Lunch, Linx and Linux – 15 March 2019

We were up and about early this morning to make sure Jackie got her taxi on time to take her in to Glasgow.

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After our visitor had left I settled down to a relaxing hour of Sudoku wrangling while Scamp played Spider on her tablet. While I was sudoku solving I got the idea that I should maybe try putting Linux into the old Linx tablet. Maybe that would stop the continuous annoying demands that I update Windows 10 on it. I needed to download the Linux file on a PC, which was when I discovered that the modem driver on the Linux was screwed. In fact it was so seriously screwed that Windows couldn’t fix it. What it did tell me was to go online and search for a solution there. That would be difficult with no internet connection because of the fault. Eventually I gave up and just restored the entire OS from a backup. Long story – short, I wasted the entire morning fixing Windows problems and didn’t even get the Linux installed. Maybe tomorrow?!
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Drove out to The Smiddy for lunch. Mac ’n’ Cheese for Scamp and Chicken, Chorizo, Tomato and Beans for me. Bought a chump chop (lamb) which might possibly be tomorrow’s dinner for me and also a chunk of Blue Murder cheese which is a very nice blue cheese. Didn’t buy the aptly named “Minger” cheese which tasted just as it’s name would suggest. Drove home through the wild winds, driving sleet and blinding sunshine! Welcome to Scotland!

When we got home the rain and sleet halted, but the winds and the sunshine persisted, so I grabbed my boots and went for a walk in St Mo’s looking for a decent picture. I think I got one and that’s it at the top of the page. The tree that was swaying dangerously in the wind the other day was still there, still swaying. Bumped into Susan Greenshields on my way home and she was as grumpy as ever. Nice to see that some things and some people never change.

Made some more pakora in the evening and it tasted quite good again, but still needed something else. Don’t know what. Had another half hearted try at the Linux thing later and eventually found that it can’t be done. Something about a 64 bit processor and a 32bit BIOS that isn’t really a BIOS, but an EFI. It’s an EFFING pain in the arse if you ask me.

Tomorrow snow is forecast, so we won’t be going far.

The “Rat Man”cometh – 11 January 2019

Today we were expecting the “Rat Man”to call and hoping he’d call early so we could go out to lunch. He didn’t, he came in the middle of the day and spoiled our plans.

So the “Rat Man”came and found that the trap he’d put down in the back garden had not been touched, which we both found a bit surprising because we’d had a few nights without any rodents. However, when he checked at No 36 he found that all the poison he’d put down was gone. Maybe we’ve found the source of the problem. He’d put the poison down in the loft there and he suspected the access route was through a hole in the flashing at their gable end. Since their loft is at the same level as our upstairs floor, it seems there may be access from No 36 to our ceiling void. I’ll need to check that. When he’d laid down some fresh poison next door he came round and explained that as there was nothing to find in our house he was signing us off. I suppose that’s logical, but I will miss him, because I got fed up typing “Rat Man” for the blog and I created a Keyboard Maestro shortcut which would type “Rat Man” for me if I typed R M! He said that he’d be back to check No 36 again next week, but he’d drop in to see what progress we’d had. As a leaving gift, he gave me a couple of blocks of poison on a wire trace that he encouraged me to lob up into the ceiling void and check it next week by pulling it out with the wire. I took it and removed the blanking plate then lobbed it like he suggested and then replaced the plate. Now we wait and see!

<Technospeak>
With the coast clear, I grabbed the Nikon and a couple of lenses and walked around St Mo’s for an hour. It was only when I came back that I realised the aperture had been set to f22, which is a tiny wee hole letting very little light through. The camera doesn’t want to use a really slow shutter speed, so it compensates by using a very high ISO speed. High ISO speeds mean lots of digital noise which used to be called ‘noise’. It gives lots of tiny little coloured dots on the photo, especially noticeable in areas of flat tone, like the sky and on still water. All my photos had those tiny little dots. Despite my processing you can still see them in the PoD. Disappointed.
</Technospeak>

Scamp gave me a fright when she came back early from Tesco saying the car was making a ‘funny noise’. I feared the worst, but it turned out she had accidentally run over a tube of plumber’s mastic and the goo had covered one of her tyres. As she was driving it was curing and coming off in strands, banging against the wheel arch and making the ‘funny noise’. No damage done and after we’d taken it for a test drive most of it had rubbed off the tyre. Breathe again.

Tomorrow we may go to Hamilton for a curry if the weather is decent.

So, this is Sunday, isn’t it? – 16 December 2018

Yes, it was Sunday, so why did it feel like Saturday?

Well, the simple answer is because Saturday felt like a Friday and therefore it was logical that Sunday would feel like Saturday. OK?

With that in mind, we set of on to visit Stirling, pretending that it was Saturday. One of the benefits of visiting Stirling on a Sunday is that there is no charge for parking. That saved us a whole £1.40! We walked to Waitrose and bought the whole shop, then packed it carefully into the Juke’s boot and drove home.

By the time we got home there was just enough light to allow me to go a walk over to St Mo’s to grab a few shots with “The Big Dog”, i.e. the Nikon. Low light means you need a bigger sensor to grab as many of those photons as possible without resorting to a higher ISO. Bigger sensors mean less digital noise, sometimes called grain. Smaller grains means smoother images. I could have put a <Technospeak> warning there, but I just thought some of you deserved a bit of a photographic education. So now you know that to get smoother gradations you need a lower ISO and if possible a bigger sensor. There, quote that and you’ll sound so much cleverer! Got the photos and took them home to look at more closely on the ‘puter.

Earlier in the day, even before we’d gone out to buy Waitrose, we’d spoke to Hazy who updated us on all the things going on down London way. It’s nice to know that other folk are suffering from dull weather too. It’s not just us.

After perusing today’s photos and settling on a PoD, a moody shot across the boardwalk at St Mo’s, I started to make the dinner which was a vegan Spag Bol. I’ve made it before but today’s effort seemed a bit bland. Too many mushrooms or too little salt? Not sure. Scamp said it was fine, so maybe just me.

Sat down to watch the final of The Apprentice. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that it was one of the girls! Halfway through JIC which was a godsend really as two hours of TA without a break is more of a marathon than Mo Farah could withstand. Spoke for half an hour or so and got up to date on all the things going on down Cambridge way.

Finally watched the end of the epic journey to be Sugar’s next business partner. Slightly less interesting than a boring F1 GP.

Tomorrow will probably be a Monday. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain, ice, plagues of frogs – 15 December 2018

We were amply warned about all of the above, except the plagues of frogs, but only the rain and a thin covering of snow appeared.

Woke to a dull leaden sky and a thin scraping of snow and expected the worst. By midday the dull leaden sky was still there, but the snow was disappearing and it was raining. Still the weather fairies predicted rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain with roads and paths being reduced to treacherous skating rinks. It rained some more.

We had decided not to go to Embra today, not because of the weather fairies predictions, but because it was just so dull. What was the point when it would be equally dull in Embra. We could save money and do some work in the house instead. I volunteered to take apart the back bedroom in the search for the rodent that still evades us. I moved my art cupboard and lifted the carpet, found a convenient floorboard to lift and found no evidence of there ever having been a rodent in that area. Before I put everything back in place, I took the opportunity to fill a big IKEA bag with a load of unwanted painting canvases and also some odds and sods from the chest of drawers. The rain was getting heavier so I postponed the dumping of the rubbish until tomorrow … at least.

That was the high point of the day. By then it was about 2pm and we were almost at twilight. Tidied the room back to its usual chaotic level and had a cup of coffee. Realised I’d very little coffee left, so ordered some from the Perth shop. Also ordered a new Toy off the Rack. A Raspberry Pi Zero W. The ‘W’ stands for WiFi.

<Technospeak>
This is a miniature computer with a 1.2GHz processor half a gig of memory WiFi and Bluetooth for the princely sum of just under £10. Ok, you have to supply your own keyboard and mouse and also a TV to see what’s going on. I runs on Linux which is a Windows-like OS that is totally free. The best part is that the whole shebang can be powered by a battery pack and is smaller than a cigarette packet. Great for experimenting with and getting your fingers burned when you have to solder some connections but if it all goes off with a bang, you’ve only spent a tenner.
</Technospeak>

Dinner was a plate and a half of Scamp’s delicious soup which is officially called “Just Broth”. Later we had a second go with the ‘Air Fryer’ and this time it was a lot more successful. Made potato wedges that tasted just like my usual ones.

PoD is a wee Lego model of a snail, or maybe it’s a tortoise. It’s hard to tell with Lego. Anyway, I wasn’t going out today, so this was it.

Tomorrow we go searching for food for dinner, hopefully the rain will have stopped and the plagues of frogs will have dissipated by then.

Talking Technology

Scamp was out early to meet Isobel, I was out later to meet Val. All of us risking a dose of the cold sitting in the freezing draft in Costa Cumbernauld.

I wanted to pick Val’s brains about the new Raspberry Pi which has come a long way since the last time I played around with one back in 2014.
<Technospeak Warning>
Then it was simply a tiny bare bones computer on a PCB. Now it holds much more memory and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth and the Italian hardware genius has already played around a lot with it. I wanted it as a monitor for my bird table, and just to play around with if I’m being honest (which I sometimes am.). A “toy off the rack if you like” off the Technology Rack, that is. The idea of building and having a small, portable computer that can be run from a battery pack is very 21st century. Because it runs Linux or a compact subset of it, its OS is free, all you’re paying for is the components. With the basic model you even have to solder in some of those components! Maybe I should order some Elastoplast as a preventative measure. I’m sure there will be a lot of swearing, cursing my stupidity and also fun in this project, but at present, my imagination is doing overtime thinking about what I can do with it.
<Technospeak Complete>

Walked with Val to Tesco to get some cod for our dinner. We parted, hoping to meet again before Christmas. We did meet again because we both came out of Tesco at the same time a half hour or so later! As a result I gave Val a run home then carried on up to the back of Fannyside Moor and got today’s PoD there. Well, I got the makings of the PoD. It took a fair bit of post processing to get from what I took to what you see here. However, what you see here is what I wanted to see through the viewfinder.

Tonight’s dinner was Cod and Sweetcorn Chowder but as usual I forgot to add the sweetcorn, so a spoonful of it was stirred into the thick soupy broth and it did no harm that it was just a wee bit cold. It’s a firm favourite now this chowder.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Colin for coffee in the same cold Costa. This time we’re meeting a bit earlier so perhaps, just perhaps we’ll get a warmer seat, or maybe we’ll abandon the cold Costa to the duller, but much warmer one at the other end of the boggin’ Antonine Centre. We’ll see.  Maybe snow tomorrow.  We’ve done not too bad getting to December before we got the white stuff.

Back on an even keel – 22 October 2018

Email and printers. The most difficult and flakiest things to set up. Look at them the wrong way and they just refuse to work.

The email account I fixed this morning seems to still be working. Sent my brother an email tonight and it hasn’t bounced yet. I hate setting up email accounts and printers. They are the most hated things to get going right first time. Yes, things are getting better and the wireless printers are a dream to set up now, but even they still have hissy fits sometimes.

Today was Gems day, so after all that technology overload this morning and after getting our flu jags and after buying Tesco I packed my bag and went for a swim. I had thought of going for some exercise first, but instead I sat in the steam room for quarter of an hour, then swam for another twenty minutes. Five minutes is enough for me in the sauna thankfully now with its door back on its hinges. Then a shower and a word with old Bob who probably lives in the changing room. I’ve seen him sitting with his lunch and a flask of tea a couple of times! Still, he’s paying his money the same as us and making the most of it. He tells some tall and wonderful stories at times. David Beckham was his topic today. I get the impression he doesn’t like the man!

Came home and doodled a sketch of a concrete and wood park bench from one of my photos. It took me two tries to get it right and when it was done it looked really smart … if you ignored the ghost bench beside it which was a bit squint and out of proportion. Went out for a walk in St Mo’s to try to catch the last of the light and maybe have a look at that bench again. Never did get a look at it. Instead I found some bright red bramble leaves and disturbed a long legged spider then tried a low shot of some leaves. They’re much thicker on the ground this year, I think. Leaves that is, not spiders. Eventually settled on a ten shot view across the loch with the camera sitting on a (different) bench. The ten shots were the raw material for an idea I had. Wind was strong and gusty and the clouds were scudding across the sky. That was the reason for the 10 shots.

<Technospeak>
Came home and downloaded the images. Cleaned up the ten shots in Lightroom, then exported them to a temporary folder. Imported them from there into a ‘stack’ in Photoshop. A stack is basically one image made up of a number of layers. Ran a script called “Image Averaging Layers” in Photoshop which does a very clever blending of the layers in the stack. With that done I selected the sky and water area with the Colour Range selector tool, Inverted the selection and proceeded to delete all the ground areas except one. That one I duplicated, reset the opacity to 100%, inverted the selection again and deleted the sky from that one. Bingo. My work was done in Photoshop. Saved it off and then flattened the image. Saved it again with a different name and imported that back into Lightroom where I could do all the usual twiddly bits.
</Technospeak>
Now all that previous bit was to remind me how I did the moving sky, but the solid ground and trees. Hopefully I’ll find this some day when I’m stuck.

No dancing tonight because Jamie G is off on his travels again and also we were waiting for a call from Hazy to see how ND was. Turns out he was getting home tonight. Although his ailment was serious enough, it wasn’t as bad as initially feared. Back home in Hazy’s tender care, I’m sure he’ll be on his feet again soon.

Tonight I did another Ink and Watercolour sketch of that park bench. It’s not as good as the first one. A second sketch never is in my opinion, but at least it doesn’t have a ghost bench intruding into its space.

So, basically everything is back on an even keel again, fingers crossed.

Maybe going for a curry tomorrow.

Out on two wheels again – 23 September 2018

Just a short run to make sure the lungs and legs are still up to cycling after the cold virus has had its wicked way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. Almost a sin to waste it sitting up in bed reading. Almost a sin, but not quite. Unless reading in bed is now a sin.

However, all good things must come to an end and I did eventually drag myself away from my Kindle and in to the shower, thence to go downstairs where Scamp was already off buying Tesco. Yesterday she had been cutting flowers that had been battered by Wednesday’s wind. She had put them in a vase and it was sitting on the table in the living room where the light pouring in through the vertical blinds was lighting it up and throwing wonderful shadows on the table. Now that would make a good picture I said to myself. Set up the Samyang on the Oly and grabbed a few shots from different distances and angles until I was sure I’d have something decent. At least one in the bag!

I decided this good weather wasn’t going to last, so I did what I’d committed myself to yesterday and got dressed for winter cycling. Layer upon layer of thin clothes with shorts and longs, because the temperature was only just in double figures and it was just past midday. When Scamp returned with Tesco in two shopping bags, I left for a short run. Short runs never really stay short if the traffic is light and the light is good. That’s how it was today. I tried to find some swallows because I thought I’d seen and heard some last week, but alas I may have been mistaken. So definitely no swallows this is week and this is week 39. I tried to find some photos, but try as I might, there was nothing there that interested me today. Finally I gave up and made my way home, and lunch. While I was out, Scamp took brush, sponge and hot water in hand and washed her car. Not that it needed it, eh, Scamp?

<Technospeak>
After lunch I started looking at today’s captures on Lightroom and decided that the flower shots from the morning were the best of the bunch, even if I’d forgotten to set the focus. It’s so hard to go back to a manual focus lens again! Luckily I’d set a fairly small aperture and this gave me enough DOF to make the shot look as if it was in focus. It took a bit of work in Lightroom to get the levels the way I wanted them and a bit more work in ON1 to push the background out of focus enough to concentrate the eye on the flowers. Finally I returned to LR to add a bit of warmth to the shot and Bingo it was done! PoD done!
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Dinner was Friday’s soup followed by yesterday’s curry reheated. Just your typical Sunday dinner!

Tomorrow we may take Big Red (that may be the Juke’s new name) out for a spin if the weather is good.

Computing – 7 September 2018

Not so much computing, more looking for computers

We finally gave up on Scamp’s old laptop this morning and decided to cut our losses and go for a new one. Currys in Bishopbriggs was the place to go with a better selection than JL. After much indecision, soul searching and cups of coffee, she eventually settled on an HP 14” laptop, only to find that they didn’t have one in the store, the nearest store that did have one was Braehead, in fact it had eight. Braehead is on the other side of Glasgow.

The Juke’s satnav knew where it was and delivered us to the door. It was like walking into a time machine. This store looked exactly like the one we’d just left twenty minutes before, and I mean exactly! Even down to the displays all being the same with the same machines and in the same places. Weird. That’s the great thing about AutoCad. The architect draws one building and simply adjusts the sizes slightly to suit different ground areas and bang. You have cloned another store. It’s almost like there’s a factory somewhere churning out Currys PC World stores to order.

Anyway, we found the laptop easily because, of course, it was in exactly the same place relative to the front door. That’s where the efficiency ended. Lots of black clad Currys PC World employees looking busy, carrying pieces of paper or clipboards. Nobody ever questions you if you’re carrying a piece of paper. Even less likelihood of an questions being asked if you’ve got a clipboard in your hand. Eventually after about fifteen minutes of standing being ignored by all the sales people, a lady with a clipboard asked if she could help. Scamp said “Yes, I want that one.” The lady said she’d put us in the queue and told us there was one gentleman in the queue before us. She didn’t write our name on the clipboard, which was probably just for show and after another then minutes our assistant arrived. Scamp repeated her “Yes, I want that one” speech and off we went to get the order processed. He gaily typed the details into the computer and told us they only had one, the display model. When he turned the monitor around to prove it, Scamp noticed it was a totally different model. He grumbled something about it being the right model and when he returned, he had a piece of paper and told us that someone (?) had put the wrong model name in front of the computer. Not so, we’d already checked. Half a dozen times. We’d had about 25 minutes to make sure while we waited. The new bit of paper had the correct model number and there were now thirteen models of that type in stock. I think they breed them in that warehouse.

Long story short, we finally got the ‘puter. We didn’t even have to endure the refusal to purchase Mickysoft Office 365 or the insurance package. I think he just wanted us to go. As we left we had to surrender our invoice so the guard at the door could check that we weren’t stealing a laptop, or buying a memory stick and trying to get through the exit carrying a laptop. I’m still not sure what that was all about.

Setup at home was the usual overdone Mickysoft pantomime, but in the end was fairly painless. We even managed to remove the old Micksoft Office Home from my old Tosh and release the license so that it could be installed in the new computer. By the way, it’s a 14″ HP with an i5 processor, 8GB memory and 128GB SSD. Just in case you wanted to know. 128GB isn’t much once you count in the room needed for Windows 10 and all it’s airs and graces. So once I got the hard drive out of the old HP we copied only the necessary files on to the new one.  I am reliably informed that Jigsaw World works perfectly.

After that I went a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD there, before returning to make the best spaghetti I’ve made in years. The secret was some extra special Italian tinned tomatoes. Lovely thick sauce in them. Cirio Pulpa, look for them.

My apologies to JIC for the superexcess of Technospeak in today’s blog.

Tomorrow we’re going out somewhere, anywhere but Currys PC World.

Just when you think you’ve solved the problems – 6 September 2018

Another one pops up its ugly head.

<Technospeak>
Today’s problem came this morning. Scamp told me her laptop wasn’t charging, did we have another power supply? Well, yes we had another two laptop power supplies, but neither of them had the same connector as Scamp’s. However, armed with a voltmeter I checked the output voltage of her power supply and it was fairly close to the specification of 18v. It was actually running at 19.4v, but it has been running at that for seven years now and hasn’t given any problems until today. I didn’t reckon that was the problem.
I prowled the InterWeb looking for someone with the same problem and there were a few. The supposed best solution was to remove the battery and power supply then hold down the power switch on the laptop for at least 15 seconds to “possibly reset the CMOS”. I didn’t like the ’possibly’ part, but I tried it anyway. Replaced the battery and the power supply. It didn’t work. I then tried removing the battery as someone suggested and just connecting the power supply. It didn’t work. Reseat the memory? That didn’t work.
Powered up the iMac and loaded Google and told Scamp to use it to look for a new laptop while I went to the physio.
</Technospeak>

He listened to my update on all things knee and pronounced that part of the problem is with my hamstrings which seem to have become irritated (or irradiated) along with the ligaments. Four needles and a blast or two with the laser settled it down a bit. Two weeks off and then we’ll have an update. We talked bikes and cycling for the rest of the hour.

Between me swearing at Scamp’s HP and getting my two-weekly perforation with needles, the plumber had arrived and groaned when he saw the limited space available to him to fit the new tap. Half an hour and a lot of huffing and puffing later the tap was fitted and working and although it does produce one drip ever 15 minutes or so, it seems as if it works.

The problem with the power supply is still there. One possible solution is to replace the CMOS battery which is a tiny capsule containing a 1.5v hearing aid battery with a twist of red and white wires that connect to a socket on the motherboard. You can buy them in Maplin for about £2. And there is the problem. Maplin is no more. So now I have to source the battery. Probably Amazon will have them for £1 with £3 P&P. It would be nice it it worked. It might.

Today’s PoD, a seed pod, was seen in St Mo’s in a little bit of sunshine between rain, thunder and lightning and scarily heavy hail showers. A bit of a mixed day weatherwise.

Tomorrow we go laptop hunting I think.

Coming Down – 27 August 2018

Returning to normal today. No security checks, no check-in required, but it was raining.

Warning, this paragraph may contain Technospeak
Scamp went to buy Tesco, or at least that’s how it seemed, considering the weight of the shopping bags I carried in. While she was there, I posted the backlog of photos on Flickr. One of the great things about Lightroom is that you can export three or four days of photos as a catalog from one computer and import them into another. Not only are the photos imported, but any adjustments you’ve made to them are imported too. Another feature of Lightroom is the ability to geotag photos using the ‘Maps’ panel. You just drag and drop the photos on to the map and Lightroom automatically adds the location info to the files. That’s a feature I hadn’t used until today.
Technospeak all gone!

My contribution to the day was watering the slug nematodes into all the exposed earth I could find. I’m sure one wee woman thought I was completely aff ma’ heid when she saw me watering the flower pots just after the rain had stopped. It would have taken too long to explain to her that I was watering in microscopic worms that would kill the slugs and eat their eggs and that the best time to do it was after rain. It would have taken too long and it wouldn’t have changed her opinion. The coarse rose I bought ’Dahn Sarf’, as Ray would say, was a bit better than the normal medium rose, but still not really coarse enough. However it did the job and that’s it done for this year. We’ll see if those microscopic assassins have done their work next year DV.

Since we were going to salsa later than usual, I had enough time left to go over to St Mo’s and capture a pretty red dragonfly, but you’ll have to look on Flickr for that, because I decided that PoD should be a landscape view of the park. Just a little gentle adjustment to brighten it up a bit because, although the rain had stopped, it was a bit dull today.

Salsa tonight was a one hour class with a silly wee Rueda move a bit like the despicable Enroscate  and a reprise of various moves we’d been doing over the last four or five weeks. Knee survived, but it was giving me gyp all through the class. Maybe have to go see David on Wednesday, Tuesday being his day off, as Scamp reminded me tonight.

Tomorrow looks dry, so I may take the Dewdrop out for a run.