February 2005

Big Brother is watching you !



Monday 28th February 2005

06.15 GMT

Weather - dry and frosty

 I feel rather knackered this morning. Despite my best intentions I got to sleep a lot later than I should have. I was reading a book and I was getting so close to the end that I just carried on, and on, until the book was finished. I guess I managed nearly 5 hours of sleep.

 Yesterday was fairly boring with not much going on. Even the snow provided little diversion. Soon after I finished writing about it yesterday it stopped. There were a few brief flurries later in the day, but they came to nothing.

 Today I have to leave early to get to Greewich for 09.30 for the start of the latest course I am being sent on. I'll be able to write more about it, like how long it is to last for, the next time I write. I don't know what the traffic will be like going through Lewisham at that time in the morning but I think I will allow myself 45 minutes to travel from door to door. Once I have finished there I will be going to the internet cafe. I hope that will be early in the afternoon. I also hope that I will not have to spend too much time in the internet cafe, and will be able to get home reasonably early so I can have some breakfast.
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Sunday 27th February 2005

10.30 GMT

Weather - sunny intervals amongst heavy cloud

  Yesterday was another uninspiring day. It did have a few high points though. The cooking bacon I mentioned yesterday turned out to be exceptionly nice. It was in thick chunks and quite smoky. I reminded me a lot of the sort of bacon I used to have as a child.

 Although the sun was shining very brightly when I first sat down to write this, and there are still some large blue patches of sky visible, it is now snowing. I first noticed a few tiny flakes drifting past the window, and they are slowly increasing in size and frequency. Without a dramatic increase they will not amount to much. I'll report later how it is going.

 I passed a little more time yesterday converting another couple of singles to cleaned up mp3 files. It is surprsing that the finished recording quality seems to be inversely proportional to how bad the original playback sounded. Maybe I just think it is more marvellous when a record that sounds completely knackered can be brought back to reasonable life, albeit still with a few little crackles, compared to one that is not too bad, but refuses to completely clean up to perfection.

 Last night I decided that I should look for some software that I have wanted for a some time now. What I wanted was some software that could emulate a TV (etc) remote control using the IRDA port on my laptop. I was amazed at how much searching I had to do to find just one program. Even that one program was not very good. It was written in Japan, and much of the installation was carried out in Japanese. Fortunately I was able to guess what was going on as it used standard Windows buttons. I think I have a time limited demo, but it does work for now, and a password can be had in return for an email with a few details about how it worked for me. I don't think I will bother registering it as it is not as useful as I had hoped for. It only has a rather limited range of buttons - much less than many "universal" remote controls. Although it was stupidly late by the time I had found, downloaded, and tested the software, I did come across some other interesting stuff about the IRDA (infra red) port which I may check up on again at some later date. As well as the inbuilt IRDA port on my laptop I also have a little external IRDA pod connected to this PC that I use for downloading photos from my camera phone.

 During the night I had several dreams involving IRDA ports. I cannot remember the storyline from any of them, but I do recall a couple of brief highlights. One involved an entire building that I was trying to communicate with. It could only be seen (maybe just from a communications point of view) when the entire building was rebooted into safe mode. I have no idea what that was about, and even less about another bit of dream. This other dream had a sexual nature, but the how, what, where and why is something that is probably, and maybe thankfully, lost and forgotten forever. All I remember is slipping a condom over the IRDA pod, that connects to this PC, before I could do something.  It may come as some relief to know that I am pretty certain there was a woman involved, but who she was, or what she looked like is also a mystery this morning.

 I have no particular plans for today. I will have to try and get to bed at a reasonable time tonight as tomorrow I start my next course. It is the one rather unpleasantly described as "Follow Through" by my New Deal advisor. I still don't know how long it goes on for, but I do know it is only for 12 hours a week, and is in Greewich (and fortunately the part of Greewich that is closest to me). With luck I will get away with just doing three mornings of four hours each per week until it is all over, or preferably until I get a new job.

 Since mentioning that it was snowing again it has stopped and started several times. The sun has now gone in and the latest flurry of snow is slightly thicker than previous ones. There is even a hint that it is settling on some of the fence tops. If it can carry on falling at this rate for the next few hours it will just about lay down enough to give a thin covering everywhere (apart from salty roads and paths maybe).
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Saturday 26th February 2005

07.45 GMT

Weather - cold, damp and miserable

 Much of yesterday seems like a blur. There is no special reason for this apart from my late start to the day perhaps. I decided the first thing I ought to do was to visit the internet cafe to see if there was anything there for me.
 Just before I left I decided to take my camera with me to photograph some of the snow. It was lucky I did. Soon afterwards most of the snow had melted away. I took several pictures, but only a couple could be shrunk down to fit on this page and still retain some sort of useful detail. The picture on the right is a view across Ladywell Park looking towards the railway line between Ladywell and Catford Bridge. It looks very wintry, but you can see the snow was very thin over the grass.

 There was nothing doing at the internet cafe and I came home again at midday. By then the same view would show huge gaps in the snow with the grass very apparent. Later in the afternoon all the snow had gone, except for the odd tiny patch lurking in some sheltered area.

 Once I had thawed out (I considered it to be freezing outside even if the snow didn't) I went out to do some shopping in Tesco.  I made one discovery in there that
Snow in Ladywell Park - 24 Feb 2005
I had not seen before - cooking bacon. I haven't opened the pack yet, but it seems to be large offcuts of bacon, both smoked and unsmoked, and some if it very fatty. I have a theory that if cooked in the oven for a long time, until it is just starting to turn crispy, it will be rather delicious, and the fat released would make for some rather good fried bread (also cooked in the oven). With some mushrooms, and baked beans, that would make for an excellent, but extremely unhealthy breakfast. I must try it sometime !

 I spent a fair bit of the evening transferring more 7 inch vinyl singles to mp3's on the computer upstairs. There was less imperative for last nights work as the 6, or 7, tracks are probably available in CD form, but just possibly only in "re-recorded" versions only. As I do more of this sort of stuff I have come to realise that you have to use a combination of manual and automatic scratch removal. The automatic can leave clicks and pops that are very obvious when looking at the waveform (and obviously by sound). On the other hand it can be very good at removing some of the smaller clicks and pops that are hard to identify when looking for them in the waveform.

 I'm not sure what I will get up to today. I still have some artwork to complete, and I still have not cured the overheating of my Windows 2000 machine. So there are two things I could tackle today. I do have a suspicion that before the day is over I will have transferred a few more singles to mp3's on the PC.
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Friday 25th February 2005

09.30 GMT

Weather - snow

 It started snowing again a little while before 21.00 last night, and it is still snowing now. Much of the time it has not been very heavy, but bit by bit it has settled. It is hard to estimate how much has come down as it is melting on the roads and paths, but I would estimate that on more insulated surfaces there is 2 inches of it. It is still too patchy to give that true winter wonderlnd appearance, but if it carries on snowing through the day, and maybe through the night, at the current rate then it could make for some good pictures tomorrow morning.

 I had a very lazy day yesterday. Late morning I went out for my copy of New Scientist, and then spent a lot of the afternoon reading it. About the only other thing of note that I did was to restore two old 7 inch singles on the computer. Both were by a generally unknown band called "Espirit De Corps", and both were in quite a poor condition with high surface noise and loads of scratches. Thanks to the miracles on modern technology, and a lot of careful work by me, those two singles now sound pretty good. They are not perfect though. There is little that can be done for the distortion that may have been cause by damage to the grooves by using a blunt stylus, or maybe was actually recorded like that. Given enough time and patience I would like to treat all my 7 inch singles in a similar fashion, but I doubt it will ever have enough time to do them all.

 Today there are three things I ought to be doing, and all are more or less important. I need to go to the internet cafe to pick something up. I need to go shopping as my cupboard is nearly bare (unless I want sausages again !), and I need to finish some artwork that I have promised to Lee.
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Thursday 24th February 2005

07.30 GMT
NTL's upload server now appears to have fallen over. I'll update as and when.
Weather - damp and soggy

 So what happened to the snow ? This morning it is just rather damp and soggy. Yesterday morning started with a thin covering of snow. There were a few brief spells of very light snow during the day, but these were so light they hardly touched the ground. The sky does look very grey so there might be further snow during the day - as the forecasters predicted.

 My day, yesterday, started with another walk to the internet cafe to finish off the work I was doing there. I raced through one PC so that the owner could pick it up by 10.00, except they had not showed up by the time I left there at 12.00. By then I had finished all four jobs as best I could. There was one PC that was really a no hoper, although it does run. I thought it was an old 486, but it is a Pentium-166 (non MMX). It runs Windows 95 reasonably well on its 16MB of ram, but is set up in the most quirky way. Unfornuately I did not have a serial mouse and had to navigate around using just the keyboard. I can do this passably well, but I am no expert, and I haven't a clue how to drag the task bar from the top of the screen (and about triple height) down to the bottom of the screen (and reduce it to single, normal, height) using just a keyboard. Is it even possible ?

 I came from the internet cafe just after 12.00. I have to admit I did not feel like doing much when I got in. Unless you count reading a computer magazine as a valid pastime I achieved my ambition admirably !  I did little else, and achieved even less until it was time to go to the pub. This is not totally true. I did spend some time trying to access my e-mail. NTL's POP server had fallen over again. I did manage to partially receive a few messages by being very persistant, but I came away with the impression that they had dug an old 486 with a 10MB/s lan card out of a dusty corner to deputise for the main server while they worked on it.

 I had several pints of Winter Warmer while in the pub. All four of us where there last night, but Iain was suffering badly with a cold. While we were drinking away I was ever mindful of the weather forecast and was expecting to come out of the pub into a full blizzard. It was not to be. It was certainly cold, but perhaps not quite below zero. I did observe a strange effect that was part down to the beer, and part down to me wearing a sweatshirt rather than a T-shirt. As I walked home I felt quite comfortable in the cold. The beer and the thicker covering on my chest made me slightly oblivious to the cold, but when I came to grab my keys to open the front door I found I could hardly feel my fingers !

 Today I don't really have to do anything so I will make the day up as I go on. I'll probably go out and get a copy of today's New Scientist and spend some time reading that. The other thing I should force myself to do is to sort out the cooling on my rebuilt Windows 2000 machine upstairs. But here we have a paradox. While the CPU is cooking itself to death, I feel too cold up there to do some work ! Later on I will put some heating on up there so it is more comfortable for me (but less comfortable for the CPU !).
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Wednesday 23rd February 2005

06.10 GMT

Weather - snowy

 Yesterday was a very hectic day ! I thought I was due to sign on, and have an interview in the Job Centre at 11.30, but when I checked my papaers I discovered that it was actually due at 13.30.  So  I trudged along to the internet cafe to get started on the two PC's that I was going to work on. Except that when I got there I found it was now 4 PC's that needed looking at. At that point I knew it was going to be a busy day. The first PC had an interesting problem It had no mouse pointer, although Windows knew that a mouse was connected.There was a load of junk installed that I slowly began to delete to try and improve the situation. Amongst the programs were a couple of Disney demos that consume huge resources and I thought they may have been having a bad effect. It later turned out that this PC and the other of the pair that had been brought in were both found as scrap machines, probably from a skip or dustbin. So the after wasting loads of time I decided to re-install Windows. Everytime I tried to start the installation while using Windows it crashed. So I booted off a CD version of a boot floppy and tried again. This time it worked in so far as Windows installed itself over the top of itself, but I still had no mouse pointer.

 I had to leave it there and get off to the Job Centre. That was a farce. They have moved New Deal from Catford Job Centre to Lewisham Job Centre. Strangely that is even near to home for me as the Lewisham Job  Centre is deeper in the heart of Catford than the Catford one is. It was my first visit there and I could not find where to go. I asked a security gurd there and he said that the New Deal advisers were on the first floor, but that it was locked up until 14.00 for a lunch break.So I went home and had one brief sandwich before getting there at 14.00. My visit there was a lot shorter than it could have been as all the schedules were all over the place. I was lucky to get to the head of the queue or I may have had to wait until the 14.00 appointment had been dealt with. After a short chat I found I was going on another course. This one may, or may not, be called "Follow Through". It sounds rather unpleasant when named like that, but it is a follow up to the Focus Vision course, and the last stage of being on New Deal. I don't know how long the course lasts for, but I start next Monday. It is a little less harsh than previous courses as it is for only 12 hours per week, and the times are flexible. I hope I can condense it to just three mornings a week.

 After grabbing five minutes to warm up I went back to the internet cafe and the reluctant PC. I decided there was nothing for it but to reformat the hard disk and start Windows off with a clean disk. At last success !  I had a mouse pointer, but it was not the end of my troubles. I tried installing Open Office but quickly ran out f disk space. In my enthusiasm I had not noticed that the first hard disk (there are two fitted) was partitioned into two halves.  So it was back to the boot floppy and fdisk to repartition the hard drives.  Now I had sufficient space, but  Open Office would still not install, probably because the machine only has 32MB of ram fitted.

 In between working on that PC I was also trying to find why the network in the cafe was misbehaving. There were no I.P. addresses being allocated. It turned out to be the router which needed a reboot, but that could not be done while the network was in use. I had to allocate some fixed I.P. addresses to a few of the machines to get them working again. Meanwhile I was also tackling a Lap top that was infested with all sorts of stuff. One nasty was preventing AVG antivirus from working, and Macaffee Guardian was also stopping any repair work, whilst being totally ineffective at anything else. I removed all the Macaffee stuff, and under the combined assualt of SpyBot Search and Destroy, and AVG some 83 security threats, diallers and all sorts of nasties, as well as over 150 virus infections were removed. I then did a full Windows update and pronounced the machine fit to fight another day.

 All that work took rather a long time. I didn't leave there until almost 21.00. It is probably one of the longest days I have ever done. Just before the place closed, and after all the punters had left I rebooted the router and it started serving I.P. addeses correctly. So for all that time I had just two total successes. I am back there this morning to carry on with the first PC and look at the other three. I have found a stick of ram that I will offer to the owner of the first PC at a cheap seconhand price. Hopefully that will get that machine fighting fit. The other half of that pair of PC's may work OK except that it is a very low spec machine. The principle problem is that it is an AT machine and needs an old type keyboard, or keyboard adapter. I do have one, but I am not sure if I will let it go. The last PC should be fairly simple. All it needs is checking to make sure that Windows recognises an external modem (an ancient 28.8KBs modem !!), and perhaps AVG and Spybot installed. I hope to be able to finish there by early afternoon, but even if it is a bit later I am determined to be home while it is still light.

 Before I finish for today I must make a record of the weather. Yesterday started with the remains of a previous snowfall, but it had virtually all melted by the end of the day. There were several little flurries of snow falling during the day. Two of the heaviest were as I left the internet cafe at 12.30, and then again as I left to sign on. When I walked back to the internet cafe in the afternoon there was bright sunshine and a blue sky for the first half of the walk. This morning it is apparent there ws some extra snow overnight. It is only a thin covering and seems to have thinned even during the hour I have been typing this. It's a little too early to tell as the sun is not yet high enough, but it looks asif the clouds are breaking up. Maybe there will be some sunshine again this morning, but I believe the forecast is for more snow. 
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Tuesday 22nd February 2005

07.10 GMT

Weather - snowing

 Soon after I made the report at 21.00 that it was snowing hard it stopped again. It was sufficiently cold for some of the snow to survive until this morning. There is a thin slushy patchy covering on the pavements this morning, and a thicker, but still slighty wet looking, layer on surfaces that are more insulated from the ground. The sky still looks full of snow, and there was some light snow falling for a few minutes just now. It is going to have to do a lot more than this for a total white out in Catford.

 Things did not get off to a good start yesterday. I went to se Patricia, but could only stay for a very short while. It is worse than that becuase I have been effectively banned from seeing her. There is a lot of office politics going on there and I don't think it is anything personal against me (although in my darkest moments I do wonder about it).

 The rest of the morning I spent at the internet cafe. There was little for me to do while there, but I did do a couple of useful things. One was to help a customer to get his laptop connected to the network there. He was having a problem that I have had here. The computer acknowledges there is some sort of network connection, but is unable to use it. There seems to be a flaw in Windows when it comes to getting an autoallocated I.P. address. Unless it knows where to start looking it seems it can't find the DCHP server.After a lot of faffing around I gave the laptop a manually assigned I.P. address within the range used on the network there and suddenly it all worked correctly. I have a suspicion that had I then asked for an autoallocated address it would carry on working OK.

 During the afternoon, and for much of the evening I felt a little bored. There was stuff to do, but my workshop felt too cold, and I had other things on my mind. I did finally re-install the Windows 2000 machine upstairs and tried it out editing a recording of Beyond Our Ken. It all worked fine for about 90 minutes, and then the high temperature alarm went off. I was hoping that it would run cooler in that big box, but it seems I will have to attend to the airflow in there with some of the noisy fans that I was hoping to avoid.

 There are only two things on my agenda for today. At 11.30 I have to sign on and, I think, a de-briefing interogation about my time with Focus Vision. Once I have finished being bored at the Job Centre I will be going back to the internet cafe where there are two PC's for me to look at. One should hopefully be a simple(ish) problem. The mouse has stopped working. Apparently they have tried another mouse and that doesn't work either. That can really only leave two possibilities. A software/driver  problem, or the ps2 port has died. I'll take a USB mouse with me just in case. I am not sure what is wrong with the other PC, but I think it is probably a virus/ adware problem. I hope that will be sorted without too many problems.
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Monday 21st February 2005

21.00 GMT

Weather - SNOW

 After several false starts it has finally started to snow. It is like a mild blizzard at the moment. The world should be wonderful and white in the morning. That should be uplifting as I am feeling a little down at the moment.
06.30 GMT

Weather - cold and grey

 After sleeping half of Sunday, and forgetting to write anything, I have two days worth of stuff to try and remember.

 On Saturday Iain did come round early in the afternoon. He had a choice of two PC cases and chose the better looking one leaving me with the huge tower case. This was fine by me as I did have a very slight bias towards the huge case. Having made the selection we adjourned to the Catford Ram for a few pints. We had three pints in there and I came out feeling slightly tipsy. On the way home I popped into Tesco for some gratuituous shopping. I bought some nice stuff and stuffed myself. Surprisingly I did not sleep it all off as I was sure I would do. After a bit of vegetating I decided to re-assemble the Windows 2000 machine into the huge tower case. It should not have taken long to do that, and it did not feel like it took long, but a lot of time passed before it was up and running again. It was mid to late evening before I finished and I decided to relax by doing some web surfing as there was nothing on TV. One thing (or web page) lead to another and I did not finish until about 03.30 !

 On Sunday morning I was woken up at around 07.00 by Nelly who was demanding her breakfast. So she got fed and I went back to bed. I slept fitfully until  09.00 when I had to get up to go to the toilet. After I had finished there I felt a bit chilly so I got back into bed just to warm up for 10 minutes. The next I knew it was 13.00 ! Without intending it I had managed nearly four hours of solid sleep.

 Such a late start to the day left me feeling a little confused, and I was very unsure how I would spend the day. I think the only thing of significance I did was to finish tracing the circuitry from a PCB, and then get it written down in a neat form. Todo the latter I had to quickly learn the rudiments of a program caled Express Schematic. In fact I think I learnt about 90% of the program (although it is actually part of a package for designing PCB's, and the PCB designing part will need learning as well sometime later - if I need it). The results were very neat when printed out. My only gripe is that the output looks just like anyone else's design as there is no scope for personalisation when using standard computer generated symbols. Having said that, the actual layout of the circuit is down to personal choice. I emailed the finished "artwork" off to someone and I think I will be rewarded with some beer money for my efforts.

 After such a late start to the day I was worried that I would not be able to sleep when I went to bed. I did stay up later than I should have, but was in bed before midnight. To my great surprise I went to sleep very quickly. I first got woken up at 06.00 when my radio started up on the alarm setting. It felt too early so I turned it off and went back to sleep. Twenty minutes later Nelly, who realised that there had been signs of life from upstairs, yowled up at me to get out of bed and feed her.  A little reluctantly I complied and, after a short detour via the toilet, she had her wish and was fed.

 I had some very vivid dreams through the night. It is hard to be sure what is happening during a dream, but it feels like I can remember that I was aware that I was dreaming even during the dream, and that I should remember it when I woke up. If that was indeed what happened it did not work out very well. I can only remember detail from one dream. That dream was set in a telephone exchange, as many of my dreams seem to be, but this had an odd twist to it. I had let myself in the exchange using an old set of keys that I had kept after leaving the job. Externally the place reminded me of The Eros house in Catford, but the view from the windows reminded me of looking out from the old Eltham exchange towards the new Eltham Sector Switching Centre. Internally it had some semblance to a council tower block, albeit a rather posh and clean one. My destination was the top floor and in a room that looked a lot like a tank room. I wanted to turn the volume up, although I cannot be sure of what, and I did this by turning a large valve conected to some pipework. Having done that I wanted to get out without being seen as I was aware there were some contractors working in there even though it was a Sunday. On the way down the stairs I passed one man, who I noticed was wearing a name badge whereas I wasn't. He did look at me with some feint interest, but I just said hello and kept on walking. I made it out of the building without being caught, and the dream faded out from there.

 Which brings us to today. This morning I will call in on Patricia who I have not seen for a week now. After that I am due to spend the morning at the Internet Cafe. I think I will only be minding the shop there for a few hours and will be free for the afternoon. I did have some vague notion of going to see Ivor and Iain in the afternoon, but I don't think this will happen now. My original idea was to get the visit (or drinking !) sponsored by Iain in return for the PC case (and bits) he receieved on Saturday, but after he took me to the pub on Saturday I guess he feels his responsibilites are discharged. So I will probably be re-installing the repaired, and re-cased Windows 2000 machine upstairs. The case is so huge that it cannot easily be plonked where it originally stood in its smaller case. After that.......well that's anyone's guess.
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Sunday 20th February 2005

Weather - sunny at first, then grey

 I seem to have omitted to write an entry for today. After a very stupidly late night (03.30)  I went back to sleep after feeding Nelly and did not wake up again to 13.00 !
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Saturday 19th February 2005

07.30 GMT

Weather - 50% clear blue sky

 Yesterday was a very mixed sort of day. It started with some clear sky, but quickly clouded over and stayed that way for the rest of the day. There was even some light rain at one point. My day started with some unfounded optimism, but still turned out reasonably well.

 The first thing I decided to tackle was the power supply for my Windows 2000 machine. I thought that it had failed because of a couple of capacitors drying out. So I changed them and added some proper mains filtering components utilising holes already in the PCB for these components, but never before fitted. I was rather disappointed that it did not work when I tested it. Obviously there is a more serious fault in it somewhere, and a repair is far less feasible now. For a long time I have been convinced that this power supply was of a non standard size, but I thought I would see if one of my spares would fit into the PC case. Surprisingly it did. I can only conclude that last time I tried this it was the replacement power supply unit that was non standard. So the final result was that I was able to fit a new power supply into the case and set aside the original for possible later repair, or maybe for disposal. Unfortunately the replacement power supply is only a 230W version which is too low powered to supply the thirsty Athlon processor used in that machine.

 After spending the morning playing with power supplies I took a break and did some shopping in Tesco. There followed a little orgy of gratuituous eating (some pre-cooked hot and spicy chicken thighs with Thai spice flavoured crisps !). Soon after that I had a phone call from my older sister. That went on for some time, and most of the conversation was just general chit-chat, but one intriguing piece of information came out. It seems I have some sort of previously unknown relative who has just been named Austrialian of the year. If you are as intrigued as I was you can read more here - http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/bioFW-8678.asp . I think Fiona Woods is supposed to be my relative, but as I have never heard of her before I may be mistaken.

 Later in the afternoon, or maybe early evening, I returned to the Windows 2000 machine. The new power supply was not powerful enough to run the Athlon motherboard so I took it, and all it's peripheral bits, out and replaced it with a small  slot 1 motherboard that came in one of the cases from Steve. Originally it had a 233MHz Pentium II processor, but I replaced it with a 300MHz one for just a tiny bit more speed. next I shovelled in a selection of old peripherals that I had lying about the place, and a new PC started to take shape. (please don't ask what it is for - I have no idea !). The memory was 3 small 32MB modules. The CD drive is slow x16 unit that struggles a bit with CDR disks, but is fine with proper pressed disks. The graphics card is a 3Dfx Might Banshee that is probably faulty and may need replacing. The network card is an Elan 8034, and was my last spare network card. Finally the hard drive is a 1 GB unit that in the past has been used experimentally on many different installations. It has Windows ME on it and never appears to be phased when presented with a completely different motherboard together with all the different chip sets it encounters.

 At about 20.00 my work was interupted by a phone call from Kevin asking if I was going to the radio meeting in The Catford Ram. Although I had previously said I might go if there was enough pressure, it was still touch and go. I said it was still unlikely that I would go, but that I would be thinking about it. I did consider turning up late just to see what was going on, but circumstances got in the way. I was trying to get the new PC running with the correct drivers. For simplicity I went for the network first. I had the correct network card drivers on this PC, but had to copy them onto a floppy disk to transfer them. Initially that failed until I changed the floppy drive to one that worked. Once that was working the network card came alive and subsequent transfers could be done via the network. The next thing was to try and find sme drivers for the "Mighty Banshee" graphics card. This is actually a horrible card. It had a bad reputation of overheating when first released, and I was given it in a well cooked state. It was producing odd little errors even when used in default vga mode. I finally found the correct drivers and loaded them up. My screen resolution went up to 800x600 in 256 colours and everything looked fine. When I tried to increase that to 24 bit colour the whole machine froze. I think that graphics card is destined for the dustbin ! When I next checked the time it was 23.07 and any decision to possibly go The Ram was now out of my hands as the pub would be closed by the time I got there.

 Putting the PC aside I spent 30 minutes channel hopping on the TV before giving up and going to bed.

 Today I am not sure what I will be doing apart from some laundry and washing up a sink full of dirty plates etc. I may put the finishing touches to the new PC, but if Iain comes round to select, and take away, the server case I will make rebuilding the Windows 2000 machine into a the other case my top priority. In between that I still have some pocket money making schemes that I will spend some time on.
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Friday 18th February 2005

07.30 GMT

Weather - some blue sky

 I went along to the internet cafe yesterday to see what was happening. It was quiet when I got there and there was nothing for me to do there, but I did learn some news. My replacement from Focus Vision had been "sacked". Apparently he was very unreliable. Meanwhile I had more praise heaped upon me, and a small thank you passed my way just for going in for 20 minutes. I have agreed, provided nothing important comes up, to go in for a few hours next Monday morning.

 The rest of yesterday did no go as I had been expecting. I have been asked to have a go at designing an A4 flyer for a simple piece of test equipment used to monitor for faults during installation of underfloot heating. Eventually I came up with a first draft, but it took a lot of time to do it. I was fairly happy with the design. It looks competent, but without being a graphics designer I can't seem to add that extra little sparkle that would make it stand out. I am not sure that the suggested layout and colour scheme are ideal, but I have done my best following those suggestions. It was after midnight when I e-mailed my draft copy off. I went to bed straight after that and immeadiately started thinking along the lines of how I would do it differently if I started all over again. At the moment my design is in about 20 layers so I do have a lot of scope for changing things if I have to (or want to).

 Until I get some feedback on my draft copy of the flyer I will be leaving it alone. So today I can get back to some of the projects I was going to do yesterday. Perhaps foremost should be testing and repairing (and improving) that computer power supply so I can get my favourite audio processing PC up and running again.

 Tonight there is a drink at the Catford Ram that I am invited to. In fact there are several people there that would definitely like me to be there, but there will also be a couple of people there who I do not like sharing space with. It is a bit of a dilemna, but there is one overriding factor that may help me make my mind up - I cannot afford it although I know that it would be easy to cadge drinks all night. I think it is unlikely that I will go, but I may succomb to pressure from some of the others, or if I learn that certain people are definitely going to be there (or are actually there). It is something of a paradox that I would be almost keen to go if a certain someone was there, but if she was there she would almost certainly cause a row, and I would not like to be there to see that. We'll see, we'll see.
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Thursday 17th February 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - very cold

 I finally got rid of the 19" inch rack yesterday. Steve turned up at around 13.00 and unloaded two old PC's onto me and took the rack away. Of the two old PC's, one has dual Pentium III 450Mhz processors mounted on the motherboard, and the other has a single Pentium II 233MHz on it's motherboard. The dual CPU motherboard is for Iain, and I'll keep the single one. Next we have to fight over the cases. One is a very tall server case, and not so good looking as the other which is a smaller tower case. I have mixed feelings about which case I prefer. The very tall server case would be good for my Video editing machine which needs loads of cooling when it is working very hard. On the other hand the other case does look sort of smart. Once the battle of the cases is over I will be doing a transplant or two. If I end up with the very tall server case I will transplant the innards from my video editing maching into it. Then I will transplant the innards of my audio editing PC into the vacated case. This latter machine is the one running Windows 2000 that lives upstairs and has the dead power supply in it.

 I finally got around to opening up the power supply of the dead machine yesterday. It is slightly worrying in that there is no obvious sign of how it has failed. That does open up alternative theories as to why the machine is dead. It could potentially be something else that has kicked the bucket. I'll try and do some testing today to pin point where the failure is. If it is, hopefully, the power supply I should be able to repair, and improve it. One of the characerostics of that power supply is that it has always generated a certain amount of radio interference. I know why now. Although there is provision on the pcb for it, there is no filtering fitted. I will fit something before I allow it back into service.

 With the rather late start yesterday I did not have time to get up to much. The morning, or what was left of it, was spent doing the final dismantling of the rack and taking the bits downstairs. Then it was breakfast followed by waiting around for Steve to turn up.  Once he was here it was not a simple case of transferring the bits between house and car. He very generously bought me a couple of pints in the pub while we nattered about technical stuff, and continued it back here until about 17.00. That left me with a few hours to potter around until it was time to go back to the pub to meet up with Kevin and Iain, and consume several more pints of Winter Warmer.

 On the way to the pub I noticed that the sky was clearing and the temperature dropping. When I came out of the pub I realised that there was a very sharp nip in the air even though I was well bouyed up with Winter Warmer. There is no visible frost this morning, but it does look very cold outside with a steely cold looking sky.

  I start the day with a blank sheet. There is nothing I need to do today, but there are some things I will probably get on with. I may well visit the internet cafe this morning and see what is going on there. Later on I may sit in front of the TV and do some coil winding. That is a repetative task that is best done while partially distracted by something. Of course there is one thing that curiosity compells me to do today, and that is to investigate, repair and improve that dodgy power supply unit for the upstairs computer.
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Wednesday 16th February 2005

10.00 GMT

Weather - grey

 I've had a good lay in this morning. It was the final part of shrugging off the cold I had. It seems almost miraculous that I should get rid of a cold so quickly, but it seems to have happened. I can't say I feel fighting fit at the moment, but my nose is mostly dry and I do not seem to have developed a hacking cough. Best of all, I don't seem to have any headache this morning.

 Yesterday I managed to do some work in my workshop, but I did not spend too long up there as it was rather cold. Some of the stuff that contributed to what I was doing up there I did sitting down in the warm while watching TV. Overall it was a fairly productive day considering the circumstances.

 There was some bad news from yesterday. Patricia's boss is in all week so I will not be able to see her until next Monday. That is not quite that bad. I had planned on avoiding her for a few days so I did not spread my filthy cold germs all over her, but I did reckon I would be well enough towards the end of this week.

 Today should see the final goodbye to the 19" rack that has been cluttering up one of my upstairs rooms. I am expecting Steve to take it away sometime after midday. So my first task this morning will be to get those last 6 bolts out and transport as much of it as possible downstairs ready for collection. Had I got up earlier I was considering going over to the internet cafe for an hour or two. The boss there gave me a call yesterday (or was it Monday ?) that I missed and I have not called him back yet to hear what it was about. I don't think I'll have enough time this morning, but I may go and see him this afternoon.

 Tonight is drinking night again. Thanks to Patricia's generous donation of £10 for looking at her old laptop (but achieving nothing) I will be able to buy a round, and feel comfortable about being there. After a fortnight of no Winter Warmer I am looking forward to it !
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Tuesday 15th February 2005

06.30 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 My cold has developed into a nuisance. I did not feel up to doing much yesterday, and yet I still managed to pass the day without resorting to too much TV. I pottered around doing a bit of this and a bit of that, interspersed with a few naps. The Sudafed I have been squirting up my nose does make me feel sleepy for a little while. I am a little surprised the Sudafed is working. Last time I tried it, which was possibly the first time as well, I was not impressed. I think the secret is to use it before the nose it totally lined with thick mucus. Which is only logical when you think about it, and yet I can't recall that helpful advice appearing on the bottle.

 Since getting out of bed my nose started to pour, but a squirt up each nostril does seem to have reduced this to more manageable proportions. I both slept well, and yet did wake up quite a few times in the night. At some time in the early hours I woke up feeling very sweaty. I take this as a good sign, although it does seem a bit soon to go through the sort of fever that normally indicates that an illness is just about over. It doesn't feel that way this morning. My head feels very achey, and I have taken a couple of Ibuprufen tablets to try and sort it out. So far they have made little difference.

 I am going to take it easy again for today. There is nothing I really have to do, but some things I'll do as the mood takes me. I think the first thing I'll be doing is going back to bed for however long it feels good for. Later in the morning I will venture as far as the corner shop for a bottle (or two) of diet coke. Then, at around 17.00, if I feel up to it, I may pay a flying visit to Patricia to see how her day has gone. I did see her last night when I took her laptop back to her. I had to admit defeat in my attempts to repair it. There was nothing that could be done without spare parts that would cost more than the thing was worth. Against all my protests she insisted in paying me something for my failed work. In the end she just thrust a £10 note into my pocket. If my financial circumstances were better I would still not have accepted it, but that money will be handy so I gave in at that point. Her insistence may have been spurred on after I arrived yesterday morning with a bunch of flowers for her. It was only a cheap bunch of miniature rose looking things from Tesco that cost £3.99, but she seemed to like them.

 The grand total of Valentine cards, or gifts, received yesterday was zero. It certainly seems that nobody loves me.
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Monday 14th February 2005
Valentines Day

06.30 GMT

Weather - cold and windy

 NTL continues to annoy. Last night I kept getting busy tone while trying to do a final check on my e-mail before going to bed. Until recently I had never even heard of all the lines being busy. The question I find myself asking now is whether it is an ongoing fault, or whether it is a ploy to encourage more people to go over to broadband ?  There is nothing on NTL's service page to suggest any kind of fault which suggests that the latter idea may have some validity.

 Yesterday was fairly productive. I did my shopping in Tesco where, amongst a load of other stuff, I bought some fresh basil leaves. They do add a certain something extra when used in sandwiches (although they would become boring if used too frequently). I did even more laundry - whites and towels this time. I spent another hour or two in my workshop, and I finished all I could do to Patricia's laptop. Sadly there is little hope for that laptop without spending more money than it is worth. The floppy drive seems totally useless and can't read a single disk even after a good cleaning. The keyboard is slightly intermittent, and the trackstick is useless. If the floppy drive worked it may have been worth trying to source a new keyboard (which incorporates the trackstick). I did have hopes that an old laptop floppy drive I have ere may have fitted (somehow). It is very small and slim, but the one fitted is even smaller and slimmer !

 Today is Valentines day. I wonder if I will recieve anything in the post ?  (oh look, a pig flying past my window !). To celebrate the day in style I seem to have succombed to a cold. I feel OK apart from a very runny nose. It started last night. So far it is manageble, but if it gets worse it will be very inconvenient.

 My agenda for today really depends on how this cold progresses. If it gets worse I will probably just turn the heating up and vegetate in front of the TV (or something similar). If some fresh air makes it better I may spend an hour at the internet cafe. Later on I may do some more in my workshop, or I could play with another computer experiment I have in mind. Mostly though, my day will be inversely fluid as the fluid in my nose.
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Sunday 13th February 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - rain, but sky seems to be clearing

 Yesterday was not as good as it could have been. I had a migraine sort of headache that waxed and waned through much of the day. It was probably not until early evening that I was clear of it. I did take just two paracetamol which helped for a little while, but for most of the day I resorted to avoiding anything that seemed to make it worse.

 I didn't make it to Tesco, but I did do my laundry, and I did all the washing up (for the first time in a week). Possibly the only other thing I did of any note (excuse the pun) was to record an hours worth of audio onto the temporary replacement PC upstairs in the studio. It did feel more responsive, and the audio processing was quicker now that I have replaced Windows 2000 by Windows ME. That machine now seems quite a nice runner. It runs as stable as Windows can get, and can see everything on my network except for the Apple machines (which are rarely on anyway).

 I remember yesterday as being predominantly grey, although there were some sunny intervals. Overnight it did rain, and quite heavily at one time. It sounded as if some of the rain was actually hail as it was hitting my bedroom window. It was possibly the low pressure associated with heavy rain that triggered my headache, and it was possibly the sound of the rain that triggered many weird and wonderful dreams. It feels as if I was dreaming all night. There was too much to describe here, and much of it has evaporated already, but I do remember a couple of highlights.

 The weirdest bit of dream was about living in a new flat. This flat has rooms with very odd shapes. It was in a building that was in the V of a road junction and had previously had some unknown commercial use.  There were several flats within this building, and they had been crammed in to use all the available space. Hence the odd shaped rooms. Even stranger was that there were doors between most rooms even though they connected with other peoples flats. In fact every wall had a door in it. The explanation for this was that it was apparently needed for fire regulations. The exciting part was that there were no marking on the doors to reveal what may have been behind them. I kept getting lost and wandering into other peoples flats. One other observation from this dream was what was outside. Opposite the building was a steep approach road that went up a long way , or at least several hundred yards, to an old hotel.  Once upon a time it must have had a direct tram service as there were still tram tracks in the roadway. Although they ended abruptly at the junction with the public road.

 One dream sequence was very exciting. It was set around Hayes (Kent), although there were no obvious signs of this - I just knew it was around Hayes. As far as I was concerned, in the dream, I was walking. Walking very fast, but the sensation was probably more like that of being on a skateboard. I was going downhill very fast, and having trouble going in the correct direction.  At first I was on a path running parallel to a road, but separated from it by some trees and grass. Towards the bottom of the hill I swerved off onto a diagonal path towards the road, although this was not my intention. This bit of path was just a track through the grass, but I travelled over it smoothly in a way that a skateboard could not. As I approached the end of it I was not sure if I could avoid going straight out into the road, but somehow I managed to turn to run parallel to the sides of the road. At one point I had to swerve to avoid a car and just managed to squeeze myself through a narrow gap onto a pavement that ran alongside the raod, but was now separated from the road by a low brick enclosure with plants in it. I don't remember any more after that, but for the few minutes it lasted it was an exhilarating experience.

 I'm not sure how I will spend the day today. I had better have another go at shopping in Tesco as ceratin things are running low. I think I ought to try and spend some time in my workshop. Mostly I will just make the day up as it happens.
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Saturday 12th February 2005

09.00 GMT

Weather - sunny intervals

 Since 19.00 yesterday my connection to the outside world has been restored. When I first tried to dial up NTLworld my connection was refused with a recorded announcement saying all lines were busy. I had to resort to using my old Tesco account, but at least I was using the right phone line. When I tried NTL a little later everything went through OK, and has remained so ever since. ITis good to be back on the internet ! I guess I am addicted to it now !

 Little happened yesterday after my evening update so I'll try and predict the events for today. It's a Saturday so I will do my laundry and visit Tesco. There are still a few more programs to load onto the spare PC upstairs, but after that I have several choices. Do I attempt to repair the power supply for the proper upstairs PC, or do I spend some time in my workshop doing other things ? I may pay a short visit to the internet cafe, but only to shock the boss there (he has never seen me on a Saturday). I do have several items to read and I may fit some reading into today. I want to see if the emergency PC performs any better for recording/processing audio now I have changed it from Windows 2000 to Windows ME. So I may spend some time in my studio. All these choices - how lucky I am (?) ! But my first priority is to wash and get dressed.
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Friday 11th February 2005

07.00 GMT

NTL line still broken
Weather - damp, but almost mild

 Yesterday was a bit of a disaster. I went out to say good morning to Patricia and when I came back again my Windows 2000 machine was dead. I had left it streaming pictures from a web cam to my laptop downstairs. It was working fine when I left, but stone dead some 45 minutes later. I am certain that it is the power supply that has blown up again. I have already repaired that supply twice, and it looks as if I will have to do it a third time - if I can ! I would like to replace it, but it is a non standard size being just slightly smaller than usual. I might investigate the idea of swapping the circuit board inside it for one that is a bit more reliable. If it is a major blow up I may have no choice but to do that anyway.

 I could not be bothered to start a repair on it yesterday morning as I had other things on my mind. So I decided a quick solution may be to  do a fresh installation of Windows 2000 on a spare PC. I had a spare 6 GB hard disk that Iain had given me as a possible replacement to go into the PC I built for Ruth just before xmas.  The rest of the PC was a Pentium III - 450MHz, 256 MB of ram, a slightly decrepit DVD drive, and an even more decrepit CD writer. I replaced the CD writer with the one out of the old machine as that had a DVD/CD burner in it, and didn't need both. So I was all set to install Windows 2000. It started off OK, but stuck on the formatting of the disk at the 75% mark. After a very prolonged second attempt I decided to only format a 2 GB partition to speed things up. Finally I had a working installation. I then attempted to make a second hard disk partition and format the remaining 4 GB of space. Once again it got stuck and the format failed. So I made a 2GB partition and that formatted OK. Once agin I attempted to format the last 2 GB but it would not have it. Out of curiosity I tried formatting that last 2 GB as a FAT 32 partition. That did seem to work. So I then reformatted the partition as NTFS. This time it worked, but I was worried (and I still worry) that the disk is failing.

 By this time it was seeming like my quick and dirty solution to the other machines failure was not turning out to be so quick ! Anyhow I installed all the software I needed on th machine and it was apparently ready to use. Before using it I decided to do a few quick checks and found that it had serious problem with my network. It could see and interact with my firewall box so I knew that the LAN connection was working fine. The other machines on the network could see and talk to the new machine, but it couldn't see any other machines on the network. I spent hour after hour trying to sort out what was going on and I am still baffled by what is happening. The best I could manage, after loads of mucking around, was that the machine could finally see itself, but still would not recognise any other machine. I am sure that there are some options in the network properties that are either not there, or are greyed out. The  last thing I did before going to bed (at 02.00) was to install some more Windows options relating to networking. Today, if I am feeling brave, or foolhardy, I will waste more time playing with the beast.

 I did use the machine for its intended purpose during the evening. I recorded an hours worth of audio successfully, but the later processing of that audio was painfully slow. I thought a 450MHz Pentium III should have been reasonably fast, but it crawled compared to the 1.4 GHz Athlon processor in the broken machine. I don't recall my old 550MHz K6-2 processor machine being anywhere near that slow. Maybe it is just Windows 2000 hogging all the resources.
18.30 GMT

 It's now the evening. I abandoned writing any more this morning as I would not have been able to upload it. But............
I am back on line !!!!!!!
 The man from NTl came round at about 16.30 and managed to fix the fault within minutes. The fault was not anything lie I was convinced it was. In fact it was the result of work done to install a new line somehwere in the local area. My line had been disconnected, in one of the green boxes, and reconnected to the wrong wires. So very soon I'll be online and will upload this.

 Before that I'll just mention the final story about the PC that was giving me grief. I gave up on Windows 2000 and installed Windows ME. It is now running sweetly and doing everything I ask of it. I don't know whether audio processing will be any quicker yet, but I'll find that out sometime later.

 Right now though, I probably have loads of e-mail to catch up on, so I had better get on with it.

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Thursday 10th February 2005

06.45 GMT

No NTL phone line
Weather - slightly damp

 Another day, and still no NTL phone line. I phoned their fault reception yesterday morning and they have made an appointment for a home visit. That will not be until late Friday (4 - 8 pm !). If, as I am 95% sure, the fault lies within the telephone exchange it will probably be sometime next Tuesday before I can have free and easy access to the internet again. It is bloody annoying!

 I did try and upload yesterdays diary entry using a PC at Patricia's office. It didn't work. All I could use for ftp was Internet Explorer. It announced tht it could not gain permission to enter the server. I thought that may have been because I was not accessing it as an NTLworld customer, but I was able to access, and upload, from here when I allowed myself a short call on my B.T. phone line to connect via my old Tesco account. I will allow myself another brief spell online tonight when this will be uploaded. I may check some of my e-mail from other PC's during the day, but I won't be writing any long replies.

 The picture on the right is from Tuesday and is of Patricia's friend Laura (left) and Patricia herself (right).
Laura and Patricia
 After I had said good morning to Patricia, yesterday, I came home for some breakfast and managed to get myself into my workshop. I worked away for at least 90 minutes before the battery in my cordless drill went flat. From then on I became very lazy. I am not sure how I passed the time. I did a bit of this, and a bit of that. In between I seemed to eat a lot. Later in the afternoon I had a long nap. I awoke in plenty of time to pop round to see Patricia again, but somehow I did not feel like it.

 Instead of seeing Patricia I decided to check out some of the radio recordings I have accumulated on the PC upstairs. The one I chose to edit and listen to was an episode of Yes Minister called "Big Brother" originally broadcast on 5th January. By a strange coincidence they showed a few clips of the same episode, but of the TV series, on a TV programme last night about (or including) The Freedom Of Information Act.

 I just remembered how I managed to waste some of yesterday afternoon. I was playing with a computer program called Dorgem. From the name it is not obvious what it does, but in fact it is a program for web cams and a lot more. It can take a video feed from anything connected to a PC, usually a USB camera, but it also detected my TV card, and save the video, or still pictures, to the hard drive, a web site, or even stream the pictures from its own inbuilt web server. I downloaded the program some time back while in the internet cafe. At the moment it is only a beta release, but it is free. Maybe the final version will not be free, but the beta version seems to work well. While I was playing with it I used a camera connected via a USB port and was streaming images every two seconds around my network. I will investigate the web site upload facility to add a web cam to my pages here, but while only on intermittent dial-up (and not even that at the moment) it's uses will be rather limited.

 In the evening I watched two TV programmes - The Prisoner (BBC 4) and The Bill (ITV 1). Once they were over I thought I would spent just  a little time re-testing the Pentium II motherboard that was giving me some grief a few days back. This time I managed to make it work. I think the problem was thaqt I was reading the motherboard jumper links backwards, or perhaps in negative would be more correct. The links that set the CPU multiplier seem to be transposed from open to closed compared with the way I was interpreting the instructions. So I now have a working AT motherbord that I can install into the big and ancient server case I own. How I will eventually use it is anyones guess, but I may use it to experiment with Apache web server, and a few other related things. If I could equip it with enough hard disks I could use it as a centralised storage facility for my home network, but I think that is a project that will come much later.

 I am undecided about today. I think I want to see Patricia this morning, but after that I could go along to the internet cafe and see if anything is happening there, but I should get back into my workshop and carry on drilling.
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Wednesday 9th February 2005

06.40 GMT

Weather - cold and slightly damp

There will be few updates until service restored
 A lot of things happened yesterday, but the most disastrous was that during the morning I lost phone service on my NTL line. As I type it is still not working. So unless I copy todays update to floppy and take it to the internet cafe to upload, there will be no update until my phone line is restored. The last time my NTL phone line failed was in mid November 2003. This time the symptoms are identical so I know it will be a long time before service is restored. Inevitably, and against all my learned advice, it will start with a home visit There they will discover that there is voltage on the line. That will prove continuity back to the exchange. A simple test then would be to phone my number from another line. They would hear ringing tone, but the phone would not ring here. That would show that there is no low insulation between the wires, and no contact to another line. (The first would cause the exchange to think the line is busy, and the second would cause the ringing to trip prematurely). That only leaves two options. The first is a faulty line card in the exchange, and second a software fault also in the exchange. This is what happened on 13th November 2003............
"After I wrote last nights entry I had a real engineer from NTL phone up to tell me the line was working again. He confirmed that it was a software fault which was pretty much what I had thought all along (apart from a brief flirtation with the idea that kids had blown up the "green box" with fireworks)"

 Other things that happened yesterday : In the morning I met Patricia's friend from Argentina. Her name is Laura, but they pronounce it Lowra with the ow as in when you hurt yourself. She is very cute, about 5ft high, and a nice figure. It is one of lifes paradoxes (is that spelt right ?) that had I been in work I could have had enough money to take her out for a sight seeing trip around Greenwich, bought her some lunch and offered her some fags (she does smoke). However if I did have a job I probably would not have the time to do it. The dilemna was partially solved by the fact that I had to sign on at 11.30 so even if I had the money I still would not have been able to go.

 Signing on at the Job Centre was a bit of a joke (and one in poor taste). It was very busy, which seems at odds with the idea that the jobless are at an all time low, and I had to wait ages. When I finally got to see my adviser he was just about to go to lunch and he said that I was lucky to be able to see him at all. Worse than that was that he did not have time to give me the contact details for a job I was going to apply for. It was a job repairing PC's in Kingston. It would not be my favourite journey, but I am now at the point where I will consider anything. This morning I shall be applying for a job assembling PCB's in Crayford.Once again, Crayford is not exactly where I would like to work, it is a bit close to Erith where I quit my last job becuase of the travelling, but at least Crayford is on a more accesible railway line than Erith.

 Yesterday afternoon I went along to the internet cafe to look at a PC that had a faulty modem. The modem seemed to pass the diagnostic tests but could not dial out. I assume that the analogue side of it has failed so there was nothing I can do for the customer. He is being urged to go broadband where he will not need the modem, but if he buys a new modem card I will install it for him - for a fee !

 From the internet cafe I took a short breather at home before calling in on Patricia and Laura. Laura had enjoyed her visit to Greenwich and done the typical touristy thing of standing with one leg either side of the meridian. I then escorted them round to Catford Bridge Station so they could catch a train to central London to visit a theatre. I like these Argentinians - both gave me a kiss goodbye (although it was only a peck on the cheek).

 During the evening I managed to get myself into my workshop where I made a start on some work that will eventually earn me some fag money (which is now taking precedence over beer money !).

 And now today. I'll call in on Patricia, and then I may go to the internet cafe to upload this, or I may just start doing some more stuff in my workshop. Being a Wednesday I would normally be going to the pub tonight, but Kevin has warned me he may not be available, and I am most definitely stony broke, so I will be staying in tonight.
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Tuesday 8th February 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 My rather bland description of the weather yesterday, "cold and dry", did not describe the day at all well. First thing in the morning it was cold, very cold, with a thick white frost on the cars. Later on, once the sun was fully above the horizon, it turned into a bright sunny day. There was not much wind and so it actually felt slightly warm when exposed directly to the suns rays. For a few hours my two south facing rooms began to feel warm with no additional heat from me. It is still too early to tell how the day will look, but there were suggestions on the radio that it could rain in London during the morning, but that the sun will come out later. As I type this the sky is looking very grey, but 10, or 15, minutes ago the sky was still looking black. I think it will be another 30 minutes until the sky is sufficiently bright to see exactly waht it looks like.

 Yesterday didn't really have any high points apart from the sunshine. I started the day with a brief visit to Patricia before heading off to the internet cafe. I was there for a couple of hours before coming home again to prepare for my interview at the Job Centre. It did feel excellent walking across the park in the bright sunshine. The interview at the Job Centre was mostly a formality, but it still left me feeling drained and somehow depressed. Some good news did come out of it, at least I think it is good news, I am still on New Deal. I suppose the prime advantage of being on New Deal is the New Deal Photocard that allows me child rate travel on public transport. The downside of that is that I cannot afford to go anywhere at the moment.

 During the rest of the afternoon I did very little. I did pull apart a Palm M505, belonging to the boss at the internet cafe, to see why it was as dead as a doornail. The back was held on by the tiniest of Torx screws I have ever seen. I had to resort to drilling the heads off to get inside. Once inside I found that the Lithium Ion battery was completely dead. This can happen with these batteries and they need a a jump start to get the control electronics working again. It was worse in this case. The battery was completely short circuit. I have never seen one fail like this before and it leaves me with a tricky problem of how to replace it. It is a very thin battery, thinnner than any replacement I might have. I have tested the unit with a battery that is just 2, or 3, mm too thick to get the back on again. With this battery the unit works OK, but it is not a practical solution. I have never seen L-ion batteries on sale before, and I have no idea where to try for a replacement. One drastic possibility it to cannabalise a mobile phone battery pack as some of the new ones are very slim, and are about the right cross section.

 Today I have a busy morning, but the afternoon should be quieter and I may be able to do some other work. When I have said good morning to Patricia I am off again to the internet cafe where there is a PC to fix. I can't stay there too long as I have to sign on at 11.30. Once that is out of the way I may get round to doing a bit of circuitry building, or I may have another go at stripping down Patricia's lap top. It seems I just never seem to be in the right frame of mind to do that. To be honest it is a bit scary as I have to totally dismantle the thing to get to the floppy drive. If the existing floppy does not respond to cleaning, or the laptop floppy drive spare I have here does not fit, then the whole machine is a bit of a write off in practical terms, although it will still be usable if connected to a network to transfer files to, and from, the outside world.
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Monday 7th February 2005

06.50 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 I must admit it was  hard to get out of my nice warm bed when my alarm went off at 06.30. I stayed wrapped up nice and warm listening to Virgin Radio news until the sports news started when I almost leapt out of bed to hit the on/off switch. It seemed that I was having a very long dream before I woke up, but I am sure it was a series of  smaller dreams with a common theme. That theme seemed to be about a factory that had a nucleur reactor in the middle of it. Part of the reactor was exposed and glowing a nice violet/blue colour while spewing radiation all over the place. I can't remember being worried about the radiation. It was just something that was "interesting". Other bits of the dream(s) seem to have been concerned with the security of the place. At one point I think I was being chased, or maybe just trying to get out of the place, and I used what appeared to be an old pirate Sky-TV viewing card to open a security door.

 Yesterday was strange in that I felt surprisingly happy for no apparent reason. Perhaps it was the thought that for a little while I am able to plan my own life again after 13 weeks with Focus Vision, or maybe it was just the thought that spring is not long in coming now. It did seem mild yesterday even if it was still a very grey day. A light grey, but still no sign of sunshine. This morning it feels very cold, but at least it is getting light far earlier in the morning (07.15 as I type, and it is almost full daylight).

 Yesterday was fairly productive. I did my shopping, and laundry. Despite eating far too much (often happens after a big shopping trip to Tesco) I still managed to get out of my chair and almost finish dismantling the 19" rack. I am within 6 bolts of finishing that, but those bolts are on the underside. At the moment I can't get to the underside as there is not enough room to turn the rack over. Once I have cleared up the stuff that I have taken out of the rack, or moved all the bits of rack that have been taken off already I'll be able to get those bolts out in minutes. My final bit of productivity was to spend a couple of hours in my studio.  The rest of the day was wasted (?) on eating, sleeping, watching TV and playing with this computer.

 Despite it seeming a fairly productive day there were still important things that I did not get around to doing. Possibly the most important was the continuing work on Patricia's laptop, but there were other fairly important things I should be doing. At least one will earn me some pocket money sometime in the future. In many ways that should take precedence over all other things as I am still very short of money to the point where I don't know where the money will come from to buy my next, but one, pouch of tobacco. I do still have a £5 note that I will be using today to buy more tobacco, but after that ?????

 Today is partly mapped out already. First stop this morning will be to call in on Patricia to see how her weekend went. After that I am going to spend little more than two hours at the internet cafe. Although I have officially finished there I think I will be able to get some pocket money if I help out a bit from time to time. At 13.00 I have an appointment at The Job Centre to do the rather stupid signing off, then signing on again thing. For the rest of the afternoon, and into the evening, maybe, I think I will try and get into my workshop and do something productive - unless something comes along to distract me.
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Sunday 6th February 2005

09.00 GMT

Weather - another grey, cold day

 Yesterday I did a foolish thing, but I'll come to that later. On the whole it was a good day.I got off to a late start, but I was in plenty of time to get to Elmers End by just after 13.00 for the first Saturday of the month meeting with some of my old work colleagues. My original intention was to only stay for one pint, but I was bought a few more and had to stay. For the last hour we were joined by Jodie and her new boyfriend from Finland (pictured far right). They were greatly amused by tales of field servicing by Lloyd (pictured right).

 It was great being there, but I decided to leave soon after 16.00. On my way home I had a great yearning for some fish and chips, but I considered it a bit too early  to
Lloyd the field engineerJodie and her Finnish boyfriend Henry
stop off and buy some then. It was after being in for an hour, and with the beer working on my stomach, that my resolve failed and I spent money that I really should not have spent on a large kebab and some chips. That has left me a little short, and I have no idea where my next hard cash will be coming from in the next fortnight. However that kebab was V E R Y nice, and it was the first takeaway food I have had in many weeks !

 Later in the evening, once the kebab had settled, I decided it was too late to do anything strenuous, so I thought I would play with some old computer crap. I have an old server case that is sitting here getting very dusty. I don't really know what to do with it, but someday I am going to build something into it. The problem is that it is only designed for an AT style motherboard. I do have some old motherboards lying around so I thought I would fire them up to see how they are working. The mostly likely candidate to go in that server case is an old 486 board. I have enough old memory to fit 32MB in it so it could run Windows 95 very slowly. An alternative would be a lightweight Linux distro. I do have one that is specifically designed for very low end machines, but last time I tried it I found that it had only very limited support for old hardware. It may be interesting to try it again. I do have two other AT motherboards, but neither seemed to fire up. One, a "PC100" board, may have a failed BIOS chip, but the other was labelled as working 18 months ago. I spent far too long rying to get that to work last night when I really wanted an early night. I did finally get into bed by 00.30 - a lot later than I should have, but still better than the previous three nights.

 Today I must stop playing with my old crap and do some useful stuff. I have two essential household chores to do - laundry and shopping. Then I must finish up doing all I can to Patricia's old laptop, and finish dismantling the 19" rack upstairs. I wonder how much I will achieve when there is also the temptation to spend some time in my studio as well ?
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Saturday 5th February 2005

09.45 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

I have now officially finished with Focus Vision and will soon be returning to normal dole conditions. I have also officially finished at the internet cafe, but I will be spending more time there in the future. The boss there told me he would really like to be in a financial position where he could afford to hire me for real. Apparently I am very good with the customers, and know my computers well. I was hoping to get a few more drinking vouchers from him yesterday, but sadly he gave me a 24 pack tray of Kronenberg. It was nice that he did that, but I do not drink at home that much, and hard currency would have had more uses than just getting pissed. There is also a slightly sneaky feeling that he knew I could not carry al 24 cans home at once so he is certain that I will, as promised, be calling in to see him on Monday morning for a couple of hours.

 After two late nights out drinking I should have had an early night last night. I did feel very tired, but found my second wind shortly before I was due to go to bed. So I ended up on the internet until 02.00 this morning. I wanted to have a lie in, but after feeding Nelly at 07.00 I could not get back to any form of deep sleep. I tossed and turned for two hours never getting more than 10 minutes of sleep at a time. Soon after 09.00 I decided to get up and have a potter around. It is now 10.30 and I am still not up properly. I have pulled an old t-shirt on and a pair of trousers, but I have not showered yet. I do have to go out today so I had better have a proper wash and put on clean clothes sooner or later.

 Today, being the first Saturday of the month, I will be meeting up with my old work colleagues to exchange gossip and have a pint. I think it will be a brief drink, and by the time I am home again I shall probably ending up crashing out for hours. That is a shame really as I do have lots of things I ought to be doing. Some are favours (like rack dismantling) and some are potential money earners.

 I have made up a quick and dirty page with some pictures of the meeting in Barming on Thursday night. You can see them here.
O comments
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Friday 4th February 2005

07.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

Another morning, another hangover. Once again I am in no definite pain, but I do feel very sluggish, and not quite there ! Yesterday was quite a good day apart from one little bit that I shall rant about later. The day started with a visit to see Patricia. She had a great day, the day before, when she had been showing her friend Laura around London. After Patricia it was my last session at Focus Vision. That was a pretty relaxed session. I had my exit interview where they confirmed I had completed the course. (That was good considering I missed the module about how to write a C.V. in their special way). When I left Focus Vision I spent 90 minutes at the internet cafe as a special favour to the boss there. That was sort of worth it as I did get a small drinking voucher slipped into my hand. I was hoping or a little more considering that I had done a lot for him the previous week for very little reward. It is possible, but unlikely, that I may get some more tonight.

 Once I was home again, in the afternoon, I popped out again to buy a few essential supplies at Tesco. Then I sat back and read some New Scientist before falling asleep for an hour (it might have been even longer than that). Eventually Ivor and Iain arrived to whisk me away for a nights drinking at Barming. As I predicted I had to mainly rely on charity, but I was able to buy one very small round before my budget was exhausted. Many thanks to Ivor, Iain, Bob, Pam, Kevin, Ron, Paul, and John for making it an enjoyable evening. Check again tonight (maybe tomorrow) for a link to some pictures from last night.

Before I make my predictions for today I must have a short rant about those f*%@#~g beaurocrats at the Job Centre. While I have been on the Focus Vision course I have been officially off the unemployment register. The course was mandatory, and to go on it all I had to do was sign my name twice and my circumstances immeadiately changed. I was no longer on Job Seekers Allowance as I had changed to Job Seekers Allowance enhanced. With the course finishing today I have to go back to the ordinary allowance. To do that I have to start a fresh claim with all the red tape involved with that. I have a stack of forms where that want to know the clour of the toilet paper I use through to how much I estimate I could get for my body sold in the streets around Kings Cross. As far as I consider it nothing has changed, but those b=;*%$£s do love their bloody paperwork ! Hopefully it will all be sorted out during an interview at The Job Centre  on Monday at 13.00.

 Today I spend my last oficial day at the internet cafe. I won't be severing all links as it will become a source income, albeit small and irregular, but every individual pound helps at the moment. It will be a tricky balancing act to keep he boss there sweet, and yet not let him take liberties.

 Tonight I will probably just veg out in front of the TV (or more likely in front of the PC).
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Thursday 3rd February 2005

06.40 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

Pictures from Barming HERE
 Yesterday was OK apart from one slight drawback. I was hoping to get a drinking voucher from the boss at the internet cafe. That didn't happen and I was unable to buy a round in the pub last night. I did have some cash, but not enough. Thanks to the generosity of Iain, Kevin and Howard I was able to get through three pints of Winter Warmer. That has left me with a mild hangover this morning, although the discomfort lies mainly in my guts.

 For several days now I have had a strong yearning for nice and greasy fish and chips. I think it is walking past a chip shop on my way home from the internet cafe that has brought this on. After last nights beer the urge for fish and chips was very strong indeed. I could not afford to buy any, but I did have some fish in my freezer. The best compromise I could manage was Tesco "Value" white fish poached in tomato soup with some new potatoes. It wasn't too bad, but absolutely no substitute for what I was really after. Perhaps that, and the beans on toast I had for dinner last night, contributed to my wobbly guts this morning.

 This morning could well be my last session at Focus Vision. It is possible that they will want me back in this afternoon, or tomorrow, for some sort of debriefing, but I am not aware of any plans to do this yet. After this week my dole money drops to the standard amount as I lose the extra £15 for attending the course. It will be a bit of a struggle to survive on that so I hope that one of the jobs I have applied for recently will come up trumps. Meanwhile I will be taking every opportunity to earn whatever I can, whenever I can, doing odd jobs to help pay the bar bills.

 Tonight is another drinking night. It is the bi-monthly get together in Barming. Unless I get any drinking vouchers from the internet cafe I will be relying on charity again tonight, but Bob has suggested he will have something for me tonight that could help to relieve the stress on my wallet. I am intrigued as to what it will be.
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Wednesday 2nd February 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 The sun came out for a few minutes yesterday. One of those minutes was while I was walking across the park to get to the internet cafe. That was very pleasant. It is just a shame that the sun carries so little heat at this time of year.

 The day at the internet cafe was not as routine as I had predicted. During the previous evening something nasty had got into the network. The two infected PC's had been mostly sorted out the same evening, but yesterday was spent manually running Norton Anti-Virus. That seemed less effective at removing infected files than it was at containing them. It was Spybot - Search And Destroy that rescued the PC's from running at a snails pace. I managed to get that onto 4 PC's and will do some more today. It is such a tedious process doing work like that as those PC's are seriously underpowerd for the work they do. Every re-boot, or log off as user and log in as admin, takes something like five whole minutes. If they were my PC's I would have invested in something like Norton Ghost to make a standard hard disk image file on the main server, and when trouble struck on the client PC's, reinstall a clean image onto their hard disks.

 It was another late day at the internet cafe. Fortunately I think the boss appreciates it as he was muttering something about sorting me out a drink for it as I left the place.I only had a little while back here to check my e-mail before popping out to see Patricia. She had been expecting to have a difficult time with her boss yesterday, but apparently it turned out all right. She is off today to meet a friend at the airport. So I will not be seeing her today. Instead I am inclined to pop into the Job Centre to see if I can arrange something for Friday. My 13 week course, with it's extra £15 a week pocket money, ends on Friday and I have to sign off and back on again in one hit. From next week my dole goes back to its standard pittance so I am going to have to work even harder to earn beer and fag money. I have applied for 4 jobs this week. There are now two that I would definitely like to get some response to.

 After another day slaving away at the internet cafe (well I don't get paid for it !) I am looking forward to a drink tonight with Kevin, Iain and maybe Howard. For yet another week I should be able to pay for my round - just. It will help if it is only a three person round, but I'll somehow fit Howard in if he makes it. It will also help if my "boss" does give me a drinking voucher today. It is tomorrow, when there is another, much bigger, drinking session that I may be relying on charity. The rounds there are too big for me to handle these days. It is a bit embarrasing, but that will not stop me going and sponging off the others.
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Tuesday 1st February 2005

06.30 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 Welcome into February. Not long to Easter now, less than eleven months away from xmas, and summer is just the other side of the March winds and April showers !

 Yesterday was not a very exciting day. I applied for three jobs, but I think there is little realistic chance of getting any of them. One is probably near Ashford (Kent) and would bring a whole new set of problems if I was offered it. There is almost no way I could commute that distance, but I could consider renting a flat down there if only I could work out a way of looking after Nelly. I doubt it will be a problem that I will have to even think about.

 Today will not be a very exciting day either, or at least I have nothing planned that wil be exciting. Maybe today will be the day the aliens land, or some long lost relative will bequeth me a million pounds. These thing are unlikely so for the moment I'll say it will be an unexciting day. I will not even be seeing Patricia this morning. She as her boss coming into work today so I'll steer clear until this evening. All that remains to be seen is what happens in the internet cafe today.

 I'm not even going tp predict what I may do after "work" tonight. I could carry on dismantling the 19" rack, but I will probably end up in front of the TV while winding some coils, or tracing out the circuit on an interesting PCB. The latter was one of my diversions last night. I am about a third through the circuit, and very interesting it is too.

 ADVERT : Is anyone interested in a Tandy graphic equaliser, or a Panasonic AM/FM tuner. Both units are dusty, but believed working. Both are basically free to any good home, but any donations gratefully received.
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