Sometimes . . . Grrrr


There are occasions when Microsoft Windows will make life so difficult that murder becomes an attractive option. I can usually have a go at fixing a problem when I know what the problem is. But then there are times when even knowing the problem leaves you in the dark when trying to fix them.

Windows 10

Today was one such occasion. It started yesterday evening when my laptop informed me that Windows needs to restart to complete the latest update. I like to get things like that out of the way as soon as possible, so I did the required restart and cracked on with some other stuff I needed to do.

It became apparent after about 40 minutes that something was amiss. The screen showed the usual blue update screen warning me not to turn my computer off as it was ‘working’ on the updates and was at 0%. Twenty minutes later, it was still at 0%!

It was then that I took drastic action and put my laptop into ‘sleep mode’. Upon waking up again everything seemed fine until it got stuck again 10 minutes later. A bit more sleep mode and then the update finished. By this time it was getting late and I decided that I needed to go into ‘sleep mode.’

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SFC.exe

This morning new problems appeared. Everything was running very slowly and some applications were simply refusing to open. I remembered from my previous job that if there was a problem, I should run the “System File Checker” (sfc.exe). This would find the problem and I could then look for a solution. It took about 2½ hours to run, but the system still seemed slow. I was contemplating how I could explain that I needed a new machine when a pop-up occurred telling me that ‘Windows needs to restart …” again. A quick look in the update settings told me that the previous update had not been installed.

Once again I restarted my laptop and after a good 30 minutes, I was back up and running. This time everything was back to normal speed and all the applications were behaving themselves. I’m thinking that yesterdays update file was corrupted somehow and a new version of the update fixed everything. But who knows?

Bit of DIY . . .


I’m looking for a couple of pieces of Meccano to fix the back panel on my computer desk. The desk does not come with a back panel, but some time ago I used an old scrap of hardboard, together with a strip of wallpaper to cover the gap where a panel should be. It works, up to a point. The only issue I have is that I need to get behind the panel from time to time. This effectively means that it cannot be a fixed panel and as such, it tends to fall backward and looks untidy.

The solution I have come up with uses a couple of Meccano fishplates, two screws, and two 3mm washers. The plates would be able to swivel a little enabling me to remove the panel whenever needed. I have hundreds of Meccano parts, but they are hidden away in the loft somewhere and could take a few days to find. I’ve looked online and there are pieces to be had, but either the price is prohibitive (one seller wanted £25.00 for two ‘antique’ parts) or the postage is so high. Either way, they are far too expensive for the job. A trip into the loft looks on the cards

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Work tomorrow! When I started this job, my initial intention was to work for a couple of months whilst looking for something a little more sedate. I was thinking I might find a part-time office type job or maybe even work from home typing up letters and things. It soon became obvious that those types of jobs do not exist anymore. The next plan was to continue until I reached state pension age then fully retire. That didn’t happen and the problem with that idea was that I’m used to the extra money. It pays for the few luxury (essential) items such as wine and whiskey that we enjoy 🤣. There is also the worry that K***’s job, like many others is not as secure as it was 18 months ago

Everyone is doing one …


Well, it seems like it! One of my neighbours is doing one, and an old colleague has just finished his first! So I’m considering doing my own. The only issue I have is what would it be about? I mean they all seem to have a theme. By the way, I’m talking about “Podcasts.”

How difficult can it be? All I need is a microphone and a computer, in fact, I’m creating this post on a laptop that has a built-in microphone. Then there is my smartphone which can capture audio. I have a YouTube account that I can upload the Podcast to, so what is to stop me from broadcasting to the world? Well as I mentioned before “… what would it be about?“. What possible expertise or knowledge, do I have that people may find interesting to hear about.

Then, there is another option to consider. What about a Vlog? Possibly (definitely) a step too far.

Something to think about … maybe.

From then to now … getting the hang of it


For the first few weeks, I felt a little out of place. All the team I was with, bar one had been office workers since leaving school and most of them had been with a Local Authority, so I was a bit of an oddity. Most of them couldn’t seem to get their heads around why, with the qualifications I had, would I want to work in an office. This was something that had been explained to us on the course and so I was expecting it. They soon got over it within a couple of weeks, and I settled down to become an “Officer of The Council” as we were called.

The briefcase was the first thing to be ditched, quickly followed by the fountain pen and dictionary. I had also bought a Rucksacksuit and I soldiered on with that for a couple of months. We shared our office floor with a couple of other sections of the Council and I soon discovered that literally nobody carried a briefcase. Most of the women had some form of shopping/tote bag to supplement their handbag , but the men didn’t seem to have bags at all. I still had my lunch and calculator to carry, so I needed something. I eventually dug out my old school bag, which was one of those thick canvas army types that we used to be able to get from the Army and Navy stores. Now what ever happened to them?

It had been noted at my interview, that I had an interest in computers and technology. This of course led to me being given a ‘very important job’. Everyday, at 4pm I was to  perform the database back-up. Because IBM Computerthere was two types of parking ticket (on-street and car parks) we had two computer systems. The reason for this was that back in 1986 the on-street parking service (parking meters) merged with the off-street car parks service. Each brought their own systems which were not compatible. So the off-street system (car parks) used Microsoft Windows 2.1 and a software package called DataEase, dBase 2 screenwhereas the on-street part of the team had an old IBM machine that ran a program called dBase. It also ran Wordstar and Supercalc, but we never used them. It was dBase 2 that we had, but it was not like the other system which had it’s own built in back-up routine. No with this one, you first had to ‘drop out’ of the database and jump to a ‘DOS prompt’ Then you had to ‘Setpath’ which basically told the computer where to look and then type the back-up command. This had to be exact and had the location of the file to be backed-up, and the location where it was to be backed-up to. You then had to verify the back-up by following a similar routine.

It took me a couple of months before I realised that I could write a batch file to do all the leg work. When it worked first IT Experttime, I was a hero. I had shaved a good 10 minutes of the time and it was far more accurate.. The only downside to this was that I was now the Parking Departments IT expert! Everything from changing the computer plug filing the back-up discs to replacing the printer toner was now my job. I even got asked to ‘have a quick look’ at the photocopier. Other staff started to come to me with their IT related problems and I came to the attention of the IT Department. I was now the unofficial IT support (more on that later) for Parking. If IT wanted any small work doing, then I got the call and was talked through the problem and solutions. I was loving it.

From then to now … a huge change


It was expected that future ‘outsourcing’ of services (the Council did not like the word ‘Privatisation’) would result in a Steam Boilernumber of job losses. This was especially true for the catering services providing mass produced meals. The same number of people can produce 50 meals or 500 meals. It is just a matter of scale, and the large industrial caterers were more than used to this.

In an attempt to minimise job losses, Leeds City Council came up with a plan to try and train staff in threatened roles, to work as office staff. It was quite a big undertaking, but it was surprising how few ‘manual’ workers took up the option. It was posted in the monthly staff Word Processornewsletter, but the program only lasted 1 year before it was closed down, apparently due to lack of support. The way it worked was this: one day a week for 15 weeks, a trainee would attend a variety of courses. These were, touch typing, business letter construction, Council finances, office etiquette and, although computers were few and far between, word processing. The problem where I worked was the availability of the newsletter. It first went around the 4 Care Officers (managers in a word) who usually had it for a week or so, before it was passed to the Care Assistants. There were 20 of those, so it was often out of date before the kitchen staff got their hands on it. However the newsletter in question that had the advertisement for the course, was left in the kitchen by one of the officers, so it was only by chance that I saw the advert. I applied and much to everyone surprise, I got on the course.

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The courses went really well and I passed them all without much trouble. I did struggle with the touch-typing, but I had the speed and got away with it. Each course came with a certificate. They wouldn’t be much use to anyone outside the Council as they were not recognisable awards, but it was till nice to get something for the achievement.

Another aspect of the course was interview skills. We all were given a mock 10 minute interview and then we were given an CVassessment on where we went right or wrong. That proved really useful. One of the trainers was in constant touch with various personnel departments and they got the first notification of any suitable jobs coming up. Towards the middle of July, about 4 weeks before the courses were due to finish, a job came up that I was told that I would be suitable for. They arranged an interview and on the 26th July I found myself sat in the Parking Managers office explaining about my computer skills. I have to mention here that I had a personaTexas Instruments TI99 4al computer at the time and was very proud that I had written a game, that had been published in a leading computer magazine. I explained about the need for accuracy whilst at the same time being prepared for boring repetition. I waffled on about being able to work in a team (catering) and being able to work alone (computer). Interview over, I went back to work. I was due to finish at 5pm that day but had been asked to stay until 6:30 to help with some entertainment that was happening that night.

When I finally got home, K**h told me that Car Park Section had rung and could I ring them at around 9am the next morning. I fully believed that I must have failed the interview and that they wanted to give me the feedback I had asked for. So feeling a little dejected, I rang from the phone in the APH kitchen. I’m told, that I changed colour during that call from my Doubtfulnormal flesh colour through white to red. I had got the job, and after discussing the minimum period of notice (only a week surprisingly) I rang back to say I could start the second week of August.

This did not go down too well with the staff at the home. All wished me luck, but I could tell that they thought I was making a mistake. “You’re a cook not a typist” was one of the more often used phrases, along with “You won’t last five minutes sitting at a desk”. All this could have  been true, but I knew that I was going nowhere in the current job, so really had nothing to lose.

So on Tuesday the 6th August 1990, with my expensive scientific calculator, fountain penBriefcase, pocket dictionary and lunchbox packed neatly into my new briefcase, I found myself back in the Parking Managers office having the office rules explained to me.

A new challenge had begun.

Never usually bother …


Not quite the whole story … I never bother for small amounts! I’m talking about eBay purchases that go wrong. If the sum is less than £10.00, I tend to put it down to experience ebayand never use that seller again. I have a personal blacklist that I refer to when I’m buying something, and add new sellers that don’t come up to the mark.

About a month ago, one of my computer mice (or is it mouses?) started to fail. It was only a cheap wireless-mouseone, but it had lasted about two years. I thought at first it was just a bad battery, but it wasn’t and it had to be consigned to the “Tech Bin” for disposal when I next go to the recycling site. I started using a wired one, but it’s not the same after a wireless one so I looked on my favourite selling site … eBay! There were quite a few for sale within my price range, but I spotted an seller offering two for the price of one, or ‘make me an offer’. I made an offer, and it was accepted. I was well pleased with myself.

They arrived after about two weeks, and as they were coming from China, I thought that was an acceptable length of time. Now for the crux of the matter … they did not work. Angry FaceThe computer could not see either mouse. The seller started nattering a bit about feedback for the sale, so I simply put in the feedback box ‘Don’t work’ and gave it a neutral rating. I thought no more about it and left it at that. Meanwhile, my original mouse had been borrowed by a friend who had taken it to pieces and cleaned some part or other, and handed it back in full working order.

Skip forward to this morning, and an eBay message from the seller asking if I could amend the Refundfeedback, and he would issue a refund. After a bit of messing around with eBay, the said feedback was amended to something like ‘issue resolved with seller’. Within ten minutes I received an email from PayPal to say that I had received a full refund from the seller. I was surprised to say the least and there has not been a request to return the faulty goods.

So I have now raised an issue with another seller regarding another piece of IT equipment that I’m having a problem with. We shall see how that goes.

Problems might just be gone …


For a few weeks now, I’ve been having performance issues with one of my Windows 10 laptops. I’ve uninstalled software that I rarely use, but the issue seems to have remained. What happens is that I’ll be using for example Microsoft Word and suddenly it hangs with the message “Word is not responding” and this will happen three or four times during the session. I end up having to restart Windows and hope the problem has gone away. Often this fixes the issue, but occasionally it doesn’t.

Today, while I was looking at the Task Manager application, I noticed something called ‘software reporting tool’. I had not seen it before and so I ran an online search and discovered that it is a program that checks to see if any software is going to affect the Google Chrome browser. There were reports that it has a high CPU usage when checking and the check often takes 20 minutes or so to run. The date on the file is 4th October which seems to coincide with the second time I had problems. Things seemed to improve after I removed my other printer, but then problems re-emerged a few days later.

The sites I looked at (and I always check a few to see if they say the same thing) told me that the process is not necessary and can be stopped. They also said that Google may restart the process again whenever the Chrome bowser updates. It gave instructions on how to prevent it running and how to prevent Google from restarting it. The instructions for this can be found at https://www.ghacks.net and searching for ‘how to block the Chrome Software reporter tool’.

It may not fix the problem, but the tool sends scan information back to Google, so there may be privacy issues here.

We shall see if there is any improvement.

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On another point, this was written using the WordPress editor on an iPad Mini. I had not thought of that as an option, but it seems to work quite well. I do need to understand how the HTML style tags work for formatting, but there must be a tutorial out there.

 

Too clever for my own good …


This is a little techy. I have been having a problem all week with the performance of my main laptop. Applications were slow to open and even slower to close. I scoured the internet for answers and did everything, bar re-installing Windows, that was suggested. But the problem remained, and it was getting worse. Some programs were now not even opening. Then today I had an idea. You see, I have two laptops on my home network, both with an attached printer. At the beginning of the week, I thought it would be good if I could print to both printers in an effort to save ink, as the other printer never gets used. After a couple of hours and a fair bit of stress, I got it working. I then installed the other printer on my main laptop so that it could be seen. Then all I had to do was to ensure the other laptop and printer were switched on and I could print to it. Really quite pleased with myself at that point.

I didn’t really want to have the other laptop and printer to be on all the time, so I shut both down. This was on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, I started to notice the performance issues. As Tuesday was the day when Microsoft updates Windows, I put the problems down to that. When there was a second update pushed on Wednesday, I was convinced that everything would now be okay. Not so. The performance had improved slightly, but not so as you would notice. It was getting so bad that I began to think I had a virus or something. I searched the internet for the problem and the answers were as I expected: run an anti-virus; run an anti-malware; run a disk clean-up even reformat hard drive and start again. Well I tried all except the last one, but nothing seemed to work. Then another search, came up with something. I may have a corrupt drive recently installed. Hmmm … the only driver recently installed was the printer driver for the other printer. I thought I would have a look at that. I removed the printer from the device list (an I assume that removed the driver) and did a full reboot, rather than a restart.

Now (touch wood) it seems to be back to as normal as it was before. I had a quick online chat with the printer help desk (free thankfully). It would appear, that when the other laptop and printer were switched off any software that you can print from would be looking for the printers when the software opens. As the printer was off, it was not visible and so the delays. I’m not entirely convinced, but it does seem to have been resolved.

(Written with Word 365 – blog template)

Small steps …


This is going to be a little bit techy/geeky, so feel free to move on.

For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to learn a computer programming language. I have had a free programming environment (Visual Studio Community 2017) on all my computers for many years but simply have not had the inspiration to get on and learn something. The bad weather on Thursday suddenly gave me that inspiration. I found an online tutorial called Home and Learn, that went through the basics in Visual Basic.net, but at a pace that wasn’t either too slow or too fast. Many of these tutorials show you how to create the ubiquitous “Hello World” programme. As much of a novice that I am, I think I was past that phase.

So by the end of the day, I had completed a few exercises and had started on a project to build a basic calculator. AndVB Calculator I mean a basic calculator. A calculator that only had a single function … addition. Nothing else … just adding up numbers. By Friday evening, after a few false starts I had successfully built this very simple calculator application. I was feeling very pleased with myself. This self-smugness left me feeling that I could do more. Knowing what I had learnt I felt that it would be not such a difficult task to add another function, such as subtraction. The main issue I had was how to use the coding that I had spent so much time on without losing the initial work. What I needed was a ‘Save as …’ option. But could I find one? It seems that there is no ‘Save as …’ in this version of Visual Studio. I searched the internet but was coming up with various ways that didn’t seem to work for me. I then realised what I needed to do. All that was required was to copy the original project to it’s own backup folder, in another area and then I was free to use the original.

VB Calculator Ver 2Well I won’t bore you with any more details, but after even more false starts than before and a lot of brain-racking I managed to get the subtraction function to work and the calculator now has both an addition and a subtraction button. Can you imagine how much the smugness factor has risen by! I even managed to find out how to make the buttons look like raised buttons instead of the default flat style that seems to be the fashion these days. The next challenge is to add a multiplication and a division button. I’m even thinking ahead for things like a percentage button, but I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself.

At the end of the day though, this not going to get me anywhere. It’s just another hobby that I can enjoy and get satisfaction from.

And on it goes …


So we are on day four of the new bathroom (weekends don’t count) and it seems (?) to be all going to plan. Well someone’s plan anyway. It does seem to be taking a long time. The guys are just on with the grouting of the tiles at the moment, and I understand that the cleaning of the tiles afterwards is a long job, due to the type of tile we have chosen. At the moment, there is the floor to lay, the toilet and sink to fit, the wall unit and under-sink cupboard to install, the lighting to install and fan to remove and finally before the cleanup, a new radiator to fit. They are supposed to finish by Friday … I’m not too sure about that. The main problem is that we can’t do anything. We have had to shut all three bedroom doors to keep the dust down which means that upstairs is out-of-bounds really. K*** has gone to have her nails done and to see her parents, but I have never been comfortable in leaving workmen alone in the house. Even those that we sort of trust. You hear so many stories of break-ins after work has been done. And they do like their tea/coffee breaks, which may account for the time factor.

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I did a silly thing a few weeks ago. It didn’t seem so silly at the time, but I am really regretting it now. You see when I left work, I had taken a copy of all the user guides, help documents and training manuals that I had written over the years.  I thought they would come in useful. Well about six or seven weeks ago, whilst (do you say ‘while’ or ‘whilst’?) doing a clear out of old stuff on my computer I took the random decision to dump them all. Now normally I would have copied them onto a CD just in case, but on this occasion I just deleted them. I now realise that it was a bad idea, as that kind of thing can come in useful when looking for a job.

I know that they were all in a single folder on the works computer network, and I have emailed a colleague a few times and asked if he could look for them, but he has not got back to me about them. He has been on leave, but I kind of get the feeling that he is not too happy with sending me them. I can’t be sure, but he either does not reply to the email or tactfully avoids the question. I think I may have to accept that for me, they have gone forever which is sad.

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More on the eldest lad’s predicament. After a lot of thought and input from others, he has decided that he cannot afford to keep the current house. His ‘ex’ has said that she would take it on under the same terms that she offered him. Basically, he would come off the mortgage and she would pay him a lump sum that equated to the half money that they had put into the property that could not be reasonably divided up. Thinks like carpets, lighting, appliances and the like. He is really up for this and me and K*** went to look at a new build not too much further away than he is now. It looked nice, but when he mentioned the location to his colleague, who knows the area, he was advised to not even consider it. It was a shame because it would have given him a three bedroom, semi-detached house at an affordable price. No amount of talking last night would change his mind. He is now looking at a new two bedroomed property, in an almost city centre location which, with a little help he could afford. This story could run for a long time.

All starting to get a bit real now …


Well, the confirmation I’ve been waiting for, came through on Friday morning. My boss emailed me first thing to tell me that my application for Early Retirement had been passed by the Corporate Panel. I am now all set to retire from full time employment on the 31st October.

I may have mentioned this before, but Leeds has had to respond to the huge funding cuts that have been forced on the Council. One of the initiatives has been what Leeds call the ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI as it is known. This is basically voluntary early retirement. Staff over a certain age in services that are at the forefront of the cuts are able to apply for ELI in order to reduce costs. I applied back in July, when it became obvious that our team was one of the teams that could be at risk. I felt it was a case of jump before I was pushed. Going now, I get a reasonable package, that I would not have got if I would have been one of the ‘pushed’ and my Service Head made it quite clear that some people would be forced to go in March 2017.

So now, I need to look for a part-time job. Although the package is a good one, it’s a lot less than I am currently used too. I also need to be able to get out of the house an keep active. My knitting and computer hobbies will not fill all the time and I don’t want to be under the feet of K*** everyday. Fingers crossed I find something quickly. 

Gone mad …


So, have you got this Pokémon Go yet? It seems that if you haven’t, then there is something wrong with you! It is sweeping the country like a plague. Everybody appears to have the app on their phone. The reason for it’s popularity? “It gets kids out of the house” … “The kids are not sat glued to a computer screen” … “It’s a great social thing (whatever that means)” These are just some of the comments I have heard to justify this new craze. Really? Kids are still walking around looking at their phone screen and from some of the news reports, not taking notice of their surroundings. I’ve heard of people walking of cliff edges looking at their phones. People walking into the road to catch these imaginary creatures. Just today, I heard of someone walking into an army minefield. What is going on? Have we really come to this?

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It had to improve …


It started when I got home Friday afternoon. I left early as K*** was taking her mother to an appointment and I needed to be home in time for R*** coming home. He’d been on respite since Tuesday and has been getting home the previous week at about16:40. So I needed to ensure that I was home in good time to allow for problems on the motorway.

The guy who had done our rendering was supposed to have been to clear up, but he can’t have done much because it was hardly noticeable. What I did see though was that he had dumped some of the rubble he had cleared in the garden waste bin. Working for the Councils Waste Management, I know that he should not have done that and that we could have our garden waste collection stopped. I managed to get most of it out and into an old compost bag which I can get rid of later.

So back to being home early for R***. What a waste of time! It was 17:40 when the taxi finally dropped him off with the drivers excuse that there had been a ‘serious accident at the roundabout.’ Now this was a blatant lie. When I got home, I checked the travel details on the BBC website, which showed that traffic on the motorway was running fine with no delays in our area. I continued to check as it can give an indication of the time that R*** would arrive home. There were no issues at all. It was a lie. K*** is going to check what time he was picked up, and she will take it from there.

The thing with R*** is that when his routine is compromised, the effect comes out in his behaviour. It’s one part of his Autistic condition that we always try to prepare for. Doesn’t always work though. He started to get a bit tetchy at around 21:00, shouting and playing his computer at full volume. We gave him some medication to settle him, which seemed to work. He became more his usual self. Went off to bed at the usual time and it was all as it should be.

Then disaster! At about 01:00 we heard him shouting, not too loudly, but loud enough to realise he was not dreaming. K*** went to see him and called me to look at his computer. Now I think I have mentioned this before, but R*** sleeps with both his TV and computer on. His TV is on a specific channel and his computer has some YouTube videos on a loop. Both are very quiet, but he always has them on. What happened was that his computer was not working. It was completely dead with no power at all. I checked all the other power connections and they were working okay. So I changed the fuse in the plug for the computer and tried again. Nothing! Then without warning, his computer kicked back into life. All happy again. I could only surmise that the computer battery had completely discharged. It was either the fuse or more likely that the power cable had come loose from the machine.

By this time though R*** had gone into partial melt-down and K*** had given him some of his PRN medication. This really calms him down, but sometimes effects his sleep pattern. It was about 04:00 that he finally settled to sleep. A long night for all of us.

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Now after ‘The Curious Incident of Laptop in the Night’ to paraphrase, I began to worry about what would happen if his computer had not restarted and was broken. He does have another laptop that he takes when goes on respite, but that is for there. He just would not accept that he could use it at home. I began to think that my ‘old’ laptop could be upgraded to Windows 10. I bought a new one when Microsoft started to push Win 10 and reduced the mainstream support for Win 7. I did not want to upgrade my machine as there was some core software that I use, that was reported not to work in Win 10.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to upgrade the old machine to Win 10 and use it as an emergency machine. I knew it as going to take a couple of hours, but what I was not prepared for was the actual time it would take. It was 10:30 when I clicked the ‘Upgrade’ button and I sat for the next hour watching what was happening. I had been told that there was very user input, and that was correct. It finally finished installing leaving me with a workable system, just under eight and a half hours later!

I am now in the process of un-installing all the software that nobody would actually use. Could be another long day.

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A quick update on my early retirement bid. On the 7th, I emailed the pension company asking for a copy of my 2015/16 pension statement. The reply I got back was short and sweet telling me that the ‘… statements were being sent out everyday, in alphabetical order and I should hear in a couple of months …’ I was going to wait until Saturday and write a more detailed email to point out why I needed the statement now. So it came as a bit of a surprise when the post came on Saturday morning to find my 2015/16 pension statement had been sent. Date of printing … 7th June. Coincidence?

An interesting weekend …


That is what I was going to talk about. The ‘interesting’ weekend! But, after writing the first couple of lines, I decided that the weekend was not about me, and that it was not fair to write about it. So you may not get to get to know … yet.

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Instead, it’s going to be an interesting week. Well that maybe pushing it a little. I have another INR test tomorrow, only a week after the last one. I cannot believe I had got up to six weeks between tests. I still think that stress plays a part, but maybe I’m just kidding myself and it is really too much alcohol. I was going to have an alcohol-free evening, but it has been a poor day at work and that and the small issue with R***’s computer, meant that a glass of wine was required.

It was the slightest thing with his computer. We had somehow switched off the power to the 4 way adapter and his laptop was running on battery power. Unfortunately, the battery had got to 2% power, before it became clear what was happening, so he got a little stressed when his machine told him about his battery needing charging. It took a good 30 minutes before the pop-ups stopped, but things like that seem to linger in his autistic mind and worries him. Still, he seems to be calmed now, so we may have got away with it this time.

Then, the ‘interest’ continues when I have my hospital appointment on Friday. I am supposed to be at a ‘team away day’ on the other side of Leeds and I was going to take the afternoon of as ‘flexi-time’. But I’m not happy with having to increase my journey time by an extra 30 minutes, just to satisfy someone’s managerial ego. My current line manager, totally agrees (but only because she doesn’t want to go) that I would be greatly inconvenienced by this. I may have to take the decision not to go and possibly invent some excuse why it would be not a good idea.

New Lappy – Still getting there


It’s taking a while to get my new machine up to something like I had on my old machine. There are a couple of issues I still need to sort out and some that I don’t think will get sorted.

Those of you who are a bit ‘techy’ will understand the next bit. My hard drive has two visible partitions. One called C: (OS) and the other is D: (Data). Both are roughly the same size, but all new programs and documents and files etc are using the ‘C’ partition and nothing seems to be using the other partition. I had the idea that programs would go to ‘C’ and documents and other files would go to ‘D’. I had a similar issue on R***’s laptop and solved it by using a partition manager that I downloaded from the internet to shrink one and stretch the other. I thought I could do the same on this machine, but it is proving a little more difficult. I’m probably going to have to ask on one of the help websites for some advice.

Another big issue that raised its head this morning was with my anti-virus software. For years I have used AVG as my anti-virus and it has served me well. I therefore thought I would stick with what I know and duly installed AVG. All was fine until I needed to do a restart of my machine. The system that informed me that AVG could run because a certain file was missing. I had probably been deleted when I uninstalled some pre-installed software that I did not need. Trying to reinstall AVG gave me the same error message. I tried the AVG forums, but there was so many ‘answers’ that it was impossible to decipher which route to take. I did the usual Googling for the best (free) program, and it came up with Avast free at the top, with AVG languishing in third place. Well I’ve done a couple of ‘bullet biting’ exercises this week, so I thought one more wouldn’t go amiss. So now I have to get used to using Avast

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I’m having a bit of an issue with the car also. A couple or more weeks ago, I noticed that there was a banging noise as I was driving. Couldn’t work out where the noise was coming from, but I only really notice it when driving on road surfaces that are not well maintained. I have a slight suspicion that it could be the shock absorbers or something to do with the suspension that’s the problem, which could be expensive. It is going to the garage on Wednesday so all will be revealed then.

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On a final note. Anyone have an idea why, the word count at the bottom of my writing in Word 2016 says one thing and and the proper word count says something different? It is only accurate after the document has been saved!

New lappy … getting there … ish


So the new laptop arrived on Monday and I have to say I was a bit worried about how I was going to accept the change. But after a few false starts, I am beginning to get the hang of this Windows 10. I think I have mentioned this before, but I am one of those people who find change for change sake difficult. I’ve been using Window 7 for heaven knows how many years now, and it was a bit of a struggle upgrading from Windows XP. I resisted changing then until I was forced to change.

My main worry in upgrading to Win 10 was the issues surrounding my financial software. I have been using Microsoft Money 2002 since I got my first real PC (back in 2002 as you may have guessed) and it has been really useful. I have never used the so called ‘on-line’ banking facilities that Money 2002 featured, so it was mainly a simple cheque book monitor. The decision I took was that I would buy a new laptop with Win 10 and keep my old one as just a non-connected machine, so that Money 2002 would continue to be of use. So imagine my surprise, when finding a post on the Internet that stated Microsoft Money 2005 was available for free download, and that it had been proven to work on Windows 10. After a nervous download and install, my latest fears were proven to be unfounded. The bloody software works! I’ve not done a full test yet, but things are looking good and when I checked, it looked to have a license key, so no need to register.

It is going to take a few more days to get me back up to scratch, but I will get there. I have so much on my old laptop that I probably will never replicate, but maybe that is a good thing. There is no doubt that much of the software (or ‘apps’ as they now seem to be called) I have accumulated over the past few years is not really used, so it may not take as long as I hoped. Wish me luck.

Another bitten bullet and other things


The laptop I’m currently using is a Windows 7 machine. I’m always quite reluctant to change, espcially if I don’t feel the need to change. So I have never been tempted to upgrade my machine to a later version of Windows. However I may have no choice as Microsoft seems intent un upgrading users to Windows 10, whether they want it or not. As those in the know, it’s a free upgrade and brings ‘all the benefits of an up to date‘ operating system, if you believe the blurb.

It is probably a good thing to upgrade and I have come around to the idea that I need to do this. The problem is, that on this machine, I have a number of software applications that I use regularly (daily or every other day) that will not run under Windows 10. I struggled to get them to run under Windows 7 and people have tested them for me, and they simply fail. These are not applications that need the internet to run so I have decided that I will buy another laptop running Windows 10 and leave the Win 7 machine as an ‘unconnected’ machine that I can use for non-internet specific things.

The issue now is, that I need Microsoft Office on the new machine. I cannot install my current version as it is tied to the machine I’m using now and it can only be used on one machine. All is not lost. Last year I bought my son a subscription to Office 365. It seems that the subscription type I purchased allows the software to be installed on upto 5 different machines. Job sorted! The only thing now is how? A quick on-line chat with Microsoft support and I have all the info my son and me needs. Well done Carmina P. the help desk advisor.

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So, how am I doing with what I called my ‘New Year Intentions‘? Sad to say, not as well as I would have liked. The number 1 on the list, was to blog at least once a week and this is the only one I have kept up to press. Although they are all still on-going, just not quite quickly as I would have liked. I am reading more (No 10 on the list) but it it difficult to read at work as the dining room can be quite noisy and there is nowhere else in the office. I recently chatted to a friend who has a blog about theming my blog (No 2) and their answer was to either pick something that I enjoy (she said obsessed with) or that I’m and expert with and blog about that. Well the only thing I’m either obsessed with or an expert in is … me, and I’m blogging that already. With regard to the rest, who knows where I’m going.

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Talking of blogs, I have been looking back over the years at my stats on WordPress. I have noticed something quite unusual. I have been posting on and off some of my photos, following The Daily Post‘s ‘Weekly Photo Challenge’. I’m by no means an expert photographer, I just take pictures of things or scenes that I like.

It looks like my average views (no going into comments here) for my written stuff is around the 3 – 4 mark per post. However, when it comes the the photo posts, the average has rocketed up to 10 or 11 per photopost. When I started this post, my last photopost under the ‘Weekly Photo Challenge’ banner had hit 31 views!  Looks like that old adage ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is true! One could say ‘ A picture is worth a thousand posts.’

I sometimes hate MS Windows


For the past six days, my Windows Start button has been showing this . Now most Windows users know this to mean “Hello person. I have found that some of the files on your computer need updating. So shutdown/restart and we will get it sorted.” That’s what it is supposed to mean. I never update straight away, as I wait until I get the all clear from a website I subscribe to that checks there are no ‘after effects’ to installing the updates.

Today, after checking the site and finding no issues reported, I went ahead with the updates. This was at around 08:30 this morning. At just after 10:20, it finally finished. I had four restarts, one failed system restore and five attempts to install the updates, Three failed to install, so I will have to wait and see what happens there. But surly, it should not be that difficult? Now before all you Mac users tell me to scrap Windows and get an Apple machine, I can tell you that Apple updates can also be fraught with difficulties.

It all seems to be working as it should, but time will tell.

Great support


For some time now I’ve had an issue with accessing WordPress. It was not a big issue, it was more annoying than anything else. What was happening was, whenever I shut my browser down, I seemed to get logged out of WordPress. It did not matter if I checked the ‘”Stay signed in” box, when I clicked on my toolbar icon to open WP, I had to log in. As I say, an annoyance rather than an issue.

I was starting to get used to it when I read that someone else was experiencing the same problem and that WP support had sorted it out for them. However, there did not seem to be any details that I could see, so I decided to email WP support with my ‘problem’. Then I waited.

Well, the next day, I got an email from a guy from the help-desk. He went through a few options for me to try. None of them worked, as I had tried them all before, but this person was not going to give up. Three or four more emails ensued, with different things to try, all of which failed. I was beginning to think that it was a problem with my computer. It wasn’t going to get fixed and that I was wasting this helpful person’s time. So after his last message (which also failed) I emailed him back saying that the fix had worked, and that I was most grateful. Resigned to living with this pesky annoyance, I closed the support call. About an hour or so later, I was checking my emails and there was message from a colleague. He had seen my support call (they get uploaded to Google unless you object) and offered some advice as he had “suffered” (his word) the same problem. His answer was to check the shortcut icon for WP and see where it was pointing. When I did that, I suddenly realised what the problem was. The shortcut was pointing to the login screen for WP. This meant that it was always going to open that screen and not log me in. Once I changed that shortcut path, almost all my problems were over.

I say almost. I was now in a quandary as to whether I should re-open the support call and explain what the problem had been and apologise for “wasting their time” or just keep quiet.

So, I have chosen not to re-open the call and hope that they would understand my embarrassment if they read this post.

[Enter post title here…]


As you can see, I’m still struggling to title my blog posts. The problem, I think is that I don’t post about anything specific and I think this also reflects on the number of visits I get. I really must do some research into improving my blog.

Anyway, to business. You may remember a couple of weeks ago, that I had to have an interview with my manager about the length of time I had been off work. Something had flagged on a computer system in HR that meant someone had to ‘check me out’. Well last week, I got a letter from said HR department ‘inviting’ me for an interview about getting back to work. Well that interview was on Thursday. I tried to remain calm about the whole thing, but went ready to let rip if my fears were proved correct.

The meeting could not have been any more different from what I imagined. There was me thinking that they were going to insist on my coming back to work and overriding my GP, but I was wrong. At the end of the meeting, it was explained that felt I could go back to the work I was doing, as soon as my GP said it was okay. They even told me that it would be a phased return and they were going to suggest that I go back on 50% of my normal hours for four weeks. I have worked out a pattern, and my manager is happy with it, so it looks like I will be back at work, in some form from the 1st October.

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I suppose I could have called this post ‘Blind Panic’ after what just happened about 1 hour ago. I will explain. Mrs H likes to have a glass of water by her bedside. I had filled her a glass and had left it on my desk, by the side of my laptop whilst I went to pick up her mobile phone. Her phone sits at the side of my printer. As I reached up to pick the phone up, my sleeve caught the edge of the glass of water and tipped the glass over. That’s when the aforementioned ‘Blind Panic’ set in. There I was with a desk swimming in ½ pint of iced water. As luck would have it, my laptop is raised off the desk on a plastic frame that allows air to flow under the laptop to help with cooling. This frame, which was bought from the £1 Shop also allowed the spilled water to flow under the laptop and not into it. Phew. Never has a £1 been better spent. The USB hard drive seems to be okay, and the only casualty was my multi-port USB adapter which appears to have taken the brunt of the spillage. This is now sitting in the airing cupboard and will remain there for a few days.

I think that about wraps it up for now. Any suggestions on how to improve this blog will be gratefully received.

Brief update to “Double disappointment”…


You know how I said I was going to keep my old laptop? Well after keeping the new one and playing around with it for a week, I have decided that the old one will go, and I’ll keep the EliteBook. It is just as good as the other, and whilst it is a little smaller I feel I can work with it quite well.

As for the weight factor …. it’s not that much lighter. Maybe 10/12 ounces. So wish me luck with it.

Double disappointment …..


The much awaited online programming course with Future Learn started on Monday. It was a course, which would (hopefully) teach me how to program a mobile phone game for the Android platform. I enrolled before Christmas and had downloaded all the necessary software that I was going to need well in advance. I had got through about a third of the first weeks tutorials and everything seemed to be going well. But, I could not get it to work, without getting errors. I posted on the forum the problems I was have, and received some, what appeared to be good advice. So yesterday, after taking some of this advice, I proceeded to update the software I had previously downloaded. Two hours and 4.5 gigabytes later, I tried again. Same problem. There just did not seem to be an answer to my particular problem. Very disappointing. After another three hours of trying this and trying that, I gave up. Literally gave up and left the course. It is not what I wanted to really do, but it seemed the best thing at the time. Now I’m not so sure.

Future Learn is an online private company owned by the Open University. All the courses are free and some can lead to certification. It is still in beta stage, so maybe that is why I experienced a problem. This is the second course I started and not finished. The first one, I thought was about Richard 1st, but it was really about England in that period. Although it was interesting, it was not what I was looking for. I have another course starting at the end of April, to do with fiction writing. Maybe third time lucky !!

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So, the 2nd disappointment was work related. More specifically ICT work related. We are all to get new computers. Laptops to be more precise, or Netbooks if you want to split hairs. The ones that had been decided on was the HP EliteBook 2570p. Now I, and others have been told, that this is what we need for our new work system. Because we are to be more ‘mobile’ we will ‘need something that is easier to carry …….’ Now, I know that I’m going to be a little incapacitated for a while in the future, but I think I’ll still be able to walk 300 yards with a laptop on my back. But, in order to be objective, I’m going to test the thing out, over the next few days. However, I think I’ve made up my mind already. I’m going to keep my original laptop. The Elite Book will go to someone else, or maybe I’ll say “keep it for me …. for later …. if I need it …. after the ‘op’ ….”

Well that’s it for now.

Watch out for this one ….


I’m pretty keen, when it comes to my online security and tend to delete any emails that offer any type of security/antivirus service, often without even reading them. On this occasion though, I thought I would share it with you, as a number of people I know have received this email and at least one of them has been fooled and responded to it. I have copied the text below (all links have been removed).

Dear Sir or Madame

We at VirtureScan are an industry renowned internet security company. We have been contacted by your Government as your ISP is alarmed at the volume of emails originating from your computer’s IP address. We have scanned some of these emails using our VitrureScan software and believe your computer has been contaminated with the Zeta321 virus. Currently there is no current AV software that is able to detect this virus. However we at VirtureScan have developed an online scanner that is able to hunt down this and remove it from your equipment.

There is a charge for this service, and the cost will be automatically deducted from your Paypal account. We understand that your ISP are willing to re-imbuse you for your cost.

We are currently offering a large discount of 68%, if you undertake the service by the end of today. After this the charge will reverse back to its original charge of $360.00.

If you our a responsible person, then you will take up this offer now. Click on the likn below to be taken to our site.

As you can see, there are a number of spelling and grammatical errors, and this type of thing should ring alarm bells. The link takes you to a website which I understand automatically installs a key logger type of virus. These capture every word you type and are used by hackers to break into any online banking you have. The name of the company changes often so it may not be the same if you receive the email. Just be aware.

Almost a major disaster …..


You may be forgiven for thinking that some terrible had almost happened. Well for us, it probably was something terrible. For other, not so terrible. It all started at around in the very early hours of this morning. For some bizarre reason, and I’ll come to the bizarre bit later, I awoke and realised that electric radio/alarm was not working. The usual reason for this a regional power cut. Mrs H said I should set the alarm on my phone, so off I trotted downstairs to set it. It was only when I got to the bottom of the stairs that I realised that I had switched the stair light on and it worked. After a few moments of intense head scratching, it dawned on me that something (probably the alarm/radio) had blown a fuse and the circuit breaker had tripped. This was just about 4:35am.

I went to the garage, and had a look at the ‘fuse’ box, saw which one had tripped and tried to reset it. Nightmare !!!! It would not reset. Time after time I tried, but nothing. In the end I gave up and went back to bed, told Mrs H we would have to get an electrician to have a look, as I did not have a clue. We got up around 8:30 and I tried again. Still no success. Googled the problem and most of the responses came back as ‘call an electrician’ or find out which is the problem appliance. However, the disaster was approaching ….. R*** was starting to stir. His computer had shut down when the battery got to 5% and his TV and video was not working. For any other 21 year old, this would not be a problem and they would understand. But for a 21 year old Autistic lad, whose life revolves around his computer and video, it is a huge and potentially violent issue.

Mrs H quickly scanned the parish magazine and found the number of the electrician that literally lives around the corner. I explained the problem and cleverly, he asked me to send him a photo of the fuse box so he could see for himself what our set up was. He very quickly came back with the instructions of what I was to do. This involved unplugging everything on the circuit and trying the reset again. I did this and the problem still existed. He told me that if it did not work, he would come round, but it would be late afternoon

By this time R*** had awoke and was asking for his computer …. things were starting to get a little tense. It was then I realised, that the small fridge freezer appeared to be off. So I unplugged this and tried the reset …… hurrah it worked. However, as soon as I plugged the fridge freezer in it tripped again. We have it plugged into a 4 way trailing socket, I do not know what made me think of it, but I removed the 4 way and tried again. This time there was no reset. I went back into the house and began gingerly plugging everything back in. We were now up and running, the disaster had been averted and the 4 way trailing socket was safely in the bin. I rang the electrician back and told the outcome. Thanked him profusely and asked how much I owed. He told me I owed him nothing, and added, that if we ever needed any electrical jobs doing, just to give a call.

When you look at it, something really positive came out of all this. We now know an electrician that we feel we can use, confident that he is not going to rip us off. That is worth a lot and I think this guy knows that. For the price of a ten minute phone call, he has gained a prospective customer and to me that is very good business sense.

Now to come to the bizarre bit that I mentioned earlier. We discovered that the heating and hot water system utilises the same circuit, as that had stopped also. As I busy switching things off I noticed that the times clock had stopped at about 04:30. This was around the same time that I had originally woken up. It was almost as if, the power tripping had disturbed my sleep. Most unusual ….. bizarre in fact. Anyone care to explain?

Workplace review .. moving on


The new workplace review is starting to pick up speed now. I had, what they call a “Work Style Assessment” on Friday. That, basically was to a document that formally set out how each one of us will contribute to making the best use of the available desk space. It seems that at any one time, at least 28% of the office desks are not in use; people at meetings, training, sick etc etc. we have a program called “Changing the Workplace” which is trying to maximise the available office space to save money. Mine worked out very well for me. It means that one day a week, I’ll work from a satellite office, one day a week from home, leaving three days a week working from my base office. This, of course is to be more flexible than rigid. It might mean that sometimes, I do two days in the main office and two days in another office, it depends on what work I’m covering. It was what I was looking for and it seem to fit in with what the service requires. However, formalising the “Working from Home” part, means that I need to have either an office or a proper work station. When I have randomly worked from home, I’ve sat at the dining room table. 020214_1241_Workplacere1.jpgThat is not going to be allowed, which I kind of expected. So yesterday, I set about tidying up my computer desk, clearing out some of the rubbish and making it more of a computer work station than it was. So it should be okay now. All I need to do, when I’m working is to move my personal laptop and slot in the works one.

Of course, the ‘moaners’ are still finding things to moan about: the expense; the inconvenience; the increased travel; earlier rising; getting home later; unsettling, there seems to be no end to the excuses why this is not a good thing. Those people should take a good long look at their conditions of service. It is all explained there, and before they go running off to their respected Trades Union, they should be aware, that the Unions signed up to this from the very start! We have an ‘Away Day’ on the 7th, where we should learn a lot more about what is happening. Well it started off as a day when we get to meet our new colleagues and get to know a bit about them. However it seems that it is going to be a ‘bonding session’ and a ‘workshop’. Neither of which, is what I was expecting. I have also heard that our team will be “absorbed” into the service the following week, but that’s only a rumour, so I’m not sure how accurate it is. Still I accept that it is a worrying time for some people, who have never been outside their comfort zone. Me, I’m just going to get on with it. As I mentioned before, we have no choice, and at the end of the day we still have a job. The bigger worry will be when the new structure is formalised and we have to start applying for our jobs.