Saturday, April 26, 2014

Aldi HD camera pen not working.

When I was repairing a client's computer they asked me to check out their HD camera pen. After checking the pen I advised the client the pen did not appear to be able to be recharged and would not work. I advised the best course of action was to return it to where they purchased the unit. They said they purchased it at Aldi.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MyAnswers: Can I use the cheaper Officeworks $98 subscription for Office 365 instead of paying the $119 charged by Microsoft.

The following MyAnswers solution 2460 is now available:

My Office365 subscription is about to end and it costs $119 to renew. Officeworks is selling subscriptions for $98. Can I use the Officeworks subscription to extend my subscription? Also does it add 12 months to the current date or from the date I activate the new subscription?

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to extract information from a text string into columns in Excel.

In this example the person had rows of information similar to the following in an Excel spreadsheet and wanted to sort the rows in distance order and then select those rows/locations between five and ten kilometres.

Albion Heights (7050) 8.2 km
Battery Point (7004) 1.1 km
Bellerive (7018) 3.2 km
Bonnet Hill (7053) 9.9 km

Each row of text was in a single cell. To sort the rows by distance we need to extract the distance into a separate column. Then we can sort by the distance column and either delete the rows before and after the desired distance, or copy the wanted cells to another sheet.

When I look at data like this I look for patterns I can use. What is unique I can use. I then use the text functions provided by Excel to extract the text I want.

For example, if we wanted only the suburb, notice that after the suburb is a space followed by the left bracket. That means we want the characters before the space and the left bracket. For this we can use  the LEFT() function which allows us to extract the left characters of the text. In this case however the left bracket can appear in a variable location. Excel provides the FIND() function which allows us to find the position of the left bracket no matter where it is located. We can thus use the FIND() function to tell us where the left bracket is located and the end of the suburb is then two characters before.

Let's say the first cell is A1. In the column B1 we can then write the following formula.


Let's look at this formula more closely. We use LEFT() to find the left most characters of the text. The A1 is the cell where we find the text. After the comma we have the FIND() function. In the FIND() function we say we want to find the left bracket (we place the bracket in quotes), we then tell the FIND() function to use the text in cell A1, and the value 1 says to look from the start of the text until the left bracket is found. We then have the position of the left bracket. Now finally, since we don't want the space and the left bracket, we subtract 2 so the LEFT() function only returns the text from the start of A1 to the character before the space and the left bracket.

OK. That was the easy one. We really want the distance. Notice the pattern. There is a right bracket followed by a space before the number. After the number is a space followed by km.

I'll first present the solution and then go through the solution and show how it works.  But first I'll mention something that is very important. You can't assume anything about your data. You need to test your data to make sure there are no exceptions that could cause a problem. If there is an issue you have to decide either to change your solution, or sometimes, fudge your data temporarily so your solution works and then change your data back later. Why have I said this you may ask. There is an issue when writing the formula in this case. First we want to locate the right bracket. We need to check our data for right brackets that might occur elsewhere. If this data is for all postcodes across Australia there are two entries which include two sets of right brackets. They are for Cocos (Keeling) Islands. For these two locations the rows of data will contain two right brackets. There are only two such entries so changing the brackets around Keeling temporarily to say X would remove this issue and the approach will work.

So before using this solution, first change the brackets in Cocos (Keeling) to read Cocos XKeelingX. Then you can use this formula and the distance will be shown. Again we assume the first row of data starts in cell A1.

Here now is one solution.


In this solution I introduce four more text functions. The LEN() function which allows us to determine the length of the text. The RIGHT() function which allows us to take a number of characters from the right of the text, the SUBSTITUTE() function which I use to remove the characters km from the text, and the TRIM() function which removes spaces to the left and right of the text. The easiest way to understand this formula is to work from the inside out.

First we want to take the right hand characters of the string starting after the right bracket. We use RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(")",A1,1)). We use the text in cell A1. We determine the number of characters by subtracting the position of the right bracket from the length of the text.

Now that we have the right hand characters from the end of the text we have the distance followed by a space and the letters km. A way to get rid of the characters km is to use the SUBSTITUTE() function and replace km with text of zero length.

Finally we use the trim value to remove and spaces from the start and end of the text. That leaves us with just the number and that is what we were after.

To use the solution.

To use this solution, if your data is in column A and starts in cell A1, then copy the solution to B1. You need to do this first. Then copy the contents in B1 to all of the B column cells required. If you have your data in different cells you need to change A1 to match the first cell for your data.

Now to sort your data.

Finally we are now ready to sort the data. Select all your data, select custom sort and sort by the column containing the above formula. You can either copy the range of locations to a new sheet or you can delete the rows you don't want. Make sure you are however working on a copy of your data.

For completeness however, in case you'd like the postcode as well in a separate column, then use the following formula.


The MID() function enables you to extract the text from the middle of the string. To the left of the postcode is a bracket and and the length of a postcode is always four characters. That means you extract four characters starting at the character after the left bracket.

Hopefully you can now see the text functions is Excel are available for your use. Yes they can be tricky but they are also very powerful.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Who really is in control of your accounting data?

As an IT consultant I find my approach to assisting clients is vastly different from many other industries. When I set a client up with a domain or hosting, I work with the client and set everything up under their name or their business name. I don't control anything and the client is not tied back to me in any way. The client is free to use my services or use the services of anyone else they wish to.

I read this article ( recently which is how a business found they did not have control over their own Xero account, but it was the reseller who had all the rights. This business thought they were in control and even paid the subscription direct to Xero. The only way they could get control back over their own data was to pay a fee. You can see the business blamed themselves for not reading the agreement but I've found suppliers know exactly what they're providing, what they have control over, and know this gives them leverage over their clients. It is their business model and is a very common approach used to retain customers.

An example of one issue I came across whilst helping a client with their domain that had been registered through WebCentral, was the client did not have access and control over to their domain. The previous supplier who set up the domain was a reseller for WebCentral. WebCentral could do nothing to assist the client and their real client was the reseller and not the business the domain was registered for. The only way around this problem was to transfer the domain away from WebCentral. In another case (not with WebCentral) the contact details wasn't the client's but the web developer that registered the domain for the client. It took about seven hours to recover control over the domain.

If you're setting up a domain, hosting, or using a cloud based service, don't fall for the trap of signing up through a reseller. Sign up direct. The relationship you have with a supplier today may be great but you don't know what it will be like in the future. Where possible you should retain control over the services your business requires, or otherwise you may find down the track you've set yourself up for a considerable cost and inconvenience.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MyAnswers: Installing the free version of AVG on Windows XP.

The following MyAnswers solution 2459 is now available:

Installing the free version of AVG on Windows XP including tips on what to click on and what not to click on when installing.

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)

Microsoft Security Essentials Requires your attention - End-of-support guidance for operating systems.

Tonight I brought a Windows XP system up-to-date and noticed Microsoft Security Essentials kept nagging with the screen stating 'Microsoft Security Essentials Requires your attention'. In addition I found with Windows update turned on, plus the latest updates, the computer was completely unstable. It should be noted this was using Windows XP loaded in a virtual machine.

Even though Microsoft states if Microsoft Security Essentials is installed and it will continue to be updated, to the user the red icon in the System Tray is a constant nag and does not endear confidence that Microsoft Security Essentials is working. This appears to be a deliberate ploy by Microsoft to push people off Windows XP and onto their more recent operating system.

Yes Microsoft are quite clear that they have stopped upgrading Windows XP, and yes, it is probably sensible to move to a newer computer and newer operating system. But not everyone is ready to move and the constant nag does not help.

Now is a good time to get rid of Microsoft products off Windows XP and use products from other companies that are support. Google have stated they'll support Google Chrome on Windows XP for the next 12 months. The free version of AVG or Avast I suspect will continue to be supported for some time. I turned of Windows update, removed Microsoft Security Essentials and installed the free version of AVG and Windows XP was again stable and started up without the instability that Microsoft seems to have introduced. Problems they should have removed.

For those who don't like getting tricked with unwanted add-ins, I'll write up a MyAnswers solution with the steps I took to install AVG. You can find the solution in the virus section of MyAnswers which can be found at

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

UPDATE: The MyAnswers solution 2459 for installing AVG and avoiding clicking on the wrong installation options is now available. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Alert: Heartbleed bug hit the press on Monday and involves an exposure with OpenSSL.

I was in an Amazon seminar yesterday where the Chief Technical Officer let the audience know they are keeping customers informed and had or were patching their systems. I decided to investigate.

The site has been set up by the researchers who discovered the bug so it is good reference as opposed to the general media. The general media however will be better in terms of listing services people are using. For example the site has a good list of services affected.

One of my concerns is that people may not be aware of devices they use that may or may not be exposed. For example I have an ADSL router as do most households and I've noticed that companies such as Netcomm and DLink use open source in their routers.  My ADSL modem/router has been in the home for some time. I wondered when the issue started.

For the site we can see the bug was introduced in December 2011 and released in March 2012.

'Bug was introduced to OpenSSL in December 2011 and has been out in the wild since OpenSSL release 1.0.1 on 14th of March 2012. OpenSSL 1.0.1g released on 7th of April 2014 fixes the bug.'

The site has a good list of services which may have been compromised. Keep in mind if hackers have been recording data then past data could be used.

The lesson here is you should be using different passwords for different services. That means that if one site has an exposure all of the services you use are not exposed. Changing your password is a good idea, but keep in mind if you're using a single password across sites and one of the sites is still compromised, then your credentials could still be compromised.

Kelvin Eldridge

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Windows XP support ends April 8th 2014. Are you ready?

On April the 8th Microsoft releases the last update for Windows XP. For an estimated 200 million users they will now be cast loose under their own sail. Are you one of them? Do you know one of them?

With one in five Windows users still using Windows XP, you or someone you know is still using Windows XP. If you are using Windows XP this post is for you. If someone you know is using Windows XP, then this post will help you help them.

Are you ready of the end of Windows XP support? Do you know what you need to know?
  1. Make sure you have Windows XP updated. Make sure all updates are applied before the 8th of April 2014 and then apply the last update on the 8th of April. Don't wait.

    My biggest concern is I don't know what Microsoft will still make available online and what they will withdraw.
  2. Microsoft Security Essentials is a very good antivirus program and is available from Microsoft for free. After the 8th of April Microsoft will remove the ability to install Microsoft Security Essentials. However Microsoft have committed to providing upgrades to Microsoft Security Essentials for another year if it is already installed.

    For many clients I've removed their existing antivirus program and installed Microsoft Security Essentials. My testing showed Microsoft Security Essentials was as good, if not better than the leading free antivirus programs and as good as the paid programs I've installed on users' computers over the years. It is lightweight in terms of the performance hit a computer takes so it is good for older slower computers.

    Microsoft Security Essentials is available from

    The approach I use is to first make sure you can access the Microsoft site. Then if you can access the Microsoft site remove the existing antivirus program. Then install Microsoft Security Essentials. Make sure the latest updates are applied and run a full scan of your computer. Complete this before the 8th of April.
  3. Install Google Chrome to provide better online protection. Google have committed to providing updates to Google Chrome under Windows XP for an additional 12 months. This should provide better security whilst surfing the internet. Microsoft have long since stopped upgrading Windows XP computers to a later version than Internet Explorer 8 and since they're not looking after their users, it is best to go to a company that is.
  4. If you're still using Outlook Express for email perhaps it is time to consider moving to a web based email service such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Outlook Express has looked after users well even though it has not been updated since 2006.
  5. Make sure now more than ever you are backing up your important data. Check out and set up a backup script for your important data. Make sure your data is safe.
  6. Implement an image backup if you can. This will enable you to reinstall an image of your system should your system fail such as a hard disk failure, a catastrophic malware infection, or system corruption from which you can't recover. If may also assist in the situation that it would not otherwise be economic to recover. Recovering a system image will enable you to restore your system to the time the last system image was created.

    At this stage I don't have a system image program I can recommend. I will however perform some research in the future to determine if there is a suitable low cost or free program people can use. Check this post in future for any updates.
  7. If you need to use your Windows XP computer for important work consider reducing your exposure to the internet. Reduce your use by using your mobile phone, tablet or another device for general browsing the internet and even email if you can. Another option is to consider using a secure boot disk (a CD) using software provided by the American Armed Forces which allows you to browse the internet in a safe environment and ensures your computer does not get infected. If people are interested in this option I'll provide further information.
At this stage I don't know all the implications of Microsoft Windows XP reaching end-of-life and only time will tell where we'll find issues. As I find issues I'll either add them here or to the MyAnswers solutions found at

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

MyAnswers: Removing a hard disk from a dead ASUS Eee PC so the user had access to their data on the hard disk.

The following MyAnswers solution 2458 is now available:

Removing the hard disk from an ASUS Eee PC netbook can be a bit tricky if you've not done it before. In this solution I share how I was guided through removing the disk. The hard disk was removed so the client could access their data from their dead netbook.

Click here to obtain the solution.

Click here for related solutions.

Kelvin Eldridge
(An Online Connections service.)