Friday 19th December 2008

They say a week is a long time in politics. In my own universe a week is a very long time, particularly if you are waiting for some RAM to arrive which you think will solve all your computer problems. It is a long story but I will start right at the beginning, from the moment I last blogged, exactly a week ago. I had a quiet weekend planned and there was no indication of the problems I would face on Saturday evening during the course of the day. I got up around 9am, after breakfast, spent a bit of time on the computer before watching Football Focus and spending a bit more time on the computer. I was originally going to leave at 2pm but my friend had to push things back, so I left an hour later and met up with him at 3.30pm, just outside Maidenhead. Here I jumped into his car for the remaining few miles of the journey. Sharing a coke with him at the The Shire Horse pub on the A4, I explained I was looking forward to a quiet evening, X Factor and perhaps a movie later. I just had no idea what was about to happen. I got back to Newbury around 6pm, You’ve Been Framed had just started and I was looking forward to TV Burp. I put the PC on and went into the kitchen while it booted. This meant I did not see the error message and first and just wondered why it was still showing the splash screen. Of course, now I realise the PC had rebooted itself and attempt to load Windows a second time and failed. It was then I realised that something was up, I noticed the error message at the top of the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) and noted it down on a scrap of paper by my keyboard. I then successfully got into Safe Mode (with Networking) and was online, googling the error message. It seemed like something I could resolve, although there was no way I was going to attempt a reinstall. Not after the last incident. Regular readers will be well aware that this blog post may sound familiar as I went through exact same scenario, albeit slightly different error message exactly eighty four days ago. Back then I had little option but to attempt a reinstall the following day. On this occassion, I was going to be much more stubborn and fight! Bear in mind that I gave up initially. I opted to sit in the lounge, have my pizza and watch the X Factor. However, there was a burning desire in me to fix the problem and I knew it could be fixed, just from the few pages I had scanned online, plus the fact I was in Safe Mode at all, meant the machine was far from the scrap heap. When I did jump on the computer again, at the conclusion of the live final, I had major problems. I could not get into Safe Mode at all. I tried a few other options and eventually gave up. I called my friend Bhavna to let her know my absence from MSN was for computer failure. While on the phone to her, I had a brainwave, Knoppix. (She probably wondered what the hell I was talking about, but it was the bright spark I needed after a few hours of doom!) To those of you unaware, Knoppix is a Live CD distribution (distro) of the Linux operating system. To put it simply it is a bootable operating system on a CD (or USB key) which you can load up, even if your hard drive is fried. Great! I connected up and I was online but this was the start of my adventure with Linux. Due to the limitation of how Knoppix is configured and for my own safety, I only have read access to my hard drives (and all NTFS partitions in fact). However that was not the problem, the main reason for using Knoppix, was to get online, chat to my friends, check my e-mails and more importantly research my problem. I have been using delicious ever since my dearest friend Hussein recommended the site to me, way back in 2005 or even 2004. (Glad they secured the dot com domain name though, the original domain was funky but difficult to remember!) Social bookmarking has many advantages but at that particular moment, it was an ideal place to save websites which I could pick up later on, partcularly important for blogging purpose. I forgot to mention the big disadvantage of Knoppix. The whole environment is loaded into a RAM disk (virtual memory) and therefore, even though you have the option to save passwords, bookmarks and downloads, they are all lost the moment you log out and reboot. (I know there are ways to build home directories and create locations to save files to permanently but I did not have the time or the patience to go through these instructions). It was quite a comforting moment, to discover that someone else, somewhere in the world was having the exact same problem as me, even if his encounter was a few hours earlier. I came to the quick hypothesis that the problem related to my memory, so ran a memory test, from the Hiren BootCD. I am so glad I spent the time to burn these life saving boot CDs in years gone by. They really become essential the moment your working PC goes dead. I just do not know why I am having such bad luck these days. I let the memory test run, it was going to take a while and went to the lounge to watch some more television. There was not a lot on from what I can remember. I came back to check my PC periodically over the next hour or so and sure enough I had two errors (one on each memory stick). I tried to confirm this by booting with just 512MB and the problem persisted. I had to order some memory. Here was were I made one of my crucial mistakes. (No pun intended). I headed to the Crucial website and was about to place my order when at the virtual checkout I was told they could only deliver to the credit card holder’s address. There was no point memory arriving in Wycombe, when my desktop is in Newbury. Therefore I cancelled the order and searched for other sites. Dabs did not have any in stock and so I went ahead with Mr. Memory. Hindsight is an exact science, or so I am told. I should have taken the advice of Pav. Whom, after hearing my predicatment and sending what seemed like a zillion ‘laugh out loud’ messages on MSN, told me I should have ordered from Novatech and collected from their Reading store, it was open Sundays. Obviously looking back, that was the right decision, but I was not to know that the memory would not arrive by today. Sometimes I feel I am just the butt of the jokes, particularly considering all the badluck I have had recently with my computer. I would not mind, but it is just the timing, it always happens when you least expect it. I would always prefer there to be a prewarning of some kind, so I could at least make some plans and factor in the day or two days to rebuild the computer. I am not going to let this scenario repeat itself with the same result. I will keep my family laptop with me and use it from time to time. It is well overdue a rebuild and as I was not able to load on a version of Lunix, I am going to put on a stripped down version of XP and use the machine purely as a netbook. For this it would be more than adequate. However, I am getting ahead of myself here. I was still in a very bad place, I had no working operating system and had to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday at the very latest for my memory to arrive. It was at this juncture that I finally decided to let the world know what I was doing. It did not take me a while to come to the realistic understanding that Knoppix would be my friend for the next few days and perhaps until I got home tonight. That was the way it was to be. However, it was not all that bad. I could use Web MSN, I could listen to my mp3s thanks to the build in media player (very similar looking to WinAmp). Then there is the Kaffeine Media Player to watch my DivX files. It was not bad as it seemed. I settled down to forget all my troubles and watch Tropic Thunder. I had obtained the movie a while back but not had a free evening to sit down and watch it until now. Tropic Thunder was fantastic, very funny and also very clever. It did not take itself very seriously but there was also the element of a film within a film, if that makes sense, from the opening trailers before the ‘feature presentation’. It was hilarious pretty much from start to finish, but it was a surprise character that just blew me away. Tom Cruise as the film boss Les Grossman just had me in stitches. Particularly the part when he tries to convince Ben Stiller’s agent with a G5 payoff. Watching him bump and grind to Flo Rida’s “Low” and “Get Back” by Ludacris are moments I will never forget and will just have to see again! Just try some searches on YouTube if you cannot sit down and watch the whole movie! After the movie, I went off to sleep. Sunday was quiet day, I did not really do much after my gym session at 8am. There was no need to do any washing as I was heading home at the end of the week, so I spent a bit of time just organising the flat, writing notes for this blog posting and confirming plans for the Christmas break. I had a piano lesson at 1pm, but my tutor arrived later at 1.36pm. While I was waiting, I watched another episode of Life On Mars US. After my lesson, we headed over to the Tom Carvery Pub just over the Robin Hood Roundabout, it was about 4pm, but we had a good thirty minute wait for a table. After a nice meal we headed back to my flat and my piano teacher headed back to Oxfordshire. I returned to my flat just in time to kill an hour before watching the Sports Persoanlity Of The Year Awards show from Liverpool. All you need to know is that without my computer functioning propertly it was a painful evening, spent once again on Knoppix. However, I held out hope that by Tuesday I would have my memory, the issue would be resolved and I would be able to watch my all important US TV imports. Little did I know how badly the week was going to pan out for me in this regard. On Tuesday when I got back from work on my non-gym day, I got onto the computer with a mission. To catch my US shows via the streaming method. No problem there I hear you cry, well yes there would be no problem if Flash Player was included as part of the package. It is not. Oh well, not a big issue to download the latest version (10) from the Adobe website and install onto Knoppix. Wrong again, version 10 does not work with Knoppix or the actual webbrowser that is included. (A rebranded version of Mozilla Firefox imaginately entitled – Iceweasel). I therefore had to Google my options, there were not many. In the end I was able to find a site which had version 9 of the Flash Player runtimes for Linux which I downloaded. Then I had to work out how to install them. You would think it would be easy, double click an executable. No, I had to go into the terminal window (command prompt) and run the script from there and answer various option questions. In the end I got it to work, but it was very frustrating, when the option to install missing plugins via Iceweasel, appeared to download but not work. Finding sites was not the problem, finding links for the most recent episode that worked was. Eventually a site lend me to Megavideoupload and I watched two shows on there (The Big Bang Theory and Sarah Connor) however as I was watching the opening few minutes of Heroes, I was informed I had over gone my limit of 54 minutes and would have to wait another 72 hours before I could watch the remainder of the video. No thanks, a quick remedy would have been to reboot my router, but I did not know how that would affect Knoppix, so I just found an alternative source. Yes the quality was not great, and there was a bit of a delay for buffering and delays while the video downloaded but overall I got to watch my shows and it was better than nothing. I can always watch the episodes again at a later date over the Christmas break, as most are now off the air until mid January or early February. Why is it that I get to see them all with no glitches until the week before christmas? On Tuesday night after reading up about BartPE online, I opted to create a bootable CD as this would give me access to my NTFS partitions. However, I forgot to download and add in my network drivers, so therefore there was no network support and I had to switch back to Knoppix. Although on Thursday evening, this did enable me to copy across various files from the media drive onto my portable 320gb hard drive, so I could come home with some new music videos and movies to throw onto the XBox to watch with the family over Christmas. What else is there worth mentioning? Well I am back in Wycombe and not back in Newbury until the 28th December, but may pop over for a day visit with my family to show them the flat and just check up on a few things. Weekend plans? Well quite lot on actually! I got a phone call on my mobile on Thursday mid-morning, it appeared to be from my Dad but it was actually m sister Natalie on the phone. She asked if I had entered a competition in the Daily Mail. Yes I had, but only yesterday afternoon. Well, she had news for me, I had won! I got the number of the contact at the paper, Sarah and gave her a call. She explained I had won a pair of tickets for the big weekend fixture! Fantastic! I was over the moon, now the dilemma of who to take with me?

Compliment Slip Arsenal v Liverpool

There were plenty of options but in the end I knew I had to ask Steve. Afterall, it was his birthday on the same day and I had a feeling he might be in London clubbing. However, I could not get hold of him, his mobile was diverting straight to voicemail and this was not the kind of news I could wait on. After trying on the way to and from the gym and a few times after Eastenders, I called the second person on my list. Old school friend and long time Liverpool fan, Ryan. He was a bit annoyed to be second choice but understood why and accepted the invitation on the spot. Ladies and Gentlemen, my weekend has been upgraded to platinum status. Tomorrow, will be a lazy day for the most part, off to town to get my haircut, sort out a few things out at home. In the evening I will be out for my social Christmas party with friends, although I am not going to make it a late one, if I can help it. Sunday morning I am at the Christening of Aiden Medford, which should be an experience. Then it will be back home for a quick change before jumping on the train to London. Could my weekend get any better? Well, there is Christmas shopping in Milton Keynes on Monday!

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