Tuesday 22 November 2022



I'm using an Airwick Freshmatic (Purple Lavender) and it works fine. Every few minutes, it goes "pft" as it squirts an atomised mist of fragrance into the office.

Just one problem. The "pft" noise is just like the sound of a short circuit. So, every pft makes me look round to see what's just blown!

Sunday 20 November 2022

A data recovery

A data recovery

A friend's daughter had a computer problem - her Windows 7 machine just wouldn't start. It's an HP TouchSmart, so I got her to bring it in and I put it on my workbench. When I powered it up, sure enough, it told me that the hard drive had failed.

Opening it up was a bit of a problem. It's a 23 inch LCD screen, with all the computer stuff built in to the back, and it wasn't obvious how to take the back off. But a quick Google showed me how, and I soon had it taken apart. I took the drive out, and attached it to a linux computer, and it told me that the drive had about 50,000 reallocated sectors (which means it's well past the end of its life).

So I put a new drive into the HP, and tried to install Windows 7, from a genuine DVD that I have. Windows 7 installed, but it wouldn't recognise the ethernet, which means that it wouldn't be able to connect to the internet, or to my local network. I'm guessing there's a special HP Touchsmart version of Windows 7. I tried a few different variations, but each time the intall wouldn't recognise the ethernet. Why is Windows so complicated?

So then I installed linux, version Fedora 37 - but that didn't work, Fedora claimed that there was no hard drive. My guess was that my attempts to install Windows had banjaxed it. So I ran Zerodisk and zapped the drive, and then linux installed just fine, and the hard wired ethernet port worked, and the wifi ethernet.

Back to the linux computer with the original drive attached - I mounted the drive (it was an ntfs file system, so I mounted with the option -t ntfs) and that worked.

I rummaged around the hard drive until I found where friend's daughter had kept all her pictures and videos, and copied them all onto my network (all except the dozen or so pictures that refused to read because of hardware errors). That gave me 98 gigabytes of data in about fifteen thousand files. I had a look at some of them to make sure they were readable - there's a lot of dog pictures there!

Back on the HP TouchSmart, I mounted my network drive, and copied all those files to the hard drive there - it took quite a while!

I noticed that she had skype on the old drive, so I installed skype on the system, and an email client (thunderbird), and several picture viewers and video players, and Firefox as a web browser. And I set up some desktop icons so she'd find all this easily.

The last time I did a commercial data recovery, most drives were 20 megabytes; the drive in the HP was 1,000,000 megabytes. But the principles are the same.

I checked on eBay, you can buy a working HP TouchSmart for about £50 and upwards, but most of them are "collection only" which would mean a long trip. The one I was working on had an Intel i3 running at 3.3ghz with four cores, which is quite whizzy for a  TouchSmart.

Linux also recognised the wireless keyboard (and I think there's a wireless mouse, but I haven't seen it, so I used a Microsoft IntelliMouse, which I think is the best product that Microsoft have ever made). I don't think I got the touchscreen working, but I don't think that's a loss. Touchscreens are a very bad idea, for two reasons. The first is that to use them, you have to hold your arm out in front of you, and try doing that for a whole day! The second reason is that your fingers are going to make the screen filthy, and if you want to know why, look at your keyboard and see how dirty that's become!

I really don't like the keyboard that came with the HP. Keyboards are always a matter of taste, but for me, a good keyboard is one that feels good, and doesn't miss out any characters that I've typed. But you could always replace the keyboard with one that you prefer, and connect it to one of the six USB ports.

I'm looking forward to telling her that I've rescued all her dog pictures!

Saturday 12 November 2022



Today I had my cataract operation. I've been not exactly looking forward to this, but as it turned out, it was less unpleasant than the average visit to the dentist. 

We turned up 20 minutes early, but because of some cock-up that I didn't investigate, we were left sitting in the waiting room for more than an hour - apparently they didn't know we were there.

So when we sorted that out, I signed all the paperwork, and a nurse put drops in my left eye, the one with the cataract. 

Then more drops, and more drops, then a consultation with the anaesthetist (I chose local anaesthetic), then more drops, and more drops, then the injection (a bit like the Novocain you get at the dentist) then "Lie down here" and they wheeled me into the operating theater.

More drops, then a rubber sheet over my head and chest except for a hole where my left eye was, then a thing was emplaced to keep my eye open, then more drops. Then iodine (a disinfectant, which also left me pretty much blind in my left eye). And then they used a machine which broke up the cataract lens and sucked it all out (apparently it was brown-yellow and quite thick and opaque). Then the surgeon inserted a plastic lens that would leave me able to see long distance without needing glasses, where the cataract used to be, then more drops (washing), then more drops (antibiotic), and then they took off the rubber sheet and installed an eye patch (aaaarrr, Jim lad) so right now, I can't see at all out of that eye. But the patch comes off tomorrow morning, and I just need to wear a plastic guard at night for a cojple of weeks.

And for the next few weeks, there's a schedule of eye drops and more eye drops and then eventually when the eye "settles down" a visit to the optician for new glasses - that'll be after Christmas.

They said that I can drive as soon as I feel confident that I can see well enough. Fortunately, I don't have to go to  Barnard's Castle to check my vision, I just need to check that I can read a licence plate at 20 metres.

Friday 11 November 2022

Windows 10

Windows 10

The big problem I had with installing Windows 10, was the fact that the iso file was 6 gigabytes, and therefore wouldn't fit on a DVD (which takes 4.7 gb).

I discovered this when I downloaded the file from Microsoft. I already have a Windows 10 key, the problem was, how to get it onto my HP xw6600?

My first attempt was to put it onto a USB drive. I have some that take 8gb and some at 32gb, so space wasn't a problem. But ... the HP xw6600 wouldn't boot from a USB stick. A message flashed past telling me that, so eventually I gave up and did some research. Maybe I need to update the BIOS, which would be a nerve-wracking procedure, because if it goes wrong, I have an xw6600 brick.

My next effort was DVD+R DL. These disks are "Dual layer" and can store 8.5 gb, and that will be enough ... but the DVD on the HP probably won't cope with that. So I bought from eBay, a DVD+R DL drive and a 10-pack of discs; £17 isn't a lot.

But while I was waiting for that to arrive, I tried another way. What if I install Windows 7 (I have a key for that - several keys, actually) and then upgraded it to Win 10!

So I installed Win 7, but now how do I do the upgrade? I needed to mount the ISO file (of 6gb) on the Win 7 machine, but Win 7 won't do mounts like that. However, there's a workaround for that! It's called "WinCDEmu", so I downloaded and installed that, and then I mounted a network drive to the server where I stored the Win 10 iso, which gave me exactly what I needed.

I clicked on "setup.exe" and the install went smoothly - and it accepted the Win 10 key that I have.

So that gave me (eventually, the install took a long, long time) a Win 10 computer, and I was able to switch the screen to 3840 by 2160 pixels (yes, it's a very big screen, diagonal 42 inches) and then I ran steam (I'm a subscriber) to install - you guessed it - Civilization VI plus all the expansion packs that I got for my birthday.

Of course, that took a very long time to install on the new Win 10 box, because it had to download several gigabytes of files. But eventually, it was all up and running.

So now I have a 32gb memory computer that runs Civ 6 in full screen mode, and I'm a happy bunny.

Tomorrow, a surgeon is going to do something to my left eye that I'm trying not to think too much about, to deal with the rather obscurantist cataract that I have there (and there's no guarantee that it will give me top quality vision because I also have glaucoma in that eye. No-one is sure about how much of the problem is down to the cataract and how much the glaucoma. And after that, even though it's only a local anaesthetic, I'm going to be wearing an eye patch at night (Aarr, Jim lad, maybe I can give my pirate costume another outing) and I won't be able to drive for an unknown length of time, but - and this is the main thing, I will be able to play Civ 6!

Wednesday 9 November 2022

A grand day out

A grand day out

November 7th is the birthday of daughter.2, so we went to the Dorchester for a celebration. We were sat in a room just next to the kitchen, which apparently is a great honour. It turns out that kitchens aren't walys places where there's lots of panic and much swearing.

There were about a dozen of us, and we started off with a present to me from daughter.2. She'd just been to Disney, and got me an upgrade to my Wizarding Hat, which was great because the old one was too small for my head and kept falling off, plus this new one has flashing LED stars all over it, and will be my Christmas Hat for many years to come.

There were seven courses, including two kinds of artisan bread (they counted the big crisps as bread).  A far cry from the bread trolley that we used to get at The Grill there, where you used to be able to get a big meal for £20, now £75. That's inflation for you. Also, there was no dessert trolley.

The chicken, we were told, came from Norfolk. "Very flat, Norfolk," I told the chef. The beef came from there too.

This was my first major outing since 2019, what with Covid followed by my major liver resection operation. I drove us to daughter.1's flat, and parked there, then we got an Uber to the Dorchester. I thought I'd have trouble eating so much, but it all went down just fine, which shows that I've got my full appetite back. Also, I was a bit concerned about possibly falling asleep during the meal, but that didn't happen either.

I was asked "Which is your favourite child", which is usually an impossible question, but I found a neat answer, pointing at the two daughters ... "Neither of those two." 

Some of us got rather tiddley and there was quite a lot of veritas in the vino (there were seven different wines, one for each course). I stuck to water, because it's "be kind to my liver" this year.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Civilization and Windows

Civilization and Windows 

I'm a big fan of the game "Civilization", and I've been eagerly awaiting version 7 of the game. Then I discovered that they'd released upgrades to Civ 6; "Rise and Fall" and "Gathering Storm", and everyone playing Civ seemed to be using them. So I went on to Steam and bought a bundle of all the upgrades, costing £50, and installed these on my games machine.

Very soon. I found that it was crashing frequently at a late stage in the game. It got so bad that it was crashing every few minutes. A bit of thought and some research, led me to think that the problem was insufficient memory. I was running Windows 7 on a Dell Inspirion with 8gb of memory, and the computer memory couldn't be increased.

So I had to use a different computer - an HP xw6600 with 32 gb of memory (and that's the most you can put in) with an Nvidia Geforce GT1030 video card and a 3840 by 2160 monitor. That was currently running linux, both Fedora and Ubuntu.

First I tried running Steam and Civ under linux. That was a complete disaster. Clearly, I needed Windows. Sadly. So I installed Windows 7 on the HP. But when I tried to run Civ, it wouldn't run, complaining that the graphics card driver wasn't up to the job. I tried looking for an updated driver, but no luck.

So I downloaded Windows 10, but that came in at 5.5gb, too much for a DVD. I tried putting it on a USB and installing from that, but I couldn't make that work; it wouldn't read from the USB. I put quite a lot of effort into trying various things, but I couldn't get it on.

There is no  Windows 9, so I went to Windows 8.1. That's only 4.2 gb, so fits on a DVD, and I was able to install that. And then I went back to steam, logged on and accessed Civ 6 (plus upgrades). That downloaded 10 gb of files to the HP, and when I tried to run Civ it worked!

But then I found that at the full 3840 by 2160 resolution, the screen kept blanking, so I reduced the resolution to the next value, and that seems to work.

Running Civ 6 takes 5gb of memory, and that plus all the other stuff in memory comes to 7.6 gb; since I've got 32gb, there's plenty of headroom.

So I'm back in business!

Saturday 5 November 2022

It started a year ago

It started a year ago

November 5, 2021 I went to John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford for a simple procedure. I had a cancerous growth partly blocking the duct between my liver and my gall bladder, and they were going to put a stent in place to allow free passage in that duct. This was to be the first of several procedures.

They sedated me, and put a plastic thing in my mouth so I wouldn't bite their tube. And I was pretty much out of it then.

The tube went to the right place, but they couldn't install the stent. Bad news. So I had a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch (because I hadn't eaten for 12 hours), and a couple of minutes later, was violently sick, bringing it all back up.

And I had a major pain in my belly. The doctors had warned that there was a one in five risk of pancreatitis, and I was the unlucky one. They sent me to Churchill hospital on the same day, and I spent the next three weeks there.

The pain was so bad, they put me on morphine for it. I had a button I could press to get a mini dose, and there was a timer that enforced a gap of five minutes. I pressed that button a lot.

I felt really nauseous. Even the thought of food felt bad. For the next two weeks, I had pretty much nothing to eat, but the pancreatitis resolved itself over that time, and I was able to eat, but only simple stuff. By then I'd lost about ten pounds, but I could afford to lose some weight.

So now it's a year later.

It took me several months to get my appetite back; for several months, when I ate, it was without pleasure. I ate because I knew that I had to, and so I forced the food down me.

Today, I'm a lot better. There's still some foods that I'm not liking, but I'm not far from my previous state of being able to eat just about anything (and I surprised my Japanese friends in Tokyo about what I was willing to eat).

I no longer have a gall bladder, that was removed in a later, major operation. Apparently, we don't actually need one? The major operation also removed most of my liver, but the liver regenerates, and mine has done just that.

So I'm pretty much back to full health now, except my back is troubling me (it was before) and I'm wary of catching Covid or Flu (although I'm thoroughly vaccinated.