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Mysteriously Moving Margins in Word

In Microsoft Word 2008 (and older versions), if you put your cursor in a paragraph and then move a tab or indent marker in the ruler, the change applies to just that paragraph. If your markers are closely spaced, you may have trouble grabbing the right one, and inadvertently work with tabs when you want to work with indents, or vice-versa. The solution is to hover your mouse over the marker until a yellow tooltip confirms which element you're about to drag.

I recently came to appreciate the importance of waiting for those tooltips: a document mysteriously reset its margins several times while I was under deadline pressure, causing a variety of problems. After several hours of puzzlement, I had my "doh!" moment: I had been dragging a margin marker when I thought I was dragging an indent marker.

When it comes to moving markers in the Word ruler, the moral of the story is always to hover, read, and only then drag.



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Firefox Flash Blocker

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I accept fully that many sites, including some I run, need advertising to operate. My Wi-Fi Networking News site has Flash ads on it right now, for instance. But I am, unfortunately, finding that Flash ads are now often highly intrusive even on sites I trust. They cycle endlessly. They use visual effects to knock my eyeballs on the floor. They play audio without my permission (even more annoying when I'm already playing music in iTunes or using voice over IP via iChat AV or Skype).


Since Flash is not under my control, I've taken stronger action on my Mac and started using Flashblock, a simple Firefox plug-in that loads Flash content, but doesn't play it. Instead, Flashblock puts a replacement symbol in the spot occupied by the Flash object, that, when hovered over, changes to a play button. This approach puts me back in control of my attention, the sounds emanating from my Mac, and my Web browser.


If Flashblock catches on, it could become another reason for users of Internet Explorer (especially under Windows) to switch to Firefox, and it will probably reduce the response rate on Flash ads, thus moving advertisers to other mechanisms.

Now I just need a tool that blocks the relatively new JavaScript-based pop-up ads that defeat ad blockers. They use JavaScript to write parts of the pop-up script, which makes them more difficult to identify on the fly. A Web browser would need to run the script in a sandbox, analyze its output, and then use that to decide whether to block the pop-up.

More generally, I'm troubled that advertising has become an arms race in which advertisers and consumers fight an ever-more-ridiculous war in which the advertisers feels empowered to violate a user's space - just as badly as those 1/8th-screen-blocking ads on television now during programs for the next program - while consumers feel no compunction with using technology to suppress advertising entirely.

In the long run, it doesn't benefit the advertiser to fight a war with the reader, however strong the return on a given style of intrusive and offensive advertising campaign is initially. It's important to remember that Google's billions come almost entirely from consistently formatted text advertisements. Advertisers are fighting for higher response rates than the gold standard of text ads, but they're fighting a losing war when surfers just turn them off.


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