Dear Diary... July 2008

Thursday 31st July - Hacienda The Week

As I am off work tomorrow and taking a long weekend (for a very good reason!), I was trying to cram things into today as much as possible, and indeed at one point had two laptops on the go as well as my desktop PC, jugging tasks between all three and attempting to keep things going very nicely. But nonetheless though I did feel I was making progress, and that I even worked out a way to switch the proxy on or off along with the setting "automatically detect network settings" for Internet Explorer. What this means is that when someone using the laptop is out and about, they can set the setting accordingly and then be on their merry way. Quite pleased I was, to be honest, provided you know the tricks.

At lunch time I headed to my usual hairdressing haunt (ie: the Northern Cutter on Oldham Street) where the very lovely staff did their very lovely job. The CD that was playing was part of the 3CD "Hacienda Classics" compilation which really took me back to when the Hacienda was the place in Manchester to go. I went there for the occasional gig and you could really revel in the atmosphere: certainly that's a conversation talking point for me in that I went to gigs there and had a whale of a time. Anyway, the CD was playing quality stuff and it certainly made me more relaxed as I had my usual cut, and look far better for it now it has to be said.

One of the tunes that were playing was indeed the dance remix of Happy Mondays' "Hallelujah", which reminded me of buying the Madchester Rave On Remix CD single back in the day which did have that mix on as well. Ah, the days of when CD singles were so worthwhile and that you could enjoy the versions on there. I checked out the CD track listing in there and also when I got home from work, and there's some cracking stuff. Anyone else remember Bassheads' "Is There Anybody Out There?" or K-Klass' seminal "Rhythm Is A Mystery"? I do, and I'm not a massive dance music fan, but I know the quality stuff when it's on. Indeed, one of my favourite dance tunes in on there, "Humanoid" by Stakker Humanoid (or the other way round if you prefer). That's got to be tune of the day as it's just an intense blast of late 80s acid house complete with samples from the Gorf arcade machine (so true!)

At least England's cricketers, after a poor show with the bat, at least showed some fight with the ball. Well okay, Andrew Flintoff did. I got home from work and the battle when he came back on between him and Jacques Kallis was the stuff of legend: one hit Kallis' toe and should have been given out lbw but wasn't, but then next over, an inswinging yorker ripped out leg stump and that was Kallis gone, and it was a show of accurate intense bowling from Freddie which reminded me just why in the 2005 Ashes he was so important then. Another wicket late on and he was fired up, and I could tell by the commentary Sir Ian Botham was happy too. Then again Edgbaston brings back happy memories for Beefy. 5 wickets for 1 run in 28 balls which meant the Aussies went from 114 for 5 to 121 all out and England won by 29 runs... sort of like this!

Wednesday 30th July - Atomic Masterchef

Another sticky and humid day in the office, and one that I was glad that passed pretty quickly, as I was getting to grips with the laptop I was working on and also making sure that the software installations to it were ticking over nicely. I've got some ideas as to what to do with one application that was proving troublesome: when you launch the application it seems to want to use a ini file to be able to set things up: but if it's set the way it is, it complains about not being able to report a log file. I found the answer: simply delete one of the files in question and let the user recreate it when the program runs. I'll do some more testing tomorrow to be sure: but for definite that looked like the answer.

As I was making something nice for my evening meal tonight, I nipped into Tesco Metro on the way home to get some essentials that I needed and any ingredients that I was requiring to get a nice chorizo sausage pasta bake on the go: the pasta and sauce I had, but needed the chorizo sausage and some grated cheese as well. I didn't see any of the mozzerella, so had to go for the mozzerella and cheddar mix, which actually didn't work out too bad. Indeed the pasta bake went down a treat as well, felt rather pleased with myself that I'd managed such a good job in making it happen.

Afterwards, I settled in and watched the Sky Plus recordings of Celebrity Masterchef that I'd made from last week. I'd been watching other programmes when it was on, and so it was nice to just relax and watch all three episodes back to back so I could see the tasks in hand, how hard they were for the three finalists, and not least who would win the title. I must admit as the episodes drew on I was starting to really root for Liz McLarnon, she really seemed to care about the whole thing and when the top chefs she served at Petrus said that her starter was really lovely, you could tell how made up she was. Indeed, for the final three course meal, she pulled out all the stops and her classics with a twist certainly did the business for the two judges. She was shocked as hell that when it was announced that she'd won, but perfectly timed of course for her solo career to re-kickstart, so to speak.

Nonetheless though, with Andreas Johnson's "Glorious" playing in the background as it was announced that she'd won (oh go on, make it tune of the day, it's not that bad a tune!) it just made everything seem worthwhile for her, from having to cook in the bush to a kitchen where the inside temperature reached an unreal 50 degrees (and that's centigrate folks!) and indeed to being able to handle the pressure throughout, it was well won. I think on balance Mark Moraghan lost it when he stormed off under pressure in Petrus, and I reckon it was between Andi Peters and Liz for the title, but nonetheless, it just goes to show doesn't it?

Tuesday 29th July - The Black Screen of Death

Well, you know how sometimes in Windows you are faced with the infamous blue screen of death, with plenty of error messages that normally tell you that something is seriously up with Windows? Well, I was looking at a poorly PC today, and not only did it not display any blue screen, but no screen at all for that matter! The motherboard was certain to have gone, and only managed to get the thing to attempt to boot one time in twenty, even then it crashed during the Windows XP splash screen, so a definite problem there and one that seems to be a real pain. I've got an idea what to do though so at least that's some form of progress I suppose.

I went also to Marks and Spencer in town tonight to get some bits for the weekend that I needed. My belt was a bit knackered and I knew that they did a decent one for a mere fiver, but every time I've been in as of late it was never of the waist that I wanted and always every other size (well isn't that the way?) Thankfully no such problems this time around and I was able to get what I needed. When I shop normally, I don't mess around: it's in, get what I want, and then get going. I did also pop in to Piccadilly train station on the way back just to check that there weren't any planned delays for the weekend that I needed to know about, and so all seemed well with the world, thankfully.

I got home later and the humidity was hitting me, even more than the heat was. Yes, it was warm, but when it's really clammy and sticky it's really hard to be able to get anything done to be perfectly honest. I just wanted to turn on all the fans in the house, try and let some air circulate and just not do anything. In the end though I did decide to keep my eyes on a couple of things on the telly to pass the time away and also do a few test shots with the camera, which worked out pretty well. I'm getting used to the controls now and that's always something that really takes a little time because each one has its own idiosyncracies!

Going back a bit to when I used to be a diehard indie kid back in 1993, I decided later to have a play of the Breeders' "Last Splash" album. I still love this album now and when I saw them live earlier this year it was great to hear stuff from that: not least my tune of the day, "No Aloha" which is short, snappy and effective, and in two parts. There's the slow lilting sad feeling until the guitars kick in with the drums and it becomes all electric and lovely, with nice little bits of distortion on the voice as well, which just makes it work wonderfully well. Excuse me while I go with a rock promoter, as the song says..

Monday 28th July - Parcels Of Joy

Had a pretty busy day at work battling to try and get a new laptop imaged: and boy was it difficult! The earlier versions of the imaging CD would bring up the imaging command prompt but not have the correct drivers present: whilst the later ones hung and didn't boot. I soon found out why though: the ACPI on the motherboard of the laptop doesn't always play ball with Linux kernel, so in the startup screen for the imaging CD I simply passed the command line acpi=off, and the CD then booted. I had to install the network module for the Marvell Yukon ethernet card, but once that was done it was plain sailing and I was able to image the laptop, ready to do some work on it tomorrow. Aren't things great when they work?

I got home and noticed that there was a card for me from City Link to say that there was a package for me and I needed to call them to arrange delivery for tomorrow or arrange for collection. Knowing I'd be at work, arranging collection might have been easier, so I rang the number on the card. It was an automated system, but shock horror, it worked! I was asked for the last five digits of my consignment number as on the card, once that was done, I just had to press the corresponding number to collect it from the depot. It then told me what time tonight I could go and collect it and job's a good 'un. Now it'd of course only be good if I was able to do the collection at the right time too, so let's see when I get there.

Since I last picked up a package, City Link have again moved. They're now in a nice new building which is just down the road from Bowlers in Trafford Park (home of Sunday markets and also computer fairs as well) and I know where Bowlers is, so shouldn't be too hard to find, and it wasn't. When I got there, several people were also picking up their parcels too with the tell tale cards and also the proof of ID, that was needed too. To be fair, on the card and in the pick up point you're explicitly told that no ID = no package, which is fair enough. It didn't take too long for the bloke behind the counter to find mine, have me sign for it and then collect the large package, and be on my way. Now, I have to say that was a doddle. Why can't everything be so well thought out eh?

Got home and made myself some salmon and some rice, and had a feeling I knew what the package was, and it turned out to be true. Yes, it was the new digital camera that I'd ordered off a seller on eBay! For the money I paid, I got a rather excellent deal all round it has to be said, and I pretty much got the camera I wanted, the Panasonic Lumix TZ3. Granted, it's not a digital SLR, but it's small enough to carry around nicely and with 10x optical zoom, the ability to take high capacity SD cards, and also do wide angle images as well as be very stable in poor light that all seemed good. All the reviews I read gave it the thumbs up, and it's only recently been superseded by the TZ5. It was a factory refurb, but refurbed to new standard, and thoroughly lovely. Not only did I get the camera, charger and cables and software, oh no. You also got a 4GB SDHC card, a little USB card reader, some cleaning kit, a case, a little mini tripod and an extra battery as well! Can't complain with that little lot really.

As I discovered later after taking a few test shots and getting used to the beastie, the internal combo card reader and floppy drive I have doesn't read SDHC cards, it spewed up an error in Windows when I tried to use it. However, plugged into the little USB card reader, it was mighty fine and I was able to transfer the images off no problem. I may have to get a 2GB card which will work with the internal reader as well, but at least I've got a choice now haven't I, and that's good. Plus the card formatted and wrote without any issues when I tested it out, and everything seemed to do as intended, which is exactly what you need it to do. I felt properly chuffed especially when I consider the price I paid for it - much cheaper than saving up for a digital SLR - but I'll probably come up to that in the future one day.

So, that all done, I settled in and watched Dragons Den and it was amazing to see how bad some of the investors were to be honest: where do they get them from? No wonder it was a case of hardly any Dragon wanting to invest to be honest. But in any case one thing I want to do right now is sleep, but it's too hot, so you know what? Let's play the song "Sleep" by Marion instead! It brings back happy memories of them at their peak and seeing them at Club Academy when they reformed in 2006 as well. I have the original 12" vinyl single as well which I keep in excellent condition, it's just a bloody good tune and definitely they deserved more. So, tune of the day as it bloody rocks, you know!

Sunday 27th July - Scorchio!

Had a rather nice time today at my sister's place, as she had invited some of the family along to a small barbecue that her and her partner were organising. I got the phone call from Mum around 2pm, and it had literally been decided on the day to do one, but also do it quite late in the day so that the shadows would be in the back garden so it would be nice but not too stifling, and considering how the weather has been yesterday and today, that would indeed be a rather nice and wise move all round. I didn't get too badly burned yesterday despite the intense heat: but wasn't taking no chances: out with the factor 50 before I left the house just to be sure.

I got to my sister's and a few people were already there, and the barbecue was about to be lit. It was a good effort all round with some very nice burgers and sausages, and later on some chicken as well, all cooked well done and with a nice range of sauces to go with it as well. There was even some beer and lemonade too, so a cracking job done all round really. It was good to have a chat to some of the family and indeed remind my brother that Man City are on telly Thursday and he'd be welcome to come around to see the mighty Blues if he wished to do so. Hurrah to that, I say.

It was very warm despite the shade though, and I think my sister's move was wise. I don't think I could have stayed out in that glaring heat: and it was also quite muggy and sticky as well, which definitely would mean a shower once I got home later. In fact a cold shower is just the thing before aftersun and indeed before you sleep at night, somehow it just works nicely and you are able to sleep. I think with thunder impending that was my main worry for the evening as I set off for home, but that didn't turn up, so instead settled in and watched Top Gear, which was ace, followed by a rather nice burst of trashy scandal moments from the 1990s on Channel Five. Well, I needed to switch off didn't I?

Talking of switching off, did anyone else notice it was a mere twenty years of Countryfile today? Whoa! That means a lot of John Craven on the telly of course but I don't think anyone expected it to last that long either, it's almost a part of Sunday morning now isn't it? Anyway, in tribute, I simply had to think of something countryside which would be symbolic, and straight off the title track from Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses" came to mind - so make that tune of the day. In fact the whole album is about the countryside farming and how it was in crisis even in the 1970s really, with nods to things like weathercocks, dogs like Rover, and tracks such as "Acres Wild" continuing that theme. For me, one of their most under-rated pieces of work.

Saturday 26th July - Feeling Hot Hot Hot on Challenge Cup Semi Day

It was the Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final today, well the first one, as St Helens took on Leeds Rhinos at the Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield, in what would be seen by most people as what should have been the final. The two teams are at the top of Super League and with good reason: plenty of attacking rugby league from both and lots of players who get stuck in. Like last year, I'd got a ticket for the semi final and was with the St Helens fans in the Direct Golf Stand. What I should have remembered from last year was that it wasn't a far walk from the train station to the ground but also that that stand isn't in the shade.

What I don't think anyone expected though was the sheer heat that it would be over there today. Apparently by all accounts the temperature was 29 degrees centigrade, and with the mid day sun bearing down on not just us but the players, it would be a hot afternoon to say the least! I had got the train over to Huddersfield from Piccadilly, and as I walked down the road, you could tell the searing heat was taking its toll somewhat with plenty of fans heading to the nearest pub in the town centre for some much needed liquid refreshment. As I headed into the ground and to my seat, being five rows from the front meant I'd be getting the sun. All well and good, I thought to myself, but don't want it that hot!

It was soon kick off and it was going to be a classic, I knew it, and sure enough not long before St Helens took the lead as some neat interplay from Sean Long meant that it was a nice and easy run in for Chris Flannery under the sticks to make it 6-0 after the conversion. It was a period of some dominance by St Helens, and indeed the harder question was to work out just how they didn't add another witht he possession that they had. Mind you, Leeds slowly got into it and a Kevin Sinfield penalty made it 6-2, but that didn't stop St Helens scoring another excellent try before half-time with a neat bursting run from Leon Pryce to do the business.

So 12-2, reasonably nice cushion, which soon became 18-2 after what for me was the move of the match. Francis Meli burst down the left, took on around three or four Leeds players and then cut the ball excellently inside to Lee Gilmour, who in turn then just had the simple task of giving Jon Wilkin the opportunity to score under the posts and with the Long conversion. But Leeds did rally, and only an excellent Ade Gardner tackle prevented Leeds scoring in the corner, although not long after two quick Leeds tries made the score 18-12 (with one of the conversions being missed, which was crucial).

With time ticking away, St Helens did get a penalty and wisely made sure of the two points so that it meant that two Leeds scores were needed to win. This did prove academic as Saints scored again though, this time Bryn Hargreaves did the business after a Leeds mix-up in the defence, and with Leeds needing three scores, it proved to be too much, even if they did get a late try and possibly the worst conversion attempt by Kevin Sinfield as he tried to rush to get back to the centre, all in vain. The Leeds fans had already started to leave once the Hargreaves try went over, and 26-16 was about a fair scoreline in terms of the play and the balance of the game. All that and the thermometer went up and up and up all the time as well, I was considering seeing if there was a seat in the shade second half as the heat was intense.

Nonetheless I walked back to the train station via the Tesco in the centre of Huddersfield to get myself a quick bite to eat and importantly some cold water, which went down very well indeed, let me tell you. As one of the trains back to Manchester was delayed, when it did arrive it was rammed full, so I waited, knowing the next one would be a few minutes behind, and that was not only empty but also had working air conditioning as well. Absolute bliss, let me tell you, and I was really pleased to try and cool off a bit before I got back into Manchester to take the local train home. But a great day out nonetheless, and I even took some pics as well!

Arrived home and thought "chill out mode" and whacked on some Durutti Column, namely the "Vini Reilly" album, which is vastly under-rated, not least with the epic in three parts tune that is "Finding The Sea", my choice of tune of the day - it has piano, then guitars, then piano later on and some excellently well used voices (some of them sampled) that blends together really well. And the next track on the CD happens to be "Otis" which I love too, so no complaints there!

Friday 25th July - Kung Fu Panda

Had a pretty busy day at work today: it was our monthly technical group meeting, and I was able to put some things forward and also able to keep people informed about how the application statuses were going and what to do with them (not least as my fix for one of the pieces of software actually does work really well too, considerable bonus that). I did feel rather on top of my game and so that proved in the afternoon as I installed a new printer and some software for two different members of staff as well as be able to solve a potential issue with the new image that we're working on. It's sometimes good when your brain kicks in gear and it certainly did that for me today.

I needed some light relief and so it was off to the Parrs Wood entertainment complex thingy whatsit to meet up with one of my friends and see Kung Fu Panda. We'd both liked the look of it and as we're both fans of Jack Black it seemed a fairly easy decision to be made. Also, as it'd been out a little while we were hoping the cinema wasn't too full and that it wasn't full of idiots. The difficulty was actually for my friend to find himself a parking space: I'd taken the bus there no problem but getting in to a space proved to be not so easy: as all the traffic jams were due to cars wanting to leave as well as enter: I even spotted my youngest sister in the queue as well!

Anyway, once that was sorted we headed to the cinema and the queue was quite large: I think this was because a lot of people wanted to see that new Batman film The Dark Knight, and that because of it selling like hotcakes, people wanted to book their tickets for a later performance. Anyway, not a problem for us: lots of space left for Kung Fu Panda, and we took our seats and sat through the usual adverts and trailers for future films: the one for the Madagascar sequel looks pretty good and I might have to go and see that, big animation fan that I am!

Kung Fu Panda was very enjoyable though: Jack Black was superb as the voice of Po the Panda, but also the voice overs done by the likes of Dustin Hoffmann, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu were all really good too. The animation was excellent: a mixture of Japanese manga style but softened up with a more Dreamworks type feel, and also some really good action shots within that which must have taken some rendering work to do, for sure! It felt quite a simple but smart little story and most of the main ideals are based on philosophy, sort of like Enter The Dragon for kids, but in a good way. It also works well on the humour level too, and even Jack Black's mate Kyle Gass and the bloke who plays Lee in the Tenacious D film get voice parts too. Oh, and nice version of "Kung Fu Fighting" at the end as well which Jack Black sings on with Cee-Lo Green, so make that one tune of the day.

Spent a bit of time afterwards in the arcade bit of Tenpin, and didn't do the bowling but instead took on the quiz machine: and actually won £3 on the pub quiz (one prize of £2 and another of £1). We were wondering why you couldn't quit and collect the prize money when we went up to £2 first time around but then we saw that it had been banked, so we collected and split half each. Because of our quiz skill, it also meant that we pretty much broke even overall on all the games we played. I had a go of the basketball thing as well, found my feet second attempt after the first one was pretty rubbish! But nonetheless we both had a great time, and isn't that what friends should do?

Thursday 24th July - Hey Ho, Metro!

With the new Tesco Metro open near me, and indeed with them giving away vouchers for £3 off your shopping if you spend over £15 (what a good incentive that is!) I needed to do the food shopping tonight as I am heading out to the cinema tomorrow night and so didn't want to be delayed any. Not least as it's Kung Fu Panda with the irrepressible Jack Black either. I had a quick look in the new store on Monday and was quietly impressed - not to mention it was rather busy too! I think they could do with a few more bits in the freezer section, but on the whole there's plenty there to be had and it's really nicely laid out, with consideration given to the local community in the form of ethnic foods and overall I'm just really pleased that now I can walk to do my shopping, and recycle my carrier bags too. Amen to that.

I woke up this morning and the telly was last on BBC Two before it was switched off last night. When I saw what was on, I was intrigued, it was Sesame Tree, the Northern Ireland spin off of Sesame Street, with the same Henson Muppet Workshop involved. The episode mentioned lots about sharing, and how that's good, and indeed the two main characters Potto and Hilda were instantly adorable, in true Muppet tradition. It was good to see it over here and see that it's educating children to get along and not fight, always good. Even better is that Duke Special wrote the theme tune, and it's really catchy but keeping in with his style of performing music. As he's from Belfast, perfect to have someone local do it who understands what it's all about. I'll give that tune of the day as it's a rather cute ditty that ticks the right boxes. You can even watch a preview clip on BBC's website, and there's the Duke himself!

It was another warm day here today, and about time, I said to myself. That said, I finally managed to snag the updated installer for Wimba Create (formerly CourseGenie) and get to work on an updated installer to get it all installed properly. Thankfully it's neatly solved an issue with the Word document template which means that now it won't complain about the security certificate expiring, so that was good. Mind you, had to get the whole thing repackaged in double quick time so that people could get to work on it. Roll on Friday...

Wednesday 23rd July - Paperclips And Insmod

Spent a fair bit of time today working on setting up what will eventually be a replacement licencing PC that issues licences for some of our software. Currently it's on an old Pentium III with an old network card, and because of that, it can only operate at certain network speeds. This in turn also means that it can't be as responsive when issuing licences and so we've made the conscious decision to move it to a much better piece of kit, which we thankfully have something that's up to the job in hand.

The first thing was to image the existing PC with Zenworks imaging, but this was less easy than you'd think. As the card is an ISA network card (yes, really!) it wouldn't PXE boot whatsoever, so in the end I used a Zenworks boot CD, and when prompted, put in the IP address of the imaging server. However, that wasn't the end of it. The network module wasn't loaded for the card, so I had to find out what it was, load that module, then configure it with a relevant IP address and then be able to launch the imaging stuff. Sort of like this:

cd modules
insmod 3c509.ko
ifconfig eth0 <ipaddress> netmask 255.255.255.0
img

Phew! I knew all that Linux based command line training would come in handy someday. Anyway, with the PC imaged up, it meant I could image it down to the destination PC and see what would happen. As I thought, the HAL wasn't compatible so it threw a wobbly, so whacked in the XP with SP2 CD and did an in-place repair of the installation, which did the job marvellously. Once I get some updated licence files for a couple of the applications, I'm then able to do a replace job and get the new one up and running. Felt rather pleased with myself though I have to say.

Anyway, got home a bit later on and caught up on the latest round of the Aussie V8 supercars. The circuit they were racing round (Ipswich, Queensland) is called "The Paperclip" and it's not difficult to see why, the shape of the circuit is quite like it. There's only six corners though and it does look a bit dull, but nonetheless some close racing ensued with Craig Lowndes storming it from the back with a recovery drive in race two to finish just outside the top 10 (29 starters you see) and Mark Winterbottom (aka "Frosty" - work it out) held off Russell Ingall (aka "The Enforcer") in race two and race three to win the round overall. Close action and racing it most certainly was, although of course I'm looking forward to seeing Bathurst in October. I just hope Motors TV do a delayed full race coverage, or even live, as that would be rather smart.

Even had a bit of time to help out my sister as she was sorting out a new LCD telly for herself and her husband and my niece. In the end knowing what budget she had and what she was able to get, I managed to find a rather good deal on a 32" Philips beastie that ticked all the boxes for them both and indeed met the budget, handy too when Empire Direct had already knocked lots off it and added a voucher code for an extra 10% off, meaning that it was at a rather good price, and with Freeview built in too as well as everything else. Definitely well worth it and glad that I could be of help really. Always nice to be good to the family.

After seeing that Cars, Cops and Criminals thing on BBC One, it also showed just what lengths criminals would go to to try and rob a car. I felt a bit rebellious and needed to play something that would be kick ass, simulating what I would do if I was chief constable and caught a lot of idiots robbing cars - give them a good kicking. So on went Muse's most recent album and indeed at full blast went tune of the day, "Supermassive Black Hole" - it just has the most lovely dirty bass out there and sounds so well produced as well, it's really distortion heaven. I love it, so there.

Tuesday 22nd July - I Hear The Sound Of Wedding Bells

It was my colleague at work's last day today before he gets all the final preparations sorted for his wedding on Friday, and so the team headed to to Tai Wu for the rather nice Chinese buffet lunch that they had. We fancied a change and wanted to see if it measured up to our current favourite, Buffet City. Well, on the plus side, it was £5.20, and they do have a Mr Whippy style ice cream machine for use for dessert during the day, which is all very nice. The selections were also good and decent enough for the vegetarians out there if required, which is also fine. I wasn't overly impressed with all the food though - even if the chilli shredded beef was absolutely to die for, and I ended up having that with the chicken fried rice and some vermicelli. Most disappointing was the sweetcorn soup, which just didn't taste like it should and felt a bit too much like someone blowing their nose in consistency. I'd go there again but if Buffet City was an option, I'd take that everytime. The main Tai Wu restaurant upstairs though is excellent, I should add, and been there in the evening.

It was good too that we all put together and got him some vouchers as well as a nice card to give him a good send off. As it's a small occasion, mainly for family, it was the least we could do and it showed for me how close knit we are as a team that we're all dead pleased for him and that as well. I mean, it's important to me in my job that I feel part of a team that works well and indeed manages to pull all its resources together, and that's the way it should be. It makes the job enjoyable and definitely more so for me that I can really get things sorted out when there's problems - such as today, where a Mac came in poorly and it ended up being a long job which my colleague got to the bottom of: the user database was screwed so log ins wouldn't work, and so a quick command line prompt or two and some commands later, and it was like starting the Mac registration again only with everything still there and working. I'll have to remember how to do that next time.

Had to pop over to Mum's on the way home from work, but that was no bad thing, as my sister and her husband were also there with my niece, and spent a fair bit of time playing with her in the back garden and also fussing over Mum's cat as well, and teaching my niece that being gentle and not shouting at the cat you get a response. Certainly I've noticed it over the last year or so that I definitely feel much closer to my niece and nephew and that they really like me lots too - and that feels good. It's also good that it's short bursts at a time and that I can give them back when enough is enough: so the best of both worlds for me really. Mum also seems well and definitely that's a good thing too. Isn't it great sometimes?

Got back to do a shed load of washing, which I didn't want to leave too long, and indeed to keep my eyes on some eBay auctions on digital cameras. My four year old Nikon E2200 has done its duty and done it well, but it is getting a bit long in the tooth now and it would be nice to pick up something a little more modern but also something that will last me. I'd really really like a digital SLR if I could afford it to put my passion forward a bit more, but inevitably it's the cost that's putting me off. Part of my reasoning to check eBay therefore is to see what the going rate is for certain ones I quite like and then seeing if there's anyone out there who is selling for around that rate as a good used seller or something like that. I don't mind as long as it works to be honest, and if I was to get a Canon EOS 350D or 400D, Nikon D40 or D40X or Sony Alpha 200 I'd be pretty chuffed. Even if it does mean I can't fit them into a small little case though which is something I'll need to consider.

Anyway, also been working on a couple of ideas for a future website article and one of them is music related. I'm not going to give too much away for the moment, but you'll hopefully see the results soon enough I reckon. However what I can tell you is that I was really pleased at work this morning when the digital radio we have in the office that was playing 106.1 Rock Radio came forward and played the Deep Purple classic "Smoke On The Water". I loved it so much that I had to crank up the volume a little bit just so I could hear it as intended, still a classic and tune of the day easy peasy.

Monday 21st July - Don't Feed The Dragons, They Bite!

I was quite pleased tonight to see the return of Dragons' Den, a show that's really gone from strength to strength and with the five dragons unchanged since series five and indeed with Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis going head to head in "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" on BBC2's Top Gear the night before (had to catch up and watch that on BBC iPlayer a bit earlier on) so I was rather excited to see what would happen. And boy, was I not disappointed - the dragons were on absolutely top form!

Although a couple of people did walk away with an investment (including the excellent D4M entertainments people, the two women who did their pitch were very personable and also passionate about what they do, and the one in the grey suit certainly looked very smart and investable, good for them!), the one that definitely was one to remember was the failed investment in Air Oasis, a company that attempted to show that you could make cleaner water, apart from the fact that the machine was rubbish and produced horrible tasting water. Add to that two people who were more passionate about pyramid scheme selling and forcing the customer to buy by virtually talking them into it said it all. Deborah Meaden was not to be messed with (I can't begin to imagine how her and her husband are like in the bedroom!) and certainly the others were well narked off with the attitude of the two people in front of them. Cue Peter Jones: "How do you work with this guy?"

I think though on the whole that the rivalry between the dragons is pretty intense this time around too: it clearly irked Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones that the D4M girls went with Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan - I think though that the two of them said that they found Duncan and James more personable to deal with, and certainly that's a good thing. I still think that James is a bit of a hit with the ladies out there - he's usually quite suave but hardly ever wears a tie, much preferring open necks and being smart but not unapproachable, and certainly that probably worked wonders. I would never have an idea good enough or daft enough to go on there, although I certainly would like to be behind the scenes of filming an episode!

I also got to see one of my other current favourites on BBC Three at the moment, "Snog, Marry or Avoid?" which basically is a make under show for women. Yes, you heard, make under. The idea being that there's many women out there who just overdo it with the make up and the outfits and sometimes that doesn't come across as being attractive or beautiful, when in fact a naturally feminine looking woman in my eyes looks way more sexier (it's so true you know). Although not all of them necessary like the new look, the fact that asking the same blokes if they'd now snog, marry or avoid them and hearing the different results should really tell them all they need to know. Most decent blokes out there don't want to kiss someone through ten layers of make up and indeed not feel like they're seeing everything on show when they first meet someone either. Just wish they'd actually ask the presenter Jenny Frost (who used to be in Atomic Kitten) to do her own make under to fit in with the show though.

Anyway, had a bit of a mellow rest of the evening to try and listen to some quality tunes to put together on the portable player for a future trip out or two. I decided to fill it with mainly acoustic stuff, as I'm really in that mood at the moment, and nothing suits that better than the whole of Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around to be honest. His cover of NIN's "Hurt" was on last night and it certainly reminded me of just how much it moved me first time I saw the video. If even Trent Reznor says it's better than the orignal, then it's good enough for me as well. I'm pretty sure to be honest So, tune of the day right there.

Sunday 20th July - A Question Of Sport

Well, I was faced with one tough dilemma today - which sport do I watch? Do I watch the cricket all day and see England continue to capitulate against the South Africans in what is already proving to be a one sided Test Match? Do I watch the F1 from Germany and see if Lewis Hamilton can win again after his excellent pole position lap? Do I watch the re-run of the V8 Supercars round on Motors TV to keep an eye on the latest goings on there? Or do I see if Greg Norman will do his usual final round bobbins round and bottle it completely in the Open Golf in Royal Birkdale?

In the end, I decided that the best course of action was to avoid the cricket (even with the incentive of watching it in HD), record the V8 Supercars and watch it a little later or indeed tomorrow, and then I could watch the F1, then the Open Golf, and indeed at 10pm also watch the MotoGP round from Laguna Seca as well. So that turned out to be a pretty good decision. I saw some of the early golf and it was clear to see that any round under par even with the wind easing slightly was going to be a good round, and that it was all about keeping the head and getting down to business. With the mood set, over to watch the F1, and I must admit it wasn't that bad a race, probably helped by the safety car that came out after Timo Glock's suspension failed on his Toyota and he went backwards into the wall on the start/finish straight - thankfully he's okay. It meant Lewis Hamilton had to pass people to win, and he did that superbly, taking Felipe Massa and the surprise of the day Nelson Piquet Jr to get an epic win.

That done, back to the golf, and the more the day went on, the more you could see Norman choking - yet again. Ian Poulter had finished a while before the main protagonists but had shot under par to make him seven over par - that was actually enough for him to finish second outright, which tells you how hard the course was playing and certainly how difficult the conditions made it - the organisers kept the pin positions on the less harder side to at least give people a fighting chance of making par, with David Howell's three under par 67 showing the way. So it was no surprise that Padraig Harrington kept his head, shot an up and down round in parts but got birdies when the opportunities came, including an eagle at 17, to shoot a round of 69 and indeed finish three over, four shots ahead of Poulter with Norman stuffing his round big time, as I'd predicted.

The MotoGP came on later and I have to say that it was an epic battle between Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi up front, with one incident near the end where Stoner overcooked the corner and ended up in the sand and off temporarily, the deciding point. He was a bit sour grapes at the end and refused to shake Rossi's hand, that to me was bad sportsmanship. The two of them were going for it with no quarter asked or given, and it reminded me of the epic Senna versus Mansell battles in Formula 1. Although the rivalry was intense, it was always fair and the two drivers had the utmost respect for one another (they also both disliked Alain Prost, Mansell in fact left Williams after the 1992 title winning season because he didn't want to be with Prost in 1993.) Really Stoner should have shook hands, and thought "right, I'll get you next time.." and get on with it.

Anyway, with all that sport going on, it wasn't a surprise really that it was very much a day of relaxation and even venturing out for a nice meal in between the golf and the Moto GP where I had a very very lovely carbonara with bacon, chicken and mushrooms. There was tons of it and even yours truly had problems finishing it off, which should say something. In view of that, and because of the lovely day I'd had with even the sun coming out, I'll have to nominate "Here Comes The Summer" by the Undertones as tune of the day - it just summed up the feeling I had when I ventured out and that it felt that at last it was looking a bit warmer out there!

Saturday 19th July - If It Ain't Broken, Don't Mess With It

Woke up this morning after a nice relaxing sleep (and no, I wasn't hung over) and settled in for a while to watch the cricket (where England were doing a bit rubbish and their decision to play Darren Pattinson proved to be a fruitless one, he looked out of depth and it showed that the injury to Ryan Sidebottom meant that we really missed him a fair bit actually) and then later on the F1 qualifying, which proved to be a duel between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa for pole, with Hamilton nailing a lap at the end to take it in spectacular fashion, that simply had to be excellent all round. It's going to prove an interesting race for Sunday.

However, you could hear both James Allen and Martin Brundle saying that although the new track was probably done for safety reasons, the old curves and sweeps through the forest section broken only by chicanes, and without traction control back then, proved what a great race track it once was and Brundle admitted that he really enjoyed all of that and he'd love to still be racing on it. I have to agree with them: Hockenheim was fine as it was, why make it a shorter track punctuated by lots of rubbish corners but instead make it a great trip through the forest and then the stadium as it is? If it ain't broken, don't mess with it eh?

And that phrase could certainly apply to the new series of Superstars that Channel 5 are showing. Okay, so they've kept the theme tune and indeed some of the iconic events like the gym tests (although when did a rowing and cycling machine become anything like part of it? - dips and squats all the way) and at least attempted to make a good go of it, but there's several things that the format of the show has been messed about with that I don't like. The scoring system for one. I guess because some of the events only have four competitors (two from each team) you couldn't have the classic 10,7,4,2,1 scoring anymore. But still. Then there's the fact that there's no real individual events anymore either - it's all about the four teams of four people and how they do in round robin against each other each week with the two best teams contesting the final, with all team points counting.

I really don't like the team idea, it has to be said. Whilst it can be a good thing, Superstars had a spinoff called Superteams back in the day which did exactly what the Channel 5 programme is doing, but better to be perfectly honest. The teams of four are too small and it's certainly a case of picking the right members for each bit of the events - like for example the long jump and the 100 metres counted towards the athletics events, so two from each team did each one (ie: two the 100 metres and two the long jump) which didn't really make it that competitive. Even with the reigning UK champion Alain Baxter showing that he's not lost any of his legendary status after being runner up and winner of the last two individual series...

I just kept thinking that it's messing too much with the format, and that wild card idea so that the team can play someone in their specialist event it just like the joker on It's a Knockout. I'll still watch it, because it's got good sportsmen and women pushing themselves, but I kept thinking how much better it'd be if they still staged it at the K2 arena in Crawley (which seems to be a good setting for the event, I'll give Channel 5 that) and had four heats of eight athletes, a woman's final and then the overall final. Make it ten events over two days for each heat, with the competitors picking eight of them and being pulled out of specialist events, and of course the steeplechase as well while we're at it. Watching the 1981 UK final on ESPN Classic later in the day just showed how Superstars should be like. If only I can coax David Vine out of retirement...

Anyway, enough of me ranting. Had a relatively relaxed afternoon window shopping, then headed home via Mum's and chilled out this evening with the very lovely tones of Beth Rowley accompanying me towards the dark evening. I like her album, and enjoyed her as support to Duke Special at Academy 3 last year. I might have to see her at Royal Northern College of Music later in the year as well, and certainly if the album's anything to go by then it should be a lovely gig all round. I really do enjoy "I Shall Be Released", it's got that uplifting vibe that cheers me up, so make that one tune of the day.

Friday 18th July - Rain, Rain, That's Where I'm Going

The day was punctuated all day by rain, and more of it, and yet more. It proved to be thoroughly annoying all round, not least as I needed to head out into the city centre after work and then again out for a drink in the evening, but nonetheless as the day wore on at work I did at least get a few things sorted. First off, I managed to get the application objects for all the Microstation components up and running so that the relevant setting were brought down. What I thought was going to be awkward was that the settings are stored in a long path name with some random-esque characters as one folder. However, getting another installation on another machine and submitting the serial number to their server resulted in the same preference folder being created, which meant that the random-esque name must be based on the serial number. Phew! Felt better for that.

I felt on a roll in the afternoon and so checked out the possibilties of seeing how efficient Adobe Web Standard CS3 was, and also if it'd run on our current kit okay. Well, as it needs 1GB of RAM, and the PC I was working on only had 512MB, it was crawling time. Ah well. But on a 2GB beastie it did okay, but still I felt that it was all style over substance and certainly for me Studio MX 2004 works just as well (or indeed Studio 8 that's on the office PC.) I even finally got a problem I was having with HP Web JetAdmin sorted: turned out that a failed Windows Update for SQL Server 2005 had wrecked the component, and the only way to sort it was to uninstall the component, remove all the registry entries, reinstall that component from the Microsoft official download and then install Web JetAdmin, which ran like a dream then. Phew!!

After nipping into town to get a replacement watch strap sorted for my watch (the old one almost came off in my hand this morning and that wasn't a pleasant experience whatsoever!) and then into the Tesco Metro to do some of the food shopping whilst I was there, I made some lovely tea later: some pasta with a sauce with mushrooms together with some of the Ikea meatballs (essentially pasta with meatballs) and this nice garlic ciabatta bread to go with it. Felt very pleased with myself and that inspired me to see what they were doing on Celebrity Masterchef. I had a feeling that Louis Emerick would go, but it was very tough for all four of them and next week's final is going to be intense, I know it. I have a feeling Mark Moraghan will win, but Liz McLarnon (yes, her who used to be in Atomic Kitten) might be a bit of a dark horse!

Headed out later, despite the incessant rain, on the train, and after getting off at Oxford Road it was a short walk over to Ra!n Bar (quite apt, really!) for a couple of drinks and a good natter. I was a bit disappointed that the Brewers Dark wasn't available, but there was the Summer Sizzler, which is very similar to the old Scorcher that they used to have, and still rather light and delicious. The barrel had been changed in the meantime so I was able to have the Brewers Dark a bit later on anyway, all good. The DJ in there was playing all sorts, from 80s disco trash to 90s, and then a whole Manchester section to keep the locals happy. Unfortunately he lost all street cred by not playing all eight minutes of The Stone Roses' "I Am The Resurrection", but stopping at that pause around the 5:20 mark like every other crap DJ does. Meh. Make the full version tune of the day as I had to play the rest of the song in my head but that didn't bother me: it's still utter class. And there's some great guitar bits six minutes in as well. Hurrah!

Made my way on the train home later pretty wet and drenched but glad that I headed out and had a nice time. I think sometimes that it's easy to forget just what a nice comfortable feeling you have when you're in a pub you like with a good atmosphere - indeed several blokes in a group had been singing along to "This Charming Man" by The Smiths and I even caught one of the bar staff singing along as she was clearing glasses from the tables. Ah, old classics never die do they? Or do they? I need to rant about something tomorrow if my Sky plus box has recorded what it should...

Thursday 17th July - Really? I Signed Contract?

Well I would have been watching the start of Manchester City's season tonight, as the beloved blues were in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands taking on EB/Streymur in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round first leg. However, I knew that getting flights etc over there would have cost something around £900 (and frankly I can't afford that, however much I do love my beloved team!) and as for the television coverage, the only company that were showing it were Sultana Sports, and I didn't think it worth a subscription to that channel just to watch. So it was death by teletext for the evening as I kept up to date with the scores as well was watching some Celebrity Masterchef followed (of course, now it's back) by Mock The Week, which was superb to say the least.

I really do like the fact that plenty of the regulars on Mock The Week are really sharp and quick witted. Not least with the Headlines round, with the initials RISC (which stood for Ronaldo in Slavery Controversy, over Cristiano Ronaldo's remarks that Man U were treating him like a slave etc). Some of the acronyms that the cast came up with were absolutely top drawer, such as some of the following:

Hugh Dennis: Really? I Signed Contract?
Andy Parsons: Referees Immediately Sense Cheating?
Andy Parsons: Rich Ignorant Spoilt Crybaby! (this got a massive cheer)
Frankie Boyle: Ronaldo Is Secret Creatonist? ("He doesn't have to believe in evolution after playing with Wayne Rooney for two years!")

You get the idea. Nonetheless though it goes to show that sometimes you just have to let the show flow and get on with it, which is why Dara O'Briain is such a good host - if you've seen him live like I have, he tends to do a lot of his show completely off the cuff and improvised, and makes it up as he goes along. That, I tell you now, takes some skill to do, so full credit to him really. I did feel a sense too of belonging knowing that it's not only me who has had enough of that Portugese Man U crybaby of a player - even some of Man U's fans have turned against him now which should tell you something.

As it was announced that Seth Lakeman is going on tour in the Autumn, I felt definitely that I had to try and go and see him, so hopefully it will be Manchester Academy 2 for me if I can get tickets. I played through "Freedom Fields" tonight and thoroughly enjoyed it and so what better way than to relax in the evening with a bit of "The Colliers" which is just the right sight of folky without being too much long haired style, if you know what I mean. Definitely tune of the day and I'll have to try and get hold of the new album as soon as possible so I can at least get an idea of it before he plays live. Yaay.

Wednesday 16th July - The End of a CSI Era

Back to it today and then some. I'd been doing some testing of Microstation on a test machine (well okay it was actually a test virtual machine thanks to my fully licenced copy of WMWare Workstation 5, but still) - and the one thing that proved instantly annoying is that when you run Microstation, it asks you to open a file. It doesn't start off blank or even with a fresh new drawing, but to straight away open it. You can as it happens change that behaviour in the preferences, but it's a rather annoying thing that you can't set that properly initially to be perfectly honest. I think I've now found where the preference files are stored, but it's a case of being able to bring that down to the local workstation when the user runs the program - I'm on it anyway.

After lunch I had a development meeting with my manager, which went very well indeed and I felt quite pleased at the outcome to be honest. It's nice to know that within the close knit team we have things do go well, which shows the way forward. I like being in the "get things done" mode, it's very me to be perfectly honest. To complete the day I then saw if I could fix a potential firmware issue with one of the A1 colour plotters. To run the firmware update program, as I found out, you needed the printer to be connected to the PC via USB, not ethernet or any other means, and that seemed to do the job nicely. Hopefully that will have cured its rather mysterious 79.04 error, but we shall see.

I got home and read to my horror that another regular cast member of CSI is going to be leaving, and argubaly the show definitely won't be the same now. As fans, we had Sara leaving during series eight and looking like Warrick was going to go at the end of that series (indeed the opener of series nine could well be the last time that the full cast are together - Sara's coming back apparently for it). And now I've discovered that Grissom is also going to make an exit during the next series as well. You can however have too much of a good thing and maybe the thing to do now is to make sure that the next series is the last one and that the show goes out on a high instead of changing faces that the public may not necessarily like. Be nice if they made Wendy a CSI instead of a lab rat. Yaay Wendy (as played by Liz Vassey) cos she's just really lovely.

But still, life goes on and indeed goes on pretty well, it has to be said. I do feel rather uplifted at the moment and I think it's the combination of a battery recharge doing the things I like plus, even if the weather's not been too good, being able to just relax with a variety of tunes to get me through the day, with XFM often playing on my colleague's PC and serving up some alternative and indie tunes, and then more of the same when I get home. In fact I decided to play the whole of the MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "My Exciting Life in Rock" EP tonight, mainly so I could hear "It Only Works Because You're Here" but also tune of the day, "Sod It, Let's Get P***ed", because let's face it sometimes we've all had that moment in our lives when we just want to forget the day and get merry. Not me tonight, but the song's such good fun you can't help like it.

Tuesday 15th July - The Shops, They're Not For Changing!

Headed back nice and early today on the 0735 train from Euston. That early, I hear you say, you must be mad, right? But no. I had plenty of good reason to do so. I had the alarm on my phone set for 6.15am so I could get up, shaved, showered, coffee, check everything was packed for the return journey and then take the 205 bus from Marylebone back to Euston and so be on the train without problems. In fact the train was packed and I had these two businessmen with their wretched Blackberries going off every few minutes on the way back. I did explain though as we headed past Rugeley that the train was delayed around 15 minutes and so we'd get back to Piccadilly around 10am, which is all well and good for me but maybe not for them. Made me sit back and relax even more with the likes of Donna Marie, Kristin Hersh, PJ Harvey playing on the portable. Oh, while we're at it, I'll make "The Mountain" tune of the day because it's such a beautifully emotional piece, and indeed the train was just coming into Stoke as it played, kind of idyllic in so many ways.

No rest for me though as I got back into Manchester, as I was heading out to Cheshire Oaks for some retail therapy. I guess with it being pay day and all, I was able to have a peek at some of the shops and see if I could get myself something nice to wear, as well as have a general look around. Thankfully, the people who designed the retail outlet park realised that what you don't want to do is walk up and down one long row of shops, so instead the outlets are arranged in such a way that you can start anywhere you like, go round in a circle, with only the occasional road break in between, which works pretty well. I had predicted that if I was going to get myself a nice shirt, it'd probably be from somewhere like Next, but I visited lots of places and got some ideas as well, always good. I even resisted the record shops to stop me from spending!

I did however look around everywhere and although a couple of places did have some nice stuff to wear, when I tried it on, it was a different scenario, either the fit was too tight in the arms or in the chest or both, and going to a larger size sometimes didn't resolve that because of the nature of the fit, which just doesn't really work. I did see a really nice shirt in Next Clearance reduced from £30 to £9, and it ticked the boxes and definitely was a little bit funky. However, I asked the nearest assistant if there was any changing rooms, to which she replied no, but I could go back to any Next if I wanted to take it back. Grrr. Not the point. I want to make sure that the item fits now instead of later, I mean, what's so difficult about that? Humph.

I had lunch over at the pub nearby, which not only had proper ale on tap (the Jennings Cumberland was on fine form) but also a really nice meal menu, and I ended up having the salmon and prawn linguine, which came with a couple of slices of garlic bread thrown in as well. Result! That certainly gave me time to think about what I'd do, and so later I headed into Next and thought "see if they stop me trying the shirt on" and so simply unbuttoned the shirt on the rack, took mine off, changed into the other one and gave it a go, and the large size fitted just right really. So one quick change back, and picked up the shirt I'd seen, and at the same time then spotted a pair of jeans in my size and leg reduced to £15 as well, so got both in the end and felt rather pleased with myself to say the least.

Headed home later on after visiting Mum for a chat, and settled in to watch Music and Lyrics on DVD. I'd not seen the film for a bit but still enjoy it, it's got plenty of feel good factor about it and also you have to say that Drew Barrymore a) looks cute and b) has real chemistry with Hugh Grant. In fact, Hugh can actually sing and he doesn't sound too bad, especially when he as the character Alex does a solo song on the piano near the end of the film. Not going to spoil it for you, but if you have seen the film you'll know the moment I am talking about, won't you? And just felt like the two days I'd spent off were worth while, back to it tomorrow though!

Monday 14th July - My Exciting Life in London Rocking

Well, it was time to head down to that London today, as I was heading to see the press preview (ooh, go me!) of MJ Hibbett's "My Exciting Life in Rock" show, which he's going to be doing at the Indietracks festival at the end of the month with the Validators, and then a week long stint in Edinburgh as part of the Fringe festival between the 4th to the 9th August. As the public were allowed to the London show, and as it would mean I could see the show as well as pick up the new single in advance before release date (I'd have ordered it of course anyway but this way it means that the artist doesn't pay any postage cost to send it to me, so win win all round really) so it really was a good idea to head down there, not least as I'd managed to get cheap trains and cheap Travelodge in Marylebone.

I headed on the 1215 train between Piccadilly and Euston, remembering to take my printed ticket, as I'd done the "print at home" thing where the tickets start from just £1 between Manchester and London - mine cost a mere £3. Bargain or what eh? I had a reserved seat in Coach D, and with Boots Meal Deal in tow for lunch, it meant I could sit back, enjoy my food and then whack on some rather nice indie pop tunes on the portable player for the trip down. In the end, due to ongoing engineering at Rugby and Bletchley, the train (which had set off a few minutes late anyway) arrived in Euston around quarter to three, some twenty minutes behind schedule. However, I couldn't get into the Travelodge for 3pm anyway so wasn't that bothered. However, I knew I had some credit left on my Oyster card which would be able to get me to Marylebone, so instead of queuing up at Euston to top up the credit, I took the 205 bus to Marylebone, and at the station I just used the self service top up thingy to add some more credit on - easy peasy. In fact I'd seen the Travelodge when I got off the bus so I was able to just head straight there and check in.

After a bit of chilling out in the room watching Countdown (LCD telly in the hotel room too, how ace is that?) and feeling mightily impressed with myself that I'd matched or beaten the contestants in a couple of rounds and indeed got the numbers games well sorted (despite the fact Carol Vorderman is annoying, Rick Wakeman was on in Dictionary Corner and he's a Man City fan, so that's fine, and of course Susie Dent was looking her lovely intelligent demure self as well.) I then headed out and walked past Edgware Road tube and along Edgware Road all the way to Marble Arch and back, taking in the sights and sounds (and smells too) of the various middle eastern cafés and bars that lined the streets, and indeed the fact that the Woolworths on the road was closing down and it was a massive free for all for bargains (I kid you not!) and soon headed back to Travelodge base after grabbing a pasty for my tea (eating sort of light you see.)

I got myself showered, whacked on my "A Million Ukeleles" t-shirt, and then headed back on the 205 bus past Euston and to Kings Cross, where I soon walked up York Way alongside the side of the station and then over the canal to the Cross Kings, where tonight's action was taking place. As I headed through the door, I spotted Mark (MJ Hibbett) chatting happily with beer, and when I got to the bar, I noticed two good things. First, there was cask beer on, which made my day. Secondly, it was Summer Lightning on cask, which is deliciously yummy. The major downside though was that it was a mere £3.50 a pint. Ouch! I could have two pints up here in Manchester for the same amount, I grumbled quietly to myself. I had a chat with Pete Green and Marianthi from Atomic Beat Records - good to see Pete as well, he looked very contented with himself.

We all made our way downstairs to the Jester Bar, where there were rows of chairs neatly laid out in preparation, with the stage and everything at the front needed (including easel for the performance). The sizeable crowd was decent in number and at a bargain £4 to get in, no complaints there to be honest. We got settled in and Mark introduced Pete to the audience, and Pete was on tip top form. Much to my delight he played his infamous song about not having a Myspace page (oh yes, love that I do), plus the likes of Hey Doctor Beeching, One Monday Morning, The Ballad of Phil Jevons and of course, Best British Band Supported By Shockwaves, which sounds better every time he plays it and also bodes well for the forthcoming "Platform Zero" EP. So far Pete and myself have noticed that both Stockport and Edinburgh Haymarket train stations have a platform 0, if you know of any others in the UK, let me know!

Then came the My Exciting Life in Rock show, and that was rather excellent all round. Mark told his various stories of various hilarities coming from his early years, and such incidents that stay in the memory. Now if you're going to see the show in Edinburgh, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but instead just mention the incidents briefly which included a naked incident in Glasgow, supporting Echo and the Bunnymen on the ukelele, playing a retro gaming gig and having fans ask for his autograph, that sort of thing. It did mean though the new single was played (hurrah) as well as "Sod It, Let's Get P***ed", "Professional, Competent Rocking and Tight", "Do The Indie Kid", "Hey Hey 16K", and my personal favourite of the evening, because the audience participation was spot on (and hence tune of the day), "Easily Impressed". Had great fun with that one.

In fact, the show went down so well, that it overran the planned 60 minutes, went on for 69 minutes, and there was still time for an encore, which came in the form of "The Peterborough All Saints Wide Game Team (Group B)" (try saying that when half drunk, haha!) - and was really cute and twee at the same time. It was sad that it ended really as it was immense fun, but lovely all round. Mark's girlfriend told me that she enjoyed my appearance in the video to "It Only Works Because You're Here" and with all my goodbyes said to lots of people, time to head back towards Kings Cross station and then take the 205 back to Marylebone and crash out in a very comfy Travelodge bed for a comfy night's sleep.

Sunday 13th July - Down In The Park

The weather looked rather nice as I awoke this morning and after having some lovely croissants with a coffee for breakfast this morning, I pottered about the house and thought about how nice everything was and getting a few things sorted for my trip to London tomorrow. Ah yes, that London. Off there for a good reason as well, which I'll tell all about once I get back from there, but there's a good reason, and it's already the third time I'll have gone down to the capital in under three months, that scared me when I thought about it really. Nonetheless before I headed out I kept an eye on the cricket and saw that England were making no headway into the follow on which wasn't what I wanted to see.

As the weather was getting sunnier by the second, I headed out of the house and to Heaton Park, as I felt a nice walk was in order. Certainly the sun had brought people and families out and that was pleasant to see. As I made my way past the hall and the orangery, it was a lovely view of all the hills around and being able to make the most of it was something else. I headed down the same way that the road train goes, and past a couple of balloon sellers who were doing a roaring trade (Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora The Explorer were very popular with the kids as well) and onwards towards the lake. By the lake the rowing boats were out and doing well, and the bike hire proved pretty popular too, with £4 for an hour or £8 for three hours being pretty decent on the whole. I might have to do that at some point and see if I could feel fit enough to cycle around, bearing in mind that there's a fair few hills to walk.

I was semi-tempted by the pitch and putt course, but the overnight rain just hadn't dried off as much and I didn't want any muddy footwear to be perfectly honest. Nonetheless it still looked pretty busy and the main golf course was also doing a roaring trade too, although you do have to book the tee times with that one. As I walked back downhill to the way I came in, I saw the old electric tram go past on its route and that made me hark for old nostalgia, especially as the tram was numbered the same as one of the old bus services which still runs in Manchester (albeit with the route controversially changed a couple of years ago.) So that was nice to see as well.

Time to head for some lunch, and at the far side of the park, near the M60 motorway junction, is a pub called The Three Arrows. Now I've heard that it has a reputation for good food and indeed for having cask ale on, as you can imagine both of those gave me plenty of incentive to check it out. When I got there, all seemed good: nice olde worlde atmosphere with sunken oak beams in the ceiling and a really plesant look and feel, both Old Speckled Hen and Bombardier on cask (oh yes) and the food menu pretty extensive. Whilst the Sunday roasts that I saw being served out were good, one caught my eye and I immediately decided on the steak and kidney pudding with home made chips and peas.

Well, I'm pleased to report (very pleased in fact) that the food was absolutely wonderful. I kid you not: I'll be going back there at some point to have the same meal I had, it was that good. The home cooked chips were lovely and thick, with the skins left on, and tasted lovely, and the garden peas were proper decent peas as they should also be, with a nice jar of gravy that was just the right side of thick. However, nothing could prepare me for the steak and kidney pudding: massive huge chunks of steak in the suet pastry case, with plenty of softness in the pastry holding things together nicely but not being too hard on the palette either. Having that with some of the gravy was heavenly, and it filled me up very nicely to the point I could just about finish the dish off. Thumbs up, big time, let me tell you.

In hindsight knowing now how good the food was, I'd have gone there for lunch first and then walked it off by going round the park, but nonetheless if you're passing that way, do stop by and have their delicious food - all of what I saw looked fabulous and the place was hearty and busy. And you can even just come off the M60 and pop in - and you definitely should! Give it a go and you too will treat yourself to some delicious fayre, just like it should be made. I ventured home pretty full but also very happy indeed, and settled down for the afternoon for the cricket and the fact that England toiled a bit today wasn't that good.

Mind you, one other thing to report is the video for MJ Hibbett's "It Only Works Because You're Here" is now out there for public consumption. And in case you're wondering, that video happens to have me in it. Oh yes it does. Those of you who've read my diary regularly will know the full story, but if you haven't, read the 1st June entry in the June 2008 diary, and all shall be revealed. Of course, I can't give it anything else other than tune of the day can I? So watch and enjoy :)

Saturday 12th July - Time For A Barbecue

Off out today, as one of my friends and colleagues from work was having a bit of a barbecue at his mum and dad's place (as they have a rather ace barbecue and large back garden too) as a small get together to celebrate the fact that he'll be getting married pretty soon. As he's having a very small wedding, this way it just meant that they could get a few people together and have a good time, and with the premise of plenty of food and alcohol on, all seemed very well indeed. Knowing that I'd love some ale whilst I was there, I nipped into Asda this morning and managed to pick myself up some Tribute and Black Sheep to take with me - as I'm sure some others might like that as well!

Chilled out in the morning after Asda and watched the cricket, and was pretty impressed with the England performance. They struck early and got some pretty good wickets dismissing three top batsmen for less than double figures. It was definitely a case of every bowler getting stuck in, as the first four wickets went to four different bowlers, but I had a feeling that Monty Panesar would be able to have some part to play later in the day. Nonetheless the possibility of making South Africa follow on remained pretty good and as I left the house around 3pm, it was looking better by the minute.

Arrived at my friend's dad's place around 4ish, and ended up being one of the earliest ones there. Mind you, there was a gazebo to help put up anyway, as we figured that it would keep the rain off somewhat if it came but also somewhere for people to shelter outside as well as relax in the conservatory. There was plenty of food and ale and wine on the go, and I couldn't see so many people eating and drinking all that, but better to have too much and save some for next time than not at all, you know? The barbecue got in full swing and it's a proper executive one that did a wonderful job in cooking all the meat on there. I couldn't resist, I had a burger or two, some sausages, chicken and some rice as well that had been made and brought in - which was rather gorgeous to say the least!

It was good to see people who I usually work with every working day out of the work environment, and certainly conversation flowed really easily, and none of it about work either which is good really. We did have the cricket scorecard on the Freeview set in the conservatory so we were able to see that the South Africans had to follow on before letting the kids loose on a version of FIFA football on the XBox which kept them nicely entertained. In fact the time there went very quickly indeed and I certainly enjoyed myself, good to see everyone and what was best of all was that the weather at least held off the rain: okay it wasn't warm but at least it was actually dry and with a couple of wood burners on in the back, it was warm enough to be outside if you wanted to. And with the back garden being really nice, no surprise there!

Headed back on the bus home at around 9.15pm, with a couple of others in tow with us, as one needed to head back to town and trusted my directions, and the other staying on the bus with me as they were getting off later than I was, and it was good to have some more chat which made the journey a bit shorter as well - well it seemed so especially as the driver was absolutely pegging it along some of the roads, maybe it was his last journey of the day? Nonetheless it was a really nice day, had a lovely time on the whole and it certainly made for a great occasion, and even if the weather wasn't its best, that didn't matter: everyone was there that was going to be there. And that's all good.

There was no music during the afternoon which admittedly helped proceedings, as it meant people were talking and making conversation instead, which is much better in my view. As it was when I got home I kicked back and whacked on some of the music channels for some rest and relaxation before I would eventually head to bed. What surprised me is that how often some of the playlists for these channels are the same, and it's often the same videos on rotation. Nonetheless though, VH1 was having a bit of an 80s weekend which was perfectly okay, not least when Frankie Goes To Hollywood's seminal "Relax" came on. Sadly it was the second version of the video with the laser beams and the crowd invasions, not the controversial one, but still.. tune of the day regardless. It's still classic.

Friday 11th July - At 199 Is Ian Bell..

Had a productive day of sorts today, firstly walking it from my house to work. I fancied a change of scenery and thought that it would be a good idea to see how long it would take to cover the three miles or so from home to the office, and managed it in a creditable forty minutes or so, which wasn't too bad at all. I guess I wanted to see that I could still be fit enough to walk that distance, but also as the rain was fairly light to see how tired out I'd be afterwards. Surprisingly, it pepped me up no end and that definitely was a good thing in my eyes. It got me in the mood to install VMWare Workstation and then try some test installs of Microstation to see how well that behaved. Surprisingly it was all well, it seemed to behave when I tried out the correct serial number and go from there - although it'll be interesting to note just how things go in terms of how the software runs. We shall see.

Got home from work to see some of the remaining cricket, and after Kevin Pietersen's excellent century against South Africa yesterday, I wanted him to carry on as long as possible. Out at lunch though I'd seen him lose his wicket, but Ian Bell had made his century and was still pretty much there. I got home later on and noted that Bell was still there and England were ticking along nicely at a mere five hundred and seventy three for seven, with the ever impressive Stuart Broad contributing with a fine knock of 76 which is very good indeed. Bell ploughed on and after another rain interruption had made his way to 199.

At that point before the start of the over David Lloyd (aka Bumble) in the Sky Sports commnetary box said that no England batsman had ever been out at 199. His co-commentator Shaun Pollock (bit of a South African cricket legend it has to be said) was the first to say "not the commentator's curse!" and sure enough, second ball of the over, Bell hit it straight back at the bowler Neil Harris and was out, not completing his double century. Understandably he was gutted, but the declaration came and England had amassed a mere five hundred and ninety three for eight declared, all good. And with the light fading and South Africa getting to seven without loss, it all bodes well for England tomorrow. I must admit I do love the cricket and I think that watching it in HD is even nicer, oh yes.

But I'm really excited as later on tonight Superstars is back on the telly. I'm still not sure how the team format of four teams is going to work, but nonetheless good to see if they will pit their wits and strengths against each other. I must admit I prefer it being an individual event though where the sports people really have to battle through the stuff like penalties, cycling, swimming et al, and of course the dreaded gym tests. One thing the BBC did have in their 2003 and 2005 series was that, and it made for epic viewing. However, what Channel Five do have right is the fact that it needs to be in an athletics arena in England - the K2 arena in Crawley. Everyone remembers the visits of Superstars of old to Cwmbran, Grangemouth et al don't they? Anyway, the theme tune is still the best telly theme tune of all time ever, so "Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson gets my vote for tune of the day.

Thursday 10th July - Number One Is Colin Bell, Number Two Is Colin Bell (etc)

Well with a bit of lateral thinking I was able to solve the issue with SolidWorks that I had on the technical staff member's machine. I discovered that because the graphics card supported hardware OpenGL, it'd be enabled by default. I then set it to software GL after the software ran, and no crashes. That definitely meant it was the graphics card driver, and one quick install of the latest driver for the Radeon X300 series, and restarting the PC, and tried again with hardware GL on, badabing! All worked rather nicely indeed and it has to be said that you could tell the performance, even on a not so high spec graphics card, was much better than the onboard one. Just goes to show what you can do with a little effort really.

Anyway, that done and with Minitab's installer fixed as well so that it didn't put all that nasty Installshield Update Manager rubbish in the control panel (thank heavens for the Zenworks MSI properties tab so that you can tweak the MSI properties for the install and not have to do a separate call to the msiexec executable) I felt like it was a rather productive day, and headed to Tesco to do the food shopping with a bit of confidence, and finding a fine bargain like three bottles of Banrock Station wine for ten pounds was rather decent to say the least. I'm off to a bit of a do on Saturday, and so taking some wine would be a good idea, so getting some decent wine for not much dosh always appeals.

Went round to see my uncle, as it's his birthday today. In case you're wondering why the present I mentioned was in two parts, well that was because what I got him was this mounted art print in black and white of Manchester City legend Colin Bell at his 1970s peak, and because the print was 30x30cm, what proved difficult was finding the frame to fit it in, and that's where the second part of it came in and proved a long trail to find something that was that size. Still, it worked well and my uncle was really impressed with it as well, he really was made up and wanted to hang it up in the front room as soon as possible. It looked classy and my brother told me it was an excellent idea to get that. Sometimes I just feel so inspired you know, and it's just one of those moments.

Still, what was ace was that Mock The Week was making its comeback for the sixth series tonight, and it was definitely on form. Frankie Boyle was his usual risque self, and Hugh Dennis more reserved but definitely witty and intelligently funny, whilst Russell Howard was off on his usual tangential humour. Mind you, I have to say that the very lovely Lucy Porter as a guest was also spot on with her wit, and I did think she came across rather well to the masses. A solid start for the series, and some of the "scenes we'd like to see" bits at the end had me cracking up, as it should. I've applied for audience tickets for later in the series, seeing that recorded would be a right laugh I can imagine! I love the theme tune too (News of the World by The Jam) so give that tune of the day to celebrate. Hurrah!

Wednesday 9th July - Blue Screens Of Solid Death

Unfortunately, the SolidWorks progress went a bit belly flop today. I'd managed to install it successfully on a couple of our test machines, one of which I've been working on is a mere Pentium 4 2.4Ghz with 1GB of RAM, the other an Intel Dual Core E6600 with 2GB of RAM, and they both handled SolidWorks fine, and ran pretty nicely, although to be fair the software eats RAM for breakfast to be perfectly honest. Anyway, I went to see one of our technical staff who specialises in 3D software and tends to be an expert on such matters. We ran the installer for SolidWorks which ran fine, but then when we tried to create a 2D or 3D drawing, instant blue screen. Every single time. I have a hunch though, so might have to get that sorted tomorrow. It was late in the day after all.

Made my way through the rain later over to have tea - and not at home either! Isn't it great when people cook for you? Well, I think so. In fact a really nice carbonara with plenty of mushrooms and ham as well in a really creamy sauce. I'll have to get the recipe sometime mind you, because it certainly was spot on. Ended up later watching some 80s videos on that there Bliss channel. It was pretty good, not least as the wonderful Fairground Attraction song "Perfect" came on. It's still one of my 80s favourites that to be honest, and with good reason - the chorus sums up pretty much how most people feel about any form of relationships in a way: "Too many people take second best and I won't take anyhing less." Definitely. One thing I discovered about myself in the last year or so is that I do want to have a good life and don't want anything less than that. So give that one tune of the day and all will be well.

Saw an interesting documentary on BBC1 as well about how people take stolen cars and then scratch off the Vehicle Identification Number, put another one on rather dodgily, and then sell it as a different car. And a lot of these über-cars are being shipped out abroad to feed the organised crime rackets, which is quite scary stuff. Mind you, when the police at Tilbury Docks found a shedload of dodgy cars, it made their day and it's good to see that sometimes the police get cracking results and make the world a safer place to be. One of the ruses at the start was to steal a car and then sell it on quickly - very quickly. One unlucky punter parted with £13K cash and then realised too late that it was a dodgy one. Mind you, would you necessarily give a complete stranger that much cash for a car? Thought you wouldn't.

Tuesday 8th July - Licence To Shop

Well, got all the SolidWorks licencing sorted out - eventually. The software company were a bit awkward, because the registered address for the serial number was the building I work in, yet because when I registered my email address it came out as something slightly differently (building name was the same but in a different order) the powers that be wouldn't allow a licence to be issued. Of course, this wasn't good whatsoever and I did think about complaining, but kept my calm head on and just dropped hints to the company concerned as well as give our local supplier a ring as well to put some undue pressure on. Within twenty minutes I'd been emailed the licence file and everything sorted out, result.

This then meant I could get the licence server playing ball and indeed sorting out how it will issue the licences, and then from there ensuring that the application's admin image install was created. In essence, you run the DVD, it checks if it needs the latest version, goes and downloads the installer and runs that, then lets you step by step create the admin image. Of course we didn't want the search functions because that involves Windows Desktop Search, known to be a machine-crippler, and we also made sure that any other excess wasn't brought in. That still meant around 4GB of downloads in all though, and that eventually made its way on to the server nicely, which means now I can install the software by using one command line - and so one Zenworks app installer object later, and it's pretty much there.

I went home via the city centre to get a present for one of my relations later in the week. In essence the present was in two parts: I got the first one easy enough, but getting the second part of that proved difficult, and after a fruitless search in both the city centre and shops close to my house, I ended up venturing out to Stockport and getting the other half there - thank heavens for late night shopping to be honest or else I'd have been wandering around tomorrow night or even on the Thursday in a blind panic, and that to be honest will never do. Ever.

Still, I did manage to catch some of Lancashire throwing away a good start in the Twenty20 game against Middlesex, and then saw some of the music channels for a while to completely switch off and kick back. A lot of them seem to have the same rotational playlist for their various hours, and I must admit that one thing I do like is a bit of variety now and then. Continuing on though with the 80s theme thus far this week, I couldn't help but notice that some of the compilations tend to have the same stuff on, a travesty, or even worse, more than one track by the same artist. Take the 5CD 101 hits of the 80s for example: there's two tracks each by David Bowie, Ultravox and so on. Mind you, that compilation does at least have Paul Hardcastle's rather ace "19" and if you remember that with fondness, I wonder if you understood the spoken word bits back then as a kid? It took me time to then understand just what that was all about - nonetheless tune of the day. And if you have a Commodore 64, check out Rob Hubbard's version that featured in the game "19". Absolutely top stuff.

Monday 7th July - Solid(Works) As A Rock

Another task master type of day at work today, as I finished off the Adobe Reader 8 installer that I was working on on Friday, and did some tests to make sure that it all worked properly as intended. Yes, I know that Adobe Reader 9 has now been released, but the thing is that there was a cutoff for any software major versions way back to ensure a consistent build. Plus there may be teething problems with the new release, so the latest release of 8 was definitely the way to go. It worked pretty well and did what I wanted it to, and the limited user worked fine and didn't come up with any issues, and all played ball nicely. Hurrah!

This meant I could work on setting up the licence server to take the Solidworks licencing software and dongle, which eventually installed after I had to patch up the Windows machine that the licence server runs on, plus also make sure that because of that the Novell client was also up to date. Once all done, the licencing software went on fine, but I needed to then make sure that the licence file was obtained, and so have tried to register to sort all that out and see what happens from there. Fingers crossed that it'll all work, and made me think of that Ashford and Simpson song from last night...

Lots of media pundits have been asking whether the Wimbledon final yesterday ranks as possibly the best final ever played on Centre Court. Whilst I wouldn't go so far, certainly not since the epic fourth set tie break between Borg and McEnroe in 1980 did we see something similar in terms of drama - and in the same fourth set as well. And of course the fact Borg was there yesterday in the crowd, and McEnroe in the commentary box, just added to the sense of occasion really. For Federer versus Nadal in 2007 and 2008, read Borg versus McEnroe in 1980 and 1981 all over again. Both Federer and Nadal respect each other immensely, and despite going all out to beat each other, both of them are really nice people and sportsmen. It'd be hard not to give Nadal BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, considering Federer has won that award himself to be honest.

As for tune of the day, well that was a pretty easy decision. As I headed out to lunch, the rain was pretty much hammering it down and I just about managed to get to the lunchtime destination before I got too wet. I kept thinking of the Electronic song "Getting Away With It" with its opening line "I've been walking away just to get wet on purpose" and all of a sudden that made perfect sense as to what to listen to when I got home - it's just one of those tunes that really stick in the head!

Sunday 6th July - Rainmeisters

What a sporting day today eventually turned out to be! After seeing the rather excellent Laura Robson win the Wimbledon girls singles final, and have to see the over the top hype about her being the next great British hope (even at her mere age of 14!) and the last Doctor Who of the series last night (which I did feel was a tad disappointing to be honest, it was a bit too clichéd for my liking, but still decent enough I guess) I got up nice and early today so I could see the motor racing from Silverstone, and not just the F1 either. ITV4 were showing the GP2 race early on live, and my, the conditions were absolutely awful! It was hammering it down with rain and indeed cars were going off left right and centre, except for one most notable winner: Bruno Senna, nephew of the great Ayrton of course. He absolutely proved to be a rainmeister and won pretty easily on the whole and kept the car on the road with aplomb.

Later on was the F1 race and the conditions didn't get any better. In fact they may have even been worse, but most teams went with the intermediate tyres to start with. What was nice was that on Martin Brundle's grid walk he bumped into Murray Walker and had a good chat to Murray about the race, where the legend that he is enthused about the race and how much he loves SIlverstone. Ah, grand stuff that. As was the race itself - which just proves that the weather conditions can be a leveller for all concerned. Lewis Hamilton was majestic in the wet and kept going as the likes of Kimi Raikkonnen, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica, Mark Webber and others all spun off or ran into difficulties.

Although it was very easy for the ITV F1 commentators to give Hamilton driver of the day, I'd personally like to give it to Rubens Barrichello in the Honda instead. He was 16th on the grid and worked his way slowly up, with a good strategy. Then as the rain hammered it down, he pulled off a masterstroke by switching to extreme wets when the conditions were really bad. This switch made him tons faster than anyone else who had all stuck with the intermediates, he was passing cars with ease (had to laugh at Fernando Alonso's team radio saying Barrichello was 8 seconds behind as Rubens was virtually passing him!) and even though the refuelling rig had failed which meant he needed to pit again, a third spot and place on the podium was his for the taking, and very well done. I guess when Rubens made the call Honda team boss Ross Brawn (tactical legend who worked with Rubens at Ferrari of course) trusted his driver's judgement and got Jenson Button in as well to switch. Had Jenson not aquaplaned off, I reckon he'd have been in the points too. It was cracking though.

Then it was over to the Wimbledon final, which had been delayed starting because of the rain. In fact two rain delays during the game and the longest ever final of 4 hours and 48 minutes meant that when Rafael Nadal hit the winning shot, it was almost dark and approaching 9.20pm on Centre Court. It was an epic tussle, with Roger Federer coming back from two sets down and hanging on for dear life in the fourth set tiebreak, coming down from 5-2 down in that and indeed saving two championship points (the passing shot for one of them shows just what a legend Federer deserves to be) to force it into a fifth. All games went with serve until 7-7 when Federer lost his, and Nadal held his own to win 9-7. I had strawberries and cream to boot when watching the tennis, and that all worked very nicely indeed.

Had on VH1 classic after that for some classic 80s stuff that they were playing, just wanted something not too brain taxing. Indeed the likes of "Walk Like An Egyptian", "If I Was" et al were being played, all decent stuff of course. However, what really struck out was Ashford and Simpson's "Solid" just for its amazing cheesiness in the video, filmed in Central Park in New York, apparently. I can imagine many a school disco having this on and thinking how everyone would want to have a slow smooch to it. Haha, that makes me giggle! Mind you, none of them compares of course to Madness' "Driving In My Car" which is just immense fun, and typically Madness in the video, complete with sounds of car horns and bibbers all the way through, so that one's tune of the day and all sorted.

Saturday 5th July - Bargain Hunter

Just call me Mr. Bargain Hunter or something! And here's why:

Last night when I was mooching around Tesco doing my weekly food shop, I noticed that the clothes section had quite a few bits of clothing reduced, and when I saw what they had, they had some shirts that I could wear for work or not in work, short sleeved, one in blue and another in white with blue check, quite nice too, and easy care, so not horrid to iron either. Anyway they were in a two pack and had been reduced to a mere £4.50 for the two, and in my size, so I did the decent thing and bought that along with the rest of the food.

This morning was a different matter: I needed some shoes, basically. My pair I wear for work were getting a bit worse for wear, and to be honest, I needed to see what I could get to replace them, or get something similar to what my nice pair is now, and then use them for work instead (now you see my cunning plan). What I didn't expect as I took the bus out to Stockport was to find two nice pairs in the same shop to be honest! But I did know that the make I had on are dead comfy and that if I spotted anything else by the same make and in my size, that they would be contenders to say the least, and they're normally not that cheap.

The sales were on everywhere and soon enough I saw a pair that I thought looked pretty good, and the same make as what I have, so thought "let's try them on and see". They fitted really nicely and looked quite smart, even more of a going out pair I suppose, and they'd been reduced from £40 down to £25, so that worked well. Then as I went around the shop I saw another pair very similar to what I have as my nice pair, and I then saw the price was £50. I baulked at first but then realised as they would probably be as comfortable and that they would also last, it wasn't so bad after all. However, they had actually been reduced in the sale as well and were down to a much more realistic £35, which is what I'd paid for them last time in the centre of Manchester. So I felt very flushed with success and indeed with the fact that I had been able to get something very wearable for not that much dosh really.

The rain was hammering it down this morning, but a ray of sunshine popped up just as I passed the soon to be open Tesco Metro near my house. There's only three weeks to go till it opens, and definitely I could see work was taking place inside at a very quick rate of knots, and the outside signage was all taken care of nicely. What I did notice was the opening hours were being publicised: 7am till 10pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm Saturday and then the usual Sunday 10am to 4pm lark. However, the late openings during the week said to me that I could get home from work, take it easy for a bit, and then walk there and get what I needed at my own time, and I could always pop in if I'd forgotten something. This was a good thing.

All in all a good day and even better is the last Doctor Who of the series later with literally every companion from the last four series teaming up (including Gwen off Torchwood) to save the universe from the pesky Daleks - is it me or is that every season seems to end with another planned Dalek invasion. It's getting a bit predictable, but I bet it's still rather watchable all round for the kids out there who love it (like my three year old niece who even has a Dalek costume!!) so can't complain. Mind you, I still love Orbital's reworking of the main title theme, so give "Doctor?" tune of the day. Might even have to play it a couple of times before the episode to get me in the mood.

Friday 4th July - Sensoria

It felt like the day wasn't going to end at work today. Don't get me wrong, it was busy, but definitely one day where the time seemed to be on a go slow. Mind you, I wasn't on a go slow as I started to look at packaging and customising the installer for Adobe Reader 8 to be just like I want it. And with the customsation tool that Adobe themselves provide, this was a fairly easy task. It's a case of running the wizard and then having a look at the optins that you can change, which not only saves the necessary changes but also makes a MST transform file to go with your MSI installer, so all you'll then need to do is when you set up the application, either run the setup exe file (setup.ini then calls the MST) on in Zenworks, create a MSI installer object and then tell it where the MST transform is, pretty easy really. I've got it pretty well nailed now and so I'll do some final testing on Monday and get it sorted. I'm getting quite good again at this packaging apps lark, having spent weeks on it a couple of years back.

Went home after doing my food shopping, still taking in the news that Donington now has the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards, and that Silverstone will therefore lose the race. Okay, so Silverstone may not have the sparkly new facilities of say Bahrain, but what it does have is a proper race track where the drivers like to race, and the facilities are better than other tracks. Donington's facilities are much worse than Silverstone, and indeed after the recent Moto GP there, fans complained voiceferously about how long it took to get out of the track afterwards. Even if they have investment, they'll still need to do a proper access road/path round the track, lengthen the circuit as it's too short for modern F1 standards, and indeed ensure all the safety run off areas are in place.

What Donington does have to its advantage is that the European Grand Prix which was held there in 1993 was one of the finest ever races in the wet, and a complete masterclass from Ayrton Senna. His first lap goes down in the annals of F1 legend because it was that good - after going down to fifth by the opening corner, he was leading at the end of the first lap - he took Karl Wendlinger, then Michael Schumacher, passed Damon Hill and then got his old adversary Alain Prost on the hairpin. When you look at that illustrious list of who he passed, you soon realised how good Senna was and it's a complete masterclass. Oh yes. Any races like that will be rather good!

Spent most of the evening listening to some 1980s stuff, I guess that it reminds me of growing up being a schoolkid and listening to the songs that helped shape my life. It was a case of browsing through the CD collection and seeing what I had on there to play, and plenty of it. Some of it on compilations, some even on CD singles, and a fair few albums. One thing I really did like once I got to listened to it (many years after its original 1982 release!) was the first Violent Femmes album, it became a staple of student indie nights with the likes of "Add It Up" and "Blister in the Sun" constantly being played, oh, and "Gone Daddy Gone" with the best use of a xylophone solo in a record ever. Honestly.

In fact, a lot of my favourite 1980s stuff was either obscure stuff or songs that made you happy and you never heard of the artist again, such as it was. Mind you, it was also the time when Cabaret Voltaire's beat driven Industrial stuff was rather good to dance to (had I been old enough to go I would have done!) - and when you look at the likes of "Sensoria", "I Want You", "The Crackdown", "James Brown" and so on, just all quality stuff. In fact Sensoria is cracking - one of the recent film festivals in Sheffield was called that (CV are from Sheffield in case you wondered) so that's more than ample decision to give that one tune of the day - the 12" version (if you can find it) is rather excellent!

Thursday 3rd July - Finding Inspiration

Well, I was inspired and managed to get Inspiration 8 repackaged into an MSI installer which did the job. The original install is a tricky beast, it installs the software, then chucks on Microsoft Text to Speech 4, and on top of that then runs forcing you to enter the details and serial number, which then gets stored in a file within its folder in Program Files. Now, the obvious way would be to capture the whole installation and package that up, right? Well, almost. What you don't want to do is do that in a workstation environment with Novell clients, antivirus software and everything else laden to the hilt to get in the way, so the answer - virtualisation!

In fact, it was pretty easy to do: download Sun's "VirtualBox" free of charge, and set up your virtual Windows XP workstation. Once that's done, make sure the CD drive is set up to be used by the virtual machine as well, insert your trusty Windows XP CD and boot up. Then once done, set up any network settings, get all Windows Updates and then use the Zenworks 7 SP1 CDs to install the software packaging (Zenworks Admin Studio). Once you've done that, you can snapshot the virtual machine so if you need to go back to that point, it's easily doable, easy eh! I did all that, then used Admin Studio's repackager to capture the Inspiration install.

Once captured, it was a case of seeing what files and registry settings there were and if any needed pruning out (and you often do!) - and once done, repackage it as a single MSI file. Did all that, it all packaged nicely, and copied that from the virtual machine over to one of my networked drives (there's ways to do that) and then on the real machine, tested it to see if the installer worked and then logged in as a test user, and badabing! All working first go. It took me three attempts to get the MSI exactly as I wanted it, but nonetheless it brought back memories of me packaging applications a couple of years back and I felt rather successful.

Went home via the hairdressers and also visiting a few people in the family - ended up going with my brother in law to get some replacement RAM for his laptop after finding the one in the underside had gone faulty and the laptop wouldn't boot with it in. Put the new one in and everything worked as intended, isn't that how it's supposed to be, eh? Still, always nice to help family out and that's always good to be able to offer my expertise. Indeed, it was good to see lots of people (virtually everyone!) in one go tonight, share some good news with them and also be able to really spend a bit of time with the nephew and niece too. In fact when I got to my sister's place, my nephew spotted me and ran to the gate to say hello and to want to let me in. Awwww.

I got home and my 7" single of Morrissey's "All You Need Is Me" had arrived. I managed to find some spare copies at Adrian's, a record shop down south who used to have big ads in Record Collector. They still sell plenty of stuff and I was surprised to see that they had both 7" singles. Nonetheless I was after the one with Mozzer's cover of "Drive in Saturday" as the B-side, they had it in, one processed payment later and it was all mine, much more like it. They still have both 7"s in now, so if you're a Morrissey fan and you still need them, that's where to go. And as for the cover version? It's pretty good actually, and well worth a listen. I thought the best thing would be to capture it to the PC so I could listen to it without crackles in future, and it sounded nice. So, tune of the day right there.

Wednesday 2nd July - Not So Murray Mint!

Got pretty much everything done that I wanted to do today. First off, I got the Read and Write 8 application packaged off nicely as an MSI file that we actually wanted. The installer uses an MSI anyway, but it sets lots of default features that we don't need (such as the settings wizard on first run, so annoying!) - so with the help of the software's own MSI Admin tool, I set to work to see what could be changed and then it re-saved out the MSI nicely, so I was able to upload that to our central applications pool, set the Zenworks object up, test it fully and get it all up and running very nicely. Inspiration 8 looks a lot more difficult because the installer is a really old type of installer, and you can't even extract the install executable to do what you want to do with it - it'll just install everything anyway whether you like it or not, which is a bit daft if you ask me. I'll set to that tomorrow.

Saw the tennis later on and to be truthful Andy Murray wasn't as good on Monday night, but let's not take anything away from Rafael Nadal, who was rather good, and improving on grass all the time. If he and Roger Federer get to the final to play each other, it's going to be one rather awesome scrap and I'm sure that Nadal will want to try and stop Federer's sixth Wimbledon win on the bounce (yes, six!) - and if he plays anything like last night, he's there. To be fair though Nadal said that Murray will come good pretty soon and win a major title, and that although it was a straight sets win he did have to fight hard. Mind you, to the casual observer it did look a little too easy.

Putting the tennis on BBC1 meant that the opening heats of Masterchef were moved to BBC2. Once the tennis had finished it was a flick of the remote over to the other channel, and sure enough I was rewarded with the sight of the still very very lovely Clare Grogan cooking as if her life depended on it. To be fair, the heat that she was in was tough competition against Joe McGann and Andi Peters, who won and deservedly so. It was so nice to hear Clare's still lovely Glaswegian accent and really how much fun she was having as well. The second heat straight afterwards was a much lower standard and I kept thinking if Clare was in that she'd have won easily. It even had Steven Pinder (Max Farnham from Brookside no less!) trying just a bit too hard to be fancy..

In fact thinking of Clare in Altered Images reminded me of just how much music I actually liked in the 80s. I guess it's a decade that people don't think much of musically, but in fact if you look back there's plenty of gems, such as Linx's "Intuition" with David Grant (yes, him off Carrie and David's Pop Shop!) on vocals, or indeed, Propoganda's "Duel". Once you hear it you'll think "ah yes, that tune!". In fact give that one tune of the day cos once I heard it, it sounded rather ace and had plenty of 80s instrumentation. Plus they were a bit under-rated in my view so always good to redress the balance a bit, eh?

Tuesday 1st July - Expression By Pods

Felt on a roll today, and not an Arctic one at that! I managed to get the Tablet laptop pretty much there, and once I'd obtained the additional software required from the department whose laptop it was, I soon was able to get that sorted too and be pretty much there. They did however need one piece of software to be updated, mainly for use with these new devices and bits of software called ActivExpression. What it is is basically a wireless hub device which plugs in the USB port of any PC, and once you've installed the drivers, you then just pair up the ActivExpression pods to that by use of some software.

The really clever bit though comes when you're using the ActivExpression software to do a quiz or a flipchart type presentation with questions. If you want to get people to interact, you simply press a button to ask the expression pods for a response, they get the list of choices on screen and then they simply press the answer they want, hit the send button, and their response is immediately noted on the screen. Once all the answers are in or if time runs out, you'll get a little bar chart which you can then paste on to the whiteboard area so that people can see what has been answered.

At the end of any questions, you can output all the answers noted down into an Excel spreadsheet, which then shows you a summary of who got what in terms of percentage correct and indeed question by question what they answered, with the cell highlighted green for correct and red for incorrect. I have to concur with my colleague: it's a really neat and innovative thing and once you've got the devices paired up nicely, it all works rather well and is fairly simple to use too, and that's all that matters. I guess that the classroom teacher would have the laptop hooked up to a whiteboard or whatever, but nonetheless even using a laptop tablet screen it seemed to be good to practice on and do the job.

Got home after sorting out a wireless router connection for someone and getting it all working, and just in time too as about half an hour afterwards, the heavens opened and the rain came, and it's all hammering it down now. I was going to head out for a walk but somehow I don't want to get drenched really! Nonetheless it's still pretty humid so I hope that I can sleep tonight for sure. I kept thinking about how lately I've slept really well even though the nights have been warm, and I remembered that Faithless' gorgeous "Isomnia" was one track which you could play for all ten or eleven minutes or so and just get you in the mood to dance instead of sleep, but nonetheless it seemed to sum up the feeling of being out at night and not being able to. Tune of the day I reckon, and not least because those were the days when Dido was talented.