Category Archives: General

Warning – Revisited!

THIS IS NOT A JOKE!

By now, I think everybody will be aware that our planet is getting warmer. I previously addressed this, as you can see from the link in the top menu above, ‘Warning’. I fear, however, that the problem is not being taken seriously, and that our world will sooner or later become uninhabitable for us.

Although I lost most of the files in a hard-drive crash some years ago, I decided that I could still do more with those I have left. Hence, I have produced new animations that I want to display in this post. I have ignored the half-way stage at 50 years, and gone straight for the 100 year state. I have shown all 5 continents, with America being divided into North and South.

First:- North America

Second:- South America.

Third:- Australia

Fourth:- Europe

Fifth:- Asia

Sixth:- Africa

As you can see, we will be left with the bones of the Earth, with nowhere to grow food, and little or no access to drinking water or minerals, ports, airports, or transportation, other than animals that may survive.

I sincerely hope that people will start to see how serious this problem is!

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Its a long way back – Part 1.

The problems started last year, when my motherboard eventually bit the dust. It had been a long time coming, having shown intermittent errors that couldn’t be pin-pointed for about a year. As a result of that, I lost a lot of programs, including my own copy of WordPress.

Worse still, of course, was saying goodbye to Windows 7, which had become such a familiar friend over the years. The only replacement I could get with the new motherboard was Windows 10, and we all know what a disaster that is.

I tried various ways to replace my WordPress installation, but kept hitting roadblocks which thwarted me completely. Because I choose not to update WIndows 10, some programs that are required for Wamp to run for example, are just not available. If you don’t have the right version of Microsoft C++ Redistributable, you may not be able to get it, and you can forget Wamp altogether.

I recently came across an alternative that showed promise, as the package claimed to contain everything necessary to run Apache – and this was the server I wanted. It was Bitnami Wampstack-7.1.23-0, which was a download of some 243 Mb.

When I ran the file, it gave me a warning about my Antivirus program possibly causing some interference. I chose to ignore the warning, and left my Antivirus running. Needless to say, the installation got to about 95% complete. and then stopped – never to continue. What to do now?

The Antivirus had shown no sign of distress so far, so I decided to clean everything out, and rerun the installation with Antivirus switched off. That’s where I hit the first problem:- I couldn’t delete all the files!

A bunch of files were effectively being held prisoner by “httpd.exe”, (which itself wasn’t running), as they were all classified as “in use”, and couldn’t be deleted. Nor could I delete “httpd.exe” itself, even after a system restart. I could, however, use a trick, or in fact a couple of them.

First I changed the name of “httpd.exe” to “httpd.e”, and restarted the machine. The files were still held captive, so I then opened “httpd.e” and deleted its contents. Then I restarted again, and lo and behold the files I wanted to get rid of were no longer captive, and soon deleted.

Now I reran the installation for Bitnami Wampstack with the Antivirus switched off. There were some sticky points towards the end, where it said it had stopped working, but it managed to recover from them itself, and the thing was finally done. I now had a viable Apache server again.

The next item was to set up a database for your WordPress site in Mysql. There are many good descriptions of how to do this out there on the Internet – here is one, for example:- 
https://make.wordpress.org/core/handbook/tutorials/installing-a-local-server/wampserver/, and another:- https://Installing From a Zip File – Make WordPress Core.htm

Ok, so I had my database set up, and I was ready to do the “5-minute install” that WordPress is renowned for, but I had made an error. I had accepted the password generated by MySql, and it was a real horror. Judge for yourself:- %gyg@IELn3q9hQNWSe. How the hell is anyone supposed to remember something like that? Ok, so I put little files all over my computer so I would not be likely to be locked out of the system.

The next item is to configure wp-config.php, which you will find at local disk (C), Bitnami, wampstack-7.1.23-0, apache2, htdocs, mysite (or whatever you have called your installation), wp-config.php. The following data must be added.

Once you have done that, point your browser to http://127.0.0.1, or ‘Localhost’ if you have set your ‘Hosts” file up already, and your WordPress installation should commence.

To be continued!

Video File Conversion

It is not always possible to use video files on all devices. Although modern mobile phones do a grand job with most formats, sometimes it is necessary to convert to another format they can handle better. There are a number of programs available to do this, some of them paid, some of them free. Some will do the conversion on your own computer, while others require you to upload the file to the Internet, (or at least provide the url.), for the processing to be done elsewhere, and the result downloaded.

My personal preference is always to work on my own computer. Having downloaded the video once already, I fail to see why I should pay for the bandwidth to download it a second time in converted form.

One of the programs I normally use for this purpose became unusable for some reason, and I was able to recover it, so I looked for an alternative.

Movavi offered a 7-day trial, with the restriction that it would periodically show adverts for Movavi during the replay. I tried this out, and threw it away – it was hideous.

I looked for recommendations on the Internet, and came up with a program called “Any Video Converter”, (AVC). This was free, and easy to download, so I decided to try it out.

A few minutes and 49,6 mb later, I was ready install. The installation was straightforward enough, and so was loading the program to be converted, but then came the tricky part – selecting the output format. These people have really gone overboard on options. For example, for Samsung mobile phones, there is a choice of 18 versions, another 4 for Samsung tablets, 10 for android phones, 19 for android tablets, etc., etc. So you make a choice, and get started.

One of the things that puzzled me was the slow reaction time of the program after it had already been started. It was several minutes before an indication of 1% completion was indicated, and the next change was certainly not going to happen very quickly. I had almost decided that the program was a failure and was about to kill it when the first indication of movement indicated that it was actually alive and doing something.

This type of behaviour is very unusual in my experience, and I wondered what could be the cause. A quick look at the computer loading in Task Manager showed the problem immediately. AVC was loading the computer up to 100% continuously! This one program was using 2 Intel Pentium cores running at 3.3 Ghz almost completely, and was taking over 41/2 hours to convert a video file of 1.39 Gb.

I was already aware that video conversions were time-consuming, but not to this extent! I’ll see what the result is before passing final judgement,.

The final file size is 5.76 Gb, more than 4 times the size of the original file. Considering that a conversion targeting a mobile phone with correspondingly small screen size compared to a desktop computer, the final file should have been considerably smaller than the original 1.39Gb. The file is too big to fit in the target phone!

On balance, I think that AVC fails, and I need a new converter!

Second Wind.

DECEMBER 28, 2015. That was the date of the last post to my blog. It seems such a long time ago now, but circumstances have kept me away from doing anything more than a little maintenance now and again. Fortunately my Twitter feed is displayed on the left side of the page, and will assure people that I have not died in the interim, as luck would have it. But the accident I did suffer could have been a lot worse.

Its now been one and a half years since then, and I still have no memory of what happened. I doubt that I will ever recover that now, but it has made me a great deal more cautious crossing a road – even on a pedestrian crossing.

Subsequent to that, my computer started to play up. Nothing too serious – just an unexpected freezing of the program currently in use now and again. The problem was the “now and again” bit, for on no two consecutive days would it behave the same way. Some days it would behave perfectly well most of the day, then crash in the evening. The next day could be a real nightmare, with it crashing every 5 minutes or so.

In addition to which, as the computer had previously been damaged in a flood, the battery contacts were not doing their job. This mean that on every restart I had to enter the date and time anew. This gets very tedious, very quickly!

Eventually my monitor died, and had to be replaced with a new one. Then the computer finally gave up the ghost, and I took the plunge with a new motherboard, new memory and processor (64 bit instead of 32). The two hard drives, power supply, and the case I kept, – everything else was new. The power supply had a clean up, but only managed to hang on for about 2 weeks, then it too bit the dust. It was quickly replaced with a new 700 watt unit.

I also had to update the operating system, which was an unexpected requirement. The motherboard would have run the old one if I had been able to modify the installation files in time. I will look into that later, when I have a spare hard drive.

Since the rebuild, I have taken the time to find my way around the new system, instal what protection I could against malware, and of course, make sure that my Antivirus (Avira) is kept up-to-date.

As it happens, I am also using Zone Alarm again. You may remember a scathing article I wrote about it after it was first taken over by Check Point –
THE MONSTER IN THE MACHINE. JANUARY 10, 2012
Fortunately Check Point have got their act together in the interim, and it is all running very nicely now.

As you may expect, I am no longer running a copy of my blog on my own computer. It was an interesting experiment while it lasted, but is not a real necessity. I will manage without it for a while, and see how things go.

Charlie Hebdo”s vault into the Limelight.

A week ago, I suspect like most of the world’s population, I knew nothing whatsoever of Charlie Hebdo – a satirical magazine produced in Paris. The savage murder of 12 of its staff was indeed a deplorable action, the result of which was to bring people together in retaliation and defiance, and to blast the name Charlie Hebdo around the world.

If the intention of the attack was to avenge the Prophet for Charlie Hebdo’s satire of him, it failed miserably. It has in fact engendered defiance, it has welded the French nation together like nothing ever before, and drawn most of the world in support of France. And the magazine’s circulation has multiplied by a factor of about 15, apparently, if all 3 million of the new issue to be printed are sold.

There will, of course be repercussions. Already there is muttering in the UK of the “Snooper’s Charter” being brought in after the next election, which will be fought tooth and nail as being too restrictive for most Internet users, and a violation of their rights.

In general, not being a lover of satirical cartoons, I do not deliberately look for them. But one, however, did claim my attention completely. It says everything, even in death!

finger

The Finger!

It is probably also the right thing to send to Kraft, who have provoked the ire of the British public by interfering with the recipe and reducing the size of the Cadbury’s Cream Egg.
See The Cadbury’s Creme Egg scandal: how to stage a chocolate revolution.

My great Outlander Binge!

OutlanderI had downloaded the first part of the Outlander after first checking what it was all about, and looking for ratings. I always check first on Rotten Tomatoes, for I consider it a waste of time and money to download something that isn’t liked by other people that have seen it. I generally reject everything below 50%, so it was good to see that the viewer’s rating for Outlander was up at 96%.

Although the content wasn’t what I would usually go for, the time travel aspect was certainly of interest, so I looked forward to my first viewing with anticipation.

I wasn’t disappointed! In fact, I was completely hooked. I downloaded whatever was available on the Internet, which amounted to 8 issues of the first series, and then looked around for more!

There was nothing else in video available, but my need was great. What else was on offer?

A quick search under the author’s name revealed that there was a range of material in e-book form, which covered most of her output to-date.

That was for me!

I downloaded all of them, and set to it.

Of course it is more effort to read something than to just watch a video, and essentially slower. But the first 8 episodes had already set the scene, so there was little left to the imagination, and the reading went splendidly. However, the amount of material to get through meant that I would be busy for a week or so. No matter, it was just what I needed. The list reads as follows:-

Outlander
Dragonfly in Amber
Voyager
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone

I still have one to get “Written In My own Heart’s Blood”, but my hunger has been sated for a while, and it can wait a bit.

“Hats off” to Diana Gabaldon – a very accomplished and prolific author. And to think that The OUTLANDER series started by accident, when she decided to write a novel for practice!

If you have the time – highly recommended!

Snippets

1. Access to WordPress

It has been a frustrating week, with access to WordPress being intermittent, or non-existent – hence the lack of posts. I am hoping that with an update to my browser that at least some of the problems have been resolved. Its good to be back – I’ve missed you!

I did find other options to get to my blog, but I won’t detail those unless it becomes necessary.

2. Introducing a new friend.
Bitmeter2
I mentioned previously that I had to change to the latest version of Opera, which entailed the loss of an important facility – the Data Transfer Rate indication. Since then, I have managed to find an alternative – “Bitmeter2” – which does the job I need very nicely. It is a free program from Rob Dawson, a freelance software developer from Manchester in the UK, who has done an excellent job with this!

You want one too? Go here!

3. The Real Horrors of Gaza.

What you may see in the media is often bad enough, but usually will not depict the full brutality of the situation, as such pictures are too gruesome for general use.

If you want to see what is really happening to those poor people, it is superbly documented in both poetry and picture by http://palestinerose.wordpress.com/

Just be prepared for the reality!

4. Whichever way you turn – Fracked!

Despite all the protest and uproar, the government is intent on ignoring the wishes of the public, and doing what the hell it wants – again!

Half of Britain to be opened up to fracking

However, no damage has actually been done yet, so there is still time to work on the problem, and try to avert disaster.

Need options? Try the following:-
Frack Off – Extreme Energy Action Network
British Anti-Fracking Action Network
Sign now for a Frack-Free UK!

(PS. For the last one, you will have to enter a valid-looking phone number, they check!)

The Reluctant Commuter.

For most of my working life, commuting has been an unfortunate necessity. Although I started with the luxury of a couple of years in the Royal Air Force, where everything was in easy walking distance, the problems confronted me as soon as I left. My first commute was by bicycle, the only form of transport I had at the time, but it was rather too long for comfort. I was able to solve part of the problem at least by taking the bicycle with me on the train for part of the journey – complicated, but convenient.

Moving closer to work reduced the scale of the problem, and the train journey was no longer necessary, but to be out in all weathers, as one is on a bicycle, was not much fun at times – especially when there was snow or ice on the ground.

Although I admit to sometimes enjoying driving down leafy country lanes in Springtime, with the window down, and the fresh morning air in my face, I have never regarded commuting as a pleasurable pastime – more a painful necessity that has to be endured.

Whenever I contemplated taking a new job, the commute was always taken into consideration. So when I see a headline “London’s soaring house prices make a long commute a little more attractive“, I know exactly what people are up against.

The problem is that it is not only London that is affected. In any town or city with a reasonable chance of local employment, the price of housing will be higher than some can afford, and they will of necessity have to look further away if they wish to purchase a property.

It would be many years before I again achieved that optimum – to be able to walk to work. And I even went one better – go downstairs to work. This really is the ultimate, working from home, but there are usually other considerations that take some of the edge off the advantage. You will probably have to run your own company, for example, which means extra workload unless you pay someone to do it for you.

No, there really is only one answer to the problem – stop working!

Seriously! Find something that you enjoy doing, work at it as hard as you can while keeping your expenses down to a minimum. The idea is to save money to support yourself without working for a while. If you are not working, you don’t have to outlay the cost and the time invested in commuting – an extra bonus.

Then, find a way of earning money on the Internet, or simply

Retire early!