Thursday, May 19, 2011

New monitor

Ok, so it's not new, we've had it for a couple of years now. But it's never really been used as a monitor until recently.

Say hello to my little friend ;)

(If you click it, it gets bigger ;)

Sunday, May 15, 2011


This weekend I dug out two old PCs which I seemed to recall had died on us (several years ago), warranting the purchase of new PCs.

Contemplating making one working PC from the two, I pulled the sides off both boxes and took a look inside. I know my way around the inside of a case, and I'm also pretty efficient at salvaging dead PCs, so one look was all it took for me to realize that I was lacking several critical pieces, like RAM, and hard drives.

Fortunately I'm also a hoarder, so the RAM sticks and hard drives which no longer resided within these cases were still within my possession. As were several old Video Cards which I'd burned out (or so I thought) playing games that were a little bit too graphic intensive for them. I'd need one of those video cards because the mother board of one of those PCs does not have an on-board GPU.

But first on the agenda was upgrading my daughter's PC. She got 50% more Ram and a new (old) video card. Old, but still a two generation upgrade over what she had. I also uninstalled AVG. As much as I like anti-virus programs they tend to bog older systems down (as well as some newer ones). Her computer definitely seemed to run a lot faster with those simple changes. Cost? zero dollars.

Then I turned to the PCs. The first thing I noticed was of the remaining RAM sticks, the two largest were two 512MB sticks and they would only fit one of the MoBos. So it got a full Gig of RAM. I also dropped in one of my two 40GB HDD then, out of sheer curiosity, plugged it in and fired it up. To my amazement not only did it work, but it booted up into Linspire.

ASIDE: Earlier this week at my mate's house we watched United which he' from a certain website which let you download...borrow. I did say borrow. So this website lets you borrow all sorts of movies which, if you've got a TV hooked up to your computer, rather than watch these movies on your piddly little computer monitor you can watch them on a much bigger screen (such as that found on a 50" Plasma TV). We already have Netflix, which lets us stream movies through our BluRay player, except that Netflix's 'online' service is sadly lacking. It does have a reasonable selection of some older movies, and some of the newer releases, but for the older or more obscure classics, and the latest releases, you still have to request a physical DVD. I understand what they're doing, but I still think it sucks.

So I hooked up this new PC with Linspire to my 50" Plasma, booted it up, and the POST loading screen came up, followed by the Linspire loading screen, and then? As it booted into Linspire's desktop, my TV screen went dark and the words Invalid Format began floating around the screen. Having encountered this situation before with the BluRay player I knew what was going on so I hooked up a monitor to the Linspire machine to set its resolution to one of the handful of true 16:9 widescreen resolutions. Except Linspire didn't offer any of those particular resolutions to me. Yes, I was using a widescreen monitor, but even when I told it to show me resolutions not supported by my system none of the 16:9 resolutions were listed.

Fortunately I had a second 40GB HDD so I unplugged the Linspire HDD and plugged in the second one. It booted up into Windows XP (as it should; I only have a 98 SE CD, and an XP Pro CD), and XP let me set the resolution to a proper 16:9 resolution. Unplug the monitor, plug in the 50" and the Windows desktop appeared larger than life (that's assuming you're smaller than 50", which I'm not, so technically it's not larger than my life, but I digress).

I unplugged the LAN cable from the BluRay player and hooked it up to the PC, which was good for updating the video drivers, but not so good for the BluRay player. But one of the other gadgets I had in my possession, which I had no idea why, or how long I'd had it (years, I'm guessing), was a 5-port Switch. As I'd gone through my box of PC Bits & Pieces I'd come across the Switch and despite not recalling ever seeing it before and not being 100% sure what it was, in typical Bloke-fashion I'd thought to myself, "I might be able to use this." A quick Google search revealed that indeed I could use it, and for the purpose I'd had in mind, too. Back into the box of Bits & Pieces I went where I extracted two 6' CAT5 cables. Plug the LAN cable into the Uplink port on the Switch, plug in both 6' cables then plug their other ends into the BluRay and the PC, and now both machines were online. Cost? Zero dollars.

Finally I turned to the last PC. This thing is old. It has an Athlon 1.2Ghz CPU. Years ago that was fast. Now? Not so much. It also only takes PC133 RAM. I had, according to their stickers, two 128MB sticks of PC133. I plugged them in, plugged in the Linspire HDD, and one GeForce MX4000, being the fastest of the old video cards I still had. It all booted up, except the Linspire HDD wouldn't boot. Which made me wonder if Linspire was not on the Hard Drive itself, but buried in an EPROM chip on the other PC's Motherboard.

Fortunately I had my XP CDs handy, as well as an old DVD drive which I promptly plugged in. It was then a simple matter of installing XP, and catching up on some reading. Then downloading SP3 while doing some more reading.

The only problem is there's one essential part of a computer which I don't have any spares of, and that would be monitors. The first PC doesn't need one because it's hooked up to the 50" Plasma, but this second PC? It needs a monitor. It also needs a new MoBo, faster CPU, more (& faster) RAM, a faster Video Card, and a bigger power supply to keep all that stuff running. In other words, I need a new computer ;)

"This axe? Why, it's been in the family for generations. Had 4 new handles, and a new blade, but it's just as good as the day my great-grandpappy bought it, all them years ago."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

And I thought they were tough

This morning I dragged the wife and kids out of bed at OMFG o'clock to come support me on my 5K Gladiator Rock 'n Run. Actually I didn't need to drag them out of bed. The wife claimed she had trouble sleeping last night (as did I, a little nervous I guess) so when the cat woke me up at my usual workday time of 4:30am and I realized I needed to use the loo, doing so woke up the wife, and she got up, even though there was an hour left on the alarm. I decided I might as well stay up too, and the boy was awake when I stuck my head in his bedroom door. So it was the only the bunny who needed waking up, and unlike a school morning, despite it being almost 2 hours earlier than her usual "wake-up" time, she was out of bed in seconds (vs the typical "I'm tired!" whine followed by rolling over and burying her head in her pillow).

After breakfast, and a 45-min drive we arrived at Irvine's Hidden Valley Park.

We also, eventually, managed to hook up with 4 of my coworkers, all who are a few years (or 10 years) younger than me. The original plan was to run together and help each other out, but when the first obstacle, a balance beam affair, split us up I was now running with a female coworker a few years younger than me, and a male coworker 13 years younger. The guy managed to trip himself up on the second obstacle, a tire run, and sprained his ankle, but he sucked it up like a true Gladiator, ran it off, and we continued the race.

When I noticed that my pace was a little faster than theirs I tried to slow down to stick with them, but eventually my competitive nature said "Fuck it" and I never looked back.

At the obstacle titled "The Fools' Spools" I leaped up onto the first one only to find the competitor ahead of me was slower than I expected. Instead of landing on top of it as he leaped off the other side I was forced to check my momentum or get a face full of arse. As I fell back I grabbed the edge of the spool to hang on and...Oh shit! My right tricep screamed at me that I was the fool! When I pulled myself back up onto the top of the spool I agreed with it, but I was doing this race to test myself, to push myself to the limit, not drop out at the first sign of an Owie! (Definitely a pulled tricep. I rubbed Bengay into it when I got back home but its still pretty sore, and will be for a few days. Meh. I'm a GLADIATOR!!!)

I vaulted over the remaining spools and finally caught up to one of my first two female coworkers (she's 10 years younger than me) at the muddy uphill slope, with a rope if you needed it to ascend, which I did (Ow, said my tricep. Shut up, I replied.) followed by a water slide back down to the cargo net. I managed to generate too much friction on the water slide (don't ask me how) and I found myself slowing down, then stopping 3/4 of the way down. Knowing other competitors were coming down right after me I tried to scoot down to the bottom of the slide but I wasn't quick enough and got nailed from behind by a competitor with a lower coefficient of friction. Fortunately that gave me the boost I needed to complete the slide. Unfortunately it provided me with too much momentum, and when I hit the muddy pool at the bottom I was forced to dive across it and roll out the other side.

It was only while standing in line at the cargo net that I realized I'd acquired a war wound from my spill, but being literally covered in mud from head-to-toe I could't tell how seriously I was hurt. And I do mean literally. My face was covered in mud but I couldn't wipe it off because my hands were covered in mud, and I couldn't wipe them off because every other part of my body was also covered in mud. I figured I was still standing and it wasn't hurting much so it can't have been serious. And it wasn't.

I don't look it there, but I was not the only one a little pissed at waiting in line for the cargo net/container obstacle. I was even more pissed when it was my turn and I finally climbed to the top, only to see scores of competitors running past the cargo container. "Cheaters!" I heard someone call out to them. "That line is too long!" one of them called back. Like that's an excuse. Enjoy your hollow victory, wannabe Gladiators!

Down the other side of the cargo container and on I ran with my female coworker, helping her across the vertical wall (she's considerably shorter than me) then sticking with her as we ran up, up, up the long hill. But when we came down the hill and she started to lag behind it was once again "Every Gladiator For Himself!" and I pulled away and left her behind. I never saw the second girl, but my first two coworkers found her, somewhere, because she finished the race with them, but that was long after I was done.

When I know my final time I'll post it, but for now I think I finished in approx. an hour.

A 5 kilometre race, through mud, over 14 obstacles, and I was the first AND oldest of my coworkers to finish. And I thought they were tough.

My time: 47m 11.8s
Mens 36-42: 148/306 (I'll be 42 in August)
Mens Overall: 854/1819
Overall: 1367/3715