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We live in litigious times, so I should say that content reflects only my opinions!

Thursday April 21 2005

I am in the middle of some

fairly complicated to-ing and fro-ing as I establish the proper MOT credentials of the state Micra. In synopsis: I took the creature in for its test, in the firm belief that it would probably sail straight through now I knew that the exhaust / catalytic converter was not on its last legs. I was rudely awakened from this dream of low transport-related stress by the gents at Horspath Service Station, just outside Oxford and highly recommended as friendly and competent in an old-school garage way. The head tester, a man whose job will always seem related to that of Grand Inquisitor in the minds of the hoopty motoring fraternity, addressed me (I have used some artistic licence in related the dialogue):

He: "There is a great aperture in your front cross member, at a point where your minatory engine is principally attached. Well, barely attached. A terrible palsy, a weakening ague is has thus become resident of the front end - which is the part that will contact the rear of the bus, since the febrility of your rear brakes rivals that of your frontal region"

I: "F*ck"

He: "And one your washer jets is blocked"

I: "F*ck that. I'll jab it with a pin. I didn't think rear brakes brought much to the party anyway, the front ones doing the work. I didn't think the back ones did much, really"

He: "Yours don't"

I: "I had them done last year. When it failed the bastard MOT. Because the rear brakes didn't work"

He: "Then your load sensing valve is kaput, and we will be prey to the ravages of Nissan and their ironic, frankly sadistic parts pricing"

I: "F*ck" (knowing about that from bitter experience)

He: "I'll show you this hole"

I: "An offer I can't refuse. Lead on"

He: "Here is the big hole in your front cross member"

I: "F*ck"

It's a big hole. Two, really. But soon to be as one. On the departure of the engine, no doubt pulling like a train away from the remainder of the vehicle as I sit like Onan in the emasculated passenger compartment. Action clearly needs to be taken, and soon.

Then all hell breaks loose. The valve is £380, possibly plus VAT - I was too shocked to enquire, as it has to come from bloody Nissan and not a friendly autoparts shop, so once it's all fitted and the welding (very reasonable £65) carried out I may be looking at a bill of £600. To restore official approval to a car which, sorted out, is worth maybe five hundred quid. Not handy. Not, in fact, really worth doing. I am forced to consider my options, and they're none of them good. Not good at all. I make swift arrangements to store the bugger off the road at a friend's, so at least I have some time if I need it. With a mere 73,000 properly maintained miles on the engine, and a service just done, I'll not be scrapping that, at least, in a hurry.

Then a ray of hope. I ask whether or not it is possible to hit the bloody valve with a hammer, or whether or not something might be adjusted. Yes, it'll be a gamble of forty quid for a very good look and a bit of a prod. I decide it's a good bet, as the car is otherwise economically reparable. The prod is duly instigated, and the brakes turn out to be maladjusted. Nutted. So we have brakes, and for another £110 or so we'll have welded front and MOT. Once I've unblocked the silly washer jet. Result. The state Micra rides again for a few pints short of £200. Tomorrow they weld.

Still, from all I know (and I've had a lot of crappy old cars) and from what I'm told, when Mr Corrosion and his eroding posse take up residence in the frame of one's Jap-rocket it's time to sell it. My dears, it is going. Going along the road, in fact well, but also going as in for sale and (shivers) going in that middling-paced but inexorable and expensive way that all structurally rusty cars do. I'm looking for a new ride. And God bless my old mum, I have the means as well as motive and opportunity. I'll write about all that soon.

Anyone want to buy a little silver Micra? It's a cracker...


Posted at 2:43 pm by Jim Woods

Tuesday April 19 2005

I needed a place to park this for the time being!

Favourite free software, some of it:

Lavasoft AdAware, scourge of spyware.

Spybot Search & Destroy, another scourge of spyware.

AVG Anti-Virus, hammer of viruses.

Maxthon (IE shell), best way to use Internet Explorer, if you really must.

Firefox and Thunderbird, browsing and mail as best you can.

OpenOffice, because some people will send you Office files.

IrfanView, a great image viewer with some editing capabilities.

Exact Audio Copy, a high-grade CD copier.

KeyNote, a textual information manager.

Winamp, a great media player - especially good for Shoutcast web radio streams.

BottomFeeder, for reading RSS feeds.

All extensively checked out, and often used when necessary by, yours truly. Enjoy.


Posted at 2:36 pm by Jim Woods


re-design here. A bit cleaner.


Posted at 2:31 pm by Jim Woods

Monday April 18 2005

I nearly forgot...

In other news, I finally found an alternative blogging application. As a search for previous posts on the subject will explain at some length, I've always used Blog - prosaically titled, but a reasonable solution for quick and dirty publication via dynamic HTML. Despite fairly extensive looking around, I'd never found anything that worked in the same way, i.e. storing everything on my local system and squirting it at any old web space, that was free and worked. Now I have. It's called Planarchy, and my initial assessment of it is pretty favourable. The bad news is that there will be no further development of it, and since that's the reason why I was looking around at alternatives to Blog this may not represent progress after all.

I am more and more seduced by Blogger, as I've said, where I've been running Inchoate Satellite since last July without any problems. My reservations, as I said before, have always been that I don't like generating loads of content and putting it onto a free service which might fold, be bought out or simply vanish at whim. As I have uncovered a kludge to allow the export of data from the Blogger service, I am one step nearer to being happy with the idea of running everything there. Now I have a fledgling home network - well, two PCs is a network - I am being drawn to the idea of remotely hosted services. The advantage is accessibility. I have discovered that Pipex has a rather good IMAP mail service, NetMail, which I've been using to check my email from my subsidiary machine. Could I be turning into less of a staunchly independent user?

You know, what I really like is this business of being able to take care of all my computing needs from any system with a browser on it. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it. It'd certainly be a very handy adjunct to all my applications sitting here on the main system.


Posted at 7:29 pm by Jim Woods

Got my NEC 616V

camera phone back today from the unlockers; this is pretty good news, as it's pretty much the best phone in my arsenal and now I get to use it all, or at least most, of the time. There seem to be a few residual issues with the reading of my existing text messages stored on the SIM, but nothing too terrible. Newly received messages are present and correct, so it's not a big problem. I seem to be spending rather a lot of time on the phone recently, so these sorts of things have become important to me. Also, it's nice to have the camera with me at all times. I may want to photograph something. My digital camera proper is firstly not actually mine and secondly a power-hungry old beast about the size of the car; its rightful owner may well want it back at some point, leaving me bereft.

Speaking of the car, today it failed the bloody MOT. The back brakes, sorted for last year's MOT hardly any miles ago at all, apparently are not up to snuff. Or rather, probably are snuff-like. Since I had the linings and wheel cylinders done and the lack of effort (sounds like one of my old school reports) is equal between the rear wheels I am told the load-sensing valve may be f*cked. This should not be the end of the world to fix. A screen washer jet is blocked - easily dealt with. There is a large hole in the front cross member where the engine is attached. Well, barely. This will need a fifty or sixty quid welding job. Huh. I feel that, despite the modest mileage, it is time I gave some thought to a new car. Times, however, are hard :( What I want is an economical estate or small van really. The Micra is a great little car, and has been very little trouble or expense over the last three years that I've had it, costing maybe three hundred quid in repairs and having never failed to get me there. Not bad for a grand initial outlay. But the rather small size in relation to my garden rubbish, music gear and the odd bicycle, make it less than ideal. And I'm wary of starting to pay out proper dosh to get MOTs. It's less trouble to take the hit as depreciation on a newer vehicle. It's probably time I had a word with my financiers...


Posted at 7:13 pm by Jim Woods

Sunday April 17 2005

I've been a bit busy

running around tending to the flock of machinery that rules my life. And, of course, being actively social - or should that be sociable? As a result I've delayed making any lengthy posts. Today's the day, however...

I went off to see some fairly pleasing jazz last Wednesday in the Hollybush - a local music pub. As I cycled home across town afterwards I stopped for a chat with a friend of mine whose mission it is to busk in the town centre, seemingly all night. I mean, it was a fairly chilly midnight by the time I stopped by. Each to his own, I suppose. Sitting in the shop doorway in Cornmarket, having a go on his guitar and generally having the crack, I came to realize that there is a counter-cultural scene that revolves around the buskers. The number of people who dropped by and stopped for a while was extraordinary. Clearly there is a covert army that patrols the streets by night walking, talking and not-sleeping music. Anyway, at one point I was mildly concerned when a police car drew up; not just a squad car but one of those big estates they use for motorway traffic duty, interception and so on. Out hops a copper, resplendent in black vest festooned with baton, cuffs, radio and so on.

At this point I imagine that we're going to be told to piss off home because it's late to be making a racket in the very centre of town. Imagine, then, my surprise when my busking friend greets the officer warmly and hands him the guitar. Pausing only to bung his vest in the back of the cruiser, the forces of law and order then sit down on the pavement and for thirty minutes or so blast off a succession of recent hits. Robbie Williams et al, then a few retro things from The Jam, Kirsty MacColl and so on. The guy is a really good singer, and a workmanlike guitarist. All the while the other copper's sat happily in the car ten feet away. The faces of passers-by were an absolute picture, particularly the ones who clearly thought when looking from a distance that we were being hassled - and then on closer approach realized who the talent was.

Finally the star of the show got to his feet, muttered something about taxpayer's money, and headed off to do a spot of policing en route for a long weekend in Newquay (I'm not making this up). I went home with the feeling that this world is a better place than I often think. Then again, later in the week we'd probably have been hassled by the armies of arseholes that pile out of the central pubs and clubs and set about one-another with gay vomitous abandon. Not on Wednesday though. Wednesday was magic.



Posted at 4:10 pm by Jim Woods

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