Tag: USB

Roll on the holidays

For various historical and religious reasons, none of which I pay much heed to, I will be on holiday from this Friday through to Tuesday the 3rd of May. Given that it’s only costing me three days from my holiday allowance, then it’s almost like a free holiday.

Part of that time will involve a trip to Skye, which I’m really looking forward to as I’ve never been that far north on the west coast of Scotland. My camera is primed, the USB stick of moosick is full (8GB of very random tuneage), and Kirsty and I are really looking forward to it.

After that it will be a lazy time for the most part, a well deserved break and a chance to properly recharge after a shitty start to the year and, if I’m really lucky, there may also be alcohol and debauchery in there somewhere as well!

In other news, my Mum is doing well, making good progress day by day. I’m really noticing big differences everytime I visit. Other than that, I’ve finally gotten my car back! I’ve not had it since the 7th February and it will need to go back in for a wee bit more work but that can wait a while.

Oh yeah and, very soon, my little sister will turn 30. I was flicking through some old photos last night, from when she was a bairn and still can’t quite believe she’s SO VERY OLD ALREADY! 😉

One for my Dad

Apparently I’ve not been blogging much. My Dad commented on this last night when I phoned so I thought I’d post a wee update for all my tens of avid readers.

Not much is happening.

I’m working.

I have no internets. I will not have internets until November 23rd. In a royal cock up between O2 (with whom I’d like to have both my home phone and broadband services) and BT OpenReach (the engineer part of BT, the only people allowed to touch the exchange, apparently), I managed to have my new home phone number wrongly allocated to someone else (by BT).

That bit was funny actually. I got a txt from O2 to say my phone line was now connected and “here is your new phone number”. I thought I’d test it by phoning my landline from my mobile. It’s a weird thing to be staring at a phone, as you dial the number that should make it ring, for it not only to not make a sound but for someone to pick up and say “hello?”. Freaked me out that did!

Upon reporting that error, O2 said (after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing) that they’d have to cancel the order and set up a new one (which is where the 23rd November date comes in). I was supposed to have an engineer out today but O2 said, no, it’s cancelled now.

So when a BT engineer phoned today to say he was on his way … I was a bit perturbed. Nevertheless I went home, he fixed the line and got the phone number allocated to me. I happily phoned O2 to tell them this, presuming that as it had been sorted then they could just turn things back on at their end (or whatever it is they actually do) only to be told that as the order had been cancelled yesterday there wasn’t anything they could do and that they would, yes really, have to disconnect that number and issue me a new one (and a second wireless router for the broadband connection too. Yes, really).

Which all seems a bit fucked up and which will be the subject of a detailed complaint to O2 wherein I will ask for compensation as I have websites to fix/design/build and I’m losing money all the time I’m not doing those things!

OK, so strictly speaking I will have internet access via a USB dongle which O2 issued to me but it’s not quite the same!

Aside from that, nothing much is happening. The flat is slowly taking shape (the purchase of some new furniture will help), and I’m reasonably settled into my new routine although I’ve yet to add “going to the gym cos I’m a fat bastard” to that yet so we will see how that goes.

Ohh yeah, and I’m off to Bristol on Friday for a wedding. I fly down Friday morning and, thanks to EasyJet who only do one flight back on a Saturday, I’ll be getting up at 6.15am on Saturday. The day after a wedding. Where they will be serving alcohol. This strikes me as “not fair”. On the other hand I am getting to meet a lot of blogger-type people who I’ve never met before and that’s ALWAYS fun.

Panic!

There is a sense of mild, but controlled, panic in the air.

I’ve only just realised that, a week today, we’ll be flying to Spain for a week in the sun. Don’t quite know how this has taken me by surprise but there you have it. All of a sudden I’m in the “pre-holiday zone” where every choice of t-shirt needs to be carefully considered, and the locating of cables, chargers and other sundry essentials starts in earnest.

That said, we are taking hand luggage only, and all I’ll need are:

  • 7 Books – already stacked and ready to go.
  • 5 t-shirts – I have so many t-shirts that I’ll just take whatever I pick up on Monday morning
  • 4 pairs of shorts – 2 longer ones for the evenings, 2 shorter ones for the sunbathing
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of boxer shorts
  • 1 iPhone + cable
  • Speakers for iPhone
  • 1 Camera + battery charger
  • Mains USB socket
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Passport + Money
  • Toothbrush

Thankfully I’m pretty well organised to I can leave all of my packing until Monday morning. So the only real panic is deciding what music and movies to put on my iPhone. I mean, I’ve only got a week!!

To hell with what people think

I had a long post planned but, ultimately it was really just a way to some how gain approval that buying a new iPod was the right solution.

I had planned to waffle on at some length about the size of my music library (stop, phhnarring at the back you!), and about how I listen to music at work more than most places but can’t store all of my library on my work PC and how slow and cumbersome using a separate USB drive is and how HARD it is (ohh woe is me, I know, I know) to have to sync the USB drive with the home PC and goddamn I wish iTunes had an easier way to switch libraries as I really need my own as well as a larger “everything” library and wwwahhh wahhhh wahhhhh.

And then I read this post over at Swiss Toni’s and realised just how lucky I am and all that stuff.

As the old adage goes, I might have MS, but MS doesn’t have me. I’m not going to NOT write about it because I’m worried about what people might think of it and of me. Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that MS Week is trying to change? I think it is, and so over the next few days, I’m going to write about pretty much nothing else but MS, and to hell with what people think.

To which I say, quite bloody right Mister!

Purging

There is something very cathartic about have a good clearout.

I’m not having a good clearout at the moment, nor a bad clearout for that matter, but I have been slowly whittling down ‘stuff’ for the past few months and everytime I tackle another little batch I do feel very pleased with myself.

By nature I’m neat and tidy. I’m not quite so bad that everything must be in an exact place and I’m more than happy to just bung things in a drawer out of the way, but I do like my minimalism and with that is a need to keep clutter down to a … err … minimum.

I’ve no grand plan in place for any of this instead I’m taking the opportunities as they arise. This evening, whilst hunting for my Microsoft Office installation CDs, I found myself elbow deep in a big plastic box of computer paraphernalia and my inner “declutterer” kicked in.

I now have a bag of software CDs (all crap, the stuff you get installed on a Dell and which I immediately uninstall), a variety of USB cables, an ancient web cam and three power adapters for items which I no longer own. At least I don’t think I still own them, truth is I may never have owned them and just inherited the adapters from.. somewhere…

In the midst of all this I was checking the printer cable and realised that when I got the printer (a year ago?) I neglected to remove the previous power cable. So, for the last year, whilst I’ve been struggling with getting enough power sockets in this room, all along there was a plug that was plugged in to the socket but which had nothing on the other end. Doh.

The next question is what to do with this bag of random computer ‘stuff’. Whilst I could eBay off each individual item the hassle would outweigh the profit (I reckon if I got £10 for the lot I’d be lucky), charity shops don’t take electrical stuff usually so… bin? Really?

What a waste. Surely there is some way of recycling these things? (and no, not Freecycle, again not worth the hassle!).

Anyone got any ideas?

Backup

Over the past few months I’ve become much better at backing up the important stuff on my PC. Largely this is photos, music, any ripped DVDs and important House documents, license files and so on.

So, if my PC dies a death then at least I’ve got the important stuff backed up. The rest, the downloaded freebies, fonts, software and so on can be downloaded again and, in a way, it’s a chance to re-evaluate things.

Not that my PC is dying a death but it does, this very moment, have a virus. Not quite sure where it came from, as I’m very careful (having worked for an anti-virus company I remain somewhat paranoid about these things). All I know is that I was downloading an update to DirectX so I could have a go at Football Manager 2009 (a guilty pleasure if ever there was one), and as Microsoft downloads can be a bit flaky under Firefox, I fired up Internet Explorer (7) and kicked off the download.

Somewhere, somehow, I now have a virus. It’s proving a bugger to fix so I’m doing a little research to make sure I’ve got the right tools at my disposal. Such is the advantage of having a laptop. I can research the issue, download the right tools and fixes, dump them on a USB drive and I’m ready to tackle the virus.

It’s THIS kind of thing that just pisses me off. I don’t download illegal software, I virus check everything that I do download, even if it’s from a ‘safe’ source, and I have a good clean system which is checked for spyware, malware and viruses every 6-8 weeks. Then something like this happens and I just know I’ll spend a couple of hours fighting it.

That’s not why I have a computer. It’s not supposed to be a battle, it’s supposed to be a tool. Just like those arseholes who keep creating and releasing viruses. They’re a bunch of tools too.

Keyboard and Mouse

I should’ve waited before replacing my old PC with another one. If I had I wouldn’t have my current dilemma as I’d be typing this post on an iMac, with a nice wireless keyboard, thin of form, full of factor.

But I’m not so here are my requirements and, dear reader, I’d like your thoughts and suggestions please.

My current keyboard is almost ideal. It has two USB ports on the back which I use for thumb drives (and occasionally to plug in a USB mouse when the batteries need charging on my main mouse), I’d be lost without the multimedia buttons (the silver ones in the photo), although I don’t use the ‘internet’ ones at all. It’s small, well constructed and my only complaint is that it’s quite noisy. The keys are a bit “clicky” which isn’t ideal for me as I work late at night quite often.

I’ve previously tried slimmer, laptop style keyboards which I do like using, but alas the only one I found that had a nice feel to it didn’t have multimedia buttons. I’m very keyboard orientated and I really missed being able to skip tracks without my hands leaving the keyboard (yes I know I can Alt+Tab to iTunes and then use keyboard shortcuts but that’s still 4 or 5 keystrokes as opposed to 1).

Suggestions of a suitable keyboard are welcomed, I’d be very interested in hearing about any experiences with a wireless keyboard too, but it must meet my requirements:

  • Quiet keys
  • Ability to control iTunes – volume, play, pause, next at minimum
  • Must be small (the Microsoft keyboards are stupidly large)
  • USB ports on keyboard are a bonus

Mouse wise I have been using a Logitech wireless mouse for some time now and the only gripe is the flipping docking station which takes several goes (as in 10-15 sometimes) to get the charging nodes lined up. That aside it’s nothing flash but does the job.

I’m not completely set on a wireless keyboard, but I couldn’t go back to a wired mouse. I use one at work and it’s forever ‘dragged’ when the cable gets caught under a piece of paper or whatnot, most annoying.

So, suggestions for a keyboard that meets my needs? And if it’s a combo of keyboard and mouse, which one??

Day in the Life

“Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head” sang Paul. And everyday I do the same thing, except the comb thing as there isn’t really that much there that needs combing…

I recently completed an article outlining a day in the life of a technical writer (well a day in MY life as a technical writer), and thought I’d take a stab at filling out the rest of the day on here. I can’t publish my ‘working day’ article until the magazine comes out, so there will be a big gap there but it’d just bore you anyway.

My typical weekday starts at 6.30 am. Well it used to, it now starts whenever a small black furry creature decides it’s time to leap up onto the bed and gently knead one of us awake (that sounds odd, cat owners will know what I mean). Regardless, the alarm goes off around 6.15 am, and the snooze button is quickly employed, at least once, sometimes twice depending on how many times I’ve awoken during the night. I tend to sleep lightly until around 3am so any noises or, say, cats leaping onto the bed, tend to wake me up.

Rolling out of bed, the first and usually most pressing matter to be dealt with is my bladder (too much detail?) and then it’s a quick shower and time to get dressed. I’m lucky that my darling wife doesn’t trust me to iron my shirts properly so there is usually one waiting for me, a quick check to see if my boxer shorts will last another day or whether I need to change them (I’m KIDDING!) and then an important part of my morning.

My office is based in a fairly out of the way location with no shops within walking distance, so the restaurant/canteen downstairs is our main source of food. I’ve tried my best to be disciplined and to make my lunch to take with me but it just doesn’t work and I usually end up buying my lunch at the office. With that in mind, when the company launched a salary sacrifice scheme for the canteen I signed up immediately (they are contributing 30% on top of what I put in so I’m saving money this way, kinda).

That means that I need to make sure I’ve got my wallet with me or I’m stumped. I still carry a couple of pounds in change, just in case, but after slipping my wallet into my back pocket, strapping my watch to my wrist and grabbing anything else I need for work (iPod, USB drive and occasionally my notepad or a book) I toddle downstairs for a glass of fresh orange.

Feed the cat, check his litter tray and generally potter until we are both ready to leave, usually just after 7am. The commute takes around 40 minutes most mornings, and I tend to drive the bulk of it as it involves a short spell on a country road which she doesn’t like driving. She’ll leave me at the office and take the car with her as she works about 10 minutes away. I don’t have a fixed time to start but have gotten used to the timings which allow us to miss the bulk of the traffic in the morning, and allow me an hour or more of peace and quiet until everyone else arrives.

These days I eat breakfast in work, typically Fruit and Fibre in a throwaway attempt at being healthy, then it’s coffee and my working day has begun.

[This is the bit that is getting published. It’ll get posted to my other blog in due course.]

As the clock rolls past 5pm I start thinking about going home. Louise and I trade the odd email during the day so I’ve usually got a fair idea of what is planned for that evening. She picks me up around 5.20 and we doddle home as quickly as the traffic allows to be greeted by Ollie who has, obviously, learned what our car sounds like.

We usually have a cup of coffee when we first get into the house, sort through any mail and double-check plans for the evening. Although since Louise changed jobs and we now commute together, we’ve usually covered all that so depending on what is in store sometimes it’s a straight dash for dinner. Louise is currently dieting (really well too, almost 2 stones in 4 months!) so she’ll prepare something that she can eat, and I’ll take a bit of whatever is on offer.

A little bit of TV whilst dinner digests, typically something we don’t need to concentrate on (hello Friends, Frasier, Simpsons, and Everybody Loves Raymond) and it’s time for some household chores. Of the two of us I’m the tidier, and tend to focus on that type of thing, which is handy as apparently I don’t hang the washing up correctly… hey that’s what I’m told, don’t blame me!

I don’t tend to watch “live” TV these days, unless it’s sport related, and the decision is usually to do some work on the computer, play a game (PS2 or Wii) or chill out and play with the cat. One of us will knacker him out at some point in the evening and the rest of my night, and more nights than is healthy, the PC will win the battle for my attention.

Bed beckons around midnight.

Boring huh. Still, it filled a blog post.

Where do we go from here?

MP3, USB, JPEG, some factors of our technological life are now “standard”. If I get a new gadget and it doesn’t have a USB connection or USB power cable then.. well actually, I probably wouldn’t buy it if it didn’t so that’s a bit of a moot point.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m slowly ripping all my CDs to MP3 (the CDs are now out of the living room and piled 20 high, 3 deep on my desk, which is progress of sorts) and it wasn’t a decision I took all that lightly. Admittedly the bulk of my new music is already in that format and as MP3 is supported widely then it should be OK in the future. Right?

JPEG appears to be safe as well. Every digital camera uses it and it does what it does well enough for the masses.

Ohh and yes, before anyone points out, I KNOW that there are better formats for storing music and photos but ultimately the loss of quality between a 256kbs MP3 and any of the lossless formats is beyond anything I can really detect, and the same goes for JPEG vs RAW images for MY purposes.

Those issues aside I do worry a little about losing these things to the vagaries of time, an issue to which the Kindle from Amazon – an electronic book reader – adds another dimension. One which, for some reason, has me very concerned about where this is all heading.

For some reason, whilst I’m not happy about the prospect, I am resigned to the fact that I may lose copies of photos and tracks. I am reasonably diligent when backing up, but if the worst happens, and I lose both my main hard drive AND my backup drive, then yeah, I’m stuffed. I have considered burning the really valuable stuff onto DVD but that’s way down the “I really should but I just can’t be chuffing bothered” path (a path strewn with many other best intentions and forgotten endeavours).

I’m not entirely sure there is an answer for this. Yes I could return to buying CDs rather than MP3 tracks, but at the rate I consume music the issue of physical space trumps any notion of always having a physical copy. And I can’t do that with photos anyway so I’m still at the whim of various hard drives.

I guess I could invest in a backup for my backup but even then it’s just another thing in the chain that could and, eventually will, fail.

What does all this mean? Well, I’m not entirely sure. Advances in technology means that the vast majority of hard drives can be considered trustworthy and unlikely to fail within a few years of usage (I’ve got two from my old PC which still work quite happily, which reminds me to get an enclosure or something for them).

However, technical issues aside, I’m also wondering if we have become a society where nothing really has value. Everything is replaceable, and we are encouraged to bin the old and buy new. If I did lose all my MP3s then I COULD replace them (at cost). So what’s the big deal? I’d only replace the ones I really missed so it might be a good way to start over and avoid all the dross.

Alas the same can’t be said of photos. Losing them loses the associated memories and emotions, the thoughts and feelings experience can’t be lost but they do dim over time, not forgotten but filed away in the distant recess of my mind. Viewing old photos brings them rushing back into the light, dusted down and ready to relived.

If I lost that there is no price that would can be paid, no way back.

Bloody hell, that’s a scary thought. Guess what I’ll be doing tonight!!

Decisions

My life has been littered with decisions over the past week or so. None particularly major but each crucial in a small way.

The decision with the biggest impact is definitely whether I should pay the electricity bill, or purchase the Mac OSX upgrade. OK, not really a decision… (yes I’ll pay the bill… meh).

Overall, most of the decisions have been small and in the large scheme of things, inconsequential. They centre around the myriad of items I’ve been throwing away as I continue to declutter. Trips to the skip, trips to various DIY places to purchase storage, trips to charidee shops, all have been preceded by a quandary.

Louise and I are pretty good at getting rid of stuff we don’t need or use. Moving house several times in the first few years we were together, including down to England and back, meant that it was pretty easy to know what we had (pack your entire house 4 times in 3 years and you’ll know what I mean) and what we didn’t actually use.

However, we’ve been in this house for over 6 years now and as we are not likely to move for at least another 6, then it’s understandable that we’ve slowly been accumulating ‘stuff’. Personally my minimalist tendencies make it very easy for me to justify the removal of items from any room, but I am conscious that can leave things a little ‘cold’ and of course I’m not the only person who lives there. We are pretty good at compromising though, and it’s safe to say we both now tend to agree on what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Decluttering the house will take some time and, as I’ve mentioned, means that some hard decisions need taken. It’s easy to decide that I don’t really need 4 spare USB cables, or that having 2 spare keyboards is a necessity, so out they go. Similarly there are a lot of things which have slowly been added to various drawers and cubbyholes, none of which have much value other than pleasant curiosity (a champagne cork with a G initialed on it, for example). However there are some items which hold real value, and so I now have a small ‘sentiments’ box.

There isn’t that much in it at the moment, the nameplate from my Grans old house and a knocker from her old, huge, sideboard, alongside a pencil top Chewbacca from my childhood and a small plate with an Osprey on it which… well it came from my parents but not sure where they got it from.

And so, with bin bags filled, and memories safely stored away, I can now move onto the next room. Well I would if I had the space. There are now two large boxes full of CDs, ready to go into the loft. Alas, the loft is starting to reach the point that we consider it “full” (the point at which you can no longer navigate round the boxes and piles of … stuff).

Guess which area of the house we should’ve decluttered first…