Lync 2013 installation breaks Office 2010 interoperability

At work, I maintain an Access 2010 database that interfaces with Word, Excel and Outlook. Recently, Lync 2013 was rolled out across the office, without upgrading the rest of Office. Suddenly all interop calls started failing with “Automation error. Library not registered.” errors.

A bit of digging revealed that the Lync 2013 installation process adds registry entries for the Office 2013 (i.e. version 15) automation libraries, regardless of whether the individual 2013 applications are installed. The solution is to remove the offending registry keys, keeping the version 14 keys in place.

I put together the following .reg file to remove the keys for Outlook, Word and Excel respectively:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

There doesn’t seem to be an official Microsoft solution for this – I previously repairing the Office 2010 installation but this had no effect.


Review: TopCashBack

I’ve been a loyal Quidco member since 2007, and have earned a fair bit of cashback through them. But over the past few years, I’ve been hearing more and more about their main competitor, TopCashBack. I never really felt the urge to try them out until recently when I heard about their new Spend’n'Save feature. This enables you to earn cashback by buying certain products from participating retailers and uploading a picture of the receipt via the TCB mobile app.

The Snap’n'Save process itself was very quick and easy and definitely something I’ll be using again. It took less than 24 hours for the receipt image to be approved and for the cashback to show in my account. In this case it was 50p cashback on a £1 4-pack of Mars Bars – bargain!

On first impression, the TCB site doesn’t look as polished or well-designed as the Quidco site, and this carries through to the mobile app. Like the Quidco app, it’s not yet optimised for the iPhone 5, so it appears vertically letterboxed. Also, the In-Store section is a bit of a pain to use: it shows the available offers as a carousel that you have to navigate by swiping right to left, rather than a simple list. It’s a universal app, so works on the iPad, although it’s clearly designed to be used in portrait mode only – it looks very strange in landscape.

Unlike Quidco, which retains the first £5 cashback you earn each year as an admin fee, there is no charge to use TopCashBack. Also they have a unique “top-up” feature, so as a new member you earn 101% of the cashback that TCB receives from the retailer. The extra 1% is funded by sponsorship and advertising on the site (in contrast, the Quidco site is ad-free). As you earn more cashback, the top-up amount increases up to a maximum of 10% (i.e. you earn 110% of the cashback). I did a quick straw poll of a few of my favourite retailers, and generally the TCB rate was 101% of Quidco’s and occasionally even higher. However, Quidco do sometimes have limited-time exclusive rates that TCB seem to be unable to beat.

I will keep my Quidco account for those occasions, and also to take advantage of a couple of features than TCB doesn’t yet have – instore cashback (you securely register your credit/debit card numbers on the Quidco site and then automatically receive cashback for card purchases in participating retailers) and check-in cashback (you receive a small amount, typically 5p-25p, for pressing a button in the Quidco mobile app when you’re near to participating stores). Apart from that, I look forward to using my new TCB account.

Please note that if you sign up to either TopCashBack or Quidco via the links in this post, I will receive a kickback. Thanks!

O2 nano sim fiasco

After the iPhone 5 was announced on 14 September, as widely anticipated, O2 were initially tight-lipped about their plans to roll out nano SIM cards to existing O2 customers, like myself, who chose to pre-order their iPhone direct from Apple. Perhaps this is to be expected since until very recently they didn’t know for sure when the new model was going to launch or whether it would indeed require a nano SIM.

However I was pleased to hear the announcement yesterday that nano SIMs would be available from all O2 stores that afternoon. I visited the Rugby town centre store shortly after 1pm and was told that they did have them in stock, but they weren’t authorised to release them until Friday. I thought this was a little strange, but perhaps the news from O2 HQ was a little slow to trickle down to the stores.

When I got back to my computer, I started a live chat with a customer service agent on the O2 website. After a bit of to-and-froing, the agent told me that O2 had originally planned to release the nano SIMs on that day, but this had now been postponed to Friday 21 September, the iPhone 5 launch date. I asked the agent to request that the website and Twitter feed be updated with this development, and he assured me that this was already in hand.

I also decided to tweet the official O2 Twitter account to find out what was going on – I seemed to be getting mixed messages and wasn’t sure who was right. Their reply was that all stores were providing SIMs from that day (Monday) and the confusion should be cleared up now.

However when I returned the store today, the staff there were still adamant that I couldn’t have my nano SIM until Friday. In fact they were now saying that they didn’t have any, a blatant lie given what I’d been told previously. I tweeted O2 back to let them know that the issue was still unresolved, and also embarked upon another live chat. This time I explained my difficulties obtaining a nano SIM from the store and asked if the agent would order one to be posted out instead. He replied with “Ok”, then said it would take a few minutes to sort out, and finally came back and said that I could actually pick one up from any store and sent me a link to find my nearest store!

So I phoned the recently-opened store at Junction 1 Retail Park. Someone answered almost immediately and said that they did have nano SIMs available to hand out to customers. I went down to the store, and within five minutes had the new nano SIM in my hand. Akmal, the member of staff who served me, even processed the SIM swap request for me. The new nano SIM is now working in my iPhone 4 (using the included adaptor) ready to switch over to my iPhone 5 when it arrives on Friday, rather than me having to queue up on launch day for a SIM, assuming there were any left.

Judging by some of the comments on Twitter and O2′s own community forums (here and here), I’m far from the only person who’s had trouble getting hold of a nano SIM from stores. It seems that O2 head office and the stores aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet in some cases, the end result being a lot of frustrated and dissatisfied customers.

Before announcing the release of the nano SIMs on the web, O2 really should have made sure that all stores were geared up (and staff sufficiently briefed) to start handing them out. Even better, they could have enabled online ordering, like they do for micro SIMs currently: that system works beautifully; I used it a few days ago to order a micro SIM for my wife (who is inheriting my iPhone 4.)

Obviously I don’t have first-hand experience of other network operators’ nano SIM rollouts, but I can’t imagine they’ve been as shambolic as this, and although the eventual positive outcome at the Junction 1 store went some way towards renewing my faith in the company, the overall experience has made me think twice about blindly renewing my O2 contract each year, given that their customer service appears to have taken a nosedive of late.

Earn cashback on your shopping with Quidco

Quidco is a cashback site which you can use to earn rewards for shopping at your favourite sites. You can also earn cashback without spending any money, simply by signing up for free trials of services such as CreditExpert, or by switching your utility or insurance providers.

Since I joined a little over three years ago, I’ve managed to amass a cool £1300 in cashback, so it’s definitely worth doing. By way of a membership fee, the first £5 you earn per year is retained by Quidco, but after this you get 100% of the proceeds.

There are a few notable omissions such as Amazon, but most of the big retailers appear on Quidco, typically offering anything up to 10% cashback. Some of my favourites are, Tesco, Debenhams, ArgoseBay and iTunes. They’ve also started a in-store cashback programme including retailers such as Halfords and Cineworld.

Plus if you sign up via any of the links in this post, you will earn £1.25 just for joining. I’ll also get £1.25 for introducing you. Once you’ve joined you can also earn up to £2.50 for each friend you introduce.

Guitar Hero comes to iPhone

The official Guitar Hero iPhone game was announced today at Apple’s 2010 Worldwide Developers Conference. While there have been many similar apps – such as the Tap Tap Revenge franchise and the Rock Band app – it’s nice to see an official GH game for the iPhone, and it certainly doesn’t fail to impress.

Expecting great things given its high-profile launch, I didn’t hesitate to purchase the app. I wasn’t sure that the concept would translate well to the small screen, but the developers (Vicarious Visions) have done a great job, squeezing in both tapping and strumming mechanics, unlike many competing games. Most of the notes are played simply by tapping, but some of the notes (signified by an arrow on the screen) need to be strummed by pressing the relevant colour then dragging your finger to the edge of the screen. It’s actually quite tricky, and I like to think of myself as a fairly adept Guitar Hero player.

When the game loads, you are first asked if you want to allow it to access your iPod music library, in order to notify you when your favourite artists have tracks available. You are then offered a brief introduction to the game before diving in to a selection of tracks from artists such as Vampire Weekend, The Rolling Stones, Rise Against, Weezer, The White Stripes and Queen. The app is stable and the graphics smooth, even on my aging iPhone 3G

There’s a music store which lets you download three-track song packs for £1.19 ($1.99), with 14 artists to choose from but presumably more to follow. There’s also Facebook integration, which allows you to brag about your progress to your friends, although I haven’t explored this functionality yet.

I’m not a big iPhone gamer, so this is the first game I’ve purchased in quite a while, and I’m glad I did. Attractively priced at £1.79 ($2.99), it’s well worth checking out, whether you’re a long-term Guitar Hero fan or not.

Stop Ctrl+Enter from sending emails in Outlook 2003

I use Microsoft Outlook at work and have never purposely used the Ctrl+Enter keyboard to send an email. However, I am a fairly fast typist, and sometimes don’t let go of the Ctrl key quick enough after pasting something into an email before pressing Enter for a new line, the result being a half-finished email getting sent prematurely.

Fortunately there’s a registry hack to disable this annoyance once and for all:


If you’re using Word as your email editor, add this too:


Presumably, if you’re using a different version of Office, you will need to replace 11.0 with the correct version (10.0 for Office XP, 12.0 for Office 2003, etc.)