Aug 27


If you spend a lot of time on the move and need to charge your mobile devices, have a look at the Powermonkey-classic charger from power traveller. I’ve just bought one on Amazon (£16 in the UK; about 25 US dollars) as my daughter is about to head out to Africa with a group to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and will be away from conventional charging facilities for at least 5 or 6 days. She needed a portable charging unit capable of charging her mobile phone and mp3 player.

Charging the Powermonkey


Charging the Powermonkey is very straightforward – it comes with a universal mains charger (which works in over 150 countries) with a selection of interchangeable plugs. You can also charge the Powermonkey from a USB port on a PC using a separate retractable USB cable. A red light glows when charging, green when charged.

Charging your devices


The Powermonkey is supplied with a selection of charging tips for various devices but if you can’t find one to suit your device, you can always use your usual charging cable (USB port to device) because crucially there’s a female USB tip for the charger (shown attached in the image above) – so it’s just like charging your device from your PC. Or additional tips for specific devices are available on the power traveller website.

Haven’t tried it out fully yet but the specs say it holds its charge for up to one year and delivers power for 40 hours iPod use, or 96 hours mobile phone use. I read a review on Amazon which said it would charge an iPod twice before it needed charging. Anyway, I’ll update this post when I’ve confirmed how often it can charge up our devices before needing recharging.

By the way, I don’t do paid product reviews, and I’m not being paid for this post. Just blogging about solutions which work for me.

Aug 25

Private & Confidential

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just walked into your parent’s house. They’ve just popped out so no-one’s at home but on the living room table is a copy of their Will. They must have been reviewing it. What would you do? Turn round and immediately walk out the door… or have a sneak peak to see what brother Billy and sister Jill have been left… and of course don’t forget yourself!

I know what I’d do – turn round and run a mile for fear of seeing anything. If something is marked Private and Confidential and it’s not for me, I just don’t want to know. Finding out the contents of a confidential letter or what you have or haven’t been left in a Will beforehand could be a horrible experience and better left until the appropriate time. If it’s not meant for me, I would feel really guilty reading its contents and would hate myself for doing it. But I’m sure many would have no qualms about having a look.

My Will is with our solicitor safely locked away from prying eyes. Make sure your parents’ Will is too before it’s too late and you are tested to breaking point!

And of course, if you have any Private and Confidential files on your PC, make sure they are encrypted and password protected. I’ve been using a free program called Axcrypt to encrypt my sensitive files and it’s working fine for me.

So what would you do? Are there any circumstances when it’s okay to look at Private and Confidential information not meant for you and you’re not 007? Let us know in the comments. And cast your vote in the poll below – it’s the first time I’ve tried a poll on this site so I’ll be interested to test it out.

Image credit: Janielle Beh

Aug 17

paper spike

I’ve been using MS Word for about 10 years and thought I knew most of its important features, but I didn’t know about the Spike!  I found out about this great feature recently in a blog post on Help Desk Geek. It allows you to quickly rearrange non-contiguous blocks of text or other items in your Word document. Basically, instead of using the simple cut and paste (Ctrl X, Ctrl-V) which I’m sure you’re all familiar with, you can use Word’s in-built Spike feature to ‘multiple cut’ items and then paste them all in order in a single operation.

Let me explain. The Spike allows you to add multiple selections (by cutting, not copying) to Word’s clipboard in the order you want, then to paste them all at once. So for example if you have an unordered list of say references which you want in alphabetical order, you just cut each selection in turn in the order you want using Ctrl-F3. They are added in that order to the Spike. No need to paste items individually, just keep adding your selections to the Spike. When you’ve finished cutting the items, you paste them all at once at your insertion point using Ctrl-Shift-F3.  Everything is pasted in one operation with all the selections in the order in which they were cut.

Try it out and see what you think. Definitely a time saver if you find yourself frequently rearranging selections in Word. And this feature works in all versions of Word from 97 to 2010. These are the main features of Spike but for a full how-to on using it, head over to the Help Desk Geek post. And let us know how you use the Spike in the comments.

Image credit: quinn.anya

Aug 9

It’s important to monitor how your blog host provider is performing. You may only have one chance to attract a visitor from a search query or a backlink to your blog and if your site is down temporarily for some reason, chances are they may never retry your link and discover your blog. There are a number of free services which will monitor your site and email or SMS you when it’s down, and back online again. I’ve been using the website monitoring service Montastic for about a year now and I’m quite happy with them. The free plan actually lets you monitor up to three sites with an interval down to every 30 minutes. Each site account also includes an RSS feed.


Of course it doesn’t have to be your blog that you monitor, could be any site you’re interested in. The reason I mention this now is because I’ve noticed that of late my blog host Bluehost isn’t providing the uninterrupted service it used to, so I must contact them and find out why. Here’s a snapshot of email alerts I’ve received over the past week from Montastic. You can see that my blog was down for parts of most days.

Montastic alerts

I have another site with a different host which I’m also monitoring and it isn’t experiencing anything like this sort of downtime so it’s time to put in a ticket with Bluehost.

So I can recommend Montastic, but other free blog monitoring services were reviewed in a Mashable post back in April.

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