Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I'm working in Crawley this week. That is the little town near Gatwick airport, South of London.

For some reason I expected it to be a dull sort of suburban or industrial place. All housing estates and business parks. I made sure I got a good hotel and I planned a trip into the city for tonight. But the plans fell through and I went for a walk instead.

Actually Crawley is quite nice. I wish I had started my walk earlier, and that I had bothered to leave the hotel last night.

There's a nice Tapas bar. Several restaurants, several pubs, and a big cinema. Most can be found in a pedestrianised street beside a large shopping area.

I've been here before, but I forgot. It was a business dinner in the Tapas bar a few years ago. I remembered it as soon as I got to the high street. At the time I just forgot what town we were in.

Right now I'm just outside the town centre in Nando's. A Portuguese chicken place, it's a chain restaurant, but I like it. They have Pastais de Natas, which I never yet saw in Ireland. I'm sitting here listening to Brazilian music, sipping Brahma beer, eating grilled chicken. All I need now is a Caipirinha and my holiday will have started early!

4 Weeks and 3 days to go and we'll be in Brazil!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nintendo Wii

You won't believe this but this blog is coming to you from my new Nintendo Wii!
I'll keep it short in case it doesn't work: new Wii since Friday. Andrea likes it, especially the bowling. Even my brother likes it, and he isn't a big video games fan.
We've been mostly playing Wii Sports. Web browser works quite well though Tv resolution not greatest for reading text. Blogger seems to work!
I'm going to play some Zelda now. Good Night!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Free Personal AntiVirus Program

Another nerdy post... some home computer security for the New Year...

Get some AntiVirus...

AVG from GriSoft stops being freeware in February. It has done a very good job thus far (having stopped a Virus as recently as 10 days ago), but being a skinflint I decided to shop around.

The NEW free Virus program for the home computer is going to be Avira AntiVir Personal Edition, it has automated updates and active/realtime scanning (meaning it monitors files and attachments as they are downloaded and read), and more importantly easy to use and unintrusive.

I ran with BitDeffender for a while, but it doesn't have active scanning, though some say it is more reliable.

Avoid SpyWare...

While we're talking about downloads... One place to look for free software like this, which doesn't come with SpyWare, is

Before you download any software, especially anything that claims to be "Free", be sceptical about it. Have a look in and make sure there are no reports on either the software itself or the webpage you are downloading it from. Unfortunately Google and other searches (even the paid adds) can not be trusted to return reliable sites (check this out). McAfee have a free tool to help you browse safely, called SiteAdvisor, which warns you about links to dodgy sites!

Another good resource for Windows XP users are two Microsoft tools - Windows Firewall and Windows Defender, easy enough to setup and use.

On the other hand...

None of these tools are the best of breed, and even all of them together won't protect you if you are the gullible type who likes nothing better than running installs and clicking on links from Spam. But put all together, they are (a) free and (b) easy to use (less user error = more security). Accepting that nothing is perfect and we can't all pay a fortune for security software, you have to arm yourself with a bit of caution and scepticism.

Happy New Year, and I hope this helps keep your PC clean!

References & Links - AntiVirus Software - pick one - Avira AntiVir - AntiVirus Software - pick one - BitDeffender - Anti Spyware from Microsoft - Safe surfing from McAfee - Some clean software - Blows whistle on badware!

Windows XP users already have Windows Firewall to make sure it is running check here:
(This should be OK for all home users but if you use your computer in an office, check with the network admin before turning on your firewall, or doing anything else it says in this post, free anti-virus is for personal use only.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

My First PC

Very nerdy post this one...

Every now and then I recollect something I have not thought about for years for no good reason seemingly at random. It might be an incident, or a building, or a face, or a thing, or some words, or a smell, or a song. Usually it is some old memory not thought about for a decade or more. I suspect that shortly after this brief flash of memory, if I don't think deeply about the subject of this recollection, and solidify it a bit in my mind, it will disappear forever from my memory.

I said "suspect", because of course I don't know for sure, having forgotten those items I didn't make an effort to remember, how would I know?

Does this make sense? Think of it this way, a computer automatically deletes old files not accessed in 10 or more years, it would pop up a message say "You haven't accessed C:\LETTERS\ILAC12.DOC for 10 years, will I delete it? YES | NO".

Nobody owns a computer for 10 years but a brain is for life. So I think these random memories are like my brain is popping up the message: "Delete this old memory? Yes | No "

Co-indicentally the latest random memory is a very old computer, my first PC. So before the memory is gone forever I wanted to write a short note about it. (This is an experiment to see if in reading my blog next week I have no recollection of the following facts).

It was an EPSON PC. I don't know the model, but it was light grey (as were all PCs in 1993 - I think it was 1993). It had a hard disk, I think 40 MB, (current laptop 2000 times bigger) it supported both types of diskette, 5.2"(?) and 3.5". I'm not sure of memory, but it was well above 640KB, as I recall many happy hours playing with DOS extenders so I could load DOOM and Sim City, maybe 2MBs? (current laptop 1000 times bigger). The CRT screen was definetly no more than 14". It had Windows 3.1. The CPU I'm not sure about, but I reckon an early 486 or a late 386, the speed 33Mhz comes to mind.

That wasn't my first computer though, which was a Mitsubishi MSX. It was a beauty, bought in 1987 when the MSX, a single brand and standard with multiple (mostly Japanese) manufacturers was about to go head to head with the Commodore 64 and take over the world! It did no such thing, and the games and software dried up after about 2 years. It was purchased (for me) from Marsh's in Ballina. It came with a free Robot! (I need to find that Robot actually...) It had 2xGame/Expansion slots, 2 joysticks, Microsoft Basic OS, a MIDI interface, and a tape deck, which permanently scrambled my first ever programs, including the classic:

10 PRINT "Hello Mark"
20 GOTO 10

I won't forget that MSX in a hurry. I remember quite frequently, and very fondly.... ah the hours wasted playing Chuckie Egg.

I used (but didn't own) many computers after the MSX.

There was one of the Apple IIe computers in St. Muredach's, where I learned Logo and Pascal from a book. Then it was a System 360 and an Amdahl knockoff a System 370. (Who would be mad enough to let an anti-social 18 year old play with a multi-million dollar mainframe in 1989? - Read my CV and find out...)

By the time I had my first Psion or games console I'm sure I was already a long time PC user. So by simple logic, the next computer I actually owned after the MSX must have been My First PC.

But, for the life of me, I just can't remember it.