Saturday, 28 June 2008

Silence is golden!

The last few weeks I've noticed my PC has been making a lot more noise than usual. The fans seemed to run up to 100% and stay there constantly after just a couple of minutes from switching it on. I had initially thought that the monitoring software that regulates fan speeds had gone a bit screwy so I kind of ignored it telling myself I'd sort it out later.

Well last night I decided that "later" was now, so I fired up the software to be greeted by angry alarms blaring through my speakers at 1am! Not the best thing to wake the household with, but oh well, it was too late to worry about that.

Apparently my CPU temperature was hovering just over the 90 degree mark, and my case temperature was 70 degrees! Ouch, that CPU is nicely roasting away and probably has been for a few weeks. I decided I had to do something about it, but that 1am was not the time to strip the PC apart. So this morning out came the compressed air and tool kit.

OH MY GOD! I've never seen so much dust in my life...... The case was stuffed full of the stuff. No wonder I had air flow issues, all the fans were totally clogged up. A good blast of air outside and a well aimed hoover sorted that issue out. Then I figured while I was at it, it couldn't do any harm to replace the thermal paste on the CPU. So off came the heatsink/fan and the old stuff was carefully removed from the copper heatsink, and the top of the CPU. A fresh application of some Arctic Silver 5 paste and a quick re-assembly later it was all done.

Time for the moment of truth, everything worked straight away (phew!) and this time the fans didn't ramp up! After loading the monitoring software again, the good news is the CPU is now at a more comfortable 61 degrees, and the case a refreshing 38 degrees! Now I can sit in peaceful silence once again.

So, if you're PC is noisier than you'd like, it might be time to give it some TLC and sort out air flow inside your case. It can make a HUGE difference!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Monitor heaven!

So after all the worry about never getting my monitor sorted out. I received an unexpected phone call from the Staples store manager today. He told me my replacement monitor had arrived and I could pick it up whenever was convenient. So straight after work I headed down to the shop to be greeted by a brand new 24" wide-screen Gateway FPD2485W-EU.

I am very impressed with this monitor, not only is it HUGE (it's replaced a 21" screen) it has loads of connections. DVI, VGA, 2 x Component, S-Video and 4 x USB ports. It's astonishingly bright, has a pretty big 1920 x 1200 resolution and not a dead pixel in sight.

If I had to have one complaint, it would be it's simply too big. I have it paired with a 19" 4:3 monitor, and it's kind of dwarfed it now. Plus because it's so new the image quality is so good it really shows up my older monitor for how poor it really is.

I must go now, my eyes are bleeding from all the light emanating from the screen. It's burning my retinas!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Monitor hell!

The saga continues, another call from Staples today, apparently the replacement monitor isn't on its way as promised. I should point out that this isn't a Staples problem, they have been fantastic. The problem now is that Gateway have been taken over by Acer and Gateway will no longer talk to Staples about the issue. They accept they have my old monitor and that it can't be repaired, but won't talk about any sort of resolution. In fact talking to the Staples store manager Gateway (or the company that used to be Gateway) have been very rude to him.

As if this all wasn't bad enough, things are further complicated because I bought the monitor from Staples on-line. Now apparently the bricks and mortar store is a separate company to the on-line retail arm. What this means is that technically the store manager shouldn't have taken my monitor in the first place, however, he did because he's a nice guy and wanted to help. So the whole thing is a bit of a mess!

The store manager has vowed to do everything he can to sort this out for me and is taking a complaint up with his head office. He is hoping that his management might carry more weight and get some answers for me.

I'm pretty confident this guy will follow it through and sort it all out, but I'm not sure where I stand legally now. The whole thing is a bit complicated!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

PayPal - hypocrites!

I've had a couple of friendly games of Poker recently with some people I know from a newsgroup. It's just a bit of fun roughly once a month and the losers all pay the winner £5. We've been using PayPal up to now but a couple of us (myself included) have had our accounts frozen because apparently gambling breaches their acceptable use policy.

On the surface this seems fair enough, if perhaps a little harsh. However, if they have a principle that the service cannot be used for gambling then I'm happy to abide by it. This was the e-mail they sent me:
"After a recent review of your account, it has been determined that you are currently in violation of PayPal's Acceptable Use Policy. Under the Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for activities that involve gambling and/or gaming activities, including but not limited to casino games, sports betting, horse or greyhound racing, lottery tickets, certain games of skill, and other ventures that facilitate gambling."
Of course it's not as simple as that, because PayPal are in fact perfectly happy to allow you to use their service for gambling as I found out upon investigation:
"You can now use PayPal with Betfair – the world’s largest betting exchange."
So, either they do allow the service for gambling or they don't, which is it? It would seem it's both! You see they are quite happy to let their principles slide when they can make a profit from it. They take a cut from all transactions made through PayPal to BetFair and that's fine. But if you just want to organise the occasional friendly game of Poker then you are an evil gambler who must be banished from PayPal forever!

Like I said in the title, PayPal are hypocritical *&%$*!

An iBlog

I think I might change this blog from a standard blog, to a new fangled iBlog! What's the difference you ask, well there actually isn't one. It just seems to be the fashionable and trendy thing to chuck an 'i' in front of everything these days.

What does this 'i' actually mean anyway? What's so great about an 'i' that makes it so special? Google has iGoogle, the BBC has the iPlayer, BT have announced a new product called the iPlate which is supposed to increase your broadband speeds. There are countless other examples and it's getting to be beyond a joke!

Apple created the 'i' brand and I believe the first product to sport the name was the imac. It was a great product that pretty much sparked the turn around in the companies fortunes. Then of course came the hugely popular ipod. I can understand that a company like Apple would want to use the 'i' branding to its full potential. I don't have any issue with that at all, it's all the other companies who are jumping on the band wagon and trying to exploit the popularity that bugs me.

Why couldn't the marketing gurus over at BT and Google have come up with an original title for their products? What exactly are they being paid for if they just look for a successful brand and imitate them? Perhaps that's exactly what they are being paid for! Either way, how do I get a job doing this, I have some great marketing ideas ready to go. How about the iBurger, the iPen or the iSoap! All these ideas are bound to sell in their millions, I am a marketing god!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Still no monitor

It's been ages since my computer monitor was sent off for repair. I've had to slum it with just one screen for weeks, it's amazing how much easier everything becomes when you have a dual screen set-up. I've really missed all the extra space I've become accustomed to for web browsing, usenet and more all at the same time.

Anyway, Staples phoned me up to say they can't repair it, booooo! However, they are going to give a a shiny new one instead, yaaay! Just got to wait for them to call me back some time this week when it's arrived so I can collect it. It can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned, then I can get back to the important business of playing video games again!

James likes to

A friend of mine just did this on her blog and I thought I'd give it a go myself. Basically you type "(your name) likes to" into Google, including the speech marks. Then you copy and paste the results, here are mine:

- James likes to, write down the first 10 search results. Hmmm, someone's obviously been here before me. I guess it's right though because I'm doing exactly that now.

- James likes to relax by swimming, walking the coastal footpath with Jane or catching up with the TV programmes he's recorded. Well, I don't know anyone called Jane and I don't do much swimming. I am always playing catch up with the TV though.

- James likes to capture stories as they happen. Errrm, not sure I've ever captured a story before but if someone wants to tell me what sort of net is needed I'll give it a go.

- James likes to get high on. Get high on what? I need to know!

- James likes to go for long walks with Laurie on the beach, likes to buy her flowers. I sense a bit of a theme here, apparently people called James like the sea, but again I don't know any Laurie's.

- James likes to watch fat porn. Apparently so, who am I to argue with that. (I don't by the way, but perhaps I should give it a go)

- James likes to keep it hot. Oh yeah!

- James likes to pull Susan's pony tail. Again I don't know any Susan's either.

- James likes to play football as much as possible and DJ in clubs and radio in his spare time. A very definite no on all counts there!

- James likes to go out at the weekend (not on "school nights" any more as the next morning is too hard!). Well I tend to work weekends so technically I guess that means I'm out, but I haven't been been to school in years.

What does Google think you like to do?

Repairing disc scratches

As a result of having to move all the old rubbish for the new central heating, I discovered a box of audio CDs I've not seen for years. I decided to rip them all to my PC so I can actually listen to them occasionally! However, some of them would seem to have divorced their protective cases and had a bit of a party in the box. This meant they were badly scratched rendering them unreadable. That made me quite sad because although I hadn't listened to them in a long time, I'd spent quite a bit of money on them and I had some good CDs amongst the casualties!

As it happens, I was browsing through Maplins today when I found a little disc repairer from Procare, imaginatively titled "Compact Disc Surface Scratch Repairer". It cost £24.99 and as my damaged CDs would have cost considerably more to replace I decided it was worth a shot. Here it is repairing one of the naughty little discs:

It's mains powered and is a two stage process, first it rubs down the disc with two rough pads. Then you swap them for two buffing pads and add some magic fluid that buffs it up and gives it a protective coat. You can see two of the pads here:

I must say, I've been very impressed so far! I've fixed three CDs that refused to be recognised before and a couple of others that constantly skipped. One of them had a deep gouge in it and although it hasn't got rid of that, it did fix it enough for me to copy the CD to my computer!

I even dared to try it on a video game, I've got a copy of Wii Play that always crashed when selecting 2 players. I was never really sure why it did that, there were no obvious marks on the disc. But a quick run through the machine and it worked flawlessly, amazing!

The whole process takes about 4 minutes and the pads are supposed to be good for 50 repairs, replacements can be obtained but I don't know how much they are. I'll be fixing more CDs tomorrow, I haven't had any fail yet so it looks like I may get all my discs back! YAY.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Does a lot of work for charity mate!

Okay, it's rant time, sorry! As most of you know, and should know if you've read the short profile to the right of this post. I'm a stage manager, I work in theatre and over the course of a year we do a lot of charity shows and fund-raising events. I don't mind them too much, sometimes they can be badly organised due to their lack of experience but then that's why we are there. We are the professionals tasked with making sure their event runs smoothly.

Just recently certain organisers seem to have got the wrong idea though. Comments have been made that it's a charity event and we should be volunteering our time to make their expenses lower. Now I'm sorry, but that is really not acceptable. Everyone who works in the theatre does so for a living, it's our job. We try our best to keep staffing levels to a minimum but certain people are needed to run a show. If we gave up our wages for every charity or fund-raising event staged in our theatres then our income would be significantly lower.

That's not to say we are all heartless though, when the tsunami hit Asia we had a huge event with lots of big names. It was a lot of work and we all put in a lot of hours. Everyone was paid for their time, but as far as I know, everyone involved donated all the money they earned to the charity.

I also do a few things each year outside of work as well. For example, tomorrow I have given up my day off and volunteered to do a fund raiser for St. Wilfrids hospice which is a local charity. I'm even going to miss the Grand Prix!

So, if you ever organise a charity event, please don't expect the people working on it to do so for free. We have to make a living the same as the rest of you and if your charity show is in the theatre it means another professional show isn't. We still need to pay our bills regardless of how much we like the cause you may be raising cash for. We all do our bit in our own way, but at the end of the day it's our job.

Monday, 2 June 2008


We are having new central heating installed at the moment, they started the process today. Arriving at 8:15am, just the time when the whole house is in a state of chaos anyway!

I'm starting to question if it's really worth it. Sure the old system doesn't work properly and it's pretty damn cold almost everywhere in the winter. But seriously, the work involved is just nightmarish! Every room has to be cleared so the floorboards can be taken up, new pipes laid and the old removed. It's bad enough when you have to do it to decorate one room, but the workmen need access to all the rooms in one go. Where are you supposed to put everything?

It involves dismantling beds because the rooms are too small to move them about. Dismantling the fitted units because they need to get under them, to do that they need to be emptied which means finding somewhere to put all the clothes and junk. You can't put them in the airing cupboard because the new boiler is going in there so you have to empty that too! Taking up all the carpets, it's just crazy.

On top of this we figured while we are in this state of upheaval, we might as well get the bathroom refurbished. So a new bathroom suite for there and re-tiling to take place. It just adds to the chaos and mess though.

Seriously, if you ever have to do something like this, book yourself into a hotel for the week. Trying to live your life amongst all the bedlam isn't much fun..... and it's only day one!

Picking a mobile

I've just had to go through the traumatic experience of picking out a suitable replacement mobile phone for my mother. Her old one, which was mine originally needed replacing because the screen kept getting corrupted. I think the phone got a bit wet while she was out in a rain storm and it never fully recovered. It has good days and bad days though so it's all a bit odd.

The thing is, my parents seem to assume that I'm an expert in all things gadget and whenever they have any problems I'm always their first port of call. Now in most cases they are perfectly right to ask me, but on mobile phones I don't really have a clue!

I upgrade my phone every 12-18 months on a contract and usually just opt for the latest Nokia at the time. My old phone, the one my mother has now is an N70, at the moment I'm on the N73 and I will probably go to the N96 when it's released in a couple of months. So other than that I have no idea what's what in the world of mobile phone technology.

I did a bit of browsing on the O2 website to see what was out there but really they all seem pretty similar to me these days. The problem I have is that I tend to end up looking for phones that I would like, but of course this usually isn't suitable for her. I eventually settled on the Samsung U600 as the phone of choice, it seemed like a good balance between simplicity and features.

Before committing to a purchase I looked for a review and found that it isn't the greatest phone. Lots of complaints about the poor keypad and the camera not being too hot. One of the reviews recommended the G600 instead, so I went back to O2 and looked it up. It was available but quite a bit more expensive and she doesn't really need a 5 mega-pixel camera or a music player with 40MB storage. So, I decided the U600 was the best bet and handed over my recommendation so she could call up customer services and place the order. Of course the queue to actually speak to a human was endless and we waited on hold for ages, during this time I happened to mention the other phone. Immediately she wanted to know all about it and decided that she wasn't going to have second best, even if she would never use half the features it offered.

So decision made all that remained was to place the order, except that now she was given another choice. Black or Pink? What a dilemma! I had to do a quick Google image search to see the difference while she discussed the pros and cons of the different colours with the operator. Finally Black was decided on and now I await the arrival and inevitable call for help when nothing on the phone works because it's not the same as the Nokia. Except I won't have a clue either because I've never owned anything other than Nokia myself!

So did I make a good choice? Is the G600 a decent phone? Will I rue this day for years until it finally dies? I guess I'll find out soon enough.