Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My snooty sixth form application

I just stumbled upon a folder I'd forgotten about on a memory stick that I carry at all times (but never use).  In said folder is the letter that I sent to the head of six form at my high school.  I failed ALL my GCSEs so spent a year at sixth form scraping a couple together while also doing a vocational CPVE course in 'caring'.

Reading this letter back made me laugh out loud; I don't remember being such a snooty or aloof teenager but perhaps I was!  I think it's somewhat hilarious that I was quoting what appears to be entirely fictional latin in this application and somewhat shameful that I dismissed my classmates so readily.  And as for A-level biology echoing my out of school interests, well aren't all teenage boys wholly focussed on biology, or at least female anatomy?

For the record it was made clear that I wasn't welcome to stay in sixth form to experience 'feeling A-levels'.  The Mrs. Hart mentioned is one of my retrospective heroes - she told my parents that the school system was horribly suffocating my development!  Awesome.  I did go to Suffolk College to study a course that would have resulted in me training as a nurse, and it was probably the best thing that could have happened to my development, not least because while at Suffolk College I met some of my dearest friends, and my wife!

Dear Mr.________
I am writing to you to confirm my hopeful entry into the Sixth Form (term starting September 1993)  Both my parents and Mrs.Hart are behind me concerning the application that I put forward at the beginning of this year although my choice of subjects may well be changed.  My current choice would be Biology and perhaps English but as I have mentioned above my second choice could well change in the future. 
One of my several reasons for choosing the Sixth Form to further my education is that as I am still unsure about which career to pursue I am adopting a 'Vatianole' attitude, ie education for education's sake in two subjects that I enjoy and have great interest in as far as my out off school hobbies are concerned.  I hope to be accepted into this sixth form and I am trying to prove that I am able to work as I hope my recent minor review shows.
I have greatly enjoyed my CPVE course that I have taken part in over the last year but with out wishing to sound rude I am now realising that I am perhaps more able than some of my classmates and I feel that A-levels will enable me to perform to my true potential.

I have also applied to Suffolk College but this is very much my second choice.    
Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sync your saved passwords, bookmarks / favourites and history across all your computers and devices

The scenario
I have a computer that I use at work, an Android phone that I use all the time, an iPad that I use at home and I also occasionally use other computers when visiting family or have to 'lend' my computer to someone else at work.

The problem
I'm crap at remembering passwords; when I'm at home I can't remember the logins and passwords that I've been using at work and vice versa.  I also seem to forget which websites I regularly use and often have to trawl back through my browsing / searching history to remind myself what useful information I've found over the previous weeks and months.

The solution
I use Google Chrome!  You may already have the Google Chrome browser on your computer, and if not then I'd recommend you take a look at it; it's fast and doesn't bloat around like a sumo wrestler with trapped wind the way that Internet Explorer (IE) does.  What you might not know is that there are now Google Chrome browser apps for Android phones and tables as well as for iPhones and iPads.  All you need to sync your passwords and all other browser data across all your devices is Google Chrome on each of your devices and a Google Account.  Here's how it works:

How to sync your browser data (logins etc) across multiple computers / devices.

  1. If you don't already have one then grab yourself a Google Account at
  2. Download and install the Google Chrome browser on each of your devices.
  3. When opening Chrome on each of your devices for the first time 'sign in' using your Google Account details.  You may need to click the three horizontal lines in the top right hand corner of the software in order to find the login link.
  4. That's it!  Now you should have the same saved usernames and passwords on each of your devices.  Marvellous!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to copy from a PDF to Word without losing your mind.

How to fix tangled line breaks!
For one reason or another we occasionally need to copy text from a PDF document so that we can use it in a Word document.  I won't go into why you might need to copy text from a PDF and paste it into Microsoft Word, your reasons are your own, but I find I most often have to use the technique below because I need words from an old document myself or a colleague has written to PDF but has lost the original word version.

When you copy text from a PDF and paste it into a Word document the formatting (especially line breaks) get totally trashed, an unless you know the trick below you can loose your mind trying to fix the formatting.

Copying from a PDF and pasting into Microsoft Word.

  1. On your PDF reader select the text you need and copy it (by right clicking and choosing 'copy' or by hitting Ctrl+C)
  2. Paste the copied text into notepad, this removes or 'cleans' any formatting that might confuse MS Word.  The process of copying and pasting 'through' notepad is a good trick to learn for general web editing and blogging (find out more HERE).
  3. Select all the text (Ctrl+S) in Notepad and copy it (Ctrl+C), then paste it (Ctrl+P) into an empty word document
  4. Select all the text and go to 'find and replace' (Ctrl+F)
  5. Click the 'more' box that appears at the bottom of the find and replace dialog box, then press the 'special' button and select 'Paragraph mark', this will put a ^p in the 'find what' box
  6. In the 'Replace with' box put two spaces, literally just two spaces.  Put the cursor in the box and hit the space bar twice
  7. Click 'Replace all' and then say yes, fine, whatever to the questions that pop up on the screen
  8. Unfortunately you will have lost the line breaks between paragraphs, but these are easy to get back, I tend to find that almost without fail a capital letter at the start of a line denotes the start of a new paragraph, so you can click your cursor there and hammer the return key once to restore your paragraph break.  This method is still a LOT faster than having to fix carriage returns at the end of every single line.  If you are copying out into another word processor or Google Drive / Docs then you will need to copy and paste back through notepad first
  9. Copy the reformatted text and paste it straight into the word document that requires the text, no need to rinse the text through notepad this time.

Getting images from PDFs
If you need the images from a PDF then open said PDF in Adobe Photoshop, when opening a PDF in PhotoShop you are given the choice of opening the document with each page as an image, or opening each image in the PDF as a separate image.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Google Drive - Images in tables moving / breaking format when printing to PDF - HELP!

I've been using the same natively created Google Docs documents for well over a year, but in the last few weeks the formatting has smashed.

The document was created from scratch in Google Drive and is standard text with a few tables that have images inserted into them.  When I create a new document I use the 'make a copy...' function, remove or type in text as needed and then download as a PDF.  When I create documents in this way now some of the text will overlap with text on the line above or below it, and some images will 'slip' behind other images.

After much pulling around of documents to try and resolve the issue I threw my hands up and started again from scratch.  I created an entirely new document using the standard Google Drive styles and sizes all inserted images in photoshop so they did not require any resizing in the Google Drive document.  ALL text was either typed in manually or copied and pasted through notepad so I know that no dodgy formatting has been transferred over from previous sources.  None of the images have any alignment / justification settings on them, I tried to fix the issue by setting alignment and it didn't help.  So even with a brand new document the problem still manifested itself.

Things I have tried to fix the problem of smashed image formatting in Google Drive

  • Starting the document again from scratch
  • Resizing the image so that it perfectly fits the table cell and doesn't need removing
  • Adjusting the table border size
  • Adjusting cell spacing
  • Putting different images in the cell to make sure I don't have a damaged photo causing problems
  • Manually sizing the columns
  • NOT manually sizing the columns
  • Using different photo quality settings when exporting from PhotoShop
  • Moving tables using page breaks
  • Setting alignment on images
  • NOT setting alignment on images
  • Drinking more coffee than usual
  • Printing to PDF using Adobe Pro
  • Downloading as PDF using Google Drive
  • Changing font sizes
  • Checking there are no erroneous carriage returns above, below or beside images
I really need to find a solution to this problem, if this can't be fixed it's a total deal breaker and we'll have to stop using Google Drive entirely, which would be very frustrating because this appears to be a daft little bug.

Any ideas?

Update - 21/02/13

For now I have developed a work-around whereby I download the document in MS Word (docx format) and then open it in Microsoft Office, then print it to PDF. Using this method all images remain where they should be and no text overlays other text.

It's a fairly crazy workaround, but does give further weight to the argument that the issue may lay with the Google Drive print/ pdf service.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Soggy sunny Sunday wind.

Originally posted on CycleChat 27/01/13

We met up at 7am outside the Giles statue and headed off on the first of the three thirty(ish) mile loops that would make up our 100 mile ride.

The rain was raining and the wind was, er, winding as we bipped along at a cheery rate towards Martlesham where there was a chance a new friend called Phil would be joining us. After waiting a wee while I found a tweet telling me there was little chance Phil would be joining us on account of a manifestation the type of wind that got Tonto into a pickle in Kansas.

Another friend called Trumpet had failed to show up before we left Ipswich so we weren't too troubled.

Apart from being a little moist the fifteen miles out to Wickham Market seemed nice and easy, which 'might' have been more to do with the tailwind than our level of fitness. From the moment we turned back to Ipswich the roads turned to rivers, the wind turned against us and nature punished us for daring to defy the laws of physics while perched upon two wheels.

The going was less than preferable but wasn't too bad, barring a flood that made us choose a diversion. We tried to have a crack at drafting a tractor but found out pretty quickly that large tractor tyres are quite efficient at transferring entire puddles onto cyclists foolish enough to draft them.

By pure fluke the fella who wasn't there to meet us in Martlesham (Phil) managed to find us as we made our way back to Ipswich town centre. So now we were four.

The start of the third loop took us out along the River Orwell to Shotley Penninsula, our new friend Phil (on his first ever group ride) had his first go at leading our little pack and put in a damn fine effort despite the increasingly hostile weather conditions.

On our way down the other side of the Penninsula along the River Stour the wind got consistently worse and before turning towards Manningtree we decided as a group that the day's ride was in danger of becoming an unhappy slog and headed directly back to Ipswich - we agreed that there was little doubt that we were capable of the full 100 miles but there's no point in letting cycling make us miserable, this is supposed to be fun!

But the company was good, the pace was comfortable and on the whole the cheer was good. Roll on next month.

Here's the route -

A few hours after getting home I got a text from Trumpet telling me that his phone had just reminded him that he should have got out of bed this morning to go on a bike ride...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lance Armstrong forced pope to resign

Made up by ME!

So far my favourite Papal resignation article is this one - Pope headhunted by Satan...

How to get email reminders if someone doesn't reply to your email.

I have mentioned how marvellous I think Boomerang for Gmail is in previous posts, but I hadn't (until now) mentioned my favourite feature...

Get a reminder if your email doesn't get a response.

Boomerang has the very delicious ability to bring emails back to the top of your inbox if you don't hear back from the respondent within a set amount of time.  Before hitting the 'send' button (or indeed the 'send later' button) pop a tick in the new checkbox that appears (after you install Boomerang) between the subject line and the formatting section.  There are additional options you can set using the drop down boxes to set when the email should float back to the top of your inbox, and whether you want reminding even if you do get a response or not.

This 'email reminder service' has saved me an incredible amount of time in my working day - now if I want to make sure I get a follow up from an email I no longer need to make a note elsewhere (like in my calendar), I just Boomerang the message!

Get Boomerang for Gmail (for free!)...

Want more?
How to schedule Gmail emails using Boomerang...

How to schedule emails in Gmail

Gmail is fast becoming de rigueur for business emails, and as I'm sure the vast majority of Gmail users would agree this is a good thing for the whole of humanity.  Features like conversation strings, message labels and many of the wonderful Gmail Labs tools make using Gmail a lot more time efficient and logical than 'installed' email software packages like Microsoft Outlook.  However, one feature that a lot of Outlook users find useful is the ability to write an email and then schedule it to be sent at a later time and date.  Pop3 Outlook users need to ensure that their computer is left on (with Outlook left open) in order for their scheduled emails to send, but in principle sending scheduled emails in Outlook is very simple indeed.

Sending scheduled emails from Gmail.

Whereas a standard installation of Outlook can quite easily allow the user to schedule an email, the 'basic' Gmail application cannot.  In order to enable the ability to write and email now and have it send later you need a browser plugin.  If you're using FireFox or Google Chrome you may well already be using browser plugins whether you realise it or not.  They are painless, and very useful indeed.

To send scheduled emails from Gmail you need to grab a hold of the Boomerang plugin, which you can do easy peasy lemon squeezy by clicking HERE...

Once you have downloaded the Boomerang plugin you'll see a new button appear next to the 'send' button when writing an email in Gmail, the new button is labelled 'send later' and has a wee picture of a boomerang on it.  This button allows you to schedule when you want the message to be sent.

That's all there is to scheduling emails in Gmail, simple huh!

Click here to get Boomerang for Gmail...

Want more?

Find out how to get a reminder if someone doesn't reply to your email in Gmail...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Numb bum bike bummel

Lately I've been getting a bit mardy about the fact that I've not been getting out on my bike enough, so I decided that I would head out on a short bummel today, regardless of wind, wet weather or rank odour.

So last night I went to bed nice and early and had only a few beers and just a couple of glasses of wine. When the alarm went off at 6am I lost all resolve to get out early. This may have been due in part to the fact that my bedroom window overlooks the dock basin here in Ipswich, so if there's a lot of weather about then I can see it all; the trees thrashing about, the rain sweeping the valley like an angry curtain (?!?). This ain't Kansas.

I eventually hauled my considerable frame out into the elements four hours later at 10am; I have some new waterproof socks I was looking forward to testing, but not even the promise of dry feet was enough to drag me away with any haste from the breakfast pancakes that our houseguest was serving up.

I pushed my way through rain and gale from Ipswich to Manningtree (through Holbrook) spurring myself on with the fragile promise of a tailwind to push me home.

At Manningtree I dismounted and sat for a moment to soak in the scenery (soaking in the weather was loosing its novelty), and it was when I sat down I discovered that my rump was numb. No matter, I'm fairly sure my bum won't miss the saddle when I sit down, with a rump the size of mine joining meat to saddle is as easy as using a telephone directory to obscure a Cadbury's chocolate button. It was also around this time that I regretted not bringing some Cadbury's buttons along for the ride.

I managed to keep the speedo at around the 23mph mark most of the way home, even although (although perhaps because) I was telling myself as long as I got home safe the pub lunch we had scheduled would be a marvellous reward.

Getting wet and windswept on a ride was not a new experience, but when bipping down the road by the dry ski slope that augments the approach to Ippo Rock City something happened that was new to me - as I crouched into an aero position and slid back on my seat one of my conkers retreated into the trunk. Odd, and not an experience I would recommend at any time, least of all at 40mph.

So this wasn't the most athletically interesting ride of my life, and as I write this I still haven't regained contact with my backside, but am I glad I made the effort? Of course.

View the route on Endomondo...

View the route on Strava...