Saturday, December 28, 2013

For those in the UK - How to view the sites the BBC won't let you see

Did you know the BBC has a number of websites which they don't make available to those of us in the UK?

Launched in February 2012 BBC Future was heralded as the new international technology, science, environment and health site from the British Broadcasting Corporation. If you try to access it in the UK (Link ) you'll get this message:

It's not the only BBC site like this, you can't visit or either.

Since the BBC is mostly funded by licence fees paid in the UK many people in the UK feel there's something not right about a BBC site which can't be viewed in the UK. As  the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said, "Those in Britain unable to access these services available to the rest of the world have every right to feel cheated."

The BBC are caught between a rock and a hard place though. It's a commercial website which earns money for the BBC through advertising; something the BBC is not allowed to do in the UK.
"Under the BBC’s Fair Trading rules commercial websites are not allowed to receive unfair promotion from the BBC’s public services.  This prevents us from being able to provide Future content on," they say.

So how do we in the UK view these BBC websites? 

I'm going to show you two methods. I'll use BBC Future as an example.

Method 1 - using the Internet Wayback Archive

There's a very useful site on Internet which keeps a a record of web pages. It's called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine and is available at . The Wayback Machine archives all BBC pages and you can view their latest 'BBC Future' pages at*/ This page lists all the days an archive has been made and you can usually click the latest one and interact with it just as someone outside the UK would. It's an easy method where you won't be bothered by adverts - they are not archived, but does have disadvantages. You seldom get today's pages; if you are lucky you will see yesterday's pages. Not all pages are archived and it's poor at viewing the multimedia.

Method 2 - using a proxy server plugin

I use the ZenMate Chrome plugin. It's free and available from Instructions on the site will tell you how to install and use it. To view the BBC Future site Click the plugin icon and set your location to New York. Then turn ZenMate on and go to the BBC Future website ( It's as simple as that. Everything, including multimedia and adverts will work. Just remember to turn ZenMate off when you are finished. Zenmate can cause some problems with some websites which detect proxy servers, so to get round that I also use another plugin for Chrome - One Click Extensions Manager . Using that you can instantly disable and enable ZenMate as required. A word of warning though - be careful to decline the other items offered with it.

Enjoy those 'hidden' BBC websites but before you leave - let me tell you about two offers (OK - two shameless plugs):
1. Until July 2014 Shelia Chapman's book 'Blood of the Rainbow' is just £1.87. (US$2.99) This is an awesome paranormal suspense e-book with five star ratings.

2. Download a free copy of the book I co-author 'Immortality Gene'. It's a technothriller, romance, medical thriller, science fiction... a bit of everything. Even if you don't read it, it will help our ratings. Available at Amazon, iTunes, B&N and others FREE!

Monday, December 02, 2013

'Sideloading' apps not available from Amazon on a Kindle Fire HDX

If you get a Kindle Fire HDX then by now you'll probably have found its limitation - you are tied to those apps which Amazon has decided you need. DON'T PANIC! There is a way round this - sideloading.

The Problem

The Nook reader on a Kindle Fire HD!
Amazon's Appstore for Android contained 50,000 apps back in early September 2012 but that was nowhere near the 700,000 offered by Google Play and Apple App Store then. The obvious solution would be for Kindle Fire owners to download Android apps from Google Play - except you can't. The Kindle Fire HDX simply won't allow you to connect to the Google Play store and download the app you want - you have to get it from Amazon. That's very understandable. Amazon tell us they are not making a lot of profit from sales of their Kindle Fire. Instead they expect to make their profit from sales of books, video, music and apps. To do that they make it easy to obtain these from the Amazon site and difficult, but not impossible, to get apps from elsewhere.

The Solution

Android is an open source operating system and the Kindle Fire HDX has version 4.2 of it. So most of the apps in the Google Play store should work just fine. In fact most of them do work, you just have to get them on your Kindle. Here's how to do that using a technique known as sideloading.

You are going to need some equipment, most of which you probably already have:

  • An Android device (we'll call this 'device 2') such as a mobile phone or tablet which you can connect to the Google Store
  • A USB to micro USB lead which fits your computer and Kindle Fire/device 2
  • A computer 
  • Your Kindle Fire
  • An app - ES File Explorer installed on the Kindle Fire HD/HDX and device 2. (yes this is available from the Amazon Appstore and on Google Play. It's free!)
Now you need to know what to do. As an example I'm going to show you how I installed the Nook ebook reading app on my Kindle Fire HD and my Kindle Fire HDX. Naturally this competitor app is not an app available on the Amazon Appstore for Android but it's very useful to have if you earlier purchased a Nook ereader and want to read your Nook books or epub books on your Kindle Fire.

How to sideload an Android app to a Kindle Fire HD / HDX

The Kindle Fire HDX is even better. Ours took just one day
to arrive from Amazon at

This method also works for the Kindle Fire HD with some minor modifications. I used it to install the Firefox android browser (Sorry Amazon but your browser Silk is rubbish), the Nook e-reader software and some games not available in Amazon's store. Here's the method for the Kindle Fire HDX. I've used the Nook app as an example:
  1. Install ES file explorer on your Kindle HDX. It's available free in the Amazon store.
  2. Install ES file explorer on your other Android device. It's a free app available at Google Play
  3. Install the Nook reader software on your other Android device from the Google Store. Again it's a free app from Google Store.
  4. On the Kindle HDX use go to  Settings > Applications and set 'Applications from unknown sources' to 'On'. Accept the warning.
  5. On the other Android device use ES File Explorer. Choose Tools >'app manager' from settings. Long press on 'Nook' and choose backup.
  6. Connect the other Android device to your computer using the USB cable. You should see it appears in an explorer window as an extra drive under 'Computer'. 
  7. Navigate to the Nook.apk file you just backed up. In my case, since I was using a Nexus 7 as my 'other Android device' it appeared as Computer\Nexus 7\Internal storage\backups\apps\NOOK_3.3.0.26.apk Copy this file to your PC. On a Samsung Galaxy S4 the files appeared in Computer\Galaxy S4\Phone\backups\apps
  8. Connect the Kindle fire to your PC and transfer the Nook.apk file to it. The root folder will do.
  9. Load ES File Explorer on the Kindle Fire and find the file you just placed there. Once you select it you'll get the option to install it. Do that and try it out.
  10. On the Kindle use Settings > Applications and set 'Applications from unknown sources' to 'Off' again. 

It's a little involved but really quite simple.

Of course the same technique can be used to install almost any Android application which isn't available on the Amazon Appstore. There are a few which don't work, Sky Go for one. It installs and you can see what programs are available but it won't let you play them.

You can also download apps to your PC from other sources and install them BUT - a word of caution. Although the apps available from Amazon and Google are generally safe, the same can't be said for all app sources. It's unwise to download and install apps you are not certain of. You might install a rogue app which could cause a lot of problems.

If my blog has helped you - can you do me a favour?

Download a free copy of the book I co-author 'Immortality Gene'. It's a technothriller, romance, medical thriller, science fiction... a bit of everything. Even if you don't read it, it will help our ratings. Available at Amazon, iTunes, B&N and others FREE!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Thinking of getting a flu shot?

What do you know about flu shots? I did a few minutes research on Internet and found the following out:

Flu shot image - Fox News
  1. There were 128,000,000 flu shots given last year in the US alone.
  2. Current prices for the shot can be calculated fairly easily as follows. (These are NOT bulk purchase prices which may well be lower):
    • 10 flu doses - $15.38
    • 10 disposable needles & syringes - $4.59
    • 200 alcohol prep pads - $3.49
    I make that $2.01 per shot or less.
  3. If you buy the shot in the US most places seem to charge $20.00. That's a healthy $17.99 profit.
  4. The drug companies stand to make $250 million in sales from the flu shots in the US assuming the same number of people get one this year.
  5. Assuming just one in ten flu shots is bought, Doctors and pharmacies will make $230 million from flu shots alone. They do give away the other 9 free right?
  6. The CDC is keen on everyone getting a flu shot.
  7.  Flu vaccine can be obtained in large bottles with multiple doses to bring costs down. These large bottles contain a preservative which contains mercury. The other single dose vaccines do not contain mercury.
  8. Mercury is an accumulative poison.
  9. The CDC says 5 to 30 percent of the US population will get the flu each year.
  10. Other sources say 3% get the flu each year
  11. Some sources say just 2 out of every 100 people will not get the flu because of a vaccine. Since 3% would normally get the flu the manufactures claim a 66% prevention rate.
  12. 590 out of every million pregnant women who have a flu shot will abort. However getting flu can cause an abortion too but no-one quotes figures on that that I can find.
  13. The number of people who have unpleasant side effects from the flu shot exceeds the number who get the flu.
  14. Flu can kill you
  15. People have died from the flu shot.
  16. They put MSG in the nasal spray version of the vaccine which can cross the blood/brain barrier and cause brain problems
  17. The spray vaccine contains a live virus which could give you the flu but is very unlikely to do so. 
  18. Statins don't mix well with flu shots.
  19. A recent report found the flu vaccine was ineffective for those under 2 and for the elderly.
  20. Those who get the flu shot and who still get flu have a much greater risk of being hospitalized from it.
Now I'm not a doctor or medically qualified. It seems to me some doctors in the US have an interest in promoting flu shots though. There are doctors on both sides of the get vaccinated/don't get vaccinated argument.

One doctor, very much against the annual flu shot is Dr Mercola. He cites evidence that there are more effective prevention methods than flu shots. His suggestions also help prevent or lessen the effects of other flu like diseases such as the common cold.
  • Vitamin D can be 4 to 10 times more effective. The best results coming from people who got vitamin D by exposure to sunlight. Failing that krill oil, fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are good sources. Take as a prevention.
  • Garlic. Take as a prevention.
  • Zinc supplements - Up to 50mg per day but only when you have symptoms of cold or flu.
  • Vitamin C. Take as a prevention but step up the amount if you have symptoms
  • A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.
Can someone who knows more about this than I do explain why we should or shouldn't get a flu shot?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Something Advertisers Should Be Ashamed Of

Advertisers are using dubious methods to put your computer at risk!

Here's the problem
I recently updated my copy of the Calibre program - a wonderful bit of software against which I have no complaints, just praise. This is what I saw. I've set the screen capture to display what most people would see if they use a common screen size - 1366 x 768 pixels:
Now here's what they would see if they had a taller screen:
As you can see that large green download button isn't where you download Calibre - it's an advertisement and something the advertiser should be deeply ashamed of because it's designed to trick people into downloading something they would not normally choose to download.

In this case it tells you you are downloading 'Premium 7-Zip' but it doesn't tell you anything about the program. A search on the Web indicates it might be useful or might also contain a computer worm.

One such program I've seen people being tricked into downloading is 'BrowserSafeguard.' This is a browser extension which intercepts your searches at Google and sends back a list of five or so of it's search results before the real Google results. Nothing really wrong with that except, when I checked it, every single site they linked to was flagged by Web of Trust as being of dubious quality. It changes your proxy server settings to do this.
Can you imagine Google will be happy with that? Look closer at the images above.
See that little icon at the top right of the advert?

This means that this advertisement is being produced through Google's advertising service. Shame on you Google for allowing these trickster advertisements!

So what can you do to avoid being caught out?

  1. Use the scroll bar and make sure that download button is not an advert.
  2. Hover your pointer over it and make sure what the status bar tells you it is sending you to is not something unexpected.
  3. Refresh the page and see if you get a different advert where that download button was:

Maybe the ultimate answer is to demand that Google and other advertising firms forbid these adverts designed to trick us. Here's how to do that:
1. When you see one of these fake buttons trying to trick you look for the small X at the top left

2. Selecting it allows you to 'Report this ad'

3. Tell Google the ad was inappropriate

If my blog has helped you - can you do me a favour? Download a free copy of the book I co-author 'Immortality Gene'. It's a technothriller, romance, medical thriller, science fiction... a bit of everything. Even if you don't read it, it will help our ratings. Available at AmazoniTunesB&N Google Play and others FREE!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reductio ad absurdum 3 - The revised National Curriculum 2014

"Beginning in 2014, the United Kingdom will require all British schoolchildren to complete a unit on the history of Islam, proudly reports Press TV, Iran’s very own 24-hour English language news organization.
Michael Gove (Unflattering picture
 courtesy of The Telegraph)
British Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the addition of a Muslim-specific component after revisions were made to address an outcry over a prior draft that did not include any references to the monotheistic Abrahamic religion."
So starts an article at Yahoo News. Now I have to admit to being doubtful about it because I could find no reference to this news story at the BBC, Sky, or any of the major UK newspapers. However let's assume it's accurate and take this to it's logical conclusion. ('Reductio ad absurdum' - Latin for following implications to an absurd extent.)
Islam is the UK's third most common 'religion'. In the last census, taken in 2011, Christianity was declared as the most popular religion (59%), 'No Religious Affiliation' the second choice (25%) and 'Islam' the third (5%). Now if a religion which has a mere 5% following gets a study in the UK National Curriculum then far more time should be devoted to a 'religion' which has five times Islam's following. That means we should ask UK children to complete five study units dedicated to the history of 'No Religious Affiliation' or atheism.
Of course it's very difficult to study nothing (although for hundreds of years, many children have successfully studied it at school). So just what items should we study?
My first thought was that we leave the content to the UK politicians - after all they are very good at doing nothing, however, they are also very good at making bad decisions so we need to help them out with some ideas. To give you a start there are some excellent websites out there on why you should be an atheist of no religious affiliation. 
One of my favourites is Plasma Engineer's Something Surprising blog Try his Grandfather Gospel Challenge for ideas and follow some of his links.
The Rosa Rubicondior blog is good too. Try the article Another Easy One For Muslims... Or Not!
No 'religion' of course can be considered 'true' unless it has it's martyrs. That being the case you need to read 'On blasphemy, wielding both standards and stories' from the Richard Dawkins foundation.
I'm sure you can find lots more. Just remember these politicians need our help if our children are to avoid studying 'the nothing' from the Never Ending Story

Please - add your suggestions on what should be studied about the history of 'No Religious Affiliation' in the comments below and I'll make sure the UK's Education Secretary of State, Michael Gove gets them. Alternatively you can send your suggestions to him directly at

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When your garden goes wild...

For the last few weeks I haven't been able to do anything in my garden due to an injured wrist. We've had rain and periods of sunshine and my garden has gone crazy!

This was my back lawn. I can't believe how a month of alternating rain, sunshine and no grass mowing has changed it.

All sorts of flowers we didn't plant have sprung up.
Anyone know what this is?


My driveway is the old railway line I live on. Here's the end of the drive

Thistles can be quite pretty
My wrist is getting better but I'm not looking forward to mowing the lawn! I think the nettles and thistles will have to go but for this year at least I'm going to end up with a wildflower garden.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to get round the 'bedroom tax'

Lots of people are very upset in the UK over what has come to be known as the 'bedroom tax' or 'Under occupancy rules'. It hits poorer families renting from their local authority or a housing association hard.

What is the 'bedroom tax'?

The  'bedroom tax' is reform to the way housing benefit is provided in England, Scotland and Wales. It is due to be start on 1st April 2013.

The Government calls it removing the 'spare room subsidy' but it's also been referred as an 'under-occupation charge'.

Where does it apply?

The rules apply to those of working age (currently those born after  05 October 1951) living in council houses or housing association property.
Under the new rules
• Couples are expected to share a bedroom (Whether you snore loudly or can't stand the sight of each other  or not.)
• Two boys or two girls under 16 are expected to share
• A boy and a girl under 10 are expected to share

What does it mean to the poor?

The changes mean a cut to the amount of housing benefit people will receive if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council house or housing association home.Those with one spare bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14%. Those with two or more extra bedrooms get a cut of 25 per cent. Tenants on housing benefit will either have to make up the difference towards their rents themselves, or move in to smaller properties.

The government's idea is that they should reduce the housing benefit of those who have more bedrooms than they need. If a couple have one child and they live in a three bedroom house then the government says they should either move to a two bedroom house or rent out the spare room. By doing this they hope to reduce the pressure on housing and save a billion pounds a year. Seems a reasonable idea at first but:
1. Moving is expensive.
2. Where a family has split up keeping a bedroom available for when you look after children isn't allowed.
3. Those disabled can not assume a bedroom will be allowed for their carer or essential equipment - it's up to the council.
4. There are few available houses with one or two bedrooms
5. If you are settled in a location it's hard to be forced to move to a new location.
6. Should young children have to share a bedroom as the rules suggest?
7. If your spare room is caused by a death you have a year to find alternatives.
8. You may be forbidden to rent out a room as the government suggests in your rental agreement.

Has this sort of 'tax' been used before?

Window tax caused this blocked up window
Yes, we in the UK have had this sort of 'tax' before:
• In 1696 - 1851 a window tax was in force - we bricked up a lot of windows
• 1662 - 1689 a hearth or fireplace tax was introduced - we bricked  those up too.

Is there a way round the bedroom tax? 

Yes there is! A bedroom is defined as a room bigger than 70 square feet of floor space. Anything smaller is considered a box room. Many UK houses have a third bedroom little bigger than this. By building a false wall or a cupboard in this room it's floor space can be reduced to box room size. With careful design this permanent cupboard can be easily removed when this stupid regulation is repealed.
Unfortunately this is going to cost money for the materials - timber framing, plasterboard, a door. It may be you can persuade your housing association/council to help but if not then those least able to pay will have to do it all themselves.

If this proves useful to you can you do us a favour in return? Download a free copy of our A Vested Interest book from Amazon. Even if you don't read it it will help our ratings at Amazon. You can get the book at and if you do want to read it, (It's a top 20 technothriller and romantic suspense), you can read it on a phone, a tablet, a computer or even - a Kindle!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reading between Tesco's lines

Here's a quote from Tesco's website:

"When we became aware that two of our products had been contaminated with more than 1% horse meat, we immediately withdrew them from sale - our frozen Everyday Value beef burgers on the 15th of January and our frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese on the 5th of February."

What a very cleverly worded statement. The implication being that 1% horsemeat had been found in these products. The reality is a little different. According to the BBC the Everyday Value beef burgers contained more than 29% horsemeat and the Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese more that 60% horsemeat! That is certainly MORE than 1%.

I'm also a little concerned that the implication is that up to 1% of horsemeat in a product is acceptable. 

Here's another quote from Tesco:

"So far, we have completed tests on 149 products as part of our new DNA testing programme.
149 products came back with negative results for horse meat. 
This is the start of our testing programme to support our promise that what’s on the label is in the pack. We are now extending our use of DNA testing to look at those products where we think that there is a greater risk of rogue ingredients being used."

Hang on a minute! What about the two products known to contain horsemeat? Shouldn't that be '151 products with 149 free of horsemeat.' You sell a lot more than 149 products are you going to test ALL the rest? What about lamb, pork and chicken products? Are you testing those to see if they contain substances other than what they should contain? I don't find that 'where we think there is a greater risk of rogue ingredients being used' at all reassuring. Does this mean you were aware of this risk before and did nothing?

Sorry Tesco but this damage control statement isn't going to cut it. The only thing that will restore confidence in your 'Everyday' products is complete honesty and openness. You've been selling products labelled 'Beef' which were not 'beef' and my understanding is that that's against the law. Granted you may have been mislead by your suppliers but we trusted you to check that your suppliers supplied genuine products and you appear to have let us down.

We recognise that you are not the only supplier at fault Iceland, Aldi, Findus and others share your blame. Just don't try to fob us off with talk of 1% and giving those who have bought 'beef' products that were not 'beef' money back would have been a better gesture

Update 26 Feb 2013

Iceland have now sent out emails about their food. Unlike Tesco they didn't try to be evasive:

    some good news from Iceland.
    All Iceland own brand products containing beef have been tested by an independent scientific laboratory to ensure that they are completely free of horse meat. I am very pleased to tell you that they found no evidence at all of any such contamination in any Iceland beef product.
    We aren't at all complacent, and will be testing a wider range of other meat products in the weeks ahead; as we constantly check to ensure that everything we sell under the Iceland brand is made to the recipe we specified and is correctly labelled.
    I am sorry for any worry you have been caused by the publicity around this issue.
They also took the opportunity to tell me that Iceland did not use MSG, mechanically recovered meat or GM foods in their own brand products - something I didn't know.

Tesco - you left me doubting your meat products still.
Iceland - I'm happy to buy from you again.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

15 screen wallpapers

Over the years I've collected a number of images which I have set as screen wallpapers. Most of these I collected from the Internet. I don't own them. Please do not assume they are public domain. Since they are publicly available though, you should be safe to download them for personal use. Where I have details I've credited the original author or website. A few are pictures I took myself. Since my laptop computer has a 1920 x 1200 screen they are all quite large images.

I have no idea where this image came from. Original filename: 4c66e3eb0f678b561
Size: 2048 x 1365
Download link
 This appears to be what is called  a HDR image (High Dynamic Range). I first came across this image on an HTC Desire phone and looked for a higher resolution image which I found at http://
Original filename: Beautiful-Land.jpg
Size: 2560 x 1712
Download link
At first I assumed this was the Norfolk Broads in England but then I noticed the Canadian flag on the boat.
The picture was taken by Janine DeBaise in Canada and shows her Father's boat. In the background is the US I believe. Janine uses this as her Twitter page background (@writingasjoe) and that's probably where I got the image. You can also find it at her blog at
Size: 1511 x 977

This image was created by Rogerio Stefanuto of Brazil. It featured on his page at the Computer Graphic Society where he describes how it was created.

Size 1600 x 1200
Download link
This image of a very pretty garden in Japan I found at

Sorry - no details of exactly where in Japan it is.
Size 1920 x 1200
Download link
I found this lake picture at - a site which has many other attractive images
Again there are no details of the actual location.
Size 1920 x 1080
Download link
This image of hot air balloons at Cappadocia, Turkey is a National Geographic 'Best image of the Day'. It was taken by  Kani Polat,
Size: 1600 x 1200
Download link
An amazing picture - Myst - Point Reyes National Seashore, California taken by Patrick Smith through a row of trees on the way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Size: 1920 x 1200
Download link

This one is quite a small image but it still makes an excellent screen wallpaper. It's of Bambrough Castle in Northumberland and was taken by Dave Hudspeth. I got the copy I have from Visit Northumberland's Facebook page. You can get this image at

An image of the Space Shuttle on it's launch pad from NASA. Look carefully and you'll find some people in the picture which give you an idea of the scale.
Size: 3872 x 2592
Download link
Another National Geographic Photo of the day by  David DoubiletDavid took this underwater picture of a river Bushman in a canoe in the Okavango River in Botswana.
Size 1600 x 1200
Download link
Yet another Photo of the Day from National Geographic. This one is of a oceanic whitetip shark in the Bahamas. The picture was taken by  Brian Skerry. Now the question is - is that shark in front or behind the diver?
One of my pictures now and no prizes for guessing it's of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. I took this picture in August 2006. If you would like to see a 360° panorama of Stonehenge try here. You'll need to have Java installed
Size: 1600 x 1200
Download link
This image is from Microsoft's Erie Autumn Theme for Windows 7 Download the theme from They describe it as 'spooky park fog in Copou Park Iasi, Romania'
Size: 1920 x 1200
Finally this image was constructed for our book 'Stones, Stars and Solutions'.
It's not a real place unless you know of a pyramid in the Arizona desert near Death Valley.
Image size: 3643 x 2482
Download link

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sick of Flash crashing in Chrome?

Try this fix:

  1. Open a new tab in Chrome, type into the address bar chrome://plugins and press Enter.
  2. At the right hand side click 'Details'. You should now see there are two Flash files. Expand the list by clicking the + next to details if necessary.
  3. Disable the version of Flash with the lowest version number
It's as simple as that!

If you still have problems then re-enable the disabled version and disable the other Flash file.

Getting the first line right in Word 2007+

Take a look at some professionally printed books. Examine the first line after a chapter heading or after a text break. Notice how it’s not indented?

Now look at the work of many indie authors and you’ll find few use the same style. Many are not aware of this convention. Others don’t know how to implement it – especially in an ebook. It’s not something I’ve seen discussed widely and it’s not obvious how to implement it in MS Word. If you read Smashwords style guide they state it shouldn’t be done! In general Smashwords is correct – you shouldn’t use text indents and paragraph spacing but that very first line is an exception and if properly done, Smashwords will accept this.

Here’s how to do it in Word 2007/2010+

Make sure your normal style is set up correctly first. I set my normal (default) style to be:

Now create a new style ‘No Indent’ exactly the same but with no first line indent. In this style set the style for the following paragraph to be ‘Normal’ style.

Now modify your Heading 1 style (the one you should use for chapter headings) so that it’s following paragraph is set to ‘No indent’ style.

If you are producing non-fiction and use Heading 2/3 for subheadings then set their following paragraph to be ‘No indent’ in the same way.
Create a style for your text breaks if you are using them. I use the ‘Normal’ style but centred. Again, set its following paragraph style to be ‘No indent’.

And there you have it. Word will automatically follow chapter headings and other headings with a ‘No indent’ line and your next paragraph will be indented as it should be. Converting the file to Kindle format via html and the Calibre program will produce the same effect. Saving as a .doc file before sending to Smashwords will produce similar results. Your printed book and ebooks will have just that little bit extra professionalism.

Have you seen the blogs I wrote on editing and formatting?

If this post has proved useful to you would you do me a favour in return? Download a FREE copy of the book I co-author - a romantic technothriller called 'Immortality Gene'. Even if you don't read it it will help our ratings. You can get it at and if you want to read it, you can use a phone, a tablet, a computer or even a Kindle.

Monday, January 21, 2013

'Snow need to worry. 1963 was worse.

As usual a few flakes of snow and everyone panics. It seems drivers today have no idea of how to drive in snow. They feel themselves sliding or their wheels spinning and try to correct this by braking hard or accelerating. Both being the wrong way to correct things. The trick when driving in snow is to drive as though you have a wineglass which you don't want to spill, balanced on your dashboard. You don't brake hard and neither do you accelerate or turn sharply.  Leave a much bigger gap between you and the car in front and watch out for people who could slide into you. With good tyres and a little bit of care a small amount of snow - say less than ten inches, shouldn't stop you.

I do however remember an extremely bad winter. That of 1963. It was bitterly cold, the coldest on record, and it snowed in a big way!

That year I was living on a hill farm in the North Pennines. The first I remember of that winter was when my father opened the front door and was met by a solid wall of snow. The previous five winters at the farm had taught us to keep a shovel inside the house so a few minutes digging got us outside. There had been a heavy snowfall. Added to that a howling wind had picked up most of the snow on the fells above us and blew it all into drifts in the valley where we lived. It was one of those drifts which buried our front door and the window of our sitting room. The picture shows our family standing outside that door and window later that summer. That's me on the left.

We had to dig our way across the farmyard to the cow byre to feed the cows and while we were doing that the postman arrived. He had made it as far as our lane but had then given up. He left the mail for the village of Carrshield at the Chapel below our house saying 'If anyone gets here from there or goes there - ask them to take it'. Carrshield was a mere 2 miles from our house, further up the valley so to a 14 year old boy that was a challenge. I got prepared. By then we had learnt to wear two pairs of jeans, one inside our wellingtons and one outside. Not only did that keep out the bitter wind but it also prevented snow from getting inside wellingtons. I put on a thick pullover, mits, Woolen hat and two jackets, one with a hood. Looking like the Michelin man I made my way down the lane to the chapel, struggled to put the post bag over my shoulder and marched off into the blizzard.

About 200 yards further the road went through a series of bends, through a small wood and over a small stream. It was there I met one of our neighbours, Roland Johnson, trying to dig out his Landrover which had got stuck in the snow. I gave him a hand and he turned back towards his home. I continued up the road - or at least what I thought was the road since the snow had completely covered it, the wall at the left and the fence at my right. It was hard going since the snow was soft and deep. I sank up to my thighs in it and began to think plans for making a set of snow shoes out of old tennis rackets.

About another 20 yards and I got tangled up in something buried in the snow. Fence wires? Nope it was telephone wires still attached and normally 20 feet in the air. That's when I gave up! Carrshield's mail could wait.

The snow there turned out to be 22 feet deep after it had packed down and been dug out. One of the pictures I have of it shows my brother-in-law, Colin Graham, standing on the shoulders of a friend, Brian Myers, next to the drift. As you can see the snow still towers above them.

It took gangs of men three weeks to dig their way to Carrshield. Even then there was one road which remained closed even longer where it went through a cutting which had been completely filled with a 44 foot deep snow drift.

As to that 44 foot drift; 1963 was the first year the council tried out snow blowers. They imported one from Switzerland, brought it by low loader to Hexham then drove it from there towards that drift. About 200 yards from it it broke down and the drift had to be cut out by men with shovels and mechanical diggers.

Incidentally those snow blowers made keeping the roads open much easier. They did flatten a few greenhouses though until the council erected signs saying 'Snowblower - Blow left'. The guide wheel they used left a track which we all learnt to avoid - get your foot in that on a slope and it was like wearing ice skates.

It took a long time for the snow to melt that year. In June, when I came home at half tern for a holiday there was still snow in places.

Now if it should get as bad as this again here are a few tips about driving:

  • DON'T - stay home unless it's absolutely essential.
  • Carry a snow shovel
  • Carry some cat litter! It's a lot lighter than grit and works well in snow to give slipping wheels traction.
  • Carry some flattened cardboard boxes. Place them under a slipping wheel.
  • Shoes are good to drive in but carry boots to change into if you have to get out.
  • If you are making a long journey - plan what you will do if you get stuck in a blizzard. Got warm clothes? A sleeping bag? Something to eat? Something to drink? 
  • Carry a torch and some tealight candles. Tealight candles give a surprising amount of heat out, make a snowbound car a lot more cheerful and help rescuers find you.
  • If your car is buried you MUST keep the exhaust pipe clear. Otherwise when you run the engine to warm up the car you could end up killing yourself through carbon monoxide poisoning.

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