This morning I was playing around with a few Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop files, and got another of those annoying “Your main hard disk is nearly full” messages. I’ve been getting them for a while, it’s what comes of having a 10Gb primary hard disk. I’ve been moving things to my secondary hard disk (which is also 10Gb), but there are some programs that *insist* on being on the primary disk, so it’s been getting rather crowded. Today, when the message popped up, it was the last straw, and I started investigating how possible an upgrade was. I had a 250Gb external firewire hard disk which wasn’t compatible with my computer, so I decided to open that up and see if I could use the hard disk from there. Out came the screwdrivers…

To my delight, I found that the case concealed a normal ATA hard disk with a small circuit board to link it to the firewire and power source. So a few screws later and all 250 gigs were out and lying on the table. Next job was to figure out how to transfer everything from my primary hard disk across to this new one. I didn’t want to reinstall the operating system and start from scratch, mainly because although I have Tiger installed I only have the disks for Panther. I had a couple of ideas, but I phoned my Dad (who’s worked with Macs for years) and my friend Steve (who owns a Mac and has used Linux for years) to check my plans were cosher. With all that knowledge and experience behind me, I set to work.

Disk Utility is a tool built into the Mac operating system which allows you to do all sorts of useful things with your hard disks. One of the functions it can perform is a Restore, which takes either a hard disk or a disk image (basically a zipped copy of a folder or even a complete hard disk) and puts it onto a destination hard disk. The first step was to the get the big hard disk into the computer, so I temporarily exchanged my secondary hard disk for it and booted the computer up again. The hard disk was recognised, and after a little reformatting it was all ready to go. Unitl I noticed that only 128Gb of it had been formatted. I fiddled, and fiddled, and reformatted, and fiddled some more, but eventually my research brought up that my old Blue & White Mac didn’t actually have the hardware to be able to handle internal hard disks that size, so I could only format the first 128Gb of it. So I shall just have to make do with that. After all, it’s still many times more storage space than I’ve had so far!

The next step was to restore the entirity of the primary hard disk onto the empty hard disk. It all seemed to be going fine, until half way through it stopped with a particularly unhelpful error message – so unhelpful that I can’t even remember what it was. I tried again, but it got no further. A verification of the primary hard disk showed that it had a few errors on it, which meant that I had to boot up from a system CD to put it right. Thankfully it didn’t complain at having a Panther CD put in it, and after a little fiddling around (again) I managed to correct the faults on the primary hard disk. Rebooting back into Tiger, I set about restoring across to the new hard disk again, and thankfully it played ball this time! It took a while to copy across 9Gb of files, but it got there in the end.

The next small hurdle was getting the computer to boot from this new volume. Initially this was no problem, I just told Tiger which volume to boot from and restarted, and it booted perfectly from the new hard disk. However, I then had to take the old hard disk out and put the old secondary drive back in, as that’s where I had all my documents stored. I was expecting problems, and thankfully my pre-emptiveness proved valuable. I left the Panther CD in the drive and switched the machine off, and then took both hard disks out. The jumpers were changed on the 128Gb drive and plugged in as the master drive, and my old secondary hard disk was plugged back in. When I first started up the computer it couldn’t find an operating system, since where it was expecting it to be had changed – the 128Gb drive was now the master, not the slave. However, it found the CD and booted from that, from where I was able to tell it to use the OS on the master drive. A reboot later, and everything is working fine! I’ve checked out a few things, and not come up with any problems so far, which is reassuring. I’m now beginning to copy back onto that drive all my documents from the other drive, and copy all my photos and music that have been stored on my PC to save space on my Mac.

So all being well, everything is sorted now. I have a 128Gb hard disk and a working computer. And I won’t be bothered by that annoying message any more…

In other news, I got a letter from British Gas today saying that we still haven’t paid our bill. Which is utter nonsense because I phoned them only two weeks ago and paid everything off. Unfortunately their phone lines were experiencing technicaly difficulties today, so I’ve been unable to shout at them, so that’ll probably have to wait until Monday. Grrr.

The next generation iPod Mini

iPod Mini

This is the latest iPod Mini, due to hit the shop floor within the next couple of months. The spec is pretty impressive too, with the 1.3i hard disk storing up to 1275 songs. Apple’s new A-Series interface makes synchronising with iTunes even faster, and with the option of Cooper stripes and Minilight scroll wheels, this next generation model is set to revolutionise the music industry!

Actually all of that is sheer persiflage. But it was good fun to write, and even more fun to create the image in Photoshop.

In other news, I had my hair cut today, and had my eyes tested. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with my eyes, which is reassuring, so I won’t be needing a new pair of glasses imminently. I was told that my current glasses are getting old and worn and they’d recommend me getting new glasses anyway. I’m not sure quite how much I believe that, my glasses aren’t scratched or loose. Still, I’ve got the prescription, so I could buy myself a new pair at a later date, when I’ve got more money to throw at it! But I doubt that will happen any time soon, if at all. Still, good to know that my eyes are healthy and not falling out or exploding at regular intervals. That would be messy.

You’ll never walk alone

When I bought my Mini, I thought it was unusual, being a limited edition. I’ve come to realise that actually these Mini Sidewalks keep popping up all over the place! There are now three Sidewalks in the Colchester Mini Club, and I’ve just stumbled across a web site specially for Sidewalk owners! Check out to see some other Sidewalks! I’ve joined the community – I’ve e-mailed my car’s details across to the owner of the web site, so hopefully soon my Neddy will appear in the list with the others! No doubt it’ll grow into a large community of like-minded Sidewalk owners, who will all join together and take over the world… or not.

In other (related) news, I’m trying to figure out a way of fitting some side repeaters to Neddy. For those who are a little in the dark on this one, the side repeaters are the little indicator lights on the side of the front wings of a car. At the moment I’ve just got the standard orange ones that the car came with, but I don’t like them much and want something a little more special. I’ve seen plenty of Minis with clear lenses, but they’re mostly just clear versions of the orange ones I’ve got, which isn’t particularly original. However, my friend Dusty gave me some clear oval lenses at the last Mini Club meet, which apparently came off a Ford somethingorother. Apparently they should just fit straight on, supposedly universal, but unfortunately the connectors are slightly different sizes and I can’t get them on. They look great, they just don’t fit. So now I’m looking into rewiring the bulb holder from a compatible side repeater in, or possibly finding a side repeater lens that does fit properly. I’ll keep you posted, and hopefully put some pics online when it’s done!

Roll on over

I’ve just been playing around with CSS, and figured out a pretty neat way of creating remote rollover effects using just CSS. The basic idea is to have a link which, when hovered over, displays some text next to it as a description. This has been done by many people many times using JavaScript, but I wanted to see if it was possible using only the power of Cascading Style Sheets. Although it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer (no surprise there), in CSS-compatible web browsers the result is very effective and blindingly easy to customise. Here is an example of it in action.

In a nutshell, this is all achieved by placing an absolutely positioned div container within a link. Then, in the style sheet, you can tell it to display: none; in the link’s normal state, and only show the div when the link is being hovered over. Take a look at the code if you can and you’ll see just how simple it all is. And because we’ve used a div container inline, it’s really easy to customise to suit the content too – I’ve changed the colour of one of the rollover backgrounds and added a picture on another. This could be a really useful tool for a web site where you want a short description of the link so people know what it is before the click it.

My next challenge will be to find an excuse to use it somewhere… The only trouble there is that it’s still not IE-compatible, so it probably won’t make it out into any public web sites any time soon. At least not until Microsoft get their act together and give us a decent browser, but that’s a rant for another time!

Taking root and uprooting

This week it was officially announced that the band I set up at church will be called “Rooted”. This quite nicely fits in with the theme of the church, which seems to be all tree-related; the church is called Orchard Baptist Church, our mums-and-toddlers group is called Little Pips, Sunday School is called The Treehouse, and we have a youth group starting called Roots. It also fits theologically, with us as Christians being rooted in Christ. Not only that but I’ve been able to play around with Photoshop and create a couple of nice graphics to go with the name – one is of a sunny hillside with trees sculpted to create the letters of the word, which is pretty cool, and the other one is relatively simple black text but with roots growing out the bottom of each letter.

Going back to the music, which after all is the main reason for the band, I managed to record all of our songs onto a CD yesterday. I would have liked to have had a recording of the band itself, but I couldn’t figure out a way of recording our last rehearsal, so it ended up just being me sat on the floor with my guitar and a microphone propped up on a char. The idea was just to create a CD for the band to use as an aid to learning the songs, rather than being performance quality. As a result there are a few pops and glitches in the actual recording, and of course it’s just me singing with my guitar, which is pretty boring. Still, it’s a fair representation of what I want from the songs, so the band should be able to practise fairly easily to it.

The uprooting today was me de-weedifying the garden. We had an inspection earlier this week and were told that the garden was the only thing we needed to put some more effort into. I can completely understand that though, it has got rather out of control just recently, and I’ve not had the time nor the motivation to do anything about it. So today I mustered my forced enthusiasm and got outside with my gardening gloves, and uprooted whatever I could lay my hands on that I didn’t think ought to have been there. It was quite tiring, but I managed to fill three garden sacks full of weeds – just shows how bad it had got! I also cut back the rose bush in the front garden, which was less of a bush and more of a tall spindly tree which couldn’t hold its own weight and hit the lounge window at the slightest breath of wind. So that’s now cut down to size, and the flowers brought inside to brighten the place up a bit.

And now I’ve just finished watching Fight Club, so my head is a little screwed up right now. Very weird film. Very clever, but very weird.

Going super-size

My new TFT monitor arrived this morning. It’s a brand new 19″ screen, and has given me loads more desk space! For those who are interested and who understand the jargon, it’s made by Suyama (no, I hadn’t heard of them before either), max resolution is 1280 x 1024, 8ms response time, 700:1 contrast ratio, has built in speakers and is black and silver.

To put that in layman’s terms, it’s a very nice screen! It looks the part, both in terms of the case of the screen itself and the image that it displays. The 8ms response time is to do with how quickly each pixel changes colour – because of the way TFT screens work there is always a slight delay between the computer telling the screen to change the colour of a pixel and it actually finishing changing it. With cheaper (or older) TFT screens the longer response time meant that there was a lot of blur whenever you did anything graphical. For instance, moving a window around the screen would leave a blurred trail, or ghost, behind it. More than that, videos would looks dreadful. 8ms is a very respectable response time – I’ve played a couple of video files I had lying around and not noticed any difference between this and my CRT monitor, which is very promising! Moving windows around the screen is also handled very well.

As has been pointed out by a couple of people on previous posts’ comments, TFT screens are actually much better for your eyes too. A CRT monitor emits some sort of radiation, which long-term can damage your eyes considerably. In fact, I’m sure that’s what caused me need glasses in the first place! The screen is nice and big too, which is very nice. It’s not just a status symbol, it means that I don’t have to squint or put my face up close to the screen to see what I’m doing, which I’m sure is also bad for my eyes! Sadly I haven’t got a bigger resolution; generally speaking you only get better resolution TFT screens when you spend several hundred more pounds on them and get 21″ screens or bigger. And I couldn’t afford that.

The down side of all this is that now my little teddy bears can’t sit on top of my monitor, so they’ll need to find a new home…

All going pear-shaped

There are some days when everything goes your way. The traffic lights are all on green, the food you went to shop to get happened to be on special offer, and whatever it is you usually lose comes instantly to hand the moment you need it.

Today has not been one of those days.

First of all I had to wage war against the mighty army of ants that was mustering its forces outside the patio door. It has reached that time of year when little ants grow up and buy wings and invade the nearest sitting room. The first I knew of this was when a few ants started crawling up the inside of the patio doors, at which point I got the fly spray out of the garage and started my defence. The next step was to pour boiling water down the cracks in the patio. It sounds cruel, and I didn’t really enjoy it, but it had to be done. Their nest happens to be directly underneath a ventilation block, which gives them fairly easy access to our dining room.

The second obstacle I had to deal with was hearing that we have lost a housemate. Our letting agency rang me this afternoon and told me that the other person we had found had just pulled out, without so much as an apology. That leaves us in a bit of a pickle, since our contract runs out on Thursday. Not good. I’ve still not been able to get in contact with her yet to find out exactly what was going on there, but it seems we can’t rely on her any more, which is such a shame. That leaves AM and I with only three options. 1) We find a housemate at very short notice and get them to sign the contract tomorrow. 2) AM and I hastily find a 2 bedroom house elsewhere and move in there instead. 3) AM goes back to live with her parents and I try and find someone who wants a lodger. Thankfully our letting agency will, I think, let us stay on here on a month by month basis (I can’t remember the technical term for it, but we won’t be on a contract). That will at least give us a little more flexibility, although we will have to foot the bill for the next month at least between the two of us. We won’t be able to keep that up for long. So it looks very much like we shall be looking for somewhere new to live after all.

So not exactly a day to remember with fondness. Still, God’s brought us this far, I know he won’t abandon us!

Mini takes over the world. The end.

I’ve been playing with Photoshop again. You’ll find a couple of pics on the Colchester Mini Club forum that I did today. Nothing too amazing, nothing too complicated, but it sets the ball rolling for further experimentation! I’m really getting into the whole image manipulation thing now, getting to know the tools better and knowing how best to use them to create certain effects. All good fun!

I have also pushed the boat out and bought myself a 19″ TFT monitor. I’ve been using an old 17″ CRT for a while now, which I got handed down to me from my Grandpa because he wasn’t using it, but it’s rather old and just recently it’s been giving me headaches. The refresh rate isn’t brilliant, and it’s fairly bulky too. So yesterday evening I bit the bullet and bought a nice big TFT. Hopefully that’ll be arriving at some point this week.

Can’t think of anything else noteworthy to say, so that’s all from me for now. Good night all…

Another item for the Christmas list

I was working in the Diocesan Offices at Chelmsford yesterday. I took my Mac with me and hooked it up to a monitor there, and spent the whole day working on the web site from the other side of the desk to my boss. I don’t think we got as much done as I was hoping, but it was still a productive use of the day.

What struck me most, however, was the flat screen TFT monitor I was using. It was so much nicer to look at than my CRT monitor, crisper, cleaner, brighter, and less demanding on the eyes. I have found myself squinting quite often on my CRT to see clearly what’s going on, which isn’t ideal. It’s not the size of the screen, I think they were the same, I just found the TFT much easier on the eye. I’m told TFTs are also better for your eyes, something to do with radiation emission from CRTs. I certainly found that I could look at the TFT for longer without my glasses than with my CRT! So that’s another thing I’d like to get – a 19″ TFT monitor. That, combined with a new Mac, and a new air filter for the Mini, plus an effects unit for my guitar, all mounts up to an awful lot of money I’d like to be able to spend!!

In other news, I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 2 last night with AM, Alex and Chris. It was a lot of fun! I personally don’t think it was as good as the first one, the plot was rather messy in places. The special effects were fantastic, especially the main baddy, and there were some classic quotes in there too, but I don’t think it had quite the same feel as the previous one. Then again, it wouldn’t have been any good if it was exactly the same as the previous one… It was good though, and I’d still thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is thinking of going to see it.