Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merge and Staple

Problem: Mail merge and have your copier staple/fold/insert special pages/etc

When processing a merge, word creates a multi-record file and sends this as a single job to the printer. So, for example, your 2 page letter with 500 merge records appears at the printer as a 1000 page document. The printer simply sees a single file and prints it. So if you set it to staple, it will not staple every 2 pages. Also any special pages, i.e. 1st page on headed 2nd page on plain etc only work on the 1st and 2nd page of the 1000 page document, the remaining 1998 pages will print with the default job settings.

Solution: Mail Merge Macro 

Create a macro with the code below, setup your requirements in printer prefs and then run the macro when you are ready to print - instead of using the usual Finish and Merge button. The macro causes word to send each merge record as a separate job to the printer, so all the finishing will work as normal. One word of warning be sure you know how to 'clear all' print jobs queued on your copier. If for any reason you need to abandon the whole print job you do not want to be lumbered with clearing 1000 jobs from the queue individually.

For some excellent MS Word tips, like creating individual files from a merge, and just about anything else you can think of check out Graham Mayor's page.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Home and Cloud Storage

With the recent death of an HHD in my space PC I decided it was time to sort out my home storage of irreplaceable data (photos and documents) and my home media setup.

Old Setup

Storage: An old Windows box, 2x200GB HHD, Cloud Backup via Mozy, wired to ethernet
Media Player: XBMC running on an XBOX, wired to ethernet, SCART to old TV
Music Player: Old windows netbook, sitting on top of the amp; WiFi to ethernet, wired to amp

The older of the two disks gave out on the windows box and I lost a pile of downloaded media plus many old digital photos. The photos at least were recoverable from Mozy, best ~£50 quid I spent that year.

New Setup

Storage: QNAP TS-419P, 1x3TB HHD, Cloud Backup via Symform
Media Player: Twonky Media Server. Wired to ethernet. New TV (Samsung SMART) also wired to the ethernet via a gigabit switch.
Music Player: Same as before

QNAP is a network attached storage device (NAS) it's basically a box with space for 4 HHDs and a linux operating system to run everything. I will add 3 more drives in due course, when I need the space, also by staggering the purchase/installation disks they wont all fall out of warranty at the same time.

I no longer needed the old XBOX/XMBC as the video (and photos) now streams directly from the NAS over the ethernet to the TV via the DLNA service Twonky Media Server. While this was not pre-loaded on the QNAP it was a simple click of a button to install it from the QNAP web admin pages. The XBMC file browser is more flexible than Samsung's interface on the TV and with Twonky you lose the ability to 'mark' a file watched or resume from where you stopped, but its small price to pay.

Local Storage Redundancy 

I plan to use the following RAID set-up as I fill up the NAS box

1x3TB: RAID 0, Available Storage 3TB, Fault Tolerance: None [current setup]
2x3TB: RAID 1, Available Storage 3TB, Fault Tolerance: 1 disk
3x3TB: RAID 5, Available Storage 6TB, Fault Tolerance: 1 disk
4x3TB: RAID 5, Available Storage 9TB, Fault Tolerance: 1 disk

I am (and plan to continue) using WD RED drives designed for NAS devices.

Once I get the second drive installed (in a ~years time) I will also have local redundancy on all the data which means I will only have to reply on the cloud backup if there is a biblical level disaster (fire/ flood/ locusts/ angel of death etc) and all the disks in the NAS die at once.

Cloud Backup

I decided to move away from Mozy, mainly because it's not supported by QNAP! these were my alternatives; Amazon S3, ElephantDrive and Symform.

Of these I chose Symform; they offers unlimited free cloud storage if you contribute spare empty space from your system (at a ratio of 'your data : contributed space' = 1:2). On the flip side its only a simple data mirror, no versioning or backup sets; but for my needs this is just fine.

The upload over my ADSL connection is a bit on the slow side, but it's getting there and soon my ~100Gb of photos and docs will be safely mirrored. To get the 100Gb for free I had to 'give up' 200Gb of space ~ 7% of my 3TB drive, not a bad trade.

QPKG (QNAP apps)

As QNAP is running on an Open Source OS there is a wide range of free applications that it can run/host; transmission, wordpress, FTP, SSH, webserver, VPN, LDAP, syslog, iTunes server, mySQL to name but a few. It comes pre-loaded with all the basics and though the web admin interface you can install more. Even more than that if you are prepared to SSH in and use an 'apt-get' type application named ipkg (currently 1329 packages listed).

Other Handy Apps

There are a variety of handy iOS apps that I use to control the media at home.
  • Twonky Beam; this allows me to browse my NAS folders and choose what file to play on the TV, it also allows browsing on the web for any videos (eg youtube etc) and 'beams' them onto the telly. Very neat. 
  • Wmote: remote control for Winamp; which is running on the netbook 
  • Remoteless: remote control for Spotify; also running on the netbook, for those times when mine own music collection is lacking (I think I stopped acquiring mp3's when I left university) 
  • Airfoil; cross platform app that allows the audio output on an iOS device to be broadcast to another device (windows/mac), in this case to the netbook running Airfoil speakers; this lets me for example listed to BBC radio from the iPlayer app on the iPad and have the sound coming out of the main speakers. 
On top of these I also use :
  • Teamviewer for remote desktop connection to the PCs in the house 
  • FileExplore which as the name suggests allows simle file browsing and moving etc from the iPhone/iPadAnd last but not least 
  • iSSH which is an iOS SSH terminal, which I use for basic system admin on the QNAP.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Download Video from the BBC iPlayer

There is no quick answer to this from Google for Windows, but in Ubuntu it's dead easy

$ sudo apt-get install get-iplayer 

With the package is installed run

$ get-iplayer --get --url=

Get all the info and documentation here 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Simple expression to Hide things in SSRS

=iif(logical expression, true, false)

Using the if function to colour text the same as background for quick fix on divide by 0 errors in the middle of a report.