Damian Mehers' Blog Xamarin from Geneva, Switzerland.

5Jan/147

Word for Mac Focus keyboard shortcut: here’s how

You may well be wondering why I am writing a blog post on how to enter Focus view in Word 2011 on the Mac, when clearly I should be focusing on writing something… let’s not go there.

There is no built-in keyboard shortcut, and it wasn’t obvious to me how to add one, but I got there eventually.

Use the Tools|Customize Keyboard menu item:

Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 10.05.28 AM

Then go to the View menu on the left, find ToogleFull on the right and enter the shortcut you wish to use.  This was the key for me: I’d never have guessed that Full meant Focus, since there is also a full-screen mode.

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OK, so now you have no excuse not to focus!

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1Apr/1329

Changing the Windows Amazon Cloud Drive app sync folder

Amazon just released the first version of their Windows app to sync Amazon Cloud Drive.  It’s very much a first version, with no ability to pause/resume sync, sync selective folders, or even (as far as I can see) a way of changing the default sync folder.

imageWhen I displayed the options dialog, I assumed that all you had to do was click on the location to change it, but that simply opens the folder in the Explorer.

It chose the smallest drive on my machine (of course), but I found a way to change it.

 

 

Do this entirely at your own risk, and if you don’t know what this means, then don’t do it.  You can use regedit to change the sync folder’s location, under "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Amazon\AmazonCloudDrive\SyncRoot" change “SyncRoot” to a different folder.

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Works for me, but no guarantees.

28Jan/100

The Amazon Kindle: A European perspective

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6Having told my wife that I definitely did not want an Amazon Kindle E-Reader for Christmas, I found myself with a substantial Amazon.com gift voucher, and decided to splurge.

The immediate result was an infuriated wife, and dark mutterings about how difficult it is to buy me presents.  Almost as immediate was the arrival of the Kindle.  Although shipped from the US, two days after placing the order my new Kindle arrived.

Perfidy?

There is something about the film Children of Men which captivates me: the tired depiction of a dying world set 10-15 years into the future, where no children are being born is compellingly rendered.  It starts with a news report that the world’s youngest person, an 18 year old, had just died.

I decided to make the book upon which the film was based my first purchase.  Written by P. D. James, it is a well written, substantial work, and it uses many words that I don’t know (perfidy, viva voce, farrago to name a few).  That was where I found the first of the advantages to using the Kindle to read books:  it includes a built-in dictionary.  Whenever I hit a word with which I was not familiar I moved a highlight in front of the word, and up popped a dictionary definition.  I suspect that I’ve ploughed through many a book in the past and simply ignored the words I didn’t know.

When reading I very quickly found that I was unaware of the fact that I was reading from an electronic device.   The use of e-ink (which is a display technology that does not strain the eyes) made a big difference.  I was totally engrossed in the story, and the fact that I didn’t have a book in front of me made no difference.  I was in the story.

I need it now!

Buying books from Amazon when you live in Switzerland is a pain.  You pay a fortune in shipping charges, and then have to wait for days for the book to arrive.  This is the second advantage to the Kindle: immediate delivery of books. The Kindle has a free wireless (not wifi, but a 3G data link over the mobile telephone network).  You don’t have to insert a SIM, it just works.  Books you order appear within minutes on the device.

Try before you buy

As useful as the immediate delivery of books is, the third advantage is a killer, you get to download the first chapter or so of any book for free to see if you like it.  This is so convenient – I read the first few pages, and if I don’t like it, I delete it, and forget about it.  On the other hand if it is really good, a couple of clicks later I’m reading the whole book.

A book wherever you go

The fourth and final advantage is that you can read any of your Kindle books on your PC or iPhone too.  They are there too, just like that, using free software from Amazon.  So if you are in shopping queue you can pop out your iPhone and continue to read that book you were reading at home on your Kindle.  And, wait for it, the pages are synchronized, so that when you go back to the Kindle it will pick up where you left off on the iPhone, and the reverse.

The downside

There are some drawbacks.  Although Kindle books cost less than physical books, they cost more to buy in Europe than in the US, and the range is much smaller.  Some books are not really good to read on the Kindle, such as a technical book I bought on Microsoft Project, although I find reading on the PC (while running Project to try things out) works well.

Who am I kidding?

We are still in January.  So far I am really enjoying reading from the Kindle, and I am reading much more than I do normally, although that is probably because I’m keen to justify to myself that it was a sound investment.

Nevertheless, it is a very compelling device.  I’m still going to want physical copies of some books, but for most of the books I read I really don’t care what I read them on, so long as the medium disappears when I get into the story.

One last thing

Oh yes, one last thing, did I mention that the Kindle comes with free access to Wikipedia?

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30Mar/093

Cycling to work: give it some thought.

I started working for Cargill Energy at the beginning of 2009, and almost immediately decided to cycle the 23 km (14 miles) each way.    I live in a small village along lake Geneva in Switzerland, and work in Geneva itself. 

The cycle ride takes me along the lake road, through villages that date back to Roman times, and into Geneva itself.  A shortcut through the old part of the town gets me to Cargill around 6:40.  I take a shower and am at my desk at 7am.

It was tough to start with.  It was below freezing, dark, and the cycle paths had big chunks of ice welded to the ground. 

After a minute or two of cycling I go into auto-pilot and start thinking about stuff.  I usually regain consciousness an hour or so later when I'm at the office, and I find that I've generally made decisions.  Sometimes tough decisions about what I need to do to advance my career, what I need to propose to the team I'm in to help us work more effectively, but I also gain significant insight into how I could go about designing a piece of software I'm working on,

Two hours a day is a big chunk of time to spend commuting to work, but it really isn't two hours spent exercising: its two hours spent thinking. And they are almost always the two most valuable hours of my working day.

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