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January 2009
Wednesday 31st December 2008
11:10 GMT

 Some of yesterday's frost stayed all day, and was enhanced this morning. Now the temperature seems to have risen a bit. The frost has melted, but the downside is that this happened because the sky is now very dull and cloudy. I don't think it will rain today, but if it did I reckon it could almost fall as a snow.

 Contrary to my prediction that I would be glued to the keyboard all day yesterday, I actually only needed to spend another hour, or two, customising my Aspire 1 netbook. In that time I found out how to install the missing libraries to play mp3 files using the XMMS player. I also installed the stuff needed to work with my USB digital TV dongle. There are still a few refinements I would like to make to the thing, but on the whole it is now working well.

 With the netbook in a state where I felt happy with it, I was able to do other quality stuff like watching the gogglebox. I think I probably watched quite a few hours of TV and video recordings, but I also spent quite a long time catching up with my reading of assorted (sometimes) technical news stories from The Register. Some of that I did using the Aspire 1, or as I shall now call it, my netbook while lying on my bed. Of course the big disadvantage of using the netbook, compared to reading from a book or magazine, is that you can't just throw it down on the floor to go to sleep when you feel your eyelids drooping. It sort of wakes you up as you wait for the netbook to shut down, and then carefully place it on the floor. So I did not get the sort of nap I wanted, but I think I did eventually sleep for about an hour in the late afternoon/early evening.

 My plans for today are quite simple. I am going to watch some TV, read The Register, maybe read a magazine, and maybe design some stuff for the 2009 edition of this blog. I've still got my fingers crossed that I might see the new year in with Patricia, but I am not going to hold my breath. Just in case my wish does come true I ought to try and do some preparation for it. A bit of hoovering wouldn't go amiss, but there's probably little else to do in reality.
Tuesday 30th December 2008
11:17 GMT

 It was, and still is, a frosty morning. The temperature has plummeted since yesterday. This is because the sky stayed clear overnight, and is clear even now. The positive aspect of this is that it is nice and sunny today. I haven't checked, but past experience suggests my south facing front porch will be trapping the sunshine, and it will feel warm there. Take one more pace and it will feel cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

 I have finally done it ! I went out yesterday morning, withdrew 200 from my savings account, and bought my Acer "Aspire 1" AO150AB netbook. I am ashamed to say that I bought it from PC World. Of course buying it from there does raise the prospect of some humour, and so it did this time. Having carefully explained that I wanted the cheap version of the Aspire 1 that runs Linux I was also offered cheap versions of Microsoft Office, and Norton Internet Security. It gave me such a sense of superiority to tell the salesman that he didn't know his products very well (and he was, allegedly, the laptop expert). I had to remind him that the product I had specified was a Linux machine and did not run Windows software, and that any software I am reasonably likely to need I could download quite legally for free from the internet. If the salesman had the intellect to know the difference between a computer and a food mixer, and had done something daring like reading an occasional computer magazine, he could have persisted with his attempt to push Microsoft Office on me by telling me about Wine (the Windows Emulator). If PC World could actually train their staff, and if they took a greater interest in Linux, and if I was very stupid, or gullible, the saleman could have increased his commision by selling me Crossover Office, the commercial version of Wine with extra tweaks in it. If I truly wanted an Office Suite of programs I would actually just download Open Office. In fact I will probably use the somewhat lighter Abiword if I need to do any document type stuff.

 When I got home from buying my Aspire 1 I immeadiately put it on charge. It was already nearly 80% charged, and it took very little time to reach full charge (although it will need a few more power cycles to hit full capacity). With plenty of charge available I needed to show off my new toy. So I phoned Iain and enquired if he felt thirsty. He said yes, and I arranged to meet him in the pub at 1.30 pm. While we drank three pints each I showed Iain the Aspire 1, and let him have a play with it. His only negative comment was that he thought the "Fisher-Price" style desktop was a bit poor, but otherwise he was quite impressed by it. He will, of course, stick with his Macbook Air, and at something bizarre like 5 - 6 times the price for virtually the same functionality, he is welcome to it.

 Three pints, one of the a very strong winter ale, and on an empty stomach, was quite enough for an afternoon session, and with the last pint consumed I staggered home again. I did feel fairly drunk, and the ensuing hangover did little for the bad headache I had been suffering from all morning. Nevertheless, headache and drunkeness ignored, I set about customising my new machine. I completely erased the original operating system, and decided that it could be useful if I were to make it dual boot for the best of both worlds, and to be able to use the odd bit of USB connected hardware that has difficulties with Linux. I used the first 30 GB of the 120 GB hard disk to install Windows XP. Installing that, together with some anti-virus software, and then downloading all the neccesary drivers took almost the rest of the day (with some breaks for food and a long snooze).

 It was in the early hours of this morning (about 5 am) that I started to Install Fedora 10 with the Xfce desktop. So far everything is working well, but Fedora definitely needs more work on it. Like many of the major distributions, it leaves a lot of essential stuff out because of licensing problems etc. It makes me wonder why they include XMMS in the list of available software when it it is crippled to the point where it hardly useable. XMMS is the most simple and effective way to play mp3 files, but the version offered is castrated. It is going to be a bit of a fight to install all the stuff I want, and to use it to do stuff in the way that I want, but I am slowly making progress. It's worth noting that the original operating system had some sort of emulated media player that did play mp3 files, but it would not play mp3 files using XMMS, nor provide the libraries to allow this.

 I feel today is going to be another one where I am glued to the keyboard until I go to bed. When I think about it that does sound rather boring, but it is surprising how quickly the hours pass while doing it.
Monday 29th December 2008
07:14 GMT

 The last few days of 2008 are going to be very cold. A recent weather forecast I saw suggested that daytime temperatures in London will be little more than 3 or 4 C for the next few days, and then probably some time after that. Surprisingly, there is no frost this morning, although it feels cold enough for it. With temperatures like these it would be a good time to get a fall of snow, but apparently it will remain dry.

 I seem to have spent far too long experimenting with my ancient Compaq Deskpro XE 450 computer. It almost seems that I have done little else since last Satuurday. Yesterday morning I gave up trying to get a useful installation of Linux on it, and installed Windows 95 instead. That installed OK with good graphics, sound, and network. I then spent even more time installing applications on it.

 For reasons that have probably got to do with a faulty braincell, or something similarily bizzare, I find it interesting to remind myself just how bad things were in the days of the 486 processor and Windows 95. It is sometimes hard to do things that we take for granted on a modern PC. MP3 playback is very difficult. Admittedly I was using a high bit rate recording for my experimentation, but I had to turn Winamp down to half sampling, and mono only, to get reasonably decent playback.

 Web browsing is another thing that has changed a lot over the years. The version of Windows 95 that I installed came with Internet Explorer 3. Apart from the very simplest web pages it throws up error after error because it can't handle modern web designs. It also renders everything with very little colour. Simple images come out alright, but things like coloured fonts, or backgrounds, get screwed up royally. So I upgraded in stages to Internet Explorer 5.5 via 4.0 and 5.0. It was only then that most pages looked about right. I also installed some other web browsers. Netscape 4.5 was better than Internet Explorer 3.0 or 4.0 even though I think it was of a similar vintage. Netscape 6 kept crashing, and to a lesser extent so did Firefox 1.5. Amaya was pretty bad, although it was only partly a web browser, and more a web composer (it was also an early version that I tried). The one browser that seemed to give the best results was Phoenix.  The ideal browser for such an underpowered PC would be Dillo, but unfortunately that is not available for the Windows platform (and wasn't even invented until many years after Windows 95 became obsolete).

 I did have one interlude from my PC experimentation. I had a very welcome visit from Patricia. Although notionly based here, she seems to be staying with her son almost permanently now. That may change now once he has started working (first day, today), but I don't really think so. However I may get to see the new year in with Patricia. I reckon there is about a 10% chance of that happening. Apparently there is the possibility that her son may see the new year in by going into central London with some friends. So if Patricia is not too tired, and has no better offers, she will come here.

 Today I think I am going to spend some of my meagre savings. For many months now I have been lusting after an Acer Aspire 1. I think I have made one hard decision, and that is to extract some money from my building society account. It will make quite a dent in my meagre savings, but in the current economic climate it is not earning that much interest. If I get the pay rise I expect this year then I will do my best to "pay back" the money into my account, and maybe a little more over the coming months. The second hard decision is to just how much money I am prepared to spend. The Aspire one comes in two versions. One has a small solid state hard drive, and the other has a conventional 120 GB hard drive. The small solid state drive sounds nice, and drops 15 - 20 off the price, but a conventional hard disk would be easier to replace when it inevitable fails. Comet are selling it for 215.30, but are not listing the version with the solid state drive. PC World list that for 175.18, or the 120 GB version for 199.99 - 15 cheaper than Comet ! None of my web searches gives any indication as to whether these machines are available in the adjacent Catford branches of PC World and Comet. I hope they both have them in stock because I would prefer not to buy from PC World, and maybe Comet will do a price match for PC World.
Saturday 27th December 2008
06:51 GMT

 Maybe it's just me, but it seems to be very cold this morning.......I was right ! I thought I had better look out the front window before continuing, and I saw that all the cars were covered with thick white frost. This is not that surprising. The sky was fairly clear yesterday, and I guess it was clear overnight too. It was fairly bright yesterday, and there was a lot of weak, watery, winter sunshine. I predict today will be similar to yesterday.

 Xmas day and boxing day passed without any significant events. Most of my time was spent either eating or playing with computers (sometimes at the same time !). I have to admit that I ate far too much over the last two days, and a lot of it was stuff that should only be eaten in moderation at the best of times.

 My huge order of curry lasted quite well. I still have one nan bread left over that I will probably consume today if it's still OK. I'll probably make a nan pizza from it as I did yesterday. You may never have heard of nan pizza, but that is because I believe I have only just invented it. Yesterday's nan pizza was the best. I put a nan bread on a lightly oiled baking tray, and then spread a generous amount of tomato paste on it. On top of that I spread out the leftover gobi aloo (potato and culiflower bahji). Finally I put some grated mature cheddar cheese on top. After baking in a hot oven for 15 minutes I had the most delicious pizza ever ! Today's version, if I do make it today, will not have any gobi aloo, but I reckon I can find something in the cupboard to "zap it up".

 Yesterday morning I took a quick trip out to see what shops were open. Quite a few were, but Tesco was not. So I hope they are open this morning. Once again I "raided" the 99p shop. I mostly bought more of the sort of food and snacks I should avoid, but I also bought a novelty item. It was a quartz controlled alarm clock with built in thermometer. I suspect both are inaccurate, but for just 99p I can't complain too much. I think the clock has actually gained a minute over the last 12 hours or so, but maybe I didn't set it correctly.

 After my shopping trip I got truely masochistic and started playing with an old PC. The old PC, a Compaq Deskpro XE450, is almost prehistoric. It's processor is a 50 MHz 486, and most of it's onboard harware is fairly unique. For some reason it is very fussy about the type of RAM used in it. I don't know what specification it really wants, but I managed to stuff 28 MB in it. That's enough for Windows 95, but on the very lower, lowest, limit for Linux (with a graphical desktop). Windows 95 installed OK, but was a bit flaky. It worked well enough to get online and check a few websites using Internet Explorer 3 (itself almost prehistoric), but more usefully it gave me some idea about the hardware in the machine.

 The next step, and this was the truely masochistic part, was to see if I could install some sort of working Linux on it. My first attempt was to try Red Hat 6 Linux from an old cover disk of "Linux Answers" magazine (November 1999). After a few false starts I had it working as far as the command line, but I had no network, no sound, and no graphical desktop. The first thing was to try and get the graphics working because that would make configuring everything else easier. Unfortunately the Compaq "Qvision" graphics adapter is rare enough not to have any Linux support (it's only supported by Windows 3.11 and Windows 95 as far as I can tell). So I disabled that and installed an ISA graphics card using a Trident chip. After a lot of work I did finally manage to get a graphical desktop up of sorts. The resolution was terrible, as was the colour depth. I am not so sure that the old Sinclair ZX Spectrum did not have a better colour screen !

 I have yet to write off that experiment as a complete failure, and I may yet get it doing more stuff, but in the meantime I am trying the first Linux Distro that I had definite success with. Even as I type this I am installing Mandrake Linux 7.2. This was the cover disk of the September 2000 issue of Linux Format magazine, and it was what lead me to using Linux for my operating system of choice.

 I installed Mandrake last night but made a fatal error. I unticked a box I shouldn't have, and this resulted in a boot failure once the installation was complete. It is fixable, but although my command line skills are getting better day by day, I decided to start again on a smaller (4 GB) hard disk that the Compaq's BIOS can handle natively. Hopefully, if I follow the same steps as last night I will have a working system later on. Whether that will be working with a full desktop is another matter, and I'll just have to see what happens when it happens.

 I will soon have to abandon that old PC for this morning. I have Aleemah coming over later and need to do some preparations for that, and I really do need to go and buy some stuff from Tesco (who must be open this morning !).
Xmas day - Thursday 25th December 2008
07:12 GMT

 As far as I can tell it is a little cooler outside this morning. It's still a few degrees above freezing (maybe more), and it is dry. With the sun not due to rise for over an hour I can't really see what's up in the sky. I believe that it will be overcast with the chance of some rain later on in the evening.

 Work gradually closed down soon after midday yesterday, and I left in time to get the 13:09 train from Waterloo East. I had dark forebodings when I arrived back at Catford. These feeling were confirmed when I inspected Tesco's. I didn't have any binoculars with me, but it looked as if the back of the checkout queues were somewhere in the region of Forest Hill. That meant plan C had also failed because there was no way I could cope with that !

 With plan C dead in the water I decided on a small variation on Plan D (see yesterday). Rather than buying a bottle of diet coke and some pot noodles, I thought I might try a "raid" on the 99p shop. To get there I had to pass, on the other side of the road, the Wetherspoons pub. It seemed a bit unlikely, but I wondered if Iain was in there. I rang his mobile and he said he wasn't in that pub, but was in fact in The Catford Ram. So I walked back almost the way I had come to go and have a couple of pints of Winter Warmer in there with him.

 I felt two pints was sufficient seeing as how I was already dead tired after getting up at 2.30 in the morning. After our drink we went and inspected Tesco again. Iain, being a braver man than I am, announced he was going in. Brave indeed ! I decided that I would rather take me chances in the 99p shop. So wishing him a merry xmas we left each other to our own visions of hell.

 The 99p shop remained true to my pet theory that everytime Tesco's is very busy, the 99p shop is quite manageable. I bought about 28,673 calories worth of crap foodstuffs for me, some dog food for Smudge (who prefers dog food to catfood !) and a couple of 1.5l bottles of diet Coke.  I got to the checkout to find just one person in front of me, and was out of there, and on my way home again, with little fuss or bother.

 When I got home I put out some of the just bought dog food for Smudge. It smelt almost edible to me, but Smudge turned her nose up at it. She really does prefer Tesco's Turkey and Rice dog food, and unlike many other cats, she seems quite content to have that day after day. Later on I relented and gave Smudge what she wanted, but I have to be careful because I have only just enough to last until the shops open again. This morning she had some "Wiskas" rabbit flavour cat food. I had one large tin of that, and she will eat small amounts of it without any fuss.

 My afternoon continued with grazing on some of the crap I had bought from the 99p shop, and watching old episodes of Dr Who. I did my best not to eat too much, and almost, but not quite, succeded. The reason for trying not to eat too much was because I put plan E into operation.  This is a plan I have put into operation on quite a few Xmas eve's. At around 7pm I ordered 29 worth of Indian takeaway. Some of it was for a super snack last night, but most of it was for today. My Xmas dinner will be Chicken Methi with a side dish of Aloo Gobi, and pilau rice. I suspect it will actually be tastier than turkey and sprouts ! For supper I will have brinjal barji on nan bread. I could have something on (or in) nan bread for breakfast this morning, but I want to try and keep myself reasonably empty because there is a 50:50 chance that I will be going for a lunchtime pint.

 Despite feeling very tired after my very early morning, I didn't go to bed until 10 pm last night. In theory I should have slept very soundly, but I awoke at 3 am and decided that after I had been to the toilet I would come downstairs, check my e-mail, and have a (soft) drink before trying to get back to sleep again. When I went back to bed it seemed to take a long time to find a comfortable position, and even then I slept badly. At least I think I slept badly, but it could have just been some dreams. One fragment of dream I remember is being kept awake because there was a howling gale coming through my open bedroom window (which in reality was not open at all). There is no reason why I should get washed and dressed this morning until a lot nearer pub opening time. So I think I will go back to bed again soon. Rather than toss and turn trying to fight my way back to sleep I think I will do some reading and see if sleep comes naturally. If it doesn't then I will assume I don't actually need any sleep. All I have to do now is to wonder if this is just an extension of the dream about the open bedroom window. Perhaps I will wake up soon and have to write this all over again........
Wednesday 24th December 2008
04:39 GMT

 There has been a small splash of rain overnight, but the temperature remains mild. Right now it is dry outside, apart from a few leftover puddles from the earlier rain (whenever that was), but I believe that some rain is expected tonight. It will also be turning colder, but nowhere near cold enough for snow. So, another grey Xmas !

 Plan B did not work. I woke up earlier than intended this morning at around 2.30 am. After feeding Smudge an unusually early breakfast, and checking my e-mail, etc. I washed, shaved, and dressed in preparation to do battle in Tesco. I chose to believe that the opening times printed on my last Clubcard statement were correct.............
Tesco Opening Hours - NOT !!!!
...........and I ignored the caveat at the bottom. I had a pleasant walk through the deserted backstreets of Catford only to find Tesco's dark and shuttered. This was, I have to admit, a bit of a blow. Now I have to put plan C into operation, and I don't like it at all !

 Plan C is to shop in Tesco this afternoon. We are only working until midday today, and I should be back in Catford early in the afternoon. If Tesco is creaking at the seams like I was at around 5 pm last night, and I am sure it will be, I will probably put plan D into operation.

 Plan D is to buy some diet coke and a pot noodle from the local corner shop ! Maybe that's a little melodramatic - I don't actually need a pot noodle, but I will be stretching my catfood supply a bit if I can't get into Tesco. I have plenty of human food in the freezer, although none of it is exactly Xmas fare. That does not matter too much because I am pretty certain I will be eating curry for Xmas dinner (amd several other meals), but I had hoped to get some more mince pies, and for some bizarre reason, some ice cream too.

 I think my next task is to e-mail Tesco to tell them that they have spoiled my Xmas, and ruined my Xmas Eve afternoon. Maybe I should demand an explanation as to why they did not open all night. I expect they will say that they didn't think there was the demand for it. Perhaps the real truth is that the ravening hordes I saw in there yesterday evening had stripped the shelves bare, and were starting to carve up the staff into roasting joints too. That would not surprise me. Some Xmas shoppers do seem to get a look of sheer madness in their eyes at this time of year.

 Sometimes it would be nice to retreat into my dreams. I had some good dreams last night, but only one really sticks out, and I can only remember the highlight of that dream. I have never had the pleasure of taking LSD, but the bit of my dream I remember almost vividly does sound like one of the reported effects of taking "acid". In this dream I was apparently testing a new radio. As I tuned about on it I came across an American preacher doing some sort of completely foaming-at-the-mouth sermon (as they tend to do). To increase the amplification of his voice in the church (or wherever) he was preaching in, he used a device that slightly changes the pitch of his voice. The change of pitch is barely noticeable, but it has the effect of reducing the effect of audio feedback, or howlaround so more amplification can be used. There was no physical evidence of him using such a device because I was just hearing this on the radio, but one effect was unmistakeable. Someone in his congregation had a cellphone that started to ring. This started some audio feedback, and the same ring tone was fed round and round the system gradually getting higher in pitch. There was also a small delay involved so there was also a sort of phasing effect. Strangely the mad preachers voice seemed unaffected, but the echoed, phased, and rising pitch of the ring tone was most delightful !

 I have been unable to a find a link to a simple explanation of pitch, or frequency shifting to stop audio feedback, but this website does have a quite technical explanation. The relevant bit says :-
"The basic idea behind a frequency shifter is that as feedback gets generated in one area of the response it eventually gets attenuated by another area. The frequency shifter continues to move the generated feedback frequency along the transfer function until it reaches a section that effectively attenuates the feedback."
Tuesday 23rd December 2008
17:54 GMT

 This evening has not been a great success (but I have had one minor success). I left work half an hour early with the aim of trying to get to Tesco a bit earlier. I had the slightly unrealistic notion that shopping in Tesco may not have been too bad if I got there half an hour earlier. Maybe it was, but I never found out. I arrived at Waterloo East station in plenty of time to get the 16:09 train. That's only 20 minutes earlier than I would usually get the train home, but the extra ten minutes was useful to have a relaxing fag outside the station.Unfortunately the 16:09 train was cancelled. That was a bit of a blow,and my mood was not improved when I went to London Bridge and found the first train to Catford was only the one that I would get from Waterloo East anyway. (There could have been a train from Cannon Street station, but maybe I just missed that one, whenever it was).

 So I arrived at Catford Bridge no earlier than on any other day. There was one minute consolation. For some unknown reason my train had first class accomodation, and I travelled in that (which was legal because the services to Hayes are not listed as having first class available). Of course it wasn't really first class in a classic sense. 5% wider seats, with a slightly different pattern on the cushion, in just an open compartment extended on from standard class does not make real first class accomodation. If the train was less packed it might have added a tiny bit of comfort, but apart from the novelty value it was no different from any other journey.

 Upon arrival in Catford I battled through the crowds (who insist in walking half a mile per hour slower than me), and made my way to Tesco. It looked crowded inside, and when I entered the store it was obvious that it was total bedlam in there. I turned around and walked straight out again. I think I am going to try for plan B in the morning, and see if I can get up in time to see what is doing in there at something like 4 am.

 One minor success tonight is to install the NX server on my server PC to enable me to write this using a virtual desktop on my laptop.

 One last thing. Smudge would like to thank Poppy for the Xmas card.

08:52 GMT

 The sky looks very grey this morning, and yet rain is not forecast for today as far as I know. It really is quite gloomy outside as I write this, but I can partly forgive the weather because it is quite mild again. We are only talking a matter of plus or minus a degree, but I think it might be milder than this time yesterday. Maybe it is the mildness, or maybe something else, but as I walked to the station I was aware that the birds were making more noise than I have noticed recently.

 I thought I was in for a quiet night, last night, but I was mistaken. Patricia had mentioned that she might drop round, but for some reason I didn't think she would. She mainly came round to pick up some clothes, but we had a nice long chat together. It was getting on for 9 pm when she left to go back to her son's "holiday flat". I expect to see more of Patricia after Xmas. Her son has just passed an interview to do a holiday job in McDonalds (poor bastard !!). So my theory is that Patricia will choose to spend a little more time back at my place, particularly if he starts to work late shifts.

 Tonight I face a minor dilemma. Should I be brave and do some shopping in Tesco on my way home from work, or should I do that shopping tomorrow morning. According to the opening hours leaflet I picked up a few weeks back, Tesco should be opening at 00:01 tomorrow morning. I think that this actually means they are staying open for 24 hours, and may have been doing so since Monday morning. It would be sort of fun to go shopping in there at, say, 4 am, but that would mean an extra early night tonight. That itself would be fine if I could be sure I would get to sleep early enough. I may attempt to do both shopping trips. I'll see how crowded and manic the store is tonight, and shop accordingly. Then perhaps I call in there again before I go to work and top up with anything I have forgotten, or feel that I need.

 There is a third option to my shopping dilemma - don't bother at all ! I think all I will need is a couple of bottles of diet cola to see me through xmas day, and I can get that from the corner shop - probably even on Xmas day itself if I need to. For food I can follow a tradition I started a few years back. I can order a gigantic takeaway of curry on Xmas eve, and have it for Xmas eve dinner, Xmas breakfast, Xmas dinner, and maybe even Xmas supper as well. The only minor problem with this is that it will leave the house a bit smelly. Now it is possible that if Patricia manages to sort out her dates, and if it turns out she is having a Xmas dinner with work friends on Xmas eve (as is apparently the tradition in some Latin cultures), she will probably drop in and see me on Xmas day itself. that would be a wonderful treat, but I don't think it will happen. I think she has been invited to Xmas dinner on Xmas day. In which case I won't be seeing her, and curry nirvana here I come !
Monday 22nd December 2008
08:47 GMT

 Considering the time of year it is a very agreeable morning - so far. There is still no bright sunshine visible, but there are plenty of blue areas visible in the sky. Sooner or later the sun will shine through one of those blue areas and the temperature will go up to the forecast 12 C. It is mild even now, and the whole of the weekend was mild too. I guess the chance of a white Xmas is now rapidly diminishing past the very unlikely point.

 I am not sure why, but I had a nice weekend. My achievements were fairly limited, but I ate well, and (on Friday night), drunk well. Yes, Friday night did involve a fair amount of booze, although not so much as to make my walk home from the pub wobbly. The four pints, and a couple of Pernod-with-soda-waters was probably just the right amount to thoroughly enjoy myself without going mad. Of course this amount, according to our puritan dictatorship, would definitely be classified as binge drinking, and was probably the recommended "dosage" for a period of 84.3 years. However I enjoyed myself, so two fingers up to them !

 On Saturday I thought about going shopping, but I chickened out. I didn't check, but I assumed that all the shops would be positively bulging with shoppers. Actually, I lied. I did go shopping - to the corner shop. That was quiet, and I bought some diet Coke, and some crisps in there. For a lot of the rest of the day I went into couch potato mode. The exception to this was when I did some experiments on a spare computer. I thought I would give Fedora 10 linux another go. I had downloaded a new copy of a live CD for someone at work, and thought I would give it a go. I had previously tried Fedora 10 but it did not work. I now realise I had downloaded the 64 bit version. I am really surprised that it didn't warn me about this when I tried to install it on a 32 bit machine. The 32 bit version did work, although I found I didn't like it that much.

 There were two things that put me off Fedora 10........no make that three things. Firstly I have difficulties with KDE 4. It all seems a bit Martian to me. Secondly there is no mp3 support without trawling through unofficial (to Fedora) web sites for alternative software sources. The last thing is that the new version of smb4k ( = Network Neighborhood in Windows) doesn't work.

 This problem with smb4k has annoyed me for some time. The version used on Fedora 10 is the same as used by Open Suse 11 on my main PC. It was just this morning that I think I cured the problem by forcing the installation of an earlier version of smb4k It certainly worked once, but then I had to rush to get my train to work. Tonight I will see if it still works OK.

 I must thank a few people for their Xmas greetings, and one other thing. Thanks to Roger and to Val for the Xmas cards. Thanks to Mike for the recent photoshopped pictures. Finally thanks to Mrs Morgan for the charming e-mail she sent me. Her letter was so wonderful that............no, actually the main thing about it is that it is the first 419 scam letter I have had for a couple of years. So I thought it worth preserving. To read it yourself, in plain text mode, click here..For a laugh try reading this, or this.
Friday 19th December 2008
08:19 GMT

 Yesterday was the closest to mild we have had for well over a month. We even had a few rays of weak sunshine. The very light, and patchy cloud in the late afternoon gave the illusion that it was lighter outside when I caught my train to go home from Earlsfield station. As far as I am aware, and unless the Earth has tilted on it's axis, the shortest day of the year is still to come. That will be on Sunday, I believe. This morning it doesn't feel to be quite as mild as yesterday morning, though there is very little in it. What does look better is the sky. There is a fair amount of blue sky visible, and sunshine is forecast for much of the day. The top temperature may be a degree cooler than yesterday at around 10 C.

 The latest news about my aches and pains is that I feel slightly worse this morning compared to yesterday, but it's not bad. As I went home yesterday I felt reasonably OK. I was as lithe as a cat............well, quite an old cat with a touch of arthritus, and there is no way, not even a chance in a million years, that I could contort myself enough to lick my own bottom - but that's a good thing. I wouldn't want to anyway !

 My good intentions of eating some grilled salmon with green salad went out of the door yesterday. As I looked in the fridge I remembered I had some black pudding in there that was probably on, or maybe even past, it's use by date. The salmon will keep for another day - just ! So I had black pudding with mashed potato. It was very tasty with some tomato and chilli sauce on it, but it may be the cause of my increased (compared to yesterday) aches and pains. However I am still taking the fish oil supplements, and they should help. Plus, in all probability, I will have plenty of time to rest my back and hip over the weekend. Perhaps by Sunday night, the night of the winter solstice, I will be well enough to dance around the sacred tree with twelve naked virgins and a sprig of mistletoe (well, I can dream, can't I ?).

 Tonight I feel I must make an effort to get to the pub for a pint or two. I don't know yet whether Kevin or Iain will be there, but as it's the last Friday night before Xmas it will be the last opportunity. Having said that, I am not keen on having a late session there, and unless something happens to change my mind I will probably want to get home around 9 pm, and into bed shortly afterwards. 
Thursday 18th December 2008
08:27 GMT

 It's nearly warm this morning. Of course "nearly" does not mean it is actually warm, but by comparison to some of the very frosty mornings that have gone before, it is not too bad. In fact, wearing my new jacket, I found I was too hot on the train coming to work. All this (comparative) warmth comes at the price of a very grey, cloudy, start to the day. Maybe the cloud will break up, and we will see some sunshine, or maybe not. I do recall from a scrap of weather forecast I heard on the radio this morning, that London can expect a temperature of 11 C today. That's not bad, not bad at all.

 My aches and pains are very much improved today. I took yesterday off work to rest my weary bones, and that, together with iboprofen, seems to have worked wonders. I still have some intermittent pain, and I am trying to avoid doing stuff like bending over, or reaching out too far. The most worrying aspect of all this is that the pain increasingly seems to be centred on my right hip joint. I am hoping it is just some inflamation caused by awkward posture (as a result of trying to stop the pain in the small of my back). The worry is that it could be something like the hip joint breaking down, but I imagine that would not happen overnight, and it would gradually build up over time. As I sit here typing I am only getting some mild discomfort in my lower back, and my hip joint feels fine.

 I woke up several times during Tuesday night/Wednesday morning due to feeling uncomfortable (I think). So I was tired when I finally got up yesterday morning, but I did feel as if there had been a tiny, miniscule, improvement in my aches and pains. Despite that improvement I decided that it might be better to stay at home and rest the sore joints. So I took some ibuprofen, turned on the heating in my bedroom, and went back to bed again. I think I slept for nearly two hours. When I woke up again I found myself feeling considerably better. In fact before I tried to get out of bed I almost felt that everything was perfect again.Of course as I got out of bed I was reminded that bits of me were still rather painful.

 I had two more sessions of laying on my bed and snoozing, and while not doing that I was mostly just relaxing on the settee. The one significant difference to that was when I popped out to do some shopping. I was out for not much longer the 20 minutes, but I was very glad to get back home again and rest my joints. Apart from the inevitable catfood I bought some stuff that I hope is helping me even now. To help lubricate my stiff joints I bought some fish oil capsules, and some oily fish. Last night I had trout with spinach and watercress salad. It actually went down quite well, and may have been beneficial in other ways too.

 Today I felt a bit sore as I walked to the station, and it was uncomfortable standing up waiting for my train to arrive. However, once on the tran, and sitting in the (too) warm carriage, my aches and pains seemed to almost evaporate until I stood up to get off the train at Waterloo East. I wasn't actually in pain as such, but I did feel very creaky. I think things have improved a bit more since then. The last bit of my commute into work, the walk from the bus to work itself, seemed really rather easy. I have been sitting at the PC for nearly an hour now and I am wondering what it will feel like when I try to stand up. Here goes.......actually it was not that bad, and by comparison with Tuesday, it was rather good. It would still be better if I felt like an 18 year old again though !

 Tonight I am going straight home as early as I can. I don't want to push my luck too far to early. I'll wait until I can wake up in the morning and get out of bed without pain before I do anything too mad. To help that along I am having more oily fish for dinner. Tonight it will be salmon. Once again I'll have it with just some green salad, but I wouldn't rule out a few cheese sandwiches (or something) being consumed at some point in the evening.
Tuesday 16th December 2008
08:22 GMT

 It's another grey dreary morning. I think it might be a degree or two warmer than yesterday morning. At least it doesn't feel quite as cool as yesterday. At least one forecast suggests that London will only reach about 6 C today, and that rain is a strong possibility for this evening, and maybe into tomorrow morning.

 My aches and pains do not seem to have diminished, and maybe they could be worse. It is difficult to tell because several factors need to be taken into account. At first I thought that my lower back , pelvic and hip ache was not so bad when I first woke up, but maybe I was just prepared for the pain and took it into consideration when doing stuff. It was still awkward to pull on my pants while standing up, but I managed to do it without resorting to sitting down first (though I did have to balance myself by pushing against the wall). I'll skirt over the difficulty of positioning my hands and body to use toilet paper and move ahead to waiting at the station for my train.

 By this time I had taken a couple of paracetamol and codiene tablets for the pain, and a couple of aspirin as an anti-inflamatory. I got to the station about ten minute early and spent five minutes propped against the wall. Walking to the station only involved a moderate amount of discomfort, and I was fairly comfortable leaning against the wall with a slightly projecting windowsill providing a little extra support for the small of my back. Everything was fine until I tried to prise myself away from the wall. It really wrenched as I stood upright, and then five minutes later, as I went to board my train it felt like I could hardly lift my foot up to the train. I can't really remember, but I think I first tried with one foot, and resorted to use the other.

 I was fortunate in being able to find a seat, and my journey to Waterloo East was done in reasonable comfort.  The rest of my commute into work was a mixture of comfort and discomfort. I often find the seats on South West Trains class 455 units are not that comfortable, and particularly so when suffering as I am. I had the fairly novel experience of getting a seat on the bus from Earlsfield to work. Normally the bus is packed to crush levels, but this morning it was relatively quiet. So here I am at work, and bits of me still hurt. I can't quite decide if it is more comfortable sitting down or standing up. What I do know is that the transition between the two can be painful unless I take care.

 Now for some good news. I have discovered that a new WiFi hotspot seems to be available at Waterloo. It works best when high up on the walkway connecting the mainline station to Waterloo East. I have no idea who runs it, but it describes itself as "pathfinder-hotspot". A brief google search reveals nothing about it. I am not even sure if it is a subscription service or not. I have only used it to check my e-mail, and not used it to "surf the net". I am sure that I have heard that some of the subscription wifi services just block port 80 (used for web browsing) until you log in and send a password, and that other ports used for e-mail are actually left open. I have yet to try this on services I know to definitely be subscription only, but someday I shall. Another discovery is that there is an open wifi service receivable on the platform at Waterloo East. It is quite weak, and I have difficulty getting my Palm handheld to connect to it (it is not very sensitive compared to many full sized laptops). Last night, by finding a very small sweet spot, I was able to briefly connect with Googles mail server. 
Monday 15th December 2008
08:29 GMT

 This morning it is dry, the temperature is 4 or 5 degrees, but it's very gloomy. The sky looks to be unboroken grey. Maybe when the sun gets a little higher in the sky it may look brighter, but if I had the choice I would go back to bed again now (and not get up until spring !). Next weekend sees the winter solstice. After that the days will start getting longer again. I am all for that ! Travelling to and from work in the dark is something I always find depressing, and it takes away any incentive to do anything significant in the evening when it is already dark when I get home.

 Yesterday was a lot quieter than I thought it would be. While shopping in Tesco I bought some ingredients to make some empenadas (have I spelt that right ??). I thought they would make a nice touch for when Patricia brought her son over to see me. I had no idea what time they were due, but I thought it a good idea to get them ready by 1pm. I invented a new recipe for the filling, and although with hindsight I would have used thyme instead of sage to flavour the mince, I thought they tasted very nice. Unfortunately I was the only one to taste them. During mid-afternoon Patricia sent me a text message to say that Emi, her son, was ill, and she had sent him to bed.

 For the rest of Sunday I just relaxed. In fact I think I relaxed too much. Aided and abetted by the attrocious wet weather on Saturday, and doing nothing on Sunday has conspired to make my lower back, and right hip, stiff and painful this morning. When I first got out of bed it was very painful just to lift my left leg to put some pants on. I took some Ibuprofen to ease some of the pain, and the exercise involved in coming to work has freed things up a bit, but I am still uncomforatble even now. I hope that the pain and stiffness will continue to ease as the day progresses, but if I am still not too good I think I'll leave work half an hour early to get an earlier train home. That should guarantee that I will get a seat on the train, although there is usually no difficulty on my usual train - except that I have to take account of all the extra passengers at this time of year who will clutter up the train with all the stuff they have been buying for Xmas. Bloody shoppers !!! I bet they have huge prams too !!!!!!!!!
Sunday 14th December 2008
06:12 GMT

 The weather has swung around from dry and very cold to wet and very slightly milder. This morning it is not raining, but it does look very damp outside. It will be nice if the rain can hold off for today. Yesterday was an extemely wet and gloomy day. When it wasn't raining it was raining hard !

 On Friday we had our work Xmas party, and I didn't enjoy it. After three or four late nights I had the misfortune to wake up in the early hours of Friday morning with a stomach ache. I was awake for a good hour sorting that out. It left me feeling very tired, and, as it turned out, also feeling unsociable. For the first time, because we now have a very large kitchen/canteen room, we had the Xmas party actually at work. There was a good spread laid on, and it looked rather nice. I was quite hungry, but I decided that I would only have a few nibbles. This was partly because of my earlier stomach ache, and partly that I didn't want to feel stuffed and bloated when I travelled home. After my couple of nibbles, and two bottles of beer, I decided I would rather go and do some more work rather than socialise. I actually found it relaxing to sit down in the warm and do some more repairs.

 I have no idea what time the party may have finished, but I left work half an hour early. My timing was not that good. If I had left a bit earlier I might have been able to catch an earlier train, but I still managed to catch the 16:09 train - twenty minutes earlier than the 16:29 that I usually manage to get. That twenty minute advantage was soon used up in Tesco's, but at least I got home as early as the earliest I could on any normal day.

 Going home always gives me a pyschological lift, but on this occasion I still felt tired and grumpy. Well, maybe not grumpy exactly, but still most definitely tired, and I certainly didn't feel like exercising the option of going for a drink in the pub. So after eating some dinner, and checking things on my PC, I went to bed at a little past 7 pm. I did a little reading in bed, but I was fast asleep by 8 pm, and I only woke for a few minutes when I heard Patricia come in at around 10 pm.

 I awoke on Saturday morning a little later than usual to find that it was pouring with rain. After feeding Smudge, and checking some stuff on my PC I went back to bed for another hour. I don't think I really fell asleep, at least not properly, but it was nice to relax a bit longer. Eventually I decided that I really ought to get up and start preparing myself, and the place ready for Aleemah to visit. When I got back to my bedrfoom after showering and washing my hair, I found a text message from Aleemah saying that she felt ill, and would not be coming here. That was both a disappointment and a relief. I still didn't feel 100% even after my long sleep, but I thought that as the morning progressed I might feel better.

 I don't really know if I did feel better or not. I didn't feel the urge to go back to bed during the day, but the incessant rain and the dull leaden sky didn't bring any cheer at all. It was nice to stay in and try to ignore the outside world. I passed most of the morning in front of the TV. One thing I watched was the film "The Day The Earth Caught Fire" (not to be confused with The Day The Earth Stood Still). It was a film I have been waiting for ages to see again. My memory did not deceive me. It is an excellent film. It is part scifi, part drama, and very British ! By a curious coincidence Patricia took her son (who is in London for his [Argentinian] summer holiday) to see the new extra-hollywoodised version of "The Day The Earth Stood Still". It seems they didn't like it ! Once again Hollywood takes a classic and and totally buggers it up !!!

 During yesterday afternoon I decided it was time to install my "new", retreived from the trash, Dell Dimension 4600 PC as my everyday, internet PC. I had already prepared it it to dual boot Windows XP and Open Suse Linux 11, but I needed to copy all my data across to it, and physically swap it with the PC I had been using up to that time. It took a little time, but it all went smoothly. The only minor difficulty was copying my Firefox bookmarks. It seems that Firefox 2.x does things slightly different to Firefox 3.x. Just replacing the bookmarks.html file did not seem to work, but then I noticed a new option marked import bookmarks. That worked, but then it took a little extra time to reorganise my bookmarks in the way I prefer them. The most satisfactory bit of copying was to get some part downloaded torrent files working correctly. I wasn't sure how well that would work, but it worked perfectly. The only problem now is that there seems to be a bug in the version of Ktorrent (bit torrent client) that I am using. If I try and right click on an individual file of a multiple file download to set it's priority to "Download First" it causes ktorrent to crash. I am going to see if there is a updated package in the repositories to see if that cures the problem.

 My dinner last night was rather good. I had a small chicken in the fridge that I had bought a few days ago. Rather than just roast it I thought I would get creative. I cut the skin in a few places and rubbed in a mixture of garlic, olive oil, oregano, paprika, and terriyaki. Some more of that went inside, and I wrapped the whole thing up in foil. I slowly cooked it in the oven on a low gas for 4 hours. After that I took it out of the oven and while it rested I put in some ready prepared sweet potato with rosemary to roast. It was the most delicious dinner. The chicken just fell apart, and was moist and very, very tasty.

 I don't know what time I went to bed last night. I think it was probably just gone 10 pm, but it could have been as late as 11 pm before I was asleep. Ideally I should have gone to bed a lot earlier, but I will go back to bed and try for some more sleep once I have finished writing. I need to go to Tesco so I would prefer to be up and ready to go out at 10 am, but until then I can rest in bed for as long as I wish.

 Later today Patricia will be bringing her son over for a drink (or something). I am not exactly sure why she is doing this. Maybe it is to show him how much I have improved her room since the last time he saw it some 18 months, or so, ago. Last night she stayed over at his place, but I think she will be back tonight. Maybe it will be a good idea if I can get some more sleep this morning in case she keeps me up tonight discussing world events (or something).
Thursday 11th December 2008
08:42 GMT

 This mornings weather is a bit of a mixed bag. There was no frost this morning despite the sky being fairly clear last night, and it seeming to get extremely cold, very fast, when the sun went down last night. There may have been a few hints that rain fell over Catford sometime during the night, but there was no sign of rain when I left home to go to the station. When I arrived at Earlsfield it looked like there had been a very recent downpour. Now the sky has a lot of broken white cloud with plenty of blue showing through. Potentially it could be a sunny morning, but still rather on the cool side (especially when I leave my nice warm room to go outside for a fag - Brrrrrrrrrrr !).

 Last night I did meet Aleemah after work despite her not finishing work until 4.45 pm - or three quarters of an hour after I officially finish myself. It made for a very long day. I had got into work nearly half an hour early, and then stayed on for an extra half hour. That's an hours unpaid overtime, but I will get my "revenge". Tomorrow is our Xmas luncheon here at work. We are not going out for a proper Xmas dinner this year, but just having a buffet here at work. My "revenge" will probably be to slip away early if nothing much is happening during the afternoon..

 After traversing the mean, dark, back streets of Earlsfield I met Aleemah outside her workplace and escorted her to the bright lights of the high street (???). I showed her where I buy my diet coke and spicy dried sausage, where several cash machines are located, another shop that has a reasonable range of sandwiches and rolls, and then we popped into the Halfway House - a typical ultra expensive Youngs pub. I don't know why it was so expensive, I am sure that a pint of Kronenberg and an Orange and Mango soft drink would be way less than 6.30 in a Weatherspoons pub.

 After our one single drink in the pub I showed Aleemah the seconhand bookshop that is next to the station, and then I introduced her to the triple flight of stairs up to the platform that I hate so much. At the top of that goddam (as the yanks would say) staircase we waited on the platform for all of 17 seconds for the train to Waterloo. At Waterloo Aleemah dived down to get the Northern line while I rushed over to Waterloo to catch the 18:01 train back to Catford Bridge.

 Tonight I intend to leave work in plenty of time to get my early train home. Once home I am going to have some dinner, and I will attempt to get to bed very early. I did manage to get to bed shortly after 8.30 pm, but then I stayed awake reading until about a quarter past nine. I thought that after suffering from lack of sleep yesterday (I actually fell asleep at my desk during the morning) I would sleep really well last night, but no. I woke up half an hour early again this morning. I don't think I feel quite so tired as yesterday, but I am definitely looking forward to my bed tonight.
Wednesday 10th December 2008
08:02 GMT

 The temperature this morning is probably similar to yesterday. I haven't checked, but it's probably around 3 - 4 C. So far it has stayed dry, but the sky is getting quite cloudy, and it almost looks as if daybreak has gone into reverse. Maybe we will see some rain today.

 I didn't feel as bad this morning as I expected to, however all is not that good. I was late getting to sleep last night, and for some bizarre reason I woke up half an hour early. I think I might have got between 5 and 6 hours of sleep last night, and that is not enough. So I am feeling sleepy with a mild headache already, and there is still another eight hours to go before I can go home again.

 One good thing about this morning is that I had the chance to try out my new coat properly. It did work at keeping me quite warm, and I didn't even need to do the front up to achieve that. To my surprise I didn't melt after getting on a warm train, but I did get the early train, and had a seat to myself without being crushed in. I certainly didn't melt when I got on the train at Waterloo. That train, or more specifically the carriage I was in, had no heating.

 Tonight I may be going home later than usual despite my desire to go home to bed. Aleemah, who has just started a new job (same employer, different department) is visiting their records office today. Her normal office is deep in the heart of London, but the records office (or whatever they call it) is out here in the suburbs. In fact it is as little as a third of a mile, or less, from where I am now. So unless she finishes a lot later than me we are going to meet to get the train back to Waterloo together. It might involve a quick drink as well, but probably not.
Tuesday 9th December 2008
16:05 GMT

 Today started off nice and bright, but rather cool. (I have been taken to task over the word "cold" by my friend Mike, in Canada where, at -20 C, it is actually COLD). I think the day started with a rather heavenly (in Canada !) 3 C. Since then it might have risen to a positively warm (in Canada) 7 or 8 C, but in the last hour there have been a couple of brief splashes of rain.

 I have done a minimum amount of housework both today and yesterday. Yesterday it was to hoover the front hall and living room. I also selectively dusted, and polished, bits of the front room too. Today I have just finished washing about half of the kitchen floor. The other half, a lot of which is around the cooker, may need pnuematic drills rather than Flash Liquid (Mr Clean, internationally) to come clean, and will have to wait until another day. After typing that full stop I went and had a look at my handiwork. While the floor was wet I was not sure if I had just been pushing the mud around. Now it's mostly dried out I can see it has made an improvement. Perhaps I will have to bring forward the day when I tackle the other half of the kitchen.

 As I reported yesterday morning, I didn't go out at all on Sunday. I made up for that yesterday by going out twice. Admittedly it was only two shopping trips, but my original plan was just to make one trip. I started off going to Peacocks where I hoped to be able to buy a couple of their cheap and nasty belts (there being nowehere local who sell any decent leather belts). I found a couple of belts and paid for them. As I was leaving the shop my eyes caught sight of some reasonable looking jackets, and I noticed one of them was an extra large. So I slipped off my jacket and tried it on. The arms were an inch longer than I might have desired, but it did fit rather well. It was made of a grey fabric and styled slightly similar to a denim jacket (in the most vague ever terms), and had a padded lining. Before then I didn't really have a warm winter jacket, but at only 16, I have now.  After buying it I went home via the 99p shop where I picked up some other stuff stuff. I still needed to go to Tesco and I thought it would the ideal time to try my new jacket. It is indeed very warm. By the time I had finished shopping in Tesco, and lugged 4 heavy bags home, I was sweating ! Maybe it is a bit too well insulated for lugging heavy stuff around, but I thinking it will be useful for standing around on draughty railway station platforms in the early hours of the morning (although I will probably melt if the train is too hot when I get on it).

 After my little shopping frenzy I settled down to watch some videos, have a snooze, do some reading, do my hoovering, and cooking dinner for Patricia (although not in that exact order). At some point I also did some laundry. I went shopping again today because I could not carry all I needed yesterday. A four pack of kitchen towel is very light, but it fills one carrier bag by itself ! I also got a bag of cat litter because Smudge has become quite reluctant to go out in the cold and the rain. - although she does 9 out of 10 times. That one other time, usually when she has refused to go out in the morning, happens while I am at work. It is not always a nice present to come home to ! Fortunately one bag of cat litter seems to last Smudge many months - a complete contrast to Nelly's last few months of life when I was getting through a bag a week as her digestive system finally collapsed.

 Tomorrow I am back at work. It will be a bit of a shock to the system for me and to Patricia. For the last few days she has been treated to breakfast (coffee and jaffa cakes) in bed. Tomorrow she will have to come down to a cold kitchen and make her own coffee. As for me, well when I went out this morning I felt stiff and uncomfortable on the way to Tesco. Once I had done my shopping in the warm, and the walk there had straightened the kinks out of my body I felt fine, and the walk back was almost, but not really, pleasant. Tomorrow I will probably feel just as stiff and creaky, but I will also be carrying the psychological weight of my long commute into work. It's not going to be pleasant, but I'll make it somehow.
Monday 8th December 2008
05:01 GMT

 Both Saturday and Sunday started with a thick frost, but this morning it seems to be a degree or two higher than freezing point. It's still bloody cold though ! Apart from that early morning frost, the weekend was dry, and for the most part, bright and sunny. I fear today will not be quite so sunny, but I think it might stay dry. It will be tomorrow when we get some rain again, or at least that was the forecast I saw a day or tow ago.

 It's been a good weekend. On Friday night Patricia turned up with her suitcase, and is now staying here for the time being. It is nice having someone else around the house. My only complaint is that recent events in Patricia's life conspired to dull her appetite. So I didn't get much of a chance to show off my culinary skills.

 Apart from interacting with Patricia I also did a bit of computer stuff. I finally got around to firing up my "new" Dell PC. This was the PC that I had found dumped next to the skip at work. On Saturday I installed a 500 GB SATA hard drive in it, and also a 320 GB PATA hard drive. The 320 GB disk was one that I used to have as an external USB drive for backing up some of my movies. The USB connector on the box it was in became intermittent and I thought I may as well permanently attach it to one of my machines. The only trouble with this is that Windows insisted on seeing it as athe C:\ drive. That means the Windows partition I made resides on the E:\ drive. Well, it's a bit non standard, but it works OK.

 The Dell's 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and the SATA hard disk make it my fastest PC ever, and it certainly does feel quite nippy. Of course that is only with a new installation of Windows. If I were to continue to use Windows it would still slow down like any Windows installation does. That is why I only allocated 20% of the SATA hard disk to Windows. The rest of the disk now has Linux installed on it.

 I did the Linux installation yesterday. I wanted to try the brand new, and highly praised, Fedora 10 Linux distro. I tried it but I could not get very far in the installation process. It is the same problem I had when trying to install various flavours of Linux on my laptop. Both the laptop, and the Dell, have "on board" graphic chips made by Intel. For some bizzare reason both Fedora and Mandriva Linux can't seem to generate a graphical display during the installation process when faced with an Intel graphics chip. It may well have been possible to do a text only install, but I couldn't be bothered. After facing a black screen before the installation had really got underway I rebooted and tried my Open Suse 11 install disk. Like on the laptop, that worked just fine.

 It took the best part of yesterday afternoon to get Open Suse installed and customised to my liking. It is all running sweetly now. Once I have finished a rather large bit torrent download on the computer I am using right now, I will copy across all my data to the Dell machine, and that will become my general purpose, everyday PC. According to Ktorrent, the bit torrent client I am using, that will not be for another 4 days and 19 hours. Hopefully it will be a little quicker than that.

 Today (and tomorrow) I am using up the last couple of days of my holiday entitlement. So no commuting this morning, nor tomorrow. Whoopee ! I have no particular plans for today, but I have an idea of how the morning will go. In about 90 minutes I will take a cup of coffee up to Patricia, and then, a little later, once she has gone off to work I think I will go back to bed for an hour or two. Later on I will go and do some shopping, but after that I have several choices. One of those choices is to do some housework. There is definitely some hoovering that needs doing, and a bit of cleaning in the kitchen could be a good idea. However I do have some reading I could do, and also a few videos I would like to watch. The lure of just being lazy is a tempting one, and how much cleaning I actually manage to do will be something I will discover after the event.
Friday 5th December 2008
08:30 GMT

 Friday has dawned bright and clear. Although it was forecast, I was quite surprised to see no frost this morning. The clear sky that greeted me as I left home to go to work seems to be clouding over a bit. It is not thick heavy cloud, but enough to wipe out the glory of the sunrise. Some showers are forecast for today, but it should, apparently, be mostly dry. Tomorrow could be quite sunny, or if the weather forecasts are wrong we could see blizzards and 15ft snowdrifts !

 Last night I raced home to buy some stuff for dinner, and to get some heating on. This was all on the presumption that Patricia would be moving in. That didn't happen, although it could well happen tonight. Once I had settled down, had some dinner, and warmed up, I continued with my work to get Patricia's laptop ready for use. The final thing was to copy her old data onto the new hard drive. Having found that the connections on the 2.5" drive were compatible with a 3.5" drive I installed the old hard drive in my external USB hard drive enclosure that has connections for a SATA hard disk. It mounted just fine when I plugged it into the laptop. Although it stuttered a few times when some parts of the hard disk needed to be read several times to get error free data, I think I managed to copy all of the old data across. It was far less painless than I thought it would be.

 I managed to get to bed quite early last night, but I did some reading in bed. Instead of getting the sleep I wanted I ended up reading until nearly 9.30 pm - thank goodness tomorrow is a Saturday and I can have a lay in. It was actually worse than just getting to sleep later than I should. I woke up 15 or 20 minutes before 1 am, and couldn't get back to sleep again for nearly an hour. So a lay in tomorrow is doubly welcome.

 Tonight, with the likelyhood of having a very sad patricia arriving, I have my doubts that I will be able to get to the pub for a beer or three. Maybe I'll just have a couple of stiff Scotchs at home, or maybe not. It won't be the same as drinking beer in the pub. 
Thursday 4th December 2008
08:33 GMT

 It is a thoroughly despicable morning. There's no frost, but the skies are coloured like dull lead, the wind is blowing, and it's raining icy cold rain drops. As I walked to the station the wind was howling up the street, and the rain almost saturated my trousers. I felt so wet I am sure it would have made little difference if I had peed in my pants. However, it is not all doom and gloom if the weather forecasters can be believed. The rain will clear up during the day, and it should be dry when home time comes around. The wet air that is blowing in from The Atlantic ocean, causing all this rain, is slightly warmer than we have experienced lately. This afternoon I could be going home in temperatures as high as 8 C (wow !). The northern part of the country, down as far as the Midlands, are having a nicer day. They are expecting, or maybe even experiencing, blizzards. It's obviously colder up there, but snow is bright, and therefore good ! Not only that, but there would be a good chance that I would have no transport to get to work, and could stay in the warm and dry all day !

 Last night I totally forgot one of the things I wanted from Tesco - shower gel ! It looks as if I should pop in there again tonight. After my shopping I had some dinner and then it was back to installing stuff on Patricia's laptop. I think I have installed just about everything now apart for a few drivers for a couple of USB accessories (which I hope Patricia had the installation CDs for). All that's left for me to do now is to copy her data back onto the laptop. I'll be doing that tonight (I think), and I have made a useful discovery that should help me accomplish that. It seems that the connections to a 2.5" SATA hard disk are identical to a 3.5" SATA hard disk. This means I can connect Patricia's old hard disk to my external USB SATA hard disk box, and drag and drop any files I can find directly without relying on copying them across the network from my dektop machine where I made an earlier backup.

 There is one slight complication to predicting exactly what I will do, or achieve tonight. In the course of writing that last paragraph I had a text message from Patricia. It seems that her relationship with her partner has broken down, and she has requested that she stay at my place. It could make for a difficult evening, but , in the short term, and maybe longer, a pleasant future.
Wednesday 3rd December 2008
08:05 GMT

 After another night of clear sky there was a thick frost again this morning. It was so cold that I even saw some ice crystals in puddles at Waterloo East station. Inner London is traditionally a degree or two warmer than the suburbs, and if ice formed at Waterloo then it was probably several degress below zero in the suburbs. The sky is still clear now, and probably clearer than at this time yesterday. So, like yesterday, there should be a good deal of sunshine today. Sadly it will not raise the air temperature by much. The high today will be similar to yesterday, and that was only around 5 C.

 It seems that London did come close to getting some snow yesterday. Blizzards are forecast in the north of the country today, but tomorrow London is forecast to just get rain. If the weather forecasters are to be believed, sunshine will return to London on Friday with temperatures reaching a heady 8 C.

 I arrived home after work last night and almost immediately started the process of fitting the new hard disk into Patricia's laptop. Once that was done I started the long and tedious process of installing Windows XP. Eventually, by almost 9.30 pm, I had Windows, piles of patches, service pack 2, all the hardware drivers, and Avast anti-virus installed. The only real problem I encountered was no sound. After a lot of headscratching I eventually discovered a manual volume control wheel. A quick rotation of that and I had sound. Then it was off to bed for a well earned sleep.

 While waiting for stuff to happen on Patricia's laptop I had a play with a new toy I bought. It was a Tenda USB WiFi adapter. I bought it at the same time as I bouht the new hard disk for Patricia, and the hard disk fro my Dell Dimension PC. It was only 8.31 from Ebuyer, and I thought it worth experimenting with. I plugged it into my PC running Kubuntu Linux, and it was recognised immediately. If only I had remembered to record it's MAC address on my WiFi point first, I would have gone from plugging the device in to being connected to my network within about 30 seconds ! What actually happened is that I sat there scratching my head for a few minutes wondering why it wouldn't connect. Once the penny dropped, and I set my WiFi point to accept the adapters MAC address, it connected almost instantly. This was yet another occasion where Linux gets things very right ! True plug and play !!

 Tonight I have to call into Tesco for, principly, catfood, but some human food would be useful too. I'll do that on my way home. After that I am torn between grabbing a pint of beer or two, or diving straight back into loading all the other applications onto Patricia's laptop. Somehow I think the laptop ought to come first. I promised Patricia she could have the laptop back on Friday, and as well as loading all the applications she needs, I have to copy all her saved files back from my desktop PC. That latter task will be time consuming, or it will if I try and do it neatly. there are about 10 GB of assorted files to copy, and it will take some time to get those across the network, and it won't be all that quicker to transfer them via DVD disks. Copying them is one thing, but I would like to try and get them filed in some sort of logical order instead of them being scattered all across "My Documents". I can see this will take up a lot of Thursday evening as well ! I really do fancy a beer tonight, but I think it will just have to wait until Friday night !
Tuesday 2nd December 2008
08:11 GMT

 There was frost on some of the cars when I left for work this morning. This was the result of clear skies overnight. Those same clear skies continue even now. We should see some sunshine once the sun rises a bit more, but over to the east, where the sun is rising, the sky looked rather red. This is the first sign that wet weather is on it's way. Snow if forecast for more northern parts of England, but by the time that weather reaches London it will probably just be icy cold rain, or maybe sleet. Even so, it all hints that a white Xmas could be a remote possibility this year - although with over three weeks to go until xmas, the weather could completely change. Maybe we will have a heatwave over the holiday period ! Meanwhile, back to today, the weather forecasts predict the highest temperatures in London will only be a chilly 6 C.

 I was nice and warm at work yesterday. Although it was irritating having to lug it into work during the rush hour, the fan heater I brought in did it's job well. As well as being warm I did get some other sort of compensation for carrying it all the way to work. (I will admit that because I got the early train it was not really rush hour, and getting a seat on the train at that time of the morning is easy). The company offered to pay for the heater, and I had brought in the receipt just in case such an offer was made. The receipt listed the shelf/tagged  price, and that is what I got back (plus 1p because no one wants to fiddle with small change - it was 7.99). However, with the temporary reduction of the VAT rate from 17.5% to 15% there was an additional line on the receipt that was ignored here, but knocked off about 20p of the price I paid. So I "earned" a whole 20p on the entire transaction (but don't tell anyone about it - shh !).

 Bringing that fan heater to work was easy compared to what I did when I went home again. I finally had the energy to lug my latest acquisition from the skip home. It was a Dell Dimesion 6400 PC.It's not a bad PC - 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 2 GB of RAM, front mounted USB sockets, Serial ATA sockets on the motherboard, and it's fairly compact, but surprisingly heavy. In fact by the time I got it home it was best decribed as bloody heavy ! Someone had had a good go at deleting lots of stuff off the hard disk. Enough to corrupt the operating system. If I could be bothered I am sure I could undelete a lot of files and find some fascinating things on the hard disk, but I don't come from Nigeria (unlike the man who emailed me this morning to try and get me to update my [non existent] Pay Pal account credentials) and I am not really interested in internet fraud.

 I think my new PC will become my everyday and internet PC. It should be sufficiently fast to do anything I need to do, and in fact is probably the fastest PC I own. I won't be bothering with the old hard drive. When I ordered the new hard drive for Patricia's laptop I also ordered a 500 GB SATA drive specifically to go in my new machine. I'll probably allocate a 100 GB partition for a Windows installation, but the rest will be for Linux. All I have to do now is decided which flavour of Linux to use. I am currently using Kubuntu in my main machine, but I recently read a rather good write up about Fedora 10. I thought Fedora 9 was pretty crappy, and it seems likely that others did too, because Fedora 10 apparently deals with several issues that caused trouble with Fedora 9. I am aware that the glowing review I read could have been written by a Fedora fanboy, but one of the great things about Linux is that most distributions are available as legally free downloads, and all it costs is a blank CD (or DVD) to burn them too. So if you don't like it you have hardly wasted any money at all. I will give Fedora another chance, and see how it feels. If I am happy I will copy all my data across to the new hard disk, and carry on. That won't be for some time though. The new hard disks should arrive today, but before I enjoy myself with Linux I have to go through the torments of a complete Windows XP install, plus all the agony of installing all the necessary supporting programs on Patricia's new laptop hard disk. That starts tonight, and will probably continue tomorrow night as well.
Monday 1st December 2008
07:54 GMT

 It might be slightly milder than yesterday morning, but it is still unpleasantly cool. It is also very cloudy. In fact the sky is just one mass of greyness. However it is not raining for the moment, but I would not be surprised if it didn't rain at some point today. Yesterday morning was brighter, and probably cooler than today. The brighness during the day varied a lot. At no time can I recall seeing any blue sky, but I did see a lot of rain, and some of it was very heavy for some brief moments. I think Saturday was mostly dry despite it being very cloudy for a lot of the time.

 Last Friday I continued to recover from my illness (whatever it was), and on Saturday morning I didn't feel too bad, or at least I didn't after a good hot shower. This was just as well because I had Aleemah visiting me. I think I took a couple of ibuprofen tablets for breakfast. I don't know whether I actually needed them, but I didn't want to feel too creaky after the effects of the hot shower wore off.

 I had a pleasant time with Aleemah, although I was not sure if I enjoyed the film she brought over. It was Moulin Rouge. Bits of it were funny, and it was amusing hearing bits of some well know pop music being mangled into something approaching opera, but overall it was not to my taste. A decent film should at least have a few of these ingredients :-
  • Robots
  • Spaceships
  • Full frontal (female) nudity
  • Time ships
  • Computers
  • Naked women
  • Slightly mad, but well intentioned scientist
  • Walnuts
  • Female assistants wearing kinky boots and revealing clothes
  • Exploding suns
  • Chicken Dansak (and poppadoms)
  • Lots of flashing lights
  • Randomly moving big tape drives
  • Woman on woman action with sex toys
Moulin Rouge did not have any of these things except lots of flashing lights, but they were just stage lights, and not on a big console with ominously marked switches and handles.

 Yesterday was a rather excellent day. On Friday night I got a text message from Patricia requesting help with her laptop. It was too late to do anything on Friday night, and although Saturday evening was a possibility, we decided that Sunday would be the best day for me to take a look at it.

 I got up at around 5 am yesterday. Just because I know it's a Sunday doesn't imply that Smudge knows its Sunday too. So I fed Smudge, checked my email, did a bit of web surfing, and once Smudge had finished eating, and been outside to do whatever she needed to do out there, I went back to bed.

 I was woken at 8.30 am by my phone signalling that a text message had arrived. It was from Patricia, and she was querying what time to ring her laptop around to my place. I texted back to suggest that anytime after I had been to Tesco at 10 am would be a good time. A further text massage arrived from Patricia saying that she could come to Tesco with me. I agreed with that, and then scrambled to have a shower and ger dressed. Patricia turned up in less than an hour, but fortunately I had done all the neccesary by then.

 After we had got some shopping in I sat down to inspect her laptop. It was certainly in a bad way. The most obvious thing was that explorer.exe, the Windows program responsible for the task bar, start button, and lots of other rather essential things, was not running properly. I tried lots of different things, but the inescapable conclusion was that the hard drive had some very bad errors, and was dying before my very eyes. One very handy thing was that Patricia's laptop knows my WiFi network, and unseen from the non existent desktop, managed to log itself in. That meant I could access a great deal of the hard disk over the network. In fact I think I could access more than I normally would have been able to. While I could, I decanted as many of Patricia's documents, pictures, etc as I could get over onto one of my PCs.

 I couldn't get access to the /Windows directory like that, but by booting from a copy of Knoppix I was able to copy explorer.exe (copied from my desktop PC) from a USB pen drive and into the laptops /Windows directory. I then tried booting into Windows again and was rewarded with a very flaky desktop. It was just good enough to schedule a hard disk check on the next boot. I had already done a disk from the command line using the Windows install DVD repair console. That hinted of lots of errors, but when I rebooted and saw disk check working in gui mode I could see the piles of files it was finding corrupted.

 So I have recovered a good deal of Patricia's data, and I have ordered a new hard drive for her. That should be here tomorrow, and then I can spend the evening doing a complete Windows install. Then I'll probably have to spend another evening installing software, and finally even more time copying Patricia's data back. Sometimes installing Windows can seem quite quick, but then there are all the updates, and all the other software that needs installing. Linux is so much easier.

 It wasn't all laptops on Sunday. For a breather we went out and plundered the 99p shop. That place is always good for wasting a bit of money on frivoulous things (like jaffa cakes and chilli flavoured potato sticks). Unfortunately I couldn't find any new LED based novelties to feed my addiction. Somehow I managed to spend 12 on stuff in there, and nearly all of it was food of the unhealthy type. Patricia managed to select some stuff for herself as well.

 After the second shopping trip I made us some dinner. It's been ages since I have had the pleasure of cooking a meal for Patricia. It was fairly simple, but a dish I knew Patricia liked. It was just some chicken drumsticks cooked in a marinade of soy sauce, terriyaki sauce, and some paprika. For some bizarre reason I forgot to add some garlic. The chicken was served with fresh tomato, some black olives, and green leaf with shredded beetroot (prepacked by Tesco). The salad had a drizzle of olive oil on it, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Patricia had a nice crusty roll with her, but I just had an extra drumstick. It was all washed down by a glass of mixed fruit cider. I thought it was pretty tasty, and Patricia seemed to agree with me.

 I think it was as late as 5 pm before Patricia left to go home. I had thoroughly enjoyed her company, and continued to try and recover more files on her laptop for another hour or two. Finally it was time for supper, and I intended to go to bed shortly after. That was until I noticed that Top gear was about to start on TV. I didn't really want to stay up until it was finished at 9 pm, but inevitably I did. So I ended up going to bed over an hour later than I thought would be a good idea, and to make matters worse I couldn't get to sleep for what seemed like ages.

 This morning I don't feel too bad. I woke up half an hour early, and feeling a bit yucky, but I managed to  get myself together to get the early train to work. I suspect that I will be feeling tired as home time approaches, but today I will be warm at work. I have brought in a fan heater that I bought for 7.99 in Poundstretcher, and that is roaring away nicely right now.