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February 2004
Could these be the highlights of my life ?


Sunday 29th February 2004
10.15 GMT
Weather - cold, grey, but dry
     The 29th February - not many of them around. By tradition a woman can propose to a man today. I wonder who will ask for my hand in marriage ? Somehow I think it is most unlikely it could ever happen to me, but stranger things have happened. Now how many single and desperate women do I know..........

    By the way. I know it is late, but I am up, washed, dressed and breakfasted. I have also watched an hour long TV programme about the New York Underground (or subway as they like to call it). It was interesting without having any major revelations in it.

    I received an e-mail yesterday saying that Eric was very happy with his revamped PC. That makes me happy too. I gather he was probably going to spend the evening studying the seamier side of the internet !!

     I spent a lot of yesterday recording and encoding video files. It was all a waste of time in the end as the results were rubbish. However I try and do it I always drop so many frames that the sound goes out of sync with the pictures. It shouldn't happen like that, but it does. Ideally I should do a lot of experimentation, but it is such a slow process that it could take days, or wekks, to try every permutation of capture formats. I may try some more today. I might also carry on with my firewall project today. I have been saying that for so long now that I really ought to shut up about it until I have actually done it. More pressingly I have to update my calender page and design a page for March.
Saturday 28th February 2004

08.55 GMT
Weather - cold and grey
     Another very cold day. The sky is grey and not very appealing. Yesterday's snow never amounted to much. It must have settled as the ground was freezing, but with only 54 snowflakes it is hard to know where they fell. Maybe it will try again today.

      Ivor picked up Eric's PC last night (late afternoon to be more exact). I hope it is well behaved when they connect it all up at their end. It is worth a few beers to me if it is OK. I forget to mention that Mark picked up the drum machine, that I mentioned last Monday, on Thursday night. I hope he is happy with it. That earned me a very large (14 litre) bag of cat litter delivered to my door.

      So today I should be able to get on with a computer project, or two, for myself. That, of course, is going to be my firewall. I have been talking about it for long enough so I ought to pull my finger out and get on with it. Having already had it running in an experimental lash up, I ought to be able to get the real thing up and running in next to no time. The trouble is there are always other distractions. For instance I started reading a new (but old) book last night. I would really like to carry on reading that. In this brave new world of computers the paperback book is still king - zero boot time, bookmarks (favourites) = any scrap of paper, and they work under any usable lighting conditions. Perhaps more to the point is that you can read them while lying on your back, and they are light enough not to do any damage if they fall on your face if you fall asleep. Oh, and did I mention they don't need any power source.

    Another distraction for today is that I want to go shopping. I can't decide whether to go to Tesco, Aldi or Iceland. With a slightly longer walk I could include Lidl in that list. I have never been to Lidl so that could be an interesting distraction, but I don't fancy the extra walk while it is so cold out there, and I don't think a crowded Saturday would be the best introduction to the place. If I go in Tesco's I am always tempted to spend too much, but I may still have enough credit on my clubcard to pay for it. Iceland is always cheap and nasty, and I haven't been in there for a while, so it may be a trip to Iceland coming up today.
Friday 27th February 2004

08.30 GMT
Weather - cold and grey
     In the weather box I was tempted to say it is snowing. I swear I saw 6 or 7 small flakes drift down past the window, but it has stopped again now. The sky is grey enough for there to be more later, and it is certainly cold enough.

     Yesterday was a pretty unproductive day. I went out to but New Scientist magazine, and did some shopping for food at Aldi. One thing I did that should lead on to an important job this morning was to play with video recording on the upstairs PC. I noticed when playing the video recording back that there were hum bars on the picture. This could tie in with another effect that I am getting. That PC is always reluctant to start when it is hot. The fault lies with the graphics card which has always been slightly strange. It will often start in a very strange mode that makes for total garbage on the monitor. From cold, first thing in the morning, it will usually come up OK first time, but once hot it can be a total bastard to get working. And I am sure it is getting worse. That, and those hum bars on recorded video, all points to the PC's power supply failing. I have repaired that power supply once. I replaced two capacitors, but it is very likely there are more capacitors failing in it. So my job for this morning is to take verything apart and have a look at that power supply. Hopefully it will all be ready by 12.00 so I can record whatever comedy programme is on BBC7.

     Newsflash : It is definitely snowing now ! If it carries on at this rate there will be an inch of snow lying on the ground within the next 50 hours. I can now see several flakes a second passing by the window.

     I still have not heard from Ivor about Eric's PC. He was going to phone me on Monday or Tuesday to arrange to pick it up. He passes through Catford on his way home from work every day. What was going to happen was that he would pick up the PC and we would nip round to the local for a quick pint or two. One thing I am not going to do is to take that PC over to him dinner time. Maybe he'll come over here dinnertime, but it would have been far more sensible for him to do it after work. I'd better give him a ring and see what is happening. After all there are a few free pints hanging on the repair I've done and I want to cash them in soon !
Thursday 26th February 2004

09.30 GMT
Weather - Bright, sunny, icy
     Last night I met Kevin in the pub for a few pints. As usual I came home just slightly drunk. Once indoors it was my intention to watch The Bill that I had recorded earlier. Unfortunately when I turned on the TV I found that Drop The Dead Donkey had just started, and was followed by Monty Pythons Flying Circus - both on the Paramount Comedy channel. I just had to watch those first before watching The Bill. In consequence it was something like 2am before I got to bed. This morning I have had a little lay in, although I am up, washed and dressed as I write this (I often wash and dress after I have written up the morning entry here).

      I didn't notice it so much coming home from the pub, but I did notice that the sky was crystal clear on the way to the pub. Even with all the light pollution I suffer from here the stars and the moon were bright and pin sharp. This resulted in a very sharp frost this morning. It is the first time recently that I have noticed the cats outdoor water bowl/bird bath to be frozen solid. Now it looks bright and sunny outside, but I bet it takes your breath away when you go out in these sub zero conditions. Sonner or later I will have to brave the cold to go and get my New Scientist magazine.
Wednesday 25th February 2004

07.45 GMT
Weather -clear sky, freezing cold
      Last night I turned the TV off at 9pm and started reading. The book was one almost randomley selected off my bookshelf and was "Buy Jupiter" by Isaac Asimov. It is a collection of short stories from the 1940/50's. All good classic science fiction, and I love it. I read until midnight and managed almost half the book. It was hard to put the book down, but with tremendous will power I managed it. I turned off the light and was asleep very quickly (I was reading in bed).

      I think I woke up from some sort of nightmare during the night, but I can't remember what it was about. I do have some hazy recollection of what I was dreaming before my alarm went off and woke me up. The first bit I remember is very hazy and all I can say was that I was in a pub and left that to go back to something like the old Post Office/British Telecom training school. Instead of being at Paul Street it was in the old cinema at Forest Hill. The one that is now a Weatherspoons pub called The Capitol. The first bit of business when we got there was to discuss who was going to buy the coffees. I offered my vending card as I never used it (not being a coffee drinker) and it had built up a fair bit of credit. Then the lesson started. I can't honestly say what it was about, but it may have been about aerial rigging because next we were in a field with a typical pirate radio medium wave aerial strung between two trees. The next bit was very weird. There was a transmitter connected to the aerial and it was radiating RF. I noticed that the radiation had an odd property. I held a piece of scrap printed circuit near the aerial and the green lacquer, that is typically found on many printed circuit boards, seemed to be bleached. I next held up a copy of a pink coloured newspaper (The Financial Times ?) and it too was bleached white. It was bewildering in the dream, and in reality I am left wondering why I should have dreamt something so bizzare. That is pretty much where the dream had got to when my alarm went off and woke me up.

     It is strange how often Paul Street R.E.T.C. (regional engineering training centre) at Old Street crops up, in one guise or another, in my dreams. During the 21+ years I worked for Post Office Telecommunications/British Telecom I did spend many weeks there. It is possible that if you added all the weeks up it may have come to close on a whole year, but definitely more than 6 months. I had a sort of love/hate relationship with the place. I enjoyed some of the learning there, but generally hated the journey there and back. They certainly had some excellent lecturers and teaching methods, but I still don't know why I have such affection for the place in my dreams.

    As it is bright and sunny this morning I may be inspired to do some of the things I have been intending to do for the last week. On the other hand it is possible that Jodie will pop over this afternoon, and tonight I should be drinking with Kevin. I wonder what I will do today ???
Tuesday 24th February 2004

11.00 GMT
Weather - grey, occasional drizzle
     It's eleven O'clock and what have I done so far. I've got up, showered, shaved and washed my hair. I've been to the job centre and signed on, and I've done some shopping in the Aldi supermarket on the way home. Oh, and I've had some breakfast.

     Now what shall I do today ?  The obvious thing is to try and get my firewall, that I have been going on about for the last week, built  and in use.  Maybe I will, or maybe I won't. I've got a bit of a headache at the moment and I think I would prefer to lay down and do some quiet reading.
20.10 GMT
Weather - dark and drizzly
     I thought I would something slightly unusual and write up how the day has gone before going to sleep.

      Mostly the day has been unexciting. I have top-and-tailed 2 hours of off air recordings from BBC 7 - and listened to them. And I have read the best part of half a paperback book. Other than that I have done nothing. I'm not sure when this mornings headache subsided. It was not especially painful, almost ignorable for much of the time, but it was enough to take any enthusiasm out of the day. The cold and grey did little to help either.

    One other thing I did want to do today, or to put that another way, one thing I had thought of a day or two ago, was to put an improved switch in a little handy vacuum cleaner I have. The cleaner itself is a really cheap nasty piece of work that is not terribly effective, but it is still not entirely useless. One very annoying thing is the switch on it. The way it is designed is that you should be able to push up a slide switch with your thumb, but it is crap ! Half the time the switch is intermittent unless you push it very hard and in the end your thumb goes numb and the motor switches itself off again. My idea is to install a sodding great toggle switch that goes on or off with a very positive action. Once that is done I will make a start at vacuuming (which I am sure is spelt incorrectly) some of the cobwebs lurking in high places. The machine is not powerful enough to do much for cat hairs on the chairs, but cobwebs it handles OK. Perhaps I may do it tomorrow, and maybe I'll get the firewall singing as well. On the other hand I may end up in the pub lunchtime and do nothing. I'm sure I will be in the pub in the evening, but an extra lunchtime pint, although unlikely, would not go amiss.
Monday 23rd February 2004

08.00 GMT
Weather - clear sunny sky, cold
     Last night I was feeling very good. Eric's PC was still working well, and Mark's drum machine was working so I could put my feet up. I listened to Journey Into Space on BBC 7 and later tuned into channel 4 to watch the 50 greatest pop bands as judged on sales of singles in the UK. I approved of as much as 50% of the bands shown, although there were some surprises. I can't believe that some manufactured, plastic boy bands could sell in excess of 4,000,000 singles. The mind just boggles at the lack of judgement of the record buying public.

     I mentioned Marks drum machine earlier as if I had previously written about it. It is an interesting box of tricks that can replace the drummer in a band. I had heard of them before, of course, but this was the first time I actually seen and played with one. It was rather good and probably would make for a temporary substitute for any band who was unable to find a drummer with the right personality (slightly mad, a boozer, prone to gardening accidents, etc.) Mark had borrowed it off a friend and was worried that it appeared not to work. He initially diagnosed the problem as the power supply not working. So he bought a universal adaptor and tried that. It lit the machine up, but it still did not make any sound. So he dropped here for me to have a look at. I feared that it would be almost impossible to repair and was not looking forward to stripping it down. However when I looked at it more closely I noticed the power input jack said 9V AC. After a long hunt I found a suitable adapter and tried it out. At first I thought that it was still not working. It has 4 main outputs which are ¼ inch jack sockets, and a mysterious 3.5mm socket marked tape recorder. No sound was coming out the tape jack, but there was sound a plenty from the ¼ inch jacks. It is possible that there is still a fault on the tape socket, but it may need to be turned on in some menu, or it may be just a start/stop signal. What I do know was that the lead that Mark brought over with it had a ¼ inch jack plug on it so I assume that was where he did not hear sound from. We have arranged to swap power adaptors and his fee for my expertise is one huge bag of cat litter delivered to my door. I probably should have raised that to include a 4 pack of diet coke - another heavy item I don't like lugging back from the supermarket.

     I thought the weather forecast was for a murky day with an outside chance of sleet or snow. Yet the sky outside is clear and the sun is shining. If this keeps up I may take that breath of fresh air I was considering yesterday. Eventually there were a few sunny spells yesterday, but they were not good enough to raise the temperature above "bloody cold". Today will stay very cold, but as yet there appears to be little wind so it may not feel too bad.
Sunday 22nd February 2004

09.15 GMT
Weather - cold,dry.bright,but no sun
     Here is the final word on Eric's PC. It works fine ! Having put in a reliable motherboard it is all working perfectly. I spent the last few hours yesterday loading it up with more software and copying a few media files to it. All I shall do today is to set up a new internet account and load the settings for that, and it will be ready to be taken away by Monday.

     Now that PC is, more or less, out of the way I can return to my firewall project. It is posible that I could use the faulty motherboard for it, but I don't think I will take that chance. I will stick with the machine I know can work, although once that is up and running and has proved itself I may do some experiments with the faulty board as an alternative machine.

     Before I got out of bed it looked as if it was quite bright behind the curtains, but it now looks as if the sky is a uniform light grey colour. It could be high mist that will burn off later to give some sunshine, or maybe it will get greyer and we will have some rain. It would be nice if the sun does come out. I fancy going out to stretch my legs for a while.
Saturday 21st February 2004

11.28 GMT
Weather - cold with sunny spells
      This may look like a late start to the day, and in a way it is. In my defense I can say that I am up, washed, shaved, shampoo'd and dressed. I have also got a full load in the washing machine doing its stuff. I have done all the washing up, and I have my breakfast/elevenses/lunch cooking in the oven.

     There is one reason I am up so late, but that was compounded by another thing. Last night I was having "fun" trying to get Eric's PC working. As I said on Thursday it seems fine until you do something involving a lot of hard disk activity. It then locks solid. So I spent many hours cloning the installation from the original hard disk to a new one. Although mostly automated it is still a long process. I should have started earlier in the day, but I didn't and it was close to midnight before I was ready to test it all out. It failed ! The fault was exactly the same which eliminates the hard disk itself. I now have two choices. It is either the motherboard or a corrupt installation of Windows. Fortunately I have a very similar motherboard going spare at the moment. It is untested beyond noting that it will boot up. So at some point today I will be doing a motherboard transplant. It is simple in itself, but time consuming. Perhaps I had better not leave it too late in the day before I try it.

       After being kept up late playing with that PC I missed out on the chance to leave Schiba out for the night. He had finished whatever he does when out late, and managed to catch me before I went to bed. I left him shut in the ront room, but once again Nelly let him out. He wanted to play at 3am and nearly 5am. By 05.30 he decided to go out again and I managed to get some uninterupted sleep.
Friday 20th February 2004

07.45 GMT
Weather - cold, broken cloud with potential for sunshine later.
      I wonder what I am doing up so early considering I had a very late night after boozing in the pub. I was awoken by two things. First some heavy vehicle took the speed bump outside at speed. This shook the whole house, but was ignorable. Having woken up I heard the second thing which was Schiba crying to come in. I actually let him out in the night. I can't remember what time that was, but I think it was between 3 and 4am. It is less fuss to get out of my warm bed to do that than having him wandering in and out of my room all night. I might add that he had been shut in the front room, but Nelly must have let him out. So I couldn't ignore his cries and I got up to let him in and feed the pair of them. Now though, I may go back to bed for another hours sleep.
Thursday 19th February 2004

08.50 GMT
Weather - dry and sunny : very cold
      I hate PC's !!!! I spent ages getting Ivor's father-in-law's PC working yesterday. Superficially it is going well, but after intense disk activity it locks up solid. I suspect the motherboard, but it could equally well be the hard disk or a software problem. Probably the easiest thing to try is another hard disk.

      Once that PC is out of the way I have a drum machine to look at. That is either going to be a simple fault or an impossible fault. Whichever it is I am going to be paid to do it. It will only be a token payment, but it should buy a small round.

       And once that is out of the way I can get back to building my firewall. Right now though, I have to get up and go and buy some food - I'm hungry and so are the cats (although they do have food down - it's just not their favourite flavour !).
Wednesday 18th February 2004

08.18 GMT
Weather - cold, dry with the hint of a few breaks in the cloud
      Yesterday was fun, but tiring. As planned, I visited Ivor at his new, to me, house deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. It was an hours drive there, and the same back. I guess I am just not used to travelling long distances as I found it very tiring, although having pre-breakfast beers may not have helped. Breakfast was actually at 9 o'clock, as in 21.00 Hrs, last night. It is a shame that the whole time we were out it was drizzling. It made the trip up and down the motorway, and through the Kent countryside, less than spectacular.

     Today I have a PC to repair/refurbish. It is a shame it is not a paying job, but it is Ivor's father-in-laws that I offered to get going for him. The main problem is that it crashes with "the blue screen of death" everytime a camera is plugged into the USB ports. For reasons, as yet unknown, the on board USB ports had not been enabled, and Ivor had fitted a PCI USB card. It may have helped if that had been seated properly........

     Once that is fixed it will be back to my attempts to get a Smoothwall firewall installed and working. It is looking as if it was the lack of RAM that was stopping the installation on my old 486 machine. I can rustle up 32 MBytes of 72 pin EDO RAM, but I wonder if I should abandon the 486 and go back to the Socket 7 based PC that I know worked OK. It is not so elegant, but at least I know it works OK.

     Today, or at least this evening, brings the choice of more pub related entertainment. It has been suggested that I should go to The Green Man in Bellingham where there is a gig going on. Alternatively I may just prefer to meet Kevin in The Ram. I think the latter is more likely.
Tuesday 17th February 2004

08.00 GMT
Weather - cold and damp
     I had a far better sleep last night with only a few nightmares about 486 PC's. The feeling cold and achey seemed to pass by yesterday afternoon, and I think I feel fine today.

      I spent much of yesterday, from the afternoon onwards, battling with an old PC. I built it from scratch using old bits and pieces. It was based on an old 486 motherboard and supposed to be for my firewall. Sadly it was all a waste of time. Although I managed to get past all the problems with device conflicts and install Windows 95 on it, I could not get Smoothwall to install at all. It would crash on the second floppy disk. It may be that there was not enough memory, I could only put 16 MBytes in, or it just could not cope with such primitive architecture. It was a big disappointment as I was hoping to be able to use the very small desktop case that it all fitted into. It was also fairly quiet running. I shall now have to go back to a big, ugly, and noisy PC that I know works OK. It was the machine that I first experimented with Smootwall on.

     Although there has been some overnight rain the sky looks brighter than yesterday. I hope that maybe the sun will poke its head through the clouds and we'll get some sunshine today. That would be nice anytime, but today I should be being whisked off to deepest, darkest Kent to visit Ivor at his home and local pub. It will be the first time I have seen Ivors house since he moved out of London 15, or so, years ago.
Monday 16th February 2004

08.00 GMT
Weather - cold and dry, overcast
      I had a rough night last night. I was tossing and turning and it feels like I did not get enough good sleep. I can remember loads of bits of probably connected dreams. Almost all concerned railways, and these were mostly set in, or not far from, Catford. There is too much to recount here, but as a taster of some of the bizzare views I was getting I'll mention a couple of things.

Odd thing 1 - The line going past here suddenly being on a steep hill.
Odd thing 2 - A spur linking the Catford Loop line to The Mid kent line
              right opposite the end of my road.
Odd thing 3 - A tube train going past with some freight wagons coupled in
              the centre of it.

There were loads of other strange things, and views seemed to morph between different segments of the dreams.

     Yesterday I spent many hours "top-and-tailing" radio shows that I have recorded from BBC7 on the PC upstairs. I now have my "Round The Horne"s and "Yes Minister"s up to date as well as last nights episode of "Journey Into Space". Another 30 hours and I could get it all up to date !

      I should have been in bed early last night but got distracted. Maybe this caused my poor sleep. As I was going up to bed I stupidly decided to see whether an old 486 motherboard would fit into an old PC case I have. The case is very small and would be ideal for my firewall box. I think it will and I'll probably be building that today.Smoothwall is my preferred software for the firewall. It is a customised Linux distribution, free to download and use, that requires no previous knowledge of Linux to use. It provides a full DCHP server for internet connection sharing and can run on very low spec equipment. They recommend a Pentium 1, but say a 486 will work as well. I hope that using a 486 will not slow things down too much. I am relying on the fantasy that a Pentium is recommended as the preferred processor to cope with a heavy load of several people all sharing at once. There may be rare occasions when I could be joined by someone else, but in general it will only be me using it from different PC's - but not simultaneously.
11.20 GMT
Weather - cold and dreary 4°C
     It feels very cold today (at only 4°C, it is). I have yet to really warm up. I got back in bed for an hour after writing this mornings piece. Even in bed I didn't feel very warm. After that I had a hot shower which helped a bit. Once I came downstairs I felt like a hot breakfast so I made some beef balti. Now I know that is an unusual type of breakfast, but you could look at it more like a plate of thick soup for elevenses. If it was the case that I drank tea or coffee I would probably had some of that to drink, but I don't so it was beef balti. Even now I don't feel comfortably warm. I also have a few little aches and pains. I'm worried......
Sunday 15th February 2004

06.45 GMT
Weather - still dark, but damp
     Every Sunday I seem to say how odd it is that I am up so early. This morning I won't be saying that as I know why I am up so early, and half of it is the same reason every Sunday. That reason is that there is bugger all on TV on Saturday nights. 100, or more channels available to me and nothing to hold my attention. Sad isn't it? The other reason for my early morning is that I had an early night. Yesterday I was still feeling the effects of a very full day on Firday. As I suggested I would yesterday, I did go back to bed. Although I was in bed for some time I didn't get much more than an extra half hours sleep. I consequence, by 9pm last night, I felt as if I had been burning the candle at both ends. So I grabbed some reading matter and went to bed. I can't remember the actual time I got into bed, but it was 11pm when I turned the light out. Schiba was out so I had no worries about him disturbing me and I was asleep almost instantly.

     The next thing I remember was having a dream just before I woke up. The earliest bit of the dream I can remember, although only just, was getting off a tube train with some mates. We made our way to the surface and came up inside a large music venue. In some ways it was like the old "Hammy O" (Hammersmith Odeon), but the seating was much more spacious. It was as if the size of the seats, and the spaces between the rows, was about 1½ times normal. We strolled in and wandered down to the second row from the front and sat down. I wondered if we had tickets and Kevin said the record company would pick up the tab. It was almost as if we were on the guest list, but not quite. One of the bouncers came down and spoke to us. He reminded us that all the seats were reserved and later he would have to move us to our proper place. Then the band came on and it turned out they were Genesis. We heard the first song start whose tune is still ringing in my head, but I can't put a name to it now. I think it was atrack off "And Then There Were Three". What seemed amazing was that not only were we in these really comfy, and spacious seats, but the music, although loud and powerful, was not so loud that we couldn't still carry on an almost normal conversation. Towards the end of the first song the bouncer came down to us and said that the people who had reserved the seats we were in had arrived and he would have to show us to where we should be sitting. We followed him along to the left hand side of the venue where there was a door. We walked through it and found ourselves out on the street. At that point I woke up.

     I was quite surprised to see that it was only around 6.30 when I first looked at the clock, but I thought I may as well get up. Schiba probably wanted to come in and get some breakfast (He did, but I had to call him first). Since then the sky has now lightened, but it looks very grey. Maybe it will continue to lighten up and we'll see some sunshine, but then again it might not. At this point I am wondering if UK Gold are showing any early morning Dr. Who. I think I am going to find out.
Saturday 14th February 2004

07.30 GMT
Weather - dry
     My last words yesterday were about my drinking options. The outcome was that I went to both sessions. In fact it was three sessions yesterday!

    I started out by going to The Herne to meet Ivor. He wasn't there, but I did find out he was in The Clock House. So I left half a pint of fizzy lager for some more civilised Winter Warmer with Ivor. After 3 pints there it was back to Ivor's work where he kindly printed me out a 96 page manual. It was done in minutes, which is rather quicker than the hours it would take me on my printer here, and to top it all he ring bound it as well.

    Later on we went back to The Herne to meet Ian, and I had several more pints of fizzy lager. By now I was feeling the effects and felt really horrible when I got home. I was looking forward to some grub, but only managed a small tin of cold low sugar/low salt baked beans before Howard phoned up about the meeting taking place in The Ram. He said he would call on me on the way to the pub. With that I couldn't really refuse to go, and did indeed end up having a third session (or 4th session if you count the aborted half pint session in The Herne) in The Ram.

   Once in The Ram I sat at the other end of the pub to the people I didn't want to see. Soon more and more people gravitated over to sit with me - which was most gratifying. Overall it was not a bad night. I even managed to flog a Skyline DVD and gave one out on approval. Somehow I doubt I'll get any money for that one.

    It is now 07.39 by the clock on this PC and I am not sure how I feel. I was expecting a raging hangover, but instead I have a mild one. I think I drunk half a pint of water before going to bed, and consumed almost a full pint during the night. The main reason I am up at this time was to get more water, but I needed to let Schiba in and feed him and Nelly. Then I thought I may as well turn on the PC and write a few lines about yesterday. I think I am going back to bed now.
Friday 13th February 2004

08.50 GMT
Weather - unbroken grey sky
     Friday the thirteenth - unlucky for some, but not for me so far. I had a couple of dreams involving pleasant women. At first a couple smiled at me. They were total strangers I passed in the street, but their smiles were very warm and sincere. They were quite good looking too, and I find a nice smile to be quite sexy too. Later, in a pub, there was some sort of private function going on in a back room. I was standing by the door talking to to governor of the pub, who had just served me a pint, when I was mistaken for a bouncer. A lot of people were going in to the room so there was some congestion at the door and people had to wait in line for a few moments. Once again several women smiled at me and one of them decided to start kissing me as she was waiting to go in. A little while later one of the women who had smiled at me, while waiting to go into the private function room, passed through the bar where I was drinking and decided to sit on my lap. That is as far as it went because I woke up at that point. So maybe Friday 13th is unlucky !!

    Today I have the choice of two possible drinks. I could go over to Nunhead for a lunchtime drink with Ivor, or I could go to the old pirates reunion at The Catford Ram tonight. The former sounds a better idea, but I know a lot of people want me to go to The Ram tonight. I still feel uneasy about going to The Ram because there are a few people there who would spoil an otherwise good time. I can't really explain it, and I don't want to anyway. All I can do is to compare it with something else. I would say it would be like eating the most amazingly wonderful meal while suffering raging toothache. I have suggested to a couple of people that I will decide about tonight on the toss of a coin. It might even come to that.
Thursday 12th February 2004

08.10 GMT
Weather - grey sky that might break to give some sunshine
     Once again I am up reasonably early. Yet today I didn't use my clock radio alarm. The reason for this was that last night I was in The Ram with Kevin and Howard where I had a skinful. After that I stayed up to watch a recording of The Bill. After a late drunken night I thought I deserved a lay in. So I am surprised that I managed to wake up just 15 minures after my alarm would have gone off. This was aided by a very claustrophobic sort of dream.

     The dream started off meandering from this to that, but lead up to me starting a new job. The job was TV repair (nightmarish enough !), and it was in a new workshop that was built and run by someone I know - except in reality I have no idea who the person was. As I went there I passed a woman who smiled at me, but I don't know who she was. Outside the shop was an identical looking woman who was smoking a fag. Once inside the shop there was another clone of the same woman serving behind the counter. All three were identical even down to the clothes they were wearing. Then a fourth clone arrived to take me through to the back where the workshop was. She led me through these tiny corridors between tiny rooms. It was as if someone had take a room about 30ft by 30ft and divided it up into loads of tiny rooms all connected by short and narrow corridors. We passed the "training room" and it had a small table in it with some electronic stuff on it, but the room was only about 5ft long and 3ft wide. I never did get into the workshop itself because I woke up just before we reached it. We had got as far as where the corridor turned a corner, and the workshop was, apparently, just round this corner. The corridor here was just 2ft wide. There was a small alcove there which was just big enough for two adults to stand up in, and it was described as the rest room.  It was probably a mixture of how claustrophobic it was getting, plus the absurdity of it that finally convinced me to wake up.

     Upon waking up I felt a little hungover, but now, almost an hour later, I don't feel too bad. Although I am up, I am not UP. That will only be so once I have washed and dressed. Sometime after that I have a big e-mail to compose to someone who I have not seen in over 20 years. Hello Pam !
Wednesday 11th February 2004

07.45 GMT
Weather - looks grey at the moment
     Like yesterday, I turned on my clock radio to wake me up at 07.30. I have decided that my sleeping patterns have become too erratic and I want to get back into regulars hours again. This will, of course, be essential should I ever find a new job.

    I have to warn you that if you are eading this, it is purely a figment of your imagination. According to the configuration settings on this PC I have no access to the internet, and thus have been unable to upload this. It is purely a figment of my imagination that I believe I may have uploaded this.

   It all started yesterday when I did an experimental installation of Smoothwall (http://www.smoothwall.org). This is a firewall that is set up on an old, fairly low spec, PC. It runs a customised version of Linux, but that is mostly hidden from use below a simple set of configuration schemes. It seemes to me that this is the answer to my future home network as it will enable all and any PC connected to the network to run safely. It wil also ease any future change in connection from dial-up to broadband as only one box will need to be configured.

    Anyhow, I needed to connect to the firewall/smoothwall box via ethernet to configure the outgoing connections (a modem for now). So I started the internet connection wizard on this Linux box and everything started to go wrong. According to that wizard I have no modem connected, and an unconfigured lan connection. Hence I should not be able to access the internet. However that is all buried deep in the bowels of Linux, but sitting above that is another layer, the KDE desktop, and that seems to have its own ideas about connections and can still make my modem work (well it did last night - I hope it still does this morning).

      So to configure my Smoothwall firewall I had to use my Mac. That is slow and unresponsive, and it also lacks screen resolution, but it worked. I was able to configure the modem in the firewall and, for the first time ever, connect to the internet via the ethernet connector.

     The next step will be to do all this for real. So far it has been an experimental lash up, but once I have built the firewall box properly I can start to wire up the house. I think I will also need to re-install the software on this linux box. Several bits of it are broken and a fresh install might be easier than trying to repair it. In theory I could repair it by going in and editing a multitude of configuration files if I knew what and where they are. The trouble is I am a coward, and a lazy one as well !
Tuesday 10th February 2004

11.00 GMT
Weather - sunny spells but cold
      I have actually been up since 7.30, but decided not to distract myself with the PC before signing on this morning. Having now signed on, done some shopping and had breakfast I can now sit down and do some waffling.

     It is odd that I find I have very little to waffle about. As I predicted yesterday there was not much going on. In many ways today is similar and I expect I'll just being doing a bit here and a bit there. I have already done some gardening this morning. I hate gardening, but I decided to pull up the remains of last years Michaelmas daisies from the front garden to give the daffodils a chance to thrive. It all sounds rather grand, but in truth the two main flowers out in the front garden are a legacy of the previous owner some 20 years ago. Every year they grow, die back and grow again. Apart from minute amounts of maintenance, now and then, I just let them get on with it.

     One thing I must do when I go online is to investigate the cooking instructions for Smoothwall. Smoothwall is a small Linux distribution for use as a firewall. After dipping my toe into the idea of networking several PC's together it is inevitable that I will be setting up a home network so that I can access the internet from more than just this one PC. So a firewall between the network and the outside world will protect all the PC's on it and make connecting other PC's, including the Mac's a bit safer. Also it will make things a lot simpler when the day comes to get broadband.
Monday 9th February 2004

08.25 GMT
Weather - mostly clear sky
      I finally did it! I have managed to network 3 computers together.Although there is the slight proviso in that statement because they do not do everything that I would hope for. Between this PC, which is running Linux, and a Windows PC I can transfer files at will. I can't remotely access the internet from the Windows PC yet, but with a better understanding of Samba I hope to be able to do it. The third computer is a Mac and that is causing trouble. The only thing I appear to be able to do is to set it up as a web server. This I have done and copied over the last backup of this website to it. That works well. In fact for such a slow machine it works surprisingly well - connecting over the lan seems to be a hundred fold faster than viewing the same pages over dial up. For the moment that is all I can do. I can't browse any files on the Mac, nor can the Mac see anything outside it's own box. Once again when I get a grip on Samba I may be able to connect to the Internet from the Mac. I presume it is all a matter of setting up Samba as a proxy server. It may well be already set up like that and I have yet to discover the correct settings. It has all been rather educational, and enjoyable if you discount the hair tearing moments!
Sunday 8th February 2004

09.00 GMT
Weather - 50% clear sky and cold
      The mostly clear sky and dry ground is a surprise after last night. sometime after midnight the wind was blowing and there was rain lashing against the windows. Schiba went out just before midnight which was a relief as he was getting very annoying. Shortly after I was laying in bed trying to get to sleep when I heard the first rain hit the windows. So it  was out of bed again to see if Schiba had done the necessary and wanted to come in again. For 30 seconds there was no sign of him, and then he came down the garden path like an express train and leapt through the open window. He wasn't too soggy so I towelled off the water clinging to his fur and left him downstairs in the front room with the door pulled to. Finally I was able to get to sleep. Sometime during that sleep Nelly had got up and decided to investigate why the door was shut downstairs. She is quite good with doors and can open most of them from either side provided they are not latched. Schiba only knows how to push on a door and if that is the wrong direction he is trapped. So at some point Nelly released Schiba from the front room, but it was not until just before 6am that he woke me up. I think the rain had stopped then and he wanted to go out again. So once again it was out of bed and downstairs to let him out. Despite all that I must have managed to get 7 hours sleeping in, but I still feel like a little more. Perhaps I'll stay up and have an afternoon nap.

     Yesterday was my "first Saturday of the month" drink with my old work mates (and matesses). As usual it was very pleasant. Generally there are about 12 of us who are very regular with others turning up from time to time. Next month there are no trains to the pub as the line is shut for maintenance that weekend. It will be a bother, but I'll still be going by boring bus.

     After the drink (about 5 pints I think) I was feeling very peckish having only had a very light breakfast beforehand. I was tempted to order a takeaway, but that is becoming something of an extravagance lately. So I decided to go home via the chip shop. For far less money than a chinese or indian I had a very large bit of cod with chips and two pickled onions. I have to say it was the first fish and chips I have had in absolute ages and it was delicious! I must remember to do that next month.

     I have nothing planned for today apart from a little shopping trip.
Saturday 7th February 2004

08.45 GMT
Weather :bright and sunny
      Urggggh I feel rough. I woke up this morning with a headache. It is the kind where it feels like your brain has come loose. If I manage to keep my head still, and in the right position, the headache recedes a little. When I bent over to pick up my mail it felt like my brain would escape through my nose. I have now taken an aspirin and I hope that helps to settle things down. I ought to mention that it is not a hangover. I haven't had any booze since Wednesday night. All being well I shall have some booze this afternoon at my "first Saturday of the month" meet with my old work mates.

      Just before I woke up I had a fairly long dream that, unusually, I can remember almost in its entirety. It started at a sort of boot fair that was either at Lewes or Rye. Although it was actually a composite of several real places and situations. It seemed to be taking place in the high street and there was no easy demarcation between people selling stuff from paste tables and shops selling stuff laid out outside the shop. I was there with Kevin and Howard. As we walked along checking out what was on offer I found and bought just 3 items. The first was a 16 inch 78rpm record. I couldn't identify what was on it, but I knew that 16 inch disks were once used by the BBC for mastering radio recordings. So I was hoping that there could be something interesting on it. The next thing I bought was labelled as a laser disk. It was 12 inches in size but was not a laser disk as in "pictures from a silver disk" like a huge CD. This was black and grooved. I recognised it as a CED video disk which was a short lived, poorly supported format. I can't remember what was on it, but I knew that there was no way I would ever be able to play it. I did ask the stallholder if he still had the player but I don't think he even knew what it was. The last item I bought was a 1510 Kc/s crystal. This came from a shop that had loads of old electronic junk that included what looked like several old medium wave pirate radio transmitters. I then wandered off on my own and entered what looked like a back street. Here I found a Weatherspoons pubs that I noted for later use. A bit further on and I passed the remains of an old castle, although there was precious little left of it. Finally I came to the railway line and station that we needed to get home again from. I then decided to backtrack to meet up with Kevin and Howard again so that we could all go for a pint. Somehow I got lost and started going through a lot of corridors. I seemed to go through two different gents toilets before emerging into the pub. I then had difficulty leaving the pub. The first door out had a chair across it with someone sitting on it. I didn't want to barge past them so I went to where some other doors should have been only to find they were doors to the toilets. I think my brain was trying to tell me something with all these toilets I kept finding. I woke up at that point and decided I had better hop out of bed a little smartish as I busting for a pee!

      I think I have finished my networking experiments from yesterday. I did manage to link this Linux box with the Windows ME one, but it was really precarious. I did manage to send some files from here to the Windows machine, but I have no idea what settings I had configured everything to. It was certainly not how I imagined it would be. I was not able to connect to the internet from the Windows PC via the Linux PC. In fact I did not seem to be able to ever contact the Linux PC in any way at all. Yet after I rebooted to Windows and changed everything round again to work Windows to Windows I noticed that I now had an icon in the network box saying mdkgroup. I assume that mdk stood for Mandrake, the name of the Linux distribution that I use, but I don't know why because I thought I had told it that it should be part of the Sunnyside workgroup. I presume that is where I was going wrong, but I have no idea why Linux wanted to do its own thing and ignore what I told it. Possibly after all the mucking around the config files have become too corrupt and need to be edited by hand - if only I knew what they were and where they are. I feel the need for a fresh install to take place. Scary and undesirable as that may be!
Friday 6th February 2004

07.15 GMT
Weather : cool and dry
       I wonder what I am doing up so early, although not as early as yesterday! I was in major geek mode yesterday. I was experimenting with elementary PC networking until 2am. For the first time ever I managed to connect two PC's together via ethernet and pass data between the two. OK, it was only internet connection sharing for Windows using the do-it-yourself inbuilt wizards, but it was a first for me. What I really wanted to do was to connect a Windows machine to this Linux machine, but I ran into difficulties. Chief among those difficulties was that this PC seems to have the one lan interface that Linux seems not to support. According to the hardware identifier there are two parts to the ethernet interface. I have the "drivers" for the first part, but not the second. My gut feeling is that it is not so simple as that, and that it could be made to work if I was able to manually configure something. But what?

      Prior to all that Lan experimentation I had to rebuild an old PC and get a stable installation of Windows onto it. This was hampered by one or even two things. First I may, or may not, have had a faulty memory module, and secondly a corrupt BIOS setting that initially eluded me. Having sorted that out I was able to proceed, and succeed with a stable installation of Windows ME. To aid all this geekery I had a large pizza as I believe that is the traditional thing to do. With some extra trimmings it ended up as a very gluttonous meal. Even this morning I feel it was too much. So no breakfast for me (and I'll try for no lunch as well).

     One curious thing I noticed when playing with file transfer was a strange assymetry with transfer speed depending on which machine started it. I was transferring a 500 MByte folder from this machine (1.3 GHz Duron processor, Windows XP) to the other machine (550MHz K6-2, Windows ME). I first tried a drag and drop from the Windows ME machine. It seemed to be going horrendously slowly and I aborted the copying. I then tried copying the same files from the same folder to the same folder, but this time doing the drag and drop from the Windows XP machine. It seemed a lot faster. If the copying applet was to believed it would have taked 134 minutes first time, but only 13 minutes the second time.

       Today I will do more experimenting. I have several objectives. Trying to get the ethernet working on the Linux machine probably has to come first. (Actually this machine dual boots Win XP and Linux so I know that the connection is capable of working). Next I want to configure things so that all machines use an I.P. address rather than just the Windows workgroup/machine name method of working. Then to be really masochistic try and get an Apple Mac connected to the network. I'll report back on the state of the network, and my sanity later.
Thursday 5th February 2004

04.50 GMT
Weather : dry and mild (and dark)
      Last night I had a good night out at the pub that was only mildly spoilt by Winter Warmer not being available. Apparently it ran out just before I got to the pub.

        You may wonder what I am doing up at such an early hour in the morning. Well, so do I! I feel almost wide awake and there is a lot of birdsong outside. I was actually woken 45 minutes ago by Schiba who has not quite got the idea how to sleep on my bed while I am in it. I think he takes it as an insult if I turn over and ignore him. I am surprised that on a mild night like this he has not elected to go out. Even as I write this he is sulking at the top of the stairs.

     Later today, perhaps in another 10 hours time, I think Jodie will be popping over to pick up the results of my transferring her bootleg of Ginger, playing an acoustic set, on to a CD. I think she also wants me to try and do something with a couple of CD's of hers that have bonus video tracks that she cannot watch. Unless they auto run she has no idea how to view them on her PC. As usual I will try and educate her how to view them, but in the end I may have to try and convert them to a video CD that her DVD player on the PC will auto play.

      Since starting this entry I have put some fresh cat food out and Nelly is tucking into it. Schiba came down and turned his nose up at it, and decided to go out and catch his own breakfast. So as I am  beginning to feel sleepy again I  will probably be going back to bed again soon.
Wednesday 4th February 2004

08.40 GMT
Weather - cloudy and wet
      It still seems to be fairly mild, but there has been a lot of overnight rain. It seems to have stopped for the moment, but Schiba has just come in in a very soggy state. ( I am sure there should have been an alternative way to put that. Having two "in"s together does not feel right, but neither can be omitted without changing the sense of what I meant - he came in and he was in a very soggy state. Maybe that is how it should be written, but the first way I wrote it is the way it is said - I think).

     I woke up rather gently this morning and in consequence my dreams have evaporated, at least in any meaningful way. I am sure I had some sort of dream inspired by a TV programme yesterday. The programme was about spy gadgets. It devoted a fair bit of time to stuff used by SOE agents during WW2. I think some of my dream was about concealing radio transmitters - something that I do claim experience of, although many, many years ago.

      I am looking forward to a drink tonight. It could be a good night with at least one unusual visitor joining us. I say unusual in the sense that he has not joined us for a Wednesday night drink before, rather than the sense that he is unusual in himself. The best part is that he should have some money for me. More money than I can drink in a night (but only enough for a couple of nights).
Tuesday 3rd February 2004

09.40 GMT
Weather - dull but very mild
      I woke up at 4am convinced it was time to get up. I even came down here to turn this PC on. Once it had booted I looked at the time and was rather surprised. I left the PC running and went back to bed. The next time I woke up I noticed it was light. Thinking that was a good sign I checked the time and found it was later than I would have liked. It was actually just gone 9am. I would have preferred it to be closer to 8am.

      It seems amazingly mild this morning. It's a pity that there is no sunshine or it could have been almost spring like. Last night Schiba decided to turn round as he was coming in and stayed out all night. While I have been at the PC I have had the window open so I could call Schiba and to let him in. He turned up for his breakfast about 15 minutes ago, or about 15 minutes after I first called him. Meanwhile Nelly has gone out and declared the temperature to be not too bad. The window is still open and I am only wearing underwear. Yet I am not too cold, although I am cooling off and will close the window soonish.

     Yesterday I seemed to be doing a lot of "media studies". I spent several hours of the morning searching what was on some unmarked VHS tapes. Usually I am good at labelling my tapes, but some escape the net while other have labels that have faded to nothing (cheap felt tip pens I suppose). I did find some interesting stuff including a few episodes of "Noisy Mothers" featuring Krusher and Ann Kirk. There was also a whole 4 hour tape of "Drop The Dead Donkey" episodes - all good funny stuff. In the afternoon Jodie came over with some more "media". First off was a rare German import DVD she wanted a backup copy of. The DVD was called Schattenreich and seemed to be about the German Gothic scene. Some of it was surprisingly pleasant. Next up was a bootleg of Ginger (of The Wildhearts) playing an acoustic gig at The Monarch. Apparently he actually encourages people to take tape recorders along to his gigs. No doubt much to the disgust of the record company executives ! Jodie had recorded the gig on her minidisk recorder and wanted it cleaned up and transferred to CD. I don't think she appreciated just what a time consuming process it could be. Although, to be fair, she didn't really know how much it could be cleaned up given enough time. I am going through it inch by inch cutting out any clicks or pops that I can. Then applying some selective EQ, and finally some compression/limiting to even up the loud and soft bits (but still allowing a fair amount of dynamic range). Finally I will split it into seperate tracks before recording it to CD. So far it sounds rather good. It still sounds very obviously like a bootleg, but is far more listenable to than the original recording. Hopefully I'll finish all that sometime this morning.
21.15 GMT
Weather : Still dry and mild
      The weather today has remained very mild. I went to the corner shop wearing only a T-shirt (well, underpants, trousers, socks and shoes as well !!). Although I would not have liked to have gone too far, or stood around out there, it was not too uncomfortable going just the 3 minutes to the shop and back. The cats have noticed the warmer weather as well. Schiba spent some time this afternoon sitting on the fence while Nelly was sitting on the old chair outside.

      I spent some more time looking through some old VHS tapes again today. I found more good stuff, and some old recordings from my old satelite set up with the "special" card for the "special" channel.
Monday 2nd February 2004

08.00 GMT
Weather - Grey and raining
     So the first job this morning is to actually create this months web page. I thought I'd try a new colour scheme. If you have been used to the white on black then this is going to be a bit of a shock to you. Perhaps this month I might re-instate a background image, but then again I might not. A lot depends on whether I can find something suitable.

     Yesterday, and the day before seemed to pass by very quickly with not much happening. I spent some time searching through my old VHS video cassettes to see if I had any more old footage shot on my old camera/recorder set up. This would have been from the early eighties and before the camcorder was invented. I do have some footage of me lugging round the huge recorder and seperate camera. If it was digitised I would do a screen capture to show just how bulky it was. I used to lug that lot around everywhere, yet I seem to have very little surviving footage of stuff shot on it.
Sunday 1st February 2004

    Welcome in to another months of writing about this and that. Today's entry is brought to you courtesy of tomorrow. For reasons that I cannot explain, even to myself, I didn't get round to making up this web page until the 2nd. Well it's here now so share and enjoy !

Copyright - Bill 2004