The responsive web**

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about websites and their content and have begun to think about a checklist of things one really needs to consider as a site owner or as someone planning to launch a new site. Two of the most important are how quickly the site loads and how it looks to the visitor, no matter where they access it from and what device they use. Read More

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Knowledge obsolesence

And a free skills upgrade for Queenslanders

Links in chain of learning.
Links in the chain of learning.

There was a time when the knowledge you gained at the beginning of your career would more or less serve for your entire working life. These days things move so fast that some or all of what you know can become obsolete overnight.

This was rammed home forcefully late last year when my position was made redundant and I decided to use some of the spare time I gained to polish my skills. My main focus has always been content creation but I have had a sideline in developing, maintaining and hosting websites since the early 1990s. I therefore decided I would take a course or two on the subject and was amazed at how much had changed while I wasn’t looking. Read More

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We’re doing it all wrong, you know!

posted in: Book review, Dating | 0

happilyThe Science of Happily Ever After
By Ty Tashiro
Harlequin, 2014

The thing that the vast majority of us do wrong is the way we go about choosing  life partners. This issue was sharply brought into focus for me after reading relationship scientist Ty Tashiro’s book The Science of Happily Ever After in which he says the numbers of people who manage to achieve ‘Happy Ever After’ relationships is a woefully small percentage of the population. Read More

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BorrowBox

posted in: Books, Review, Reviews | 0

The one development I could never have anticipated was that printed fiction books would suddenly become dramatically less important to me than they were. Just the other day I worked out that l must have been a member of various libraries for at least 53 years ever since being taken by my mum to the children’s library in the Durban City Hall.

In the intervening years I have probably devoured at least three printed books a week and sometimes more until one day when, having been in Brisbane for some years, I noted that my sister and niece were listening to audio books on their tablets and mobile phones and deriving a lot of enjoyment from them. I had listened to audio books on occasion but had given it up because the process simply wasn’t that convenient and because I have issues with buying audio books at the same price as the printed versions.

I was all ears once it was explained that the family had downloaded an app called BorrowBox (available for Apple iOS and Android) which allowed them to sign on as members of the Brisbane Library Service, browse athrough an extensive list of titles and download the ones they wanted free of charge, if available, or reserve them if they had already been borrowed. Once a book has been borrowed, it can be downloaded onto one or more of your devices and go with you anywhere. Read More

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Reflections

A black and white version of a recent post on my Flickr stream. I have to admit I gave the reflections some help in Photoshop; the water of the Brisbane River is never quite this still. 😉

Brisbane CBD from Captain Burke Park. Click to view enlargement.
Brisbane CBD from Captain Burke Park.
Click to view enlargement.
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Stage Fright

posted in: Book review, Crime | 3

Stage Fright
By Marianne Delacourt
Allen and Unwin, 2012.

sharp

In Australia we’re privileged to have some world-class crime writers including the two Peters, Corris and Temple, but I wasn’t expecting all that much when I picked up the gaudily-jacketed Stage Fright by local Brisbane author Marianne Delacourt who, it turns out, is the alter ego of SF author Marianne de Pierres.

My first impression of the book was totally mistaken and I was delighted to find that Stage Fright is a really very good crime story and the third in the series about Tara Sharp, PI, who lives in the garage behind her well-to-do parents’ home in Perth.

In an unusual paranormal twist, she is able to read auras and even though she once thought she might be off her rocker, she has been taught to use her gift and it gives her the advantage of often being able to tell what’s going on under the surface with people she meets. Read More

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Hart Marine

posted in: Freelance, Stories | 0

One of the most interesting commissions I’ve had recently was to write about a new pilot boat which was about to be delivered to Port Phillip Sea Pilots. The dangers faced by the pilots in the seas that come howling through the Bass Strait are well demonstrated by the fact that the organisation lost a boat, its crew and a pilot some years back and therefore really does need the safest boats available to transport their staff.

I’ve just posted the articles on the Tear Sheets page of the site.

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To the grindstone

posted in: Blogging, Photography | 0

It has been an awfully long time since the last post but I have been very much taken up with settling into my new country. Since the last post, Rural Press has become Fairfax Agricultural Media and I have continued to work for them.

I have also had quite a few story commissions from the publications Australian Main Roads Construction and Australian Ports News which have involved me in doing telephonic interviews with clients around Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. I’ve written stories on a wide variety of topic ranging from the stabilising of dirt roads to the finer points of pilot boat design.There are some samples up on the Tear Sheets page of this site.

DSC_2057-Edit-3
I was helping a friend by taking pictures of his guitars earlier today
and this was one result I liked.

I’ve missed blogging on a regular basis but have successfully fought off the urge until now.  😉

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A new year dawns

posted in: General | 0

I confess that that the pressures of job hunting were getting to me and I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of seeking a new life in Australia. Fortunately, just when things were at their blackest last October, I did finally get a call from one of the organisations I had applied to.

Rural Press, which is based in Ormiston just South of Brisbane, needed an extra subeditor to work on their publications including Queensland Country Life, Northern Queensland Register and a number of others. I have been averaging two or so shifts each week since then, which has lifted a lot of the pressure on me.

The search for something more substantial goes on….

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Red letter day

posted in: Freelance | 0

Today is something of a red letter (or should that be Green letter?) day for me because I have completed my first job on Australian soil for an Australian firm. Since my arrival in Australia I have written some IT-related stories for an entrepreneurs’ website in South Africa, which is why my first local job was especially welcome.

I was asked to create a leaflet for Green Grove garden hire to send out with their monthly accounts, advertising the trees and silk flower arrangements they have for hire. I did the product photography, wrote the copy and laid the leaflet out. My sincere thanks go to Therese and Peter Nally for their business.

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Business club

posted in: Freelance, networking | 0

Just got back from a meeting of the Everton Park Business Club. It’s a networking group run by Sheree Lenton, which meets on a weekly basis in the excellent Luv-a-Coffee coffee bar in the Everton Plaza shopping centre.

I went along a couple of weeks ago to check it out and it turns out that a nice selection of local business people are members. I’ve been to four meetings so far and have found it very informative about local conditions.

One thing I learnt in South Africa from my years as a freelancer is that it is easy to become isolated. Being part of a group is very useful in that regard.

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A commission

posted in: Freelance | 0

I am very pleased to be have been commissioned by a new South Africa-based entrepreneurs’ website to produce a series of articles on various aspects of IT likely to be of interest to their audience. I’ll publish a link to the site as soon as I am allowed.

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Culture shock

posted in: Applications | 0

My head is starting to clear after the shock to the system brought on by the move from Durban in South Africa, my former home, to Brisbane, my new one. I really did think that I would arrive and start work immediately, but it has taken time to adjust to my new circumstances.

In many ways, Brisbane is similar enough to Durban to make it feel eerily familiar. Both are on the east coasts of their respective continents, both were founded in the same year, 1824, and were settled and built by the same sorts of people. They enjoy similar weather patterns, the inhabitants have laid-back lifestyles, and they are important gateways to their respective regions.

Similar, yes, but there are also differences that are taking this immigrant some time to get used to. There is different terminology and pronunciation to get used to as well as new approaches and ways of doing things to be learned. One of the most important things I missed was the critical importance of correctly structuring applications for contract and permanent positions.

Many organisations, including many State government departments, have been advertising for media and/or communications staff for permanent posts or, quite often, on short to medium-term contract. I know myself to be an extremely good communicator but, in spite of those skills and all my experience, I wasn’t even getting to the interview stage. I was feeling pretty low about things but thankfully, after input from Frances Cahill of Emerald Writing & Training, I now know why.

It’s not enough to point to jobs I’ve done and work I’ve produced and expect employers on this side of the water, to be impressed. And so, from here on in, it’s a change of tack and my best foot forward.

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Networking

posted in: networking | 0

I was aware right from the start of my move to Brisbane in February that I would have to get out and start networking. I almost immediately found a great group of former South Africans called the SAbona Business Network, which conducts a number of monthly meetings around the country, including one at Northlakes and one in Cleveland in Brisbane.

I have now been to both and met many new people. There is the added benefit that they have all experienced moving to a new country where they are unknown, and have also had to restart their careers from scratch. I’m looking forward to networking with them in future and assisting them where I can.

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Au revoir FishNet

My last post marked the end of FishNet for the time being, at least. I will soon be on my way to a new land, to join family, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep the column up while I pack on this side of the water, and get settled on that.

I have been writing FishNet every week, more or less without a break, since July 2006. I’ll certainly miss doing it, but I have to admit that a rest from the relentless weekly deadlines will be most welcome

Why not say au revoir by leaving a comment below?

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Quick viewer

A new version of one of my favourite free imaging program has just been released.

The program, FastStone Image Viewer, has been mentioned in these columns before and is available from the website FastStone.org. I use it every day even though I own copies of Photoshop and Lightroom, because it is the quickest way I know to look through a lot of digital pictures.

FSViewerScreenShot1

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Get off of my (Joli) cloud

posted in: FishNet, General, Online, OS | 0

This is going to be a bit of a weird column, some might say they all are, because I haven’t got anything to write about.

Most columnists get to this point sooner or later, and usually plug the gap by writing a column about how they got into that situation. It’s a noble tradition and whom am I to change it.

The thing is that I had been planning to install and review a free new operating system, Jolicloud, but when I sat down at the usual time of the week to do this column, Jolicloud stubbornly refused to start.

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Festive shopping made easy – part I

Shopping has never been one of my favourite occupations but looking for gifts for myself and others is, I suppose, the least objectionable form of it.

Me being me, however, my first move was certainly not to try and find parking at a busy shopping centre but instead, to fire up my trusty browser and go out onto the web to see what I could find.

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Getting help online

Over the last few months I have been using MS Word 2010 as my wordprocessor and I’m getting to like it very much indeed.

The bit that I don’t like is its ribbon interface which has brought me no benefit and has had me searching through the Help facility on many occasions, looking for features which have been moved from where I was used to finding them.

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Blogging to print

posted in: Blogging, FishNet, Online | 0

Over the last couple of years I have done quite a lot of blogging to satisfy the creative urge but I came to realise that, no matter how fulfilling, it only exists in the online world.

There is no chance of leaving it lying around on your coffee table for visitors to notice and admire while you’re off making the coffee. Clearly then, what was needed were printed versions of my blogs, and I didn’t foresee too much hassle or cost involved.

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Photo layouts at high speed

Over the past few weeks I seem to have had a mini-season of columns on the topic of what to do with digital images.

Before going on to something else, however, I thought I would mention a specialised little program called LumaPix FotoFusion. It is designed solely for creating layouts for photo books, greetings cards, business cards, models’ Z-Cards, or whatever else you can think of to do with it.

2009-110  Layouts can be as complex…

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Photoshop Elements 9 launch

300 posts and counting

It seems incredible to believe that this is really the 300th post on this blog. I have been posting my weekly computer columns here since 2006 and I recently added all the earlier columns I could find. All are listed on the Archive page and add up to a hell of a lot time and words.

Some exciting news in the few weeks was Adobe’s launch of the latest version of their entry-level image manipulation program Photoshop Elements.

Available simultaneously on the PC and Apple Macintosh platforms, Photoshop Elements 9 is the latest in a line of products that was brought out to fill the gap in the market for a less costly and less complex version of their industry-standard Photoshop application.

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Photoshop Elements 9 links

I’m going to be posting a review of Photoshop Elements 9 later in the week but here are some links in the meantime:

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Photobooks again

And so on to another in my occasional series on things to do with your digital photos. I have mentioned making photo books before and there have been a number of services available, but now I have found another South African source of high-quality books and has its HQ in Durban.

It’s called Burblepix and offers a range of photo products and a free Burblepix program to be used to create them with. On offer are photo books ranging from a 24-page 148 mm square soft cover, at R195, to a 24-page 300 mm square hardcover book for R530. Extra pages can be added to any book but cost extra.

SampleImage
The cover of the book I made using Burblepix.

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A tale of two launches

posted in: FishNet, Mobile, Review | 0

There have been two important launches in recent times in the mobile arena in South Africa and the difference between them couldn’t be greater.

The first one I’ll mention is Telkom’s launch of its lamely-named 8.ta mobile service. Interested parties watched the extensive Heita-branded teaser ad campaign and held their breaths to see what products and services the company would come up with, to compete with the three incumbent operators.

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Intro to Rock ‘n’ Roll

posted in: FishNet, Music, Online | 0

I’m a recent convert to Rock ‘n; Roll and am always interested to find something on the Internet to feed my growing interest in the subject. I was looking at the great Listverse site a while ago and found a list entitled:

Top 10 Rockers Who are Better than Elvis

The list was compiled by Maggot and features such artists as Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. There is a very interesting writeup where Maggot puts each artist in context and supplies a link to a sample video of each, so you can get a flavour of what they’re about.

My knee-jerk reaction to the list was to wonder how anyone could be deemed better than Elvis but, as Maggot says, he doesn’t intend any slight. It’s just that Elvis, although a supreme performer, didn’t create much (if any) music of his own. Carl Perkins wrote and performed the great Blue Suede Shoes (and other stuff) which is why he makes the list and Elvis doesn’t, in spite of the fact that Elvis scored a bigger hit with it than Carl did.

The list is a great introduction to Rock ‘n’ Roll and you’ll have to go there to see who Maggot thinks is the Best Rocker of All Time.

Listverse is also packed with many other interesting lists.

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Computer essentials

In previous columns I’ve mentioned a suite of free Microsoft programs called Windows Live Essentials and new versions have just been launched for 2011.

The programs in the suite include Writer, Photo Gallery, Messenger, Movie Maker, Family Safety, Mail and a few other things. One new and interesting addition is Windows Live Mesh which allows you to synchronise folders between a number of PCs connected to the Internet and/or folders stored on Microsoft’s online SkyDrive storage facility.

2010-10-16_210232 Windows Live Writer

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Supersonic surfing in KZN

posted in: FishNet, Internet, Mobile | 2
cellc_4gs_717555124 Late-breaking news: Cell C branded its service as 4Gs but has been stopped from doing do by the Advertising Standards Authority, on the grounds that it is not a 4G network. Cell C somewhat weakly claimed that 4Gs stands for “For Good Service”.

I just got back from the Durban and Pietermaritzburg launch of Cell C’s fast mobile HSPA+ data network

Cell C threw a big stone into the local Internet pond recently, when it announced its new data network, and a pricing structure which turns out to be more aggressive than a pit bull terrier. Read More

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Back door challenge

DSC_2652

One common challenge to photographers is to go and find a picture within a meter or two of their back doors. I was musing over the unkempt state of the yard in our (allegedly serviced) complex, when I spotted the beauty, above, amongst the weeds.

In the picture below, I used my D90’s multiple exposure feature on another plant I found growing nearby.

DSC_2637

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Rock ‘n’ Roll links

posted in: FishNet, Music, Online | 0

I have come across two Rock ‘n’ Roll shows on BBC Radio. They are:

  • Mark Lamarr’s Shake Rattle and Roll  broadcasts on Tuesdays but is available for listening anytime for a week after each show  – page includes links to show playlists
  • Geoff Barker’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party broadcasts on Saturdays but is available for listening anytime for a week after each show – playlists in the notes section of the show’s Facebook page.

A gem featured on one of the Rock and Roll Party shows is Si Cranstoun’s Dynamo.

 

Watch it but just don’t blame me if you can’t get that girl called Dynamo out your head…

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A lightning Bolt?

posted in: FishNet, Mobile, Review | 0

One of the hazards of fiddling with new technology, as I do, is that you become prone to sudden urges to spend large sums of money.

There I was experimenting with a couple of mobile Internet browsers, when I came to the sudden realisation that I need a mobile phone with a bigger screen and which doesn’t connect to the Internet via the treacle-slow GPRS network.

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Mobile stuff

posted in: FishNet, Mobile | 0

Last time, I reported that I had found and installed the Google Mobile app on my phone and that I had noticed that it froze periodically.

Once, I wasn’t even able to answer an incoming call and I was afraid that I had managed to turn my phone into an unresponsive brick. Fortunately, all was well after I reset the phone completely by removing and replacing the battery and sim card. The phone and Google Mobile are now working perfectly together and the app is proving to be very useful.

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Applications on the go

posted in: FishNet, Mobile | 0

It took a very long time indeed for me to see the value in mobile phones that you could use to do more than talk to other people and send SMS messages.

The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) for connecting mobile phones to the Internet dates from 1997. Phones with WAP built in soon began to emerge and, although I don’t remember exactly when they appeared in South Africa, I do remember feeling distinctly underwhelmed by the whole idea.

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Restarting Windows 7

posted in: FishNet, OS, Windows | 0

In a previous column, I wrote that I was having a fine time using Microsoft’s recently-released Windows7 operating system.

My very favourable first impression has not changed after much intensive use, and I figure that the company really hit the jackpot with this version of Windows. It does everything in such a capable and fuss-free manner that I barely notice it’s there.

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The impossible shot ??

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This picture doesn’t look like much at first glance but it’s a testimony to how far digital photography has come and how it now surpasses film in many ways and for many purposes.

It came about when I was hurtling home down Inanda Road the other evening and saw a magnificent full moon rising through the skeletal  trees on the Camp Orchards Estate. Here was a massive photo opportunity but the conditions were so bad that I had little hope of getting a result.

It was getting dark, blowing a gale, I had a slow f/5.6 lens, I didn’t have a tripod with me and, to cap it all, the moon was rising pretty fast, as it does. I knew I’d need a pretty fast shutter speed to freeze the moon so the only thing to do was to wind the ISO up as far as possible, brace myself against a light pole for the shot, and see what happened.

It was taken at at 125th, f/5.6, ISO3200 and underexposed by 2.67 stops. I’m not kidding myself that it’s any good, but I am amazed that anything at all was recorded by the sensor.

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Damn that thieving YouTube

As time thieves go, YouTube must be a hands-down winner. While researching for my column this coming weekend, I happened to go past YouTube and think that I would quickly look up Kay Starr to see what she sounded like.

I first thought I would just listen to her singing Rock and Roll Waltz but I had forgotten about the list of suggested videos which YouTube puts up alongside the clip you happen to be looking at. How could I then resist looking at the lady singing Bonaparte’s Retreat, or clicking on the link on that page, to hear Willie Nelson singing the same song, and then to Patti Page singing Tennessee Waltz.

It was then only a short step to satisfy my curiosity as to whether Patsy Cline could sing it better than Patti. After that, I had wasted so much time that I thought I might as well click on the link and listen to Patsy singing Wayward Wind.

And we won’t even go into the half hour or so that I spent having a listen to some Connie Francis tracks. It was hours late, at least I did get the column down eventually…

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The evil empire strikes back, belatedly.

Good news arrived in my inbox just as I was sitting wondering what to base this column on.

The message was from the evil empire, Telkom, and basically said that its ADSL customers were going to be getting more bandwidth for their money from August 1, 2010. And about time too, I thought.

kenwright Bill Kenwright’s The Golden Years

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Worldwide Photowalk

posted in: General, PB, Photography | 2

It was Scott Kelby’s third annual Worldwide Photo Walk on 24 July 2010 and I wasted no time in getting my name down for the Durban, South Africa, leg of the walk led by fellow camera club member Andrew Roos.

Our walk took place in Point Precinct Area which includes some of the beachfront and buildings ranging from the ultra-modern to the seriously distressed. The walk started and ended outside Moyo Restaurant at Ushaka Marine World and I noticed that restaurant had established a second instance of itself on the end of the adjacent pier.

DSC_2567-Edit

I stuck a neutral density ND8 filter on the end of my 18-105mm lens and the 15-second exposure gave a misty effect on the waves that I liked, so I chose the shot as my entry for the Photowalk competition.

All my pictures taken on the walk:

[flickr-gallery mode=”tag” tags=”Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk 2010″ tag_mode=”all”]

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Small things !

Programs come and go and I generally resist change for change’s sake. Of course, I often do make the change to new software and it’s usually because of some huge and miraculous new feature which has been introduced. Sometimes though, it’s a tiny little tweak that takes my fancy and gets me to change.

There is no doubt that Microsoft Word 2010 is a good-looking package with all the bells and whistles that you might reasonably require, but I wasn’t really tempted to move over to it and abandon my venerable and well-used copy of Word 2000. Not, that is, until I noticed that Word 2010’s status bar includes a running total of the number of words in the document.

It’s not a huge thing but, for me it is pretty darn cool, and the straw that broke the camel’s back and persuaded me I needed a new wordprocessor. Now all I have to do, is figure out how to make it the default program for opening .DOC files because Windows still insists on opening them with Word 2000, no matter how often I tell it not to.

Having a continuously updated idea of the number of words I’ve used is great although it’s perhaps not quite as cool as the hack done by a fellow computer scribe, so that his copy of Word displayed not only a running word count, but also how much he would earn from them at his usual rate per word.

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Caps Lock trials and tribulations

Once upon a time I was driven mad when I kept hitting the Caps Lock key on my keyboard and having to go back and correct my typing.

i WOULD REGULARLY MAKE MISTAKES LIKE THIS and things got so frustrating that I decided I would have to do something with some urgency. Various solutions suggested themselves to me including ripping the Caps Lock key off of the keyboard or gluing it so that it couldn’t move.

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FREE: My Word 2010 QAT

2010-07-17_220857

Setting up the Quick Access Toolbar in Word 2010 does take a little bit of fiddling but, as I discovered, one can export the setup once you have it arranged to your satisfaction. You can then import that file into other copies of Word 2010 and not have to set the QAT up again.

Any reader interested in duplicating my setup can download and install my setup file but please be warned, it will overwrite any customisations you might have done already,

Download and installation instructions

  • Download the file by right-clicking this download link and selecting ‘Save link as’, ‘Save target as’ or whatever option your browser offers, and save the file to somewhere you can find it.
  • Click on the File ribbon in Word 2010
  • Select Options  => Quick Access Toolbar  => Import/Export => Import customization file
  • Navigate to the download file, select it, and click Open.
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Shooting panoramas

I seem to be doing a fair bit on panoramas lately. One of the first articles I wrote concerned how to shoot them and I wrote that you had to shoot a series of overlapping pictures. The picture below shows what a series of images looked like before and after I had stitched them.

pano.jpg

One of the problems with shooting a panorama  is remembering months down the line, which images are a sequence. Shooting a picture of your hand at either end of the sequence is a tip I picked up on another blog (can’t remember which one) and is a neat way of separating panos from each other and from other pictures shot on the day.

Click to view all my panorama posts.

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Outlook 2010 – Part II

posted in: FishNet, Review, Software | 0

After my e-mail account settings import troubles last time, I manually entered the settings for my two e-mail accounts, including Gmail. I eventually got that done but Outlook took no heed of the messages I had already imported, and created a new set of folders.

It had taken me a long time to get Windows Live Mail set up so that it downloads and keeps a local copy of my most important Gmail messages. I have decided I can’t face doing it all again, not to mention the bandwidth it’s going to use up to download all those messages from Gmail again.

I have accordingly decided to give Outlook a skip and keep with Windows Live Mail unless I can figure out a way of get Outlook to do what I want it to to do.

I would have thought that it would be basic business practice, for a software company, to make it as easy as possible for users to upgrade to their premium e-mail client from whatever other program they happen to be using. At the very least, you would think, the company would take care that the premium product would be able to upgrade in a fuss-free way from their OWN free e-mail client.

Fail !!

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Fitting it all in

One of the problems of taking pictures of scenery and buildings is that the subjects are often too big to capture in a single exposure.

The problem got even worse with the coming of digital photography because small camera sensors mean that wide angle lenses are effectively not as wide as they would be if you were shooting film.

pano-0750-58

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