Category Archives: How-to guides

IngramSpark for Australian Authors

Just finished a long conversation with a very nice lady from IngramSpark Australia, and I thought I’d share what I learned with other Australian self-publishers.

First and foremost, IngramSpark have a print facility right here in Australia. That translates to massive savings on shipping costs for Australian authors.

How massive? Roughly $4.90 for 1 to 28 medium sized paperbacks if you live in Melbourne. That’s because the IngramSpark print facility is located in Melbourne. Delivery charges to other states will obviously be higher. Nonetheless, I doubt those charges would come close to the cost of shipping books in from overseas.

Secondly, IngramSpark printing costs are a bit higher than CreateSpace but lower than Lulu. They also have:

  • a full range of trim sizes
  • hardbacks if required
  • global distribution to countries not available through Amazon.

Amazon distribution has become a sore point with Australians as they cannot buy print books on Amazon Australia. In the past, they would have to order print books from Amazon US or UK and pay shipping costs that often doubled or tripled the cost of the book. Now that we’ve been geo-blocked from Amazon international, print books will no longer be available at all. Unless…

And this brings me to my conversation with IngramSpark today. I rang to clarify whether I could use IngramSpark to provide print books to Amazon Australia. The question was complicated by the fact that I wanted non-Australian Amazon markets to continue selling paperbacks printed via CreateSpace and KDP.

Aussie authors will be pleased to know that the answer from IngramSpark was ‘yes’. 🙂

Basically what happens is that my book[s] will be available for world wide distribution – to countries not covered by Amazon as well as markets already covered by Amazon. When someone buys one of my print books from Amazon US, UK or EU, Amazon will fulfil the order from their own ‘feed’. In other words, if they can supply from CreateSpace OR KDP they’ll do so.

But…for markets such as Australia, Amazon will source the print book from IngramSpark. That means my paperback will be available to Australian readers from Amazon.com.au, and it’ll cost readers a heck of a lot less in shipping.

Apart from availability and shipping, there is one more reason to print books with IngramSpark here in Australia, and that harks back to their distribution capabilities. If I can persuade a local bookshop to give my book[s] a try, the bookshop can order direct from IngramSpark at wholesale prices. Wholesale discounts range from 30% to 55%, which puts self-publishers/small publishers on a more even footing with large, traditional publishers.

-dance-

Okay, I’ll stop high-fiving myself now and get serious again because there are also disadvantages to printing with IngramSpark. The two biggest disincentives are:

  • the setup cost of $53 AUD per book, and
  • the need to have an ABN [Australian Business Number].

If you’ve never run a small business before – for example as a sole trader – the idea of getting an ABN can be daunting. The truth, however, is that it’s both free and relatively painfree to apply for one.

For detailed, step-by-step information about getting an ABN see this post. And see this one about why you should NOT pay for that ABN [because it’s free].

Now for a word about the cost. $53 AUD is a steep price to pay when you’ve got more than one book to setup. I have 7 to-date, so that would have been an upfront charge of $371 AUD. Luckily, I managed to setup all 7 books during a free promotion run by IngramSpark.

I’m not sure exactly when or why IngramSpark runs these promotions, but from what I can gather, they seem to happen once, or maybe twice a year. I have two more how-to books in the pipeline, so I’ll have to pay the full setup charge for those, but at least the cost will be staggered for them.

Oh, and one more disadvantage – once a book has been approved [by the author] and is available for sale, any changes will incur a $25 fee. So…be very sure your book is as ready as it’ll ever be before you approve it for publishing/sale.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll be ordering proof copies of all 7 books in the next day or three. Once they arrive I’ll take pics and write an update on the quality, timing etc.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


#KDP Cover Creator – in words and pictures

After reviewing the Amazon KDP print-on-demand process, and finding it wanting, I thought I’d better provide a guide to the Cover Creator do’s and don’ts.

To begin…

If you have already published an ebook with KDP:

  1. Log in to KDP
  2. Go to your Bookshelf
  3. Find the ebook for which you want to create a paperback version and click ‘+ Create Paperback’

If you have not published with KDP before but have an ordinary Amazon account, go to the website:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

And sign in with your Amazon ID and Password. If you don’t have an Amazon account, click the big, yellow ‘Sign Up’ button and follow the registration instructions.

Once you’ve logged in to KDP, click the ‘+ Paperback’ button as shown below:

To work…

You should now be looking at the first page of the paperback setup screen. New authors will need to fill in the required details before they click ‘Save and Continue’ at the bottom of the screen. Existing authors will find the details already filled in using the details from the ebook.

Page 2 of the setup contains more questions, and down near the bottom half of the page you’ll find the Cover Creator option:

Click the yellow, ‘Launch Cover Creator’ button if you want to use the app to create a cover for your book.

[Note: if you already have a cover, you can upload it by clicking the ‘Upload a cover you already have…’ radio button instead. Covers must be in PDF format and they must be the appropriate size for whichever trim size you have chosen – i.e. for the physical dimensions of your book, including the spine]

You should now be looking at the ‘How to Use Cover Creator’ window:

This is essentially just an overview of the process. Click the ‘Continue’ button.

Next, you will be asked to choose a background picture for your cover. You have three options – use a free, KDP image, use your own image or skip this step:

Point at the options to see a description of that option. If you want to use your own image, click ‘From My Computer’ and select the appropriate file to use in the templates. If you’re not ready to select an image yet, click ‘Skip This Step’. You will be prompted later to select an image for the cover. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be using the free images from the KDP gallery.

From Image Gallery…

The images in the KDP gallery are organised in categories. When you select one of the main categories listed on the left hand side of the window, the sub-categories will display on the right hand side. In the example shown below, the main category selected is ‘Backgrounds’:

Clicking one of the sub-categories will take you to the actual images. In the example shown below, I clicked on one of the images from the ‘Abstract’ sub-category:

Alternatively, I could have typed a keyword into the search box to narrow down my search.

Once you find the image you want, click the orange ‘Use this Image’ button.

Cover Creator inserts the chosen image into all of the available templates and displays them for you to choose the one you like the best:

Click the left and right direction arrows to see all the available templates [11]. When you find one you like, click it.

You should now be looking at the ‘Quick Tutorial’:

This is just a simple overlay that explains the purpose of the buttons, icons and guidelines. Click the ‘Dismiss’ button to get rid of the overlay.

While the overlay is helpful, it completely ignores the most basic elements of the screen – i.e. how to enter your own blurb on the back cover!

When you dismiss the tutorial overlay, this is what you will see:

The triangular orange alerts are there to tell you how to replace the nonsense text with real text. Point to an alert to see a description of what it’s about. Generally, to replace the nonsense text, simply click in the relevant paragraph. This will clear all text and allow you to type, or copy/paste, the correct text onto the cover.

Easy, right? Not quite. For reasons I can’t fathom, the default font size for the paragraphs is not the same as the text shown. For example, the font for the author bio is huge, so before you type in the blurb, you have to set the font style and size via the editing bar as shown below:

Click the small down arrow to display the list of available fonts. Click a font to select it.

Next, click the small down arrow next to ‘Auto Fit’ and select a font size because…auto fit doesn’t work and the font is still huge. As far as I could tell, selecting the size of the font is a case of trial and error. The alignment options seem to work, as do the font colour and drop shadow options, but no matter what I tried, the Bold and Italic options remained greyed out.

Once you have all the back cover text entered properly, click on the ‘Author Photo’ icon. You will see two options – ‘From My Computer’ and ‘Skip This Step’:

Down the very bottom, in tiny blue letters, you should also see a link to the ‘KDP image guidelines’. -grinds teeth- Clearly this screen has been re-used without adjusting for context. Clicking this link does provide some very important information about cover images – i.e. if you choose to use your own image – but it provides absolutely nothing about the Author Photo. Luckily, Cover Creator resizes the Author Photo to fit automatically.

But… All photos are not equal. First I tried a photo of 527 x 532 pixels, and it worked perfectly. Then I tried a much smaller one – 157 x 202 pixels. Cover Creator inserted it into the available space but came back with a problem. It thought the photo was less than 300 DPI. Actually, both photos were 300 DPI so the size had clearly triggered some glitch.

For your information, the following photo size seems to work well:

500 x 500 pixels or

1.667 x 1.667 inches or

42.33 x 42.33 millimeters

With the blurb and Author Photo taken care of, it’s time to edit the rest of the template. First up are the template colours. Click the paintbrush tab beneath your cover:

This will display an editing bar:

The options on the left allow you to select each colour individually from a pallet of colours. The options on the right are colour sets that work well together. If you are choosing your colours individually, be very careful that the background and font colour are a good contrast to each other. If they are too similar, the text will be very hard to read.

The next tab is the layout tab:

Clicking this tab displays a selection of preset layouts:

And finally, there’s the font tab:

This option is for Title, Sub-title [if you want one] and Author Name. It provides a series of font ‘sets’:

Click the left and right arrows to see all the sets, and try them out. Click one to select it.

[Note: I’m not sure if the fonts were all very similar or I’m just going blind, but they all looked the same the me. Of course, this might be a display glitch…]

If you want to insert a sub-title, you have to click around the cover until the sub-title text box suddenly appears. Kind of lame. Type in your sub-title.

Although finding the sub-title is not intuitive at all, one nice feature is that you can select any piece of text – e.g. Title, Sub-title, Blurb, Spine etc – and change its colour using the Text Colour option on the editing bar:

 

You can also change the font and font size, which makes me wonder why you’d bother with a Text tab in the first place. -shrug-

When you’ve finished tweaking the cover, click the ‘Preview’ button and sit back while the system puts the finished preview together. Depending on how big the cover files are, this can take a while.

If you’re satisfied with the appearance of the cover, click the ‘Save and Submit’ button at the bottom of the preview screen:

The cover file will be saved automatically, and you can continue with the rest of the setup for your print book.

I hope this helps,

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 


How to vector a bitmap with Corel Draw X8

I know there are easier ways to get rid of the background in a bitmap, but I’ve never been able to achieve the crisp results I wanted, so instead I apply nodes to the bitmap, effectively turning it into a vector of a bitmap.

What do I mean? I’ll explain with a real life example. This is the image I downloaded from freeimages.com:

The reason I downloaded it was because I wanted those two gears, and only those two gears. This is what I ended up with after 3 days of boring, painstaking work:

 

As you can see, the gears now appear in splendid isolation, crisp and clear, as if I’d photographed them against that dark charcoal background. This is how I did it.

Step 1 – Use the File/Import command [Ctrl I] to bring the bitmap file into Corel Draw X8.

Step 2 – Select the bitmap and click the Shape Tool as shown:

Step 3 – The bitmap should now have nodes displayed at each corner.

Right click anywhere on the ‘lines’ between the nodes to place a new node and open the right click menu:

 

Step 4 – From the right click menu select the ‘Add’ option. This will give you a new node to work with.

Step 5 – Use the Shape Tool to move the new node to the edge of the shape you want to bring out. At this point the lines between nodes will all be ‘straight’:

Step 6 – [optional] As this point I usually create a dark coloured, vector rectangle and place it behind the bitmap so I can see the shape, and its background, more easily. Use the Object/To Back of Page command to locate the rectangle behind the bitmap.

Step 7 – To mold the lines around the bitmap shape, you have to make them capable of bending into a curve. To do this, right click the node you want to change to a curve. The context sensitive menu is displayed again. This time, select the ‘To curve’ option.

Step 8 – The line between nodes should now display two directional arrows:

Click-hold-and-drag the directional arrows to create the required curve.

For the teeth of the gears, I had to use about 5 nodes for each tooth:

As you create the vector shape around the bitmap shape, the coloured background will be revealed, proving that the emerging shape no longer has a background. And of course that means you can place it on top of other images like so:

Ta dah! Not completely finished but it’ll do for now. Oh and I finally worked out how to stop the CMYK black from displaying as grey when converting to an RGB image. Soooo simple.

With the Corel Draw X8 screen displayed, select:

Tools/Color Management/Default Settings

This is will cause a popup window to be displayed. Find the Color Conversion Settings and change the Color Engine to ‘None’:

Now the blacks will stay black instead of displaying as a kacky grey. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Free ebook promotion on Amazon

How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace

A step-by-step guide for absolute beginners

 

“An absolute beginner is someone who has yet to learn all the little things everyone else takes for granted.”

Unfortunately, it’s always the little things that trip people up. That’s why ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ takes nothing for granted. Examples, screenshots and step-by-step instructions guide absolute beginners through the entire printing process, from start to finish.

The only pre-requisites are a basic knowledge of Microsoft Word, the ability to save and retrieve files, and an internet connection.

With patience, nothing is impossible.

‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ is available as a paperback or as an ebook. The ebook is available on the following devices and apps:

You can find ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ on:

Amazon

The ebook is free from May 1 to 5, 2018.

 


How to apply for an ABN – the basics

After the near disaster of my previous attempt to reactivate my ABN, I thought I’d better do a quick how-to for others.

FIRST!

The website you need to go to is:

https://abr.gov.au/

[Note: no www required]

That web address will take you to this screen:

Whether you’ve never had an ABN before, or want to reactivate an old one, this part of the process is the same: if you’re a sole trader, you have to click ‘For Business, Super funds & Charities’ [as shown above].

[Note: there are unscrupulous companies that hire people as employees but then force them to get ABNs in order to avoid having to pay entitlements such as holiday pay, sick leave etc. The government will NOT issue an ABN in these circumstances. In order to qualify as a sole trader, you must be carrying on some kind of business of your own. Being a self-published author qualifies me for an ABN].

Next, click ‘Applying for an ABN’

Then, scroll down the page until you reach this:

Click the bright yellow ‘Apply for an ABN’ button as shown above.

The next screen involves ticking checkboxes:

Click the screenshot to see a larger image.

For the second checkbox from the top, it says “I have the TFN, date of birth and name…” etc.

TFN stands for Tax File Number. If you are a sole trader, the only Tax File Number you will need is your own. Tick the checkboxes and then click ‘Next’.

The next screen is for your ABN entitlement. Click ‘Sole Trader’ and then click Next:

Remember, this is a government website so click the button for ‘Sole Trader’ again, then select the answers as shown below:

When you get to ‘What is the nature of your activity?’, click the small down arrow as shown and select ‘In the form of a business’. To be honest, none of the options seemed particularly relevant but this one worked for me so I guess it’s the general purpose one. Again, click Next to continue.

The next two sections – Application Detail and Business Information – are fairly self explanatory. The only tricky bit is if you’re seeking to reactivate an old ABN. If you don’t know what it is, you can check the ‘Look up’ table here:

http://www.abr.business.gov.au/Tools/AbnLookup

Or you can follow the ‘Look up’ link on the screen itself:

To find your old ABN, simply type the name associated with it into the search box and start the search.

If your ABN was cancelled through lack of interest, you won’t find it on the first page of results as they are for active ABNs only. Click the tab for ‘All ABNs’ :

So long as you typed the name correctly, the ‘All ABNs’ page should display your old business name at the very top of the list. Type, or copy/paste the ABN into the Application Detail form.

The second page of the Business Information section is where you type in your personal details, including your Tax File Number. Click Next.

If you are reactivating an ABN, the next page will have a big red error message saying that the system has detected that you already have an ABN…

-facepalm- “No? Really?”

Ignore this and click Next again. You won’t see the error message again, or at least not that one.

The next screen is a little odd:

There is a text box that allows you to type in your ‘…main business activity’. For mine, I mentioned needing an ABN to print my books via IngramSpark. I assume the word ‘print’ triggered something because when I opened the list of categories [see above], they ALL seemed to be related to printing. Anyway, click the category that most closely matches your business and then click Next to continue.

The next screen is also a little odd, or perhaps this is simply how the bureaucratic mind works. You will be asked to enter the business address details. One of those details is the email address, but instead of asking you to type the email address twice, one after the other [as most other websites do], the ABR site only asks for it once. You click next and it flags an error message. Essentially, you have to check that the email address you entered is correct. -more facepalm- That’s all it is. Click Next to continue.

This next one has to do with the business phone number, and it’s a fudge. I imagine the form was designed back when landlines were the no. 1 form of business communication, even for sole traders. Then, everyone started using mobile phones for their businesses. Recognizing this, the form was…changed, but not properly.

If your mobile phone is your only business number, do NOT type it into the box clearly labelled as ‘Mobile’. Type it into ‘Business’ as shown below:

Put the first 4 digits into the area code box and the last 6 digits into the number box…-sigh-

Almost done.

Under ‘Reason for application’, select the closest match from the drop down list.

For ‘Position held’ type ‘Sole Trader’.

Before you click Submit, try to print off the completed form. It didn’t work for me, which is one reason I took screenshots of everything, but it may work for you. When you’re done, click the Submit button.

The last screen is a confirmation screen. As I was simply reactivating an old ABN, I was told that it was active again. You may be told that it will take xx days.

Congratulations!

Meeks


Any Kindle Fire 7, 8 or 10 owners out there?

I would like to gift a copy of How to Print your Novel with CreateSpace [Kindle version] in exchange for a photo of :

a) What the Table of Contents looks like, and

b) What any page looks like on the larger Kindle screens.

One reason for this odd request is that I’ve tweaked the Table of Contents, but I can’t see if the indents worked because Amazon won’t let me buy another for myself [it knows I’ve already bought the pre-tweaked version]. I know it’s just being ‘helpful’ but….grrr.

The other reason is that I’ve only just realised that what looks perfect on the Fire 6 may look anything but perfect on different sized Kindle Fires.

So…would some kind soul with a Kindle Fire 7, 8, and/or 10 help me out?

Absolutely no obligation to read it. Just take a couple of photos….

 

cheers

Meeks


31 Self-publishing Tips 4 Absolute Beginners

  1. Print-On-Demand is new tech that allows books to be printed one at a time instead of in hundreds.
  2. Print-On-Demand means authors don’t have to buy 100’s of their own print books.
  3. 3 biggest Print-On-Demand printers are CreateSpace [Amazon], Lulu and IngramSpark. Amazon KDP is now offering print as well.
  4. Lulu & IngramSpark have print facilities in Australia. Both are more expensive than CreateSpace or KDP but you save a lot in postage [and time].
  5. Aussie authors wanting to print with IngramSpark must have an ABN and pay a $53 setup fee for each book.
  6. Aussie authors wanting to get an ABN should read this how to first: https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/04/22/how-to-apply-for-an-abn-the-basics/
  7. Print-On-Demand works with standard trim sizes only. For table of trim sizes see : https://www.createspace.com/Special/Pop/book_trimsizes-pagecount.html
  8. Trim size = physical size of book after pages glued inside cover & trimmed.
  9. Page size templates for all trim sizes can be found on CreateSpace forums: https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323
  10. Convert Word A4 pages to trim size pages via the Word Page Setup dialog box.
  11. ISBN = 13 digit no. that identifies your book worldwide.
  12. Buy your own ISBN or accept the free one offered by CreateSpace and KDP.
  13. Aussie authors can buy ISBNs from Thorpe-Bowker: https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/
  14. As a rule of thumb, print, ebook & audiobooks all need their own ISBN.
  15. Books printed via CreateSpace are listed on Amazon automatically.
  16. To publish Kindle ebooks go to: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/
  17. Amazon supplies ebooks with ASIN identifiers so ISBN not strictly necessary.
  18. If you want to ‘go wide’ & sell with other retailers as well as Amazon, your own ISBN is a must.
  19. Most POD printers prefer PDF files but will accept Word files.
  20. Before converting from Word to PDF, ensure all Word fonts are embedded in the document. See:  https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/how-to-make-word-16-embed-all-your-fonts/
  21. File/Export completed Word doc. to PDF. Then upload that PDF to the POD printer of your choice. 
  22. With CreateSpace, royalty = List Price – Print costs.
  23. With CreateSpace, Print costs= Sales Channel % + Fixed Charges + Per Page Charge.
  24. With CreateSpace, Standard sales channel % = 40% of List Price, Expanded sales channel % = 60%. 
  25. Spine of cover = trim size & no. of pages. See: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do 
  26. Total page no. of book = pages AFTER conversion to chosen trim size [not A4 Word pages].
  27. Amazon deducts 30% withholding tax from each sale. Aussies can claim exemption to reduce tax to 5%.
  28. Withholding tax exemption: US TIN = Australian Tax File No.
  29. Aussie authors must deposit 1 copy of each published book with the National Library of Australia: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit
  30. Aussie authors must also deposit 1 copy of each published book with their state library: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/australia-wide
  31. Aussie authors – for Legal Deposit FAQ see:https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit-faq

 

 

 


How to Modify Styles in Word 2016

The following excerpt is from my unpublished how-to called ‘How to print your book with Createspace, a step-by-step guide for Absolute Beginners’. The specific instructions are for the layout of a book, but you can change the settings to be appropriate for any document.

# # #

Word Styles

Styles contain pre-set groups of commands that determine how headings and paragraphs appear.

The most commonly used Word styles are found on the Home tab, in the Style gallery [as shown below]:

 

Even if you did not select any of the styles in the Style Gallery while writing your book, there is one style that you would have used without even being aware of it. That style is ‘Normal’.

Note: the only time the Normal Style is not used automatically in a Word document is when the document originated in another software program and was imported into Word. For example, the Windows program ‘Notepad’ creates documents in Rich Text Format. RTF documents can be opened in Word but the Normal style must be applied manually.

Every time you create a new document in Word, it automatically sets that document to the ‘Normal’ style settings. These include:

  • the default font [Calibri],
  • the font size [11],
  • the font colour [automatic – i.e. black],
  • the text alignment [left]
  • and a host of other less immediately visible options.

As part of the design process, you can modify some of these options for your book.

Modifying the ‘Normal’ style

In Word, the easiest way to modify an existing style is to right click on its name in the style gallery. This will cause a small menu to be displayed. On that menu is an option called ‘Modify’:

To change elements of the ‘Normal’ style in your document, right click ‘Normal’ in the Style gallery and select the ‘Modify’ option from the drop down list [as shown above].

You should now see the ‘Modify Style’ dialog box:

The first thing to note is the radio button down near the bottom left corner of the dialog box. The option ‘Only in this document’ is pre-selected to ensure that any changes made to the ‘Normal’ style of this document do not become standard for all  Word documents.

Editing the style name

Up near the top of the dialog box you will see the style name. Editing the name is not necessary, but it can be useful as a reminder that the style was changed.

To change the name of the style, simply click inside the Name text box and type in a new one.

Editing the font, size, colour and alignment

You can change the font and font size just as you would on the Home tab. Remember to also select the ‘Justify’ alignment option.

To change the colour of the font, click the small arrow next to the box that says ‘Automatic’ [as shown below]:

Click the colour of your choice or leave it as Automatic, i.e. black.

Editing the paragraph options

All of the less common stylistic functions are hidden behind the ‘Format’ button which is located on the bottom left hand side of the Modify Style window.

Click ‘Format’ and select the ‘Paragraph’ option from the menu:

The paragraph dialog box is now displayed:

As you can see from the screenshot, the alignment is already shown as ‘Justified’ because we set it in the first dialog box along with the font and font size.

Indentation – leave the Left and Right settings at zero, but under ‘Special’, click the small blue arrow [as shown above]. Now select the ‘First line’ option from the drop-down menu. For By: type or select an indent width for the first line of the paragraph.

Check the preview pane to see how the first line indent appears.

Spacing – ensure that ‘Before’ and ‘After’ are both set to zero. These numbers control the blank spaces inserted before and after each paragraph.

Finally, make sure that the ‘Line spacing’ is set to ‘Single’. When you are satisfied, click the ‘OK’ button.

If you are using Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016, any text already using the ‘Normal’ style will be automatically updated to the new settings..

In earlier versions of Word you may have to manually update the text using the modified style.

# # #

These same techniques can be used to edit any of the Word Styles, not just ‘Normal’.

cheers

Meeks


How to fix an error setting the bottom margin in Word 16

It’s always the little things…

If you keep getting an error message when you try to set the bottom margin of your Word document below a certain measurement… disconnect your printer.

Yes, that’s right, disconnect the printer, and not just via the cable but from Windows as well.

 

For those using Windows 7:

  1. Click the Start button,
  2. Select ‘Devices and Printers’

This will display the ‘Devices and Printers’ window. Under ‘Printers and Faxes’, you will see your printer. It will have a bright green tick next to it to show it’s the default device.

  1. Click your printer
  2. Select ‘Remove this Device’

Now when you open Word and set the margins to the lowest pre-set measurement [1.27 cm or 0.5 inches], Word will do your bidding without bitching and going “Nah ah, not gonna happen.”

This may seem like a drastic ‘fix’, but printers are ‘plug and play’ so Windows will re-install them again without issue.

Now, why on earth would you need to completely disconnect the printer in the first place?

The reason is that Word takes the dimensions for the ‘printable’ area of a page from the printer.

This is not a problem for most Word documents, but it can be a huge problem if the printer you want to use is CreateSpace. Or, to be more exact, if you want to set non-standard margins for the book you want CreateSpace to print for you.

This is exactly the problem that’s been vexing me for days. Printing in colour is expensive so I didn’t want to waste precious page space on unnecessarily wide margins. But do you think Word would co-operate? It allowed me to set all the margins to 1.27 cm, except for one. For some reason I could not fathom, Word kept telling me that the bottom margin had to be a minimum of 1.68 cm. For my US friends, that’s 0.66 inches.

I have wasted hours of my life searching Google for an answer, and it was not until I remembered a problem we had with Word at DVLC [the community centre where I help teach computer literacy to adults] that I began to wonder if I was experiencing something similar. At DVLC, there are multiple printers, but the student workstations are not allowed to access all of them. If the wrong printer is specified for a given workstation, Word chucks a wobbly and won’t even show a print preview.

So, could the printer be the problem?

Step 1 was to disconnect the printer cable from the pc.

Success? No.

Step 2 was to get stubborn and uninstall the printer from the pc.

Success? YES!

So there you have it, a simple solution for a rare problem. You’re welcome.

cheers

Meeks


How to vacuum your desktop…safely!

I wish you could have heard my desktop computer an hour ago. It was making a nasty wheezing noise that did not bode well at all. Now, it’s humming with the soft, barely-there sound you’d expect from a brand new pc! And yes, I did vacuum it. Read on to find out if I’m crazy or not. 😀

But first, a warning: do not think you can take shortcuts. You have to follow these instructions to the letter or face the consequences. The first time I tried this, I was a tad over-confident and ended up frying my motherboard. If you don’t know what a motherboard is, stop reading right now.

Okay, now that we’ve got that warning out of the way, let’s start with why any sane person would want to vacuum the inside of their computer in the first place. The answer is simple: money.

Unless you live in a sealed bubble, your desktop pc will accumulate dust, on the inside as well as the outside. That dust will gather on all the internal surfaces, especially on the blades of the fans and on the grills beneath the fans. Those fans and grills are the ‘lungs’ of your computer. When they become clogged, your computer will struggle to keep all the vital bits cool. If your computer overheats, seriously, it will eventually just stop until it can cool down.

But you won’t know that your computer is only cooling down. You will think that it has died. In a panic, you will gather it tenderly in your arms and take it to the nearest computer repair shop where:

  • you will be charged for a tech to clean out all the dust [best case scenario and only if the tech is honest] or…
  • you will be told that you need a brand new motherboard, or power supply, or harddrive or…oh my god, your pc’s totally stuffed, mate, but I happen to have this nice one over here on special….

Either way, that dust is going to cost you money, and if money is tight, that could be a real problem. So instead of paying someone else to do your cleaning for you, why not learn to do it yourself?

And it is at this point of my post that I have to send a huge thank you to my very honest computer tech Abraham Liu! Abraham has built and repaired my computers for years, and he is also the one who taught me how to dust the inside of my computer safely.

If you live in the Eltham area, Abraham has a tech shop in Bridge Street called One Touch. It’s almost on the roundabout near Bunnings. Or look him up:

https://www.onetouchcomputers.com.au/

Right, now to the nitty gritty, excuse the pun.

  1. FIRST! Buy yourself a smallish, bristle paintbrush and some bamboo skewers. This is vital as natural materials don’t build static and static can kill your computer.
  2. Then…turn your pc off [yeah, I know, obvious but…]
  3. Unplug all the connections to your  pc [taking note of what goes where – a pic is helpful]
  4. Take the side cover off your pc [and don’t lose the 2 screws that hold it in place!]
  5. Take the head off your barrel type vacuum cleaner so that only the tube is connected to the hose
  6. Turn the vacuum on and hold the hose over but not in the pc while you use the paintbrush to sweep the dust into the SUCTION. Do not try to vacuum the dust directly with the end of the vacuum. The end of the vacuum hose should never touch anything inside the pc. Only the bristles of the paintbrush should connect with all those delicate surfaces.

Pay particular attention to all the fans inside your pc, this includes the fan on top of the cpu and any fans you may have on the video card. Getting the dust off the blades is fairly easy, but getting the dust balls off the grill behind the fans is not. Unfortunately, clogged grills are precisely the problem, so this is where the bamboo skewers come in very handy.

Put the vacuum hose down and tap your fingers against the frame of the pc. This is to ground any static that may have built up. Synthetic fibres in carpet and clothing can very quickly build static that you only notice when it discharges. When I wear a particular fleecy jacket, Buffa’s ears get little zaps that we can both feel when I pat him.

  • So discharge that static before you put your hand inside the pc.
  • Hold the fan still with one hand while you poke the bamboo skewer between the blades to reach the dust collected on the grill at the back. Pull the dust balls out [and wipe them on a non-synthetic cloth] until the grill is clean. [Do not poke the skewer all the way through..duh]
  • When all the fans are as clean as you can get them, brush the dust off all the other surfaces and catch it with the vacuum hose. Remember! Vacuum the air, not the pc.

Tip: if you have a hair-dryer, you can blow the dust from the pc into the air so the vacuum can suck it up. If not, just keep brushing [again, commonsense dictates that your don’t cook the components by overheating them with your hairdryer -rolls eyes-].

You’ll never get the pc absolutely dust free, but a little loose dust won’t do it any harm. It’s the dust balls over the grills of the fan [in particular, over the cpu] that do the damage. Once the inside is as clean as you can make it, replace the cover, re-connect all the fittings [power last!] and turn your pc on. It should run so softly that you can barely hear it.

You’re welcome. 😀

Meeks


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