By Peter Neal

Transfer O2 Personal Number to a Business Number

So I have a business account with O2 and I wanted to transfer another number in from a personal O2 account and add it as an additional SIM card user to my account… sounds like a straightforward process right? Oh, only in a joined up world an O2 is nowhere near embracing its own synergies.

My first call to O2 represented the more naive, trusting element of my personality. I called O2 explained exactly what I wanted to do, cleared all the security questions on both accounts, spent the better part of an hour on the telephone and was told it was all arranged, but I’d need to check back in a few days.

A few weeks later (I got distracted by other things) I received a bill for the personal account, but no final bill had arrived, so I thought I’d better call and chase them up. And surprise, surprise the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing and though there were ample notes on my account no action had been taken.

I was told that I actually had to fill outcome paperwork to make this happen and directed to, where I discovered (at the bottom of this general page) not an online form but a pdf you have to download and send in by post, fax or email.

Now cautious, I called back to check which of these methods would be the most efficient in expediting my request and was advised the fax was best (though I had to borrow a customer’s fax machine to send it in) and now wait with baited breath to see if o2 is actually capable of actioning my request.

I’ll let you know the outcome in a couple of weeks… (yes, unbelievably, it’ll really take a couple of weeks).


Indeed it did take a couple of weeks, in fact because of Christmas it didn’t happen until the first week of January. Hardly a smooth transition.

iPad could not be backed up because a session could not be started

If you ever seen this error message in iTunes:

iPad could not be backed up because a session could not be started

Then here is how I fixed this on my iPad (iOS 4.2) before upgrading to iOS 4.3:

  1. Do a hard reboot of your iPad by holding down the top button and the home button until the device reboots.
  2. Re-connect to iTunes (stop sync) and then right click on the iPad to ask it to backup.
  3. This didn’t work for me the first time, with a different error coming up, but by the second try it did work and I managed to complete a backup.

There are some other accounts over on Apple Discussions if this does not work for you; in no particular order I read this, this and this.

Oh and if you’re having problems upgrading to iOS 4.3 then I’ve found links to enable you to manually download the upgrade here (it’s 625.8mb BTW).

And if you need instructions on how to manually update an iOS device watch this video:


(though be warned of the irritating music!).

Historic UK VAT Rates

I happened to need to know the historic VAT rates for the UK since the 1980s to ensure normalised data in 30 years of invoices I’ve been processing for a customer. The figures were quite hard to pin down so I thought I’d publish them here:

Standard UK VAT Rate from 1979 to 1991

  • 18/06/1979 to 18/03/1991 – 15 %

Standard UK VAT Rate from 1991 to 2008

  • 19/03/1991 to 30/11/2008 – 17.5 %

Standard UK VAT Rate from 2008 to 2009

  • 01/12/2008 to 31/12/2009 – 15 %

Standard UK VAT Rate from 2010 to 2011

  • 01/01/2010 to 03/01/2011 – 17.5 %

Standard UK VAT Rate from 2011 to Present

  • 04/01/2011 to Present – 20 %

I hope this is a little easier to find for people.


1979 Rate Increase

VAT Rate Tables

Roger Martin on Integrative Strategy

Despite the intimidating title these three articles published by Roger Martin over on the Harvard Business Review are actually a fascinating read and useful for any small business owner or anyone thinking of starting a small business. They are:

The Integrative Strategic Move of “Doubling Down”

Read how Piers Handling managed to turn the Toronto International Film festival into a great success.

How to Successfully Manage Opposing Strategies

Read how thinking about a problem in a different way can resolve what can seem to be opposing strategies.

Finding the Hidden Gems in Your Business Model

See how Red Hat Software managed to transform Linux into a viable option for enterprises.

Essential Google Chrome Extensions

Partly for my own benefit, I’ve decided to keep a list of my essential google chrome extensions. So here you go:

Switch to Tab by zboogs, originally by Frank Yan, source at github.

This is absolutely essential if like me you always have lots and lots of tabs open at any one time… Just type sw <space> on your Mac and it’ll search each tabbed page for the words you write after that.

Xmarks Bookmark Sync

If you use more than one browser, on more than one computer this syncs bookmarks between all of your browsers on all of your computers. It’s an excellent way to keep bookmarks under control.

Session Buddy by Hans

Though this doesn’t automatically save your sessions. It’s very handy indeed to be able to save a session if you’re having a problem or you just want to close Chrome and re-open it to free up some space.

RSS Subscription Extension by Google

For some reason this isn’t built into Chrome directly, but if you read lots of blogs and prefer to add feeds to your google reader account this is essential.

History 2 by robertoullan

What’s the point in getting google to store all your web history if the interface to search it or just glance through is as hopeless as the default google history. Replace it with this more friendly version.

Image Properties Context Menu by Chris

Working with images in chrome is a pain in the a**. Improve it with this simple extension.

I’ll be adding more to it as I go along, but please recommend any you use in the comments!

Remember to Freeze the Window

Read an interesting post by Chad Novotny at the Support Group this morning (read it here), which pointed out something I have never considered, but I suppose had frequently noticed.

It’s changed the way I think about Looping through Records and is a simple, quick and easy way to improve performance whilst using the Loop Script Step in FileMaker.

So as well as remembering to always click the “Exit after Last” option whilst performing the Go To Next Record/Request/Page:

Exit After Last
Always remember to click the Exit After Last Check Box!

You should also remember to insert a Freeze Window step into the script so that the visual element is turned off as your database loops through a couple of thousand or tens of thousands of records.

A simple easy tip that’ll no doubt save you plenty of time!

Oh and if you’re thinking of other performance gains you can get he also recommends:

1. Performing Loops on a Form View

2. Consider using a dedicated Layout if you’re using Script Triggers.

So you want a little more privacy when browsing the Internet

The leaks by Julian Asange of Wikileaks were a dominant theme of 2010 and it got me thinking that perhaps, in some cases, a little more privacy could be desirable when browsing the internet, which is certainly unusual for a me as I rather agree with Zuckerberg that privacy is largely dead, so is it possible to browse privately nowadays?

After following the trials and tribulations of the Iranian Presidential Election in 2009 I became aware of the Tor Project for Anonymity Online which was developed to help people in oppressed regimes gain access to the internet without being able to be easily traced by their governments. They describe the project as:

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

Sounds excellent no? And it has the added benefit of allowing you to setup a node on your computer, so that whilst you benefit from anonymity as you browse you can help others in much more difficult situations be protected to. There are easy to follow instructions here and packages for all flavours of Windows, Mac and Linux.

But you might not want to just browse the internet anonymously all the time. I certainly haven’t spent years actively sharing my web browsing habits with google’s web history to loose it’s benefit now. So I wanted a way to just be able to turn it off and on as I felt like it. If you’re using Google Chrome this is as simple as installing an extension: the Proxy Switcher to be exact.

You can find an excellent tutorial here to guide you through the process of linking Proxy Switcher to Tor, all of which shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes of your time (courtesy of the eminently helpful and then you’ll be able to browse privately to your hearts content without the fear of Big Brother  breathing down your neck (or read Wikileaks if you’d prefer to be secretive).

Making your Mac Safe to Sell

So. You’ve upgraded your Mac and you’ve decided to sell your old Mac. Just how do you go about removing all your personal data?

Erase Everything! (The Nuclear Option)

If you’re not worried about leaving Apps on for the lucky purchaser or free beneficiary of your new Mac then the best method is the Nuclear option:

1. Boot from the Recovery Disks

2. Open up Disk Utility and select your Hard Drive

3. Pick Erase from the options and then click on “Security Options”

4. You should be fine with selecting the First Option and then hitting Erase

5. But if you want to be MORE secure then options get safer down the list, but…

6. Just remember the more Secure the erase the longer it’ll take, especially for large disks!

A More “select” Erase (The Precision Bombing Option)

If you’re running a newer version of Mac OS than came with your Mac and/or you don’t want the hassle of erasing the disk and then reinstalling the software then this might be the

How To Securely Empty the Trash

First we’ll want to make sure that when we delete stuff Finder is not just removing it’s file location (which makes files easily recoverable for those in the know) but that it’s securely deleting the files by writing over them with gobbledygook.

To do this once all you need to do is add the files to the trash and then go to the Finder Menu and select “Secure Empty Trash…”:

Secure Delete from the Finder Menu
Secure Delete from the Finder Menu

But as we’re probably going to be doing a lot of deleting it’s probably best to go to Finder and set this as the default preference. So if you click on “Preferences” instead of  “Secure Empty Trash…” it’ll bring up this window:

Advanced Finder Preferences
Advanced Finder Preferences

Where you should make sure that the box labelled “Empty Trash Securely” is ticked and now each time we empty the trash as normal it’ll be deleted securely.

Deleting Apps

Most people who sell or gift their Mac leave some if not all of the applications installed, but if you’re deleting any of the apps then you’ll want to make sure that you do it properly, and there is just the app for that, they’ve even been so bold as to tag it “the Uninstaller Apple Forgot”.


AppZapper makes sure that all the little hidden files that an App installs are also deleted. This is especially helpful if you’re uninstalling programs that are available to all users, as these will create preference files, etc, in the root library rather than your user account library. It’s well worth the $12.95 purchase price, and I’m pretty sure that there is a free trial.

I use a version integrated with Hazel that I bought years ago so I haven’t checked).

Don’t Forget System Preferences

If you’ve installed any custom system preferences then to remove them simply launch System Preferences and right-click on the appropriate custom system preference and select “remove preference pane”.

User Files

So you’ve copied all of your user files from the Mac onto a spare hard drive, usb stick or (my personal favourite) your dropbox account and you now want to delete your user data, the best way to do this is to go to Users in System Preferences:

Accounts Preference Pane
Select Accounts Preference Pane
Accounts Preference Settings
Create a New User

and select accounts. Then if it’s locked as in the above picture you’ll have to unlock it before you proceed so click and enter the password. Then you can select the little + button at the bottom of the User Name list to add a new user, which takes you to this window:

Add New User

Make sure you select a new Administrator account (no it’s not the default) so you’ll have to click on the list and select Administrator like below:

Select Account Type
Select Account Type

Then create a new account administrator account, name it as you like and give it an easy to remember password, say “password’, the new owner can always change it to something better.

Once you’ve created your new account, you can safely log out of your current account and into the new account and once in you go straight back to the Accounts section of the System Preferences. And instead of adding a new account, select your old administrator account and click the – instead of the – and delete your old user account.

Oh and make sure you tell it to delete the user home folder. And that you empty the trash securely.

And you’re done. One “pretty clean” Mac.

Notes for the Security Conscious

PS If you want to be extra cautious once you’ve done this you can use Disk Utility to erase the empty space on your Hard Drive, which will give it another good going over.

PPS This method is itself reasonably secure but the only truly secure way is to opt for the Nuclear Option or even better don’t sell your Mac with the Hard Drive.

How to Stop Dates Changing when Cutting and Pasting between Excel Files

So I was moving some old financial records across to a single new excel file in Microsoft Excel 2008 when I noticed that the dates were changing by about four years, perplexed I resorted to a great deal of googling before I came across the reason for this.

In Microsoft Excel 2004 for Mac all Excel files by default used the Microsoft system base date of 01 January 1900 but in Microsoft Excel 2008 for Mac (and onwards) they have changed this to use the Mac system base date of 02 January 1904. Why I’m not sure; standardisation perhaps?

What Microsoft have not done is made this very well known. So if you’re opening an .xls file created in Office for Mac prior to the 2008 version it’ll be using the 1900 base date and if you created an .xls file after this date it’ll be using the the 1904 system. So you’ll have to change it before cutting.

Do in preferences select this setting:

Calculation Preferences Excel for Mac 2008

And then tick this box to use the base 1900 date system:

1904 Base System Date

Unfortunately I am yet to discover a way to change this permanently. :-(