Sunday, 30 September 2012

Wo! Met Office! Suddenly you're cool!

Reading, only more beautiful..
Long term followers of the blog will remember that we got obsessed with the Met Office website once before, during the snow excitement of Winter 2010.( Go red for Pete's Sake!). 

Indeed aren't all we Britishers passionate about trying to guess what the weather will do next?  Else how would we ever get our washing dry? 

I've been trying to get a decent weather forecast on my Samsung Galaxy since I got it. PC and Mac users are laughing, they can just go to The Met Office Website , type in their location and voila! The forecast has improved visually beyond measure since the dark days of Snow Fever. Whether it has improved in accuracy I cannot say. 

You can, in theory, access this same website using your Smart Phone. However the writing comes up so tiny that it is impossible to make any kind of informed choice. Stabbing at the screen makes you feel like a giant trying to do lace-making. After ten minutes of this thankless activity I moaned, maybe even keened, "They need to write an app!"

And they have! They hadn't before! And now they have!

Scene: Early 2012. A dark and cobwebby office at the Met Office headquarters. Besuited clever gentlemen doze gently round a mahogany desk. The most important looking gentleman speaks

HEAD BLOKE: I notice our daily forecasts that we type out and photocopy are less popular then they once were. Apparently people want to use advanced electrical typewriters to read forecasts. It's called the interwebpage or something - anyone heard of this?

Vigorous shaking of heads. Quietly a young member of staff raises his hand. He is nervous as he was only invited to the meeting to audit the biscuits.

JUNIOR: Sir, they are using apps. They work on modern telephones.

HEAD BLOKE: Apps eh? We certainly app-reciate your insight! (laughter) Tell me young'un, can you make one of these "apps"

JUNIOR: I think so, sir..

And he did. It is beautiful. Download it for free, today. 

(I reserve the film rights to this story)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Avoid the Java exploit virus

I promised to tell you how to update the Java on your computer so that you don't catch one of the latest Java exploit viruses.

This method explains what to do on Windows computers. For my geekier friends, I'll explain why later. For now I'll just explain how. Then you can get a cup of tea and read the science if you like (haven't written it quite yet!).

Start by clicking on the Start thing in the bottom left of your screen. On older computers the Start thing will be a smart green rectangle, helpfully marked "Start". On newer computers, it is a magical looking circle. Anyway. Chances are it's in the bottom left corner.

Up pops a menu. You are trying to get to the Control Panel. It should be on the right hand side about halfway down. On really old computers you will have to click on Settings.. first. Well done for keeping the old jalopy going so long.

When you click on Control Panel you will be faced with a list of things you can Control. It could be that your journey is over now .. is there an icon marked Java in the list? Yes? Brilliant.

If you don't see the Java icon you can get to it by:
  • (XP) clicking on "Switch to Classic View"
  • or (Vista)  clicking on "Classic View"
  • or (Windows 7) clicking on "Programs"
Double-click on the Java icon.
Ta-dah! You've invoked the Java control panel.

Now all you need to do is click on where it says "Update". And then on the button that says "Update Now".

Some amount of chuntering will occur before you are asked whether it is OK to install something. On this occasion please say "Yes".

Job done. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Garmin develops bad attitude

I took a break from virus hunting yesterday to go for a walk. I found a lovely walk on The Chilterns AONB site and set off for Christmas Common in the van. The Garmin Sat Nav seemed confident it knew where it was and off we went.

This looks more viable in the photo than it did in real life
On the left is a picture of Hollandridge Lane. It is a restricted byway which runs for 3 miles between Stonor and Christmas Common. Incidentally, it is a Saxon sunken lane.

So I'm not saying it's not interesting. I'm just questioning whether it is really the most efficient route to Christmas Common in an ancient and tall campervan.

"Turn RIGHT on Hollandridge Lane" the Garmin said very firmly as we approached the Stonor  end of this rutted track.
I obediently put on my winker, but rebelled when I saw what it meant. "No!" I replied "It's a footpath!".
I now had no clue how to get Christmas Common. It soon became clear that the Garmin wasn't letting go of its original plan. It suggested I did a "sharp left" down other footpaths so we could bump through the woods and arrive again at the Stonor end of Hollandridge Lane, minus some bodywork.

After I refused several of these suggestions, the Garmin let go of the window and slumped face-first onto the dashboard. I am not making that up.

In the end, I just drove around for half an hour on proper roads till I saw a sign that said Christmas Common.

I would be prepared to overlook this, but it has happened before.

When I was in the Cotswolds, I naively followed the Garmin's instructions and turned into a lane so narrow that I held my breath for the full four miles. If I had met something coming the other way I would still be there. For one and half of those miles I had to herd a flock of mysterious flightless birds (kind of a cross between chickens and pheasants - anyone know what they were? They didn't seem very intelligent.) There obviously had been a motor vehicle down this lane before, probably a fellow Garmin owner. I know this because I passed four birds that had been run over. Squashed, they looked like those comic rubber chickens.

It seems to me that the Garmin only chooses ridiculous routes when you have annoyed it by going your own way earlier in the route. Yesterday, for example, it wanted me to start out on Henley Road. Locals will know that you don't go down Henley Road to get to the Watlington area. No, you go down the Peppard Road.

So I did, and I was punished for it. I am claiming that the Garmin is capable of huffing and being sarky.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Let's be careful out there (in living virus hell)

I planned to spend this week blogging wistfully and nostalgically about two major milestones that occurred on Wednesday this week.

The first is the sixth anniversary of We limp bravely on through the recession into our seventh year, now with 6 of us on board. I laugh and shake my head indulgently at my ever diminishing bank balance. I chuckle ruefully over the mistakes I have made. I think about how Mrs Stoddart and I cried when we first made contact through Skype with her daughter in Barbados. (Just thinking about it has started me off again)..

The second anniversary is the 21st birthday of my son Sam. The adorable little (6 foot 4) blokey has just gone to live in Japan where he is seriously out-blogging his sainted mother. You can read his blog at . Please investigate this nepotic link because it is funny, interesting and amazingly well-written.

Anyhoo -
I haven't been able to do any of this aforementioned wistful and nostalgic blogging because of the stream of Reading folk queuing up on my stairs. They are clutching their computers which have been recently infested by a new wave of viruses. These viruses have many different faces, but they all come from the same problem. They are Java Exploit viruses. They are horrendously tenacious and sneaky and the only remedy is extreme. Applying this extreme remedy is keeping me up very late at nights.

I wouldn't normally presume to give you advice, but today I make an exception.

Update your Java system.


Update your Java system.

I repeat:

Update your Java system.

If you don't know how to do this - I will try and post a guide on how to do it later today. Right now I have to take the dog out while the sun shines. In the mean time - please be careful out there.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Tiny Herbs (includes gardening and smashing things up)

Introducing my new Tiny herb garden. Garden design by Robin Wallis of Hortus Loci . Oh yes, only the best for me.

This garden features chives, wild rocket and black peppermint. We enjoyed eating some of the leaves in the workshop. I thought I'd better get on and plant them before they were completely denuded.

Observant fans will notice that the garden is inside an old monitor.

If, for some reason, you want to make your own obsolete monitors into plant pots here's how.

Don thick gloves. This is important. Smashed monitors have dangerous innards. Look closely at the picture and you will see a blood stain.

Lie the monitor on its' back. Drape something over the screen. You don't want shards of exploding glass in your eye, though actually they implode. Still. Drape something.
Hit it really hard. Don't tap and shriek. HIT IT!

Fish out the broken glass and interesting bits of metal. If you are lucky this part of the process will yield a shiny container to keep old letters in. Bonus!

Fill with your chosen growing medium and get a world class nursery to tell you what to plant in it. I'm hoping to get the famous garden designer and writer, my customer and fellow blogger to help me design the next monitor I smash. I refer of course to Clare Matthews.  

Clare, will you help?

Monday, 3 September 2012

County Bingo

County Bingo is sweeping the nation.
That is to say, Robin and I have invented this game. The object is to get a photo taken with every county sign in England.

For example:

It started as a competitive sport but when I got discouraged because Robin had so many more than me, he generously offered to make it a collaborative affair.

I can't see any reason why you shouldn't all join in.

I will make a proper web page about this as momentum builds. In the meantime, you need to know the counties that are still missing.

  1. It is really hard to get a definitive list of English counties. It is all much more debatable than you would imagine. This is the best that Wikipedia could offer, but I'm still not sure if we should include Bristol or London.
  2.  We still don't have Berkshire, even though a lot of us live there. That's suprisingly hard, though I have a sort of feeling there may be one in Sonning.
The Missing Counties

City of London
County Durham
East Riding of Yorkshire
Greater London
Greater Manchester
Isle of Wight
North Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
Tyne and Wear
West Midlands

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