Note to self… duplicating a tab in Firefox

Monday, 7 November, 2016

This is one of those actions that is incredibly useful every so often… you have a tab open and you actually want to duplicate (so you have an active copy) and then carry on working with the current tab. Except there is no “duplicate tab” (or clone) option when you right click in the window or on the tab. This is actually one of those Unix-esque type daisy-chaining of functions to achieve the same in result. So… middle clicking on a link will load that link in a new tab (very useful itself). Solution:

middle click on the reload page icon (next to the address bar)

Always easy when you know how!

It’s a , stupid!!

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016

Yes, one of the manuscript writing moments where I was using Endnote and wanted to cite a webpage for an organisation. Enter the oranisation name in and the European Geosciences Union gets turned into…


This is one of those annoying diversions where you either go and work and the syntax for citing it or… do it manually.

In this instance I Googled it and found that all that was needed was the humble


at the end of the author field. It’s always easy when you know how!

Data transfer and memory cards

Monday, 17 October, 2016

James and I were in Norfolk a few weekends back completing data collection for his PhD studies (his blog has at least one post relating to this) and the whole topic of data transfer speeds came back to haunt me. Amongst a number of cameras, we had been shooting with the Nikon D700 using a Sandisk 16Gb Ultra card which has read speeds of 30MB/s. We actually filled the card on day 1 (1000 shots) and need to unload the data off it. I had brought with me my cheap and cheerful Integral CF->USB card reader which works fine. Except it took the best part of 30 minutes to copy the data off the card around <5MB/s. Painfully slow.

When we got back I thought I’d dig back into data transfer speeds again. Remember that the firmware (and hardware) in a digital camera will be able to use cards up to a certain specification. The D700 is at least 64Gb cards up to 90MBs (although it might not be able to utilise the full speed of the card). My Fuji XM1 can take 32Gb cards at 50MBs. Now to achieve these speeds during data transfer to a PC, all parts of the chain need to be quick - card, card reader, USB port, bus and hard disk. In this instance the card reader was the limiting factor as it was plugged into a USB3 port on a new laptop. And just as a reminder, USB3 has a throughout of (depending upon what you read), somewhere above 400MBs (and doubling for USB3.1), whilst USB2 somewhere around 35MBs.

So, one lowcost USB3 card reader later and a new (lowcost!) 50MBs SD card, plugged directly into the USB3 port and read speeds race along. Getting this kind of throughout is both cheap and easy, but its not hard to accidentally put a weak link in that chain and see those rates plummet.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016

Well the Windows 10 Anniversary Update has landed and, after the big download, it comes with quite an array of tweaks and new features. To get the skinny on some of these head to your favourite IT site for their run down… for example cnet or How-to-Geek.

Perhaps the most interesting for techies out there is the arrival of a Linux Ubuntu subsytem. How-to-Geek has a great rundown for installation (and to note its not really Linux, as its the bash shell, so really GNU apps). Anyway, think of this as the reverse of WINE. Opens up a world of command line scripting.

And a final note on usability and interface. Yes, really yes, the start menu has changed AGAIN. Supposedly simpler, cleaner, nicer, fresher - pick your superlative. Except… usable?? My Mum went through the update, it all installed perfectly, no errors and then… she couldn’t work out how to shut down the machine. Sorry Microsoft, FAIL on that count.

Of VM woes…

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016

Actually not so much VM woes as out-of-date underlying OS. Yes, the new term is hitting so I thought it appropriate to upgrade ArcGIS to the same version used on campus - that meant going from 10.2.1 to 10.4. Simples I thought - just request the student/instructor license, download the EXE and away we go.

Of course in reality things are never quite so simple. I won’t allow ArcGIS near my native OS because it is such a behemoth of an application - so I run it in a VM. Its slower, but locked down and if it dies, well I can just spin it up in the VM again. I use the excellent (and cross-platform) Portable VirtualBox) and, because its portable, I can copy it onto my portable hard drive and take it with (just make sure your drive is exFAT formatted for those large VDI files). Anyway, after the EXE download and install fails telling me to upgrade to Windows 7 (yes, the VM is on 7, I have an 8.1 and the main system on 10) to SP1. One upgrade later and…. upgrade .NET to 4.5+. And then… my virtual disk runs out of space. Its sized to 25Gb, but with ArcGIS, Imagine and Cyclone on there its run out of space. A little head scratching (and Googling later) led me to this page outlining the VirtualBox command to increase the VDI file (why you can’t do this in the GUI I don’t know!):

VBoxManage modifyhd windows7.vdi –resize 30000

Finally, inside Windows, expand the partition to take up all the virtual drive space.

Bingo, ArcGIS finally installs.

Whilst these are quite frustrating hoops to jump through, it does at least make you aware of some of the hurdles that students face.

Got an old ISO disc image….

Friday, 23 September, 2016

…. as I have. I was interested in accessing the contents of an old ISO disc image from an age old data CD. There are a number of tools to look inside these, but at times you just want to emulate a CD/DVD drive and run it directly. There are a range of tools to do this but I wondered if there was an easy option… and there is! Under Windows 10 you can now directly “Mount” the ISO image and it will appear as a new CD-ROM on your PC. Just right-click and “Mount.” For older systems Microsoft do a device driver bundled as the Microsoft Virtual CDRom Control Panel (which I first came across here).

Voila! Problem solved.

word word count

Wednesday, 17 August, 2016

Yup, that’s right… how do you do a word count in Word? Well, the simple answer is Alt-T, W and particularly for the ribbon-challenged like me who prefer the keyboard. But what happens if you are working to a specific word count, have ancillary information in the file but only want the content word count? Well, that’s a little more tricky and requires some lateral thinking (or some DuckDuckGoing).

And the (or one) solution is to put your ancillary information in a different style, change the font attributes to include “hidden” for that style, but then in the Word options make sure “print hidden text is selected”. That way you can see it and print it - crucially though Word excludes hidden text from word counts.

Read in full here

Kickstarter Plug: Spooly

Saturday, 14 May, 2016

Wanted to give a plug to Spooly who are running a Kickstarter campaign at the moment. I’ve not link to them, but the product looks great - I’m always on the lookup for innovative products that solve problems or make life easier. And this is a little gem - its a USB charge cable but incredibly small and rolls up into a perfectly neat package. What can you say other than a fantastic piece of design, doesn’t cost much and worthy of the plug.

Column Numbers in Excel?

Thursday, 12 May, 2016

I’ve been doing some more programming in R recently and working on a large XLSX spreadsheet (using the excellent readxl package) where I needed to cross-reference columns. Excel painfully uses letters for column titles and I needed the column number; useful to know then that you can change this option in Excel:

Go to Tools, Options, General, check ‘R1C1 reference style’

Go Options, Formulas, check ‘R1C1 reference style’


Monday, 7 March, 2016

Seriously! In Windows 10, create a new folder and give it the following name:


And you have a control panel link to ALL control panel settings.

I am God!!