Tips for facilitating round-table discussions

Round-table discussions can be a really useful way to discover and share direct experience with peers and colleagues. A good round-table discussion is quietly facilitated by someone who knows the subject matter enough to include interesting questions and can ensure that everyone has a voice.

Here is what I have learnt from facilitating round-table discussions and watching others, too.

  1. understand the participants
  2. understand and prepare the topic under discussion
  3. remember: this is not your platform
  4. encourage quieter people
  5. nudge the discussion to ensure all points are covered

The rest of this post goes into more detail on these points.

table with cakes

Continue reading Tips for facilitating round-table discussions

Use DiskPart to remove GPT partitions

The standard Windows XP GUI tools will not allow you to modify a disk which uses the GUID parition table (GPT) instead of the standard MBR. This is a particular problem if you have used an external disk in a Mac; for example, I used an external HDD as the TimeMachine backup device on a friend’s MacBook. Now that she has her own external HDD, I wanted my disk back, but Windows appears not to recognise the disk.

To the rescue comes DiskPart (courtesy of pitumbo).

DISKPART> select disk N

DiskPart itself has a range of useful options for managing and inspecting disks, partitions and volumes. For example:

Improving broadband speed with BT

If you are not one of the lucky ones to have received a recent cost-free upgrade from BT to 20MBit/s ADSL, and your broadband speed is less than good, here are some steps to diagnose the problems.

First we’ll check the actual line speed.

Go to http://bthomehub/ or maybe http://bthomehub.home/ – note: no “www” or “com” in there. If you get a status page then you are looking at the modem/router (BT Home Hub). It should give some stats like these:

My broadband connection
Your broadband line is connected.
Broadband connection details:
Downstream 15,323 Kbps
Upstream 888 Kbps
Connection time 3 days, 22:58:21
Data transmitted 166.57 MB
Data received 3.21 GB

It’s the Upstream an Downstream values which you need to record somewhere. The values should be at least 2,000 Kbps Downstream (“2 Meg”) and at least 200Kbps Downstream for a basic broadband service (these speeds will soon be mandatory).

If your speeds are less than or close to these values, you can try some of these steps:

1. Get a BT Broadband Accelerator – basically a better microfilter. consumerProducts/ topicId=25075&s_cid=btb_FURL_accelerator

Go here, and select “Yes” in response to “Do you have more than one working phone socket in your home?” Then choose the socket which matches your “master socket” – hopefully it’s like #4. Sockets #1-#3 do not work with the Accelerator. Then you pay the P&P and BT deliver it – no other charges.

Installation should be simple. Do this first (or else establish that your socket is incompatible), and then (if the speed does not increase) try option 2 below.

2. Run the BT speed test wizard: p_sid=&cat_lvl1=346&cat_lvl2=401&cat_lvl3=407&cat_lvl4=753 &p_cv=4.753&p_cats=346,401,407,753&p_faqid=12666 or here: php/enduser/doc_serve.php?&5=7. This asks you some questions about your connection.

This page also contains some good advice, which you can check, particularly around faulty wiring: php/enduser/cci/bt_adp.php? p_sid=bgLqHKKj&p_faqid=9611&cat_lvl1=346 &cat_lvl2=401&cat_lvl3=407& p_cv=3.407&p_cats=346,401,407


Check for faulty home internal phone wiring

Poorly-installed home phone wiring or poor quality phone extension leads (often with a flat rather then round cable profile) are the most common causes of slow broadband speeds. This is because they are more prone to electrical interference, which causes BT Broadband to reduce data speeds to compensate. You can test for this as follows:

  1. If you have a phone master socket like the one in the photo here (that is, square with a horizontal groove halfway down it, and removable upper and lower cover), we recommend you remove the lower cover as shown, taking care not to dislodge any wiring. Do not remove the upper cover. This will reveal a test socket on the right-hand side. This connects directly to the exchange, bypassing your home phone wiring and extensions.Phone master socket
  2. Plug your router or modem directly into this test socket via a microfilter.
  3. Recheck your connection speed as per Step 2 above, ensuring you refresh your browser page first. If your connection speed has increased significantly, this indicates a likely fault or interference source within your home wiring. If it remains unchanged, this indicates either no fault, or the fault or interference is more likely to be in BT’s wiring or in your local exchange.

Re-run the line speed checks (at http://bthomehub/) and check the new Upstream and Downstream speeds. Are they significantly different?

3. Finally, if the above do not fix the issue, BT have a “Broadband Accellerator” service where an engineer comes to the house: php/enduser/cci/bt_catpage.php? cat_lvl1=346&cat_lvl2=1282& cat_lvl3%20=1859&p_cv=3.1859&p_cats=346,1282,1859

The work we do on your home wiring should increase your connection speed by at least 1Mbps” – if your current connection is only 2Mbps, this would represent a 50% speed increase.

If your Internet connection speed (independent of the broadband network speed) has not increased by at least 0.5Mbps, you are entitled to claim your money back.

It’s not clear how much this service costs, but I think it’s about £80.

Your final option is… move to the city!

How to tile groups of windows in Windows

A little-known trick in Windows for arranging desktop windows quickly is to hold down CTRL, select items in the task bar, then right-click: you can cascade, tile, minimze or close the group of selected windows together.

The result is immediately-positioned windows, as you like them. Apparently, this window-controlling feature has been around since Windows 3.1

Send Large Files (UK Version)

With FTP a bit old-skool (and insecure), and all the firewall problems with FTPS and its variants, online web-based file sharing tools have sprung up over the last few years.

Of these, and are the best known, but suffer a common limitation of many of these services, with small upload sizes (unless you pay), and are based in the US, so upload and download times are increased.

Pando advert

The best UK-based site for sharing large files seems to be DropSend (yes, all the good names have gone), which offers up to 2GB uploads for free, an – crucially for me in terms of respectability – displays its UK registered company number on the home page, unlike some other sites like Pando which seem more like spam factories, with inappropriate adverts (see screenshot).