LEGO ipsum

A couple of days ago I searched online for a LEGO style guide. I was certain that I’d read somewhere that the LEGO Group recommends that you refer to their product as LEGO bricks rather than LEGOs.

I found it in their legal notice on copyrights, trademarks and unfair competition. But not before I stumbled upon this document.

This is the back page of the LEGOLAND Florida style guide 2010 which outlines the LEGOLAND brand, logos and identity.

LEGOLAND Florida style guide

Wait a minute, what’s the last bit of copy on that page? Isn’t it in Latin?

It sure is. It’s a jumbled up piece of Cicero that has been used by publishers since the 1500s as dummy text. It’s called lorem ipsum and is still used designers to demonstrate what the design would look like before the final copy has been completed. And often also missed by designers.

A few years ago I remember reading someone who advised against using lorem ipsum in favour of actual text, even very rough, first draft text. It’s good advice.

The image above is from the 2010 style guide. I also found the 2011 edition which looks exactly the same, which makes me think that it wasn’t an oversight but an example of the style guide in action. It did make me smile though.


Star Wars Battlefront

I was a big fan of the first two Star Wars Battlefront games and was disappointed when development of Battlefront 3 got cancelled for financial reasons in, I think, 2008.

But look! It’s back and it’s coming out this year (Friday 20 November)… and it looks epic! The graphics alone look astonishing.

Find out more on the official Battlefront website.


Friends, a little singing and much laughter

Writing on the train
Writing on the train

I’m back today from a whirlwind tour of three of my closest friends from National Youth Choir of Great Britain (NYCGB) days to Manchester, Wokingham and London.

On Thursday I traveled down to Manchester to see my “gr8 m8” Danny Curtis. Dan’s parents very kindly took us out for dinner in the evening: Italian. (The food, not his parents.)

On Friday morning Danny went off to work while I stayed in to watch some DVDs and get some writing done (I’m trying to write another book, you know). In the general absence of suitable-height tables in his house, I found a tallboy (chest of drawers) that was just right to be used as a standing desk. I got about 1,500 words written, which I was pleased about.

On Friday afternoon we drove to Wokingham in Berkshire to stay with Mike and Rachel Jeremiah. How wonderful to see Mike again twice in the same year — I used to live across the road from Mike in 1995 on Camberwell Road, London.

Saturday saw us catch a train into London, amongst some very well-dressed boys and girls heading to Ascot. There we were met by the Revd Jonathan Coore and his youngest son (my godson) who took us to see the parish he is now rector of. This was followed by a drink in a café at the Oxo building on the Thames and a walk back to Waterloo to meet up with another NYCGB contact, Julian, for lunch. Then it was back to Wokingham for an excellent home-made curry beneath an electrical storm.

We left Wokingham at 08:45 this morning and “Emma” (my CoPilot GPS) guided us back to the M4, A404 (trunk road not found!), M40 and M6 to allow me to catch my train from Manchester Piccadilly at 14:16.

At the station I met a friend, Patrick, from Join Me Edinburgh days which was wonderfully random.

As I’d managed to get a really cheap 1st class ticket I rather enjoyed sitting in relative luxury (well, a seat to myself and as much leg-room as I could eat) and get some more writing done, as well as tuck into a new book about how our minds are organised.

All in all, a pretty good few days filled with friends, a little singing and much laughter.

Return to Childhood

Misplaced Childhood by Marillion
Misplaced Childhood by Marillion

Yesterday the prog rock concept album Misplaced Childhood by Marillion (then fronted by Fish) turned 30.

Thirty?! How old does that make me feel?

I remember the summer that it came out. My cousins Alan and Colin were into Marillion, I recall, which is what put them on my radar.

During the summer of 1985 my family went on holiday to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It was an extravagance and looking back my favourite get-right-away holidays while I was a kid: it was a fabulous experience. We were, I recall, in part celebrating that my dad had survived three brain haemorrhages in the spring of 1983 (“Beware the Ides of March!”).

I remember standing outside the John Menzies in St Peter Port gazing at a window display that included a large cardboard cut-out of the boy from the cover. The whole thing captured my imagination: the artwork, the title, even the name of the band (Marillion is a shortening of the Tolkien collection The Silmarillion).

It wasn’t until a few years later before I actually listened to the album. It’s still one of my all-time favourite albums, and by a long margin my favourite Marillion album.

Happy birthday.

Software removal tool fixed my problem with Chrome running slowly

Progress cursor shows an egg-timer next to a pointer
They call this progress…?

Me and Google Chrome had another falling out this week. This time it wasn’t about bookmarks but speed.

For some reason, over the last couple of days Google Chrome suddenly felt very sluggish. Whenever I opened a new tab it would take a few seconds to open and a few more to load the page—notably longer than usual.

And a similar experience after closing a tab: the cursor would change to the ‘progress’ cursor (arrow with egg-timer) for a few seconds.

Having put up with it for a couple of days I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Things I tried that didn’t fix it

  1. Running system file checker (sfc /scannow) from an elevated command prompt.
  2. Disable all extensions (chrome://extensions/).
  3. Disable all plugins (chrome://plugins).
  4. Disable hardware acceleration in settings.
  5. Uninstall Chrome, reinstall dev channel version.
  6. Uninstall other recently-installed applications.
  7. Run Malwarebytes scan (0 threats found).

One forum suggested installing the latest NVIDIA graphics card drivers. Another pondered whether it was related to the recent Windows update. Plenty of people advised switching off hardware acceleration (I’d tried that, it didn’t help).

What I tried that did

The Chrome software removal tool — still currently in beta — is a clever application that scans and removes any software that may cause problems with Google Chrome.

This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can't get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.
This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can’t get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.

I ran it. I waited, and hoped, and it worked! I have my whizzy Chrome back. I guess that something was corrupted.

As well as scanning for typical malware that can corrupt your installation of Google Chrome it also kindly offers to perform a ‘factory reset’ and return your browser settings to defaults.

In a way I find it curious that Google are only now offering this as a currently beta standalone application when Microsoft Internet Explorer (for all its criticism) has had this built-in for years.

I ran the software removal tool which quickly returned this dialog:

No programs found
No programs found

Nothing suspicious found. I clicked Continue and was invited to reset my browser.

Reset Chrome settings — that's what fixed things for me
Reset Chrome settings — that’s what fixed things for me

That’s what fixed it.

This is definitely another useful tool in my diagnostics toolkit. Thanks Google.

It’s a relief to have had this fixed. That said, I’ve said it before that if there were the same Trello plugins available I would move to Opera tomorrow.

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP
Acer ES1-111M-C3CP

A few months ago I bought a new laptop: the Acer ES1-111M-C3CP. I wanted something small and quiet. I didn’t need anything particularly powerful—that was the point: just something that would allow me to get on with some writing projects while Reuben. Joshua and Isaac hijack my desktop PC to play LEGO computer games.


The laptop features:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 11.6″ HD LED display screen (1366 × 768 pixels)
  • Fanless (silent performance)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM (upgraded from 2 GB — there’s a guide here on how to upgrade the RAM: Acer Aspire E3-111 Disassembly)
  • eMMC 32 GB (solid state disk)

Setting up the laptop

My plan was to install only a few applications:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (selective sync of only writing projects)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. LibreOffice (a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite)
  6. Scapple (free-form text
  7. Mindjet Mind Manager (mind mapping)
  8. MusicBee (audio player)
  9. VLC media player (for watching the occasional Mpeg-4)
  10. Skype (video and text chat)
  11. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

Out of the box, set-up didn’t take terribly long (once I’d swapped out the 2 GB RAM for an 8 GB module) and I signed into my Microsoft account

I then uninstalled most of the bundled applications (McAfee, Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student trial, a few Acer media/office applications, plus a bunch of Windows Modern UI (Metro) apps and set about the seemingly never-ending task of running Windows Update which pulled in more than 130 updates.

But here’s the thing… the laptop only started with 32 GB of hard disk space. On initial startup there is a little more than 9 GB of free space. After the Windows updates only 3.13 GB of hard drive space is left.

Windows updates ate almost 6 GB of hard drive space!?

And that’s after uninstalling the bundled software and running Disk Clean-up to remove remnant update files.


Over the last couple of months I appear to have performed a factory reset more often than actually using the laptop for the purpose for which I bought it.

The factory reset is pretty good, to be fair. The 32 GB drive is divided into three partitions:

  • 100 MB (EPI system partition)
  • 19.40 GB (NTFS—Windows 8.1)
  • 9.5 GB (recovery partition)

Despite what the Acer factory reset application advises, once you’ve created a USB recovery disk you cannot delete the recovery partition. According to some on various discussion forums, this partition is a Windows Image File Boot (WIMBoot) that is required to run Windows.

Which means that if you find that you’ve installed too large a collection of applications you end up with your C: drive reporting 0 bytes free, as I did for the umteenth time last night.

To try to get around this I attached a tiny Sandisk 32 GB USB 3.0 drive as storage (installation files and music) and onto which I could install applications. But, of course, whenever you install any software on Windows, no matter where, the C: drive is always used.

And so I still managed to overflow the C: drive and had to perform yet another factory reset.

Currently my ambitions are a little less ambitious:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (Modern UI)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

I’ll see how I get on. With those five applications installed I have 2.63 GB free on C: drive. Far from the 9.5 GB that I had expected when I bought the machine.


I can’t help feeling rather disappointed with my first couple of months with this machine. The build quality is really pretty decent for something at this price (£179): the screen is large and bright enough for my needs, the keyboard feels comfortable, and so far I’ve had no issues with the touchpad (though I do prefer to use a USB Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mouse.

32 GB is clearly not enough. I would have happily paid more for double that. 64 GB would have made this gem of a machine far more flexible. Instead I have to worry about installing as little as possible. I can’t simply get on and write, I always have to have an eye on whether Windows Update has run and used up the remaining sliver of hard drive.

(UPDATE: Note that the hard drive cannot be upgraded. It’s an eMMC drive — like flash storage — that is soldered to the motherboard.)

Hey! There’s not even enough free space to keep the trial installation of Microsoft Office 2013 that it ships with—how utterly ill-thought through is that?!

If I’d been using this as a Windows-flavoured ChromeBook-equivalent, relying entirely on web apps and storage, I would probably be delighted with the machine. But as it is, I’m not writing everything in Google Drive and I’ve more or less given up on Microsoft OneDrive due its unreliable file synchronisation for documents. (Something that a friend of mine from St Andrews was also complaining about on Facebook the other day, prompting her move to Dropbox.)

Anyway, I’ll report back here in a couple of months to give an update on how I’m getting on… in the meantime, if you’re looking to buy this laptop yourself be warned that once you’ve done all the updates you’ll have next to no drive space to store anything, let alone run the thing.

Check for WinZip update… regardless of what I say

The other day when I tried to open a zip file WinZip popped up with the following dialog box.

WinZip update dialog offers six options
Options, options, options…

How many options?!

I shared it with my colleagues, via Slack. Most laughed. Particularly the final option: “Setup proxy server settings”. (And it wasn’t because they had used a noun rather than a verb: see ‘setup’ vs ‘set up’.)

Anyway, I clicked “Don’t check, but ask me again in a week”.


Your version of WinZip is up to date
Your version of WinZip is up to date

Wait a minute?! Did it… Did it just…?!

Did it just check? I definitely clicked on “Don’t check…”

It’s maybe time to go looking for a new zip application, WinZip is getting unnecessarily bloated and slow. And now it doesn’t even listen to what I want it to do.

Would you like me to check for the availability of an alternative?

Any suggestions, folks? I’m running Windows 8.1 Pro.