Archive for the ‘Business/Work’ Category


Virtual backgrounds for online meetings

May 3, 2020

The rise of online meetings via Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. because so many office workers are now working from home, has also seen a rise in the number of organisations making pictures available that you can use for your meeting background.

Some of my favourites are:

[Links last checked May 2020]


COVID-19 update

March 31, 2020

With all the dramatic changes in the world in the past month as a result of spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and with the restrictions and lockdowns imposed (either by government mandate or self-imposed), I thought it was time to let you know what I’ve been doing to mitigate risk to myself, my loved ones, and my little company. Here’s a summary:

  • I have worked online from my home office since 2007 (with my husband), so my ability to continue working has not changed. I have speedy internet (for the moment at least), and have no other impingements on my day (e.g. no kids to care for or to homeschool). So for me, it’s ‘same old, same old’ and I haven’t had to change any of my work processes to accommodate the new normal. If you need your corporate documents, reports etc. edited, then I’m still here and still working. You can see the list of editing tasks I typically do here:, and testimonials here:
  • We decided to ‘shelter-in-place’ around 10 March, and except for a single post office run (getting takeout pizza at the same time), I’ve been home the entire time. I’ve been fortunate in being able to get home delivery from one of the main supermarkets.
  • Our health remains good, and I monitor our body temperatures every day (results are pretty constant, but it gives us a baseline in case anything changes), and am awaiting the arrival of a piece of equipment that measures blood oxygen levels (again, I need to know our baseline so that I know if there have been changes that might indicate an issue).
  • I cancelled my round-the-world trip that was to start on 8 April and finish on 16 May, which included a speaking engagement at the ACES Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. As you would expect, the conference was cancelled, and even if it hadn’t been, Australia has now closed its borders, and there are no Qantas international commercial passenger flights in or out of Australia as at the end of March. For the most part, I have received refunds (even for nonrefundable advanced purchases) or partial refunds from most hotels, transport companies etc. (though I’m still waiting on actual refunds from two airlines), and I’m very grateful to those companies for doing so—Hilton Hotels, Rydges Hotel at Sydney Airport, and Ingot Hotel in Perth, you have my business in the future for refunding all my prepaid monies. However, there are no refunds at all from a small, single-person run 5-day residential workshop I was attending as part of the trip (the date has since been moved to October, but I have no intention of being in the US in October), or a 9-day tour in Morocco. The intransigence of the US tour company organising the Morocco tour has been bitterly disappointing and I have no idea if travel insurance will cover the thousands I had to pay by 6 January. That’s a story for another day and in a more personal forum. Suffice to say, they certainly won’t ever get any business from me again. This was my first experience with them and it hasn’t been good.

Stay safe, stay healthy. And wash your hands.


Think of it as practice for your retirement

March 15, 2020

These are strange and incredibly fast-moving times, and as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues unabated, many people have been forced to work from home, or have chosen that for themselves. So I’ve been thinking about some silver linings in all this….

If you currently commute to work and now have to work from home (employer or self-imposed), and you’re close-ish to retirement, you have the ideal opportunity to test out some of those “Perhaps I’d like to do this in my retirement” ideas. Not travel at the moment, of course, but if there are hobbies or non-group activities that have crossed your mind, and you have the means to do so, now is a great time to try them out. You’ve probably gained 5 to 20 hours per week of discretionary time without your daily commute. What will you do with it? You can only binge watch TV or read books or go for a walk or run for a while… Think of this enforced extra time as training for retirement!

YouTube has a wealth of videos on how to do almost anything. If you’re thinking more along crafting or baking activities, you can sign up to (was Craftsy) for around AU$120 a year (often less when they have their regular sales) and get full access to their hundreds of online classes (far more organised and with paid experts than random YouTube videos). If you’re perhaps thinking of tracing your family tree, you can sign up to year’s worth of for the price of a couple of week’s of gas that you would’ve used if you were commuting by car.

If you’re more into volunteering, there are lots of things you can do online from home. In my case, because I do genealogical stuff and because words are what I’m good at, I edit the OCR text of newspaper articles in the Australian National Library’s Trove database. Ancestry has a World Archives project too, deciphering handwritten immigration and other records. The Australian War Memorial has something similar for transcribing war records. Of course, there’s always Wikipedia article editing, or transcribing the words on headstones in graveyards (; yes, that really is a thing! Or you could contribute to various volunteer scientific research projects at or any of the projects at Every country will have these.

If you do get into craft activities and need supplies, try to buy them from your local bricks and mortar ‘mom and pop’ store, not the big box retailers or online. These local stores are likely already hurting badly and may never recover from this. If you’re hesitant about going into a store, call them and see if they can mail/deliver to you, or come out to your car if you order and pay by phone and drive in to get them. The worst you can get is ‘no’, so it won’t hurt to call ahead and ask.

And if you find that that all those extra hours are too hard to handle, maybe you need to rethink your retirement plans — those extra 40+ hours per week are your life once you retire.

Any other suggestions?

See also:

[Links last checked March 2020]


20 years on

August 24, 2019

Things just slip by… I thought it was 20 years this month since I left the corporate world and went out on my own as a freelancer. Yes, it is 20 years, but the anniversary date was LAST month according to my business name registration certificate.

I actually started working as a freelancer in early July 1999 doing SAP documentation for the now-defunct WMC (Western Mining Corporation). And in the past 20 years most of my work has involved tech writing and editing for software and resources companies, often in combination.

Starting my own company was a HUGE and scary leap after <mumble> years as a full-time employee for software companies and as a secondary school teacher-librarian and deputy principal. But financially and psychologically it was the best thing I ever did—not having to manage anyone except myself was such a relief after being in middle management for too many years.

Even better, I’ve worked from home via the internet for the past 12 years. There’s not a lot I miss about working in an office, but I do miss some of the camaraderie of drinks after work, lunchtime chats, etc. with work colleagues. I certainly don’t miss meetings, office politics, and the regular ‘Can you just help me with this <oh-so-very-urgent problem>?’ questions (Tip: The word ‘just’ in such circumstances is loaded! It NEVER takes the minute or so you’re told it will.) I also don’t miss the pressure of having to fit into an office of 30-somethings when I’m well past that age! Or commuting, or the $$$ spent on lunches, office clothing, parking, etc.

Will I still be doing this in another 20 years? Probably not, but who knows!


Work in the office? Not me!

October 26, 2017

Nearly 11 years ago we moved from the city (Perth) to a country town in regional Western Australia. At the time, we were three hours’ driving distance from Perth (each way), so working in client offices was no longer an option. Both my regular clients at the time were happy for me to work from home and telecommute — they knew me, they knew how I worked, and they knew my work ethic and productivity. Because I worked for both part-time (2 days a week for one, 3 days a week for the other), they knew that I didn’t need to be in the office all the time. After those two contracts finished, I got a contract with a big client and my terms of working for them has always been based on telecommuting.

Three years after the big move to the country we moved to another area in regional Western Australia, but now I was about 90 minutes’ drive from the city. My big client didn’t really seem to know or care — I just continued working for them three days a week from home, as I always had. And that arrangement continues today. I’ve set foot in their Perth office fewer than 10 times in nearly 10 years. It works very well for me, and it must work OK for them too as my initial 3-month contract has been renewed year after year, so that now I’m nearly 10 years in.

So why write this blog post now? It came about because a tech writer friend of mine (who lives 60 miles north of downtown Chicago) was told by a recruiter that ‘the commute isn’t so bad’. Now, Chicago’s a BIG city, and while I’m sure it has lots of infrastructure (like regular train services etc.), the reality is that his commute would actually be horrendous — effectively adding at least 4 hours to his work day if he took the job in downtown Chicago. And for him, there’s horrible weather to deal with for several months of the year.

I decided to check out what it would cost in travel time and money if I was asked to physically work in an office in Perth…

I live 160 km (100 miles) from Perth. The first hour of driving gets me to the southern part of the main metro area (Safety Bay Rd exit for the locals). From there to the city centre is a crapshoot as to how long it takes — in light traffic in the middle of the day, about 45 minutes; in peak hour with heavy traffic, up to 90 mins; longer if there’s been an accident on the freeway. Then I have to hope I can get a place to park ($20+ per day), then walk to the office. This means I’d have to allow 2.5 hours each way each day (leaving home before 6am, and returning close to 8pm), plus the cost of fuel ($100+ per week), plus $100+ each week in parking fees. Add to that the stress of driving that distance and in traffic, plus the likelihood of kangaroos and emus on the road at dusk and dawn and at night, which is when I’d be doing the country driving part of the journey, and nope, not going to happen.

So let’s look at the train. There’s a train just twice a day from Bunbury (my nearest station) to Perth. The Australind is not a high-speed train, and takes about 2.5 hours for the journey. This train leaves Bunbury at 6am (arriving at 8:30am, with a good 15-minute walk to the office) or 2:45pm (not an option for a day in the office). It leaves Perth for Bunbury just before 6pm, getting into Bunbury around 8:30pm. But to catch the 6am train, I’d have to leave home at 5:15am as it takes ~30 minutes to drive to Bunbury. This means I’d have to be up by 4:30am each day, and I wouldn’t get home until after 9pm. Oh, and there’s no secure parking at the Bunbury train station, which is well out of the town centre, so my car would be sitting in an open car park in the middle of a semi-industrial area for about 15+ hours. The cost of the train isn’t cheap either — $66 return each day, so $330 per week, though a bit cheaper if you get a SmartCommuter ticket [$43 return per day; + $60 annual fee for a SmartCommuter card], or have a concession card [$33 return per day if you’re a pensioner or senior]). There’s no wifi on this train, and only a snack bar (with junk food), so sleeping and reading would be the only options. No time at all for family or family meals before or after I got home – it would be fall into bed to get up at 4:30am the next day to do it all again. What sort of life is that?

There’s a train from Mandurah to Perth, but that requires driving to Mandurah (nearly an hour), praying you get a car bay at the station (good luck with that…), then taking the train into Perth (50 minutes). The total time would be about 2 hours each way, assuming you can park at the Mandurah train station. The cost is about $22 return per day from Mandurah to Perth, but you still have about 4 hours total commute time (about 2 hours on the train and similar in the car), and now you have to add in fuel expenses too.

Bottom line: If any client wants me to come to the office regularly to work, they’re dreaming! If they want me there for the occasional day only, then they either pay my hourly rate for the travel time, or the cost of an overnight stay in a 3+ star city hotel (my preference for safety reasons). Commuting 4 to 5 hours (in country conditions, in the dark) plus an 8-hour day in the office just isn’t safe.

(NOTE: This post is just on the time and monetary cost of travel, not all the other associated costs like disrupted work/life balance, the cost of meals, the cost of business attire, etc.)


Conference presentation annoyances

September 1, 2014

I’ve just returned from a great little conference in Sydney — a conference with an audience that was well out of my comfort zone, but they were all very friendly and welcoming and the feedback on my sessions was very positive. As it was the first non-techie conference I’ve been to in many years, it was interesting to find no-one live blogging or live tweeting the sessions ;-).

It was also interesting to observe different speaker styles, and to be reminded of some things you should and shouldn’t do when presenting at a conference:

  • Don’t use ALL CAPS in your slides. And especially don’t use ALL CAPS in a tiny font. These are impossible to read on screen and nearly as impossible to read in the conference notes.
  • Don’t go over your allocated time, especially not 10 or more minutes over. You know the time constraints some months beforehand so practice and hone your presentation until it fits, with a 5-minute buffer for questions. A presentation that goes over time either creeps into the breaks, or worse, you’re setting up the next speaker to fail as they now have to cut their presentation to fit into the remaining time if they are speaking immediately after you with no breaks between. That’s just not fair to the other presenter or the audience. Your failure to stick to the time shouldn’t be the reason the next speaker fails! (Note: I’ll own up to going a couple of minutes over my allocated time for my first presentation at this conference, but it was hard to gauge how long I was over as I started about 5 minutes late because there was no gap between the previous presentation and mine, audience questions to the previous presenter had to be dealt with, a minute or so was spent introducing me, and I had to close the previous presentation on the laptop and find and open mine. Fortunately, there was a 30-minute break immediately after my presentation, but that’s still no excuse for me going over time, and I take full responsibility for that.)
  • Be on time with everything asked of you and honor your commitments. If you’ve been asked to submit your presentations by a certain date for printing and loading onto a laptop prior to the conference, then follow those instructions without fail — and don’t change your presentation after you’ve submitted it otherwise there’s a disconnection between what the audience sees in the printed book and what they see on screen. Gee, here’s a thought… submit your presentation early and maybe you’ll be asked back in following years as you’ve proven you’re reliable! The presentations were all printed in a bound book for this conference. The organizer had booked a printing company for printing and binding on a certain date, and if the slides weren’t in on time, either the organizer and/or printer were now running short of time, or the slides were left out. One presentation had ‘slides to follow’ as the presenters didn’t have them to the organizers on time for printing. I also heard that another scheduled speaker, who was confirmed and listed in the conference promotional material, decided at the last minute that he didn’t want to do it for whatever reason (he had ample opportunity to tell the organizer in the weeks and months before the conference) and a new presenter and presentation on a different topic had to be added at the last minute (Aside: This new presentation was EXCELLENT, but if an attendee had made the decision to register based on the advertised speaker and/or his topic, they wouldn’t have been happy, and rightly so).
  • Watch for idiosyncrasies in your speech. One speaker said ‘actually’ at least 100 times. In one sentence I counted three instances! When you have an idiosyncrasy like this, and the audience picks up on it, then they start counting those words and that’s all they hear, not your message.
  • Triple check your slides. Look for spelling errors, typos, repeated slides (yep, one instance of that too), inconsistent font families, inconsistent graphical elements, etc. And if you’re too close to your slides, get someone else to look them over with fresh eyes (these people are called ‘editors’, and many of them do little jobs like this). Or get your slides ready early, then leave them alone for a few weeks before checking them again.
  • Make sure you have good contrast between the slide background colors and the text. It’s hard to read white text on a dusky blue background, especially from the back of the room. These slides also don’t print well in black and white. There’s an option in PowerPoint to show the slides in grayscale — use it to check for adequate contrast.

SOEWA Winter Seminar

August 19, 2014

I attended (and spoke at) the Society of Editors (WA) [SOEWA] Winter Seminar on Saturday. It was a day packed with good information and a variety of speakers and topics. Here’s my summary of the sessions (not including mine on the pros and cons of telecommuting).

These are my note and opinions, and do not reflect anyone else’s experience.



Dr Hilary Cadman: PerfectIt and other editing tools

Hilary had two sessions at this seminar.

The first was on PerfectIt (, which I use. This was a hands-on demo, and considering the time she had and the number of people in the room (about 27) and the varying levels of comfort with PerfectIt (from those who’ve never heard of it to those who are users of the software), she did well in covering as much as she did. Even though I’m a PerfectIt user, I still learnt something in this session, like how to add customizations to a style as you go (I’d been doing it the manual way). She also mentioned the free style sheets available from PerfectIt such as those that covert UK to US spelling and vice versa, and the Australian Government style sheet.

Her other session later in the day covered other editing tools that can automate some of the repetitive processes we do.


  • embrace technology
  • start somewhere
  • get connected

Advantages of tools:

  • save time
  • save sanity
  •  improve quality
  •  decrease RSI
  • look more professional — improved image, better client confidence in you
  • add value to client (e.g. offering client a PerfectIt style sheet for their future docs); can go beyond the client’s expectations


  • over reliance on tools
  • can mess things up (e.g. beware of replace all, fix all)
  • cost of the tools and time learning program
  • employer resistance to installing unknown applications on their systems
  • potential overlap with functions in tools

Hilary’s ‘can’t live without it’ recommendations — PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, and PhraseExpress (

Editor’s Toolkit ( — looks overwhelming, not user friendly, but once installed and start using saves lots of time; has about 48 shortcuts, but don’t need to use them all. Many are very useful. ~$70 (Jack Lyon’s program)

EndNote ( — for managing citations/references.

EdiFix ( — online search tool for citations/references that you can use to find references that can then go into Endnote.

John Denton: Business systems

Essential to have systems for your business:

  • Process: flow of work — start, do, end; Flow charts can map about the business flow (e.g. how to respond to an enquiry)
  • System: how the process is recorded, executed, and communicated to be consistent every time

Process: what needs to be done; System: how it needs to be done

Where do you start?

  • what are the areas of greatest frustration in my business?
  • how do these frustrations impact my business?
  • what results am I NOT getting due to these areas?
  • how is that impacting me personally, emotionally, financially, health, time etc.?

Systemization gives you time to document etc. the system! Need to make time to ‘sharpen the saw’ (Steven Covey)

  • ‘The real problem is that my business lacks a system to….’
  • What will be the benefits to the business of implementing a system?
  • What will be the benefits to me personally?

Map out business aspects/processes (production [do the work], admin [e.g. invoicing], people, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing)

Need for:

  • Contact Management System
  • Document Management System

Can change Windows folder icons to help identify where files are (, and/or use a consistent numbered system for folder names (e.g 01Admin)

Benefits of having systems:

  • prevent or minimize errors
  • reduce need for and cost of rework
  • easier to train/employ staff
  • can use temporary staff/outsource when you have a system
  • frees up owner to work on the business — or have time off! (e.g. holidays)
  • things get done consistently and in a timely manner
  • business is not ‘owner-centric’

Challenges of systems: Business personalities:

  • The analyzer — loves detail, analysis, problem solving (left-brain dominant)
  • The safekeeper — works to a structure, systems, checklists, plans (left-brain dominant)
  • The carer — people person, counseling, making sure people are OK (right-brain dominant)
  • The player — entrepreneur, doesn’t organize anything, risk taker (right-brain dominant)

In a perfect business, need all those elements. most have all traits in some degree or another, but some personalities will dominate. Various personalities will drive each other crazy!!

What do Boeing and David Lee Roth have in common? Van Halen were first band to take 18+ trucks of gear on the road, so had to use systems to make sure everything worked. Roth developed a process for setting up everything so that it was done right and wasn’t a hazard. His contract stipulated removing the brown M&Ms from the artists’ room as a test to see if the system had been followed. Boeing – created checklists for aircraft back in the 1930s(?)

Don’t need to produce manuals to document processes — can produce videos, use diagrams and pictures, flow charts, swimlane diagrams, checklists

Improve system:

  • continuous improvement — act, plan, check, do
  • put a QA process in to see that keeping on track

Procrastination and perfectionism are your worst enemies in putting systems in place!

John uses Trello (http://www.trello/com) for collaborating on projects and Fiverr ( for outsourcing some tasks.

Margaret McNally: How many P’s exist in ‘publication’?

Margaret was managing editor for a university (print) publications team and described the complex workflow in getting documents from concept to publication.

‘P’ aspects of publication:

  • pen
  • paper
  • process
  • production
  • patience
  • persistence
  • PANIC!
  • print
  • pleasure.

Implications of digital for print publications that are competing with online environment:

  • length of stories
  • design and imagery.

Managing Editor – person in charge of managing all aspects of the editorial process of publications including staff, budget,and production schedules (copy editing, design, imagery, print, compliance [Competition and Consumer Act 2010], budget, staff)

Adobe InCopy — Lets copywriters and editors style text, track changes, and make simple layout modifications to a document while designers can be working simultaneously on the same document using InDesign — all without overwriting each others’ contributions. (from ~$AU382, part of Adobe Creative Suite 6 (Creative Cloud)


  • know your company/organization
  • familiarize yourself with latest trends — publication,  print, online
  • develop ideas.

Georgina Wilson: Editing for the web — same, same but different

Case study of shifting the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) from print to web publications/communications.

Website wasn’t a resource priority for a long time – frustrating to use, poor navigation, lack of current material, thousands of pages getting no views, no incentive to upload new material.

Had to start from scratch — back end and front end.

BUT developers were employed before they did any user analysis!!

Chose DRUPAL as their content management system. Long process in agreeing on architecture.

Needed to comply with accessibility guidelines, large team of authors and approvers, training in writing for a new system (huge number of writers and reviewers funneling into 10 content approvers).

Arguments about where content belongs — e..g whether bees were ‘pests and diseases’ or ‘livestock’!! (they decided on livestock as bees are not a pest).

New website has 8 main headings (was 13). As 90% of visitors came in via websites, was the navigation that important?


  • more visual, with good images
  • responsive design for different platforms
  • tag relevant topics for search
  • content review date of one year (default)
  • links to other articles on site
  • links to other relevant sites
  • contact details for further info.

Process was slower than expected to get website up… few extra resources were allocated outside the web development team.

Old website was 13,000 pages (mostly PDFs), but so far only about 2000 on new site, so still a long way to go, though some content may not get migrated as out of date.

Two approval stages:

  • author to project approver
  • directorate approver/publisher

Editing for the web:

  • need to follow the style guide
  • look for missing tags, links, quality of images
  • think scanning rather than reading; think of the reader NOT the writer
  • plain English
  • try to grab and hold attention
  • multiple screens examples (we all have multiple screens on at the same time — e.g. TV, laptop, tablet, phone)
  • must be accessible — add alt text to images

Audit trail and process:

  • usually draft text in Word where track changes are easy
  • theory is that author will consult with others but doesn’t always happens
  • some external editors have been employed
  • still waiting for pages that don’t need edits
  • audit trail of every change remains available

Writing basics:

  • reverse pyramid approach– big picture first, then drilling down
  • plain English
  • short titles (6 to 8 words)
  • one deck if possible [she didn’t explain what this meant]
  • keyword in title are the first and last words
  • short paragraphs (40-70 words, though may still be too long)
  • short sentences (15-20 words)
  • replace semicolons with separate sentences, or bullet points
  • lots of headings, bullet points
  • links to other useful sites
  • 10-second rule (lose reader if they don’t find answer in 10 secs)
  • no underlining except web and email addresses
  • no italics except scientific names

Honoring a customer service promise

May 6, 2013

I was hunting for something on the internet… as you do. One of the potential suppliers didn’t have the exact item I was looking for, so I thought I’d contact them. One of their contact options was ‘live chat’ available ’24/7/365, no waiting’. So I clicked on the link. And got this:


If you’re going to make a statement that someone is available for ‘live chat’ 24/7/365, then honor it. If you can’t honor it, don’t make that promise!


Telstra to T-Mobile settings on phone

March 21, 2013

This post is for me, in case I ever lose the notebook in which this information is jotted down! And for anyone else in Australia who has a Telstra HTC Sensation phone who is going to the US and wants to purchase a US SIM card from T-Mobile so they can use their own phone while away.

For the past two years, I have purchased a ‘pay per day’ SIM from T-Mobile for the short trips I’ve made to the US (see for these plans). For just $2 or $3 per day, I get unlimited calls, texts, and internet while in the US. A 14-day US trip at $3 per day costs me less than $50, compared to potentially $1000 or more if I use my Telstra SIM and global roaming in the US. (See this horror story of a $12,000 Telstra global roaming bill for 13 days in Thailand:

The biggest disadvantage is that I ‘lose’ my own phone number for the time I’m away (I get allocated a new US number each visit), and I have to find a T-Mobile store. Finding a T-Mobile store is not difficult as there are many of them. I believe you can get the ‘pay per day’ SIM activation kit from other locations, such as supermarkets, but I choose to get it direct from a T-Mobile store so that the store person can set everything up and test it all before I leave the store. A supermarket is unlikely to give you that sort of assistance.

Here’s what will happen in the T-Mobile store

After you’ve purchased the ‘pay per day’ kit (just ask for it — it’s not a box on the shelf), the store assistant will take out your HTC battery and Telstra SIM (DO NOT LOSE YOUR SIM!!! You’ll need it when you get back to Australia, so store it in a safe place, such as in a little zip lock bag placed near your passport or in your wallet). They will then insert the T-Mobile SIM and replace your battery and turn on the phone. They may also have to call a T-Mobile head office number and give/get a code to activate the phone.

Test that your phone can call out by calling the store’s landline number from your phone, then get the assistant to use the landline to call your new number. That’s all pretty straightforward and should work straight away. Likewise, you should get a text message or two from T-Mobile within minutes, welcoming you to their service and telling you how much balance you have on your plan. To test that you can send texts, SMS a US friend or the T-Mobile assistant who is serving you. Your phone and SMS are now working — so far, so good…

The final test is to see if you can get internet connection, so open the browser on your phone and do a search. However, if my experience is anything to go by, it’s unlikely you’ll connect as there are a couple of things you/the assistant may still have to do (see below), and because it can take a couple of hours for the internet connection to work properly (or so I’ve been told at two different T-Mobile locations in two different states in two different years; my experience has been that after the settings are entered, I can usually get internet connection within a minute or so).

If you can get a connection straight away, you’re done and don’t need to read any further. Enjoy your cheap US phone/text/internet time in the US, and don’t forget you can now use your ‘US’ HTC/Android phone as a tethered modem to avoid exorbitant hotel charges for internet access (these only seem to occur in the expensive hotels — most mid-range hotels in the US have free internet/WiFi).

If you can’t get internet connection, make sure the assistant enters the information below into your phone (or do it yourself if you’ve already left the store).

HTC/Android settings for internet connection via T-Mobile

  1. Turn off WiFi for now (Settings > WiFi > Off).
  2. Go to: Settings > Mobile Network > Access Point Names.
  3. Tap the menu icon on the APNs screen then tap New APN. Complete the following details:
  4. Name: tmobile (NO hyphen) (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  5. APN: (see notes below if this doesn’t work)
  6. Proxy:
  7. Port: 8080
  8. MMSC:
  9. MMSC proxy (you may not need this one):
  10. MMS port (you may not need this one either): 8080
  11. Save the settings. Your internet connection should now work (though it may take a few minutes or up to an hour to do so, according to T-Mobile)

NOTE: If these settings don’t work, try changing:

  • the APN to and removing the proxy and port numbers
  • the name to T-Mobile US LTE
  • If you can’t get it to work, call 611 in the US to speak to a T-Mobile support person.

Changing back to your Telstra settings

  1. Before the plane takes off for Australia, switch your phone to Airplane mode, then turn it off as required by the FAA. By putting it into Airplane mode before you leave, when you turn it back on it won’t try to make any sort of connection to T-Mobile (or to Telstra once you’ve got their SIM back in).
  2. Once you’re in the air (or on the ground when you arrive if you forgot to put your Telstra SIM into your carry-on luggage!), remove the cover from your phone and flip out the battery.
  3. Remove the T-Mobile SIM and replace it with your Telstra SIM. (You can throw the T-Mobile SIM away when you get home as it’s useless unless activated and you’ve probably only purchased and activated enough days for your trip.)
  4. When you arrive back in Australia, turn the phone back on and switch off Airplane mode. It should all work as normal, as the Telstra APN settings are the default and should reset automatically once your phone picks up that you’re in Australia. At least, that’s how it’s been for me for the past two years — even though I wrote down all the Telstra APN settings, I’ve never had to change them back as they’ve automatically reset themselves.

Happy travelling!

See also:

[Links last checked April 2013]


Presentation: Remote working: Telecommuting from the trenches

November 7, 2012

I delivered this presentation on remote working to the ASTC(NSW) 2012 annual conference on 3 November 2012. (Resources list:

This presentation focused on my experiences over the past six years that I’ve worked entirely from home, and highlighted:

  • the positives and negatives of working from home
  • some technologies that will allow you to work from home
  • home office essentials.

The audience was technical writers and communicators — an audience whose occupation is well-suited to working from home at least a part of the time.