King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Wednesday, January 30


"Watch out Beadle's about, Watch out, Beadle's about, you'd better watch..."

Oh. Oops.

/ticket to hell please.

Douglas Adams

As I mentioned before, I had an inspirational English teacher at school. One of the books he made us read has gone on to be probably my all time favouritist book ever since. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is taking a simple concept, turning it over, painting it purple and calling it "Fnarg." (A typical style of quote from the book.) Whilst I sit here writing this, I am ripping the 5 disc audio book for John to have on his mp3 player so he can read along with the book on the bus to school in the mornings. It was whilst I was doing this that I thought about what to play for weeteevee Wednesday, and I came up with this...


P.S. Isn't Stephen Fry just the most perfect voice of the book?
P.P.S. Isn't Alan Rickman just the most perfect voice of Marvin?

Tuesday, January 29

How London has changed

Finally, I get to regale my tales of my trip to London last week, and I think I'd rather sum it up with observations that I made whilst there.
  • Services should all be in one place on motorways not eastbound or westbound, so when you arrange to meet up with the delightful Debster and offspring, you are 10 minutes away on the wrong side of the motorway without a bridge.
  • £3.52 for a pint of lager is a lot.
  • The tube system still expects the sort of capacities it was designed for back in Victorian times, and not anything by today's standards.
  • Signal failure at Earls Court means that a certain Duck still beats us to there because everyone has decided to drive into work instead.
  • Eye Candy, as nice as it is to look at, still has a really bad attitude when spoken to.
  • £7 for a sandwich and chips is a lot.
  • Punching punchballs and dropping basketballs all day when not used to it still makes your arm hurt after a week.
  • £18 for parking in the open in an old bomb site that has just been concreted over is a bargain.
  • The M4 Elevated section is not a place to break down unless you want the whole of West London to grind to a halt.
  • Capital Radio should be renamed Crap-it-all radio since Chris 'no-wife' Tarrant left.
  • Sat Nav is great for re-enacting the Italian Job.
  • There are too many traffic lights on main roads like the A4.
  • White van drivers are really very courteous and polite, and will do anything for fellow drivers. (may contain traces of lie.)
  • Big Lorrys, Chelsea Tractors, Buses and 750cc 1992 Kawasakis with back boxes designed to carry a small coffin should be banned between 6am and 9pm.
  • Either Wales has gotten further away from London, or the roads are getting worse. 4 hours each way compared to what used to be 2.5 to 3 hours, and without explanation. I personally think Wales is moving away. (can you blame it?)

Monday, January 28

Unpassing my test

For those that don't know, or have forgotten, I have had Narcolepsy most of my life. Narcolepsy isn't just a great comedy excuse, meaning people can just fall asleep where they stand, it's also a serious illness that if controlled means people can live perfectly normal lives.
I first started having blackouts when I was about 11. These 'blackouts' weren't full unconsciousness, just severe tiredness, followed by complete tunnel vision and cataplexy. By the time I was 15 I was seeing a neurologist, and whilst undiagnosed life went on. At 16 I rode my first motorbike, my father's Honda C50 left in the garage. A year later, and now legal, I got my provisional licence and I got myself a proper motorbike to be mobile around Reading. Meanwhile a visit to my doctor's about my licence had her concerned about previous investigations into Narcolepsy. She write back to DVLA 'on my behalf' advising them I had had blackouts of unknown origin, and that perhaps driving wasn't such a good idea.
3 months later, and I had an appointment with the consultant neurologist at the Royal Berkshire. It was the day before Good Friday, 1990, and I rode to the hospital fully expecting to ride home again legally. I was diagnosed as narcoleptic, and the delightful Dr. Hyman asked me "Do you drive?"
"Yes," I replied, "my motorbike's outside."
"Well that'll have to go."
That afternoon, he faxed DVLA in Swansea my unfitness to drive, and I found myself without a licence. I sold the bike as quickly as possible, lost my job because I was now unable to get there, and slunk into a depressed state. I spent the next few years floundering from one job to another, always working locally or living on site. I'd cycle a lot, but I always wanted my licence back.
4 years later, and with the arrival of my son, I doubted I was unsafe to drive and contacted DVLA about getting my licence back. They told me I'd need my GP's (doctor doctor, I want my licence back...) recommendation that I was safe to drive. He couldn't see why I was without licence in the first place, and wrote a very nice letter to DVLA medical division supervisor Margaret Hunt. I got a letter back saying that Narcoleptics are not allowed drive full stop, and to basically stop wasting her time. The application was rejected.
Another year later, and again I re-applied. This time I got a Neurologist to write explaining the condition and how it was no more serious then someone having hayfever and sneezing whilst driving. Once again I was rejected, because Mrs. Hunt could reject the application. Finally I appealed and even got a testimony from the original Dr. Hyman at Reading to state that he didn't know enough about the illness, and it was his mistake to recommend I didn't drive. Mrs Hunt was now getting fed up with my applications, and said I would never drive.
A year later, in 1997, I had moved to the Swansea Valley. I thought, 'in for a penny, in for a pound,' and reapplied for the fifth time. Much to my surprise, I had a phone call from a nice gentleman at DVLA. The conversation was surprising...

"Mr. Aitch?" he enquired. "It's about your application for your licence. We have a couple of simple questions for you."
"Oh yes?" I said, expecting the usual questions asking for my inside leg measurement. I was pleasantly surprised.
"We notice from your application that the last severe narcoleptic seizure was January 1996, following a general anaesthetic*. We're happy for you to get your licence back, but you're going to have to start again from scratch. No tests passed, no points. As far as the licence is concerned you will be a new licence holder. Are you happy with this?"
Duh. Silly question, huh? They'd also told me they didn't know why I'd lost my licence in the first place. Mrs. Hunt had now retired, and wasn't able to comment. I really think they'd seen I'd only moved 15 miles up the road, and when I applied they thought "we'd better give him his licence or he'll be down here slashing our tyres."
Sure enough, 6 weeks later, I had a new provisional licence. That weekend, I went out with a friend for a night out in Swansea. Whilst in a lively bar with a DJ, the DJ asked if anyone's got anything to celebrate. I told him it wasn't so much of a celebration, but I'd just got my licence back after 7 years. He relayed this to the crowd...
"Apparently we have a guy in who's just got his driving licence back after 7 years. Anyone in from DVLA?"
A cheer went off at the back of the bar.
"You bastards," he said. A definite beer/nose moment.
I took another 18 months before I finally had enough money for lessons and a test. I told my instructor about how I could drive, I just hadn't had a licence for nearly 9 years. I also asked him how I could pass my test quickly, and one hint he told me was to take my test in an automatic. I objected, saying I wanted to drive manuals, but he said (and I've never forgotten this line) "somewhere between you passing your test, and you getting your licence, someone will forget to tick the little box saying you've only taken your test in an automatic."
He was right. After 6 hours of lessons, and a matter of weeks from first contact, I had my full car licence back in October 1998. I will re-do my bike test in the future, but why when I can drive the 50cc hair dryer perfectly legally.
So there you go, the story of unpassing my test for nearly 9 years.

*See story, definition of pain

Friday, January 25

Catching up

I know I promised a tale of my trip to the big smoke, but I'm still not with it. Instead I thought I'd ask for a vote-o for 3 stories I have been wanting to right for months if not years. Please, as usual, cast your vote in the comments.

Cynthia - The story of my sister's best friend, murdered at 18
Playing with my joystick - The hardware available for the 8 bit generation
Unpassing my test - Losing my driving licence for 9 years.

John is off sick today, after 'yaaaaaarch'ing into a carrier bag on the way to school. I used this as an excuse to also do no work, and have only just woken up. There's nothing like a freezing Friday afternoon spent in bed

Thursday, January 24


Well I'm back, but I hurt too much to sit and type, so I will write more tomorrow. In the meantime, I have made a video as promised of the event, and I am very proud of the result.


You can also download the hi-res un-youtube embossed version here (38Mb, WMV format, DVD Quality)

Monday, January 21

Wales, the wikipedia entry

I got this link sent to me on Saturday night. It tickled me, and is a blatant spoof of Wikipedia. I hope you enjoy it as much.

Wales is a small socialist country next to England composed entirely of sheep, rain, dragons, druids and hobbits. Its capital is Cardiff, which looks good on the outside but belies an interior so decrepit that Glasgow sometimes fears for its position as the 2nd most miserable place to live in Britain. The Welsh actually discovered America in 1170, which explains a lot. Not to mention a fucking shitload of Polish over-populating.



History & Culture

Former Welsh leader Josef Stalin.
Former Welsh leader Josef Stalin.
The leader in his dreams

The culture of Wales consists of a staple diet of coal, coal, beer, hating the English, valium, coal and corgis. The national food is the humble leek, although your typical Welshman is more likely to be found eating Welsh cakes. This substance is only marginally less indestructible than diamond, and about as edible. Wales has no famous musicians apart from a supposedly hilarious, rap-parodying band called Goldie Lookin' Chain, who are failing tryhards, and Tom Jones.

Wales actually has a load of history, the only problem being it was all written in Welsh and nobody gives a shit enough to translate it. What of Welsh history that is known largely consists of druids, stone circles, and more druids. King Arthur supposedly came from Wales but they're probably making that up. Long ago, Southern Irish people came to Wales one day after being washed up from being drunk, introduced Guinness to the natives and left turkey-pasters on the ground. This is sacred to the Welsh and the only way they procreate is by filling them with sperm and planting it in vaginas as most males are homosexual, similarly to England.

At least 100 years ago Wales became a communist country led by mining revolutionary Stalin, in his dreams of domination. Wales is today ruled in the council Communist style with an assembly of ministers led by current Czar Alan Cox. The problem is that this government is in denial that Wales is actually part of England and only have built a few shitty modern art statues in Cardiff rather than doing anything as a result (at least that is their excuse). In Wales Microsoft is banned and all computers use Linux, setting Welsh technology back by 50 years.

However, although officially Communist according to the Stalin government who no one gives a fuck about, Wales is in fact the richest part of the United Kingdom due to the economical reliance on Catherine Zeta Jones and Welsh travel books as a source of income. Welsh people often visit England and Scotland in horse driven carriages and mock the poor drug-dealers there, through being attacked by them the Welsh have resorted to dressing up in drag on Saint David's Day to make them run away in terror. Popular in the Welsh lowlands are "bards", gun-slinging outlaws that were the popular target of movies by Ancient British film-makers. They inspired the modern American Cowboy.

The Welsh also love rugby, but only because it's the closest thing to war. And you can hug men.


The Welsh believe they have strong roots to the indigenous Celtic people who inhabited their country a long time ago and therefore mostly profess Paganism, in which they worship the great sheep god. They avoid Christianity due to it being the official religion of England. However, Wales' official religion is in fact Buddhism due to the high population of immigrant Chinese, who peddle their fine, brand of soggy Chinese "food" on the Welsh

Animal Husbandry

Many people in Wales are allegedly the descendants of sheep, this is widely known due to the many cases of sheep shagging seen by tourists on unwitting trips to this wasteland. Their harsh language is also slightly accredited to this as sheep aren't accustomed to speaking English. The Welsh argue that there are a number of advantages to sheep shagging, including:

  • The wool provides good cushion for the pushin'
  • Take them to edges of cliffs and they push back harder
  • You don't have to make sure the sheep is 'pleasured' after you 'blow your load', though many Welshmen choose to ignore this.

On the downside, according to Welshmen, the growth in sheep shagging activity in the past few years has seen a 43% growth in recorded instances of 'Pooey Shlongs', which have left many a Welshman with a nasty taste in his mouth in the pub afterwards.

Wales is also home to the most stupidly named town in the history of the world. It is called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which translates to some mushy thing about churches and trees.

It is a well-known fact that Wales has been subject to many attempts by the English to blow up the border and watch the country float off into the Atlantic, where it will sink. Offa's Dyke was an early attempt at perforating the Welsh border so that the principality could be conveniently torn off.

This defensive strike was later repeated at least 100 years ago by the people from the Wirral who dug out a moat (or in Welsh, the Dee estuary). This reduced attacks on livestock so well that they then added another moat (Merci estuary, which was later bastardised to Mersey estuary by the illiterate Scousers of Liverpool). This lead to the old English proverb: ‘Safe as a sheep on the Wirral.’


No one knows where the fuck Wales actually is, including the Welsh themselves. Some speculate it is accessible through a wardrobe in England, but common sense dictates this is impossible because English people cannot afford enough clothes to own one.

Furries regard this land as Heaven in their fucked up religion because it has a dragon on the flag, and the fact there any many mountains to carry out sensual love-making to cute, cuddly animals peacefully. This is because Wales is Communist and and as such, Welsh people are rather fond of fucking anything with fur or scales. However it is a misnomer that furries are worshiped as gods there as this is a temporary stage before the Welsh natives boil them alive and consume the corpse. Unlike the inhabitants of Aynglaynd, Scaahtlaynd and Iairelaynd, no Welsh person ever set foot in America so an American is likely to assume you are referring to a large sea mammal.


Welsh is a dying language, despite what any dribbling patriots may insist. This is because:

  1. The vocabulary is too close to French for most people's comfort
  2. Speaking Welsh sounds like you have a throat full of phlegm and spit, which puts people off, and

Most Welsh speakers use English in everyday conversation, until a Saes comes within earshot - at which point they start swearing about the interloper in their native tongue. In contrast, most English-only speaking Welshmen try to fuck the nearest English or American person possible in the misguided hope of getting riches and moving to a big mansion as far away from Wales as possible. To date, Catherine Zeta Jones is the only successful example.

The Welsh also have a nasty habit of putting two Ds on the end of everything, making it impossible to pronounce. I have also found that, as everyone apparently knows, Welsh "dd" is pronounced ð. How the fuck do you pronounce that?

The Welsh language was created at least 100 years ago by a French man named Hairmoanious Bosch. He took all of the unwanted parts of every other language (This is why there are not as many gerunds and participles) and stuck them together in a crude language that does not measure up to Wales' previous language, Turkish.

People from Wales are often confused with Pikeys do the similar behaviour.

Lady Diana Princess of Wales

Princess Diana, was Princess of Wales before she embarked on a new career of shagging rag heads. She was born in England, not Wales, which was a bit like Barbara Bush becoming Queen of Mexico.

Ok, now pay attention, following Welsh history is serious business, mainly because you cant read any of the names, and most of it is TL;DR

Llywelyn the Last, (pretty perceptive naming there by your mom) was shagging Eleanor de Monfort(the daughter of Simon de Monfort, a rich bastard who lived in Leicester). This was a fucking long way to drive just for a shag, but the matter was settled when he got her up the duff, and they had to make a sharp visit to Worcester Registry Office in 1278.

Eleanor died in childbirth (causing much lulz to Edward I), and the little girl, Gwenllian, therefore became the last true born Princess of Wales. Her Father was killed near Irfon Bridge on 11 December 1282, causing even more lulz.

Edward I failed and couldn't bring himself to kill her, which was a pity, since he could have made the first snuff movie 600 years before anyone else AND not have been prosecuted for it, so he gave the baby to Gilbert of Sempringham, a pedo monk who ran a monastery in the middle of nowhere. He paid Gilbert £20 a year to keep Gwenllian imprisoned till she died 52 years later. Hence the plan was

1. Imprison Gwenllian

2. Accept money of King

3. ??????

4. Profit.

proving once and for all that you CAN combine business and pleasure.

Friday, January 18

Whatever happened to customer service?

Last week, for the fourth time, the exhaust was blowing on the scooter. Realising that because the after-market third-party budget-made-in-a-sweatshop part never actually fitted correctly, I decided the best way to deal with it was to contact the main dealer for Yamaha for a guaranteed fitting exhaust. I phoned the dealer first, and asked what parts they have in stock. They let me know of 4, a budget £50 one. A sports exhaust for about £90. A supremo sports exhaust for £170 and a genuine Yamaha original for £230. I took down the old exhaust, I showed the pleb on the counter photos of where the exhaust doesn't fit, and when I asked if we can compare them, he informs me they have none in stock. I ask about my telephone call yesterday, and he just feigns ignorance saying he doesn't have any in stock and I shouldn't have been told otherwise. We selected a cheap and cheerful exhaust to try. I asked them if they'd mind checking the new part when it came in if I left the old one behind, to make sure that it would fit by doing a diagram to show where the old one didn't fit correctly and the guy didn't see a problem with this. I then paid for the new exhaust I wouldn't get for a week, but we can all understand some less then scrupulous people order parts and then refuse to pay for them.
Yesterday, I get a call. I expect it'll be along the lines of "We have your new exhaust and we've checked it against the old one and we're confident it'll fit. It's here for you to collect when you're ready." Instead, unbelievably, I get a call along the lines of "we've done bugger all for the past week because people have been off ill. Now, when we look at your order, the part is twice the price, it will take another week to get here, and there's still no guarantee it'll fit. We can't order the part at all until you make up the difference, but this can be done over the telephone." In disbelief, I say I'll call them back. I phone back and ask to speak to someone in authority, and I end up speaking to (apparently) the owner's son. Now this should get me somewhere. I tell him what's happened, how disappointed I am in his staff, and bewildered at how this monumental screw up could lose him a customer. He asks for details, and I promise him I'll phone back today. So this morning I phone him back. He says the part is the only one listed, and it IS nearly twice the price. He again reassures me that whilst it should be the right one, it might not be. And yes, he can't get it for another week. Incensed, I can feel my blood pressure boiling. I bite my lip, tell him what I think of his operation (as politely as possible), and that I will be back to collect the old exhaust and the money in the next couple of days.
I go out for an hour, and when I return revigorated and ready for the world to throw anything at me, the second number I try is a company I've been trying to phone all day. I have either been getting engaged tones, or no answer. I finally get a voice on the other end of the line, and he gives me the number for the direct line for Rob, the main man for spares. I phone with pessimism, explain what has happened, and immediately he replies "Oh yeah, that old problem. No, the Yamaha exhaust doesn't fit the MBK correctly. It breaks the existing exhaust, where the bolt should be, causing it to fail to get correct back pressure. Of course I can get you a new genuine part. It'll take a couple of days, but it'll be here by Monday. I did some checking, and I can get you it with a small discount and VAT included for £110. Oh no, I don't need the money up front, I've got your phone number and your name, so we can take it on trust. Look forward to seeing you on Monday, I'll have the kettle on..."
So there you have it. Whatever happened to customer service? Don't ask JT's in Swansea, they haven't a clue. Go to Bob Wilding's in Merthyr Tydfil, they know all about it.

Thursday, January 17


Thanks to Bromman's comments, I thought I'd talk about Cwmtwrch for his benefit, and for anyone else who cares.
Cwm, as ane welsh fule kno, is the local lingo for valley. So Cwmtwrch is the valley of the Twrch, a small river running from the black mountain into the River Tawe between Ystradgynlais and Ystalyfera. The river mainly follows the A4068, before peeling off sharply to the right some 3 miles up the road where the steep hill into Ystradowen begins, known locally as the Berrington Hill. The valley is also the south-western edge of the Brecon Beacons. At one point the valley is steep sided, almost becoming a gorge with fast running water on particularly rainy days. This narrowing is now recognised as the separating points between Lower and Upper Cwmtwrch. It is also a little valley, nowadays having no shops except Jan's Lower Cwmtwrch Post Office (a former customer), a popular primary school, and a handful of pubs. It is also home to Current Welsh TV Actor and Doctor Who character Steven Meo's (who?) family home, and Welsh Rugby star Clive Rowlands.
And so leads to the joke, which I feel I should tell with more local reference to make it more enjoyable for local readers (sorry Bromman!)

Many years ago, Dai from Cwmtwrch worked hard in Ynyscedwyn Iron Works. Being a loyal and loving man his family was his life, but he always had a secret yearning to visit Japan. So after much saving over many years he one day pronounced to his wife his life's ambition to visit Japan.
"Well you have a good time," she said in Welsh (*cough*), "And I'll see you soon."
So off he headed to the local station, where he proudly walked up to Mrs Davies and asked for a ticket to Tokyo.
"I'm sorry, she replied. I can only offer you a ticket to Ystradgynlais."
"That'll have to do then," he said, and he promptly caught his train to the Swansea Valley station.
He found himself on a barren platform in Ystradgynlais (those that have been to Ystradgynlais will know this feeling). He asked the station master, Mr Rees, for a ticket to Tokyo.
"Sorry Dai, but I can only get you to Pontardawe. Maybe they can help." And so he took the train 5 miles down the valley to Pontardawe.
Arriving in Pontardawe, he felt his heart drop as he was leaving his homeland. But the pull of Japan was ever stronger, and he enquired at the stranger now in the ticket office for a ticket to Tokyo.
"No can do," the seller replied in broken half English and half Welsh, "I can only give you a ticket to Swansea."
And so, weary from his 7 mile trip that had already taken him half a day, he boarded the train to Swansea. Dai found himself in a bustling metropolis as he stepped off the train. Sailors and Coal Merchants brought the terminus to life as he headed down the platform to get his ticket to Tokyo.
The girl with her young child in her arms asked "Whaddafack dyoo wan?" when he appeared in her window.
"A ticket to Tokyo please"
"Tokya? Is that near Tenby? I dunno, I'll see what I can do." She checks her timetables, tuts, checks them again, and proclaims "sorry luv, no Takero 'ere. Will Cardeev do instead?"
Sighing deeply, he purchases his ticket before boarding the large steam engine to Cardiff. He chugs along, watching the familiar landscapes disappear, and finally the hills fall away and he finds himself in the Welsh Capital. He heads through the thronging masses to the information desk, and enquires after a ticket to Tokyo. The young homosexual on the desk points out that this is Wales, and perhaps he's better off heading to London to buy a ticket. So he gets an express train eastbound, under the vast River Severn estuary, and finally arrives in London's Paddington station. Without so much as a forethought, he realises now that perhaps Tokyo is beyond the realms of British Railways, and so he just buys a ticket for Heathrow Airport. (Yes I know the rail link only opened a few years ago, but please, humour me.)
He arrives in Heathrow, and daunted he looks up at the huge departures board in front of him. Sure enough, there, at 6:25pm that evening, leaving from gate 21, is a flight to Tokyo, via Singapore with Air Japan. He heads to Air Japan's sales desk and asks for a ticket to Tokyo. After the usual "did you pack your bags yourself?" and "do you have any high explosives or sharp killing implements in your hand baggage" he takes the 20 hour flight to Tokyo, where he spends a true holiday of a lifetime. He learns about their culture, he learns about their food, he learns everything he ever wanted to learn about the land of the rising sun.
Unfortunately the time is too short. A fortnight later and he has to return home. Bearing in mind how tortuous his journey was, he heads into Tokyo's train station ready to book his ticket home. A young pretty Japanese girl smiles and greets him on the desk. She then climbs down, bows, and asks for his ultimate destination.
He forlornly asks for a ticket to Cwmtwrch, to which she replies
"Upper or Lower?"

Wednesday, January 16

Amusement Trade Exhibitions

This time next week, I will be accompanied by Johnaitch, Steff and The Duck to my usual sojourn to Earls Court for the Amusement Trade Exhibition (or ATE for short). It'll be my 18th year, and whilst the content has changed tremendously, it'll still cost an arm and a leg for a cup of tea and a bacon butty. More on it next week, but in the meantime, here's a video of some of the things seen from 2 years ago. This year I will even make my own video, with my nice and reliable Nokia N95.


*edit* Deleted the second video because it kept auto-playing. Bloody annoying thing.

Tuesday, January 15

Call centre hold music

There is a lively discussion going on as we speak about what would be ideal hold music for customers of Plus Net whilst they wait the 30 seconds to get through to a customer support advisor. This got me to thinking, after being on hold for over an hour to BT or AOL in tha past, we should have a choice. So, if you have a number you call regularly and are put on hold for ages, then what would you rather listen to. So far, there have been some *interesting* answers. Such delights as...
  • Anything by Crazy Frog. That way you won't stay on hold.
  • The Monty Python unabridged audio CDs, just so customers ask to be put on hold to hear the punchline.
  • This or this
  • Abba, with Ring Ring.
My father would (if he were online) surely say something like Pink Floyd or Neil Diamond.

Any suggestions?

Monday, January 14

Technical Tomfoolery

This weekend I had a simple job to do. The customer, a friend's mum, had outlook express crashing every time she wanted to delete an email. The PC was running Windows 98, and I could see the only realistic way to fix it would be to upgrade to XP. Now the problem was simple enough, in that she only had 128Mb of RAM and a 900MHz Celeron CPU. A quick check with that invaluable tool, Everest Home Edition, and I knew what RAM she needed, so we ordered it there and then. 512Mb of the finest Kingston PC133 SDRAM arrives and Saturday night sees me setting up the PC to put XP in. I plug in the RAM, boot into 98, start the upgrade, realise it's taking *forever*, look at the system spec, and it's still at 128Mb. A quick check online, and I find that the motherboard doesn't support anything more then 128Mb DIMMs. I just happen to have an identical 128Mb DIMM in my stash (from the local tip), and put that in instead. Successfully I get everything running hunky dory, and I notice the language toolbar down in the task bar. I open it, and find that the US keyboard is defined. So I add the UK one, and Windows apologises and says it can't add it(!) with the delightful message
"Windows could not properly load the English (United Kingdom) keyboard layout".
For the next 3 hours I try to get it installed. I check one website after another, I do registry fixes, I do keyboard shortcuts, I even go onto the Microsoft website and toy with using IME (the keyboard code generator thingy), but I cannot get any keyboard except the US. Finally, I trick XP, and rename the kbdus.dll file in the windows\system32 folder kbduk.dll instead, and finally it works. XP still thinks it's the US keyboard, but the @ and " are the right way round.
Microsoft Errors? Pah, I piss'em.

Friday, January 11

The best deal in the world, evah?

I have been asked to advise on a rather worrying deal being offered in every high street in the UK. How about a free laptop if you sign up to broadband for 24 months?
Sound too good to be true? Well the fact of the matter is it probably is. Let's look first of all what is offered.

A Dell Inspiron Laptop, the 1520. A laptop no longer sold by Dell for £329
Windows Vista Home edition. Say no more
AOL, on their pseudo "maximum speed for where you live" which we all know actually means a lot less then you can get, but we'll charge you loads anyway.

Interestingly, I didn't do call outs for all three of these things. I don't mind laptops so much now, as long as people understand when it breaks physically, they might as well throw the thing away. Vista Home, well we all know how reliable that is don't we? We should, but all you have to do is type in Vista Home edition problems into google to see the 7,280,000 hits listed. So that's easy enough, isn't it? Surely, if you own the laptop, you can just wipe it clean and install XP instead? Well apparently not, because that'll invalidate the contract, leaving you with a £350 bill for the laptop. And how would they know you've downgraded the laptop? Well , AOL of course, would send your system information to Carphone Warehouse, leaving you open to their wrath.
And whilst we talk about AOL, lets look at how well it runs. The automatic update runs every day, fixing more faults, and causing more faults. The number of call outs I have had where the whole system is freezing, and a quick check of Task Manager and you can see the dreaded "AOLsoftware.exe" running at 98% on the CPU. Stop it, and the AOL program just runs it again. Ok, so why not not run the AOL software? Well once again, the contract states that you have to use their software, presumably to honour the guarantee, but probably really so they can keep an eye on you and the laptop.

So is it a good deal? Let's compare prices.
Broadband is £10 a month. Their price is £20 a month. So take the extra tenner, put it in a high interest account at the bank every month. After 2 years you'll have close to £300. Or, get a loan for £300 over 24 months, and pay a little over £12 a month and get the laptop you want, with the operating system you want, without the crapware and bloatware loaded onto it. It has to be better then that offer.

And last, but by no means least, lets look at the legality of support. In this country, it says you have to provide technical support on a faulty item. This is because if an item that's paid for doesn't do what it's supposed to, then it has to be rectified. So you get a free laptop. This means technically you don't have to have any support because the thing wasn't paid for. This is happening more and more with 'free' ISPs like talktalk and Sky. You don't pay directly for it, so they don't directly support it. Making in a royal pain in the bum to get fixed.

The fact is, with the TV advertising going on, they won't sell them quickly enough. Like lambs to the slaughter. Shall we see how long until they're mentioned on Watchdog?

Wednesday, January 9

How to Marshall Jets

This is one of those totally viral youtube videos. My father emailed me a link last Friday in the Daily Mail about a guy in the RAF who marshalls the aircraft on the runway before they take off. He'd decided he'd raise money for cancer research, and dancing was how he was going to do it.
First of all, if you haven't seen the original video, here it is. (the first one that was released was withdrawn inexplicably just before it made the 1 million views mark)

The guy has become a bit of a star since. He's been on GMTV, CBS, and even the BBC news, and here's an interview with him.

Tuesday, January 8


I now consider myself flummaxed. Here's why...

Anyone care to guess how this is done?

Monday, January 7

Just for Ricardipus...

...who didn't know what it looked like when it was very dark.

Here are some other pictures for you to ponder.

Grass, up very very close

Mars, on a very foggy day.

The Queen's blood

A white cat in a snow storm.

Any more?

Friday, January 4

Inspirational teachers

My time in school was less then perfect. My home life was worse, so the school had the honour of having me there whenever I could volunteer for any out of hours assistance. For this, I became a bit of a teacher's pet.
The first hang out was in my second year (or year 8 as they now call it!?) and I'd spotted early one morning my form tutor, a vampire lookalike called Mr. Garlick (I kid you not), setting up a spectrum and loading some sort of program. When I mentioned it to him, he asked if I wanted to use it at lunchtimes. The spectrum club was born, and for a while we'd all gather at lunchtimes to play Lunar Jetman or Pyjamarama before swapping games to take home and copy at our leisure.
We soon tired of this however, and one morning I was asked to help the computer teacher to set up the Link 480z network. The computers were all stored in a safe room overnight, and each morning they'd all have to be plugged in and then booted. The reward for this was half an hour of playing pangolins or some other cell domination game.
My world, believe it or not, did not revolve around computers at this time. So much so, I became a school librarian (!). 4 of us would gather in the vast school library every lunchtime, where the head librarian would leave us whilst she went for her lunch. We'd cover books, we'd play 'penny up the wall,' we'd break the window as a child tried to look through the one way glass installed to stop the books from fading and got punched from inside the window. The incident wasn't well received and we had to leave at lunchtimes, so I moved to my most popular hang out.
Mr Burns, very cool hippy from Brighton, and my art teacher, allowed us to hang out in the art room. A small handful of us arty types would get together, and we'd actually do work or more then likely listen to music and doodle.
One boy, a guy called Toby Lane, had a learning disability. I suspect it was mild autism, but he was always an outsider. One thing he did well was have a sense of humour when it came to his artwork. He would do the best cartoons ever, and everyday he'd ask us at the start of the lunch hour a subject to draw. One day I remember someone suggesting lemmings (the game had just come out), and he did his usual trick of sitting there scribbling away on a sheet of A2. By the end he had a scene from the bottom of a cliff, with various lemmings in a state of throwing themselves to their death. One with a parachute, pulling the ripcord frantically. Another shouting 'Geronimo!', and a third launching himself in a hang glider. At the bottom were the less then successful candidates scoring the free fallers or watching whilst in plastercasts. He left school with no qualifications except art. He failed to get into art college because he only had 1 GCSE, set up his own business making prints of his cartoons and made millions selling them to Athena, the high street poster shop.
Anyway, I digress. Mr Burns was my favouritist teacher. He was there when I applied for art college. He was there when I made my portfolio for them. He was there when I was told I wasn't good enough. He was even there to award me my only A grade when I got my results that summer.
Another teacher who inspired me was Mr. McGill, my English teacher. Mr. McGill wasn't your typical English teacher. Sure, he wore tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows. Sure, he smoked a pipe. Sure, he drove a Citroen 2CV. But the difference was he made us read books worth reading. His only bad choice of book to read was 'the taming of the shrew' but this was because he had to include some Shakespeare. He made us read Lord of the Flies, which as a young male brimming with testosterone was exciting if not slightly unbelievable. He made us read Animal Farm (the book, not the porno) and 1984. He made us read the Time Machine. And last but not least he made us read a certain Douglas Adams novel, the name of which escapes me.
One other teacher was popular in my school life. Mr. Cluer, my Physics teacher, must have been the butt of jokes in the staffroom. He was small, weedy, of red hair, and had a beard. He also didn't give a toss about health and safety. He respected his students, like the young adults that we all thought we were. He'd trust us to do our work and we'd all look up to him for this. He was the main reason I got involved with electronics. He had a system for explaining electricity like water flowing, and this system is still used by me today. He had a lecture area at one end of the lab, and would carry out experiments in front of the whole class much like you see in medical schools in the US.
The point to this tale is that these teachers inspired me. My computer teacher was a large blonde woman who was probably lesbian, most certainly a man hater, and everything I did was wrong. For this reason I failed my computer studies miserably. Meanwhile, I passed my Art, Physics and English admirably.
It says a lot for teaching styles.

Wednesday, January 2

Gorillas to be missed.

People living in the UK cannot fail to have seen this advert, featuring a fully grown gorilla playing drums to Phil Collins' 'In the air tonight.' Now the advert has lead to all sorts of conversations. Some people say it's a man in a suit, some people say it's done on a computer, and some (unbelievably) say that it's a well trained gorilla. It's so popular an advert, that Phil Collins actually was surprised to find himself back in the chart. It has understandably gone viral on youtube, and people keep downloading it just so they can view how it was done. These people need to get a life in my opinion, but ho hum.
Meanwhile, more creative peoples have decided to make parodies of it, so for this week here are some of my favourites.


Nirvana playing Lithium.

Deep Purple playing Smoke on the Water.

Rather worryingly, the theme from Eastenders.

And last, but by no means least, my personal favourite, Word up by Cameo.