Archive for March, 2010

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How visible are the main areas on your website?

March 31, 2010

If you want to know how visible the main areas on a website page are to readers, head on over to Google’s Browser Size Labs to find out. Update 2014: In 2012, Google added this feature to Google Analytics, so as far as I know it’s only available to those who use Google Analytics (see: http://analytics.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/new-feature-conduct-browser-size.html).

Google Browser Size (http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/) is a visualization of browser window sizes for people who visit Google. For example, the “90%” contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.

On the example page that you see when you first visit this site, there is a “donate now” button which falls within the 80% contour, meaning that 20% of users cannot see this button when they first visit the page. 20% is a significant number; knowing this fact would encourage the designer to move the button much higher in the page so it can be seen without scrolling.

[Links checked March 2010; updated August 2014]

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Word: Table row goes to new page

March 30, 2010

A client asked me to check one of their Word documents as a long table row was being forced onto a new page despite them turning on the option to allow the row to break across pages.

The clue to the solution was the little black square off to the left of the text in the left cell of the row — that told me that text had some paragraph settings turned on that might be counteracting the Allow row to break across pages setting. And so it was.

Little black square indicates that there are paragraph settings that apply to this text

When I checked the paragraph settings for the text, both Keep with next and Keep lines together were turned on. As soon as I turned them off, the row split across pages as it should.

You can find those paragraph settings here:

  • Word 2003: Format > Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks tab of the Paragraph window.
  • Word 2007: Home tab > Paragraph group > Dialog Launcher > Line and Page Breaks tab of the Paragraph window.
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BBC website makeover

March 29, 2010

How the BBC are making over their website is described in words and pictures on their blog: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/02/a_new_global_visual_language_f.html

It’s an interesting look at what worked on the old sites and what didn’t, and at how and why they came to certain decisions about design, color, typography etc.

For a major global website like the BBC, a website makeover is no small undertaking. It involves many people, many stakeholders, many hours, and an awful lot of money — and all while they continue to provide up-to-the-minute information to a 24/7 global audience.

[Links last checked March 2010]

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Internet speeds

March 28, 2010

When I was in Seattle at the WritersUA conference a week or so ago, I was able to get a high-speed wireless connection from the hotel room (not from the hotel itself, though). Well, it was high-speed for me, anyway. Compared to what I get in Australia, my internet speed there was blisteringly fast, though my US colleagues thought it was a bit slow. I was getting download speeds up to about 16 Mbps and upload speeds up to 11 Mbps — in Australia I can get up to 6 Mbps download and I get no more than 0.3 Mbps upload.

So why this discrepancy?

Australia has a variety of internet connection speeds. There’s what you pay for from your ISP, and there’s what you can get as a maximum even if you’ve paid top dollar to your ISP. And then there’s where you live. I can only speak about what I know for Western Australia — other states might be different.

Much of regional Western Australia has a maximum speed of 1.5 Mbps download (effective speed is up to 75% of that), with some parts getting 8 Mbps, and some very lucky (and very few) areas getting ADSL2 (24 Mbps). Perth varies, but much of it is covered by ADSL2. That said, there are some pockets in Perth where they can’t get broadband at all because of the age and configuration of the telephone exchanges. Some of the remoter areas of Western Australia use satellite, but I don’t know what sorts of speeds they get. Satellites can go offline if there’s a big storm. There’s no cable internet in Western Australia, as far as I am aware (I think it’s only available in certain parts of Sydney and Melbourne). Large businesses may be able to get much higher speeds than these, but those speeds are definitely not available to the average business or personal subscriber.

So when conference presenters make suggestions like putting much of what was previously in the self-contained and shipped online Help into blogs, wikis, knowledge bases, video, etc., I’m going to make a comment that assumptions about ‘always on, high-speed internet access’ is NOT applicable to everyone — even in the developed countries of the so-called western world. In the closing session of the WritersUA Conference, Leah Guren commented about the digital divide between those countries/regions that have decent internet access and those that don’t.

Update: On my return to Australia after the WritersUA conference, I stayed overnight at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Perth. They promoted their high-speed broadband (wired and wireless) in the rooms. When I tried to access it, the cost was a whopping 55c per minute up to a maximum of $29 for 24 hours!! I only needed to check email, so I figured it wouldn’t take long with high-speed broadband. How wrong I was! It was dog slow and when I checked it with speedtest.net, the download speed was around 0.24 Mbps and the upload speed was 0.03 Mbps. That’s probably less than dial-up speed! It sure wasn’t high-speed. I complained on checking out and the Hyatt did refund me my $10 charge for the 15 or so minutes it took me to do a 5 minute task, even though it comes through an external provider. Oh, and the Hyatt has no free Wifi in the lobby either. Australian internet/telecommunications infrastructure and hotel internet access sucks — big time.

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What do the US, Liberia and Burma have in common?

March 27, 2010

No, it’s not their political systems (!). They are the only three countries in the world that don’t use the metric system.

If the US went metric (as they’ve been threatening to do for years, but have never had the political will to do so), then simple things like parts, drill bits, Allen keys, fabric measurements, shoe and clothing sizes, etc. *might* have a chance of being standardized around the world. Global manufacturers would not have to tool up to make a metric version and a non-metric version, packaging wouldn’t have to have two versions printed on it, etc. The annual savings globally could stretch into billions of dollars.

Why doesn’t the US go metric???

For more information, see this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_system and http://science.howstuffworks.com/5-things-about-metric-system.htm

[Links last checked March 2010]

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Word: Header row won’t repeat

March 26, 2010

A client sent me a Word document to fix. One of the problems they were having was that the header row on a table would NOT repeat, no matter how many times they turned on or off the setting. (NOTE: If the ‘Header Row Repeat’ option is already on, turn it off, then back on again — sometimes just doing this will solve the problem. If it doesn’t, read on…)

The first thing I noticed was that when I tried to select the header, the preceding paragraph marker was also selected. That was strange, but it was a clue that lead me to the solution.

Paragraph marker is also selected when Header Row is selected

The table had been set up with Text Wrapping turned on (Around). As soon as I changed it to None, I could select the header row independently of the preceding paragraph marker AND the header row repeated as it should.

Solved!

You can find the text wrapping option here (you need to select the table first or at least put your cursor inside the table before you can see these options):

  • Word 2003: Table > Table Properties > Table tab, Text Wrapping section, select None.
  • Word 2007/2010: Table Tools > Layout tab > Table group, Properties icon, Table tab, Text Wrapping section, select None.

Alternatively, right-click anywhere in the table, then select Table Properties.

Turn off text wrapping to let the Header Row repeat

I don’t know why text wrapping affects the header row repeat function, but it does. Seems strange to me — if you have a table that goes on to a new page, then surely repeating the header row should be totally independent of any text wrapping.

Another option (from the 491st comment on this post [A Nezlin, 27 Jun 2019]—I’ve added it here so it doesn’t get missed): Another tip for when nothing else works—you may want to cancel ‘Preferred width’ in the Table Properties, for the Table, Column and Cell tabs and/or ‘referred Height’ for the Row tab as one or all those properties may be keeping the formatting and preventing the header row from repeating. Strange but true…

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WritersUA 2010 Conference: Day 3

March 25, 2010

It’s always over too soon! Today was the final day of the WritersUA Conference. There were four time slots for sessions, plus the Peer Showcase, and the closing session (which I moderated). As for the other days, breakfast was provided, but because of the long time slot for the Peer Showcase we had to find our own lunch.

I attended some great sessions today, and although my computer decided to ‘do a Char’ and my mouth was dry, I think I got through the closing session OK — I’ve never moderated a panel discussion before, so it was a new experience for me.

eBook Conversions: A Tutorial for UA Professionals

Joshua Tallent, from eBook Architects, ran this very informative session on how to create ePub and Kindle eBooks from sources such as Word, InDesign, and PDF. He went through some of the traps and pitfalls when saving these doc formats to HTML (all the major eBooks use HTML or XHTML as their basis [Kindle uses a basic form of HTML 3; ePub uses XHTML 1.1]), and highlighted some of the areas that need to get cleaned up (manually or via scripting). ePub is the industry standard  and it uses Dublin Core for the metadata (see www.idpf.org for complete specs on the standard). ePub also supports scalable vector graphics (SVG), but not all devices support SVG yet. No file within an ePub collection of files can be larger than 300 KB. You can test an ePub using Adobe Digital Editions, free from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions).

The Kindle has a minimal set of CSS styles that can be used, and there are some rules that have to be followed for the HTML (e.g. cannot nest a P tag inside a BLOCKQUOTE tag). Indenting is hardly supported, and may have to be achieved by using non-breaking spaces. Ordered lists only do Arabic numerals and unordered lists only convert to solid bullets. Tables have minimal support, and Joshua’s advice was to convert them to test or to an image. Kindle has an individual file size limit of only 64 KB, so larger images (in JPEG and GIF formats only; PNG and BMPs are converted) have to be downsized/downsampled before including them in a Kindle eBook.

Finally, Joshua had some advice for us on ‘When to hire a professional’:

  • When your eyes start to cross at the idea of understanding the ePub spec
  • When your boss says “I want this converted to ePub and Kindle in two days
  • When you are starting to work on an automation project
  • When you figure out that learning this eBook stuff will take you longer that reading the stimulus Bill and be just as difficult to follow.

Wireframing Tools and Techniques

What a terrific speaker Mike Hughes is! I usually try to get to one of his sessions if I can, even if I’m not particularly interested in the topic. However, I got a bonus today — I got to hear Mike speak and it was on a topic that I *was* interested in!

He went through the various low, medium and high fidelity methods of wireframing, listing their pros and cons, then demonstrated a few tools — who knew that PowerPoint could be such a useful wireframing tool? And, unlike bar napkins, PowerPoint slides don’t get soggy from your beer glass!

He also showed us the trick to get Pencil (a downloadable plug-in for Firefox) to work — after installing it, you go to Tools > Pencil Settings on the Firefox menu and it should open, ready for you to start using it (it seems that everyone has trouble trying to figure out this step!).

Writing for Mobile Devices: An End User Approach

After the Peer Showcase, I went along to Teresa Goertz’s session on how the team at Windows phone (yes, there’s a Windows 7 phone coming…) have dealt with UI text and user assistance. This was an interesting case study, though Teresa was limited in what she could say as the Windows phone is still in development. What she did say (based on a question from me) was that there will be a publicly available Microsoft style manual coming out AFTER the release of Windows phone. What I couldn’t figure out was if it would be a complete replacement for the 2003 edition of the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, or just a style guide for use with mobile devices. We shall wait and see…

Techniques for Using Acrobat More Effectively

The last session I attended was delivered by Alan Houser and it focused on more advanced Acrobat techniques. However, I already knew about many of the tips he showed us, so I didn’t get as much out of this session as I had expected.

Predictions Panel

I hosted this panel, so I didn’t take notes! I also don’t feel I’m in a position to comment on my own performance, but if someone who was at that session wishes to comment on it, feel free. The panelists were all women (we finally got the last word in!): Nicky Bleiel, Teresa Goertz, Leah Guren, and Linda Urban. Which Sarah O’Keeffe pointed out was appropriate on Ada Lovelace Day (Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer).

Update: Sarah O’Keefe has written her summary of the panel session here: http://www.scriptorium.com/blog/2010/03/writersua-user-assistance-trends-panel.html (for the record, it was me that mentioned Clippy’s bedroom eyes!).

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WritersUA 2010 Conference: Day 2

March 24, 2010

Expectations. They’re a funny thing. You start out reading a title, then an abstract/summary of a session, then you look at who the session’s presenter is. Then, based on the words you read and how you interpret those words (and the reputation of the speaker, if you know it), you decide whether or not that session is for you.

With that in mind, I chose  two sessions today that didn’t meet my expectations.  I don’t know if the words in the abstract were wrong, or if my interpretation of them was wrong (very possible!), or if the presenter decided to take a different tack to their original submission. Whatever. My expectations weren’t met, and so that means my summary of those sessions is perhaps a little skewed.

Think Simple — A Minimalist Approach to User Assistance

Scott Nesbitt, from DMN Communications, spoke on this topic. This session didn’t meet my expectations at all. I assumed it was about reducing the words, reducing the number of topics, pruning the Help so that only the critical stuff was left. When Scott said ‘think simple’ he emphasized that by ‘simple’ he meant minimal and streamlined. But then he went on to say that if we cut topics from our Help systems, then we shouldn’t discard those topics, but put them into another format — perhaps a wiki, a blog, a knowledge base article, audio, video — and link to them from the Help. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. Putting content in another place isn’t minimizing it — it’s just shifting its location. If I remove furniture to give my house a minimalist look, and put that furniture into my garage, then I haven’t achieved anything — I’ve just hidden the furniture from view, I’ve made it harder to find, and I may not even remember that I have it.

He also contended that traditional expandable/collapsible tables of contents were a ‘rehearsed routine’ that we should discard and replace with categorized flat link structures. Again, I can’t see how clicking on lots of links to drill down to content is any more efficient or effective than a well-structured TOC with useful and meaningful headings.

It wasn’t until 10 minutes before the end of the session that Scott mentioned ‘writing tightly’ — which is what I expected the entire session to be on.

It may have been a lack of time (60 minutes perhaps isn’t enough for some sessions), but it was annoying to hear ‘I’ll get to that later’ in response to some good questions then find that there was no ‘later’ as the time ran out.

From Info Strategy to Info Types

Bob Boiko spoke on the need for us to be involved in the whole information strategy for our organizations — to be the leaders, not the followers. He reminded us that while getting the right information to the user (he prefers the term ‘audience’) is important, we need to remember who pays our bills.

Some of the snippets I got from Bob’s dynamic presentation included:

  • Avoid the encyclopedic manual
  • The book/manual is no longer the currency of information — everything is going online
  • Information should be as much a strategic asset to an organization as finances
  • The ‘right’ information is: understandable, responsive, comprehensive, and credible
  • Apply the editorial process judiciously — high-value information channels should get high quality editing
  • Are both the grammatical and validity passes necessary for EVERY piece of information?
  • Writing is a proxy for face-to-face communication
  • Change our focus from a cost center to a value/profit center
  • Editors make information well-formed (internal consistency); ‘metators’ tag information, giving consistency to the base of the information
  • If information is power (as we all believed),  and if information is a strategic asset to the organization (we all believed this too), then why do most organizations suck at it??

Building Your Own AIR Help Application

I’d seen Tony Self do a presentation on Adobe’s AIR at the AODC conference a couple of years ago. At the time, it looked like it might be the killer application to replace  Microsoft’s HTML Help (*.chm files), as it could package lots of files into one file and deliver that file to Windows, Mac and Linux users. Tony also demonstrated how user comments could be incorporated. I was impressed. So I was keen to see how the promise of a couple of years ago was working out. With that in mind I attended Scott Prentice’s 2-hour hands-on session on creating a Help application with AIR.

The first problem (not of Scott’s making) was the files. Lots of files have to be downloaded and installed before you can even install the AIR application (Flex files, AIR SDK files, etc.). Fortunately, the files were on thumb drives that we passed around, so we didn’t have to try to download very large files from the internet. Getting set up so we could start looking at the example files took a good 30 minutes. Some PCs were missing DLLs that had to get downloaded and registered separately, and by the time lunch came, we hadn’t made too many inroads.

Of those who returned after lunch (several dropped out), most of us came back early to try to get things happening. We could all get the absolute basic supplied files to compile. But as soon as we tried to branch out a bit, things started to come unstuck — for me, anyway. I could load in some HTML files I had on my system and get them to run inside Scott’s supplied files by making a few file path tweaks. But as soon as I tried to comment out unwanted code etc. I had trouble compiling the SWF file, which is required before you can even create the AIR application. No-one could get it to work, and I was floundering. I also couldn’t create the self-signed digital certificate (some sort of java error), which is also required before you can create the AIR package. Meantime, Scott had to continue on with his presentation and show us some of the slightly more advanced things you could do.

I came away from that session thinking that until AIR gets a decent GUI, it’s a long way from ending up in the hands of many help authors. Having to run several batch files in a particular order, from particular directories was not my idea of fun. Scott did say that Flex offered a UI that helped, but we didn’t see that in action. I’m too old to start learning command line commands or how to create batch files! So AIR Help is off the agenda for me — at least, until it gets out of the hands of those who like getting down and dirty in the command line and in hand-coding MXML and XML files.

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Other stuff

A new thing tried this year was the session on topics suggested, chosen and presented by us (each 20 minutes), which was held simultaneously with an open invitation to visit several consultants, contractors, and others who were scattered in various rooms around the venue. As I was one of those who would field questions from anyone, I didn’t get to see any of the off-the cuff presentations. I had two people come and ask me questions — one wanted some in-depth advice on how to approach a Word template change process in Author-it, and the other (from Russia) wanted some advice on whether it was better to have inline related links or have them listed in a ‘see also’ list at the bottom of a topic. I went through what I thought were the pros and cons of each option, then suggested some other options, like DHTML/JavaScript show/hide snippets, tooltips, or other popups that meant the user didn’t have to navigate away from the primary topic. I referred him to Dave Gash and Dave’s recent article on the WritersUA website where he looks at the various tooltip display options.

The last official business of the day was the vendor showcase. I attended the Author-it one to see what new stuff has been added.

Next stop was the Geek Trivia Night. Dave Gash set the questions and they were NASTY. I think I only answered about three out of the 50. Our table averaged about 4/10 for each set of questions. We didn’t come last, but I suspect we weren’t far off! Most of those who attended had a bite to eat there, then, after the trivia night was done, those with the time and inclination continued on with Tony Self for the Australian Cultural Event (aka pub crawl). As one of the two Australians here, I should have been with them, but I slunk off back to the hotel to write this blog post and to get a good night’s sleep before I host the closing panel at the end of the conference tomorrow. I hope there aren’t too many sore heads tomorrow morning!

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WritersUA 2010 Conference: Day 1

March 23, 2010

Finally, the 18th Annual WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance started today in Seattle. I attended the opening session and four others. Here’s my summary of the sessions I attended. Please note: This is MY personal summary; if you attended the same sessions, you may have different opinions than mine — and that’s OK!

Let’s Look in the Mirror and See What We See

The opening session featured Joe Welinske, Matthew Ellison, and Tony Self — and us, the audience! We were all given little hand-held devices as we entered the room and had to press buttons to indicate our responses to certain questions about what we do and how we do it. The guys started off with some fun questions just to get the audience warmed up, then we got down to business. Some of the results were interesting, particularly the one about smart phones — remember, this was a techie audience of some 360 people, so I would’ve expected a much different result on that question. Here’s a summary:

  • Percentage of time spent actually writing versus planning etc.: Fairly even spread between each option (0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, 75-100%)
  • Reasons why we use PDF: 55% said it was because it’s common
  • Importance of a Table of Contents in online user guides: 81% said it was of moderate to indispensable value
  • How often we telecommute to work each week: 26% never; 27% less than one day a week; 27% 1 to 2 days a week; 8% 3 to 4 days a week; 12% full time
  • How flexible are our work hours: 84% said they had just enough flexibility or whatever they needed
  • Our primary method of non-sales contact with our users: 36% had no contact with their users; 21% via email; 15% in person; 11% by phone/conference call; and 17% by other means
  • Where did we think DITA would be in 5 years time: 39% said only the DITA ‘fan boys’ would be using it; 41% thought only large companies would be using it; 14% thought it would be widely adopted, and 6% thought it would be obsolete
  • Did we know what the SCORM acronym meant: 84% no, 16% yes (though I think many knew what it was used for without knowing the meaning of the letters)
  • Did we care what SCORM meant: 37% yes, 63% no
  • When asked what type of smart phone we were using: a whopping 57% of us said we weren’t using a smart phone; 22% iPhone; 10% Blackberry; 5% Android; 4% Windows Mobile; and 3% Palm
  • Hiring health of UA professionals in your organization in the current economy: 16% are hiring new positions;  23% are refilling empty positions; 51% are neither hiring nor firing; 10% said ‘You don’t want to know’
  • How do we get help when have problems with our Help Authoring Tool: 39% use the Help; 30% use Google; 31% ask or email a colleague or peer
  • Which would we most like to offer our customers: 56% animations/simulations; 19% YouTube-like videos; 12% line drawing/flowcharts; 5% audio content; 8% cartoons
  • How effective is customer-provided content (e.g. online communities, wikis) to your organization: 48% said they don’t do this; 21% said users mostly loved it; 19% said user reactions were mixed; 2% said user reactions were mostly negative; 10% said user reactions were mostly indifferent

The questions finished with a silly one from Tony on double negatives.

This was a neat idea for a session. Based on the description, I didn’t know how this session would fly but it was great ice breaker for a conference. And what a clever way of getting instantaneous feedback.

High-end Captivate Tips and Tricks

Joe Ganci’s presentation was great. I learned a lot — and I especially learned about some shortcuts to make adding narration and editing captions in Captivate much easier and quicker. All sessions at this year’s conference are an hour long, so Joe didn’t get to cover anywhere near as much material as he had in his slides. His session would make a terrific workshop or a double hands on session. I left wanting more and fully intend checking out all his slides.

The Power of Controlled Language in UA

Dave Gash is a terrific speaker with a lot of presence. He took us through the history and development of  controlled language, especially Simplified Technical English, and gave us lots of resources to check it out for ourselves. He also went through the pros and cons of using controlled language, and the benefits to the organization, the writers and especially the users. I got enough out of his session to want to follow up his list of resources and check out whether this would be a good option to pursue.

Structure, Semantics, Controls and More: HTML 5 is Here!

Another top speaker at this conference is Char James-Tanny. And with everything that went technically wrong at the beginning of Char’s presentation, she showed how much of a  professional she is. Her recovery from every presenter’s nightmare was exemplary, and she gave a terrific presentation under some pretty trying circumstances — lesser mortals would’ve fallen in a heap! Char’s presentation was full of information and examples of some of the new HTML 5 tags, and some of the changes to the rules in HTML 5 (simple DOCTYPE declaration, no need to close void tags, tag case not important, quotes not important, no attributes allowed in the BODY tag, etc.)

Building Support for Content Strategy from the Grassroots Up

My final session of the day was this one on content strategy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t engage with it — it didn’t match my expectations based on the published abstract. It seemed to be mostly about Google Analytics, and, while I use Analytics for the websites I manage (and have managed), I didn’t get a lot from this session. Maybe I was just tired and jet lag was catching up with me.

Social time!

The day finished with a Mixer (free drink and finger food), after which people split off into their own groups for dinner. I went with three others to the Icon Grill across the road from The Westin, where I had the Grilled Flat Iron Steak (with Roquefort dressing). Then it was back to the room to write this blog post, and get some much needed sleep before it all starts again tomorrow!

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Hotel internet access

March 22, 2010

One thing that’s apparent in the US is that the more you pay for a hotel room, the less likely it is that you’ll get cheap/free internet access. And that’s the case with The Westin in Seattle, as well as many other fine hotels.

Don’t get me wrong — The Westin, Seattle is a great hotel. It was the venue for the 2009 WritersUA Conference for Software User Assistance, and is the same venue for the 2010 conference. I was really pleased we were coming back here again, as we had such a good experience last year. But their internet access ‘rules’ for the rooms leaves a lot to be desired. We can get free wireless in the hotel lobby and the conference organizers have arranged for free wireless in the conference rooms and public areas. This is great. But when it comes to the rooms, it’s a different story.

I’m sharing a room. As far as I know, both our names are on the registration and there are two beds in our room. We checked in together and were told at check-in that there was both wireless and wired internet access in the room. We knew we’d have to pay, based on last year’s experience and based on my experiences with other high-end hotels in the US and Australia. Paying wasn’t a problem — but being asked to pay twice is a bit much.

Here’s how I think it works. If both guests in the same room have their own computers (as we do — we’re at a techie conference, after all, and Seattle is a techie town), then the first computer to access the internet has to register and pay the $9.95 daily fee. No problem with that. When the second person tries to access the internet using their own computer, they cannot log in under the first person’s name/room number and must register separately — and pay another $9.95 daily fee. I assume that a cookie is added or a MAC address is recorded for the first computer, which is why the second computer is not recognized as being in the same room and under the single booking. That means the daily rate for the room has now increased by some $20+ per day (‘cos you can be sure that there’ll be tax added somewhere!). I called the tech support people and was told that two access points (wireless and wired) did not mean two different computers on the same account, and that we’d have to pay a second daily fee.

In my opinion, this is a fail on the part of The Westin. There shouldn’t be an expectation that two people sharing a room will also be sharing a single computer, especially not those attending a conference in a city full of conferences for companies like Microsoft and the like. We’re sharing a room, a bathroom, we have two beds, they happily supplied us with an extra chair for the desk, but they want to charge us separately for internet access. That’s just a rip-off in my book.

Well, there is an alternative for others in this situation of sharing a room but not being able to share the internet connection — look for another wireless point.

I found some unsecured ones, but the one I tried that went straight in without wanting payment slowed to a crawl after a short period of time (down to less than 1Mbps for download and an almost unregistrable amount for upload speed). I then tried a few others that wanted payment, and hit on the 5ghz Guest Internet unsecured wireless network — they charge $5 per day or $13 for 3 days, and they have a speed test link available for you to check the speeds before you sign up. For me, those speeds were blisteringly fast, compared to what I can get in Australia!

I signed up for three days (and the 24 hour period starts from the moment you sign up), and so far, so good. The speed has been excellent, and there have been no drop outs.

BTW, when you sign up, you have to pay via PayPal — there are no other payment methods.

Update: Found out that there are various specifications for wireless network adapters. If you don’t see the 5ghz Guest Internet option listed, you may see the 2.4ghz Guest Internet option — choose that. They are run by the same people, but are for differently specced wireless adapters.

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