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 ;-).