New look website

March 17, 2018

I bit the bullet and revamped my website to be fully responsive, and to cut out some of the old stuff that’s no longer relevant. A few people tested it on various devices, browsers, and operating systems, with no issues (thank you!).

I must say I held my breath as I uploaded it and then deleted all the old files (yes, I have a backup!!!). But it ‘just worked’ right from the get-go, with no delay in what got displayed in the various browsers on my PC. Phew!

Same URL, new look: http://www.cybertext.com.au


Wifi connection shuts down modem/router

March 10, 2018

Here’s a weird one. When we got the NBN installed in mid-December, part of the deal was a replacement modem/router to allow a VDSL signal. I tested all the things at the time, including my HP Spectre 360 laptop, by opening up a browser window in each device and making sure I could connect to the internet from it. I tested both LAN and wifi connections — all was fine on all devices, though I can’t say that I left the laptop on for any length of time after the test. I only use the laptop when I go away, so it’s rarely on when I’m in the house.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I decided it was time to do all the Microsoft updates on the laptop, in preparation for a trip in a month’s time. (Hint: Don’t try downloading updates via a hotel’s wifi connection.) I turned on the laptop and it autoconnected to my wifi. I went to the Updates area and pressed the button to check for Microsoft updates. After a few minutes, I got a message that the laptop couldn’t contact the Microsoft servers. I checked the wifi connection and it had been lost. Then my husband complained that he had no internet. Hmmm. A quick glance at the modem showed a big red light instead of a row of green flashing lights. After a few minutes all lights started flashing green again, so I connected the laptop again and tried the update process again. And the modem went out again. This happened several times. Somewhere in there I rebooted the modem myself by switching it off for a minute or two and switching it back on. Same story.

I called iinet (my ISP), and they got me to pull the power on the modem for a few minutes. Same story. Then they decided to put me on a ‘stability’ plan to see if that helped. Effectively, what that means is that my download speed went from around 80 Mbps to 60 Mbps. Somewhere in there I decided to turn off the laptop because it was obvious I wasn’t going to update anything if the connection kept going in and out every time the modem rebooted itself. While in stability mode — and after I’d turned off the laptop — the modem lights remained green for the rest of the day and evening, and were still stable the next day.

On Sunday, I decided to try to updates again. I turned on the laptop, it autoconnected to the wifi, I opened a browser, and within 4 mins of turning on the laptop, I lost connection and the modem rebooted itself. Hmmm… Maybe the laptop’s wifi was the culprit? The best way to test that was to turn off the wifi and plug a LAN cable into it. No problems at all. But within minutes of taking out the LAN cable and turning the laptop wifi back on, the modem rebooted. It WAS the laptop’s wifi! I called iinet on Monday to let them know I’d isolated the problem, ask if they’d heard of such a thing (there was almost nothing in a Google search), and ask them to switch us back to our usual speed. The customer support person checked with others and said the only thing he could suggest was doing a factory reset on the modem, which I was reluctant to do (all those customised settings…). He also said he’d return our speed and that the modem ‘shouldn’t reboot’ when he did that, but it did.

Later in the week, I contacted my PC Guru guys to see if they’d heard of anything like this  (one of them had and he thought it might be an incompatibility between the wireless drivers and the modem) and to see if there was some sort of configuration they could do to the wifi connection on the laptop to sort it out. Well, they did! They installed a heap of HP Support updates, and updated the Intel wireless driver on the laptop. One of those fixed it.

My laptop now works on wifi in the house and doesn’t reboot the modem.

So this post is to remind me in future what we had to do in case it ever happens again, and perhaps help anyone else who might have the same problem. There’s no guarantee that updating the drivers or firmware will work for you, but it’s worth a try.



Word: Random filler for confidential documents

March 1, 2018

Have you ever needed to send a Word document that needs fixing to a Word expert outside your organisation, but are concerned about confidentiality issues? If so, the good people at Office Watch have created a macro that replaces all text with randomly generated letters, but preserves all the formatting, numbering etc. that your Word guru needs to check.

The full VBA code and a description of how the macro works is here: https://office-watch.com/2018/replace-confidential-text-filler-word/

NOTE: DO NOT use this on your real document — make a copy, and run it on the COPY ONLY, then send the copy to the person outside your organisation.

[Links last checked March 2018]


US SIM cards

February 25, 2018

I used to get my US SIM card on leaving Australia, but the company has closed down its kiosks at Sydney and Melbourne international airports and you can only buy from them online now (www.simcorner.com). Although buying online isn’t an issue, the only mobile plan they sell that suits me is from T-Mobile. However, my experiences with T-Mobile on the past few trips have been less than stellar, to the point SimCorner have refunded part of my money as compensation for glacial speeds (meant to be 4G), and lack of connection, even in major cities like Boston.

Time to look for another Australian provider of US SIM cards. In my search, I found a website (www.frequencycheck.com) where you can put in your phone model and get an assessment of which US carriers your phone is likely to ‘play nice’ with. In that check, I found that AT&T and my phone are the best match (and unsurprisingly, T-Mobile didn’t rate very highly for my phone model).

I investigated a few providers — some were based in Europe, some required you to do the activation yourself on arrival (not good after a 16+ hour flight while waiting for a connecting flight), and some didn’t tell you much at all, like whether or not the plan you were looking at allowed you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot (aka tethering). Some also had NO way of contacting them if anything went pear-shaped, except via their online form or an email address — not very good if you’ve just landed at a US airport from Australia and you now have NO internet access. I had to email one seller to find out if any of their plans allowed tethering — only one did, but this was NOT mentioned on their website, so I could’ve spent about $100 on an ‘unlimited everything’ plan only to find out on arrival I couldn’t use my phone as a hotspot. (For those wondering why I need hotspot facility — many hotels have free wifi, but it can be glacially slow and it certainly isn’t secure. Similarly, I tend not to use public wifi.) All the sites I checked had Facebook pages, but many hadn’t updated them in more than a year*, so that’s another red flag, as well as the ‘Community’ posts on their Facebook pages where customers were complaining about not receiving their SIM or being unable to activate their card and needing urgent help.

Eventually, I went with the provider who wasn’t the cheapest (actually they were the most expensive), but whose website was comprehensive and gave me this information:

  • Full details of what each AT&T SIM plan had, along with any limitations and restrictions
  • Automatic activation based on the date of arrival you put in
  • No need for the phone’s IMEI to be provided
  • Various contact/support methods — Australian phone #, 24/7 US phone #, email address, specific email address of the owner of the company
  • Detailed instructions
  • Detailed breakdown of what you’re paying for — SIM card plan, cost of actual SIM card, registered post (plus expected time of delivery)
  • Testimonials (more than the three one website had)
  • Comprehensive FAQ.

Ultimately, my decision was based on how confident I felt that the company would respond to any problems, based on the information provided on their website.

Only time will tell — my next trip is mid-April, so I’ll report back after that.

Bottom line: When prospective customers are looking to buy from you, give them as much information as they need to make that purchase, set out clearly and written concisely. And if the product is one that may require support, make sure you offer more than just a contact form available only via the internet.

Update (March 2018): Since I wrote this, I’ve checked Telstra’s offerings (Telstra is the biggest Australian telco, and who I have my phone plan with). Previously, international roaming with Telstra required you to remortgage your house! They changed that a few years ago, but even a year or so ago, it was still expensive. The $10/day wasn’t so bad, but the data allowance was miniscule and they whacked you very hard if you exceeded it, with the result that you could still come home to bill in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Happy holidays, NOT! However, Telstra has changed (probably to compete with the offerings of the other carriers) and the rates are now more reasonable — it’s still $10/day for global roaming, with a 200 MB/day data allowance (expires each day, so not cumulative). If you exceed your 200 MB in any day, you can purchase another 500 MB for $10, and that 500 MB lasts for 31 days. In addition to the 200 MB of data each day, you get to keep your Australian phone number, and get unlimited standard international calls and texts. For a 20-day trip, you’d be up for about $200 (you’re only charged for the days you use, but be aware the ‘day’ is based on Australian Eastern Standard Time), with a possible extra $10 or $20 for extra data, if needed. Not as cheap as a US SIM, but you don’t have to change SIMs, possibly change APN details in your phone and let the new provider know your IMEI number, tell others your US phone number, update airline and other websites with your temporary US number etc. It’s an option I might consider for the next trip after the upcoming one, though I’d need to find out what data speeds (2G, 3G, 4G?) the international roaming plan defaults to — if it’s glacial, there’s not much point.


* Yeah, I’m also guilty of not updating my CyberText Facebook page — to be honest, I only grabbed the page way back when to prevent someone else from grabbing the name; I never intended it to be a method for anyone wanting my services to contact me.

[Links last checked February 2018]




Microsoft Style Guide

February 15, 2018

The online (and free) Microsoft Style Guide (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/style-guide/welcome/) has been released. It replaces the previous Microsoft Manual of Style, a ‘must have’ style guide for those working with online text — user interfaces, online help, etc.


Search inside multiple PDFs at once

January 17, 2018

I had to search for a word across multiple PDFs in a single folder, and didn’t know if there was a way to do that. Off to Google, where I found these excellent instructions: https://www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/how-to-search-for-text-inside-multiple-pdf-files-at-once/.

In case these instructions ever disappear, here’s a short version of the steps:

  1. Open any PDF in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat.
  2.  Press Shift+Ctrl+F to open the Search panel.
  3. Select the All PDF Documents in option.
  4. Click the dropdown list arrow to show all drives. This is not an expandable list, so to specify a particular folder, select Browse for Location, navigate to and select the folder you want to search, then click OK.
  5. Type the word or phrase to search.
  6. Optional: Select any other search filter criteria (e.g. whole words only, case-sensitive). Note: At the bottom of the panel is a link to Show More Options if the filter criteria you want is not listed.
  7. Click Search.
  8. When the results are displayed, click on a result to open that PDF at the first instance of the word you searched for. Other instances within the same PDF are listed under the PDF location in the search results.

This just saved me a heap of time!


2017 blog statistics

January 1, 2018

Sometime in December 2017, this blog hit 11 million views since I started blogging in 2008! Some 1.84 million views occurred just in 2017, and it ticked over to 10 million views in mid-June. 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 wrote far fewer blog posts in 2017 (less than 40), so many of these visits were to posts I’ve written in previous years. I’ve written 1749 blog posts since 2008.

Surprisingly, I only have 607 subscribers (you can subscribe by clicking the ‘Sign me up!’ button on the right sidebar and entering your email address) who have signed up to receive email alerts each time I post a new article (and 819 Twitter followers for @cybertext), so 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.

Here are some graphs and tables for the 2017 statistics for this blog, as well as some comparative ones for ‘all time’ (‘all time’ is actually 2008 to 2017 — 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

Average daily views

The average views per day increased in 2016 (5053 per day) compared to 2016 (4777 per day), but were still a little behind the peak recorded in 2015 (5533 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).

Top 20 posts


Some posts are just more popular than others! Those highlighted in blue appear in both lists — the top 20 posts of all time (2008-2017) on the left, and 2017 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 (all have 20,000 views or more) garnered the most views. Everything else was a poor cousin to these top posts.

When I extracted out the views just for the top posts for 2008-2017 (i.e. >20,000 views each) and the top 20 for 2017 only (both below), the long tail was very evident. Again, the top 10 posts for all time garnered the most views, with posts 10 to 110 tailing off and flattening out. And for the 2017 view, the top six posts garnered the most views, then tapered off significantly after that.

So, there you have it. Ten years of blogging, 1749 blog posts published, and just over almost 11 million views (with 1.84 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 2017 I received perhaps the equivalent of one hour’s paid work 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 in 2017, I’ll be writing posts sporadically in 2018 — I still have a day job that I’m committed to, and paid work always comes before unpaid work.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2018]