All posts by counsell

About counsell

My name is Damian Counsell. Until 2006, I was a scientist working for the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK.

Giving It All Away (and an experiment with Hootsuite)

After years away from the popular and powerful social media management platform, I’ve decided to try Hootsuite again for the benefit of a client who would like to share his LinkedIn content with other publication platforms in the most efficient way possible. This post itself is both my first LinkedIn advice column and part of that experiment. I won’t be saying anything new here, but you might not have heard it before—or you might enjoy having me confirm your (obviously correct) prejudices.

My client, Phillip, coaches professionals in goal-oriented communication, from public speaking to letter writing to CV preparation to personal pitches. He’s very good at what he does. What’s more, even before I started working for him he was already impressing his talents upon potential clients in exactly the way I recommend I all of mine—and he still does. What’s the secret?: He gives away his secrets for nothing online.

Why would any fee-charging professional do this?

It answers the question: What can you do for me?

Whatever you are selling, people will only buy it if they are convinced it will benefit them. Phillip is selling his ability to improve your communication skills. Anyone can call themselves a “communications consultant/trainer”. If someone improves your communication skills before you have even met them in person, then that claim already has the backing of evidence—the most powerful kind: your own personal experience.

Even though Phillip is giving a part of his value away gratis, he knows that the real value he can offer comes from his being present in the room. You can read a few of his tips online and improve your presentation skills significantly, but it’s with his face-to-face coaching that you can transform your communication for the better. It’s that face-to-face coaching he wants his clients to pay for. Giving away his written advice will make potential clients more likely to want to pay for this.

It costs him next-to-nothing and benefits him directly

We live in a world where you can publish your content to every living human with a smartphone and/or Internet access for negligible cost. If you are an expert, every time you write about your expertise, you make a record that is not only available to millions of other people, but represents a knowledgebase that you yourself can refer to and build upon in the future.

But there are lots of popular platforms to publish on and only so much time to type your new content into each of those platforms. As his Phillip’s tech adviser, it’s my job to help him find and use the best means to share to them all. (This experiment with Hootsuite is, of course, part of that.)

It interests Google

These days, most people rarely type complete URLs (Web addresses) into their Web browsers; they just enter keywords and hit “Search”. Most of the time, that Search button belongs to Google. For most contemporary Web users, Google is the Internet. If your business doesn’t appear in Google’s indexes of the Web’s content or, even more importantly, in Google’s search results, then, as far as the Internet is concerned, you might as well not exist.

Google’s indexing bots—the programs that read and store content for their search databases—are attracted to content that is:

  • pointed at by other sources they already trust because it is valued for its authoritativeness,
  • easy to access,
  • up-to-date and frequently updated,
  • relevant to Google’s users.

If Phillip creates content like with these attributes, Google will index it—and, if Google indexes it, it will turn up in relevant search results.

By giving a sample of his expert advice away for free, Phillip makes it more likely that people interested in buying more of it will find that he is selling it.

It creates a sense of obligation

If giving good advice away weren’t such an obviously altruistic and public-spirited thing to do, you’d argue this justification was a cynical one. But it’s true. Test after test has shown that, when you give people something for nothing, they not only feel better disposed to you in general, they feel a specific sense of indebtedness—often out of all proportion to the gift.

This manifests itself in everything from people at a supermarket buying packets of crackers that a member of staff used as the base for free canapés handed out on the shop floor, to the bizarre case of office workers giving their work PC passwords to  interviewers with clipboards on commuter rail station platforms in return for free pens.

The bottom line is: Just the act of giving something to someone significantly increases the chances that person will give you something back—including a professional fee.


So there’s my not-original, but completely free, advice: Give information away and you’ll get business back.

(Now, let’s see if I can use Hootsuite to share it even more widely at no cost—provided I remember to cancel my subscription.)

Disabling NVDIA HDMI sound module in (K)Ubuntu

If you have a pro soundcard like the M-Audio Delta66 (based on the ice1712 chipset, and requiring that Linux driver), you might have a problem forcing your PC to use it if your motherboard and/or graphics card also have their own audio hardware.

I disabled my Dell PC’s onboard sound support via the PC’s BIOS, but still found my machine (running Kubuntu 13.10 (Saucy Salamander)) prioritized my NVIDIA graphics card’s HDMI sound driver. I used the instructions here and here to fix this.

Check that the module for your soundcard is loaded

I did lspci -vv to check that my desired card was already being recognized by Linux and the correct module loaded. This command and option produced a great deal of output, including the following stanza:

0c:02.0 Multimedia audio controller: VIA Technologies Inc. ICE1712 [Envy24] PCI Multi-Channel I/O Controller (rev 02)
        Subsystem: VIA Technologies Inc. M-Audio Delta 66
        Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR+ FastB2B- DisINTx-
        Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=medium >TAbort- <TAbort- SERR- <PERR- INTx-
        Latency: 64
        Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 18
        Region 0: I/O ports at bca0 [size=32]
        Region 1: I/O ports at bc80 [size=16]
        Region 2: I/O ports at bc90 [size=16]
        Region 3: I/O ports at bcc0 [size=64]
        Capabilities: <access denied>
        Kernel driver in use: snd_ice1712

Unfortunately, there was also a stanza for the NVIDIA sound support:

07:00.1 Audio device: NVIDIA Corporation High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1)
        Subsystem: ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Device 83e8
        Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
        Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast >TAbort- <TAbort- SERR- <PERR- INTx-
        Latency: 0, Cache Line Size: 64 bytes
        Interrupt: pin B routed to IRQ 5
        Region 0: Memory at fbefc000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: <access denied>
        Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel

Force loading of module in alsa-base.conf

Just to be sure that my card’s module was loaded at start-up, I added the following to the top of the section labelled # Prevent abnormal drivers from grabbing index 0 in the file /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf. (You will have to edit this with superuser rights / as root.):

options snd-ice1712 model=delta66

Blacklist the HDMI driver

To force the machine not to load the HDMI driver, I added it to the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf:

#block NVIDIA Intel sound
blacklist snd_hda_intel

Install Mudita24, the control panel for ice1712 cards use it to tweak settings

Mudita24 was formerly called envy24control as part of alsa-tools. You can install it like this:

sudo aptitude install mudita24

Here is a screenshot of the settings I used to get it working. Pay particular attention to the “Master Clock” option. Don’t choose S/PDIF.

mudita24 settings
mudita24 settings

How to install Spotify Qt preview on Kubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail)

This is all command-line stuff based on the instructions here:

First, import the key:

apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 94558F59

Second, add the repository:

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable non-free" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/spotify.list'

Last, install the Spotify client:

sudo aptitude update

sudo aptitude install spotify-client-qt

How to activate DVD playback on (K)Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail)

There are of course (silly) IP problems with DVD encryption/decryption. You may well find that your multimedia player refuses to open discs, and/or gives errors like this when you run it from the command line:

main input error: ES_OUT_RESET_PCR called

Open source systems like Linux get around these by various means that mean a bit of hassle for you, the poor end user. I hope these instructions make fixing the problem straightforward for you.

If you haven’t already, install a multimedia player like VLC or Dragon Player.

First, install Ubuntu Restricted Extras:

sudo aptitude install ubuntu-restricted-extras

Then run the DVD decryption installation script:

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

Now you should be able to drop in and play a DVD.

Setting up Kubuntu Raring Ringtail and Saucy Salamander again

Two weeks ago, I upgraded my two main desktop PCs to Kubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail)—just in time for the 13.10 (Saucy Salamander) upgrade of course.

I had let these machines get a long way behind with OS updates, so the automated upgrades didn’t work for me. I therefore resorted to installing fresh / (root) drives into the machines and rebuilding them from scratch.

Over the next few blogposts, I’ll outline the process by which I get these machines back to full working configuration.

One machine, “cavendish” is a lo-spec Intel-based local Webserver and media server. The other, “rutland” is a slightly more powerful Intel-based workstation.

Aggregating multiple feeds into one WordPress feed

Phillip Khan-Panni is a successful competitive public speaker and corporate communication coach (who also specializes in advising business people in cross-cultural communication). He writes about his professional interests on several different blogs, most of them WordPress-based, and wanted to offer his readers a single unified feed they could subscribe to read all of his content.

I set this up for him using the RSS Multi Importer for WordPress, whose primary function is to generate content on your WordPress site aggregated together from multiple feeds that you can select, but which has an additional function of generating an RSS feed-of-feeds that you can publish from the WordPress site where you have installed the plugin.

Despite this latter function being described by the plugin’s author as “beta”, it worked well for me. Here is a Page aggregated from Phillip Khan-Panni’s online output and here is a link to the corresponding RSS feed. How to remove the replacement 404 page from your Web browser after installing PDFCreator

PDFCreator is a free PDF printer and converter that you can download from Sourceforge. It does have a catch though: When you install it, it also installs something called “PDFForge Toolbar” which takes over when any page you try to visit gives you a 404 Not Found error and redirects you to a page of content generated by

To stop this from happening, in Windows, go to Control Panel |Add/Remove Programs and uinstall pdfforgetoolbar.