Archive for April, 2009


Vista: Rebuild indexes

April 30, 2009

If you can’t find recent emails etc. when doing a search in Vista, it’s possible that the Vista indexing service has not caught up with the newer items. You can force Vista to rebuild the index, which should solve this problem.

  1. Click the Start button, then type indexing options in the Start Search box.
  2. On the Indexing Options window, click  the Advanced button. Click Continue if you are asked for permission to access this area.
  3. On the Index Settings tab, click Rebuild in the Troubleshooting section.

Power adaptor pack

April 29, 2009

The little power adaptor pack I got from Adobe at the WritersUA conference is REALLY neat. It has adpators going both ways for heaps and heaps of countries that use any of these adaptor formats: US, Europe, UK and Australia, which pretty much covers most of the world. The total pack is about 2″ long, and 1.5″ wide and deep. There are three interlocking pieces, and between them they cover almost every power outlet you’re likely to find.

On previous trips I’ve taken special adaptors for the US and Hong Kong (UK) — now I only have to take this little box and I’m all set.

Oh, and when you remove the little European adaptor, you can use it to turn the US male ends to the correct angle for Australia. Very clever design.


Table and figure numbering

April 28, 2009

If you include tables and figures in your document should you:

  • number them all sequentially (e.g. Table 1 through Table 25; Figure 1 through Figure 39, etc.)?
  • include the chapter number in the table/figure number (e.g. Table 4-1, Table 4-2, Table 6-1; Figure 1-1, Figure 1-2, Figure 3-1, etc.)?
  • not number them at all?

The decision you make will depend on the requirements of the person or organization requesting the document, the style guide you have to follow for the document, the audience for your document (e.g. scientists and engineers may expect chapter numbers), and if none of those apply, your personal preference.

This article — The case for simple numbering — may help you make the decision in the absence of any prescribed style guide or directions from the ultimate owners of the document.

See also: Create an automated Table of Figures:

[Links last checked February 2012]


Compound words

April 27, 2009

Anne, a work colleague, asked:

Do you use ‘lifecycle’, ‘life-cycle’, or ‘life cycle’?

The Collins Dictionary has it as ‘life cycle’ however I’m seeing it written as ‘lifecycle’ more and more elsewhere.

My response:

My preference (without looking it up) would be ‘lifecycle’, but The Macquarie Dictionary 3rd edition (our corporate authority) says ‘life cycle’. So I guess it has to be ‘life cycle’.

I hate these ‘in transit’ words — they start as two words, then hyphenate, then close up becoming a compound word. Sometimes the closure is really quick (e.g. database); other times it takes decades, and people argue over what’s right or wrong during the entire time!

The worst are the prefix words, like sub, multi, non, bi, semi, etc. There is SO much variation in those, it’s not funny. Some are closed, some remain hyphenated, and still others remain separate…

Take ‘sea’ for example. I’ve been working with a lot of ‘sea’ words lately, but there’s no apparent reason for some being compound words and others being separate — sea floor v. seabed, sea dragon v. seahorse, etc.

See also:


This week’s safety moment

April 26, 2009

I’ve worked for several mining and resources companies, and they are all big on safety. In one company, EVERY meeting — no matter what it was about, how long it went for, or who was attending — had to start with a safety issue.

So on that note here’s this week’s safety moment from me. I received the pictures in this series from a work colleague some time ago. And as it’s a long weekend here in Australia this weekend, I thought it was an opportune time to share.

The scenario: Someone has invited others to a BBQ for Australia Day (a national holiday in the middle of summer) and each person has to bring something along to contribute to the success of the BBQ. The pictures tell the rest of the story…

(click the small photos to see a larger version)

What was he (and the person who put the BBQ over his head) thinking? Just be thankful he wasn’t asked to bring the gas bottle too!


Amazing technology

April 25, 2009

Coming soon… well, I don’t know when, but a working model of wearable computing already exists and it’s pretty darned cool. A bit scary too, if used for nefarious reasons, but if used as intended, this type of technology will transform how we interact with the people and objects around us.

TED Talks has the video demonstration of this new technology developed by Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry and their team at MIT:


Vista: Classic Windows Explorer view

April 24, 2009

One of the things I’m still trying to get used to in Vista is the way that files and folders are displayed. I don’t find there’s enough space for deeply nested folders on the left so I have to resize the ‘Explorer’ window regularly. And I’m not sure I like everything under ‘Desktop’ — including all my network connections. I’ll persevere.

But if you’re not the persevering type and really want your Vista ‘Explorer’ to look like it did in Windows XP, then you can. Here’s how:

  1. Click the Start button, then click Computer to open Vista’s ‘Explorer’
  2. Click Organize > Folder and Search Options (OR press Alt to display the menu bar — yes, it’s hidden by default! — then go to Tools > Folder Options).
  3. Go to the General tab.
  4. Select the Use Windows classic folders option.
  5. If you want to always display menus go to the View tab and select the Always show menus check box.
  6. Click OK.
Setting classic folder view in Vista

Setting classic folder view in Vista


Brilliant support from WordPress

April 23, 2009

I use the free domain for this blog, and I use one of the default themes — Neat — for this blog’s ‘look and feel’.

Some time ago I’d noticed that sub-bullets nested inside a numbered list didn’t display properly. Because I write a lot of step-by-step instructions in my blog posts, I finally decided to find out if I could change this behavior. I checked the forums and support knowledge base/FAQs, but found nothing at all about this. Then I figured that perhaps most bloggers aren’t writing step-by-step instructions that require sub-steps — only technical writers like me…

So I emailed WordPress Support. I explained the problem and how nesting a UL list inside an OL list is perfectly acceptable HTML, but despite that, it would not display correctly. By next morning I had a reply from Nick asking me to send through a link to an example post that showed this errant behavior. I did, and also sent him a link to a post showing how I was currently dealing with it using BR tags and asterisks for the bullets.

Within a couple of hours, Nick emailed me back saying that yes, it was an omission in Neat’s CSS, and that he’d now fixed it. I checked my example post and voila! It was all fixed and working correctly.

That’s pretty impressive service for a free product. Thanks Nick and WordPress!

Now I have to go back through all 600+ posts and correct those with nested bullets… I think that’s a job for a quiet, rainy day…


Confluence Wiki for $5

April 22, 2009

Atlassian, the developers of the Confluence Wiki software and JIRA bug tracking software have a deal on at the moment where you can get a 5-user license for both products for just $5 each.

The deal finishes on April 24, 2009, and all proceeds of these sales go to a charity.

Get yours quick!



Work for hire contract in plain English

April 21, 2009

Andy Clarke has shared his terrific plain English ‘killer’ contract with the world. It’s an ideal starting point for independent contractors such as writers, graphic designers, web developers, etc. for dealing with their clients’ projects.

You can see the essentials of his contract here: (don’t forget to look at the Comments too).

Text version.

(Thanks to Art C on the STC Contractors and Independent Consultants SIG discussion list for alerting me to this site)

[Links last checked March 2009]