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December 2007 Entries
Royal Mail send parcels back

It doesn't happen all of the time, and just applies to parcels, but I've had another eBay parcel go straight back to the seller without any attempt at telling me that the Royal Mail tried to deliver it.

And not just eBay stuff, but the service kit I need for my R1100RS motorbike has also gone awol. It was posted on the 11th December, and here I am on the 21st trying to find out what on earth is going on. This probably means I won't be able to get the bike serviced until the new year - either the thing will turn up or I'll need to order another kit to get sent through.

Earlier in the year I ordered a battery charger for the motorbike battery and when it didn't turn up I arranged for another one, to hear from the company that the original had come back to them.

A card was put through my door relating to an attempted delivery of a packet on the 14th, I went on the 15th to check - wasn't at Livingston sorting office. Started work early and left early to go to the sorting office - not there, please phone. Phoned twice this week and they can't find the parcel. I'm hoping it is the service kit, but goodness knows.

This level of service has already led me to get flowers delivered to my wife by non Royal Mail, and also begin to get the motorbike parts delivered by other courier too. In these days of competition I find my loyalty to them misfounded, even though I've know a number of post office workers and management in my time. I'm disappointed by this.

posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2007 11:31 PM | Feedback (1)
Fitted replacement motherboard in my Dell Dimension 5000

Courier duly handed over the replacement motherboard today, and took away the faulty one. The board is marked as refurbished, but looked less dusty than the one that went away.

I took it carefully, putting it in, connecting power only (3 power related connectors) and then fired it up. So far so good. Then memory etc. Beeped away.

Then all the various connectors, and the old and original graphics card. Booted up fine and I checked the BIOS - interestingly the asset tags common to Dell systems where absent. No mention of XP reactivation - woohoo.

Then removed the graphics drivers, rebooted, shut down, pulled the old graphics and added new graphics and sound.

Now running with an Nvidia 7600GT, which replaced a 6600GT.

All hunky dory. I'm really pleased with the service I received from Dell, their online hardware support chat service and the engineer at the other end were both excellent.

posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2007 11:14 PM | Feedback (2)
Motherboard goes ping on my Dell Dimension 5000

Shortly after a graphics card upgrade last night, I ran up Windows and then the blue screen of death and my pc wouldn't start up.

Then it slowly got worse until it appeared that the motherboard had given up the ghost. I got on to the folks at Dell and I have a replacement Motherboard on the way.

First time I've had a big problem with my old Dimension 5000, and I've upgraded and replaced bits over the years with no problem. Now I've got the Motherboard to replace. Eek.

posted @ Wednesday, December 19, 2007 12:36 PM | Feedback (1)
Car Cambelt Replacement

I've just been tidying through the mass of junkmail and circulars that pile up on the cabinet in our hall and spotted one from the Volkswagen Dealer where I get my Passat serviced. Apparently it is of an age that it needs it's cambelt replaced.

I got a huge bill for my last Passat to get the cambelt changed, and hoped I would have moved on to another car before the one I have needed its replaced. Drat.

I'm in a huff now.

posted @ Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:01 PM | Feedback (0)
5.1 Sound settings fun

My old Dell Dimension 5000 has sound on the motherboard and about 4 or 5 connections coming out. I think this means it does surround sound, certainly the multitude of connections from my Speedlink Medusa Progamer headphones all have somewhere to go.

I've been wondering what has happened to the sound quality on a particular game I play - it used to sound quite good on the headphones, and the vibrate function used to come in at certain times and it all worked fine in the previous version of the game. But recently it was just coming through on the front channel as stereo - nothing on the rear, centre or subwoofer (vibrate). I changed the various settings for software and hardware sound rendering in the game.

Hunting around the web didn't shed much light, apart from the usual "outdated embedded stuff - buy a creative x-fi" but those cards are about £50. So I headed off in a different direction and established that the game uses DirectSound to talk to sound cards. So searched around on this and reminded myself of the DirectX dxdiag tool. Not sure whether I had it, I did start-run and typed in dxdiag - up came the tool. Interestingly two sound devices came up and I was reminded that my default sound device is a dsp program by SRS Labs called SRS Sandbox. This program processes music etc from 2 channels into the 5 channels that my headphones support. Normally I disable it if I'm not listening to music. It sits as the default device and processes sound through to the hardware sound card in the PC.

So I switched the default sound device to the hardware card and that was it sorted - native surround sound from the game and vibrate too. So even though sandbox was disabled, it was still confusing the game enough to make it think it only had stereo support to use.

posted @ Friday, December 7, 2007 7:22 AM | Feedback (0)
Notbeer Review

Due to some problems I had with my pancreas a few years back (bile duct blocked by gall stones), I'm not really able to stomach alcohol, which is a bit of a disappointment to me.

So from time to time I evaluate what I call "Not Beer" which is processed beer with the alcohol removed. Kaliber used to be the only one around, but recently Becks Non-Alcoholic has appeared in shops.

In a recent visit to our local Asda-Walmart in Livingston I purchased a couple of different options, this time in the low-alcohol bracket. I got some Clausthaler and also Stella low alcohol. I tried the Stella tonight from the fridge and it was rather good, nice and refreshing without the overpowering yeast flavour of the non alcoholic Becks. A success!

posted @ Tuesday, December 4, 2007 10:33 PM | Feedback (0)
Tomtom POI Loading and multiple maps

I run Tomtom Navigator 6 on my Orange SPV M600, and with a bluetooh GPS bought off ebay for cheap pounds it does the business of route finding albeit the wee processor in the M600 can lag a bit at times.

I took advantage of a recent offer and got newer maps, but have been fighting with missing POI information that wasn't appearing on my new maps. It turns out that around about the first download it records which maps to download too then continues doing so. Add a new map and it continues to download to the original. What I had to do is remove the downloaded POIs through Tomtom Home, then add them again. When you try to add them it asks which map to target.

posted @ Tuesday, December 4, 2007 9:05 PM | Feedback (0)
Another Observed Drive towards my IAM Car test today

I was out with Colin my Observer from Edinburgh IAM for my first observed drive since my mock test the other Sunday. He'd discussed my drive with the Senior Observer who took my mock test and overall they were pleased. As Colin said, it can sound like a drive was dreadful, but the point with the groups system is that you don't get "trained" per se, but the progress is once of Observation and points to work on.

As I said about my mock test, it is important to understand this as it can sound like nothing is going right when it is nothing of the kind. I've got old habits to work on, one that carried over from the bikes and one that is particular to my car driving. I need to extend my observations up and as far as I can, I blame my natural introversion for that - I turn inside to think, which is not a good thing when you are going along a road at 50 miles per hour. The particular habit to car driving is to forget the left door mirror. For some reason it goes quickly, and after the discussion about my mock test Colin was sitting sideways in his seat to check whether I was using the mirror!

Observations is a drill thing, I need to force myself for a while and it will become a habit. Similarly with the mirror, though I have a wee idea to place a visual cue in the car to remind me. Perhaps a small yellow sticker or similar to catch my peripheral vision.

With my test acknowledgement through it is a case of waiting for the test itself, although there is a backlog locally and it may be the new year before I get my test. I have another observed run next week and I'll hopefully have the results of my practice to show improvement on.

posted @ Sunday, December 2, 2007 9:06 PM | Feedback (0)
Long Way Down DVD Arrived today
Got my copy of the Long Way Down DVD through the post today. I'll need to go away and watch it! (Another for my queue of motorcycle DVDs).
posted @ Saturday, December 1, 2007 2:52 PM | Feedback (0)