Although it might look like one, this is not a blog - it's more of a container for those thoughts of mine which rise occasionally like foetid gas bubbles from a mud pool. It happens from time to time, but not frequently enough to have any continuity.  
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23rd December
  "...and time is certainly something the Hoover Dam has stood the test of."  

  "Secrets of Dams" - Sky Travel, 23rd December, 2003
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10th December

Following a computer crash on Friday I’ve spent an interesting time trying to preserve my installation and get Windows running again. The most necessary thing to do was to run PcCillin in case I had been attacked by a virus. I tried to do so during the crash, but it froze not long after beginning a scan. After that I couldn’t get into Windows at all.

Now I’m fortunate enough to have two hard drives, so it occurred to me that if I installed Windows on my ‘D’ drive I would be able to run PcCillin from the ‘C’ drive just to establish whether or not a virus was present.

Of course, the time came during the installation of Windows when it suddenly struck me that I’d lost my Licence Key. It had been stuck on the back of my original computer, but two computers later it had vanished without trace.

So after an arduous but fruitless search of the house, I phoned up Microsoft, only to be told that I would have to ring again on Monday before I could be given the number. So my computer sat unused on my desk for the weekend, while my Hotmail junk folder expanded.

On Monday I phoned, and everything seemed to be going well, until they told me I would have to wait to be called back, some time within the next twenty-four hours. This is apparently a method they use to try to ensure that the person doing the phoning is the real owner. I was called back late Monday afternoon, and again everything seemed to be going well, until I was told that I had the wrong type of Windows XP. I had gone, some time ago, into my local computer shop and had asked for XP, had been given a disk and had paid what at the time had seemed to be an extortionate sum. But it now appeared that what I had been given was the OEM version of Windows which was designed to be put onto new computers. Microsoft would not give me the Licence Key and the only option I had was to buy XP again (the original XP had been bought years ago, and I had no proof of purchase).

I felt it was interesting that although Microsoft told me the shop was at fault for selling me a version of Windows it was not entitled to sell, they were not at all interested in following this up, and did not ask anything about the shop. I suppose from their point of view they were being paid twice for the same item, so it was all hunky-dory. However, it could be seen by the uncharitable that they were tacitly encouraging this kind of thing.

So I went to another computer shop, a little further away, and bought a copy of XP – the proper version this time which cost well over twice as much as the sum I had thought extortionate.

By now I was not too happy with Microsoft, and decided to get a Linux implementation to put on my ‘D’ drive, so that I could wean myself away from the Microsoft monopoly. The version I got was Suse Linux which was a graphical implementation, and was reputed to be easy to install. Mind you, for a program using open source, this was in my view quite expensive, although a lot less than Windows.

First of all I installed Windows on my ‘D’ drive. When I tried to run my full copy of PcCillin, it told me I would have to register it, and when I did so it asked for the Serial Number. With delight I realised that this was a number I actually had. I entered it, and was then totally scuppered when it smirked to itself and told me I’d better come up with the Licence Key as well.

I wrote to Trend, and fairly quickly received a letter from them with all the relevant details. I entered them, and was then informed by PcCillin that although I thought it was a full version and had paid for it, it was quite sure that it was only a demo copy, and certainly had no intention of allowing itself to be registered. At that point I gave up.

I reinstalled Windows on my ‘C’ drive without any trouble, although I did notice that it objected to some of my drivers, saying they did not have Microsoft certification, and therefore Microsoft were not liable for any problems that might occur. Well, I suppose it was my fault really, for recklessly choosing to put on my computer such bizarre things as a Hewlett-Packard hp 1005 print driver.

Windows now runs, although when I boot up I do get an initial screen, doubtless the result of earlier abortive attempts at installation, which asks me whether I wish to run Microsoft Windows XP (Home Edition), Microsoft Windows XP (Home Edition) or Microsoft Windows XP (Home Edition).

Then the time came to install Linux. Now, I thought, all the problems would be behind me, and things would be simple and straightforward. I began the installation, and the first thing I saw was a screen asking me what kind of installation I required. One of the options was ‘Installation with APIC’. I looked in the manual, but unfortunately APIC wasn’t in the index or in the glossary, so I suppose I will remain ignorant. I chose the simplest option, and things worked for a short time before I was informed that I didn’t have any hard drives, and everything ground to a halt.

I have two arrays, working with a Promise Raid controller. This is a fairly common thing, as it came as a standard with my MSI motherboard. But for Suse Linux it appears to be a major issue. There is a page of hints on their website, but none of them seemed to cover the actual controller I had. It seemed though that one could get drivers from the Promise website which, with a great deal of complication, one could load during the install. Unfortunately the website didn’t seem to have the drivers I required, and referred me to the website of the motherboard manufacturer. They don’t seem to have any drivers at all.

That is where things stand at the moment.

Linux is not working. Windows more-or-less works, although not as well as before. Word will suddenly start printing random letters in response to my keypresses, and the computer has to be rebooted before it will work again. Internet Explorer has the same problem it’s had for some years now (indeed, I think it began when my operating system was ME) where it reverts to small text whenever it starts. And now Windows won’t close down by itself. Undoubtedly Microsoft would tell me that despite the fact that so far there's hardly anything installed on this implementation, the problem is all my own fault for choosing to run software not approved by them. It strikes me as a curious way of doing business for a company to release an operating system claiming it to be reliable, but then telling its customers it will only work properly if they constrain themselves to using a small amount of the software available. In other words, for Microsoft, ‘reliability’ seems to be only a relative term.

It also strikes me as curious when genuine paying customers are unable to use software when it's needed because of copy protection. Perhaps if the manufacturers lowered their prices a little, such stringent copy protection wouldn't be necessary, and their paying customers could use their software when they needed to. A revolutionary idea, I know.

So far my computer has remained on my desk, rather than in the fish pond, but it’s only a matter of time, I feel.

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21st September
  My website has suffered a great deal of neglect lately, and this section in particular. Swapping from one host to another caused all kinds of problems and, although I am very happy with the host I have got (United Hosting - they answer your emails literally within hours) the actual change caused difficulties which are not yet over. And life has been hectic lately. Even so, it's difficult to believe that most of the year has passed before I have managed to get the 2003 page up.

Hopefully I will be able to create a few entries before it's time to create the 2004 page!

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There is a very moving TV ad for the NSPCC that features a genuinely distressed child. After seeing it a few times, a question occurred to me.

How did they distress the child, and how long did they need to keep it distressed while they went through several ‘takes’?

The question might not have occurred to me, had I not, many years ago, had occasion to ring them up one night to report the abuse of a child.

They were not interested, and referred me to my local social services department.

This is a popular charity, probably because all of us are affected by cruelty to children. But I wonder how much they have spent on this advertising campaign, which has been pretty ubiquitous.

It might be that my experience with them has generally soured me towards them, but I can’t help wondering whether there are more deserving charities, that don’t spend vast sums on TV advertising, that actually do what they purport to do and that don’t upset children to put over the message that children should not be abused.

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  Back to my hobby-horse – the mis-use of words on television. This seems especially to happen to musical terms; I don’t know why.

A recent news report on the fighting in Iraq said that ‘the battle got off to a staccato start’. Now staccato means ‘detached’. In music, staccato notes are short and separated from each other. I couldn’t see any way this could be applied to fighting, but eventually realised that what the commentator meant to say was ‘sporadic’.

I imagine that the sounds of the battle brought to mind descriptions of ‘staccato gunfire’ which one sometimes hears. Of course, in that context the term is quite correct, but the commentator must have misunderstood the description, and applied the term without really understanding what it means.

In the same way, people use the musical term ‘crescendo’ (literally ‘growing’) to mean ‘climax’ – exactly (as Douglas Adams might have said) what it isn’t.

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  "They will join the extra a hundred and fifty thousand troops …"
  BBC News, 2nd July 2003
  "Not a wealthy man, this was the grandest house his family had ever lived in."
  BBC Programme on the Brontés
  "Shootings, as we are all becoming familiar, are on the increase … "
  BBC London News, 24th June
  “Having spent all week in a dusty hangar with sweaty men, his wife and kids arrive.“
  A Very British UFO Hoax, Channel 4, 7th October  
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