Sunday 12th July 2009

What a weekend! I was running around from Thursday 5pm, until this evening late at 10:20pm, when I finally came in and had some time to relax but not long enough. Work is starring me right in the face for tomorrow. My weekend started early as I had Friday off. I finished promptly at 5pm, headed straight to the flat, packed my things (got a few minutes of net time) and headed off around 6pm. I got to Wycombe, unpacked my things and parked my car down the road. (More on that later). It was nice to be back, I went through my mail and caught up with my Mum and sister, Julie, they had arrived as I had driven off to park my car. We watched Eastenders and I decided it would be best to have an early night as I had such an early start on Friday morning. I was online for a little while but eventually went to bed.

My Mum woke me up, as my E65 is rather pointless as an alarm clock, it never wakes me up. It was coming up to 6am. I woke up and got ready and had some breakfast, before having a shower and getting changed. I was in the car and on my way with all my paperwork. I got to Amersham Audi around 7:47am, they were not due to open until 8am, but I was greeted and served and given the keys to a 09 plate silver A3 Sportback. It was nice enough but a little underpowered for such a big car with just a 1.6 petrol engine. It would do. I drove down to Hayes to pick up Preeti and we headed to Windsor. The original plan had been to go to Portsmouth and go up the Spinnaker Tower. While it would have been great, as it was such a nice day, it was going to be a trek to get there, so we opted for the local landmark. Although I have been to the town many times, I have never been inside the royal residence. A shame really considering I could see the castle from the car park of my previous work place.

Ironically, the day we would decide to visit, would also be the day Her Royal Highness joins Twitter. You can follow Ma’am over @British Monarchy. As you would expect, there were many tourists around on a bright summer day. We parked opposite a big ferris wheel, on the banks of the Thames. Correction, it is the Royal Windsor Observation Wheel. It looked closed at this time in the morning was strange as it was 9:50am, you would think a queue would have formed already with tourists having a coffee in the cafe underneath. We took a few pictures before heading off into the town and to the Castle.

Observation Wheel

At the Castle, we bought our tickets from the desk after waiting in a Post Office style queue and being given a till number to approach. We brought tickets and then went through airport style security. I left Preeti’s other camera in my pocket and my two car keys which immediately set off the machine, so I had to empty my pockets and try again. We were in and with hindsight should have taken the audio handheld device but just headed straight in. It was free and included in the entry fee. We made our way up the hill and inside the Castle grounds, taking various photographs. You can see the rest of the images on Preeti’s FlickR set. We then headed into the State Rooms, where no photograph is allowed. It was very impressive and I was just surprised at how big the interior was. We also went to the rebuilt area devastated by fire in November 1992 (Three days before my eleventh birthday). The views across Berkshire and beyond were also spectacular.

SDC14497

After the state rooms, we headed down the path to St. George’s Chapel, the final resting place of Henry VIII. A beautiful chapel, with some highly decorated tombs. Peaceful too, with the only words of the tour guides giving the history behind the people buried beneath us. I as more interested in an earlier monarch who shared the name of the place of worship. King George III fascinates me, because he was on the throne at the time that American fought for and gained independence. The American Revolution along side World World Two are perhaps my favourite eras in history. As we left the chapel, we had to wait for the changing of the guard before we could leave the castle complex. However, we went towards the main entrance to get our tickets stamped but we had gone the wrong way, we had to go back to the exit. Although first we had to speak to a security guard and then finally got the all important stamp. I will be back soon.

We decided to head to Staines. There was a symbolic reason for this, it was the hometown of Ali G. It would also mean I had completed the Sacha Baron Cohen trilogy in three cities. The first movie, in Leicester in 2002, Borat in Reading for 2006 and now finally the home coming to Staines three years later. Staines had a Vue cinema, which Preeti had researched and by the time we got there, parked and located the cinema (it was based at the Two Rivers shopping centre, we had parked at the Elmsleigh Shopping Centre, arriving just after midday). I booked tickets for the 13:45 viewing and we went to get some food. There was a long queue but we were assured we would be in and out in an hour. After lunch, we headed to the cinema and went to our screen, although we had to wait a few minutes to be let into our screen. There were only a handful of people in the auditorium and I found perfect seats in the centre. The film began with the world famous Asteroid.

I had been shocked by Borat so expected much the same from Bruno. Although the story was weaker, it was far more outrageous, at times I had to look away from the screen. Just when you thought it could not get any worse, it did! I have said it before that Cohen really does go to the limit and risk it all for his art (if you can even call it that). Apparently he got arrested three times during the filming of this movie. It is rated 18, although I have heard that a lighter 15 certificate version is also on general release now. So having said that, there is not much I can mention on this blog but if you have seen the movie, you will know what I am talking about. The ending was rather pathetic but then again what is the point of the whole movie. It is not exact a blockbuster with good versus evil. It was good fun, some parts were very funny, particularly the appearance on the talk show. Although I have to say that this was must be the last run for this type of movie comedy. If America has finally worked out the act, where else can this gravy train go. I think Cohen has milked these three characters as much as he can. He will need to come up with a new act or more likely just retire on the proceeds of the last two movies.

We left Staines at 3:32pm and I then had to collect my car from Amersham after dropping off Preeti. I was home around 6pm, parking the car a little way from our house. While I was parking the car, an old gentleman came to his door, asking me to move the car forward. I refused. It was not blocking anyone or any entrance. As he continued to argue with me, I approached his door and was more than happy to have a chat. The road is public highway, the car was parked on the other side of the road, opposite his house. I really could not understand his point of view that I was blocking the turning circle. This was very rich coming from the bungalow owner, who has not only his original driveway, where his people carrier was parked, but also a garden which had been converted to a driveway for at least three cars. I was really annoyed and refused to move my car. The gentleman was irritated, accusing me of not living here and then hoping that kids jump on my car. My response to that was, I did not care, the car was insured and I did not need him keeping a look out on my car. His final words were that he was going to park his car in that spot tomorrow, so I could not. Go ahead, I left to work home very annoyed and updated both my Twitter and Facebook. At least the weekend still had a full two days to run.

Around 9pm, I headed to Ryan’s house to sort out his internet and get him on Facebook and set up his e-mail accounts, plus MSN (which to date, he still has not used). I was there for an hour or so, but we could not get his hard drive to read from my caddy, so I opted to take it home and try on my desktop. It was good to get Buckle bang up to date into the 21st century at last. He was going to be online for most of the night, learning how to navigate sites and added old school friends on Facebook. I got home, was on the computer for a while but then went to bed. Saturday was going to be another busy day.

I got up later than I wanted to and then realised I needed to get into town if I was going to get everything done before going into London that lunch time. However, I was leaving it very late. I got up around 9am, had breakfast, watch some television and had a shower. I went out the door to the bus stop, but forgot something, so had to go back to the house to get it and therefore missed the bus I was going to catch originally. It drove past as I was making my way back up to the Cressex Link. I waited for the next bus and then got into town. Due to the time, I was only going to get my haircut and not do the other jobs I had planned in town. Although Jerry’s Street Styles was not that busy, both Jerry and Eddie were cutting the hair of some ladies and it was going to be a bit of a wait. I eventually got my haircut by Eddie and then headed back to the bus station and back home. My sister, Samantha had been texting me frantically, wanting to know where I was. I text back that I was on my way and she was waiting at the bus stop for me. I got up to the car, which was parked just past the bus stop, in the entrance to Vino House, jumped in and we headed off into London.

I am not really one for fancy restaurants, but as my sister had gone to great lengths to organise this lunch, I was actually looking forward to the meal. Although at this rate, we were going to be late and be charged a no-show fee. Thankfully Dips and my sister Natalie were already on their way and would explain that we were not too far away and they would hold our table. We eventually got there, although the TomTom decided to send us the wrong way at Euston station and we had to go back around but once we found a parking space it was difficult to get bearings for the place. We got their eventually and then headed downstairs for lunch.

Fifteen is a restaurant owned by (not sure if run by) Jaime Oliver. Call me ignorant but I have only ever seen him in Sainsbury’s adverts. Not being one for the cookery shows, I have not seen any of his shows on Channel 4. Upstairs was the bistro dining area, which was more casual but even downstairs in the main dining area, it was rather relaxed. I had expected something a little more formal and slightly more glamourous. Maybe my expectations were too high but the service was very good and the food was excellent.We even went for the desert option which was of course chocolate and very rich (those that know me well, know that I have a very sweet tooth). After the meal, we headed back to the car and said goodbye. I expected an autograph or at the very least several pictures of Keri Hilson.

Once we got home, I spent the afternoon slash evening on the computer. During dinner I watched part of Sholin Soccer. My Dad commented that it was very similar in style to Kung Fu Hustle. It would be, it was by the same martial arts legend – Stephen Chow. Then again, I have only seen the first thirty minutes or so of Kung Fu Hustle before I had to go to bed late on Friday night and have never got back to watching it again. It was playing on Bravo and although I would have watched the remainder of my film, my sister Samantha wanted to watch something else before Casualty, so I went back to my room and onto the internet. I was wondering which movie to watch, as I had brought some along with me and opted to watch Fired Up. I have no idea why I downloaded this in the first place, I think from the trailer it looked quite funny and different from other movies in the high school genre. Actually I know why I downloaded it now, the cast list having refreshed my memory. Adhir Kalyan had a very minor role in Mall Cop, which I watched the previous weekend. Viewing his Wikipedia page and filmography, I thought I would watch a movie of his where he had an expanded part. Plus there were a few people I recognised from TV shows, such as Heroes and the latest incarnation of Knight Rider. It was a waste of time, with very few funny moments. My advice is to avoid at all costs, but then again, I doubt it will be a movie most of you will come across in the mainstream.

After the movie, I spoke to Ryan on Facebook chat, he made a good point that I had to be up again in a handful of hours. With that prompt from my old school friend I headed straight to bed. Sunday was going to be a great day, my first visit to Terminal 5 at Heathrow, picking up Mightymouse and after several weeks of delays, installing my server!

I must have woken up at 6:25am and went to get some breakfast, while my Mum tried to wake up my sisters, Samantha and Julie. We were in the car and on our way around 6:45am, with my sister concerned about the lack of petrol in her car. I looked at the range from the on board computer and explained there was enough fuel for two trips to Heathrow. We proceeded without the trip to the petrol station that would have delayed us. We pulled into Terminal Five car park at 7:09am, it had been a clear run on the M40 and M25. I was very impressed with how quickly you were in the car park from the motorway. We drove down to the car park, found a spot and then made our way across to departures. It was a big open space, not like the other terminals. We got in the queue for British Airways and when we finally got to the check-in desk it must have been gone 7:30am. We were served by Davien, who proved to be a very helpful young man. (Do I sound a bit of old man saying that?). When I put my Mum’s case on the convey belt, his response was, “You know that bag is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY over the limit?”. Yes, we knew, so we were just going to pay the excess. “I’m not going to charge your Mum! I just hope you have a very strong man on the other side to pick it up!”. Smiles and laughs all round. A very nice guy, I know if we had gone to another check-in desk they would have charged us the flat £25 fee. We then had to wait for my sister Natalie to arrive from London. It took thirty minutes or so, meanwhile we coached my Mum on where to go (already directed by Davien) her flight number and departure time. Natalie arrived and we went to Cafe Nero for some breakfast. I was not in the mood for a drink so just had a pain du chocolat. We then sent my Mum off through security and decided to wait until she had made it to the boarding gate. BA staff were as unhelpful as ever, but it was not a major problem, we were sure my Mum would find someone to help her traveling on the same flight.

Hussein had called around 9am in the morning to explain he had guests over and could not now leave until 3pm, I would pick him up then. It was a mixed blessing, yes it meant I did not have rush off but it would also mean a longer evening in Newbury and late night driving back. We left Heathrow at 9:12am, went to Shell Cressex my former place of employment for petrol and then ASDA to get some food before going back to the house. I went straight onto the computer and online.

I visited Toya’s World for the first time in ages. The main banner had changed from Beyoncé, Rihanna and Alicia Keys to a youthful Michael Jackson. I scrolled down to discover a cover version of Human Nature by Mario. Nothing new there, I hear you cry as Mario had performed covers of the song in recent live performances. However, this version was over the instrumental of John Mayer from the Memorial service. It was amazing, from the opening note to the last word. Go and check it out yourself at Toya’s World. Not many people come close to doing a song like Human Nature justice. I am perhaps a harsher critic than most because it is my favourite slow song by the King Of Pop. Mario does very well, it is not the same as Michael but it is an excellent effort. I love the ad lib ending and a very dramatic opening.

Hussein called at 13:13, he was free so I could pop over at any time. I had decided to watch the start of the German GP and have some food before leaving around 2.30pm to head over but this call rushed me a little. I was hoping my sisters Samantha and Julie would return from town but they were busy, so I left without saying a proper goodbye. In the rush I left a few things at the house (milk and cleaning products) nothing major, not the end of the world. I got over to Hussein’s and we started to hunt for a Cat5 network cable. MightyMouse had left the one he had reserved for me on his desk at the shop in Central London. In the end we took a phone cable and a network cable that Hussein found before hitting the road. Hussein brought his laptop, although it would be not required. I mentioned to my friend how, even though I had been excited about this moment of the weekend, so many other things had happened and I had been so busy that I had not really had the time to get excited. We took the A312 down past Hayes onto the M4. It was busy, it was Sunday afternoon in the sunshine and we were stuck in traffic. We made it to Newbury around 4pm and then the magic could begin.

Hussein found a great spot for the server, even though I had originally wanted it on the other side of the room, on a seperate power point on it’s own. However, this new location, by the side of the lounge, opposite the television was perfect. It took some re-arranging of power adapters but we got there in the end. The server was given the IP address 192.168.1.4 and with that, I let MightMouse lose on my desktop but not before I published the all important tweet! He installed Putty and then was away, making changes and updating settings. Switching over my Squeezebox from SqueezeNetwork to the SqueezeCEntre, took a total of fifteen seconds, I was very impressed. Then using his G1 with Android OS, he started the Squeezecentre application and started playing Off The Wall. The response was instant, there was no delay or lag in waiting for the server to queue the song and send it across to the player. I was impressed and very pleased. It was at this point, I felt it appropriate to de-label the old Volcano and re-christen it Dagobah, now part of Teg’s Star Wars Network.

De-labelling Volcano

The next job was to get all the server bits and pieces sorted. The shares, TorrentFlux and also the web based performance managment suite. It was at this point in the afternoon, I had my first ephiphany. If I could somehow get remote access to my server, I could search for and queue up torrents while at work but using my server. This was because Torrentflux includes a search dialog box with the option to search the favourite torrent sites (but with the option to manually adjust and add your own if you feel the need.) This was great, but Hussein then explained something even better than that, Torrentflux can read RSS feeds, so if the site I download from, e.g. EZ TV, has an RSS feed for the particular shows I watch, when a new file is uploaded, Torrentflux can download automatically. This was something I would have to look at later.

Setting up the Samba shares was more difficult than you would expect, so Hussein had to give me a crash course on permissions in Linux. We got there in the end and started updating the XML file that we would then just FTP across to the XBox. However, Hussein gave up and decided to do it manually on the device itself. When we went into the lounge to do this, he was shocked that I had not re-calibrated the display settings correctly, as so much of the right hand side was off the screen. He did this, along with making other tweaks to the fan speed and LED settings. Then we got onto the job of adding new shares and removing my old shares from my desktop, Tatooine. After we had added all the shares, Hussein did the magic of setting the content. This means that the XBMC goes online to pick out album covers (if they are not availble locally) or DVD covers for movies and banners for TV shows and apply them to the folder or file. This was going to take some time, so we left that running.

The final job before we went off to get some food, was to start the process of copying over 40 gigabytes worth of music videoes from my media drive onto the server. It was going to take 149 minutes, according to XP. That was it, the torch had been passed over, I had lots to learn and had been given a crash course on the majority of what I needed. Hussein had even been kind enough to set up my DynDNS, and then logged in from his mobile as a test. It was amazing that he had an SSH client on his mobile!

We headed to Pizza Hut for some food, it was very quiet but the service was appalling. We were given garlic bread but no plates. It was absolutely shocking and just not acceptable. I would have prefered to have gone into town and got better service from a restaurant or pub by the canal. It was my first time at the Pizza Hut in the Newbury Retail Park, I will not be going back again. At least there is quality service from PHQ down the road but then again that is just a takeaway. Then it was into the car and the long drive back to Harrow and then back to Newbury. As he left the car, Hussein’s final few words were, “I’m looking forward to the blog post!”. Well here it is, I know I did not do the afternoon justice and there is so much more I should have mentioned but then that is what the comments box is for.

When I got back to Newbury, it was coming close to 10.30pm. My computer was still copying over my music videos to the server as I updated Twitter. Windows was reporting 39 minutes remaining at 10:25pm but it was still running I had a MSN conversation with MightyMouse to thank him for sparing the time today. He was in bed, watching Top Gear on iPlayer. I had sacrificed the motoring show to learn a little more of Linux and fiddle around with Torrentflux.

When I got into bed, I switched over to my E65, to monitor torrents but also to control my Squeezebox. Sure the interface is a little clunky (even when you change the setting to handheld) but it functionally. I had been able to syncrhonise my old SqueezeNetwork settings, so the Squeezecentre had imported across all my previous settings such as Last.fm account details and RadioTime presets. Impressive. I feel asleep, listening to Michael Jackson and dreaming of all the endless possibilities, this new piece of hardware opened up.

Track Of The Day – Michael Jackson – Off The Wall

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