The Blog of Zakspade

January 2018 Archive
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A Fear of Clowns
Wednesday 31 January, 2018
Imagine a mini roundabout. Imagine a car positioned to make a right turn. Imagine no vehicles coming that might cause it to stop and wait.

Good, we're there and watching,.

The car we are watching is a nice shiny red Vauxhall Astra. It seems to have parked. No indicators: no movement; nothing.

The car behind wishes to also make a right turn and they have been waiting patiently. The traffic is particularly heavy at this time in the town centre - not helped by a three-way traffic light system down the road.

The car behind carefully inserts itself into the lane heading straight on and indicates that it is turning right. It slowly makes its turn around the mini roundabout and the seemingly permanently stationary car.

Then the previously motionless obstacle jumps forward and nearly rams the side of the car going around it.

Lots of tooting.

I don't know about you, but as I watched I really felt for the chap who had been stuck behind. He had had done nothing wrong. He was careful.

We continue to watch as the beeped at driver carries on towards the high street and the red car follows - still without indicator and having crossed the path of another car that had tried to make its own turn across the junction.

Then we see it. Clarity and reason for the odd spectacle. The driver of the red car has a mobile phone glued to his ear and is talking very animatedly to someone.

Sometimes I feel very glad that I tend to walk into town rather than drive: you can never be too sure what sort of idiots are on the road.

Do What?
Monday 29 January, 2018
Getting up extremely early on a Saturday morning to write a Blog entry is a real pain when there is no other reason to be up.

Hang on, this in not Saturday - I decided to miss a day.

That's even worse! Getting up extremely early on a SUNDAY morning to write a Blog entry is a real pain when there is no other reason to be up.

Hang on, again. Checking. Monday.


That raises the question: Where the bloody hell did the weekend go?

I bet I'm not the only one who asks that question this morning.

Another One
Friday 26 January, 2018
I used to live in an Eastern European country just after The Wall came down. These days I live in a market town in Blighty.

During the year I lived in the ex-Eastern Bloc I suffered their telephone system many times. I had to travel to a main post office in order to make a call out of the city in which I lived. If I rang a local number and it was engaged, all I needed to do was re-ring it a couple of times and I would get through after kicking the previous caller off the line.

An interesting infrastructure, but I don’t recall any power cuts.

Now I suffer two or three a year.

The other day my town suffered another power cut. In fact, things seem to be moving forward: there were two power cuts on the same day.

It would be nice to know how much the person running the supply company is earning, because I would love to be receiving lots of money, like them, for being an incompetent arse.

Wasted Miracle
Wednesday 24 January, 2018
Yesterday I read in my local newspaper that a driver hit a crash barrier on the bypass running around my town. The headline read, Driver’s miraculous escape.

When the front page photo was looked at, there was the barrier jutting out of the nearside rear quarter of the vehicle after passing through the front of the car.

Apparently the driver walked away from the crash without a scratch.

He was also breathalysed and provided a positive sample at the scene.

It was a Friday afternoon.

Seems like there is no time when one is safe on the roads from cretins.

Invisible Letters
Tuesday 23 January, 2018
Last summer I was expecting some gift vouchers.

I waited and waited, but they didn't turn up. So I contacted the issuer and mentioned their nonappearance.

Initially there was a lack of response until the tone of my messages become quite terse. Apologies were made and accepted, then fresh vouchers were issued.

Fast forward six months and I uncover an envelope beneath a pile of my papers. The previously unopened became opened as I looked to see what it was and I discover the missing vouchers.

Quandary - what to do now! Spend and have done with it, or 'fess up and let them know so they can cancel them?

I like my sleep so I made a grovelling apology and offered them the serial numbers.

'Use them,' came the reply.

They say honesty is the best policy, but what do 'they' have to say about innate stupidity on the part of a person like me who inadvertently buried the letter in the first place?

Carpet Burns
Sunday 21 January, 2018
My faith in the world has been renewed.

I ended up with a carpet burn on one of my knees the other day and I posted the fact to Facebook as a form of bait; inviting raucous replies and comments. Instead, there were comedic responses that referred to everything but the 'obvious.'


The actual cause of my carpet burn was my tripping over a dog and falling in the house.

I have three dogs. Was it the little one? He has the ability to get immediately in front or behind a person without being noticed due to his diminutive size.

Perhaps it was the middle dog? She has cocker spaniel in her, so she has the ability to be in six places all at the same time.

Or maybe it was the beagle? He tends to sleep a lot but moved throughout the house very silently. One moment he is asleep on his bed, the next he has quietly positioned himself so as to fix you with a huge brown-eyed stare in the hope that you will feed him the magazine you are reading (he thinks anything you hold in your hand is food - for him).

Then there is the possibility that they all worked together. The smallest dog ran around to distract me; the middle dog did her quantum thing in front of me; while the beagle quietly positioned himself behind me so I could fall over him as I stepped back from the positional vortex taking place to my front.

None of the above.

I tripped over a resolutely immobile stuffed dog used as a door stop.

Dog ownership can be rewarding, but there are things to watch out for...

The Runaway Bed
Saturday 20 January, 2018

As I got up to write today's Blog entry, the bed surrendered to a new master.

That's me up for the day...

Stitches in Time
Thursday 18 January, 2018
I decided to retire one of my Windows XP virtual computers. The only reason I ran it was so as to continue to be able to use my favoured FTP application, but I now felt it was time to move on.

As it turned out, getting it to run on Windows 8.1 was pretty simple. However, every time I launched it a dialogue window would pop up in which it complained bitterly that it was unable to access my Desktop. It was annoying but as all I needed to do was acknowledge it each time, I ignored it; intending to address the issue a little time on.

I entered my server details and connected. A few trial transfers left me happy. I had successfully got it to work. There was just the matter of that nagging notification of the application's inability to access a location I wasn't interested in.

I spent part of the evening investigating the reason. As I did so, it became obvious that each and every time I changed an option within the application, that warning dialogue would come up. It was now officially extremely annoying and irritating. It would have to go.

However, before I could continue, I needed to upload a small file, so I connected to my server. It was successful but that pesky warning again filled the screen.

Unfortunately, this time the location of the file I intended to transfer to the server was nowhere to be found. In fact, if I tried to navigate there it became clear that access wasn't merely denied to me - it just didn't exist!

It worked first time around, so what had changed?

That kept me busy a while until I discovered that the account set up routine allowed visibility of networked drives whereas the user interface didn't. My HTML files reside on a network drive. So does my Desktop folder...

There was no way I was going to decide to hold any of my data locally, so moving my Desktop and HTML folders off the network wasn't going to happen, and decompiling the application's code and fixing the glitch promised to keep me busy for a very long time. The suggestion from the software house from where the application first came was to buy their latest version.



If I was going to have to change the tool used, why would I wish to also pay for the pain?

So I obtained a free application that turns out to be quicker and simpler to use, despite the more complicated-looking user interface, and I am liking it - lots.

For instance, the original FTP client required three clicks to allow me to connect (server selection, login screen, and Connect) whereas the replacement does it all with a single click (Reconnect to last used server).

If I end up using the replacement for as long as I used its predecessor, I figure I will save enough time to blow my nose - if I'm quick about it!

Me happy.

The Sound of Silence
Tuesday 16 January, 2018
Yesterday was spent collecting drivers for the three laptops in my household.

The plan was to create a single USB memory stick from which I could boot in order to kick off the recovery process for each of them while also carrying those drivers. I had a choice of either up to 8GB or 64GB plus, but no size in between. The image created was 9GB - so I set about authoring afresh because I didn't want to dedicate one of my larger storage devices in such a wasteful manner.

The whole task took most of the day, on and off, but eventually I had the image ready and waiting to be transferred to my chosen USB device, except that upon attempted use I found it had been partitioned through being used during some strange process I had forgotten about.

Those with an IT bent will have spotted the fact that a normal USB memory stick cannot be partitioned if its firmware identifies it to the OS accordingly. Consequently I had obviously been playing about with the thing sometime in the past. The problem was that it now left me with partitions that could not be deleted through normal disk management utilities under Windows upon the laptop I was using, so I had to employ a command line utility to bend it to my will.

Eventually it was devoid of those many little partitions and a single volume was ready to receive the image sitting on the data drive attached to the computer I was using. All that was needed now was for me to format it.

When I say format 'it' I meant the memory stick and not the volume upon which the image file was residing.

That's what I meant. Honestly. Really.

After formatting I was still unable to access the memory stick and I was momentarily puzzled. However, I had another go and all was well. So I navigated to the drive holding the image that had taken me all day to create and it wasn't there. Or rather it was but the contents were not.

Nothing. Nada. Nix.

There was a long pregnant pause during which time I was neither pregnant, nor impressed with the stupidity of what I had just done.

Still, looking on the bright side, at least I now know what I need to do so as to trim the image file in order that it fits upon the available storage space. The second attempt today ought not take anywhere near as much time...

The Search
Saturday 13 January, 2018
During the run up to Christmas, my home Wi-Fi network suffered from interference. The nature of the problem wasn't a speed issue - it does for me - but one of certain devices dropping the connection as they failed to keep up with the tactics of the router as it sought to find a space on the spectrum that was devoid of signal destroying noise.

Then it hit me: the LED Christmas lights on the tree! Yes, LED lights, and especially their power sources/control units, are renowned for causing an issue. So I decided to put up with things until after the holiday period was over and everybody's decorations were away.

Afterwards, however, despite there being no sign of Christmas, the network continued to suffer exactly as it done since early December.

In the end I put it down to electrical interference caused by one of my near neighbours and I resolved to cable devices so as to reduce my dependence upon Wi-Fi.

Plans are in place, but the cause has come to light - literally. I have table lamps dotted about the house - all fitted with nifty power saving bulbs. Recent furniture moves have brought them into a nice circle about the router. The fact that they are not in the same room obfuscated their positioning in relation to the poor fellow.

Still, now I know...

The Key
Wedesnday 10 January, 2018
I can type 100wpm without errors.

That is a lie. I finger type at a much lower rate more in keeping with the speed at which ideas come from my head and are formed into a particular word order. This can drop as low as zero if I am pondering over a/any particular phraseology I feel best to employ, or am seeking a particular word to avoid repetition, or I am just being particularly particular.

Additionally I am an electronic device battery life freak. I very carefully monitor usage between charges and take care to maximise my independence from power outlets. To this end I am proud that my smart phone lasts four to five days between a full charge and 20%.

Imagine my reaction to the receipt of a new laptop promising nearly 10 hours of use between battery charges!

However, said laptop comes with a backlit keyboard. The first thing I did was turn it off. The second thing I did was note that each time I restarted the laptop, or brought it out of sleep mode, the backlighting would come back on and there seemed to be no way to disable it permanently.

Glancing at the glowing keys I could almost hear the rush of electrons as I reckoned the battery discharged at a rate approaching the rush of water over Niagara Falls.

It is early days yet, but it seems that the lighting is accounted for within the battery life claim. Additionally I am finding that it is not merely a gimmick but a hugely useful aid to the finger jabbing typist that I am. When ambient light levels are low I find myself concentrating on what I am writing as opposed to peering for the key I seek with which to record my thoughts.

Usefulness without excessive payment required. Something for nothing. I am now very glad that I was not successful in banishing the function early on as I perhaps would not have discovered the delights of being able to see which key I seeking without breaking off my thoughts while I search.

It's Law
Monday 8 January, 2018
Whatever you call it, Murphy’s or Sod’s, it exists, I’m sure.

I bought a laptop. It came with Window 8.1 running on it. I decided to fit a fancy SSD to it and while I was at it I installed a purchased copy of Windows 8.1 Professional.

In case I ever sold the thing at a later date I decided to keep the old HDD so I could stick it back in and keep both the SSD and the licence of the retail copy of Windows 8.1 so I could use it elsewhere.

Of course, having safely tucked the OEM HDD away, I cannot find it now that I wish to return the laptop to its original configuration.

Not too serious a problem as I happen to have a decent spare HDD about me and a download of Windows 8.1 ISO from the Microsoft website allowed me to reinstall a copy using the OEM key stored in the UEFI.

Now the laptop is up and running without the bloatware but all other OEM drivers; obtained off the manufacturer’s website. In addition I now have a copy of Windows 8.1 Professional available to be installed legitimately elsewhere. It would have been a lot simpler if the OEM HDD had turned up - just a five minute job to swap out the drive.

A positive result but I am pretty certain that as soon as the buyer of the pesky thing has left the house, the OEM HDD will reveal its whereabouts to me.

Not a Big Turnout
Sunday 7 January, 2018
There were not many present in the town square as I made my announcement that I will be scaling back the frequency of my Blog entries due to other writing commitments.

However, the crowd of pigeons listened carefully.

Or they would have if they had not been ignoring me.

Weight Loss
Saturday 6 January, 2018
What? You mean less than the start of the New Year?

Smaller numbers on the scales?

Got that one covered.

No, wait...

Friday 5 January, 2018
I woke up this morning in a sweat. I need to get out to the shops and buy things: Christmas 2018 is looming!
Cometh the Reaper
Thursday 4 January, 2018
Goodness, where has the year gone?

It only feels like yesterday, but already we are four days in and the sales are over, for the most part.