Sunday, October 24, 2010

Installing MS Office 2010 - What a palaver!

Having finally bought Microsoft Office 2010 to replace the pre-release version I've being using for the last year I sat down to install it at 11:00am this morning. I finally completed the process at 3:30pm; a four and a half hour marathon!

Now if you just bought Office 2010 when it was released you probably were able to install it without problem completing the whole process within 20 minutes. Some of us tested the beta product and then the pre-release version. Now, however these are about to expire and it's tie to install the full product. That's where the problem started.

As soon as I tried to install Office 2010 I got this error message:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version of
Microsoft Office 2010. You must first uninstall any prerelease versions of
Microsoft Office 2010 products and associated technologies.
Correct the issue(s) listed above and re-run setup.

Oh well - that meant a trip to the control panel and 'Uninstall a program'. I selected the Office 2010 pre-release version and uninstalled it. Back to the installation DVD and I got:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version of
Microsoft Office 2010. You must first uninstall any prerelease versions of
Microsoft Office 2010 products and associated technologies.
Correct the issue(s) listed above and re-run setup.

Huh? I just uninstalled it! Maybe I needed to do a restart first? One restart later I inserted the installation DVD and got:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

OK. Now let me just check I actually uninstalled the right version - Yep - it's gone and I remember that I had to remove Office 2007 before I could install the prerelease of 2010. Time to go visit Microsoft's site to see if there's a fix!

As usual, finding what I wanted on the MS site was a torturous business but at least their introduction of using Bing to search the site makes things a little easier. Eventually I copied out the error message and searched for that.

I found quite a few people were having the same problem and I eventually found a post on http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/officeinstall/thread/52c744aa-d1c5-4aec-9c52-d76bc05eea40 where a Microsoft Support Moderator suggested I run a tool called cleanc2r to fix the issue. I followed the link provided to get the tool and of course discovered it had been replaced by a different tool. Fortunately the link took me to the new location of this 'Fixit' tool and of course when I got there it referred to removing Office 2007 from Windows XP and not to Windows 7. back to Google search engine where I entered the error message AND "Windows 7"

This time I found another Microsoft Support Moderator who pointed at a page http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290301 This time the link actually worked!

The new page told me to do exactly what I had already done but if that didn't work I should use the 'Fix it' link below to remove the problem. This time there were three of them and I chose the one for Office 2010; Microsoft Fix it 50450.

Running it gave me a brief flash of a command window followed by the usual confirmation window to confirm I really wanted to use the program. A licence agreement window followed next followed by a window making a backup of the registry. Finally I got another brief flash of the command window and - nothing! 'A bit unsatisfactory' I thought ' I would have expected the program to tell me it was finished'.

Back to the Installation DVD and I got:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

This was beginning to get tiresome! Back to the search engine and I followed a few more of the 29 results to find that all of them eventually pointed me back to the same page which I'd just tried. Eventually I found one saying the 'Fix it' link didn't always work first time and I should try it again!

Back to 'Fix it', the same procedure but this time the second command window stayed open and took ages to run through. Once it finished it was back to the installation DVD and I got:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

More searching on Internet eventually found Microsoft instructions to delete a couple of registry entries, to clear temporary files from the computer and to empty the recycle bin. 5Gb of temporary files deletion later it was back to the installation DVD and:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

At this point I began to wonder how someone who is not quite as computer literate as I would be coping. Back to the search engine.

Looking on the forums I found lots of people with the same issue who had all followed the Microsoft advice and still couldn't install Office 2010. Eventually I read something about making sure all Office ad-ons had been deleted including the 'Add a smile' feature installed with the pre-release version. Mine was still there and promptly got deleted and...

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

Out went the Windows Live Office stuff...

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version...

Out went 'Outlook Hotmail Connector (Funny! I never use Hotmail so I definitely didn't install that!) and...

SUCCESS! I was now the proud owner of an Office 2010 installation.

It only took me four and a half hours. Simple huh?

Finally I could get back to editing my book 'A Vested Interest.'


US Version

UK Version



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Facebook Games

I wonder how many Facebook users have stopped to consider just how much money the writers of the more popular Facebook applications - especially games - are making?
  • Let's assume that just 5% of users occasionally buy 'extras' for their game.
  • Lets assume that they spend just £10 on this per year.
  • Lets assume that the figure of 'monthly active users' you get from the games Facebook website is wildly inaccurate and the true figure is 50% of what is stated.
So here's a list of how much the top 30 Facebook games are making based on those rather conservative assumptions:

Game
Users
£ Earned
1 Farmville 60,343,013 15,085,753
2 Frontierville 31,031,304 4,654,696
3 Café World 22,180,662 3,327,099
4 Mafia Wars 21,793,134 3,268,970
5 Treasure Isle 15,509,210 2,326,382
6 Happy Aquarium 13,052,368 1,957,855
7 Bejeweled Blitz 11,995,628 1,799,344
8 Petville 11,628,197 1,744,230
9 Restaurant City 9,696,574 1,454,486
10 Happy Pets 9135056 1,370,258
11 City of Wonder 8,840,339 1,326,051
12 YoVille 7,579,517 1,136,928
13 Zoo World 7,036,293 1,055,444
14 Fishville 6,873,782 1,031,067
15 Happy Island 6,286,697 943,005
16 Kingdoms of Camelot 5,891,589 883,738
17 Social City 5,575,999 836,400
18 Hotel City 5,246,913 787,037
19 Baking Life 4,904,453 735,668
20 Country Life 4,412,287 661,843
21 Farm Town 4,065,029 609,754
22 Monster World 3,905,525 585,829
23 My Empire 2,819,505 422,926
24 Island Paradise 2,422,170 363,326
25 Tiki Resort 2,364,724 354,709
26 Tiki Farm 1,278,580 191,787
27 My Vineyard 919,963 137,994
28 Zoo Kingdom 727,327 109,099
29 Crime City628,109 94,216
30 Middle Kingdom 378,46356,769

It seems to me some of these games are making a fortune! While they are considered 'free' games, sooner or later the majority of users will buy an item for their game and these repeated purchases quickly mount up until they exceed the value of a game purchased on CD/DVD. Unlike the CD/DVD game Facebook games are in a constant state of development too so there is something new to keep the players coming back.

The question is are we, the users, getting value for money from our games? A quick trip to the user forums of many of these quickly lets you know just how many people are unhappy with them. What amazes me is that people keep playing them! Especially the people who are spending real money. I guess it's a matter of not wanting to waste the money spent already.

Let's look at two examples from these games; both zoos. Zoo World and Zoo Kingdom.
Zoo World is making millions yet go to it's discussion board and you'll find complaint after complaint. The only people answering these complaints, however, are the other game players.
Zoo Kingdom's discussion board is the opposite however. There are few complaints and those that appear are quickly answered by the game developers. Read the comments there and you'll find many end with praise for Blue Fang who developed the game.

So why is it that the positions of these two games are not reversed? It beats me! I do know though that I like the community spirit there so much that I host a Zoo Kingdom Hints & Tips website for it.

It seems to me that those game firms who have not yet caught on to the potential of social media websites for earning money are missing out and if you are looking for a profitable investment a small business just starting the climb up the Facebook games league is worth looking at.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Election. What went wrong?

The UK held a general election on 6th May 2010 but things didn't quite go as smoothly as expected.

here in the UK we've grown accustomed to feeling smug about how 'we hold elections properly' and smile at the feeble efforts of other countries where there are complaints about vote rigging and people being denied their right to vote. "It could never happen here," we say. Except it did!

Today's news is full of stories about people who went to vote, stood in a queue for an hour or more only to be denied their right to vote when the polling stations closed at 10:00pm. Some people were even in the building but because they hadn't been given a ballot paper by 10:00pm they didn't get to vote.

That wasn't my problem though. I arrived earlier at 18:45 and passed the clerk my voting card only to be told that it's number had already been marked off the lists as having already voted.

The clerk phoned someone to ask procedure and after about 15 minutes got a call back to say I was to be given a pink voting slip and that it and my electors card were to be sent in in a sealed envelope rather than put in the ballot box. Hardly a secret ballot.

I asked the clerk that I be informed of the result of the enquiry that would be made about this.

I told the clerk that I had lived at my address for two years but this was the first time I had voted in an election there (I was away in previous council elections).

It seems to me there are three possibilities:
1. That the clerks made an error and both crossed off the wrong number on their lists.
2. That the number on my electors card for some reason was duplicated
3. That someone had given in my name and address and had 'stolen' the vote.

Let's assume that the first scenario happened. There were two clerks checking the electors lists for each voter. Is it likely they both got it wrong? Only if they were copying each other's work - surely that would be poor procedure.

How about the second scenario? I've seen the electors list used and didn't spot a duplicate - neither did the two clerks.

What about the third possibility? I asked the clerks what happened to the lists they marked the voters off on and got an evasive answer. It seems to me that these lists should NOT be allowed to fall into anyone's hands since knowing who did not vote in elections would allow someone to impersonate that person in a new election. I was surprised to see the clerks giving back electors cards to voters. That hadn't happened in previous elections and I can imagine quite a few being added to street litter or deposited in bins outside the polling station from which they could be retrieved.

It seems to me that apart from a need to get more people through the system quickly there is also a need to tighten up security. I suggest at a minimum voters should be asked for proof of identity if they turn up at polling stations without their poll card.

On a lighter note I received an e-mail from David Cameron. Here it is:
You'll notice that the e-mail was sent to me at 12:24 am on Friday 7th May.
No wonder David didn't get a majority in parliament. He's been telling his supporters to go vote 2½ hours AFTER the polls closed!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Climate Folly


On the one hand we have the global warming alarmists who tell us we are heading for disaster due to carbon emissions. On the other hand we have the climate sceptics who tell us that Man's impact on the climate is relatively minor and that carbon taxation is just another excuse to raise more money and that it will ham the economy.

There are some good and bad points made by both sides and as a result confusion reigns for many. What is certain, however, is that if we do nothing about the fossil fuels we are burning then we are heading for disaster.

The trouble is that we are burning vital and finite natural resources. We will run out of these - or at least get to the point where it costs more in energy to extract these fuels than we get in energy using them.

At the moment we are like the man who fell off the top of the Empire State Building who was heard to say as he passed the fifth floor "Well I've fallen 97 stories and I'm all right so far!"

We have to stop using these resources other than as chemical feedstock. We must put all our effort into developing renewable energy resources and we have to start doing it now! OK we can devote some resources to nuclear energy but the horrendous problems we are passing on to future generations means that we should concentrate on developing nuclear fusion not nuclear fission.

I hear much of people saying "We'll stop burning oil and natural gas in our cars and use electricity instead." Duh! Where do these people think most of our electricity comes from?

So there is a case for cutting carbon emissions and 'going green' is a good idea. Just don't let yourself be fooled by many of the green claims such as 'Save oil by using paper or reusable bags instead of plastic ones' (See the great plastic bag con) and buy white recycled paper (See Don't print this). As to government vehicle scrappage schemes - they are an environmental disaster for a car less than 15 years old.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NPower Still Doesn't Listen!

You could read my previous blogs NPower doesn't listen and Maybe NPower does listen but let me save you a little time and summarise the story so far:
  1. I move to a new address in April 2008 and buy my electricity from Npower, the previous occupant's supplier. I pay my bill by direct debit straight from my bank.
  2. June 2008 I get a bill for a Mr & Mrs D Maylor from NPower. I take it round to my neighbours thinking it might have been delivered wrongly. No-one has ever heard of the Maylors so I return the bill to NPower marked 'Not known at this address'
  3. A week later the bill comes back to me and is returned again.
  4. The 'red bill' arrives for Mr Maylor and this time I phone NPower and explain they are sending the bills to the wrong address. 'I don't understand it' the guy says. 'We've been sending bills to Mr Maylor at that address for the last eight years and they have always been paid!' He assures me NPower will sort it out.
  5. Two months later NPower send disconnection notices to my house - two of them - despite the fact that my bill is being paid every month. They tell me that if I'm not in they will break in, disconnect me for a bill I don't owe and then lock me out of my own house making me travel 60 miles to collect keys. Again I phone them and am assured 'everything will be sorted out.'
  6. Two months later NPower send me a reply to a letter Mr Maylor had written expressing concern that he wasn't being sent bills. I get a letter about my own account telling me I was paying too much and reducing my monthly payments to £42. I phone them and tell them they are wrong and ask them to set the monthly payment to £65. They don't.
  7. Five months later NPower send another bill this time for £1,476.86 threatening legal action if it wasn't paid. This time I write to NPower's retail CEO, Kevin Miles.
  8. A week later NPower send out a meter reader to check the number of my meter. 'At last!' I think, 'They are finally going to get this sorted out.' The next day they send another one.
  9. NPower continue to send Mr Maylor's bills to my address.
  10. August 2009. After getting more letters threatening court action I change electricity suppliers to EDF. I write to customer services telling them exactly why I'm changing suppliers.
  11. NPower tell me that there's a £600 balance owing on my account.
  12. September 2009. NPower customer services contact me and apologise for their errors. They offer me £100 compensation for the repeated failure to sort out why they were sending letters to my address for Mr Maylor and repeated threats to cut off my supply. They offer a further £100 as compensation for ignoring my letters regarding the amount I should pay them each month. They assure me I will NEVER get another bill for Mr Maylor at my address.
So today, on 16th April 2010, I get another letter addressed to Mr & Mrs Maylor / Occupier. Here it is:


So yet again NPower are sending me bills for someone I don't know for an account I don't owe and are threatening to break into my house and disconnect me or fit a prepayment meter. And they don't even supply my electricity!

Back in August I told them I no longer intended to answer their letters, return Mr Maylor's bills or telephone them about their mistakes. The question is should I do that and allow them to embarrass themselves in court or should I telephone them yet again and seek another £100 compensation?

Although I would love to have the day in court I think I'll phone them :)

Update 11 April 2011
Well I haven't heard from NPower for almost a year and I was beginning to think it was all over. Today however, a guy rang my doorbell.

"Mr. Maylor?" he said as I spotted the NPower logo on his sweatshirt.

Update 12 July 2011
Npower woke me up this morning at 8:30am with a meter reader. Funny thing was he couldn't seem to find the meter he wanted - mine had the wrong number.



The most informative politics survey ever!


I just came across an astonishing survey about the UK election campaign. Apparently some genius at the Daily Star decided to ask women aged 20 - 30 which of the three party leaders they would prefer to kiss. Predictably just 3% chose Gordon Brown (left) 14.9% said they would choose to kiss David Cameron (right) and 16.9% chose Nick Clegg (centre).

Now doing a little math that adds up to just 34.8% meaning 65.2% would choose NOT to kiss any of them. Considering that each of them has about as much sex appeal as a home made bar of soap I'm not surprised. It did however make me curious so I did my own survey and offered an alternative choice.




You've guessed it 60% chose to kiss the donkey!


Girl & donkey image by DĂ©lirante Bestiole & used under the creative commons licence.

Postscript A Year Later
Remarkably the Daily Star came up with a formula for determining the eventual outcome. Together David and Nick proved much more popular than poor Gordon and as a result formed a coalition government.

I gave some thought to putting up a donkey candidate who would undoubtedly have been a clear winner but in the end decided that I would probably be wasting my money on the basis that parliament has enough donkeys there already.

Is our new parliament any better? Not a jot, still the same old braying. Of course there is a logical solution to the country's woes

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Annoyances

The world is full of minor irritations; things which could have been much nicer had a little bit of extra thought thought been put in at the design stage. Here's my list of them, starting with laptop computers.

Laptop Computers
  • Why isn't there a switch or light sensor to turn off or dim those flashing LED lights for power, hard drive,networks etc. at night? Ever slept in a room with a laptop which has been left on to run a malware scan?
  • Laptops are named as such because they can be used on your lap. So it isn't a good idea to put sockets, buttons and DVD drives at the front edge where they will dig into you when you do use them on your lap.
  • Why aren't ALL laptops made with the ability to switch off the screen quickly?
  • There are now 750GB hard drives available for laptops so it takes a special kind of idiot to design one with a 120GB (or less) hard drive.
  • Painting a laptop? It may look nice for a while but paint wears off and black plastic showing through a silver 'Paint job' makes a laptop look really scruffy. (HP please note!)
  • Cordless mice WILL be dropped - lots of times. Build them so that they can take it and so that they don't burst open and spill the batteries. (Microsoft please note!) Put buttons where you can use them but not where you constantly press them accidentally.
  • No-one in their right mind carries a 17" laptop around with the lid closed and using it as an mp3 player. (Dell please note!)
  • Air vents should NOT be placed where they will be blocked if a laptop is used on a lap.
  • Why aren't instructions provided which tell people how to clean out air vents and why it's desirable to do so?
  • Why aren't all laptop screws inserted using an anti-shake fluid such as Locktight so that they don't work loose and drop out?
  • It's NOT a good idea to lightly solder a power socket directly to the motherboard of a laptop so that if the power plug is knocked it breaks the socket away from the motherboard. (Toshiba please note!)
  • Which clot is it who thinks mice, USB hubs and the like MUST have multi-colour LEDs built into them? What exactly does this achieve?
Websites
  • OK I'm unusual in that I have a laptop with a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution screen. I HATE websites which don't cater for this screen size and which display everything in a narrow band down the middle of the screen. Take for instance the .net magazine website (which really aught to know better) Here it is displayed full screen on my computer:

    Now at least if you magnify the text you can still read the site but look what happens if you display the HP website full screen on my computer and magnify the text:

    ...and they pay people to produce a mess like this?
  • Again I'm unusual because I live out in the country away from any towns or villages. This means my house has a name not a number and does not have a street or district. It does however have a UK postcode not a five number zip code. You wouldn't believe the number of websites I go to where if you fill out an address form to buy something they can't cope with an address like mine. I get:
    Please insert house number
    Please enter street
    Please enter a valid zip code
  • Even worse are the sites with incomplete postcode data. For some reason about 20% of the sites I visit insist my postcode isn't real. When eventually I give up and ring them they usually ask "Is it a new house?"
    "Fairly new. " I respond, "It was built in 1860."

Domestic appliances
  • People WILL hang on the doors of tumble driers so why are the hinges not made stronger?
  • The light bulb lighting the inside of a microwave will eventually burn out and you shouldn't have to dismantle the whole thing to replace it.
  • Hotplates on stoves don't look hot. Would it be too difficult to fit a warning light which will only go out when they are cool enough to touch?
  • What idiot designed a plastic bottle shelf for a fridge which isn't strong enough to take the weight of the bottles it contains. (Whirlpool please note!)
  • Painting instructions in the outside of a deep fat fryer where they get greasy and can only be cleaned with an abrasive cleaner is a rotten idea. (Breville please note!)
  • Can no-one invent an automatic toaster which toasts the first slice as well as the rest?
  • Vacuum cleaners which sound like a jet engine taking off should not be made without ear defenders being provided. (Dyson please note!) Have you ever noticed you don't hear them in the adverts?
  • The person who came up with the idea of region codes for DVDs needs to be 2nd in line for shooting come the revolution. First place should be reserved for the designer of DVD players which lock to a region but claim to be 'multi-region'.
  • PLEASE will someone produce a remote control for TVs, DVD players, satellite receivers etc. which is programmable and has an LCD display to tell you what the functions are. It shouldn't cost £30 or more! How about one which beeps to help you find it in the same way you can find the portable phone.
Computer software
  • Computer games which contain anti-piracy (drm) software such as Securom should have this clearly labelled on the OUTSIDE of the case. Come to think of it, let's make Securom's designers first in line for shooting.
Politics
  • I will probably vote for any politician who can answer any question with a simple 'yes' or 'no'.
  • We have democracy all wrong. The last person we need as President or Prime Minister is the megalomaniac who wants to be President or Prime Minister! Presidents and Prime Ministers should be dragged kicking and screaming to the job.
  • I will definitely vote for any politician who suggests hanging as a suitable punishment for spammers. After all, annoying 2 billion people has to be a good reason for this punishment.
Sticky Labels
  • I just bought a cyclists water bottle from my local branch of Tesco. Nice bottle design but some idiot felt it needed to have a large, ugly, self-adhesive label which proved impossible to remove easily and which left the bottle so sticky that it would stay stuck to a hand which had gripped it. Now I know I can remove the stickyness with iso-propyl alcohol or methylated spirits but that would be absorbed by the plastic bottle and add an unpleasant flavour to the bottle's contents and in any case should I be forced to do that? All this person has done is to ensure I NEVER buy a second one! Listen morons - put the non-adhesive label, along with the bottle in one of those mesh nets Tesco sell onions in.

I'm sure you can think of lots of other annoyances. Why not add them here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

NPower - How to shoot yourself in the foot

A while ago I watched an advert for NPower in a survey. I hope that it's not one they are using on TV because it re-enforced my opinion of how the energy provider just doesn't care about it's customers.

A 'Wallice and Grommet' style NPower worker walked in from the pouring rain, leaving the garden gate and front door wide open. Then, with a stupid grin on his face, he marched down the hall without wiping his feet.

"He might get in but he wouldn't get out in one piece" said my wife. "So much for saving energy" I thought.

Who thought up this rubbish? Did they imagine it would succeed in making the public think well of NPower? It certainly makes me remember the name but NOT in a positive way... but then NPower are good at doing that.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Driving in snow and ice

1st January 2010 saw what is considered 'heavy' snowfalls in most of the UK. In my own area of Northumberland six inches had fallen by lunchtime. As usual it brought chaos on the roads since snow has been a rarity in the UK for some time and most drivers just don't have a clue about how to drive on snow and ice. A few, who live high enough and are old enough or have lived elsewhere where snow is common have the skill but still become stuck behind those who slide and skid.

I was one of them on New Year's Eve in Newcastle when I spent 30 minutes making a 2 mile journey up Dunston Bank. It was covered in ice and although I didn't get stuck I had to dodge around other cars which were sliding all over the place.

So what is the secret? It's easy - you slow down. Although it is counter intuitive, if you start to get wheel-spin you ease off on the accelerator (gas pedal) and run your engine just a little faster than you need to prevent the engine stalling. Keep in the highest gear possible and if you start to slide, DON'T add power.

When going downhill leave a large gap in front. ABS brakes will help but if your car isn't fitted with them then brake very gently. If you start to slide, take your foot off the brake and let the wheels start turning and tyres start gripping before trying to brake again. This is vital since you have no control over your car's direction once the wheels have locked. If it's really icy then pulse the brake gently rather than braking steadily.

Obviously this is no time to have to do an emergency stop so LEAVE THAT GAP and think well ahead. Assume the worst. That driver at the junction ahead will try to pull out in front of you, the guy you are about to overtake will slide sideways across your path and the guy coming down the hill towards you thinks he can control his skid by braking hard and sliding into you.

If you do get stuck there are three things you should be carrying in your boot which can help.

  1. a shovel

  2. a large piece of a cardboard box

  3. a bag of cat litter

Use the shovel to dig a path clear.
Place the cardboard under the wheel which is slipping.
Cat litter makes good grit to get you traction and is a lot lighter than grit or salt.

You might also want to plan for the worst and carry some tea light candles. They don't take up much space but if you get stranded will provide light and a surprising amount of warmth.

So where did I pick up the skill? I was raised on a hill farm 1,700 feet up in the Pennine Hills and have also spent 3 winters in Canada. I'm old enough to remember the 1963 winter too so 6 inches of snow is nothing!

By the way - if you think winter is bad this year - 'you ain't seen nuthin yet!'