Friday, October 31, 2008
I must confess, I'd like to be in the former camp, but rather feel I'm in the latter. I don't mind at all the idea of "celebrating" Hallowe'en. In fact, I remember back to my young days - about 40 years ago probably, dressing up in a sheet and going to my mother's WI Hallowee'n party, bobbing apples and all that - so it's hardly a new phenomenon.
It is more commercialised though, and that rankles a bit with me. I also appreciate the fear factor it can bring, especially to the more elderly, living alone. I know my Dad, who's 79 and lives alone with his elderly dog, despises Hallowe'en and never answers the door - and he also hates - possibly even more, the relentless run up to bonfire night that seems to go on for about a month beforehand, with people letting off loud firecrackers which drive his dog into an absolute shivering wreck.
So, I don't mind it, but I'd prefer to see it more contained...parties rather than what can appear to be gangs roaming the streets, looking for any excuse to lob eggs and flour at anything they see fit. I know that's a generalisation and a huge exaggeration and most of the visitors we have - and it's about 4 lots tonight and counting, are small children with responsible adults. But it does beg the question, what message does it send out, when you can knock on a complete strangers door and "ask" for sweets.
For now, I'll be glad when it's tomorrow...bring on 5th November!
Cheerio Center Parcs
Originally uploaded by statto1927
Well we're about to leave our villa, and here's James getting rid of our last bits of bread to the ducks outside our patio doors. Time for one last trip down the rapids maybe?
Edit : Didn't get down the rapids one last time - we went to the pool for the 10am opening, but the rapids were going to be out of action for a couple of hours, so we knocked it in the head and came home...
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Up the City!
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Bethan and I had a short walk in the woods after eating looking at various wildlife (couldn't find the deer). Then it was off to the Plaza (dome) for some energetic swimming/flumes/rapids. Three hours worth of that, interspersed with more coffee and a good book, and it was tea time. We ate in the tapas restaurant and it was nice.
Great though CP is, one thing it ain't is cheap. Pretty much everything apart from the swimming costs, and though there's shedloads to do and eating out variety from burgers to a la carte, it comes at a price. But you pay your money and take your choice. We've been before so we know how it works. We're on holiday and enjoying it.
Tomorrow we're nipping out to Longleat Safari Park and gardens/park which is pretty much next door.
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More Center Parcs
Originally uploaded by statto1927
9am and we're in the "Jardin de Sports" playing table tennis. Anne is in the Aqua Sana for the morning pampering herself.
When we woke up and pulled the curtains this morning, there was a deer lying not 8 yards from or door - can you believe it? He/she was surrounded by a rabbit, a moorhen, several ducks, a robin and a pair of blackbirds - I kid you not. It was like a scene out of "Bambi"!
This is as much the magic of Center Parcs as the dome and all the activities.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Originally uploaded by statto1927
So here we are in Center Parcs (Longleat). Spent most of the day insidethe "dome" in the swimming area. Tried to chill but the kids made me godown the wild water rapids, the fast slides, the flumes etc. Such a chore! Brilliant fun. Now ensconced in our "villa". They look like dodgyportacabins from the outside, but are nice inside. Might post a photo of one tomorrow after table tennis, american pool and more swimming.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Anyway's I'm reminiscing as I read through this, and come across an entry for 12th May 1997 where I mention I'm about to order my brand new computer - at the time I was running a Intel 386 with a whopping 100mb of hard disk space. To think I was so excited about the specs....what I wrote was...
"Pentium 166MMX CPU, Intel Triton chipset, 32MB EDO RAM, 2.5 Gig Seagate Medallist pro HDD, 15" monitor, 12x CD ROM, Soundblaster 32 and allegedly 240 watt speakers!! Software is limited - Windows '95 release 2, Encarta 97. All for under a grand (exc the taxman's cut of course)!!"
32mb RAM - blimey - even SD cards these days are upwards of 16GB!!!! I've got twice as much RAM in my Vista machine now than I had in hard disk storage space then. And that little lot cost me the best part of £1,000. How times change
Back on the main reason for the diary, reading about what we did and what was happening then brings back a lot of memories. Great fun.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The on form striker bagged his 6th goal from the spot this term as the Bluebirds heaped more woe on Forest, who have found life in the Championship.
By my reckoning, that leaves City in fourth spot in the table, and I'll settle for that.
Next up, Blackpool at home on Tuesday, though we'll miss that one because we're away for half term.
Up the City!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
In other news, it's half term next week, and we've got a week off (Hooray!!!) We're off to Center Parcs (Longleat Forest). We've been several times since the kids were babies, so are old hands. These days of course we can just leave the kids to the swimming/slides/rapids etc and slob with a book, and we 've also got table tennis, American Pool and 10 pin bowling already booked, plus the good lady has herself booked in for a aqua sauna session. Center Parcs can be expensive - sadly they hike the accommodation prices in line with kids holidays, but it is great fun and you do really feel like you've had a break.
Obviously, there are no cars once your there, so it's bikes (for me and the kids) or walking (for Anne who can't ride a bike!) I've had to buy some roof rails and bike clamps for the Mondeo because my old tailgate bike carrier I had for the Scenic don't fit the Mondy. I picked them up today, and it's worse than an MFI flat pack assembly! I'm half way there, so fingers crossed.
Our son James has also had two teeth pulled today (ouch) after having two done last week. He needs the space because his teeth are too crowded. Next up is some serious braces/retainers and stabilisers (back to bikes?). Sound pretty fearsome if you ask me, though I wish we'd had the benefit of this sort of orthodontic care when I was a kid. At least once it's over, he'll hopefully have some nice straight teeth. Not like his dad!
My unit arrived today (great service by Broadband Buyer).
Installing it was a cinch - undo two screws, a bit of care so as you don't rip out the wires in the socket and then insert and screw up.
Tested speed on thinkbroadband.com where I usually go to test connection speed. So far though, no sig of any serious improvement. Done a couple of tests - the initial one put me up over 1.9 meg - only the second time I've ever tested when I've got that - usually high 1.8's, but not a marked improvement. Second test was back at normal levels. Reading reviews of this thingy, it appears that some people see a gradual improvement over a few days, so there's still hope. Bottom line is I think I'm away a bit from the exchange, so maybe won't see any major upping of speed.
Still, the speed hasn't gone down, so I suppose that's a bonus!!!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Personally I don't see blogging as a "past it" technology. Well I would say that wouldn't I writing on a blog!
Seriously though, Twitter, Facebook et al have their place - I've recently re-discovered Twitter after initially wondering what the point of it all was, and I'm hooked.
But this blog is different. It allows me to express my thoughts (such as they are) in detail- Twitter gives you about the same amount of space as an SMS text message. They both have their place in the world, as do books. Despite doom mongers saying digital books would take over the written paper word, it hasn't. Sure there are more "e-books" out there, if you want to find them. I don't.
So I don't think blogging is dead. It's maturing. There are some great blogs out there and it's allowed many people like me to open my thoughts to all and sundry, and for me that's the beauty. Anyone with a 'net connection can read my blog. Whether they do, or don't it's the fact that I can do it that makes me enjoy it. I'm blogging now from my sofa using my Asus Eee watching the footie (Liverpool 1 Athletico Madrid 0 currently). Blogging is very much alive.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Anyway, you'll recall that one of my suspicions was a corrupt, or at least out of date BIOS (crudely the bit of code that actually starts the PC and allows it to boot to it's OS).
A quick scan using a program called BIOSAgent confirmed that if nothing else, there was an update available for my BIOS and I duly signed up (and paid) to get hold of it. Now I've got it though, and now the PC has been OK for a couple of days, I'm wary of flashing the BIOS - it's not as simple as a normal software update, and if I bugger it up I could kill the machine once and for all.
So, in the spirit of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", or in my case, "if it ain't broken again, leave well alone", I'm just going to hang on and see. If it all goes arse about again I'll bite the bullet, but hopefully things will settle down a bit now.
As an aside, I've also upgraded my backup software. I ditched Norton Ghost a few years ago as a piece of bloatware that at the time caused all sorts of conflicts with my PC. I moved to a backup program that had been recommended but I'd not heard too much about - Acronis True Image - then at version 8 (I think). Anyway, it was OK and worked well enough. Each iteration has improved, and last weekend I stumped up the £20 or so to go to the latest version True Image Home.
I have to say, that so far I think this version is a huge leap forward. It's far easier to use than v10, is highly configurable, and just looks and acts like a classy bit of software. It's also much faster in my experience than previous versions.
Backup software is one of those boring things that few people ever get round to installing, and even few use seriously, but believe me, if you value your data one day you'll be sorry if you haven't got a backup plan in place. I reckon Acronis True Image is one of the best out there. (Can I have my fiver now please Mr Acronis?....)
A goal against 90 seconds in though makes things tough, and then going 2-0 down it looked like the evening might be over. However, Watford had a man sent off, and gave us a look in. We could have got back in with a penalty, but City & Championship top scorer Ross McCormack saw his spot kick saved.
In the second half City piled on the pressure, and eventually it told - Jay Bothroyd, in some quarters critcised for a lack of goals, popping up with 2 in 4 minutes to level it with 15 minutes to go.
Perhaps at that point, we should have been (I was) wishing for City to push on and finish it, but it stayed level until the final whistle. A point away can't be sneezed at, so I'll take it. Let's hope for at least as much on Saturday as we go to Notts Forest.
Up the City!
Monday, October 20, 2008
This gizmo is called the "i-plate" and fits between two parts of your BT master socket, can be self fitted in about 2 minutes and - if the reviews are anything to go by, can dramatically improve performance of your broadband speeds, though that's not of course guaranteed.
As I can routinely only get about 1.7 meg according to my regular speed tests on thinkbroadband, though my package is "up to 8 meg", I thought I might as well give it a shot. It's £13 including postage, so if it doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. I'll let you know how I get on.
By the way, I bought it from Broadbandbuyer
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I've completely recovered to scratch at least twice so far, and believe me it's a pain realising
a) how much crap somes on a standard shipped PC World PC that you need to get rid of before you can even think about useful apps
b) how may applications I actually had installed that need to be reinstalled
c) I've forgotten all the network settings (or how to connect my small home network together)!
Still, so far I've been "stable" for about ooh, 3 hours now and reinstalled all my "critical" apps - Office, Serif WebPlus X2, Photoshop Elements, Firefox, AVG antivirus, Zone Alarm firewall and a few other bits and bobs and got the network back up and connected all PC's (well all right - two PC's).
I've no idea what the problem was/is. I've narrowed it down (through gut instinct rather than any scientific basis) to being one of, problems with:
- The BIOS (looking around the 'net to see whether it's worth flashing to the latest)
- The hard disk itself - but I'm not sure about this
- the hard disk controller
- a knackered motherboard
The other thing it's brought home is the importance of a decent backup.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
In truth, City did enough to win, but weren't commanding. Ross McCormack is the only City player looking like scoring at the moment, and his side footed opener after the Charlton 'keeper could only parry a long shot away settled some nerves, as the opposition were having the better of the possession.
McCormack also got the second in the 2nd half from a free kick just outside the area, after he had been scythed down, a foul that produced the first red card.
Once the second dismissal came, it was predictably all City, but in the 23 minutes they were 11 v 9 they managed 98% of possession, had only two (poor) shots on goal and nearly gave one away at the other end.
Frankly they should have blasted Charlton for several more goals, but were content to play "ole" football. As my mate said to me as we left, "If we miss a play-off place on goal difference, we'll look back to this game....."
Still, it's 3 points, along with a clean sheet and that's the main thing I suppose, but I can't help feeling we were short changed today.
Friday, October 17, 2008
If you get a BSOD you've generally got problems.
Tonight I couldn't even get as far as a BSOD. My PC just froze and refused to boot.
Fearing a hard disk failure I tried to boot to the command prompt to run chkdsk, but couldn't. Tried to run recovery (I've got a Compaq/HP with recovery option) but couldn't. Switched it on and off about 20 times in the course of an hour and a half. Unplugged everything, went into the case, checked all the connections . Still nothing. Could only get as far as the BIOS screen.
Then finally it got to a point where is said it couldn't start Windows. No........really?
Anyway, chuntered away for a while, suggesting the HDD wasn't kaput and returned a DOS type screen with some horrible numbers on it, and some test results that said (again) it couldn't recover Windows as there had been a system configuration change (eh?) and if I had any cameras or video devices attached to unplug them and then hit OK which would shut the PC down.
Not very helpful - the only camera thing I had attached was a Microsoft Lifecam (webcam) which has been there for months.
Anyway, switched off, tried to re-boot and bingo - back to the normal desktop where it reinstalled the Lifecam drivers automatically. Hmmmmm... very strange.
So, what have I learnt from this? Not a lot.
1) Microsoft's own Lifecam has got some dodgy drivers that don't immediately manifest themselves, or...
2) The HDD was knackered and then mysteriously recovered itslef (unlikely)
3) The kids have been plugging things in and out of the PC - something they strenuously deny, but did look a bit guilt about - or was that me imagining things?
Anyway, things look OK at the moment, but I better double check my backup strategy just in case...
Let's hope Dave Jones (pictured) has made the most of the 2 week break and we hit the ground running.
Charlton, like City are a club with huge expectations, and they won't be pleased at sitting mid table. Last year we came unstuck at home to them, and it started a very poor run that almost saw Jones getting the boot. Let's hope it's not a repeat of that. I fancy City to win this one comfortably.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Hey, did you know the world's about to end?
According to every news site, news programme, newspaper (except the Sun and the Mirror where Big Brother and Guy & Madonna rule) we're having a bit of a sticky time at the moment. No really, we are.
Everything's gone pear shaped, and it's all doom and gloom - except for falling energy and fuels and food prices - if that's the result, bring it on I say. Hmmm.
Frankly I don't care. I know I should, but I don't.
- I don't have any shares.
- My pension's already taken a hit, but I don't expect I'll be retiring for at least another 10 years
- Our house has lost value, but we're not planning on selling it any time soon and if and when we do we'll probably be downsizing anyway
- Our endowments are performing like pants, but they're not due to mature until 2019
- We (luckily) have relatively safe, well paid jobs and enjoy a decent standard of living
I'm fed up of hearing jumped up journalists who normally get 20 seconds every 4 hours getting wall to wall air time and going all gooey and all excited because the FTSE has taken a "massive 1.6% drop in the first 3 minutes of trading", and then recovered by 0.000265 of a percent 3 minutes later. It doesn't mean anything to me, or I suspect 99% of the listening public.
Frankly, I'd like more football coverage. Blimey, even more coverage of Guy & Madge's split would be welcome. Hell, even Big Brother.....well, no, perhaps not that.
I've taken to listening to Radio 2 rather than the doom laden Radio 5 Live, or even in desperate moments (Terry Wogan's slot for example) BBC Radio Wales, where everything is so parochial you wouldn't know there's a world beyond the Severn Crossing.
I'm off to the Smoke again tomorrow. Been up a few times lately. Don't mind particularly, but it's not a great deal of fun spending 5 hours a day travelling there and back on a train. Still, I've got my papers, my Centro and my EEE to keep me company. Shouldn't be bored anyway.
I see from PDA 247 that the Google G1 Android phone is coming to a T-Mobile shop near you at the end of the month.
Nice...if you want a first iteration OS in a retro looking handset (someone made a point that if it had been an HTC handset, we'd all be saying they'd lost the plot - well they didn't quite say that, but you know what I mean).
Anyway, to get this little "beauty" you'll have to sign up to a £40 a month contract. Rules me out then.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
But it got me to thinking. A couple of years ago if I "spoke" to someone it was on the phone, face to face or by email. Now, as well as all that, I regularly text to communicate, and I've got a Facebook account, and this Blog, and now Twitter. That's a lot of keeping up to date. No wonder I haven't got any time for anything. And that's before I lump in the three websites I created and manage, dpab.co.uk, dinaspowyscc.co.uk and chepstowmvc.co.uk.
I have to say Twitter and Facebook probably won't get used much, but they are there, and they do have strange but rather banal attraction. I can see why young people might get engrossed with this "social networking" stuff, but I'm a grown, mature (some might disagree) and some (including my daughter) might say old man. Surely I've got better things to do with my time?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
- It's actually quite wide. Much wider than I'd expected - in fact when I first cast eyes on it I thought it was a Blackberry.
- The build quality didn't seem too great. Especially the buttons that are integrated into the flush screen part of the device. They felt very plasticky and insubstantial and "cracked" a lot when I pressed them - although that might be due to many fingers mucking about with a display model.
- The keyboard, whilst noticeably wider than the Centro's didn't actually seem to be that much easier to type on.
And finally, it was tethered to a blank notice, so you didn't actually have any specs to hand. There was a Treo Pro board, but guess what was anchored to that - a Centro! D'oh. That's why I'd never buy a smartphone from PC World.
As an aside, they also had an HTC Diamond there, and that was just as disappointing as the Treo Pro.
I'll stick with my Centro for the time being thank you very much. Much nicer all round device.
It's miles off current specs for a laptop. It had 32MB RAM, a 20G HDD and a works install of Windows 2000.
I vaped the HDD, installed a fresh copy of W2K on it, upped the memory with a 64MB module, and bunged a cheap and cheerful wireless network card on it, Open Office suite, and bingo, I have a serviceable, if by no means cutting edge, internet connected laptop for use around the house.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
So, armed with a portable CD, my old copy of XP, a download of nLite a massive amount of trepidation and a superb step by step guide by Jason Olmstead, I settled down for a few hours tinkering.
nLite allows you to take a standard Windows XP install, and strip out virtually any element from within it. Seriously dangerous stuff if you don't know what you're doing. Luckliy Jason does, and his step by step guide shows every little thing he left in or took out - I deviated a couple of times (I wanted Blutetooth - he didn't) for example, it worked first time, and I've ended up with a Win XP install on my 4GB EEE that was only about 500mb rather than the nearer 2.5GB you get with a default install. That's absoultey stunning, and so far (touch a large bit of wood), everything lookes tickty boo. I've got myself connected to the Internet, installed AVG anti-virus, the default XP firewall, a full install of Open Office and I've still got 2.2GB free.
The joy is that XP is still familiar to me and everything just works the way I want it to. No mucking about in respositories or messing with the CLI. Take the inbuilt camera for instance. In the default Linux setup, you could fire up the camera and take a snapshot of your mug. But it didnt work with Pidgin, the deafult messenger install. In XP, Camera is visible as a device in "My Computer, fire it up and off we go. Fire up messenger, link the camera, and Robert's your Uncle as they say. Brilliant. I'm absolutely chuffed to bits.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I've been trying to link it to the Eee (it's apparently quite possible) as this would be dead handy when I don't have a wifi connection, but so far I've not had any success. I'll stick with it, and have posted on the rather excellent Eee User Forums a must have resource for any Eee user. Hopefully I'll get it sorted.
On another theme, I haven't yet plucked up the courage to try converting the Eee's OS to XP, but I have bought a portable CD drive for when I do.....
I've no idea where the weeks are going, and the weekends disappear even faster. Lucky they come round every 7 days! This weekend we're relatively free - apart from visiting friends for tea/dinner on Saturday evening and the in-laws for Sunday dinner. So, what have we got lined up? Well, there's some demarcation in our house.
My good lady will be putting her feet up once she's done the
- A couple of trips to the tip (Bethan's had her bedroom done out so it's wardrobe carton waste, carpet odds and ends and other assorted cr*p.
- Clean the car(s) - weather permitting
- No doubt help with the washing/sorting
- Maybe a bit of gardening tidying up
- Watching TV
- Playing on the computer
- Or at least that what they're expecting.....what they're getting is...
- A weekend of clearing out their bedrooms, sorting stuff for a combination of tip/charity bags
- I suppose we might let them watch Merlin and Strictly CD
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
- The water was freezing. It took me three goes to get in and that's not like me. It was so cold it was painful.
- The surf was HUGE
It's now a beautiful day - blue sky and sunshine and you can see the Gower in all it's glory. Great day.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
City did it again. One up and into the closing minutes and they come away with draw. To be honest, with our record at Blackpool (one win in 30 years or something mad like that), I'd probably have settled for a draw before the start. But when you're winning going into stoppage time, you generally hope that you can hang on.
Paul Parry had put City in front late on before a defensive lapse let the Seasiders in in the 5th minute of injury time. Still, it's a point.
Up the City!
Originally uploaded by statto1927
We're away in the Gower (west-ish Wales) this weekend - a place called Llangennith for those in the know.
There's a whole pile of family here - about 18-19 across 4 generations and we're having a great time.
Went for a fairly long walk today over the hills to Rhossili and back along the beach. It was VERY windy and raining so blew the cobwebs away, but we stopped halfway for a beer.
My knee knew about it by the time we got back. Time for a sleep now. May go surfiing tomorrow. Then again......
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Thursday, October 02, 2008
I'm awaiting some real hands on reviews with interest. I'm not keen on the design, and I much prefer a front mounted qwerty keyboard, but let's wait and see how it performs in real life testing.
I'm also not impressed by the fact that it appears that T-Mob are going to demand a £40 a month contract to get hold of one of these things. My contract with them is up, but I don't need to spend anywhere near that amount a month so this device is going to be outside of my reach even if I wanted one.
Too clunky, things that don't work, and so on, don't make for a good user experience, and though many people get on admirably well with WM devices the world over, Murray 'aint one of them.
He's sticking to his iPhone and Palm Centro, and he's even wheeled out his Treo 680 this week too.
He also makes the point that he feel that sooner or later, Microsoft is going to come a cropper unless it starts to realise that user experience is as important as high specifications.
I think he's right. Most people just want a device that works. That is to say, it works out of the box. Not having to mess around with wifi set up, GPRS settings, multi-layered menus - installing plug ins to make the UI more "friendly" because the deafult one is frankly pants. If WM is so great, why do so many power users hide it's interface under different shells and today screen variants? You don't see Symbian users, or iPhone users doing that. Admitedly some Palm users do, but that's really to try and bring the OS to a 21st century revision, and lets face it, the Plam OS is some years old - WM6.1 is as current as you get.
I was tempted by the Treo Pro. But I respect Murray's perceptions on these things, and if he says it's not for him, it's probably not for me. Besides, the Palm Centro still does the job for me.
Been up in London on a Management Coaching course (first 2 days of 7 between now and January), so been rather busy.
In the meantime:
City beat Coventry 2-1
We won at skittles