Category: General

Crossing the Tees: Printmaking

Crossing the Tees

So today another new book arrived at work, one I’ve been happy to of Typeset though not designed this time! 

It’ll be available for free sometime next week from libraries across Teesside.

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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

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Essential Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome

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!

Filed under: General

Damn McAfee


So I spent a glorious Sunday afternoon puzzling, amongst other things, over a friends broken laptop. It could connect to the internet when plugged in by cable, but not by the WiFi connection.

After a couple of minutes getting connected to her laptop by the ineffable logmein (using it from my iPad now!) and began exploring the problem.

First I updated her entire system, which including the delights of Sony Viao updater took a good long while, for good measure I also added Google Pack so she would stay updated with the essentials.

Then I got down to examining which setting might be wrong. Breezed through the Control Panel Network Settings, all seemed right; ran the Diagnose and Repair Wizard, all seemed right.

Then just as Google Updater was finishing installing the free anti-virus software it ships with, it occurred to me it might be McAfee. Shipped free with her Sony Viao and pestering her to renew via text message (how it got her number she still doesn’t know). So I thought what the hell it’s got to go.

One reboot later and low and behold it could connect to the internet via WiFi again! Now I don’t know if it was just this, or the repairs I ran, changes to the registry or Sony Viao updates, but I suspect it was McAfee.

When will PC manufacturers stop loading their laptops with such s**t? Soon I hope, because I’d like to stop having to uninstall it.

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Sorted Menus in Windows XP

XP Logo

So I’ve been doing a little more work with Windows XP than I usually do :-( and it’s reminding me of all those small irritations that come with Microsoft products.

The system itself might well be robust enough, but its details that they don’t seem to have an eye for, one of those that particularly irritates me is that the “All Programs” menu isn’t alphabetically ordered.

So whilst I was waiting for a program to install off it was to google, where I found that this is relatively easy to correct (although it’s not sticky, so it needs repeating each time you add a program).

So for all those OCD suffers out there driven mad by this, here is the solution:

  • Press the “Start” Button
  • Select “All Programs” and navigate anywhere into the list
  • Right Click the mouse and select “Sort by Name”.

And you’re done!

To see where I found this and additional tweaks click here.

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Data Detectors for Safari on the iPad Please

Safari Logo

Now. I love data detectors. It is one of the most unsung and brilliant of Apple’s innovations with OS X. It just works, although I mourn the fact that it’s not spread much beyond a bare implementation in Mail (a very useful one at that though).

Now with the introduction of the iPad data detectors have taken on a whole new form in their beautiful implimentation of the the Mail on the iPad.

Just click and hold on the address details you are given three options:

Data Detectors in iPad Mail

1. Open in Maps, which finds an address for you in a matter of seconds:

Go to Map in iPad Mail

2. Create a New Contact from the information it’s discovered, which leads you to this:

Add New Contact from iPad Mail

3. Add to an existing contact which brings up a list of your contacts and away you go:

Add to Existing Contact in iPad Mail

I have over a 1000 contacts in my address book, but even then there are gaps, missing addresses, phone numbers, etc, which I can now easily add from a contact.

Now just the other day I was looking up a business on the internet and needed the telephone number and I was thinking how great it’d be if this were implemented in Safari on the iPad (or on my desktop too!) then I could just add all this information to an existing contact or a new contact pretty much instantaneously…

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Facebook Sync Revisited

Facebook Logo

Back in September last year I posted about a great program I use to sync my Facebook friends with Address Book in Mac OS X. And I thought I’d revisit the topic this year for all you iPhone users out there, because of a great feature in the Facebook app for the iPhone, you might (as some of my friends were) be unaware of…

If you open the Facebook app on your iPhone and select the friends section it will open up a list of your friends, but hidden away in the top left hand corner or here:

Facebook App Sync Option

You will see the option to “Sync”, which means exactly what you might imagine… YES! Finally you don’t have to take photos of each of your friends for your iPhone contacts, you can just have Facebook pull down the most recent version of their profile picture:

Facebook App Sync OptionsFirst you need to turn it on and then select if you want it to replace existing photos, which means it will replace any photos you already have and do this each time you sync, which as you can see I’ve selected (as I like the variety that results each time I sync) or don’t if you prefer.

And then just sit back and let it do it’s thing.

Cool. And hassle free. (After all, would you have ever got round to adding all those photos anyway?)

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Flash Death Watch


I’ve been meaning to write an article on the death of flash for quite some time now, I’ve abandoned a number of drafts as the deluge of articles have hit the interwebs on the same topic.

So I thought it would be more interesting to give you a flash death watch tracking the number of sites abandoning flash:


Virgin America – Flash Gone Bye Bye! (see here, here and the official statement here)

News & Media Sites

ABC – Official iPad App (see here, download here)

CBS – Reports coming in (here and here) of Flash-free video for the iPad

CNN – iPad Optimised Site (here)

Disney – iPad Optimised Site (here)

The Guardian – @tsmarsh informs me they use Brightcove so hope they’ll follow suit?

New York Times – iPad Optimised Site


TED – Completely Flash-Free version of their website (see here and the official announcement via twitter here)

Time Magazine

Wall Street Journal – iPad Optimised Site + iPad App (download here)

Video Sites

Brightcove – Supplier for sites like Wired, Slate, Time & NYT so expect to see them go over soon too!

Netflix – Official iPad App (see here)

Youtube – iPad, iPhone optimised sites; HTML 5 experiment for everyone else!


Add anymore sites you know in the comments and I’ll update the list.

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Using Dropbox to share Word Templates


So. Dropbox is my favourite file sharing tool. One of the things I use it for, and you can too, is to share Microsoft Word Templates. On Mac this is relatively easy and you can use the following instructions.

I have a file in my dropbox called masters and within that a file named Microsoft Templates or though you can name it whatever you want. So if you want to share your masters folders across multiple accounts, follow the instructions below (for Microsoft Office for Mac 2008):

1. Open up Word and then select preferences:

Word Preferences2. Then select File Locations:

Word 2008 File Locations

3. Then select Workgroup Templates (this allows you to separate personal local templates and word templates you want to share):

Select Workgroup File Word 2008And once you’ve selected the folder in your dropbox you can begin centralising your word templates! Excellent.

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When should I buy a new Mac?

So. You’ve just received a shiny new MBP, then a few weeks later Apple go and release an update. And the couple of thousand you just laid out suddenly doesn’t seem as worthwhile as it did the month before when it arrived.

Anyway help is here: there is a site for that. As Apple normally releases new models at regular intervals Apple Store Check counts down the days between the release cycles and tells you whether or not it is safe to buy a Mac.

Thanks to @danbenjamin for the helpful point in this direction.

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