Sunday, 7 October 2012

Best free online Venn diagram generator

After looking for ages for a good free Venn diagram creator, to generate Venn diagrams (set diagrams or Euler diagrams) automatically, I finally found an excellent online tool generously made available by the fab Chris Seidel, which will let you generate a Venn diagram for (as the links below say):
  • 2 or 3 lists ie sets of items for whom you want the logical relationships diagrammed (common items, intersections etc), or
  • 4 lists ie when you have 4 sets of items to diagram.
You just paste in your lists of items, one list per column, click "Generate List" and it takes seconds for a nice diagram and tables to be produced. (You'll see there are options to have the diagram in colour or not, etc.)
You can then save the resulting webpage and diagrams and edit the tables etc as you wish. Perfect for my needs! (no, not set theory - just creating good visualisations to explain things more clearly. Picture worth 1000 words & all that). Here's a screenshot of an example:
Just one warning and 3 wishlist suggestions for improvement.
The thing to watch is that the lists of items you paste into the columns are separated by spaces rather than new lines or carriage returns. In other words, if you paste in "A word Another word" in one column, it will treat that as a list of 4 items, not 2. A workaround is to get rid of spaces for the same multiword item, ie paste in "Aword Anotherword" instead (but ensure you make the same changes in each list, if the same multi-word item appears in more than one list that you paste in).
The 3 suggestions are:
  1. if you insert a long list name, it gets cut off in the diagram, so make sure your list names are short, say under 10 characters each (just experiment by trying to generate another Venn diagram with a different list name or title, if you find a name is cut off). It would be good if longer names showed up in full.
  2. The helpful table below the diagram is usually labelled something like a(1), b(1), c(0) etc. However, in the generated diagram itself, the labels are 1, 0, etc. It would be preferable if the diagram labels were a, b, c etc instead (or, even better, a(1), b(1), c(0) etc, so it's easier to match up the diagram with the table - otherwise, sometimes it's impossible to match them up except by comparing against the original lists
  3. Finally, the Venn diagram produced would be even better if the list names (shown in red) were shown in the same colours as the different coloured lines that are used to draw boundaries round each list.

Other options?

I've not found anything better, myself. Other online options I've investigated make you work out or draw the common areas manually, or don't have any Venn diagram options at all. If anyone has suggestions do let me know.
While another Venn diagram generator, the Applet For Drawing 3 Set Area-Proportional Venn Diagrams, looks to be not bad, I couldn't get it to work - and you have to feed it exactly 3 lists, no more no less.
Other free open source Venn diagram creation tools I've found, but not yet tested, are:
VennDiagram (downloadable for Windows, Linux and Mac; with article and manual)
Venn Diagrams
If I get a chance to try them I'll of course post my comments.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Canon MF4100 series - scanner problem? Solved!

If your Canon multi-function scanner has suddenly stopped working and won't scan, and you're troubleshooting error messages like "Unable to open TWAIN source", "Cannot open TWAIN source", "Source initialization failed" on trying to scan, here's an easy solution to the problem that's worth trying.

I've not tried it on other i-Sensys MF4100 imageClass series devices, like MF4120 or MF4140, but it worked like a charm on my MF4150. In my case the scanner function on my Canon i-Sensys MF4150 LaserBase laser multifunction printer, copier, scanner and fax suddenly started playing up and it wouldn't scan anything, whatever application I tried to use, even though the printer and copier worked fine.

The MF Toolbox app appeared but, although previously it would automatically scan to PDF, nothing happened after that, no matter what buttons I clicked. Similarly with other scanning apps I tried, like Abbyy Finereader - I just got error messages.

I thought I'd have to reinstall the drivers, but on searching I found a great solution from Jeff Widmer which worked instantly - no rebooting, no unplugging etc! I'm posting it here, with slightly quicker steps.

So here's the step by step on how to get the scanner on your Canon MF4100 series multi-function device working again, for Windows 7 but you could try it for Vista and see (for techies: you just need to add a TWAIN folder's path to PATH):

  1. Open Windows Explorer or Computer, and navigate to
  2. Inside the twain_32 there should be another folder, open that folder too (in my case it's named "MF4100", yours may have a different name eg MF4120).
  3. Now hold down the Alt key and tap d. This changes and highlights what's in the Windows Explorer address bar.

  4. Just press Ctrl-c (hold down Ctrl, tap c) to copy that highlighted address line to your clipboard (or if you prefer the mouse, rightclick on that address and copy it in the usual way).
  5. Now go to your System Properties:
    1. The fastest way is to click the Windows Start icon bottom left, type in the search box (without the quotes) "sysdm.cpl" and hit Enter or click the Search icon.
    2. The slower way is to rightclick the Computer icon on your desktop, choose Properties, then on the left click Advanced System Settings.
  6. Make sure you're in the Advanced tab by clicking on "Advanced" at the top if necessary.
  7. At the bottom of the Advanced tab, click the "Environment Variables" button.

  8. In the box that pops up, in the top half (under "User variables"), check under the first column, Variable, and find the variable named "PATH".

  9. Either doubleclick on the PATH line, or single click on it then click Edit. You should get something like this:

  10. You'll see the "Variable value" box usually has a long line of text already in there, highlighted. Be careful NOT to delete anything in that line (click Cancel and try again, if you delete anything by accident). Instead, go to the very end of that line (you can click into the box, then use the arrow keys to go right to the end, or just hit the right arrow key once without clicking anything and you'll be there).
  11. Now at the end of that box, type in a semicolon ie ;
    Then paste in (Ctrl v) what you copied in step 4 above. No need to add any spaces anywhere, just the semicolon and the copied stuff. Here's what mine looked like after that:

  12. Then OK everything. In my case, my scanner immediately started working again, even without a reboot!

If that didn't work, you may need to try reinstalling the drivers. In the case of my MF4150 you have to install the drivers while the device is NOT plugged in to the computer via USB (or dire things may happen and the whole device may not work), but in other cases you can just plug it in, so you have been warned! For the MF4150 you'd unplug the USB cable from the printer/scanner, uninstall the device in Device Manager, reinstall the drivers from the CD (trying to download the latest ones from Canon's site first) and then plug in the USB cable again. Here are Microsoft's instructions on installing/uninstalling drivers for scanners.

I also found a very long thread on (different) fixes for the Canon MP Navigator, which you could try if you've no luck with any of the above - but with Jeff Widmer's fix I didn't need to!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Firefox loads blank pages in tabs on startup? Solution

This post is on how to make Firefox load and display all webpages in all tabs automatically when you first open Firefox. Lately it just loads pages in a few tabs (3 max), but pages in all other tabs are blank with no content visible, and the status bar (visible if you use the indispensable Status4Evar add-on) shows "Stopped" at the bottom left.


Other tabs won't display anything but blank until you actually click on the tab for the page. It's very tedious to have to click for each page individually. I save webpages in tabs because I want to use them, and I can't use them if they're invisible!

The quick answer: try Firefox options, then Tab Mix Plus Options, then Session Manager options (if you use either of those extensions), and if all else fails, install the Load Tabs Progressively add-on and change its options, which is what finally worked for me.

Scroll down for full explanations and screenshots.


Many people only want saved startup tabs in Firefox to load when you click on tab, so that Firefox starts up faster. But, like this blogger and others, I want the opposite.

I have a reasonably fast computer with decent amounts of memory. As I use zillions of tabs, it's too time-consuming to have to click on one tab, wait, click on the next tab, etc. I always set my Windows computer to start all my main applications and documents automatically, so I can switch on my computer, go have breakfast or at least coffee, and when I get back to my computer it's all up and ready for me. I want browsers to do this too: I want all tabs to load and display on launching Firefox while I go do something else, and I agree that not allowing this is plain bad usability (though taking away individual users' choice of which option they want is worse).

I wasted too much time trying to troubleshoot and fiddling round with about:config till I found this page explaining that this annoyance is in fact a 'feature' which was introduced in recent versions of Firefox (13 onwards I think).

The current default setting is a pain when you have lots of tabs and have to click each one separately. The point of setting Firefox to launch with a set of tabs is because you want to use them all.

As a workaround, I'd been using 'Reload all tabs' to make all the webpages visible (rightclick on a tab heading for the menu that allows that, if you have TabMixPlus).

General setting

The suggested solution, to force all pages in all tabs load and display when Firefox opens, was to UNtick the 'Don't load tabs until selected' box and OK.

In my version of Firefox (Firefox 15) it's in the Tabs tab of Options (menu Tools, then Options, then Tabs), in others it might be in the General tab.


Like so:


However, that didn't work for me even after restarting Firefox. There are other options which may need to be set, so try those too.

If you use TabMixPlus

The same link suggested that if you use Tab Mix Plus (TMP) (also an essential extension, in my view), you need to go to TMP Options > Session > Restore and check the "Reload all tabs" checkbox.

If you use Session Manager

As I use Session Manager (which manages loads of sessions with finer control than TMP's session manager), I had no such option, so I went to Session Manager options.

Under General > Saving & Restoring, I UNticked "Restore tabs on demand" (and OK or Apply), to try to get tabs to load automatically without having to "demand" each one individually.


If all else fails

Unfortunately, none of the above worked for me - UNticking "Don't load tabs until selected" and the like did not change anything. Only 3 tabs ever loaded automatically when I started Firefox.

Therefore, I had to install an extra extension - Load Tabs Progressively. This works, but I'd recommend some tweaks.

Once you've installed it and restarted Firefox, go to Tools > Add-ons and find Load Tabs Progressively. Click its Options. Change "Maximum number of concurrent loading tabs" to 0 and "Maximum number of loaded tabs" to -1. Then OK.


Otherwise, it will load only up to a maximum number of tabs, and only a certain number at a time. If like me you have tons of tabs and just want them all to load while you do something else, you'd want it to load however many tabs you have, ideally all in one go (in my case!).

This excellent extension, as the name suggests, opens each of your saved session tabs progressively, one by one, and the settings I've recommended will get it to open all your saved session tabs no matter how many, and whether using TabMixPlus or SessionManager.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Nexus 7 - how to install Flash to view BBC iPlayer & other sites

Some websites, like BBC iPlayer, won't work on your Google / Asus Nexus 7. This post gives step by step instructions for beginners on how to get Flash on your Nexus 7 so you can watch or listen to BBC iPlayer TV or radio, and play videos or music on other websites that require Flash like Demand Five or 4od (the ITV Player app does work on the Nexus 7 but the iPlayer app isn't compatible yet).

The tips below represent the easiest solution I've found to add or enable Flash quickly on your Nexus 7, without having to "root" your device (as eg this post suggests) or take any other more complicated steps, thanks to this helpful post and others I found. (There's a risk that rooting may void your warranty.) I didn't need to install an older file Flash apk then update it to a newer one as mentioned here, it just worked with one file, the latest one.

You'll also then need to install and use a compatible browser, as the Google Chrome browser that's provided as standard with the Nexus 7 won't play Flash movies or music etc, even after you've installed Flash. I also explain how to install and use some alternative browsers, below. The problem and background are at the very end, I imagine readers will want the howto first!

How to install Flash on the Nexus 7 - the best way!

So here's the best workaround to solve the problem of Flash not working on the Nexus 7. (It's not really troubleshooting or fixing a bug, it's a workaround - for a situation that was deliberately intended by product suppliers.)

The Nexus 7 is set up as standard to let users install apps only via the Google Play Store. If you want to install an app like the Flash Player using an app installation file that you've dwnloaded, it won't let you do that - unless you change a default setting.

So we'll change that setting first, then download the Flash installation file, then install it on the device direct from the file- aka "sideloading". (In Windows, files to install programs / applications usually end with .exe or .msi - in Android, the operating system used by the Nexus 7, they end with .apk).

  1. (Optional, but may make life easier)  On your Nexus s7, tap the Google Play store icon (the shopping bag icon in your Favorites tray):

    playIconSearch (magnifying glass icon) to find and install a file manager app like ES File Explorer File Manager, Astro File Manager or File Manager HD.

    (For beginners - if you view this blog post in the standard Chrome browser on your Nexus 7, tapping the links above will take you straight there, and you can then tap the Install button to install the app.)
  2. Go to the Settings on your Nexus 7 - ie swipe down the notification shade from the top of the screen, and tap the Settings icon, outlined in red blow.

  3. In the PERSONAL section, tap the word "Security":

  4. In the Security settings screen, under the DEVICE ADMINISTRATION SECTION tick "Unknown Sources" (this is to let you install an app from a file on your Nexus 7 - otherwise, it just won't let you). Tap OK to confirm you really want to change this setting:

  5. Now tap open a browser on your Nexus 7, it's easiest to use the Chrome browser that's provided as standard:

  6. In your Nexus 7 browser, download the Adobe Flash Player app installation file by tapping this link (the link just given is the direct link to the file that's attached to the bottom of this helpful forum post - if tapping the direct installation file link in your browser doesn't work, you could try going to that forum post and then tapping on the com.adobe.flashplayer-2.apk link from there). A message should flash up very briefly on screen about the download.

    Note: here are some other links from which you may be able to download that apk file, though I've not tried them myself.
  7. Now, find the downloaded apk file on your Nexus 7 and tap it to install Flash. There are two ways:
    1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to open your notification shade, then tap on the com.adobe.flashplayer-2.apk  "Download complete" notification, and tap to confirm the installation:

    2. Open the file manager you installed in step 1, browse to the Download folder (a sub-folder of the "sdcard" folder), then tap on the com.adobe.flashplayer-2.apk file and confirm the installation. Here's some screenshots using ES File Explorer:
  8. Now go back to the Security settings to UNtick the "Unknown sources" setting again, see steps 2 to 2, for security. Whenever you want to install an app from an apk file in future, you can just enable that setting again, install the app, then disable it after installation.)
  9. Note: if tapping the downloaded apk file in step 7 didn't work, try installing an app installer like Fast Installer, then tapping the apk file again. But it should work.

How to play media from Flash sites on the Nexus 7 - use browsers that support Flash!

To actually view Flash sites after you've installed Flash on your Nexus 7, the supplied Chrome browser won't work. That's the way it is, and Google won't be supporting Flash in its Android Chrome browser.

So you have to install a third party browser, and use that in order to view iPlayer or other sites that require Flash.

2 browsers I've tried so far work: Firefox Alpha (Mozilla Aurora) and xScope (free and paid) - hat tip. (Again, those links should take you direct to the installation pages where you can tap to install them.)

But be warned - these are all workarounds, Flash is not officially supported on Android Jelly Bean (the Nexus 7's operating system), so you need to be prepared for random crashes when browsing Flash sites, having to close and restart your browser etc - especially if you try to go to full screen mode (just resizing the page is safest), or leave the page after you've started playing the media, or even just try to pause a video.

Also, different browsers seem to play differently on different sites. So if your favourite Flash site doesn't work well with eg Firefox Beta, try Aurora or XScope etc instead. So far, iPlayer generally works well on Aurora. But different sites eg Demand Five  or 4od may be better in another browser - you just need to try them out (bearing in mind that going full screen may crash the browser, although again iPlayer in Aurora seems relatively OK).

How to use Mozilla Firefox Beta to view Flash sites

Firefox "proper" won't install from the Play Store on the Nexus 7 just yet.

But Firefox Beta, which you can install from the Play Store using that link, does work. Don't worry if you installed Firefox Beta before trying to install Flash Player - all this should still work.

I should note first though that Firefox Alpha, Aurora, seems more stable with Flash, so it may be best to use that for viewing Flash sites - I cover Aurora later, it's very similar.

To use Firefox with Flash sites, first you have to check its Settings to make sure Flash is always enabled, then you need to ensure that iPlayer and other sites won't divert you to the mobile "no Flash" version when you try to browse there.

Here are step by step instructions on how to do that:

  1. Open Firefox, go to the Menu (3 vertical squares, top right) and choose Settings - outlined in blue below:

  2. In the Settings, under the CONTENT section, tap Plugins:

  3. Then make sure Enabled OR "Tap to play" is selected (ie NOT "Disabled"), and you can use the Back navigation button to return to the browser.

    What's the difference? "Tap to play" is more secure; if you pick "Enabled" and visit a malicious website it could automatically run Flash and install malware on your device. This may be more likely with desktop computers than portable devices and apparently it has never happened with Android, although malware has been disguised as an Android Flash Player. But still, if you want to play it safe, use "Tap to play" - then, you need to positively tap on the video or audio to play it, but you'd only do that on sites you trust, right..? Personally I went for "Enabled", but it's at your own risk and all that.

  4. Highly recommended: in Firefox, browse to the Phony extension's webpage by tapping that link I gave, then tap "Add to Firefox" to install that add-on.
    1. Now, open the Firefox Menu (the 3 vertical squares), and there will be a new Phony item in the list. Tap on the Phony menu item, then under "Select User Agent" tap the word "Default":

    2. A list will open up - find "Desktop Firefox", tap on that, then tap "OK".

    3. Now go back to the Menu and choose Quit at the end to close Firefox. (That's because I found I had to restart Firefox before Phony would work.) Then re-open Firefox, and browse away on Flash sites!
  5. Alternative: if you use Flash sites only occasionally and don't want to install Phony, before visiting the site you must first go to the Menu and make sure "Request Desktop Site" is ticked (outlined in red below). Then in the same tab of the browser (do NOT open a new tab), browse to BBC iPlayer or another Flash site, and Flash movies or audio should then hopefully play.
    The downside of this is that, without Phony, you must remember to tick "Request Desktop Site") every single time in a tab, before you visit a Flash site in that tab, as it won't automatically "save" that preference.
    Also, on Firefox Beta, before installing Phony and setting it to "Desktop Firefox" I couldn't get BBC iPlayer radio shows (listen again) to play at all, although it would play iPlayer television programmes.
    Finally, with BBC iPlayer at least, even after ticking "Request Desktop Site" you may have to keep trying to reload the page or going to it again via a link on a search engine results page, as sometimes it still diverts you to the annoying "not supported" page shown towards the end of this post. This doesn't happen with Phony. Which is why I highly recommend using it!

  6. Note: sometimes, on some sites, you will still have to tap on the video or audio in order to kickstart Flash, even if you've selected "Enabled" instead of "Tap to play".
  7. With iPlayer TV: don't use the "popup" icon (the two overlapping rectangles) as that won't work - instead, use the Full screen icon, outlined in red below:

  8. Feature request: if only Mozilla would provide a setting for Firefox mobile to permanently request desktop sites so a third party add-on wasn't needed! (and in portrait view moved the Menu button to the navigation bar at the bottom - I keep hitting tabs inadvertently when trying to get to the Menu in portrait orientation!)
  9. Full screen, and avoiding crashes:  updated: be patient and don't tap on the video before it has finished loading and shows the play arrow on the video itself, otherwise it may crash. Also remember, it's best generally to avoid full screen mode. Full screen may work sometimes with iPlayer, but with other UK TV sites like 4od etc, it may crash the browser, and you'll have to close it and restart it again! Workaround - the best fix to get close to full screen, from combining tips and tricks from a couple of forum postings, is this:
    1. on your Nexus 7, download and install the free Full Screen add-on
    2. when you need full screen, activate the add-on through the Firefox menu (you may need to scroll down the menu items list to find "Full screen")
    3. start playing the video, and then double tap on the video to enlarge it almost to full screen
    4. to come out of full screen, press and hold (aka "long press") on the webpage and choose "Exit" out of full screen.

How to use xScope for Flash sites

xScope (free and paid versions) is another browser option which needs fewer steps than Firefox to set up and use.

Once you've installed and opened xScope, you just need to check its Settings to make sure Flash is enabled. Here's how:

  1. Go to xScope's Settings by tapping the menu icon (3 vertical squares, top right) then tap Settings:

  2. On the xScope Settings page, in the "WEB PAGE" section, I chose to tick "Auto load flash" (but bear in mind the note under the Firefox Beta section above about the risks of auto-loading flash if you visit a malicious website - you have been warned!):

  3. You  can now visit BBC iPlayer and other Flash-using sites via xScope, and Flash should just work. But note that, sometimes, as with Firefox, you do still have to tap on the video or audio in order to kickstart Flash. Or, of course, if you haven't set Flash to auto-load. And remember to avoid full screen mode
  4. One more precaution: it might be best to stop auto-update for xScope, in case a future version of the browser comes out that disables Flash. (This is a real risk - the Dolphin browser for example no longer supports Flash, whereas an earlier version of it does, though on some pages it may crash on switching to full screen). So here's how to disable the auto-update:
    1. Open the Google Play store on your Nexus 7 (shopping bag icon, see step 1), then get to your lists of installed apps by tapping the down arrow icon at the top:

    2. Now in the apps list, tap on the name of the app you need to change auto-update for, in this case xScope:

    3. Finally, on the xScope screen in the Play store, UNtick "Allow Automatic Updating". (You can retick it again if you're absolutely sure the developer won't disable Flash support in a future release!):



What about other browsers, do they support Flash?

You can also use Firefox Alpha (Aurora) - just download its apk file from this page (the one that worked for me was called - version 14 didn't work, for instance). Then install it in the same way as you installed Adobe Flash Player above, making sure you tick the "Unknown sources" security setting first, check the Flash setting, and install and set the Phony add-on as with Firefox Beta (or check "Request Desktop Site" is ticked every time before you visit a Flash site).

Here are screenshots for Firefox Aurora, it's much the same as with Beta, but it's your choice as to "Tap to play" or "Enabled", and don't forget you need to tick Request Desktop Site every single time:




An earlier version of the Dolphin browser has been mentioned above as working, and I've checked it works with iPlayer radio  - but it crashes if you try to go to full screen with iPlayer video or YouTube, and presumably other sites too. (If you already have Dolphin you should uninstall it first before installing that earlier version - go to the same screen for Dolphin as for automatic updating, above, and tap Uninstall.)

Maxthon was reported to work but for me unfortunately the HD tablet version kept crashing on trying to pause a video, or just trying to access the menu or settings. The mobile (non-HD) version of Maxthon did work, and you can also in Maxthon enable Flash automatically (via its menu - bottom right navigation bar, choose Options, Browser settings, change "Flash on demand" to "Always on") - similar to what I've shown for the browsers above. Otherwise, you'd have to tap on a Flash video or audio in order to play it.

Tip: with Maxthon mobile in landscape view, you can't see the address bar in which to type a URL - you have to swipe down the grey horizontal lines in the curve, kinda like a tab, outlined in red below:maxthonHoriz1Then voila you can see the address bar!:


Unfortunately I couldn't get Flash to work in either Opera Mini or Opera Mobile.

While Puffin has been said to work, I personally wouldn't use it as (1) they've enabled Flash on the free version only for the London Olympics period, so Flash may stop working in it after that, and (2) BBC iPlayer radio works in Puffin, but if I try iPlayer TV, it won't work as the site then seems to think I'm not in the UK (whereas I am):


The Boat browser also reportedly works (in the Settings check under Page content settings, Enable flash/plug-ins first) - but for me it always crashed after starting to play iPlayer video.

Sleipnir wouldn't work for me at all, even with all plug-ins enabled.

If anyone knows of other browsers that reliably support Flash on the Nexus 7, please let me know.

The problem - BBC iPlayer and other Flash sites don't work on Nexus 7 out of the box!

Your shiny new Google / Asus Nexus 7 unfortunately won't play BBC iPlayer video or audio, or indeed media on other websites that use Adobe Flash. You may get screens like these:

"Your phone does not support BBC iPlayer":


Or you may get, "You need to install Flash":


But… if you then try to install Flash Player from the Play Store, you may get… "Your device isn't compatible with this version"!:


Background to the Nexus 7 Flash issue

A big disappointment with Google's Nexus 7 Android tablet is this lack of support for Flash, which is used by BBC iPlayer and many other websites for displaying videos or playing music or other audio.

Adobe recently withdrew support for Flash on Android devices and other mobile browsers, although this move was presaged in late 2011. If you try to install Adobe's Flash Player browser plugin from the Google Play Store to your Nexus 7, it won't let you.

While that's really down to Adobe, not Google, it's still a pity that Google didn't provide at least some support for Flash in its Chrome browser in the Nexus 7, given that the tablet is being heavily publicised as a media player - that omission is in my view a Google Gaffe. Indeed, a friend told me that being able to watch or listen to BBC iPlayer TV or radio ("listen again") in bed was a major reason why he'd ordered a Nexus 7, and I suspect the same goes for many other Nexus 7 buyers.

Adobe envisaged that the ultimate solution to this issue would be for websites to eventually move to providing their media using the open HTML5 standard, instead of using Flash.

Unfortunately, that's going to take some time - there are real problems today because many, if not most, websites on which people generally want to view videos or audio don't use HTML 5, but still rely on Flash. So users have been left in the lurch, until sites update their content to migrate to using HTML 5.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Google Nexus 7 - how to use with Bluetooth keyboard (iGo Stowaway Ultra Slim Think Outside)

The Google / Asus Nexus 7 tablet is far more than just an Amazon Kindle Fire competitor. It works well with a Bluetooth keyboard too, making it an ideal computing device for working on the move if you're a business user who finds a laptop or even iPad too heavy to be truly portable (eg if you have a bad back). See the end of this post for the weight comparisons.

How to pair the Nexus 7 with a Bluetooth keyboard

First here's a video demo of using Bluetooth keyboard with Google Drive on Nexus 7; instructions on pairing are below:

Below are step by step instructions on how to pair the Nexus 7 with a Bluetooth keyboard  - in my case, an ancient iGo Stowaway Ultra Slim Think Outside keyboard, sadly now discontinued - originally bought for use with the Nokia N95 smartphone, it's that old!

  1. Make the keyboard discoverable - with the Stowaway, you hold down at the same time the Ctrl, left Fn (blue) and right Fn (green) keys. A green light will flash slowly above the T button to confirm it's working.
  2. On the Nexus 7 go into the Settings (swipe down from the top and tap the Settings icon):

  3. In the Settings screen, in the "Wireless and Networks" section, slide the Bluetooth switch from "OFF" to "ON".

  4. You'll see a blue On button against "Bluetooth", as well as the Bluetooth icon showing at the top right of the screen. Now, tap on the word "Bluetooth" (in the list on the left under "Wireless and Networks"), and you'll get the following screen. Tap "Search for Devices" at the top right.

  5. Under "Available devices", your keyboard's name should appear. Tap its name.
  6. The Nexus 7 should pop up a message with a 4-digit numeric code to enter on your keyboard.
  7. On your keyboard, enter the 4-digit code given, and hit the Enter key.
  8. They should now be paired, and you should be able to use the keyboard with Nexus 7 apps. Type away!

  9. Tip: get a Bluetooth widget like the free Bluetooth OnOff so you can turn Bluetooth on and off quickly from your Home screen with one tap. (Obviously turning it off will save power when you're not using Bluetooth).

Why buy a Nexus 7 for portable working?

Just compare these weights:

  1. Nexus 7 (just 340 g) + iGo Stowaway Ultra Slim full-sized folding Bluetooth keyboard (160 g)
    = only 500 g.
  2. iPad 2 = 590 g - ie heavier than the above two items combined. Unfortunately the new iPad is even heavier, at 652 g.
  3. Microsoft's planned Surface tablet with built-in keyboard = 676 g for the lighter version (from the specifications).

So, it's the Nexus 7 for me, until someone produces a modern clamshell Psion 5mx with wi-fi and colour screen - my #1 wishlist item, it's still the best portable computer of all time, only 354 g including full touch-typable keyboard and batteries, and decent sized screen with zoom!

I strongly feel there's still a massive gap in the market for light, small form factor, full computers (my biggest gadget beef).

Weight, the first thing I check in specs, rarely gets mentioned in reviews, but it's an issue for some women, youngsters, and people with back problems who just can't physically carry around laptops, notebooks or even netbooks.

So it's heartening that it's not just me - the techie likes of certain Slashdot readers also consider size/weight first when buying a portable computer.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Nexus 7 - disable "No more room on this Home screen" message


When you add a new app to your Nexus 7 from the Google Play store, you may get the message "No more room on this Home screen" - even though there's actually lots of room for new icons on your Nexus 7's home screen! And, it still adds a shortcut icon for the new app to your home screen anyway(though you may have to swipe sideways to find the home screen that contains it).

This seems to be an issue with Google Play. Unfortunately I can't find an ideal solution. There are 2 workarounds:

  1. Live with it! Keep ignoring the message. (Which is what I've ended up doing). Or,
  2. You can get rid of the message, but this means that when you install a new app from Google Play, it won't add an icon for it to your home screen. Which might be OK for some…
    Here's how to stop "No more room on this home screen" from appearing when you add apps:
    1. Open Google Play by tapping its icon (outlined in red below)

    2. Open its menu (3 vertical dots, top right).
    3. Choose Settings.
    4. Finally, UNtick "Auto-add widgets", like so:


Someone has posted that after they unticked that setting and then re-ticked it, it prevented the "No more room on this home screen" message from recurring. However, that didn't work for me - after re-enabling that again, the irritating message reappeared. So I'm just living with it.

If anyone knows a permanent solution to this annoyance, please do share!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Nexus 7 review #2 - support - Google Goodness (on balance)

My brand new Google / Asus Nexus 7 was faulty (or rather, the charging unit or cable was).

Google's Nexus 7 support phone number for UK customers, for ease of reference is:
0800 328 6081

Also see:

Google Goodness: it's an 0800 number, free to call from a landline (though NOT from a mobile, still a major issue in the UK, and a big wishlist item for me). Thank you, Google - that beats premium rate 0870 or non-geographic (and still chargeable from a mobile) 0845 numbers!

Google Gaffe: Google may not have planned ahead enough for the volume of calls. I've had to call a couple of times now, and each time I had to wait in a queue for 45 minutes to an hour before I could talk to someone. Just as well it was a freefone number!

Google Gaffe 2: the support staff don't seem to have full knowledge or training about the Nexus 7, or remits across the spectrum of support issue - so you might get "It's another team that deals with that aspect", or "I didn't know the Nexus 7 Gmail app displayed emails against a grey background". I also got different (and conflicting) information on different occasions from different people. Less good. At least they're friendly and try to be helpful, without being over-familiar, long-winded or annoying (ahem Three!).

The good probably outweighs the gaffes here. Given that most support helplines charge you a fortune for the privilege of trying to sort out a problem with their product or service, Google's provision of an 0800 support number was enough to make me forgive the other issues.

So - it's +1 to Google for Nexus 7 support, overall. So far. I reserve final judgement until my replacement unit and return are fully sorted out!

Google Gaffes: Nexus 7 NoNo #1 - the packaging review!

I was excited to receive my shiny new Google / Asus Nexus 7, which most people will know by now is a high spec and great value 7" tablet using the open source Android operating system.

But I will admit, I had to get a strong 5' 7" tall friend to help push the inner box out of the sleeve. It was such a tight fit, I just couldn't do it by myself! I'm only 5' 2", and not the strongest of females. I didn't get wrap rage, but only because I managed to get help with the unpackaging.

The earlier stages of the unboxing weren't easy either. Luckily, I keep a trusty Stanley knife within easy reach of both kitchen and living room. I never unbox without it! But it couldn't help with the part where I had to somehow slide the inner box out of the sleeve. Thank goodness for strong friends!

I felt a little bit better when I saw that I wasn't the only customer who struggled - eg this Atlantic Wire article linked to from Slashdot. (And montage of unboxing troubles, embedded below!)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Why I'll stop using Google's Chrome browser - problems with Chrome

For a while I've been trying Google's free Chrome browser, but I'm now about to give up up. As someone who uses tons of tabs, and has them reopen on each bootup, Chrome's just not manageable.

Here's why - a litany of problems and issues which, unfortunately, I just can't waste any more time trying to fix.

1. No "most recently-used" tab switching (or MRU) as standard. It's the only way to implement switching, in my view, especially for "power users" who have lots of tabs open. Yes, there's MRU Tabs and Recent Tabs, but, especially when I've got lots of tabs open, they're nowhere near as powerful as TabMixPlus, which is my single most essential add-on for Firefox (and I regularly donate). And I want to use Ctrl-Tab for switching, not Ctrl-q! This is the biggest, biggest bugbear for me.

2. Crashing or freezing my entire Windows 7 system when trying to open locations or, especially, when close Chrome, often because of the Flash plug-in "not responding". Yes, I've tried disabling Google's own Flash player plug-in, then disabling Adobe's plug-in, but neither worked. I ended up disabling both to stop Chrome making my PC unusable whenever I tried to shut down. And if I need Flash for a particular webpage, I just view it in Firefox, IE or Opera. (I haven't tried reinstalling Chrome, as I didn't want to waste any more time on this.) Even without Flash, Chrome often still takes ages to open a webpage.

Tip: if you disable all versions of Flash in Chrome, it may come back whenever you update Flash generally, which you ought to do for security reasons. So after updating Flash, go back into Chrome plugins and disable Flash again.

3. Sometimes blanking out my webpages after I've gone offline. If I've disabled my internet connection, and yes I do that if I'm leaving the computer for a while, or if I've put the computer in sleep mode then wake it up, often my Chrome pages are completely blank. Firefox and IE etc don't do that, they display the same pages as before perfectly well, why Chrome does I don't know. Yes I have the Reload All Tabs extension, but sometimes it doesn't work and I don't have time to reload every page individually (which does work). "Waiting for cache" is another fun way to blank out my webpages and test the patience.

4. Here's another way Chrome often goes Nyah and refuses to show me many or indeed sometimes any webpages:

"The server at can't be found because the DNS look-up failed."

(That happens even when Firefox, IE and Thunderbird are working fine, so it's obviously not my internet connection or my ISP's DNS servers that were up the spout.)

5. Using up way too much memory on my Windows 7 64-bit computer with 8 GB RAM. I'm talking up to 196 MB per tab in some cases! Firefox 12 uses far less memory, with many more tabs.

So yes, I'm exporting my Chrome sessions and history so I can access my important recent webpages in Firefox, and giving up on Chrome now.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Chrome tabs - how to export session using Session Buddy extension

In my view it's not at all obvious how you export sessions (ie sets of tabs) from Google's Chrome browser that you've previously saved using the excellent Session Buddy add-on.

How to export a session from Session Buddy? It's the rather unobtrusive down arrow on the right, underneath the cog icon - I've outlined it in red below. Apparently it's known as the "Action" button, but it certainly isn't labelled as such!


So, first click on the session you want to export (on the left), then click that arrow I've outlined above, and you'll see Export at the bottom of the menu.

Click Export. Then you can choose whether to export URLs only or titles too, and whether to group by window (if you had more than one window saved to that session), as well as whether to export to CSV or a text file (or just copy the chosen content to your clipboard, then paste it elsewhere).


Took me too long to figure out that it was the little arrow, so I hope this saves someone else some frustration!