A job I would really like to do, but…

So, today in my usual job searching on Jobserve I found a job that I really like the sound of, here are some of the highlights:

My client is looking for a Data Centre Technician on an initial 3 month contract based in Angel, London in the Financial, Data and Media Services Industry. Rate: GBP 20/25 per hour Ltd.

The Data Centre technician will be responsible for providing technical assistance and overall support to our customers providing 24/7 cover through a 12 hour shift pattern.

Shift Pattern: 07:00 and 19:00 start times, 12 hour shifts including breaks.

Week 1: 4 shifts (4 nights)

Week 2: 6 shifts (3 days/3 nights)

Week 3: 3 shifts (3 days)

Week 4: 1 shift (1 day)

The Data Centre Technician will also be responsible for the installation of racks, housing, network and computer equipment. Each Data Centre technician is also responsible for managing and implementing installations as required, including shelves, power strips, rails, cable management and customer IT equipment. When required identify issues with the hardware or cabling, which can include replacing internal components and testing, tracing and labelling of cabling.

So here we have a well paid job, very local to me (20mins or so walk) and it’s working inside places I really enjoy… Data centres.

I don’t know what it is about a data centre, but I just love the buzz of it, a huge building filled with computers, cabling and links to networks near and far. The noise inside these places is often deafening, but the plus side is that the air conditioning (which is there really for the machines rather than the humans) is incredible, so no baking in summer!

I have a fair amount of experience with servers, I can take them apart, replace components, set them up, etc… but I have only had one job working specifically in a data centre, which was 13 years ago and not specifically dealing with hardware.

People say to me in this situation, “why not, go for it, you might get it” and all that sort of thing, the issue is that these days unless your most recent jobs match very closely the job that you are applying for, then you can forget it, you aren’t what they want.

Lets look a bit further at the job spec and the things I do/don’t have experience with:

Suitable candidates will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

* Computer engineering experience and knowledge in order to achieve optimum methods of working

* Cabling experience and knowledge, in order to achieve optimum methods of working.

* Installation of rack mount kit including HP and CISCO

* Hardware maintenance/swapping of failed customer replaceable parts such as cache battery, HDD, Power Supply.

* Highly motivated individual, with a positive and pro/active attitude to work.

* Willingness to make changes to improve operational efficiency through innovation, process and procedures, adopting and adapting ideas and practices from elsewhere.

* Ability to act rapidly and logically under pressure and making effective use of others in resolving problems.

* Capable of working with the minimum of supervision.

* Good written and verbal communication skills .

* Good working knowledge of Outlook, Word and Excel

* Excellent team skills, with an ability to listen and contribute to discussions and meetings.

* Customer and service focused, with determination to meet their needs.

Also of interest to my client:

* ITIL Accreditation

* Experience of HP Service Manager 7

So, actually, looking at that spec, I can actually tick off most of those things. But it’s actually really hard to ascertain from a CV/Resume that you have actually got those “soft skills” like team working, being highly motivated, etc, etc…

Realistically I would expect this job to get a lot of applications and the people who get shortlisted for interview are likely to be those whose last two jobs have been working in data centres…

The question I want an answer to here really is how can we stop this kind of “unfairness” in the job market, here I think is a job I would be really suited to, but because my background is in desktop support rather than server support, I will not be considered.

Those of you who are saying “apply for it, you never know”, I can tell you I have applied, but I am willing to put £5 on never getting a call back from this agency about this position….

Hello from Norway

View of Tromsø from Mount Stor­stei­nen (421m) – click for larger view.


This is the view from the top of the Cable Car on Mount Stor­stei­nen (421m/1381ft) near Tromsø, Norway. The island in the centre of the picture is Tromsøya which is where Tromsø is situated. At almost 70° north, Tromsø is 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle and the biggest European city in the extreme north.

I have been fascinated by Scandinavia and the extreme north for some time, but until now I had only visited Oslo (Norway), Stockholm and Arvika (Sweden). The opportunity came where I had some time between jobs and the flight prices were reasonable enough to consider it. It is a very very beautiful place and it fulfils my quest of being cold – It has not been above 10°C (50°F) the whole time I have been here, the average summer temperature is not much higher.

I suppose I should be proud of myself recently, for despite some issues, I managed to finish a contract job and hand over to someone who is taking the job on permanently. However, recently I have had a lot of pain my back and so I go to my GP to ask for help – is almost immediate reaction is “you are overweight”. Cheers for that, I couldn’t have seen it myself! 42% of men in the UK are overweight (BMI >25 <30) and 24% are obese (BMI >30 <40).

If this is the truth, then I have no idea how I am going to tackle this, I have enough on my plate to worry about as it is, without feeling anxious about every crumb that passes my lips. Yes the pain might be relieved if I lose weight and maybe I will have better diabetes control if I lose weight, but I do not consider myself to have a problem in the general scheme of things. My BMI is 29.7.

It is very easy for anyone sitting there to say “you can do this” and “don’t give up”, but they don’t understand what that is like for me. Being different is hard, end of story. You then add in having a disease that you have to treat multiple times per day which if you did not treat could leave you blind or seriously disabled then basically you are screwed. When I first realised I had diabetes, it wasn’t such a huge deal and I could cope with it fairly well. But back then, I needed far less insulin to reduce my sugar levels to what they should be. You should not confuse this as being a weight issue like Type 2 diabetes – the longer you have Type 1, the more likely it is you will more insulin, there is often a so-called “honeymoon period” when someone is first diagnosed, this may last from a few months to a few years. Also you must remember that the cause of my diabetes was damage to my pancreas by pancreatitis, the longer this has gone on, the more damage that has been done. I would be surprised if I had any beta cells now, these are the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

Every day I become more depressed about life in the UK – whether it be from the way the poor and disabled are being treated by the government, the rise of UKIP and right-wing views, destruction of the NHS and the welfare state or the increase in hate crimes against people who dare to be different. I want to leave these islands and find somewhere that is better, but as fast as I am trying to do that – I hear that perhaps it’s not all as rosy as I thought it was elsewhere. It seems the march of the far right in Europe has stepped up a pace recently and I fear we may not be far from similar events to those of 75 years ago when WW2 started.

The reality is this: if my GP does think that there is nothing other to my back pain than weight, then it will be very hard to get a referral to a specialist who might have further insight or be able to use better imaging techniques to work out what is going on. A plain x-ray has been done but I will not know the result until next week. Also I think from a money-saving point of view (which the NHS has been trying to do for many years) then blaming and shaming the patient is a very easy way for them to save money. I pay taxes and in return I expect to have free healthcare, a welfare state to support people in times of need and to be treated equally and fairly by my government. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING.

I do not know what to do anymore, except that I will probably continue treading the boards until something strikes me down and takes me out. Please let it be soon.

Do recruiters actually read my CV?

So today I got an email from a recruiter, about a job they are trying to fill:

Dear Seth,

My client based in Kent are looking for a 2nd/3rd Line Engineer for an initial 6 month contract based within the public sector paying up to £180 per day.

The successful candidate will be responsible for analysing complex and inter-linked IT system / NPfIT issues (e.g. hardware, networking, system etc.) and ensuring that they are resolved effectively.

You will be required to analyse and assess GP Practice staff IT requirements and ensure that hardware and software are appropriately configured.

The post holder will need to demonstrate specialist theoretical and practical knowledge and experience in the following areas:

· Windows NT/2000/2003/2008/2008R2 server;

· Microsoft Server virtualization

· Microsoft Windows (95/98/2000/XP/Vista/7 etc.);

· Microsoft Office products including Outlook and Exchange;

· Anti-Virus software;

· LAN’s, WAN’s, networking protocols, routers, bridges and switches.

· VOIP LAN management

· VOIP Server virtualization

Please send me you CV ASAP if you are available to interview immediately and start within a week.

With regards,

Great, eh? Someone wants to pay me £180/day to do all that cool stuff? [£180/day equates to more than £46,000/year] Well hold on just a second there, because if you haven’t ever been paid that much or ever done that level of job in IT, you can hardly expect to jump straight into that level of salary. Even if you do have some experience in all of those areas.

So really its not fair, its a bit like dangling a lolly-pop in front of a kid and then taking it away saying “come back when you’re 21”. I would like a job, but I would like to keep that job, so trying too hard and promising things I can’t do is probably just going to get me right back to where I am now, feeling depressed and miserable because I have no money and no prospects. I am good at what I do, but I can’t seem to convince anyone else about that…

Some updates [September 2012]

Its been a while since I blogged, I have been busy! In the end I moved house at the beginning of August, yep, right in the middle of the Olympics! I now live in a basement flat on one of Hackney’s busiest streets. However, in trying to find a landlord who would accept housing benefit, I had to lower my standards a little bit.

Did I say a little bit? Well, who needs natural light in their bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, eh?! Who needs a kitchen that is actually usable?! Who needs decent sound insulation between you and the shop above eh?!

To tell you the truth all these things are driving me crazy… it started off when my cooker got condemned by the gas inspector. At least I got a new cooker, right? Well that then lead me to discover that the kitchen cabinets were rotting, which lead me to discover that the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom is damp…

I have been offered new kitchen cabinets, if I make the next rent payment at the end of the month on time! But to be honest, there would be little point in putting them in if they won’t last 5 minutes because of the damp. And not much point in doing the kitchen up if the ceiling needs to be replaced to properly soundproof the flat from the shop above, because all that is between me and them is a very thin layer of plasterboard. If someone sat down on the floor up there and farted, I am pretty sure it would make my walls rattle…

But what choice do I have eh? Here is a man who takes my £240 a week housing benefit and gives me somewhere to live. At least I have a roof over my head, unlike the homeless man camped out on the bench on the street outside.

First week at a new job

So for the first time since January I am working again. This is a bit tricky since I had become quite accustomed to not doing a great deal and sleeping late! So far the job is going OK, although because I work for such a big organisation who have taken on an awful lot of people for a certain event later this year, there is a lot of time sitting around not doing very much stuff and often sharing computers because there are more people than computers. I have realised, as I have many times that I do not cope well with boredom. It is difficult for me to “look busy”, as I am often too distracted by what other people might be doing or very poor at finding things to do other than chatting to people on facebook.

I have had one slip up so far, I didn’t go to work on Thursday. I suppose it was an impulsive moment, not enough sleep and not enough productive things to do at work the day prior had caused me to think too much about those less fortunate than myself and the government, and as usual, get annoyed and frustrated on their behalf. However, I did not harm myself and I did not run off to another country. I managed to email one of my bosses and found out in the process that he has a son with Aspergers.

Today was easier, the day was dominated by boxing up hardware that was on test in order to transport it to a live location. It didn’t take long, but at least I have a fair idea of what should be in which box now and the best ways to pack it up. All the hardware must be locked down with K-Locks, the most annoying things are these little eyelets which fit into a special hole on the back of the monitor and the system unit, in order for a steel cable to be threaded through and then looped around something immovable. Being very small (less than an inch square), its easy for them to get lost…

Hopefully next week I will get to go to said live venue and box this kit, set it up, etc.. it will be good to get out of the office for a bit.

The other part of today was scenario training… what should we do when x or y happens. The biggest issue was many people over-thinking the situation. You have two choices in this deployment if things go wrong – re-image the machine (akin to re-installing windows, but a lot faster) or replace the machine. I guess it makes things easier, but there is a part of me that says “I want to know why that broke” – I believe that person is probably stuck in the 1990’s-early 2000’s!

So now a weekend, a small change to sleep later, but not much of a chance as I have work to do for Open University courses due towards the end of May. Right now I am really really tired, so I shall be off to bed soon!

Making Changes

I have spent the last couple of days trying to update my site and bring it a bit more into the 21st century! The old home page used hard coded, hand written HTML and was kinda old and sad looking. For some of the other websites I host here, I have been trying to get them to move away from static HTML pages (most of them can’t code) and towards CMS systems (such as Drupal or WordPress). So I wanted to try my own site with Drupal, I had quite a nice site worked out with it, but then there was the snag, how to import seven years worth of blog posts from a hosted WordPress installation? I tried my hardest to import them into Drupal, but it didn’t even get close to working.

So I decided the best way was to go back to WordPress, but use it as more than just a blog. So I created a new wordpress from scratch and then imported my old blog entries into it. There are a few things I like better in drupal – its easier to put in quick link pages (eg. site.com/contact rather than site.com/p=165) and the drush system is pretty good. But at the end of the day I wasn’t really willing to throw away all those blogs.

What I have now is WordPress, with a few static pages and then a ‘Blog’ page which is the archive of all my blog posts. I hope you enjoy the new look!

What to do next?

As some of you might know I have recently been offered medication as treatment for my ADHD. This is kinda the answer to the requests for help that have often dominated this blog, sometimes in a rather graphic way, including this post, this post, this post and this post.

I was originally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD aged 17, nearly every time I have asked for help from mental healthcare professionals the Asperger’s Syndrome has dominated the conversations with little attention paid to the ADHD. When I was at school this wasn’t picked up because (a) it was the early 1990’s and nothing much was known about Asperger’s other than classical Autism and (b) I was rowdy, but generally a good student. You could often describe me as “the class clown”, I had my good days and bad days, but in the subjects I was good at I did want to learn.

In the UK and especially within the NHS, the idea that ADHD can exist in adults is often considered as nonsense. ADHD is a childhood disorder and ends when children grow up, Ritalin the main drug used to treat it, isn’t even officially licensed for use in adults; so the idea that someone could go through their childhood without being diagnosed with ADHD and then expect treatment as an adult is preposterous! I have seen at least 5 psychiatrists, probably more who have told me this and therefore refused to even consider treating me or referring me to someone who could help – despite there being a specialist clinic at the Maudsley Hospital in South London.

So last week I was amazed when I went to see Dr Trevor Turner a psychiatrist with East London NHS Trust who within a 30 minute appointment confirmed the ADHD diagnosis and then agreed to write to my GP asking him to prescribe Ritalin to me. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, I never thought it would be so easy. At present I am waiting for Dr Turner’s letter to get to my GP, so I haven’t taken the medication yet.

The question is, after 17 years of dropping out of courses, jobs and generally being depressed and thinking things would never get better, if the Ritalin works and I get my concentration back, what do I do? The worst times started when I realised I couldn’t finish the university course I started in 2005, and although I tried again twice after that it never quite worked out, mostly because I couldn’t concentrate to get the work done.

So, do I go back to University? I am thinking that if things have improved by September then I might enrol on an Access to HE course (which I did try once before, but gave up on) at a local college in East London. If that works out at least I will have completed something since I was 16!

Of course I could be completely wrong – even with the drugs I might be not able to do it. I dunno, the trouble is that I am 31 now and not getting any younger. Do I want to loose another 4 years of my life?! I wish I had a time machine…

So things are getting better and I hope they will continue to do so, even if no-one wants to give me a job at the moment!

Fixing problems in WordPress

So for a while now I have had this problem that whenever I go to my blog’s home page the browser tries to download the PHP file rather than the server turning that PHP code into the blog. I was thinking that it must be something wrong with a content-type setting, but everything seemed fine. Then I discovered this in /etc/apache2/mods-available/php5.conf:

<IfModule mod_userdir.c>
<Directory /home/*/public_html>
php_admin_value engine Off

What that actually means is that if the user home directory module is loaded and the page is being loaded from the user’s home directory (that’s the ~seth bit), then TURN OFF PHP!

So you can see why it wasn’t working. I assume that in some recent update to Apache or PHP there is some security concern that has caused a paranoid code maintainer to put in this draconian setting. Once I had commented that out, it was fine.


Then I needed to update to WordPress 3.1, that went fine as I have done it many times before. But then when I tried to load the homepage again, it was blank – the so called “White Screen of Death”!

I fiddled around with a few things that people had suggested – turning off plugins, changing themes, but none of them worked. What I decided to do was to start from scratch and not use my old wp-config.php. Once I opened up the new version of wp-config-sample.php I realised that there were a lot of things my old file (probably from WP 1.x) didn’t have in it. So I changed my database password and then put in my settings. Once I had done this, everything worked fine!


Living in London

So I am now living in London with my old friend Ben A’Lee in a nice flat in Hackney, which isn’t the murders and rapist playground that people imagine. Hackney is a pretty up and coming place these days, just at the end of our road is the north-west corner of the Olympic Park and we can see the media/press centre being built from our window! I have gotten to know the area quite well and apart from free cash machines being a 20 minute walk away, all is good.

Last week I was quite shocked when someone actually offered me a job! Its been so long (15 months or so) since I have worked that I had really forgotten what it was like to be able to get work! I shall be working for a company called “Samvo” who provide online gambling services. They are very big in the Far East apparently, but most things are run from London. It will be a combination of Windows and Linux Systems Administration and I am quite looking forward to starting on 23/08/2010. My only issue is that my commute (the job is in West London) is about 1hr each way, although I guess that is London for you! Formerly prospective employers in the North West didn’t want to know if I told them I had no car or that it would take me an hour on the train to get to their office, so just shows you how things are different here.

I have just spent about 2hrs trying to migrate my lighttpd configuration back to apache, mostly because there are quite a few things you can’t do with lighttpd… If you are trying to get things working, make sure that your browsers cache isn’t caching your fails, otherwise things will take you twice as long – including firefox caching the fact that its being sent php before its been processed and therefore trying to download it!

Well I think I should try to sleep for a bit, got to get up in 2hrs to go to Royal London Hospital and hopefully have the rest of my tooth removed!

Stuff I like to do and do well!

So tonight a friend of mine brought over 2 Dell Servers that weren’t working. Although they turned on, there was no video and just the flashing amber “something is wrong” light!

Click on pics to show larger version…

(Stripped down Server)

After stripping both down to the motherboard I find that both had a mis-seated CPU, with the CPU coming out with the heatsink (even though the retention mechanism was locked!). So I clean the gunk off the CPU’s, re-gunk, put it all back together et voila 2 working servers.

(Intel Xenon CPU Stuck to Heatsink!)

(YAY! It boots!)

The thing is, even though I started doing this at 11:00pm and didn’t finish until 3am, even though the noise of them running (still installing operating systems) is so loud I can hear it in the next room, even though I knew there was going to be no payment for this job… I still loved it and put my best into it.

(My desk piled with servers!)

So working with hardware is what I love, I just need to find a job where there isn’t too much pressure and I don’t have too much responsibility. Any offers?

Updates to last post

In my last post I talked about how I was struggling with assignments and had difficulty accessing the JANET UK Univesrsity Roaming Service. I am glad to say that I have now finished the assignment I was struggling with and that I have resolved the issues I was having with Roaming.

I think the main issue with the Assignment – which was to write a report about a Engineer/Technologist who had made a significant impact on society, was that I had tried to go too deep. No word limit was specified and although pointers were specified about the sort of information required I didn’t really know how much detail to write about each bit.

Anyway, its all over now and I just have to get an assignment done for a module called “Product Realisation” which is about how the electronics industry actually works. I have 2 circuit diagrams and I have to copy them into a SPICE simulation package called Multisim, then do the PCB layout in Ultiboard (which is part of the same package as Multisim).

This is a fairly easy task, but unfortunately Multisim/Ultiboard are not available off campus due to licensing restrictions and the licenses are a bit difficult to bypass. But I have until 17th December to do that, so I expect it will be OK in the end. Incidentally Multisim is a very bad package and my tutor says he was once given a spec for a military project which specifically said “DO NOT USE MULTISIM!”

The issue with the Roaming Service was that I had my wireless driver set to verify the certificate provided, clearly something dodgy is going on at Bolton, because there instructions specifically say to turn off certificate verification! Again this is another example of how bad a University it is and how it has become too big for its boots! Never enough computers available for use, very small library and a general penny pinching attitude – we’ll try and get as many students on a course as we can, never mind if its booked for a room where there aren’t enough computers or we don’t have enough licenses for the software they are using!

I will try to decide in a few months time what to do next, weather to stick around or take my credits and go somewhere else…

Trying to get Assignments done!

So, I guess we all (Students) have this problem, assignment x is due on date y, Time is now y-4 and it isn’t done! Like I said back in “Hello from Newcastle“, these things are difficult for me.

I think that the latest batch of undergradates are probably members of the ADD generation – not that they have ADD, but more that life has too many distractions. Facebook, Myspace, IM, email, texts… we can now access these services anywhere at any time. Nearly everyone has a laptop or some kind of computer of their own and the temptation to go off and chat/social network is probably greatest when we are bored, but know whe have stuff to do: Procrastination. Workplaces have to block these sites because people would get no work done otherwise (not to mention the possibility of litigation).

Now I know I cannot blame anyone for this, no-one held a gun to my head and said “join Facebook” but sometimes it seems that way! I guess in these modern times our lives are bankrupt to the point where we just have to know what everyone else is doing to be happy!

Tonight I had a plan, thanks to agreements between North West Universities I am able to go to any University and use their library to study. I am also able (theoretically) to use Internet facilities of  any University in the UK that participates in the Eduroam Service. I made this choice because home is too distracting and Bolton has a very poor library with little space to study and never enough computers.

So I went to Lancaster University, because I know that there is no requirement there to show ID to get in, so no arguments with jobsworth security guards. I did do some work, approxmately 300 words about Alan Turing for an assignment due Friday, but sadly Eduroam failed. I could not logon to the system and I don’t know if this is the fault of Bolton or Lancaster, but according to JAnet their systems are supposedly up to scratch. I have emailed Bolton to ask what’s up.

Possibly this wasn’t the best of ideas, an hour’s travelling time or so each way to do 300 words, but I did do something and I suppose I should think about that rather than thinking “I can’t do this, there is no point in me remaining at University”.

Where were you, dude?

it may be gray outside in Massachusetts — at least there are still rainbows in my soap bubbles – Star Simpson

I got back from a wet evening in Manchester and this quote made me smile. Its been been difficult lately…

For those of you who are new to the world of Seth, I have Diabetes and a messed up Pancreas, these health issues go back about 10 years now, before that I was skinny and had no problems. This is of course on top of my Asperger Syndrome and “additional mental health issues”…

The Pancreas issues started when I was 20, I suddenly got terrible pain in my abdomen and had to call an ambulance; this kinda thing went on for about 2 years, every few months or so. Removing my gall bladder didn’t help! The damage done to my pancreas by all these bouts of pancreatitis – basically the pancreas tries to digest itself – left me with a problem digesting fats… sometimes its better than others, sometimes I eat something with a minimal amount of fat in and minutes later (I kid you not) I am running for the bathroom.

When I was 24 I found out that not only had the enzyme producing part of my Pancreas messed up, but the Insulin producing part had as well and I now had diabetes. At first it was easy, I would ensure, no-matter what that I had my insulin pen and my glucometer with me and would always test and inject before meals. Then I got depressed, pissed off and I have never really gotten it right again for very long since about 2007.

Recently its been really getting me down, over the summer I had a blood test which seemed to suggest that I am making my own insulin and that my diabetes might be more like Type 2 than Type 1 – Type 2 diabetics produce insulin but can’t use it, Type 1 diabetics have no or very little insulin production. So I started taking tablets instead of insulin during the day and then I realised they weren’t working, so try a different tablet – last week I figure out this isn’t working either. Yesterday I realised I couldn’t bring my blood sugar down even by injecting an amount that would have been normal for me a few months ago.

So it seems for the past few weeks, my blood sugar has been sky high, I have spent the best part of my waking life on the toilet, but I am still alive I guess and not going blind, etc, yet…

The weirdest part is that you can have these problems with blood sugar, but not really feel any different. Granted I want to sleep a lot – which has kinda messed things up: On Thursday night I was supposed to take my Intermediate Amateur (HAM) Radio License exam. I got home from University and all I wanted to do was sleep, I could not contemplate getting on 2 buses, taking the exam and getting home… I turned my phone off and went to sleep. Now I have voicemails and emails to deal with – “where were you?!”. Today I wasn’t at my lectures – the most boring ‘crossover’ module on “The Engineering Environment” is shared with mechanical engineers and mostly seems to be about writing about your favourite dead engineer – I have chosen Alan Turing, although I haven’t started writing the essay yet.

So tomorrow I will go in, I will go to bed in a minute and I will try my hardest to get up at 7am, shower, do the things normal people do and sit for 3hrs soldering my function generator project together and hopefully have something I can test at the end of the lab session.

So I hope that explains “where I have been” these last few days…

Film Review: Adam

“A story about two strangers. One a little stranger than the other… “

I found out about this film by accident, there was no big press about it but a friend in Colorado sent me a message on twitter asking if I had seen it. I was quite amazed by the trailer and even more amazed when I actually saw the film.

This is probably the most accurate film about Aspergers I have ever seen, most films make some mistake or the actor playing the person with aspergers does something we would never do, but this was just right. The other thing that made it so different was that it did not try to portray things as being the best or the worst, it was a little of both. Some of the themes that are included are: Death, being laid off from a job, romance, being misunderstood by society, change, parties, but most importantly; theory of mind.

This film made me laugh and it made me cry, Adam could so easily have been me. I can’t praise it enough, go see it while you can. In the UK it is on a very limited release – it is playing at Odeon in Manchester Printworks until Thursday and also at some cinemas in London. Click here for more locations.

Tips and Stuff

I have recently moved to a new virtual server hosting provider, Linode have hosting centres in 4 locations in the US and allow you to pick which centre you would like your server in. They have a great web user interface and are cheaper than my previous provider, Slicehost. So now I am paying about half what I was for hosting. I have also got away with using a lot less memory for my virtual server, by implementing some different ways of getting around spam.

Realtime DNS Block Lists (DBL)

DBL’s store a list of known IP addresses which should not be trusted when receving mail, either they are IP’s assigned to home machines (DSL/Cable clients) or known spammers caught out by traps. There are a few DBL’s, but until now I have only been using one – Spamhaus, but sadly this doesn’t catch most spammers. I have now been through my configuration and included a few more DBL’s which are listed below. The advantage of this is that looking up an IP in a DBL is not processor or RAM intensive and does not require an external program – like Spamassasin. I have also implemented a few features in postfix which allow the looking up of hosts who try to exchange mail with my server, if the hostname they are giving doesn’t match their actual hostname or they have no A record or MX record for the domain they are using, postfix will end the connection.

smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
reject_rbl_client dnsbl.sorbs.net,
reject_rbl_client zen.spamhaus.org,
reject_rbl_client b.barracudacentral.org,
#reject_rbl_client t1.dnsbl.net.au,
reject_rbl_client dnsbl.njabl.org,
reject_rbl_client dnsbl.ahbl.org,

It is very important that “permit_mx_backup” goes at the end, because I am finding that spammers will take advantage of backup MX servers to get their spam accepted in some way, which then causes a lot of dead return to sender messages in your queue later.

With the “reject_rbl_client” lines I have in this config, I don’t have to use Spamassasin or other spam anaylsis programs at presnt, the few spams I am getting are minimal and may have been things I accidentially signed up to in the past! t1.dnsbl.net.au was blocking Google Mail last night, which is why I have blocked it. barracudacentral.org requires that you sign up to use their service first.

Moving MySQL

I have to admit that I am no programmer; Systems Administration, Network Administration and troubleshooting come fairly easily to me, but programming has always passed me by. I have often just blindly copied something someone else has done to get by and I remember when I was young spending hours typing in source code from magazines to see try out programs and stuff!

So when it comes to SQL people say “well its not that hard, its mostly english!” but you have to remember the order things go in and weather a line needs a ; at the end, etc… I have tried to get into PHP and stuff, but I just get really bored and give up. I have a load of programming books on C and PHP if anyone is interested!

I use some SQL on my server – WordPress, which makes this blog work uses MySQL… but to keep it going I had to move it from my old server to my new one.

I followed the usual instructions, to backup your databases use:

mysqldump -u root -p --all-databases > database_backup.sql

And then to restore:

mysql -u root -p < database_backup.sql

Then presto and everything is back, but is it working? Well it might be a good idea to try:

/etc/init.d/mysql restart

Because when you import your old databases, you overwrite the passwords for the users that are stored in them. In the file /etc/mysql/debian.cnf there are settings for a user called debian-sys-maint which is setup when you install MySQL. A password is generated for this user and then stored in the file, when you import all databases you overwrite the users database which then overwites this password, causing debian-sys-maint to be unable to access the database and a failure when you try to start MySQL, although the daemon is running.

phpMyAdmin is your friend here, because you need no knowledge of SQL commands to go in and change the password for a user, therefore fixing this nasty problem! Once you’ve done that you can then use this command to stop MySQL (as /etc/init.d/mysql stop won’t work):

kill | cat `/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.pid`

Then go ahead and start MySQL as normal:

/etc/init.d/mysql start

Uninterruptible Power Supplies and their lack of Uninterruptible-ness

An Uninterruptible Power Supply or UPS is a big battery that will keep your computer running if the power goes off, it will also protect it from surges and incidents when the power dips to what it should be. They are very useful for when you need to move things around or if you have electricity that you have to pay for in advanced (and will therefore be switched off automatically if you have no credit).

I have had small UPS’s for a few years which are about enough to keep an average desktop PC going for about 10 mins if the power fails. However, I have recently had to start dealing with them at work, since we have moved away from Co-located hosting to hosting our servers at our office. When you are running UPS’s commerically, the need for power cannot be overstated – you need things to be as overkill as possible! Most UPS’s (anything designed for keeping more than just one PC going) will have overload detection and if the UPS detects an overload, it will start to shut itself down – because if the power were to be lost, the batteries could not take the load and the servers connected would not be able to shutdown gracefully.

However this means that mains power is lost to these connected servers and hence zap – no power… Well, in our case it means a 50% reduction in power as the servers have 2 PSU’s each which are redunant. However, it is not so easy to build redundancy into a network, and taking out the UPS that the network switches are connected to will take down the servers as they can’t talk to the outside world… resulting in my mobile phone ringing and someone giving me grief that they can’t do any work!

Teamed Network Cards are network cards that can run in pairs (or more) providing greater throughput or redundancy if they are connected to different switches (in different UPS’s!) however my employer apparently has little interest int he redundancy aspect of this and uses teaming only for throughput… why have 1Gb/s when you can have 2Gb/s?!

After this happening twice today, I had to bypass the UPS’s entirely as they were getting less reliable than the service from the electricity provider!

Whilst I like my job, I hate the fact that my employer prefers to buy his parts on eBay and expects great performance from a limited budget!

Well, I think that is all for tonight… until next time (in the imortal words of Sara Cox) – “rave safe kids, rave safe!”

No user serviceable parts inside MEANS NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE!

I know I don’t blog often enough, but I have been fairly busy for the last 6 months having gotten a job, moved to Preston, etc… Anyway, so I have recently joined the Preston freecycle list – it was to get rid of 2 TV’s, an ink jet Printer and some other stuff I didn’t need any more. However I hadn’t reckoned on what people might offer on there, although most of it is clothes and furniture, one guy advertised a large colour laser printer – a QMS Magicolor 2 Desk Laser…

If you think this will fit on your desk, you’d be mistaken, it is huge and probably about 10 years old. Getting it home proved to be a problem when we realised it wasn’t in Preston, but in Garstang (half way to Lancaster), but Garstang has a PR3 postcode!

Tuesday evening I started to play with it, I plugged it in and immediately it told me there was some kind of jam, then it told me that something else was wrong, when I finally got it to the point where I thought everything was OK, it said “Call Service F5 Charge HV”, I figured that HV is High Voltage and that this had something to do with the fuser – the bit of a laser printer that heats up the dust like toner to make it stick to the page. But the fuser doesn’t seem to be a part you can take out easily. I undid one screw then another, pretty soon it was just a massive collection of plastic, metal and circuit boards on my floor….

It went from this:

(Admittedly I stole this photo from the Interwebs because I forgot to take a before shot!)

To this:

At which point I decided I couldn’t be arsed if I could get it to work or not, I probably couldn’t get it back to being one piece again!

When I was a kid my Aunt brought me this book called “Miles and the Screwdriver”, Miles got a screwdriver for his birthday and then started to undo all the screws he could find… until he nearly undid the world… at this point “God” was angry with him… yeah, so that is quite believable, right?! But I guess I am kinda like Miles, I just can’t stop undoing those screws; It could be a metaphor for my life really!

I think my Jawa days are behind me, either that or stuff just isn’t as fixable as it once was!

Apologising for my failings

Some of you might know that this past week I lost a job for not turning up for work. It had been my record of 6.5 days for 2008 – previous jobs were 4 days and 3 days respectively, so not a very good year. In 2006 I managed to work for 3 months and in 2007 I did approximately a month’s work.

I have decided to try to apologise to my former employer, because it was a family run firm who were employing me directly and they were actually quite nice people to work with. I had informed them about my condition and given them leaflets from the National Autistic Society, but I could tell that since they didn’t want me on a permanent basis (they wanted me to work shifts starting at 6am, which I could not get to without a car), that it would be difficult for them to be any more understanding and lenient towards my condition.

So this is my letter to them, tell me what you think….

Dear Mrs Shannon,

I would like to start by apologising for not turning up for work this last week and also for not calling in to tell you why I was not at work. I will try to explain my actions and hope that you can understand why. As you know I have Asperger Syndrome, when I was at work I know that I came across as a very confident person, however this exterior masks a person who wants to try, but is mostly lonely and misunderstood.

Working at Deltor was an enjoyable experience but very much a tiring one. Most nights when I got home from work I would take a nap for a few hours even before I had dinner, then sleep for 6-7 hours at night. Putting on such a confident facade is very tiring, but I knew that you did not want someone who kept taking time off. When I woke up on Wednesday morning I really wanted to go into work, but I felt so tired it was difficult to get out of bed. I realise I should have called in when I could, or answered your calls to tell you where I was. However, confrontation is a big issue for me and delaying things just made it worse. I was racked with guilt those days for what I had done, but my fear of confrontation made it very difficult for me to do anything about it. I was even scared to listen to the voice messages left for me.

I appreciate that by now you must be understandably very angry with me and I am not looking for any second chances, clearly the position at Deltor was not for me. I hope that I have not burned any bridges for anyone else with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism who might seek to apply for employment with you in the future. Most of us are actually very reliable people, who just aren’t very adept at communicating.

I would be very grateful if you could acknowledge this letter either by post or email so that I have something to show to the JobCentre as proof that I am no-longer working.

I would like to thank you for your time and understanding. Please pass on my apologies to my co-workers, especially Carole.

Yours Sincerely,


Update – Summer 2008

So its been a while since I posted anything, but I thought I’d keep people updated as to what has happened in my life lately.

At the beginning of August I had to sell my car and declare myself bankrupt. I was at the point of owing £15,000 and at my current level of income that would have taken me about 10 years to pay back, plus I would have been fairly povety stricken for that duration. Given my record of finding and keeping jobs(!) I doubt that I will find myself in some great earning IT job anytime soon, despite the fact I could pretty easily do the work.

The bankruptcy is going well so far, thanks to the Co-operative Bank I have a current account with a Visa Electron debit card and a fair bit more money available to me from my benefits given that I am not having to pay back what I owed to the banks and credit card companies.

Interestingly enough the Halifax, whom I owed approximately £6,000 to, has recently been taken over by Lloyds TSB (whom I owed £1,500), apparently because the Halifax had itself become insolvent. I’d like to say that I brought down one of the biggest banking groups in Britian, but sadly I think my debt is just a drop in the ocean to them! This is just the latest in a series of banking failures here in the UK, mostly brought on by the US ‘sub prime’ loan problem and the general ‘credit crunch’. Notice that no-one will use the word recession, and according to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “this is not boom and bust”; who is he kidding!

My personal feeling, although this is extremely controversial, is that now is the time to wipe out all debt – after all, it is really just numbers on computers. Once we have done this, we should quit lending money to people with the soul exception of mortgages. No more credit cards or unsecured loans, because I believe this is what has caused all the problems: Consumer greed, and I think we are all guilty to some extent. But who is more guilty, the people forced into borrowing money for a better lifestyle (or sometimes just an existance) or the banks who spend all their time convincing us that we should take out loans and credit cards, sometimes to the point where we can’t ignore them.

Also during August I helped with a number of Autism research studies at University College London, but missed out on a MRI scanning experiment because of a small piece of metal left in me after my Gall Bladder was removed in 2001. It seems that I will never be able to find out the full details of the clip (make, model, etc) for the paranoid radiographers who control these experiments, because the hospital where the surgery took place have ‘misplaced’ the notes relating to it.

I also took part in research for my friend Kalen at the University of Manchester, who tells me that even if she can’t use my data – my reaction times suck and I definately have ADHD! Most people who meet me for just a few minutes know that I just can’t keep still, unless I am unconcious!

Whilst I was in the North West I was asked by a friend of mine to help at his workplace with some IT stuff. This taught me a few things: that my Windows Server skills are out of date and that eToken is more complicated than you’d think! eToken is basically a authentication system similar to smart cards, but uses a device that looks very much like a USB pen drive. It can also work over networks and this was the purpose, to secure servers at a remote site.

I have decided that I am going to use some of my time over the next few months to study for the MCSA exams or Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator. This is, I know a bit of a diversion from my Linux work over the past few years, but I don’t think I have the nessecary programming experience to be a proper Linux sys-admin. I last studied for these Microsoft exams back in 2000 when I passed the “Network Essentials” exam, but the failed “Windows NT Workstation”, sadly there was no credit for Network Essentials, it was just something you had to pass at the same time. So given that, my skills on the server aspects at least of Microsoft’s operating systems is about 8 years out of date. Maybe if I can improve my skills (and I’ll have bits of paper to prove it), then I’ll have more chance of getting a job… but can I keep it?

Spending about a week working 9-5 really made me realise how little I use the time in the day, since I have been back it has been a struggle to find things to do and not to spend money fleetingly. The lack of structure has if anything made me more depressed.

Last weekend I went to the NAS International Conference in London, it was a fairly good conference and a good chance to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen for some time. I also got to meet some fairly big names: Alex Thompson from Channel 4 News (who has an Autistic son), Jane Asher (President of the NAS and all round good cake maker) and some of the producers and writers of Holby City and the film Snow Cake. I managed to ask some good questions as well!

Next wek I will be trying to spend my time wisely by doing some work, helping with binding for a printing company in Saltash. Its a bit of a long way to go, but its only for 5 days. So hopefully I manage to work out those 5 days! I’m also signed up to help chase up and collect in the voter registration forms for Plymouth City Council, that kinda pays on a piecemeal basis apparently, £1.50 for each form collected of which I will have 300 to chase!

Until next time… rave safe kids, rave safe!

This is what happens when you don’t take care

So today I went to buy an antenna, because quite frankly the antenna on my Yaesu VX-7R sucks. The only problem was that the closest place to get one was Weston-Super-Mare, near Bristol. I got there fine, got the aerial and fitted it. Then I drove into Bristol for a bit of a rest, went to IKEA, etc.

On the way back I stopped at Bridgewater Services in Somerset. I tested my antenna and I could hear some folks talking on a Repeater in Wales, GB3BC to be precise! I was amazed! I waited for a break in the conversation before I could talk to them. With only 5W from a small handheld connected to the new antenna I could open the repeater and the folks in Wales could hear me loud and clear! I felt great!

Only it didn’t last…

Realising all the water had dropped out of the washer bottle in my car again, I went to the petrol station at the services to top it up. Someone else was there using the air, so I pulled up, but I was too far for the hose. I tried to move the car a bit closer and that was when disaster struck… my foot slipped on the pedal and I hit a sign. Fortunately the car was not seriously damaged, it was drivable and there was no damage the radiator that I could see. Only the bonet, bumper (fender) and perhaps some of the frame at the front.

I admit I have spent the last couple of months being perticularly stupid in driving a car with only a provision license (learners permit) and no-one supervising me. Most of the time I do fine, but today I didn’t. I’m not going to drive it again, for a start I shall be away for a week from Saturday anyway. The problem is that I was going to sell the car to pay for my bankruptcy which I am due to do within the next few weeks in order to tackle the £15,000 of debt that I have. Now I have to get the car fixed before I can sell it or not get the £345.00 that I need.

I feel like a piece of crap, the road should have opened up and swalled me whole. For quite a while now I have been thinking, why am I here, why did I not get taken out years ago. Because all I keep doing is fecking up over and over again. Surely the world is tired of me by now….?

If the Police are reading, come pick me up…. you know where I am.

So, what happened here then?!

Here you can see the present state of our Kitchen/Diner with the two cylinder heads I am working on; one stripped from Punto #3 (background) and the other a 2nd hand purchase from eBay (foreground). [Click on pictures for larger versions]

The 2nd had head came to me mostly stripped down, none of the brackets were on it, and the thermostat had already been taken out. So I had to do a lot of stripping from the original head to get all the parts and enough studs to put it all together. This was fairly easy, so I then put the old head to one side and started working on the new head. That’s when the trouble started.

That spanner is actually stuck behind the 2 locked nuts that I was trying to use to get the stud out. I am assuming the stud is partly corroded at the head end (this is the exhaust side of the engine), and it will not move. Now I can’t get my lock nuts off, or the spanner out!

Arrrgggghhh…. why is nothing ever easy?!

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

Meet Punto #3, this time an Automatic!

Punto #3

I purchased this car on the Isle of Wight, unfortunately it had been sitting around idle for about a year… A few things needed fixing for it to pass the MOT, but these were easily sorted out, the car has been legal now for about a month.

The problem started when I decided that I would treat the car to new oil, plugs, etc… I thought that changing the spark plugs was an easy job… and it would be if there was good access to them. But not in this case. In the process of changing plug #2 I cross-threaded the hole and it did not tighten correctly. For one reason or another I ignored this (probably through pride) and just forgot about it.

All was fine until about 100 miles afterwards, when suddenly I lost power in the engine and it sounded like a tractor. Initially I thought my new exhaust might have dropped off, but no the exhaust was fine. So I checked the engine… there was oil in the engine compartment where there shouldn’t be… I suspected a blown head gasket.

It was not until I started taking the cylinder head off the car that I discovered #2 spark plug just sitting in the hole, not attached… DOH! I proceeded with changing the gasket and putting everything back together. However I had trouble timing the engine. I could not get it correct however many times I tried, so I got a local mobile mechanic to help – he was here less than 20 minutes!

So at this point I have a car that will move for the first time in about a fortnight! I have a few things to do, first of all I need to get the spark plug hole sorted out so that this won’t happen again! I try to start the car, it won’t start, the battery is flat. I get a jump start and get going – only to find it won’t start the next time I park up! I decide that I must get a new battery, so head to a car parts store. New battery in the car, I head home. Whilst trying to park the car, it cuts out (highly unusual for an automatic), so I try to re-start it… it won’t start! I get a high pitched noise from the engine. For some reason I don’t suspect my new cambelt and think about the starter motor. I go indoors and call out a breakdown service, they arrive and tell me that the cambelt isn’t moving when the engine turns over and to contact the mechanic who did the work.

After they go, I check out the cambelt myself, and initially think that something might have been caught in it because I could not fit the cambelt cover securely. I find a piece of webbing wrapped in the crankshaft pulley and try to remove it. I discover to my horror that this webbing is the cambelt and it has been chewed up by the engine. No problem I thought, I still have the old cambelt which was in OK condition. I try to fit this but then discover I can’t move the camshaft and again teeth get chewed off the belt.

Mechanic calls me back to tell me that the camshaft is probably seized – when I put the new head gasket on, I must have put it on the wrong way around and blocked an oil channel from the engine block to the head, hence no oil was getting to the camshaft! I go back to the car and check the camshaft, it’s not even slippery! He was absolutely right. I killed a cylinder head and 2 cambelts because I tried to do things too quickly, thinking I knew what I was doing!

All is not lost however, because I have sourced a 2nd hand head for £25 + £9.99 shipping and Lee, my friendly mobile mechanic is going to do the work for about £60, which is was I was quoted to get the spark plug hole drilled out and re-threaded! This car is costing me a fortune, but I think most of it is my own fault, I need to slow down and not try to fix things I can’t fix like the van i got last year from eCamperVanHire.

Until next time, rave safe kids!



Well, it has been quite a while since I have blogged, there have been some good things and bad things happening, which I shall summarize here:

The Motherboard that broke on me has been repaired, although initially it came back with the part I wanted fixing unfixed, they later sent me a replacement part which I replaced myself.

I have recently acquired an automatic car (rare in the UK), with the intention of passing my driving test in an automatic. This will mean that I can only drive automatics alone, but I am willing to deal with that until I feel more confident out on the road. The car that I got was untaxed (unregistered) and had no MOT (inspection), so I had to do some work on it before I could get it legal; I replaced the front part of the exhaust and also the fuel pump, and finally got it legal and on the road last week. Now I just have to pass my drivers test!

I have been applying for a lot of jobs, mostly office admin and alike, however I haven’t got very far. So far I think I have been rejected by at least 10 of the jobs I applied for. I have had 1 interview and 2 more lined up. I suspect the problem is that my habit of not keeping jobs for very long is catching up with me, so my references are bad.

For a while I have been thinking about getting a pet, originally wanting a cat… but since I live in a shared house I thought it might be quite difficult to keep an animal that likes to roam, plus one of our friends who likes to visit has a cat allergy! So I compromised and decided to get some rats instead. I have never really had a problem with rodents, I had mice in a previous flat (as in an infestation rather than a pet!) and although I had to kill them, it didn’t make me afraid of being there. So I have ordered a cage and some stuff, once this arrives I am going to obtain 2 male rats and call them Steve McQueen and James Dean; two actors/racing car drivers who died before their time… and yes, I did get the idea from House.

My run in with the Police seems to be over, they have decided not to prosecute me and have returned all of the computer equipment that they confiscated.

Finally this week I am working for a local software house doing some testing of a new version of their software… I don’t think I am doing too well, it seems very abstract to me, I am sitting here not really sure what to do – the fact that a lot of what I am doing doesn’t work correctly doesn’t help!

I am starting to wonder if I am in love with the idea of having a job, rather than actually wanting to do a job. Every job I have tried recently has ended in failure because I get there and then I get bored and tired after a while. I can’t cope with boredom too well, unless that boredom is self-induced!

I think what I need in a job is for it to be well structured and have enough breaks for me not to get too tired; i.e. part time. Trouble is that not a lot of employers are so willing to help in that respect.

Oh well, I hope I can sustain this or Dan (who got me the job) will be very pissed…

Until next time, rave safe kids – rave safe!


Damm Motherboard

This is my motherboard, which is broken.

Where the red circle is, there should be a bit of plastic which sticks out, just like the one on the other side. These points allow you to clip the heatsink down onto the processor (the gray square), to ensure good contact between the two.

I contacted the company I brought it from, they have told me they will not take it back basically because they think I am a nube and broke it. I did not break it, it broke by itself. I have been building PC’s for 10 years and I have an A+ qualification. I DO know what I am doing!

So I have now contacted the manufacturer, who are supposedly regarded as one of the best motherboard manufacturers. I await to hear what they say. Even if they could send me a new plastic bit (its only held down with screws), that would be nice.

But being me – generally a very impatient person, I decided to get a new, but much cheaper motherboard, because I cannot stand the old PC I have, and don’t have any compatible parts to make the shiny new one – which I only built in September, work.

I’ll let you know what happens re the current motherboard. If anyone has a broken AM2 motherboard where that plastic part is intact and would like to give/sell it to me, please contact me.

An interesting day…

So this morning I go to see the optician, he tells me that my glasses from 2 years ago are still at the prescription I need, which is really good considering last year I saw another optician who told me they were too strong! I order new glasses because under the UK NHS system I am entitled to money towards new glasses every 2 years.

This evening was more about taking things apart, a friend of mine and Ed’s brings in a laptop to the TermiSoc tutorial that his housemate sat on… One of the guide rails for the DVD drive was bent, Ed and I took it apart to discover this, but there was very little we could do, albeit assure our friend that it would still work.

Then tonight after we got home, the whole house electricity kept tripping out every few minutes. After doing a test by turning on all the most power consuming appliances we have, we found we could not trip out the power. Then we turned on the tumble dryer, and it died! What I discovered after I had ruled out the socket and the extension cord was that the element that gets the dryer hot had somehow gotten wet and since electricity and water don’t mix, well better that we lost power than our whole house burnt down!

After I dried out the heater compartment and put it all back together it started working fine. So I guess there can’t be much wrong with it.

But I think to myself, why am I doing all this calculus and maths stuff when what I am good at is fixing stuff, with my hands… Give me a broken computer and I am happy for a few hours!

So now, at 1:20am I am finally going to bed! Tomorrow the Calculus starts!

Rave Safe Kids!

Seth out.

The problem with ADD

So I think I have finally figured it all out; no, not the answer to the great question about life, the universe and everything, that would be 42! What I have I finally realised is why I have so much potential (or at least people keep telling me that I do) but fail to use any of it.

About three weeks ago I re-enrolled on 2 modules that I failed 2 years ago when I took the Foundation Year in Technology the first time. So I am back to being a student at the University of Plymouth; the computers may have gotten faster, but they broke the Intranet system!

Hurray for me; so why so glum, you ask?!

When I was a kid, I had trouble learning maths, tables would never stick in my head, I would always use a calculator when I could. You’re probably saying “but most kids do that!”. Well giving into the calculator is fine when you’re just adding up a few numbers, but when you are trying to factorise quadratic equations or solve simultaneous equations, you kinda wish you hadn’t given so easily.

Maths is the foundation of the Universe, it is also the foundation of electronics, communications and every form of engineering. Everything I want to do over the next 5 years relies on maths. So the fact that I can’t do maths at around high school level is a problem.

I said this was about all of my problems not just maths, right? Well I give in too easily, so therefore I never exercise my brain enough to keep it going. So my brain atrophies and I get more frustrated that I can’t learn new stuff and get past this foundation year.

You know what the biggest problem of all is? Doctor’s don’t believe me, apparently I do not have ADD and all of my problems can be explained by Asperger’s. Maybe I just didn’t explain myself properly or perhaps I come across as someone who might abuse stimulant drugs. I don’t know, but my suspicion is that Adult ADD is just too controversial for the British National Health Service (certainly at a local level here in Plymouth) and so I will never get referred to someone who actually knows what they are talking about – something I have been asking for for the last two years, ever since my trip to Newcastle.

Perhaps the worst thing is that I can’t put the required effort into CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) because I give up and think its a load of BS! So I can’t cure myself of my wanting a silver bullet for the ADD or the giving up on everything.

So I am going to try again to keep going and not loose hope in my course and myself, but its hard. When I was younger I didn’t give in so easily, but now I guess I give in before I have really tried most things.

Perhaps getting this out there will give me some hope, but I doubt it…

First time tequila…

…the room won’t stop spinning! Someone help me.

That was 2am, now its nearly 6am I have slept for a couple of hours and can’t get back to sleep!

I was out for a quiet drink with my housemates and then bumped into a couple of people from my course at Uni (which was nearly 2 years ago now!). The upshot of it was that I got brought lots of beer and then a shot of tequila, complete with salt and lemons!

They suggested I go back to University and try to do the course I originally wanted to do – computer systems and networks. Whilst I know I have the brain to do the work, I have this alter ego, lets call him Mr ADHD, that likes to get in the way of doing that work. My original plan was to try and get treatment for that and THEN go back to University. Well, two years after being suicidal because I couldn’t get the work I knew I could do done, I’m STILL waiting for some kind of treatment for that, although I have seen 2 shrinks now!

So, what do you think? Continue the search for mindless annoying jobs or go back to Uni?

New Job Update – Week 1

So I completed week one of my new job. At least it didn’t go as badly as the last job I had when I didn’t show after the first day!

It started off with listening to some calls on Monday and then on Tuesday the training got underway, a lot of stuff I knew already from my technical experience and working in call centres in the past, today the training ended and I got to take calls for real.

Now they didn’t drop me in the deep end, I did have a buddy with me who was helping me, but what I didn’t realise is how stupid 80% of the people who call in are and how they use aggression to try and cover that.

When I worked my last call centre job I was doing fairly simple tasks, all I had to do was get information out of people about their cell phones, their name/address and their credit card details so that I could register their phone. Trying to talk someone who has no clue about computers how to troubleshoot problems is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

I really don’t know if I can keep doing it. I have come home every night this week physically exhausted, I have to get up at 7am and then ride the bus for 30-45mins to get to work for 8:50 and then take calls for 8hrs, although I get a 1hr lunch break. That’s a 40hr week, 9am-6pm 5 days per week. Most jobs in the UK are 37.5hrs per week. In France, you can’t be forced to work more than 35hrs per week!

I know what everyone is going to say, don’t make a mess of this, don’t run off… but I am finding it very difficult to suppress those feelings. I should probably put more into it, but I really don’t feel like being abused because someone isn’t smart enough to go to a book store or a library and get a simple book on Windows XP or Vista – there are enough titles out there!

So should I:
[A]   Stick it out next week and see what happens.
[B]   Call/Email in Monday, say I am sick or I can’t do it any more.
[C]   Wait for my replacement Visa card to arrive and take a spur-of-the moment trip to Denver.

Maybe you can decide for me, but I can’t guarantee I’ll take your advice! 😀

A Day of Success!!

Well today was a great day, first off I got up at a reasonable time – 9am, not like last week when I was lucky to be asleep by that time! Then I had to go to an interview, the job – which I saw advertised through an Agency is with InfoTeam who have the contract to repair and provide technical support to customers of Acer equipment, including PC’s, Laptops and other IT paraphernalia! The interview went well, I was able to answer their questions really easily and I felt comfortable.

The great news was that about 2hrs after the interview, I was told I got the job and start on Monday at 9am!

Later I went to take the first of the CompTIA A+ exams, which is a qualification to show that you can fix computer hardware and software and provide technical support.

I passed that as well, the required score was 675 and I got 750 out of 900! So now I have to take part 2, I have a choice of Phone Support, In Person Support or never talking to a customer back room stuff!

Tonight we (as in TermiSoc) shall be going out for a curry to celebrate the 21st birthday of our great comrade, Ben A’Lee. He was actually 21 two weeks ago, but everyone was busy back then!

It has been a great day and I am definitely feeling better about myself!

Cool Stuff

Simpons AvatarSo today, after weeks of waiting for Broadband in our new house, we (Ben, Ed and myself) finally got it!

We were intending to wait for Orange (a BT ADSL Service) to move my existing connection to my new line, but so far it has taken them 14 days to remove it from my old line! It could take up to 13 more days before we get it here!

After hearing this news on Tuesday I decided I had had enough and since the cable company (Virgin Media) are doing a deal where you can get a 2Mb service for £10 per month for 1 year (instead of £18/month) I went for it. So although we are locked in for a year (unless we manage to get out within the cooling off period), its not going to cost very much.

Setting up the Cable Modem was easy, since the house already has wiring for cable all I had to do was hook it up and call them. Its a shame it wasn’t that easy to set up the routing for our network, but that’s another story…

The other 8Mb ADSL service from Orange should be free, because the account is in Ben’s name now and as he pointed out, he should be getting it for free since he pays Orange enough money as it is for mobile phone service!

So I am happy now and maybe when the ADSL gets connected we can play around with load balancing!

Also, I got to play around with the Avatar creator on the Simpsons Movie website, and I made the likeness of me that you see here!

A great Birthday, thanks!

Today I am 27, staring down the barrel at 30 I know, but at least I am still here!

Yesterday I had the official celebration of my birthday with my friends from TermiSoc. Ben, Dan, Ed, Gem, Chrissy, Rich and myself went up to Dartmoor where we had a picnic! We got rained on a bit, messed around with the the smallest tent known to man that Ed had brought for £10 in Lidl, played catch with a very heavy dog ball that we found in the river and finally ate cheese and biscuits whilst sitting around in waterproofs trying not to get blown away!

Then we drove back to Plymouth, I fell asleep for a few hours and nearly missed the next part, a curry at the Baba curry house! Well, it was very busy in there and we sat around waiting for at least half an hour before they gave us a table and then we had to wait ages for our main course to come out! Fortunately they gave us a free round of drinks, which was nice!

After that we went back to Rich and Chrissy’s house where we watched the original Star Wars film (the first time I had seen it in whole).

Sadly whilst walking back from there we encountered some drunk idiot who seemed to keep wanting to kick me and Dan from behind, we managed to loose him but not without first sustaining some brusing.

Got home around 2:30am.

Thanks very much to everyone for a great time!

New Bed – Its Shagadelic Baby!!

So today my new bed arrived, this was a huge upgrade for me because I have been sleeping on the awful single divan bed provided by my landlord for like the last 18 months. A few months ago I borrowed a mattress from a friend for a friend to sleep on whilst he visited, then after he went I started using it because there was no indication of when it was needed back, until last week.


Above, pics of the two parts of the landlords bed!

So I went back to the landlord’s matress a week ago and I woke up after only a few hours sleep, so much pain was my back in! So I decided that was it, I had to get a new bed.

Today it arrived and the difference is amazing I think I might end up turning into Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel! – Why can there be no storys about guys who sleep forever only to be woken by a princess?!

Just After Completion.

Overall vue of my Bedroom with Old Glory on the wall!

Lovely new Duvet set from House of Fraiser.

So all I need now is a lovely lady to try it out with!! If only finding a gal was as easy as building a bed!

Until next time – Rave Safe Kids!

Learn Geography while you Shower

I’d like to show you my new Shower Curtain….

Yep, its a map of the world!

I think its great, Geography was one of my best subjects at school and as you probably know, I am no stranger to travelling!

Here is a close up of my corner of the world…

I think everyone should get one, so they can brush up on their world geography before they go to school or work!

A Christmas gift from my Employer

As some of you might know, I work for the British arm of a well known European mobile phone network. All day (or evening) long for the past 3 months I have been answering calls relating to pre-paid mobile phones. I have put up with a lot of abuse and nasty customers and prank calls from Children. I also have to put up with the fallout from the company’s decision to save money and outsource some of the call centres to India.

Today I received this, as a gift for my work over the past 3 months…

Yes, that’s right, it’s a bag of chocolate coins… it probably cost them a few pence.

OK, I know I am a temp and temp’s don’t get good treatment, but they could have at least given us some kind of proper reward. I am getting no Christmas bonus and I was denied overtime on New Years Day because they already have enough staff for my call queue. I am going home to see my family between the 23rd-27th, so I can’t work over Christmas – I wouldn’t want to anyway!

So, I am looking for a job, but its slow going. Most people don’t want me because I didn’t manage to finish my degree and others think I live too far away. All the good jobs are in Exeter or Bristol which are 50 and 100miles away, respectively. I should move, but moving is stressful and I have people I know here. I have been told (unofficially) that I will get taken on by Orange, but it won’t be until January and then I could get put on an even more stressful call queue!

Anyway, I suspect that this will be my last blog before Christmas, so I hope everyone has a good time and gets everything they asked Santa for… that is assuming their Mom’s gave him good head!

Merry Christmas!

The end of an era…

Well today I finally got the car I crashed back in September towed away to that great scrapyard in the sky.

It had been looking very sad and pathetic outside my house for the last 3 months…

Here it is when I brought it…

And here it is on the tow truck being taken away.

In a way I suppose I am glad to be rid of it – my neighbours have been giving me a hard time about it being there recently, but its sad because this was the first car I ever brought and I never really got to drive it!

My driving has gotten a lot better since then and I am taking my practical driving test on November 24th!

Meanwhile, I did manage to obtain a similar Punto for about £60 ($100) which I fixed up with parts from the original grey one. However, I still haven’t been able to get it to pass its MOT because of problems with the water pump!

Here is Punto #2 – aka “The Blue One”!

If only I could seal the dastardly water pump, then I would be able to get it back on the road!

Fixed my blog problem

Those of you who read my blog regularly will have seen that there has been a bit of a display problem if you’re viewing it in Firefox, whereby the posts ended up spewed across the page and the menu to the right ended up at the bottom. Ironically the page displayed fine in Internet Explorer!

I have fixed this problem now, it turned out to be an unlikely culpret – some code that you need to embed a YouTube clip into a page went wrong and messed up the whole page – the clip was in the post entitled ‘I passed the Test‘ which was from July!

I have also moved my blog so that it is within my home directory, which tidy’s it up and makes it a bit cleaner. I’ve put in a redirect, but if you want to update your links, you can now find my blog at http://www.autismisanotherworld.com/~seth/blog/

I’ve also changed the theme lately, hope you like it! Look at alexking.org if you’d like a shiny new wordpress theme of you’re own!

I no-longer have a car

Well, only 11 days after purchasing my first car, I have pretty much written it off in an accident. I was under my friend Norman’s supervision, but I took a roundabout (rotary in American English) too fast and then lost my footing and hit the accelerator pedal rather than the brake pedal. The car went into a steel crash barrier and uprooted some of it!

So I am not best pleased. My insurance is only third party, so they won’t cover the damage to the car, only the crash barrier. The damage to the car, once we were able to open the bonet (hood), was pretty bad, the engine had moved to one side. I had hoped that it would be a case of replacing a panel, but I think its done structural damage.

With the help of Gemma’s Dad we were able to tow it back to my house, where it now rests.

Here are some pics…

After we’d pushed it out of the road!

The roundabout is in the top right corner.

I’ve brought my first car!

I should have blogged about this last night, but I was tired and it took me a while to upload a photo to my photobucket.
Yesterday, with the help of my friend Norman (whom I’m staying with at the moment), we went to look at a car in Shipley, West Yorkshire, which is near Bradford. The car is a Fiat Punto (which is a subcompact for those American Readers). Its a 1994 model, but it’s in good condition and has no major faults.

Today we went to pick it up. After spending 4hrs getting there entirely by Public Transport, it took us 1.5hrs to drive back! I haven’t had the chance to drive it properly yet – since I am not allowed to drive on Motorways (Interstate Highways), must display L-Plates and have a person who is over 21 and held a full license for 3 years or more sitting in the passenger seat, it would have been difficult to drive it back here, since the main route is mainly motorways.

So once Norman is able to drive it back to Plymouth, I can go out practicing – my good friend Gemma has agreed to supervise me. I take my test on September 20th, please send good vibes! I am still taking lessons with a driving instructor, but its getting expensive and he says that all I really need is practice!

So, here it is my first car!

Something weird I saw tonight!

Whilst walking around ‘The Barbican’ which is the oldest part of Plymouth, and the place where the Pilgrims left for a better life in the New World, I happened upon this….

Yes, believe it or not, that is a “Party Ambulance”. No it doesn’t go around the city picking up the people who have had a few too many drinks and ruined the party atmosphere – the itention is that you hire it out and drive around town with tunes and a lightshow in the back (I didn’t look inside, so I can’t be sure if there is a strecher or defribulator!).

This is the latest (or so it would seem) in the Limo type party experience. I remember last year someone was hiring out a fire truck to take you to your party, well now you can have the “Party Ambulance” pick you up when all that partying is done!

You saw it here first kids!

I passed the test!

About a month before I went to New York I started learning to drive, except for my dumpster incident, I have been getting better and better and my driving instructor was pretty impressed with me today.

In order to pass your drivers test and get a full license in the UK, you have to take not only the “written” (or theory) and practical tests, but also a ‘Hazard Perception’ test which is part of the written test. Its all done on a computer, first you are asked 35 questions about driving law and how to operate and maintain your car and then you get a 3 minute break before the next part.

The Hazard Perception test consists of a series of 14 video clips shot from a camera mounted on a car, you assume the role of the person driving the car and you have to click the mouse when you see a “developing hazard”. There is a countdown system, if you click your mouse when the hazard first appears then you get 5 points, for each second later you loose 1 point, unless you get zero points if you would have caused an accident because you didn’t react. You have to get 44 points out of a possible 75, 13 of the clips contain one hazard, one contains two.

Because this is fairly difficult to explain, I have uploaded a video clip from the training CD I have. This is not an official government video, so its not as good a quality as those used in the actual test, but it gives you an idea of what its like.

Watch the video at YouTube by clicking here.

I think its fairly easy to spot the hazard there – the kid drops something in the road, but doesn’t look before he runs out and grabs it. Every drivers worst nightmare, but you can see that this does have a positive effect – those people who cannot pass this test, can’t get a drivers license.

The UK is, as far as I know, the only country in the world that currently does this. It has been a requirement for about 4 years now, but weather it has succeeded in lowering the number of deaths on the road, I don’t know.

So, now that I have passed the theory and hazard perception tests, I can continue to take lessons and get my driving up to a standard where I can take the practical test. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Dude, where’s my bridge?!

This afternoon my driving instructor picked me up for my lesson as usual, but he had some news for me, we would probably end up in lots of traffic jams today because of an incident that happened earlier in the day – a low-loader truck carrying a cherry picker smashed into a footbridge over a main road near the train station and dragged it 50 feet down the road! The road, although now re-opened, was closed for some time.

These are some photo’s I took tonight, its kinda spooky, the steps to the bridge are in tact (although apparently their foundations were seriously damaged), but there is no bridge across the road!

You can read the full story on the website of the local paper, the Plymouth Herald, here.

They’re never gonna give me my license!

Those of you who don’t know me very well might not know that I have been taking driving lessons back in England. I am doing pretty well and I have about 19hrs experience. I took a break from that to go on my vacation, which I am spending with my good friend Gina and her family in New York.

Gina’s step-dad, Steve, wanted to move the cars from the driveway so that he could mow the grass on either side of it. He told me to call Tod from American Auto Transport Inc.

Lets just say that the car Gina has been driving up until recently is pretty beat up. She can’t drive it anymore because it won’t pass the NY DMV Inspection which is due now.

Gina's Car - a 1991 Chevy Cavalier

This is the car; it’s a 1991 Chevy Cavalier.

So I thought that I would try and help Steve out by moving Gina’s car. All I had to do was reverse it 30 feet down the driveway. The last thing Steve said to me before I started the car was “Don’t hit that dumpster!”.

The Dumpster - 1.5cu yard capacity

This is the dumpster; it’s about 1.5 cubic yards in capacity and made of solid steel!

Now, I have never driven in the US before and I have never driven an automatic car before; so both of these were very different to me, since we drive on the left in the UK.

I started the car and put it into reverse. Now I am pretty sure I didn’t hit the gas pedal, but then I didn’t hit the brake pedal either! According to Gina and her Mom who were watching, the car shot backwards at 40mph and went straight into the dumpster, knocking it over and pushing it back about 5 feet from its usual spot.

Damage to the dumpster

Apart from being knocked over and moved forward, the dumpster didn’t sustain any damage apart from some paint which rubbed off the car. Although Steve had to use a tractor with a snow plough to push it back to its usual spot.

Damage to the Car

The car however, was damaged. The trunk was dented and the plastic covering the rear lights was smashed up, there was also damage to the bumper.

Apart from a very dented pride, I was fine and Gina was cool about it too, since it is not economical to do any work to the car to get it to pass the inspection.

I think I’d better stick to driving cars with dual controls and manual gearboxes that have the driver’s seat on the right hand side for the time being! But wit that being said, take a look at this extraordinary remote control cars. I already bought one for my son.

Stay well!

Weird Neighbours…British Style!

This is kinda in reference to my friend Georga’s (or Spork as she likes to go by) series of blogs on her Mexican neighbours, who seem to like their shovels. You can read her latest blog here.

I like in an old house that was converted into two flats (appartments), both flats have a kitchen, bathroom, living room and one bedroom. I live on the ground floor (first floor to your Americans). Until Easter my upsairs Neighbours were a Portugese family, who although they didn’t speak much English, they didn’t give me much trouble either. I got on well with them and last summer they fed me at their BBQ and I was introduced to their Portugese friends who were able to translate a bit for me! I had been selling them a portion of my broadband bandwidth and they unfortunately used most of it to download films from eDonkey, so I was slightly glad that they weren’t around to do that anymore.
Anyway, they moved out just before Easter – the reason being that this house doesn’t really have any proper heating, and the heaters that we do have are electric and cost a lot of money to run. So they were cold and moved to a new flat with better heating, I can’t blame them for that and I wish them the all the best in their new place.

My new neighbours moved in soon after Easter. They are two men, both in their 50’s – John (an American who appears to have lived in this country for some time) and Norman (a native of Plymouth). Now I have to admit that I was slightly confused when this happened – why would two guys of this age choose to be flatmates? Well I know that they aren’t gay, so I assume its probably because they don’t have much money.

Where does all their money go you may be wondering? Well, we can pretty much assume that their surplus income goes on Alcohol. Both of them appear to be alcoholics – although John appears to be the one who doesn’t know his limits.

I have had many problems with them lately, including playing very crap music very loudly and having my recycling strewn all over the street. However, the thing that worries me the most is that they have aquired a very old IBM Aptiva PC. Unfortunately, they know that I am an Electrical Engineering Major, so who else are they gonna ask for help?

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually mind giving people help with their PC’s, I have a lot of friends who I know from the Internet and most of them have come to me for help in the past when their PC’s have gone wrong. I have travelled all over the UK to fix computers, you might think of me as the 21st century version of the Knight in Shining Armour!

But when you don’t really know the people who you asking for your help and you don’t really want to know them, when they smoke and drink and talk crap to you, how do you say NO?

I am not good with confrontation, especially with people who I don’t know and the fact that they drink makes me even more worried. I chose to say nothing to them about the recycling issue and when the noise got too much I went out for the day. But I live here and I can’t keep running away, can I?

Well, at least I will have a nice break from them from next week, I’ll be in New York and Phildelphia to see my friend Gina and go to Autreat.


Well, after many hours of phoning around to discover that the metal clip in the flesh just below my breast bone is probably made from titanium, the radiographer’s at UCL decided it was too risky and didn’t carry out the scan.

It would have been fun – I have no idea why, but I seem to like no invasive imaging – its kinda cool to think that you are inside a scanner which costs millions of pounds and has some of the most powerful computers making it work.

Anyway, so they paid my travel to London, so I wasn’t out of pocket.

I did a little bit of sightseeing in London before I came back to Plymouth. In London it was dry and fairly Sunny. In Plymouth it is cold, wet and horrible! Why on earth did I move here?

The MRI that wasn’t!

Well, in the end,the MRI didn’t go ahead tonight.

In 2001 I had a Laparoscopic Cholecystomy which to the layman means I had my Gall Bladder removed using key-hole surgery. Because they needed to check that the ‘plumbing’ to my pancreas was clear before they let me home from hospital, they left a little tube in place – through the skin, secured by a metal clip. The day after the surgery they used a fluoroscope (think live x-ray) and injected some dye into the tube to make sure that the ducts were clear. This was fine, so they removed the tube, but the clip remained.

Now, as you probably know, MRI scanners use the most powerful magnets on earth and the scanner that I was due to be scanned in this evening was even more powerful than the scanner at the hospital I was last scanned at to look at my pancreas (3 Tesla compared to 1.5 Tesla). This scan was taken after the surgery and I had no problems with the clip. However, since this scanner was at a research facility and without medical backup, they didn’t want to take the risk.

Anyway, tomorrow they will call their radiographer and ask his/her opinion as to weather they should take the risk of scanning me. I have also said I will phone the surgeon who put the clip in to ask him what type of metal it is. If they know that, then they can be more sure of the risks – not all metals are attracted to magnets!

So maybe tomorrow I will get what I came for!

Good night and good luck!


I was drinking a bottle of powerade today when for some stupid reason I opened the sports cap with my front teeth instead of my back teeth. I have a crown on one of my front teeth, I was involved in a playground accident when I was 7 and lost part of it. Sadly part of the crown broke off.

Now this would be OK if I had a dentist in Plymouth, but I don’t. My dentist is 170miles away, back home in Southampton. I am pinning my hopes on the Dental Access Centre here in Plymouth, I have an appointment there at 12noon on Friday and I really hope they can fix it. I looked at private dentists in Plymouth (there are no NHS dentists who are taking on new patients), it would probably cost in the region of £400-£500, scary thought! I think I’d rather go back to Southampton to get it fixed!

I hope you weren’t too scared by those pics!

The results are in…

So, after all that hassle of last term I am proud to announce the following results:

TECH029: Introduction to Computer Systems

Initial Assignment on Computer Systems/Binary:

ICT & Society Group Assignment:
Presentation: 54.5%
Writeup: 48.5%

Overall module score:

TECH028: Introduction to Computer Programming and Applications
Visual Basic Section:
In Class Test 1: 78%

End of Module Test: 72%

Programming Assignment: 85%

Gill Bridge

Ok, so perhaps this is slightly morbid or in bad taste, but for those of you who have never been to County Durham, let alone Consett, here are some pics I found of Gill Bridge. The credit goes to the website Postcards From Consett And District.

As you can see it is very high and dominating on the landscape. I assume these pictures must be very old, as in the second one a train is going over – the railway line was taken up in 1953.

SCSI… a now un-supported standard?

I have spent the last few days trying to get a 50pin HD to 50pin Centronics SCSI cable, so that we can attach a SCSI CD-ROM drive to Marvin, our HP 9000 Server. I have tried in Maplin and also in ‘The Computer Shop’, both here in Plymouth. Whilst the nice people at ‘The Computer Shop’ sold me a used Sun SCSI cable for 95p, its 50pin HD to 50pin HD. Maplin say they don’t stock SCSI cables in their Plymouth store, but they do stock them in Southampton and Bristol.

I think at the end of the day, it will be easier to fit an internal CD-ROM drive to Marvin and I am grateful to Darren for the donation of 2 SCSI hard drives, 1 SCSI CD-ROM drive and a PCI SCSI card, however I am not yet sure if said items work!

Anyone who has a 50pin HD to 50pin Centrontics SCSI cable which they don’t want anymore should contact me through the usual channels, Thanks!

The most interesting Tuesday night so far?

It all started when I offered to make a console cable for the HP 9000 Server that was acquired by Termisoc. Initially I discovered that it had a 25 pin serial port marked “modem”, which we could probably attach a null modem cable to and then plug the other end into a laptop running Hyperterm or minicom. Except when I took my null modem cable round, I discovered it was the wrong gender for the port! We started off with the idea to hack our own gender changer with 2 25 pin D-connectors, but this was rapidly ditched when we didn’t know which connections we could get away without connecting – would you solder 25 connections onto two fairly small plugs if you didn’t need to? Thought not!

On Monday night I found out that Rich had found the pinout for the actual console port on the HP 9000, which uses a 6pin Mini-DIN connection, much like a PS/2 socket. I then decided that we would be better off getting hold of a PS/2 extension cable and then soldering a 25pin D-connector onto 1 end so that we could connect that to a PC. The instructions Rich found only gave the pin-outs between a 6pin min-DIN and a 25pin D-connector, I later found that we could have used a 9pin D-connector!

So, after 2 visits to Maplin’s, I arrived at the TermiHouse with a PS/2 extension cable, a 25 pin D-connector and a 25-9pin D converter. With help from Gem, I started off by working out which pins on the PS/2 plug were connected to which colour wires in the cable and drew a diagram of this. I then needed to get information from Rich as to the pin-out of the cable I was going make – I discovered after a bit of checking that I had drawn my colours diagram upside down – a fact that would come back to haunt me later. Having compared both diagrams, I had a plan! Because my soldering is very uncoordinated I asked Gem to do the soldering for me and she set about making the connections with the 25pin D-connector.

We had organised to go to the monthly BCS lecture that evening (which was about IP over satellite given by a bloke from BT Goonhilly) and so it was a race against time to get this cable to work before we had to leave. We got to the lecture on time, but we failed to get a working cable! The lecture was (for me) very interesting and I think nearly everyone learned something from it. I think it was a very difficult lecture to give, because it is a subject which is very difficult to talk about without using a lot of jargon and given that most people in the audience probably didn’t know much about satellite comms, I think the presenter did very well.

After the lecture we all decided we needed drinks and food, so after some debating we went to the Fresher and Professor and ordered their biggest most expensive pizza, complete with potato wedges and garlic bread! I was most impressed, because this was the first time I had ever eaten a pizza in a pub, prepared by the pub! Whilst we were there, we were joined by members of the Poker Society (from the Uni) and probably quite a few random’s! It appeared that they were having a very strange social which involved visiting Plymouth’s student nightspots, whilst gaffer-taped together at the wrist in a very long chain! They also appeared to be on a scavenger hunt for cleavage photos – Gem obliged them with a photo! Just before they left, they tried to get us to join them as part of their chain, but we politely refused; we had a server to get back to!

We returned to the TermiHouse to consider the problem of why our console cable was not working. Marvin, our HP 9000, affectionately named by Ben, was booting, but nothing was being echoed to the terminal. First we checked the cable for continuity, and it was fine. Then we decided that it might be a problem with the terminal software (we had been using Hyperterm on my IBM ThinkPad), so we installed minicom on Gem’s Debian Laptop. We then spent quite a while trying to work out how to get minicom to talk directly to a port. It was all in vain… I realised we had wired the cable incorrectly, because I hadn’t transposed my diagram correctly.

By this time it was at least 11pm if not later and I was very grateful to Gem for soldering the connector a second time! This time, we knew we had the correct pin-out, but we still weren’t sure of what to do with minicom. We decided to switch back to Hyperterm. After rebooting a few times (my Windows installation was acting up again!), we managed to get something echoed to the terminal, it was garbage, but it was something – WOW! We realised that the problem now was that we didn’t have the correct terminal settings. If you decide to go out and hack your own console cable to connect an HP 9000 – remember this: 9600baud, 8-N-1, VT100J emulation!

At last, we had meaningful output from Marvin – it was so exciting! It booted into HP-UX 9 and we were presented with a login prompt – oh dear, we had no idea of any usernames or passwords. We had assumed that this box had come from The Royal Bank of Scotland, but that would prove to be incorrect.

Following instructions from the comp.sys.hp.hpux FAQ we booted into single user mode. Sadly, we were not able to hack the /etc/passwd file and change the root password, we were presented with a prompt to insert a backup tape or call some extension number. Someone had obviously locked this box down to prevent things being changed.

Sadly that was as far as we got. From fiddling around Rich discovered that it probably didn’t belong to RBS after all. On booting it normally he saw something about the BBC Network Accounting System being called at start-up. We couldn’t find anything about this on the net. The time on the server was set to September 1998 when we first turned it on, so we assume that Marvin’s working life ended quite some time ago. How it came to be acquired by the Computer Shop in Plymouth we will probably never know.

I left the TermiHouse at approximately 2:45am, I was very glad that I have no lectures on a Wednesday!

We have now acquired information from Simon Waters (a former HP admin) which might allow us to boot Marvin into a different run-level and bypass this security measure. I hope so after all the time I have spent messing around with it and all the money I spent in Maplin – and still they didn’t offer me a credit account! They did give me a 5% discount for being a student though, which was nice.

Until the next time… hack safe kids, hack safe!