Snow in March!

So March is here. So comes the snow! Only a little but the first of the winter.
I have an eye infection just now. it’s going but it has stopped me going out in the wet windy weather. I have recently purchased an external 8TB hard disk. Yes thats right 8TB!! The cost was less then £200. Not many years ago this would just not be possible let alone so cheap(relatively).
I have used this to combine all the contents of my other external hard disks and remove duplicates. As all my systems are Linux based, I have reformatted the disk as ext4 instead of NTFS. This is a more ‘efficient filing system and is fragmentation resistant.
As I write this, the sun has come out. It is that time of the year when the weather cannot make up it’s mind. Winter is fighting to hold on and Spring is pushing to come in.

Mobility, Bus passes and Batteries

I have a mobility scooter, I have a bus pass (disabled) and a scooter bus pass also. Well I lost the passes on Monday! So I have been stuck in the house and will be until the replacements arrive. They are no use to anyone as they have my picture on them and what scooter. Anne took me to town today and it has only been two days, but the feeling of the loss of independence is great. I couldn’t just go out. The scooter does 4mph and a range of about 8 miles (on the flat with a tail wind!). To get to town is 5 miles with some big hills(one in ten). So even if the battery lasts, it would take me about 1.5 hours to get there and the same back. Assuming I go nowhere in town.
So unless I can use the bus, I am stuck in the village. With the bus I can get to town (Northwich) , Chester, and surrounding villages. Even that is restricting. I cannot get to the local park as there is no direct bus and too much hill. So after the twentieth visit, you run out of shopping/looking at shops to do!
All because of the restrictions of lead acid batteries lol. They do make lithium batteries but they are over £100 each !! (two needed).

I do not drive now. I haven’t since my operation. I have a licence and could prob drive, but I am not 100% certain I would always be able to concentrate/react well enough. So I do not wish to take the chance.

I got my Toyo Large format camera out the other day and set it up. I managed to put the front standard on backwards and only realized when I couldn’t focus! lol I have some 4×5 film. So I am hoping to actually take some pictures with it soon. My aim is to be able to take the camera out on a scooter and go to the local park. (Visions of a mad scooter with a large tripod and big camera hanging out!).

It looks like I will finally be getting my works pension (microscopic though it is).
Health wise I have been up and down. I have had a lot of trouble with joints and ligaments that have hurt badly. Just now my right kneecap feels like someone is prying it off!
I normally put up with the pain, but every so often it ‘gets to me’.

The weather here has definitely gone to spring with temps around 40F at night to 54F during the day. A lot better for me. I used to love the cold, but now it causes so much pain.

I looked at some cct diagrams yesterday. Things that I could have drawn from scratch not long ago. I couldn’t even ‘see’ then properly now. I must admit that is where I am finding it very hard to accept. I used to have a near photographic memory and be very quick to take things in. I cannot seem to learn things now and things like a simple Colpitts oscillator cct is beyond me.
I had a scare last week. I was in town and thinking of going on the bus to Chester (I have to catch the Chester bus from town). I suddenly could not remember where Chester was or which bus or in fact anything but my name and how to get home. This lasted for about 1/2 hour. I decided to just ‘get home’!!
This is the first time that has happened for such a long period. Usually it is for say 1 min. I have been ‘pushing myself’ in the last few days physically and suspect I ‘reset’. the feeling was like I went (in my brain ) to get access to some memories and the room was ’empty’.
Life goes on.


Well Christmas and all the festivities are over now and it's the start of a new year.

Like a lot of people, I have made (to myself) some 'new years resolutions'. Nothing unusual at all (get my health better, enjoy life more and less stress, do more of my hobbies).

We went away for Christmas this year for a change. We went by train to York and stayed in the Royal York hotel (

Now the station is so close to the hotel that you really couldn't get any closer lol

Here is a picture of the station, the TWO pubs between and the hotel:

2012-12-25 09.51.12

The left building is the station (and a pub that is great for food plus the usual beers etc.), The white building in the middle is the 'York Tap' (note a Tap not a pub, i.e. no hot food or sandwiches, just nuts crisps and pork pies. It DOES however have over 40 hand pulled real ales and many ciders/porters).

The hotel is a very fine Victorian hotel and has that 'greatness' about it.

York itself was very enjoyable and what was the nicest was that we did not plan anything. That did mean that meals were a bit 'hap hazard'

This week is the first week back at work full time. It has been a very tiring week, but I have managed it! I have an appointment for the sleep clinic in a couple of weeks time. I am hoping that things will start to move forward on that front.

We have continued to sort out lots of our possessions that we have collected over the years (DVD's/CD's etc). After my 'illness' last year, it made us realise that we just had far too much 'clutter'/possessions that we will never use/look at etc.

so we have decided to simplify our lives. I have got rid of many servers and some photographic gear.
 This year is aimed at making better use of a few things, rather then 'stretching ourselves too thin'. Last year we only managed to use the caravan a few times as I was just too ill to go away in it. This is something we definitely want to change this year. On the photography front, I want to finish off making my darkroom and start using it. I have not used my large format cameras yet, so this is another area to get going.

One thing we have found is after getting rid of unused things, we have a lot more room. In fact in some rooms it seems positively empty! lol

In a few years time, we will start to think about moving to where we wish to retire to. Probably a bungalow, but almost certainly a smaller place. So sorting out now will save us doing it later lol.

Last year didn't  turn out as I thought it would, but we made it through and we are both positive in our attitudes.

I hope you all have had a good Festive season and have a healthy happy new year.



Operation Adrenal

On the 28th of May, I went in for a laproscopic adrenalectomy. (keyhole surgery to remove my left adrenal gland).

All went well and my blood pressure has instantly dropped from high/very high to normal range.

I am now recouperating and at home. I feel battered and bruised but ok.

It will take many weks to recover fully, but things are looking good. This is the first operation I have ever had and it is classed as a fairly major one.

The hospital staff were very helpfully and kind and I felt that I was in very good hands.

The Surgeon (called Mr Guy) did a fantastic job and has been very friendly and helpfull throughout.

I as usual want to be better sooner and have already tried doing too much too soon. This is one of those occations that I will very soon realise that I will just have to wait.

Suzanna has been a mountain of support and has been wonderfull. For the past few months, I have been very unwell and my emotions have been all over the place.not upset, but my body has been flooded with excess ardenalin (plus all the other chemicals your adrenal gland produce).This has meant that I have been angry/anxious/ready to fight  almost 24/7.

fortunately I am not a violent man, but suzanna has had to bear the brunt of a nasty tounge. This has been upsettign to me as I have not been able to stop it. We have been married for over 30 years and as our vows said. 'In sickness and in health'. Well I am so lucky to be married to such a caring, loving wife.

I am on a fair amont of pain killers but not much else. After having years of being on god knows what meds, thsi is great. I know the pain will subside in time, so I am very pleased.

There is lots of things I want to do (my Raspberry pi computer has arrived for example), but they will have to wait.

I am signed off from work for two weeks at the moment, but knowledgable people have said to be prepared for up to six/eight weeks off. A lot of my insides have been moved and are bruised. We shal see.


Blame the Computer/ICT!!

Well It's Monday lunch time and the day has been going with its usual roller coaster ride.
One minute the ICT dept is 'the devil in-carnet', the next we are the ' great saviour'!!
Such is life. Nothing out of the norm there then lol, but it does make for frustration and stress. Yes part of the job and I accept that.
However, when you get people who basically use the technology/ICT dept as an excuse, that frustrates me.
Obviously I can't go into specifics, No that would be wrong. Its a common 'theme' though.
Boss: ' Have youy done xxx?'
Admin:' No we can't the computer broke. We told  it about it days ago but they haven't done anything. We are waiting for them to fix it'!
This translates to:
Boss: ' Have youy done xxx?'
Admin: "oh Bu**er. I've forgot. I know lets blame the computer. The reality is that the person can't remember how to do some thing / does it wrong and so causes a problem (like saving all ther files on the desktop and not on the network where they are supposed to so they will be backed up).
The one that makes me laugh is 'The computers made a mistake'.
I have been in computing since 1981 and the number of times a computer has actually 'got it wrong' is so low as to not be countable!!
No the computer did exactly what it was asked to do. It was just asked the wrong questions.
Yes computers do fail. Yes they often do not do the thing you wanted them to do, but thats always because either yourself or the programmer got it wrong.
Anyway enough of that.
Computers are tools. nothing more and nothing less. There are times when they are the best tool for the job and other times when its better to use other means.
I am at or near a form of computer all day and night. Every day, but I use a paper pocket diary. It has not batteries to fail. It has survived the washing machine(!)
It  has a very quick boot up time, etc.
So the right tool for the job.
I do not have an Ipad. Nothing wrong with them and yes it would be a nice toy. But (for me personally) It would run out of power trying to keep up with me.
My desktop is a quad core 3ghz with tones or ram and 2TB of hard disk space.
I often have to wait for it to catch me up. I have also often ran out of reasources. But I AM an exception. I run so many things at once and often many OS's at once (virtual machines).
So I have to wait.
But thats MY problem

Cabbages and Kings

After six weeks of having this chest infection, I am finally getting rid of it. I still have a cough, but that is a side effect from my blood pressure meds.

Here in the UK we have had a long weekend with the Friday and the Monday being bank holidays. We have the same thing again this weekend due to the Royal wedding this Friday followed by Mayday.

This is great and gives a 'four day weekend', but trying to get back into the swing of work for just a few days is hard.

At home, we have a rather large backlog of jobs to do that we have not been able to do for the last six weeks. These include a lot of gardening. We  have started by cleaning the patio and potting on the geraniums into bigger pots ready for going out in a few weeks. The seed potatoes are over due for planting and we have decided not to grow any tomatoes this year. The two new raised beds we have need filling with compost and then we can start planting the herbs etc into these beds.

On the photography front, I have finally managed to take some photos with the 120 camera and a couple of 35 mm cameras (one half frame). I have not developed the films yet, so I have no idea how they will turn out. My workshop has started to be be sorted. I finally have a desk in there! Somewhere to put my computer and scanners. The computer has not been swithed on for nearlly a year and is very much over due for some updates. This machine uses  aversion of Linux called Ubuntu. There is a new version due out in two days time, so I wil wait for that and update to the latest version.

I have bought another sever. This is a 'micro server' from HP.  Ebuyer has an offer on them. The server is £260 (approx) but comes with a cashback offer from HP of £100. So the server ends  up costing just £160. It is a nice small box and comes with some ram (not full compliment) and one 260gig HD. It can take 4 disks and I will populate it with either 2TB or 3TB disks in a RAID five config. This might be used as my Media server. (the server will take Windows/Linux/BSD/VMWare esxi) For a small office or home use, it is (IMHO) a good deal. Its quiet too!

I am not sure yet if I will watch the Royal wedding as Its not really my thing. I wish them well and hope everything goes as planned, but I am not into weddings whoever they are.

Our new caravan has not had much use yet as we have not been up to going anywhere. But we have decided to get 'motor movers' put on. These are geared motors that engage the wheels and allow you (by remote control) to move the van at slow speed. I have just been finding out about them and it seems that as our carvan is so small and light (~750KG laden), we have to make sure that there is sufficent nose weight or we might end up doing 'wheelies' !!!

This is because all the movers are disigned for heavier vans lol. The picture of our van doing wheelies around the site raised a smile lol.

The ‘Zen’ Approach

To those of you who have no idea what I am going on about, Zen ‘theories’ approach etc is about simplifying minimalist approach.
So how does this affect me?
Well here’s the rub. I love technology but I also love the ‘old fashioned way, the simpler way.
Hence even with computers. I use every day but they are tools. Not really fun any more.
Now the old pcs were fun. you actually had to get your hands dirty.
Machine code, peeking and poking memory addresses etc.
When I first started with computers, I had a ZX81. borrowed form work to ‘learn about computers’!
The first home computer I had was a Dragon 32.
I loved the Dragon. Propper keyboard! lol
I do not own that Dragon any more but I have many Dragon computers now Both the 32 and 64 versions. Complete with a large selection of software and operating systems.
One of the things that drew me to the Dragon was that they offered different Operating systems. O/S9 and FLEX are available for the 64K version.
Forth, Pascal and Lisp are available on cassette.
Now its easy to think with our modern computers that have terrabytes of storage and gigabytes of ram that the older computers are of no use.
Well remember we went to the moon on just 4K of RAM !!
you modern phone has far more computing power then the moon shots used.
So these old computers to me are like a ‘classic car’. Can be lots of work and need constant attention, but are LOADS of fun.
So what has this got to do with ZEN?
Well my workshop (like any tech guy) is bursting at the seams with JUNK valuable parts.
I have my servers, my radio ham gear, my photographic gear, books etc etc. Also anything my wife can’t find a home for, gets put in ‘the workshop’ lol.
This means that I can hardly get through the door.
I am moving my workshop to another room in the house. This is because the workshop is at the front of the house and gets all the sun. this is costing me a fair amount to cool the room down to stop the servers overheating.
I have an air conditioning unit, but I would like to not need to use it.
Now the back of the house is conciderably cooler. So that is where I am going to move my workshop. The silly thing is, when we moved into the house twenty years ago, that is where it was orignially!
But family takes priority and it got moved around the house. now each time it moved, of course all the network cabling and power etc had to be moved, rerouted etc.
some of the cables must be getting dizzy by now lol.
Why don’t I just use wireless for the network?
Well from where I sit in the Louge, I can pick up 20 (yes 20!) different wifi systems. Some not even secure!
Any radio ham will tell you tow (or more) radio signals transmitting within range will interfere with each other.
So twenty different wifi’s  all within range of each other and on similar frequencies….
Well they don’t help each other thats for sure!
So I use wired networks. They are faster (1gigabit) and more secure(unless someone cuts into the cable that is).
I like my computers. I like retro stuff. So I run many old operating systems. I have a novell netware 3.12 (the one I like the best), nearlly all the versions of Windows(right back to version one) Same with DOS. Plus many others. Now at one time I had loads of old computers. Each one with an Os on it. This took up far too much space. The heat form the monitors alone would heat the house!
This has been reduced to one BIG machine with a lot of virtual machine son them.
This way I have a lot of them running and available when I want to use them and the others are ready just waiting to switch on.
The space and power saving is phenominal.
If you have ever wanted to play around with another OS (say Linux), Try installing either virtualbox or VMWare. Both have free versions that allow you to run another OS on your PC(or Mac).
This seems to be at odds with the ZEN philosophy. Well there’s the problem. It is lol
So I have this conflict all the time within me. Simplify/have the things I want to learn/use.
It will be a conflict I will have all my life. but whilst the two philosophies may seem incompatable, they can co-exist.In a way, concolidating all my computers, is ‘simplifying’.
Yes I could just gwet rid of them and have one computer. But I WANT to use these old OS’s. so this is a way I can without taking up too much space and power.