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Happy birthday Sal!
Many happy returns to my wonderful wife Sal. I hope you have a great day :)

Birthday cake

More time in hospital, just what is HSP?
After events in November when Chloe was in hospital with Meningococcal Septicaemia we have become wary of any rashes that the kids may develop. We were therefore very concerned when Amy developed a meningitis/septicaemia type rash over the weekend. The test is to push a glass tumbler over the rash to see if it fades, if it does then it's nothing too much to worry about - it didn't.
So, we ended up in hospital (the same ward that Chloe was admitted to in November) with Amy being diagnosed as having HSP - Henoch-Schonlein Purpura.
Luckily she hasn't got too far an advanced case as sufferers can develop kidney problems. She has had some bleeding in to the stomach as there was stomach pain for about a week before the rash developed.
She's home now but has got to do a urine test every morning for about 4 weeks to ensure that no kidney problems develop but, fingers crossed, we're hoping that she'll stay clear of further complications.
Our GP said that this was the first case she had seen in 10 years - trust Amy!
AMD press conference at CeBIT 2008 to be streamed live.
AMD's press conference at CeBIT 2008 is to be streamed live over the web abd invitations to the streaming have been sent out.
According to the invitation:
"AMD will hold a press conference where the company will unveil an array of innovative new platforms and technologies targeted at notebook computing, PC gaming, HD experience and next-generation multi-core processing.
AMD will join forces with industry-leading partners to present an array of compelling new PC platform innovations that redefine platform performance-per-watt and HD entertainment to deliver the Ultimate Visual Experience."
It all sounds very interesting so I'm sure to be watching and will most likly post some reactions after the event.
In my opinion, hardware innovation does not seem to have been developing as quickly as you would expect - one of the main reasons people think Windows Vista is a poor OS - so, hopefully, AMD's announcements can throw a few cats among the pigeons.
Happy Valentines day.
Happy Valentines day to my wonderful wife Sal who puts up with more than she ought to.
I love you very much x
There are times when you think "it's a sign".
As you may already know, I work for an outsourcing company doing on-site support and therefore occasionally switch sites (we have contracts with some of the big investment banks).
This week I have had two interviews at a new site which both seemed to go well and I was told at both that I knew stuff no-one else did.
Well, I have heard this evening that I am not getting the position because they don't know how long I'll be there.
I had previously been based at another site for two and a half years but, without prospects, felt the job had reached a plateau and therefore needed a new challenge. This knowledge led to an interesting question in todays interview:
"How long do you think you've got left in this role?"
I answered the only way I know how: honestly. My response was that I didn't know but if they made the job interesting and gave me good things to work on then I would stay around longer. Seemed reasonable at the time.
This leads me to the conclusion that, because the role is outsourced and they can get someone in easier and cheaper that a permanent employee, that they are looking for a yes man who will just sit around and do whatever is thrown at them and not question it rather than wanting to progress.
Things like this really make you question what you do and where you are.
Reap as ye sow.
I was holding off blogging about "Gizmodogate" where Gizmodo staff used TV-B-Gone devices to turn off screens at CES - even during at least one press event.
I had posted a comment over at GottaBeMobile agreeing that they had gone too far and, as a consequence, lost me as a subscriber to their feed. In fact, I had only subscribed as they had been recommended by Scoble as a good source of CES coverage.
Robert warned us that this kind of thing could well happen at CES this year when he posted before the show began on the 2nd January and, sure enough, it did.
It's fair to say that the majority of the tech community condemns the actions taken by the Gizmodo staff as this type of behaviour can ruin things for a lot of the others attending CES (a lot of bloggers were already arbitrarily downgraded from the journalist status they had last year) causing a reduction in the quality of coverage we get.
Well, the news is good: Rafe Needleman over at Craze reports that the offending member of Gizmodo staff has been banned by the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) from all future CES events and that further sanctions against Gizmodo and Gawker Media (who own the site) could be considered.
Just goes to show, if you abuse a position of trust then you must expect to pay the price whether it be press credentials or an NDA. These things must be respected or it will be ruined for all.
Making money on the web.
One of my "things to do" for 2008 was to make some money from the web, whether it be from monetising the blog or other means. Anyway, I'm normally pretty suspicious of the various money making schemes you get presented with but when someone as web savvy as Chris Pirillo says he's on to a good thing then you have to take note.
The scheme he has signed up with is which pays you for clicking on ads - the more you click the more you earn (you can pay for a premium account to get more ads per day). You also get paid for anyone you refer.
With the following Chris has across the web I would imagine he's making quite a bit from referrals ;)
I've signed up with but am reluctant to pay for a premium account just yet but, if you want to start earning yourself AND help me out then why no sign up using my referral details? Just click here:
Without a premium account or any referrals it'll be a slow process but every little bit helps so I may sign up for a premium account later if it looks to be viable. I'll let you know how things go over time.
What's to come "professionally" in 2008.
Yesterday didn't begin 2008 as expected; instead of being back at HQ I had to go to my last site as sickness cover for the day. Still, I'm back at base today and can look ahead.
At a meeting with my manager at the end of last year it was agreed that I would be attending an ITIL course and I expressed an interest in sitting the (MCAS) exams for Office 2007 as these will prove handy as businesses migrate to Office 2007 and Vista throughout 2008.
My main goal is to move away from desktop support and move in to something I can really get my teeth in to so we shall have to wait and see what the year brings.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year everyone.
May 2008 be a great year for all.
2007, the year in review: October - December.
Also see: January - March, April - June, July - September.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
As mentioned before, I had to remove beta 1 of Vista SP1 from my PC due to issues but we soon had the first build of Windows XP SP3 to keep us occupied.
Acer bought rival OEM Gateway in October and I immediately wondered what impact that would have on Gateway's line of Tablet PCs seeing as Acer had already axed their own previously. Luckily, things turned out okay with some Tablets being retained and others now being sold by MPCCorp.
The Queen described 1992 as an "annus horribilis" in her speech that year, well November was our bad month. Chloe developed Meningococcal Septicaemia and ended up in hospital on a course of intravenous antibiotics. Things were touch and go and if we had delayed any longer it could have gone in to full blown meningitis. We were all deemed at risk until a second round of blood tests came back negative. We were given the all clear but 10 days later we were involved in a car accident when a woman lost control the other way and hit us head on. Luckily no-one was injured too badly - bruising, whiplash and a good dose of shock all round. They say bad things happen in threes: our third thing was the main desktop PC dying and needing the motherboard, CPU, memory and graphics card replaced - wonderful!
As expected, the iPhone came to the UK on November 9th which prompted me to run a series of posts called "2G for a day" in which I turned off my high speed connection on the phone to see what difference only having GPRS would make - not as much as you would imagine.
On the beta front Vista SP1 hit a Release Candidate Preview build and Windows Messenger 9 was released to testers but then leaked within 48 hours.
One positive thing to come out of November was for me to reach my 4th anniversary blogging. The blog has been through a number of incarnations and most of the posts before June 2006 no longer exist on the web, although I have recreated the most common old items elsewhere on the site.
The PC failure meant I had to reactivate Vista and I then started experiencing a number of issues with Vista SP1 but I originally put these down to the hardware issues I had experienced.  It wasn't until a lot of other people starting reporting the same problems that I realised the issue was actually with the SP1 RC Preview build AND the actual RC build itself. Bugs were being closed on Connect as "won't fix" without any explanation so I posted about the issues and accused Microsoft of sweeping the problems under the carpet. It turns out that the RC builds were causing problems with activation so Vista was entering "Reduced Functionality Mode" despite Microsoft saying that this would be removed from SP1 - obviously not yet.
In December Dell finally entered the Tablet PC arena but were immediately slated for releasing a product which was far too expensive. They're response? We're dearer because we're better - hmmmmm.
HTC announced that the long suffering Shift would be delayed further with mixed reports as to why (software, hardware, battery life) causing people to cancel their pre-orders in the fear that the Shift may never see the light of day or, when it does, be obsolete. Let's see what UMPCs come out of CES 2008. Problems also confronted Windows Home Server with reports that certain types of files were corrupted when stored on a WHS machine - defeats the purpose when you have to take a separate backup as your backup solution doesn't work properly.
Aside from all of this December was unfortunately dominated by the tragic loss of Marc Orchant who died a week after suffering a massive heart attack and never regaining consciousness. Marc had a big impact on anyone who came in to contact with hmi and is a big loss to the tech community and the world at large. Rest in peace, Marc.
2007, the year in review: July - September.
Also see: January - March, April - June, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very Good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech Perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Looking back, July seems to have been a quiet month. There was our wedding anniversary, my birthday and the day that the Tour de France came to town. This was a great day when the community came together for a party - it's a shame that life Isn't like that more often.
July did see the start of the Windows Live OneCare v2 Beta which introduced some great new functionality (I'm still using this as my anti-virus/anti-spyware solution now).
The big tech news was that Windows Home Server RTM'ed - it was great fun testing it and it's a real shame there are now some concerns over it's reliability.
August gave us the Performance and Reliability patches for Windows Vista which gave us a number of improvements to Microsofts' much maligned flagship. These were very well Received and did actually make a difference to how Vista runs - can't be bad.
On a work note I left the site I had been working at for Nearly two and a half years as I felt it was time to move on and things had stagnated. That's the one good thing about working for an outsourcing company - you can move Between clients without having to get a new job.
Now that Windows Home Server had RTM we could all look forward to what offerings the OEMs would have to tempt us But some initial offerings failed to excite. I remarked that Some OEMs seemed to be forgetting what WHS was all about - reliable backup and storage. When you have multiple hard drives installed in WHS you can enable folder duplication Which mirrors your data accross these drives thus adding Redundancy. Some OEMs, however, were shipping units with only one drive - pointless if you ask me.
The end of August finally saw the announcement of the eagerly anticipated Windows Vista SP1 beta and my invite duly turned up. Microsoft changed the way they worked with Vista, putting out more updates via Windows Update rather than have customers waiting for the next Service Pack but businesses especially don't buy it and are still adopting the "don't touch it until SP1" stance.
A backlash against the HTC Shift started in September. What everyone initially thought of as the perfect UMPC started showing it's true colours causing a lot of potential buyers to rethink their position.
It was announced later in the month that the iPhone would be coming to the UK on November 9th with a nice hefty price tag and a minimum 18 month contract but still without 3G. It was bound to sell in reasonable numbers regardless but Apple's insistence on full control leaves a sour taste in the mouth in a country where we are used to a lot of freedom when it comes to our mobile phones.
Beta 1 of Vista SP1 finally hit in September but had to be removed very shortly afterwards due to a few show stopper bugs including not being able to connect my Windows Mobile device.
Fourth quarter to follow.
2007, the year in review: January - March.
Also see: April - June, July - September, October - December.
2007 has been a very mixed year for me with some very good times tempered with some dire times and a string of bad luck for the family. I am going to be running a series of posts looking back at the last 12 months from a tech perspective and a personal one. I'll be looking at the things I consider to be the most important developments in the tech world as I have covered it.
Let's get started with the first quarter:
January saw me open the year with my "open letter to Micrsoft" which was a plea for MS to lead the way in the UK and actually try to get technology to the masses. UK tech adoption always seems stunted - we don't have the major OEMs with a presence here, there are no opportunities to get hands on with new devices etc. - so I thought that MS would be in a perfect position to start partnering with OEMs or even retailers to get the technology out there by way of road shows, demos, decent retail opportunities etc. Some great products have come our way from the MS stable (Tablet PCs, UMPCs, and now Windows Home Server) but even the best products fall flat without the marketing to support them and this was sorely lacking, and still is.
January was also dominated by CES and MacWorld with two big announcements. Firstly, Windows Home Server was officially announced and got a lot of people (myself included) very excited about what was to come. Next, however, came the big one - the story that took over the web: Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone at MacWorld and I ran some initial thoughts about the device.
We also saw a report from Forrester Research giving details that companies were finding the move to Office 2007 harder than expected and having to invest in more training for the new "Fluid Ui" than first thought. Around the same time we caught a first glimpse of an add-in being developed internally at Microsoft called "Scout" which would help users migrate to the new UI but this failed to materialise. A big shame.
The start of the year witnessed an explosion in the Vista/Lexmark saga that began at the end of 2006. The issues that I, and many others, experienced with Lexmark printers drivers on Windows Vista were indicative of the problems faced by many when OEMs did not do a good enough - or quick enough - job of getting their drivers out of the door in time for Vista to go RTM. In my case there were repeated delays in releasing a driver for my printer and when they finally did materialise they wouldn't work. Not only that but an uninstall utility from lexmark trashed my system! Lexmark printer driver issues on Vista are probably the single biggest reason people find my blog in search engines.
January ended on a low note, on the 30th we were burgled and had our keys, wallet/purse stolen which meant we had to cancel cards etc. and get the locks changed on the car so that the thieves couldn't come back and steal it. This coincided with the RTM launch of Windows Vista which meant I obviously had far more important things on my mind than blogging about the launch of the new OS from Microsoft.
After the Vista launch the tech press was full of "should you, shouldn't you" articles which all seemed to be saying the same thing: that it just wasn't worth the upgrade yet. One particular magazine which caught my eye was Micro Mart here in the UK running the cover story "Is this 2007's most pointless upgrade?" I blogged a knee jerk reaction not having read the actual article (bad form I know) but felt incensed that customers would get a wrong impression. In response to my post I was contacted by the editor of Micro Mart about writing a piece for them so it all worked out okay in the end.
February included the beginning of the Windows Home Server beta program on Connect. I was lucky enough to have been contacted when it was invite only but the program was opened up and people registered in their thousands - 40,000 by the end of Feb to be exact, with 10,000 invites being sent.
I finished my article for Micro Mart and now just had to wait for it to be published but March was HTC Shift month. The news about HTC's UMPC offering was everywhere and, having both Vista and Windows Mobile 6 on board, really captured the imagination. The Windows Mobile 6 side of things turned out to be a cut down offering called SnapVUE and there are concerns over battery life - even now the device still hasn't made it to production.
Second quarter to follow.
Merry Christmas everyone.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very merry Christmas, thanks for sticking with me.
I hope that tomorrow brings you everything that you ask for and that you are spending time with those dear to you.
A very merry Christmas to all.
Happy Yule everyone.
A very happy Yule to all my readers :)
Marc Orchant, rest in peace.
As Warner says, this is tough to type. yesterday that, a week after suffering a massive heart attack, Marc has lost his fight for life.
I only ever dealt with Marc over the internet but his passion and zest were readily apparent for all to see and hear. I can only echo Robert Scoble when he says "A real loss for the tech blogging world. Hell, just a real loss for the world."
I hope you are at peace and that you have a good time wherever you are, Marc.
Here is Oliver's update in full:

Update: 2:56PM Pacific Time December 9th, 2007:

It is with great sadness that I report that Marc Orchant, Husband to Sue, Father to Rebecca and Jason, and friend to so many, passed away just a short time ago. I was notified by Marc’s brother Craig.

His family and closest friends were at his side and his favorite music was playing. Craig said that Marc’s passing was as peaceful and easy as anyone could have hoped and he left this world surrounded by love from so many people that he couldn’t possibly have failed to know how many people cared for, appreciated and respected him.

Anyone that knew Marc also knew how much he loved music; especially the Grateful Dead. The excerpt below is from one of the songs that helped the family say goodbye to Marc and helped Marc move on to the next world. I talked to Marc almost every single day for the past couple of years. I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I am going to miss him so, so much.

To allow for people that may need to travel and take time of work, services are most likely going to be held this coming Wednesday afternoon at the Temple where the Orchants are members. I will provide more specific details as soon as they have been provided to me. Marc’s family expressed once again their gratitude for the outpouring of love and support that the technology community has shown in this very difficult time. Your warmth, concern and friendship will not be forgotten.

River gonna take me
Sing me sweet and sleepy
Sing me sweet and sleepy
all the way back home
It’s a far gone lullaby
sung many years ago
Mama, Mama, many worlds I’ve come
since I first left home

Goin home, goin home
by the waterside I will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul

The latest update on Marc.
Oliver Starr has posted more updates but the latest doesn't make good reading:
"Well… This isn’t easy. I just got off the phone with Sue Orchant and she has given me another update on Marc’s condition. What Sue tells me is that Marc has essentially failed to improve significantly over the past several days. He has not ever regained consciousness since the event and at this point it is not looking very good.

I hate writing these words. I hate that this has happened. This guy is one of the best, most amazing people. My heart goes out to Sue and the Orchant Family. I wish to god there was something more I could do, some miracle I could conjure. I want to fight this thing but there’s just nothing to fight. We’re still waiting and praying and that is so, so hard."

Come on Marc, you can do it. We're all thinking of you.

Updated news regarding Marc Orchant.
Oliver Starr has set up a new page dedicated to providing updates about the health of Marc Orchant who suffered a very serious heart attack on Sunday (2nd December).
You can view that page here: .
Marc's wife, Sue, has given Oliver an update as of 4:14am Pacific time today. She says that there has been some slight improvement in Marc's condition in that "He has some response to stimuli and his oxygen levels and heart rate have improved" but he has still yet to regain consciousness.
Come on Marc - you're made of strong stuff!
Best wishes go to Marc Orchant.
Marc Orchant, blogger, author, Tablet PC MVP and one of my regular online contacts has suffered a massive heart attack (yesterday, Sunday 2nd December) at his home in Albuquerque.
Oliver Starr over at Blognation has posted the details as described by Marc's wife Sue, and has supplied the details of the hospital where we can send cards, flowers etc.
My thoughts are with Marc and his family as this most difficult of times and I hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery.
Get well soon Marc!
One last victim of the PC crash.
It wasn't immediately apparent but it appears that the file system on one of my 80GB SATA drives used for storage was completely shot. All the files were readable but records in the MFT for half of the data had obviously become corrupted. Security information was incorrect (I didn't have permissions to my own files) and I was unable to move or delete numerous items as Windows complained that they could not be read (even though I could copy them elsewhere).
CHKDSK complained that there was not enough disk space to re-write the index entries for the problem files so I was unable to fix the problems no matter how much data I moved off of the drive.
Luckily, I had a 200GB SATA drive sat here doing nothing so 50GB of data has been successfully moved over and the problem partition recreated. I don't have enough SATA slots free for both disks to be in the PC at once so I'll keep using the 200GB one and keep the 80GB drive as spare.
UPDATE: well, it seems that everything was not quite as rosy as expected. Some of the data on the drive is a bit damaged - mp3s glitching etc. and CHKDSK had a field day with these items. Should be okay now though.
Accident update and more bad news!
Since the accident Chloe hasn't shown any repercussions after banging her head. Her bruise went down ok and there was no sign of any concusion. Sal's chest is still a bit painful but not too bad and her concusion has pretty much cleared (she had some blurred vision etc. for a while).
On the day after the accident I was diagnosed as having whiplash and was singed off off work for 10 days by my doctor on Monday (19th). I have pain and stiffness in my neck and left shoulder. A personal injury claim for Sal and myself will be going in.
Some good news, however, is that our car is repairable (we were wondering if it would be a write off) and we should have it back in about 2 weeks.
So what's with the "more bad news"? Chloe sat down at the computer desk and kicked the main Vista box. I thought she'd just accidentally kicked the power button but obviously not as the thing now won't boot. I think it's the processor that's gone - the motherboard appears to be getting power okay and routing that power to devices; I can feel the primary hard drive spinning and I've tried unplugging everything that's non-essential but still no dice.
The only problem is that, as this PC is getting on a bit now, it's getting harder to find replacement CPUs that are compatible with the motherboard - none of the main UK websites have one. I've found one on ebay so may have to go with that. I hope it is the processor or I may end up having to build a whole new PC.
What an afternoon!
Returning from a local country park this afternoon we were unlucky enough to be involved in a car accident.
A woman coming the other way lost control of her car round a bend on a slippery road, ending up on our side of the road and hit us head on.
Sal hit her head and hurt her chest and Chloe also hit her head and has a bruise on the side of her face. I must have jarred my right arm as I was holding the steering wheel as my right shoulder aches. A big dose of shock all round.
I saw her coming, braked and swerved up on the grass verge next to the road but couldn't to anything to avoid the collision - it was just lucky that I managed to slow down quite a bit to reduce the impact.
It happened just about here.
The car wasn't movable afterwards (it also wouldn't start) so we'll have to see what the insurance company says. There's quite a bit of damage so we're worried it may not be economically viable to repair.
We're just glad that everyone is okay and that it wasn't more serious.
New family member.
On Sunday we got a new member of the family. Please welcome Tess:
She is a 10 month old Staffordshire Bull Terrier; as daft as a brush and totally lovable.
What a week!
It's been a bit quiet here lately as we've had a nightmare of a week.
Last Tuesday I had to take Chloe to the emergency out-of-hours doctor as she was complaining of extreme leg pain and feeling unwell. We were told she had a urine infection and the leg pains were linked to this and there could also be an element of growing pains.
We were sent home but by 4am on Thursday morning things had gotten to the point where Chloe was unable to walk and was screaming in pain. She also had a fever.
So, Thursday morning we visited the nearest A+E (ER to those of you in the US) and were initially asked why didn't we go to our normal doctor - why did we feel it was serious enough to come to A+E. You knew something was seriously wrong just by looking at her.
Anyway, we were referred to a ward and it turns out that Chloe had developed the first stages Meningococcal Septicaemia and was in real danger. The Meningococcal infection can cause either septicaemia or meningitis so you understand the severity.
She has been on intravenous antibiotics since then (last dose today) and has had a couple of blood tests - we're hoping for the all clear today.
Due to the nature of the infection the whole family has been classed at risk and our other daughter Amy has not been able to go to school and I've not been able to go to work until we get the all clear. If we don't get the all clear today then the whole family has to be treated.
So, fingers crossed and let's hope everything can get back to normal.
UPDATE: Good news. We were given the all clear today. Chloe doesn't have to have any more treatment and the rest of us don't have to have a dose either. The sense of relief is overwhelming. Thanks for the messages of support.
Happy Samhain.
Halloween is derived from the old festival of Samhain (pronounced sow wayne - sow as in female pig). Samhain literally means "summer's end" and represents the final harvest and move from the light half to the year to the dark half.
Samhain is the pagan new year so as a family of witches (a widely misunderstood term) we will be having celebrations tonight.
Happy Samhain.
Who "should" I be following on Twitter?
I'm making an effort to get back in to Twittering even if it is only posting a notification of any blog posts. As such, I am looking for who I really SHOULD be following.
I'm not going to go the and following the world and his wife but I am interested in following those who are bringing something interesting to the converation.
Who do you follow and why? Should I be following you?
Drop me a comment or send me an @randomelements on Twitter.
An apology...
Sorry if anyone has been spammed by Quechup in my name.
I didn't see the news about the problems with Quechup spamming your address book until too late.
I received an invitation from Marc Orchant to join Quechup and thought nothing of it so signed up. I instantly started getting spammed by other people and even got an invitation from MYSELF!
If I'd known about the problems before hand I wouldn't have signed up (nothing personal Marc LOL) so sorry if anyone has received any spam from Quechup supposedly originating from me.
Going widescreen.
I've wanted to do it for a while (really prompted by the Vista Sidebar and Outlook 2007 and the To Do Bar) but we finally got round to it - we've gone widescreen on the PC.
It's a great 22 inch widescreen from Belinea: the 2225 S1W to be exact.
Widescreen monitor
This monitor runs at up to 1680 x 1050 with a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and response time of 5ms. Pretty good specs and for only £149.99!
It's amazing just how much space it gives over our previous 19 inch monitor.
A busy time.
Between tiling the bathroom over the long weekend and starting at a new site today things have been a bit hectic - hence the lack of posts.
I'll try to catch up tomorrow but in the meantime here's a few things that have caught my eye:
HTC officially announce the Tytn II (Kaiser).
All change at work.
I was on leave spending time with the family last week but received a phone call on Tuesday from one of my managers.
I had mentioned in a 1-2-1 recently that my current role (which I had been doing for over 2 years) was becoming "boring" - or more accurately not a challenge and that it might be time to move on.
Herein lies the main benefit of working for an outsourcing company - as they have multiple clients you are not fixed to any particular location. As such, the phone call on Tuesday revealed that it had been decided I would not be returning to the post I had been at for the past 27 months but would be returning to "the bench" - back at HQ where you wait for your next assignment. It was agreed that I had outgrown my role and need something more technical and challenging.
So here I am, on the bench with no idea what I'll be doing next. Wish me luck.
Desk move complete.
The desk move is completed; "computer corner" looks much tidier and doesn't encroach on to the rest of the room so much. The tidy up came with the obligatory vacuuming of hardware even down to disassembling the h/s/f on the Vista box.
I managed to keep the server on throughout but there was a short period of downtime due to accidentally pulling the power lead out of the router.
Mad dogs and Englishmen.
The song says that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, but what do you call twits who go out at 1:30am in the middle of nowhere to look at a meteor shower?
Last night we took a trip out to watch the Perseid meteor shower which was supposed to hit 100 meteors per hour at it's peak.
We were obviously still a bit early. We saw about 20 in total before getting too tired and heading home.
Anyone else mad enough?
It's a small world.
Well, after linking to Philip Churchill's posts about the impending availability of Windows Home Server he happened to see that my posts about the new website showed Gravesend as my location.
Who would have thought it, that's where he lives too. Fancy that, two Windows Home Server geeks within just a few miles of each other.
Today Gravesend, tomorrow the world ;)
My computing history.
I thought that I'd drop a quick post on what computers/devices I've had I the past and chart the progress up to the present day.
My first home computer was the Sinclair ZX81. My parents gave it to me as a present when I was 10 or 11. With a 16Kb RAM pack plugged in to the back the world was your oyster! many hours were spent playing various games and starting to learn BASIC.
Now, this obviously seems incredibly simple by todays standards but it was a revelation at the time.
After a while, I out grew the ZX81 and moved up to it's big brother: the ZX Spectrum 48K
ZX Spectrum
The Spectrum (so called because it was colour) blew me away at the time. It was far superior to the ZX81 and the range of software was extraordinary. I can vividly remember entering "peeks" and "pokes" to change parts of games (numbers of lives etc.) - ah those were the days.
Next up came the Amstrad CPC 464:
Amstrad CPC 464
This was a monster of a computer - very chunky with it's integrated tape drive. Again, the memories of spending hours typing in Hex from a magazine to play some dodgy game and finding out that you must have made a mistake somewhere in the 3 pages of code.
I first got in to making music on a computer with my next device - the Commodore Amiga A600
Amiga A600
The sound and graphics on this baby were awesome by comparision and I spent more hours that I should have/care to remember mucking about with a program called ProTracker (I've still got some of the tracks I made on tape somewhere). A friend and I also hooked up one channel as an input to his Korg MS20 for a bit of self indulgent knob twiddling.
I went without a computer of any sort for a while as disaster struck; my flat was broken in to and the Amiga stolen.
Sal bought me my first actual "PC" for Christmas in 1985 - I'm pretty sure it was an Advent and housed a Cyrix 586 processor running at an alleged 100MHz. At times I wonder how I managed with just a 512MB hard drive but then I remember I didn't. I had to resort to hard drive compression software.
Every since then I have built my own systems. My next PC was based around a Pentium II running at 400MHz which lasted for quite a while and even became an Exchange Server when the next new PC came along using an AMD Athlon processor running at 1.8MHz. Again the Athlon system became a server and is the one hosting this blog.
I am now running a P4 3MHz PC as my main desktop and, while it's getting a bit long in the tooth, it still manages perfectly posting a respectable 4.1 in the Windows Experience index on Vista.
As you will know, I am a great advocate of the Tablet PC and I have been using an Acer C110 for a few years now alongside my desktop PCs.
Acer C110
This is again in need of a repair; the casing around the screen has a tendancy to break where you rest on it and the screen latch is quite flimsy. I think Tabby is also very much in need of a RAM upgrade. Beta testing Vista was all well and good but the Tablet is really a big lacking when it comes to prime time.
So there you have it, my computer journey so far. I suppose you could also include my Vario II/ HTC Hermes Windows Mobile phone/Pocket PC and the Orange SPV C550/HTC Hurricane.
End of year report.
The kids broke up for their summer holiday last week and got to find out which class they will be in next year and meet the teachers.
Chloe was in Year 2 (age 6-7) this year and Amy in Year 3 (age 7-8).
For next year Chloe will be going in to the top set in Year 3 which is fantastic (especially considering the somewhat negative report she received from her teacher) and Amy will be missing Year 4 completely and go straight to Year 5 early!
How cool is that!
We're very proud of both of them, it's good to know that we have two very bright young girls.
Up, up and away!
Tuesday, 17th was my birthday and, as I am on the early shift this week, I was out of the house before everyone else was up so got my cards and presents when I came home.
To my surprise Sal had bought me a helicopter flying lessen - something I've always wanted to do :) So, look out below.
I'm really looking forward to it but I know that it's going to put the bug in me and I'll want to do it all the time.
Happy anniversary Sal.
Today is our twelfth wedding anniversary so I'd just like to wish Sal a very happy anniversary and say how much I love her :)
Sal's parents treated us to a lovely day out in France yesterday - from Calais to Boulogne and Le Touquet - and we had a great time. Thanks for that.
8 random things meme.
Well, I've been tagged by Paul in the 8 random things meme that's currently doing the rounds so here goes:
  1. I'm currently based in Canary Wharf (but I never say who I'm working for on my blog)
  2. As a family we have 4 pet rats: Odin, Thor, Loki and Mani
  3. I was born over 4 weeks prematurely and weighed only 4 pound 7 ounces
  4. I proposed to Sal after only 20 days (I just knew!)
  5. I used to work for Fujitsu who were contracted to do the UK support for MS so spent about 3 and a half years supporting Windows and Office apps (Outlook was my speciality)
  6. When I was about 3 I used to have ginger hair which is where both my kids get it from (mine is brown now)
  7. I cut my finger really badly on Sunday and had to go to hospital to get patched up (yes I'm running out of ideas)
  8. I have no middle name

There you have it, my 8 random things about me. Now, who to pass it on to?

Brandon, Daniel, Craig, Andrew, Loren, Keith, Tim and can't think of an 8th person that hasn't already been tagged ;)

The day the Tour de France came to town.
Yesterday, the Tour de France came to Kent as part of the tradition to host the first stage in a neighbouring country. I was originally a bit annoyed as the route came straight through Gravesend and past the end of our road which meant, that until about 1pm, we couldn't go anywhere in the car even if we wanted to.
Still, we watched the start of the stage on TV, they left London at about 11am, and then headed round the corner to await the arrival of the peloton.
For about 20 minutes we had a procession of various support vehicles, ambulances and French motorcycle Gendarmes. A lot of car horn tooting and waving and cheering ensued with a really good party atmosphere developing before the riders came through town at about 11:45.
When the first rider appeared it was a Brit (yay) with  quite a lead over the rest of the field (they caught him up later) and a shortly after, all the other riders streamed through town and it was all over in a matter of a minutes - these things are definitely better watched on TV if you want to get the full picture.
But, the thing that made yesterday really great was the sense of community that developed. In total they estimated that about 1 million people lined the roads to watch the race but we just had fun getting together with all of our neighbours for a couple of hours and having a good time.
It's a shame that it took the Tour de France to get this to happen - why can't neighbours get together more often just for no real reason other than community spirit? I think the world would be a much better place if communities spent time together like this on a more regular basis.
Security lunacy.

I just tried to follow a link to  from work but the site is blocked by our proxy. On the face of it you can understand the decision as Google docs let's you share and collaborate online in most common office document formats - probably not ideal in investment banking with client confidentiality and large sums of money involved.

But, take a step back. Google Docs is blocked to stop you sharing a file online. Email isn't blocked. Attachments to emails aren't blocked. Why do you need an online service when you can just mail a confidential document to an external address?

Admittedly, access to certain web sites is something that should be controlled but when there is no control over alternatives what's the point?

On holiday.
We're sat in our Travelodge room in Bridgwater, Somerset, relaxing before we go out for the evening - we're away all week.
I'm connected to a t-mobile hotspot with the cost being passed to my t-mobile phone account :) Good job we brought Tabby for watching DVDs.
Tonight’s the night.

Roll on Tuesday!
Oh, er...make that four!
We went to get a bigger cage for all the rats and, as it it suitable for four rats, ended up coming home with an extra one who we've named Mani (still keeping the name theme going).
The family has grown.

In addition to our existing rat Odin (he actually has both eyes) we have introduced two new rats which we have called Thor and Loki (just to keep the Norse god theme going). Thor is a bit dopey but Loki is definitely going to live up to his name as he an a very obviously mischievous personality.

We'll have to sort out some photos.

New addition to the family.

As part of our drive to become as self sufficient as possible we now have an allotment! As of 4pm this afternoon "Lottie" is now a member of the family so, if ever you hear me referring to visiting Lottie you'll know just what I'm talking about J

Sal organised it all as a surprise and what a great one it was. We are currently growing a selection of herbs and vegetables in the back garden but this will give us much more scope.

Aren’t USB IDs supposed to be consistent?

The place where I work is very security conscious which is obviously a good thing. A custom service disables USB devices apart from those on an approved devices list. This prevents things like USB sticks and other USB storage devices from being plugged in and so stopping malware coming in and data being taken out.

The service works by checking the USB ID of a device and seeing if it is an approved ID, if not then the device is disabled. My understanding, therefore, is that a given USB device will retain a specific USB ID thus enabling us to tell what device it is.

So, why is it then that mice we have received with new batches of HP PCs are identical in every respect to the previous ones (even down to the Replace Part Number) but the USB ID has changed?

We were puzzled why mice going out with a bunch of machines were not working but if the USB ID is no longer in the approved list it all makes sense.

Please welcome LunaLight.
Sal has been alluding to a secret project over at her blog for a while and today's the day when the secret can be revealed.
Introducing LunaLight - our new shop!

Lunalight sells hand made, natural and herbal products for your wellbeing, beauty and lifestyle. At Lunalight we sell hand made soaps, lip balms, bath salts, hand & body lotions, body gels and gift boxes. We also sell a large variety of herbs, herbal mixes, spell kits and more.

Unlike many other hand made beauty and bath time product sellers, all of our beauty items are certified safe to use by a leading toxicologist and labelled to EU Regulations.

We offer a Gift Delivery Service, where we can send a gift wrapped present which you can choose from a large list or even create your own gift set, we then package it in a box, ribbon and even write out a gift tag for you. Best of all we can send it direct to your recipient so it will be a lovely surprise for them!

We will, unfortunately, only be delivering to the UK (sorry everyone else)
So, why not head on over and have a look. More unique and cost efficient than sending a bunch of flowers!
What a cracking four days.
Posts have been non-existent this long weekend as the weather has been fantastic and we've been out three days out of four.
It's back to work tomorrow and normal service will be resumed.
More good news on the article.
I received an email yesterday with the edited version of my article so it looks like publication won't be too far away.
I'll post full details as and when everything is confirmed and, with any luck, it may be available online as well.
Happy Ostara!
As per Sal's post:
"Today is Ostara. A special day in the Pagan calendar as it symbolises the start of spring, fertility, new life, new plants and new (hopefully) warmer days. Ostara was originally celebrated by the giving and eating of eggs, as eggs symbolise fertility and new life."
We'll be having an evening packed with fun so enjoy you're day whatever you're doing.
Twapper - Twitter on your mobile without the SMS overload.
Via LifeHacker.
is taking over the world! OK, maybe not but you can't deny that the uptake is huge.
One of the options Twitter gives you to keep track of your updates is via SMS. Now I don't know about you but receiving constant SMS messages with your friends' updates would be a real drag and possibly have your phone provider start querying your usage.
Now you could just browse to the Twitter website on your mobile but why not have a look at Twapper which presents all of your updates, along with those of your friends, in a nice clean text interface.
UPDATE: typical, I post about this and now just get "data could not be found" or "can't find that twitterer" errors!.
Where's Colin?
OK, so it's been a while since I posted but it's been a bit of a busy time. Plenty going on.
Last weekend I ended up in A&E (ER to you US peeps) as I found a hard lump in a place you don't want to find a lump after the events of a couple of weeks ago but it turned out to be nothing more than a large hematoma which solidified and, thankfully, is going down now.
Work has been pretty busy and at home we've finally been getting our back garden sorted after about 9 years of not having one - our neighbour decided to knock down the adjoining wall and extension leaving everything looking like a building site. It all looks really nice now and we've not even finished!
Anyway, normal service will be resumed.
A day to remember.
Right, any men reading who are very protective of their wedding tackle stop reading now.
Go on, click away.
Right, those who are left don't say I didn't warn you.
Yesterday was a day to remember - I had a vasectomy. You know what? It's not nearly as bad as people make out. Once you've had the anaesthetic (he had to top mine up a couple of times) all you can feel is a bit of pressure and some pulling.
It's a day later now and most of the ache has subsided leaving just a little soreness which you can pretty much negate with some ibuprofen. Should all be OK soon and I'll be back to work as normal on Monday.
I did find a website called "My Vasectomy in Pictures" but I'm not going to link to it due to the nature of some of the ads on the site. It was quite interesting to see what had gone on though.
A quiet day yesterday.
A lack of posts yesterday was due to me feeling particularly ill. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a combination of bronchitis and laryngitis, then add to that a stomach bug picked up off the kids which made me very well acquainted with the toilet!
Fortunately, my stomach has calmed down but my throat is killing me, I can't talk properly and Sal says I sound like a girl.
Happy Imbolc.
Just want to wish everyone a very happy Imbolc.
Light a candle for the first signs of spring.
Looks like they were going to come back.
When the recovery guy came to get the car we found one set of keys thrown underneath it. It looks like they had been dumped under there so that they could be collected easily later.
They were most likely going to be coming back but the car has been taken away and the locks changed so they won't have much luck.
Update on the burglary.
I reported the incident to the police at about 4:30 this morning but they will turn up whenever! Great.
We've warned the neighbours - one thinks her back door was tried last night and she got up to check it and another heard breaking glass.
As both of our sets of keys were stolen we have been having to keep an eye on the car so that the thieves don't come back and take it but the car insurance have been great - they are coming to collect the car so that the locks, ignition and steering lock etc. can all be changed. We are also getting a courtesy car while that's being done. Bravo to them.
The car insurance is in Sal's name so once that's all sorted I'll nip out and get new locks. 
UPDATE: Police have been and they think they know who might have done it but no evidence.
We've been burgled!
Some time between midnight last night and 4 this morning (when I got up for work) someone came in to our house and stole my wallet, Sal's handbag and both sets of house & car keys. Nothing else.
To say we're upset, angry, concerned is a bit of an understatement.
Cards have been stopped, the Police have been called and now we wait.
The Pagan Circle.
Sal has created a new Yahoo group for pagans of any path to chat in a relaxed, unstructured environment.
In her words:
"An open pagan group for any pagan, no matter what path you are on, gender, age, creed or where you live, to join and make friends, share experiences, offer help and advice and talk about our paths. A real online Pagan community"
If you are a pagan of any sort, or are possibly thinking of going down that path, then why not sign up and speak to like minded people.
(click image to join)
Back to the old ways.
In this high tech, high pressure world it's good to get away from it all for a bit so, on Saturday afternoon, we all went to the woods to do a bit of foraging.
Our targets were dandelions, chicweed and some young stinging nettles.
Apart from the recent cold snap over the past few days this has been a very mild winter so we were not surprised to see a lot of new growth this early in the year. The number of new shoots popping up from just about everywhere was amazing.
We managed to find all of our targets and came home with a reasonable crop of all three plants. After a good wash the dandelions and chicweed were added to a salad to go with our dinner and I had a great cup of fresh nettle tea to relax with in the evening.
We plan to do a lot more of this, collecting different edible plants throughout the year as the seasons turn. What a great way to live.
It snowed last night.
It wasn't really that much (about 2cm at most) but, this being the UK, it was still enough to cause travel disruption.
So, I'm stood at the station, posting this from my phone, waiting for a train because my normal one has been cancelled.
Snow. Even when we know it's coming we're still never ready for it.
Back home.
We're back from four fun-filled days. We actually came back last night but stayed at Sal's parent's house overnight and came home this morning.

We had a great time despite a few problems with the weather (see here, here and here). Disneyland had to close most of the rides on Thursday due to the very high winds but handled it very well laying on extra buses to/from the hotels and extra shows indoors. We still managed to do everything we wanted to over the four days so had no complaints.
I've got q fair few items in my RSS feeds to catch up on so I'll probably get to that tonight.
Off the grid, off to France.
As of tomorrow morning I'll not be around until Saturday as we're off to Disneyland Paris again - we're just as excited as the first time!
Although we're leaving tomorrow morning I'll not be around from this evening and have already turned off my Direct Push mail before I forget. The roaming data charges are too prohibitive to be picking up my mail or browsing the web on my phone (it's charged at £7.50 per MB!) and I'm pretty sure there's no Wi-Fi - at least I've not seen Mickey out and about with a laptop ;)
Anyway, I've got some stuff planned for when I get back including a small competition I'm going to run at the end of Jan (don't get too excited).
If I don't get to post anything else today then I'll see you on Saturday.
Happy New Year!
Less than 3 hours to go until 2007 here in the UK. 2006 has been a mixed year so here's to hoping 2007 is a great one.
Thanks to everyone who has helped, subscribed, commented in 2006.
I hope you all have a great year in 2007.
Happy New Year from randomelements!!!
Now this is just SO cool!
We've always said that when we were in a position too we'd like to live in the country and have some farm animals: chickens, ducks, a cow, goat and sheep.
Now, this product could make that dream become a bit more of a reality.
How cool is that? Just imagine, fresh eggs every day from your own chickens in your own back garden.
Merry Christmas.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas. Thanks for sticking around during 2006.
If you don't celebrate Christmas then I hope you're spending the holiday period with someone you love.
Happy Yule.
Well, today is mid-winter or Yule - the original pagan festival which Christmas was based on and, whilst we still celebrate Christmas with the extended family, today is our day.
Have a great day!
Incoming from Washington State.
DHL tried to deliver a package yesterday which, when looking at the tracking info on the DHL website, has come from windy Washington State - I hope everything's getting back to normal for you all out there!
Anyway, I'm not expecting anything so can only assume that it's related to a beta. I won't be able to collect it until Friday so you'll have to wait to see what it is.
If anyone else has received anything from Redmond in the past couple of days please let me know as I'm curious ;)
Walk in the woods.
With Yule coming up fast we took the opportunity to collect a few sprigs of holly on a fine, crisp winter's morning. While we were wandering through the woods I snapped a few shots with my phone. Click on the thumbnails to see the larger image:
  Canopy     Hump
  Path     Sunburst
  Path 2  Trees  Toadstool
The photos were taken at an open space quite near us called Holly Hill which is very special to us as a family, and it's just great to be able to get out there amongst the trees in this urbanised, modern world.
Why does everyone hate Microsoft?
Via Bink.
In the AskSlashDot section, SlashDot user MrSplog asks: "Why does everyone hate Microsoft" - well, that's the SlashDot title for it. He actually says:
"I'm doing a short project on Microsoft and its impact on society. A considerable part of this project has been looking into people's perceptions of Microsoft and the heavily negative bias of that perception. Since Slashdot is one of the world's forefront leaders on Microsoft hatred, I wanted to know: just why do you hate Microsoft? Please be as descriptive and as thorough as you like. Counter arguments and positive comments are also appreciated".
This certainly seems a popular topic of conversation. It was posted yesterday and already has well over 600 comments. Having read through some it seems to be a typical flame war scenario with the Mac and Linux crowds having their usual bash while some are a bit more moderate. A number of comments get completely off the beaten track by accusing MS of not writing device drivers - come on folks be serious!
MS bashing certainly has been a popular pass-time for years and some of this, no doubt, stems from some of the earlier (perhaps less than ethical) business practises and arrogance shown by Microsoft in earlier years but should we really be hating the company or embracing it's achievements?
This can be read hand-in-hand with the Dave Winer - Robert Scoble debate on the Wall Street Journal website recently which asked "Is Microsoft Driving Innovation Or Playing Catch-Up With Rivals?"
Rather unsurprisingly (considering his recent history), Scoble is quite pro MS - he spent long enough evangelising the company after all - and I think that this is quite a common scenario: most people who have had some involvement with the company see through the "MS is Evil" smoke screen and recognise the software for what it is - quality fare. Let's face it, if Windows and Office were poor pieces of software MS wouldn't have developed the dominance that they have in these areas.
Although it was outsourced, I was lucky enough to spend over 3 years doing support for MS UK for Windows and Office (Outlook was my big speciality) and this experience taught me more that I would ever hope to learn outside of that environment. The working relationship with MS staff on a day to day basis was great despite (or maybe, perhaps it was because of) being so far removed from the real hub in Redmond and it was a real shame when the contract was taken away.
My personal dealings with MS staff were always very open and productive at a time way before Scoble was instrumental in opening up MS to the web and things became more transparent. Microsoft has cleaned up it's act and is far better now at communicating with the rest of us so a lot of the old criticisms are no longer valid but still seem to hang around like a bad smell. Channel 9 and the staff blogs help us interact and are now viewed as key in talking to the customer. You only have to look at the shift in emphasis to realise this - blogs are even used as points of reference in beta programs.
Look at the likes of Jensen Harris, David Gainer, Chris Pratley, The Exchange Team, Eileen Brown - all very busy Microsoft staff who are intent on communicating with us the customer, always ready to interact with the community and answer questions.
MS is a different animal these days and should be commended for the efforts it is making. Windows Vista and Office 2007 are two of the best products out there and the whole development process has shown a real dedication to getting things right. Yes, we have had to wait 5 years for a new OS but that is better than rushing something out the door which is incomplete, buggy or lacking in functionality - it's a shame that things like WinFS didn't make the cut but you can't deny that Vista makes huge strides over XP.
You'll never stop the platform wars but we do need the discussion to become more informed.
Second annual Ink Blot awards published.
Warner Crocker (of GottaBeMobile) has published the results of the second annual Ink Blot awards - a tongue in cheek look at the last year in tech, tablets and blogging. Some of the awards are straight down the line while others are pretty humourous.
The good news is that I tied with Pete Wright for the award for "Best Early Virtual Vista Coverage Allowing Us All To Live Vicariously". Unfortunately, most of those posts were on v2 of the blog and so no longer available on-line so I think Pete really beats me there.
I really appreciate it though Warner :)
To check out the full list of results (and even category retirements) see Warner's post here: The Second Annual Life On The Wicked Stage Ink Blot Awards.
Hacked addresses to be deleted?
A post on the Hotmail and Windows Live Mail Support blog yesterday indicated that those addresses created using the hack posted about a couple of days ago could well be removed. There is also still no word as to when "official" accounts will be available for the rest of the world outside of the Netherlands.
Kip Kniskern over at has posted a good arguement as to why the accounts should NOT be deleted: he argues that those people (myself included) are Windows Live enthusiasts and "should be rewarded for their enthusiasm, not punished" and, instead "Windows Live and Live Mail might want to review their security procedures".
You can read Kip's full post here: Live Mail to delete new @Live addresses?
Watch Scoble for Zune thoughts.
Today is Zune day and Robert Scoble blogs that he has received not one but TWO units to check out (one to keep and the other to return after testing the music sharing). The lucky so-and-so.
Be sure to keep an eye on his blog for some first hand experiences over the next couple of days.
Live Mail launched in the Netherlands.
Windows Live Mail has been officially launched in Holland (via Bink) but have found that you can hack the sign-up form to regsiter Live accounts for other top level domains that just
This seems to work nicely and I'm now the proud owner of  :)
Update: the loophole has been fixed.
Still here...
Wow, has it really been three weeks! It's just so easy to get out of the blogging groove and at such an exciting time.
So, what's been happening? The list goes on:
  • Office 2007 RTM
  • Windows Vista RTM
  • loads of gear to drool over and not afford
  • looking for a new job
The past couple of weeks have seen a few of my bugs lined up for consideration for a servoce pack etc. so they were obviously not deemed worthy of being blockers - more annoyances ;)
I hope to get the chance to play with the final builds of both Office and Vista through work sooner rather than later but I don't know if it will actually happen - I'll ask a few questions.
Gear to drool over? I was specifically thinking about the Asus R1F Tablet and their UMPC (see Hugo's blog). That tablet looks nice, and with a Core 2 Duo inside will be awesome. Hey, Santa - I've been good. Honest! And the Zune looks pretty interesting.
I've also been vaguely thinking about how much it will cost to build a Core 2 Duo desktop for Vista and it's not at all bad - I could probably do it for between £400 - £500 (with a lower end processor nicely overclocked).
I'm still in love with my Vario II Pocket PC and am constantly tweaking it and installing/uninstalling software. OK, perhaps a bit too much as I've had to do a couple of hard resets to tidy things up ;)
Yes, the CV has been updated and I am looking around to see what other jobs are out there. I'm not entirely sure what I'm after at present but one thing I DO know is that I'm going to maintain a work/life balance. Yes we all want a big fat pay rise but it's not going to come at the expense of time with my family.
Right, that's a little catch up for now. I hope to keep things moving along a bit better.
New look for BlogMagic and testers still wanted.
Sal's been busy with a bit of a redesign to improve site navigation and the results look good :)
We still need testers so, even if you've already got a blog, why not go and sign up even if it's just to help ensure that everything works correctly.
The site banner is now firmly lodged in the right-hand pane so there's no excuse for missing it ;)
Follow the banner:
 BlogMagic Banner
Testers wanted for new blog host.
Are you looking for a new or additonal blog host? Do you want to help test a brand new FREE blog hosting site?
If the answer to either of those is 'yes' then get yourself over to BlogMagic (DNS still appears to be propagating so keep trying in you get a holding page).
BlogMagic is the fantastic new project from my ever-industrious wife Sal and is designed to be a host which gives you all the features you need (that other hosts charge for) for free. Although, any donations towards running costs are always greatfully received.
Did I say it's free? ;)
Go on, get over there, sign up and help kick the tyres: BlogMagic Home Page.
Captain Speedy!
Sooner than expected, the upgrade to the 8MB ADSL connection happened at some point over night and a quick test revealed download speeds of about 780kbps from the Connect website.
The real test will be with the Vista RC2 build which is rumoured to be coming tomorrow.
And we're back!
At about 8PM last night our internet connection dropped off completely - no traffic at all. After a short while I could ping a few sites and my ISPs DNS servers but that was about it.
I reset the router and forced the ISPs DNS servers on it but to no avail.
A phone call to tech support to check if there were any problems essentially had the first customer service rep say it was all the fault of my hardware, the settings, the browser and just about anything else he could think of until he decided my router was an unsupported configuration and proceeded to hang up on me.
So, to prove a point I installed my old USB ADSL modem and, you guessed it, exactly the same problem.
A second call met with some better customer service and, after about 45 minutes troubleshooting, an agreement that there WAS a routing problem. The only thing is that they wanted me to send in the results of a few trace-routes. As the only connection I had was my phone, this had to wait until this morning as the mobile version of Live Mail and GMail don't have the facility to add attachments.
I was promised a call back all day but didn't get one. However, just as I was about to ring for an argument after getting home from work, the connection started working at about 5:30 this evening.
Still, one thing to come out of all this is that my upgrade to an 8 meg connection is being pushed through and should happen in the next 3-5 days.
Would you buy your software from a supermarket?
Well, we live in interesting times!
So, not only does the UK supermarket chain Tesco want to take on Wal-Mart by opening 150 stores in the US, but it now wants to take on Microsoft by selling it's own brand of PC software including Office applications and security software.
According to this report on the BBC website, Tesco are colaborating woth Formjet who make the Ability Office suite.
 Ability Write 4
Whilst having a "2003 look" (okay, 2003 style toolbar backgrounds but still 97/2000 style buttons) I'm unsure as to the level of functionality - the Save As menu in Write indicates .DOC (97/2000/XP).
The interesting thing is that Tesco say all titles will retail for less than £20.
Will consumers vote with their pocket? Will they trust this software (especially the security offerings)? How will it fare after the launch of Office 2007 when the UI will look even more dated.
Would YOU buy your software from a supermarket?
All went well with the new case.
As you've not doubt already realised, the site is up after yesterdays change of case for the server.
 Phong II
All went very smoothly with the change to a Jeantech Phong II case which has made PC corner a bit quieter and dropped the average temperature of the server by 10 degrees over the previous case.
Down time later.
I'm going to be getting a new case for the server so expect some down time a bit later on today. I'll try to keep this as short as possible.
That's my girl!
The lines have closed and the votes have been counted and verified. And the winner is...
Our eldest daughter, Amy (7), was voted on to the school council for this school year. She gets to act as liaison between staff and pupils and is available for all pupils as a point of help and contact.
We're really proud of her, especially as she had the highest majority in the school.
Well done Amy.
You know you're a geek when... see the new Microsoft wireless, rechargeable, backlit keyboard with mouse and just WANT it!
 Keyboard and mouse
How cool is that?
Windows Live services reach key milestones.
As you will no doubt have seen elsewhere, and Live Search have been released from beta in 47 markets worldwide and Live Local Search has also been released in the UK and US (see ).
It also appears that the Windows Live mail service on their mobile site has also been released from beta:
I was previously worried about the functionality with Live Mail on the mobile as beta incarnations lost the ability to select multiple items as you could with the existing mobile Hotmail service. Well, I'm glad to report that the check boxes are back making your mailbox functional again when viewed on your phone.
 selecting multiple items
With the "Live revolution" in full swing I was surprised to receive an invite for the new "MSN Mobile Portal Beta" a couple of days ago which provides a mobile version of the standard MSN web portal with news, entertainment etc.
The portal also provides a local search service called "RoundTown" enabling you to fine things like restaurants or gig information in your area. With this and links to and Live Mail there seems to be an element of duplication. The web services are rightly being differentiated so why, then, have a new web portal with similar functionality and linking back to the Live services?
 MSN Mobile Portal Beta
Back up and running.
We went away for a few days and came home to a dead server. Fortunately, it was only the power supply which had croaked. So, one new PSU later and things are back up and running.
The response from Orange.
I received an email back from Orange customer services which completely missed my point. The reply simply said:
"Unfortunately, your phone and associated accessories are not a part of your agreement with Orange" and advised me to contact HTC Warranty support.
I am not concerned with the fact that the headset is broken (other than needing a new one) and am not expecting a free replacement. My issue is that they are no longer supplying accessories for an own-branded phone irrespective of the fact that it is manufactured by HTC.
Unfortunately, the HTC warranty phone number just takes you to a recorded message asking you to leave your name and number if you need your phone repaired. I don't think looking for a replacement headset really qualifies, do you?
One this that did make me chuckle, however, was that Orange quoted HTC's opening times as 09:00 - 17:53. Obviously, they need 7 minutes to clear their queues so they can be out by 6pm.
UPDATE: as expected HTC are unable to help as they only repair phones. Their advice? Google it!
Disappointed with Orange.
In October last year I upgraded to an SPV C550 SmartPhone (rebranded HTC Hurricane) and was tied in to an 18 month contract for my troubles.
A couple of months ago the stereo hands-free headset broke and ever since I have been unable to replace it directly from Orange. Originally, one was listed on the Accessories shop but was always out of stock. It has now been removed.
Orange retail shops have also not sold replacements for a couple of months and I was advised by an assistant at the weekend that the C550 was now effectively discontinued so there wouldn't be any more accessories ordered.
Frankly, I am appalled that Orange cannot supply accessories to their own branded phones after only 7 months (at the time the headset broke) of an 18 month contract! In fact, the only C550 specific accessory listed is the battery but this too is out of stock and I can't imagine it making a comeback.
I have obviously contacted Orange to let them know how I feel (I await their response).
Despite Orange not working on a new ROM to upgrade the C550 to Windows Mobile 5 I have been very happy with my SmartPhone and can't imagine going back to a "normal" phone but it's failures in after sales care like this that make me consider changing operators once my contract is up.
Sorry, rant over!
Forgot to say...
...that yesterday (17th) was my 35th birthday.
I eventually got home from work after being stuck on a train when a lorry hit a railway bridge and held everything up. When I got in I had a lovely present from Sal and the kids and a super home cooked meal - what more could you asked for!
On Saturday we went camping just for the night as a joint anniversary and birthday present. After the kids went to bed Sal and I sat outside the tent until the fire burnt itself out and watched the stars. Sheer bliss!
Happy 50th Warner.
Tablet PC blogger extraordinaire and contributor Warner Crocker reaches 50 today so many, many happy returns to you. I know you already had the big party but I hope today is also a fantastic day.
I just hope that when I reach 50 I'll be just as passionate about life and everything as you are.
Happy Birthday Warner!
Happy Anniversary Sal.
Today is our 11th wedding anniversary (traditionally steel) and I would just like to say Sal, I love you more than ever and I hope you have a really great day.
Hands across the miles.
Last weekend we had some friends come down from Aberdeen: Arwen, Rowan and the two boys Connor and Lucas.
We've only known them over the web and phone until now but it was amazing to meet them in person. They are also a Wiccan family with a similar outlook on life and the boys are the same age as Amy & Chloe so, all told, it made for a fantastic weekend and it was good to have some extra moral support when the news broke about Barrie passing away.
It's such a shame they live 1000 miles away at the other end of the country :(
I'd like like to take the opportunity to say thanks for a great weekend and can't wait to all meet up again.
Barrie Payne, R.I.P.
On Sunday, my step-dad Barrie, passed away after a short fight with an unknown illness. He had been in residential care for nearly a year because of Alzheimer's and dementia but had recently gone down hill very quickly.
A lump was found under one of his arms and a biopsy taken but there was not even the time to get the results back. There will be a post mortem by the end of the week to try to establish the cause of death.
While I didn't always get on with him particularly well (especially as a teenager) my Mum loved him very much and he always looked after her. I am estranged from my real father and have not spoken to him for a number of years after a series of incidents which do not need to be aired, so the kids have always known him as Grandad Barrie and know no different.
So Barrie, I hope you are in a better place. At least you are no longer suffering.
Remembering 7/7.
The UK will fall silent today at noon to remember the 52 people killed in the London bombings on the 7th July last year.
On the 6th July London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games and the city was euphoric but, one day later, the feeling was the complete opposite after this disaster.
So, whoever you are, whatever you are doing please, honour the silence to honour the dead and show the terrorists that they will never win.
UPDATE: despite an email to all staff yesterday, there was no announcement before the silence here at work and it was not observed by all - such a shame.
Happy 4th July to US readers.
I'd just like to take the opportunity to wish any of my US readers a very Happy 4th July.
It's good to see a country having pride in itself and flying the flag no matter what. We English could learn a thing or two!
A good time with the school choir.
Our eldest, Amy, is in the school choir and took part in a multi-school event last night. This type of event always makes me think of the Eddie Izzard line: "And now your children will murder Oh Come All ye Faithful" but there was none of that going on.
The 8 schools involved last night were all very good and really sang their songs well but, of course, our school was the best ;). With over 10 songs to learn it was a fantastic achievment for the age group (Amy is 7), especially considering the complexity of some of the songs. We're really proud of her.
It was a shame, however, that society today can mar an innocent event such as this. With the problems of paedophiles etc. these days you are now no longer allowed to take pictures of school children on stage without the prior written consent of all the parents. The hall where the event took place, however, has taken the hard line and completely banned all videos and photography from events held there.
It is a terrible indictment of the world we live in when, in completely contolled circumstances, parents and relatives can't take a picture of their own kids for posterity.