Journal – March 2006


Welcome to the next set of posts from my journal. This month started off pretty quiet, much like the previous two, but things got very busy near the end with a brand new PC, preparations for the installation of broadband, repairs for other equipment, new DVD and music purchases, and various other little things. So quite a bit happened in the end, and I hope you enjoy reading about it.

Sunday March 5, 2006

Another month upon us already. It’s still pretty cold, with some areas getting snow still, and we’ve had icy roads round here. Work’s fine as usual, it’s keeping me busy.

I enjoyed the first episode of the 6th series of Two Pints Of Lager last Sunday, and the next episode is tonight. It’s by far not the best sitcom in the world by any means, but there’s something about it I like – not enough to buy it on DVD, but it’s alright to watch on TV. The last episode is going to be a horror special, which sounds fun. I still haven’t seen the musical episode yet, so I’m hoping they repeat it one day.

A thanksgiving was held for Ronnie Barker today, with friends and colleagues paying tribute. Apparently the streets where Open All Hours was filmed are being considered for demolition to make way for new developments. Sad if it happens, but the houses might not be up to regulations these days, as they’re quite old.

And that’s about it. I’ve got a day off next week, as my DVD recorder should be fixed on Tuesday when Comet fix a new power supply. Other than that though, next week should be pretty normal.

Saturday March 11, 2006

It’s not been a bad week, even if it has finished with me being lumbered with a rotten cold for the weekend. And the hard-drive on my JVC recorder’s gone wrong again, just days after the power supply was fixed! I’m going to ask them to come next Saturday, as I’m not going to waste days off work every time this happens. Seems like we made a mistake getting this recorder. As it happens, I’ve booked the week off from Monday March 20th, as Dad will be off at the same time, so I won’t be at work that week anyway.

Saturday March 18, 2006

Well, that’s me done at work for a little while. I’ve got next week off, and so has Dad. It’ll be fairly eventful. Comet are coming on Monday to look at my recorder again, Hotpoint are coming on Tuesday to look at our fridge which is being a bit erratic with the temperature, and our builder’s popping in on Friday to finish off some bits. And talking of electrical stuff, I’m giving serious consideration to a new PC and broadband – it’s about time I got everything up to date.

The happiest news this week though is that not only did Mum win £50 on the Premium Bonds, but ERNIE (the machine that picks the winning Premium Bond numbers each month) sent me three £50 cheques! £150! Woohoo!

It’s also the Commonwealth Games this week, and so far England have won a few medals. We usually do fairly well in these, although Australia will probably do the best. Pity they’re on mainly in the middle of the night, due it being in Australia, but never mind. It’s still interesting to watch when I can, and having Freeview comes in handy. Being able to choose which sport to watch is a great idea.

Saturday March 25, 2006

Well, so much for a lazy week! I may have had a week off work, as has Dad, but we’ve got a fair number of jobs done.

The first, and most major job, is my computer. I’ve finally got a new PC! And that’s what I’m writing this on. I ordered it online from Dell on Sunday, customising it all using the seemingly endless choices that were available. They state it will take 7-10 working days to arrive, so imagine my surprise when they called to say it would be delivered on Wednesday evening. And, early in the evening, all 8 boxes were delivered. It was easy to get it all up and running, so that’s good.

It’s great to be able to customise it online, because Dell put it all together and make sure it works. There are a few setup screens you have to go through at the start, in order to set it up how you want, and then it’s all ready to use.

The main computer comes with the following:

  • The main unit – Dimension 9150. Very stylish black and silver machine, with plenty of USB ports and other sockets, plus a media card reader.
  • Processor – Intel Viiv PD 930 processor Dual Core (3.00 GHz, 800 FSB, 2 x 2MB)
  • RAM – 2048MB Dual Channel DDR2 533MHz (2 x 1024) Memory
  • Hard Drive – 500GB Serial ATA RAID 0 Stripe (2 x 250GB 7200rpm). There are actually 2 hard drives making up the total (which is actually 460Gb according to Windows, but never mind). RAID 0 Stripe basically splits data between the two, including splitting individual files. When you read the data back from the two hard drives, it means both drives are accessing the different bits of the file at once, making them load much faster.
  • Video Card – 256MB nVidia GeForce 6800
  • Sound Card – Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme music card
  • Integrated Analogue TV tuner PCI card. I’ll probably never have the need to use this, but it’s still handy to have.
  • DVD-ROM and DVD Recorder drives. The latter will record to CDs and all major types of DVD. They’re 2 separate drives as they use different lasers. There’s plenty of DVD software on the PC to burn things to CD or DVD.
  • Modem – V.92 Data/Fax/Voice Internal PCI Modem
  • Operating System – Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. It’s a big improvement over Windows 98, and I really like the media organisation the most. It’s got a lot of software for organising music, photos, videos, etc, and for watching DVDs. So it’s perfect for my huge music collection. The Media Center program lets you access everything and is easy to use. And there’s even some free stuff on it, including the song Everything by Alanis Morissette. And as well as all that, it has lots of security features, and a very handy System Restore feature in case you install something you wish you hadn’t, allowing you to restore an earlier configuration of the system.

So that’s the main system, but obviously there are the devices required to use it as well:

  • Wireless Keyboard & Optical Mouse – Very useful, considering how many wires there are overall. Although you still need a wire for the transmitter of course. It’ll be interesting to see how long the AA batteries last, having never used these before. As the mouse is optical, there’s no ball for dust and dirt to get trapped behind. And it’s still very accurate. And Dell provided a mouse pad too.
  • 20 Inch Midnight Grey Wide Aspect UltraSharp Flat Panel Monitor – It looks great, that’s all I can say for it. It’s exactly the sort of thing I wanted.
  • A525 Zylux Speakers – Complete with subwoofer, and the sound is of a great quality. I love the bass in particular, it always adds to the music better.

Some of the software installed on the computer includes:

  • Microsoft Office 2003 (Small Business Edition) – Has all the essential programs. It doesn’t have Access, but I don’t need to use databases anyway.
  • McAfee Security Centre (15 Month Subscription) – Virus software is essential. Plus it has a firewall and spam protection.
  • ISP Software (AOL, Tiscali & Wanadoo) – I’m not getting those, but I’ll talk about that in a moment.
  • Corel Photo Center & Paint Shop Pro – I haven’t got round to trying them yet, but it might help to clean up my pictures.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0, Quicktime, RealPlayer, Macromedia Flash & Windows Messenger – These are already installed, which will save me downloading them.
  • Dell Support – Obviously very useful, checking for any useful updates. Not Windows Updates, as the operating system does that anyway, but updates specific to Dell. They have a great support website too, where you can get help and advice, plus order any accessories you need. So it’s very useful to have everything in one place.

And finally there are the other items and accessories:

  • 128MB USB Memory Key
  • Media Center Edition remote control
  • Transfer My PC – A godsend, with a fast USB cable. It means I can copy my music and all my other important data (address book, internet favourites, etc) onto my new computer. For now, I’m still going to rip music onto my old computer, as it grabs the information for the tracks off the web, and the new PC isn’t connected to the internet yet.
  • Belkin 8-Socket Surge Master – Not only do I get 8 extra plug sockets, but it also protects my equipment from electricity surges, as the name suggests.
  • Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 – A webcam with microphone. Good quality images too. It’ll mean other people can see and hear me online. Simon’s got a microphone, so I’ll be able to chat to him online when I get broadband. I prefer talking than chatting by text, it just seems much easier.
  • Dell All-In-One Printer 810 – It’s a printer and scanner in one, plus I’ve got some nice glossy photo paper with it, and a couple of colour ink cartridges.
  • Warranty – 1 year included, plus I bought another 3 years.

And the final cost of all that? Dell run special offers over weekends, so I was able to get a saving of £140 (including VAT), meaning in the end it all came to £2,110.45. Which is pretty good for the package, and Dell have got a good reputation, so I don’t mind paying a bit more just for the brand name.

My new PC now needs to get on the web as well. And with that in mind, I’ve ordered BT Broadband. It’ll be activated by 8pm on Wednesday, and the equipment will be sent on that day. They’ll send the software, a modem (which can be wireless) and microfilters (which split the line so that you can use the phone and internet at the same time). I’ve ordered Option 3 (out of 4), which costs about £25.99, and gives an allowance of 20Gb of usage per month, which should be ample. Although it is hard to tell at this stage how much use it’ll get. If I do have to go to Option 4 (which allows 40Gb), it’s only £4 more, so it won’t be too much hardship.

They also give you up to 11 email addresses, so I’ll move Mum and Dad’s over from Bush Internet’s webmail, which was only set up because of the TV internet set-top box we bought before we had any connection to the internet at all. I’ll move some of my Hotmail stuff over to it as well – particularly the online shopping stuff and anything else that is more business related. I’ll keep my Hotmail address as my personal one for friends and family to use though, seeing as I use it for MSN Messenger anyway, and I don’t want to confuse people any more than necessary.

So that’s the computer, which I’m very pleased with. But that wasn’t the only job this week. In fact, a number of jobs have been to do with electrical equipment…

I’ve got another new hard drive for my JVC recorder. They were really quick though – the guy came on Monday to have a look, and then another one brought the hard drive round on Wednesday and fitted it here. It seems much quieter than the other 2 – perhaps that’s a good sign. But I’m going to be careful and try not to over-use it.

And it wasn’t just my recorder that went – Dad’s combined VCR/DVD player had also had enough! DVDs were fine, but videos were coming up all funny. We asked the Comet guy when he came on Wednesday to have a look, and he said the head drums may have gone. We could get it repaired, but we decided just to get a new machine. So, thanks to a prompt delivery from Comet’s online store on Friday, Dad now has a machine that can record onto videos and DVDs. No hard drive in this one as Mum and Dad don’t really need that.

It seems to be a bad time of year for electrical equipment, as the fridge also threw a wobbly the other week, with the temperature going up to 22 degrees Celsius at one point. Dad had given it a good clean, which it turns out it needed, but it didn’t make much difference. So we ordered a Hotpoint service engineer to come, which we were able to do online. So he came and found the issues. In particular, there was lots of dust and dirt inside the grille at the bottom. We didn’t know we could take that off, as the instructions said we didn’t have to. Dad had vacuumed the front of it, but clearly the bigger amounts of dust didn’t get sucked out. So the man cleaned that. And he also noticed the doors had dropped a bit, so fixed those too. Plus he also fixed a problem with the light, as it may not have always been turning off, which may have been because the door was too low. We did have to pay for it, as it was outside the warranty period, but it wasn’t too expensive.

So that was it on the equipment side of things. As for other jobs and news…

I received some more stuff from Amazon during the week. Some were replacement CDs for scratched ones, as I want to be able to copy everything to my new PC. But I did upgrade Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More From The Road album to get the deluxe edition. I also bought Suzi Quatro’s new album, Back To The Drive, and she still rocks big time, It’s brilliant. I also got the new DVD for Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire (the 4th film), so I’ll watch that tonight.

And I got some blank DVDs as well. I ordered a different make, because the Memorex ones were never going to come, but these other ones by Imation work. So I’ve ordered a few more boxes to stock up, as they’ll be handy for backing up stuff on my new PC too, especially once I’ve got all my music on it.

Mum and Dad also got more audiobook CDs from the BBC Shop, as they’re gradually replacing their cassette tapes, and they arrived within 2 days of ordering, apart from one which hasn’t quite been released yet.

Elsewhere, after putting my £150 of Premium Bond prizes into my account, I finally got my hair cut, now that the barber’s back from his holiday in St Ives. He told me (and Dad when he had his hair done earlier in the week) that one of the houses next door to us has been bought now, for about £30,000 less than its starting price, so about £130,000 in the end. The new owner of the house was thinking about renting it out, but he might just live there himself now, and it needs a lot of improvements done. The electrical system needs a complete rewiring, but this new guy does electrical stuff, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. It just goes to show that the barber seems to know everything that’s going on! And he used to play skittles, sometimes playing against Dad’s team, so he’s known Dad for a long time.

And talking of work on houses, our builder came on Friday to finish some bits and pieces on the landing. He also drilled a hole in the worktop for me to put all the wires through, and have my computer underneath. He also made a little stand for the computer so that it doesn’t sit directly on the carpet. It’s all really useful. It leaves a bit more room on the worktop, which is good, and means that the computer won’t ever be in direct sunlight from the windows, like the old one often was. It didn’t do it any harm, but you shouldn’t really do it.

I ordered some flowers for Mum from Interflora for Mother’s Day tomorrow, and they arrived yesterday (Friday) as arranged. They’re really nice, with a decent sized vase too. It’s a big bouquet and you can smell the flowers. There was even water in the vase already, which made things a bit easier.

in sport, meanwhile, we’re not doing too badly in the Commonwealth Games, though we could be doing much better. But we’ve been a constant second in the medal table (Australia are way too far ahead for anyone to catch them), so we can’t complain. Dean Macey won the decathlon and Kelly Sotherton won the heptathlon. Dean in particular was thrilled when he was interviewed, he’s got such character.

And I think that covers everything! It’s been a very eventful and successful week. Next weekend I will hopefully be able to report how good broadband is. Finally we’re getting ourselves up to date!

Monday March 27, 2006

It’s back to the usual routine again at work, I didn’t miss much last week. A lot of people are going on strike over local government pension cuts tomorrow, but I’m going in as usual, as I’m not in the union anyway. I know others in our department will also be going in, so I don’t know if the strike will really affect us much.

The anticipation for broadband has started early this week, as we’ve had a couple of voice texts for the first time ever. As I mentioned in a previous entry, if you send a text message to a landline, BT turns it into speech and plays it to you using their 1571 answering service. And, even better, they’ve been using Tom Baker as the voice for a little while now. So we had a couple of voice messages from BT confirming that our BT broadband line would be activated on Wednesday 29th March, and that the equipment for it would be arriving before 1pm on that day, and would have to be signed for. The line itself could be activated anytime between 8am and 8pm on Wednesday.

BT Broadband are also targeting their heaviest users. They allow people to go over the limit occasionally, but some are being far too excessive. The highest limit they allow is 40Gb per month, but some people have had usage of 100-200Gb! As BT said, it’s far more than a personal user would use. These people are sharing and downloading movies and music, and it’s not fair for them to use up valuable bandwidth.

I’m still very happy with this new computer. I’ve sorted out my previous journals, so they’re all neat and tidy with contents pages now. And while I’m waiting for broadband, I’m still copying music onto my old computer, as it grabs the info off the web. But I’m also playing some of the games on this new machine – Gem Master is quite addictive!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

2 thoughts on “Journal – March 2006”

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