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Saturday June 25 2005

Just played a really cracking gig,

which I therefore feel moved to go on about a bit. Down at the ever-friendly Exeter Hall, the line-up was as follows:

Rami El-Shirbiny, vocals and guitar (Rami and the Salamis, Island Monkeys, Bananarami)

Stef Hamilton, guitar (Drug Squad, Mullet Brothers)

Telepathic Mark Newsom, keys (Cheesegraters, Island Monkeys)

Larry "Earl Hockmore" Reddington, drums (everyone - really)

Myself, bass (a fair bit over the years)

We were ably assisted by Khaled on percussion and Elise on flute, and played a lot of reggae and a little funk, country and rock. I like it when everyone is pulling together to do something that's more than the sum of the parts, and that's what happened tonight. A great audience who enjoyed themselves, and all went swimmingly.

That's it - gloat over.

We're doing it again on Friday in two weeks, so you'll know where to see us.


Posted at 4:06 am by Jim Woods

Thursday June 23 2005

Oh, I nearly forgot.

If nearly forgot can mean did forget but then remembered again. I said I'd add a link here to Chiarina's new blog, which will be watched with baited breath. I'll bung a more permanent link up when I'm next editing the site template - a rather grandiose name for what is in fact my messy and doubtless technically incorrect html file. I hat going in there like Indy hates snakes. In fact they're similar concepts.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, and I may have done, have a look at #blogspain. Apart from an amusing blog and a really good free downloadable book, you can follow Ben's weekly podcasts. I appreciate that a podcast is in fact rather an annoying new buzzword for what is really simply an audio file, but I like the idea of people creating these little time capsules nonetheless - and Ben's are a nice way to close your eyes and spend some time in Spain. You don't need a pod of any description, just something that'll play MP3s; the lumbering old MS Media Player on yer 'puter will do.

Right, I've hidden from the heat for long enough. Now I really have to go out and do "some stuff".


Posted at 1:51 pm by Jim Woods

Ha! Bloody hardware!

If I understood the ramifications (pun intended) of memory speeds, FSB speeds, clock multipliers and what-have-you I'd probably be a better man. I have my system running stably now, albeit with a perfectly adequate 512 meg of memory rather than 768 meg, but the only way I have been able to stop Sandra's diagnostics muttering like a witch in the Scottish Play about my RAM being clocked too high has been to wrestle the BIOS into explicitly clocking it too slow. Go, and indeed figure. Now it's possible that I don't know what I'm doing, but I have spent a lot of time on this issue and much of it reading what I could find on various hardware forums, and it's also possible that Sandra is mistaken. It's been known, as the FAQ suggests. But either way, what a hassle.

Now all I have to do is work out how to get Sandra to stop going on about my mainboard being too hot. I have played at length with the complex and geeky but ultimately bloody powerful Motherboard Monitor and I'm stuffed if I can find any sensors which corroborate what Sandra is saying. In any case, in this weather it's not surprising that the thing's a bit hot and bothered. I don't reckon 52 degrees C is going to cause the end of the world anyway. And Motherboard Monitor and Sandra are giving three temperature readings each in any case, which are totally different. Well not totally different, since the same three figures are there; it's just what they refer to which is in some doubt. So I'll troll off to the BIOS, and see if the three temperature readings there can tell me the true story.

I'm beginning to be a Luddite.

Mind you I'm loving my free upgrade to 1 m/b ADSL from Pipex at the same price as I was paying for 512k. Especially since it's running double even that at the moment. Bonus. Maybe it'll even last.

Off to fettle my bass gear now, as I have a bass-playing gig at the Exeter Hall tomorrow night. I predict heat and fun, although not necessarily in that order of priority.



Posted at 11:15 am by Jim Woods

Wednesday June 22 2005


I now catch up a little from last week, having screwed up a few entries in my rage and frustration at having an elusive hardware fault. Which is to say that I committed the cardinal idiocy of having the odd backup - my blog - about three days out of date. The sort of thing I generally lambaste others for... Generally vital bits and bobs like my Blog folder go onto a thumb drive at the end of the day, as it takes a couple of minutes at most to do. Lesson learned, although I thought it had been.

Anyway, I had an entry for Saturday - the day when I helped run a large (8-10k) sound system from 3pm onwards through the night out at Black Bourton in West Oxfordshire. Seven bands and a DJ, and rather a cut above yer average village fete. There was a full lighting rig too, which really came into its own after sunset. But hot - it was a new definition of hot. Relentless sun and high humidity. We had a shade tent over the mixer, about twenty-five yards back from the stage; the problem was that we were on a riser in this little tent whose sides only rolled up part of the way. So we were sat there in a bubble of hot air trapped in the tent, broiling. There was an unprecedented willingness amongst the crew to nip out to buy people drinks or help do the complex change-overs of equipment and microphones on stage. The stage, paradoxically, was rather cooler. It had been erected in the morning, and had the benefit of a large are of cool ground underneath it as well as a good through-flow of air.

I enjoyed the experience, and had prepared reasonably well for the baking, sweaty weather. But it was still a pretty hard day in that regard. As I drove home late that night every animal for miles tried to dive under the car, and I imagine that the heat was scrambling them too. Managed to avoid them all, but it was close with a couple of rabbits and a cat. I hate running over animals, since they have rather more right to be there by order of precedence. Came home, had a cold shower. Bliss.


Posted at 5:24 pm by Jim Woods

Yes, I think it's safe to say

that the problem was shagged out unstable RAM. Everything runs nicely for now, and has for hours.

Why does RAM wear out?

Why did I drink all that gin?

Back soon.


Posted at 5:36 am by Jim Woods

Tuesday June 21 2005

Right, I may have a stable computer now.

Fingers crossed. My desktop PC, otherwise known as my only computer other than a rather superannuated notebook which I use for simply surfing the web via wireless around the house, threw a fit. At fairly frequent random intervals the monitor would simply go into standby, and the computer would do who knows what in the meantime; without the monitor working it's hard to tell what might be going on. By examining the knackered remains of the processes I'd had running and their files I was able to conclude that the system was crashing out at the same time. Bugger.

It's a hell of a job tracking down what's happening when this sort of thing occurs, but I manfully faced up to the task and began my search for the problem. A quick Google round between crashes told me that graphics driver corruption was a likely culprit, and from my own experience I know that video card drivers are very fickle things with regard to system stability. So I uninstalled the drivers. Problem still there. Hmm. Someone on the net said that it's probably best to bite the bullet and reinstall XP from scratch when graphics drivers have been acting up. I'd just done that a few days ago, as I believe I commented here. Anyhow, I did a clean install for good measure. Two, actually, since the bloody system crashed a few times in the process. Probably not a software issue then. Nice clean system in hand I substituted my spare monitor, but this did not help. I then put my old graphics card back in - equally no improvement.

This was looking grim. I updated my BIOS just for good measure, since when your system is spread about semi-clothed it makes sense to do all the maintenance you can think of. A saga in itself, as identifying exactly which board you have can be rife with ambiguity. Urgh.

At this point I still have an unstable system. I decide to try some software diagnosis, although when you can't get the thing to run reliably for any length of time this is not necessarily the most productive and rewarding approach. Still, with nothing really other than a fully up to date copy of XP Pro running and the Microsoft default drivers managing all my hardware, I was now almost positive that the problem was in the hardware. I grabbed SiSoft Sandra for an initial prod about, as it's free ("lite" version, but may well be all that's needed), and ran it. No terribly dire imprecations were forthcoming from this, except that it thought the system was running a bit hot. Then again, aren't we all in the current blistering heat. Heat is not good for computers, but the BIOS section of the PC had all the temperatures reading within acceptable ranges. So I decided that that was probably not the real problem. I nearly missed the vital clue though. My system memory was reported by Sandra as 512 meg. Hmm - I have 768. I rebooted to get into the BIOS again for a look at the memory settings there and hey - on this occasion the PC halts on an error and bleeps. Not being a hardware genius and not being terribly au fait with error codes and so on I simply assumed that there was indeed a memory problem.

I popped the lid again. I have a 256 meg DIMM and a 512 meg DIMM. The 512 is a lot newer and quicker. I didn't know whether or not you could get a partial failure that would result in a 512 reporting as a 256, so I pulled the 256 and swapped the 512 to slot 1 where the 256 was residing. I booted, and all seemed sweetness and light. I was pleased that the problem appeared to be an oldish and at least mostly non-essential bit of hardware. 512 meg of RAM is fine for my purposes really; in fact I'd only added 512 to the original 256 because the shop didn't have any 256 meg modules at the time and I was too busy to muck about. I needed more RAM for a job in a hurry. I downloaded a free, and rather nifty, memory checking program with the splendidly prosaic name of Checker, and I ran it on the system for half an hour with just the 512 meg of RAM in there. It came up trumps. No problems.

I have not been as rigorous as I might have been, but it seems that the problem is solved now - fingers crossed, touch wood and perform a strange little dance. I remembered a golden rule at this point - dud memory is very often the culprit with strange crashes.

Two points arise. First, it's an appalling bugger when you lose the monitor in a crash and cannot see what is going on, or not going on. The bugger is compounded when a simple substitution check proves that it's not simply a dud monitor. Secondly, getting a ram checker on the case very early on would have saved me a few hours. Next time something like this happens I'll use it early, if not preventively.

When I have recovered from writing this long, and frankly rather boring, tale I'll relate my festival fun and if you're really unlucky some more detailed hardware stuff that's proving troublesome.

The computer, I fear, is not my friend.


Posted at 6:44 pm by Jim Woods

All hassle with computers.

I shall explain soon.


Posted at 5:53 am by Jim Woods

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