Sunday, November 30, 2008

Are we not men?

Hooray, he's kicked the ball. Now the ball is over there, that man has it now. That's an interesting development. Maybe he'll kick the ball? He has indeed and apparently that deserves a round of applause.

No self respecting football fearing, IT geek could possibly be so rude as to have missed

The IT Crowd

But just in case you did head over to Channel 4's 4onDemand player right now

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving up on Vista Backup

Since I have to confess to still being a working man even as the ski season approaches, finding the opportunity to build a replacement computer for Agatas mother is something I am struggling to find the time for.

However scrimping on a computer build is not in my nature. So after installing another faithful Shuttle SN25P with Vista 32 I got to the part where I'd made a full system backup and it was time to do a restore. I mean, you all test your restores don't you? What is the general process for Microsoft backup (and what went wrong)?

  • All applications closed and no activity on PC
  • Start, Control Panel, Backup and Restore
  • Backup Computer,
  • Where do you want to save backup, Next
  • Wait for Successful completion
  • Shutdown System, Remove OS hard disk, insert new hard disk of same or larger size than OS replaced
  • Start PC with original Vista installation DVD
  • Fails miserably with error
Element not found

Apart from the GUI the next step is to Boot from Vista DVD then get to the command prompt and use DISKPART to look at the disk configuration, then use a command lone and use wbadmin directly to perform the restore again

wbadmin get versions -backuptarget:z: 11/29/2008-12:17

wbadmin start sysrecovery -version:11/29/2008-12:17 -backuptarget:z: -recreatedisks

Unfortunately exactly the same error, and after another 30 minutes Googling I am afraid I gave up. This experience is like having a friend, you thought a good friend. He's always promising you things but when it comes down to it he lets you down!

So then, back to the product suite I've previously used to use with great success... Acronis

For Vista 32 home use I need only to buy Acronis True Image Home 2009. This costs about 50 Euro. Here is the process

  • Your PC is going to need a CD writer and a second hard disk which will store the OS image
  • Download the trial Acronis True Image
  • Install onto the PC which is going to do the backup. Enter no license key and you have 1 5 day trial
  • Goto Protection State, Create bootable rescue media which starts Acronis Media Builder
  • Click Next till Bootable Media Selection displayed and select your CD writer. Put in a blank CD and create a bootable restore bootstrap CD
  • Goto Backup and Restore, My Computer Partition Backup, Select your boot drive (normally C:)
  • Target archive, new Backup Archive, select place on target disk e.g. x:\krecik\20081130.krecik.tib
  • Create Image (example 50GB in about 10 minutes)
  • Shutdown PC
  • Replace OS hard disk with a test Hard disk of capacity greater than or equal to source
  • Boot PC using Acronis Rescue Media CD
  • Select Acronic True Image Home
  • Select Backup and Restore, Manage and Restore, Browse for Backup - Select the .tib file you just made
  • Click Restore button at top of screen, restore whole disks and partitions, select the NTFS disk and MBR/track0 items, the target disk (your new one, not the one containing the backup!), follow last prompts and restore

With Acronis it all worked fine - first time

And finally here are the top 8 things we tried to validate my Shuttle Build

  • All BIOS settings written down
  • Vista 32 installed with SP1 and all subsequent fixes, AVG anti virus and Microsoft Defender loaded
  • Backup and restore tested - with Acronis True Image Home
  • Ability to start and shutdown 10 times in sequence without error - or I lose a finger, Hibernation and sleep modes tested
  • LogMeIn installed for remote support and troubleshooting
  • ReCycle Bin set on just in case
  • CD and DVD reading and burning tested, Audio output tested, DVD region set
  • 168 hour Burn in tested

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cutting Back

You might ask how the addition of another large Flatpanel screen can be counted as cutting back in our household. The answer is simple, in these uncertain times I felt it unwise to invest in a further 30 inch HP LP3065 FlatPanel Screen for the study Server PC

I would attempt to justify this new lavish Dual Screen setup if I explain that I have had to put up with so little for so long. My first experience of a computer terminal was the classic Texas Silent 700 pictured here.

Then the first terminal I actually bought was the Lear Siegler ADM3A.

So with this history you can surely see how having 2 large screens for the Server would be eminently reasonable. To keep the finances down we have bought a real TV for the lounge, my first since 1999 (!), and thereby relocated the existing PC screen into the computer room.

We are now talking screen real estate of 5120 pixels wide and 1600 pixels high. That should be enough for now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Now that's a big disk

Mikaeel Jackson

As Chris Rock once famously pronounced

But today it seems MJ has given the world a further suprise and converted to Islam.

I never thought I would hear myself say this but I'm not sure who I feel most sorry for Michael or the Muslim faith.

Perhaps indeed it is not just a match made in heaven but, made on earth too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

God Trumps

Christina Martin published a nice little article which can help all you unbelievers out there to choose your first or even more appropriate religion to your belief (or disbelief) system. Click on the picture for more details.

(Devised by Christina Martin. Cartoons by Martin Rowson)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

London again

Another weekend in London. Is it time to come (to this) hometown again?

The No Internal Combustion Engine (NICE) Electric car they want me to buy without sitting inside it or evening opening the trunk

Despite the credit crunch I would not recommend the new Westfield shopping centre if you suffer from agrophobia

This Personal Trainer is not recommended

A classic London night-time street scene

The cost of a GPS unit in WH Smits falls to a new low

Despite being immobilised and ill Marcus unrealistically looks at winter running gear

Our beautiful local park

Contrary to reports this is Princess Dianas house and not ours

One of our many squirrel friends

The Royal Albert Hall on the edge of our park

Nearby Hyde Park, very popular with the horses

Special Horse diversion

And the end of the diversion!

Speakers Corner

Let me think, do I need this?

After winning the Euromillions we will relocate to a house on our local Embassy Street

Further strolls in the park

Horse traffic light controls .. how thoughtful

Skating by the Natural History Museum (currently featuring the Darwin exhibition)

The Victoria Memorial

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anxiously awaiting Christmas Presents

Not being the greatest believer in all of Diwali, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Yule or Christmas and with the credit crunch on my side I'm hoping not to receive a barrage of trashy seasonal presents.

Thinking that offence could be the best form of defense I am trying to find a really annoying (yet inexpensive) gift that could be preemptively sent as a suitable warming.

I've found this superb One touch Automatic Jar opener

Check the videos at the bottom of the link!

Necessarily large it performs a sort of vaguely useful purpose so its recipient could not really discard it on the grounds of utility, and it's big enough to clutter up their kitchen worktop or drawer. Plus, sent to a family it sort of says to the husband: your wife needs this because you've not strong enough, and to the wife it paves the way for the soundbite "well if you helped me in the kitchen I wouldn't need this"

Of course I jest! So what would I really like for Christmas?

Well nothing for ourselves in fact. We are well stocked with clothes, food, and sufficient possessions such that more stuff would seem ever so unnecessary. If you feel you would like to contribute you could do us some of the following favours (and not just for Christmas)

Thanks to concerned friends for sending me these

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I think therefore I scan

A guy once told me one time don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat should you feel the heat around the corner.

In this line from Heat, Robert De Niro laments the fact that his chosen profession demands extreme mobility. And so in this modern world many of us face a similar; although less extreme challenge.

How can we take it all with us?

I mean our Bank Statements, photographs, early schoolbooks, old letters from mum and dad, all those little mementos that actually mean so much. If your profession demands you frequently move county, country or even continents .. the answer is


I'm just going to outline the rudiments of a scanning solution that has enabled us to digitise decades of information and place it all onto a single 1TB Hard Disk.

  • You will need the 2 Scanners below and a Windows PC (I've not researched a MAC solution so will not vouch for it)
  • We chose the HP 7410 flatbed scannerThis is nothing fancy. Use this to scan books that you don't want to guillotine. (i.e. you scan it, but also choose to keep it - how quaint)
  • A HP Scanjet 7800

This superb scanner can scan a double sided sheet of paper in mono or colour in a 3 seconds or less.

Use this to scan most documents. Suggestions: for mono documents 300 dpi, Black and White, 50% brightness. For Colour documents 300dpi, 24-bit colour, 50% brightness, auto-adjust colour.

If you choose another check that it can scan directly to searchable PDF else you'll have to use Adobe Acrobat or equivalent on each doc and that can take a while!

  • Next, conceive a filing hierarchy. This is just a set of organised directories and sub directories which can grow over time and still allow you to find everything.

Don't keep too many directories in one place. And envisage this structure to last up to 200 years (no I'm not kidding)

  • Decide on an output scan format
I suggest that the output scan should be searchable, text Adobe PDF. This means that the output is not just an image but that the text may be copied and pasted into a windows notepad for example. It will also allow your scans to be indexed by Google if they are placed on a Website or by your local PC search tool for local copies.

  • Decide on a file naming format
Books can be stored by name, but for time sensitive documents we use

YYYYMMDD Description.pdf

e.g. 20081102 314MB ESDI Hard drive 15GBP ebay.pdf

  • Decide on a backup strategy
Your scans should have a local backup and an offsite backup, regularly updated. The local backup protects against hard disk failure, the remote backup protects against theft and other malicious data removal from home.

Remember although this scanning will eventually save you time, it is going to take a lot of time. If you spend 1000 hours scanning then lose it all in a hard disk crash you are not going to be happy.

  • Be very patient
Scanning seems to take forever, but slowly but surely you will get there. The 3 phases are:
  1. Initial elation - can't stop scanning
  2. Overscan rejection - stop using every waking hour to scan in a realisation that it's extremely boring and you can take your time
  3. Steady state - You finish scanning everything you want, now you just scan notable new documents you receive or buy

  • Be prepared to throw away the originals
You are going to chop up the originals, scan them, then discard. If the originals are sensitive you are going to shred them. If you are not prepared to throw away the originals (except for legal or extremely sentimental reasons) then stop now.
  • Buy a Professional Guillotine
A strong guillotine will enable you to chop up your source magazines or books into a neat set of individual pages ready for that hungry HP 7800 scanner.

Now at last you are ready to go

Happy scanning!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Jam in Lausanne

I bring shocking news from Lausanne. Today we experienced a traffic jam in Lausanne! Because no local would credit this as truth I enclose the following photograph:

Yes indeed we are talking about the very long awaited Lausanne m2 metro. Even by Swiss standards this has been a long time coming, and to cap it all (due to problems with the door alignment I understand) the actual opening was postponed for about a month. Oh the shame of it all!

But this Sunday, November 2nd, Agata and I felt it was time to give it ago. Alas, it seems the entire population of Lausanne had a similar idea. We were therefore as shocked as a local Swiss to find a full Metro m2 train, so full we had to wait for a second one. Once inside it was fun to see whole families swaying about wildly under the acceleration of the train, clearly a new experience for some

So how was it ... Mostly wonderful, the M2 is fast and quickly took us from Ouchy by the lake upto our closest stop Fourmi. We chose to walk up the stairs and found out 5 floors later that it really has been built some way under the ground! As expected the stations are spotless, the trains are spotless and long may that continue.

We have had to wait 3 years for the Metro to arrive but it is here now .. thank you muchly Lausanne.