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One Up For National Express

Relates to State of the Nation

A couple of good friends have engagement parties in London this February, so I decided it might be a good idea to get my Apex train tickets booked well in advance to ensure I didn't end up burdened with the usual extortionate price that has been the product of privatisation following the 1993 Railway Act.

It was no great surprise to discover that my first outing to the city, being the first weekend of many schools half term, coincides with engineering work between Didcot and Swindon. So, the usual direct service from Gloucester to London is not running. Leaving either a bus transfer or the route via Bristol at 3 hours plus journey time (normally about 110 minutes) for which Apex tickets are not offered. With the cheapest ticket price at approximately £35 before tube connections. For that price I might as well drive! A sentiment I am sure is shared by most people making the journey from the West Country. How can we ever hope to create a greener England by reducing the number of cars on the road when rail prices are so over priced. Increasing road taxes certainly doesn't help. It just leaves less disposable income and even less chance of affording train tickets.

National Express, meanwhile, have actually taken a bit of initiative and are injecting the cost savings of implementing e-tickets into special reduced fares. Despite my reservation of coach travel, under the current circumstances the travel duration equals the roundabout train journey, and my fun fare came out at a whopping £2 return!!! I am sure I can put that cost saving to good use in London :)

Posted on Jan 30, 2005 at 22:03:11. [Comments for One Up For National Express- 3]

Inexplicable Takeover

Relates to MySQL and Security

This week has been full of mind boggling puzzles no more so than the apparant take over of my machine by the Outpost Firewall! I run MySQL 3.23 Daemon on request and mid-week for no apparant reason I could no longer connect to the server after booting up. After running a few diagnostics, I concluded that somehow MySQL had corrupted, so since I had a zipped copy of MySQL 4.0.21 on disc I gave this a spin - same problem. At a loss, and concern growing due to total dependency for current work, I tried reinstalling the TCP/IP software. No joy. So I decided to take a peek on the web for similar problems. This entailed booting up the Outpost Firewall, which I have been test driving the past few weeks. To my surprise, once the firewall was running, I could connect to the MySQL server as normal! This was bewildering to me. I boot my system with no services running and the minimal Windows programs, so it would seem somehow MySQL had become inextricably dependant on Outpost!? Eventually I managed to restore normality by cleaning out the shared components in Outpost, but why this worked I can not explain.

So, now I am at a loss on a choice of firewall. Since removing Norton, I have tried numerous firewalls over the past few months - BitDefender, Kerio, Sygate, ZoneAlarm and now Outpost. Prior to this mishap, Outpost had actually been the first one that had not burdened me with conflicts, crashes or reduction in performance. Most frustrating is I would go back to BitDefender immediately if they could only resolve the Windows 98 bugs.

The one positive outcome from this puzzle is that I now have access to MySQL 4 on demand. I generally build on 3.23 to match the live servers I use. Using the datadir parameter in two option files, and booting the daemon from a batch file I can switch between each version as I please. Add to this the three versions of PHP4 and latest PHP5 I currently choose from when booting Apache, and Windows 98 is really not all that bad for development!

Posted on Jan 30, 2005 at 21:37:21. [Comments for Inexplicable Takeover- 0]

We know where you are

Relates to Blogging

Via Richard Rutter (aka Clagnut) my weblog is now geotagged. Richard has also provided a couple of useful bookmarklets to extract the longitude and latitude and feed them to Multimap. A nice feature, although a little alarming that that red dot is sitting directly over my head. Go aerial and those scenes from Enemy of the State spring to mind! One for the slighly paranoid and conspracy theorists…. Zoom out to 1:50000 and the reason I am always late for the tides on the River Severn are explained ;).

I decided to add a very little tweak to the Show Map boomarklet to allow the scale to be entered and to open the result in a new tab/window. Just drag this Show Map bookmarklet to your toolbar. Or click away now to run the bookmarklet against the geotags in my metadata.

The Nearby Blogs bookmarklet also on Clagnut is worth checking out too. The Forest of Dean appears to be quite a lonely place when it comes to blogging - where are you all!?

Posted on Jan 29, 2005 at 15:41:04. [Comments for We know where you are- 0]

What's on the Playlist

Relates to Nostalgia and Music

If it isn't enough that I subject the world, beyond these four walls, to my sporadic outbursts, this year I am going to inflict my eclectic taste in music on you as well! Ok, its not all bad. I confess that of the few live acts I have seen one was the teen sensation of the last decade. But then, I also got to see the Pixies and the Sisters of Mercy play Manchester and the NEC respectively in the early 90's - surf rock and gothic melancholy make the perfect match!?

Doolittle still features highly on my playlist but I tend to jump around a lot, through the decades and over different genres from Mahler to Mad-chester or Ozrics to Ziggy. Though I find beyond what I hear on Radio 2, I have little passion for contemporary music. New bands are emerging all the time with some interesting styles, but I find the originality and creativity that flavoured the music of years gone by is lacking. The phrase I have heard something like this before springs to mind.

Something I had most certainly not heard before was Argus which I was initiated to only last year. Where have Wishbone Ash been all my life? Argus is a superb album of medieval rock and roll with electric guitar playing to rival anyone - just plug in to Throw Down the Sword to hear 120 seconds of perfect harmony and synchronicity from Andy Powell and Ted Turner's dueling. This became my album of choice last year, carrying me through many long nights of urgency.

Early this year, I have slipped a little further back in time, dusting off some old Barclay James Harvest cassettes. Once referred to as the poor man's Moody Blues in the 70's, BJH have delivered many timeless harmonies from the inspiring and somewhat haunting Mocking Bird to rolling melodies like Song for the Dying and the 1968 debut Early Morning. Achieving a perfect balance of orchestral and rock, BJH were accompanied by a full orchestra on their tours in the early 1970's (the Harvest Years) even integrating Shostakovitch and Handle into their sets. The Poet/After the Day medley provides a fine example of the perfect juxtaposition of orchestra and rock ballad. Time Honoured Ghosts provided my first introduction to BJH in my teens, and it wasn't long before Medicine Man, Suicide and Dark Now My Sky were playing alongside Some Kind of Stranger (SOM), Hey (Pixies), Life On Mars, Made of Stone and other eternal favourites.

If you are reading this and Wishbone or BJH have not entered your life before, I strongly recommend a quick deviation.

Posted on Jan 29, 2005 at 05:49:14. [Comments for What's on the Playlist- 2]

M$ Office Worth Every Penny!?

Relates to Basic and The Office

Nothing like a full day of work on an Access database only to be told:

Error accessing file. Network connection may have been lost.

All thanks to this bug, requiring this patch and these patches to fix. Totalling more than 100MB of downloads, I decided to backtrack through the night rather than crank my dial-up to the extreme. Well, its not as if MicroDollar products cost money! I rarely use this software now except for clients (hence the reason I had never patched it previously), but a bug as glaringly obvious as this should never have found its way into the software in the first place!

The final straw - it is time to get a hold on UNO and start migrating to OpenOffice

Posted on Jan 19, 2005 at 19:54:24. [Comments for M$ Office Worth Every Penny!?- 1]

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