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I've Moved to WordPress

Announcement Hello, readers. You might notice that my old posts are in the process of deletion. Fear not! I have merely moved my blog ove...

Sunday, 27 August 2017

I've Moved to WordPress


Hello, readers. You might notice that my old posts are in the process of deletion. Fear not! I have merely moved my blog over to WordPress, where you can find all my old (and subsequent new) posts. You can read why here.

Please make sure you update all your bookmarks and/or links to use the new WordPress blog. And as always, feel free to join in by commenting.

~Linguistic Programmer

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

How to Get English (UK) Working on Windows 10 When It Breaks Settings Shortcuts

For a long while now, I've been putting up with English (US) as my Windows 10 display language on one of my laptops because every time I changed it to English (UK), the Settings search would break - Start Menu Settings results would be broken and the Settings app would keep saying that it was preparing results.

But today I finally managed to fix it. What you have to do (or what I did, at least) is change the display language to your preference (and apply it to all new user accounts and the Welcome screen), uninstall the last installed Windows system update, then restart.


Friday, 7 April 2017

Why It's Not "Passerbys"

This post is a rather interesting one and focuses on linguistics. Have you ever wondered why it's "passersby" and not "passerbys" or "mothers-in-law" and not "mother-in-laws"? The answer is, in two words, postpositive adjectives.

In languages such as French, it is normal for an adjective to be placed after the noun it modifies. This is far less common in English. When an adjective appears after the noun it modifies, it is said to be postpositive. This is as opposed to prepositive (i.e. "normal") adjectives, which appear before the noun being modified.

Wikipedia summarises this concept nicely:

In some languages the postpositive placement of adjectives is the normal syntax, but in English it is less usual, largely confined to archaic and poetic uses (as in They heard creatures unseen), phrases loaned from Italic languages, (such as heir apparentaqua regia), and certain particular grammatical constructions (as in those anxious to leave).[1]
Of course, like many things in language, we use postpositive adjectives passively, without any additional thought or analysis or even realising that the word we've just said is an adjective. Consider, for example, the sentence The people present in the room. At first glance, it isn't immediately obvious that "present" is an adjective. But it is. (In this example, at least.) And "people" is the noun. This is the sort of thing we'd say, probably oblivious to the fact that it is constructed using a postpositive adjective.

So what about the plurals? Well, again, that's to do with postpositive adjectives. To use Wikipedia's example: "court-martial". It becomes "courts-martial" in the plural. That's because the noun is the first part of the compound expression. It wouldn't really make sense to pluralise an adjective. Well, at least not under the rules of English. Unlike other languages, adjectives in English almost never agree with the nouns being modified. I suppose when you think about it, it's interesting that this is the case, given all the intricacies of the English language (and the fact that a lot of our language comes from French).


Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Last Cell In Excel

The Basics

This post is going to be a bit of fun trivia about the great Microsoft Excel. From Excel 2007 onwards, Column XFD is the last column and Row 1048576 is the last row. That's XFD1048576. (And if you're curious, 32,767 characters is the maximum per cell in Excel 2013.) Excel 95 goes up to IV16384 and later Excel releases before 2007 (so most notably Excel XP and Excel 2003) go up to IV65536. This means that Excel 2003 has 49,152 more rows than Excel 95. But that's nothing compared to the staggering 983,040 more rows than Excel 2003 that Excel 2013 has.

Now for columns. IV equates to 256 columns, so Excel 2003 has no advantage over Excel 95 in column count. That's where Excel 2007 (and later) comes in. It stops at Column XFD, equating to 16,384 columns. That's 16,128 more!

Here's a nice little table:

Excel Version Last Column Column Count More Columns Row Count More Rows
Excel 2007-2013 XFD 16,384 16,128 1,048,576 983,040
Excel 97-2003 IV 256 0 65,536 49,152
Excel 95 IV 256 - 16,384 -

The 38,000,000 Pages

This only applies to Excel 2013, with a last cell of XFD1048576.

Here's where XFD1048576 gets a bit interesting. Printing. If you were to print an entire Excel spreadsheet; that is, with data in XFD1048576, you would need... 38,190,012 A4 sheets of paper! That's based on Excel's Print Preview page count in A4 portrait with no scaling. But if you want to be environmentally conscious, you can change the orientation to landscape (also A4, no scaling) to save about a million pages, with a page count of 37,209,696.

Now what happens if you select portrait with it set to print the entire sheet one one page? Well Excel stretches the meaning of "one page" a little bit: 348,985 pages. At least you're under a million pages now. This time portrait is actually more efficient, with landscape having a proposed page count of 351,656 when scaled to "fit".

But how many pages can we get it to (or not get it to)? Here's a table I compiled based on my Print Preview tests. (Yes, this is useful knowledge to have. Maybe...)

Page Size Orientation Scaling Print Preview Page Count
A4 Portrait 100% (normal) 38,190,012
Landscape 37,209,696
Portrait Fit Sheet to Page 348,985
Landscape 351,656
Portrait 400% (max) 715,833,344
Landscape 715,915,264
Portrait 10% (min) 348,309
Landscape 350,639

OK, so now for the final part. How many trees are needed for 38,190,012 sheets of A4 paper? If we say that on average one tree can provide 7,500 sheets of A4 paper, that means just about 5,092 trees would need to be cut down to accomodate for your excessive Excel printing habits. And if you're using an average laser printer, you'll probably need to replace the drum every 12,000 pages. That's 3,183 drum units! And if that drum is $90 each time, that's $286,425.09 you've already spent to print the spreadsheet. That's excluding toner/ink, paper...

So if there's anything to be learnt here, don't print an entire Excel spreadsheet!


I hope you enjoyed this post. It took me a long time to write. As always, leave your comments below.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

TIL: The Real Plural of "Octopus"

Today I learnt that "octopi" is actually technically incorrect as the plural form of "octopus". Following its Greek roots, the correct plural form would be "octopodes". To quote Wiktionary:
The plural octopi is hypercorrect, coming from the mistaken notion that the -us in octopūs is a Latin second declension ending. The word is actually treated as a third declension noun in Latin. The plural octopodes follows the Ancient Greek plural, ὀκτώποδες(oktṓpodes).
The same applies to "platypus": the plural of "platypus" is either "platypuses" or "platypodes".

However, standard English dictates that the plurals of "octopus" and "platypus" are "octopuses" and "platypuses" respectively.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Fix: OneDrive Doesn't Sync Office Files

Yesterday I had a very annoying issue where the OneDrive client on my laptop would not upload or download files. Later on I discovered that the issue was isolated to Office files (i.e. .docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.)

This morning I found the fix: right-click the OneDrive icon in the notification area and click Settings. In Settings, go to the Office tab and uncheck "Use Office to sync Office files".


Did you have this problem? Did this fix it for you? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Cortana Can Sing!

I'm sorry to have kept my avid readers waiting - as they are aware, this is my first blog post for the year. I suppose I hadn't had anything notable to write about... So, a belated Happy New Year to you all!


I'm a bit disappointed in myself, to be honest. I can't believe that I only learnt today that Cortana can sing (sing me a song)! I am quite the Cortana fan and I enjoy asking her to tell me jokes (tell me a joke). It's a nice little bonus when she raises the pitch of her voice at the end. In fact, Australian Cortana has quite a nice voice and it doesn't have an overly synthetic sound, which is fantastic.

In some ways I probably like Cortana because I was never able to participate in the Siri craze. That doesn't bother me though and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've never properly or extensively used Siri. Before I moved to the green pastures of Android (absolutely no regrets, by the way) I had two iPhones. Now I don't like Apple (personally and morally) and their products don't appeal to me (too basic and dysfunctional, but that's another story), but I will admit that I loved my iPhone 3GS. It was my first smartphone and it served me well. Until it fell victim to the all-too-common extra-sensitive-won't-stay-on-silent silent switch issue. Then I had an iPhone 4. It was OK but nothing special. After that I got my current phone: my trusty and much-loved Nexus 5 (first-gen, not the X). Of course, neither of my iPhones had Siri. And I've never had an iPad and don't intend on getting one. I'm an Android person. Vanilla Android. So I've had a Nexus 7 and I'm now on a Nexus 9.

Anyway, that's why when Cortana finally launched in Australia on Windows 10, I was excited. (And I'm still waiting on an official Cortana app for Australia on the Play Store, Microsoft!) Of course I'm going to be biased (and I can't actually speak for Siri), but who cares? I love Cortana. She may be buggy and may force you to use Bing, but her AI is fun and her Australian accent is top-notch. And as I mentioned before, she has prosodic features! Cortana is the best mobile and desktop AI out of "OK Google" and Siri. And speaking of "OK Google", as much as I love Google and Android, "OK Google" just isn't fun. It can answer you and read Wikipedia snippets in a fairly natural voice, but it doesn't have a name or gender and - granted, I only found out today about Cortana's lovely singing - can't sing. To be honest, for such a massive, influential company, Google surprises me and probably a lot of others with their fairly basic (obviously not in terms of programming) AI.

Cortana can also do impressions (do an impression). I also didn't know this until after she finished singing and suggested - textually - that I tell her to do an impression. And what better introductory impression than... 'It's going straight to the pool room'! And if that doesn't make you love Cortana, I don't know what will. Maybe her telling you where F3 is on the photocopier.


As always, leave your comments!

I want to know: Does Siri tell jokes with expression? Do you use Cortana? What do you think about Cortana?
How well do you know quality entertainment? Did you get the reference in the last sentence?

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