Life in General

Back; Photos Soon!

Having returned from a short stint in the land of mystery, ghouls and ghosties (most people call it Edinburgh), I’m playing catch up again. Photos to process, college stuff to gain some sort of an understanding of and exams to do in a couple of weeks. It was a nice break, but damned if I don’t need another holiday right away to make up for the stress of being back. Good to be back to my comfy bed, big TV and the familiarity of good old routine. Photos in the next couple of days…

Selling a part of the family

Royal Star on the way to Cobh

It all started some years ago when I converted a Drag Star into cash, then after a long drive to Templemore and a short conversation with the unreasonably grumpy owner, I turned cash back into bike. It was the bike I’d been after for some time as what I wanted to do more than anything was load it up and head to warmer climes.

After what seemed like an eternity, that eventually came around when myself and herself hopped on the bike and took it to warmest of warm France via drizzly England. 2500 or so miles later and we were back where we started; Rosslare. So after that, it sat covered in the garage waiting for it’s next excursion. At that stage I’d found a job that offered a company vehicle. Bad news for the bike really. I didn’t fully realise it back then but it wasn’t long before the tax expired, the insurance expired and getting it back on the road seemed less and less likely.

So it sat in the garage under a canvas cover. I still had notions of getting back out on it for the summer but that dream went flat at the same time as the bikes battery. Wheeled out every so often for a wash and polish and once or twice when someone came to look at it. I mistakenly thought it’d be an easy bike to sell because it was rare. In fact, it’s probably the only one in Ireland. (That is, the only limited edition model). In reality though, all this made it harder to sell. I went through some unpleasant telephone conversations with dealers. Self styled motorbike guru’s who each assured me they knew the market backwards. Some offered to ‘do me a favour’ by taking the bike off my hands for significantly less than I asked for. No thanks.

It was listed on various advertising websites for ages and I’d get the odd phone call or email regarding it. Then, a very decisive bike owner from Wexford visited me yesterday and converted bike back into cash. I’ll miss it and I very much doubt I’ll be bikeless for very long but for now at least, it’s as if I’m missing part of the family. The only consolation is that with the cash raised from it’s sale, I can now be debt free for the first time in about 7 years. Well, apart from the mortgage… that doesn’t really count though as we’ll be paying that off for the next thirty years!

Getting all technical; Cabling the house

In a slight distraction from all the photo related stuff (well, this is slightly photo related) I’m looking at cabling the house with cat5e so I can eventually install a fairly large nas drive on a gigabit network that’ll be accessible wherever I want it. At the moment I have an airport extreme router with a 1tb drive in raid 1 plugged into it. I reckon it gets me around 300mbit but it’s still quite sluggish when moving gigs of photos around and I’m guessing it’s going to crap out on me some day when I least expect it. A simple external hard drive is not meant to be left on 24/7 like a more expensive NAS is!

So, I need to run network cabling for approximately 20 points around the house. I figure I’ll go a bit mad with the number of points I’m installing to cater for future gizmo’s I’ll no doubt end up buying. Then I can relocate all the routers and various network gear to a cabinet I’ll install into the attic, cleaning up a few shelves in my already crowded with camera gear office. So, my requests are simple… Does anyone know…

1. Anyone that knows a bit about installing cabling into existing buildings. I’m prepared to have some ducting showing (primarily because I don’t want to tear all the plaster off the walls). I’ve got all the cable myself so I’m after advice more than anything. Although it someone want’s to quote me I’m more than happy to listen.

2. Where can I get networking gear & various bits & bobs cheaply. I know I can get cabinet, patch panels and wall outlets from a local supplier. I can get ducting from a local large electrical supplier for somewhat cheaper than B&Q are charging.

3. How I go about completing a neat job?!?

The idea is to do it before anymore of the house gets painted in case I have to start knocking holes in walls. It’s also probably a good idea to do it before the attic gets floored sometime next year. I was hopeful at first that I’d be able to run the cabling next to the existing TV cable, but due to what must have been an electrician severely lacking in depth perception, I find I’m unable to proceed with that plan. I know it’s a very very bad idea to run cabling outside the house and not a good idea to run cat5 next to power cables… but what about next to plumbing? So many questions, so don’t want to pay a fortune to get them!

So, unless anyone has any advice for me, I’ll just crack on with a drill and a hammer over the Christmas break. I had thought about putting in cat6, but it’s too damn expensive. I figure cat5e will serve gigabit ethernet perfectly well for my needs anyway. Next post, once all this is done, will possibly be a way to cool the cabinet in the sauna of an attic we have. Or maybe not. Guess I won’t be putting anything hugely heat sensitive into it anyway.

I’m all talk…

…and can’t decide how to communicate! I’ve been looking into getting a ‘landline of sorts’ at home since we moved in but I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. This is where you, my learned readers, come in very handy. I’m seeking the benefit of your experience. A bit of background; I didn’t get a physical phone line installed at home, primarily because I’d rather melt my eyeballs with a lighter than give eircom €25 a month to rent a crappy out of date copper cable. So I got symmetric 1mbit wireless broadband from nova networks to fulfill my internetty needs. As I see it currently, I’ve got two options.

1. Get skype. I’m already on skype, so all I’d have to do is create a ‘home’ account, buy something like this for €180 ish (incl delivery) and use skype pro @ about €50 a year (incl geographic 021 number). Upsides are free landline calls in Ireland and cheap as chips for worldwide calls. Downsides include the inability to ‘text chat’ from the phone and the apparently inability to send text messages from it. I’d live without both as I have a mobile. Also, skype is a closed network so I’d be unable to call regular VoIP phones. Err, don’t currently know anyone that has a VoIP phone.

2. Get Blueface. They were my original first and only option. Skype only entered into it a few weeks ago when it broke that they are now offering Irish geographic phone numbers. I’d have to get a phone; something like an s450IP (Siemens Gigaset) and probably get the second package for €99 a year. Instantly, that’s about twice the price of the skype option. It is a more open and adaptable system but is that so important?

Both have a minimum charge of around 2cent per call (connection charge) so I fail to see how an unlimited national landline package (skype) compares with a 300 minute national landline package (blueface) compares. I know I could do additional mad stuff with blueface like connecting it up to the sky box and possibly a monitored alarm and maybe even home automation, but that’s just fanciness for the sake of it. I could setup my own asterisk server, if I so chose. I could get a fax to email phone number with blueface, if I so chose.

Landlines these days are coming with broadband and calls packages that come in around €40/50 for something around a 2mbit (asymmetric) line and in some cases, unlimited calling in Ireland and the UK. I suppose at the end of it all, is blueface worth twice the price of skype? Does Blueface have twice or more of the functionality of skype? I’m not talking about all of the posh stuff either. Just talk, voicemail and maybe some text. How well does €5 per month (roughly) compare with €10? Skype is by far a more user friendly system as far as I can see. Anyone with even a fundamental knowledge of computers can download and install it. It might take a bit more insight to go out and buy a headset to use with it, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for even a novice user. Blueface, while not much more complicated, can get confusing for the layman with all the talk of ATA’s and SIP settings. In skype, if you can remember your username and password, you can use it anywhere.

Finally, for my own interest… How many of you are either on skype, have VoIP services or have both? I welcome your thoughts on the above.

Designers Day Off

Just before I get back to processing and posting images, I thought I’d take the opportunity to take the piss a bit. While enjoying my coffee the other day at work, I found myself wondering where the graphic designer that created the wrapper for the chocolate biscuit I was about to devour hungrily studied.

Milk Chocolate Digestive Bar

Clearly a work of designer genius. Unfortunately, the chocolate was as bland as the container…

Back to Normality?

Nuts. Just plain nuts! Eoin, one of my best friends and co-founder of Munster Pubs is getting married tomorrow and so the last few weeks have just been plain nuts. No salt, not roasted, just plain bloody nuts! I’d been doing odds and ends in the run up, including helping him name the tables after Beatles song titles, which took up alot more time than I thought it would. Mostly down to my own procrastination as per bloody usual. But then, Wednesday came around and I finished my task. I was actually looking forward to sitting down and clearing some of the several month processing backlog I’ve found myself in.

Then, on Thursday morning, Eoin decided it’d be great if I made a speech. Hmm, not too sure about that one. I was all set to tell him it was a bad idea when we met in the pub on Thursday night, but as these things often go, after a few pints of the devilish black stuff (Murphy’s of course) were consumed, I decided that not only was it a good idea to make a speech, it was the best idea. Right up there with hotpants and sliced bread. It seems I was railroaded into it by myself. Dang.

The following morning, wondering what I’d say and how I’d say it gave way to wondering how much I could say before getting asked to sit down. I was up on 2 A4 pages before I even realised I started. To put it as I can only understand it, I blogged with pen & paper. Having never written or delivered a speech in my entire life, I can only hope it comes off as well in delivery tomorrow evening as it sounds in my head. Then again, I think everything is a bit rose tinted in there lately.

So once this weekend is over, I can possibly get back to processing. Hooray. The only thing that I’m left to worry about after this is that once the first of my school friends is married, where does it all end?

A few bits & pieces from around the place

Because I so rarely have time to take photos during the week, I decided to take a few quick snaps with my trusty camera phone on one of my fairly regular tours around various locations in Ireland. See, I’m a field engineer by trade and I often get stuck out for a few days on the trot. All the more reason I’ve been meaning to get a very compact camera to take with me. I could take the 20D, but that’s just another bag to haul around. Nothing too emotionally stimulating here, just a few shots I thought I’d upload to flickr so it actually looks like I’m doing something…

Something scenic from Wexford town

It all started on Monday evening in Wexford. There’s nothing like only arriving on site at the time you’d normally be crashed out on the couch at home after a long days work. While waiting for a DAT drive to do it’s thing, I strolled around the yard and spotted this scene on the other side of a menacing fence. Finally got moving at 9pm.

Night is falling on the way to Kilkenny

A wooden walkway at the Lyrath Estate Hotel in Kilkenny

Arrived in Kilkenny (following some bad directions of epic proportions) at around 11pm. Give or take. Missed Lost on TV, spent an hour or so praying that my sister taped it. I’ll find out tomorrow. Stayed in the above; Lyrath Estate Hotel on the Dublin road. Should have stayed in Wexford but was itching to find out what this place was like. Big & posh. They seem to have lost some of the friendliness somewhere along the road to building a big & posh hotel. Ah well. No room service when I arrived, gotten too used to 24 hour room service elsewhere. Starved for a few minutes before deciding to ration out the cookies on the tea tray. Possibly good for a mother of a naughty weekend. By my reckoning, you’d comfortably fit 5 people in the shower.

The only train in service and I get stuck with it. Somewhere in the midlands

Day 2 of the Irish Rail train drivers strike. Or so you’d imagine. Possibly one of the only trains running in the entire country and I get stuck by it. Almost got caught by it again but I just escaped the wrath of the level crossing. How and ever, I did get caught by the same train again before reaching my destination.

Could I be correct in labelling my journey as one of the most bloody awkward in the land? Kilkenny to Ballina. Very few major roads. Essentially going the wrong way across the country for a few hours. Turns out it took around 4.5 hours to do the trip.

From my hotel room in Ballina

The view from my hotel room in the Ridgepool in Ballina. Well, I say room… It was actually a suite :D Don’t even ask how I swung that one. More good luck than dirty dealing. Unfortunately not too impressive, much like Ballina itself. No offence to anyone from there, well.. anyway…

A 'Games Room' apparently!?!

A games room, apparently! I only stayed for one game…

The week was now starting to drag on and on and on and it was only Wednesday morning. I had to get to Letterkenny fairly sharpish to install a server. I had one of those “if I had only” moments on the way up there. Bought lunch and filled up the car at Statoil in Sligo and promised myself I’d stop around Donegal and eat it. Didn’t. Wish I had. Instead of only being a close spectator to a road accident, I almost had a starring role. A car, driven by an old man, pulled into a side road passed Ballybofey whereupon it was clipped on the back wheel by a woman overtaking. His car spun, made shit of the back of it. I was two cars behind. After thinking “fuck it I hope he’s alright” I thought “I wish I stopped in Donegal”. Ended up being late to Letterkenny as I had to wait for the Gardai (whom I rang) to arrive. Took them 25 minutes. Odd, seeing as we were only about a 5 minute drive from Letterkenny. The ambulance turned up about 10 minutes later, lucky nobody was seriously hurt.

Even though I wasn’t actually involved, I found it hard to concentrate during the remainder of the drive into Letterkenny. I even found it bewildering the next morning on the drive back to Sligo. Like I had to be extra careful. Weird. That’s why there isn’t a photo from Letterkenny. I was concentrating on getting back, as least as far as Sligo anyway.

Put in a quick appearance at my appointment in Sligo, got the job finished quick so I was back on the road to Cork by lunchtime. Hurrah!

Fact of the day from Tuam

The fact of the day from Tuam. Proudly displayed thanks to a recently opened bottle of Snapple. Thankfully, the majority of the drive home was uneventful. The odd battering of rain and black cloud, like the one below from the Ennis road, threatening to dump a few million gallons of acidic h20 onto my lovely new(ish) car.

Sky threatening to open on the Ennis road

Finally got home at the reasonable hour of 6pm, after battling traffic around Mayfield and the Jack Lynch tunnel for the bones of 40 minutes. Some bad vibes must have followed me from Letterkenny as on my way into Charleville in north Cork, it appeared a French truck driver had slid across the busy road and ploughed through the ditch. Despite the dramatic condition of the truck, I can only imagine the driver escaped serious injury. Odd, I thought, that I should see two accidents in the space of two days. I hardly ever see that kinda stuff. The worst news? It’s only Thursday and there’s a whole other day of work tomorrow! Another one of those “If I had only” moments. If I had only stayed in Galway tonight and came home tomorrow morning! Gah…

A little bit of Liberation

This is just one of these kind of “isn’t it wonderful” posts. Nothing too factual or interesting about any of this. No photographs either. Anyway, put yourself in the following situation…

You design websites, only work on a few because it’s time consuming. One of your clients, lets say… someone in some way involved in some currently booming industry, has been an immeasurably awkward fucker since they day he first signed a contract. That was (give or take) six years ago. Every year you promise yourself you’ll drop him, as the amount of hassle you’re getting isn’t worth the piffling amount of money the contract brings in. You picture how you’ll do it and rehearse the speech every time you walk into his office. Every year it takes no fewer than ten visits to his office to get paid. Each time you get fucked around and told to come back in a few days. You get verbally abused and bullied, up until the point where you walk out slightly richer and waiting for the same time next year to come around.

Picture a group of people that can’t for the life of them figure out how to fix any problems of their own creation. People who depend on you for their every action. If you weren’t at the other end of the phone 24/7, they may forget how to breathe. People that can’t understand why you aren’t at their beck and call constantly and won’t pay for re-training and other non-support callouts.

Then, one day, while out doing your 9 to 5 job you receive a call. It’s the man himself, disgruntled and ignorant as usual, wondering why his website is down. You explain the concept of no payment no service, his annual contract having expired 14 days beforehand. He explains he paid last year. You sigh heavily, laugh a little then explain the term ‘annual’. He becomes audibly very annoyed and demands to see you. You explain you’re currently 250 miles away performing your job and won’t be able to make it. He wants the website re-activated. You explain (several times) that once you are paid for services, the website will be active immediately. That doesn’t go down well. The usual 15 minutes of swearing starts.

You take it very slowly, calmly and patiently, explaining the concept of annual payments, support contracts and why you de-activated the website. No joy. More swearing and demands of action. You start thinking that you’d like to see who’d win in a battle of arrogance & loudmouthedness (is that even a word?) between this guy and Rev. Ian Paisley. Possibly this guy.

Suddenly, 20 minutes into the phone call, you have an epiphany! You’ve been trying to get rid of this wanker for years. This isn’t only the perfect opportunity, it’s a chance to go out in a blaze of glory. Your glory that is. The next sentance that comes out of your mouth will live forever. “Tell you what, the best thing you can do now is go and FUCK YOURSELF”. You hang up, laugh for 2 minutes non-stop and then bask in the warm glow you have created inside your brain. You spend the next 20 minutes wishing you were a fly on the wall of his office, watching the crimson red vein popping out of his neck.

He rings back the following evening to lay down the law. He’s not given the chance. You let rip. He’s told that you’ve wanted to drop him for years and you’re far better off without him and his ridiculously small annual payment. He says he won’t be spoken to like that. You point out that he’s been speaking to you like that for years. He goes off on a tangent about people owing him money. You say you don’t care. He instructs you to come into the office and collect a cheque. You say thanks but no thanks. Another tangent. Finally, and before you hang up again, you say that if you ever hear his voice on the phone again, you’ll hang up.

You take his recently renewed domain name and ponder on pointing it toward a website that caters primarily for some kind of beastiality and/or necrophelia fetishes.

Motion Lotion

As a somewhat uninteresting note; I’ve been cleaning my van out lately as I’m getting a new one. I’d often wondered how much I spend on diesel and always meant to add up my wad of receipts, another one of which I lovingly stuff into the glovebox every time I leave any one of our nations many Statoil stations. So, without further timewasting, in (almost) the last two years, I’ve spent a grand total of €4374 on diesel alone. Give or take a few pennies.

That’s what? About €2 per week? 62,000 miles later. I’ll leave it to someone to come up with fancy calculations to work out the fuel efficiency of the engine in my heap of shit van. There, just a little tit-bit of information injected into an otherwise slow Tuesday.

Flashback to the 1980′s

Courtesy of those good people over at TV Ark. After spending another long session over on this truly amazing website I thought I’d share some of my favorite clips.

Realplayer is required to view all of the clips above. Now for a short disclaimer; if you only find yourself emerging from the other side of the TV Ark website in a weeks time, Rymus {dot} Net is not liable to reimburse your 7 days worth of life. There is an ungodly amount of nostalgia in there. You may want to wear a mask or something…