Saturday, October 31, 2009

Clever Tricks, Awesome Treats

Minor note: I'd like to dedicate this post to Lexi, who has been in my thoughts in a fond (non-romantic) way all day :-))

First things first. That is, in quasi-reverse chronological order.

Happy Halloween, to all my American buddies, who are, I believe, busy preparing for/celebrating Halloween. Getting ready to have a cool time with beer, fireworks, costumes, music, and all sorts of cool stuff.

My mephew came round earlier to show me this year's halloween costume - he went out with a cute little Frankenstein costume. With a laser sword. Odd, but you know what kids are like.

Unfortunately, I had to go into work today, so I wasn't able to go round trick or treating with the little guy. But that didn't stop me having a fantastic night.

The day was grey, and turning greyer and spooker as the minutes passed. Many families had already spent lots of effort decorating their houses with posters, spooky pictures, simulated spiderwebs, animated skeletons and the ever-present pumpkins - some of which were really well made.

In a cheerful (and slightly apprehensive, to be honest - my job is driving, and though I consider myself to be a good rider (no serious accidents in 5 years - long may it continue), the idea of riding down streets packed with kids still made me uneasy) mood, I wandered off to work, with the appropriate mood music: Tune 1, Tune 2. Just to get me into the halloween spirit :D.

Work started as being absolutely dead, but fast became jam packed with orders and demands. Eventually I ended up venturing out into the halloween night, light in all parts, by the spooky (almost) full moon, the fireworks, and oddly this year, lots of peace lanterns.

I had a moment, when I was delivering to a housing estate nearby, and I had the hugest grin on my face, what was there was fantastic. Every single house, more or less, was decorated with loads of spiderwebs, posters, etc etc, and the pumpkins there were fantastic. Behind the sound of kids clamouring from one house to the next, the happy conversation between their parents, or the ever-present "trick or treat", was the ominous and creepy and yet fantastically brilliant sound of spooky music - pre-recorded screams, evil laughs, flapping of bats' wings, creaking doors etc, played by a dozen different houses to add atmosphere to the night, which again, was punctuated by the flash and bang of fireworks, and the smell of the smoke they made.

And kids, there were. Dozens of the little guys and girls in varying costumes, most carrying cute little pumpkin-buckets for their treats, or light-up skulls, or magic wands, swords, wizard's staves, or rubber bats, all followed closely by their parents, some of whom were in costumes themselves.

I guess the sight of so many people having fun at the same time, many of those having worked to make it even more fun for everyone else, well. I haven't been that cheerful for a good long while. I must be growing up. I wasn't even joining in, and yet, just watching these folks have a good time was enough to make me feel like I was doing it myself - enjoying halloween by proxy, if you like.

And plenty of places that I went to were the same. I ended up becoming involved, with customers offering me sweets and candy in leiu of monetary tips (I made a grand total of £1.05 tonight, AND a pocket full of haribo , lollipops and chocolate buttons), or kids clamouring at my arrival (pizza scooters seem to hold a special place in the heart of young kids, don't know why. Shame that it turns to resentment or aggression as they get older, but that's another story).

For my part, I'd snaffled a few lollipops on my way out the door, and I'd surrepticiously find out whether the kids that answered the door had been out trick-or-treating.
If their mums said anything along the lines of "we've not had the time" or "we've had homework to do", a lollipop would suddenly work its way into the lil' kid's possession.

I spose I can call it my little contribution :).

Everyone was in a good mood, the atmosphere was fantastic, and as the night wore on, the adults began to have their own fun. Crowds appearing outside pubs, dressed in a variety of costumes, including one bunch who had dressed as the Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, none of them were IC3, which was a shame cos one of the Ghostbusters (Ernie Hudson/Winston Zeddemore) is.
Not to worry, the relevant "ghostbuster" ended up wandering around in full blackface. Thankfully, Harry Connick Jr. was nowhere to be seen, or he'd have got stuck in embarrasing his country on his self-righteous behalf. The jackass is no more qualified to be the spokesman of a nation than I am. Though he did point out the differences in how far political correctness has got it's teeth into the UK/US compared to Aus and other countries.

This continued for hours, even as the smoke from all the fireworks descended like a fog (as it does), gving the night air a ghostly ethereal and very appropriately spooky atmosphere, and still the partying continued - hey, it's 25 past 11 here, the partying I guess is very very much alive in the clubs, who will no doubt be hosting their own halloween parties :D.

I ended up going home, after stopping and buying some beer, walking home to the sound of fireworks, and my earlier Halloween mood music :D. The surreal image of a police van on the corner with its occupants intently talking to witches, warlocks and demons was shrugged off as nothing more than an excess of Halloween spirit on their (the partygoers) part :-).

So now I'm here with my beer, music and whatnot.


My card arrived yesterday. The bloody delivery guy woke me at 8am, and bleary-eyed I stumbled downstairs, wrapped in a bedsheet, and with my slippers on the wrong feet. And then the guy complained when I signed the wrong box on his form.
Bloody hell, I'd been asleep 60 seconds prior to this encounter!

But I had the card, and all thoughts of how tired I was went out of the window. [Skipping a load of unneccessary detail here] I very carefully inserted the card (though as it wouldn't go in without a fight, it wasn't as carefully as I would have liked), and powered the machine on.

Over a week of hopes was riding on this single piece of hardware. Over a week of swearing, shouting, feeling trapped in a room that - when my computer was running - was a room high in a tower, with windows onto the world in every wall, but had been turned into a dingy basement with nothing but bricks to look at ever since my computer went down, everything was riding on this card.

The bios flickered on the screen, artefact-free.
Replaced by a windows login screen.
In 1680x1050.

ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGH!!!!!!!!!! It works!!!
And it continues to work!

Within ten minutes, my sound drivers were installed, and I was back on the internet.

Good progress, and I accomplished in twenty minutes, with the right knowledge (anyone detect a pattern here) what I had failed to accomplish in ten days of trial and error.
So sue me. I'm not bloody psychic.

So what have I gained from ten days of swearing, shouting and generally feeling as if (a fairly major) part of my world had been turned upside-down?

I've gained 276mb of graphics memory - upgrading from 620 to 896mb.
I've gained 140gb of hard drive space, having fitted an IDE drive for the sole purpose of installing an OS on.
I've spent nearly £160.

But. My computer's ever only failed on me completely, once. And if £160 keeps it going for another two years, I'll consider it a small price to pay.

My documents are safe, everything is there. The drive is intact, and my memories are there waiting for me to dust them off again.

What else.

My nephew's lil christmas present turned up the same day my computer died. It seems to do its job surprisingly well. The interface is a bit jaggy, and it's impossible to convert videos to run on it, but hopefully I'll figure it out between now and Christmas.

FINALLY, I am celebrating (a few days late!) NASA's successful launch of Ares I-X. I firmly believed that it was going to be today, as it happens, they cheated and launched it a couple of days ago. Either way, the launch was a good success, which is pretty good. So ehy, let's get the beer in :D.

Here are some tunes for you to listen to. They're quite cheerful and quite nice.

Looks like American 80's music - it's not ;)
Rings a few twenty-year old bells.

Here are some sparkly pictures, in no particular order, that all have some degree of relevance to recent blog posts.

One of them is the wheel in Hyde Park, London. Another is the wheel in Sheffield. See the resemblance? ;-)

EDIT: 03:15AM My mom appeared through my door for the first time in over a week, with a big grin on her face.
To my pleasant surprise, she told me that it is good to hear my tica-taka-tacking on my keyboard again.
Yeah I guess I was a little silent while my computer was dead.

Still, it's nice to have people say nice things about you for a change :-).

And here finally, is a lovely Halloween tune for you.
And Another.

And finally who can forget the man himself!!!

Another episode!! :-D.

Only for the kids, these days!!! :-D.


Not scary, as such, but magical all the same :).

Awesome :D.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The light at the end of the tunnel...

Is not apparently to be found anywhere on my new graphics card.
For some reason, they didn't put one on it. What they did put on it, was 1.4 billion transistors, 216 processor cores, and 896mb of graphics memory.


Well, I've made some progress with my computer, as you may have guessed. The SATA hard drives simply wouldn't talk to the BIOS, so I've taken them out, temporarily replacing them with an old 140Gb IDE drive from my old computer. See, this is why you should keep stuff around.

So I've now got an operating system, and a file/directory structure. My computer is now capable of saving files, accessing them, and moving them around. It can also run some programs, system stability permitting.
It sounds incredibly basic, but a few days ago, it wouldn't even try to load any files, or programs. Unable to see a hard drive, the computer just caught itself in an endless loop, POSTing again and again.

So where does my GPU come into all this?

Well, it seems that the system instability is caused... bla bla bla - I tried to explain what was wrong before realising that I still actually don't quite know.

My current graphics card is not happy, and it certainly isn't fully functional. With artefacts appearing all over the screen, the indicators point to it being physically damaged, whether by overcurrent, static discharge or other factors.
Windows, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that the device wasn't working at full spec, and has therefore disabled it completely (eh?), resulting in knock-on effects that seem to indicate that my monitor can't talk to my computer, because its only contact with the computer is a damaged piece of hardware.


Regardless of all the above stuff, I've ordered a replacement for my card, and hopefully it should be with me tomorrow. Hopefully it will fix the problem, and hopefully, after getting my computer working again tomorrow, I can spend saturday morning setting it up, copying my old files back to it, and spend saturday night having a beer or ten, listening to music, reading the news, watching TV Shack, chatting with my mates etc etc, on my own computer, for the first time in over a week.

So, what else have I been up to? Well, yesterday I went to town with my mum to look at Christmas presents. While admittedly, my computery problems have taken the edge off my enthusiasm for Christmas slightly, I'm sure this is only temporary, and indeed, we had a nice time yesterday browsing round the shops, looking at all sorts of lovely Christmas gifts I'm looking forward to buying - despite my budgetary problems - in the next 4-6 weeks.

Sheffield's skyline has changed since I last ventured there, with the addition of a huge wheel . Quite a familiar one too. In fact, if you compare the pictures (I'll upload yesterday's sometime when I've got my computer working again), you'll see that the wheel that now sits in Sheffield, is identical to the wheel that we saw in Hyde Park in London, last winter (EDIT: 19:18. The wheel is in fact identical to the wheel that sits in Hyde Park - it's owned by the same company and presumably is made to the same design as the other wheels owned by the company, which stand in several cities including Perth, Copenhagen and Ostsee-Reise. Amusingly, the wheel that I saw in operation in Hyde Park last december, is apparently due to open December 2009, according to the website - maybe they move it there every winter - sounds like a lot of work to me)!

So, all that aside, I guess I'll get on with tidying up, my room has suffered a bit, becoming filled with cables and all sorts of clothes and whatnot, so I guess it's time to fix it.

Oh well, off I go :-).

PS: We're going to do the Christmas Pudding tonight, so let's see if I can shoot some of my first Christmas 2009 videos tonight :-).

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Ballcocks...

Well, what to say.
My system is still crippled, I'm making (very!) slow headway, eliminating the problems that can reasonably be eliminated (Without having a whole extra computer to test things out on!) as time goes on.

Unfortunately, things haven't progressed as quickly as I'd like, and my awesome machine is still down for the count. My documents appear to be safe [grabs a load of chipboard - it'll have to do] but the system is still very opposed to the idea of running anything other than the command prompt.

Still, the more time passes, the closer it is until I get my system working again, I guess.

Meh, still not good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well, the upgrade to the new OS didn't go as planned.

After sorting my display issues I spent some time installing some new software.
After a short but interminable time, my sister came to pick me up.

Yep, my lil nephew, in his quest to get his very own Karate suit, has decided to start Karate club. Cool, by the time he's my age, he'll be a black belt in kicking ass.

So I went along, took the little MP3 player WHICH ARRIVED TODAY (more when my computer isn't crippled) to show my sister, and off we went, sitting about while my nephew practiced being a superhero/did karate.

When I got back I took a few awesome photos, my nephew's first day in his new Karate Suit.
Unfortunately, the dreaded graphics problem reappeared, and even two frantic hours with a mate, screwing about with drivers and whatnot didn't fix the issue.
Just as I was about to reformat, the computer suddenly started again, perfectly, and smiling sweetly (again), my computer ushered me into 1680x1050 goodness.

Unfortunately this was short lived. Less than half an hour after settling in for a good night's internetting, my display suddenly turned into striped bars of random colour, and the computer restarted itself. And when it did, the crippled graphics were back.

I've since reformatted, reinstalled new drivers, it doesn't make a difference.
I was horrified to think (and convinced at one point) that my Graphics Card had given up the ghost, but now I'm not so sure.

Seems this OS is having teething problems, the same as all other new OSes do.

Shame that it's not likely to be sorted out in the near future.

Still, if my computer dies, it'd give me 8 hours extra per day to just live my life.
But I hope it doesn't. I've got things to do, yeah?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Welcome to the 90s!

Okay, so having done a lot of stuff last night, reformatting and whatnot, I've learned a couple of things.
  • Just because an OS installs to F:\ doesn't mean that there aren't important files on C:\ that shouldn't be thrown in the recycle bin...
  • If you turn something off and on again enough times, things generally fix themselves. This may have been a secondary factor.
  • 16 (or whatever) million colours at 1680x1050 is something that only happens when your equipment is working properly.

I woke up eager to carry on with reinstalling everything, only to be met with the horrific vision of a 16 colour login screen. Confirming my worst fears, I logged in to be met with a 1990s 16 colour world, where not only was everything not displayed properly, but it was not displayed properly, in 640x480 16 colour. A scary vision, for a dude with an 8800GTS card humming away in his computer.

What did I do to fix it? I don't know. I reinstalled my GPU Drivers (which I've just noticed, with a sly laugh) have installed themselves to C:\Nvidia (one of the directories I deleted yesterday!) and restarted my computer. No better, still 16 colours. So I tried to download new monitor drivers, and instead almost ended up downloading some russian hacker's "automatic driver wizard" whatever program. I think I cancelled the install - difficult when the cancel button was displayed as a white button with white text on a white background, and shut down in disgust.

I did a full cold boot (from shutdown) and for some reason, the computer - I swear if computers could smile sweetly, this one did - booted up in full 1680x1050 glory.

So the answers to my new questions are:

  • With the OS on F:\, are the files on C:\ redundant and un-needed?: No, absolutely not. For some reason, my computer now wants to spread its important files across two partitions.
  • Is it irresponsible to delete things if you don't know what they do?: That depends. On the face of it, of course it bloody is. However, I was going to reformat the entire physical disk (but to my shame, still haven't found out how to do it!) so I figured that any and all files were ultimately redundant.
  • What are you going to do now: I'm going to cut my losses and stop fecking around. My system is now working properly *grabs hold of the nearest wooden object* so I'm going to leave all the important stuff as it is.

And eventually, when my bloody nephew's bloody parcel actually finally turns up, I'm going to crack on with getting that sorted for him. Assuming it doesn't actually get delivered on Christmas Day. Now that would be ironic.

In a really crappy way.

Have fun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Early Bird... Well, 7:40ish

is currently sat on a TV antenna across the street, preening himself and bobbing his tail around like some kind of rear-mounted magic wand. I wonder if, like Dogbert, he signals at things by pointing to them with his tail...

As Dracula (portrayed by Leslie Nielsen) would say, "I cannot be up during the daytime, what is happening".

Yes, having happily gone to bed at 4am, with a predicted midday rise (day off), I was mildly (!) annoyed to be shouted to get up at 6:20am. And so, with that horrible dizzy/slightly nauseous/weak/gritty eyes feeling you get from prematurely interrupting a sleep cycle, I wandered downstairs to grab my tools, to assist my dad in retrieving the snapped-off end of his office key, from inside his office lock.

A bit of finesse (which is difficult when there's a domestic dispute going on right next to you; "taking a cold-bore shot in the heat of combat, is like a surgeon performing open-heart surgery, with a boxing match raging around him" - Richard Macowicz - Tehehe) later, and with the right tools, I managed to do in 2 minutes what ahem, other people, with the wrong tools, had not managed to do in 20.

So a bit of sodding around later, and that little drama was sorted, leaving me wide awake (ish), with the sun making its way above the horizon. The only sound was the traffic on the nearby motorway, over which my mind helpfully played a rather "quiet sunrise-y" tune (my god, what is going on with that woman's hair!!!) :-).

I must admit to feeling very slightly schitzophrenic at times (no not really! But you get what I mean) - My mind seems to be a helpful counterpart, with tis own opinions and whatnot. It's great being able to solicit advice from yourself. But hey, I guess everyone does that. I hope :-).

So now I'm up, I'm going to spend a little while sodding about with my computer and whatnot, preparing for in depth (but vaguely routine) maintenance.

Perhaps I shouldn't have drunk the cup of coffee my mum left as she toddled off out of the door.
One thing I did notice though, Christmas seems to be in full flow on QVC - Today is "craft day special" or something, and is filled with various christmassy things...

I've got to go now, got to sod about with computery things. I'm going to go back to bed later I guess (hard to go back to bed earlier!), and with some luck the doorbell will wake me as the postman delivers my long awaited parcel.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Gingerbread Men!

17:00: Well, my sister is over here, with her mobile hairdresser due to arrive shortly (for some reason, presumably so my mum can get her hair done at the same time), and my ickle nephew has turned up too.

And we've certainly got a lot to get through. He wants to make ickle halloween gingerbread men with me (he's pounding up the stairs at this very moment), wants to write his christmas list, and I'm gonna take him through ebay to see if there's anything he fancies for christmas :).

Back later!

18:32: We've been making biscuits for about 90 minutes, and now I'm helping the little guy write his name in sprinkles on one of them :D. Much finesse is required :D.
19:20: Despite finding out that the little dude has toddled off with the (brand new) aerial for my r/c helicopter remote control (which I am none too happy about but hey, I'm not gonna sulk about it) the little dude and I are now surfing ebay for Xmas pressie ideas :).

22:14: Right, give me some time to fix everything he's broken, tidy everything he's messed up, and generally wind down and take a deep breath and I'll be with you/me :-).

23:04: Right, everything's just about back to normal. The Demeter, my huge lego spaceship that I built for him, once suffering from a shattered forward hull has now been repaired. The wings have been completely rebuilt too since they were a little fiddly after weeks of repeated repairs :-).

Well, he turned up bearing ghost cookies (gingerbread men in the shape of flying ghosts), and for 90 minutes or so, we (he decorated them while I eventually got on with the washing up) had a great time decorating them, first with the bits included with the kit, then with a pack of marshmallows I found, and finally with some strawberry icing that I made, which despite having the consistency of silly putty and the musty cloyingly sweet taste that only pure icing sugar can provide, was described as "very nice" after I liberally spiked it with red food colouring and strawberry flavouring.

My ickle nephew of course, spent more time eating the icing than he did decorating the cookies, but in the end, we ended up with five yummy halloween cookies, including one which rather impressively bore his name, thanks to some finesse with some sprinkles and a pair of tweezers.

After the cookies were finished, (and I temporarily removed my watched items, including some presents from "my ebay"), the little dude and I went online searching for christmas presents that he might like. I guess no one will be surprised to hear that the little guy wanted this, that, those, these, some of them, and everything in between, but I was pleasantly reassured when he told me (without any prompting) that he wanted an ipod.

Now normally anyone buying presents would be horrified by this, as they're not the cheapest of things, but I noticed how much the little guy liked watching dilbert on my ipod, and had decided to get him something similar (but much cheaper) to watch videos on, for himself. I settled for a cheap chinese knockoff for several reasons to do with cost of purchase/possible replacement, and the convenient fact that at 5, until I explained it to him, he didn't know the difference between an Ipod and a phone, much less between an ipod and an ipod ripoff cunningly designed to look like an ipod. Hey if that sounds callous, look at it this way. I can put the £50 or maybe £60 that I've saved by getting one of those "works just like" chinese ones that I've been so careful to avoid in the past, that I can put that money now towards buying him something lese that he wants as well. If I'd have gone genuine, it would have been either or :-).

So we had a nice time, browsing lots of present shops online, looking at things it'd be nice to buy etc, while the little guy happily sang along with some of the christmas songs I'd put on to get him in the mood. It was nice, even if the lil guy did get hyper every now and then.
Enough about this I suppose, I'll let you get on with whatever you were getting on with. But first, some pictures :-).

Monday, October 05, 2009

October... complete with extra wildlife.

I woke up to the most homely smell, that of vegetables cooking downstairs. It puts me in mind of winter days, where the kitchen is the warmest room in the house, where the cold outside makes the windows steam up, and where Christmas is only a few weeks away. It's a nice smell, and it's making me hungry.

20:02: Well, after a lovely meal of gammon with vegetables, roast potatoes, onion sauce and gravy, I'm now looking forward to my yummy fruit trifle. Yay!

I've been doing more bouncing around ebay looking for cool pressies to buy people, and I've found a couple of interesting things. More about these later in the year I suppose.

So what else have I been up to? Bugger all really :-).

But I did have the strangest experience a couple of days ago.

Walking home from work on saturday, about 11pm, I'm there eating pizza and minding my own business, and I'm walking up the road, on the other side of which is a small square field, with a huge tree in the middle of it.

Under the tree I notice something watching me intently. Initially I think it's a cat, but as it wanders towards me, I can see by its tail that it's not. As I cross to the other side of the road The road was well lit with street lights, with just a narrow line of shadow cast by a telegraph (I guess they're called utility poles these days) pole.

The animal, stops in its tracks, pausing for a second, before (and I think this is fantastic) walking in a straight line following this 30cm wide shadow almost the way to me, on the basis that if he stays in the shadow, maybe I won't see him.

I'm amazed - it's the first time I've ever ever seen a fox - for that's what he is - up this close. They're normally pretty timid creatures, and I've only ever seen them before as a flash of tail as they run into the trees, or as a reflection of light in their eyes, just before they run off, but this guy is being bold as brass, slinking along furtively, but intentley, towards me :-).

I'm stood about watching the fox skulk around and I wonder if I can have a closer look at him. I think to myself;

"What do foxes eat?"
"But what do they like to eat"

So I grab some ham and pork off my pizza and gently so as not to startle the animal, place it on the ground, taking a few steps back. This guy furtively looks around, takesa a few steps towards it, has another quick glance, sniffs the meat and starts eating. All this maybe 3 or 4 meters from me!

I repeat this another couple of times, as the fox starts following me around. Eventually, he decides to wander across the road, and with a quick and final flash of his tail, he disappears over and behind a wall into somebody's garden :-).

what a beautiful creature though, and a completely weird experience.

Not my photo. I wish I had my camera with me, but I'm not going to carry it about on the off chance that I find something to take pictures of while I'm out and about.

Well, I'm gonna carry on searching for xmas presents and whatnot, so I guess I'll be in touch soon .

Have fun.