the bike to work wasn’t possible, and except for walking to/from the carpark and popping out to the local lunch bar, most of my time was spent sitting at a computer, doing technical writing. In 2007, we moved out of the city to the country and I began working from home full-time, where my commute was about 10 steps! We lived at the top of a ‘heart attack’ hill in that town, so riding the bike was out, as was a lot of walking. I was still doing tech writing, but in late 2008, I segued into editing where I was still sitting in front of a computer all day. In 2010 we moved to another location in the country, some 9 km from the nearest shop and about 13 km to a gym. Again, we were on a hill, though nowhere nearly as steep. And I continued to work from home. Did I also mention that I’m the world’s biggest excuse-finder for avoiding exercise? It’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too smoky, too many mosquitoes (we live in an area with Ross River and Barmah Forest virus-carrying mosquitoes), I’ve got to put on insecticide, wear special shoes/clothes, find the fly net, don’t feel like it now, will go later… Any excuse NOT to exercise is good enough! And yes, I know the horror stories of a sedentary lifestyle.

Fast forward to now… On an editors’ Facebook page and Twitter discussion group some people had mentioned using an under-desk cycle machine to keep their legs moving and their circulation flowing. Some had recommended the DeskCycle so I investigated it as an option. After all, my feet just tuck up under the chair or in front of me for hours at a time while I’m working—they may as well be doing something! But my under-desk height was less than they recommended, and so the unit wouldn’t fit under my desk without me hitting my knees on every rotation. I have a built-in desk in my home office, so changing the desk is not an option. However, I found that DeskCycle also have an under-desk elliptical machine, the DeskCycle Ellipse. It seemed to fit my situation, the minimum desk height was suitable, and the reviews were good. (I haven’t linked to their website as they seem to have different websites for purchasing from different countries; you can also purchase from Amazon etc.)

I purchased the DeskCycle Ellipse based on the reviews, the 30-day money back guarantee, and the free shipping. It’s not the cheapest or most expensive of the available machines—somewhere in the middle. It arrived about a week later, and I spent about 2 minutes putting it together. Actually, all I did was attach the foot pedals with the supplied tools, screws, and washers—everything else was done. It’s a heavy beast (about 10–15 kg), so it will likely stay under the desk. It’s also really well made and is as silent as they say it is. The only noise I hear occasionally is the creak of my chair as I’m ‘cycling’. I was concerned that the movement would push my wheeled chair away from the desk all the time, but this has never happened. However, if it did, there’s a carry handle/bar at the front you could loop a mesh strap through to tether your chair to the machine.

So, what’s it like? And has it made any difference to anything? Here are some observations from the first two weeks:

  • I found it was really easy to get used to moving my legs on the machine—I didn’t expect that.
  • I can work just like normal even though I’m moving my legs constantly—I didn’t expect that either. I thought I’d be rocking from side to side, but that hasn’t been the case, and what little body movement there’s been hasn’t impeded my ability to work.
  • The amount of time you spend moving your legs mounts up quickly, and you don’t even know it. I regularly do 3 to 6 hours of ‘pedalling’ each day, with the most on days I have work to do.
  • As it’s early days, I still have the resistance level set to 1 (as they recommend). I’ll likely increase it to 2 next week (the maximum is 8). Higher resistance = more effort = more calories burned.
  • The monitor can sit in a holder on the machine, or there’s a supplied extension cable (a good length too, perhaps 1.5–2 metres?) and a desk mount unit you can fit it to. Mine sits comfortably on the desk mount just under one of my computer monitors, and I can see at a glance how many rotations, how much time, as well as the calories expended since I last reset the monitor.
  • The monitor is battery-powered—nothing plugs into electricity.
  • You can link the monitor to a Fitbit, but I haven’t done so. However, I did set up an account with DeskCycle for inputting my monitor readings each day.
  • The monitor only records up to 99,999 rotations, so I clear it at the end of each day (press the reset button on the front for 3 seconds) after I’ve recorded my progress online. 99,999 sounds like a lot, but is probably only about 3 to 5 days of rotations, depending how long you use it each day.
  • All measurements are in calories and not kilojoules, both on the monitor and in the online account. However, they do convert miles to kilometres in the online account.
  • The online account records and calculates quite a lot of info, based on your age, weight etc. and calculates calories expended using the machine as well as just sitting. It also records daily, weekly, monthly, and all time totals for various parameters (see the screenshots below). One thing I like is how it converts your rotations into equivalent steps if you were walking—I know the recommended daily step count is 10,000 steps so that has meaning for me.
  • The online account doesn’t have an option for you to put in your time zone, so if I forget to add my details after I finish work and add them the next morning (even though I say ‘yesterday’), that’s treated as though it’s today and they get added to today’s total, so some daily totals end up being twice what they should be. I think they are using North American time zones, and it does look weird to see that my day is a negative day!
  • My knees hurt a bit for several seconds after finishing for the day, but I haven’t felt any aches in my leg muscles at all, which I get when I walk after not walking for some time. The pain in my knees could be because the foot pedals are in a straight line, whereas I have a bit of a duck walk, with my knees turning out at a bit of an angle.
  • Speaking of the foot pedals, they are nice and big (length and width) and would suit any size foot. If you rotate with your feet positioned near the top of the foot pedals, you use different muscles and I need to remember to change it up every so often. (BTW, one of the complaints I read about the DeskCycle [not the DeskCycle Ellipse, which I have] was that people with big feet would ‘hit’ the floor while cycling—that’s not possible with the Ellipse).
  • You can rotate forwards or backwards—it all counts. I have to remember to go backwards every so often.
  • The instruction manual and stickers on the foot pedals clearly tell you NOT use this machine while standing. It is only for use while sitting, either under your desk while you’re working, or while you’re watching TV etc. (I’m tempted, but I would only do this if I was holding onto a wall! Actually, I’m a bit of a chicken, so likely wouldn’t try it at all.)
  • I haven’t been using it long enough (just under two weeks) to know if it’s made any difference to my weight, but any weight loss would be a bonus, and that isn’t my objective. The objective is to move more and get the circulation flowing to combat a couple of decades of sitting. I also haven’t felt the need to eat more, as sometimes happens when I’ve tried other forms of exercise.
  • I don’t feel tired after doing all those rotations each day, and my sleep patterns haven’t changed.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Assuming all this movement is helping to keep me healthy, it’s a no-brainer for me, and I wish I’d known about these machines sooner. NOTE: Any step totals are ONLY from the machine, and need to be added to any steps I take in normal day-to-day life.

Screenshots from my online account that show my progress (all taken today, 26 Nov 2020):

Today’s progress, a whopping 17,677 steps over 6 hours (26 Nov 2020)

Daily progress – you can see it’s not hard to get to 10,000 steps most days

Weekly progress – the 8,000 steps in the first week was only from one day

Monthly progress so far, starting on 13 Nov to today (26 Nov). Based on this, I would expect to do approximately 250,000 steps per month just on the machine, which is a big jump from maybe 40,000 in normal activity working from home

Update as at 31 December 2020: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/update-on-deskcycle-ellipse-usage/

h1

Word: How to make popups in Word, using Word

November 26, 2020

Add another to my list of ‘I didn’t know you could do this!’ Did you know you can add tooltip-style popups for certain text when you hover over it? However, my testing since I posted this video link shows there are several issues with this (I’ve documented these results after the second video).

Here’s a 90-second YouTube video that explains how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk-n4MZIwcs

Having now tested this method (above), which uses the AutoTextList field code (results below the next video), I can’t recommend it.

Instead, I found another method that uses bookmarks and hyperlinks and that seems to work much better and give you more options for adding quite an amount of text (about 1800 characters, instead of the 255 character limit of the field code method above). And it seems to work every time. The bookmark/hyperlink method I recommend is shown in this 9.5 minute YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvtO24e9gv4):

For those interested, here are the results from my testing of the field code method (first video above). I wanted to see if the popup text:

  • retains the style of the paragraph it is in — no, but the keyword does
  • has a word or character limit — yes, 255 characters, including spaces
  • works on a phrase, not just a keyword — couldn’t test as it deleted my next attempts and left a blank space
  • can be used several times — couldn’t test as stuff kept disappearing
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as PDF — no
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as HTML — no
  • prints — no (and the option to print AutoText entries only prints the AutoText entries you’ve defined using the AutoText function, NOT the tooltip AutoTextList field entries)
  • adds items to your AutoText entries — no.

I also wanted to know what the \s, \t, and NoStyle items in the field code represent and if their order matters:

  • \s — ‘defines the content for the field’; this is the keyword you put into the ‘word seen’ bit of the field. It MUST go after AutoTetxtList and can either go before or after the keyword
  • \t — ‘defines the tip for the field’; this is the text you want to popup when you hover over the keyword. The order matters — this MUST go in front of the tooltip text
  • NoStyle — sets the style for the tooltip text to ‘NoStyle’. I changed this to Emphasis (a character style) and nothing happened to either the word or the tooltip text (I expected it to be styled with italics). I then set up a character style for red text and a para style for green text and tried those—nothing worked, so it looks like no matter what you set for the style, it will still be formatted as per the underlying text of the paragraph it is in. The order doesn’t matter, except that thiis MUST go after AutoTextList; I tried it in front of the ‘word seen’ bit, at the end of the field code, and the tooltip still worked.

While I got this to work a couple of times, I couldn’t get it to work consistently (I was testing with Word 365 for Windows). It has some severe limitations; for example:

  • If you change the ‘word seen’ bit at a later time, the original word you wrote remains and the new text doesn’t get recognised.
  • At times in my testing Word would delete my ‘word seen’ bit altogether and I don’t know why. I tried to add this as a field using the Quick Parts > Field options and entering the context work (keyword) and tooltip text there, but that disappeared too.
  • I found that using F9 would cause the keyword to disappear and therefore the popup didn’t work at all.
  • Without being able to style the keyword differently, this function isn’t very useful to the reader if they don’t have field shading turned on as they can’t tell which words have got tooltips associated with them except by hovering over every word.

Note: Alt+F9 toggles all the field codes on and off.

[Links last checked November 2020]