One of my photos

Technology nil, Skuds 2

May 19th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

I got my user ID and password for the Town Hall network today, so I popped in after work and got myself all set up so I can now get to the emails from home. That is going to make everything a lot easier from now on. I think I got to it in the nick of time, before the backlog built up too much. Only 44 emails since the account was set up the other day.

When I got home I had a much tougher challenge – sorting out Jayne’s World of Warcraft account. What made it even more fun is the fact that I have never played the game. The situation was that the program that apparently runs everything,, would not run. The Blizzard support people had said it might be a US version and it would be best to uninstall it and re-install the EU version so I tried to do that and soon ended up in a real vicious circle.

The program would not uninstall. An error message said that applying the patches to bring it up-to-date first would enable the uninstall. Already it was sounding a bit strange – upgrading software just so I can delete it. I tried, but the upgrade failed, saying there was something wrong and that the best solution would be to uninstall the whole thing. Catch-22!

I tried everything that Blizzard suggested and still no joy. I had basically given up, but noticed that AV had been turned off, and was out-of-date anyway. I downloaded some new AV software, installed it, and straightaway it detected some threats and removed them. Nothing too serious, just some adware crap. On a hunch I put back all the system settings I had changed and rebooted the PC, after which everything was fine and World of Warcraft was back in working order. As a bonus, there are a lot fewer pop-up adverts in Firefox now.

Yet again, having the lucky touch seems to trump technological knowledge :)

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Not lost in translation

May 19th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite things is to get hold of pre-publication proofs of new books, especially if they are well-written and a pleasure to read. Last week I read just such a book – The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent.

Apart from anything I think the writer deserves a prize for having the most French name imaginable.

One of the best aspects of the book is the unpredictability of the story, which is something I always like. For me it has the sort of feel that the film Being John Malkovich has, where everything is just a little bit quirky. The difference is that everything in this book is at least possible.

Because a large part of the enjoyment depends on those little surprises, I won’t spoil the pleasure for anybody else by giving any of them away, except for the starting premise. [Read more →]

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Electile dysfunction

May 9th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

The last day or so went by in a bit of a blur, with frantic last-minute campaigning, the election day stuff itself and then the two election counts and a disrupted sleep cycle. As I am not any sort of political expert, there is zero chance of me composing a reasoned and erudite essay about what happened, so instead I’ll just spew out a few random thoughts and observations from the whole circus, probably not even in chronological order. [Read more →]

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Tactical voting

May 5th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Sky News were talking about websites that facilitate vote-swapping for people wanting to vote tactically this year, like VoteSwap and Swap My Vote.  I have been lucky in that I have never lived anywhere that tactical voting would have applied for me, Labour has always been 1st or 2nd so a pro-Labour vote is the same as an anti-Tory one, so I never had to decide whether to vote with my head or my heart.

The amazing thing is that people up and down the country are doing all these calculations, second-guessing what others in their constituency will do and what people in the rest of the country might do and yet when there was a referendum on AV, which would have solved all that, politicians were telling us that it would be ‘too complicated’ for the public to understand.

Sounds to me like AV is easier to understand than what people are actually doing.

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Back from the dead

April 10th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

It has been an exciting day today for various reasons – the council published the lists of candidates for next month’s elections, I picked up my new glasses so I can read the list, and I managed to give the kiss of life to my Nexus 7 tablet. [Read more →]

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Mystic Ivy

March 6th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Today we went out to Essex for our second funeral of the week. This time it was Auntie Ivy. In terms of strict biology she was not actually my auntie, but on the other hand she was because she was sort of everybody’s auntie, having had 105 years to accumulate honorory nephews and neices.

Despite her remarkable age, I think we were still all a little surprised that she died. At one of her birthday parties she said to me “who would have thought I would get to 104?” and I told her that when we went to her 103rd birthday party we thought there was a fairly good chance. Thats the way statistics work, once she reached 103 she was more likely to reach 104 than I was, and when she reached 104 she was more likely to reach 105, and when she reached 105 there didn’t seem to be any reason why she wouldn’t reach 106.

So why ‘Mystic Ivy’? Nothing supernatural about it. When she started slowing down a bit in the 1990′s Ivy became more reliant on her walking stick, and she was foever calling out “where’s me stick?” and so a nickname was born.

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I’m not a racist but…

February 28th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

…I think my mobile phone might be a little racist, even if only inadvertantly.

I was adding somebody called Gurinder to the contacts on my phone and it auto-corrected it to “Grinder”. Seriously though, why on Earth should auto-correct be enabled on fields for names?

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No wonder he’s going

February 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics, Technology

When Francis Maude first talked about combining all the government websites into one big one, that part of me that had worked in IT since before there even was an internet, thought it sounded a bit risky. The principle isn’t too bad: why not provide a single front end, or a portal? It could be an improvement, as long as you don’t just put the whole thing in the hands of a bunch of Silicon Roundabout chancers. But it sounds like that is exactly what they did…

I have to admit that I didn’t notice anything wrong because I only use one tiny part of the website, the bit for renewing car tax, and that bit works just fine. I guess that most people are in the same boat, and see that the only bit they use is OK, which makes it easier to accept when the Cabinet Office pops up to say it is a huge success and is saving pots of money.

Reading between the lines of the story though, it sounds like the whole set-up of the Government Digital Service is ripe for a sitcom mashup of The Thick Of It, The IT Crowd and Nathan Barley.

Let’s scrap a load of complicated computer systems that took years of development and testing, replace them with a new one, built by people who are more concerned about SEO than the back end, and think that a user requirements spec is for cissies! Who would have thought that advising people to store petrol in the cupboard under the stairs was not the silliest idea of Maude’s after all?

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February 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

This time yesterday I had never heard of Naarden, now it is on my list of places I really fancy visiting – and unlike most of the other places on my list (e.g. Tromso, Uruguay) it is actually affordable to get to.

If, like me yesterday, you aren’t aware of the place then I defy you to Google it and not want to go there. Even on Google Maps’ satellite view it looks brilliant.

What with me being technically gifted and all, I could easily put links to it here, or include some pictures, but I think you will enjoy discovering it for yourself.

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How the other half live

February 14th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

A was a little gobsmacked the other day, while reading this bit of property porn on the local paper’s website. It is about a house for sale for £900,000. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a cellar,  a stable block converted to a games room, and 1.25 acres of land. If that wasn’t enough, it has planning permission for an extension to make the kitchen bigger and add a fifth bedroom.

To paraphrase Loyd Grossman, who would live in a house like this? Well it turns out that…

Julian believes Winnsfold would be ideal for a small family, a couple who are downsizing or anyone looking for the grandeur of an Edwardian home in a countryside setting that is only 45 minutes from London by train.

At a time when social housing tenants are being victimised for daring to have a spare box room, it turns out that the middle-class norm is to have four bedrooms for a couple. I do wonder what Julian thinks a large family would need to accommodate them?

I guess it didn’t help that I was also reading a book that described living conditions in the cities before the post-war building boom, with a dozen people sharing a single room and sharing their outside toilet with several similar households.

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