new laptop

woohoo! Im on a new laptop!!

lots of fellow IT professionals I know dont understand why I play with old and broken hardware.

My passion for IT gear is normally from handmedown hardware and stuff previous owners are bored with. Why? I look it in the same way as mechanics drive old cars. Because its cheap and I like getting my hands dirty and seeing the satisfaction of getting it working again.

I got a real find in August, a Compaq Evo N800c laptop, it has a 2.2Ghz P4m processor and already had the memory bumped upto 1Gb. When I got it, it refused to boot, just made a repeated clicking noise because of a failed hard disk, a battery that wont hold any charge at all. A few boot CDs meant RAM tested all ok, and motherboard and screen were functioning, there was no sign of impact damage, just a piece of plastic missing from the lid of the screen, which covers a proprietry Compaq wireless card which was absent.

A quiet saturday afternoon later and I got a new 80gb hard disk from novatech for £37, a non genuine battery off ebay for £25 and I have a really superb performing laptop. I have it dual booted XP and Ubuntu, I have been practising imaging PCs more to enable I can quickly reinstall everything in a shorter time span, so XP and 83 odd updates, drivers and applications installed.

Its not yet completely running ideal, Im using a cheapo PCMCIA wireless card which is a bit clunky, bother asthetically and software wise, as it takes an age to pick up the signal after you have booted into XP. I would like to obtain the genuine card and the plastic trim to make it all look and operate ok. Its a world away from my ancient 1999 model Celeron based Toshiba Satellite.

I really like this machine, it has a 1400×1000 screen, quite loud and good sounding speakers, a few quirks though, the DVD combo drive is on the wrong side, on the left, and USB ports reside behind a rubber flap in the middle of the back panel which is really awkward to get at. I replaced the battery as I got fed up knocking the power supply cable out of the back causing it to go off. Im using a non-genuine Chinese made replacement battery which is working well and gives well over 2 hours of run time.

Im pretty pleased with it and it should serve me well.

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the horrors of dealing with Virgin (nee NTLworld) internet

I am former customer of NTL and Virgin when they were seperate internet providers.

Virgin.net were pretty good, I liked the straight forward honest pricing, none of this “its cheap to start with, than its more expensive once youve been using us for months” nonsense.

NTL are a different matter, they have the advantage of being the only (IIRC) ISP which you dont actually need a telephone line to use, so keeps costs down if like me you have no need for a landline and associated line rental. NTL’s customer service was legendarily bad. But to be fair there are horror stories with every ISP.

What annoyed me in the past, the registration process seems disorganised, and things like transfering ownership of my broadband to my dad when I moved out seemed impossible after several phone calls and forms I had got me and my dad to sign, it took several attempts to get it right.

Anyway this was 3 years ago, so I thought this week should get better.

My friend (Mrs W) wanted to get broadband and already had TV package and phone, after signing up got a box with the cable modem and wiring, included about 25 metres of network cable, as the cable modem connects with a 2 way adapter to the back of the Cable TV box. This is a little unorthodox but I managed to set this up all ok.

The main issue was there was meant to be a letter (which arrives seperate from the rest of the package for security purposes) with a PIN number. This has not arrived.

I tried installing the CD, which wanted this number, after calling customer services they told me it would be 1234. Nope it wont take that. She then said 67… No that wouldnt work either. Then told me to ring technical support on 0906, I told theres no way Im ringing a premium rate technical support number when the issue isnt technical. I decided to give up that evening as it was getting late.

The next time I was round my friends house, I rang earlier this time, I got there as soon as finished work, still no letter with PIN number. Customers services lady sighed and said speak to sales they will sort you out. Sales said we cant help you, customer services are always putting calls to us, we cant help you. I demanded to speak to manager, who told me the person I spoke to the previous day shouldnt of given me the PIN number, and said he would not give me the details by email (we had an ntlworld account which had been used by my friend for the last 6 months) but said it had to be sent out by letter.

Another day wasted, and useless staff that arent trained properly and just completely incompetent arghhh!

Still at least I got my friends printer set up and installed.

newspaper freebies/incentives

Lately I have decided I dont tend to read national newspapers unless Im bored during my lunch break at work.

They are really dull and predictable, with moaning about foreign immigrants or speed cameras being endlessly put on the front page.

Im amazed at the amount of freebies and competitions being offered. Are they really getting desperate to get more readership? Are most of the regular readers of The Mail fluent in Spanish after langauge lesson CDs?

I have to admit it, Im a sucker for freebies :o)

This stemed when I was 5 I saved up tokens for a Rice Krispies alarm clock, I think it was £7 or so as well, but my parents paid for this and sent it off for me, after the 28 days for delivery or whenever it is, getting a parcel with your name on it when it isn’t your birthday back in 1982ish when I was 6 was incredibly exciting. Like most kids I pestered my dad in buying things that had stickers or other free things inside or things you had to send of for.

I havent changed, so buying things online and getting something thats really hard to find off ebay arrive in the post, has the same buzz.

Often I will go and take a peek at newspapers and see what they are trying to give away next. I think I counted 7 different sets of tokens in the Express on one day for 7 different promotions.

One thing I want to know. Is there a web site that shows whats forthcoming with newspaper freebies, so I can work out what worth getting in advance, so not to find out about a freebie already has half the amount of tokens already needed to be collected.

I say this as Im hoping to get a killer deal on a flight somewhere, not just one of the cheap sounding deals with Ryanair, I know some of the grown up airlines (sorry my general euphemism for the non-budget operators) did some similar promotions a while ago.