What I Learned This Week 20130427

What goes well with that first cup of coffee in the morning? Internet articles on my RSS feed! I find Excel stuff, web design ideas, small business tips, and lots more.

On the Contextures blog, I’ve listed a few interesting articles about the Excel formula fiasco. Here are a few other things that I found interesting this week, during my morning read.

Programmer Skill People Rarely Ask About

At the_codeist(), Andrew Wulf writes about an important skill that programmers need these days – the ability to find information online, and select the best option from a wide variety of posted solutions.

“You have to be able to enhance your brain with the collective brains of millions of fellow programmers, yet still pick the right brains to build on.”

Access 2013 Bible

access2013bibleDick Kusleika was too tired to write anything more than, “It’s here”, after he and Mike Alexander finished their epic book – Microsoft Access 2013 Bible.

No wonder Dick is tired – the book runs 1296 pages, and it weighs 1.6 pounds! I’ve written books that were much smaller than that, and am still recovering from exhaustion.

Congratulations to Mike and Dick, and if you buy this resource, I’m sure you’ll get far more than your money’s worth.

14 Ways to Acquire Knowledge

At the Brain Pickings blog, there is a list of 14 ways to acquire knowledge, from a 1936 book, You Can Do Anything! Apparently the author, James Morgan, was a bit eccentric – “in 1948, he publicly claimed to own outer space and went on to found the micronation of Celestia.”

The list has some sound suggestions though, such as “Walk Around It” and “Put in Order”. Of course, Excel is the obvious tool for that, but it hadn’t been invented in 1936.

Dandelions Will Grow Anywhere

Finally, I also learn things when I’m not at the computer. On a walk through the local conservation area yesterday, I learned that dandelions will grow anywhere, even under a rock. And they look pretty, when they’re not in your front lawn.



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Solving the Mystery of the Disappearing Disk Space

Last December, I got a new laptop, and have been using it for most of my work since then. I store client files, blog posts, sample Excel files for my Contextures website, and a few too many digital photos.

The laptop has about 1 TB of disk space, so I should be okay for a while – or so I thought.

Almost Out of Space

Last week, I noticed that the C drive was almost at capacity – it was showing a red bar in Windows Explorer. Yikes! I didn’t ever run into that problem in the old laptop, and I used it for a few years.

What was filling up the drive? Had I really taken so many photos that I’d hit the limit?

Then I noticed that my storage space had been split into 4 drives, and the C drive only had 186 GB. So, I moved all the photos, and some of the documents to the other drives, and that temporarily solved the problem.

Can’t Open Outlook

Then, a crisis hit – Outlook wouldn’t open because it didn’t have enough disk space.  I moved a few more files to the other drives, emptied the Recycle Bin, and got Outlook running again. Whew!

But I can’t work like that – I don’t want to be constantly worrying about disk space. What was filling up the disk, and how could I get that stuff into a different drive?

Check the Folder Properties

I started through the folders again, checking each one’s properties, and looking for unusually large items. Was a program taking more that its share of the space? Was Windows 8 the culprit.

Finally, I found one of the Temp folders, in the AppData > Local directory, and it looked pretty full. Sometimes an installation file gets stuck in there, and they can be a few hundred MB in size.

I sorted the list in descending order by file size, and was shocked to see this item at the top of the list. It was a text file, named toolbar_log.txt, and it was 53 GB!


Of course, Notepad++ couldn’t open it, because it was so huge, so I couldn’t see what was in the file. A Google search showed that it was a file created by the AVG security software, and other people were complaining about its size.

Delete the Rogue File

The online information indicated that it was safe to delete the file, but AVG would just recreate it.

So, I did, and as predicted, the file came back. As I watched in Windows Explorer, the file size increased every few seconds.

I deleted it again, and followed the advice in one of the online comments – I set the file to Read Only.

Problem Solved

So far, so good – the file is about 500 KB, and holding. I haven’t noticed any effects from changing the file to Read Only, except for the benefit of 53 GB of free space on my C drive.

I’ll sort out the folders and files, to spread things around, not that the crisis is over. And I’ll add a few Libraries, to make it easier to get to my files, after they’re moved.

I hope you never run into this problem, but if you have AVG installed, you might want to check for a file named toolbar_log.txt – and make sure it isn’t eating up your space.


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Neck Strap for an iPhone

Most of the time, my iPhone is stored safely in my purse or pocket. Sometimes though, I like to use it as a camera, and I worry about dropping it.

For example, I had a nice view of the harbour from the lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, but stayed back from the railing a bit. I didn’t the phone to fall 90 feet to the ground!


And this week, I held it tightly while shooting this picture from a bridge over a local river. The bridge wasn’t very high, but the landing is a bit wet.


Looking for a Wrist Strap

I looked online for iPhone wrist straps, and wasn’t impressed with what I saw. Most were plugged in to the cable slot, and didn’t seem too secure.

My point and shoot camera has a little wrist strap, and a small slot on the side where the strap is attached. I didn’t see a slot on the iPad, but there is a small flap with a hole, at the top of the OtterBox iPhone case.

So, I found an old neck strap in my office drawer – it came with a USB drive – and pushed its cord through that hole.


Then, I looped it over the lanyard strap, and pulled it tight. Perfect!


Now, when I’m using the phone as a a camera, I can wear the neck strap, and not worry about dropping that very expensive “camera”.

If you’ve found a better solution, please let me know.


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Pivot Tables and Productivity

My favourite tweet in yesterday’s Excel Twitter collection was this one:

  • I feel like I know JUST enough about pivot tables to make all of my tasks 30 times harder #Excel #productivity #tcot

Does that ever happen to you? Maybe it’s not pivot tables – it could be another one of Excel’s powerful, but frustrating features.

You start a workbook, then add a bit of code, or a fancy formula, and things suddenly go south. So, you try to troubleshoot the problem, wander over to Google for some research, and before you know it, an hour has passed. Oop! There goes your productivity.

Pivot Table Articles

But, if pivot tables are your problem, I’ve published a couple of articles this week that might help you out.

Block (All) Selections

On my Excel Pivot Tables blog, there is sample code that prevents people from selecting the “(All)” option in a report filter drop down. That can be useful if you’ve got worksheet formulas or links that depend on one item being selected.

Here’s the link to that article: Block Selection of All in Report Filter


List Pivot Formulas

And on my Contextures Blog, you can find sample code that lets you list all the pivot formulas in the active workbook (calculated items and calculated fields).

Here is the link to that one:  List All Pivot Table Formulas



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