APRIL 2005
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Saturday 30th April 2005

07.30 BST

Weather - overcast, some light rain

 There is little to say about yesterday. After my 4 hours in Greenwich I came straight home. Once I got my breath back I went to Tesco's. For the rest of the day I ate, read, snoozed, watched TV and played on the internet. I went to bed at 22.00, but read until 23.30.

 I was hoping to go out and do some photography this morning, but the weather seems to be against it. I had hoped that the milky coloured sky was just high mist that would "burn off" when the sun got a bit higher, but right now there is some very light patchy rain falling. Perhaps it will clear up a bit later.

 My other ideas for today (they are too indefinite to be called plans) are to spend some time in my workshop and to spend some time in my studio. I may spend some time playing with computers, and that may include having another go at writing that 1.7MB image file to a floppy disk that I mentioned some time ago.

 There is only one definite plan for today - laundry and emptying Nelly's litter tray !!

Previews of May's diary page are here (only basic layout at the moment).
Friday 29th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - grey and damp, but no rain

 Yesterday was mostly grey and overcast, but I can't remember any significant rainfall. This morning the sky looks a little more patchy. Maybe the sun will break through later in the morning.

 After my four hours at the Programme Centre in Greenwich I went along to the internet cafe. I spent far longer there than I would have preferred. It was 18.50 before I was out of there. Some of the time was  boring, but there was one incident that pissed me off. There is a small gang of kids, four to six of them, who come in a little too frequently to "look" at the mobile phones in the display counter at the far end of the shop. In reality they have been working out a way to force their way into the display. Yesterday, while one distracted me at the front of the shop where I was guarding the cash, they succeeded in forcing the counter open and lifted one mobile phone that was possibly waiting for some sort of repair, and maybe one spare sim card. I did not notice the display case had been opened until sometime after they left the shop. It was not obvious from the front, and I only noticed it when I went to the office at the back to have a smoke. I phoned the boss up and he said to leave it and he would consider what to do when he opens up today.  If he does decide to call in the police the culprits should have left some good fingerprints on the glass, and the kid who distracted me is easily identifiable by the owner of the adjacent newsagents who saw him in the shop as he passed by. The newsagent actually delivers papers to the house where the kid lives !

 After that "exciting" day I was quite glad to get home again. Jodie was here in the studio when I arrived home. So I was distracted from having my only meal of the day until after her "taxi service" - Mark - had taken her away again. While I waited I examined her mobile phone. I think I discussed the terrible trouble I had trying to set up the software to download pictures from her phone, and how when it finally worked how disappointing the pictures were. I discovered she had the phone camera on its default setting of 160x120. I was surprised to see that the highest resolution was VGA (640x480). So I left it set to that. It should now be capable of taking pictures that are good enough to make small prints, but it will have reduced the amount of pictures she can store on the camera by a considerable amount.

 Once Jodie had left it was time to sit down and eat the meal that had been cooking in the oven, and to watch The Bill. What a farce that was ! Recently The Bill had almost reverted back to a police drama, but last night it was pure soap - Eastenders in police uniforms !!! Sometimes I really despair for that programme. Once it had finished at 21.00 I went straight to bed to do some reading. I had thought I would turn off the light at 22.00, but I got a bit carried away, and it was nearly 23.00 when my eyes would not stay open and I had to give up. I fell asleep almost instantly once I had turned the light off.

 Today is another morning at the Greenwich Programme Centre. After that I may pop by the internet cafe to pick a few things up (including the latest news), but I will not be staying. For the rest of the day I will do whatever feels right at the time. I have no preconceived ideas of what I might do. I fancy being very lazy, but maybe that might prove too boring. We'll see !
Thursday 28th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - dull and overcast

 The weather seems very unpredictable recently. Yesterday started bright and sunny. By midday it had clouded over, and soon after it was pouring with rain. At the peak of the rain we had some thunder and lightning. By early evening the skies had cleared, and we had bright sunshine. It looks as if today could have a similar range of weather, but maybe not in the same order as yesterday.

 I got to the internet cafe at 09.20 yesterday. Business slowly picked up and rose to a peak by mid afternoon. By 17.00 the place was almost deserted again. I closed up at 18.10 and came home again.

 I was quite glad to get home again. The walk through the park was very pleasant through the freshly washed air, and the bright sunshine, but I felt hungry and knackered when I got in. It was gone 19.00 before I had cooked my first food of the day. It was a sort of combined breakfast, elevenses,lunch and dinner ! I was feeling fairly full by the time to go to the pub approached, and not keen to pour several pints of beer on top of it. Besides which I only had £1.83 to spend. So I decided to stay in instead. By the time last orders would have been called I was either asleep or very close to it.

 I had some weird dreams during the night. I suppose most dreams are weird in some respect. One dream that I can remember was about being in a tube station waiting for the last train to go through. The station was not underground, but close to where the tunnels start. Just before the tunnel mouths, and off to the side, was a sort of obelisk. For some reason that I cannot fathom out now, I was supposed to change the graphics chip in it ! To get to this obelisk I had to cross the tracks after the last train had gone through. There was an official crossing place for staff. Usually at such places there is a gap in the conductor rails. In this place there was even a gap in the running rails ! When I finally got to the obelisk I found it was a slim brick built structure, about 2ft across and 10ft high. The spare chip was in a steel locker mounted on an adjacent wall. I got the chip out and found it was a brown slab about the same size as a custard cream biscuit with no discernable electrical connections on it. As I stood there, wondering what to do with chip, the dream faded from memory.

 I woke up very early this morning. It was around 05.20, or perhaps a little later. After a pee I tried to get back to sleep. I was only just successful for a few tens of minutes. Despite only getting about the same amount of sleep as most nights, I think I feel fairly refreshed this morning.  I'm off for another 4 hour session at the Programme Centre in Greenwich this morning. After that it should be my last session at the internet cafe for this week (and maybe a lot of next week).  I think I may have to stay a bit later tonight. Maybe until 19.00, but I'll see how it goes.
Wednesday 27th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - clear and bright

 What a contrast to yesterday. This morning it is bright and sunny. Yesterday it was raining by 09.00. Maybe it will rain later today, but for now it looks glorious.

 Yesterday started with a bit of a cock up. I very nearly forgot that I was due to see my New Deal adviser at 11.00.  In consequence I did not open up the internet cafe until 11.30. While waiting to go to the job centre I decided to pass some time in my workshop. I think I was enjoying myself because the time passed very quickly, and I made some progress towards completing a project.

 It was very quiet at the internet cafe for most of the day. I decided that I would agree to a plea to keep the place open a bit longer than I usually would to try and pick up some lost custom after opening so late. It didn't really work and I ended up closing down at 18.35 and had locked up by 18.45. During the quiet day I decided to do some maintaince on the client machines. It took ages and ages, but I was cleaned up, and defragmented the hard disks. The effort was worth it with at least one customer commenting that the machine they were using was unusually responsive. The major improvement was the virus checking at start up time. On some machines it was taking 35 minutes to do a complete check. I managed to get that down to 20 minutes.

 I came home feeling rather exhausted, but by 21.00 I had my second wind (almost) and, as there was nothing of interest on TV, I decided to go back into my workshop. I ended up spending 90 minutes in there. At the end I was feeling very, very tired, but quite pleased with the progress I had made. If I could spend another hour there this morning I could probably complete the task I had set myself. Instead I am off to the internet cafe again. I intend to be out of there by 18.00 tonight.

 Tonight I have two choices (with a few minor variations). I can either bolt some food down and go to the pub with indigestion and no money, or I could eat at a more leisurely pace, watch The Bill, and then finish off in my workshop. At the moment I am inclined towards the latter choice, but that could change during the course of the day.
Tuesday 26th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - dull and overcast, but still dry

 I got soaked walking across the park to meet the owner of the internet cafe and return the keys to him yesterday morning. Then I got even wetter getting to the bus stop to catch the bus to Greenwich.  It looks as if it will rain again today. So far it is dry, but the sky is just as grey as it was yesterday morning shortly before the rain started.

 After my four hour session at Greenwich I came straight home. For a couple of hours I did little more than eat, sleep and watch TV. Eventually I threw off the lethargy and went up to my studio. I played around up there for several hours, and much of it was just playing, but I did manage to produce some results. It is strange how sometimes time just slips away. It is impossible for me to account for all my time yesterday. I got home at approx 14.15 and went to bed at midnight. I cannot explain more than half of that time interval. Where did the rest of it go ?

 Today will be very complicated. I am due to open up the internet cafe at around 09.30, but I have just realised that I am due at the job centre at 11.00. If the new workplacement "lad"  is not there by then I will have to close up for an hour and do some very unwanted rushing around.  Aside from that interuption I will be at the internet cafe all day until 18.00.  Then I shall make my weary way home. I'll probably be too knackered to do anything after that.
Monday 25th April 2005

06.10 BST

Weather - grey and threatening

 I am sure the sky should be a lot brighter than it is. This can only mean one thing - heavy rain is due. Or is it ?  There was some rain yesterday evening, but much of the day was fine. I was comfortable going down the road to the Aldi supermarket wearing just a t-shirt (and trousers and shoes !) during the morning, but I am sure that it felt a lot colder as the day progressed.

 I am not sure how I spent the day yesterday. Mostly it was a lazy day, but I did do a couple of things. One thing was attempting to write 1.7MB of data onto a floppy disk. It sounds as if it should be impossible to write 1.7MB onto a disk that normally would only hold 1.4MB, and indeed I did find it impossible. Yet it should be possible. There is a program called NASLite that comes on a bootable floppy disk that is formatted to hold 1.7MB. I have an image file of the disk and instructions of how to write the image to a floppy disk - except I can't get it to work.

Update: 06.36 BST - It is now raining !

 NASLite is a suite of programs to convert an old PC into a "Network Attached Storage" device. It seems like the sort of thing I could use although it will not be worthwhile until I can afford to buy some BIG hard drives to put into the box. The entire operating system is on the one rather bloated flopy disk, and this leaves all the space on the hard disks for file storage. Interestingly it does not rely on the BIOS to detect the hard disk(s) and so it can even use disks that are too big to be supported by older BIOS's. There is more information (for the curious) at www.serverelements.com . Most of the software is open source so it is freely downloadable from the internet, but they do prefer to sell you a package on a CD rom that includes some special program that is designed to write 1.7MB of data to a floppy disk. Now all I have to do is work out just how to do the same thing myself. My research suggests I will need to use the command line command of setfdprm. I have tried it the way I think I should, but still cannot format a floppy disk to greater than 1.4MB. It seems obvious that I am using it incorrectly. This is something that will take more research !

 I don't think I did anything else of any interest at all yesterday. I did spent a lot of the day wondering when I would be hearing from the owner of the internet cafe. I still have the keys here from when I locked up on Saturday. As far as I know they are the only set. I tried to phone him on his home and mobile numbers a couple of times last night, but he had voicemail on both. I don't know what is going to happen now. I'll try and contact him sometime after 08.00, but the only concession I will make is to meet him outside the shop at 09.00. I will not open it up as I intend to be at the Greenwich Programme Centre at 09.30 for another 4 hour session there. If he can't get the keys any other way, he will have to see me in Greenwich.

 Once I have finished at Greenwich I am going to go home. Maybe I'll be in the right mood to spend some time in my studio. Even if I am not in the right mood I will not be going to the internet cafe until perhaps Wednesday !
Sunday 24th April 2005

09.25 BST

Weather - bright and sunny

Although the day seemed fairly bright when I wrote about it yesterday, it very quickly deteriorated to an intermittent light drizzle for much of the morning. By lunchtime it dried up and started getting brighter again. By early evening it was warm and dry again. This morning it seems, for the moment, to be bright and sunny again. It would be most pleasant if it kept this up for the rest of the day.

 My day at the internet cafe turned into its usual fiasco. At about 14.00 I got a call to say the boss had been bought tickets for the cinema by his wife, and so he would not be able to get back to relieve me. So very generously, or stupidly, I said I would keep the place open until 18.00. It was another long day, and I felt too knackered to do anything significant when I got home again. In future I am going to take all ambiguity out of going to the internet cafe. I will only stay there if I have the keys, and I will only stay until 18.00. If the boss wants to keep the place open later he comes back by 17.00, but I stay for fixed times. I am pissed off with his unreliability !

 Despite being so knackered I did manage to spend a few minutes doing technical stuff last night. At the internet cafe I had picked up two old 4GB hard drives that had been dropped off for me by the man who does the more serious maintenance of the cafe's network. I spent those few minutes testing them. They appear to be in good condition. 4GB is a little small for today's multimedia world, but they are good for experiments, and could form the heart of a low end system that, perhaps, accessed bigger files from an external source.

 Today I have laundry and some shopping to do, but beyond that I will just potter around and do whatever grabs my interest at the time. Maybe I'll do some computer stuff, or maybe I will spend some time in my studio. Maybe I'll do none of that and do some electronics instead. Perhaps I will just watch TV or read. Before any of that I had better wash and get dressed.
Saturday 23rd April 2005

08.30 BST

Weather - bright but hazy

 Yesterday started out quite good but ended up being very irritating. The day started slightly hazy, but before I even left the house the sun was out, and it continued shining all day.  My day started with a 4 hour session at the Greenwich Programme Centre. I spent a lot of the time there just reading New Scientist. It had a special offer in there of a free DVD to celebrate 15 years of the the Hubble Space Telescope. They had 40,000 copies to give away and I was one of the lucky ones. This morning I received an email from New Scientist........
"Congratulations. This email confirms that your claim for a copy of
"Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery" has been successful."

Once I had finished at Greenwich I came straight home. As it was nice and sunny I was considering wandering down to The Thames and having a look at what was happening on the river, but decided that I had too much I wanted to do at home. Of the things I wanted to do I only achieved one of them. That was to do some shopping in Tesco. I never did get to do my laundry, and I never did manage to get into my studio. I theoreticaly had time to do my laundry, but never got around to it.

 At just after 17.00 I was picked up to go to a pub meeting. I felt tired, and not really in a drinking mood, but I was under some sort of obligation to go to it. I was offered the chance to go for a curry before the pub, but I had already eaten and so I declined the offer. Instead I was dropped of at the pub where I managed to read 62 pages of "Podkayne Of Mars" by Robert Heinlien before Ivor and Iain came back from the curry house.

 Initially the pub was fairly quiet and the beer was OK. By 21.00 the pub was very crowded and getting increasingly noisy. Soon after that the conversation dropped below the noise level, and being at the far end of the table, I could only pick out a few snatches of the conversation. By then I was feeling very tired, very bored and irritable. To make matters worse, what was to be the last pint came up very cloudy and tasting disgusting. It was changed, but by then I was feeling pretty pissed off. The worst was yet to come. When we left the pub it was announced that we were not going straight home, but going visiting. I was told that it would only be for a few minutes so I elected to stay in the car and try and have a snooze. I did fall asleep but was woken up minutes later with orders to come in. After the third attempt I decided I would rather sleep on a bench at the railway station and wait for the first train of the morning (the last train from Barming is at 22.43 and it was past 23.00 at this time). I only managed to get a 100 yards up the road before I was stopped and persuaded to come back.  I don't know why everyone took it so personally as I have a reputation going back over 30 years of not indulging in after pub socialising. This is mostly the reason why I try and drink locally so I can slink off home after the pubs have closed. It is a little tricky to do this when you are 30 miles from home with no convenient transport.

 I am not sure what time I got home, but I do know that for much of the trip down the motorway the speedo was hovering at 100 mph. When I got in I felt exhausted, but at the same time too  restless to go straight to bed.  So I had a sandwich and watched the remains of an episode of Star Trek on Sky 1 while I calmed down.  I think I got into bed  very shortly after 01.00 and fell asleep instantly.

 This morning I should be opening up the internet cafe in 15 minutes - except that I am still not washed and dressed. I guess the shop will be opening a little late this morning. If I am there beyond 16.00 today I will be really bloody annoyed - I still feel irritated about last night and don't want to be pissed around today.
Friday 22nd April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - bright and dry

 It was bright and sunny yesterday, This was a bit of a surprise because it seemed quite grey while I was writing yesterday morning. I think it was just a high mist rather than cloud that I was seeing. It looks as if today will also start out bright and sunny, although I am sure I have seen a weather forecast recently that suggested more rain is on it's way.

 It was another very long day at the internet cafe. Contrary to my expectations I did not hear from the boss all day long. So I closed up at 18.00 as I did the day before. It was not until I was half way home that he rang me up. It seems he missed me by minutes. If he had been just those few minutes earlier he could have kept the shop open until his preferred time of 20.00. He had to drive here to pick up the keys from me so he could open up today.

 I won't be at the internet cafe at all today, but I will be there tomorrow morning until (I hope) sometime mid afternoon. This morning I will be spending 4 hours at the Greenwich Programme Centre. After that I will come straight home and will try and catch up with some of the things that I would have been doing had I not been stuck in the internet cafe for the last two days. Maybe I'll do some shopping, or maybe I will spend some time in my studio, or maybe I might manage both !

 Some time ago, it may have been 3 or 4 weeks ago, I was moaning about some crap software to connect a Motorola phone to a PC so that the camera pictures could be downloaded. Back then I was trying to install the software on Jodie's PC. After many attempts I gave up. The proper installation method seems full of contradictions. It tells you to connect the USB lead and phone at one point, and then complains saying the phone should not be connected. Well yesterday Jodie brought the software and lead over so I could try it on my PC. I had the same sort of problems, but with one extra major annoyance that I do not recall from the previous time. At one point the software forces a restart of the PC with no options to defer it to later. In the end I gave up with the "proper" way of installing the software and did it my own way. Once it was all working I realised that I could possibly have been a bit impatient before and may have had it working once on Jodie's PC. Once the "Handset Manager" program is loaded it announces that it is try to connect to the handset. It was only that Jodie distracted me for a little while that I realised it had finally succeeded. It took maybe a minute or two to actually connect. I had not anticipated that the connection could be so slow. Maybe there were some tweaks I could have done to speed things up, but once it was connected I decided to not interfere until I had downloaded her pictures. She had 348 pictures totalling just over 2 Megabytes of data. It took 10 to 15 minutes to download that lot, but it was successful. I don't know what the transfer rate was, but it seemed somewhat slower than when I was using a 300 baud modem to connect to bulletin boards some time in the prehistoric past. After all that aggro it was somewhat ironic that the pictures were actually crap - worse than the pictures from my own Nokia camera phone. Jodie swears blind that her camera was on the highest resolution setting, but I still have my doubts. Maybe if her friend was not patiently waiting to drive her away I could have looked into the phone settings for her, but he was in a rush to get away. Overall I could not recommend the Motorola V300 phone, and I would give the connection software a zero star rating !
Thursday 21st April 2005

08.00 BST

Weather - light grey sky, dry

 Guess what ! I had a phone call from the boss of the internet cafe saying he could not get back in time, and could I stay a lot longer than I had originally intended ? So I resorted to plan B and stayed until 18.00 before locking up and going home. Today I am certain will be a repeat performance.

 There is one good thing that has come out of this fiasco at the internet cafe. I have decided to keep an accurate check of the time I waste there. One excellent tool for doing this is a spreadsheet. Prior to yesterday I had never had any reason to try Microsoft Excell (or any other spreadsheet program), but I did have a vague notion of what it was supposed to do, and of ways of using it. After a little experimentation I now have my first spreadsheet built. It automatically calculates the hours between a start time and a finish time, and adds those hours to an end of week total. There is obviously far more possibilities available in Excell, but I do not have any data input to try them out. Nevertheless I now claim to "know" Excell. The next thing I ought to do is to bring home a copy of my spreadshhet and see how it opens in Open Office Calc.

 There is little else to tell about yesterday. In the evening I went to the pub, enjoyed some banter and a few pints, and then came home again.

 Today will be a rerun of yesterday apart from the pub in the evening.
Wednesday 20th April 2005

06.25 BST

Weather - grey

 Sometimes the line between fantasy and reality becomes so blurred that life becomes confusing. Take last night. Did I have a very inventive dream, or did I just extrapolate from something I read in Computer Weekly ? It's odd that dream and read are almost an anagrams. The dream version is more interesting so I will recount the basic plot as far as I can remember it. A group of religious nutters had written some software to detect, and censor, "pornographic" images on TV. (i.e. bare breasts etc). As it was open source software it was quickly modified so that it could be used by normal people to actively seek out, and record (if necessary), "interesting" images on TV. Curiously I can't remember the results of the software in the dream. It was a dream about sex, but with no sex in it! This is most disappointing !!

 Having written that down before the details evaporated like the memory of most dreams, I can now continue to recount what happened yesterday. In fact nothing interesting happened yesterday. It was just another variation of the dull routine. I had my fortnightly interview at the Job centre. Thankfully that was reasonably brief and I was able to get the the Greenwich Programme Centre by 10.00, just 30 minutes after my normal, and preferred, time. While there I did read Computer Weekly, and I think I read something about TV censor software. After 4 hours I came home again. There was some minor newsworthy stuff on the way home. Lewisham was unusually (for very early afternoon) almost gridlocked. There was an unbroken cue of buses trying to squeeze down the High Street with about 10 buses in each direction trying to pass each other. It was a slow crawl, but we made it through after about 5 minutes had passed. As I approached my bus stop I came down from the top deck and as I left the bus I noticed a bloke who may have been dead, or was probably soon going to be so. He was slumped down in the seat, and only prevented from going down even further by his left shoulder being wedged up against the wall/window. He had puked down the front of his jacket, and more puke was dripping from his nose.  There was a good chance that he would soon be drowning in his own vomit. Meanwhile as I pondered the consequences of it all, the bus had driven off and was disappearing from sight. He was more or less in full view of the driver and several other passengers. So I assume someone might have raised the alarm eventually.

 During the afternoon Jodie played in the studio while I read Micro Mart downstairs. At some point I dozed off and may have been asleep for an hour, or more.  I did have ideas of doing some stuff in the studio myself after Jodie had left, but it got a little too late. After I had watched the new episode of Enterprise on Sky One I "surfed the net" for an hour or two and then went to bed. I managed to read a couple more pages of Micro Mart before turning off the light and falling into a deep sleep almost immediately.

 Today will be mostly boring, but necessary. I am opening up the internet cafe this morning, and I will be there until (hopefully) 17.00 (but probably later). Once home again I'll bolt some food down, and with luck it will have time to settle before I go out for some beer in The Ram. I have made a special point of saving my last £10 note so I can buy a round tonight. Once that is spent I will be penniless again until Saturday (maybe), but it is for a good cause.
Tuesday 19th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - raining again

 Predictably my stay at the internet cafe was a lot longer than I had wished for. The excuse this time was that the brakes had failed on the boss' car. Instead of 17.00 it was 18.30 before I managed to get away from there. In consequence I did not feel like doing anything when I finally got home. I didn't feel like doing anything and I didn't !

 While in the internet cafe I did some research on the Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the fourth radio series starts transmission BBC4 on 4th May. The bad news is that the new film seems even more awful that the first reviews suggested. When the official movie website makes a big thing of the cast including two "brit" actors you just know they have lost the plot before they even started. The whole thing with THHGTTG is that it is very English. You just cannot hollywood/disnify it ! Marvin (the paranoid android) has now been turned into a cute little robot. He still sort of sulks, but without being a tall clanky thing it just does not work. The Vogons are based more on Shrek than any description from the guide itself - definitely the result of some designer who has been totally brainwashed by the Disney overlords. It seems like they have tried to cover at least 3 of the books in just one movie. As such, so much must get left out that the effort is totally wasted. There is a trailer that is downloadable from the official movie website (I can't remember the url, but a web search finds it easily). I have downloaded and watched it. The trailer is narrated by Stephen Fry who is "the voice of the book". One curious thought that comes from watching the trailer is that by reading between the lines I get the impression that Stephen Fry is actually trying to say that the film is a load of hackneyed rubbish ! I have a strong conviction that Bollywood would do better justice to Douglas Adam's books than Hollywood could ever achieve (even with subtitles ) !

 Today I will be steering clear of the internet cafe. I have an appointment at the Job Centre at 09.00 which I hope will be fairly brief. After that I will be going to Greenwich to spend 4 hours at the Programme Centre. Once I have finished there I will rush home to meet Jodie who wants to spend some time in my studio.
Monday 18th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - grey skies aand copious rain

 Further to what I was writing yesterday about Friday evening. I also tried a quick and dirty install of Free BSD 4.3. Free BSD is a real geeks version of Unix, and as such needs a lot of understanding of configuration options. The installation was successful in a way. I only got as far as a command line environment, but it did seem to work. If I had seriously wanted to use it I may have been able to get a graphical interface configured, but it would have been really mind taxing time to do it.  I am not sure whether the installation routine did cover setting up the drivers for a graphics card, or whether it had to be done by hand after installation. Whatever the way to do it is, I am sure it would be easier if I was using a more common type of graphics card rather than the slightly off the wall Kyro II card that is installed in that spare PC.

 Yesterday morning started off bright and sunny - a complete contrast to this morning's rather grey and soggy start. Once I was washed and dressed I ventured forth to the Aldi supermarket. I spent a princely sum of £14.56 on what was 50% junk food. The rest was split between catfood and human food. I think all I ate yesterday was unhealthy junk food. I didn't eat a proper meal all day. The junk food was nice, but terribly unhealthy for me. I can partially compensate for the excess fats and sugars by being more careful today, but I can do little about the effects on my bowels this morning.

 The rest of yesterday seemed to evaporate. I did do some stuff, but what I achieved hardly seems to account for all the hours that went by. Mostly I was still playing about with hard disks and operating sytems. One thing that did happen was that I tried the faulty 40GB hard drive form the server at the internet cafe again. My previous attempts to access it always failed in the Windows 2000 machine upstairs, but in the spare PC it had a moment of lucidity and was actually identified by the BIOS. More than that, Windows 2000 actually started to boot up. It never fully made it as the disk is too corrupt and Windows complained of missing files.  As the disk warmed up it became more and more erratic. This gives me an idea. I might try leaving it in the freezer for a few hours and see if I can get it to really boot up that way.  If it does then I should be able to get some data from it. There is very little, probably nothing, that really needs recovering from it, but it would be great to do it anyway. I think that any plans I had to re-use the hard disk would be foolhardy, but if I can recover some info from it the next step would be to try and use "Powermax", Maxtors own hard disk testing and repair utility.  I doubt it would be able to "repair" the drive, but it would be worth trying anyway. What is really needed is a way to bypass the start area of the disk which is what is probably most corrupted, and start the read/write heads somewhere else. I suspect that this would be impossible.

 Today I spend another 4 hours at the Greenwich programme centre followed by another stint at the internet cafe in the afternoon. I wonder what time I'll get away from there today ?  Hopefully it will be around 17.00, but I would not be surprised if it is later. I have voluntered to do all day Wednesday and Thursday in there, but I think I ought to make that conditional on having the keys. Then I can lay down the simple condition to the boss of get back by 17.00 or I start turning customers away and close up at 18.00 (the same as I did on Saturday). Normally the place is open until 20.00, and can be quite busy in the evening.

 Tonight I rest (probably).
Sunday 17th April 2005

09.00 BST

Weather - bright and sunny

 This morning I have been kept rather busy. First I had 133 e-mails turn up over night that took a fair bit of reading. Then I have had a long phone call. It is now 10.21 and I am still not washed and dressed. So just a few notes about yesterday, and predictions for today.

 Yesterday at the internet cafe was a farce. I was not relieved at 15.00 ! I stayed until 18.00 and then shut up shop. It was irritating, but I did win a coconut. With care I'll be able to buy a round next Wednesday night (maybe even next Friday night, but that might be optimistic).

 Last night I started playing with the spare PC until 01.00, or maybe just a little later. I tried several different operating system installations with some highly variable results. With a decent CD drive connected my attempt at installing Xandros Linux still failed. I could not even get SuSe linux to boot from the install CD's, but I have a funny feeling that it may not use bootable CD's and that I ought to make some boot floppies up. I then tried an early version of Mandrake (8.2) as the disks were close at hand. That apparently installed OK, but crashed on first boot with a few error messages. For a laugh I tried installing Windows NT4. Even that would not install, but it did give me some clues as to what one problem may be. It actually failed i the same way that Xandros failed. As soonas it tried to switch to a graphical interface the display died. It may be some peculiarity with my graphics card, or it may be something to do with ACPI (power configuration in the BIOS). I may waste hours experimenting with some options there, but it would be more sensible to put back the original hard disk back in that PC (which works perfectly with Windows ME on it) and build up a new test rig from all my scrap (and low end) bits and pieces.

 My main priority for today is shopping - seeing as I never got a chance to do any yesterday. I think I may try and spend a frugal amount in the Aldi supermarket who I believe now open on a Sunday. They are usually cheaper and nastier for basic goods, and I can then save the small amount left on my Tesco Club card for some less basic purchases.
Saturday 16th April 2005

07.30 BST

Weather - bright and dry. Very cool

 My desire to get away from the internet cafe soon after 17.00 went predictably wrong yesterday. It was about 18.15 before I got away into the cold pouring rain. It was a miserable walk home through the park. It was cold, wet and gloomy.

 Last night I got a chance to try out the failed hard disk from the server at the internet cafe. It really does seem very dead. I was hoping that it might be revived so I could get some data from it, and then possibly use it for experimental purposes. I tried several ways of getting it to work, including extreme violence, but nothing would persuade the two PC's I tried it on to even recognise that it existed. While I had one of my PC's open I decided to try a couple of other old hard disks I have lying around. The first was an old 4GB Maxtor unit that seemed to have failed. To my surprise it was recognised by the BIOS with no problems, and I installed a working installation of Fedora Core 3 Linux on it. I don't really like Fedora for several reasons, but I have been keen to try this recent version for some time (so long in fact that version 4 is available now, albeit as an alpha release). The installation time was slightly extended because the DVD rom drive in that PC struggles slightly with CDR disks (in normal use that is of little consequence - there is a scsi connected CD burner drive that reads them perfectly well, but I can't boot from a scsi connected CD rom drive). Once the installation was finished I tested it all out. Everything in the PC had been correctly identified, and the appropriate drivers installed, except for the network card. This was a little surprising as Linux is usually quite hot on networking options. In defence of Fedora I can say that the card is an ancient ISA card that is not plug-n-pray. Curiously, I am sure that that the installation routine managed to contact a network time server to update to the correct time, but how if the network card was not working ? I briefly swapped the hard drive back to a Windows installation to see how Windows described the network card. Unhelpfully it said it was just an NE2000 compatible, but I was able to make a note of the IRQ and I/O range. These details did not help when I went back to Fedora. I will have to whip the card out and see just what chip is on it. Maybe that will help, but it is of little consequence as I doubt I will be using Fedora Linux on that machine anyway. On the other hand I want to see what Xandros looks like. I spent good money on a magazine a couple of weeks back just so I could get the cover disk with an iso image of Xandros on it. I did try that before Fedora, but the DVD rom drive was having even worse trouble reading that CDR disk. If I am feeling keen tonight I'll do a temporary swap of DVD drive to a good CD drive, and give Xandros another go.

 This morning I am off to the internet cafe armed with the keys to open the place up and run it until 15.00.Somehow I just know it will be longer than that as the boss seems to be in a permanent timewarp that is 30 to 60 minutes adrift from the rest of the world. At least today I can threaten to lock the place up and go home if he is excessively late.

 Once I am out of the internet cafe my first task will probably be to do some shopping. After that I may well be tempted to play with PC's for the rest of the day. If I do I must try not to get carried away. Last night I did not finish playing until almost 01.00. It was possibly nearer 01.30 before I got to sleep. In consequence I did not get that much sleep last night. I woke up at 06.00 this morning and could not get more than about 30 minutes extra sleep in short bursts before deciding to get up. Maybe I'll spend some time snoozing on the settee for the rest of the afternoon.
Friday 15th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - cloudy but dry

 I was fortunate that when I went to the Job Centre yesterday morning there was no queue and I was able to pick my stuff up very quickly. I went straight from there to the internet cafe. I was there for 7 hours, but it felt longer ! For just that I should get more than peanuts - walnuts maybe ?

 The couple of hours betwen coming home and going out to the pub seemed to flash by with unseemly haste. I did little apart from eat my dinner, watch some TV and burn an interesting CD for Iain. I actually got to the pub a little late because my first attempt at copying the CD failed and I had to start all over again. I think the 6 CD's I handed over to Iain was worth a pint, but once again I am in debt to Kevin and Howard for pints received. I think I have a very small surplus in my bank account at the moment, but I dare not touch it. There are several bills coming up, including my mobile phone bill, that I ought to try and pay promptly. I think that my extreme budgeting (and consequent drink cadging) has finally got my excessive bank charges under control. I don't think I have paid out for any failed debits at all for the last 6 weeks. At £34 a pop, those charges were soaking up 90% of my dole at one point. I am still being charged small amounts for occasionally going overdrawn, but I might even beat that soon.

 This morning I am back at the Greenwich Programme Centre until about 13.30. From there I will be going straight back to the internet cafe for another 3 or 4 hours. I have hatched a plan for being there on Saturday. The boss is hoping I will do a long stretch there on Saturday, but I want to get out by mid afternoon. So I phoned him yesterday, just before he closed, and asked him to bring in the spare set of keys. If my plan goes ahead I will open up for him on Saturday, and look after the place until about 15.00. That should give him a decent amount of time on his house refurbishing project, and still leave me with plenty of hours to do stuff on Saturday. After that I will be expecting Brazil nuts !
Thursday 14th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - dull but dry

 Yesterday was a day of contradictions - or something ! My first visit of the day to the Job Centre went OK apart from the usual hanging around. The second visit was less satisfactory. After hanging around I was told that the paperwork was dated for today so I would have to pick it up today ! So in effect my whole afternoon was wasted because of their petty beaurocracy.

 I had better luck while passing the time between visits to the Job Centre. I decided to play pass the parcel with graphic cards on three different PCs. You may remember that I have rebuilt my video editing machine into a bigger case to keep it cooler. During the rebuild, which partially overlapped the rebuild of my audio editing machine, I seem to have swapped the graphic cards round.  The card I put into the video editing machine was a "Kyro III" and it would not even pass the POST (Power On Self Test). So I tried a couple of other cards. One was a PCI card and the other an AGP card. Both worked OK, but video playback was slow and jerky - not what you want for a machine that is mostly dedicated to video editing ! I was close to condemning the Kyro III card, but thought I would try it in "greysky" my spare/backup studio PC. It successfully started to boot with correct video so I left it in there. The card I removed from there was an "S3 Trio 3D" (or something similar). It was a bit of a basic card and before using it  decided to see what I had put into another spare PC I have knocking around. In that spare PC I found a "Savage 4" card. That worked perfectly in the video editing machine. It produced crisp clear video without a trace of jerkiness. That stayed put there and I so I put the Trio card in the spare PC. It worked OK, but the video looked a tiny bit streaky. It is now permanently installed there, but that is not the end of the story.

 Upon first fitting the Trio card I had all sorts of problems. Before I could install all the correct drivers it appeared to be hogging all the resources and that produced all sorts of random problems. The worst was that it appeared to be clashing with the hard disk controller. Windows would freeze before it had finished loading and then produce an error message that it could not write to the hard disk. This made installing the correct drivers a bit difficult ! I had actually made the situation worse by fitting a modem card that I found in the spare audio machine. By taking that out I slowly coaxed windows into loading properly, and at last was able to install the correct graphic drivers. With the correct drivers for that installed I tried the modem again. This time it was recognised properly and I soon had it correctly installed and working.

 Getting three happy PC's took quite a long time, but it felt good to do it. I spent some other time burning some disks for Ivor and Iain. It would have been more convenient to burn the stuff for Iain on a DVD but I seem to have a problem with my DVD-R burner. Nero Burning Rom reports a rather terrifying error of "Internal Target Failure" whenever I try to burn a DVD. It looks as if my DVD burner has died, although it is still happy to burn CD's. As yet I have had no definition of what "Internal Target Error" really means. It may be that my last two blank disks are corrupt after several attempts to burn to them. Fortunately my Philips DVD+R burner still seems to be functioning OK, but is in the wrong machine. I will do some research about "internal target error" later, but if it is the drive that has died I am in s**t street as I cannot afford to replace it at the moment. What I may be able to stretch to is a blank DVD-RW disk that I can experiment with and can (hopefully) erase between experiments.

 Today I will be going to the internet cafe for about 6 hours. Before that I have to go to the bloody Job Centre to pick up my stuff. I hope I can do that at 10.30 and do not have to hang around too long. With a lot of luck, and a tail wind I might get to the internet cafe by 11.00 as I sort of promised I would. With a bit more hope I may be able to get away from there soon after 17.00, but I predict it will be closer to 18.00. I am not sure if there is a drink going on tonight, or not. Even if there is I am not sure I can afford to go to it, and yet it would be a good time to dump the 5 CDR's I burnt yesterday onto Iain. Maybe I'll get some pocket money from the internet cafe today, but I doubt it.
Wednesday 13th April 2005

06.05 BST

Weather - overcast and showery

 It is a gloomy sort of day today for several reasons. It managed to stay dry for all of yesterday, but the rain seems to have caught us up. If I caught a recent weather forecast correctly, it will get worse before it gets better.

 Yesterday went mostly as predicted. The boss at the internet cafe was upset that I only wanted to stay until about 17.00. He was hoping to get in 4, or more, hours work at the house he is doing up, but as I could not get to the internet cafe until just after 14.00 that was just not possible.  He does seem to have made a bit of a mistake if he thinks I am at his beck and call for very little reward. Besides, if I had got the job at the Science Museum there is a chance I could have started by now and he would not be seeing me at all - a fact he knows, but does not necessarily want to believe.

 I spent some of the evening eating and watching TV, but by 21.00 I was feeling creative and fired up Paint Shop Pro to create a variation on a theme. It was some artwork to bring a smile to Lee's face (or very gently wind him up). I think he will like it. Unfortunately it is not work safe so I will not display it here. Rather stupidly I kept going on it until a little past midnight. In consequence I should have stayed asleep for at least another hour this morning.

 Today there are several things I could have done. First priority was to be a funeral, and the second was to mind the internet cafe for about 6 hours and reap a slightly bigger reward. What overrides both of them is two visits to the Job Centre. Both should be short visits. One will be in the morning, and the other should just be a matter of picking up some paperwork in the afternoon. For most of the day I could be sitting around twiddling my thumbs, but I am sure there are some little odd jobs I can do to fill in the wait between visits.
Tuesday 12th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - clear sky, bright sunshine (for now)

 It stayed sunny all day yesterday, and although not hot, it was certainly warm. This morning it has started with clear blue skies and glorious sunshine. It's a shame that the weather forecasters tell us that it will cloud over later, and rain tomorrow.

 Yesterday was a rather uneventful day, and I suspect that today will be very similar. My day consisted of 4 hours at the Programme Centre and another 4 hours at the internet cafe. I did manage to get away from the internet cafe by 17.00 after some earlier fears that it could be a lot later. I hope that today will be similar. Even though I got away in reasonable time I still felt totally exhausted by the time I had walked home across the park. In consequence I don't think I did anything constructive when I got home. Maybe tonight I will be able to do something, but with a new episode of Enterprise on TV I will be very tempted to spend the evening in front of the TV again. If, as the weather forecasters predict, it is dark and gloomy, and maybe raining, when I get home I will be even less inclined to do anything "exciting".

 I seem to have summed up yesterday, and probably today, in very few words. I'll just add that I managed to turn the light out at 22.45 last night and fell asleep instantly. I may try to get to sleep even earlier tonight as I still feel tired. I woke up at 05.45 this morning and only managed some light, intermittent, sleep until 06.30. I still feel like another good hours sleep may have been useful. (Just thinking about it has got me yawning).
Monday 11th April 2005

06.45 BST

Weather - cloudy, but some sun peeping through

 The most significant thing about yesterday was that I ate far too much. I feel rather bloated this morning, and my blood sugar level and blood pressure are probably sky high. The reason for this was a rather successful shopping trip to Tesco yesterday morning. I bought loads of goodies. They were to spice up life for the next few days, but the best have gone already. I doubt I will be having breakfast until about 18.00 tonight. By then my blood should be almost back to normal (although it will ultimately take a few more days like today, and some restraint, before it is as normal as it gets.

 Yesterday day was not all eating. I did some more work to my Windows XP video editing machine. The memory problem was almost certainly a mismatch between two different makes/types of memory. Tested individually they passed all the testing that Memtest 86 could throw at them. So I now have two 512MB sticks of ram in use giving a full 1GB of memory. That should be enough for most tasks, most of the time. Unfortunately video playback is still really clunky. I can really only blame the graphics card. An experiment of ripping a DVD to an Xvid avi file proceeded at about real time speed, but playback of the file was horrible. Burning that same file to a CD and trying it on a slower machine produced good results. That seems to prove that my problem lies in the display system rather than raw processing power. I am sure I have an AGP graphics card with at least 16MB of memory on it, but I cannot find it. Perhaps I am getting confused with the card that was already in there, and did not appear to work. I must try that card in another machine sometime.

 During the afternoon (and a little into the evening) I spent some time in my studio. I tried to upload the finished file to a certain ftp server, but the transfer kept stalling so I gave up. I will try again sometime today (probably).

 I filled in a fair amount of time yesterday doing some reading. It was an old Robert Heinlein book called "Revolt in 2100". I hope the storyline was not too prophetic as it dealt with religious excesses in North America. Mind you, I shouldn't worry about it as I will long dead by then. I took the book to bed with me, and with the aid of matchsticks to wedge my eyes open, I managed to finish the whole book by 00.45. This does mean that I feel a little tired this morning. It was probably a silly thing to do on a Sunday night, but I shall just have to live with the consequences and try and get an early night tonight.

 Today is split into the same agenda as Friday. The programme centre in Greenwich up until 13.30 and then the internet cafe until late afternoon. There is one fly in the ointment for this week. My New Deal photocard expires mid week. There should be no problem getting it renewed, but I cannot buy a weekly travelcard. I will have to muck around with individual bus tickets all week. I will still be reimbursed for my fares, but a travelcard is so much more convenient and flexible (although I generally make little use of the flexibility).
Sunday 10th April 2005

07.30 BST

Weather - dry, but overcast

 I got to the internet cafe at about 11.10 yesterday. As predicted I was there a lot longer than I wanted to be. It was a little past 17.00 before I left. I did get a very little reward for all that time. It was useful, but I will never make my fortune from it. Still it was enough for a fish and chip supper, but not for the 20 Woodbines, a visit to the cinema, a night in the pub, and a cab home that traditionally go with a fish and chip supper (according to some long lost legend). I did have some change left over, but if I had not had the two pickled onions it would have been almost double the amount.

 I am having a great deal of trouble typing this. My fingers do not appear to be doing what my brain seems to be ordering them to do. It is possible that this is all a dream. A little before 02.37 I had a dream that I had woken up and that it was still dark. So I turned over and went back to sleep. Then at 02.37 my brain had judged that sufficient time must have passed for it to be light and I woke up for real. Of course it was very much dark then and I was quite disappointed that I had woken up so stupidly early. It is entirely possible that waking up at 02.37 was also a dream, but it was a very real one, and I did get up and go to the toilet while I thought I was awake. That in itself proves very little. I should have written myself a note to say I was definitely awake. Perhaps I will soon wake up and find that I have not even written all this. Maybe I'll wake up and find I have not even thought of writing a web diary. It would be terrible if I woke up only to find I was still 7 years old and it was a school day. Now that would really be tragic after apparently living half (or more) of a lifetime in a dream.If such an occurrence really happened I think I would be justified in uttering a Marvin like phrase "Oh no, not another lifetime to live through again".

 Back to what appears to be normality. After eating my fish and chips I vegetated for a while. During that period I watched Dr Who on BBC 1, followed by Dr Who confidential on BBC 3. There seemed to be very little on TV after that so I had to make my own amusement. After trying the internet I decided to have another go at my wayward Windows XP video editing machine. I had already ascertained that the trouble lay with the graphics card. The one I thought I had been using in it prior to the rebuild appeared to be dead. The first replacement I found was a simple PCI card. The machine would boot up using it, but Windows would freeze just before the desktop appeared. I tried another card, and after making some small adjustments to the BIOS I managed to get Windows to boot successfully. I didn't really like that graphics card as it only had 4MB of memory and I got the impression that it was slowing things up a little. Eventually I found an AGP card that I thought may have been better. It wasn't ! It only had 4MB of memory, but worst of all the video looked very slightly smeary. Perhaps smeary is a bit over the top, but the picture did not look as crisp as the other video card. I was still worried about the ram in that machine so I left off mucking around with Windows and ran a bootable CD with Memtest 86 on it. It did reveal that there were errors in the memory. It may be an incompatibility between the two makes of memory used for the three sticks in the machine, or it may really be a faulty memory stick. Even as I type I am testing the one odd memory stick by itself. According to the Memtest 86 web site some sticks only appear to fail when used in Athlon based systems - which mine is. I'll probably be running memory tests all morning, and perhaps into the afternoon.

 Today I really must go to Tesco. I originally wanted to go yesterday morning, but time seemed to pass by too quickly. I will definitely go this morning. I need Tabasco, toothpaste, tomato sauce, baked beans, shampoo, red and/or green peppers, mayonnaise, and probably loads of other things. A cheap bottle of scotch would be very nice too, but I cannot afford such luxuries just now.

 This afternoon I think I want to go up into my studio to do a bit of recording. If I can achieve that (and do the shopping) I will be sufficiently happy to just drift through the other hours of the day. Maybe I'll do some electronics, or maybe I will make a start in a video restoration project. Perhaps I'll just sit in front of the telly !
Saturday 9th April 2005

08.30 BST

Weather - dry, sunny, but freezing cold !

 I had a phone call yesterday that was to be a bitter disappointment. It was from The Science Museum to tell me that I came second in the race to get the job there. So close, and yet so far ! Maybe I did do myself of the job by saying that I would repair their Strowger telephone exchange exhibit regardless of whether I got the job or not. I am forced to consider this because I was told that they are still considering this as a possibility. Apparently they have recent;y spoken to BT's heritage department about the exhibit, although I am not clear how this could affect me. I said that I was still prepared to come in and do the work, and they suggested that it would be on a contract basis, but they would be back in touch with me later about it. I was also told that if a new job opening came up I would be the first to take a crack at it. I suppose that is some comfort, but on a cold, and wet, miserable morning it was not the news that I had been waiting for. It left me feeling somewhat pissed off for the rest of the day.

 That terrible phone call came while I was doing my 4 hour final stint of the week at the Programme Centre in Greenwich. After I left there I went to the internet cafe where there was another PC waiting for a repair. This was one I had seen before. It's owner had recently got connected to AOL broadband. I got the impression that they must offer all sorts of anti-virus and trojan removal software. The owner had appeared to have downloaded the lot mindless of the fact that most were crippled 15 day demo versions. I had previously installed AVG anti-virus, and Spybot Search and Destroy, for him. It felt like all these programmes were so busy fighting each other that they had let 4 Trojans and/or hijackers in. The result was his web browser was doing all sorts of strange things, and in particular opening up at least 20 windows everytime he tried opening it. I was able to cure all this just using all the tools that were already on the machine. I did make one little error. Windows announced that there were updates available so I attempted to install them. Service pack 2 said it could not be installed because of a serial number mismatch. This is worrying as it seems there is a hookey version of Windows XP installed even though there is a sticker on the PC saying that it was "designed for Windows XP". It is quite possible that all his programs will start to fail over the next fortnight as Bill gates has his revenge for using a pirate version of Windows XP. I can see a row coming up as he tries to blame me for wrecking his PC and wanting it fixed for free.

 I didn't do much when I came home from the internet cafe. There was so little on TV that I spent most of the time on the internet. It is a little spooky at the moment in that my e-mail has dropped to an all time low.  I think I have only had two e-mails come through since yesterday morning. It is e-mails from Yahoo groups that seem to have stopped. I presume that Yahoo has blown up, or gone mad, or something !

 Today I am going to spend some more time in the internet cafe. I hope it will only be about 4 hours, say 11.00 to 15.00, but I know if the boss says he will be back at 15.00 it will be more like 16.00 (and he wonders why I am sometimes reluctant to appear there more often !). There are several things I could do when I get home, but I will probably just want to vegetate for the rest of the afternoon/evening. Watching Dr Who at 19.00 will be one way I'll be wasting time.
Friday 8th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - rather dull, but dry

 In some ways you could day I did not do much yesterday, and numerically you would be right, but it was still a longish sort of day where a fair bit did get done. That sounds a contradiction, but I think I can explain.

 The day started with me doing very little. I prepared all the stuff for my interview at The Job Centre, and then just idled away the rest of the morning until it was time to leave for my 11.15 appointment. Actually it was not totally idled away. I did empty Nelly's litter tray, and cook and eat some breakfast. At 11.00 I left to go round the corner to The Job Centre. When I told him what I had been up to lately I did get some grudging praise. I asked how many of his clients had managed to get three interviews in one week. At first I answered for him (I had to wind him up gently) by saying that I expected he would have to say loads of them just to incite me to try even harder, Surprisingly he said that it was actually very rare. He was another person who also thought that my extended interview at the Science Museum, and all the talk of the benefits I could get by working there, sounded very promising. I still am not sure enough to be smug about it. I came away from the Job Centre feeling fairly happy - makes a change !

 Back home I had to idle away a couple of ours before leaving for the arduous journey to Watford Junction for my third interview of the week. (In incidently my Job Centre adviser thought that Watford was a long way to go - something of a change in tune to his previous moans that I should be looking for jobs anywhere on the planet !!). I caught a train from Catford Bridge at 14.44. By 16.25 I had arrived at the offices of the agency some 20 minutes early. It was a fairly uneventful journey, although the Northern Line between Charing Cross and Euston was just a little crowded and quite hot.

 It was possibly useful turning up early as we appeared to be seen on a first come, first served basis (there were several people to be seen at roughly the same time). There was a simple form to fill in with an inbuilt English test - describe in 30 to 50 words your journey here this morning. Simple, although my handwriting was unlikely to score any points. Then there was a practical test. The two part test was in following written instructions combined with a manual dexterity test (although the latter would have hardly stretched a 3 year old). Having passed all that satisfactorily two of us were taken into another office where the job was explained. It is assembling fibre optics cables for undersea telecoms cables. I think Mike over there in Canada would recognise the name of the employer - Alcatel. The factory is based in Greenwich near the Blackwall tunnel entrance (or near the dome). They want to take on about 30 workers and this agency, plus one other, are fielding about 50 pre tested candidates for further testing in the factory. So I am in with a definite fighting chance. The work actually starts with 3 weeks of fully paid for training in the factory. For those on P.A.Y.E. (like myself) the pay is around £11 per hour - not too bad. The contract itself should last for at least 9 months, but it could go on, or even become a permanent job. I should hear about a start date around the beginning of May. It is 100% definite that I will be able to go on to the factory based testing, but I could still fail at that point (the two of us who were seen together were told that with our previous qualifications that it would be unlikely). So if the Science Museum job falls through it looks as if I do have a very good fall back position (and there are still two more jobs I am waiting to hear about, plus the one at the factory in Deptford who have virtually promised me work if they need extra workers).

 My journey home from Watford seemed to start quicker, but take longer than my journey there. I had to wait about 10 minutes for a train back to Euston. I am sure it was faster, and with less stops than the train going there. I did not have to wait more than a few minutes for a very packed Northern Line tube back to Charing Cross. It was probably that I had to wait 20 minutes for a train from Charing Cross to Catford Bridge that made the journey seem a lot longer. In fact it probably took a similar sort of time. It was 19.00 by the time I actually got indoors, and it felt like it had been a long day. I would hate to do that everyday. One plus point was that using my New Deal photocard the return fare was only £3.40. It could possibly have been cheaper than that, but I opted to buy an all zones travelcard plus an additional zone 6 to Watford return ticket. I thought that a travelcard would give me some flexibility in case I wanted to go exploring. In the end I just felt tired and wanted to go straight home.

 There was a lot of rain yesterday. While at Watford there was a downpour with some thunder and lightning a little way off. On the train between Watford and Euston we passed through a couple of heavy showers, and the sky towards what I believe to be the east was as black as night. I managed to get home in the dry, but soon after there was a few heavy downpours here with some very local (and loud !) cracks of thunder mid evening.

 I hope today will be mostly dry - at least while I am travelling. It's another session at the Programme Centre in Greenwich this morning. That will be followed by a few hours at the internet cafe. It's nice to think that if things turn out as I hope I will soon be able to say goodbye to that place.
Thursday 7th April 2005

07.00 BST

Weather - strong cold wind, but sunny

 I actually had a feel good moment yesterday. At 10.00 I had my 3rd review at the Programme Centre in Greenwich. Normally these are rather tedious sessions with one of the woman who never seems to smile. It's a bit like memories of school and "must try harder". This one was different. When I explained that I had been for an almost interview (more of a simple meeting) on Monday, and had been to the interview at The Science Museum on Tuesday I started getting some faint praise. When I described how the interview had gone I was almost congratulated. Despite that she still had to (almost) moan that I had not taken up her previous suggestion that I sign up with some agency she recommended. At that moment I received a phone call on my mobile from an agency asking if I would like to attend an interview at the agency offices as they may have a temporary job for me. After that I got the three gold stars treatment, and the grimace turned into a smile. I had actually made a miserable woman happy !

 The job the agency are offering is located in Greenwich (at a guess the Charlton end), but the interview is in Watford (of all places). If I heard the caller correctly the job itself is making up fibre optic cables. In truth I have had no previous experience of this before, but I do know something about it in theory. So I will attempt to "wing it". The interview takes place today. I have little experience of travelling to Watford. It is a long way, but I should only have to do it once. One good (and bad) thing is that it is at 16.45. This should mean I can avoid the worst excesses of rush hour travel on the way there, and by the time I get back to central London the worst will also be over. The latter is actually less true. The trains back to Catford Bridge can be packed until 19.00 or later.

 All that happens after I have had an interview at the Job Centre. This is just my regular fortnightly chat with my New Deal adviser. It happens at 11.15. Maybe I can bring a little joy into his life as well when I tell him I will have had three interviews by the time the week is over. In truth I doubt it will actually make him happy, but it will go someway towards it. The only thing that will truly make him happy is when I announce I definitely have a job and will be signing off.
Wednesday 6th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - very dull looking

 Soon after writing yesterdays piece the sun broke through and it turned into a rather nice spring day. It wasn't sunny all the time, but there was enough of it to warm the day up and keep it bright all day. Unfortunately I think we have rain heading this way for today.

 My interview at The Science Museum appeared to go very well. I was the top of the list to be interviewed. I am not sure if this was a good thing or not. The interview ran at least 15 - 20 minutes past the allotted time which some say is a good sign. I was quite surprised just how shallow the questions were, and in a way, how few there were. It was as if they were struggling to come up with anything that would tax my knowledge. Often they would start to ask one of the set questions like " can you repair TVs, CDs, and video machines", and then answer the question themselves - " no point in asking really, you did it for a living for 7 years". It makes me wonder where the time went. In many ways it was a very informal interview, but with the correct protocols followed. I think I managed to convey my enthusiasm for working there, and how easily I could fit into their way of working. It may have been a show of enthusiasm, or a foolish way of doing myself out of a job, but I said that if they didn't offer me the job I would come in as a volunteer to repair and maintain their display of Strowger telephone equipment. There was one question I could not answer fully. I was warned that it was a very obscure fault concerning Apple Mac computers not starting up properly. At the end of the interview I asked what the fault actually was and it turned out to be one I had encountered myself, the motherboard back-up battery failing. I don't know whether they believed that or not. It is tricky answering a question like that in isolation. If the unit was in front of me I would probably notice that the clock was wildly wrong - that was my big clue when I had the fault on my own equipment. Now I just have to wait and hope for a favourable outcome. It will be a bitter disappointment if I do not get the job. It is probably the one job I have really been looking for since leaving BT all those years ago.

 After leaving the interview I phoned Iain to see if he was drinking at lunchtime (silly question !). I was hoping to meet up with him and Ivor, and maybe Ruth, at The Herne. Ivor is still off on holiday, but Iain was certainly game for a drink. So he met me at Nunhead station and he drove me to The Herne to spend my drinking budget for tonight. Unfortunately Ruth only turned up after we left there to see if Max was working in The Forest Hill Tavern. Unfortunately she wasn't. With no food inside me I was feeling quite drunk when we left there, and Iain dropped me off at home. As wobbly as I was I then went out again to Tesco to get a few provisions. It was good that I discovered some reduced price hot chicken left on the counter, but not so good that my Tesco Club Card Plus was still not in credit (what do they do with my money in the 5 or 6 days between it leaving one account and appearing in the next ? ). I had to use my debit card to pay for my goods. Now that was a bit of a shame as I was going to use the tiny surplus in my bank account to fund tonights drink at The Ram. I may have to rely on charity now as my dole money will not be paid until Friday.
Tuesday 5th April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - clearish skies

Yesterday was an interesting sort of day. Within 10 minutes of getting in to the "Programme Centre" at Greenwich I had found a new job to apply for. That was followed 10 minutes later by yet another job. I have to say that neither job fills me with enthusiasm, but I have got to go for whatever I can get.

 The first job was described as a "PCB Populator", in other words a menial job putting the components onto a printed circuit board. This job may not be as bad as possible similar jobs in that the company does specialist stuff and does not do huge production runs. However it turned out the vacancy had already been filled, but in a strange twist of fate the boss said he would still like to meet me in case they had any new vacancies coming up in the near future. So after the session at Greenwich I walked the mile, or so, to the workshop in Deptford. It was a very small company specialising in video/film camera automation systems. I think all the work comes from contracts which would explain how their staff needs vary from month to month. I think I got on OK with the boss. He was quite interested in my C.V. and even took a picture of me on his camera phone so he could remember who I was in the future. (never had that one before !). If anything does come from the interview it is likely to only be short term temporary work, but it could still be useful sometime in the future.

 The next job on offer was for (gulp) an experienced TV engineer. Now this is a job I can do, and do well, but I would prefer not to. I have applied for it anyway, but they did warn me that they were already seeing a few applicants for it. It is located in Morden, but apparently not near the Tramlink Station. My enthusiasm is waning already ! Like all the jobs I have applied for recently I will have to take it if it is offered, but there is nothing to stop me continuing looking for that perfect job.

 After the almost interview this afternoon I came straight home. I was originally supposed to call in at the internet cafe, but with no real paying work there I could not be bothered. I knew if I went there I was going to be asked to look after the place for the whole afternoon, and possibly into the evening. I just do not feel like doing that at the moment. For the rest of the afternoon and evening I just sort of vegetated.

 Today I have two important appointments. At 09.00 I have to sign on. I have to try and do that quickly because straight after I have got to get to The Science Museum by 10.45 for my interview for the job of gallery technician. I still loathe the idea of commuting into London every day, but this is an opportunity not to be missed (I think). Of course this is only guesswork and I will really only find out the reality of the job once I am there. Maybe what I will have to do will be crap (but I doubt it).

 Once the interview is over I will probably take the opportunity to have a wander around the museum. After that I will head for home, (maybe via a pub in the Dulwich/Peckham area !).
Monday 4th April 2005

06.10 BST

Weather - mild, but sun not up yet

 After finishing writing yesterday's diary I went back to bed. Initially I did not fall asleep, but after some indeterminate time I did fall asleep and did not wake up until 12.30.  This was rather a late hour for me to get up. It felt like half the day had gone by already. So I did not even bother to wash and just put on the smelly clothes I had been wearing on Saturday. It wasn't all the clothes I had been wearing as I ended up in smelly hippy mode walking round in bare feet all day long.

 The rest of yesterday was mostly wasted watching TV, surfing the net, and listening to a few records. One thing I did do was to finish putting my Windows XP video editing PC back together again. Unfortunately for some reason it did not work afterwards. All I did was to transplant the "innards" to a new case that had more room for better airflow (and more options for cooling fans). For some reason the graphics card refused to work. As a temporary measure I put in an old PCI graphics card. That produced a picture but Windows kept freezing during the boot process - probably within a few steps of the desktop appearing. It is possible that it was protesting about the graphics card, but it did manage to get into safe mode and announce it had installed new software. I assumed (wrongly) that it had changed its graphic drivers, but whatever it was still would not allow it to boot correctly. Another day I will run memtest 86 on it to make sure I have not got any faulty ram (I do have one slightly faulty stick floating around here somewhere, and I may have used it). I did check for that possibility by trying each of the three sticks by themselves - all with the same result. Oh well, it's a problem for another day.

 By 21.45 I was in bed again. Within five minutes I was fast asleep, and I did not wake again until 05.00 this morning. That was too early to get up so I tried for more sleep, but apart from a few minutes here and there, it never really came.

 So today starts with a four hour session at Greenwich. After that I will call in at the internet cafe. The only project there is to transfer all the files from the old office PC to the new office PC. I hope that by now the boss there has backed up all the old files onto CD. I intend to reformat the hard disk on the new PC as it is full of old clutter and I think a fresh installation would be a better bet for sweeter running. I hope I do not get stuck there for too long as I have some preparations to make for my Interview at The Science Museum tomorrow.
Sunday 3rd April 2005

08.00 BST

Weather - broken cloud with sunshine

 Yesterday morning turned out to be bright and sunny. At 06.30 the sun was not fully up and it was difficult to realise just how warm and sunny it would be a few hours later. This did help to raise my spirits that have been at an all time low lately. By 11.00, after a few more hours in bed, I decided I would take a walk around my local park - Ladywell Recreation Ground. Rather than describe my morning here I have made some extra web pages HERE that show what I found. As usual for most of my web based stuff I have shrunk the images and overdone the jpeg compression to conserve my web space. Some of the original pictures looked rather good, and some the shrinking and over compression have worked well to cover up some of my bad photography. I do have a rather poor excuse for some of the bad photography. It was so bright I could not see then display on the electronic viewfinder. The significant thing there is that all the menus and adjustments were just not visible so I could not easily switch between focusing on infinity and close up.

 I am not sure how long I was in the park for, but it was at least an hour, and probably longer. Once I came home I took the weight off my feet while transferring the pictures from the camera to the PC. I then made a start on processing some of the images. It got to something like 14.30 before my stomach convinced me it was time to go and buy some ingredients for breakfast (and time to buy some catfood). A brief visit to Tesco's and I had a pile of assorted food and had spent all my beer money for the week.

 I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing photos and making web pages until 19.00 when it was time for Dr Who. I thought the second episode of the new series was a lot weaker than the first episode. It was still enjoyable, but.............. Once it had finished I turned over to BBC 3 where there was another programme about the making of the new series. This programme confirmed some of my worst thoughts about how the new series would go. It consisted of a lot of people congratulating themselves about the new special effects and boasting how much money they cost. All the talk of how the special effects were longer and better than some recent so called blockbuster films just made me more pessimistic that they would ultimately be used in place of good scripting and acting. Soon after that programme finished I tuned into BBC 4 to watch Quatermass. That was interesting, although not quite as entertaining than I had hoped for. It was a modern production using Nigel Kneales original scripts for the 1955 (ish) live television plays. Like its predecessor, it too was performed live, and performed very competently too ! I suppose the reason I said it was not quite as entertaining as I hoped was because I knew most of the story and so it lacked the suspense of seeing it for the first time. It came as some surprise that the ending was not as I was expecting ! I really only know the story from the Hammer Films production that was made for cinematic release. In the best traditions of Hollywood they had to change the ending to make it more exciting (idiots !). The closing scenes of last nights production was a little surreal. The monster was dead so everyone was happy and celebrating, but it was hard to tell whether that was acting, or whether it was a cast of "luvvies" congratulating themselves that they had survived a live transmission. To my eyes it looked more like the latter.

 After my TV time it was back to photos and web pages. I had to construct 23 web pages. It would have been an excellent time to use cascading style sheets, but I was in too much of a hurry to start trying to put into practice some of the stuff I have only learned the most very basics of. By midnight I was happy with what I had done and uploaded the results. I had a shock when I tried viewing the pages. Some bits did not work, and I had made some shocking typos. I came to the conclusion that once Nvu (my current html editor) has made its mind up about some things it is hard to make it change its mind. I had to resort to hand editing the html script to make the backgrounds work. (Good practice I suppose, but not what I wanted to do in the early hours of the morning). By 01.00 (more or less) I was happy with my efforts. Look HERE if you have not done so yet.

 My day was not over yet. I decided to relax in front of the TV for a little while before going to bed. I spent the next 30 - 50 minutes channel surfing looking for something worth watching. I never did find anything so eventually went to bed. By 02.30 I had a bad stomach ache and felt slightly sick.  A five minute sit down in the toilet relieved the pain enough to finally get to sleep.

 I started today a lot earlier than I wanted by needing to continue what I had done last before going to sleep, and with some urgency ! I feel OK now, but I think I still have a few more hours of sleep to catch up on. I am not sure what I will be doing today. The clouds seem to be thickening, although there are still some large blue bits, but I don't think today will be as glorious as yesterday. I may end up just pottering around the house reflecting on past glories.
Saturday 2nd April 2005

06.30 BST

Weather - some breaks in the cloud

 Despite starting yesterday still feeling very depressed a few good things happened during the day that raised my spirits for a time. Perhaps the most useful thing was the sun coming out for the afternoon. It's hard to be deeply depressed with the sun shining. There were several other minor things that helped as well. On my way to the internet cafe I briefly met up with Tony Messenger as he waited in a queue of traffic. I never got the chance to speak to him as the traffic started moving again, but he thrust a CD E.P. into my hand as he passed by. I have not heard it yet, but it is by a band that he produces called "The Thought Criminals".

 The next good thing was having an amazing breakthrough while repairing a faulty Windows installation on a laptop at the internet cafe. Previously it had resisted all attempts to be repaired and without a legal copy of Windows XP (even if used slightly illegally) I could not attempt a repair that way. Last Wednesday I had booted the thing from a Knoppix Linux disk and patiently copied a whole whopping 6GB of files to another PC on the network. Yesterday I intended to reformat the hard drive and do a brand new installation of Windows 2000. Out of curiosity I wondered what would happen if I let Windows 2000 attempt to install itself over the top of the Windows XP installation. After some warnings about it being an unknown operating system it proceeded to do a disk check on the NTFS partition. It took a lot longer than I was expecting, but triumphantly announced it had corrected some disk errors and would need to restart the computer. Once again, out of curiosity, and with no real hope that anything would be any different, I took out the Windows 2000 disk and let the computer boot from the hard disk. I was amazed that Windows XP booted normally and appeared to work perfectly. I could not perform any other checks as I could only access a guest account without any operating priveleges. For doing that I got a couple of small drinking vouchers - not bad for the hours and hours I had put into it together with minding the shop for several hours (insert internationally agreed icon for sarcasm here).

 The final thing that also helped raise my spirits a bit was hearing that my studio efforts have received some praise. There was also at least one thing yesterday that dampened my spirits. My local corner shop has run out of Diet Coke. At this very minute I am doing cold turkey suffering from caffeine withdrawal symptoms after not having any since some time yesterday afternoon. Mainly it was the fact the shop had run out that left me pissed off and I couldn't be bothered to go out to the off licence or Tesco's to get any.

 Today one of the first things I am going to do is to go back to bed and try and get another hours sleep. After that I have some laundry to do, and despite severe financial restraints (until the money appears on my Tesco Club Card) I ought to go and buy some cat food and diet coke. If the sun does appear today (apparently it might) I may try and raise the enthusiasm to go out to the park with my camera and take some pictures of spring in action. In all probability I will just mope around the house.
Friday 1st April 2005

07.30 BST

Weather - drier and brighter than yesterday

 Nothing really happened yesterday.

 Today I spend 4 hours in Greenwich at the "Programme Centre", and then an interminable time at the internet cafe. After that I go home to vegetate.