February 2006
January 2006
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Patricia in Forest Barn T-Shirt



Tuesday 28th February 2006

13:00 GMT

Hi to "Print Volumes", and thanks for the comment.
 Some might say that I am skiving off work today, but as I will not get paid for today I would disagree with such sentiments. I am off because I have had bad guts this morning. I woke up early suffering from extreme wind. After dealing with that, and it's immediate causes - many times - I felt too rough to contemplate going in to work. I suppose I could have gone in late, but I decided to grab a little more sleep and take things easy for a few hours. Right now I don't feel too bad, although I still feel fairly tired. I expect I will have another snooze this afternoon. I will have that snooze in, or on, my bed. It is far more comfortable than sleeping on the settee where I slept for less than an hour, but more than 30 minutes this morning. One day, when I am rich, I must buy a new settee. One that you can really doze off on in comfort !

 Some of the stuff I have been doing on the PC network lately has liberated some hard disks. The contents of several small disks have been uploaded onto my server. It would actually be safer to keep the old hard disks intact as extra security, but I feel I am going to use one, or two, of them to get yet another PC up and running. I have one PC that I nicked the hard drive(s) out of to build the mark 1 Suse based server (which is still intact and sitting in the cupboard). This particular PC I thought had Xandros (Linux) installed, but obviously not. So this afternoon I may replace one (or two) of the missing hard disks and re-install Xandros on it. Of course once it is working I am not sure what I will actually do with it, but that is not the point. I just like bringing the dead back to life !!

 Perhaps what I really ought to do, while taking advantage of this free time, is to get one of my old Mac's on the network and see how much usabilty I can get out of it. The question is - which one ? It could be the Quadra 950, but that needs some severe cleaning up, or a complete re-install of the operating system. Or it could be the Umax Apus 2000 Power PC clone, or maybe the Performa 5200. The latter is already set up and ready to go apart from one minor problem. It is Mac with built in screen, and there is a small fault in the monitor circuitry. I suspect that it is either just a dry joint, or possibly the HT switch/regulator that has gone short circuit. It does work, but the picture is about half size. While it may be a simple fault on paper. It will be a Bastard (with a capital B !!) to open it up and carry out any work on it. That is why it has been sitting there so long unrepaired (almost a year now).

 One final thought.....................Tomorrow is the first day of March. I ought to design a new page for March.

Sunday 26th February 2006

07:25 GMT

Sunday morning, and it is still very cold, but at least there is no snow - yet ! Yesterday was fairly bright and sunny, and the air did warm slightly, but any warmth was usually sucked away by the cold wind. At the moment it seems to be rather dull outside. It is still early so it may brighten up later on - if we are lucky.

 Yesterday I was mostly lazy. I spent a couple of hours watching a Dr Who story in the morning. At lunchtime, probably the silliest time to do it, we went to Tesco and bought quite a few bags of shopping. Included in that shopping was a copy of New Scientist. So for several hours in the afternoon and evening I just lazed around reading. In pauses between reading (and watching Dr Who earlier on in the day) I was copying my archives from DVD disks onto the server. It takes a hell of a long time to transfer 3 - 4 GB across a 10MB/s LAN - nearly two hours per disk - and I managed to get through about 6 disks worth yesterday. The process continues today, but soon it will only be CD archives. The CD's will take a long time even though they are so much smaller. Many of them have unsorted, or duplicated, material on them. So I will have to sit down and carefully select where individual files go - I am trying to keep the archives on the server in some sort of logical filing system.

 I did do one semi-technical thing yesterday. Using two short ends of a network patch lead (retrieved from some rubbish) I spliced in a long length of 8 wire telephone type cable. No doubt it may possibly cause all sorts of errors on a 100MB/s network, but it seems OK on my slower network. So I have been able to hook my ancient laptop running Windows 98SE into my network. So that is 5 machines all connected simultaneously - 4 "workstations" and one server (plus, if you want to be pedantic, the old PC based firewall - so that is really 6 machines hanging off the hub). The laptop has full communication with the server, and can read/write to it with no problems. So it is still the Mandrake Linux box that is having trouble. As soon as I make a new directory on the server, from the Mandrake Linux box, I lose ownership of it and cannot write into that directory. I can still write into the higher level directories though. One curious observation from the laptop is that it thinks that the server "disk" is formatted with NTFS. Maybe it just assumes that any server must be a Windows server, and by default that would be using NTFS.

 Today, after I have taken out the rubbish, and emptied the cats litter tray, I really ought to do some other technical stuff. I want to build a little gizmo for work. I need to generate a 236KHz, crystal controlled, TTL square wave. Searching through my entire collection of crystals I have found just one that will divide down to 236KHz (and one that claims to be identical but actualy seems to oscilate at a different frequency). The division ratio I need is a rather inconvenient 9, but I reckon I can do it . Somehow that has got to fitted into to watching more Dr Who and feeding CD's and more DVD's into the Windows XP machine to copy more archives into the server (and next week I have got to buy another hard disk to make backups of the server !).

Friday 24th February 2006

19:00 GMT

Thank god it's Friday ! It has been a long week, and one where I have not been feeling my best. I am looking forward to a really lazy weekend. Whether that actually happens is something I will have to discover as it happens, but for now I have no plans to do anything at all.

 This morning it actually snowed on me as I made my way to the station. It was not a heavy fall, and the snow flakes were small, but it was real snow and lasted for all of 3 minutes. The day, like most of the days this week, has been really cold. Maybe that is just my perception of it while I seem to have some sort of 'flu like illness. For a brief few minutes the sun did come out as I struggled to make my way home from work, but there was absolutely no warmth in it at all. Coming home did seem a struggle. I felt like I had no energy, and breathing in the cold air was painful.

 My efforts to improve my home network are still bearing some fruit, but some parts are definitely an uphill struggle. My server, which is also functioning as a "Network Attached Storage" machine (NAS) is proving very reliable, but is causing me a lot of grief when it comes to configuring it all. All my Windows machines have full read/write access to the NAS portion, but from my Linux PC I cannot write to it properly. I am able to create a new directory (which is a writing process), but I cannot get permission to write into that new directory - even though I created it ! I can then go in as administrator and allow myself write priveleges, but that is not supposed to be the way to do it. Fortunately I have an expert scratching his head over this problem (Hi Steve), and I have high hopes he may come up with a solution.

 If I do anything to the server over the weekend it is probably going to be getting the ftp server configured for some virtual users (or something ???). Some plans to add e-mail services to it are probably rather more long term, but one day, one day....

I think it is time to consider doing some cooking. I am beginning to feel quite peckish now.

Wednesday 22nd February 2006

18:00 GMT

 It has been freezing today. No actual ice, but the wind seems to carry a wind chill factor of -99° C !!!!! I have a theory that I am slightly more sensitive to the cold than is usually the case because I seem to have a mild cold. Since Monday morning I have had a variety of minor ailments. Initially I put it down to sleeping with wet hair on Sunday night, and maybe it is, but the odd pains I have had do not directly relate to the stiff neck that started it all. This evening, on the way from work to the station, it felt like someone had stabbed me through the achilles tendon (well that's the best way I can describe it). It was really quite painful to keep on walking like that, but eventually I walked through it and by the time I was on the platform waiting for the train the pain had gone. Less painful, but perhaps more irritating, has been the odd mild pains from various internal organs (probably), and an intermittent low level headache (a cross betwen eyestrain and sinusitus).

 Well that's the moaning over with. In other ways the day was succesful - bot in terms of work, and my ongoing server project. I can now see the server from this linux box, but as yet I can't write to it. Both the Windows XP, and Windows 2000 boxes have read and write access to the server's shared resources. I seem to have run out of network patch cables again so I haven't tried the server on the Windows 95, and Windows 98SE laptops. The real crunch will come when I fire up the Windows For Workgroups 3.11 box. Will that see it, and what will it make of those long file names ???

Another minor success is that I can access my home directory on the server via ftp from the PC at work. The ftp server still has a fair amount of configuration to be set up - and I am getting a long way out of my depth in try to set it up. Still it is am enjoyable learning experience (in a masochistic sort of way). The next job after that is to attempt to set up "sendmail". This is the server for outgoing e-mail ( I think). Outgoing mail should present less problems than incoming mail - I am dreading attempting to set incoming mail up !

 One day the server will be complete, and then the fun part starts (!). I will have another go at setting up the "B" server. That will be using Windows 3.11. Then after that will be the "C" server. That will use Mac OS8. To refresh your memory, the last time I tried Windows 3.11 as a server the hard disks kept locking up with read/write errors after 30 - 60 minutes operation. Going back even further to my experiments with a Mac server - well that would just freeze solid on boot-up in the end.

 Tonight I will not be attempting any more server experimentation. Instead I am going for a drink with Kevin, and maybe Iain will put in an appearance as well. Sadly, Patricia has just received more translation work so she will not be joining us.

Tuesday 21st January 2006

20:00 GMT

 Today started off really cold with an icy wind. It has remained cold all day, although we did have some sunny intervals. As I came home it tried to rain, but it never really came to anything.

 Despite the cold, the aching neck, and other assorted pains that I started yesterday with didn't put in an appearance this morning. I did feel very rough though, and decided to put on one of my old Mastercare jumpers for the journey into work. Tomorrow morning I will probably do the same - except it will be a different jumper because I left this mornings one at work (by accident).

 Work has gone well again. There is not much I can really comment about it as most days are somewhat similar. Perhaps though there is one thing to brag about. One problem we have is trying to test a unit made of two separate printed circuit boards. We can test one board easily, and the other with some difficulty, but together they pose a slight problem. I noticed that part of a self test routine that one board has also tests the other board. With a bit of creative bodging I have worked out a scheme where both boards can interact and be tested together.

 This morning, looking back on my diary entries for todays date in 2004, and 2005, I saw that the weather was very similar to today. What is worrying is that about a week later it snowed.  Last year the snow was fairly heavy, but the year before it was a lot lighter. What will this year do ?

 In general, life is pretty good at the moment. There are a few areas where there could be some improvements, but nothing I feel that will improve any time in the near future. A minor difficulty with Patricia seems to be passing over and life is returning to normal.

 On the technical front there have been some improvements. I have finally edited the configuration file on my server to allow simple access to the "network attached storage" facility. At least it is simple from the Windows based machines on the network. This Linux box says something is not right, and I have no idea what it can be. It can see the share, but for reasons unknown it will not mount it. Right at this minute, as I type this, I am copying about 8 or 9 Gbytes of data from a spare hard drive connected via a USB interface on the Windows XP box to the server. I only have a 10Mbs network and it is taking a little time to do it. Initially it estimated it would take 88 minutes, and I reckon that estimate was pretty close !!

 Tomorrow, if I feel so inclined, I must see if I can get the ftp server working properly. I think, but I have not tested it, that it is allowing access to somewhere in the filesystem, but heavens knows where ! Meanwhile the server seems to be making a good job of serving these web pages (even if pictures take a long time to download because of my slow upload speed).

Monday 19th February 2006

17:39 GMT

This is a slightly unusual update. Initially it will only be appearing on the version of my website that is hosted from my own server. It is being made in a slightly unusual way as well. I have shh'd into the server from my normal PC, and started Mozilla Composer from within a shell terminal. Because both machines run Linux, and the X window system I can get a normal Mozilla window served from the server, and displayed on this remote PC. One of the useful things about this arrangement is that I do not have to upload the pages as the are, in effect, being written directly to the server. When I save this update it will be saved directly to the place that the server serves it from.

 Today has been both good and bad. I went to bed with wet hair last night, and woke up with a stiff and cranky neck. On top of that, and probably caused by bad sleep, I had a very irritating sort of headache. It was mild, but intermittently persistant (if that is not a contradiction). It felt like a cross between eyestrain and sinus pressure. Then on top of that I have had a mild cough that has come and gone as the day wore on. Of course all these problems would not have been half as bad if it had been a warm, or even mild, sunny day. Instead we have had to endure grey skies and a bitingly cold wind.

The good part is that the day went quite quickly - which is unusual when I am uncomfortable. Plus I was quite happy with my personal productivity. I had a whole series of easy faults, and a pile of pre-diagnosed faults where I was waiting for spares (which came in recently).

 One of the strange things about the work I do is how inconsistent it can be, or maybe how inconsistent I can make it. Take changing surface mount I.C.'s as a for instance. Under almost identical circumstances some solder in perfectly, and the result looks like it has been made in a factory by robots. The next one might be a real mess with blobs of solder everywhere that take ages to clean up and make look reasonably pretty. 

Saturday 18th February 2006

03:42 GMT

 I've just had an amazing dream. It seemed to start with a bus ride to Forest Hill where we were going for a drink in The Forest Barn (See the picture at the top of the page featuring Patricia modelling a 25 year old Forest Barn T-shirt). I am not sure who "we" were exactly, but I had at least one, and maybe two, travelling companions. What I do remember was that for reasons unknown I led us off the bus several stops early, and we had to walk the last half (?) mile. The Forest Barn pub was not exactly as I remember it. In fact it was more like an old school classroom instead of the basement dive the we knew and loved all those years ago. It had a very high ceiling, and was about 30ft by 30ft square with plain white painted walls. Even in the dream I knew this was wrong, and thought it looked more like a student union bar (whatever one of those looks like). Outside was a stall selling novelty pens. I wanted one that was shaped like a very long, and very thin coffin (although had no resemblance to a coffin other than the shape). It was priced at £2.42 which I thought was far too expensive for little more than a disposable biro in a slightly weird shell. Inside the bar there was no obvious bar to buy drinks from, but Geoff, the governor of The Catford Ram, in his capacity as barman. Despite that everyone had drinks, and it was semi crowded with student looking people. In one corner there was a small band playing some non descript acoustic music of a slightly folky flavour. We were either playing, or I was watching my companions playing, on some sort of weird games machines. It was a strange cross between a pinball machine, juke box, video game console, and old fashioned one armed bandit. The details of it are very hazy except that I do know it had a dry joint somewhere in it's electronics which made a strange shriek if you banged it too hard.

 So far it was all just normal dream weirdness with hazy details, and reality all mixed up and out of place. It is the next, and final bit that I found amazing. Gradually one of my companions came into focus and it was Ruth. She had been inspired by some recording I had given her to do some singing. So, standing on some raised area. not quite a stage, but close to it, and accompanied by some backing music from out of nowhere, she started singing the King Crimson song "I Talk To The Trees". Despite being nervous, and with some of her singing sounding as if she had a teeth clenched, she sang perfectly in tune, and seemed to remember all the words perfectly (and far more than I can remember in reality). At the end of the song she got a big round of applause, and I woke up.

 Many dreams are inspired by recent events, but this one baffles me. Why Ruth, and why that song which I haven't heard for ages ? And how can my dream characters remember the words of a song that I can't ? The Forest Barn bit is obvious after I had Patricia model the old T-shirt for me. Although the complete change in shape and ambience of the Forest Barn has no explanation. And what about those pens ? They seemed an important, but brief, feature of the dream, but I cannot think of any inspiration for dreaming about them. They were all based on a basic clear acrylic tube that was shaped in all different ways. Some were triangular across their width, and some in length, others used different geometric shapes. The one I preferred had this long drawn out coffin shape (about 6 inches long, and about half an inch wide at the widest part), and most of the pens had grooves or geometric shapes embossed somewhere in the plasic. Each pen came in a non-descript presentation blister pack of some kind. Looking at the pens occupied just moments in a fairly long seeming dream, and yet it was one part of the dream that seems clear in my memory.

 I am going back to bed again in a few minutes. I wonder what I will dream about this time ?

Friday 17th February 2006

20:54 GMT

At last ! My phone line has been fixed ! As I knew all along, the engineer did not need access to the house to fix the problem. He ran a new dropwire from the telephone pole to the house, and connected the new wire to the old wire by installing a new junction box on the outside of the house.

 To enable the work to be done I had to take a day off of work, but this fitted in nicely with the need for a late start to the day after a very late night, last night. In fact it was possibly as late as 02:00, this morning, before I was asleep. Last night was the bi-monthly drink at The Bull in Barming. I was dropped off back home at 5 or 10 past midnight. If I had got straight into bed, and fallen asleep instantly, I may have been able to get up in time for work, and maybe even survived the day at work, but prudence dictated that I should have today off work.

 I have had an incredibly lazy day today. I was up at 07:00 (maybe a little earlier) and I just mooched around until the BT engineer came at around 09:30. By 10:00, or thereabouts, the job was done. I laid down and did some reading on the settee. By 11:00 I was fast asleep. An hour later I woke up feeling as stiff as a board. So I pottered around, and at 13:00 had some light lunch. By 14:00 I decided to do some more reading, but this time I lay on my bed to do it. By 15:00 I was fast asleep again. This time I did not wake up until 17:00 - just 5 minutes before Patricia got home.

 A little while ago we had some nice chinese food. Patricia has now gone to bed, and I will probably follow suit in as little as an hours time.

 Despite all the laziness I did manage a couple of minor things today. Before Patricia left for work I went to the corner shop and lugged a heavy bag of cat litter home. During the afternoon I did a cell transplant in the battery pack of one of my ancient laptops. That did prove to be semi-successful. It has extended the lifetime of the battery from 0.00000001 seconds to a full 45 seconds. I have now identified another weak cell. Once that is changed I am confident that I may get as much as 30 minutes life from the battery pack. There is a reason for this life extension treatment. One of the things I was going to do today, but will probably do tomorrow, is to buy a PCMCIA wireless network card. I may also buy a wireless hub as well. It could be useful in it's own right, but initially I just want to have a sniff around and see what networks I can see. One problem that I foresee is that the wireless card may not be compatible with Windows 98 (about the most up-to-date Windows operating system that my old laptop can support. (It may be worth noting that is uses a proprietary memory card, and the installed memory is not really big enough for Linux operation). On top of that, if the card relies too heavily on the laptops processor it may make things grind to a halt. The laptop only has a 133MHz Pentium 1 processor. Nevertheless, these things have to be tried out.

 This week has gone fairly fast, but it hasn't been all that happy. On Tuesday I think I laid things on a bit too thick for Valentines day. I bought Patricia a big bunch of flowers, a heart shaped "I love you" box of chocolates, and of course a card. I left them all downstairs as a surprise for her when she got up (an hour or so after I had gone to work). Sadly, she was not quite ready for such enthusiasm, and for the rest of the week she had been a little withdrawn. I think that may have contibuted to the reason why she did not come to Barming with me. Although I know that she genuinely had some important work to do that night.

 So tomorrow, while she goes to visit The National gallery, and has a walk around London, I will go to PC world and buy some stuff for my experiments. I have already mentioned the wireless network card, and the possibility of wireless hub, but I may also buy a large(ish) hard disk to use in the next phase of my server experiments. I think I will be basing this on my old Pentium Pro motherboard. It is probably better suited, and more stable, than the dodgy old PC Chips M726 motherboard that I have been using. I don't know if I will have the time (or patience) to get anything running before the weekend is over, but at least I will probably have all the bits I need for the project.

Monday 13th February 2006

21:03 GMT

Just a few brief notes about work, before I go to bed.

There has been a slight change in my circumstances. My employer was very unhappy about the agency wanting 20% of my wages for the next 6 months. Apparently this was in the small print of contract between the agency and the company. I am actually a free agent and anyone could employ me after my side of the contract expired last Friday, and any employer except my current one would not have to pay this 20% levy. So for now my contract has been extended by 8 weeks while my boss wheels and deals with the agency and tries to reduce this unfair "tax" on my wages. Various options are being discussed. In the meanwhile I have been promised that I will not lose out on this arrangement. It feels rather good to have such a proactive boss on my side. In some ways it amazes me that I am so valued for what I consider a very easy going job.
top Saturday 11th February 2006

08:30 GMT

By popular demand, here are some more scribblings !

 It has been difficult to allocate the time to write stuff here. I am not sure where all the time goes to, but being out at work from about 06:45 until 17:15 every week day does account for a lot of it. Work has been going well. My three month contract has now finished, and from Monday I will have a permanent contract with the company itself (as opposed to via the agency). My pay will be good, but not quite as much as I had hoped for. Maybe I could have held out for more as they do really want me there. Interestingly enough the boss suggested that he thought my role in the company should be to mainly provide support for the developement guys (instead of the production area). This suits me just fine. Playing with new toys, and providing some creative input is my idea of a good job.

 Last night I had a small celebration at The Herne with Ivor, Iain, Ruth and Kevin. Loads of beer was drunk, and I was quite wasted when Kevin gave me a lift home. The last step of the journey I made on foot via the Kentucky. So I made a bit of a pig of myself when I got in. I tried to watch a recording I had made of Horizon (about dark matter and other groovy cosmological stuff). By half way through my eyes were drooping and it started to make no sense at all. At that point I gave up and went to bed.

 On the way to bed I called in on Patricia who was working on a big translation job. Although still very drunk I think I managed to avoid telling her I love her too many times (or other similar drunken ramblings)!

 Patricia has settled in well here. She has just finished the first proper week back at her old job, and I think she likes the idea of working just 6 minutes walk from home (I know I would !!!!). It is a little unfortunate that she is effectively doing two jobs now. Most evenings she is doing English to Spanish translating, so I get to see less of her than I might like. But I fully support her doing it as it is a useful form of extra income to help her son into university next year. This weekend she is tackling a big job, so I will do some stuff I want to do on PC's etc. Hopefully, this evening we will be able to sit down and watch a film together or something.

 One other thing I think I will be doing today is to pop out soon and buy some magazines. So instead of doing stuff with the PC's I will probably indulge myself in an orgy of reading.
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