Saturday, December 31, 2011

Well well, Christmas In Review (sort of)...

Yeah I noticed that my Christmas entries were a bit sparse, and didn't really emphasise how nice it was to be able to get together and spend time with everyone, in a spirit of cheerfulness and Christmassy whatnot.

I'd have to say that the highlight of my year, this year, was our trip to London, where we spent ages and ages wandering around an awesome christmas market, seeing the talking moose (which my brother and wife (his not mine)) did actually see (!) and browsing wonderful Christmassy stalls.

We'd not been back 8 hours before we were up again, on our way to Gainsborough as always, and that was nice too.
At our traditional Christmas Eve food shopping, I had to go back to the car to fetch the forgotten shopping list, and took my ickle nephew with me. As a result, we more or less ended up split into two parties each doing our own seperate shopping, but we got back together in time to pay.

Christmas day itself was great fun, and though I didn't get a single thing on my Christmas list (I did write one, and indeed left it on the fridge for 6 weeks beforehand), I was only mildly annoyed, becuase I got lots of other cool stuff.

More importantly, everyone seemed to like the presents that I got them, which always brings a smile to my face :-).

Christmas dinner was great, tasty, yummy, and though I took ages, I actually ate every single thing.

Boxing day was another fun occasion, with almost everyone coming round to share in our awesome little banquetty buffet thingie which we have, and again it was nice to get together as a family.

I can't remember too much of the two or three days after that. A few days ago I made some nachos with the awesome nacho dish thing that my brother and wife (his not mine) got me. With it, I bought some beer. After the beer ran out, I started on the Mead.

Awesome nachos, nice cold beer, tasty mead, awesome Skyrim (there is no other kind), and awesome music (that fits quite well with Skyrim, and has almost become its surrogate soundtrack), well that sounds like my idea of a good night in. Which is awesome really because it's exactly the night in that I had.

I'll do it again soon. This time round I'll be able to get into the spirit of things a little more authentically hehe (Image is not my property but I'm stealing it anyway because it hasn't arrived yet).
All I need now is a few steel ingots placed around my room, some wolf pelts on my bed, and I'll be all set.

So yeah, that's about it. I've got to reinstall everything on my PC because my awesome shiny solid state drive, having spent too much time hanging around on street corners with dysfunctional Xboxes, is now in the habit of giving me the shiny orange finger, a surefire signal that something is not quite right.
At least I managed to pull my Skyrim saves onto another drive before the SSD went skyward. I would have been annoyed had I had to restart.

That said, I will probably have to restart again anyway. It's a continuing source of consternation/mirth, depending on how seriously you take your gaming, the first thing each patch for Skyrim does, is to fix the damage the last one caused.
Seriously, one game patch made the dragons fly backwards. No, the video is not playing in reverse, the waterfalls are flowing the right way. See?
I can't watch that video without giggling. In the game, dragons are bad news, no matter how long you've been playing, but they look slightly silly wobbling around in a rearward fashion.

This bug is even more awesome.

But hey, tomorrow, today in fact, is going to be fun. 5 hours of absolute crazyness, wobbling around on my pizza scoot, swerving to avoid drunken idiots in the street, getting silly string squirted at me, etc etc etc. Fortunately, I'm back in time to celebrate the new year with my family.
Can't do much drinking though, I'm back out tomorrow night. Then I've got my semester 3 exam on wednesday. It's all happening! Yikes!

But, once it's done, I shall get some more yummy mead, make more awesome nachos, buy extra awesome beer, and have another big lad's (singular) night in. Woo!

Oh well, I'm off to relax and suchlike. I've been studying most of the night :-\.
Have fun!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day - Yay!

Well, Up nice and early - ish (8am) - , after not being able to sleep particularly well, and now I'm tired, cold, and looking forward to a nice cup of tea and some fun laying all the presents out :-). Let's get it done hehe.

I think that may be the name of a voyager episode...

Yep, all the presents are unwrapped, I got some shiny cool stuff, plenty of cool new clothes, not a bad day so far really. I've got a couple of things that I'm now going to be able to pick up for myself in the january sales, not the least of which are the skyrim soundtrack, the skyrim game guide, and an awesome drinking horn.

Everyone seemed to like the presents I gave them, and so far, the day has passed off without any arguing or shouting. Cool stuff :-).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve

Prologue-y Bit: 23:47, on the 23rd...

Well, I'm sat here with my lovely cold 660ml bottle of Stella and my two lovely (too hot) pepper steak slices. The camera battery is on charge, and early tomorrow morning we're off to the supermarket-that-looks-like-a-castle, for our traditional and lovely Christmas Eve shop :-).

I must remember to get some more Mead :-).

So yeah, I've finished for work for this year (apart from 5 hours on new year's eve) so now there's just college, and christmas to concentrate on. Yay!

More to follow. I'm going to finish my supper and have a nap before I do anything else :-).

06:20, Christmas Eve:

Yikes it's cold. Not cold enough to snow obviously, because that sort of thing only happens to people who don't want snow.
But hey, I'm up now, a little bleary eyed, sure, but it'll be nice to go Xmas food shopping again :-).

09:06: Shopping Done...

Well, we've just this minute returned from the supermarket-that-looks-like-a-castle, and we've not had a bad time. I found my yummy mead and bought two bottles, plus some japanese lager and some Hoegaarden which is very nice at Christmas time. I bought another Chocolate Orange because it is the law that you have to have these at Christmas, and I got the ickle guy some Buenos, one of which he kindly gave to the cashier at the checkout :-).

Now I suspect I have tidying up and things to do. Yay, Christmas!

12:06: More Stuff...

Oooh, exactly three hours since last I wrote. Spooky. Well, the christmas cards are delivered, the new neighbours are identified, the rooms have been cleaned, my mead has been photographed, and now I'm in the process of tidying my room so I can have a bit of a nap later on :-).
I might bring forward that nap actually, I'm super sleepy.

16:39: Nap! And Santa!

Well, I eventually had a small nap, despite the best efforts of the dog which would not shut up. I've just been woken up by my cute ickle nephew, and we're going to see santa in 10 minutes, on his van :-).
Aaaand, we're back. I have a very poor quality picture of Santa and his (this year) Land Rover driven sleigh :-). I think the Elves get together each december and buy him a new car as a christmas present.
Yikes, it's become very windy, and pretty cold too. But hey, it's shaping up quite well so far :-).
PS: Wow, my mum's quiches are amazing, as always!

Well Then (23:22)...

Well, nearly time for bed. I've brought all my pressies down to be collected by father christmas so that they can be delivered in the morning (;)), and I'm sitting about with some lovely mead, waiting for the opportunity to finish clearing stuff out of the dining room, so that my services are no longer required and I can retire to bed :-).

Or retire to my lovely mead and ale, it seems. Buying mead is always a gamble because everyone has a different idea of what it should taste like. You never really know what you're going to get.

Fortunately, this Harvest Gold stuff is quite nice, if a little bitter in the aftertaste, and at 13%ABV I picture many happy nights full of Mead ahead.

Today went pretty well, if a little tiringly (no sleep). I went downstairs this morning to find everyone else already up. Helpfully putting the shiny new star on top of the tree, we wandered down to the car and off we went.

Seems that lots of people had the same idea as the place was fairly crowded. We wandered round for a while, finding cool stuff like super noodles, mini mars bars, the lovely aforementioned mead, and some japanese lager.

the lil dude found a pick and mix area, where I managed to catch him on video as he took a cup, compared its size to the cup next to it, then put it back and took the bigger one.. Made me giggle.

We disappeared off to the cafe afterwards, where I had a sausage roll and some juice. After that, off home for some cleaning up, preparing the house, and - for me - delivering the cards.

I had a little nap, and was woken up later on by my nephew, who we took to see Father Christmas. I swear the queue to see him gets bigger.

Ever since, I've been playing Skyrim, as always, drinking yummy mead, listening to cool tunes, eating quiches, and bringing my presents down so they're easier to hand out tomorrow.

So there we go.
I've now no doubt got other stuff to do, but shortly I'm gonna have a nice shower, drink my special Christmas beer (hoegaarden), have some more yummy mead, and go to a warm cozy mead-induced sleep. Some things never go out of fashion it seems...


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sign goes up, snow stays up...

Well, a few days ago, the awesome little sign on the corner went up, proudly proclaiming that Father Christmas would be around on his Nissan Navara driven sleigh. Not only that, but Santa has sent a personal message, just like last year, to my amazed lil nephew.
Also, just like last year, my sister's fiancee (Brother in law?) took me to the local shopping mall for some last-minute emergency shopping.

Yep, thanks to various things such as college and work, and hangovers maybe, I've done precious little Christmas shopping. Not to worry however, as we generally do last minute Christmas shopping, and I had quite a few ideas for things to buy people.

A couple of these ideas were (displayed here because I didn't buy them due to them not being available/due to me being told that the intended recipient wanted something else more);

1. A rather lovely aromatic diffuser, that was nice and shiny, that made everything nearby smell nice, and that looked pretty cool. I didn't get this because I was told "Don't get that, this [other item] is what XYZ really wants".
2. An awesome Thrustmaster Ferrari GT Wheel and Pedals... I have been using one of these for a while, and my dad showed a strong interest in having a bit of a play with it. I had been hoping to get him one of his own, but the local game stores don't seem to sell them anymore.

Not to worry, I bought plenty of cool stuff, I avoided slipping into the "buy them anything, it doesn't matter" trap, and after spending ages searching for various stuff, came away from it all with a load of presents that I'm pretty confident their recipients will like.
Good stuff. We spent 7 hours out and about looking for lovely pressies for folks.

Along the way, we had a lovely meal in TGIs, relaxed, and took the little guy to see some jellyfish in a [jelly]fish aquarium in one of the local restaurants. I bought some silly putty, which is incredibly clever stuff, which is why it's taken me the best part of 40 minutes to write this stuff, and yeah, it was a nice, if hectic, day out.

On the way back, I got robbed inside the local convenience store, and by that I mean that I was charged £9.50 for three razor blades. Absolutely insane.
Still, since I've been using blunt blades since september 2010, it'll be nice to be clean-shaven again.

So yeah. The snow still hasn't arrived, but things are going more or less to plan, and I'm beginning to feel pretty Christmassy. I've got the college christmas do tomorrow, which should be fun. If not I'll just leave early and go to the off licence, hehe.

Some pickatures. Just one in fact, as the others aren't great.
It is a picture of my ridiculously large burger I got from TGI Friday's.

Have fun. Christmas Eve, soon :-).

Monday, December 12, 2011

White Christmas? Where??

Okay this is getting silly now. It's less than 2 weeks to go until Christmas and while everyone farther north has been thoughtfully and kindly pretending that they hate their large amounts of snow, we, here, are again snowless. I seem to remember this being a recurring thing, except we're about a month behind schedule in the weather scheme of things.

That's not to say that the weather hasn't caused any problems however, as on the friday just gone, it was so cold that the roads started to ice over at 6pm. This being a day that I was out riding a small scooter here there and everywhere, meant that I spent as much time riding with my feet just above the floor as I did with them on the running board or whatever it's called. "Crappy bit in leiu of footpegs", maybe. This was to stabilise the scooter just in case the wheels decided they wanted to go in different directions, as they did when I was zooming down a hill. Quite an, erm, interesting experience I suppose.

It did actually start snowing at one point, but only extremely briefly. Blink - for ten or twenty seconds - and you'd have missed it. So yeah, we're due some more "severe weather", but I doubt that any of that will include snow. Ho Hum.

However, we have been taking part in our regular festivities, which this year included our lovely trip to Kelham Island Victorian Christmas Market Thingie. We had plenty of fun, wandering round, buying miniature presents and whatnot, and the weather was amost not rainy at all.
The place was fairly packed, but we managed to see what we wanted to see. We saw people in period costumes, soldiers, chimneycleaners, maids, lovable street starfishes and thieves. People sold all sorts of cleverly homemade stuff from various stalls. Such stalls sold things ranging from exotic looking rugs, clothing made from recycled denim, home-made cupcakes (a family favourite it seems!) and jewellry

This being the UK, I had a traditional English Christmas snack, a burrito.
There's a joke in there somewhere, but no, it was a pretty nice burrito. Vegetarian chilli though, so it was a little lacking in, I don't know, presence. Still, I casually drizzled it with "medium" salsa (which, while fanning my mouth and trying to find the soured cream, I later described as "nothing medium about it"), and it came with free tortilla chips, so I didn't mind.

Even as we stood outside eating, the Don Engine powered its way through its 5 minute demonstration, the exhaust steam billowing out through the pipe in the roof nearby where, upon meeting the cold winter air, it immediately condensed into water which rained on us quite merrily.

A decent time was had by all, I believe, and after a brief visit to the fairground rides (which included a travelling exhibition making some of the most insanely outlandish claims I've ever heard (Siamese twin monkeys from the amazon! See the puma with 2 bodies, 8 legs, 1 head! Where they got this stuff from I have no idea), we made our soggy way home.

Last night was fun. I went with my lovely mum to a christmas concert, which we seem to enjoy going to each year, and again, it was a really nice occasion.

So yeah, things seem to be proceeding okay, apart from the annoyingly un-christmassy weather. The christmas party at college is tiptoeing closer, and at home, our christmas decorations are down, waiting to be put up (mine already are up). So there :-).

Have fun folks :-).

EPILOGUE: 14th December!

SNOW! Snowww! Snoeeee! Et al! Yes, as if in apology for its late arrival, the snow seems to have been coming down fairly heavily for the past hour or so. Woo, snow!

It's actually settling pretty well. Already, some idiot car driver has left tracks in it.

And so, is this year's snow song. Dunno why, it seems epic enough to remind me of epic snow.

Sums up the mood awesomely. After a disappointing winter with no snow, all of a sudden it comes dramatically out of nowhere, with colours flying.
It'd bring a tear to the eye, of a scriptwriter could take the time to write it into a movie :-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What happened to the snow?

I'm not sure what's going on with winter this year. We're in the final few hours of November, and so far I have yet to see a single snowflake! This has been a particular source of annoyance for me, because everyone knows how much I love frozen precipitation. Not only that, but we got our snow (again, after everyone else did!) mid November, last year. No fair. Hmm.

That said, apparently it snowed in Scotland earlier this month, and is due to snow there again tonight, which I suppose is good for them. If they like snow, that is.

However, I'm going to have to wait for my snow, as despite the slowly cooling weather, we haven't had so much as a flake of it, as I said.

Yep, the countdown to christmas is on again (not that it was ever really off), and I've bought um *checks* 5 pressies so far.

And so the weekend just gone brought with it the first of the Christmas festivities, that is, our trip to London:

Part One: Winter Wonderland. Also, London.

Yep, every winter, or for the past couple anyway, my mum and I seem to enjoy going to London to see what's on there. And so, waking up ridiculously early on saturday, we were driven to the coach station by my lovely helpful Brother.

Thankfully, there was no huge long interminable wait, as the coach (a rather shiny, new, and astonishingly expensive one!) was already there waiting for us, and, well, the journey was pretty comfortable and didn't seem too long, I suppose.
I spent a while reading a book or two and listening to tunes while my mum caught up on her sleep.
Eventually, we arrived, as you'd expect really, and off we got. I'd not even taken my first few steps before someone almost walked into me. Yep, welcome to London, a city with - you'd think - a dozen people for every square meter of space.

We had our traditional ogle in the "prestige car's shop" (a run-down looking showroom that seemed to give the impression that the rent was more than selling lamborghinis and paganis could cover), and found a fairly shiny (and fairly old, in prestige car terms!) Lamborghini Diablo SE 30.

We headed, as we do normally, into hyde park, and before long, got to my favourite bit of the entire city, Winter Wonderland. It seems that other people love it too, as I stood and watched depressed looking people instantly breaking into festive smiles as they entered, smelling the foods and hearing the christmassy music. No, really! Okay, so it wasn't lovely and snowing, but it wasn't attacking me with squalls of rain like it has done before. The cold was quite seasonal, and the cheerfulness at being there certainly stopped me from feeling the chill. And so off we went, wandering around, looking at the various stalls around the entrance. These included the traditional Christmas Gift Store, loads of food places including a Farm Burgers place and a Chinese Noodle shack (Hmm, Chinese Noodles, a christmassy treat?!), and, best of all, a rather lovely looking Father Christmas, that actually looked like Father Christmas is supposed to look, and not like some guy in a fake beard.

I had fished out my camera by this point and had started taking happy little pictures of everything I thought might be interesting to remember later, like a happy little tourist, Bob Ross style, I suppose. The place was already beginning to fill up even as we wandered around the "first" bit.

A short sit down later, and we started working our way around the attractions, including a genuine ice rink with real ice (and costumed elves). We wandered up to the official gift shop where we met a couple of tourists who were enamoured with a cake tin, before making our way round to the festively named Angel Market. Here, I was pleased to see that the rather lovely variety of stalls that had attended last year, were in attendance again. After a few free samples of "mountain cheese" (eh?) from the Speck merchants [see last year's entry] (I think), we worked our way down the wide variety of craft stalls, looking at everything from jewelry to candles, from homemade leatherbound books, to the ever-present gl├╝hwein, and "long drinks", whatever they were.

In time, we got around to one of my favourite parts of the day. Ever since last year's rant on Krakauers, I'd been looking forward to another one. Or two. So off we went and bought our krakauers, before scooting into a log cabin to eat.
And there we stayed, eating our delicious krakauers, enjoying the heat from the lovely fire (in one of those log stove things), and listening to a familiar voice mutilating a couple of christmas songs.

Yep, the Animatronic moose had returned for another sellout tour. In fact, according to Winter Wonderland's opening hours, I'm 99.9% certain that he's there right this second, singing Christmas songs in not one, but three languages (GB, D, E). Again, I'm pretty sure I heard him dispensing helpful advice at some point.

I was going along to go and get a second Krakauer, but I thought I'd be best off seeing what the rest of the place had to offer first. However, tired with standing at the table in the lovely warm log cabin, my mum decided we'd be better off sitting down somewhere quiet and out of the way, where we could watch the animatronic moose. She disappeared off for a while, and returned with a trio of fresh potato cakes, which were liberally covered in apple sauce and sugar. Except they weren't, due to um, a mixup on my mum's part I guess. Removing most of the salt from the apple sauce, I ate the majority of the apple sauce, and most of a potato cake, before it turned cold and I lost interest. At this point we were joined by a quartet of Japanese tourists, who I seem to remember seeing take photos of each other.

Eventually, we carried on our tour of the place, before, to my absolute delight, I found a place dealing exclusively in honey and mead. Mead, if you don't know, is kind of like a wine or beer. Like a wine because it's sweet, like a beer because it's made with yeast. It's an old old drink, many thousands of years old (it was especially popular in the early middle ages (500-1500AD)), and is made chiefly with honey, water, and yeast. The alcohol comes from the fermentation of the sugars in the honey.

Now, as a fan, both of all things medieval and especially of Skyrim, in which mead is every other character's favourite drink, I'd been itching to give it a go, and so I did, as they were offering around free samples.
Mead tastes like warm runny honey, with just enough alcohol to make your throat burn slightly. It's really lovely, and so I bought a couple of bottles more or less right there. One of normal mead, the other of Spiced mead (technically a metheglin), dramatically labelled "Feuriger Drache" (Firey Dragon), which featured a lovely warm seasonal image of a slavering dragon with a rather expensive looking sword through its throat (no, really, I'll prove it later).
Mead is an absolute bugger to get hold of, so finding a place completely dedicated to it was fantastically good fortune, and cheered me up even more.

A final tour around, and off we wandered towards Harrods. Before we got there though, we had to take a detour down past a bit of grassy parkland, covered in autumns dry leaves, and absolutely frantic with squirrels (if 8 or 9 in a small area of grass is absolutely frantic).

These little dudes jumped about, searching under leaves for each other's food caches, and occasionally, bounding up to people. You see, there are so many people in and around hyde park, day in day out, that the squirrels are absolutely, totally and completely unafraid of people. Even as my mum rested against the iron fence, one individual hopped on top and came to see if she had any food, even going so far as to climb over her arm (this was repeated by a pigeon a few moments later).

I encouraged the attention of one squirrel in particular, who (without giving me opportunity to get any decent pictures), hopped over to the fence, between the bars, and stopped right at my feet. After a brief pause, (and I have a witness, my mum is my witness) said squirrel then jumped onto my leg, and climbed, bit by bit, up it, before disappearing round my back, much to the amusement of the people around me. He didn't seem bothered by the fact I was twisting around trying to see what he was up to, and seemed quite comfortable nestling under my backpack, in the small of my back. After a short time, he hopped down to the ground, presumably satisfied (or perhaps dissatisfied) that I didn't have any food for him.

A few moments later, another squirrel (or maybe the same one?) climbed the leg of a small girl, who was nearby, before hopping onto the fence nearby, where a couple of other tourists somehow convinced it to stay perfectly still for me to take a few pictures :-).

And yes, off to harrods.

Harrods, wow. Even by its own standards, it was absolutely ridiculously full of people. The only way to move from one room to another was to basically pick a flow of "traffic" that was going in the right direction, and to try and join that flow.
We stayed in harrods just long enough to get wound up and severely annoyed with the crowds.

After that, we went to another few places. We went to Trafalgar Square, to see the olympic countdown clock thingumy.

We went to Garfunkel's for a quick meal, where we met a nice family from Norwich (thus confirming my suspicion that no one you meet in London is actually from London).

And finally, we went to Fortnum & Mason, which is apparently a very popular and prestigious department store. It's famous for being the first place in the UK to sell Heinz Baked Beans, and the birthplace of the Scotch Egg. Yummy.
Admittedly, its decor, based mostly around seminaked Vaudeville style mannequines wasn't really to my taste, and would have looked more in place in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but hey, it's a privately owned business, so I suppose they can decorate the place how they want :-).

After that, we zoomed off to a pub, before catching the coach home.

And that's that. A nice, festive, if tiring day, out.

Some pickatures. In no particular order whatsoever, of course:

PART TWO: Gainsborough.

No sooner had I got to sleep after returning to London, than it was time to go to Gainsborough. The day was bright, the sky was clear (I think) and I was looking forward to it.

Arriving in Gainsborough, we went straight to the hall and wandered around looking at the lovely stuff that people were selling. As in London, varieties on a theme of hand made clever stuff were being sold throughout the hall. We did our traditional sitting down by the fire in the kitchen for a while, then went out to watch a sextet (it's a word) of minnie dancers (like morris dancers, but female I guess) who were quite capable of doing some interesting dance moves using nothing more than two shoefulls of bells and some bits of rope.

I have to admit, Morris Dancing's not really my thing, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves (with the exception of one woman who looked like she was there for a bet), and this was a medieval themed day after all, and so we watched for a while before heading off into the town.
There, I took the opportunity to do some shopping, buying a couple of inexpensive stocking fillers, before we had a small wander round what Gainsborough calls "A christmas market". I have to admit, in comparison to winter wonderland, it left me a bit underwhelmed, but since it was technically approaching Christmas time, and it was a market, it didn't feel fair to complain. Besides, I was in a happy christmassy mood :-).

A short car journey later, via the jeweller's with the unfortunate typeface (he has CHANGED his sign, so it's no longer unintentionally rude!), and we were at the local garden center, exploring their christmas decoration department, and trying to ignore their absolutely horrifically bad CD of musical nobodies (all with a diploma in writing severely dated 1980s gameshow theme tunes) butchering a few of my festive favourites. I recorded 3 home videos in the same room as that CD, two of which I have since deleted, I hate the music that much.Hammond organs do not belong in Christmas carols :P.

After that, off home, where I relaxed until I went to bed :-).

So yeah, we're getting slightly more christmassy than normal. Could still do with some snow though!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Stuff...

16:59: Ahh, Halloween.

Well, I'm hard at work, studying (no, really!) for wednesday's exam, my dad is hard at work getting the kitchen ready to be redecorated, and going by the shrieking outside, it looks like tonight's first group of trick or treaters are musically and noisily wandering down the road. Though they haven't gone into any houses yet. Maybe they're trick trick or treaters, meant to trick people.

17:05 Yep, and we've just had our first group of trick or treaters! And it looks like I'm not going to get much studying done heh. I'm currently creating a miniature presentation on "Administrative distance and equal cost paths (and why the two don't mix)". It's quite shiny. Maybe I'll even show it you one day.

Temporary Wild Tangent:

The thing I love about writing this blog is that while in a few months or even a few years I can reread this thing and smile at the memories, this is all happening now! It's really happening, the real halloween wind keeps blowing my door closed, trick and treaters are wandering up and down, and it's all actually really happening :-).

and I think one thing that my blog has taught me, is to enjoy life more :-). I hope that doesn't sound too weird. I'm going to take the opportunity to go out and enjoy it later, too :-).

Back to Normal:

The dog is making distinctly weird grawr grawr noises, and is currently doing an oscar-winning impression of a tauntaun. She's our furry alarm system.

17:47 Well the trick or treaters are coming regularly now. My ickle nephew is here getting changed, and the dog is giving herself a sore throat and everyone else a headache. :-).

20:45: We've been back for a while now. My ickle nephew got plenty of stuff, and we all had a pretty cool time. He seemed to turn the halloween thing into some kind of racket with a "You knock on the door and I ask for the sweets" motto heh.

Rather endearingly though, every bunty (bounty) he got, he passed to my mum, every mars bar he got, he passed to me. Really sweet of him :-).

We've since returned, examined his stash, and now he's busy watching cartoons while I've resumed my revision.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Weirdness (Halloween Eve)

Part One: Prologue. Sort of. Halloween Sunday, I suppose.

Part One of Sunday Bit.

Crappy halloween/bonfire night flavoured joke. What do bonfires (perhaps creepy bonfires with cauldrons and stuff on) and my halloween weekend have in common?

Answer? They both feature lots of kindling. Haha, hoho hehe etc.
Yep, after the astounding success of my most recent technological awesomeness, or getting a second free printer, I have now returned from the outside world to my cosy little lair, with yet another piece of sparkly technology. Don't panic though, I paid for this one. That's not to say that I should have paid for the last ones, no, they were gratis and therefore no payment was required :-).

At college, Jim (the one who fights with shrubberies) has gotten into the habit of bringing E-textbooks and other course materials to college to read on his shiny Kindle Keyboard. I instantly thought "Hey, something like that would be really useful for my course".

Of course, I've always used my ipod to read ebooks, but I fancied something with a bigger screen, something that wouldn't become impossible to read as soon as the sun came out, and the kindle seemed like an obvious choice, and so, digging into my miniscule overdraft, off I went into town to look for one.

I had quite a nice time, wandering around the bookshops, little gadget shops, expertly ducking and weaving around to avoid being emotionally blackmailed by the various "hello-sir-can-I-talk-to-you-for-a-minute-did-you-know-that-processed-food-is-radioactive-and-the-animals-don't-get-colour-tv-either-it-will-only-cost-you-10p-a-day-to-provide-chickens-with-sky-digital" folks.

Eventually, after ages of wandering around, I found my way to one of the larger department stores in town (its windows already filled with hanging snowflakes and christmassy scenes), where surely I'd be able to find one. And I found two.

Initially, I fancied one with a keyboard, but these things aren't really cheap, and I didn't really want to pay £40 extra for a keyboard. Instead, I bought this shiny little one. It seems to work fine, it looks great even when it's turned off, and it has 1.2Gb (which sounds like a miniscule amount until you remember that most ebooks take up anywhere from 100KB to a couple of MB a piece. Even the four largest ebooks I have, great big reference texts of 1100 pages plus, only take up 97Mb in total. Perhaps in time I may run out of space, but not for the forseeable future.
I even bought a nice leather wallet thingie to keep it in decent condition in my pocket. £6.50 on ebay :-). So yeah, it's sparkly, it's easy on the eyes (ever tried reading an ipod or an ipad display in direct sunlight? Whereas their LCDs become bright, glary and impossible to read, the rather cool E-ink display of the kindle absolutely and blatantly does not. If anything it's even easier to read the sharp contrasty display in bright sun). I'm glad I bought it.

I've done my mock exam for the end of semester 2 final exam, and the result was an encouraging 85.1%. Now I know what I need to read up on, the real exam should end with a higher score.
I hope so at least. We lost another student this week - having been off due to health issues, he has since decided that he has fallen too far behind to continue with the course. Shame.
Those of us that are staying the course though, are looking forward to our cool Christmas party thingie. We're predicting pizza, lots of lovely fireballs, cider, beer and whatnot, and lots of fun to be had.
Prologue Part 2 - Halloween. And Fireworks.

I'm not sure why, but Halloween seems to have turned into a weekend long thing. I don't mind, I like festivities. I was zooming about at work last night in the lovely autumn rain, and saw my first band of trick or treating folks attending a party. On the 29th! I suppose if you like beer on halloween parties, it makes sense to have it on a day that isn't the night before going to work first thing in the morning.

I'm expecting to see substantially more trick or treating folks out and about today, as the weather is better, and a few more folks might have put up their scary decorations.
I've got work in a couple of hours, I suppose I'll be able to find out for myself.

As for my ickle nephew, he has a cool bat costume, and he's also (now) got some cool glowstick thingies, and we're all looking forward to going out tomorrow, which I have off.

Unfortunately, I don't have bonfire night (the 5th) off. But it's not such a big problem. Since I'll be out and about all night, I'll get to see plenty of fireworks anyway.

So yeah, that's it for now. I've got some studying to do :-).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hot CPUs, Cool Printers

Part One: College Bit

Argh, typing without my wrist rest (it snapped off :-\) is really uncomfortable.

2 minutes later...

How embarrasing. My expensive shiny G19 keyboard's wrist rest is now stuck to it with blu-tack. Still, that's what you get if all the little clips snap off I suppose.

Well, things are once again proceeding apace at college, as the dreaded Semester 2 final exam is tiptoeing its way towards us at the rate of approximately 7 days each week, which has got more than a couple of people hot under the collar. In preparation, I've been busy cracking on with as many of the online curriculum modules as I could cope with.

10,400 words and an online exam (100%) later, I'm now thoroughly sick of reading about EIGRP, and looking forward to a couple of nice easy modules. The next one is an introduction to Link-State protocols, and then we apply what we learn there, to the one after, which teaches us about OSPF.

Of course, we've already summarised both chapters at college, so it's more a case of cementing our understanding, than it is a case of being introduced to new stuff. If we all pass, I imagine that we're going to be getting on with another end of semester exam. Hopefully Jim can avoid drunkenly getting into a fight with vegetation this time, as apparently when the bush beat him last time, he was injured.

We're already planning our college christmas party, and even ickle Jack (who has since left the course) has said he will come. We might even be able to get our tutor to turn up for a couple of drinks. So yeah.

Part Two: Christmas Bit

So it looks like I've got a busy Christmas calendar. Yep, lots of people still think it's too early for that sort of thing, however, friends tell me they've already arranged their work Christmas parties, pubs and restaurants are taking bookings for Christmas dinners, and advent calendars are already on sale in the shops (surely, the chocolate inside them must expire before you even open it?). I might get myself an advent calendar with chocolates this year, as I miss having one to open every morning heh. The lil dude tells me he has a Lego calendar (Star Wars lego maybe?) this year, which should be fun for him. Until either his or our dog eats the bits, which seems to have become the new natural end of the life cycle of the Lego piece, in our respective houses.

But yeah. So far, this year, my preliminary christmas calendar includes (in some semblance of an approximate order, and subject to weather):

*Trip to Winter Wonderland in London
*Trip to Gainsborough old Hall
*Trip to Kelham Island Christmas Fair Thingy (which we missed last year cos of the snow)
*Trip to Wentworth to look round their Christmas department
*Trip to Castleton to wander round (they have illuminated christmas trees lining the streets in winter)
*Trip to Christmas Concert type thing again.
*Solo trip to local christmassy supermarket to buy some Christmas necessities (shortbread, beer, mexicana cheese, etc. I'll probably need to get some medication of some type as well, as I generally have a cold around Xmas time)
*College Xmas Party
*Work Xmas Party (generally just a few drinks at a pub near work, or even closing early and drinking in the shop)
*Family shopping trip for Xmas food
*Xmas Day
*Boxing Day

There may be others in there as well, such as taking the ickle dude round the "Magical Christmas Kingdom".

But yeah, lots of stuff to be getting on with, but first, lots of studying and whatnot.

I still need to start buying presents.

Part Three: Technological Bit

Well, I've been settling into the routine with my shiny new computer, and apart from one or two blips, it's been working fine.
One blip occured the other night. See, because of a chipset incompatibility (I think), my cooler will only draw power from the motherboard 3 boots out of every 5. The other 2 times it will refuse to power on.

"Send the cooler back" you might say. Doesn't work, if one cooler will do it, the replacement will do it. It's an incompatibility, not a hardware failure.

Anyway, last weekend, I came back proceeded to put Need for Speed on, and spent a happy hour racing around, earning money, and generally beating all comers. At some point, I wondered what the cpu temp would be after an hour of gaming.
Finding the LCD Display to be dark, I realised that I'd effectively been racing an hour on passive cooling only!
Restarting the machine, I checked to make sure the cooler had come on, and it did straight away, shrieking overtemp warnings at me, and flashing a coolant temperature of 89C! Coolant temperature is generally lower than CPU core temp, so I have no IDEA what the cpu temp was at that time. (It turns out that the max working temp for my processor is 75C, and the CPU's emergency shutdown temp is 125C. In retrospect, I hadn't damaged the CPU, and hadn't really run the risk of damaging it, but it was still a scary moment).

I set the cooler to Extreme cooling mode, which pushed the fan and pump up to max rpms, and the coolant temp took maybe a minute or so to drop from 89c to 29c. That's a good cooler! Phew, what a scare.
I'll get a cable so I can connect the cooler directly to the PSU in future. Should stop this happening again.

Part Three And A Bit: New Technological Friend

As I am wont to do, on my lunch break, I wandered into the lab at college to see what was what. While there, I examined the scrap shelf to see if there was anything interesting. Was there? Of course not. A few defunct laptops stacked like house bricks, a huge box of loose parts which some 16 year old created from what was once a working computer, and a huge slab sided thing which looked like a broken fax machine, that had been there since february, and hadn't been thrown in a skip yet.
Out of idle curiosity (it had been there since I first started college, I wondered what it was), I cleared the stacked crap off it and pulled it off the shelf onto the workbench. It turned out to be one of those all in one scanner printer thingumies that seem popular these days.

"What is this? What's wrong with it? It's been on the shelf at least since february"
The tutor wandered over. "Nothing's wrong with it".
"Well, why is it on a shelf, it's just taking up space".
"Take it if you want it", he replies.

Umm. Wow. After establishing if he was being serious, I scooted around until I found the power brick for it. I plugged the device in and turned it on, at which point it immediately started doing a sort of POST, checking all its functions, and making various clicking and clunking noises. Hmm, not broken then.
Later in my lunch break, I continued to play with it, and had a closer look at it. It was a scanner, printer, fax and copier, all in one. Awesome, since my scanner doesn't want to work with Windows 7 any more.

I managed to get a lift to take the thing home, and spent the rest of the night playing with it. 4 ink cartridges, 3 of which were almost full, the scanner worked flawlessly, and the print quality was fantastic. Wow.

So yeah, for anyone who's remotely bothered, it's an HP L7580 all-in-one type thing, designed mainly for small businesses rather than homes, which explains why it is freaking huge (it weights 32 pounds and dwarfs my lil laser printer). It copies, faxes, scans up to 4800DPI and can spit out awesome quality colour prints to the tune of about 5 a minute (best quality photos) or 34 pages (decent quality text) a minute.
Since printing monochrome on a laser printer is a hell of a lot cheaper than printing in colour on an inkjet, I'm tempted to use the Laser printer for high volume stuff like college coursework, and use the inkjet for more colourful and intricate stuff, as well as photos. Also, it has an internal speaker so it makes happy little beep boop noises as you use it, heh. Oh, and it prints directly from memory card :-D.

Having a scanner that works is awesome, and at 1200dpi (which isn't even beginning to push the scanner's capabilities), this one can turn a DVD cover into a picture which if you printed it out at its new resolution would measure 4 and a half meters by three meters! So yeah. Very very happy.

I wonder at this point if I should come up with cute little names for my printers. Write your suggestions on a postcard, and then scan the postcard and email it to me at an undisclosed address :-).

Anyway, really running out of time now, got to get ready for work, so I'd best get busy :-).

Here is a shiny picture of my new printer dwarfing my cute ickle laser printer :-).

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Weather Weirdness...

Part One - Familyness:

...Yep, the nights are definitely drawing again, and the weather for the start of October has been weeeirrdd. A few weeks ago, the news reported that we should be expecting snow for the end of october. Amid the general cries of "oh no, not again", were one or two "I spose it's that time of year again then?"
So far, the snow hasn't materialised, but then we are only a little way through October. What has materialised though, is a rather unexpected, rather temporary but thoroughly enjoyable (apart from the night when you can't sleep) mini heatwave. Yep, even as late as early October, we had three or four of those "don't go outside you'll get sunburned" days.

All that seems to have come to a very definite cold and wet end though, as in the past couple of days, the temperature has dropped sharply, and the lovely sun has now been replaced with rainy rain. Fair enough, it's good for the plants I suppose.

At this point it occurse to me to wonder why I always seem fixated on the weather. I don't think it's a uniquely English thing, rahter, I suspect it's my way of pointing out (to our collective subconcious (do we have a collective subconcious? are we Borg? Perhaps I meant "Collective Sub-Conciouses-plural")) without labouring the point, that my favourite time of year is beginning to approach again. Which is awesome, actually, though I do now have to start buying Xmas pressies.

I lost out to my mum this year, this time she earned the "person who bought the first Christmas present of 2011" title. My ickle nephew for his part has been pointing at every other TV ad saying "I want that" heh. I have been giving some thought to getting him some of these, however, I have disturbing visions of him either wrapping them round his head, or whacking himself in the eye with them, or going a little crazy, kinda like this, so I'll make a decision under advisement, I think.

Before any of that stuff though, we have dun dun dunnnn, Halloween. I'm trying to get my mum to make a gold-edged blue cape/cloak thingie for my ickle nephew, so he can wear it with his Armouron and his blue Lightsaber, and all-in-all look way cooler than all the other kids. It might be an idea to attach a glowstick or two to him as well, as not only does it seem to have become fashionable, but it helps make him more visible at night as well.

(Actually, my parents have just come back from Toys'r'us with big bags of sweets for the kiddehs at halloween).

Part Two - Computeryness:

Well, it seems that my computer is now finally actually finished. I had a couple of little parts to put in it,but now they've arrived and seem to be working okay, I can crack on with reinstalling all the lovely shiny software and whatnot. The GPU means I can now run all games I have on insanely maximum graphics settings (apart from Xplane, amusingly, which I've had for years. Since it was designed to run across a network with the load being spread across multiple machines, turning the settings as high as they would go still resulted in 4-6 frames a second. But then I suppose I was being slightly daft :P. Big gap here because pictures mess the formatting up!

The other clever bit that arrived seems to be working quite nicely in reducing my program load times, but cos of its capacity limitations I haven't installed a great deal to it at the minute.
I've managed to carry over some of my software from the old install, so stuff like X-plane (all 80Gb of it!) thankfully doesn't need reinstalling (I'm keeping it on an "old fashioned" drive though).
I haven't yet finished configuring all thefeatures that windows is supposed to use to support SSDs, but apparently I can expect several small performance increases as and when I figure out how to enable said features, by arsing about in registry.

I've had a few problems with the system refusing to boot at all, the drives would spin up, the fans would spin, and then noooothiiing would happen. I think I've traced the problem to a standoff post which wasn't fitted properly (because it was crossthreaded), which could apparently have resulted in the motherboard not being grounded to the case properly.

As I mentioned in my last entry, the coolit ECO cooler that I was using was diagnosed as faulty by Coolit. In the end, I sent the cooler back to them, and they sent me a shiny new Coolit Vantage, which aside from looking awesome, is also very quiet, and works very well. Major thumbs up to coolit for their awesome customer service.

Now I have another teeny problem, which is that the motherboard only gives power to the CPU cooler 3 boots out of every 5. Apparently I can get round this by connecting the cooler to the PSU instead, as it's the cooler, not the mobo, that controls the cooler fan speed. The whole issue may be something to do with a partial incompatibility rather than a hardware failure, as it's a common problem on most gigabyte boards also.
But yeah. To summarise: Computer now finished, now working, not perfect, but almost :-).

Part Three - Meal Stuffs:

A while ago I made a really crappy job of creating some pasta sauce, which for some reason my mum really loved. I suggested that I'd be happy to try again and cook some pasta for the family, and so they went and bought loads of stuff with which to make a meal.
And would you know, it actually turned out really well. The sauce was lovely, the pasta was just right, and the garlic bread was incredible. Even the table looked nice. A nice time was had by all.

I mention this fleetingly, as it looks like me cooking might become a regular thing :-). I've been asked to do the pasta again actually, so I'm pretty pleased with that.

So yeah, quite a pleasant occasion.

Here are some picatures, as is traditional. I will no doubt be on again going on about my ickle nephew's halloween experiences. I believe he's going to some halloween event or other. Looks fun!

Ciao! Better start buying those presents ;-).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sheets of rain and other liquid cooling...

Well, the weather seens to have turned very quickly. With Autumn having waited all summer for the chance to do its thing, now it's here it's definitely making its presence felt. The sky is all shades from the light "can't really be bothered" grey, to the very dark "I'd better get inside" grey. There's also a lovely patch of blue, of course, and while the rain has temporarily stopped completely, a couple of minutes ago, I was watching rain come down in sheets onto my neighbour's garage (everywhere else as well, but I was watching my neighbour's garage) where the wind blasted them from the roof against the neighbour's house wall. So yeah, summer seems to have had its chance.

Well, five minutes later and that temporary storm seems to have ended. It's all bright sunshine again.

Sooo, yeah.
A few days ago, wednesday or perhaps thursday, at 9:19PM, my computer, having been put in its new case, and fully assembled, booted into Windows for the first time, making it the first official (non testing) time this new computer has booted up. Yay, happy 0th birthday, computer. At this point I'd like to thank my big bro for generously donating many of the components now sitting inside the PC. In the end I used a donated motherboard and power supply (and cpu cooler - see below), new RAM, CPU and Case, and a GPU that I already owned.

I finally managed to grab a Coolit ECO ALC and install it, and for a short time it worked great. Now the pump is making a weird droning noise.
The seller is very apologetic and has promised a refund if that is what I wish, however, I went to check with the manufacturers whether the noise was a symptom of something serious (i.e. possible pump failure) or something beningn (possible trapped air bubble), first. No point going to the trouble of replacing it if it's just something that's going to go away.
The manufacturer for their part have suggested that the pump may be faulty and have "opened a support case". I'm not sure what that means but I guess it will all become clear. If coolit resolve the issue it might just be a case of replacing the defective ECO ALC with a working one. If on the other hand I have to deal with the seller and get a refund, I suppose I can always take the money from the refund and put it towards a shiny Corsair H80 (also made by coolit).

Time will tell. I've gone back to air cooling for a while until it all gets sorted out. I would say that CPU temps are unchanged, but I actually have no way of telling, since Speedfan seems to be a complete mess that doesn't seem to have a clue what it's doing. At least I don't have to worry about the pump exploding and splashing coolant all over my system anymore.

So, what else have I been doing? Well, I've been studying lots, and taking online exams and whatnot. I've also been playing lots of games with all the settings turned up to high, which is always fun.

I've also started looking online for gifts to buy for the end of year present festival that shall not be named yet. Yes, QVC's Endofyearpresentfestivalthatshallnotbenamedyet In July was quite well received by my mum (who loves Endofyearpresentfestivalthatshallnotbenamedyet) and I've heard on the internet that some stores are already stocking Xmas (oops there I go) stuff, including the local store which now stocks 2 varieties of mince pies (If you don't know what they are then go to your specialist food store (I've just had a quick look and they seem really hard to find in the US, which is a shame because they're really nice).

So yeah, I've got a few ideas for things to buy people, but we'll have to see what happens between now and then :-).

Apropos of nothing, I have been spending a hell of a lot of time listening to this album. I'd never heard of the band until a friend recommended them, though I think they're rather good :-).

As an aside, reading about mince pies on that site has lead me to read some more of it, and it seems to be perfect for my sense of humour. Here you go, for all you overseas folks who wondered what weird and awesome things we eat. There's some stuff on there that even i've never heard of.

I leave ye with some pickatures of various computer related things that I have been doing recently :-). Heh, or at least I will try to. The tabling seemed to work out okay this time round :-).

Have fun, I've got loads of revision to do. Meh.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

We Have Liftoff... (New computer begins shakedown)...

It's official. As of a couple of seconds past 11pm, a little over 20 minutes ago, my new computer just booted into Windows for the first time.

I'm at the initial "sodding about" phase at the moment, and there's a lot of work to be done. Loads of applications, software, games etc to install, loads of drivers to be added, settings to be changed etc, and all of it is going to wait until my bro has salvaged what data he needs from the rather shiny and lovely primary SATA drive he has promised me.

At the moment, the machine is in a temporary case, using an IDE hard drive from one machine, an IDE CD drive from another, the tower case from a third and a spare cooling fan from a fourth. I suppose you could say I'm temporarily loaning a racehorse the legs from another animal, to see if it can run :-).

Once I get the SATA drive, I'll start from scratch and reinstall everything, and here's why:

The Motherboard I am using uses only one IDE channel, which is fair enough. I mean it's not the 80s anymore, right? The downside is that since I only have two SATA drives, one of which is too small to use as a primary, and the other of which has already been designated a secondary, I have to use two PATA devices on the same channel at the same time, which apparently causes bottlenecking on the PATA bus.

Not only that, but where sata cables are sleek, slim and curvy, IDE "ribbons" are bulky, crumply, ugly, and, let's just face it, they look really bad and attract dust like a magnet. They're difficult to fold around corners of the case, difficult to route round things, and they act like a great big long electronic tarpaulin strung from one side of your case to the other to obstruct air flow.
So the sooner the SATA drive (which uses sleek slim cables) is in there, the better.

Speaking of air flow, my new computer is happily "hooing" (that's the noise it makes, seriously, it's a quiet "Hooooooooo" sound (at 100% RPM and silent at anything less than about 60%) to itself, as I try to see how low I can get the core temp to go.
Considering that the side of the case is off, and the fact that aside from an 80mm fan I balanced on one of the aforementioned IDE cables to cool the chipset (and the PSU fan which has its own job to do), the solitary 120mm fan of my new and sparkly Coolit ECO ALC cooler is the only fan in the case, it is doing a damn good job of holding my CPU at a steady 32 degrees C. The Zalman air cooler in my other (this) computer can only manage 36c, and that's in a cool case surrounded by other fans, on a CPU that is slower by some 400Mhz. Okay, 4 degrees isn't a big difference, but both machines are effectively idling, and apparently it's under heavy load that the ECO struts its stuff.

Of course, my new rig isn't ready to strut its stuff yet. It doesn't have DirectX installed, and it is currently packing a lowly 256mb Geforce 7600GT in its digital pants. A card which would probably not suffice for hardcore gaming these days, even if it weren't damaged, which it is. Having suffered a hefty dose of heat damage a while back, any black screen is now liberally dotted with pretty red, green and blue pixels. I'll replace the 7600 with my GTX260 when I move the machine to its permanent home in the lovely new case I've bought.

Amusingly, the little 50mm (maybe?) fan of the gpu is making far, far noise than the ECO's 120. In fact, since I haven't installed any drivers other than the default, it was only four minutes after the computer booted to desktop for the first time that it lost its bluescreen virginity, with some kind of Nvidia driver error that is apparently popular among later versions of Windows. I don't expect this error to be a problem once the latest drivers are installed of course.

So yeah. I'm not doing anything hugely in depth, but it'd be nice to remember the very first time that my computer went online.


Excuse the dreadful mess, the case is my "It's the only spare case that will take 120mm fans" case.
The camera is my "I'm sorry I've lost my tripod mounting plate" camera.

When the day of the big build comes I will borrow a tripod if needs be and take some better pics :-).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Is this an Autumn I see before me?

I dunno, let me check.
No it's not. But I suspect that as summer occasionally appears early for 24 hours at a time in April, Autumn probably does much the same thing. Last night for example. Very cloudy and quite rainy, for most of the night actually.
And today, weirdly seems to be one of those Autumnal bright-sunshine/cold-breeze days, where the shadows are 10 degrees cooler than the light. I like days like this. They bring back happy memories, though I'm not sure what of. More a memory of a general sensation of happiness perhaps. Not sure why. Oh well.

So yes, computing.Well, my new case arrived a short time ago and I wasted no time in putting my system into it. It feels like a different computer, which is bizarre because the only thing that's changed is the case. But that's not going to be the case for long :-).

I've been on the receiving end of remarkable amounts of generosity from various people actually, where computer hardware is concerned. I guess college was coming up to the end of its budgetary year or something, and wanted to spend what little money they had left so they weren't under-budget, as at one point in the lab they had piles of stuff in what has since become known as "freebie corner".

Among the items which I claimed (I was given first dibs) were a trio of Cisco wireless access points, which I figured would come in useful for my CCNA (though I suspect they might need power over Ethernet which may be a small issue because I might not be able to power them!), an old (it had gone beige!) but fully functioning monochrome laser printer, and a shiny, mint-condition (but apparently obsolete and incompatible with windows 7) 600dpi flatbed CIS Scanner.
Having told my colleages of the bounty available in the lab, they came along and took the two remaining scanners, and I traded one of my wireless access points with a friend in return for a load of goodwill and a clear conscience (I don't need three of them anyway)*.

The laser printer worked flawlessly, and even works over USB so I don't need to sod about with serial cables and whatnot. The scanner on the other hand came with zero windows 7 support, with the manufacturers and Microsoft insisting that the scanner was incompatible with windows 7. It looks like the manufacturers just gave up on the scanner and its owners altogether.
Fortunately, other owners of the scanners weren't so willing to be left high and dry, and eventually with their help I was actually able to get the scanner working properly. Here is an incredible picture to prove it, courtesy of my ickle nephew:

I think he's coming on as an artist - he's certainly good when it comes to attention to detail. So yeah, the scanner now works, which I'm pleased about. I'm pretty happy with the laser printer as well, as it prints pretty fast, and 1200dpi printouts look pretty cool.
The only downside is that it's gone slightly beige, which is a bit annoying, but hey, it didn't cost me anything so I have no moral authority to complain whatsoever hehe. I'm still wondering how I might get it slightly less beige though. Maybe some oven cleanery stuff would work, I don't know. I'm not sure I want to risk destroying the printer to find out, heh.

Finally, the rebuilding of my computer received a huge boost earlier this week when my bro brought over most of an entire system that he had been using before he went over to the dark side. I'm ordering some new shiny bits from ebay, and in the next week or two I hope to rebuild my machine completely. The only thing left in it that's in it now will be the optical drive (one on the "new" machine doesn't work) and the secondary storage drive (which has all my documents on).

Once my bro brings over the sata drive he's combing through for any useful left-over bits, I am going to use it as my primary drive, and I can crack on with reinstalling everything to the new machine, which should be quite a lot of fun. So yeah.

Oh, and as for the spider, I ended up running out of the local shop carrying one of our old friends in my hands, to stop the spider from freaking out/being squished by the hordes of local kids that hang around outside the local shop for no good reason.
Said spider was then dumped around the corner out of sight and last seen wandering indignantly (but 3-dimensionally) off. I then wandered back in and paid for my shopping, as if nothing had happened hehe.
So yeah, revising for exams, rescuing spiders and planning new computers. It's been a fun week :-).

Some pickatures.

*Said friend is apparently keeping the still-unused wireless access point in a box in his cellar, having found out to his disappointment that while on a very superficial level, his wireless internet dongle and a wireless access point could be said to work along the same incredibly broad lines, he would not be able to substitute one for the other, and in fact the wireless access point would be of no use to him whatsoever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Frantic Disposition...

23:03 Monday 22nd August - 34 and a half hours before turning up for the exam...

This is just a little placekeeper that another - two or three day older - version of me is going to write an addition to in two or three days time.

Hi older me, I hope you passed the super mega important exam on wednesday.

Yes folks, I'm frantically revising for a very important exam, and to say I'm nervous is an understatement.
Actually it's not.

I am nervous, but I am also quietly confident. It is very very very important that I pass this exam, but I've done the practice test (which is apparently harder) and scored 15% higher than the pass mark, so hopefully I'll have something to celebrate on wednesday. If I do celebrate on wednesday, I may not write an addition to this after all. I might be too busy consuming alcoholic beverages and listening to music. Who can say?

If all goes well I'll get back to you on the thursday, with a hangover, some computer related stuff, and a story about a spider :-).

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: 19:01, the following day. 14 and a half hours before turning up for the exam...

I just finished my second attempt of the practice exam after two nights and a day of revision.
It's not very often I throw my hands in the air and scream "YES, HAHAHAHA!!" at the top of my voice, but after a mock exam score of 98.1%, I have probably crossed the line to "loudly confident", heh.
Still nervous though. But hey, let's see how it goes.

PART TWO - 15:08, 26th August...

Well, the day eventually crept up on me, and off I went. We spent most of the morning going over the questions in the practice test that a lot of people found difficult. After a quick break, we started all working together on one particularly problematic problem that - although I got right in the test exam - was a source of concern for me.

A short time later, we went through who wanted to do the exam that day, and who wanted to leave it until the day after.
Surprisingly only one of us decided to leave it until the day after, and the rest of us cracked on with it.

A cursory initial look over the questions revealed that despite assurances to the contrary, the real exam would be much harder than the practice test. But now I'd said I'd do t, it was a timed exam and I couldn't sit feeling sorry for myself. I ended up really struggling with a couple. You know how it is, the revision materials prepare you to answer any one of a thousand questions, and you just have to hope that the 50 they ask are among the ones you've prepared for.

Fortunately, quite a lot of the ones I got right are indeed ones that I'd studied in the days leading up to the exam, and although I was stumped by a couple of questions for a while and even had a couple of "What is this I don't even?" questions that continued to infuriate me all the way to the end of the exam.

A minute before the timed end of the exam I figured that the two remaining questions that I had guessed answers for had got me for the past hour and a half and wouldn't be solved with a last minute flash of inspiration, so I submitted the exam and resigned myself to the inevitable score that didn't reflect how hard I'd studied over the past couple of days.

Except I guess it did, because I got 90%. A healthy pass :-). So that's okay then. The stuff about the spider will have to wait :P.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Beer Madness


So, Jack's birthday went pretty well. The day before the "do", our tutor says "oh by the way, tomorrow is a catching-up day where you all get together, sit around, read dilbert comics and complain at how unreasonable customers can be".
Actually he didn't, but now he's getting to know us as a class, I have a feeling that's what he will say in future.


You see, as part of our course, alongside our CCNA, we have another couple of, well, sub courses if you like, that we have to do as well.
The problem is, to actually do the coursework for these sub-courses, we need to demonstrate things like; "Using screenshots where appropriate, demonstrate the ability to search for, find, download and rename a software patch". Yes, really. On wednesday we were learning the intricacies of Manchester/Phase Encoding, and on the thursday we progressed to the lofty heights of "and then I clicked on 'rename' on the menu and here is a screenshot to prove it".
I would actually say that correctly creating, editing, saving and inserting a screenshot into a word document requires more skill than renaming a downloaded file, but hey.

Further to this, we don't actually have download privileges at college, so we can't demonstrate anything except our failure to l334 h4x a firewall. So instead of getting on with our sub-course courseworkyness, when the CCNA tutor isn't CCNA tutoring us, we sit around, read dilbert, and moan about bad experiences with customers.

Except this time we didn't. Being thursday, we set off to one of the local pubs.
And there we stayed, having a wide variety of interesting drinks including (for me) beer, cider, corvoisier (brandy), and a rather stunning cocktail called a fireball.

50ml of finest cinnamon whisky in a pint glass, topped up with apple juice. The result is an alcoholic drink that tastes (and smells) like raw liquid Christmas :-).

So the night turned out quite well. Lots of alcohol was consumed, lots of pizza was eaten (mine was liberally covered in the hottest chilli sauce I have ever tasted - alcohol seemed to take the edge off the discomfort, and while I don't like hot food, you'll do anything to impress your mates after 4 hours of drinking - so while I was sat there with my hot pizza grinning like a cheshire cat, the other guys were backing away from the table to stop the chilli fumes corroding their drinks glasses), and no one got into trouble despite the fact that one of the elders of our party made the mistake of turning up with an empty stomach after very little sleep, and quickly became the most intoxicated person I've seen outside of a cop show as a result.
To stop him from drunkenly losing them, other members of the party went home with his watch/mobile phone/sunglasses/backpack/expensive multitool/mountain bike, and apparently the poor dude woke up in absolute panic the day after wondering where all his stuff was.
He has it all back now and has promised not to drink on an empty stomach again :-).


So the course is coming on quite well, though I'd be lying if I said that anyone was finding it easy. I do however, seem to be coping quite well and have already got the practical part of the end of semester exam down to a fine art.

I had wanted this entry to be longer, but I've left it hanging in mid air for so long that I've forgotten most of what I wanted to write about, so busy have I been with college work (no really).

Hopefully, the next entry will include more computery type stuff :-). Let's see how things go hey.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shuttles, Bikes and Climbing Frames...


I would yawn, but I'm not that sleepy.

I'm tired, yes, extremely physically tired, my legs, arms and lower back ache from 3 hours of cycling up, down, around, across, over, between, and well, I'm sure you get the idea.
See, one of the things that I like about my job, is that when people are in a nice mood, they give me lovely gifts of money or tips.
These tips go in a Jar (a plastic bag actually), until they accumulate enough to represent a decent amount of money.

Back at the start of the year, or even as late as the end of last year, you may have seen me mention that I was saving up for a new bike, one with suspension, that didn't jiggle me about so much when it came to kerbs and suchlike. But for whatever reason, no sooner would I start saving, than some personal financial crisis would appear and devour my money. Whether college fees or bus fare or whatever, despite the generous and substantial help from my parents, money seems to have been really tight for the past few months.
It's only recently that I've started to have a disposable income again.

Eventually, the tips built up to the right amount, and after weeks of agonising, I chose and ordered a new bike to replace my cool but slightly rusty (with finnicky gears that didn't work properly) and kinda uncomfortable other bike, with something more suited to my style of riding.
I ride on the pavement a fair bit, but I also enjoy riding dirt tracks and whathave you, and so the various potholes, kerbs, tree roots, protuding stones etc made a ride without suspension kinda tough on some sensitive areas.
So I ordered a spangly shiny new one, with suspension, and also with a cool paintjob, and lovely disc brakes instead of standard v brakes.
And today, after putting it together, I went on a lovely zoom around.
After hurting my naughty parts, I carefully rode home, put it together again with a larger spanner, and went on another zoom around, a few hours in length, cycling around all these weird little woodland paths that I've always been curious about.


As for the ickle guy, well I managed to see a poster in the local store advertising an Emergency Services Open Day. As the name suggests, lots of police, ambulances and firetrucks in attendance, lots of fun activities for all the family etc, and I even got to sit in the driving seat of a Police 4X4 (It looked like that <--- one, but not a model) which was cool. The fire fighters were doing demonstrations of fighting fires, the drugs dog was doing a demonstration of searching for drugs, morris dancers were doing impressions of dancers, and the speed camera dudes were trying to convince everyone not to hate them. We saw some awesome birds of prey, some cute rabbits, some strange chickens and rather skinny ducks, the biggest horses that I have ever seen, and 1001 dogs. My mum helpfully got me some helpful information about securing my possessions with the police, which she then helpfully tucked away somewhere where I can't get it.
Whereas my sister seems to throw stuff away if she can't immediately justify keeping it, my mum just seems to hide stuff away if she can't immediately justify not doing so. And since she's a compulsive hide-stuff-away-er, the end results of her interactions with items of property are depressingly similar and predictable. Oh well.

Last week, I took the ickle guy to the a park in another part of town. The area was lucky enough to have some money ploughed into it, (which is ironic given that the area's main block of flats is about to be ploughed into rubble), and as it has only been up a short time, the new park is therefore in decent condition, the local kids not having had enough time to smash the stuff up yet.
They have a couple of slides, a weird cross between a swing and, well, a round thing. It's like a huge dinnerplate attached to a swing, and you sit in it and swing.
They also have a rather terrifyingly tall climbing frame with a slide at the top. This thing is huge. I could climb off the roof of our extension onto it with little trouble.
It is made, instead of rungs, of very taut nylon ropes cunningly arranged so as to be a complete devil to climb. Never mind worrying about falling onto the ground, when I was up there I worried just as much about falling from one part of the construction onto another. Shame - I could have climbed to the top and had a nice view of my nephew being weird.

Or I could if I didn't hate heights, which is why while my nephew was busy climbing like a little climbing spider monkey, I was relaxing in the swinging thing, while keeping a careful eye on him :-).
But again, he seemed to like it. He made a new friend, who gave him a muffin for some reason, and I had a nice time walking him round the little alleyways and suchlike.


That's it really. College has been proceeding apace, with the lessons getting harder and harder, we spend the days examining incrementally smaller and smaller parts of the curriculum, trying to nail out the facts in some semblance of order, before moving onto the next mind-warping revelation.
Today, we did subnetting. Next week we will do it as well, and possibly the week after. It's a confuzzling (and yet kinda awesome and clever and interesting) topic. The occasional giddy rush of fulfilment when the pieces suddenly snap into place, makes the grinding through the facts and texts worth it, I think :-).
Today, we also watched the shuttle land, live. I asked the tutor to let me watch it as a favour (the student computers don't have flash), and to my surprise, a crowd gathered pretty quickly, all evidently keen to watch Atlantis land for the last time. And land she did, without incident thankfully. While she goes on display at Kennedy, NASA and other organisations promise that they are working hard to deliver her replacement.

And that's about it really. Next week should be fun. I've booked 2 days off, so we can take the youngest member of our class out to the pub for his 18th birthday. There are about 8 of us going, and Jack (the kid) insists - get this - that he has things to do, the day after [his 18th birthday celebration!]. How irresponsible is that! He should just cancel those activities, instead of performing them with a huge hangover.
We did all agree not to get him too drunk however, as one of us would have to put him up for the night, and no one wants a sickeningly drunk kid falling around their house.

Of course, how reasoned and sensible we are about it after several beers, remains to be seen. Given the fact that the last time we went for "a quick pint", and that the more we drank, the more drinking more seemed like an awesome idea, I think someone is going to have to show extraordinary presence of mind to make sure, at half 11 at night, that ickle Jack doesn't get left to sleep in a skip somewhere, as is traditional birthday celebration activity, apparently.
But hey. Let's see.

And now, that this is over, I'm going to backup some stuff, and then sod off to bed.
I seem to have become more sleepy in the past few minutes. Very tired actually. I will have to have an early night to ensure I have enough energy to zoom around on my bike again tomorrow.