April 2006
March 2006
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Saturday 29th April 2006
05:52 BST

 It's Saturday, and the long bank holiday weekend has begun. This evening should see the arrival of Emi, Patricia's son, and Jonah, Emi's friend. At least it should do. As of last night they had not booked a taxi to take them from the small Spanish village, where they live, to the airport. Patricia has fears that it will prove difficult to do on a Saturday morning.

 Last night I spent a considerable amount of the evening working on my bedroom computer. I have deleted the whole of Xandros, and in it's plaace installed Windows 98SE and Windows 2000. This was not really as planned. I wanted to use Windows 95 as the first operating system, but I just cannot find my Windows 95 CD. I could have used the version on floppy disks, but that would have been incredibly tedious. For the second operating system I wanted to use Windows NT(4), but I think that had trouble with the AGP graphics card. As soon as the installer wanted to start a graphical interface the screen went black, and everything came to a halt. So I had to go for Windows 2000. There is still the second hard disk in the machine waiting to be used. That will have Suse Linux 10 installed on it - quite probably I will do that later today.

 After stopping work on the PC I did some reading in bed until almost midnight (though it may have been earlier). So I don't know how I am up so early this morning, but I do know I am going back to bed again soon for at least another hours sleep. Once I turned the light out I fell asleep almost instantly. It feels like I had some pretty intense dreams last night, though I can only remember a few snapshots from them. In one dream I was bribed to be an actor in the making of a commercial for an Indian resturant. The bribe was, of course, free food ! In another part of that dream I was outside the resturant, or at least nearby somewhere, when a woman apparently commited suicide by jumping backward off the roof of a high building. She landed almost silently, like an inanimate object, about 50 yards from where we were standing.  I am not sure who exactly "we" were, but I think Iain or Howard went over to see if she was alright. The last bit of dream I remember was most intriguing. Someone I know had some sort of dodgy link on her website. It was some convoluted way of sending an email to her radio station. I think I accidently clicked on it as  "mount disk as network drive" and found that I could suddenly read all her emails. The trouble is that I was so intrigued by how I had done this that I never actually read any more than the subject line of those emails before I woke up. So now I'll never know what secrets may have been revealed !
Friday 28th April 2006
08:29 BST on POETS DAY *

* Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday

 Yes, Friday has come around again , and I am almost looking forward to a long bank holiday weekend. I say almost because I am still aprehensive about Patricia's son, and his friend, staying over the weekend. Maybe I'll just lock myself in my bedroom and play with the computers, or maybe I'll just play with the computers anyway  (more than likely)!

 One source of computer aggravation at the moment is the computer in my bedroom. It is perfect now apart from one very irritating thing. Unless I log on as root I can't change the file associations for Firefox. For instance, as user "bill" if I attempt to listen to some streaming audio, using firefox to access it, I only get the option to save the file to disk, and not to open it with XMMS. I think this is realplays revenge. It work OK until I stupidly installed realplayer 10. That took over the entire computer and wanted to do things it's way. Now that is just not on. It is my computer and I say what should, and shouldn't, happen. that is why it is using Linux instead of Windows. So far I have tried lots of things, including re-installing the latest version of Firefox, but unless i log in as "root" I have no option to change the way Firefox does things - actually that is not 100% correct. I have managed to turn on the "update Firefox" option. I am seriously considering reformatting the hard disks and starting again from scratch. Aside from this little problem there is another reason to do a complete re-installation. That is to try out my triple boot idea I mentioned a few days ago. My latest idea is Windows 95, Windows NT and Suse 10 (and that would be the order I would have to install them).
Thursday 27th April 2006
08:22 BST

 Last nights commute home from work ended badly, but they say every cloud has a silver lining, and last night this was indeed the case. It took too long to get to Wandsworth Town station to be able to catch the early train. So it was the 16:17 as normal. This gets me to Waterloo just a few minutes too late to catch the 16:31 Hayes train. So I fell back on my standard route of getting the 16:44 Gravesend train to the next stop - which is London Bridge. Normally I have just enough time to run across the footbridge to platform 1 where I get the 16:50 Hayes train that comes out of Cannon Street. Last night the Gravesend train was running just very slightly late after getting held at signals just before London Bridge. It was only about a minute behind schedule, but enough to have made me miss the connection at London Bridge. There is a fall back plan for even this situation. I stay on the Gravesend train one more stop and get off at Lewisham. It is a bit of a rush, but there is just enough time to change platforms at Lewisham to get the same Hayes train I missed at London Bridge (it stops at New Cross and St Johns stations and the Gravesend train overtakes). So I rushed halfway along the platform, down the steps, through the subway, up the steps, and still had time to get halfway down the platform before the Hayes train pulled in. I got on the train and waited and waited. First all the lights went out as the driver rebooted the computer. Then they came on again. Another 30 seconds passed before the driver announced that the train had failed and that everyone should get off. This was a bit of a blow ! There was nothing for it but to get a bus back home. It is not far, but I thought that it might take ages in the heavy traffic. In fact it was not too bad, but then again any journey in a packed rush hour bus is pretty horrible.

 Now the silver lining in this tale of woe is that I had to walk past the Aldi supermarket to get home from the bus stop. So I called in and bought the flat bed scanner I mentioned seeing last week.

 The new flat bed scanner is good, although not without it's weak points. Being new, the optics are nice and clean, and the cheap nasty bit of perspex of the bed itself is not scratched yet. It scans far faster than my 10 (?) year old model, and it initialises a bit quicker (but not by much). There would be some speed improvement if my USB 2 interface had the correct drivers to make it a USB 2 interface and not a USB 1 interface ! (something I must look into very soon). I do not yet know if it will work under Linux as I have turned off USB support as a means of overcoming a little problem I had. A few test scans have come out very good, although the support for scanning colour negative film produces very blue pictures. I can correct the colour, and do other enhancements in my image editing software. Overall I am pleased with my new scanner. 
Wednesday 26th April 2006
08:18 BST

 It's a beautiful morning. The sun is shining and it almost feel like it is warm. This afternoon the temperature is forecast to go as high as 20º C.

 I think I may have finally fixed my bedroom based PC. As I said I would do, I replaced the ribbon cable from the motherboard to the hard disks, but I may have discovered the real problem. I was powering the two hard disk via a power splitter cable. I have a suspicion that it was not making a good connection. It was only being used because once upon a time I had two CD drives in the box (one was a burner, the other just a reader). Now there is only one CD drive installed I do not need the power splitter and I have removed it. That was done soon after I got home from work, and the machine then ran faultlessly all evening, and even booted up OK this morning. With luck that will be the last tale to tell about that particular machine.

 For my last hour (or was it two ?) before going to sleep I laid on my bed reading Dan Brown's "Deception Point". It is a good read, but I don't think the plot could have had any bearing on one small bit of dream I rememember. In the dream I was at work where I heard a news report that there had been an explosion in Catford. My only concerns were about whether it would affect the trains home, and whether my house was damaged. Nothing else seemed to matter. I don't know if I ever discovered the cause of the explosion. That knowledge, like the content of so many dreams, has just evaporated to wherever dreams are made.

 Well, it's Wednesday - almost halfway through the week, and just 3 more days until an event I am a little worried about. This weekend Patricia's son, and his friend from Spain, are staying for the weekend. It has taken a bit of getting used to Patricia staying at my place, and now the inhabitants of the house will double for a few days. They will not be around much. On Sunday they are attending a gig at Earls Court (the reason for their visit to London), and on bank holiday monday they are likely to be out all day siteseeing with Patricia. I tghink I will cope OK, but I am sure Nelly and Smudge are going to be a put out about it. Nelly will be slightly better off than Smudge as she will seek sanctuary in my bedroom, but I fear that Smudge will only come in for her meals, and then only when she is really hungry. I hope I am wrong.
Tuesday 25th April 2006
08:24 BST

 Would it be too boring, too English, to mention the weather ? Well I will anyway ! It is quite pleasant this morning. It was misty when I left home. By the time I got to the station I thought that there was a hint in the air that it might rain. It didn't, and now the sun has come out - at least in Wandsworth it has. Yesterday remained mild and dry until the evening until the sun managed to break through the clouds, and we had a few sunny spells in the early evening.

 The current mildness is encouraging Smudge to stay out a bit longer. She was out all last night, and I was hoping for some undisturbed sleep last night. This morning it was Nelly's turn to wake me up at 05:00 !

 The story of my bedroom PC has a little more to tell after my comments yesterday. I opened it up and made sure the IDE ribbon cables were firmly seated. They did seem to be, so that should not have been the cause of my fault, but when I switched on the hard disks were detected and everything was back to normal. So I did a complete system update. That took nearly two hours to do. Following that I rebooted and everything proceeded as normal until the desktop was very nearly up when I heard the hard disk spin down and everything came to a halt. So once again I will have to open the box up and investigate. I am sure it is a motherboard fault - maybe a dry joint on the IDE connectors (but it could be worse - much worse), but I will definitely replace the ribbon cable to the hard disks tonight. I may even leave a note for myself inside the case to remind me that I have most definitely replaced the ribbon cable this time. I must not forget that this fault could still be something like a power failure to the hard disks. It is unlikely to be the power supply unit itself because everything else appears to work OK - For instance the CD drive uses the same +5V and +12V as the hard disks, but they do use separate wires coming from the power unit. A break in the wire (too obvious), or a dry joint where the wire is soldered to the circuit board (more likely) is a possibility I will have to consider.
Monday 24th April 2006
08:24 BST

 It was a good weekend, but I had a bit of a let down last night. This morning I feel a little tired, or maybe lacking in energy. This morning it is damp outside, although not actually raining. When I first left the house it felt mild, and it was a little misty. It gave the air a sort of soft quality that is rather nice, but maybe only if you think it will lead on to a brighter, warmer, day. This time I think it will just remain damp all day with an occasional shower perhaps.

 Of all the things I intended to try and do over the weekend I probably achieved 50%, and did some alternate things instead. The laundry, rubbish bins, litter tray and shopping were all done, but they are not really that optional. I never did get to make my null modem lead to try my Toshiba T1000 museum piece laptop as a dumb terminal. Anyway, I have just realised it is probably a T1200 - take a look here (almost at the bottom of the page - click on the thumbnail for a bigger view). There is an even better page here with brief technical specs as well.

 As part of my Saturday lethargy I did some vintage Dr Who watching. That did take up a lot of time - it was a 10 part story called "The War Games" with Patrick Troughton playing The Doctor.

 On Sunday I did some more Dr Who watching, but also found time for a few other things. I cooked a wonderful chicken, with roast potatoe cubes and sprouts, for Sunday dinner. I even managed to clear up (and dust !) another corner of my bedroom. Now we get to the let down. I managed to make room for a PC in the cleared up corner of my bedroom. I wanted to use the PC with Windows NT4 on it, but that is in a desktop case and I really only had space for a tower case. So I used the PC that has Xandros installed on it. I got it all set up, and managed to run a network cable to it by running (dangling !) it out the window. All waas going well when, mid evening, I left it downloading all the latest updates. I hoped it would all be over and done by the time I intended to be in bed. When I went up to bed I found that it had got stuck. Initially I thought the network had gone down, and I did find that attempts to restart the network failed. So I tried to shutdown and reboot. Shutdown got stuck, so I had to hit the big switch ! From then on, every time I tried to boot up (including first thing this morning), the BIOS could not find the hard disks. I have had this problem before on this machine. I am not sure if it is a faulty motherboard, or just the IDE ribbon cables working loose. I think I have tried replacing the IDE ribbon cables, but it was some time ago. If I did, it has not cured the problem, and if I didn't, then maybe I ought to try. As an alternative to using the Xandros box in it's small tower case, I could use the huge tower case that had the first version of my Suse based server in it. There could be advantages to doing that. It runs a lot quieter than the Xandros box. That is quiet, but the huge server is almost silent. The other possible advantage (although it could be a double edged sword) is that I think I have enough hard disk size in it to attempt something stupid. i.e. triple booting - Windows ME, Windows NT and Linux (maybe Suse, or maybe Xandros). First though I will try and see what has gone wrong with the Xandros box - maybe I'll do that tonight.
Saturday 22nd April 2006
08:51 BST

 It's nice that it is Saturday - a day of rest - sort of ! In fact I have several chores to do today, some of them important, and others just because I want to do them. The important ones are the usual laundry, emptying waste bins and Nelly's litter tray, and perhaps a little shopping. The ones that I just feel like doing are mainly concerned with computers.

 The last couple of days were OK, and last night I had rather a good drink with, initially Ivor and Iain, then just Iain, and then just Iain and Ruth. I don't think we left the pub until 21:00, which was far later than I had at first anticipated, and after far more pints than the original plan. I came home feeling rather good and rather drunk. Patricia had stayed up to greet me - which was nice. Then, after my first "sort of" proper meal of the day, and a little mindless TV watching, I went to bed where I fell asleep almost instantly. I woke up at 05:00 this morning and came down to feed the cats, and also did a bit to one of my PC's. I then went back to bed for another couple of hours of rather fitful sleep. Of course this morning I have a hangover. Fortunately it is not painful in anyway, but I do feel lethargic in the extreme.

 The stuff I did on the PC at 05:00 this morning was to do with my installation of Windows NT4 on the spare PC. Although it was mostly working OK I still had some networking problems on it. As early as last Tuesday I had suspected that the problem was related to the service pack I had installed on it. It did come with a warning saying that the service pack should be re-installed if any changes were made to the operating system using the original installation disk. That is exactly what I had done, and re-running the service pack has cured all the problems. That machine is now ready for day to day use, but I have added one extra thing, and I did that early this morning as well. I wondered if there was any way to get USB connectivity working on it - NT4 was "invented" before USB came into existence. Well a search on the internet quickly brought me to a page where a man said that Dell had a program on their web site to give USB connectivity on NT4 based Dell PC's, and gave a direct link to it. He also suggested that it was suitable for a wide range of motherboard chipsets. So I tried it and it worked ! I plugged in my USB 1 external hard drive and it was immediately recognisd as a hard disk mass storage device. Sadly Windows NT4 did not recognise the disk format so I could not actually mount the disk. That is a bit worrying because it is formatted as boring old FAT32 and everyone and his grandmother is supposed to be able to read that. Curiously enough the machine I am writing this on, running Mandrake Linux 10, does not even recognise that I have even plugged anything in, but I may have disabled hotplugging some time back to cure some other problem. It has always been a bit flaky on this box at the best of times. It may be to do with having an additional USB controller card as well as the on-board USB controller. Maybe they fight each other.

 One of the things I want to do today is to fix the hard disk with Windows NT4 inside the box (it is currently just sitting on long leads outside the box), and also reconnect the hard disk that is already inside and has Windows ME on it. The letter I will connect as a slave, and then if I am lucky (or skillful) I will be able to add the drive to the Windows NT4 boot manager and get the thing dual booting. Maybe when that is done, or maybe before, I need to make up a null modem lead to connect my ancient Toshiba laptop to this, or another, Linux box. I could explain what I am up to, but it is put far more eloquently here
Wednesday 19th April 2006
08:16 BST

 The weather is not so good this morning. It is lightly clouded with no sun breaking through. It is possible that the sun may break through later, but at least it is dry and not too chilly. Yesterday's sunshine lasted right through until early evening before we had a few light showers.

 I made good use of my weekly travelcard yesterday. As well as the normal four stages of train journey, and the increasingly common bus ride from work to the station, I also used the bus to get from the station to work (also becoming more common lately), and finally I used a bus in Catford from the station to the other end of my road. If you are unfamilir with where I live,  imagine it as a large square. The station is on one corner. Travel along one side and the next corner you come to is where I live. Continue along until the next corner and that is where I wanted to get to. The bus travels in the opposite way round the square and saves an extra 5 minutes walk to my local Aldi supermarket. I was hoping to buy some computer connection leads that I saw on their website, but of course they didn't have any ! What I did see was something I have been thinking about buying recently. It was a reasonably well specc'd flat top scanner with transparency adapter for just £49.99. My recent research suggests that the price is very reasonable. Of course by the time I had found the scanner I had been right round the store and boughts lots of other stuff. With no third hand to carry the scanner I decided to leave it for another day. They had a big pile of them, so I should be safe until at least the end of the week.
Tuesday 18th April 2006
08:26 BST

 It is a beautiful morning. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the wind light. The wind being light is quite handy. It is still fairly cool outside, and any strong wind would tip the balance betwen just comfortable and quite chilly. It is a shame that various weather forecasts seem to agree that it will be cloudy later on. Where those forecasts disagree is in the severity of the cloud, and perhaps the possibilty of some light showers. Nayway, it is a brilliant start to the day.

 With the good start to the day it does not feel too bad to be back at work. In some ways I was looking forward to it, if only to avoid the horrendous dusting and cleaning that I am doing in my bedroom. Talking of which, I was lucky in finding I had a spare drive belt for the sweeper (or should that be "beater") bar in the vacuum cleaner. So even as late as 19:00 last night, I did a little more hoovering with the newly energised vacuum cleaner. Not only did I re-do my bedroom floor, but the upstairs hallway, and Patricia's room as well ! Maybe, in time, I will do the living room and downstairs hall. The back room is almost impossible to do while it is littered with bits of PC's, and the stairs are another thing entirely (I don't even want to think about them !).

 The PC I have been experimenting with recently has now reverted to a Windows NT only machine. Or to be more precise, the hard disk connected to it, and currently dangling outside of it, has reverted to only having Windows NT4 installed on it (I think the hard disk actually mounted inside the machine may have either Windows ME or 2000 on it). It was only with the benefit of hindsight, and too late to do anything about it, that I realised one great folly of mine. I was trying out various network options on it and using the original NT4 installation disk. What I should have done after that is to re-run the service pack set up program to make sure that all the drivers, etc, that I was swapping around were all compatible with each other. I might do that tonight in the hope that I can get the one final service running on it. That is the smb server for connectivity between machines. Microsoft just call it the server, but closer examination reveals it is the smb server. At the moment it fails to run citing "not enough storage space". Well that is nonsense. There is over 1 GB of hard drive space available just on the C:\ drive, and the 128MB of RAM installed is well in excess of the minimum recommended of just 32MB. So the problem is probably due to those service pack issues. If not, well I will be left scratching my head and doing some intensive internet searching.
Monday 17th April 2006
18:17 BST

 This bank holiday is nearly over, and it will be back to work in the morning. No worries, just a fortnight to go before we get another bank holiday Monday, and then another one after that in just a few more weeks.

 Today I have not achieved much, but have occasionally worked hard to achieve that very little ! What I have achieved are the core components of a grand bedroom spring cleaning project. I started the work yesterday, and have now got the the stage where there are just loads of little fiddly bits to do - namely dusting and other forms of "decontamination". The floor is all hoovered to the limits of my poorly functioning vacuum cleaner, and I have rotated my bed through 90° to give a more pleasing layout to the room (I think). Incidently, the problem with the vacuum cleaner is that the drive belt to the sweeper bar is beginning to perish, and so the sweeper bar is intermittent at the best of times. So far I seem to have filled two black bin liners (medium sized ones) full of rubbish. Included in that rubbish was my historical porn collection. Once upon a time, say 15 to 20 years ago, those magazines were quite "interesting", but since the days of the internet have just been a dust trap. What I really should have done is auctioned them on e-bay. I am sure there are people out there who would have paid good money for half a dozen copies of "Club International" magazine from about 1983, but probably e-bay ban such products anyway. What I did keep, maybe for possible e-bay auction, were half a dozen copies of old XZ Spectrum magazines - mostly in fair condition. It is actually fascinating to look back on those old mags and see what was "state of the art" just 10 - 20 years ago. One project for the future is to buy myself a new scanner to scan some of the pages of those mags before I dispose of them. My present scanner is just too slow (as well as having failing optics) to do such a task without more patience than I would care to allocate to it.

 I have pretty much left the computers alone today. After my disastrous updating of Suse Linux 9, yesterday, I decided to upgrade to Suse Linux 10. That cured all the problems I had, but introduced one fatal one - no sound ! Now I am left in a bit of a quandary. I could delete the whole of Suse 10 and start from scratch, or I am considering not re-installing at all and using the disk space for the Windows NT4 installation already on the hard disk. Whatever I do makes little difference. The whole thing was just an experiment to see what would work, and what wouldn't. However, having said that, one of the features of my bedroom spring cleaning is to make room for a PC up there. I have several to choose from, but the one I have been experimenting on is one of the faster machines in my collection of "junk". So it may be put to full time use. I say full time meaning permanently set up ready for action, although I suspect it may not get much actual use. However, if I do use it, I may well continue to use Windows NT4 just for the hell of it - it is certainly more suited to the hardware in it than other more modern operating systems. Strangely enough that includes Linux when a fully featured graphical interface is taken into consideration. I know some will disagree with that and suggest that Linux with a lower spec desktop, FWM95  (picture here) for instance, would perform just as well, but I have been spoilt by using KDE and don't want to make the switch to anything else. Besides, variety is the spice of life, and, by using an obsolete version of Windows it still takes a swipe at Microsoft domination. When I think about it, I am not sure what Windows XP offers above that which Windows NT4 offers. (Once you have installed bliss.bmp, the Windows XP "Tellytubbyland" desktop picture, on the Windows NT4 desktop it is hard to tell the two apart). So why upgrade ?????
Sunday 16th April 2006
06:45 BST

 Two days of this four day holiday period have now passed leaving just two more to go - today and tomorrow. I have to admit that for the first time in over three years I have actually enjoyed Easter. While I was unemployed it was no more than an inconvenient period where the shops were closed for a day or so. Now, the opportunity to have a few days off work is really appreciated.

 I finally got a working Linux installation on the old PC I mentioned yesterday. The distribution that came up trumps was Suse Linux 9. It was the only one I tried that let me manually specify the network card and it's parameters without it actually seeing the card beforehand.  With that done I now have full network connectivity, full sound, and a high resolution display. Perhaps saying that I have full network connectivity is a little misleading. As yet I have not set up network file sharing on it, and it looks as if doing that may be tricky. After an overnight update of all the latest patches and fixes it seems I can no longer install new software ! So at the moment I have no smb (windows) networking on it.

 Slightly better news is that my Windows NT4 installation (on the same disk as Suse Linux) is going from strength to strength. I have found that most thing seem to work on it. It now has Firefox installed and working, plus a little utility called Atomic Time that enables me to set the clock from an online time server. The one major failure so far is that Open Office 2 will not install. It says the operating system is not supported. I am currently downloading an early version intended for Windows 95 to see if that will work.............Sadly, it didn't ! I guess I'll just have to use Office 97 ! Something that has just surprised me is that Microsoft still have a support page for Windows NT4.

 Today I may well give the computers a rest and do something else. Maybe I'll go out for some fresh air with Patricia, or maybe I'll just stay at home and catch up with some other stuff. Who knows ?
Saturday 15th April 2006
06:45 BST

 Today I don't really know what I am going to do. It's nice being off work for a few days, but it feels so brief that I am reluctant to start anything that will take more than a day. There are things I really ought to do like house cleaning and gardening, but I really lack enthusiasm for them. So today I may well carry on what I was doing yesterday.

 In some ways I wasted almost all of yesterday, but it was an educational experience.  The day started with a walk through the rain to get some stuff from Tesco. I needed cat food (as usual), and I wanted to get Patricia an easter egg. Then I did some laundry, and after that my time wasting started.

 I have this old PC (yes another one !) that has a nice standard sort of chipset. It is just the thing to experiment on. As well as the chipset, an Intel LX440 I believe, the other bits in it are pretty standard common items. So the challenge is to see how many different operating systems I can get to work on it with full functionality. By full functionality I mean :-
  • 800x600 graphics with a colour depth of at least 16 bits
  • Connection to the internet (or more accurately my LAN)
  • Full sound, preferably with mp3 playback
Well, so far I have managed this with BeOS 5, Windows NT4, and another version of Windows (either 2000 or ME - I can't remember which one). O/S2 Warp 3, installed on a tiny 100MB hard disk, mostly works, but I never achieved sound or connection to the network. Even now I am trying to get a Linux installation to work (that will dual boot with Windows NT4). The sticking point is the ISA network card. It is sort of "NE2000 compatible", but not quite. I suspect it may be faulty - possibly the eeprom that stores the plug-and-pray information is corrupt. When I can manually set the I/O and IRQ ( 0x300 and 9) it does work OK, but sometimes the operating system thinks it knows best. My attempts at a Linux installation have met with little success so far. Closest to working was Xandros. Everything worked except Xandros does not really like to get it's hand dirty with ISA cards. So now I am experimenting with some older distributions.
Good Friday - 14th April 2006
06:03 BST

 The cats are now fed and it will soon be time to go back to bed to luxuriate in a day off work. I wonder if it will be a lazy sot of day. Maybe not. I expect it will be more like Saturday brought forward by one day. So there will be some laundry to do, and a visit to Tesco (which surprisingly is open today).

 Before I had even got this far I have had done a little "work". I have finally got around to installing Nvu on the server so that I can write stuff here using my preferred WYSIWYG web editor. That doesn't too exciting, but the method of doing this is, maybe, not too obvious. I am actually working the server remotely from my Mandrake Linux desktop PC. Because they are both running Linux I am able to log into the server using a secure shell (ssh) and then bring up the full graphical interface to several useful programs. First of all I used Konqueror as a web browser to go to the Nvu web site and downloaded the rpm package for Nvu. Then I used konqueror as a file manager to find, and then double click the Nvu package. This brought up Yast2 , the Suse control centre, to install the package. Then it was back to the command line to type in nvu, and here I am using it to write this entry complete with numerous links to the Wiki encyclopedia to explain in further detail about all the stuff I have done. Once I have finished writing I will click on SAVE and all this scribble will be immediately available to see on the world wide web !

 Last night I was supposed to go to the old comrades meeting in Barming, and I was hoping that Patricia would accompany me. It didn't happen because of a combination of circumstances. Most importatntly was that Patricia was feeling under the weather and did not really want to go out, and I did not want to leave her on her own. I was also feeling tired and not really in the mood to go out - although a few beers would probably have cured me of that. Lastly, I was not even sure we had a lift to get there and did not make advanced preperations to be ready on time. So we stayed in and treated ourselves to some really delicious pizza made in true italian style. The claim that it was made in true italian style was no idle marketing ploy. While I am no expert on pizza, I believe Patricia is (she does have an italian passport after all !). She confirmed that it was all it was declared to be, and delicious with it ! With no work this morning we both stayed up a little later than usual, but even so I think we were in bed before 11pm - and now I am going back to bed again.
Thursday 13th April 2006
08:20 BST

 It's time for another double update. According to The Metro, this afternoon is supposed to dry with a maximum temperature of of 16º C. Of course I could be mistaken as I was reading about it 90 minutes ago on a semi-packed train. Accuweather seems to disagree with The Metro saying that it will be cloudy all day with a high of only 14º C. You can check online with Accuweather, but The Metro's online presence does not contain any news or weather ! In some ways it's only useful purpose is to contain all the past "episodes" of the Nemi cartoons.

Users of Firefox (which should be everyone) can get their own weather forecast by downloading, and installing, the forecastfox extension.

06:19 BST

 Just one more day to go until the long bank holiday weekend ! I am really looking forward to it.

 Once again I am up earlier than usual, and this morning I have even had time to wash my hair. So, in the few minutes I have left I will write a few lines.

 Tonight, all being well, it will be a night of drinking with the "old comrades" in deepest darkest Barming. I am hoping that Patricia will be able to join us tonight. Her translation work has slowed down recently (hopefully just a temporary slowdown), and she deserves a break after spending night after night, and weekend after weekend stuck in front of a PC.

 I was going to record some dreams I had last night, but time and memory have beaten me. The only bit I an remember is that I was at some sort of college and had to write an essay. Once upon a time that would have been bad, but in the dream I was anticipating using a PC to do the writing and looking forward to creating a torrent of work.
Wednesday 12th April 2006
08:05 BST

 Just for a change, a double update today. Two hours after finishing writing the last entry I am ready to write some more.

 Walking to Catford Bridge station this morning, I suddenly realised that modern cars do not have quarter lights on the side windows any more. About half way to the station I passed an old, but still in excellent condition, Morris Minor. My eye was drawn to the quarter-lights on the front passenger door. I thought, " how useful for flicking cigarette ash out". A survey of all the other cars, and vans, down the road showed than none of them had quarter-lights. One slightly older sporty model did have a separate pane of glass, as did one slightly older van, but it did not look as if either could be opened to flick fag ash out the window.

 Prior to leaving home I was sitting on the toilet contemplating the world perspective (as one does) and a sudden thought flashed into my head for no apparent reason. Who, these days, remembers Bob-A-Job week. I expect there are many who have never even heard of it. Once upon a time the Boy Scout Movement used to have a once-a-year fund raising week. The name dates back to pre-decimal currency where a "bob" was equal to a shilling, or just 5p in todays currency. During bob-a-job week a boy scout would offer to do simple jobs, like a bit of weeding or something, for a suggested fee of just 5p (or more if you were generous). That 5p would then go into the scout funds. Of course all this was before it was realised that every road had two child molesters in it, and that Boy Scouts would automatically throw themselves on any sharp implement available.  Here's a couple of links about Bob-A-Job week ;- link 1 , link 2.

 Thinking back to my days as a Boy Scout, I can't remember any Boy scout being molested as such. There was one scout leader who, with retrospect, was maybe a little over friendly with some of the boys, but no one ever complained. Also I cannot remember any serious injuries occuring except for one. That was some unfortuntate kid who managed to pour boiling porridge onto his foot. He was patcehd up and was back in camp a day or two later. I guess we had a few scrapes and bruises now and then, but no one complained. They were looked upon as badges of honour, and anyone who made any fuss about it was obviously a wimp and sissy (probably today's, three on every corner, child molesters).

06:14 BST

 I seem to be up a little earlier than usual. So I think I can spare the time to write a few lines.

 It looks as if today may be a bit brighter than yesterday. For much of yesterday afternoon, and into the evening, it rained. Not too heavy, nor that persistant, but enough to get me, Patricia, and the cats wet.

 I have a brand new unexplained (or un-named) ailment. It started someime yesterday, and is possibly just slightly worse this morning. Everytime I swallow I get a sort of burning sensation just below the neck. I am wondering if it is some sort of ulcer a third of the way down to the stomach. So far it is not too inconvenient, just mildly painful. I think it may be caused by a shortage of beer - something I hope to rectify tomorrow night.
Tuesday 11th April 2006
08:42 BST

 I wonder if anybody will be able to read this ? I wonder if I'll be able to upload it ? I have left my other PC on doing a large download and it is sucking up all my bandwidth. At this time of the morning, on a weekday, I am writing this at work. So the fact that I managed to download the page proves that there is some residual bandwidth left on my internet connection. Of course, downloading this page is one thing, but uploading it may prove to be difficult. Or then again, maybe it won't. When I condsider it logically I have more, much more, download bandwidth, and although I will be uploading this page from here, at the server it will be a download. Maybe it will be OK after all.

 I feel knackered this morning. I slept well last night, but I did not get enough sleep to make up for a very poor night on Sunday night/Monday morning. There are compensations though. During the night I did have one rather exciting, but as usual not quite fulfilling, dream about Vicki (or is it Michelle) from 'Allo 'Allo ! I never seem to be able to remember her name, but if you are familiar with the early episodes of  'Allo 'Allo on BBC1, she was the extremely cute dark haired waitress from Rene's cafe.

 Thanks to the generous help of Steve all my files on my server are backed up every night at 22:00 onto the second hard disk in the server. As Steve pointed out, there is another danger in this method. If the first hard drive does a total dive and never works again it will be fine. My files are safely backed up. The catastrophic scenario is if the first hard drive partially fails and corrupts all my data. At 22:00 all that corrupt data will replace the good data on the backup drive. So at some point I will revert to a manual backup, and only do it if I believe the files to be uncorrupted.

 There is some good and bad news about my employment situation. My contract extension finished yesterday. Today I was hoping to start on a permanent contract directly with the company. This has not happened. My contract with the agency has been extended again for another month. This is OK up to a point, but this method of working means that I will get no pay for Good Friday, nor for Easter Monday. (I also do not get any sick or holiday pay). The company I work for has made a couple of the low skilled production workers redundant because some of the production is being moved elsewhere. It was not thought to be too politically correct to offer me a permanent position while making others redundant. Besides that, and more importantly, the boss did not realise my contract finished yesterday. So once again everything was done in haste !
Monday 10th April 2006
08:22 BST

 It's cold but bright this morning - a perfect time to test my new jacket. Yes, on Sunday, with the invaluable help of Patricia, I went out to buy a new spring coat. Other people may buy a summer coat, but in summer I rarely wear a coat. It was difficult trying to find something that I both liked, and would fit. There seems to be no ryhme or reason to clothing sizes. The coat I bought was marked as XL, and the one next to it on the rack was marked XXL (ands it was marked on the label as XXL). The XL fitted reasonably well, while the XXL was incredibly tight ! My original aim for for a new denim jacket, but it seems to be the wrong season for them. The new jacket is like denim in some ways, but is a light tan colour. This morning was the first time I have used it and it seems OK. It feels lighter than my leather jacket, and hopefully it will be a lot cooler once the day warms up a bit more.

 Another thing I did yesterday was to experiment with BeOS Max PE. This is yet another alternative operating system for both Intel and Apple architecture. (I think the Apple bit is correct - it support Apple file systems and Appletalk). It was originally developed as a closed source system with multimedia very much in mind. Now it is sort of open source and a beta version can be downloaded here. I believe that the release version will be released some time in the future, but may require some sort of registration to download. My version is a beta version and it is obvious from some screenshots from the BeOS Max website that the proper release version will be a lot slicker than what I have tried.

 Installation went well on a spare machine using the 440XL chipset motherboard with 300MHz Celeron processor. Also on board was an NE2000 "compatible" DP83906 ISA LAN card, a Soundblaster audio card, and S3 (I think) AGP graphics card. The results so far are that I can access the internet. Play mp3 files and just about play XVID encoded video files. I say "just" because the processor is not quite fast enough to play the video smoothly - but it does play, in colour and with perfect sound ! What I can't do is to get the machine to take it's place in my network. I gather there is some experimental stuff out there that adds smb connectivity for BeOS, but that it has one major bug in that it somehow corrupts a files date stamp. Apparently no one knows why, but it is being worked on. Maybe the full release version will sort out this problem.

 So why do I want to use BeOS ? It is just curiosity, but it does have at least one aim. As more and more systems get tied up and screwed down with "digital rights management" it is always useful to know about alternatives that may allow you to use (and share) files you realy do own (even down to ones you have created yourself - one day Microsoft will [probably] want to take ownership of the very words you write). In theory it should never happen to Linux, but who knows ???
Saturday 8th April 2006
19:26 BST

 I have finally installed my new hard disk on the server. Getting it did prove to be a bit of a hardship ! On Friday I rushed out of work to get the early train. In this I succeeded, and stayed on the train for one more stop to Lower Sydenham station. To keep this bit brief I'll just say that it took about 30 - 35 minutes to get from the station to the parcel depot and then back to the station. It was about what I expected. What I did not expect, although with hindsight I should have seen it coming, was that Lower Sydenham station is peculiar in that at this particular time in the evening, 17:18 to be exact, one or more trains do not stop there. My next train would have been at 17:56 ! I did not want to hang around there for so long as : a) I wanted to get home and put my feet up for a bit, and b) I thought that a toilet would be a handy place to have around. So I started walking. First to the wrong bus stop. Once upon a time, many years ago, I am sure that the 180 bus used to stop on the eastern side of the station. I knew that the 180 no longer ran there, but I assumed that some new midi-bus would. It did, but only to go to Forest Hill. So I carried on walking for another 20 minutes until I found a bus stop for buses to Catford. I think the whole escapade added about 65 minutes, or more, to my usual journey home from work.

 So last night I had a good fondle of the two new hard drives, but didn't actually do anything with them. Instead I had a good rest followed by a fairly nice Chinese meal with Patricia. I say fairly nice because some bits were a disappointment. The pancake rolls were almost cold and tasted foul ! The rest of the meal was not too bad. Both Patricia and myself felt very tired last night so we had an early night, I did a bit of reading in bed, but I reckon I was fast asleep by about 21:30.

 This morning I shut down the server and installed the hard disk. It went in with no problems, but it took nearly 6 hours to copy all the data across from one hard disk to the other. I should have put the disk on the other IDE controller, but it was more convenient to put it on the same controller as the existing disk. That partly accounts for the long time to copy the files, but there is also the fact that being a rather old PC it only has an ATA33 disk controller - which is a little slow by today's standards.

The rest of my day has been spent reading and doing domestic chores. Pretty soon now we will be having dinner. This will be roast potatoes, pork sausages, sprouts and onion gravy !
Friday 7th April 2006
08:12 BST

 It's the morning of the end of another working week. Although some rain is forecast for this morning, it is actually a pretty fine morning. The forecast for this afternoon is sunshine with temperatures of around 12º C. This morning I feel slightly fitter than has been the case recently. I am not sure why this is, but I do know that yesterday evening an unpleasant zit, actually something rather larger than a zit, decided it was time to shed it's load. The details are too unpleasant to mention further, but I'll just say it came as some relief as it was getting fairly tender to the touch.

  Did a man follow me onto the train this morning ? Was there someone with binoculars watching me as my train went past the MI5 building at Vauxhall ? Am I just paranoid ?  So far I have not been arrested for declaring that both "The Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin, and "London Calling" by The Clash are excellent songs. Come to think of it, I didn't actually say they were excellent yesterday. I just mentioned them. Well I'll say it now - they are both excellent songs !

 Last night I was going to pick up my two new hard drives from the parcel depot, but I felt too knackered to do it. Besides which I figured that it was so near Saturday (when I could be in to wait for them) that I would get them redelivered then. Alas no, City Link do not deliver on Saturdays without the sender paying extra money (miserable ba*****ds). So I will have to try and find the energy to do it tonight, Failing that I wil have to disrupt my whole Saturday schedule to pick them up on Saturday morning.

 I am very much looking forward to getting one of those hard disks in the server as a back-up device. Maybe it is just more paranoia, but I am scared witless (or something !) that I will lose a whole pile of data I have entrusted to just a single hard disk. The only downside is that I will lose the accumulated uptime. It would be great if I could boast that the server had been up, without a hitch, for, say, a whole year, but sooner or later something like a power cut would cause a reboot. So it is unlikely it would happen. Perhaps I need a UPS (uninteruptable power source, or supply) , but that would be taking paranoia too far.
Thursday 6th April 2006
08:16 BST

 I wrote a lot here yesterday, but a computer crash wiped it all out. Apparently the ATI graphics driver went into an infinite loop and poor old Windows XP could not think of anything better to do than show "The Blue Screen Of Death" and then shut down.

 My two new hard disks have arrived in Catford, well, Beckenham to be more precise. I think my neigbours door bell was not working so they could not be delivered there, and were taken back to the depot. I will make a valiant effort to collect them on my way home tonight if I can summon up the energy after a day at work.

 In yesterday's Metro newspaper there was an article about a man who was hauled off a plane as a suspected terrorist because his cab driver heard him playing songs by Led Zepplin and The Clash - specifically Led Zepplin "The Immigrant Song" and The Clash "London Calling". You can read the Daily Mails account of it here, or the Daily Mirror here, or 75 other sources here ! You can also here the lyrics to "The Immigrant Song" here. (Well worth watching !!).

 In a country living in fear of anti-terrorism it may be rash to make further comment. What I would like to do is to link to an mp3 of London Calling, but those other jackbooted hoodlums, the massed might of the record companies, would be after my soft parts once the Special Branch had had their pickings ! So like a good post-1984 citizen I will just pretend it never happened !
Tuesday 4th April 2006
08:36 BST

 I stayed a little later than I should have done last night learning a bit about cron. This the Linux way of scheduling tasks. My first use of it is a bit experimental. I have set up a cron job to write a text file every ten minutes showing the uptime of my webserver. With luck it is displayed at the top of this page.

 As a result of last nights learning spree I am a little tired this morning. It's not too bad, and I was only about 30 minutes late getting to sleep. So I'll live, but I ought to be in bed extra early tonight.

 I have ordered the two hard disks I mentioned yesterday. I have no idea when they will arrive, but hopefully it will be soon (and hopefully the delivery man will try to leave them next door if nobody is in). I ordered two 160GB fast Maxtor drives. Now I just hope that they prove reliable. I have a suspicion that like most big hard drives they will run very hot. I intend to put a slow fan on them to keep them cool. On a failing 300GB drive I was given I am running a 12V fan at only 8V to keep it cool. It is working splendidly - although the drive is not actually in a PC case. Instead it is just sort of dangling outside the box as I back up the data on it. Without the fan, even when mounted like that, it would run almost too hot to touch in places. Now it is barely lukewarm. It may be optimistic but I suspect by keeping it cool I may be extending it's life by months, and (wildly optimistic) years !
Monday 3rd April 2006
08:19 BST

 Another Monday morning and I feel slightly rough - but maybe this is true of all Monday mornings. It is a mild morning and the walk from the station to work has warmed me up a lot. In work it is boiling and I am sitting here slowly dripping !

 I have not checked to make abolutely sure my facts are correct, but I think this is the last week of my current contract for working here. Next week one of two things will happen. Either my contract will be extended again, or I will be on a permanent contract with the company instead of an agency. Hopefully it will be the latter so I can look forward to being paid while off sick, or more immediately, getting pay for bank holidays. Easter will be with us soon, and on this contract with the agency I would not be paid for Good Friday, nor Easter Monday.

 I spent a lot of time yesterday installing Windows 2000 on the 10GB hard disk that did format correctly. The disk that stuck at 91% (and had some major pauses after 84%) (see yesterday) is obviously not long for this world, but I will still keep it for experimental reasons. It may be OK for use in one of my older machines where the BIOS can not see hard disks greater than 8.4GB - coincidentally about 84% of the disks capacity and where the major failures start, or maybe it is not a coincidence ? Anyway, my video editing machine is now up and running OK. There is still plenty of software that I will eventually need to re-install on it, but for now it has what I need right now. Perhaps one of the more important ones right now is a program called switch. This is an mp3 converter that supports batch conversion. In my case I am using it to downgrade some 320KB/s recordings down to 192KB/s, and also to convert some wav files to mp3's to save on disk space. All the files are in mixed collections, and switch, which is freeware, does not seem to mind what sort of file you throw at it in one big batch as it chomps it's way through a whole batch of them.

 Today, I have checked that my bank account is healthy enough, and I am going to order two big hard disks. One will be the back up drive on my server, and the other will become the new data drive on the video editing machine. I'll keep the 10GB drive in the latter machine as the "system drive" as I think it has enough space for all the programs I want. The only danger is that something like Nero Burning Rom will insist on using for caching DVD disk images (or sonmething similar). In which case I will have to resort to using a bigger drive (maybe the 80GB data drive that is still in there).
Sunday 2nd April 2006
12:17 BST

 After a bright start to the day it is now drizzling - but this is the nature of April !

 Things have been good, bad, and indifferent lately. The good was that the weather has been a lot milder recently. The indifferent was most things, and the bad was Friday night, and Saturday night.

 On Friday night (or early evening, if you prefer) it had been my intention to go to The Herne for a few drinks with Iain to celebrate his birthday. Despite the doubts I had on Friday morning about going, I jumped on a bus soon after leaving work. Unfortunately the traffic around the Wandsworth one way system (and towards Clapham Junction) was horrendous. 15 minutes later I had only got around three sides of the one way system, and the prospect of making any further headway seemed remote. So I got off the bus outside Wandsworth Town Hall, after having only gone 2 stops, and walked back to Wandsworth town station where I made my normal way home (albeit rathet later than usual).

 On Saturday (last) night I had a hard disk failure on my Windows XP video editing machine. Fortunately it was only the system disk that did not have that much data on it. Also fortunately, it made a feeble effort to work this morning and I was able to make a back up of what data there was on it. I have now substituted a 10GB hard disk as a temporary measure - and I think it is going to be very temporary ! I am installing Windows 2000 on it right now as I type this. So far it is only at the formatting stage. It took a couple of minutes to get to 84%, and has now taken another 30 minutes to get to 91%. If it ever makes it to 100% I will be surprised. And even if it does I wonder how much life is left in that disk ? So one of my tasks for today is to order a new hard disk. In fact if my bank account can stand it I really ought to order two. I have accumulated a huge amount of data on my server, and if it's hard disk fails it would be a disaster !!! So I need a back up disk for the server, and a new hard disk for the video editing machine. As a system disk, the new hard disk for the video editing machine does not need to be that big, and a 10GB would be adequate. I do have a couple more spare 10GB disk that I should try instead of the one that is still stuck at 91% formatted. What would be nice though is to get a new large capacity disk for data srorage on that machine. I'll have to have a look and see what is the most economical size. At a certain size the price per Gigabyte drops to the most economical. Small disks are now rarer so command a small premium, and the biggest disks, being novelties, also command a premium. So I reckon around 200 - 250 GB is what I should aim for.

 Well, I think it is now time to reboot the video editing machine with another 10GB hard disk and see if that will format perfectly !