Easter’07: Day 1

Well, it was up at the usual workday time, shower, breakfast as usual before starting the final packing and starting off along the roads to Cornwall. I managed to get going a little earlier than usual due to having pre-organised the stuff to pack the night before.

The traffic for the first half of the journey, as far as Taunton, was surprisingly heavy. Thankfully though, the rest of the journey wasn’t too bad and there were no traffic jams so got to my parents’ house by half past two.

Other than showing my dad around the new car I didn’t do a great deal for the rest of the day. I did catch the approximately 1 second film clip of Mick and Sam (a couple of my pub quiz team mates) in The White Horse pub on the “National Lottery People’s Quiz” show. Not exactly 15 minutes of fame really. It sounded a far bigger thing when they were talking about the filming. Apparently Dale Collins (the quiz master) made a big thing of it.

SAAB nat-sat: the solution!

I had a phone call this afternoon from John Hugill, the Oxford SAAB salesman, enquiring how I was getting on with the new car. I told him fine except that I couldn’t find a way of setting the navigational computer to imperial measurements. He said that he’d ask around.

About 20 minutes ago John phoned back. I had given the chaps at Oxford SAAB quite a poser, apparently. In the end the solution was to set the central computer to IS units and then back to imperial. It seems that the navcom and main computer were merely out of sync.

Don’t you just love complex systems? 🙂

RML 380Z has left the building.

After work today I cycled quickly home to get the 380Z ready for collection by Nick Ryman-Tubb later in the evening.

Anyway, I decided to have one more go at getting the old machine to boot so thought about swapping the A and B floppy drives over. Anyway, after much wrestling with the hardware I managed to remove the drives, reconfigure them and put them back into the machine.. not without having 4 screws left over due to not being able to get them in, however.

So, I switched the machine on, put the CP/M disk in the new drive A and hit the B key to start the boot process… The drive springs to life and CP/M loads… yippee! Not only this but when I put a second floppy into the B drive that works as well. I’ve no idea what caused the pop and crackle the other day.

Nick arrived at about twenty past seven and left with the machine just after nine. Now I’m just relaxing watching Battlestar Galactica.

Forced metrication

Well, after Googling, and doing as much research as I can, reading manuals from cover to cover, there seems to be no way at all to force my new car’s sat nav system to use miles. I’m being forced to use metric distance measures even though the main computer knows that I want to use imperial measurements.

It’s not as if the sat-nav system was originally designed for SAAB. It was developed for the new Cadillac (which is in turn based upon the SAAB 9-3) and “back-ported” to the 9-3 so you would have thought that the default measurement system would be Imperial, for the American market. Indeed, there is one place in the manual where the global search and replace missed a reference to “the Cadillac navigation system.”

Oh well. It seems that I’m going to have to judge distance the continental way and mentally replace “metres” with “yards” when the digitised woman gives distances to the junctions.

The end of the week show.

So, what fun things have been happening in my own, personal, reality show this weekend?

Well, it all started by waking up rather too early.. 2.5 hours too early at 5am on Saturday. I dozed and listened to Radio 4 (which is usually a good sleep enducer) and managed to get at least one hour more of almost sleep before getting up and having a shower.

John Hugill, the salesman from Oxford SAAB drove past my house at the appointed time but did turn around and come back in the end. Apparently he’d forgotten to take my details home with him. Still, it didn’t matter. We got to the dealership on time and after an hour of filling out forms I was on my way home again.

I dind’t spend long at home. I merely took enough time to programme the DVR to record “Time Team”, close the blinds and dump my bags into the boot.

I arrived at Rac & Grum’s place at about midday and was welcomed warmly by Grum. Rac was busy doing her homework and couldn’t come out to play until after lunch. 😉 Meanwhile Chris was out hiking with the cubs.

I’m not sure where the rest of yesterday went other than helping Chris start to build the Lego Technics crane I’d bought him as a combination of a couple of Christmas and birthday presents and watching the first part of The Hogfather on the DVD I’d given Rac & Grum. It’s good that we all four had new toys to play with.

Today? Well, very similar to yesterday evening really. A most pleasant weekend. I left a bit earlier than usual as Rac & Grum both had homework to do whilst Chris was at cricket practise.

As for the new car. Well, the steering and suspension are hugely better than the old 9-3.. it goes around corners like on rails and doesn’t seem to lean at all. I’m also surprisingly glad that it came with the 5 speed gearbox.. that’s a lovely gearbox, you just want to keep changing gear. The 6 speed I tried was wooly by comparison. The one annoying thing I’ve found so far is that the sat-nav system is purely in kilometres, even though the rest of the car uses miles as a measurement. It’s not as if the device is of european manufacture or design as in the manual they accidently missed one occasion where they should have done a global replace of “Cadillac” with “SAAB.”

Oh, and I was quite pleased about its fuel consumption as well. Concidering that the engine hasn’t been run in yet I managed to get an average MPG of ~33mpg including standing in lots of traffic jams in Reading on the way to Rac & Grum’s place. That is the same sort of mpg my old 9-3 gets and it’s nicely run in. I guess it’s helped by the gearing, the engine is reving very low at 30mph in 3rd gear, so much so that you can’t really pull away quickly and have to change down to 2nd gear so that the revs go above 2000rpm to get into the main power band. 5th gear can only really usefully be used at 60mph and above.


I finally know when I’m going to pick up my new car.. Tomorrow morning at 9am.

Because of the logistical nightmare it would have been taking the bus my salesman has offered to pick me up from home on his way into work.

Anyway, this means that I’m going to have to do my weekly shopping tonight so that I have time to get ready to drive over to rac & grum’s place by lunchtime.

Sick 380Z

I spent this evening rearranging the junk^H^H^H^Hcomputers stuff in my loft so as to retrieve the RML 380Z which was languishing under a pile of BBC micros, DEC and Sun Type 4 keyboards.

Anyway, after a couple of hours I managed to get it down and onto my workbench along with an old composite green-screen monitor. I had to lash up a monitor cable as I don’t have a BNC to phono adaptor.

So, I plugged it all in, turned the key switch…. The RESET/POWER light came on, and the monitor program came up on the display, then almost immediately there was a pop and a crackle and a wiffy smell which came from the area of the floppy disk drives. Oh dear.

The A drive seems totally dead. The B drive spins but won’t read disks, the monitor says “DRIVE NOT READY” I’m guessing that a capacitor on the A drive went foom and has probably taken out either bits of B drive and/or bits of the floppy controller board.

Anyway, I’ve offered the whole kit and caboodle to this Nick Ryman-Tubb who contacted me a few weeks ago. He’ll have to collect it as it would be uneconomical to ship it.

So, what have I been up to this weekend?

Well, other than picking up and fitting the speaker for my car, I’ve ordered a new central heating boiler and a set of thermostatic valves for the radiator, so that’s another 2.5K going to go out of the kitty. Still, that’s what I’ve assigned the majority of the funds for, house improvements.

I’ve also discovered that 3mm diameter masonary nails are just the ticket as shelf supports in my bookshelf units. So, after getting a board of the correct depth and cutting it to the right length I now have two more shelves and the CDs are now where they should be, leaving more shelf space for other things in the tall unit. (And hence fewer boxes in the spare bedroom.

I now have recovered enough space in there for the next retro-computing project. A person e-mailed me a few weeks ago asking me about the Research Machines 380Z I have in my loft and whether I could make copies of the disks or sell him the disks so that he could get his mentor’s old 380Z up and running again by his mentor’s 80th birthday.. Now, this came at *JUST* the wrong time (typically) when my spare room was filling up. I now have a chance to get the old machine out of the loft and see if it actually works. I never did try it after I rescued it from the Department about 10 years ago (along with all the disks, manuals and sales material I could find).

Oxford Inspire Luminox

On the evening between last Tursday and Saturday the “Oxford Inspires” project held a fire festival on Broad Street in Oxford. I diced to go, along with my camera, on Friday.

Most of the northern side of Broad Street had installations of various ironwork, some of which were chimney type objects, others were structures which could hold wax filled flowerpots. The chimney structures had adjustable, bowl-shaped hearths which could be moved up and down allowing the amount of draw, and hence flame, to be varied. At the very centre of Broad Street stood a 40ft high bamboo pylon from which a firey pendulum swung (apparently 1000 times, once for every year since Oxford was founded) and a bandstand on which various musicians played to accompany the show. And finally, outside Balliol College was a huge steel chandelier housing lots of flaming flowerpots.

As artistic “experiences” go it wasn’t bad, other than for the huge numbers of people. It was impossible to use a tripod but despite that I did manage to get a few usable images…