BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2000

  

 

BOOT CAMP 116, 23/03/00

THE BIG NUMBER

With less than a month to go, are you ready for The Big Number? In case you haven’t heard the UK telecommunications regulator OFTEL has decided that due to unexpected demand we will run out of telephone numbers in the next few years – now where have you heard that before? Anyway, the point is that from the 22nd of April the area codes for London and four other cities (Cardiff, Coventry, Portsmouth and Southampton) are changing, so too are area codes for Northern Ireland, many mobile phone and pager users will get new codes and there are alterations to special rate and premium rate numbers as well. In all there are over 160 code changes and there’s little doubt it’s going to lead to all sorts of fun and games in the weeks and months to come.  

There’s no escape, even if you don’t live in London the chances are a fair few numbers in your address book will have London codes. Sadly Boot Camp can’t make The Big Number go away but if you use a PC or organiser based address book or database we can show you a few ways to make the changeover less painful and it will be useful practice when – as sure as eggs are eggs – in a few years time the powers that be announce the need for another number shuffle.

Rather than wade through all of the code changes in detail – there will be plenty of bumph in the press and coming through your letter box over the next few weeks -- we’ll just look at how to update the London numbers in your computer’s address book, database or spreadsheet. These are likely to be the most numerous and since there are so many different programs and platforms in use we’ll have to confine ourselves to general principles.

The change in London applies to all numbers starting with 0171 and 0181, these will be replaced with a three-digit area code for the whole of London (020) and a 7 or 8 – depending whether it was an 0171 or 0181 number -- is added to the front of the old local number. So, a number that was 0181-XXX XXXX becomes (020) 8XXX XXXX after April 22nd. The other area code changes are broadly similar in structure with a four or five digit area code changing to a three digit code, and one or two digits added to the front of the previous local number, making them up to 11 numbers in a 3:4:4 digit grouping.  

Before you carry out any sort of change to your address book, always make a backup! I cannot stress how important that is. Sod’s law clearly states that if something can go wrong it will, and you are just asking for trouble making alterations to your one and only copy of an address book file that probably took months, if not years to compile.

Don’t make work for yourself. If your database is relatively small – less than 100 entries, say, with only a handful of London numbers -- it’s usually easier and quicker to make the changes manually. Certainly there are ways to automate the process, and we’ll come to those in a moment, but by the time you’ve downloaded or installed a program and set it all up, you could have keyed in the changes.

For larger databases, where it would be impractical to do the job by hand, there are three alternatives. Option one, export the address book and use a word processor’s Find and Replace facility (or the address book’s own Find and Replace, if it has one) to make the changes. Option two, use a separate program or utility to do the job, and option three pay someone else to do the job for you, in which case you had better get your skates on…

The Export option in most address book programs is usually on the File menu, it’s important to specify that the exported file is a ‘comma separated values’ or CSV format text file with the extension *.csv. Give the exported file a name and choose a location. Launch your word processor and open the newly created csv text file; it should appear as a simple list with names addresses and phone numbers clearly identifiable.

Click on Find and Replace (usually on the Edit menu); in the Find field enter the first area code, i.e. 0181 and in the Replace field enter (020) 8. Make one or two changes to make sure it’s working properly and when you’re satisfied click ‘Yes to all’ or whatever command makes the change in the whole document. You will probably end up with a space between the leading 8 in the local number and the last 7 digits, if so use Find and replace to tidy it up by entering 8 with a space after it into the Find field, and 8, without a space in the Replace field. Be warned that this will also zap the spaces after the digit 8 in any other phone numbers and addresses but you can sort that out later. It’s not a bad idea to save the modified .csv file with a new name and use Import on your address book program to see if the changes have worked. If it looks okay re-export the file and work your way through the other area codes.

If that sounds like a chore then there are a number of commercial programs that makes changes to exported *.csv files, or even work within the address book’s own file system. Have a look at PhoneFind at: http://www.astuk.com/telephone.html

There are also shareware programs to download from the Internet. Big Number Little Helper from Palace Computer Services (http://www.palacecs.demon.co.uk) is simple to use and worth a try and there’s a handy little area code calculator, called Big Number Lookup from: http://freespace.virgin.net/darren.hicks/phoneday.html

For more detailed information on The Big Number and foreign language support the National Code & Number Change Programme website, representing all of the UK’s phone companies is worth a visit at http://www.numberchange.org/ and BT’s website address is: http://www.numberchange.bt.com/.

Next week – laptops and mobile phones

 

TOP TIP

Did you know that in Outlook Express 5 you can attach a sound file to an email, that will play automatically as soon as it is opened on the recipient’s computer? You can specify how many times it’s played, or even make it play continuously, if you really want to annoy someone, the possibilities -- for good and mischief -- are endless…

First record your sound as a *.wav file using Windows Sound Recorder (Start > Programs> Accessories > Entertainment), most PCs these days have a microphone input. Create your message as usual in the New Message window, on the Format menu make sure Rich Text (HTML) is checked, click anywhere in the message window and go to Background on the Format menu, select Sound and use the Browse button to locate your sound file, set the number of plays, click OK and send your message.

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