JULY 2005

Cheeky Hedghog


Sunday 31st July 2005

07.34 BST

Weather - grey and chilly

 Apart from going out to buy some catfood and tobacco, I have no idea what I will be up to today.
 I think that yesterday should be judged as a success. I did a lot of experimentation, and after a very bad start managed to get some good results. The bad start revolved around the Pentium Pro motherboard that I had swapped in to my spare PC. Nothing would work on it correctly. The symptoms were that the mouse and keyboard would lock up, although any running program would continue to function. All my first theories about the problem were wrong. I have seen similar behavior with faulty ram, or ram settings in the BIOS, but a lot of swapping about of memory modules, and alternative BIOS settings made no difference. I even ran Memtest 86 through several cycles to prove the ram was OK. After that I tried alternate graphic, sound, and ethernet cards. None of those made any difference. Finally, after loads of headscratching, I found a link missing on the motherboard. It was an unusual link, but it is an unusual motherboard. This link connects IRQ 12 to the P/S2 connectors (or maybe just the mouse connector). Without it the mouse cannot yell for attention and the whole human input interface grinds to a halt.

 With the motherboard working the experimentation could begin in earnest. At the time of finding the problem I was trying to install Windows 98. I wanted to do a basic installaation that I knew should work OK without any unknown, or unfamiliar, problems. Prior to that I had been trying to install O/S2 Warp 3. It has a most fussy install and demands hardware that it is very familiar with. Many modern motherboards confuse it. In particular the IDE controller, and type of CD ROM drive needs to be something it understands. The Pentium Pro motherboard is one that it is OK with, and that was one of the reasons why I downgraded that box from a 300MHz processor to a 200MHz processor. The O/S2 installation initially foundered on the size of the hard disk. I suspect that like Windows 3 it can really only deal with sub 500MB drives. So I put in a 500MB hard drive and the installation proceeded smoothly until it got to the point where the mouse was required. It was after it had all locked up that I tried the Windows 98 installation and finally found the missing link on the motherboard.

 While Windows was installing on that PC I turned off this PC and put in a temporary hard disk to try out SuSe Linux 9 on a machine that I knew worked OK with Mandrake 10 Linux. With plenty of speed, and plenty of memory, the installation proceeded perfectly. I was quite impressed with it once it was up and running. The hardware detection was perfect, and the sofware choices easy to manage and plentiful. I gave it a quick spin on the internet, and tried a few other things. I am now thinking that it is possibly better than Mandrake. At some time in the future I want to re-install Linux on this machine.  The current installation is a little messy after a re-install some time ago, and various experiments with different software packages. With skill and dedication it could all be cleared up, but a totally fresh start would be easier. Meanwhile Windows was finishing its installation so I restored the original hard disk in this machine, leaving the SuSe hard disk in the PC case for future emergency use, and returned to the Windows box.

 The Windows installation had gone correctly, and it had correctly installed drivers for the sound and graphic cards. The ethernet card did need the drivers installed from a floppy disk, but soon they were installed and I was on line. The only minor problem was that the original Windows 98 was shipped with Internet Explorer 4. This just cannot take all the modern scripts used on most commercial pages, although it was fine for simple pages like this diary page. Reluctantly I upgraded it to IE5 and I was able to connect to Live365 and listen to internet radio. I was now happy that the motherboard and memory were working happily, so it was out with the Windows hard disk and back in with the O/S2 disk. Now I could set the configuration options with a working mouse and keyboard. On the next boot I almost got the desktop up, but first there was a tutorial that would freeze up the the whole PC whenever I tried to exit from it. I wonder if this is a legacy of a bad installation when the motherboard link was missing. It is something I will investigate another day.

 So it was out with the O/S2 hard disk and in with another spare. There was one other old operating system that I wanted to have another look at. It was Corel Linux. When first released (on a magazine cover disk) I had a quick dabble with it, but later found I could not install it on any machine. I thought the Pentium Pro machine would give no trouble, but still I could not get it to run. It was only when I checked the disk that I found it was not bootable at all. In fact it had other magazine stuff on it plus an iso image for Corel Linux. I wonder how I ever managed that first installation many years ago ? I think I might have had two copies and gave one away. Maybe that other copy, also off the cover of a magazine, was actually a bootable copy ?  Having burnt a CD from the iso image it boted up nicely. Installation was simple and everything, apart from the sound card, worked perfectly first time. I was a little surprsised about the sound card. I thought that the Yamaha OPL-SA2 (YMF718 chip) was a widely surported device, but in this case apparently not. Maybe it is because it is an ISA card. Another day I will try and manually install it. Incidently, Corel Linux is no more, but its direct ancestor is Xandros - a distribution I now recommend to any new Linux user.

 After installing 4 operating systems in one day, with mixed results, I decided that I had had enough. I spent the remaining few hours of the day watching TV or reading.
Saturday 30th July 2005

07.20 BST

Weather - cloudy but bright

I have no specific plans for today, but I may do a little shopping, and a lot of computer experimentation. I might even do some stuff in my workshop.
Yesterday was mostly bright and sunny, which was a pleasant sort of surprise. This morning I am wracking my brains trying to remember what I did yesterday. The morning is a bit of a blur, as is the early part of the afternoon. As 18.00 approached I thought I had better nip out to get some more cigarette papers, not that it urned out I would need them. At the same time I wasted some of my precious money by buying some Diet Coke, crisps, and a copy of Micro Mart.

 I combined eating junk food with watching TV and reading bits from Micro Mart. A little while later, while still watching TV, I swapped over the motherboard in one of my spare PC's from a Slot 1 with 300MHz Pentium II processor, to a Socket 8 with a 200MHz Pentium Pro processor. This was a backwards step in many ways, but the loss of speed is partly compensated for by a more stable, and better supported motherboard. The downside is that the replacement motherboard uses 72 pin ram sticks. It is a lack of these in the larger sizes that make my firewall unable to upgrade to the latest software. (I now have a remedy for this that I will get round to implementing sometime). Thanks to Steve I did find I had enough ram to put 48MB on the motherboard. It is small by todays, standards, but just enough to run some light applications.

 Later in the evening I wondered if I could persuade SuSE linux to install with only 48MB of ram available. Initially I couldn't. SuSe implied it could carry on if it could find a swap partition on the hard disk, but never offered any partitioning tools to make one. I used another Linux distro. Ubuntu as it happens, to partition and format the hard disk. Now SuSe would go into its setup routine, but only in text mode. The installation went incredibly slowly. It took several hours to get to the end. At that point it threw up an error message saying 4 packages were corrupt. It was very late and I really wanted to get to bed, so I ignored them and carried on (I am not sure if there was any other option anyway).  A few minutes later and it was time to reboot. I guess one of the corrupt packages was grub as all I got for a boot message was "Press any key to reboot". This was not very helpful ! At that point I turned everything off and went to bed. I fell asleep as my head hot the pillow.

 This morning, even while I am typing this, I am attempting to install Slackware on that PC. If the blurb is to be believed it should put in the most efficient and optimised system possible. In all possibility I will not keep it, and it is mainly just an exercise to see what might be possible. There is one thing I would like to use that motherboard for, and that is an installation of O/S2. My O/S2 installation disks are very fussy about what is in the box when doing an installation. The socket 8 motherboard is one where I have had some success when experimenting with O/S2. There are rumours that O/S2 could end up as open source software. IBM are dropping all support next year and there is an online petition and other information at www.os2world.com (but I haven't looked at it yet).
Friday 29th July 2005

10.15 BST

Weather - broken cloud and dry

Most things that need to be done have been done, so today I can experminet with computers again. Time to swap motherboards (possibly) and try and get a good installation of SuSe Linux 9 working.
 The weather is so variable at the moment. Yesterday it started very dull with some drizzle, but by the afternoon the clouds broke up and it turned into a fine evening. Well almost fine, it was probably a bit too humid as the temperature rose.

 A lot of yesterday I spent in my studio. I managed to make one really stupid error when arranging songs into alphabetical order. Somehow I have managed to get an "M" in the middle of the "V"'s.. It is too late to do anything about it now so it will have to stand. I wonder if anyone will notice ?

 In the evening I went out to the pub to have a drink with Kevin. For the first time in several weeks I was able to buy not one, but  a whole two rounds ! It did use my entire drinking budget for the week, but it was worth it (in case I have to sponge in later weeks). The last two beers were new to both Kevin and Myself. I heard about it, but had never tried, "Kew Brew". This is a Youngs beer brewed from hops grown at Kew Gardens. A small percentage from each sale goes towards funding Kew Gardens work with endangered plant species.

 I came home from the pub feeling nicely mellow. Not sober, but not roaring drunk ! I still have not repaired my VCR so I stayed up to watch the repeat of The Bill which was shown on ITV 3 at 00.40. Of course this meant I did not get to bed until almost 02.00 - one of the reasons I am writing this so late in the morning. It's not the only reason. I have written a couple of longish relies to e-mails since getting up, and spent 30 minutes answering a phone call. Finally, and slightly unusually, I am washed and dressed as I write this. Now I have another long e-mail to write.
Thursday 28th July 2005

06.20 BST

Weather - dull and drizzly

 Apart from general stuff like mucking about with PC's, or playing in the studio, there are three other possibilities for today. I may be drinking lunchtime or drinking this evening, but not both, and maybe not either. If I am not drinking at lunchtime it is possible that Jodie may want to come over to use the studio. It is entirely possible that none of the predictions will happen, just like yesterday...........
 Yesterday was a cold damp miserable sort of day. I think there was one very brief glimpse of sunshine, but most of the day suffered in a sort of gloomy twilight. I made some predictions about yesterday, and neither of them came true.

 In the morning I did some superficial tidying up in the living room and very little else. When the appointed time came for my visit from the Council Tax investigation officer I waited. and waited, and waited. Basically I wasted the whole afternoon. At 17.00 I phoned up the office and complained. I was told that they had a heavy workload on (or didn't want to go out in the rain), and told to expect a call back from their officer very soon. Within a few minutes he called back full of apologies, and we re-arranged the appointment for next Tuesday between 09.00 and 13.00. He said that because I had been inconvenienced he would try and make my visit his first of the day so I could then have the rest of the day free. I await in anticipation..........

 At some time during the afternoon I learned that Iain was feeling too rough to go drinking in the evening, and then as drinking time approached I learnt that Kevin was not even home from work. So last nights drinking was called off, but could happen tonight. It would have been nice to have a few pints after such a gloomy day, but it is also nice that effectively I now have another £10 in my pocket for more important things like tobacco and catfood.
Wednesday 27th July 2005

06.20 BST

Weather - rain

I have two definites for today, and several variables. Definite is that I should be getting a visit from the council tax benefits officer to check I am receiving all the benefits due to me (to check I am not renting out rooms to hundreds of illegal aliens). Then tonight I'll be drinking in The Ram. Tonight I even have a budget for a small round (a whole £10 !). In between times I will probably spend some time in my studio, or get totally distracted  and play with computers all the time.
 Yesterday morning I went to visit Base Computers in Eltham. It was there that Lee suggested that they wanted to take on a new member of staff. I never got to see the boss, but the guy who was there seemed to think that the best they might want was a Saturday lad. Nevertheless he took my C.V. and promised to give it to the boss. I don't think I'll hold out much hope of getting a job there.

 To get to Eltham I wanted to get a 160 bus. Historically these have always stopped outside Catford Town Hall, but I couldn't see any signs for the 160 there. Instead I caught a 124 bus. It would take far to long to describe the route that now takes to get to Eltham, but in the 36 minute (average) journey I am sure I saw most of S.E. London.  When I came home again I did get on a 160 bus. It now terminates at Catford Garage, and now no longer turns round at St Dunstans College. Although the route is still not direct it gets back to Catford in 21 minutes (instead of 36 minutes), and stops around the corner from Catford Town Hall.

 With my recent cash injection I had money burning a hole in my pocket so I popped into Tesco's on my way back from the bus stop. I spent a stunning £8.23 on such exciting things as bread and potatoes. I also bought a couple of bottles of real diet coke. I was disappointed they had stopped the "two bottles for £2" offer. It is now two bottles for £2.35. So this morning I am enjoying the luxury of a decent caffeine fix instead of the drinkable, but not really enjoyable, Aldi own brand diet cola at 46p per bottle. The most important purchases were two pots of curry powder. One was (alleged) tandoori flavour, and the other was (alleged) Thai Green curry flavour. I am sure that either will contribute nicely to some future pea and potato curries.

 I spent some of the afternoon in my studio before going out to the Job Centre to sign on. It was, as always irritating to go there, doubly so since it has been at 15.30, and this time tripley so. I had dutifully written up my job seeeking diary, and provided evidence of some  of my activities, only to find that they were a little busy and did not ask to see any of it.

 For the next few hours I was very lazy, but after "Enterprise" on Sky One (the second to last episode - ever !) I decided to have a play with computers. I rebuilt a computer that had been stripped for spares using some of the bits that Steve had bought me last Sunday. I thought I would try an installation of Ubuntu Linux that Steve had also brought for me. It was both good and bad.  I didn't like the way the disk partitioning was done, although it was easy enough once I realised what was going on. I then didn't like that it wanted to download 441MB of patches, but I let it do it anyway. Eventually it was up and running, and working mostly OK. One definite oddity was that at no time was I prompted to enter a root password. I guess that it uses a preset password that I am supposed to change, but I never read the documentation before I installed it. The most annoying thing is that it does not support mp3 files as first installed, and to make matters worse I could not work out how to install things like libmpeg and liblame etc before deciding that I was not going to carry on past midnight as I was tempted to do. I may well play with it more today, but  also have a copy of SuSe linux that I want to try. With 5 CD's worth of it, I think I have plenty to experimentation to do. It's worth pointing out to anyone not familar with Linux that all the different distributions available all work the same at core level, but it is the configuration, and installation tools that can make or break a linux distribution in my humble opinion. So far the best I have tried as simple to install, and simple to use, is Xandros. It is aimed fairly and squarely at ex Windows users (which I guess most of us are) and provided familiar tools, and a similar set of applications as would be found on an average Windows users computer.

 I was cold during the night and I woke up in the early hours of the morning with my legs feeling very cold. I had to get out of bed to get my duvet, and throw it over the bottom half of the bed. I don't know if it was the cold but I had some very weird and disturbing dreams.  I can't even remember what I was dreaming about when I woke up this morning. It think it was something going on in a biggish house, possibly the one I lived in as a kid. All I can remember was that I woke up feeling very edgy. I do remember the last moments of the dream I was having when I woke up with cold legs sometime in the early hours of the morning. I was on the peripheral of a battle with a raiding party of marauding Vikings. One Viking, Big Eric by name (apparently), spotted me and gave chase. I had hardly moved when a fierce lion (maybe some other big cat) came between us. The cat seemed more interested in me so I shut the convenient door (that just happened to be in the forest clearing where we were). It was no ordinary door. It was a sort of magic one as it was painted in "Light Sraw" paint and had "Equipment Cable Pressurisation" mounted on it. The door had a few holes in it (rack panels not fitted) and I was taunting the cat through these holes as I woke up. It seems that in my dreams I had smoothly combined memories of a recent TV programme about Vikings, and far older memories about working in telephone exchanges. Ain't dreams wonderful !
Tuesday 26th July 2005

07.10 BST

Weather - overcast, but not raining

 There are two things I have to do today. This morning, after the rush hour has died down, I am going to visit the computer shop that may have a job opening for me. In the afternoon, at 15.30, I have to sign on. Once that is out of the way I will probably spend some time in my studio.
  I spent yesterday morning in my workshop. My efforts were rewarded later in the afternoon when I was able to go out and buy some food, and perhaps of equal importance, some new underpants, but the most important purchase was more tobacco. I even have enough left in my budget to buy a small round on Wednesday night !

 It was just before 18.00 when I went on my rampage around Tesco. So when I got home I had the perfect excuse to tuck into some of my purchases for dinner. I have to say it was not exactly a healthy meal being as the main course was a couple of cheese and bacon pasty type things with a couple of packets of Tesco "value" crisps. I could say it was a little more exciting than some of the odds and sods I have had lately when I was running short on food, but in fact it was less tasty than the pea and potato satay I had on Sunday. That would be easy to reproduce again, but I forgot to buy some curry powder.

 There seemed to be little on TV last night so I spent a few more hours in my studio. I was untangling an hour long recording where the audio levels were all over the place. With some selective amplification, compression and limiting I managed to make it half decent.  There was some more stuff I wanted to do, but I managed to tear myself away before I ended up with another late night. I was not paying too much attention to the time, but I am sure I was in bed, and fast asleep, before 23.00.
Monday 25th July 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - damp, but not raining

This morning I want to spend a little more time in my workshop. This afternoon I should be getting a visitor, and this evening I want to spend a little time in my studio. This morning I should have been going to pay an informal visit to a computer shop, chasing up a lead for a new job, but I will not have the money for fares until this afternoon (I hope). All being well I'll be going tomorrow morning instead.
 Starting with with a few thanks. Thanks to Steve for all the suprplus computer bits. I now have the means for a lot of intensive playing about with PC's. Among the bits were copies of SuSe and Ubuntu Linux, and a pile of hard disks on which to try them. Next up is thanks to Iain for reminding me that some recent links I have included were unreadable due to being white on white. I have gone back and added a dark grey background to those links, and they should now be readable, although looking a little weird. Mind you, this whole monochrome colour scheme is a little out of the ordinary, but that's why I designed it this way.

 I managed to resist other temptations and spend several hours in my workshop yesterday morning. Once I had done the minimum to satisfy my visitor this afternoon, I downed tools and got myself ready for Steve to call by with the computer bits and pieces for me. He was expecting to get here by 14.00, but apparently the traffic was awful and it must have been 15.00 before he finally arrived. In addition to some of the bits I expected, he also brought me a couple of old PC's. Both are old Compaq machines, and both are pretty old. One uses a 486/50MHz processor , and the other a Pentium 50 (or 60) MHz processor. The latter will eventually end up as my new firewall which will have an extra port for a server box of some sort. When that eventually happens the old firewall can be rebuilt as a normal(ish) PC. It uses a socket 7 processor so I may be able to put in a spare AMD K6-2/500MHz CPU I have lying around. If it can't take that CPU then I think I have a Pentium 200MMX processor lying spare as well. Anything would be better than the Cyrix PR120 (maybe PR150) CPU it has at the moment. Maybe it will end up as the prototype of the server I want to experiment with. I don't think the BIOS will be able to take the sizes of hard disk that I will eventually want to use, but it would still enable me to practice for what I eventually want to make.

 Once Steve had left I had my dinner. I am a bit short of food at the moment as I have not been shopping for a while, or at least not for human food ! So I cooked up a pea and potatoe satay. For something so simple it was very nice. All I did was to boil up some potatoes and peas in chicken stock. Add a load of curry powder, and then towards the end of cooking I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter.

 I relaxed in front of the TV while I ate, and then for a lttle while afterwards. Soon my inquisitiveness got the better of me and I had to investigate the bits that Steve had brought for me. First I investigated the two old PC's, and had a look inside them. Then I took three of the 10GB hard disks up to the studio PC. That has a load of data on it that has grown too big for easy back up on CD, and the DVD burner it had in it no longer burns DVDs. So the next best thing is to copy some of that data to a spare hard disk. The first disk was perfect after a format, and now has copies of some of my most valuable data on it. The next disk had not been wiped and has a complete Windows 2000 instalation on it. I decided not to reformat that until I had been sufficiently nosy about what was on there. The third disk had a couple of bad sectors when I formatted it. Both were towards the end of the disk, and not very serious. It is now ready for use for some future time.

 After disk juggling I thought I had better do some work up in the studio. I tinkered away until 22.00, but forced myself to stop as I did want to try and get to bed before 02.00. I eventually ended up in bed at sometime soon after 23.00. I think I went to sleep almost instantly.
Sunday 24th July 2005

08.00 BST

Weather - light rain

Today I have do some laundry, and spend some time in my workshop. At some time around 14.00 I am expecting a flying visit from Steve who is bringing some computer goodies for me. Amongst the bits may be some extra ram to fit in my firewall. This may help with my uploading problem to NTL' s servers. Now I have to write up my diary for two days.
 Going back to Friday night first. It was unusual, but we had our latest bi-monthly old fogeys meeting on a Friday night. The reason was that Chicory Tip were playing in The Bull at Barming. I was not so sure that it was a good idea to have a meeting when a band were playing, and Chicory Tip held no great attraction for me (well maybe just a tiny bit of curiosity). In fact it was not too bad at all. The band were not very loud and we could carry on conversations without having to raise voices beyond that required in any busy pub.

 Chicory Tip's set was a bit of a surprise. Although they had four hit singles, only one was actually played. That was Son Of My Father as part of the encore. The rest of the songs were all covers of oldies. These ranged from the dreadful sound of Elvis (bloody) Presley, through to The Monkeys, and even Status Quo ! Their style of playing reminded me of some western bar band playing in the background of some 1960's American porn film. It was sort of country and western without the country.

 They played until 23.30 or maybe a little later, so it was getting very late by the time Iain droppd me off home. Once I got in I had two hungry cats to feed. Unfortunately Nelly decided to go out at 01.00, and I could not persuade her to come in again. I don't like to leave her out all night, but I had little choice but to get ready to go to bed, and subsequently go to bed. After an entertaining night out sleep did not come so quickly, and just before 02.00 I got up to see if Nelly wanted to come in. Fortunately she did and I was able to get back into bed. This time I did fall asleep reasonably quickly.

 On Saturday morning I still woke up by 07.00. I should have turned over and gone back to sleep, but I thought I would see to the cats again, and see what e-mail I had. One was an email from technical support (Steve !) suggesting a few things about my uploading problems to NTL. I then spent the next couple of hours playing with settings, checking some diagnostics and e-mailing the results back. I also spent more time reading and composing other e-mails. It was well past 09.00 when I realised what the time was. I had some important stuff to do in my workshop so I thought I had better get washed and dressed and get with it. That was the first reason why I never got round to writing a diary entry for Saturday.

 I spent quite a few hours in my workshop with a few breaks for eating, phone calls etc. By 18.00 I had had enough and decided to have some dinner and watch TV. I was going to write a diary entry then but decided to have my first attempt at full editorial control over another web site ( http://www.live365.com/stations/classic_rfl ). It was only earlier in the day that I got the "keys" for it. It was a long process, but I think I have made my mark on it. It was such a long process with uploading, checking, testing, and then sending out some e-mails that I did not get to bed until past 02.00 again.

 This morning I feel rather in need of sleep, but I have stuff to do. So I had better get washed and dressed and get to it !
Friday 22nd July 2005

06.05 BST

Weather - a bit grey, but dry and cool

Just three things to do today. First is a small shopping trip to stock up on catfood and cat litter. Most of the day I should spend in my workshop. Tonight I believe I am off to see Chicory Tip play at The Bull in Barming, Kent. Apparently it is the thing to do !
 There are only a couple of things to write about yesterday. I started the day off with a call to NTL to get my dial-up internet connection ceased, and my user name transferred to the broadband connection. It took a while to get through NTL's convoluted telephone system, but I made it in the end. The deed has been done, but unfortunately all my webspace was deleted in the process. I am now slowly building the website up again. In some ways it would be a golden opportunity to completely redo the whole of the website, but I do not have time for that at the moment.

 I think I have most of the diary pages back on the website, but I am still working on the other bits. It should have been easy, but I am having difficulties. Whenever I try and transfer a file greater than 40KB it usually crashes with a broken socket error message. This happens 4 out of 5 times and you can imagine it is a bit frustrating. I am looking into the cause, initially consulting Steve, but I would be grateful for any other suggestions.

 I would have spent most of the rest of the day in my workshop, but got distracted watching BBC New 24 with coverage of the second wave of London bombings. There is something not quite right going on there. Ian Blair, the chief of police, said that the devices were designed to kill and maim, but none of the four bombs seems to have made much of an impact, and a couple of them were reported not to have gone off properly. Some reports suggest that it was only the bomb's detonators that went off. It seems to be more than a coincidence that all four bombs could be faulty. This either means that the bombers bought the bombs from Dixons, or the chief of police is exaggerating a little. The latter is more likely, and was probably done to increase the seriousness of the situation. This is usual. The police always exaggerate everything (like the value of drug seizures), or paint everything in the worst light, but this seems at odds with the desire to  calm and reassure everybody that the situation is under control and that London should carry on as usual. By boosting the status of the terrorists  he is surely playing into their own hands. I came away with the impression that the terrorists were short of materials, and did not want to waste explosives and suiciding idiots.  Having made 4 big bangs all they have to do is shout boo to bring parts of the capital to a standstill again. There is a flaw in thinking that way. Such complacency could lead to  further disaster if real bombs were used again. Despite that I would prefer to hear the truth rather than hype. I do have one other thought. With the G8 summit over, and now more bombings, it adds to my conviction that these bombs are to do with the Olympics coming to LOndon in 2012. In which case there will be more bombs for the next 7 years, and probably some really major disaster in 2012.

 I have had some disturbing dreams lately. Over the last week or so, but not every night, I have had dreams that seem to bring up the name Marion. She was a woman who disastrously came into my life some 20 years ago. Once upon a time I thought she was pretty special, and I suppose I still have some sort of affection for her, although I can't think why. She cost me a lot of money and turned out to be totally weird. I guess I am curious to know what happened to her. It is entirely possible that she ended up in a nut house somewhere. I caan't recall that she has appeared in my dream lately, but the name has cropped up several times. My recall of last nights dream is very hazy, but I think that I was expecting Marion to turn up at any time. One explanation for this, and probably the most likely, is that I have been watching some repeats of "Waiting For God" on UK Gold. One of the main characters is called Marion, and she too is rather round the bend.
Thursdaay 21st July 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - cool, clear and sunny

The only plans for today is to get back into my workshop.
 Yesterday did not go to plan. I was distracted again by thoughts of the non-working Syquest drive. By early afternoon I did have it working, although not quite as the makers intended. For reasons that I am unclear about the Windows tools for partitioning and formatting the disks could not find a valid drive, and yet the DOS utilities had no problem with it. The simple workaround was to make a link to the DOS utilities from the Windows desktop. That was good enough for me, and the PC has now been put away to avoid further distractions.

 During the afternoon I was distracted from my workshop by Jodie. I was a little surprised when she turned up. When she mentioned it to me the day before she sounded doubtful that she would come. It all depended on how she felt. Well apparently she felt OK and brought a couple of her (or borrowed) strange Scandinavian rock band disks for me to make back-ups of while she spent 3 or 4 hours in the studio.

 Jodie left here a little while before 20.00 and I got some food together to eat while watching that terrible soap opera, with added policemen, The Bill. After that finished I went to bed with a book and read until sometime after 23.00.

 The weather has cooled a fair bit in the last week or two. Most mornings are quite fresh, but the days have been warm to hot. It actually makes sleeping choices harder. It has been to hot to go to sleep in bed, but by the early hours it has cooled off enough to be quite chilly with no covers on. I often wake up in the night and have to pull some covers over me. All I have been using is a duvet cover, but this morning even that did not provide enough warmth. Tonight, unless it turns into a very hot day, I think I will putting the duvet back into the duvet cover. I'll probably go to sleep with just one leg under it, and I hope that I will be able to pull more of it over myself as the night cools off. It feels like I can do this in my sleep, but in reality I probably wake up for a few moments, but it is probably so brief that I do not remember it in the morning.
Wednesday 20th July 2005

06.10 BST

Weather - cool, clear and calm

I'll make another attempt at getting in my workshop day. Jodie may be coming to use the studio (40% chance).
 I couldn't help myself ! Despite intending to put away my heritage, Windows 3.11 (Windows For Workgroups), PC and get on and do something else, I ended up putting in the Syquest EZ drive that I mentioned yesterday. I am not happy with the way I described the Syquest drive yesterday. I'll try again. The drive itself is identical in size to a PC CD rom drive and so slots into the case where you would otherwise fit a CD drive, or even a 5.25 inch floppy drive. In my case there are three slots so I have (top to bottom) CD drive, Syquest drive, and floppy drive. (There is also a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive in a 3.5 inch bay lower down). The Syquest drive uses cassettes, or cartridges, that are approximately the same size as a CD jewel case. All these have in them is a single hard disk like platter. They are a sort of hybrid between a floppy disk and hard disk.

 I expected Windows 3.11 to treat it as another hard disk, but it seems I was wrong. I started to do a search for drivers, but gave up when I realised that I was wasting time when I meant to be doing something else. So I bolted the case back on the PC and put it away for another time having achieved the primary objective of getting the PC to work on my network...........30 minutes passes........I couldn't resist it. I had another look for drivers, and have found them. It was easy once I took the lid off the other external drive and checked what the real model number was of the drive !

 Once I had put the PC back together it was well after 13.00 and I fancied some food as I had not eaten until then. I had very little in the cupboard, and nothing I really fancied, so I took a walk to Aldi at the end of my road. I seemed to buy a lot of junk food as well as other food. Of course it was the junk food that really took my fancy. Instead of a nice healthy meal I elected to eat a large packet of (alledged) low fat crisps followed up by a temptation direct from the hand of the devil - chocolate coated peanuts. It must be years and years since I last had any, and they were delicious !  After that rush of sugar and calories I did not feel like doing much else besides being a couch potato. So for the rest of the day I circulated between TV, reading and the internet (with some more eating and a few phone calls as well).

 Today I must get into my workshop. I have some stuff to do that might enable me to buy Steve a pint when he drops off some computer stuff to me on Sunday afternoon. This does pre-suppose that I finish the work in time, and that the man paying for it turns up before Sunday morning. I think I can handle the first variable, but I am not sure about the second.
Tuesday 19th July 2005

06.05 BST

Weather - dry, bright and rather cool

 I must leave computers alone today and get into my workshop.
 Yesterday was totally dominated by my attempts to get my "heritage" PC up and working on the internet via my local network. To cut a long story short I shall reveal that by 21.00 last night I had succeded. Along the way I made some discoveries.

 The first discovery came fairly early in the morning. Yesterday I made mention of a hard disk that I had originally thought to be around 120MB in size only to find that it was a 1GB disk, but seemed to be faulty. When I connected it to my Windows 2000 machine I had a bigger shock. It is actually a 2GB drive, and this was the reason it appeared to be faulty when connected to a controller card that only handles disks smaller than 1GB. On the Windows 2000 machine it partitioned, and formatted perfectly. What is more it passed disk check with no reported errors at all. While I had my external drive kit connected to the Windows 2000 machine I tested another unknown SCSI drive. It turned out to be a 500MB drive, also free of errors or bad sectors, and perfect for my Windows 3.11 machine. I formatted it with FAT 16 while it was connected so it was ready to use.

 Returning to the heritage box. My next discovery was based on some logic and dim memories of the past. Having now got a full set of DOS 6.22 disk I proceeded to install the whole of DOS before installing Windows. I am sure that is what you are supposed to do, but everytime I tried this the PC would freeze everytime I started Windows. After much head scratching I realised that what was different this time was that I was using a full install of DOS. My original set of of genuine MS-DOS disks had a mislabelled disk 3. That is whatever was on disk three it did not match what the installer program thought should be on it. So in the past I had never been able to do the full installation of DOS. Bearing this in mind I reformatted the hard disk and just added the sytem files to make it bootable. With this very barest of installations I then installed Windows. This time it worked, and all I had to do was to sort out the conflicts between the various cards, try and get the sound system set up properly, and find the right drivers for everything.

 Eventually everything worked fine. I could even see the machine from my Windows 2000 machine and transfer files to it, but the Linux box could not communicate so easily because I did not have TCP/IP installed. I thought that installing Internet Explorer would solve that problem as it needs TCP/IP to comminicate on the internet. I was wrong. It only installs it in a form that is tied up with a modem. Eventually I did what I should have done far earlier and did a Google search for TCP/IP for Windows 3.11. Very quickly up came the answer. I had to download an installation file from Microsoft. Once that was installed I was able connect to the internet using Internet Explorer 4, and send and receive e-mail using Outlook Express. I found that "surfing the net" was an incredibly slow process even though the machine was presented with a fast connection. There were some pages, like Live365, that refused to load in their entirety with Internet Explorer complaining of script errors everywhere. I am now torn between the idea of trying to upgrade Internet Explorer to version 5, which I think has a 16 bit version, or to actually downgrade to Internet Explorer 3 for that true heritage feel (and probably far lower memory requirements).

 The last thing I did to the machine was to refit the ancient Hauppauge TV card. I was dreading that having had so many conflict problems to sort out up until then. Surprisingly it went in without a problem. The only problem is that it may have developed a fault. Perhaps something like dried up capacitors. The picture is there Ok but it looks like the signal is a little weak with a slight overlay of interference. I was feeding it a good clean aerial signal (I think), so it should have been better than that. Well, that's something to look into anothet day.

 There is just one more thing I want to add before I put the lid back on. I have two external Syquest EZ data drives, and I really have no use for either. These drives take a small hard disk in a caddy and store a mere 88MB each. At least one of the external drive boxes contains an ordinary internal drive. I think I will put this into the one spare 5 inch bay I have left. It uses a SCSI interface so I can just hang it on the same data cable that the hard disk is connected to. I think I can put a SCSI connected CD drive in the vacated shell of the Syquest external drive. This may be useful for something, but I have no idea what at this time.

 My final discovery for yesterday has nothing to do with PC's at all. It is simply that Pall Mall hand rolling tobacco at £4.24 for a 25 gramme pouch works out cheaper than the £8.70, or £8.71, for a 50 gramme pouch of Cutters Choice or Amber Leaf.  Until yesterday I thought I was buying the cheapest hand rolling tobacco, but I was evidently wrong. My first impressions of Pall Mall are quite favourable, and I think I prefer it to all the others I have tried. So a few more precious pennies saved there then !
Monday 18th July 2005

06.00 BST

Weather - cool and slightly hazy

I have no specific plans for today. I'll probably be doing more of what I did yesterday.
 Yesterday was a frustrating sort of day. Fortunately it was frustrating without actually being too annoying. It was another hot day indoors, but not as bad the the preceeding few days. Strangely it was yesterday that Nelly decided to spend far more time outdoors than usual as if it was too hot indoors. It was also the first time in what seems like years that she was able, or inclined, to get back indoors by leaping up to the back window. For a long time she has been OK about jumping out of the window with an intermediate landing on the window sill, but I always had to open the back door for her to come in. Yesterday she proved that she is capable of coming back in via the window.

 Yesterday began in earnest when I ignored the Windows For Worrkgroups 3.11 machine and concentrated in getting the old P60 Windows 95 machine working with the strange DP83906VLJ based network card. I had to try a couple of different drivers, and even use a DOS utility to get its i/o, and irq, back to within normal limits before it turned back into an NE2000 compatible card. So after an hour (or was it 2 ? ) I was able to put the Windows 95 machine back in the cupboard fully working again after exchanging it's network card.

 That was wholly satisfactory and not frustrating at all. The frustration started soon after. I staarted to tackle the "heritage" Windows 3.11 machine. Rather than mess about with a working installation that only lacked network support I decided to put in a new hard drive and keep the working hard drive aside as a sort of reference point. I had a look through my small pile of old and battered SCSI hard drives and picked out a couple that looked likely candidates for the job. The first was a Seagate ST32430N. I had imagined it would be a small drive, perhaps 200MB, but was surprised when it turned out to be a 1GB drive. That would have added another several hundred pounds to the value of the PC back in 1992, but is far less remarkable these days. The only trouble was it refused to format properly. I don't think it was suffering from bad sectors, but some other unknown sort of disease. Sometime, perhaps today, I will connect it into my Windows 2000 machine and see if that can format it OK. So after a wait of over an hour attempting to format it I put it aside and chose another hard drive. This one turned out to be a 500MB drive and still twice the size of the drive it was replacing. Fortunately this one formatted OK and a run of scandisk showed it had no bad sectors at all. Not bad for a 15 - 20 year old hard disk !

 The next thing was to get some brand new floppies made with DOS and Windows on them. I know that my genuine originals have a few corrupt files on them, and although not important ones, I thought it better to start with perfect disks. Amazingly it is possible to download the two operating systems here. (That web site has changed a lot recently, but with some digging around it still has a good selection of drivers for many legacy products).

 I first installed MS-DOS 6.22. That went without a hitch. Then I installed Windows 3.11. The installation went very smoothly, but when I tried to use it the machine would hang when the Windows splash screen started. For the next very frustrating 5 hours I tried everything to get Windows to work. I tried removing different cards, and I tried to rem out virtually everything in the autoexec.bat, and config.sys files, but still with the same result - as soon as I started up Windows the machine would just hang. It was not until I had given up, watched an hour of drivel on the TV, and gone to bed, that I realised what I should have done. I should have removed everything from the PC except the graphics card, and the two cards needed for disk access and com ports. Then I should have installed Windows and put the sound card, network card, and finally the TV card back in , one by one, until Windows broke, and the tried to fix it from there. Maybe I'll try and do that today, or maybe I'll do something else !
Sunday 17th July 2005

07.05 BST

Weather - clear and cool

Sunday - a day of rest. Well it maybe for some, but I have at least one important chore this morning, and that is to empty Nelly's stinking litter tray. Then there is the laundry that I did not do yesterday, plus one other mind stretcher left over from last night.
 It would be fairly true to say that I had a lazy day yesterday. Despite the fall in temperature, as predicted by the weather forecasters, it was still fairly hot indoors. I expect that had I spent the day outside it would have been most pleasant, but indoors it still seemed to be a little too hot to do any running around.

 After my very early start I did go back to bed, but I don't think I got more than an hours sleep. This may have been because I didn't really need it, and yet this morning I feel very tired again. There could be a good reason for this which will become apparent later.

 The only thing I did that needed lots of effort was to go to Tesco's very soon after I got up for the second time yesterday. My Tesco Club Card Plus has been drained of money, but a check on my bank account revealed £46 in credit after my dole money was paid in. So with the safe knowledge that I could pay at the checkout I went and spent a little money in there. Amongst the items I bought were 12 tins of catfood and two 2l bottles of diet coke. Now lugging that lot home did need a lot of effort !  I also finally remembered to get some bin liners so I can now empty Nelly's smelly litter tray this morning.

 It was fairly fresh when I went out and lugging that heavy stuff back only caused me to get a little damp, but not into a heavy sweat. Once back home I changed into my slouching trousers (the ancient, stained, and ragged ones - but oh so comfortable to slouch around in !) and sat down to watch a little TV from the Discovery channel while munching one of my more frivulous buys. It was a Tesco's "Finest" individual steak pie found on the reduced money shelves. It was good, but not that wonderful. It would probably be nicer if I had warmed it up according to instructions, but curiosity got the better of me, and besides, I did not want any hot food while still cooling down  from lugging heavy shopping home. Ultimately is was bad economics to buy it, but sometimes............

 From midday, as the temperature rose, I spent a lot of the afternoon coolly, and quietly reading. It was not until the evening that the madness began. I decided that I had to try and get my Windows 3.11 "heritage" PC connected to my home network. This particular PC, although worthless now, would have cost a fortune back in 1992. It is based on an all ISA motherboard with a 486/DX66 processor and a whopping 32 MB of RAM. (back in 1992 RAM was about £25 per MB - so about £800's worth !). In addition it has a very generously sized SCSI hard disk for it's day - 270MB - connected to a Genuine Adaptec AHA1542B bootable SCSI controller card. Other unusual things are an SVGA graphics card, sound card, TV card, and a CD ROM drive. It also has both 3.5" 1.4MB, and 5.25" 360 K floppy drives. I doubt you would have got much change from £2500, and possibly none at all, if you had bought it back in 1992.

If the next bit gets too boring you can scroll to the last paragraph where there is some good news about the stray cat.

 Adding network support to a modern Windows, or Linux, box is now fairly easy, but a general consultation suggests that adding it to a Windows 3.11 box is unjustified madness unless there is a real pressing need for it. Well the need here is both curiosity aand a challenge. I have one spare ISA network card, but it is a bit of an oddity. According to the internet the chip it uses does not exist. Even it's original manufacturer only suggests that it might exist by describing a chip with a slightly different number when searching through their archives. So I boldly plugged it into the PC and it refused to boot. Ah ha, some sort of conflict ! It seems to be in conflict with the Adaptec SCSI interface card so I started to search down a document containing the jumpering information for the SCSI adapter. It took a while before I found it, but I did get a pdf file of Adaptec's original installation manual. I ought to add that the network card, based upon a National Semiconductors DP83906 chip is an ISA plug and play device so I have no idea what state it's irq etc settings have been left in after it was last used. They could be set to something bizzare, or maybe the chip itself is dead. I tried lots of different settings on the SCSI adapter, but none would allow the machine to boot with the network card installed. So I tried removing the sound card. This too made no difference. In the end I got bored with it and nicked the mmetwork card out of my old Windows 95 machine. This one, an SMC8013, did have the option of jumper settings or plug and play, and was probably more contemporary with the rest of the old junk in the machine.

 At last the machine would boot up ! Despite this long awaited success my troubles were only just starting. I may, or may not, have been succesful in installing the drivers for the card. It is a card that Windows 3.11 supports with it's own driver set. Then came adding the protocols the network was to use. The only ones available were pretty ancient with no sign of TCP/IP in sight. Yet I had Internet Explorer 4.01 installed and that uses TCP/IP so I sort of hoped that it may work anyway. After apparently setting Networking up Windows called for a reboot. That didn't get far. As soon as the the DOS commands for setting up the slightly eccentric Creative CD ROM driver has passed down the screen the next command was "C:\Windows\net start". After a little disk grinding the machine locked up and needed the three finger salute  (alt-cntrl-del) to reboot.

 After many reboots, and much stabbing of "Control C" and "Control Q" (and anything else I could think of ) I finally managed to stop the autoexec.bat from running and was able to get into edit and rem out the line (line 1) for net start. I went into Windows, and Network setup many times trying this and that, but whenever I manually ran "net start" the machine would lock up.  By now it was getting late, very late, and I thought I really ought to give up and go to bed. I got into bed at roughly 02.40 ! Then I could not get to sleep because I thought I could smell wood burning. So I got up and did a tour around the house to check everything was OK.It was not until I opened the bottom of my bedroom window and stuck my nose out that I was positive the smell was from outside. I seem to recall reading on teletext of a large wood yard fire in North London that has caused a few roads, including the M1, to be shut. I wonder if it was the smokey smell from that,  descending on the cool night air, that I could smell. By 03.00 I was well and truly asleep.

 Today I think my first technical task will be to make sure I can get the swapped network card working in my Windows 95 machine. If that works I ought to persevere with the Windows 3.11 box. I have an idea that if I was to set up Windows 3.11 from scratch I would have better luck at getting networking to work. I'm pretty sure I have another suitable SCSI hard drive in my cupboard so I will not wipe the one which does otherwise work, but I will start anew with a fresh instalation and see if I can learn anything from that.

Now the final paragraph and news on the stray cat. I think it is actually a she, although we are still not friendly enough for me to have a better look (sounds kinky !). It is getting more trusting every day. This morning it actually came in to eat alongside Nelly.  It was still very jumpy, but did pluck up the courage to move a little further inside, away from the safety of the open window, to start on Nelly's leftovers when Nelly had finished with them. After many patient weeks, and after a few false starts it will reliably come to me to be stroked. There are a few conditions to this. I have to stay fairly still and not block any escape route. It is about time I tried to give it a name, but I do not want to make the same mistake as when I had to change Sheba to Schiba after discovering too late that he was actually a boy (or old man as it later turned out). I think that by autumn, when it starts to get cold and wet, I will have mostly domesticated new cat instead of a very nervous stray.
Saturday 16th July 2005

05.30 BST

Weather - clear and cool

 Today I could do anything, or nothing.
 The major achievement yesterday was to finally get my firewall working in conjuction with the broadband service. All that mucking around with NTL's dodgy registration servers is finally over, and high speed internet is now available to any PC plugged into my hub. A big thank you goes out to Steve for his assistance for his prompting in various Linux command line commands to help the process on it's way. Also to point me to a faq on NTL's website revealing that until some time in the future when they provide a tool to measure customers usage, I am not officially capped at 3GB usage. Until that tool is ready my only download (and upload) limit is to avoid overloading the network.

 Not a lot happened yesterday apart from the above. I watched very little TV, and I did some reading, but I can't seem to account for most of yesterday. It was another very warm day, at least indoors it was, and that combined with lack of sleep, made me feel very tired all day. I went to bed just before 21.00, but I read until about 23.00 when I couldn't keep my open any longer.

 I was awoken at this unearthly hour in the morning by the sounds of cats fighting. I knew Nelly was in, and I could see the stray cats sitting outside waiting for its beakfast, so I knew the fighting was nothing to do with me. Having woken up I decided to visit the toilet and feed the cats. I could have gone back to bed then, but the lure of my high speed connection was too great and I just had to check my e-mail and do all the other internet sort of stuff. As I tried to do yesterday, but mostly failed, I will probably go back to bed soon and get some more sleep.  Despite my tiredness there is one good thing about sitting here writing this. The window is open and there is a very refreshing cool breeze coming in the window. It is almost too cold, and is in stark contrast to the heat and stuffiness of the interior of the house, and in particular upstairs.
Friday 15th July 2005

08.30 BST

Weather - cool and slightly cloudy

 Not much planned for today. I feel very tired after a couple of poor nights sleep, but later I will probably play with setting up networking.
 As I mentioned in the update yesterday, the man from NTL turned up at 07.35. This was a little earlier than I had expected. I had originally been told to expect him between 08.00 and 13.00. Why it was neccesary for a man to deliver a CD, 1.5m of patch cable, and a USB to Ethernet adapter I don't know. That was all he did. I was left to sort out the installation myself. He didn't even bring a Welcome letter with him that contained some information I needed.

 After a phone call to NTL I got the information I needed and proceeded to start the installation. It was a series of disasters. After trying many combinations of connections I concluded that the set top box was not working correctly. So another call to NTL got the required option turned on in the box. To make things nice and straight forward I decided to plug a spare PC running Windows directly into the set top box and get thing running like that initially. There was one more fly in the ointment. NTL's registration server is mostly down for maintenance until next week (maybe even the 30th). This meant that I had to make repeated attempts to get the registration done. I got there in the end and had a fully working broadband connection.

 The registration process has two levels initially. First of all there is the registration of the PC's network card MAC address (which is saved by giving it a name), and then there was actually registering the account. Foolishly I had thought that I would be able to take over my dial up account, but this was not to be. So I had to use a new user name. Unless when  get the dial up account closed down I can then change my user name to the old name I will be stuck with what should be a temporary name. This will result in my e-mail address changing and all my web pages changing address.

 Once I had this basic setup working I obviously wanted to retreat behind my firewall as soon as possible. That has proved very tricky to do, and as of this time I have not had any luck at all. This morning I did try and connect this PC directly to the set top box. It started to work OK but I ended up with a server busy message and I have had to resort to dial up for one more morning. I'll be try aagain later and once I have succeded in connecting it I will phone NTL to get them to remove the dial up service as I don't want to pay for two connections.

 Right now I have a throbbing headache. I think it has something to do with all the concentration I have been putting into PC business, and a bad lack of sleep. Sleeping in hot weather is never easy and last night was no exception. During the night I could not seem to get a comfortable position, and every small lump in the pillows or mattress felt like a small mountain. I awoke at 04.20 this morning. This was probably due to the phone ringing. I could not recall hearing it while asleep, but a few minutes after waking up it rang again. As usual it was a wrong number with someone wanting a cab service who have a similar number to mine. My lack of sleep last night has not been helped by the lack of sleep the previous night when I went to bed late after the pub, and then was up very early for NTL. Even though it is now 09.15 I think I will go and lay on my bed and try for another hours sleep.
Thursday 14th July 2005

07.20 BST

Weather - bright and warming up fast

 There is only one thing on the agenda today, and that is to wait the arrival of the man from NTL to set up the broadband connection.
 Yesterday was another hot and sticky day. In the early evening the heat almost boiled up a thunderstorm. There never was any thunder and lightning, but we did have a reasonably heavy downpour for a short time.

 Much of yesterday was spent in preparation for the man from NTL.  My firewall is rebuilt and hopefully working, and I have set up a spare PC in the living room that is running Windows ME. The rest of the story I told yesterday.

 I did go to the pub last night. There was only myself and Kevin there, and Kevin generously bought me three pints. When I am finally solvent again, and with some prospects of staying that way, I think I will have to buy beer by the barrel to repay all the free beer I have drunk over the last few months.

News just in :
The man from NTL has called already - at 07.35 !!! All he has done is to drop off a CD, a short patch lead, and a USB-Lan adapter. The rest is now up to me. I seem to have fallen at the first hurdle, although it may actually be NTL who have fallen down on the job. There was supposed to be a welcome letter that contained a 10 digit PID (Personal Identification  Digits ?). The Windows software installer says if that is not there then I am to call an 0800 number.  Maybe this is deliberate. Perhaps it is when they hand that number over that the dial up is disconnected.  If that is the case I had better finish here, get this uploaded, and then call NTL for my PID.
Wednesday 13th July 2005

16.08 BST

Weather - hot and sunny

 Here is a late afternoon update.

 I have now rebuilt my Smoothwall firewall box. I was going to try IPCOP following Steve's suggestion, but it kept crashing with a kernel panic at the beginning of the boot process. This could be caused by a faulty download, a faaulty CD burn, or maybe it is just my ancient hardware. Anyway the most up to date version of Smoothwall is up and running OK - I think. As yet I have not been able to test the "Red" port. This is the ethernet connection that will go to the cable TV box that has the modem in it. After a flase start or two I took the network card out of my 99% redundant old Mac as it was a tried and tested PCI card. So Smothwall is runningh with two PCI cards and seems to have configured itself OK. I did have one moment of panic. This was caused through sheer ignorance, and it was probably what stopped my experiments from working last week, When I first tested it I used a straight patch lead.  Had my brain been firing on all cylinders I would have realised that I needed a twisted, or crossed patch lead to connect to network cards together. (Or is it the other way round ?).
So at first nothing seemed to work until I connected via the hub that did the correction for me.

 It occurs to me that my dial up connection will be turned off sometime tomorrow morning, or even sometime tonight. This could be the last opportunity to update this July diary until the broadband is working correctly. If NTL do not drop a clanger, and all my work here is OK I should be connected by 13.00 tomorrow at the latest. My morning appointment is anytime from 08.00 to 13.00 so I had better get up, and get dressed bright and early tomorrow.

 At the moment I am connected using an external modem and no firewall. There does seem to be an awful lot of activity on the modem so hopefully I have got this Linux box running in a reasonably secure way.

 For the benefit of the man from NTL I have got a spare PC in the living room near to the cable TV box. I can't decide whether to plug in the hard drive with Xandros on it, or to plug in the hard drive with Windows ME on it. Both will connect via my lan and firewall, but maybe the man from NTL will feel a bit happier with Windows ME. Of course once Firefox is running the differences are minimal.
07.45 BST

Weather - fine and fresh

 The most important thing for today is to get ready for NTL to set up my broadband connection tomorrow. In the afternoon Jodie is supposed to be coming over to use the studio. Then in the evening I may venture to the pub to explain my job situation, but I should not stay out too long as I have to be up and ready very early tomorrow morning.
 Although I wrote that yesterday started very overcast and cool, it was not to stay that way. By midday the greyness had long gone and it started getting warmer and warmer. By the early evening it was really stifling hot and humid. This morning it it very cool, but the sky is clear and it will probably be roasting hot later in the day, but back to yesterday....

I waited and waited until 13.15 before I got the phone call from my new potential employer. It was not the news I was waiting to hear. I still have not got a start date for this job. Apparently there is another hold up while they try and clear a payment backlog from the client they are doing the work for. At the moment the production line is halted. I have a bad feeling about this and I am thinking that this is another job that I will never get. I am still not sure whether I have been told the whole truth. After so many disappointments in the past I should not be upset about another one, but I did allow my hopes to be raised a little too high this time. So I am feeling very pissed off about the whole situation.

 I was probably insane to even consider how I would be spending my new wages. I had even started compiling a list of early priorities. I never did get it into any particular order, but it included :-
  • Inkjet cartridges
  • a new DVD burner
  • underpants
  • one or more 200 GB+ hard disks
  • a new processor faster than 2GHz
  • an unfeasibly large indian takeaway or three
  • and probably top of the list - many rounds of beer

 At 15.30 I went to sign on at the job centre. They were almost, but not quite, pleased that I had what seemed like an almost firm job offer. And they were almost, but not really, sympathetic when I explained about the hold up. To further advance their image as a load of soulless busybodies they were totally unable to explain any of the benefits I may, or may not, get when I do finally start a new job. The woman I was dealing with had vaguely heard of some of the things printed in my signing on booklet, but all she could really say was  to fill in the form and some faceless beaurocrat will make a decision if I am to get any help.  Nowhere on the form does it have anything to fill in about what you may be claiming. It seems just an arbitary process.  One thing that seems likely is that nothing is available unless you have been claiming for 26 weeks or more. As far as I an concernened I have been claiming for almost 3 years now, but as far as their computer shows my claim only goes back to my last change of circumstances. That would be sometime in January or February when I finished with the course run by Focus Vision. Because that course was designed around a workplacement I got an enhanced rate of dole for the 12 weeks I was on the course. When I finished it, and went back to normal dole I had, in effect, to make a new claim. It is entirely possible that I have been stitched up by the system.

 I think I will probably know when the 26 weeks is up according to the job centres computer. I will be offered (with no alternatives) to go on New Deal 50+. This differs in some unknown ways to New Deal 25+.  I doubt I will be any better off under New Deal 50+ apart from probably getting another New Deal photocard. Plus I believe there is far more money available for vocational training courses. Maybe I'll sign up for some computer course just for fun. I doubt it will be very career advancing, but I could learn an extra thing or two. I wonder if I could get on a course to learn C or some similar programmimg language ?

 After the Job Centre I felt very hot and pissed off. So basically I did nothing until the evening. Even then I really only watched "Enterprise" on Sky One, but I did spend an hour or two in my studio listening to some music. The last thing I did was actually spread out over the evening. Bizarre as it may seem I have been doing some heavy downloads while I still have my dial up connection. They will obviously be taking ages to do, and it would be far quicker once I have my broadband connection. But I am worried about the 3 GB per month cap on downloads with the broadband. It is hard to tell, but I think I have been able to reach at least half that using a slow connection. There will be a big temptation to go mad for the first month of broadband, and this is something I have to resist. Sometime 3 GB of downloads sounds a lot, but when you consider that the only download available for SuSe Linux is a ~4 GB DVD ISO image it does not sound so much. So I have a load of stuff cued up ready to download, and I have been trying to restart my dial up connection every two hours (after which it times out). So last night I was up to just gone midnight to restart the connection for another 2 hours. It was not part of my plaan to do it again at just gone 02.00, but it happened anyway. I was woken up by what I think was workmen erecting a new fence alongside the railway line. The original boundary had been a wall that was part of the old, and now demolished, Catford Greyhound Stadium. When I woke up I could hear the sound of digging. Initially I thought it may be a fox, but after a few more moments I realised it was being done with a metallic tool. I immeadiately ruled out grave robbers as there are no graves nearby (that I know of ). So I concluded it was something being done on the railway while the trains were not running.
Tuesday 12th July 2005

08.10 BST

Weather - overcast and very fresh

 I finally have a new job. It probably starts either next Monday, 18th July, or the Monday after that, 25th July.     I should hear the exact date sometime today. More details a bit further down the page.
 I have a one definite, one semi-definite, one probable, and several possibles for today. I will definitely be going to the Job Centre at 15.30. Hopefully this time it will be to sign off rather than sign on. It should be a definite, but for anything to do with new jobs I downgrade it after so many dissappointments, so it is semi-definite that I will be getting a call from my new employers telling me when I am due to start. I will probably be going to Tescvo sometime today. Then the possibilities include tidying up the living room for when NTL visit on Thursday, or revamping my firewall for the impending broadband connection.
  Having got myself cleaned and polished up, yesterday morning, I did very little as I waited until it was time to leave for my interview. Most of the morning I spent just watching TV or "surfing the net". The day was quickly warming up and I did not want to start out all hot and sticky after doing anything strenuous. As 13.00 approached I started to consider what I should wear to the interview. I knew it was a rather low paid job so I didn't think the full shirt, tie and black trouser approach would neccessarily be right. I have a suspicion that has actually marked me down at some previous interviews. In the end I opted just for my only proper shirt (sleeves rolled up), no tie, plain old blue jeans, and my black safety shoes. At 13.40 I took a slow stroll to the station.

 Outside it was remarkably hot and humid. By the time I got to the station I was feeling quite sticky. The train rolled in precisely on time, 14.01, and we headed towards Swanley. It's about 25 minutes to Swanley station, and I think once the novelty wears off I may well resort to reading on the train to pass that 25 minutes. I am very unfamiliar with Swanley. In fact I don't recall ever having been there before, but I did bring a map with me. I found the right road with no problem, but I had to ask directions to the correct building. I think it will be less than 10 minutes walk, in cooler weather, from the station to the factory once I get used to it.

 I was 20 minutes early for my interview so I passed some of the time by having one last fag. Having finished that, and still early I presented myself at the front door. I was shown in and introduced to the owner of the company. He was rather "old school", possibly just 5 years or so away from retirement, and I think that once I get to know him I will get on well with him. The lady who actually runs the department I wil be working in was off that afternoon so there was a certain amount of chaos. Eventually someone else was drafted in to set up a simple test for me. I had to solder a 20 pin surface mount i.c. and a few surface mount resistors onto a printed circuit board. It is a little while since I have done this, but it should have presented no problems. Unfortunately I was dripping with sweat and my eyes were stinging from it, and I was a little too anxious about trying to get it perfect. I am much more used to repair work where function takes precedence over perfection. On top of that I found the soldering iron had a lousy bit that refused to tin properly. Despite that I made a reasonable job of it. It may have actually gone in favour that having blobbed two pins together as I tried to get to grips with the awful soldering iron, and low lead solder (possibly no lead solder), I asked for some solder wick to clean the accident up. The important thing is that they were satisfied, and from that point on I more or less had secured the job.

 After the test I was shown back to the owners office and we had a chat. Much of the chat was just stalling for time as he hoped that the lady who runs the department would be coming back from a doctors appointment. He eventually discovered that it was most unlikely that she would be coming back that day. Without being able to consult with her he was unable to give me a start date, but she should be back tomorrow and he will will phone me up, hopefully before I go and sign on, with that date. There is a slight complication in that the lady is on holiday later in the week, and will not be back until Monday 25th July. He seems doubtful that she will want me to start until she is back from holiday.

 Despite having to manually solder on an i.c. as part of the test it seems that this is not a normal part of the job. They do have machines to do most of the surface mount component placing on new products. My first job will be changing half a dozen components in a filter circuit of an imported satelite navigation receiver. This will obviously be rather repetative, and it will take a lot of paatience to get through the 50+ per week that some other worker is currently doing. After a few weeks I will probably be moved on to something else.

 I left the factory about an hour later and tried a slightly different route back to the station.  It appears the trains run at 20 (and 50) past the hour back to Catford. So if I end up working from 07.00 to 15.00 I should be able to look forward to getting the 15.20 home after work. That will get me indoors just before  16.00. Even in mid winter I will be able to get home before it is really dark. I like that idea !

 Having got home yesterday I seemed to spend most of the time writing e-mails or talking on the phone. I did stop to cook and eat, and to watch and hour or so of TV. I finally went up to bed at around 22.00, but it was far too hot to go to sleep so I read for two hours before turning out the light. I did get to sleep quickly after that, but I woke up 2 hours later feeling very cold. Overnight the temperature changed remarkably.  I closed the window  and got under the covers and was asleep again fairly soon.

 Having now got a new job, apart from an actual starting date,  and unless they have changed their mind overnight, my money problems are now far worse. My first pay cheque will not be until the 15th August. Until that comes I have to find somewhere between £25 and £30 a week for fares.  This will be tricky ! When I go to the Job Centre today I will try and screw them down for all the help I can get. One of the more useful things is that my Council Tax benefit should run on for 4 weeks after I start work. Then there are vague references to a job grant that may pay £100 or £250 but with no explanation of which one I may be able to get, or even how to go about getting it. Finally, being over 50 years old, I may be able to claim some working tax credits (whatever they are).

 One aspect of this new job is that I will probably have to give up writing all this rubbish in the morning. I expect I will start doing it in the evening instead.

 After several interuptions, and a lot of writing, I notice it is creeping closer to 10.00 and it is high time I was washed and dressed.
Monday 11th July 2005

06.40 BST

Weather - bright and sunny

 Today I have my interview with Greenwich Instruments in Swanley. It is at 15.00 and I'll be aiming to get a train at around 14.00.
 I followed my own advice and didn't stick to any plan yesterday. Once I was up and dressed, after another hour in bed, I went out to buy some catfood and a few other bits and pieces. I took advantage of the strange pricing policy that Tesco have for Diet Coke. You might expect that the cheapest option would be the 4 x 2 litre packs (£4.99), but strangely it is far cheaper to buy 2 individual 2 litre bottles (£2). Once again I forgot one of the important items while I was there - bin liners. I used my last big black bin liner when I emptied Nelly's litter tray. This means I will have to make another trip to Tesco probably tomorrow. Yesterday I was loaded down with tins of catfood. With that most important, and heavy load, done I can usefully stock up on a load of tins of baked beans and peas for myself.

 Once I got in from Tesco I had some breakfast and then made a start on clearing up my living room in readiness for the man from NTL. Unfortunately it was only a start. After a hot breakfast, and with the day warming up, I felt too hot to start lugging heavy stuff around. So there is plenty more to do over the next couple of days. I won't be doing any of it today, or at least before I go for my interview, as I want to keep cool, dry and clean so I can turn up there looking keen and efficient (and not sweaty and smelly).

 After I gave up on cleaning I spent a little while on the internet and e-mail, and also watched some TV. It was a little boring and my thoughts turned to my studio again. So I spent several more hours making up some music mixes. I think by "several hours" I probably mean at least 4 hours. I was not paying much attention to the time, and I did have a few breaks in the proceedings doing other stuff like talking on the phone and watching a couple of episodes of Futurama.

 I finally ended up watching TV again after a little more time on the internet. There were a couple of interesting programmes on TV late last night. First was a programme about the ITV companies. I was unsure of the message this contained. I did miss the first 10 minutes, but it went on charting the "glorious" history of independant television. Then they explained how Margret Thatcher changed all the rules in a bid to crush the unions, and set up a totally perplexing franchising system. This resulted in the station that she strongly supported, TV AM, and who had lead the way in crushing the power of the unions, losing it's own franchise. Then later such stations as Thames TV who had a wealth of talent losing their franchise. At this point many heads of independant TV came on each with their own tales of woe about how ITV was losing viewers and advertisers money hand over fist because all the talented stations had closed down. This was all true, but the next bit I was not so sure of. It brought the story up to date with how ITV was now all one big franchise and appeared to say that everything was great again now that the past was behind them. Are they sure ? In my humble opinion ITV (specifically ch 3) is now the crappiest it has ever been. In the last few weeks (months ?) I have only watched a few ITV programmes. They are The Bill, still made by Thames TV as purely a production company, and the documentary I have just described.

 I have done a little research into the company ( Greenwich Instruments) that I am going for the interview with today. They seem to produce an ecletic assortment of products ranging from consumer items through to industrial items. The job I am going for is the fairly low paid position of Production Wireman (sorry, political correctness - Wire Person). It occurs to me that there is one thing I can do that will make life more interesting, and would increase my pay, and that is to try and get some sort of promotion fast. It is premature to talk about these things before I have even got the job, but a bit of forward planning can't go amiss. Part of the reason why the job has a low rate of pay is that some of my potential wages are going in fees to the agency. I don't know exactly how this works, but it occurs to me that one way of bending that contract would be for me to employed as something other than a Production Wire Person. Ideally I would want to be responsible for repairs and reworks, but I would imagine there is not enough of that type of work to sustain such a position. I guess I will get a better idea once I have visited the place.
Sunday 10th July 2005

08.00 BST

Weather - bright and warming up

 I have no set plans for today, but I ought to start some preparation for next Thursdays visit from the man from NTL when my broadband will be set up. This could involve a hell of a lot of tidying up in the living room, and possibly this back room. Or it could be technical preparation involving the firewall box. I may end up connecting to the internet without the firewall for a few days - gulp !
 Yesterday I had a lazy morning. I can't really remember just what I did to pass the time, but I presume I enjoyed it. I do know what I did in the afternoon though. I spent most of it in my studio putting together an hour of continous music to amuse myself. It is surprising just how long that can take when you are not satisfied with automatic ways of joining tracks together. I am happier with my method, or at least 75% of what I did. Some joins were not as good as others, but possibly show more imagination than purely machine based options.

 When evening came I had some dinner and watched some TV. There was nothing terribly exciting on so I resorted to going on line and having a look around the internet. With no specific aim in mind this is a bad thing to do late in the evening. I got a little carried away and did not finish until almost 01.00. Once I was in bed I was probably asleep before my head hit the pillow.

 In other news I have had a couple of e-mails from Patricia. The first was enquiring if I was OK after the London Bombings. I was quite touched by that. The second, received just this morning,  was just to express her relief that I was Ok and to expand on some news that she had included in the first e-mail. It now seems almost definite that she will not be coming back to the UK anytime in the near future, but she has promised to send me some pictures from Argentina.
Saturday 9th July 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - grey but dry and mild

 No special plans for today beyond recovering from yesterday. Then I may potter around doing a bit of this and a bit of that.
 Yesterday was exceptionally boozy. That has left me feeling a bit hungover this morning, but not nearly as hungover as last night.

 I don't think I did much during the morning apart from fill up my biggest spare hard disk (22GB) with mp3's of ancient radio recordings. The disk is on loan to John who picked me up to take me to the pub at 13.15. In the pub we met up with Ivor and Iain. From then on much drinking was done.

 Over half way through the drinking session, and already feeling drunk, I received a phone called from the employment agency about the job I had gone to see them about the day before. I have an interview with the employer in Swanley on Monday afternoon. I readily agreed to this despite a slight problem. I am totally flat skint broke and just overdrawn enough (only by £2.50) not to be able to withdraw any money from my account. So I asked if anyone could lend me £5 for fares. It is a situation I have done my best to avoid, but on this occasion it was essential. I don't know whether everybody thought I was joking, but initially nothing was offered. A little later, while in Iain's car travelling between pubs, John handed me a £5 note. So come the day when I am solvent again he gets the first beer (and his money back), and meanwhile has my eternal gratitude.

 I think it was around 20.30 when I was dropped off at home feeling very drunk, and also very hungry. I cooked some potatoe wedges and some southern fried chicken (both in the oven), and 30 - 40 minutes later tucked into them. There was very little on TV apart from some James Bond film that I tried to watch. After 30 minutes of that I was feeling very hungover, and after the hot food, very hot and sweaty. So I went up to bed and attempted to do some reading. I did manage to read until almost midnight (I think), but I may have to re-read that part of the book again and hope it makes more sense when sober. I don't really know what time I fell asleep. It probably was not that late, but it was one of those times when you feel too uncomfortable to go to sleep, and then suddenly you are asleep.

 This morning I got up far earlier than I would have wished, and I'll soon go back to bed for another hour of sleep (maybe more).

 Despite not having any cash (apart from Johns generous loan), nor any immediate ways of getting any, I do have £40 - £50 left on my Tesco Clubcard Plus. Unfortunately Tesco do not sell train tickets, but they do sell a few things that I need fairly soon. Things like sugar free "value" lemonade at 19p per bottle, bread, and catfood. None of these are essential right now, although some fizzy drink would be nice, but I may try and raise the energy for a small shopping trip to Tesco.
Friday 8th July 2005

05.20 BST

Weather - grey but dry

 It seems likely that I will be dragged off to a pub this lunchtime. This will be fine provided I am taken there and then taken home afterwards, and in the meantime bought drinks. My available cash of precisely £2.02 would not go far in a pub, and I have more important things to spend it on than booze.
 I started out for my appointment yesterday with no idea of how the day was already unfolding. It was a simple trip that thanks to Jodie's generosity I decided to make by train. After I had done the business with the employment agency I thought that maybe I would travel around a bit, and get more mileage on the Travelcard I bought. As I neared Sidcup station I became aware that the departure displays on the station platforms were saying something about disruption on the tube networks. I didn't pay much attention to it as I did not really contemplate using any tube trains yesterday.

 I knew that the employment agency were a little way from Sidcup station, but I hadn't counted on it being uphill al the way. I arrived there quiet knackered, and because of the rain I had worn a coat even though it was actually very mild outside. So I was also pretty damp from sweat. The registration and interview were very brief, but I did hear one important piece of information. The job I am chasing is in Swanley, and most fortunately was described as only a short walk from the station. The pay is not much, but it was suggested that it could rise in the future (like once the agency has taken their cut).

 Having finished there I made my way back to the station. The route took me right past Sidcup Police Station. For some strange reason I had an idea that an old friend, Brian, may have worked there in the garage. It didn't look big enough to have a resident mechanic so I phoned Kevin to check with him. He reminded me it was Bexleyheath where Brian worked, and also expressed surprise that I had managed to make a mobil phone call. He then explained some of the limited information that he had gleaned from the radio about the situation in central London. At that time, about 11.00, reports were still sketchy and confused, but the reports of explosions were true even if the details turned out to be wrong.

 When I got to the station the travel warnings were coming in thick and fast, but only referred to "incidents" without any details at all. Ideally I wanted to go back as far as Lewisham to change trains for Catford, but the next train did not stop at Lewisham. The train to Lewisham was some 10 - 15 minutes behind the first train. I decided to go for the first train and I had the choice of changing at St Johns or New Cross. I thought the latter may have been a better bet as it is a staffed station and more ingformation may be available. Besides it was more convenient for buses should the trains come to a halt.

 As we approached St Johns station the driver anounced that the trains final destination, Cannon Street, might be closed, and that the train might encounter many delays on route. We did get held at one signal for a short time, but soon arrived at New Cross. Very unusually we pulled into Platform B. I think that platform is only ever used for trains that terminate there. Sure enough as I got out of the train the announcement was made that the train was terminating there and all the other passengers had to get off as well.

 At the station there was an East London Line train in the platform, but it had its doors closed and was going nowhere. That tallied with reports that the whole of the underground had been closed down. I waited for ages and ages for a Hayes train to take me back to Catford. Two came up on the departure board as I waited, but each was shown as "Delayed" and then "Cancelled". I was beginning to think that I would have to take the bus. Meanwhile many trains passed that were not in service. It was most annoying that these trains seemed to coincide in quantity with the trains that were also cancelled. I had dark thoughts that this was one of those stupid things where it is politically better to cancel a train rather than have one run late as it has less impact on performance figures. Meanwhile many passengers were getting rather pissed off with the lack of trains going away from the danger area (during this time with no country bound trains, there were a couple of trains that did pick up passengers to take them into London). Eventually a train to Sevenoaks pulled in and it was announced that it would make an additional stop at Lewisham. I decided to take that train and get the bus home from Lewisham.

 One of the first things I saw when I got off the bus in Catford was a convoy of half a dozen Kent ambulances, all with blue lights flashing, being led at high speed towards London by a small unmarked car with a blue flashing light on it. Once I got indoors I put the TV on and found out what had really been going on in London.  Even then the reports were not very accurate and were riddled with speculation. Most annoying was the way that the same  little film clips of various activities were shown over and over again.  There was continuous news coverage all afternoon, but 55 minutes out of every hour was just padding. By 15.00 I gave up watching and decided to have a sleep. Even a 17.00 there had been few developments. It was not until the "normal" news at 18.00 that it became interesting as a newscast with things laid out in a logical order, and the beginnings of some definite facts.

 I was a little surprised that the politicians could be so pretentious to think the acts of terrorism were related to the G8 summit. If that were the case why weren't the bombs in Scotland where the talks were being held ? Like many people I concluded that this was more to do with the bloody Olympics coming to London in 2012. In which case it may be just a taste of what is to come. If that is the case we should concede to the terrosists and cancel the Olympic games for ever. Then a load of disgruntled Star Trek fans would not attempt more terrorist actions in protest against more missed episodes due to saturation coverage of a load of silly games on TV.

 In other, and more happy news, the stray cats seems to have recovered from whatever was wrong with its leg/paw. I couldn't detect any limping at all yesterday. With its running away capabilities at full capacity it was much more friendly. For the first time ever it actually came to me to be stroked. It got quite carried away rubbing around my hand and purring away. I thought I would have another go at picking it up. This time I succeded, and I have the scars to prove it ! It didn't like it at all and was soon away in a huff. I let it get over it for an hour before going out to see it again with some supper for it. I have been forgiven and it was friendly again, although slightly wary. I'll give it a few more days before I have another attempt at picking it up.
Thursday 7th July 2005

07.45 BST

Weather - wet and windy

 This morning I am off to visit a recruitment agency in Sidcup. Allegedly they have one or two jobs that might suit me. Once that is over I have no idea how the rest of the day will pass.
 It makes a change to be sitting here, writing this, fully washed and dressed. Normally I would be sitting here in my underpants straight out of bed (I know it's not a nice image to conjour up, but it happens to be true). With my visit to Sidcup this morning I thought I ought to get ready before I sat down and started hacking away at the keyboard.

 Yesterday was a bit farcical. I spent ages trying to get a new firewall box built to use on my impending broadband connection. I intended to use an ancient Packard Bell PC with 49MB of ram, and a 66MHx Pentium processor. The spec was certainly good enough, but I had some difficulties to overcome. First of all the CD drive was connected to some sort of non standard IDE port. It is on the motherboard so was not one of those old sound card connectors for a CD drive. My Windows 95 boot disk has no problem finding the CD drive, but Linux cannot see it at all. So I connected the CD drive as a slave to the same IDE channel as the hard disk. Now I was able to boot, via a floppy, the Smoothwall installation disk. Out of my three remaining network cards I found two that Smoothwall would recognise. One was a PCI card (in the only PCI slot that PC has), and the other was an ISA card. Although the cards were recognised, and suitable drivers installed, neither card would transmit any data. I have a theory about this. Both cards have BNC connectors as well as RJ45 connectors. I suspect that both cards may have been configured to use the BNC connectors. Maybe with a lot of research I could have hacked the configuration files to correct that, but I decided to give up.

 I replaced the hard drive, and sound card, in the PC with the originals and booted it up. Windows 95 came up perfectly and I was able to connect to my LAN using the ISA card using the original settings and driver that I had installed last time I set up that PC. Thus roving that the network card was in good working order.

 Having set aside the idea of a new firewall I decided to put together a basic Windows 2000 box that the NTL man could use when he comes to install the broadband connection. I then proceeded to waste an hour trying to format a hard drive that I knew to have a lot of bad sectors at the beginning of the disk. I abandoned that disk and used another. This time it all worked and I had a shiny new Windows 2000 installation ready to connect to the outside world. Except it didn't work ! The PCI network card was not an NE2000 compatible after all, although both Linux and Windows detected it as such. After installing the correct drivers for it I had a working connection. By now it was getting late and I wanted to get some anti virus software installed before I went any further. I was sure I had a recent copy of AVG on a CD somewhere, but I could noty find it. Reluctantly I decided to download it. It took about 40 minutes to download. So while it was doing that I got myself ready for bed and finished off my latest bed time book while lying on my bed. When I came back downstairs at 00.30 the download had finished and I installed it. Of course the first thing it wanted to do was to check for updates. Amazingly it found a small one, and I waited until that had downloaded and installed itself. I was back in bed by 01.00, and fast asleep soon after.

 There is some good news about the stray cat. Its paw has healed a lot, although I still don't know exactly what the problem was, and it is hardly limping at all now. Now it knows it can run away, if needed, it is now friendly again. This morning I even thought it would be eating in the kitchen. I left the back door open as I prepared its food and it peeked round the corner to watch me do it. Of course as soon as I turned towards it, it ran back outside, but waited not far from the back door. This was at 05.20 this morning. It was very wet underfoot, and I wanted to get back to bed after only 4 hours sleep, so I left it to eat in peace.

 One amusing thing that happened yesterday, and an event that bodes well for the future, was that Nelly and the Stray ended up eating from the same plate. I had put the food out for the stray, but Nelly assumed it was getting something better than she had been given. In fact it was out of the same tin. They ate peaceably for a few minutes until they probably went for the same chunk of food. It was Nelly who took great exception to this and lashed out at the stray. It was only a warning shot, and I am pretty certain it did not connect. The stray retaliated in the same way, and once again I am sure there was no actual contact. Nelly walked away in a huff while the stray carried on eating.
Wednesday 6th July 2005

05.00 BST

Weather - damp after overnight rain

  Today I will have another attempt at buying tobacco on my Tesco Club Card (Plus). After that I will try and spend as much time as I can stand in my workshop. No drinking tonight - totally, utterley skint !
 Yesterday was interesting. Although I am down to my last 52p cash there is some hope on the horizon to improve upon that, but not for another couple of weeks initially, and then a month after that. All will be explained in vague terms later.

 First thing yesterday morning I went out to try and buy some tobacco on my Tesco Club Card Plus. Unfortunately the £70 which left my bank account on the 1st had not made it into the Tesco account. I had to use most of my remaining cash to buy just a small 12.5g  pouch. I'll be trying again this morning.

 When I came back from Tesco the stray cat had finally turned up. It has most definitely injured it's right hand paw, or leg. It was limping badly, and it looked painful for it to put any weight on the leg. Nevertheless it is still able to get around and jump up on the old chair in the garden. I did try and get a look at it's leg, but it was too scared to let me approach it. I didn't want to cause it to run around so I left it in peace with some food. It spent a lot of the day hanging around sleeping on the chair outside which is slightly sheltered from the rain we had yesterday. (After the bright start it was soon grey, and there were several light showers during the afternoon, and heavier rain at night). This morning it was back on the chair, and that is why I am up so early after seeing it there. It's limp seems a little better this morning, and it did let me slowly approach it again. It was still too jumpy to let me stroke it properly, but its confidence is slowly coming back.

 I spent a little more time in my workshop yesterday, and more time in my studio. At about 13.00 Jodie finally appeared. She wanted to use the studio so I had to stop my tape digitising/archiving and turn the studio over to her.

 During the course of the day I received three phone calls that should go some way to improving my longer term finances. The first was from London Energy. Rather than some cheap grubby door to door salesman this was, or appeared to be, someone who actually worked within the company, and who had sufficient details to hand to back up his offers. In theory by signing up to their dual fuel tariff I will be saving £87 per year. This is equivalent to getting my gas at under half price. When the contract arrives in, apparently, about 5 days time I will examine it with a very critical eye before finally committing myself. The next relevant call was from NTL. They are offering me broadband for £4 less than I pay them for dial-up. It is a "special offer" to existing customers, but the price of £8.50 a month is a fixed price and not a special offer. It is based on being an existing digital cable TV subscriber as the cable modem is already built into the cable TV box. So in theory from Thursdayof next week I will be £4 a month better off. The only downside to it is that there is a usage cap of 3GB per month. I am not sure what the procedure is if I attempt to go over that limit, but I am fairly certain that with broadband it will be easy to reach it. I would estimate that I have reached about half that amount on occasions even using dial up, but I have not done any maths to try and confirm that. I hope that my webspace remains intact during the swap.

 The last call I got was from Lee who may be able to offer me a little scheme to increase my pocket money in a few weeks time. So although my financial situation is pretty bleak at the moment, there is some hope on the horizon - albeit a slightly distant one from my current perspective. The saving per month will be small, but will help to tip my bank balance in my favour, and the extra pocket money won't be enough to buy the 200GB hard disk I would like, and may not be enough to buy more coloured ink for my printer, but I should be able to get some new underpants out of it (needed) and maybe help towards my drinking commitments.

 So over the next few days I want to try and finish the stuff in my workshop that I am doing to prepare for another little potential source of beer money that may come up soon. In between time I want to make another firewall box ready and tested for the swap to broadband. Ideally I need another ATX case for this, but I may use the 75MHx Pentium I box that I have. In fact the more I think about it, the more ideal that box would be. It is fairly quiet, and it has one network card in it already. It will be a bit of a fight trying to use two ISA network cards, but I imagine the Smoothwall software is trained to cope with this.

 Right now the stray cat is fed, and I have finished writing, so I am going back to bed to catch up with the other 2 hours of sleep I need.
Tuesday 5th July 2005

06.25 BST

Weather - bright and sunny, but very cool

 The priority for this morning is to work out a way of buying tobacco without using my bank account. I have £3.52 in cash, but hopefully my Tesco club card has now been "recharged" with the £70 that was transferred to it on the 1st of the month. Once the tobacco crisis is out of the way I can get on with what I was doing yesterday. That is spending some time in my workshop, and far longer in my studio.
 Yesterday started grey, and remained so for most of the day. Then in the early evening the thin grey cloud cover broke up to reveal a brief glimpse of blue sky, some sunshine, and some very dense dark stormy looking clouds. When they drifted into the path of the sunlight the world went very grey, almost night. Surprisingly there was no rain and it seems to have remained dry overnight. It was quite a surprise to wake up to clear skies and bright sunshine. According to the weather forecasts it is not likely to stay this way, and rain is expected later.

 Most of what I did yesterday was done in the studio where my old cassette tape digitising was proceeding. I managed to get through another 4 hours of tapes. One tape was really maddening. It had been recorded on medium wave back in 1974 and was so crackly that it took an age to try and clean up. I could have worked on that one hour recording all day and still not got it perfect. In fact I doubt that it could ever be made to sound perfect. So I left it sounding "reasonable", or at least far better than the original recording. I was greatly hampered in my endeavours by Cool Edit 2 crashing all the time whenever I used the "fill single click now" button too many times. It never used to happen in Cool Edit 1.2. I have since re-installed Cool Edit 2 in the hope that it might cure this problem.

 While waiting for the tapes to play into the computer in "real time", I did get to spend a little while in my workshop. I didn't achieve too much, but I did a tiny little amount of tidying up (not that it looks any different now), and did some prepatory work for something I will be doing later. Meanwhile my VHS video recorder is still sitting there with a cassette sitting by it with a loop of its tape hanging out still stuck in the mechanics. Sooner or later I will get around to fixing it, but probably not today.

 There seems to be no sign of the stray cat this morning. That is not totally unusual, but a bit rare. I am slightly worried about it as I saw it last night on the shed in the garden beyond mine. The view is partly obscured by a tree, but it looked as if the cat was limping. It cannot have been to badly hurt or it would not have been able to get onto the shed in the first place. My glimpse of it was so brief that it might not have been a limp at all but just stepping over some obstruction. Yet with no sign of it this morning I wonder what it is up to. It's probably enjoying the sunshine somewhere.
Monday 4th July 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - grey, but dry

 There are several things I must do today. Buying cat litter is high on the agenda. That is followed very closely by paying the electricity board some money. Once that is done I may divide my time between workshop and studio.
  I think the majority of yesterday was spent in the studio digitising, and cleaning up, old audio cassette recordings. As they can only be played in real time that did leave my time to do some reading and eating. Progress was not that spectacular. I only managed three hours of tape in the whole day, but two of those hours needed a lot of work to get them passably listenable. The last tape, which was recorded from medium wave was full of interference that needed loads of manual intervention to clean up. I had to resort to treating about 30 large pops and crackles after the auto de-clicker could do no more. Irritatingly Cool Edit Pro 2.0 kept crashing as I was doing this manual de-clicking. Fortunately I was able to recover the file everytime and carry on. I guess I should upgrade to Cool Edit 2.1, or go back to version 1.2. If that ever crashed it was during startup when it was no big deal to start again. That last tape I did still sounds pretty awful after everything I could do to it. It was hardly worth doing, but it is done now and I can move on to something better today.

 It was a quiet day yesterday, very much like Saturday was. I did have a couple of phone conversations, but it felt like there was no one around at all. There was one exception to that. The stray cat was around a lot and has finally learned to trust me enough to approach and stroke it. This was confirmed just this morning. I did try experimentally to slip one hand underneath it as if to pick it up, but it backed off instantly. It didn't run away though, and I was allowed to stroke it again moments later. It is now getting important to find what sex it is. For one thing it deserves a name, and for another I don't want to have to deal with a litter of kittens. I think it is now inevitable that once the autumn comes, and we head into winter, the stray cat will start to spend time indoors. Nelly will not entirely approve, but like a few years back when Schiba adopted me, she will come to terms with it.
Sunday 3rd July 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - bright and clear

No specific plans for today, but I may spend some time in my studio digitising, and cleaning up, some old audio cassettes.
 Yesterday turned out totally different to any way I could have predicted. It was a gloomy day with a thick covering of clouds, and I started out feeling fairly gloomy as well. A check on my bank balance revealed that I was still the right side of disaster, but I was sailing dangerously close to the wind. More economies will be needed until the end of the month when my dole should be paid before my major outgoings instead of after. So I had to rule out going for a drink, and think very carefully before going to buy catfood.  When I did buy the catfood, along with  a couple of loafs of bread, two jars of peanut butter, and some cheap fizzy drink, I used the last of my Tesco Club Card vouchers plus £1.67 cash to pay for it. I now have just about £11 to last until Friday 15th. Something may come up in the meantime, but until it does I am effectively grounded until then.

 Prior to my shopping trip I did some experimenting in the bathroom. I felt like a wet shave for a change, and wondered what shower gel would be like for shaving with. I had mixed results. The razor certainly glided across my face. It glided too well. I now look like I have been in a razor fight ! For all the blood and gore the results were not too good. My face was not as smooth as if I had taken the trouble to get a good lather up with my original Palmolive shaving stick. The next "experiment" was to try out some Tesco sport shampoo. The container looks so much like the container of my usual ordinary Tesco shampoo that I did not realise I had bought the wrong stuff. It cleans the hair OK but the odour is not pleasant (but fortunately not long lasting). The odour was something like old sweat with a hint of street mugger wearing cheap aftershave. If this is what footballers use then it is another reason to hate football (as if any other reason was needed). My final experiment was to see how long I could last under the shower when low water pressure caused the water to run coler and cooler. The answer was not long at all. When I was forced to go downstairs to the kitchen (still naked and dripping soapy water) I found that the gas had shut down totally and I was attempting to shower in water at mains temperature. A quick readjustment of the thermostat and I was able to continue in hot water.

 The next thing I did was also unplanned for yesterday, but was part of a long term plan that I had not previously got around to doing. That was to back-up all my downloads on this PC. It is something that ought to be done regularly, but tomorrow will always do......until you have that fateful crash and you wish it had been done yesterday. Now three full CD's later all my downloaded are safely backed up. Maybe today I will tackle the accumulated documents, pdf files etc. The difficult bit will be all the mp3 files, and video files. There must be several gigabytes of mp3's on this PC that I do not have other copies of. It is going to be a long job backing all these up to CDR disks. If I include all the ones that I do have duplictes of elsewhere (which for safety purposes would be a good idea) it will take piles of CD's and ages to do.

 During the afternoon I did some reading, but had the urge to do something a bit more productive. So I combined reading with digitising some of my old audio cassette radio archives. I achieved 2 hours and 45 minutes of digitising which, along with all the post recording cleaning operations (de-clicking etc), took me to 22.00 when I decided to give up for the rest of the day.

 I then spent as much as an hour on the internet checking a few things out, and answering a couple of e-mails, before going to bed with the book  had been reading earlier. By midnight, or thereabouts, I had finished the book and was asleep very soon after.
Saturday 2nd July 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - dry but rather grey

Only one definite plan for today - buy more catfood. Also one less definite plan - visit ex-workmates at first "Saturday of the month" meeting in The William IV in Elmers End. If I was sure I could afford the expense of it I would love to go, but it may be more prudent to save that more for more essential things.
 I have to admit that yesterday was boring. I could not motivate myself to do anything useful, exciting or just neccesary. I don't know why I spent the day like that. Maybe it was the weather. It was very grey all day with occasional bouts of drizzle, and a few rarer times when the drizzle turned into real rain.

 I probably spent over 50% of the day just reading. That included going to bed at 20.30 to carry on reading until 23.00. By which time I had finished the book I was reading. I guess the rest of my day was either spent eating too much or watching TV. Even the internet did not seem so interesting as normal.

 Despite going to bed so early I still feel as if I did not have enough sleep last night. I may have finished reading at 23.00, but it was probably after midnight before I got to sleep. My brain was very alert and the room temperature was hovering around the borders of too hot and too cold. On top of that there were two cats somewhere nearby "chatting each other up" very loudly. I finally fell asleep on top of the bed, and unsurprisingly woke up and hour or two later feeling chilly. So it was a mostly unneccesary trip to the toilet (a sort of reflex action upon waking up) before getting in to bed. That felt too hot so I was tossing and turning while experimenting with which bits of me to leave outside the duvet, and which bits to leave inside. Eventually I got to sleep, but I don't think it was a very deep sleep.

 I don't know what time I woke up. Initially I thought of going back to sleep, but after laying there for some minutes I decided to get up and feed Nelly (and the stray cat). Before I sat down to start writing at 07.00 I had also been to the toilet, checked my e-mail, checked a couple of other blogs and set up a couple of downloads.

 Just prior to waking up I did have a dream, but it was too complicated to try and describe here, and my memory of it is rather fragmented. However it was obviously inspired by some impending work the council will be starting very soon as they replace some front garden walls. That will cause some disruption to the pavement outside, and I think the dream reflected that in an over the top sort of way.
Friday 1st July 2005

05.45 BST

Weather - dry, bright and mild

Welcome to the 1st of July. Nothing much planned for today, but I might need to go catfood shopping.
 I did very little yesterday, and yet despite that the day went quickly and I did not seem to be bored. The one thing I could not bring myself to do was to repair my VCR. There is a 50:50 chance that I might tackle it today, but not if something else comes up to distract me.

 I started yesterday by watching two TV programmes.One was on the UK History channel, and one on The Discovery Channel. Both were sort of educational, and I use that excuse for my reluctance to do anything else. At midday I went out to buy some tobacco and a copy of New Scientist. With a few interuptions from phone calls, and attending to a few things on this PC, my afternoon was spent reading New Scientist. Oh, and I had a snooze as well.

 So far the day was probably more boring to read about than experience. Things did not get much better in the evening. I watched a few TV programmes, and then took New Scientist to bed to finish reading it. One slight diversion before I went to bed was to send an e-mail to a total stranger to comment on a blog. I don't normally like to do this as it feels like I am intruding into someone else's conversation. This is particularly so when the blog is  on something like Livejournal where you tend to get little communities of friends all interacting with each other. In this case I thought the comment was worthwhile as no one else had mentioned trying to do a difficult scandisk and defrag using safe mode, or even from a boot floppy. I think it was sending this comment that caused me to have a bad dream later on.

 It felt a bit warm in bedroom so I did my reading while on top of my bed, rather than in it. When I finally turned the light out I decided to try and sleep on top of the bed even though the temperature was very marginal. Inevitably things cooled off and I woke up again at 01.40 feeling cold. I had been having a bad dream. It was like one of those dreams where you can't run, or can't run fast enough. I get very few of those. In fact I can't even remember when I might have had the last one. This one was subtly different in that it wasn't me that wouldn't move it was computer data. I can't remember the details at all, but I was trying to send something, or upload something, and it wouldn't work or kept going wrong. It seemed to have something to do with sending an e-mail to a total stranger, but in some unknown way it was more complex that that. It seemed to be very cyclical with the same thing happening over and over again.

 After a quick pee I got into bed. It felt a little too warm initially so I left a leg out, but I was soon asleep. I slept without seeming to have any more dreams, good or bed, until Nelly howled for her breakfast. It feels far too early at the moment and it is likely I will be going back to bed for another hour very soon.