Archive for April, 2013


Microsoft: Improve the OS, remove features

April 30, 2013

One of my readers, Steven, has made a short video on how Microsoft have ‘improved’ Sound Recorder — one of the products bundled with Windows — by removing its features. Yep, all of them.

In Windows XP, Sound Recorder had several options; in Windows 7 (I don’t have Windows 8 so can’t test that), Sound Recorder has NO options. All you can do in Windows 7 is record. You can’t edit, mix, insert, copy/paste, use special effects, etc., all of which you could do in Windows XP’s Sound Recorder.

Here’s Steve’s video comparing the two:

[Links last checked April 2013]


Values need correct units

April 29, 2013

There was a whole lots of smoke hanging around our region of Western Australia over the weekend, so I went to the Department of Environment and Conservation website to see if there were any prescribed burns that might be causing it. There were. Normally, there’s a small map that shows the approximate location of the burn, and if you click on the title of the burn you get the burn’s details, including a more detailed map.

Well, the small map didn’t show the location, and I couldn’t figure out where the burn might be from its title (‘DON_917 Lindsay 39’ wasn’t very helpful!), so I clicked on the title to get more information and found out that the burn was mapped as occurring in China! It was correctly listed as being close to Manjimup.

I guess someone forgot to add an ‘S’ to the Latitude value, and it defaulted to ‘N’. Or they accidentally selected ‘N’. If it defaulted to ‘N’, that would indicate the software they are using was made in the northern hemisphere, and/or that someone hasn’t set the global setting for latitude for Western Australia to be ‘S’.

Whatever the reason, this map sure wasn’t very useful, especially to people who live close to that area and who might be impacted by a bushfire if it got out of DEC’s control, as has happened before with tragic results.



Flying in infinite loops with Qantas

April 26, 2013

One of my clients — J — emailed me some pictures detailing his frustrations with the Qantas website when trying to change his company name and phone number details in the Frequent Flyer section. Before I go any further, you should know that J has a PhD, is an Associate Professor at a prestigious university in Australia, is a software designer, has owned a couple of companies etc., so he’s no dumb bunny.

On reading his email and looking at the pictures he sent, I’ve got to assume that whoever designed the web form for Qantas didn’t bother testing it or making sure that what you wanted to do (change your business name, in J’s case) could actually be done. J sure couldn’t do it, and will now have to call Qantas to get his business name and phone number contact details changed.

Here’s what he described to me, and sent pictures of to confirm. I’ve blurred out all J’s identifying information. My comments are italicized in square brackets and prefaced with ‘Rhonda’.


I tried to change my company name on Qantas Frequent Flyer from ABC to XYZ and in the process I had to re-type my phone number and discovered I ended up in an never-ending loop of form filling.

I started out with a form that looks like this:

01. Qantas phone number

Qantas does not complain about the state of the form until you change one item – the company name…

[Rhonda: Note: J has four numbers already set before he starts. There are four phone number fields available. Yet the instructions say a maximum of three phone contact numbers. Already there’s confusion….]

It didn’t like me entering 4 phone numbers:

02. Qantas phone number

[Rhonda: The two error messages above are confusing — the first error message states you can only enter three numbers, even though there are four fields available, while the second message says that he has to enter an area code for his home phone — which was already entered under his previous business name!]

So I deleted the home phone and it complained that it must have a home number:

03. Qantas phone number

So I deleted the business number, as I only use my mobile anyway and it complains that I need a business number:

04. Qantas phone number

I then deleted the alternative number, and it complains that I require an additional number!

05. Qantas phone number

This, of course, compels you to type in the number and then you go back to (2) above.

I tried typing in my mobile for my home number with (04) as my area code and it does not like this. At the next house we’re building I don’t intend to have a land line, so what am I to do then?

The result is that I cannot change my company name!


So how does a person change their company name when all other details remain the same, as in J’s case? Obviously, the web form is set up badly in that it assumes because you are changing your company name you must also be changing your phone numbers. There are plenty of small one- or two-person companies like J’s (and mine) where changing the company’s name does NOT mean that you also change your phone numbers. And for Frequent Flyer details, the company name could well change but your personal details won’t change — most companies in Australia allow individuals traveling on company business to keep the Frequent Flyer points for themselves, so even if you work for large companies and change the company name registered with Qantas Frequent Flyer, you shouldn’t be forced into re-entering your phone numbers. Remember, J was doing this in the ‘Personal details’ section, NOT the company details section.

Then there’s the issue of requiring certain numbers. You might not want to have your company phone number associated with your personal details, or your home phone number associated with your company details. But this form wants both, no matter what.

Finally, there’s the issue of people dropping their landline service as smartphones become smarter and as telephone services are more associated with a person than a location. In the US, this isn’t really an issue as geographic area codes are assigned to landlines and mobiles alike, but in Australia we have state-based area codes for landlines and the ubiquitous Australia-wide 04 for the mobile number prefix no matter where you purchased or registered your mobile within Australia — there is NO area code associated with Australian mobile phones (see This Qantas form requires area codes for home and business numbers, so I guess someone who only has a mobile and has dropped their landline service should ignore those fields and just enter a mobile number. But wait. They can’t! They get an error message that they MUST enter a home number and a business number (see the images above).

And then they are locked into an infinite loop-de-loop with Qantas…

How could Qantas fix this form? I’ve got several suggestions:

  • Don’t force the user to re-enter their phone number details if they have changed their company name. Show the phone details section after changing the name, but don’t force them to do anything on it.
  • Make it mandatory to supply a minimum of ONE phone number only, and DON’T specify what type of number (home, business, mobile) it should be.
  • All other phone number types should be optional to the maximum number of phone fields on the form (i.e. four).
  • An area code should only be required if the user enters an 8-digit Australian landline phone number in the Number field.
  • The Number field should be able to take the full 10 digits of an Australian mobile number, no matter what type of phone number you are entering.
  • 04 should be acceptable in the Area Code field for any number type if entered along with the remaining eight digits of a mobile number.

[Link last checked April 2013]


Windows 7: ‘Open With’ function disappears for multiple files

April 24, 2013


For some time now, I’ve noticed that if I select multiple files in Windows Explorer (or whatever it’s called now in Windows 7), then right-click on them, I can select Open to open them with the default program set for that file type, but Open With is not listed.

If I select a single file, I get both the Open and Open With options listed on the right-click shortcut menu. In Windows XP, I got both options whether I’d selected one file or multiple files, and I used Open With quite often as sometimes a different program does the task you want to do better than the default program.

This annoyed me so much today that I went hunting to find out if it was just me or if something has changed in Windows 7 functionality. No, it’s not just me — Windows 7 HAS changed. And this change has annoyed quite a few people, if the comments on various Microsoft and other forums is anything to go by.

Short of downloading another program, it seems that you’re stuck with this limitation. One of the forums suggested adding a Send To shortcut for the alternate program — I tried that, but it still only opened one file at a time, not multiple files, so I was no better off.

In my case, I’m trying to open multiple JPGs in SnagIt Editor from Windows Explorer, not the default file association I have set for image files, which is PaintShop Pro. If I select multiple files and right-click, I only get the Open option, which opens them all in PSP. If I select one file, I get the Open option AND the Open With option, which lists SnagIt Editor as one of the alternatives. And if I multiselect and choose Edit, the files all open in Microsoft Paint! (see below for changing that setting, which ended up solving my problem).

It’s like a carpenter’s toolbox — while most of the time you want to use hammer X, there are times when hammer Y or Z does the job better. Similarly, most of the time I want to use PSP to edit an image (which is why I have it set as the default), but sometimes, SnagIt Editor is the perfect tool for a specific task. Windows 7 doesn’t let me choose hammer Y or Z to do a slightly different task than the tasks I do with hammer X.

This basic function that I had in XP and that I used often is no longer available in Windows 7. That’s a backwards step, in my opinion.


After a bit more searching and tackling it from a different way, I found a solution! I found out how to change the program associated with the Edit option when right-clicking on an image file. The solution is detailed here: but I’ll document it here too in case that website disappears. You will need to change a Registry setting so you need to be comfortable about doing that; I suggest you backup your Registry before you start.

  1. Run regedit. (If you don’t know how to do that, you probably shouldn’t be fiddling in the Registry!)
  2. Go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\SystemFileAssociations\image\shell\edit\command.
  3. The only setting is (Default) and its value is “%systemroot%\system32\mspaint.exe” “%1”.
  4. Double-click on (Default).
  5. In the Value Data field, delete the existing value and enter your new value, which is the full path to the executable for the program you want to open for editing images. In my case, I wanted images to open in SnagIt Editor when I selected Edit, so I changed the value to “C:\Program Files (x86)\TechSmith\Snagit 11\SnagitEditor.exe” “%1” — substitute your path and program executable, making sure you surround the entire path with double quotes and that you keep the “%1” bit.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Test that it works by selecting multiple image files in Explorer, then right-clicking and selecting Edit. Your images should now open in your preferred program.

[Link last checked April 2013]


I love a good understatement

April 12, 2013

And this one is a classic. ‘Areas of rain’ — really?

Check the radar picture — the darker the green, the heavier the rain. And that ‘area’ covers many thousands of square kilometres; the distance from Busselton to Moora is about 400 km, and based on that, I’d guess the east-west extent of this rain ‘band’ is similar or perhaps a bit more, thus making the ‘area’ some 160000+ square kilometres!



Word: Removing reviewer names

April 10, 2013

J asked:

Do you know how to turn off the name of the reviewer to make a review anonymous?

While you can’t turn off/remove an individual reviewer’s name as far as I can find out (Yes you can — see further information at the end of this post on how to do this, based on Tyler’s comment from 10 April 2013), you can remove ALL reviewers names from your document, just leaving the markup/comments, but without names.

A little bit of Googling found that you can remove ALL reviewer names from a document, but not just one. See these:

You can also change YOUR user name (Review > Track Changes > Change User Name), but no-one else’s. Be aware that making this change applies to ALL Office documents you create.

If you want to change the information about the author etc., then in Word 2010 you can go to File > Info and click Properties on the far right panel, then Advanced Properties to display the old Document Properties box you used to see in Word 2003.


Doing a File > Save As will NOT change the original author/company details; you can only change this manually in the Document Properties dialog box.

To remove a single reviewer’s name from Comments

With thanks to Tyler Moore (comment dated 10 April 2013) for enough information for me to write up this solution fully.

  1. Make sure the document you are working on is in Word 2007 or later format (i.e. DOCX extension).
  2. Save a COPY of this document and WORK ON THE COPY ONLY until you’re satisfied you’ve achieved what you want. If you make an unrecoverable error, you can always go back to your original.
  3. Close the Word document.
  4. Go to the file location of the copy of the document and change its extension from docx to zip. Say Yes to make this change.
  5. Double-click the new zip file and open it in WinZip or similar. Do NOT extract the files. (I only have WinZip, so the rest of these steps relate to WinZip; your zip software should work similarly).
  6. Within WinZip, double-click the word folder — there will be several XML files listed.
  7. Right-click on the comments.xml file and select a text editor to open it with (e.g. EditPlus, Expression Web, even Notepad if you have nothing else though other text editor show color-coded syntax and are easier to read).
  8. Once open, press Ctrl+H to open the Replace dialog box (if Ctrl+H doesn’t work in your text editor, find the Find/Replace tool and open it).
  9. In the Find What field, type w:author=”<reviewer name>” where you substitute <reviewer name> for the name of the reviewer you want to remove; e.g. if the reviewer’s name is Joe Bloggs, then type w:author=”Joe Bloggs”.
  10. In the Replace With field, type w:author=”” (i.e. no name).
  11. Click Replace All.
  12. In the Find What field, type w:initials=”<reviewer initials>” where you substitute <reviewer initials> for the initials of the reviewer you want to remove; e.g. if the reviewer’s initials are JB then type w:initials=”JB”.
  13. In the Replace With field, type w:initials=”” (i.e. no initials).
  14. Click Replace All.
  15. Repeat steps 9 to 14 for any other reviewer names/initials you want to remove.
  16. Save the comments.xml file. If you’re asked to update the zip file, do so (in WinZip, choose the Update zip file with changes option).
  17. Right-click on the document.xml file and select a text editor to open it with.
  18. Once open, press Ctrl+H to open the Replace dialog box.
  19. In the Find What field, type w:author=”<reviewer name>” where you substitute <reviewer name> for the name of the reviewer you want to remove; e.g. if the reviewer’s name is Joe Bloggs, then type w:author=”Joe Bloggs”.
  20. In the Replace With field, type w:author=”” (i.e. no name).
  21. Click Replace All.
  22. Typically, the document.xml file doesn’t store the initials, but to be certain press Ctrl+F and search for w:initials. If there’s nothing found, move on to the next step. If you get a match, follow steps 12 to 14, then move on to the next step.
  23. Repeat steps 19 to 22 for any other reviewer names you want to remove.
  24. Save the document.xml file. If you’re asked to update the zip file, do so (in WinZip, choose the Update zip file with changes option).
  25. Close the zip program.
  26. Change the file extension back to docx.
  27. Open the Word document. If all went well, you should now have comments with dates, but no initials or reviewer names for the reviewers you removed.
  28. If all is good, archive off the original document and start using the revised one.

Troubleshooting: If you get an error when opening the Word document, or you find all the comments are missing (!) it’s likely that you inadvertently removed a required space between elements in the XML file(s). How do I know? Because I did it! The solution is to rename the file as a zip file again, open the zip file, open the comments.xml and document.xml files in a text editor and look for things like w:id=”25″w:author=”” — there should be a space between the ending of the first part and the following w (i.e. it should be w:id=”25″ w:author=””). Do a find for “w: (no spaces) and replace with ” w: (a space between the ” and the w). Save the changes, update and close the zip file, and rename the file back to a docx file.

[Links last checked April 2013]