Archive for March, 2011


Token language gesture

March 31, 2011

ANZ Bank — my business bank — asked me to participate in a survey about their website the other day. At no time in the survey was I asked what language I spoke. All questions were in English.

Yet at the very end of the survey I got a ‘thank you’ message — in12 languages!

If the survey is only in English, why on earth would they have one page, and the final page at that, in multiple languages? Very strange, and a token gesture in my opinion.


The lack of a comma changes meaning

March 30, 2011

To show the importance of a comma, take a look at the bit I’ve circled in the main headline’s subtitle:

Really? She cooks her family and her dog??? I think they meant “…finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.”

Commas are such little things, but when they are left out or used in the wrong place, they can totally alter meaning.


Here’s another one, this time from

Importance of a comma

[Links last checked June 2011; thanks to Suzi C for sending me the link to the ‘grandpa’ one]


SharePoint: Adding a company logo

March 29, 2011

It shouldn’t take 2+ hours to figure out how to add a company logo to a SharePoint site! But that’s how long it took me the other day.

I’ve got SharePoint installed on my server (I think it’s SharePoint 2007, but as there’s no ‘branding’ that I can see, I have no idea which version it is). I wanted to set up an internal website in preparation for some software that I’ll be installing in the next few weeks that links into SharePoint. I’ve used SharePoint before, but way back in the early days. I found it very clunky to configure at the time, and, as a user of another company’s SharePoint 2003 installation, I found it incredibly hard to search because so much ‘stuff’ got dumped into multiple SharePoint subsites, it was hard to figure out where you were. I hated it.

So, into the breach!

I opened up my default SharePoint installation (http://companyweb) from Internet Explorer on my PC and went looking at the settings. I wanted to change the name of the site from CompanyWeb to CyberText and I wanted to change the default logo to my company logo. You’d think that would be easy, right? Well, changing the name was simple, but not the logo.

So for anyone else struggling to figure out how to do this, here’s what I did to get it to work. Note: Your version of SharePoint may have slightly different screen shots and wording to those below.

Change SharePoint site name

  1. On any page, click Site Actions in the top right.
  2. Select Site Settings.
  3. Click the Title, Description and Icon link.
  4. Enter the new name in the Title field, then click OK.

That’s the easy bit. Changing the logo is not so easy…

Change logo

  1. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 above, and leave Internet Explorer open at that page — you’ll come back to it in Step 7.
  2. Find the image of the logo you want to use and either copy it or put it on a thumb drive.
  3. Now, go to the server where SharePoint is installed. You may need your admin person to do this. I have my own server, so I just went in via Remote Desktop.
  4. On the server, open Explorer (right-click on the Start button).
  5. Navigate to C:/Program Files/Common Files/Microsoft Shared/Web Server Extensions/12/TEMPLATE/IMAGES. Please note: If you’re using SharePoint 2010, you will see a 14 folder instead of 12 — select 14.
  6. Paste your logo into the IMAGES folder. You’re finished with the server now.
  7. Go back to your PC and, in the URL field on the Title, Description and Icon page, type /_layout/images/<name of the image file you just pasted>
  8. Click the Test link to make sure the logo displays, then click OK.

Thanks to Nik Patel for pointing me in the right direction:

It really shouldn’t be that hard! Why isn’t there a Browse button next to that field? Why can’t you insert an image object into SharePoint, then link to that object as the logo? Why do you have to copy the image file to a server location manually?

BTW, I don’t like CompanyWeb as the URL, but changing it looks like a nightmare for someone who isn’t a web admin person. Details here:

[Link last checked March 2011]


It’s a gas, gas, gas…

March 28, 2011

My main client is a big player in the oil and gas industry, so it was with some delight that I saw that one of their presentations was being run by a Mr Gass!

This marriage of names and job titles/industries etc. is called an aptronym (yes, I went to trusty Google to find out if there was a special name for it!).

Another I recall from my teen years was a Mr Southern, who was from the Weather Bureau and who occasionally was interviewed by the TV weather presenter.

Any others you’ve come across?


PowerPoint: Adding a sound to an animation

March 25, 2011

When I was hosting the Word part of the Microsoft Labs at the 2011 WritersUA Conference last week, one of the attendees (let’s call him Bill) asked what I knew about PowerPoint and if I could help him solve a problem he had. Well, my PowerPoint knowledge is OK, but I’m not an expert in it. However, with a little experimenting using the right-click options, I was able to solve Bill’s problem in a few seconds! He was most grateful.


Bill had a set of bullet points he’d animated so that they appeared on individual mouse clicks — click once and the first bullet item appeared, click again and the second bullet item appeared, click a third time and the third bullet item appeared, etc.

He had the animation working as he wanted it to, but as this slide presentation was a looping one that the viewer — not a presenter — controlled, he wanted to add voice to each bulleted item that explained each item.


(This solution works similarly in PowerPoint 2003, 2007 and 2010, though some of the screen shots will differ in the various versions)

  1. Select a bullet item with animation applied.
  2. If not already displayed, show the Custom Animation pane (called Animation in PowerPoint 2010).
  3. In the Custom Animation pane, right-click on the selected bullet item.
  4. Choose Effect Options.
  5. By default, there is no sound — select a sound from the Sound list, or scroll to the bottom of the list and select Other Sound… If you select Other Sound, a file explorer window opens for you to navigate to and select the sound file to attach to this animation. The only sound files you can select are *.wav files.
  6. Set other options from the Effect and Timing tabs on this window.
  7. Click OK when you’ve finished.
  8. Display the slide in Slide Show view and click to display each bullet item and its attached sound.

Bill was happy! And I was happy that I could help him as I never knew this was even an option in PowerPoint.


Outlook Web Access: Tips for use

March 24, 2011

When I’m on the road, I use Outlook Web Access (OWA) or Outlook Web Access Lite to access email, contacts, calendars, etc. stored on my Exchange Server. And so it was for my recent trip to the US.

However, I kept getting logged out of OWA after about 10 minutes of inactivity. While this is good if you’re on a public computer in an airport or similar, it’s not so good when you’re in a hotel room on your own computer.

I asked the PC Guru guys if they knew why I was getting logged out and if there was something they could set on my Exchange Server to extend the time I was logged in. Well, they didn’t have to do anything after my Guru gave me some advice!

So I’ll share his advice with you — hopefully, it will help others who use OWA on the road:

  • Use Internet Explorer for OWA, even if you use another browser for all other web activity. Both IE and OWA are Microsoft products, so they play well together.
  • When on a public computer, select the Public option. This will automatically log you out after about 10 minutes of inactivity.
  • When on your own computer, even in a public location like an airport lounge, select the Private option. You won’t get logged out automatically.

[Link last checked March 2011]


High speed broadband. Really?

March 22, 2011

I stayed at the Hilton Del Mar in southern California after the WritersUA Conference. I was there for four nights, so needed internet access. The hotel advertises that it has ‘high speed broadband’, but what I got was FAR from high speed.

I tried wired and wireless access, and in both cases the speeds were abysmal. I called the Front Desk and they put me through to the IT people (whoever and wherever they were). The guy I spoke to checked the connection from his end, but said it was ‘normal’. Normal? One Mbps or less is ‘normal’ for high speed broadband? I don’t think so.

Here’s what the hotel says about their access (my highlight added):

And here’s what told me pretty much every time I checked:

I did get 2.3 Mbps once, but mostly the speed hovered around 1 Mbps or less.

For a hotel like the Hilton, I thought this was appalling, and I was surprised ANY internet speed in southern California (near San Diego) would be so slow.


Win-win savings for hotels and customers

March 21, 2011

I stayed at the Hilton Del Mar in southern California recently. And was pleasantly surprised by their $5 a night ‘bonus’ to travelers who chose to put a green ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door each night. The bonus is a $5 voucher per night that is valid for food or drink from that hotel. As I stayed four nights, I got $20 to ‘spend’. I decided to save the vouchers for use on Saturday night or Sunday morning when meals weren’t provided by the workshop organizers.

Then I got to thinking… For many years now, we’ve been asked by hotels to hang up towels we are happy to reuse for another day — all in the name of conserving the environment. I have no idea how successful that campaign has been, but if the recent stay at the Hyatt in Long Beach, California is any indication, I’m not sure that the housekeeping staff know the drill — despite a little sign in our room and despite hanging towels every day,  the linen was changed every day of our four-night stay.

The Hilton did it a little differently. They handed you the green ‘do not disturb’ sign when you checked in and told you that you’d receive a $5 food and beverage voucher for every night you hung it on the door; rooms would be serviced after three nights. This was a good incentive as food and drink in such hotels can be pretty pricey. So, the customer ‘wins’. Instead of some altruistic feeling of ‘goodness’ that comes from reusing towels, I got an envelope containing the voucher slipped under the door sometime during the night (they could save even more money by not using the envelope).

The hotel wins too. And I think it’s a big win for them. By only servicing a room every three days for guests who stay more than a few days, the hotel saves on these charges:

  • laundering of bed and bathroom linen (water, detergent, transport to/from commercial laundry, labor to do the laundry)
  • replacement of toiletries (even when you’ve only used a tiny amount out of a shampoo bottle, they replace it with a new one every day of your stay under daily servicing; if that costs $1 a bottle, it’s a big saving over many rooms and many nights)
  • and the big one: labor charges.

My guess is that by not servicing a room daily, the hotel would save at least $20. Giving back $5 to the customer is a small price to pay to achieve that sort of saving. And don’t forget– many customers won’t use some or all of their vouchers.

Update: As I was staying four nights, I didn’t see the point in them servicing my room on the third night, when I was due to check out the next day, so I went to the Lobby and asked that the room not be serviced on the third night — and it wasn’t.


When is a sale price not a sale price?

March 20, 2011

So, I’m at this store in southern California that specializes in sewing machines, and I find a book that looks interesting. I see that it’s on sale, so that’s a bonus — and I buy it. When I get back to the hotel, I decide to see what the original price was. And find that the ‘on sale’ price is actually the real price.

Why do I feel ripped off? Is marking up a price above retail then discounting it to the retail price and promoting it as a sale price legal in the US?


Great cushion

March 19, 2011

Remember those Fitballs (aka Swiss balls) that were all the rage a few years ago? Everyone said how good they were for strengthening your back and even suggested you take them into your office and use them there. The problem was, they were large and unwieldy (ever tried to fit a fully inflated one into your car?), and they rolled into other people’s spaces after you got off them. And they deflated over time.

Well, yesterday I discovered a cushion version! I’m at a 3-day quilting workshop, and one of the items available in the ‘market place’ is this little inflatable cushion that’s like a mini Fitball. I saw one of the other ladies had one so I went and bought one of my own as the chair I was on was too low to reach the sewing machine work area comfortably.

It’s great. It raises you a good 1″ (2.5 cm) and has two sides — a spiky one and a flatter one. Here’s a hint from experience: Don’t sit on the spiky side in your underwear! It’s comfortable, but hurts like hell when you try to stand up!! ;-)

You can get one for less than US$30 from The Gypsy Quilter: Or try your local quilt/fabric store.

I can see these being used by anyone who needs to raise themselves a little higher, who has to sit in a hard chair all day (think sporting events, airlines, conferences), who needs to move their back a little while seated, or who just wants a comfy seat. There’s a whole market out there…

I get nothing for endorsing this product — after 3+ hours on it, I’m a happy user!