Friday, 20 December 2013

June

Yes I know it's December and it's also December 2013, I really don't know where the time has gone and once more things are starting to slowly come into place.

It's a Friday morning, I'm having a relax and messing around with my computer while playing some music and a tune came on that I've heard quite often but a few synapses have fired away in my brain and made a connection.

The tune in question is about the month and not a person, but the first few lines talk about June and probably the most important woman in my life.

I know you should say that your wife is the most important woman but without this woman I wouldn't be here.

As I said, June was the most important woman in my life and I never got round to meeting her, that is the saddest part.

 So here's a suggestion, say hello to people a bit more often, forget about disagreements and never let the sun go down on an argument. 

 End of my little ramble for the day and to end, here's Spock's Beard, dedicated to the most important woman I never knew.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Ubuntu Server and Torrents

I'm determined that I'm not going to install any sort of a graphical UI on my Ubuntu server install and so far the one thing that has been causing me problems is a torrent client. I actually use this for legit purposes such as sharing out Linux ISOs and don't really want to have to run up a remote desktop to check the client.

I found something called deluge, which can run in text mode and can provide a web interface so that it can be controlled from another machine, just what I wanted. So on the server I needed to do the following, open up a command prompt and enter:


sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install deluge-console deluged deluge-web

Now we need to configure them so they start up at boot time, this is a tint bit more complicated but not that hard, I found this information on the Deluge website.

So at the command prompt we do the following: sudo nano/etc/default/deluge-daemon We need to enter the following into this file, making sure you change the username to the user that you want to run it as.


# Configuration for /etc/init.d/deluge-daemon

# The init.d script will only run if this variable non-empty.
DELUGED_USER="" # !!!CHANGE THIS!!!!

# Should we run at startup?
RUN_AT_STARTUP="YES"

Then we need to make another file with the following command: 


sudo nano /etc/init.d/deluge-daemon 


This should contain the following:


#!/bin/sh
### BEGIN INIT INFO
# Provides: deluge-daemon
# Required-Start: $local_fs $remote_fs
# Required-Stop: $local_fs $remote_fs
# Should-Start: $network
# Should-Stop: $network
# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 6
# Short-Description: Daemonized version of deluge and webui.
# Description: Starts the deluge daemon with the user specified in
# /etc/default/deluge-daemon.
### END INIT INFO

# Author: Adolfo R. Brandes
# Updated by: Jean-Philippe "Orax" Roemer

PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin
DESC="Deluge Daemon"
NAME1="deluged"
NAME2="deluge"
DAEMON1=/usr/bin/deluged
DAEMON1_ARGS="-d" # Consult `man deluged` for more options
DAEMON2=/usr/bin/deluge-web
DAEMON2_ARGS="" # Consult `man deluge-web` for more options
PIDFILE1=/var/run/$NAME1.pid
PIDFILE2=/var/run/$NAME2.pid
UMASK=022 # Change this to 0 if running deluged as its own user
PKGNAME=deluge-daemon
SCRIPTNAME=/etc/init.d/$PKGNAME

# Exit if the package is not installed
[ -x "$DAEMON1" -a -x "$DAEMON2" ] || exit 0

# Read configuration variable file if it is present
[ -r /etc/default/$PKGNAME ] && . /etc/default/$PKGNAME

# Load the VERBOSE setting and other rcS variables
[ -f /etc/default/rcS ] && . /etc/default/rcS

# Define LSB log_* functions.
# Depend on lsb-base (>= 3.0-6) to ensure that this file is present.
. /lib/lsb/init-functions

if [ -z "$RUN_AT_STARTUP" -o "$RUN_AT_STARTUP" != "YES" ]
then
log_warning_msg "Not starting $PKGNAME, edit /etc/default/$PKGNAME to start it."
exit 0
fi

if
[ -z "$DELUGED_USER" ]
then
log_warning_msg "Not starting $PKGNAME, DELUGED_USER not set in /etc/default/$PKGNAME."
exit 0
fi

#
# Function to verify if a pid is alive
#
is_alive()
{
pid=`cat $1` > /dev/null 2>&1
kill -0 $pid > /dev/null 2>&1
return $?
}

#
# Function that starts the daemon/service
#
do_start()
{
# Return
# 0 if daemon has been started
# 1 if daemon was already running
# 2 if daemon could not be started

is_alive $PIDFILE1
RETVAL1="$?"

if [ $RETVAL1 != 0 ]; then
rm -f $PIDFILE1
start-stop-daemon --start --background --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE1 --make-pidfile \
--exec $DAEMON1 --chuid $DELUGED_USER --user $DELUGED_USER --umask $UMASK -- $DAEMON1_ARGS
RETVAL1="$?"
else
is_alive $PIDFILE2
RETVAL2="$?"
[ "$RETVAL2" = "0" -a "$RETVAL1" = "0" ] && return 1
fi

is_alive $PIDFILE2
RETVAL2="$?"

if [ $RETVAL2 != 0 ]; then
sleep 2
rm -f $PIDFILE2
start-stop-daemon --start --background --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE2 --make-pidfile \
--exec $DAEMON2 --chuid $DELUGED_USER --user $DELUGED_USER --umask $UMASK -- $DAEMON2_ARGS
RETVAL2="$?"
fi
[ "$RETVAL1" = "0" -a "$RETVAL2" = "0" ] || return 2
}

#
# Function that stops the daemon/service
#
do_stop()
{
# Return
# 0 if daemon has been stopped
# 1 if daemon was already stopped
# 2 if daemon could not be stopped
# other if a failure occurred

start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --retry=TERM/30/KILL/5 --user $DELUGED_USER --pidfile $PIDFILE2
RETVAL2="$?"
start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --retry=TERM/30/KILL/5 --user $DELUGED_USER --pidfile $PIDFILE1
RETVAL1="$?"
[ "$RETVAL1" = "2" -o "$RETVAL2" = "2" ] && return 2

rm -f $PIDFILE1 $PIDFILE2

[ "$RETVAL1" = "0" -a "$RETVAL2" = "0" ] && return 0 || return 1
}

case "$1" in
start)
[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Starting $DESC" "$NAME1"
do_start
case "$?" in
0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
esac
;;
stop)
[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Stopping $DESC" "$NAME1"
do_stop
case "$?" in
0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
esac
;;
restart|force-reload)
log_daemon_msg "Restarting $DESC" "$NAME1"
do_stop
case "$?" in
0|1)
do_start
case "$?" in
0) log_end_msg 0 ;;
1) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Old process is still running
*) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Failed to start
esac
;;
*)
# Failed to stop
log_end_msg 1
;;
esac
;;
*)
echo "Usage: $SCRIPTNAME {start|stop|restart|force-reload}" >&2
exit 3
;;
esac

:



In the option Daemon 2 args, I have put in -p 8080 to ensure that the web interface runs on this port.
Now we need to make it executable:

sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/deluge-daemon

Then set it to run on startup:

sudo update-rc.d deluge-daemon defaults
And then we can start it with:
sudo invoke-rc.d deluge-daemon start
and stop it with:
sudo invoke-rc.d deluge-daemon stop
Once it's started you can type deluge-console on the server terminal and then type connect in the bar at the bottom to ensure it's running, once you have connected, type in config to see how it is setup and then quit to leave, you should now be able to access the web interface by typing http://machinename:8080

Friday, 13 December 2013

My little File Server

I've sat patiently and waited with Windows 7 running on my little Asus EE Box for Bitcasa to come out with a Linux client and then they announced it but with a whopping prices increase from $99 a year to $1,198 a year. So it was time to say stuff them and come up with another plan. I wanted Linux back on my server, it was faster, the Windows sharing was actually easier that Windows and it was so much more versatile, but which flavour of Linux was my next problem.

I could go for Debian, and Ubuntu based distro or PCLInuxOS, the latter was always my favourite distro and is incredibly reliable but there seems to have been some problems with some of the apps that I like to use such as Stellarium but on a server this really isn't a problem. The other problem however, is a bit more serious. Once the OS has been installed, unless I put a manual entry into the hosts table of all the other machines I can't ping or connect to the PCLinuxOS machine using the host name but only by the IP address. This problem doesn't happen in other Linux variants but seems peculiar to Mandriva derivatives.
So I've decided to go with Ubuntu Server on the Asus as I only need to install the services I want to, not use a graphical desktop and make better use of it's resources.

And so on with the show.

I'm not going to go through each step of the installation because if you can't work the easy bits out this is not for you.
On the hostname section, type in what you want your machine to be know as.
And for home networks it's unlikely there's a proxy setup.
I'm not going for an encrypted file system and on the partitioning section I'm selecting "Guided, use entire disk".
I'm not going for automatic updates as I want to choose when I install then and when I reboot the machine,
On the software selection page I'm going to install "Basic Ubuntu Server", "Open SSH Server" and "Samba File Server". The rest can come later.
Once the ssh server is running I can connect up to the server with a terminal and do the rest of the stuff from command line.
A few more questions and it's time to reboot and see if SSH works so I can carry on with the configuration.
Once you can logon through ssh, it's time to make sure there are no updates needed by typing:

sudo apt-get update

and

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

If there are, get them installed and reboot before continuing.

As I'm using Linux on my desktop too, I want to connect to shares with NFS, if you are using a Windows machine then you don't need to do the next bit.

sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server

I also want to install an ftp server so I can easily sync my laptop with the server, I'll come back to that in another article, but to install the ftp server we use the command:

sudo apt-get install vsftpd

Next, it's time to add some storage to the server in the form of an external 3Tb USB drive. Plug the drive and type in:

dmesg |tail

This will tell you the device where the drive is located, in my case it's /dev/sdc

I now need to create a mount point for the drive, I'm going to mount it at /mnt/data so I need to create that mount point by typing:

sudo mkdir /mnt/data

then

sudo chmod 0777 /mnt/data

This is to change the permissions, I'm leaving it fully readable and writeable by any user on the server which is OK for me.

Now, it's time to partition the drive, I'm doing this with a 3TB drive, it will obviously be different for different drives, at the command line type the following:

sudo parted /dev/sdc "depends on where your drive appeared in the dmesg |tail option"

I then have to remove the existing partition with:

rm 1

Then take the following steps to create a new partition:

unit TB  "sets the drive numbers to Terra Bytes"

mkpart primary 0.00 TB 3.00 TB

quit

That's the partition made, next we have to format it with:

sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdc1

Now, by default 5% of the drive is reserved by the OS which is about 150Gb and is far too much, so we need to drop this a bit with the command.

sudo tune2fs -m 1 /dev/sdc1

And finally we need to mount the drive, rather than do this manually, we are going to edit the fstab file to do it at boot, first we need to find the uuid of the drive with the following:

ls /dev/disks/by-uuid

On my machine I get the following:

6692275b-e45d-471b-bdce-4286fb4cd4b0
ca34fdde-ccb2-4132-9d17-95530c0a7f3d
cfb39364-db4b-4f52-a3f3-a5821e4a6096

Open up the fstab file with:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Two of the above IDs will be used in the file, using the one that isn't add the line

UUID=ca34fdde-ccb2-4132-9d17-95530c0a7f3d /mnt/data     ext4    errors=remount-ro 0     1

with the UUID depending one the ones shown on your machine.

Save the file with CTRL and X and then type:

sudo mount -a to mount the drive

We do pretty much the same with the backup drive but mount it at /mnt/backup

I'm going to setup an nfs share with the data drive next so that I can mount it on my Linux desktop machine, we do this by editing the /etc/exports file with:

sudo nano /etc/exports

and adding the line:

/mnt/data *(rw,nohide,insecure,no_subtree_check,async)

This will share it will all machines on your network.

We then need to run the following command:

sudo exportfs -rav

followed by:

sudo service nfs-kernel server start

just to make sure that nfs is active

That's NFS taken care of, now let's setup the Windows shares.

More file editing this time, so back to the command prompt and type:

sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

At the top of the file, we need to change the workgroup name to whatever you want to call it, the line should read:

workgroup = workgroupname

Underneath this we need to add:

netbios name = servername

Then right down at the end of the file we need to add ours Windows shares

Let's say we have a folder called Music on the 3Tb drive we added earlier, on the server the path would be /mnt/data/Music

At the end of the smb.conf file we need to add

[Music]
path = /mnt/data/Music
browesable = yes
public = yes
writeable = yes

You don't have to do it quite like that, the browseable option means it will show as a share on the network, if you set that to no, there will still be a share there but you will need to enter the path into explorer to open it.

Public means anyone that has access to the network can read it, you can make this more secure if you want by specifying users.

And writeable means you can either get read write access or just read access.

Follow the same pattern for the rest of the shares and remember the directory and path must be the same as they are on the file system and all paths are case sensitive. Which means that /mnt/data/Music and /mnt/Data/Music are different.

Restart the server with sudo service smb restart and that's it a really basic file server up and running, all we need to do now is setup a script to back up the data drive.

So type sudo nano /bin/mybackup to start creating the file and then enter the following into it.

rsync -urvx --progress -h --force --delete /mnt/data/ /mnt/backup/

Save the file and then type sudo chmod +x /mnt/mybackup to make the file executable.

Just type mybackup to run it

That's it, it's not as bad as it looks, just take your time and go through each bit step by step, there's plenty of help available on the Interwebs.

Next time I'll be setting up the ftp server.

And before anyone starts, I've really simplified it here, I could do a lot more to tighten up security but for me this setup will do.











Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Snow Goose 2013

Earlier this year i was delighted to see that probably my favourite band of all time were going back on the road. Camel were doing a live concert and the Barbican in London was the only venue that was published at that time. On top of that they were going to play The Snow Goose completely with some enhancements to bring it up to date. I got my tickets and then more venues were announced, Manchester, Wolverhampton and a few European ones.

Eventually the day came and we drove up to London, parking at The Barbican was remarkably cheap at £7.50 and the journey up was apart from a 1 hour delay on the M4 quite uneventful.

Having purchased the CD and T-Shirt we took our seats and waited, the band came on stage to a huge round of applause, it was great to see Andy looking healthy again and then the opening sounds of The Great Marsh started, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and even my goosebumps had goosebumps. The band was flawless, the sound was excellent and it was such a joy to see so many people of so many different races, religions and colours sitting down and enjoying themselves together.

The Snow Goose finished and after an intermission the band went onto play some of Camels other hits, once again they were flawless, Andy's in my opinion is probably one of the best guitar players around, I have never felt such a range of emotions expressed by an instrument before, Colin on Bass guitar is also amazing, his playing is relaxed and his bass guitar sound is quite distinctive. Then we come to Denis Clements on drums, once he starts playing he seems to be able to produce more sounds than the number of limbs on his body should allow. On keyboards we had Jason Hart and Guy LeBlanc, both awesome and complementing each other throughout the show.

The only complaint and this is not levelled at the band but at the Barbican Centre is that there is a ridiculous 10.30 curfew. This is the capital city of the country, more money is spent per head here on music than any other country in the UK but they had to stop playing at 10.30.

I took some pictures of course, they aren't the best in the world as they were taken on a compact camera and on a mobile phone, I didn't realise how relaxed the rules were going to be for photography.

There is now a strong possibility of another tour in spring along with a new album, I hope this is true. Long may the band continue, they are true heroes of prog, vastly under rated and some of the best musicians on the planet.

Camel, just keep on playing and never let go.

























Monday, 14 October 2013

Music, still my first love.

In the interest of research I just watched the video for Wrecking Ball with Miley Cyrus, I have to say that it's not a bad tune, the girl can sing and there is absolutely no reason for appearing naked. The video could have done so much for the song but personally it's ruined it.

This type of video is the only reason why people such as the whingy, whiney Rihanna who can't even spell her name correctly gets anywhere. Would Girls Aloud, Cheryl Cole or any other so called artists have got anywhere if it wasn't for their appearance, they certainly wouldn't based on talent as their singing is completely devoid of any emotion. 

And would Britney Spears have made it big if she looked like Alison Moyet, not if she sang with the same voice she wouldn't, the only reason she got notices was the school girl outfit in Baby One More Time. 

There appears to be a lot of good talent out there still, but the media wants either something that shocks or something that looks good, being able to sing a tune just isn't good enough any more.

Music in the digital age has also lost something else, opening album used to be an experience in itself with the album cover, sleeve notes and extras. If you can get hold of Dark Side of The Moon or Space Ritual you realise that album covers were an art form in their own right, getting a CD is not the same as getting an album on vinyl.

End of rant and I'll go back to listening to some good stuff, Pink Floyd, Spocks Beard, Camel, Ayreon, Within Temptation, Nightwish, The Shadows, Colin Blunstone, Clifford T. Ward, Colin Bass, Florence and The Machine, The Byrds, Santana, Queen, Hawkwind and I'm even going to thrown in boy bands such as Take That, Boyzone, One Direction.

Just get out there and listen, if it's on You Tube then don't watch the video, just listen to the music and see how it makes you feel.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Cost Of Living

On the radio the other day, the government announced that it was putting a cap on the rises that train companies can put on their fares as they want to try and reduce the cost of living. This is not going to affect me in the slightest as I find it very hard to find a train that will take me to where I want to go, when I want to go at a reasonable cost.

The government have one easy way of reducing the cost of living for all of us, just reduce the amount of duty on petrol by about 5p a litre, it won't cost so much to fill your car up and you will have spare money to spend on other goods such as food and maybe even some luxury items, this may possibly keep some people in jobs reducing the tax payers burden..

And remember, if you don't have a car, this duty also affects you, if the duty is lowered, the cost of getting the goods to the shops is also lowered, this should mean cheaper prices. If this government is really serious about reducing the cost of living then they really need to look at the amount of money they take from the public as they seem to take more than all the rest put together.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Aldi

In an attempt to reduce the costs of shopping, we paid a visit to Aldi, a 4 pack of bottled fizzy spring water here was £0.99 as opposed to £1.49 at Tesco, among the other items purchased were dry roasted peanuts and some plum jam. Most of the other stuff was either the same price as Tesco but with an unknown name or more expensive and it's just not worth travelling the extra distance to go Aldi, you probably end up using more petrol. 

To be fair, when we lived in Rotherham it was worth stopping off at Lidl and Aldi on the way back from Asda as they were on route, but if you have to go out of the way, in my opinion it's just not worth it. 

And now let's talk about the dry roasted nuts, I'm not sure what they were cooked but the after taste that lasted about 2 days almost drove me to licking a tub of Marmite to get rid of the taste, there was nothing nice that could be said about them, the plum jam likewise offered up pleasant smell but tasted of slightly sweet rain cloud, if I was given some of it while blindfolded, I would not be able to tell you what it was.And finally, there's the carbonated spring water, I like this stuff as I find it refreshing, the Tesco and Asda white label fizzy tap water is fairly refreshing, but Aldi gave managed to make water tasteless, a glass of this feels like you have drunk wet bubbles, whatever rocks it has trickled through for thousands of years must have also had a section which distilled the water. I just don't know how you can ruin a bottle of water but fair play to Aldi, they have done a good job.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

GPG Errors when running apt-get update

I just started getting a gpg error when doing an update on a Linux Mint installation, a bit of research came up with the following fix:

Open up one of them terminal thingies and then type these commands in:

sudo -i
apt-get clean
cd /var/lib/apt
mv lists lists.old
mkdir -p lists/partial
apt-get clean
apt-get update


Fixed it for me

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Wireless Problems

At work, one of the most common issues we have are down to poor wireless connections and quite often the poor old router gets the blame. A lot of these issues are irrespective of whether you have a cable or ADSL connection and can be traced to local interference, building construction or poor location of the router.

Most routers with built in antennae (ones you can't see), have a radiation pattern that is similar to a dome but the signal doesn't extend downwards, this is why a lot of after market routers have external antennae on them, you shouldn't line them up so they look pretty, the idea is to have one horizontal, one vertical and another diagonal or similar to get signals travelling in all directions. From this, you can see that if you have your router installed upstairs then your downstairs connection is probably not going to be that good.

Don't put the router behind the TV, all you will do is knock the signal levels down, put it out in the open somewhere so it gets a good view of your house.

If you have a games console, smart TV or desktop, forget about wireless connection, spend £30.00 or so on powerline adaptors instead, PC World do them and other computer stores are available, here's a link to one of the products.

Games console controllers normally use Bluetooth which runs in the same frequency band as your WiFi signal, this means interference and a poorer connection, smart TVs are normally wall mounted, the antenna is receiving electrical interference from it's own electronics and the wall behind it is also blocking the signal and then there's desktops, they are normally on the floor, they are a big lump of metal and they block radio signals. Just put an Ethernet lead in or get a powerline adaptor in all these cases.

The other problems you can get are down to interference, I've lost count of the amount of times I've been told by people that best channel to select is 1, 6 or 11 as these are going to be the clearest, they won't be if everybody listens to this bit of advice. If you have Vista or later then a fairly simple command line will list the channels in use in your immediate area, just open up a command prompt and type:

netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid.

This will show all the networks your computer can see and the channels they use, try and pick a channel that's about 2 channels away from one of these. For example, if there's a network on channel 8, go for 6 or 10. If after changing the channel you find that you can no longer connect by wireless, you are going to need to connect up to your router with an Ethernet cable to try a different channel or carry out a factory reset.

If you have an android device, there's an app called WiFi Analyzer, it's free and will show you what's happening in your area.

Baby alarms, microwave cookers are things that can also generate interference and reduce or stop your wireless connection, brick walls, foil lined walls (for heat loss), water (as in fish tanks or water storage tanks) will do the same as will old stone walls.

Basically, wireless is an added free extra with your broadband and can never be guaranteed to work in all parts of your home with one router, no matter who the Internet provider is.

If your devices and router support it, connect to the 5GHz network, there's more bandwidth here and you should see less buffering in high definition content.

Other connection problems can be caused by outdated drivers, especially with Atheros chips, firewall problems, unwanted wireless manager software and sometimes the router just needs a restart as it's unable to dish out any more IP addresses.

Remember, all broadband providers give you wireless as a free extra, speeds on wireless are generally slower than a wired connection and are more troublesome.

The last thing I should mention is related to Internet connections in general, if you have a 20Mb connection and have one device connected, you will get speeds of 20Mb, if you have two devices connected and they are both working as hard as each other, your bandwidth will be split between these devices so 10Mb per connection.

I have generalised a little bit here but try and follow some of these tips and you should find that you should have a bit less hassle with your connection.

I hope this has been of some use.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Camel

In 2000, I managed to see one of my favourite bands at a club in Liverpool, the band was called Camel and the venue was the Lomax, I was almost at the head of the queue to get into the club, the doors opened and we went in. I managed to get a drink and found myself at the far end of a room,  I couldn't get any further away from the stage, the view wasn't up to much but what the heck.

I was leaning against some railings at the far end, Colin Bass' Outcast of The Islands album was playing when I heard a noise behind me, I turned around and saw a smaller stage in the darkness all setup and ready to go, I was going to be right at the front.

Camel came on and did their bit, I got a T-Shirt and had an awesome night and even managed to get some pictures of the show on a small 1Mega Pixel camera.

At the end of the show, myself and some other fans waited around for a while and managed to speak to Andy, Colin. Denis Clement (amazing drummer) and Guy Le Blanc. The tour manager arrived and tried to hurry the band onto the bus and was told to go away as we, the fans were the reason the band was here.

The pictures from the show are at the bottom of the article but the reason I'm writing this now in 2013 is because at the end of October, I will be going to see them again at the Barbican Centre in London, it's been 13 years and I can't wait.


Camel at The Lomax, Liverpool, 2000






















Monday, 16 September 2013

Walking in Memphis

Sometime during my second marriage things started to go wrong. I don't know what really happened, I was trying to keep things together as I had been made redundant and my new job had a salary of just over half of my previous one.

I eventually managed to sort things out and even got some spare cash together to be able to send my wife to Canada to visit her aunty, well that's what she told me she wanted to do anyway.

So off she went and while she was away I thought that as she was an Elvis fan, we had been together for quite a while in the February of the following year and we had been through a crap couple of months that I would organise a trip for the 2 of us to Memphis.

I purchased the tickets for the plane and entry to Gracelands, booked the hotel and paid for it all. I was pleasantly surprised sometime later to find that she had gone to see her Aunty but instead had gone to see a Canadian chap she mad met on the Internet.

Christmas went and I thought I would try and make a go of things and asked her if she still wanted to visit Memphis. She declined and I found myself with tickets for which I could not get a refund or pass on to anyone else. And so, I decided to go myself.

I arrived early in the morning at Manchester Airport, parked the car and made my way with my luggage and a small camera bag to the terminal. Checking in was fun with the normal questions, did I pack the bags myself? Do I have anything that could be used as a weapon? To which I replied “I could clout someone round the head with my camera but that's about it”.

Eventually I boarded the plane in a window seat and did the normal touristy things by taking pictures of the top of the clouds, the wings and then fell asleep for a while. First stop was Chicago with about 5 minutes to get to the other side of the airport and catch my connection. I had to go through airport security first, so it was fingerprint time and then X-ray time for my  jacket and camera bag.

A smaller plane to took me to St Louis without any major problems. There was a little wait here before our flight was called. we walked out onto the runway and up some steps onto a small propeller driven plane which took me to Memphis.

All the flights were with American Airlines and they couldn't have been more helpful. Eventually I landed at Memphis and caught a taxi to my hotel and fell into a deep sleep.

The next day  I awoke early, had some breakfast and it was then that I noticed a network card in the pocket of my coat. This piece of electronic equipment had gone through several X-ray machines and security checks unnoticed, but to be on the safe side I placed it in the bin and then caught an early taxi to Gracelands to avoid the crowds.

Unfortunately, I arrived about an hour before the doors opened but eventually got in. The trip to the house was on a small bus for security reasons you couldn't just walk up there and you were counted in and out again.

Now I'm not an Elvis fan myself, but the house was amazing but also appeared quite dated inside as it was left in the same state as when Elvis lived here. Nobody was allowed upstairs and no reason given, maybe Elvis is still wandering around up there. During the tour of the house a comment by an American tourist about all the shag on the walls in the jungle room made me chuckle.

 After a tour of the house, I had a chance to walk around the rest of the place which included his cars and his two  jets. I then dined in the cafe and decided that the hotel was close enough to walk back to so off I set. It didn't take too long and I felt a bit tired by this time so settled down for a rest.

By about 15.00 I was feeling restless and decided to find out where the nearest shopping mall was. The hotel kindly organised a taxi for me and I was dropped off in what I was assured was the best one in the neighbourhood. I walked in and soon noticed that I was probably the only white face in the building and the police were quite heavily armed. There was nothing of interest in there and a lot of empty stores, so I decided that I would walk back towards my hotel and visit another mall that I passed on the way.

 My trusty trainers by this time which had been with me for a number of years gave up and started falling apart, on the walk to the other mall I found a shoe shop, purchased some replacements and carried on.

The other shopping mall was worse than the first and I gave up and got back to the hotel. Near to the hotel was a small restaurant which I decided to visit this after having a shower. Suitably cleaned, I put my coat on, walked to the restaurant and found it closed for renovation and so it was back to the hotel to get some food delivered. I settled down to watch TV for the night but the selection of material available was awful and I gave up and went to bed.

The following day I rose early, looked at my map of Memphis town centre and booked a taxi. I asked him to drop me off on the corner of particular street as I had decided to visit the mighty Mississippi river and take some pictures.

The taxi took me to Memphis itself, i got out and set off for the river. About half an hour later, I noticed the neighbourhood deteriorating, I got some funny looks from people who must have though that I was incredibly hard to walk through those streets with a camera bag over my shoulder. My thoughts were mainly, “Oh Shit, Oh Shit, Oh Shit, I'm going to die” and I kept hearing the words of “Walking in Memphis” in my head.

About an hour later, I  got a moment of clarity when I looked up in the sky and noticed a plane descending as it landed at the airport, it was travelling from left to right and I suddenly realised that if I was walking towards the river, the plane should be travelling the other way.

What a silly billy I am”, I said to myself, I'll have to go back the way I came, then I noticed that sign that every weary traveller recognises, the big M of a McDonalds. In I went, had a drink and something to eat and set off the retracing my steps.

As I got back into Memphis town centre, I thought I would buy a newspaper or something local to have a read of. However, the shops were sill shut even though it was gone 10.00 in the morning, but never mind, I had found the mighty Mississippi.

It was hard to describe the sight that met my eyes but I'll try. Imagine it's a bright sunny day and you are standing on the banks of the river Mersey with the Runcorn bridge to your right, well it was a bit like that only muddier.

 I took some pictures, went back into the town and found a coffee shop. I treated myself to several cups, a cake and a delightful iced coffee and then booked a taxi back to the hotel. I sat down and just relaxed, I had done a fair bit of walking and was buggered if I was going to do any more that day. I ordered some food, sat back and watched Walker Texas Ranger and Monk on the TV and fell asleep.

The following day I woke and packed up all my stuff as I was due to go home, I asked the receptionist if they could get me a taxi and was told that Quantanette ( one of the staff at the hotel) would take me there in the hotel minibus, I checked in at the airport and had a walk around for an hour or so until my flight was ready to board.

The plane landed at St Louis and I caught the connection to Chicago, this time I had plenty of time to spare, especially as there was a delay on my flight. So I took a walk around the airport and found the toilets. They were incredibly clean and I decided that a number 2 was in order, the seat was covered with a film of plastic, I looked to see of there was some way of replacing this as I didn't really fancy sitting on a polythene bag that someone else had used and it was then that I noticed there was no handle to flush the toilets. I did however, notice 2 sort of sensor thingies on the wall. I waved my hand in front of one and the toilet flushed, the second one slid the plastic bag round until a new section was in place.

This was absolutely marvellous and I played with it for hours. Eventually, I used the toilet for what it was made for, finished the paper work and went to wash my hands. This was also an awesome experience for a self confessed geek as the taps turned on automatically when you approached the basin and soap was dispensed automatically too.

It was time for a coffee and a wait. I eventually boarded the plane for the return journey, it was dark by the time I settled into my seat and the plane took off. The in-flight entertainment started with an interview with Jamie (I sold my soul to Sainsburys, pukka, pukka) Oliver. Thankfully, my torture was short lived and eventually Oliver was replaced by Sky Captain and the something or other of tomorrow which was not a bad bit of entertainment.

Breakfast followed and by this time it was getting lighter, we approached Manchester Airport and on glancing out of the window I noticed Winter Hill below me and of course did the touristy thing with the camera and then did the same with the Runcorn Bridge.

Landing was easy getting out of the airport was harder as there appeared to be only one person to let the passengers through. I arrived back at the car, drove home and had a sleep before going back to work the following day.

Would I go again? Yes, Memphis was interesting and of course there are other things to see including the Jack Daniels distillery.

I would however, stay in a hotel nearer the town centre. And as I said before, American Airlines were very friendly and helpful and drinks were plentiful even on the small propeller driven plane.

Here's a link to the pictures

Computers and why did Raymond Baxter lie to us?

The progress of technology over the years has been amazing. If you look back at things like Tomorrows World which predicted what life would be like in the future you will find that the amount of stuff that they got totally wrong is incredible really.
They talked about flying cars, more and more leisure time as the menial tasks would be taken care of by robots, running cars on water, trips into space, a Moon base,people on Mars and personal jet packs.

The stuff that I don't remember being mentioned is the amount of power available in a home computer, the fact that I can now carry round a device with which I can send emails, receive voice and video calls, browse the Internet (The Internet hadn't been predicted either), use it to find out where I am with incredible accuracy and tell me how to get where I want to go, play games detect Cylons and annoy people on the train with an awful ringtone

Most of the predictions have faded away but instead we now have the ability to talk face to face to anywhere in the world that has a data connection, information is instantly available sales and agreements can be done electronically and yet we still rush around and more and more time is spent working instead of enjoying life.

Of course the increase in leisure time is happening at the moment, it's Called unemployment in this part of the world. Anyway, enough rambling, I've got some adverts to show you from the 1980s. Can't wait to get my own jetpack.







Sunday, 15 September 2013

Max Power Birmingham 2004

In 2004 we made our last trip to a Max Power show and I think they actually stopped the shows after this one, it wasn't as big as the 2003 show. here's the pictures.