30 July 2011

What does proof reading prove?

The second annual review from the UK’s Government Office for Science lets itself down with sloppy proofreading. 
What do we make of a document that tells us that “the GCSA met with senior officials from organsiations such as the World Bank, USAID and the National Academy of Sciences to disucss opportunities for UK-US collaboration and cooperation”? Yes. Those spelling mistakes really are in there, buried towards the end of The Government Office for Science Annual Review 2010-11.

At one time, the UK’s Office for Science and Technology, as it was before someone thought it trendy to turn it into the Government Office for Science – GO-Science, get it? – hired people to weed out  such sloppiness. Sometimes, there were capable writers and editors in house who cared about these things.

A disclaimer here, I was one of several people who earned a bob or two working on documents for the OST and other departments, before the coalition government decided that all consultants were evil and expensive and should never darken its doors. But this isn’t just a whinge about lost opportunities to bid for work. It is about the message that an organisation sends out by releasing poorly edited material like this.

No one expects literary masterpieces from a chief scientist or anyone else in government but you do expect some attention to detail. Isn’t that what science is about?

Mistakes like these are an invitation to look more closely at the document itself. Sadly, it begins to fail as soon as you do so. What, for example, do we make of the notion that GO-Science is there to “strengthen confidence in climate science”?

What on earth is confidence in climate change? Do they mean confidence that it is happening? Confidence that the government knows what to do about it?
Scope for improvement
Then there is the inevitable lapse into policy speak. What does they do when they “scope potential future developments in technology”?

That  one can take some unravelling. First there is the “scope” bit. My now slightly aged copy of Collins English Dictionary doesn’t like the idea that scope is a verb. Even the current on-line version agrees and has the fuddy duddy notion that scope is a noun.

Perhaps GO-Science means anticipate maybe even investigate. It could even be “think about”, or is that too colloquial for such a high minded bit of the government?

How about the next bit, “potential future developments”? What is the “future” doing in there? I can’t think of any way in which someone could study, let alone scope, potential past developments: potential developments in technology says it all.

Here’s a few more: “GO-Science participated in Exercise Watermark, a national exercise to asses the UK response to flooding.” Please, no jokes about beasts of burden please or rear ends of North Americans. Funnily enough, they get it right several times, so someone must know how to spell assess.

You can’t say that about “phenomonon” which appears just once. They shouldn’t have used the word anyway. At least, not in the sentence “Scientists, planners and emergency managers from around the globe discussed their concerns and the risks this phenomonon poses to societal and economic well-being and national security.” It would have been better to have said  “space weather”, which is what that paragraph is about. And what is “societal and economic well-being”?

We could go on about other spelling gaffes and the inconsistent use of capitals – as in government and Government – not to mention a layout that manages to separate headings from the associated text, but what the heck? They have never been good at that sort of think in any government department.
GO-Science also worries about Influenza and influenza. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser “has continued to engage with UK pandemic influenza preparedness”.  How do you engage with preparedness?

We also read that “December 2010 was the coldest recorded for some years”. Coldest what? December? Month? Temperature?

The sad bit is that one of the better, and mostly widely read, guides to clear writing started life as a government document. The Complete Plain Words, by Sir Ernest Gowers and Revised by Sir Bruce Fraser, showed that even knights of the realm could string a few words together. At one time, HSMO published this book. But that venerable institution, which also used to help the government to make sense, joined many other fine agencies on the bonfire in the slash and burn of privatisation and “outsourcing”.

One final nit to pick, whoever turned the document into a PDF file pressed the wrong buttons and managed to use a font, Velvenda Cooler, that chucks up an error when you open the file.
Questions of meaning
A decent editor doesn’t just pick up typographical errors. They also question the meaning where it is unclear, trying to decipher the use of phrases like “engage with preparedness”, for example.
A good editor also picks up howlers of the “security needs of the 2010 Olympic Games” variety. Did I miss something? I hope so.

It may be that in the days of text messages and Twitter, the English language has become a joke. There are some of us, though, who still think that it is important to have white papers, reports and other documents that make sense to the largest number of people. You don’t achieve that with poor editing.
Sloppy presentation of the type that pervades this document, which should be the highlight of the year for GO-Science, really isn’t much help. If nothing else, it could provoke readers with grammatical sensitivities to throw the document across the room. That would be a pity. It does have one or two interesting leads. I was particularly taken by the short bit on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s plans to get at people in the civil service with a background in engineering. But that will have to wait for another day.

PS This rant has a major shortcoming. Like most blogs, it has not come under the eye of a subeditor. So there is no guarantee that it is error free. But at least it has had the benefit of being written with software that has a spell checker. I even had to tell it to ignore the "deliberate" errors lifted from the report. The ubiquity of that technology makes it all the more puzzling that documents can escape from the government with so many errors.

07 July 2011

Back into Pipex hell – and ‘support’ that doesn’t know how its system works

Over the past couple of days I have been struggling with a broadband service that has suddenly decided to deliver an internet connection that is pegged at 2Mb/s. Before this episode, it delivered speeds up to 6Mb/s, albeit varying throughout the day as the number of punters on line changes.

My experience shows just why internet companies have such a poor reputation. In my case, the service comes from one of the oldest companies around, Pipex.

I have a pretty good idea of what the problems is, of which more later. Sadly, the “support” people do not even understand the technical terms that I throw at them, even though they come straight from the website where I check the speed of my connection and are more than familiar to technical people working in other parts of the same company.

Pipex has been bought and sold even more often The Independent has changed hands. I never did sign up for its services, but ended up there when the BBC decided that it wasn’t going to run an internet service and passed all the members of the BBC Network Club over to Unipalm. That became a part of Pipex which, at the last move,  ended up in the jaws of Talk Talk, the company famous for being near the bottom of any survey of customer satisfaction.

When Pipex’s system works, it is fine. Over the years the technical quality, and speed of the service, has risen steadily. Sadly, you couldn’t accuse their support – technical and customer accounts – of improving.

It took me near on a year to get them to acknowledge that there was a problem on my telephone line. They kept on talking about modems, phones and other things on the line that they include in the scripts for trouble shooting. At one time they muttered about charging me a large fee if they got BT involved – it is a BT line in an exchange that contains no other internet company’s kit. This gives the impression that they really don’t like calling on BT even though there is a high probability that problems are on its lines.

When Pipex eventually realised that maybe there was a line issue – they sent their own engineer who found no problems but still didn’t call in BT until I shouted at them again –  it took BT’s technician about 10 minutes to detect a resistance defect on the line, 50 metres from the socket. A cover had come off of a junction box up a pole and the rain was getting in.

Did Pipex apologise? Of course not.

The latest problem is down to the “IP Profile”, also known as know as the BRAS Profile, is BT’s way of setting the speed of the connection to handle things like the noise on the line and the speed at which a modem can synchronise with the exchange.

Google is positively chatty on the issue of IP Profile. There are some good definitions out there, along with many messages from people who have encountered the same problem that has clobbered my connection.

Such is the central role of the IP Profile that it has become a standard technique in diagnosing connection issues for any line that runs over BT’s equipment. (It seems that only BT subscribes to this approach to setting connection speeds, so anyone on an exchange that is LLU, local loop unbundled, doesn’t have to worry about this factor.) For example, if I run line tests on BT’s speedtest site, it tells me that my broadband modem is connecting to the exchange at a respectable 7680 kbps.

Unfortunately, the download speed I achieve even with this high connection speed is just 1829 kbps.
Running tests on various other sites shows that over the past couple of days my connection has achieved an average speed of 1849 kbps. Earlier tests showed that during June the average speed was 4229 kbps.

IP Profile
The big difference between June and July was that IP Profile. In June it stuck at 6000 whereas it now sits at 2000.

OK, so we know what the problem is, what do we do about it? Contact Pipex support of course.

Rather than being the end of the issue – tell them about it and they can pass on the complaint – contacting Pipex support turns out to be where the problem begins. Fill in an on-line form and you get a response that first of all does not understand the issue.

This is the message that I sent them:

"The IP Profile on my line has suddenly dropped from 6000 to 2000. But the DSL connection rate has gone up to 8032 from a previous maximum of 7616."

The response was:

“I understand from your email that your broadband sped [sic] has dropped from 6000 Kbps to 2000 Kbps.”

Well, up to a point. Yes, it has, but that is only because the IP Profile has changed.

One more message determined that, as I thought, the support person did not understand the concept of IP Profile. They also washed their hands of the issue and told me to phone a support line, at my cost of course, because “they are fully trained and equipped to deal with your queries quickly and efficiently and help you to bring your query to a satisfactory conclusion because nothing would please us more than satisfying our esteemed and valuable customer”.

So, I called the number. This time I got verbal confirmation that far from being “fully trained” the support people do not understand  the term IP Profile. It wasn’t that easy to make out what the person, calling himself Amon, was saying, but he seemed to admit that no, he hadn’t come across the term before.

Amon muttered about reports of known problems at the exchange, although my tiny village exchange is too small to have appeared on their radar. He then suggested that it would get back to normal in 24 to 48 hours.

By coincidence, this is the time that a line usually takes to renegotiate a connection speed, and an IP Profile, so he may prove to be correct. But it really shouldn’t be down to time to solve Pipex’s problems.

Pipex should be able to get in there with its rubber hammer and hit the relevant bits in the exchange. The least it could do would be to pass on a request to BT make a remote connection to the exchange and reset the IP Profile.

Before Pipex could do that, though, it has to understand what the technology does and what the terms mean. It should be at least as knowledgeable as its customers and should not be ignorant of an important factor that determines the quality of the service that it provides to customers.

Now that Talk Talk owns the Pipex brand it has been talking about moving all customers over to the Talk Talk system. There might be one good outcome of such a move, although as much as anything it is more likely to prompt me to switch suppliers.

The good thing about Talk Talk is that it maintains a user forum where customers with problems talk to support people who do know what they are doing. Unfortunately, the service is not available to Talk Talk customers who subscribe through other subsidiaries, even though they now connect through the same network.

The TalkTalk staff even understand what the term IP Profile means. They discuss it openly among themselves and with customers, which makes it all the more puzzling that the people on the end of the phones have no idea what you are talking about when you raise the subject.

13 June 2011

Will higher education buy this snake oil?

It may be a tired old cliché to describe consultancies as organisations that charge outrageous fee to borrow your watch to tell you the time. But there are times when the sideswipe seems aposite.

One recent piece of self puffery hints at why the Conservative government, stuffed as it is with people who have consulted in their previous lives, wasn’t completely bonkers when it told civil servants to stop hiring these purveyors of snake oil. Deloitte Development LLC is touting its services to higher education. In just 117 words, the business manages to cram in more gibberish than seems possible.

There is the usual gobbledygook about “ongoing challenges”. What does the ongoing bring to the party? If universities face challenges, they face challenges – ongoing, a word that should instantly arouse suspicion, is irrelevant, put in there to make it seem more important.

Maybe the consultants charge for their advice by the word. Perhaps that is why they always use three words where one will do.

How does “drawing upon a pool of multidisciplinary resources” differ from “drawing upon multidisciplinary resources”? What are these “resources”? Perhaps they mean, "We have lots of experts."

And what in heck does it mean by “Reengineered business processes that align personnel activities with institutional goals and strategies”?

It would be nice to think that the UK’s persistently contrary universities can see through this gibberish. With luck they too will ask themselves what consultants mean when they trot out twaddle like retaining “quality students, faculty and staff”. High quality? Low quality? Indifferent quality? Or do they just mean “good students, faculty and staff”?

It may seem picky to dismember an organisation’s language, but it is as good a way as any of sorting out the consultants who will bring clear thinking to the problems they tackle. If they can’t even make sense in their own sales pitch, what will their advice look like?

The sign-off sentence says: “The Deloitte difference is recognized in the higher education marketplace locally, nationally and globally.” With luck, globally excludes the UK from the clutches of this semi-literature North American operation.

23 May 2011

Germany says ‘yes’ to nuclear power in its backyard

An interesting item over on World Nuclear News reports that a Germany power utility, RWE Group, has acquired a chunk of a nuclear power station in the Netherlands. The story, Dutch nuclear plant to be 30% German-owned, describes “legal wranglings” that have been going on for a couple of years.

So, as Germany, ever hostile to anything nuclear, ponders unplugging its own reactors, can it, like the UK, where EDF Energy owns a large chunk of the electricity industry, look to a future when it imports nuclear electricity from foreign power stations?

Then again, if German consumers really do turn the idea of radioactive electricity, perhaps RWE’s customers in the UK will benefit from the company’s share in the Borssele nuclear power station.

The internationalisation of energy seems to pass over the heads of many. For example, someone asked to comment on something I had written on technology and climate change recently dismissed the idea that one day the UK might import electricity from solar power stations in the Sahara desert. I suggested that this could happen over the existing links to France, and through the planned European Electricity Grid Initiative, not to mention the recently opened BritNed cable.

I have no idea why the reviewer, probably an academic, dismissed the idea that the UK could receive renewable energy from Europe over a grid that is designed to carry renewable energy between countries in Europe. Then again, the same critic did not seem to realise that China is by far and away the world’s biggest supplier of rare earth metals.

27 April 2011

Microsoft rips off students in the UK

The pricing regime of the (mostly American) software industry has always shown contempt for “foreign” customers. For buyers in the UK that usually shows itself in the £1=$1 exchange rate in prices. So something that you pay $99 for in the USA costs £99 in the UK.

Some companies, and here Adobe comes to mind, don’t even apply common prices for internet sales. So while I can buy a product on line from Nuance, say, at the same price as anyone anywhere in the world, Adobe insists on higher prices.

The latest sign of discrimination comes from Microsoft. It has just sent out a newsletter inviting students to “Upgrade to Windows 7”. Hit the link in the message and you land on a page where the price on offer is $29.99, tell them that you are in the UK and you arrive on a page where the price has magically risen to £70.99. Australian students are invited to pay $119.

It seems that there is one place outside North America – Canadians also get a good deal – where Microsoft does not have a funny notion of exchange rates. That is France where the asking prices is just €35.

Perhaps the reputation of French students has reached Microsoft. wouldn’t want them taking to the streets to protest would we?


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26 April 2011

Nuclear fission’s unsafe circular arguments

It is hardly surprising that the usual suspects have come out bashing nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima. The Worldwatch Institute is no exception, dragging in Amory Lovins and Walt Patterson to endorse its latest report The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011: Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World. Of course they endorse it, they have been banging on about the death of nuclear power for your decades, although they no longer go under the Friends of the Earth banner that sheltered them in the 1970s, preferring more prestigious and seemingly non-partisan .

Without paying to read the report, it is impossible to see if objectivity gets a look in. But the press release isn’t promising. It tells us:

“Annual renewable capacity additions have been outpacing nuclear start-ups for 15 years. In the United States, the share of renewables in new capacity additions skyrocketed from 2 per cent in 2004 to 55 per cent in 2009, with no new nuclear capacity added.”

The release implies that this is a black mark against nuclear power. It is, of course, no such thing, merely a reflection of the fact that Lovins, Patterson and the Worldwatch Institute have been very successful in stirring up trouble for half a century. These are, after all, bright people who know how to sell a line, not to mention themselves. we even have the report’s author, Mycle Schneider, billed as someone who has received an award that Worldwatch bills as “Alternative Nobel Prize”, thereby adding fake gravitas to something that will be unfamiliar to most readers.

Had the opponents of nuclear power not been able to run rings around a pathetic nuclear industry for all that time, who knows how many reactors might be out there, reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

The same argument applies to the other statistics that Worldwatch seems to think are a telling case against nuclear power, rather than an indictment of their own role in creating an environment that is conducive to the Japanese nuclear industry’s incompetent management of events like Fukushima.

Fukushima may have killed off nuclear power, but its death will have nothing to do with the fact that “In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulative installed capacity from wind turbines, biomass, waste-to-energy, and solar power surpassed installed nuclear capacity.”

20 March 2011

Who calls the shots at the Research Councils?

The UK’s Research Councils regularly have to fight off accusations, especially from academics, that they hand out money to satisfy the whims of their political paymasters. “Never,” say the councils, “we decide where to invest on the basis of requests from the research community and peer review.” in this way, the RCs argue that they don’t decide where to spend the money, they leave it to the country’s academics to tell them where it should go.

Somehow, this reasoning falls apart when politicians leap at every opportunity to claim credit for any spending.

Take last week’s announcements about money for research into manufacturing.

It seems reasonable enough for the government, in the shape of Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and the Deputy Prime Minister, probably Nick Clegg, although the press release that went with the announcement forgets to give him a name check, to take the credit for “the country’s first Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC)”, the High Value Manufacturing TIC. The TICs and the body that is set to run these operations, the Technology Strategy Board, are undeniably children of BIS. But claims of independence in research funding begin to evaporate when another member of the government, David Willetts, boasts of putting money into manufacturing via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The suspicions begins when the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the playground of Cable and Willetts, puts out a press release proclaiming “A £51 million investment to ensure the UK stays at the leading edge of manufacturing research was unveiled today by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts”. The release compounds the suspicions of government influence when it goes on to say “The announcement forms part of the Advanced Manufacturing strand of the Government’s Growth Review and will help stimulate growth through research in the most promising areas of manufacturing including pharmaceuticals, aerospace and the automotive industry.”

It may well be that EPSRC came up with this plan all on its own. But, unlike the announcement about the TICs, there is no mention of an EPSRC press contact in the release. The EPSRC doesn’t seem to have anything to say about the announcement. Its own website merely regurgitates the piece from BIS. There isn’t even a quote from anyone at EPSRC that lazy “churnalists” can recycle.

Perhaps EPSRC’s silence is another symptom of the government’s current embargo on spending on publicity and other extraneous “fluff”, which prevents Research Councils from putting money into promotional activities. If so, this throws an interesting light on that embargo: maybe it has nothing to do with saving money after all, but is a way in which the government can hog the limelight.

25 February 2011

Researchers to be assessed on engagement

Starting a new project – for a university with the sense to realise that some editorial input would beef up some case studies – I had to check out on the plans for the Research Excellence Framework. (REF has taken over from the Research Assessment Exercise as a way of judging academic researchers before handing out money.) The next exercise continues the pursuit of evidence of ‘impact’, the idea that research doesn’t just sit on a shelf but has some tangible effect, economic or otherwise, on society.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the people behind REF, conducted a pilot run of impact case studies last year. It recently put on its website Research Excellence Framework impact pilot exercise: Findings of the expert panels a “report to the UK higher education funding bodies by the chairs of the impact pilot panels”.

While much of the report is about the usual things you would think of as impact, it also mentions “public engagement”. It says that in the prototype case studies that universities put forward “Panels received a number of case studies of benefits arising from engaging the public with research and we consider that this should be included as an appropriate kind of ‘impact’ in the REF.”

This prompted the report’s authors to recommend that the REF exercise “should include benefits arising from engaging the public with research.” It then went on to flesh this out with the observation that the case studies should:

“Show a distinctive contribution of the department’s research to that public engagement activity.”


“Make a case for the benefits arising from the public engagement activity. This must go beyond showing how the research was disseminated.”

Explicit statements like this are important. Researchers may pay lip service to the idea that they communicate their work to the public, the source of their research funds after all, but they will quickly forget about this in their pursuit of the next paper. But academics are also good at playing the game. Tell them that the minister for science is interested in spin-out companies – that really happened a few years ago – and they will suddenly list all of the businesses that they started, regardless of how successful they were. adding public engagement to the mix may be yet another box to tick, but at least it draws the academics’ attention to something that it is all too easy to overlook.

24 February 2011

No, Nuance, I am not a software pirate

Software companies have every right to protect their wares. It costs millions to develop a new program and to keep it at the ‘bleeding edge’. But I don't see why unsuspecting users should have to put up with their incompetent attempts to stop piracy.

One company in particular seems to be so sloppy in its defence mechanism that you have to wonder about its software writing skills. That company is Nuance, the crew behind some reasonably heavyweight software tools.

Over the years Nuance has brought together: OmniPage, which does optical character recognition; PaperPort, which does file management and document scanning; PDF Converter Professional, which some might describe as a budget conscious alternative to Adobe’s Acrobat; and Dragon Naturally Speaking, probably the most widely used speech recognition package you will find.

I have the misfortune to own all of these, a bundle that costs more than $600 at Amazon prices, more if bought direct from Nuance, or in other countries, where the usual software trend prevails with predatory pricing of the $1 = £1 variety. Each software package fulfils its intended task pretty well. What they don't do is to work together harmoniously when it comes to piracy control.

Activation aggravation
Nuance uses a familiar approach to software protection, something called activation: its software “phones home” when you install the software, checks your serial number against its database and then, it if it is satisfied that you are a legitimate customer, does something magical with your computer to tell it that you are not a criminal.

Microsoft and Adobe both use a similar strategy. They do, though, implement it in a way that is usually unobtrusive and that does not throw a hissy fit whenever you do something to your computer.
Microsoft, for example, uses activation for its Windows operating system and for its Office suite. After the initial installation, most people will see the process again only if they rebuild a computer and want to reuse the same serial number.
Soft on hardware
Microsoft’s official line on hardware changes is “When you make a significant hardware change to your computer, such as upgrading the hard disk and memory at the same time, you might be required to activate Windows again.”

Do anything less drastic and you won’t be bothered. Add a new hard drive? No problem. Plug in an external drive? Fine by us. Upgrade the ‘BIOS’, the core code that tells it what it can do, on your motherboard? We don't need to know about it.

Nuance, on the other hand, throws a wobbly if you try any of these things. Like Microsoft, Nuance takes a ‘fingerprint’ of your computer’s hardware. As the support person put it “The BIOS update changes the machine fingerprint and our Nuance application activation is based on the machine fingerprint.” Other small changes will also alter your machine’s fingerprint to such an extent that Nuance treats these modifications as suspicious. So the software scurries off to check out its database.

Why Nuance needs to take a more complete and sensitive fingerprint of your hardwarethan Microsoft or Adobe is anybody’s guess. But that is only the half of it. If you have a mixture of the packages listed above, adding them in the wrong order can lead you into a perpetual cycle of activation.

You are running PaperPort? Fine, now add PDF Converter Professional and PaperPort thinks you have rebuilt your computer. Now add OmniPage and the whole pack of cards comes tumbling down around your head. Do just about anything and PDF 7 Pro will protest.

The workaround advice that you will receive from support is “Please uninstall the application in the following sequence: 1.Paperport; 2.Pdf Pro; 3.Omnipage; 4.Reinstall Omnipage first then PDF 7 Pro and Paperport”? Isn't it an admission of failure to have to offer such nonsense?
Support collapses
The problem with this is that, after a while, the computer back at base decides that you are a criminal and locks you out. You can no longer use the software that you have paid good money to install on your computer.

Yes, there is an on-line support system, but activation issues aren’t a part of it: in any case you get only 90 days of “free” support. Even if you do manage to get support to take pity on you and answer, they don't seem to see the point. The response is along the lines of “that’s how it works, get used to it”.

Something similar happened a few years ago when Adobe unleashed Acrobat 7 on the world. It too got locked into an endless loop of activation. Raising this with their support team evoked a very different response. They saw the point, understood the issue and put in train a repair mechanism. Adobe event sent a new CD that was supposed to deal with the issue, which turned out to have something to do with motherboards that included RAID, a fancy feature for people who want to do clever security things with several hard disks. The disk didn't work, but by the time it arrived Adobe had tracked down the source of the problem and put out an update the squelched the activation messages.

By contrast, even though Nuance received reports about the problem near on a year ago, during the beta tests of the latest version of PDF Converter Professional, the company remains in denial.

What can a customer do about this? Nagging them obviously doesn't work. So I have reviewed the product on places like Amazon, praising the software but warning potential customers of these activation concerns. The responses suggest that the review has hit a nerve. It has also smoked out others hit by this diseased software.
Not just me
Just in case anyone thinks that this is a one off, brought about by my own constant tinkering with a computer that I built myself, look no further than the places where people, some of them fans of Nuance’s software, get together to compare notes. Activation and the problems it provokes come up regularly. Other users have also copied me in on email exchanges with Nuance’s support team showing that they have also tried to get to the bottom of this insane behaviour, with little luck.

Nuance’s response in these cases is dismal. Unlike Adobe, its first reaction is to say there’s nothing wrong, that’s how it is supposed to work. You get the same denial if you point out that these four software packages don't all behave in the same way, and did Nuance really set out to be inconsistent?

Nuance needs to address this issue properly, and not to fob off users with complicated and time consuming workarounds. My first question on this through the official support channels dates from 21st June last year, but as I said this issue also came up during beta testing of PDF Converter Professional. Does it really take that long to chase up whoever wrote that particular feature and to get them to do something about it?