Monday, 24 August 2009

PVR and Freeview Woes

Sounds a bit like I'm an old git when I say things like this but I'll say it anyway, "They don't make consumer electronics like they used to".

A few weeks ago we started to have issues with our Freeview TV reception, certain channels kept blocking and the audio was popping. I took a look in the diagnostics in the Humax PVR9200T box we have and it was reporting bad signal strength and quality on some of the channels. If I tweaked around with the RF cable round the back of the box sometimes the reception would improve and sometimes it got worse, this of course made me think it was the cable so in the first instance I replaced that, unfortunately it didn't make any difference, Now the Humax box is 2 years old and just recently it has started randomly crashing and freezing up (also the series link functionality seems to randomly not work) I had a look at doing a software update on the box but this involves having a null modem cable and a Windows PC with an RS232 port neither of which were easy for me to lay my hands on.

So I decided to replace the Humax and drew up a list of requirements.

1. Freeview only twin tuner PVR
2. Pause and rewind Live TV.
3. Ethernet connectivity (for copying recorded programs off)

After scouring the Internet for products I found only two that satisfied these, firstly was a Dreambox (German company) these are linux based boxes so very configurable but also quite expensive for the features I wanted (400ish pounds) so a no go really.
The second opton was fetchtv ( this is a freeview PVR which is coupled to an online on demand TV service that streams films/programmes over your broadband connection, mostly these are on a pay per view basis but it does offer free access to BBC iPlayer. The fetchtv box also allows the export of mpeg2 copies of any programmes you have recorded and will also play videos you have on your PC. This seemed perfect it satisfied all my requirements and although quite expensive (220 pounds) it was only 20 pounds over what I was expecting to pay. After a little further investigation I found that John Lewis sold them so surely they must be reputable and a good quality product, I took the plunge and ordered.

So next day the fetchtv box arrived and I plugged it in, to my dismay the freeview channels that were suffering interference were still having the same problems, seems I was going to have to investigate that issue even further, I ploughed on and tried all the other features of the box anyway, initially I was quite impressed it was easy to setup, minimal cables fuss, used dhcp and picked up an address on my network straight away, sign up via the fetchtv website was relatiely painfree and once I had done that and upgraded the firmware accessing BBC Iplayer was 5-6 button presses away, hey presto it worked, the interface is a bit clunky (The Internet is designed for full kb's and mice but not TV's and remote controls) but the quality although certainly not HD was pretty good and certainly watchable. I had a browse around the fetchtv pay per view stuff and there is quite a lot of content but it is mostly fairly dated with the exception of a handful of quite new films. Oooops hang on box crash, in true Consumer Electronic of the new millenium style the box hung and needed a power cycle to get it working again, oh well this is hardly unusual these days so I won't hold it against the box. I rebooted and everything was fine again, next I tried playing Video I have stored on my PC at the other side of the house, here I was really impressed the fetchtv box found my pc on the network and was able to play about 80% of the content I had stored on the network, pretty impressive really (I use my xbox 360 for playing this content currently but having everything in one box would certainly be a good thing)
So end of the first evening with fetchtv and we had one crash but lots of positives so was thinking that despite the fact it wasn't the cure to my reception problems I would keep it anyway.

The next day I had a look at the export facilities of the fetchtv box and again I was pretty impressed the box stores all tv shows it's recorded in .ts format this is an mpeg2 transport stream and is a fairly common way to store this kind of content, files are very large though (30 mins was about 700mb I think) there are from what I could see two ways of extracting content from the fetchtv, plug a usb harddrive directly into a port on the box or use a web browser directed at the boxes IP address where you are given a list of recording and the option to subscribe to an RSS feed, pretty intuitive and useful.

So that evening I decided to put the box to more of a test, I set it to record two channels at once and then started browsing the user interface to play a program off the drive, this box must have a way underpowered cpu as when it was using both tuners to decode and record video to the HDD it was so sluggish that it was almost unusable. Ooops another box crash then stopped both my recordings in their tracks. After restart I tried recording one show and then using BBC Iplayer to watch a second, nope this wouldn't work, again the CPU just couldn't cope with this amount of work, Iplayer was all judders and stops and basically impossible to use (at the same time my MAC laptop was having no issues with Iplayer). Ooops then another box crash in fact 3 of them in less than 10 mins. That's when I lost my patience, and put the Humax back in the TV cabinet. The fetchtv has now been packaged back up and is going back to John Lewis for a full refund tomorrow.

As for the freeview reception issues they were almost solved by installing a signal booster but we still have problems with BBC1 and BBC2 (along with CBBC and BBC3 which we don't really watch) these channels are all on the same freeview Multiplex and it appears something changed to reduce the power a few weeks ago. It seems the solution is a new aerial so that is getting fitted shortly.

So I am back to thinking that Humax make the best PVR's although I wish my 9200T would not crash periodically and the series link would work properly, if there was an easy way to extract shows from it and play network content like on the fetchtv it would be a massive improvement. A basic improvement would be to add folders to the directory structure for browsing shows so at least we could file all the kids tv in one place.
Maybe someone from Humax will see this and make notes for their next product release :)

Monday, 29 June 2009


In may I went to a music festival called ATP (All Tommorows Parties) in a Butlins holiday camp in Minehead, a rather bizarre setting you might think but in fact it was ideal for this kind of thing, plenty of accommodation, food outlets and multiple music stages. ATP organise these festivals 2-3 times a year and they are usually curated by a specific band/artist they are responsible for choosing the bands who play and generally get involved with the things that go on over the weekend, at this ATP it was the turn of the Breeders to be the hosts. For those who don't know the Breeders are an American indie rock/pop band who's lead singer is Kim Deal (who is/was also part of the Pixies) I saw lot's of bands both old and new over the weekend but here is my top 5

Throwing Muses
Blood Red Shoes
Gang of four

Despite them being very very old bands, Gang of four and Wire were very new to me, but extremely good.

Non music events also happened during the weekend such as an Art exhibition but most notably "Kelly Deal" (Kim's sister and also in the Breeders) was giving Knitting Demo's at lunchtime in the pub, Kelly is a prolific knitter and even has a book on the subject "Bags That Rock: Knitting on the Road with Kelley Deal" I didn't attend the knitting sessions as it's not really my thing but when I bumped into Kelly later on I did try and get a copy of the book for Cath as she is really into knitting, Kelly didn't have any with her but gave me a hug to take back home with me.

So all in all ATP, it's not Glastonbury but we really enjoyed ourselves and I will definitley keep an eye out for more of them in the future.
I have put some pics up here:

ATP Day 1
ATP Day 2 and 3

Friday, 15 May 2009

Going away for a few days

Seems it has been a month since I last updated here, I keep telling myself I should do it, but time has been in such short supply over the past few weeks (After time spent on Family and Work all that was left was sleep) it has just been very difficult. Today I am going to ATP (All Tommorows Parties) curated by the Breeders at Butlins in Minehead, it's a large music festival where all the bands are chosen by "The Breeders" my favourite band of all time "Throwing Muses" are playing tonight so am very excited. At the same time it's pretty hard to leave Cath and Emma again (I just got back a few days ago from a work trip to the RIPE meeting in Amsterdam) however we have made sure that we've had some really good quality family time together this week. Hopefully things should be a little more sane when I'm back next week, so hopefully more updates then. I'll write a post on ATP when I'm back on Tuesday/Wednesday. No blogging or photos while I'm away though as I am (shock horror) leaving laptop at home (hopefully this will ensure I have a really good break and feel re-charged afterwards) I will have my iphone with me and will be updating how things are going via twitter

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Why do you do your job?

I am very lucky because for nearly 15 years now I have been in employment that didn't really feel like work, what I mean by that is that my interest/hobby and work have merged into the same thing. Don't get me wrong I (as everyone does) have those days when I hate the job I do, I have those mundane tasks that are just a pain, and let's say I won the lottery (with slightly more than the ten pounds I achieved this week) then I certainly wouldn't continue working, though I would probably maintain an interest in the things that I currently do. However all that said, a fair percentage of the time my work doesn't feel like work :)
This kind of came about by accident I didn't originally work with computers, it (luckily) just worked out that way in the mid 90's when a position came up in IT in the non IT company I was working in they took a chance on me. It was around 1995 that my interest in The Internet really took off but it took until 2000 before I managed to get a job in an ISP, since then I have worked in two isp's a Regional Internet Registry and currently at Nominet the .uk registry. The thing that really drives me is that to me the Internet seems to be the most important worldwide development that will happen in my lifetime it has the potential to touch and change billions of people's lives so being able to be involved both from a technical and policy/governance angle is very very interesting. I hope that makes sense to some of you.
What do you do for a living and why do you do it?


So blog posts have been a little sparse over the past few weeks. The reason behind this is that I have been studying for an exam, I took this on Wednesday and passed (with a score of 75%) and hence am now a VCP (VMWare Certified Proffesional) This required a week long intense training course, another weeks worth of self study and also a lot of hands on work. The exam was 75 questions and covered all aspects of the VMWare product range but with a focus on ESX 3.5 it was pretty hard and I was very relieved when I got the passed message at the end. My general view on these kind of qualifications is that they are much more valuable when you are younger and are trying to make a name for yourself in IT, as you get older and more experienced I think they are less important as experience counts for much more than qualifications (but both together is obviously even better)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Coming soon VMWare technology posts

Following on from my weeks worth of training on VMWare and some intense work I'm doing in that area I do intend to do a series of posts on the different features of the product, probably including:

Virtual Center
Upcoming release features

However current level of work is preventing me from attaching any priority to this, I think things will calm down later in the week so hopefully then I will get time to write the first one.

In the meantime we visited Waddesdon Manor at the weekend have posted some pictures here:

Sunday, 29 March 2009

A week in London in the Company of VMWARE

So last week I was on a VMWare fast track extended hours training course. Some blog posts on specific VMWare features will follow during the next few days but for now a general overview of a very very busy week.

Was up extremely early Monday morning (6.15 and left the house at 6.45). I got the train from Didcot but unfortunately it was delayed so I was about 20 mins late into London. Why oh Why do the trains from Oxfordshire arrive at Paddington which seems to be the arse end of London, it takes far too long to get anywhere from here.
My training was on Threadneedle street which for those who don't know is in the City (close to Liverpool Street and Bank), I finally got there at 8.45 which was 45 mins late but I guess I can't blame all of that on the train, mental note made have to get up half an hour earlier the next morning (gah 5.45). Despite my lateness I hadn't really missed much beyond basic introductions so apart from it being a little embarrasing it was ok. First day started off with basic introduction to virtualisation and the options available along with a more indepth view on the networking features available in vmware. As expected the day finished at 6.30 and I got home at 8.45 and was back in bed at mmm 10.30.

Tuesday as planned I left home 30 mins earlier and did atcually make it to the course on time, although the first 30 mins not a lot seemed to happen so rushing did seem a little like a waste of time. Got out of class a little earlier which was quiyte good but when I picked the car up at Didcot it started to make strange noises and lights were flashing on the dash that really shouldn't be flashing. I ended up getting home about 8.15, Catherine had kept Emma up so I could see her this was a really nice surprise as I thought I wasn't going to see her all week which was quite hard to take in to be honest.

Wednesday I left for Didcot slightly nervous that the car wouldn't make it all the way but this worry was unfounded it was still makign strange noises but did make it with no problems. This was to be my last ultra early morning as I was staying in a Hotel on Wed and Thu nights. Another interesting day of training was finished off with a couple of pints and a curry with Jamie (who I hadn't seen for ages)

Thursday it was a joy to have a lie in until 7am, although as usual I did not sleep well in a strange bed. Another intense day of training, I find IT training a strange experience it's either extremely challenging and difficult or very very easy, this course was mainly very easy but with the odd bit of challenge, this is hardly surprising though as I've been using VMWare products in some form or another for about 8 years.

Friday, final day woohoo it's been an interesting and enlightening week but I was glad it was drawing to a close. At lunchtime today I decided to go for a walk to Spitalfields market and see what I could find for lunch (we were given luncheon vouchers each day) when I got there I saw that one of the restaraunts was spit roasting a pig outside and selling 'pork sandwiches' for a fiver a go. So I asked the guy if he took luncheon vouchers, no problem was his reply. Off he went and carved me some very succulent looking pork and dropped it in a lovely crusty bread bun, my mouth was watering by now, so I handed over my vouchers at which point he said "oh better just check with my boss" who then decided no we don't take them, couldn't believe it could almost taste it (stil can now), it was so close. Friday did finish early which was nice and I treated myself to a 1st class ticket home (which was even nicer) and to round the day off nicely the car didn't breakdown on the way home either.

It was a very good week all in all but it was very nice to be home with Catherine and Emma for the weekend.

I'll try and blog a little this week about the cool stuff I atcually learnt about VMWare last week.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Great Weekend before a tough week

Heading towards the end of a fab weekend which is great because this week could be pretty tough going.
As always the weekend started slightly early (I finish at 4pm on a Friday) I knew I wasn't going to be in the office next week so Friday was a tough day catching up on things etc but by the time I left everything was sorted. Nice relaxing Friday evening with a few beers and some TV nothing special or out of the ordinary.
Saturday morning we didn't have anything planned until 11.00am so Catherine very nicely let me have a little lie in while she got up and gave Emma breakfast. We had arranged to do a second viewing on a house in Blewbury at 11.30 it's a 4 bedroom semi but is quite small for a 4 bedroomed house and the garden is very compact, so we are in two minds whether it is good enough, we did make a decision on the other house we saw in Blewbury that the Oil CH and the slight untidiness of the surrounding area was enough for us not to move forward, its a shame, it was a lovely house but was just not meant to be.
Saturday afternoon we went off to do Grocery shopping this is becoming more eventful as Emma gets older, apparently 2 is just the right age to run around Sainsburys like a mad girl causing general havoc, she always seems to be better behaved in Waitrose but hey we can't afford to shop there every week. Saturday evening was spent with my lovely wife a bottle of chenin blanc and a good film (oh and some Pizza Express, cheesey garlic bread) the Film was Swimming Pool starring Charlotte Rampling, very French with a weird twist at the end which I didn't really get, very enjoyable film though.

Sunday was mothers day hence Catherine's turn to have a nice lie in, Emma and I got up and had some breakfast pretty early (7.30), did some playing watched some TV, we had fun which is good as I'm not gonna be around much next week. The weathers been pretty good in Oxfordshire this past week so we decided to go out and have a picnic, we packed sandwiches croissants and drinks in a bag along with a throw and off we went for a walk down the Thames, weather wasn't quite as good as yesterday but we had fun and Emma loved eating outdoors, she loved it even more when we then went to the playpark she has learnt the word swing in the past few days so was shouting that a lot, oh and if anybody dares mention the word 'slide' then you get an instant 'wheeeeeeeeee'
Emma was a little angry when we left the playpark but this is quite normal and she was looking very tired by this time. When we got back home Emma went off for a sleep, this was the trigger to go and do some gardening, well it was more throwing some stuff in a bin to be honest, Cath is the gardener in this family, I'm just a labourer. To be honest I can't stand gardening as a rule but do feel I ought to help now and again and it's good to feel you have contributed :) Next...... the car needs washing it has done for quite some time so did that (not very well I noticed afterwards but never mind I did try) finally had a sit down and a cuppa then Emma was up again, we played in the Garden for an hour or so (while cath cooked dinner) which was great fun.
BTW for those wondering Emma very cleverly compiled a load of video of herself from when she was a baby and put it on a usb memory stick (I did offer some guidance) for a mothers day present for Cath.
Was hard to say goodnight to Emma tonight and put her in her cot, I'm on a training course in London this week which means leaving the house at 6.15 and not getting home till around 8pm, plus on wed and thu I am staying over. It will be hard to not see my little girl all week but it's some training I have wanted to do for ages (vmware) and it's only a week so I'm sure we'll get through it.
Sorry if the post was a little mundane and normal day but you know sometimes thats the way life is, to me it wasn't mundane and normal, it was a lovely weekend.
Right gotta go to bed early so i can get up at 5.45 will try and blog some more about the training course during the week.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


So the house we have now is lovely and it's a perfect size for the three of us, also has a nice large garden which Emma loves running around in (A change from a year ago when she hated it) but because we don't have an investment in it and we know it's not long term it's just not home. As I guess you know there is a recession on at the moment, you may not also know but house prices in the UK have been dropping like a stone, I think they are now down over 20% from their peak which means maybe it's time to at least start looking for a home for us to settle down in for the next few years. It's quite a difficult thing to do Cath and I both have quite strong opinions and mostly they agree but not surprisingly we think differently in certain areas, in addition to this we both want a set of things that we just can't have for the amount of money we can afford to spend.

Over the last couple of weeks we have spent a lot of time in Blewbury ( ) and thought we had found a suitable house we viewed it for the second time today but found it had oil fired central heating and no gas in the house, this was quite a blow because Oil CH is much more expensive to run and getting Gas piped in is probably going to cost a small fortune, it's a bit of a downer but we will just have to work through the options, I guess we'll get there in the end and we will end up with a lovely house for the three of us but this stage is very hard.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Yes I know

I haven't posted in a month, it's been a touch and busy 4 weeks, normal service will be resumed this week I promise.
In the meantime Catherine now also has a new blog at and I've uploaded a few new sets of photos over the last week or two at

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Isn't youtube great

Always amazed by the amount of stuff on youtube, found a clip from my first ever music festival from 20 years ago
CUD were fab.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Favourite TV

So a few weeks ago I read a story that they were bringing back one of my favourite TV shows of all time, "Minder" for those of you who don't know this was a big show in the 80's staring George Cole as Arthur Daley a loveable spiv/rogue (would you buy a used car from this man) and Dennis Waterman as Terry Mcann his Minder, together they get into various dodgy deals, scrapes fights etc. In the original the scripts were fantastic and the acting and characterisation both faultless. The new one has arrived on the TV much faster than I thought it would (Second Episode is on Channel 5 tonight) it isn't so much a remake as a re-invention and stars Shane Richie as a distant relative of Arthur Daley and a guy called Max Shrapnel (wtf) as his Minder. Unlike most people I atcually like Shane Richie so was quite impressed when I heard he had been cast in the role (I thought Shane really cheered Eastenders up when he was first in it**) Well I have all my fingers crossed that it's not as bad as it could be. I'll do a small review and let you know what I think when I've watched the first couple of episodes.

** Note I no longer watch Eastenders as I cannot bear the despair any longer, still enjoy Corrie but I wish they would go back to 2-3 episodes a week, 4-5 is just too many.

Finally Over

So Emma's birthday is finally over for this year, it seemed to go on for aabout a week but atcually was a few days, I was a little disapointed that we didn't get to go to the Zoo on her atcual birthday but the weather was so bad it just wasn't possible, we'll save that one up for another day when we are a little closer to summer. We finished off Emmas big weekend by going to visit Caths Mum on Sunday wasn't sure until the last minute whether it was a good idea to drive to Horsham or not, it turned out ok though, we kind of saw all weather in the trip but nothing that was hard to handle, the most exciting moment was when what I can only describe as a small rock was thrown up from a Car's wheels on the M25 and hit slap bang in the middle of my side of the windscreen, It didn't smash and in fact hasn't even chipped the screen but I'm amazed it didn't because it was very large and made a horrendous noise when it hit, no harm done in the end but gave us a bit of a shock. We had a lovely lunch in Horsham with Rita, Sam, Sarah, Anna and Lee, opened some more presents and then played around for a bit. A very nice day made all the more pleasant I think because we were so relieved to be out of the house.
Work chugs along like work does at the moment, I seem to have more and more projects piling up but the good thing is they are all things that I am interested in doing, currently I seem to be getting less of the parts of the job I don't like (famous last words) I was supposed to be going to Bristol for UKNOF this week but can't make it due to other commitments, never mind the next one is in Sheffield in a couple of months time so hopefully I can make a trip north for that.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Stealing Pete's bags thunder

So apparently my mate Pete lost his bag on the way back from Libya at the weekend, so there seems to be some opinion that I may be stealing it's thunder. Well worry ye not our bags are back and were never officially lost so I still maintain my record of never having lost a bag or missed a flight and so Pete's bag is welcome to all the thunder it would like.
So when we left Heathrow on Tuesday BA told us we should get our bags in a few days, although after previous horror stories of bags being lost and being sent to Milan for sorting I fully expected this to take multiple weeks so on Wednesday we had already set about the task of trying to remember the really important things that were in the bag and that we needed to buy again as they wouldn't wait until the return, I bought a few bits and pieces (razor, shaving foam etc) and we intended to go out and buy some essentials on Thursday/Friday. On Thursday I received a text message from BA's luggage handling agents with a tracking number and notification that our luggage should be delievered before 21:00 that day, I hadn't heard the text arrive and only noticed it when I went to bed at 23:00 though so by that time they were already two hours late. I decided that I'd just call them next morning and see what the hell was going on and off I went to sleep. At 00.15 (Yes that's quarter past midnight readers) we were awoken by my mobile phone ringing, the person on the end seemed to be unable to hear me and I think I had to answer it 3 times before we atcually got any dialogue going, It was the BA luggage guy delivering in the middle of the freakin night. So I went downstairs and opened the front door and stood shivering in the bloody awful freezing cold and the guy had the cheek to shout from his van, "can you come out and confirm which are your bags mate", "No I bloody well can't I was asleep in bed and you have just woken me up", so after a few minutes of standing in the cold he eventually strolls up the garden path and starts trying to have a conversation with me at the top of his voice, I had to atcually ask him to be quiet after reminding him it was after midnight and that most people were in bed.
Of course we were extremely grateful to get our bags (and all their contents) back so quickly but frankly I was completly thrown by this sheer lack of concern for the customer.

It might be awhile before we leave the country again.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Trip to the Lowlands Part 2

Ok so really the title should be trip back to the snowy lands.

Our flight back from Schiphol to Heathrow was scheduled for 11.45am, due to the state of the weather the day before we were almost convinced it would be cancelled and we'd be stuck in Holland for an extra day at least (no bad thing though really) however surprisingly the BA website said our flight was running as normal so we left The Hague at 8.30 in plenty of time. Emma likes being on all types of public transport so we were enjoying ourselves on the train to the Airport and were almost there (approx 1-2 miles away) when the train stopped, after a few minutes the conductor came on the PA and informed us there had been a "stroom storing" (Having spent 7 years in Holland I am still appalled at my lack of Dutch, however having travelled on the railways a lot in that time I was well aware that this phrase which basically means power failure).

So we sat and waited on a stationary train for what seemed like an eternity, I'm sure most of you have been there, you can see the seconds ticking away along with your flight becoming less and less likely and there is nothing you can do about it. After about 30 minutes they decided that there was no point in waiting any longer and turned the train around to go back to Leiden, where to get to Schiphol we would have to catch another train and change twice, there was no way we were going to catch our plane so we opted for the 80 Euro taxi ride instead. We arrived at the airport 2 minutes before check in was due to close, a little stressed but very relieved, however as we were starting to check in all the BA computers went down, so the stress levels came back up again. After about 15 minutes of standing and waiting I was starting to get worried we would miss the flight (again) so I asked the BA check in clerk what would happen if they couldn't check us in for our flight which was now due to leave in 30 mins, at which point he said don't worry your flight is delayed until 1pm anyway, though why he didn't tell us that when we first arrived I don't know. So eventually (after about another 30 mins) we got checked in and went through security (with no events this time) at which point we found the flight was delayed until 2.45pm, aggghhhh, now I know some of you will feel for us when you think about trying to entertain a 2 year old in an Airport for this length of time, but atcually Emma was incredibly well behaved and we are both very proud of her for that, the worst that happened was she started emptying the stones from the potted trees onto the airport floor (mainly I think because she was amused by the fact we had to put them back again afterwards.)

At 3.00pm we finally boarded the flight at which point Emma instantly fell asleep, we were all belted up and ready to go when the captain came on and said that they couldn't get a take off slot for 45 minutes, the atmosphere on the plane was pretty crappy at this point and I was starting to think anything and everything that could go wrong would, however after about 15-20 minutes the captain came back on and said he had now got clearance to take off and so off we went.

The journey to London was pretty uneventful (thank god) apart from a rather bizarre circle as we came over east London which was obviously to waste time but was a little unusual.

When we got on the ground at Heathrow we were then told we didnt have anywhere to park the plane which caused us another 30 minutes on the plane.

Just when I was starting to relax and think we were going to get home in one piece at a reasonable time we were told that it was likely going to be multiple hours before our luggage would be off the plane and available to us. To be fair to BA they did at this point give us the option of filling a small form in and having our lugage delivered to our house in the next day or so, we grabbed this option with open arms and ran screaming from the terminal.
Collected the car from long stay parking no nasty surprises it was all in one piece and atcually was surprisingly devoid of snow. I guess a lot of people were working at home that day as the M25 and M4 were very quiet (it was rush hour by now) now you would think that by this time nothing else could go wrong (or could it) the weather was pretty bad on the way home, driving rain and sleet, the strange thing was every now and then the wipers on the car kept making a loud bang at first I thought it was snow falling off trees or bridges but it seemed to be too regular for that. When we turned off the A34 about 2 miles from home there was an even louder bang from the wipers and the left one flipped over and turned inside out, we stopped and turned it back round and made it home without further incident. I was so relieved when we finally got in the house and relaxed. It was the second worst trip I've ever had and one I won't forget for a long long time.

Next episode: The case of the missing luggage (A short but unbelievable tale)

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Trip to the Lowlands Part 1

So last weekend we went off to visit The Netherlands, we go there fairly frequently mainly because we used to live in Amsterdam and hence we miss the place, but also because Catherine's dad lives in The Hague and he's always very hospitable and very pleasant to spend time with. I'll post twice about this trip, today mainly about the trip in general and again in the next day or two about the horror that was the trip home.

We left home at 8am sharp on Saturday morning (well 8.05 but that is fairly sharp for us) for the hour trip to Heathrow to multiple cries of "Bus, Bus" from Emma, she loves being in the car. The journey was uneventful we arrived at Heathrow in plenty of time, we did miss the turn off to the car park because of fairly bizzare signage but anyway with a couple of hours to spare we were checked in and going through security, then came a slight problem, as my bag came through the scanner it veered off to one side, mmm couldn't think what the problem was until Catherine happened to enquire as to whether I had been stupid enough to pack any toiletries in my hand luggage and indeed I had shaving gel, a razor and deodorant in there (I hadn't put these in the main luggage as we were going to seperate cities for the first night we were in Holland so I thought it would make life easier). The problem then was that to have my bag checked properly I was behind 3 more people and once your bag is pulled accross they go through it with a fine toothcombe, eventually my time came the security guy was very upbeat and even tried to cheer Emma up by giving her somebody elses sweets. I was rather pissed off with myself over all this as I am quite well travelled and don't normally make silly mistakes like this, oh well you live and learn don't you. It did kill quite a lot of time though and before we knew it we were boarding the flight, I don't think Emma has ever atcually been awake for a takeoff or landing she usually falls asleep just before takeoff and wakes up shortly after hitting the tarmac at the other end, and this was the pattern again today.
We arrived at Schiphol a little late and John (Catherines Dad) was there to meet us and after a quick refreshing drink off they went to The Hague and off I went to Amsterdam.
I had arranged to stay at our old flat in Amsterdam with my friend Mark but I knew he wouldn't be home until 6pm so I had a couple of hours to kill, I decided to go down into the South of Amsterdam and visit my friends Mark and Jeff, they moved into a new apartment a while ago and I hadn't seen it as yet. Loved their apartment, felt much bigger than the old one, was really nice to see them both aswell, I hung around and had a couple of cups of tea and then bid them farewell (I was meeting up with them for dinner that night anyway) I then went off and visited our old apartment on the Nieuwe Kerkstraat, was really good to see my old friend Mark and our old cat Tegan (We had to leave her behind when we moved back from NL to UK).
Dinner and beer that night were at one of my favourite places and somewhere I always visit when in the dam, De Zotte it's a small Belgian beer bar near the centre of Amsterdam but does Steak with pepper sauce, to die for. So we filled up with steak, chips and beer and then after that went off to Oporto a small brown bar in the centre of Amsterdam which is run by another friend of ours Brian who used to be a barman at O Donnels an irish bar we used to frequent quite a lot. After a couple of hours in there I decided that was enough beer for the night, so went off for a wander. I love to just wander the streets of Amsterdam and observe whats going on, wandering lots of cities in the UK at 1am could be quite intimidating and dangerous but Amsterdam has never given me that feeling, after an hour of wandering I decided it was getting a bit cold and that being in a warm apartment would be a good idea but for some reason the cold had also made me hungry again, so I called for Shorma on the way home, I'd never bought it from the place I went to before (very close to the old apartment) but it was fabulous (or maybe I was drunk enough that anything tasted good)
Next morning I had a lovely lie in (got up about 10.45 I think) which is very much a rarity when you have a 2 year old. Cath and her dad came around at 12 and after a cuppa we went off to visit the Hortus Botanicus it's a kind of musuem of plants and things in the centre of Amsterdam had a lovely lunch and a wander around the plants, it's not really my thing but it was Catherines birthday and it was fun seeing Emma running around, it was very very cold though so after a couple of hours we wandered into town for a couple of drinks in Delmondo's (an old haunt of hours) and met up with Mark and Laura (who Catherine and I used to work with at the RIPE NCC) it was nice to see them both. So off we went back to the Hague where we had a lovely night in with John, a nice meal which we all helped to cook and a few glasses of wine.
Monday, I started to feel like I had a cold and for some reason Emma woke up in quite a bad mood, Catherine, Emma and John went out in the afternoon but I went back to bed, so It was a bit of a lost day really. The evening was very nice though after Emma went to bed Catherine and I went down the local pub had a meal and a few beers, we don't have a babysitter here in Abingdon so we never go out together, for years we were best drinking buddies aswell as a couple and I kinda miss that so it's really nice when it can happen.
By this time we had seen the horrific weather that was happenning in the UK and were fairly convinced our flight (scheduled for 11.45 the next morning) would be cancelled.
Next blog entry: The (Long Long) journey home.
Pictures from our trip to the Netherlands are here:

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Lack of updates

Apologies for the lack of updates. If you want to see what I've been up to you can always check my microblog at:
I'll post some stuff about our Amsterdam trip here in the next day or so.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Tweet Tweet

I'm not sure how many of you will of heard of Twitter, but I would encourage you to join. Twitter basically is microblogging, each post made to Twitter is intended to be a short statement of what you are doing, or thinking about or a quick link to something interesting you have seen. It's also an extremely good way of getting (very up to date) news feeds on things that interest you. I was unsure of how useful or interesting it would be when I first started using it in December but I have to say I am hooked now and think its a very useful and very interesting tool, where I blog on here about once a week, I post on twitter multiple times per day.
Take a look and see what you think, Twitter is at and I am at when you have signed up you can select to follow me and then you will automaticallyt see all my updates. Apparently Stephen Fry will be talking about it on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross tonight.

Again Again

Hey the weekends here again, sometimes the weeks go so quickly and sometimes so slow, this one seemed to fly by but then maybe that was because I was out of the office for a day and a half. Tuesday afternoon I drove up to Manchester for a seminar on ZFS at Sun Microsystems, maybe a seperate post about this so as to not bore the non techies, suffice to say it was very interesting and taught me a thing or two. I stayed over in a hotel in Manchester for the night and so while I was there met up with Rosie and Michaela for some food and a few beers, we went to a very nice Greek restaraunt (funny thing is this is the first time I've been to one apart from in Greece itself) and had a top meal and then for a couple of drinks afterwards. Altogether a very nice trip. I also managed to achieve a few other important steps in some projects at work this week, complete the LDOM evaluation, close a couple of very long running tickets and write my first ever powershell script (well cobble something together from somebody elses scripts really but you know what I mean)

In support of one of my new years resolutions of getting back into music again, this week I bought my first copy of NME for about 10 years and am really enjoying it (this may become a regular thing). I've also downloaded some new albums this week, nothing too groundbreaking or exciting though (Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen) but more to follow. Oh also discovered a web music service called grooveshark ( this lets you search for music and stream it in very good quality across the net all from a very nice Web 2.0 flash interface, give it a try I think you'll be impressed. If anybody has any reccomendations of new music for me to listen to then leave a comment, and I'll take a listen and let you know what I think.

Right time for a beer I think. Enjoy the weekend everybody

Sunday, 18 January 2009

TV Appearance

Some of the regular readers of this blog may remember a post I sent awhile ago regarding the Oxford Baby Wearers and a walk around Oxford during International Baby wearing week. This attracted some media attention at the time including a short appearence on ITV, I've now uploaded the clip to youtube you can find it here, it starts with a wonderful wave from Emma.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Back to Normality

Well it was a strange break. Christmas was really nice, Emma is really old enough to enjoy it now and hence we had a really good time.
Immediately following Xmas (well the 27th/28th) I came down with Flu (it might of been a bit mannish but I did feel quite bad) by the time new year came though I felt like I had turned a corner a bit which meant a few beers some champagne and a late night, Cath and I don't stop up until 2am very often these days and it was really nice.

New years day we did a less extravagant repeat of Christmas dinner but it was very nice indeed. Things started to go a little pear shaped later that day when I felt a little tired and Ill, at first I just thought it was the flu coming back to haunt me, but by 8pm I was in bed and by 10 I was throwing up quite badly, everybody else was fine though so we were trying to work out what I had eaten that nobody else had, all we could think of was some fresh orange juice I had bought from Tesco's the same day. Anyhow I was pretty sick all night and very weak the day after. On the Saturday we were due to drive up to my parents and have our third xmas day, we were thinking of cancelling it until the last minute when I felt a lot better so we went anyway, this turned out to be quite a bad move as Emma got the same sickness while we were away, this was quite scarey as she has always been so healthy and even as a very small baby she was hardly ever sick, she looked a little peaky the next morning but got over the after effects much quicker than I did, we did the drive home in a single 3.5 hour stint and Emma slept for the entire journey. By Tuesday Cath had the same Illness and was held up in bed so I had to take the day off to look after her and Emma.
It turned out we had the Norovirus which apparently thousands of people get every year. It's pretty bad I can assure you and was the worst I had felt in 20 years. On a happier note I feel fine now and it's Friday so time for beer.
Have a great weekend.