Motoring News

We picked up the new car today, and first impressions are all good – well almost, Megan said she preferred the colour of the old one. 🙂

It rides better that the last one, I think the larger alloys help, the engine is more responsive (although it’s the same size so it was presumably just old age that let the last one down a bit) and we’ve discovered it’s also got a rain sensor that controls the speed of the intermittent wipers – very neat. The service from Park’s was excellent as usual and to top it all Angela was presented with a big bouquet of flowers as we were leaving!

It’s been another busy week in the Bamber household – Tuesday night dad went the King’s Theatre in Glasgow with Uncle Darren to see Rik Mayall in The New Statesman. It had obviously been updated for current poltical climate, but there was all the usual physical humour and comical facial expressions you’d expect from Rik Mayall. Yes Prime Minister it’s not, but good fun all the same.

Thursday was Megan’s end of term concert and graduation ceremony – although grauduation ceremony is probably a bit of a grand term for moving from ante pre-school to pre-school, but who a I to quibble. I’ve uploaded a photo from the concert, and one of a couple of tigers that went for lunch with Mum and Grandad afterwards, to the flickr account – they should be visible on the badge above.

Thursday evening was a 20 over a side cricket match up at Clydesdale. Poloc batted first and scored 193-2 of their 20 overs – we didn’t bowl that well, and even I got the chance to turn my arm over and watch the ball fly to the boundary. We started batting well enough though and by the time I got the crease we were around 60 runs shy of the total with 8 overs and 6 wickets in hand. Another brief cameo followed with 9 off 5 balls, including a sublime on-drive for four, before I was trapped lbw – fortunately the run rate didn’t suffer and eventually we ran out winning the game with 3 wickets and 10 balls to spare.

Flickr and F-Spot

I’ve been experimenting with flickr and f-spot – the personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop.

You can do all the things you’d expect from a photo management application with f-spot, but the really nice feature is the ability to export directly to your flickr account – resizing and tagging automatically. To test it out I’ve uploaded a photo of the new car (pinched from the Volvo website) and one of Megan’s Sports Day – as she tries to choose which scarf to wear for the fancy dress race!

I’ve added a flickr badge to the top of this page too, so you’ll be able to see those and new any photos I add in the coming weeks – which will be handy for documenting the work on the extension.

Wasn’t overly impressed by the html code that flickr supply for their html badge though – whilst it mostly worked it was frankly a bit of a shambles and broke the validation of this site with a number of basic errors. I hacked it around a bit and came up with the much simpler (and syntactically correct!) version you see above – well I like it anyway…

It’s a done deal

Having decided it was probably a good idea to think about replacing my car this year, we went out today and bought a new one!

Well it’s not exactly a new one – but at least it’s new to us. I was very happy with the V70, it was only really the age and the mileage that were a concern, so I was already thinking about replacing it with another. A quick trawl round the Volvo Selected Used Car site threw up a possible at Park’s – the local dealer in Ayr.

It was basically the same car as we have now (same engine, same trim level) but on a 2003 plate with just 19,000 on the clock – so two and half years younger and 80,000 miles less. The only other differences were the 2003 model has climate and traction control as standard (which ours doesn’t) and larger alloys, but was missing the family pack (power child locks/integrated booster seats) and rear parking sensors.

We went along this morning to check it out (Megan was still at Nana’s) and were suitably impressed – it’s in a very nice ruby red pearl paint, and excellect condition as you would expect from the mileage. The sticker price was a very reasonable 12k, and they offered a generous 4.5k in part exchange on the old one.

We decided to add the rear park sensors (I’d only forget they weren’t there anymore!) and also an iPod adapter to allow you to control your iPod from the stereo. After adding 12 months road tax, an MOT, two new tyres and a bit of haggling the cost to change was just a little over 8k.

They’ve got to fit the rear park sensors and iPod adaptor this week, but it should be ready to pick up on Friday. 🙂

Saturday Update

Well its Saturday again and I’m home alone working on another migration – been a straightfoward one though so should be finished before teatime with a bit of luck. Angela and Megan are off to Glasgow for lunch with Kimberley and baby Rory, then Megan’s staying at Nana’s again tonight so we can have the night out we didn’t manage the other weekend with Angela’s dodgy foot – just a shame Jim, Clare & Dave aren’t here this weekend!

Been a busy week this week – missed the footy on Tuesday night because we were attending an adoption meeting in Glasgow. To be honest it was quite disheartening, the explained that as we fall under the Glasgow area then the vast majority of babies that come up for adoption have been removed from their mother’s due to extreme neglect or drug/alcohol dependency. The agency are also still very keen for adopted children to maintain contact with their birth family – we feel we have to be careful that we’re not doing anything that will disadvantage Megan, so we’ve got some difficult decisions to make if we’re to take this any further.

Got some good news from Amnesty this week, one of the Urgent Actions we were sending faxes and emails for recently seems to have had the desired effect…

Lawyer Maria Aparecida Denadai is finally receiving adequate protection from the Federal Police, and is no longer in immediate danger.

She had been receiving death threats and had suffered intimidation as a result of the investigation into the 2002 killing of her brother, Marcelo Denadai, as he was preparing to reveal evidence of political corruption. In mid-February, after her case had been referred to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, she was provided with protection by the Federal Police. However, this protection was at first withdrawn, and was then inadequate once it was reinstated.

It is only after persistent complaints that she is now receiving adequate protection.

Amnesty International will continue to monitor the situation, and take further campaigning action as necessary. No further action is requested from the UA network. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.

It’s good to know you can make a difference with these things.

Unfortunately didn’t have a positive effect on my snooker playing – Darren & Elaine came down for tea on Wednesday and we left the girls talking weddings for a game down in Largs. Darren won the first four frames, and although I clawed a couple back he still ran out winning to stretch the lead to 7-3 overall.

The Volvo’s at 99,500 miles and whilst I was planning on running it a bit longer I’ve realised the PCP on Angela’s car is going to be up in a little over 12 months so I might be better changing it this year rather than having to deal with both next year. It’s 5 and a half years old now, and rumour’s abound that if you get a car allowance from work then you can’t run a car more than 6 years old, so I might be forced to change it next year. Would be better to do it this year if I can find a good deal, and I may just have spotted one – watch this space…

On the web front Dave’s website and blog are now up and running – with some very dodgy jingles from CUR to enjoy – and it seems like Kayee’s been bitten by the blogging bug too.

Everybody’s at it! 🙂

Another Blog

Seem’s like Dave’s been bitten by the blogging bug as well, and we’re now going to be hosting three blog’s on this site – his blog will be accessible at

He’s also promised to upload some of his tunes, including some jingles from the old CUR days which should be good for a giggle.

Speaking of CUR it was creepily disturbing to see Bignell (or should I say Spencer Kelly – if you were going to change your name would you just change the Bignell bit?) on the News at One on the BBC last week – spouting some garbage on Bill Gates decision to spend some more time with his charities. Have to say they got more sense out of that interviewee they mistook for Guy Kewney the other week, you’d think the BBC would be a bit more choosy about their ‘experts’ after that debacle…

Another Win

It was cricket again yesterday – we were playing at Ardrossan yesterday and managed another narrow victory.

We win the toss and batted first posting a big score – 299 for 7 from our 50 overs. I was batting number six this week, but the score was already 270 with only four overs left when I made it to the crease, so I was on a bit of a hiding to nothing. Scored seven off five balls before missing a straight one – normal service has been resumed…

Wickets fell steadily during the Ardrossan innings, and although I spilled another straight forward chance at square leg, we had them at 207-8 going into the penultimate over. Whilst we’re restricted to 100 overs in the day, it’s not a limited overs match (if that makes sense) so we needed to take the last two wickets to win the game.

Our legspin bowler was bowling and I found myself at legslip as we tried to put pressure on the batsmen. The fourth ball of the over was down legside and clipped straight at me – fortunately I managed to hang on to this one. The last man wandered out of his crease on the final ball of the over and was stumped, so we ended up winning by 72 runs.

DVD Troubles

Been having all sorts of problems with my DVD drive recently, just trying to access a disk in it was causing the system to lock up – or at least run very slowly. A quick check of the system logs showed lots of DMA and Drive Not Ready errors – I was pretty sure the drive itself was ok, so what could be the cause of the problem?

The most recent change was to the kernel, an upgrade to 2.6.16-gentoo-r9 so that was the first suspect. I’ve have two hard drives in my Shuttle, one is the primiary master on the first IDE channel (the DVD is primary master on the second channel) and one on the first SATA channel. The motherboard uses the Intel 82801EB/ER (ICH5/ICH5R) IDE Controller to run both the IDE and SATA channels, which in turn means the kernel uses the ata_piix module to handle the disks.

Some digging around this module showed potential clashes with the generic IDE module that could cause similar problems to those I was experiencing, however I’d already disabled that so it wasn’t the problem. I also discovered you may need to explicitly enable support for ATAPI devices with this module, by means of a #define in the libata.h before you compile the kernel, however that was inconclusive and made no difference anyway.

I eventually decided it may be a problem with the firmware in the DVD drive itself – a quick check showed it to be running v1.04 where the Plextor website showed the most recent version to be v1.12. Worth an upgrade I thought, so off to the download section to discover that they only supply a Windows version of the update utility – a bit of a drawback when you’re running Linux.

Goggle came to the rescue again, a search throwing up the answer – which is basically to download the firmware binary from the Plextor site in Belgium and use a little utility called pxupdate that writes that out the DVD drive. Worked first time and so the firmware in the DVD drive was soon updated to v1.12.

A quick reboot and normal service was resumed, DMA access to the DVD was working and it was ripping CDs at over 20x again 🙂

Repaired at last

Got the damaged speaker up to Sevenoaks today, and they fitted the new driver whilst I waited – the repair only took ten minutes, and I could probably have done it myself. The drive unit was only held in by three screws, and the internal connections were all terminated with simple push clips – very neat. It looks good as new, although whether it’s battle scars had actually had any impact on the sound is debatable.

Megan had her sports day at the nursery yesterday, and everyone had a good time. Comedy moment of the event occurred in the second race where the kids had to run to a hoop, put on a hat and scarf, run round a cone back to the hoop, remove the hat and scarf and then back to the start as quick as possible. There were hats and scarves everywhere whilst most of the kids tried to get there and back at top speed, when it came to Megan’s turn of course it wasn’t that simple. The scarf was picked up, then the dirt carefully brushed off whilst it was turned the right way round and carefully examined for co-ordination with her outfit – I swear she’d still be there trying to decide which one to wear if one of the nursery teachers hadn’t grabbed her hand and ran with her! 🙂

In other news, after a long wait Google have finally released Google Earth for Linux – the latest beta (version 4) now runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It was possible to run the earlier Windows versions using WINE, but they never worked very well. The proper Linux version is built using Qt and OpenGL and works flawlessly – although the coverage of Seamill is quite low res (US Military obviously not that bothered about what we get up to here – or maybe they are and that’s why you cant see?)

A Smashing Weekend

Well it didn’t quite go according to the plan, but we still managed a smashing weekend!

Angela managed to fall over at Audrey’s on Friday, around lunchtime, and by the time she hobbled home after 5pm her foot was very painful. A quick trip to Crosshouse Hospital showed there’s no obvious break, but obviously planned activities for the weekend all bit the dust. So Saturday was just spent in the garden drinking beer and watching the footy – Jim and I managed to stay awake, but the less than inspiring performance sent Dave to sleep before half time.

Megan still spent Saturday night at Nana’s so there was a late night in for the rest of us, playing Angela’s new board game (Scottish Quest) and then a bit of poker.

Sunday was spent in Largs, Angela hobbling around as best she could, with dinner at Fluid (after I’d rescued Megan from Nana’s). There were a few games of air hockey, and some dubious Sega Rally driving in the arcades before Megan was off to bed and the Really Nasty Horse Racing game was brought out. Dave managed to clean us all out, by the sneaky tactics of not winning when we bet on him – someone remind me next time not to bet on him!

Monday we went to Kelburn Castle Country Park and had a bit of fun round the Secret Forest – and even hop-a-long managed to get about – then back to the airport for the flights to Stansted. Megan was said to see everyone go, and even daddy was getting a bit emotional at the airport – it was loads of fun and can’t wait to see everyone again soon 🙂

Back to work with a bang though, the migration staggered through the weekend but the rails have really come off the last couple of days – loads of connection problems (dodgy firewall at our end apperently, won’t be replaced until tomorrow) and a badly timed backup that killed an upgrade. What should have been done and dusted last night is still dragging on at the moment – we’re trying to find an alternative way of connecting so we can finish it off…

That was the week

Well the week (and the course) has finally come to an end, and the World Cup is about to start (hurrah!). The course was good, but I was up until 1am last night working on getting a migration going for a Housing Association down south – weekend hasn’t arrived a moment too soon.

Jim, Clare & Dave are all coming up tonight, and I’ve got a selection of beers in for the occasion – there’ll be much drinking and footy watching tomorrow, although I think Clare & Angela may have shopping plans. Megan’s staying with Nana on Saturday so we can have a night out, and as the flights back aren’t till Monday afternoon we’ll still have plenty of time to get up to all sorts of things.

The DVD player in the study has packed in (I think it was the heat!) but since it was only £15 don’t suppose we can expect too much – probably would have cost that much in petrol to take it back and get it fixed! We splashed out on Toshiba SD-150 to replace it instead (all of £30+VAT from CostCo) which warrants five stars from What HiFi and seems all together far more sturdy, and provides a much better picture – Megan has already applied the ‘Totally Spies’ test and given it the thumbs up.

Managed to squeeze in a game of doubles (snooker) on Wednesday night too, but we were all rubbish so only finished four frames the whole evening (compared to six last time) – for the record Gary & Darren won 3-1, but 0-0 would probably have been a fair result…