May 2009


… reading Bob Shaw. Well I did overload on buying his works this month.

I got my credit card bill in this weekend and as expected the receipts I’m putting with it constitute a small book. Damn that Bob Shaw. I’ve actually been wanting to complete my hardback collection of his works for some years. I’m only now just starting to achieve that. With some of his works being rare I’m taking as many opportunities as I can when and where they turn up. Well I was; now I’m taking the view that there will be copies turning up here and there, and I should look for the best bargains and show some patience.

I’ve actually got a ton of new books waiting to be read. Matter by Iain M Banks has been sitting patiently on the shelf for a few weeks now. Another 3 for 2 at Waterstone’s added the Star Trek novelisation and the paperback of the James Bond novel Devil May Care. As it is a book of short stories The White Road has actually been read a bit: nice to know I’m not the only one who uses New Scientist for inspiration. The third book from the most recent Waterstone’s 3 for 2 is a real crimes book – again because that is broken up into separate stories I dip into that more than the novels. Plus I’m waiting on delivery of another book of short stories from Salt publishing.

I’ve also dipped in and out of the Babylon 5 DVDs, watching an episode here and there.

The weather has been great here the past week, and I have taken great delight in not cutting the grass. But it will need cutting soon as it is starting to sprout up. But not as much as I thought it would after all the rain we had before the sun. Normally rain causes the grass around here to shoot up over night.

Whenever I put the Sandisk USB drive into any computer recently the computer asks to perform a scan of the disk. There hasn’t been any problem with it – other than the disk ‘rebooting’ but I think that’s the other external USB disk – so I’m just going to back it up and hope that computers stop asking to check it.

The broadband is still good, still getting great speeds but the old problem of drop outs is starting to resurface. I now don’t restart the computer but just switch the router on and off a few times. I have the router off when I’m not online and this may be a part of the problem but I’m not leaving my router on twenty four seven for some one to hack into it and burn up my 5 gigabytes monthly allowance. And apparently Madasafish are on of the steepest at charging for going over the limit. Although I don’t see how any one could go over the limit as they have an excellent system for checking what you have used and I use it regularly. In fact I note I have quote a bit left on this last day of the month so I’m going off to use some of it up before it expires at midnight.

I have bought a lot of books recently, so much so that my poor credit card will be struggling to breathe and I’m not looking forward to signing the check, although my accounting differs from the online bank. It’s a couple of pounds out, and although I did get a refund for a book I have accounted for that. I suppose I’ll have to wait until the statement arrives before I reconcile them and see where I’ve got it wrong. The banks, of course, are never wrong.

Aside from building up my Bob Shaw collection I’ve bought a couple of books of short stories, both via the How publishing Really Works blog. Although it’s not a blog set up to sell books. One via reviews and the other because apparently the independent publisher Salt Publishing is in financial difficulty.

I had trouble (again) with the phone again and a BT engineer was out and fixed it. The fault was external to the house so he or she didn’t need access – although they did leave a card.

Since the fault has been fixed (again) and I once more have a dial tone on the phone the broadband seems to have boosted. I’m getting speeds of 4.8 mbps, 3.6 mbps, and today 5.2 mbps. No doubt it’s temporary and it will soon slip below 2mbs, which was the norm when I checked the speed semi regularly.

I have an external USB drive which has a power saving mode. It turns itself off after a while. Recently it has started turning itself back on here and there. I don’t know if this is Windows Vista, the drive itself or some nasty program. A really weird thing happened today in that the other USB drive, an eight gig Sandisk, which has portable programs on in including Firefox – from which I do all my surfing: it’s a lot easier, quicker and more convenient especially as Firefox stores all my passwords so I don’t have to remember them. And seeing as I use a password generator for a lot of sites that’s very handy as I don’t want to remember lists of letters and numbers.

I was browsing – editing a post on my other blog actually – and all of a sudden the Sandisk ‘reboots’ itself. Firefox closes, the red cruzer icon disappears, then the launch dialog appears, everything loads up and it’s back to normal. Apart from me not having to sign into it via the security program. I intend to do some googling to see if there is any cause for this: malware, virus, spyware. Malwarebytes was updated and run today and found nothing. Still, the behaviour is very odd.

I don’t use IE much, preferring Firefox, but the update to Internet Explorer, V8, was installed as part of the last round of automatic updates.

I used it yesterday for some browsing and today I wanted to go back to one of the sites, not having bookmarked it. Guess what? The morons at Microsoft have placed a little delete button on the Address bar. Click the little down arrow at the right hand side and then click the link you want to go to now deletes that link. It’s utterly incomprehensible how anyone would come up with such an idea.

No doubt Microsoft will insist that it’s an improvement, and time saver, but when the action performs something so completely different as the same action previously it is nothing more than an annoyance. Which Microsoft is fast becoming. I neither love nor hate Microsoft but their actions recently – Vista, Office 2007 and it’s ‘revolutionary’ new design, and now this IE tweak which destroys where once it took you to a web site – may show that Microsoft is a company past its peak and now on the way down.

I use the free version of Malwarebytes to check my computer. The last update caused an error in the database and I reinstalled the program today and ran a quick check. I was a bit shocked to find that it had found some nasty stuff, a certain backdoor.Bifrose by name. Even though the databases say it is low risk I’m still concerned as I have went on a bit of a spree with the credit card lately – building up my collection of Bob Shaw hardbacks. There are about ten variants of this trojan. Even worse is that one site says that a version of backdoor.bifrose gets installed as a legitimate program and is a very high risk. Fortunately it wasn’t the version I had and which Malwarebytes quarantined.

I’m unsure if I should check the credit card statement online more often than I do. The good thing about the bank I use is that you don’t type your password in when logging on, you type in parts of it.

I Got a lot of DVD viewing to do over the next couple of weeks. I picked up a copy of the first series of Babylon 5 at Asda for only £10. I saw some of this TV series when it was shown on Channel 4 in the eighties (?). I was mainly interested in it because all the special effects were done with Amiga computers using Lightwave. I had an Amiga at the time but not Lightwave: I have Lightwave now. I don’t think I saw much of it after the first series – not having a TV makes watching TV difficult.

Thank God for DVD, which allowed me to impulse purchase series on DVD. The Shield was one such programme, The Wire another. Being able to watch them at my leisure, when I wanted, without ads or other interruptions such as waiting another week is a godsend.

Back to Babylon 5. I sort of fell off watching it. I have a couple of paperbacks which were spin off novels, released when it was still being show on TV. I did purchase Season 3 a few months ago and dipped in and out of it. Then after the Asda purchase I saw that all series were on sale for about £11 from Amazon. So I duffed up the credit card and bought the missing ones – Season 2, 4 and 5. I’ll see if I can get back into the series, but I do have a non fiction book about a Pict battle way back in the dark ages which supposedly forged Scotland, and I’m wading (struggling actually) through a James Kellman.

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