Xbox!

Following many oohing and aahing, I have finally splashed out on a new Xbox360 Elite. Getting home and plugging it into my HD Tv, it is nothing short of excellent.

Good build quality and brilliant games conspire to make this a favourite gadget.

I have always been a Sony fan, so I thought I would progress to the PS3, but an extremely high price tag, as well as niggling troubles with its blu-ray player, has steered me away. Also, I do have plans to mod my box later on… something not possible with the PS3.
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A passing away.

Unfortunately, my beloved grandmother passed away this morning just before 6am. Always jolly with a smile on her face, she will be so missed by all of us.

More so by my mother, with whom she lived in Fgura.

Goodby my dear, ’til we meet again…

Very Sore.

Tuesday today, and against my better judgement, I decided to come in to work. My right arm is practically dead, and I feel as if I have been hit over the head with a no.7 size sledgehammer.
I just had to take a half-day off on leave, and go get some rest. It was off to bed at about one in the afternoon, and around 5pm I woke up refreshed and quite stronger.
Still, swimming was off today. Despite not having a fever, my temperature was still a bit on the high side….so better safe than sorry!
In the evening I settled down to watch Egypt vs Nigeria (3-1), and after that, took my trusty Cessna 172 out for a spin..err…on Flight Sim 2004 obviously.

H1N1 jab.

Like many people here, I elected to take the dreaded ‘swine-flu’ jab. I have heard many things about this, and to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive of taking it.

But with my health problems. I thought I better not risk it. A quick poke and all was done. However I noticed an increase in temperature as the evening wore on.

2am now…and my temperature is still high and I can’t get to sleep….

A nice quiet Sunday.

It’s been a good weekend. Good, not great. If it wasn’t for the fact that my old gran is in hospital, unfortunately extremely ill, it would have been great.

Unhappily, there is nothing that can be done any more. When you get as old as ‘nanna’, it’s a chore just to keep breathing….

Saturday was a mad-house, as we frantically made our home ship-shape. It’s unbelievable how much we tend to leave things lying around.

Saturday was a mad-house, as we frantically made our home ship-shape. It’s unbelievable how much we tend to leave things lying around.

In the evening we met new friends, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.

Then yesterday it was up at 5am to set-up the powerpoint for Sunday’s 10am mass. I really must find a way to do this more effectively! Waking that early is not a joke…even then it is a hassle when I find we are doing new songs and I don’t have a decent lyrics background. Just the text is nowhere near good enough for me…

Ok we gave good account of ourselves, not special, but relatively good. As with the presentation, I’m not happy unless we played at 100%. Happily we had a new guitarist with us. Matthew is a (very) young Guns ‘n Roses fan, so expect something new from us.

Finally by noon, all was settled, and since we had decided to eat out instead of cooking, just dropped (not literally) my guitar home. We went down to Birzebbugia, and the weather conspired with us to make a wonderful afternoon. It was cold and VERY windy… ideal winter conditions as we picked our way on the deserted beach.

Naturally, we enjoyed ourselves hugely. Then it’s off to a nice quiet restaurant, and off home for a nice cuddle in front of the telly!

A nice relaxing way to end the day.

And now it’s back to this damn desk! Bah! Humbug!

End of days.

Unfortunately, despite being Friday, it doesn’t seem to be shaping up to be a good weekend. My grandmother, now 88, is nearing the end of a long battle to survive each day.

We all know that nobody lives forever, and it breaks my heart to see such a wonderful woman leave us. She has now had her last rites administered, and doctors are warning the family to expect bad news from time to time.

I don’t know about other grandmothers, (my kids certainly won’t be lucky with their horrible lot), but ‘Nanna Rit’, as everyone calls her, is a paragon of virtue, love, understanding and kindness.

Hopefully she can manage to ‘cling on’ to life so that I can see her one last time tonight… the doctors say that she is one tough cookie and doesn’t want to let go…

That’s Nanna Rit for you…

It is the 6th of January today. A day that I remember with bitter-sweet memories. Our dearly departed Jade would have been 23 years old today. Struck down in her prime on the 12th November at just 21, she will never be forgotten by my family, and the thousands of admirers and friends she garnered.

Give her oh Lord, eternal rest and favour in your eyes. Amen.

Juve back on the field this afternoon.

Hurrah…after a long break, football is back. Juve are playing at 3pm, an unusual hour to be sure, but a great time nonetheless. This will give me time to go for my swim at the pool later on.

If only we can put up a good match…not so much for the win but for the performance. I’m sure that our opponents Parma will more than give us a good scrap.

I think that the spoils will be shared in a draw…

My working stuff.

Lately, friends, knowing me as a Tech Freak, have been inquiring AND wondering what kind of hardware and software I must have running around at home.

Since giving up my shop in Fgura, I have naturally been left with loads of stuff, but what is of interest to all is the hardware I use at home. Sadly, I seem to err…have grown a bit, and my games needs have flown out of the window.

So does that mean that I’m using a bog-standard vanilla PC to get by with my computing needs? Not on your nelly!

Let’s describe my set-up. My main PC is an Athlon64 with 6Gig Ram, 500Gig of internal Hard-Disk, and a recently purchased 1.5 Tb external Hdd. The PC is connected via Wi-Fi to a router providing access to the outside world. A DVD-RW, multi-card reader and of course, a cordless notebook-style keyboard/mouse combination complete the set. The video card is an nVidia8600 1Gb Ram unit, connected to my 50inch Samsung Plasma TV via HDMI cable. The sound goes to a ‘classic’ NAD60 amplifier, delivering beautiful playback to a pair of huge Sony NSW-D350 speakers. These, my friends, are the bees knees! I want to be buried in one of these speakers when I die and am cremated. Naturally I also have the media centre remote-control…

The PC case is a beautiful set-top box, designed like a hi-fi system. Friends have difficulty in understanding that this is a computer and not a stereo system…but there you go.

All this stuff is complemented by a Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-Ray player and cable TV, arguably the weakest link in the system.

The software driving this system is extremely cheap and cheerful. I tend to go for freeware and open-source software. About the only thing I have paid a high price for is WindowsXP. The reason I use XP (in a dual-boot system) is to ensure compatibility with my kids’ learning environment at school. Otherwise I use Ubuntu as a free, solid, operating system.

For Office work I have two options. First is OpenOffice, by Sun. It’s fast, free, and offers all I need. The other is AbiWord, an oldie but goodie. I have no intention of ever installing Microsoft Office. The latest incarnations are hideous, to say the least.

For internet browsing, I am a Google Chrome man. Sometimes, but vary rarely, I fall back on Firefox. IE is a no-show on my system. Facebook and the free Live Writer are my main items for keeping in touch with friends, and now, blogging.

I have Calibre installed to transfer my files to my SONY PRS500 ebook reader. As an Acrobat reader I use Foxit, and for PDF creation, OpenOffice provides native PDF documents. Needless to say, the above programs are all FREE! As in 0 Euros. Not free by pirating. Legally Free!

For my guitar playing I have GuitarPro, another software that I purchased. This is by far the best music-creation software I have ever seen.

Image editing is next on the list. Photoscape (free) is my choice of quick and dirty image editing. However for serious creation and manipulation I use Paint Shop Pro exclusively. My purchases stopped at ver9.0 since it more than provides me with all the tools I need. I cannot understand the craze here in Malta for Photoshop… probably because it can be found for free on various torrents. 90% of people use 5% of Photoshop’s capabilities…silly really.

But why am I writing about productivity software when this machine is connected to some seriously cool hardware?

So let’s go to that bit. I use the free Media Player Classic (utilising the Combined Community Codec Pack) for watching videos (mainly mkv), and Winamp for playing music.

FFDecoders translate the data to images and sound, and I can tell you, watching a movie on this beast is nothing short of spectacular!

Sometimes, but very rarely, I hit the Windows Media Center software, but not enough to make an impact. I have ripped all my DVDs onto my hard-disks, together with my one thousand CD albums. I have not purchased a ‘physical CD’ for ages. I usually get them from Play on a download basis.

So just lie back on the nice comfy leather sofa, prop-up your legs on the coffee table, and turn that volume up!

(PS…I’m not going to mention all the gadgets I use from day to day… my iPhone, without which life would be unbearable… my PSP, or the GPS which is brilliant, saves me looking for addresses on errands. Or my lovely Inspiron1545 notebook… as well as the kids’ MSI Book PC and Acer Travelmate notebook. Should I include our iPod nanos? My younger daughter strangely favours my little 10inch Macbook laptop. For games I have a Sony Playstation 2, which is enough for me.)

As can be seen, most of the software used from day-to-day is absolutely free. I purchased XP, GuitarPro and PaintShopPro and Microsoft Flight Sim 9. And that’s about it!

Grouping up….

Following an experiment, I have now reverted to my beloved Blogger site.

Bah…pajjiz tal Mickey Mouse!

Posted at 12:25 PM on January 04, 2010  

In a world of injustices, it is always the closest to you that hits home. So, as written earlier, my Fuji S2000HD has a problem with the backlighting on the screen. This seems to be a ‘not unrare’ problem. Things that can be fixed.

 

But then when I call the Scan showrooms twice and both times neglected to be told that the Servicing office closes at five pm is nothing but sheer stupidity. Is it too much to mention that the workshop closes that early? Dear Jesus…this country sucks.

Blessed Sunday today.

Posted at 10:55 PM on January 03, 2010  

Sunday is also over now, and to tell the truth, it has been a fairly noisy happening.

First off was our traditional 10am mass. Since it is practically the last day of Xmas, Epiphany, we had to play the same Xmas list as the one on Christmas Day. Naturally, after the novelty of different seasonal songs wears off, one can’t wait to get them over and done with. And so it was with this year’s selection. After mass was over it was off for a coffee with Noel, Jess, Claire, Matt, Alan and all of our band-mates.

Needless to say, a hilarious time was enjoyed by one and all…

But next it was with a heavy heart that I went to my in-laws for the traditional dinner. Don’t get me wrong…I love eating as much as the next guy, but too much is too much…and coupled with the richness and multi-course meals on offer, I was dreading it. Thankfully I managed to put my foot down and only eat frugally.

Sunday, is however, a day that I like to reserve exclusively to the family. Hence my misgivings. It’s only fair to say that everything went smoothly, and by three o’ clock I was safely curled up on my sofa, in front of TV, watching Discovery Science.

8pm saw me then throwing on a jacket and going for a walk with Jack around the airport perimeter. Naturally it was bloody cold! But I enjoyed it immensely….and tomorrow?

Back to work! Call me a nerd..but I am actually looking forward to the structured times that employment brings.

At least it keeps me out of of the fridge! That can only be good news.

Under the Dome…what a copy! Or is it?

Posted at 10:04 PM on January 02, 2010  

So this morning I was browsing through the latest err… electronic bookshelves for my Sony PRS500 reader, when I stumbled upon a book by the much-celebrated writer Stephen King. (Personally, his best book is ‘Christine’, you know, demon car and all)

Well, as can be seen from the cover image above, it is oh so SLIGHTLY familiar. Bart Simpson anyone? This storyline is straight out from Matt Groenig’s animated sit-com hit of the much loved dysfunctional family that has made such an impact on everyone’s lives with its’ message delivering episodes.

‘Dome-Depot’….I can still hear the jingle from the movie….couldn’t this be described as plagiarism at its’ best? It is a DARN good read though! I can tell it is going to keep me awake tonight!

Bang goes my Fuji HD2000

Posted at 07:13 AM on December 31, 2009  

Bah…last day of the year, barely into the first year of use, and my beloved Fuji HD2000 has had its’ screen die on me. The backlight seems to flicker intermittently from very dim to extremely dim….

Could be simply a loose connection, but the thing has never been even breathed upon, let alone dropped!

I called the Scan techs who naturally invited me to bring the machine over to their workshops….let’s see if it comes back in the same condition at least…. sad

A new toy….

Posted at 07:10 PM on December 29, 2009  

Hurrah, I have finally decided on my Xmas pressie…even though that blessed day has passed. Ok, so it’s still Tuesday.

So what is it? I splashed out on a 1.5 Terabyte hard-disk. the Maxtor Basic HD. Just plus it in and there you go…gazillions of space for my movies, music and pics.

Nice shape too, and something I really really needed.

Party time again….

Posted at 06:08 PM on December 27, 2009  

Another day, and yet another party….bang goes my ‘projected loss’ for December..and January, I would guess….

This time we spent an afternoon at Gordon’s house. Good food, and of course, pleasant company made it a very nice time. Naturally, Gordon being well-equipped, we indulged in hammering a lot of legends down. Yes. Karaoke.

It’s a real pity I could not drink anything stronger than Coke, but my medication is too important to neglect…

So now, at 6, we are finally home, and dare I say it, looking forward to some real days of swimming and resting.

Starting from tomorrow!

English Football is so over-rated.

Posted at 06:57 PM on December 26, 2009  

Following the signing of Mancini as head coach of Manchester City, I was curious to see what kind of play would be on fare. Sad to say, it was disappointing.

And hardly surprising…after all, there were only a maximum of 5 Englishmen out of the twenty-two on the pitch. And the play was so so disappointing. For all their touted names, neither City , nor Stoke, could muster enough skill to string together 3 passes on the trot.

Martin Petrov only scored after Robinho fluffed his shot, leaving him with an open goal, and Tevez scored from a glaring offside position, that in Italy, would reek of corruption if it stood!

Naturally, none of the scorers even came close to being born in England!

Meanwhile my Spurs drew against Fulham in a match that had 0-0 already stamped upon within the first ten seconds. Bland!

The day after Xmas

Posted at 10:14 AM on December 26, 2009  

It’s the day after the happiest holiday in the world, and I am still feeling a bit bloated and woozy from the wine we had yesterday. Nothing special mind you. It doesn’t take much to make me tipsy.

All in all it was a nice day, with mass at 10am, and then having brother Trevor, wife Diane, and their bevy of kids over for the traditional Xmas lunch. Naturally it was great fun all round.

I will be posting some pics in the archive as soon as I get my senses back…

A visit to the prisons.

Posted at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2009  

Today has been a most extraordinary day! Together with my band, we played during Mass at Corradino prisons. Read all about it in this link. ( A word document, opens in a new window )