Archive for July, 2008


Vista: Running a command as an Administrator

July 31, 2008

Sometimes the learning curve is just too big! Anyhow…

I’ve being trying to install SQL Server 2005 Express on my new Vista Ultimate 64-bit laptop. Well, I got the main files installed, but also wanted to install the Management Studio too. First I was thwarted by an Asian version on the Microsoft SQL Express download page (no English version available). Anyhow after a lot of searching I found an English language version (link below).

Then when I tried to install it, I kept getting error code 29506 messages at the END of the installation (why couldn’t they give me the error message at the BEGINNING of an installation?). More Googling, swearing, frustration, etc. I found the answer on some of the forums—obviously others have had this problem too! The error is all related to Vista permissions (so, why doesn’t the error message tell me that?), and the solution is to install the application from a command prompt (hello??? DOS??? on Vista???) that’s been set up to run as an Administrator. What the…?

Again, this is easy once you know how, but when you’re new to Vista—as I am—and have no-one to help, it just takes a lot of perseverance and frustration… Here’s what you do:

  1. Click the Start icon.
  2. Type CMD into the Search box.
  3. Right-click on cmd.exe then select Run as Administrator. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
  4. On the Command window, use the cd command to change the directory to where the file you want to install is located. (NOTE: It must be on a local drive—I tried entering a UNC path to the server where it was located, but got a message that ‘CMD does not support UNC paths as current directories’; I also tried the mapped drive letter, but it didn’t like that either!)
  5. Type the location and name of the executable or MSI file (e.g. C:\Users\<username>\Documents\<filename.extension>), then press Enter.
  6. The installation will happen as normal, except this time it will work!

Location of English language version of SQL Server 2005 Express Management Studio file: (Microsoft Downloads site)

[Link last checked July 2008]


Mispronounced words and phrases

July 31, 2008 maintains a list of the “100 most mispronounced words and phrases in English“. One of my favorites from this list is Heineken remover for the Heimlich manoeuvre!

Others I’ve mentioned before in my Pet Peeves: Pronunciation post.

[Links last checked February 2008]


Organize Programs list in Vista

July 30, 2008

I always have lots of programs installed on my computers. And I like to organize them either under the manufacturer’s name—such as Microsoft or Adobe—or, for the smaller programs, under categories—such as Graphics, Utilities, etc.

This was always easy to do in Windows XP, but it’s annoyed me that I can’t readily change this in Vista. Instead I get a dinky little non-expandable vertical list that’s hard to navigate, hard to read, and only displays about 10 or 15 programs at a time.

I want my programs listed the way *I* want them, not the way Vista wants me to read them. So I Googled and found a solution, which is quite easy once you know how.

  1. Right-click on the Start icon.
  2. Select Explore All Users.
  3. Change and reorganize your programs into folders that YOU want.

I still haven’t found a way to make the list longer or to expand it, and I don’t know if either of those things are possible, but at least I can put all those default “Windows [program name]” items into a list all on their own and get them out of my view. They just slow me down!

Oh, and before anyone comments about using the Search box to find programs? I love that Search box, but sometimes you forget what you’ve got or what it’s called! That’s why I like the Programs list too. And using Windows Explorer (or whatever it’s called in Vista) is not the answer. There are two lots of C:\Program Files—one for the 64-bit programs and one for the 32-bit programs (called x86, by the way, which may be meaningful to those from the 1980s and 1990s computer era, but would be unintelligible for a general user like my husband or parents).


Free online training from Microsoft

July 30, 2008

Microsoft has a wealth of resources on its website—but you have to know they’re there.

One resource I came across a few weeks back was their online training courses for Office applications. Each is targeted at a specific “how to”—and they are all free. Take a look at:
to see the range of mini-courses available. Each only takes a few minutes (the estimated times are listed before you start) and there are no tests or exams.

[This article was first published in the December 2004 CyberText newsletter; link last checked August 2008]


Were you born before 1960?

July 29, 2008

… then you’ll probably relate to many of these (source unknown, but refers to some North American brands and activities):

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, or video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms… we had FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These (baby boomer) generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all!

If YOU are one of them… CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?!

[This article was first published in the March 2007 CyberText Newsletter]


George’s wisdom

July 28, 2008

While going through my saved STC Lone Writer SIG emails, I came across this long one by the late George Mena, dated July 2001, which I’d like to share.

Technical Writing and Liberal Arts

Having read Sue B’s post about the conversation she had with the assistant dean of the small private college, I feel some points should be made to the dean. I’d make these points to her:

1/ Start paying attention to the students’ request for technical writing classes. If they’re asking about the availability of technical writing classes in the evening studies program, it’s time to find out *why* they’re asking about them. There’s obviously some interest among the student population for it that should not be ignored under any circumstances. Students, remember, are among the primary providers of the college’s income in the form of tuition fees.

These adages come to mind for me:

  • Customers make paydays possible.
  • Happiness is a positive cash flow.

2/ Technical writing definitely involves writing, which is — and has always been — one of the oldest forms of liberal art in the world since the inception of written language itself. More importantly, this field of ours also requires us to exercise our reasoning capabilities in terms of being good analytical thinkers, so that we can develop solutions related to the accurate and proper sharing of knowledge. And certainly, when we address localization and translation issues, having the ability to write prose that translates cleanly and accurately from one language to another is an essential imperative, if not an absolute.

3/ Technical writing also definitely involves the principles of journalism in that newswriting classes teach the student how to make the point immediately in print. Additionally, journalism majors also learn the ongoing value of performing research in the interests of accuracy and, especially, of credibility. How can anyone be expected to develop an informed opinion and/or decision if the pros and cons of an issue are not fully explored by “credible experts” in their respective fields of endeavour? I wouldn’t want to discount the technical writings of a Thomas Edison, a David Sarnoff, or a Werner von Braun if I’m building a high-frequency communications system for the International Space Station. Nor would I want to discount the countless studies on long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body that were done on the inhabitants of the late Russian space station Mir. Those studies are far too valuable to ignore, especially if the medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health wanted to develop new and novel treatments that may remedy Earth-borne diseases that may occur whilst in orbit.

4/ The art of technical writing is just as creative an art as it is an industrial art. Technical writing is an industrial art because the requirement of preserving knowledge is essential to society at large. How do we learn how to make bread after the cook dies? Writing a recipe for breadmaking is just as much a form of technical writing as writing a procedure for testing a fully populated printed circuit board. And how does one build a house after the building contractor dies? Developing a formal set of blueprints embraces the very liberal art of art itself; the ability to draw to capture a concept on paper. Once the concept’s on paper, be it in blueprint form or on a page in a PDF, the ability to improve on the concept is assured, especially if the media it’s rendered on is preserved.

Technical writing embraces the disciplines of writing, thinking, art and publishing. These were all liberal arts the last time I looked. And it should be said here that the essential discipline of technical writing is practiced for the general benefit of humanity in order for the human race to not only survive, but to also flourish, prosper and continually grow as society itself evolves.

A closing thought and request to Sue: please share this post with your assistant dean. It’s she who needs the education. And she needs it a lot more than she realizes.


Vista: Microsoft time

July 27, 2008

*Dripping sarcasm* I’m just so pleased that Microsoft spent YEARS perfecting Vista.

I’ve got Vista Ultimate installed on my new laptop and so far I really like it—seriously. I’ve slowly been installing applications and getting familiar with the Aero interface and some of the newer ways of doing things.

Despite the guy in the store telling me that it should be able to map network drives but probably wouldn’t see the other (XP) computers on my network, nor print to my ancient printer, all that worked absolutely fine ‘out of the box’. I can see my other computers, can print, and can map network drives with no problem and haven’t had to call the PC Guru guys to help me yet (though I will have to soon to get wireless and a couple of other small things working).

So why the dripping sarcasm at the beginning of this post? Because Microsoft STILL can’t tell the time!!! Windows in any of its variations still has NO IDEA how long something will take. I would’ve thought that maybe—just maybe—someone would’ve spent a little bit of brainpower figuring it out, but no, I get a message like the one below in Vista.

How hard can it be? The system can tell me how many files to copy, how big they are in total, and it knows my network connection speed (internal network, NOT internet). You’ve got all the variables needed to make some sort of a decent guess as to how long the process will take. Hell, even my high school maths would probably be able to take a stab at it.

C’mon guys—this is SIMPLE mathematics! You probably don’t even need the ‘number of files’ variable to work it out. But to give me a spurious thing like 48480 DAYS (132 years) is just ridiculous.

BTW, this file transfer actually took nearly 2 hours, much slower than I expected. I think it would’ve been quicker to load the files onto a USB stick and transfer them that way…

Update July 20 2009: Gordon McLean from One Man Writes tweeted a link to this brilliant cartoon from XKCD:


Word: Removing hyperlinks in a TOC

July 27, 2008

Word likes to do some of your thinking for you—which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how much you like Word.

One of the things Word thinks you should do is have your automated Table of Contents (TOC) entries as hyperlinks, and it may even put a blue underline beneath them for you. But what if you don’t want this?

In all versions of Word you can remove the hyperlink attribute from the TOC field code using the following method:

  1. Using the keyboard arrows, position your cursor just in front of the first TOC entry.
  2. Right-click, then select Toggle Field Codes. The field code is displayed—it will look something like { TOC \o “1-3” \h }.
  3. Delete the \h part.
  4. Press F9 to refresh the Table of Contents.
  5. Select the Update entire table option, then click OK.

Update: 21 August 2008: Be aware that removing the TOC hyperlinks in a Word 2007 document will not create a clickable TOC in any PDF you create from that document. See here for details:

[This article was first published in the March 2003 CyberText Newsletter]


More Bill Bryson books

July 26, 2008

I have now read a few more Bill Bryson books—much later than most people, I know.

He is such an easy writer to read, and has a great eye for the small everyday details that most people miss or take for granted. Two books of his that I read recently and that I highly recommend are Notes from a Big Country (also published under the title: I’m a stranger here myself) and Down Under (also published under the title: In a sunburned country).

Big Country is a collection of articles he wrote when he first returned to the US after 20 years living in Britain. Each is just over two pages, and perfectly captures the everyday life of Americans.

Down Under is about his travels in Australia. It is always interesting to read how others perceive your country, so it was with some trepidation that I came to this book. I loved it—it even made me laugh out loud on a flight!

More from the December 2004 newsletter…

Made in America: An informal history of the English language in the United States is a fascinating layperson’s analysis of the English used in the US and how those words and phrases came to be. Interestingly, I was surprised by how many words are part of Australian English, including many I had assumed originated in the United Kingdom.

A short history of nearly everything is Bryson’s latest book. Despite the title, this book contains little about the inventions of humankind, or even the time that humans have been on Earth. It is a rollicking good read of the scientific origins of our cosmos, our planet, and our biological systems. And it is all done in an effortless style that has you nodding with understanding as he explains concepts such as Einstein’s theory of relativity in plain English. Science at high school should have been this enjoyable!

Don’t be fooled by Bryson’s easy reading style—he references all his claims, and a full bibliography of these references takes up a large section of both books.

And from the June 2005 newsletter…

Yet ANOTHER Bill Bryson book… This time A walk in the woods, the story of his time walking quite a fair section of the one of the longest walking tracks in the world, the Appalachian Trail. As always, Bryson’s books are immensely readable—probably because he writes as though he is chatting to you as a friend. Although he and his friend ultimately walked less than half of the 2000+ mile Trail, it was still a mammoth effort of both mind and body.

[Parts of this article were first published in various CyberText newsletters prior to 2008; links last checked December 2007]


Outlook: Don’t send an email to the wrong person

July 25, 2008

(thanks Sue H for this tip)

If you’ve ever accidentally sent an email to the wrong person because you trusted Outlook’s autofill, then here’s the answer:

  1. Type a few letters of the name in the To field, then press CTRL+K. You’ll get a list of every name in your contact list containing that sequence of letters.
  2. Select the correct one and you’ll never be embarrassed by an ‘oops!’ email again.

[This article was first published in the December 2007 CyberText Newsletter]