An evening of verbs, mostly

Black Hawk Down CD cover shows a soldier holding a gun.

A quiet yet productive evening:

  • Listening to the amazingly-wonderful Black Hawk Down soundtrack. Regardless of what you might think of the film the soundtrack is other-worldly, fusing African and Eastern melodies and rhythms with Western. Terrific!
  • Replying to e-mails. Catching up with e-mails that I received almost a month ago.
  • Inviting various friends and family to visit/stay/eat.
  • Watching the second part — and the last of the current series — of Waking The Dead. I think this was the best story of the series, but I think I found it particularly interesting because of my Jewish ancestry (my paternal grandfather was Jewish).
  • Uninstalling the now sadly-expired Microsoft Office 2007 (Beta 2) on my laptop.
  • Re-installing the still tremendous Microsoft Office 2003 on my laptop.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to the song “Hunger” on the Black Hawk Down soundtrack:

Peace is a long time coming
Peace is my prayer for this earth
Bloodshed grows on this earth, famine
Is everywhere, and life is getting harder.
Let’s wake up, all together, and take action before it’s be too late.
Bloodshed grows, famine increases.
Sons of the earth must rise up together to prevent this
Before it’s too late
Life is getting harder on earth
Bloodshed grows and hunger is upon us
It’s late, in the night, the stars Sparkle
I wake up suddenly because I cannot sleep
So much I am suffering for humanity.

(Vocals Performed by Baaba Maal)

Tonight, as I prepare for bed, with this beautiful and lamenting backdrop of Africa-inspired music, I pray for the killing to stop. Join in if it is your discipline.

Look-a-like, pt. 4

Glenn Hoddle

Is it just me or does this person in the photo above look spookily like former England footballer Glenn Hoddle?

When I was little and Scotland had a football team that got into World Cups for some reason (probably because my dad was English) I had a pair of England football strip pyjamas. Glenn Hoddle was my favourite English footballer. Him and Gary Winston Lineker.

If you rearrange the letters in the name ‘Glenn Hoddle’ into alphabetical order you get:

DDEEGHLLNNO

Which, as far as I know, isn’t a real word. But it is an anagram of “Lend Gold Hen”. And ‘Gary Lineker’ is an anagram of “Rely Ear King”.

I think there is a lesson for everyone.

Solving the mystery of Mum’s unstartable PC

Belkin surge protection socket

Yesterday my brother Eddie and I drove down to Selkirk for a four hour, military-precise exercise to build a new bed for Mum and return her now up-to-date and working PC. At least that was the plan.

The bed was built in under an hour, a spot of lunch was taken before Eddie set to work clearing out some junk from the shed while I plugged in the PC and made sure it was working and connecting to the internet okay. Only it didn’t boot up, which was exactly the problem that it was experiencing before I whisked it away to the Saunders PC clinic just after Christmas.

The problem

I couldn’t understand it. Her PC had been playing up for about six months before I finally took it away to examine it. It was initially quite unpredictable: booting up fine some days, not others. On the days that it did boot up okay it would suddenly reboot in the middle of tasks, or would simply hang and have to be restarted, with a quiet prayer that it would even restart at all. Latterly it wouldn’t even boot into Windows, preferring instead to hang anywhere between the Power On Start-up Test (POST) screen and the Windows loading screen.

I suspected either a dodgy power supply or a dying CPU, and on Boxing Day 2006 loaded it into the back of our car and drove it back home with me. Only to have it sitting in our hallway for six weeks while I tried to find the space and energy to examine it. If there might be a lot of faffing about replacing components then I wanted the space and clarity of mind to do it.

The diagnosis

Last weekend I set it up on the dining room table, plugged it in, switched it on and … it booted straight away. So I took that opportunity to back-up all Mum’s data to DVD-R before risking another reboot. It rebooted fine. I updated Windows XP, and rebooted. In fact, I had it reboot about 20+ times during the weekend and each time it started fine. I couldn’t detect a single problem with it. Whew!

Actually, what I suspected was that it was simply allergic to being at Mum’s. Maybe it had a pet allergy, or something.

The good news

I phoned Mum and gave her the good news and said that I’d find an opportunity to nip down to Selkirk to deliver it. And that opportunity presented itself yesterday as Eddie was going down to Selkirk anyway and Jane had volunteered to help her sister paint a bedroom in Edinburgh. So we picked up Eddie in South Queensferry, dropped off Jane in south Edinburgh en route for the Scottish Borders.

The return

So with it safely returned to Selkirk, I unpacked it, plugged it in and switched it on. And waited. And waited. And waited. Hmmm… maybe it is allergic to being at Mum’s after all, because it would not boot up, preferring instead to hang on the Windows XP loading screen. Very odd.

I couldn’t understand it, I’d purposefully only plugged in the bits that I’d had in Anstruther: the PC box, the monitor, the keyboard, mouse and speakers. I knew that that worked, and had actually suspected a dodgy USB connector as having been the non-boot culprit.

The solution

And then I realised that the only component that I’d not had with me when I tested it at home was Mum’s surge-protection 4-gang power socket. I replaced it with the 4-way that I had with me and it booted. And rebooted. And rebooted yet again.

It turns out that it was the power-socket that was the problem all along. I went and told Mum.

Gareth: Mum, I’ve found out what the problem was with your PC.

Mum: Oh, that’s good. What was it?

Gareth: It was your surge-protector socket that the PC was plugged into.

Mum: Oh, well done. Do you think that had anything to do with the massive thunder and lightning storm we had last year? It blew a lot of my friends’ modems.

Gareth: Yes. [Thinks: And you only thought to tell me that now, why?]

The replacement

I’ve now ordered Mum a replacement Belkin 6-Socket SurgeMaster Tel/Fax/Modem/Cable or DSL Modem Protection cable (with built-in insurance up to £25,000 for any equipment damaged as a result of the surgemaster not doing its job properly).

In other news…

That Mum’s Orange dial-up account was no longer working — not having been dialed-into for over 90 days — is another matter, but to get her back online we used uk2.net’s account-free service. A useful number of keep in mind if you’re ever in the same situation, or your broadband goes down for a time. (Thanks to Mike for looking that up online while on the end of a mobile phone conversation with me.)

Battlefield 2 Top Gear remake

Here’s a YouTube video that brings together two of my favourite things: my favourite TV show (Top Gear) and my favourite PC game (Battlefield 2).

It’s a remake within the Battlefield 2 game environment of Jeremy Clarkson’s task to out-manoeuvre a British Army Challenger 2 tank. It lasts about 8 minutes.

(If you can’t view it embedded within this page then you may be able to watch it on the YouTube website.)

Free Serif Software

CD and case

Here’s something that I came across recently that seemed like good value: a website offering for download the following Free Serif Software:

While these may not be the latest versions, they are free and as far as I can tell quality applications, particularly PhotoPlus and PagePlus, which often receive pretty decent reviews.

The website is run by Serif, who invite you to upgrade to a newer version for around £9.99 (GBP) before they allow you to download and register (by telephone) the free versions.

If you are on a limited budget or wanting to explore a new area of computer-aided creativity then this site is certainly worth checking out.

If it is a free office suite that you are looking for, offering Microsoft Office-compatible formats, then check out OpenOffice.org.