Archive for October, 2010


Telstra did ask… so I told them!

October 29, 2010

Earlier this week I received a letter from a chap in Telstra letting me know that some of my current mobile phone’s services will be killed off. They are services I never use anyway, so that’s no big deal — phone calls and texts are not affected. Part of the letter was, of course, a sales pitch encouraging me to upgrade to a phone suitable for Telstra’s Next G network. And at the end of the letter, the gentleman added a PS:

Don’t hesitate to drop me a line with any feedback about our products, services or support.

And he provided his direct email address! Nice!

So today I wrote back to him:

Thank you for informing me via letter that changes are being made to the earlier 3G (2100 MHz) network. And for letting me know that my mobile only operates on that earlier network.

You’ve encouraged me to upgrade to the Next G network, but UNTIL I CAN BE GUARANTEED my reception will improve as a result — in writing and with monetary recompense if it doesn’t improve — there’s no way I’m throwing good money after bad to Telstra.

My existing (old) mobile phone service, according to the ‘3G and GSM’ map on Telstra’s website, is EXCELLENT (bright green). Well, I invite you to come to my house and you’ll see just how ‘excellent’ it is. I’m lucky to get 1 bar for reception and the phone is continually reporting that I’m in up to 6 different cells — it can’t decide, so rotates through them all, including a cell that’s some 30 km away from where I live!

Whenever I take a mobile call, I ask the caller to call me on the landline as I can’t guarantee that the call won’t break up or drop out. Sometimes, if I stand in a certain position or turn myself in a certain way, I *might* just be able to sustain a call for a short time but as soon as I move, it breaks up. I’m a home-based business working remotely with my clients — this is not a good look for my existing or potential customers.

And it’s not just *my* phone. Various tradesmen have been here in recent months and I ask them if they’re on Telstra and get them to the check the reception bars and tell me what sort of phone they have (GSM, 3G and Next G). They ALL get 0 to 2 bars for reception, no matter what phone they are using. According to the Telstra map of Next G coverage, I’m in a bright orange zone so should get excellent coverage on the new network. But I’m NOT spending money on a new phone to find out that it works no better than the old one. One time, when I called Telstra about my crappy reception, the nice gentleman there said that upgrading my phone (at my cost) ‘would definitely’ improve my reception. I asked him to GUARANTEE that bold claim — he wouldn’t. He backed off and said it ‘should’ improve.

So, again, I thank you for your letter, but until Telstra actually delivers the coverage they state is EXCELLENT in my location, there’s no way I’m throwing away any more money on mobile phones.

Oh, and by the way, it’s not just my mobile coverage that’s bad. Even though I pay for a business broadband plan with my ISP, Telstra have seen fit to ‘shape’ my broadband access, thus limiting my ability to work (see my blog post about this here: There’s nothing I or my ISP can do about this. Maybe Telstra will remove the shaping at some point; maybe not.

So I’m not at all happy with Telstra.

You asked me to ‘drop you a line with any feedback about your products, services or support’.

If Telstra delivered on its promises, that would be a good start — mobile coverage that reflects what you say it does, and broadband access that isn’t throttled by a decision by someone in Telstra.

It’s so rare that you can get access to anyone in Telstra that I couldn’t resist ;-)

As an aside, I never call Telstra these days as the ‘on hold’ times are ridiculous — typically an hour or more being shunted from one department to another with no resolution to your problem, or even them ‘losing’ your call along the way so you have to start all over. BTW, I heard the other day that if Telstra are called out by my ISP for a fault, and then find that it’s not a fault at all (and remember, it’s their word against mine) they charge a call out fee ($60?), plus $30 per 15 minutes callout time. I wonder if we should all invoice Telstra for our time kept on hold in their labyrinthine system. Maybe their customer service might improve as a result… it’s worth trying!

Update 2 November 2010: I received this email from Telstra this morning:

Thanks for your email. We appreciate you taking the time to write. I so apologise for the time delay in responding to your email.

I have requested a formal complaint be registered here for you with regards to coverage and the issues you have had here. You will be contacted directly by one of our case managers to see what we can do to assist here.

Update 5 November 2010: So I got the call from Telstra today. I ended up speaking to two people, one about my poor mobile reception and other about my broadband shaping. These are some things I found out about my mobile phone reception:

  • It looks as though we live in a ‘black hole’ between towers (I had already figured that one out!)
  • Telstra (and NONE of the providers) can provide a written guarantee of mobile service for a particular location
  • Telstra are happy to kill the existing part of my current contract with them if I decide to go to another carrier (but what’s the point if the coverage is just as bad — or worse; it could be better, but it may not be — remember, no guarantees!)
  • Telstra, Optus and Vodaphone all have their own cell phone towers
  • Switching to Next G might improve my reception — or it might not
  • Next time I upgrade my phone, insist on a ‘blue tick’ phone, as these have stronger reception capabilities even though they may look uglier

And here’s what I found out about my broadband shaping:

  • Everyone on the RIM exchange I’m on is shaped (and I thought it was just me…)
  • The reason it’s shaped is that the exchange is congested (hello? There are no more than 50 houses in this area and my reading about RIM exchanges says that up to 400 subscribers can be on one RIM exchange… something’s not right here; also, the area was subdivided and the RIM exchange was set up in about 2005 — how can it be congested already when there’s a finite number of blocks in this low-density housing location??)
  • Telstra can only guarantee service of 1.1 Mbps download, no matter what we pay for or what plan we’re on. The lady I spoke to told me there were people in the heart of Melbourne who could only get 1.1 Mbps even if they’re on ADSL2! (I bet they’re impressed — NOT!)
  • She confirmed that even if I could switch to an ADSL2 plan (which I can’t), I’d still be shaped along with everyone else on this exchange.
  • Until the infrastructure is upgraded, the shaping will stay in place. When I asked about the infrastructure upgrade, she said she had no idea when, where etc. and said that it was up to the federal government, and that with deregulation, Telstra had no obligation to upgrade infrastructure. (Great — I really wanted to hear that…)
  • Of course, the existing infrastructure is unlikely to be upgraded because of the NBN rollout. And no, there’s NO indication as to when we might get NBN here — it could be two years, it could be eight, it could be never…

[Link last checked October 2010]


It’s all about context

October 27, 2010

Here’s one to cause confusion in a teleconference.

I’m currently working on a document that includes a reference to the ‘Anchor Management Procedure’. On reading it, my first interpretation was ‘Anger Management Procedure’!

If I was in a teleconference, that ‘Anchor Management Procedure’ phrase could well cause confusion. Of course, if the topic was constructing a jetty (which is what this section of the document is about), then it’s pretty clear.

It’s all about context…

(BTW, I didn’t realize that when I read I ‘hear’ the sounds of the words in my head. Do you ‘read aloud’ in your head when reading? Or are they just letters and words on a page?)


Trend affects ping rate. Why?

October 26, 2010

For some time now I’ve suspected that Trend anti-virus affects a computer’s ping rate. My computer had McAfee installed, but my Vista laptop and my husband’s computer both had Trend installed. Using I knew that the ping rate from my machine to the internet was around 50 ms, but was around 700 ms from the other two machines after Trend was installed.

When I mentioned this to the Trend support people a couple of years ago when my husband’s computer was reinstalled, then again when he got a new one, they emphatically denied that Trend was the culprit even though running a ping rate test prior to installing Trend showed his computer getting those 50 ms ping rates before installing Trend and 700 ms rates after installation.

Which brings me to now. A few days ago, we got Trend Worry Free Business installed on the server and the client installed on my machine (after removing the well-and-truly expired McAfee).

Guess what’s happened to my ping rates from the moment Trend was installed? They jumped to that 700 ms rate immediately after installation and haven’t budged.

I’m not noticing any other effects on internet access, but Trend has definitely had an effect on my ping rates, despite their denials.

Anyone know why?

Oh, and as an aside. Look at those wonderful download rates I get from my 8 mbps connection! This is Telstra shaping in action, folks! It’s been like this since August 11, 2010, with no indication if/when it might go back to the 4 to 6 mbps download speeds we were getting before being shaped. We pay for 8 and get maybe 2.6 — what a joke!

[Links last checked October 2010]


Word: Stop hyphens breaking over a line

October 25, 2010

I know. That sounds silly. Surely one of the uses of a hyphen is to break a word at the end of a line.

But sometimes you have a hyphen in a term that you DON’T want to break at the end of a line. For example, in some of the docs I’ve been working on, there are hyphenated license and permit numbers, such as W2345-98-P67. I want this string of numbers to stay together no matter what and I don’t want them to break if they hit the end of a line.

I’d never checked if I could do that, and had put up with the occasional instance of such a number splitting. Then a few days ago, a tip from Jeanne M Perdue’s Technical Writing Tips from the Oil Patch blog came into my Inbox — and there was the solution!

To insert a non breaking hyphen, hold down Ctrl+Shift as you press the hyphen key.

That’s it. With Ctrl+Shift+- a non breaking hyphen is inserted (it looks a little like a cross between a hyphen and an en dash) and all parts of your term will stay together.

Thanks Jeanne!

See also:

[Links last checked October 2010]


Word: Pasting a row into a table doesn’t keep the column widths

October 21, 2010


You have a Word table with several rows. You cut a row from the table and paste it into another position within the same table. The column widths don’t ‘honor’ the widths of the original row.

You figure out you can get around it by any of these methods:

  • split the table, resize the column widths, then join the table back together again
  • convert the table to text, then convert it back to a table again
  • drag the columns to lock them into the previously established positions
  • insert a blank row into the main table, then copy/paste the content from the cut row into the table cells.

But all of these solutions are painfully tedious and time-consuming. You should ask my husband just how painful — he had this problem and I heard him complain long and loud in frustration (he works with Word tables ALL the time)!


Check your Smart Cut and Paste settings and make sure the Adjust table formatting and alignment on paste check box is selected.

  1. Check the Smart cut and paste settings:
    • Word 2003: On the menu, go to Tools > Options. Click the Edit tab.
    • Word 2007: Click the Office button, then Word Options. Click Advanced in the left panel and scroll down to the Cut, copy and paste section.
  2. Make sure the Smart cut and paste check box is selected.
  3. Click the Settings button next to that check box.
  4. Make sure the Adjust table formatting and alignment on paste check box.
  5. Click OK to exit both windows.

Word 2003 window; the Word 2007 selections are the same, but the window is different


Sporadic posting…

October 20, 2010

When you read this, I’ll either be preparing to go under the knife, be under it, or be out from under it! Of course, if you’re reading this post many days after it’s publication date, I’ll be well and truly out from under.

I’m having shoulder surgery — officially Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression (ASAD). It’s keyhole surgery (two incisions according to the orthopedic surgeon) that’s meant to take about 45 mins to an hour. I’m to be in hospital for one night, perhaps two, depending on recovery, pain management and the availability of the physiotherapist.

Unlike rotator cuff surgery, I’m meant to be in a sling for only a couple of days, then the surgeon wants me using the shoulder as much as possible to prevent ‘frozen shoulder’.

I don’t know how much use I’ll have of my left arm — but I do know that I’m not allowed to drive at all until I get the all clear from the surgeon… and I don’t meet with him again until November 1.

What this means is that my blog posts may be a little sporadic over the next week or two. If I can’t type, then I won’t be posting.


Word 2007: Resizing a graphic makes it go really small

October 19, 2010

Since using Word 2007, I’ve noticed that some graphics go really small when you try to resize them by percentage. Until now, I hadn’t figured out why or how to overcome the problem. But I think I’ve stumbled on the reason and a solution.

I *think* the problem lies with where the graphics come from originally (e.g. Visio) and/or the file format they are saved to (e.g. gif, png, jpg, etc.). But it may be Word.

I had a Visio diagram that I saved to PNG. I inserted it into Word 2007 and it went in fine. But when I looked at its native size (right-click on the image, select Size), it was listed as 10% of the actual size even though it filled the page. I didn’t want it to fill the page, so needed to make it smaller. Instead of resizing the image outside Word (the file size was only about 300 KB), I decided to use the Size function to reduce it to 5% of the actual size thus halving the size of the displayed image on the page.

I entered 5% as the new value and clicked Close. The image shrunk down to less than the size of a postage stamp! It should’ve taken up about half the page. I went back to check what I’d typed, and saw that it was set to 1%. So I typed 50% this time — and double-checked it before clicking Close. It still showed as a postage stamp size and was listed as 1%. What was going on?

Back into the Size dialog box… where I noticed the tooltip below as I hovered over the Height and Width boxes: Enter a value from 1% to 0%. What?

Nothing I did with the values in that Scale area would allow me to set a value that Word would hold — it kept resetting to 1%.

Back to the drawing board — or, in this case, back to Visio. I saved the drawing as GIF and inserted it into the document in place of the PNG. When I checked the Size window for it, it showed as 100%, AND the tooltip said Enter a value from 1% to 200%. That was better.

So I solved the immediate problem by saving the image in a different file format and inserting it.

I’d have to do a bit more experimenting to see whether the problem is at the Word end, the Visio end, or if it’s the file format, or something else. I can’t recall ever seeing this issue in Word 2003, but then, I didn’t do a lot with Visio diagrams either. That said, something in the back of my memory is niggling at me now — I vaguely recall an issue where the Word output from Author-it would resize some graphics down to a really small size. I think those graphics may have been PNGs too… It didn’t happen often to me, but I do recall seeing it and I recall some people on the Author-it discussion group getting it more often than others. I was definitely using Word 2003 then. Hmmm. I’ll have to do some more investigating when I have time.


My disk icons are now folders — why?

October 18, 2010

After my husband’s computer was reinstalled a few weeks back, he noticed that one of his hard drives now had no drive icon in Explorer (instead, it was a funny shaped squarish thing), then a few days later the icon changed to a folder, then back to the squarish non-icon. I had no clue how or why it changed, but I wasn’t really concerned about it.

Until the guys at PC Guru needed to reconnect his computer to the new server… We discovered that his D and F drives (one internet and one external hard drive) had an “Access Denied” message when we tried to open them via My Computer. We set and reset the permissions and sharing options several times, rebooted the PC and the server, logged out and back in again, and generally faffed around (that’s a technical term!) trying to get rid of the message, all with no success.

Surprisingly, I found that I could still open all the folders and files on those two drives via Explorer — just not via My Computer. After trying lots of things, I left it with my PC Guru guy to see if he could find out from the other guys in the office and from Google what was going on.

Some minutes later he came back with a possible solution — and it worked! Not only could we open the D and F drives from within My Computer, but we also got the drive icons back for those drives. It seems there’s a file that ends up on a computer (possibly some sort of virus?), that doesn’t get picked up by the anti-virus software (Trend in my husband’s case) or Super AntiSpyware or MalwareBytes. The file is called autorun.inf and it appears to be more of a nuisance than anything else.

However, it’s a file that can’t be seen and can only be removed via the command prompt window.

  1. Open the command prompt window (Start > Run > cmd).
  2. Type cd\ to get back to the root of the current drive.
  3. Type attrib -r -h -s autorun.inf — if the file doesn’t exist on that drive, you will get a message saying so and can skip to Step 5. If the file does exist, you will be returned to the drive’s prompt.
  4. Type del autorun.inf to delete the file.
  5. If you have other drives, check each one. Change the directory to the drive you want to check (e.g. cd d: to check your D: drive).
  6. Repeat Steps 3, 4, and 5 until you have checked and cleaned all drives.
  7. Reboot your computer.

You can find further information here:

[Link last checked October 2010]


Standards for ‘default’ values?

October 15, 2010

On the STC Usability discussion group, Mary M asked about standards for setting default values:

Are there any standards or best practices that UI designers should follow to determine the default values to use when creating applications?

My response:

I’m not aware of any ‘rules’ about this, but drop-down selection lists are typically in ascending alphabetical order (for text) or numeric order (for numbers), with the default either something generic like “—Select <whatever>—” or the ‘most used’ option. Of course, ‘most used’ is subject to debate — how do you or the developers determine ‘most used’, especially if it’s a new application? If it’s an existing application, you can ask Support or users, or there may be tracking statistics to determine this. Otherwise, it’s just a guess.

If you want to see how ‘most used’ can get messed up and cause confusion, see my blog post on the list order of countries (and how to get it wrong!) here:

Chauncey W’s response:

The term, default, has an interesting history in GUI design.  A default value can be:

  1. A value that will satisfy the needs of most users.
  2. The original value in a field.
  3. The first value in a field.
  4. An average value (say for volume).
  5. A safe value (the default is to “do auto save”).
  6. A value that will be understood by users.
  7. A default that indicates that the function is not active.
  8. The first item (the default) is defined by a particular type of sequence:
    • Alphabetical
    • Numeric
    • “Natural order”
    • Most frequent first
    • Safest first
    • Closest first (say something with map coordinates)
    • Last choice first (your choice changes the default)

And in a recent article (4 October 2010), Jakob Nielsen says that alphabetical sorting must die: He uses examples of contexts where alphabetical sorting is inappropriate, such as clothing or shoe sizes, as well as examples where it is appropriate (such as lists of states).

Bottom line:

Consider the context of the list before deciding how you will display the selection options. Alphabetical sorting may be appropriate in some circumstances; numerical sorting may be appropriate in others; or some other logical sequence may apply in yet others.

Some users know that typing a letter or number in such a list will jump to that part of the list, so consider that as well. Are you likely to annoy a large number of users if you change the order from alphabetical/numerical to some other grouping? Usability testing and watching users work with the application is essential for determining if this ‘jump’ usage is a significant factor.

[Link last checked October 2010]


Truth in real estate copy

October 14, 2010

This real estate ad was reported in our state’s newspaper earlier this week. Talk about truth in advertising!

BTW, Gooseberry Hill is a suburb of Perth; the Darling Scarp is a range of hills east of Perth.

Here’s a picture of the front of the property:

And the original ad is here:

[Links last checked October 2010]