So, our 25th wedding anniversary has come and gone. And frankly, I feel happy that it is over and done with. Lately I have become very skeptical of celebrations and parties and similar shit. To say that I have a phobia for them is an understatement.
I have, for the most part, become an ‘honorary hermit’… or rather, a quieter person.
Perhaps it is the maturity leap we all go through, or perhaps I have lived the last few years in comparative panic that has led me to seek the peace and quieter places for the majority of the cases.
My in-laws had been pestering me for some time to re-bless the rings, hold a commemorative mass to renew our vows and hold a party.
I do not know where my wedding ring has gone (probably exchanged with a hard-disk), and as for holding a mass, I have renounced my religion, and I no longer care at all. I made my vow once, there is no hope of reneging on it. When I promise something, it is a promise I keep forever.
Moreover, lately, both with my illness and later on, my wife’s (far more unsettling), I have become a bit skittish at hearing the word ‘Party’. I hate them, and I hate attending parties, weddings and other stuff like that.
For too many years I ahve attended these shindigs purely out of respect, but in reality, these days, I do not care what others think of me.
So for our anniversary, we shunned everything and spent a most wonderful day on the beach, just my wife and I, with a few mojitos, a couple of beers, and a nice meal at a sea-front restaurant.
We spent the day in peace, just talking between us, snapping a few pics, and generally chilling out.
That cannot be beaten.
Working in IT certainly has its benefits as one can keep his pulse on a number of improvemets or ‘evolving’ in the technological world.
One thing that has always bothered me however is the fact that with all this ‘cloud’ thingy, one simply has to give up all his rights to privacy.
I understand that if one is to embrace and immerse himself in social media (like I do), then it is a given that recognition in the social media world is important.
However I draw the line at certain practices pushed forward by the big M. While Microsoft has made a big stride towards pushing Windows10 to its customers (and even to those who don’t want it!), I am mostly concerned about its Office suite.
Big, bloated, power hungry and plain unwieldy, there is no way that one can install Office without signing in to the softie’s cloud.
But what if I simply want to write to my heart’s content without logging in or making an account? The answer is simple. You can’t. And what I write, to whom I write and who publishes my work, I really don’t want people to know.
Yes, it is a secret. Suffice to say that over 1 million readers have read my texts, articles and stories. 950,000 of those people do not know WHO wrote particular works, or if the one credited as being the author really did pen the words.
Thus, I am loathe to divulge my account even in the most secretive way.
I am not including my reluctance to pay over 260Euros for an Office system from which I will only use the Word Processor. And from that, I will only probably be utilising 5% of the power under the hood.
Thus, for the past year, I have been using Libre Office exclusively. It is a small download, does not require me to log on to any cloud based services, and is available for free or for a small donation. I always donate 10 dollars when downloading this software, and my clients are always happy with the package.
Now the next thing is to totally eradicate Windows from my notebook computer. My journey to Linux is almost complete. Ubuntu fits my needs perfectly, and runs so quick it is absolutely astounding. For the odd windows program I use WINE , and even that is increasingly rare!
So why is Microsoft insisting with high prices for an Office suite that is increasingly difficult to install on a corporate machine? Foot forward. Shoot. Bang.
Well, WordPress has prepared a site report for this blog, and I cannot believe I posted so little this year… I will make an effort to increase my output.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 840 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.
At the moment , there is so much going on in my life, what with work and free-time devoted to development of computer systems and programming, that I sometimes simply forget to write or update my blog.
This is a bit strange since writing is one of my hobbies as well. Be that as it may, I thought I would share some of what I am doing at the moment.
Well, as most of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know, at the moment I have three perhaps four projects that I need to finish so I can enjoy them.
These include 2 Raspberry Pi projects, and a larger more expensive build that needs some more ‘spare’ cash to finalize. However, I am getting there and it will soon be feasible to start serious work on this unit.
Let’s start by looking at the circumstances and what leads me to this work… My friends say I have an endless passion for these things, my kids say I’m nuts, while my wife is happy that I devote so much time to things that keep me happy. I will not quibble with any of the views.
I have to point out that many of my projects are done with the intention of teaching or inspiring younger children to take up programming and electronics not only as a hobby, but also as a starting point for a career that is hectic , but very rewarding…
So I actually need to start explaining the situation from the very start. Since changing desks some years back to a more modern (but very basic) type , I have been beset by a number of problems, namely, no drawers… and we all know that drawers are a safe-haven for the electronics enthusiast. This usually meant that my desk (in our TV Room, I might add) is always cluttered to the point of being a mess.
This summer I decided to take the plunge and build a new system. After trawling around onthe ‘net, I finally took it upon myself to build a ‘pipe desk’. It was to be a basic affair in which water-pipes would replace the structure of the old one. The strength of the pipes would be able to take the weight of people leaning on the side of the old desk, threatening to tear it down, as well as give it a rustic look. For the top, I used the same desk-top I had before.
A gloss black paint , purposefully hand-applied
Pipes and Sockets make up the desk
Using a hacksaw to cut pipes to length
Hanging the sockets to apply primer spray easily
As shown below, the finished product is beautifully and simply done. This thing could easily withstand anything thrown at it. Naturally, I underestimated the srength of the pipes. It can easily hold up a truck!
However, having such a desk meant that I STILL had no storage or working area, and that is when I decided that it would be a great idea if I had a stand-up type of desk to the left of this one. Naturally, it would be higher as well as being larger. I procured a couple of wardrobe sides (don’t ask) that I screwed together, added side supports (Dixon L-steel) and included a corner pipe support that rested on the pipe-desk.
Two new shelves beneath the newer desk completed the project. But, you might say, you still have no storage available. Well, I decided to do away with traditional drawers, and use motherboard boxes as storage.
Working in IT provides me with endless cardboard boxes to dispose of. Motherboard boxes are sturdy, neat, and colourful. Just what the doctor ordered.
That takes care of the ‘workstation’ part. Keep in mind that this desk is in our TV Room, and while we do not have many visitors (and I really couldn’t give a fig what they would think anyway), I would like to keep the place tidy, even if it is for my sake. I will post a photo when it is done and tidy!
So now that has been taken care of, let’s see what I have in mind.
Going home, I saw somebody throw a box of electronics stuff away. I picked two Commodore64 micros from this skip. Three datasettes, one power supply, one action replay cartridge, and what seems to be a brand new arcade joystick (ebay price 40bucks!) completed the package in the box. WOW! Both C64S micros were faulty, but I soon fixed them. One of the 64s I exchanged with a mate of mine from the Vintage Computer Club.
Victor gave me a Spectrum 128k+ that seems to be malfunctioning. The board on this seems well cooked, and i have an idea that I might stick a Pi in it.
One of the repaired Commodore64s
The dead Spectrum 128k+
The membrane on the ZX is shot and the computer itself is not in a far better shape. The case is supremely clean though, and that gives me an idea or two… More perhaps in another post. I still look on this micro as a seminal point in the world of computing in general. I have already become so fond of it that I have no firm direction what to do with it. Repair or salvage the case for other uses? Perhaps an emulator inside would make this indistinguishible from an original… hmmm.
I have also refurbished an Amiga1200 that I also found thrown away. This badly needed cleaning as it seems that a cat (or some other animal) peed in it. The metal shielding was totally rusted, and the floppy drive was clogged.
I sanded and repainted the metal shielding, now in a pristine light grey coating, and gave a good old wash and brush up to the plastic case. I fixed the floppy drive and added a 500MB hard-drive. The mouse needed new buttons, and the power supply had a 33k startup resistor replaced as well…. tick tick tick , there she goes.
The Amiga is a beautiful machine that I intend to keep together with the C64S. They represent my childhood, and I loved the games and the old AmigaOS.
Next up is an absolutely excellent condition Oric-1. I have never owned an Oric, or even knew one who did, so this is a stranger to my colection. The motherboard still works perfectly on this computer, so I took a long time to come to a decision on this. There are a number of factors that led me down the road to what will happen with this. This British computer was very popular in Europe during the early 1980s and only cost £100 when it was released. The Oric operated at 1 MHz and had two flavours… 16 or 48 KB of RAM. Something different in this system was that it proved that secure communication lines could be established between systems.
People take strange stances, and I cannot understand why certain devices are sold more than others. The Oric was far superior to anything designed by Sinclair. Extremely good PCB design, better keyboard, great build quality, better sound, and cheaper. Whatever the reason,but most probably because it was released before, the Spectrum outshone anything in sales. In another post I will detail the final Oric destination. It will be a portable multimedia client for use with our bedroom TV. Wifi will provide the network. The system has been tested and is great for what I need. It will look nice and smart in its pearl-white case too.
Meanwhile I also have a TI-99/4A that is begging me for repair, as well as for a great build I am planning… The Texas is looking at me everyday… hopefully I can come to a solution that satisfies us both…
’til next time!
Recently I had the good fortune of finding an iPad air for sale at a paltry price of 250 Euros. I contacted the guy, and two Sundays back, around 7am, was toodling along to Birkirkara to view the item, with my elder daughter Rachel tagging along. (She cannot resist technology, especially when it comes to Apple products. “You’ve spoiled me!” is her favourite quote.)
So, after a quick exchange of brand new cash, the iPad, still under warranty, and in excellent nick, was mine.
Arriving home and synchronising the device took but a few minutes, and with that, my trusty original iPad was consigned to the electronics jungle present in our house. (A comparison between the ipad and ipad5 will follow in a few days).
I offered it to my younger daughter who refused on the grounds that it was too old, and indeed, way too large. She instead took fancy to an Asus Nexus 7 inch tablet, conveniently provided by a friend after a repair barter. (I haven’t seen the Nexus again, since invariably, Roxy has slapped a password on it).
So I call a mate of mine and inform him of the good news, at which point he yells ‘Stop the synchronising! Quickly!’
Suitably taken back, I ask him why…
The answer? ‘You won’t be able to jailbreak it if you upgrade to the newest OS!’….
(Jailbreaking is the art of going round a phone’s system to unlock it… Cracking and Rooting are other examples, used in PCs and Android operating systems… Once cracked, apps can be downloaded and side-loaded. It is perfectly legal to JB or Root your devices, quite illegal to install illegally obtained software).
I replied that I did not really want to Jailbreak my ipad. Of course, my mate on the other side of the phone replied that I was, indeed, batty. Mad. A crank.
‘How could you NOT want free stuff on your device?’ was his final call…
Why would I want software that I did not pay for? True, with an iPad you get all you actually need for free… Great Office software, video creation, photography manipulation and music creating software for free. But there over a million free apps, and another million that rarely cost more than a beer.
Unhappily (and this is the whole point of this post), as a general consensus we take these things for granted. Wedownload music, programs, videos, books…or watch satellite TV for free. This is, to all intents and purposes, stealing… Much as one would steal a handbag, or a pie…
It does not matter if the apps cost 75c (which the majority cost!), there is still the thrill, the challenge, the attitude…
And while it is easier to download pirated stuff, in the long run, we are hurting nobody but ourselves.
It’s been nearly 9 days since I started feeling a bit iffy… I had prepared myself with loads of real Vitamin C from real fruits, been careful not get caught in rainy weather, but nothing can convince me that influenza is not brought about by viruses.
Since being unceremoniously handed an HR related role at work, I need to naturally keep in contact with a load of people, mostly operators, nearly all of them girls.
Now as can be imagined, January has seen a dreaded attack of the snuffles here in Malta. Just as luck would have it, both girls I was training 9 days ago were still waaay out of order to attend work. Needless to say, being in close proximity to them while teaching them soldering has severely hit me….
Three days of incubation, and there I was on a Sunday, wheezing like a pet snake without a hiss… the previous years have been heavy on me. Why?
It is a known fact that I suffer from Ankylosing Spondilytis, well under control with inoculations, some chemotherapy, and a lot of care and attention. The chemo in form of pills, naturally robs your body of the much needed antibodies…
Actually these antibodies are the feckin problem in my life. The bad bugs attack the good bugs, preventing them from doing the work, ie… healing.
That is where the inoculations come in…
However, I am living comfortably with this treatment, and I have not had a day of sick, related to my back, for over 15 months now…. brilliant!
Last year though I had this terrible chest infection (remember, I have no immune system, even a bruise takes ten days to fade away), where I simply could not even laugh without fainting due to loss of oxygen in my brain.
This year, fortunately, due to my pre-emptive strike of taking antibiotics and even more steroids, I have evaded this fate. My doctor said that five days inside, taking it easy, would enable me to make a good recovery. I talked him out of it, insisting that after three days I would be good enough.
So it was that yesterday I called him, and boy was he pissed at me… “Didn’t I tell you that you need five days of total rest?”
Ah well… he does know best.
But I am so bored in here… it’s incarceration in a top hotel… that’s what it feels like.
I have every conceivable gadget, huge TV, massive sound system, lovely tv room with xbox, blu-ray, computers everywhere… but I find myself wandering to the kitchen and look longingly at people simply walking in the street.
Can’t wait til I get out!
I have been struggling with my feelings these last few weeks on whether to put pen to paper (so to speak), and let this post loose on my blog.
However, stuck inexorably behind a waste pick-up truck, watching the black workers scurry around like worker ants, I simply had to do it. I am not apologizing for the word black. I’m white, pasty white….. a friend of mine is burnt a crisp brown, another is yellow… and after all, black is my favourite colour… I hate all this political correctness shit.
So yeah, it started me thinking again… Not too long ago, following another landing (or rescuing) of illegal immigrants on our beleaguered island, a Facebook page was set up… ‘Daqshekk ghall-immigrazzjoni llegali’… loosely translated, it means ‘Enough with illegal immigration’. As a person who thrives on fairness and clarity, I have to give the founders of this page a lot of credit. After all, our tiny island, a few square miles in area and smaller than many American farms, simply cannot handle the weight of these new arrivals.
However this page has something sinister that is disturbing me. In it we are seeing the selfishness and pure bestiality of the Maltese population. While the page’s creators were probably righteous in their message, the typical Maltese guy or girl isn’t…. it is nothing but a spew of bigotry and hate…and this is coming from a country that specifies itself as being catholic/christian… whatever the hell that means these days.
I wonder if the comments would be the same if the boatloads of immigrants were buxom blonde babes, or a bevy of handsome Brad Pitt look-alikes…
I am all in favour of legality to the point of pain. People coming here MUST have papers and passports. Their arrival MUST have had approval and veto. Unhappily, and here we must call a spade a spade, we are being overrun by the lowest common denomination in the gene pool from Syria, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea who are haphazardly escaping their war-torn countries….
But besides this point (and the fact the little, if any, even want to integrate into our society), one has to realise something that to me would be akin to calling Scotty and telling him to ‘Beam me up’ to another planet.
The immigrants come here practically with nothing except the clothes on their back.
I cannot even imagine being somewhere without my iphone, or my ipad, and yet here they are, but for the grace of whatever god they follow… dispirited and destitute, thankful only that they have survived the voyage over concrete jungles, the treacherous dunes of the Sahara, and the deceitfully placid waters of the Mediterranean. The average crossing costs them seven-hundred Euros, most likely their complete lifelong savings.
These people come here with nothing!
…and despite my misgivings and the knowledge that we are burdened to the point of snapping, one simply but cannot feel sorry for their trials and tribulations.
Every year in Malta, something out of the ordinary occurs, unprecedented on the scale, and possible elsewhere only because of the huge amounts of populace in a country. Mid-September is when it happens, and this mass congregation is nothing short of stupendous.
For those attending this event, now over sixty years old and increasing in popularity year by year, it is nothing if not an extraordinary experience. Should I decide to do it once again, it would be my 25th participation.
I am, of couse, referring to the Cycling Pilgrimage that takes place a week or so prior to the celebration of ‘Our Lady of Graces’, or ‘Tal-Grazzja’ as it is called here.
Thousands upon thousands of cyclists of all ages congregate at Rabat to wind down to Zabbar, a cacophony of colour, noise, mix of bikes, creeds, religions, sentiments, and of course crazy fun.
Some eight years ago, falling badly ill, it seemed as if it was the end of not only my ‘walking life’, but pretty much everything else associated with the vertical. Until a cure, or a slowdown was available, I found it was difficult to do much, and essentially, my life as a mobile person was over. I needed to depend on others to do even the bare necessities.
So even thinking about once again ever participating in this ride was as far removed from my mind as reaching for the moon. There… but not for the taking.
After a year, I began to improve health-wise. I started taking to the bicycle once again. As a cycling nut, I couldn’t resist the lure of my trusty steed. I recall March being the month of my rennaisance.
When September came, and with it the first pangs of remembrance, I decided to take a gamble and try the pilgrimage once more. I wasn’t even mentally prepared for it, less alone physically. Cycling up to Rabat leaving home at 6am was definitely off the cards. So I drove up to Zabbar in my old van, with the bike safely ensconed in it. Buses took us up to Rabat, with trucks taking the bikes.
The pace on these things is obviously quite slow, and I started out only with the greatest fear, but as the miles sped by beneath my wheels, seeing thousands of people egging us on, my heart began to soar. I could do this. I actually began sobbing with happiness as this new found courage flowed and encouraged me onward…
As we arrived close to our destination, the crowds swelled immeasurably, and I could recognize family, friends and colleagues on the sidelines who knew what I had been going through. Their shouts of encouragement was way more adrenaline than I needed. It spurred me on.
I will always recall that day as my new birth. So this year, while undecided whether to attend or not, I will still probably rush down to the garage and grab my bike for this outrageous event once again…
… to boldly go
A friend yesterday commented about my blogging, or rather, the lack of it. Summer is a long, hot, prolonged, messy affair here in Malta, so sitting down to write my thoughts is not too close to the top of the heap that festers in my head.
Rather, my musings tend to gravitate towards catching up on reading while at the beach (sipping a beer or two), watching catch-up of sit-coms with my kids in air-conditioned comfort on the sofa(Bazinga!), and last, but certainly not least or any less important, going out with my wife, simply enjoying a nice cold one wherever we find a bar or a pub (plentiful here!).
But today, my thoughts aren’t gravitating towards being cool. Rather, it is a somewhat more sinister side that seems to be consuming our very fabric of life here in Malta. Let us go with the fact that our country has always had strong ties with religion… whatever shape form or colour, religion has had a hold on our people for as long as anyone can remember… I am nearing my 50th year of existence on this planet, and even as a nipper, I always recognized the power of the church here.
Now it is only fair to say that with my late father being a serviceman in the British Navy, we spent quite a bit of time abroad when it made more sense to be with him than without. Be that as it may, the point I would like to pass on here is that religion was never in my life. I admit, I have tried so hard to integrate or to try and understand why people are so devoted, and while accepting the possibility of a deity, I could not understand the need of attendance. Why is it? I have no answer. Primary school I attended was run by nuns. For secondary schooling I attended one tun by priests. There is no need to say that I had had my fill of bull, and naturally, I rebelled against all the whole system.
I mean, it was plain crazy wasn’t it? In religion classes (actually catholic classes!), we learnt about how supposedly God created Adam and Eve in his image, bla bla… while just popping over to the class opposite, we learnt, from science, how man was descended from the apes. I had no doubts that the science classes were true, and really could not understand how such close-mindedness could exist (Adam & Eve). But it seemed that they either lived in harmony, or else, the priesthood simply elected to ignore the truth. anyway, the long and short of it is that I grew to hate religions as such. I could be spiritual, but not religious.
Later on in life, struggling with my feelings, and riding the crest of a wave, or dipping low in its depths, I tried to integrate myself into a society where religion was a big deal. For a time, I thought I could understand it all, but after the initial highs (which I used to get somewhere else), the warm feeling eventually petered out. The rebel inside me, once again, took command. In cold hard light I could see that religion was nothing but a sham, nothing but a power to be wielded against the weak, against those who could not think for themselves. Even in philosophy classes, the first question asked is ‘Did God create Man? Or did Man create God?’
I sincerely believe that it is the second. Man, in his ignorance, HAD to explain away strange phenomena that were happening in the early days of human growth. What better way to explain these than by the creation of various deities to which certain happenings could be attributed?
With the exponential growth of the brain, and the absurd explosion of scientific knowledge, these phenomena were explained away with cool, clear, logic.
The older generation still believes that everything happens with the Grace of God (except where an operation goes wrong, in which case they sue the surgeon….madness!)
All of the above would have been a moot point if I did not say that the true scope of this post is to enquire about what is happening in the world these days….
Let’s say that I truly, absolutely, resolutely deny any belief in religion and all that hogwash. The church is made up of people. Some of these people are priests, and while I cannot understand the feeling of being a priest (if God had wanted people to enter his service, he would have made them sexless no? Why would anyone need plumbing if you have no water?), I have to admit that I do have friends who went on to enter the priesthood. To this day, they are still my friends, whom I respect. Greatly!
I mean, they are selfless workers, being patient with all kinds of people, and understanding. True, this is not attributable to the 100% of them out there, but what is? I’m sure there are horrible parents out in the world…
So I was pained to read in the news these last two days of a member of a noted and revered religious society whp has been accused of defiling a minor in public. Apparently, and i quote the actual words ‘grabbing the child while in the water and lifting him, brushing his genitalia as he did so’…
This is what really happened. While indulging in horseplay, the guy (who I happen to know), lifted and threw the child in the water. Now this was in a group of kids and their leader.
This kind man has been vilified in the press (I hate journalists as much as religion!), arrested on the voice of a ten year old boy, and DENIED BAIL… can anyone believe this crap?
Denied bail, on suspicions of being a pedophile… It seems as if these days everybody is hell-bent on getting his name in court. This is nothing else if not character assassination. A gentleman who cannot even protest his innocence.
From this day onwards, I have made a pledge to never even look at kids again, don’t talk to the little bastards, and if you see one of them drowning, leave the little fucker to drown! That’ll teach them… as for this boy’s parents, I wish I could have MY five minutes with them.
Is Segretarju Parlamentari Michael Falzon qal li l-petizzjoni biex jigi mblukkat refrendu fuq il kacca fir-rebbiegha ma tistax tigi njorata mil gvern minhabba li giet iffirmata minn kwazi mitt elf persuna. Mhux ovvja li ma tistax tinjora habib!? Dik id-demokrazija.
Li jrid jaghmel l-onorevoli sekretarju hu li jigu kkonfermati il 100 elf firma. Ejja nghiduha kif inhi. Malta zghira u n-nies maghrufa. Fl-ahhar elezzjoni kien hawn 344,356 votant registrati.. Mela wiehed jigi ghal konkluzjoni matematika li nies li ffirmaw din il petizzjoni huma 1 minn 3.44 , jew biex ingibuh numru tond tond, 2 minn kwazi 7…
Harsu madwarkhom….. aqbdu 7 min-nies, u araw KEMM MINNHOM fil-verita qatt RAW din il petizzjoni ahseb u ara kemm iffirmawha…. Mit-tlett mitt ruh li naghmel kuntatt maghhom kwazi kuljum ifisser li 88 minnhom iffirmaw din il karta.
Mela…. ghandek mitt elf onorevoli? Tikkonfondi xejn, ejja nhallu l-pajjiz imur ghar-referendum f’Marzu li jmiss, u halli lil dawk il 100 elf jaghmlu d-decizjoni taghhom flimkien mal kumplament tat-344 elf li wkoll ghandhom id-dritt sakrosant li jsemmghu lehinhom.
Ghal hafna snin ilu li ghandna zewg partiti bla bajd kontra l-kaccaturi. Wasal iz-zmien li ahna wkoll insemmghu l-opinjoni taghna!