Category Archives: Applications

Blogger introduces country domains, breaks some addons

Blogger has split itself into separate country domains, such as for US, for UK, for AU.

But what’s really puzzling is that these apply to the user, not the blog. The blog may be visible on a multitude of different blogspot country domains, dependent on where the user is located.

This has broken a number of addon tools, such as commenting and social networking.

More details at Girl Does Geek

Google’s information on this

How to override it (though it only lists a few of the country domains; you’d need to find as many as possible to add in to make it work for everybody)

— It rather appears that Google/Blogger didn’t think too carefully about this.

Old shapes in Visio

I know I’m using an old (2003) version of Visio, but seriously… paper tape?

Visio shapes

(I suppose these days “cards” could refer to some kind of portable storage, though I bet it really means punch cards.)

Giant embedded slides

Email arrived. Embedded Powerpoint slides. 9Mb. Wow.

Saved the slides out to a temporary directory, loaded them in Powerpoint, saved again as PPTX, edited the message (thank goodness Outlook allows this) to remove the embedded slides and attach the PPTX versions instead. Result: 663 Kb — a 93% saving in space, with no loss of fidelity.

Either we need to send everybody on compulsory email attachments training, or email systems need to get much more efficient at this stuff, and clean up the stupid stuff for them automatically.

By the way, Outlook 2010 made it very difficult, if not impossible to save the slides. Outlook 2007 looking at the same message managed it easily. Hmmm.


Don’t get me wrong, I like the feature of Thunderbird (and other email clients) that looks for keywords indicating you intended to attach a document, and warns you that you haven’t.

But I think it needs tweaking.

Thunderbird attachment warning

The attachment keyword “pdf” is clearly part of a quoted URL in this email. In these cases, I think there’s no need to give me the warning.

Yeah, if I were energetic enough, I’d report the bug and/or fix it myself.

(Oh, whatdayaknow, I just patched to the latest version of TBird, and it looks like someone fixed it. Still, a little more quality control wouldn’t hurt to ensure this type of bug wasn’t released into a “stable” version in the first place.)

Horde access keys

Beware of Horde’s IMP webmail client and its access/shortcut keys.

One that’s caught me is that if new email composition is set to be in a separate window, and access keys are on, then Alt-F4 (which in Windows is normally the equivalent of Close) is pressed, instead of saving the email to Drafts, or cancelling the email, it sends it.

I’m a common user of Alt-F4, which means several times I’ve thought I was cancelling the email, but instead it’s sent it.

Another is Alt-D for Delete (the current message). On many browsers this predates Ctrl-L to go to the address window, and while I know I should learn Ctrl-L, I still commonly press Alt-D. If Horde is configured to not even put the message into the Trash, carelessly pressing Alt-D will zap the message forever more, no trace left.

To prevent these happening again, I’ve now turned off Access keys: Options / Global options / Display Options / Should access keys be defined for most links?

Importing into SQL Server

Alas SQL Server Management Studio isn’t as friendly as it could be for pasting in data. You’d think Microsoft would have this humming, but when I tried to paste from Excel, it attempted to paste the entire first row from my spreadsheet into the first column (in one row) of the database.

Using MS Access to open up the database probably would have worked, but I didn’t have it on that machine.

Trying to import using the SQL Server Import And Export Data wizard from a CSV text file worked for a small amount of data, but the 80,000 rows I was trying to import from the world ports code list didn’t. Time and time again it would report an error (unspecified) and give me the option of Abort, Retry, Ignore. No matter option I chose, it crashed.

While the 64-bit version of the wizard on my 64-bit Win7 machine didn’t allow you to import from Excel/Access, the 32-bit version did (presumably because MS Office, at least the version I have installed, is 32-bit).

The next problem was that it only supported Excel 2003 format, which can’t handle more than 64K rows. I ended up having to split the data into two and import the two spreadsheets separately. Then it worked.

Shame the wizard is so flaky, and of course it’s a big shame that Management Studio doesn’t do copy/paste like one would expect. (Maybe that too was a 32-bit/64-bit issue.)

Microsoft’s open-source CMS

Interesting — Microsoft has launched its WebMatrix open-source web development bundle, as well as the first version of its open-source “Orchard” content management system.

Wonder if these means MS has WordPress, Joomla and Drupal as its targets? Perhaps it’s realised that having some kind of open-source CMS is vital to winning the hearts and minds of web programmers, and weaning them off PHP and MySQL back to ASP.Net and SQL Server.

(via Mary-Jo Foley)

uTorrent crapware

The latest version of uTorrent comes with an unwelcome friend — some kind of app host called Conduit, and a waste-of-time toolbar in IE and Firefox.

I don’t know if they’re dangerous or not (you’d hope the uTorrent people wouldn’t have allowed them in if there was any risk), but I certainly think they’re unwelcome, and the semi-auto update from the previous version of uTorrent didn’t give me the option of having them or not.

To remove them, go into Control Panel, Add/Remove programs and remove:

uTorrent toolbar

You’ll also need to go into Firefox and in Tools, Addons, do the same.

That seems to do it (touch wood). uTorrent, unsurprisingly, seems to work fine without them.

Hey uTorrent guys, love your product, but stick to your core business, eh? Don’t let bundled crapware like this drag you down.

Update 24/12 — also noted: it changes your Firefox home page without asking, too.

Keeping old content

Unlike many organisations, the BBC has a very enlightened policy on leaving old content up on their web site.

Among other things, it says:

Our view is that these pages often contain a lot of information about the programme or event which may be of interest in the future. We don’t want to delete pages which users may have bookmarked or linked to in other ways.

In general our policy is only to remove pages where the information provided has become so outdated that it may lead to actual harm or damage.

If only more web sites took this view.

Powerpoint file sizes

Was dealing with a big Powerpoint presentation (PPT) file.

In the older PPT format, 6063 Kb.

When zipped, 4826 Kb. Not a bad saving given the number of pictures in it.

Here’s the interesting thing: in PPTX format: 3293 Kb.

Remembering that PPTX and other Office Open XML formats (DOCX, XLSX etc) do their compression on the file as a whole, not the individual componenets, so this is an interesting result.

Perhaps the old binary format is inherently less efficient/compressible than the new XML format.

Mind you, another big PPT I tried it with didn’t compress down as much; the PPTX was about the same size as the ZIPped PPT, so it obviously depends on the exact content

Working on the server

Upgrading to WordPress 3, that kind of thing. Hold off new comments and posts until done. I’m also moving servers.

If you can see this, it’s done!

Here’s the process I’m following for moving these various sites:

Take an export of the database.

Run the SQL: update wp_posts set comment_status = ‘closed’ so nobody comes in and writes a comment subsequently lost.

Import into the new site and upload the new WP installation and the old theme and images etc onto the new site.

(I’ve found my new web ISP’s DDOS protection gets antsy if I use the default Filezilla setting of two simeltaneous connections.)

Hack the hosts file to look at it while getting it perfected.

Run /wp-admin/upgrade.php and let it upgrade the database

Go into the Admin screens, to the Permalink settings and save the default so the .htaccess file is updated

Apart from then switching the registrar so the domain looks at the new IP address, that’s about it.

Will also re-load the old .htaccess settings like the deny list for the big-hitting bandwidth thieves.

And I’m installing the W3 Total Cache plugin to optimise the site a bit. (I used to have WP set to deliver gzip-compressed pages; sometime before version 2.9, that option’s been removed.)

Update: Finally, WP3 seems to have fixed the weird bug that caused some comments and posts to be rejected dependent on particular words being present.

Outlook’s HTML message bloat

I was cleaning up my work mail, which is in Outlook using Exchange. I was staggered to see a relatively short email taking an inordinate amount of space.

Copied the text including headers to a text editor. It was 6300 bytes. But Outlook claimed it was taking 485 Kb — some 76 times the amount of text.

How can this be?

The message was in HTML format. Ah… Microsoft-generated HTML, a receipe for bloat. It seems particularly bad when the message contains a whole email trail.

So, using Outlook’s very handy Edit Message function (I’m surprised it’s not abused more often), I changed it to Plain Text. It’s not as if anything in there relied on the HTML in order to be legible.

Switcheroo, save, presto! 17 Kb. Not 6, but not 485 either. Much better.

Shame there isn’t an option to clean up MS HTML.

Another thing one can do is zip the attachments.