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%

Really excelled myself this time — Hello from Brussels

Well, you find me in Gard du Midi Station, Brussels. I am waiting for a Eurostar connection back to London. I came here last night, I was going to go to Germany – mainly because I have never been there and I wanted to travel on some cool, fast trains, but I decided that I should try and get back to somewhere I could get some help.

So, you may ask, what has happened since my last incident. Well the answer is not much. My GP whilst very helpful the first time I saw him on Friday 25th Nov, didn’t really know what he could do when I saw him on Tues 29th Nov. I have enlisted the help of a friend (not on this list) who has negotiated with the disability department at the University on my behalf and managed to get some extra help with maths… but I think I have some more fundamental problems to sort out with myself before I can continue my studies.

I have realised that in addition to not being able to concentrate, I have also conditioned myself that I will probably fail, and that when this happens, my gut reaction is to run… and its getting further and further each time. Because I have no idea how to rectify these problems, I have thought that I have essentially no way through and that I have no hope at doing anything meaningful in society.

As you have seen in the past, it is probable (with some minor exceptions), that I am much happier when I am doing nothing and conning myself that I am intelligent. When I am faced with challenges – either academic or in a job setting, or being challenged by someone who knows more whom I don’t get on with; things start to go bad.

At the present time I am in good health and have no immediate plans to do anything stupid, although I have been having a lot of suicidal thoughts since the last incident. I don’t think I can continue with University, I have already let my friends down – I was supposed to be doing an assignment on ICT and its affect on society, with specific reference to finance. This is due in on 16/12 although we have to do a presentation on Friday 9/12. Whenever I am trying do any work my mind keeps being diverted to thoughts of a ‘way out’ and lets just say I am not looking for green exit signs. On Sunday night I was trying to quote from an article about Swiss banks and computerization, I needed to write 1,000 words, I only managed 500.

I honestly don’t know what to do now. Clearly if I am going to get anywhere I need some help, but I am not sure if this is help the NHS can provide. I am not exactly sure I can help myself, how does someone who can’t even read books for pleasure read a book on self motivation, for instance?

Perhaps I am trying to get too much attention here, perhaps these are problems I should try to solve myself, perhaps some of you are right – that these lists are essentially my ‘fan club’ and I long for your replies to my stupid notes.

My I will be getting on the Eurostar at 12:58 +1hr and arriving at Waterloo International at 14:25 GMT – train 9133. I can’t take incoming calls on my mobile at present (roaming costs a fortune), but I think I can get text messages and I will be on MSN for a while.

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.

Safe now in Durham

When I got up on the viaduct, known locally as “gill bridge”, I became very scared. I knew that this wasn’t the way forward. I walked across and then sat on a rock on the other side. I switched my phone on and had numerous messages, both text and voice. I had a message from a Police Sargeant at Northumbria Police in Newcastle, I decided I had to call him back or else I would end up in a lot more trouble.

I phoned and told him where I was. Within about 20 minutes, 4 Police officers were walking over the bridge towards me. I was detained under section 136 of the Mental Health act and taken to Consett Police Station. Numerous people who had linked to this blog from autism-uk and the chatters list had contacted Northumbria and Durham Police to tell them I was in danger.

After a couple of hours I was taken to see a Police surgeon at Durham City Police station, however he was not satisfied that I was not going to attempt to harm myself again. He wanted me to be seen by a Psychiatrist and a Social Worker and so they were called to the Police Station. By now it was about 10pm, I had been rescued from the bridge around 4:30pm!

Around 10:30pm I was seen by the Psychiatrist & Social Worker. They were fairly satisfied that I wasn’t going to harm myself, but they had to make sure they could release me somewhere that I would be safe. Although I had a friend in Newcastle who was willing to put me up, there was concern about how I would get there at that time of night, the doctors wanted me to be transported by the Police and that basically wasn’t going to happen. They offered me the option of being a voluntary patient at the local psychiatric hospital in Durham, I agreed because there was no other option and of course it was a free bed for the night!

I have been seen by another Psychiatrist this morning who is satisfied that I am OK and I have now been allowed out of the hospital to use the Internet in Durham City. So here I am in Cafe Nero, letting you all know that I am safe.

The Psychaitrist has agreed to write to my GP and also to the University and tell them what has happened.

A massive thank you to everyone who got in touch with the Police, etc. I am very sorry for all the trouble I have caused.

Hello from Newcastle

Things have been getting to me a lot lately, I have far too much coursework to do which is exacerbated by the fact that I can’t get things to stay in my head; my maths lecturer set a coursework that I don’t understand (due Monday) and then promptly went on a research trip to Canada (lucky for some!). I am also having some issues with my friends after being called obsessive and stalker-like on Monday.

Now, if you were a NT (neurotypical) person, you would probably just shrug this off, you would knuckle down – finish the coursework, beg and pled your course mates to help you with the maths and then try and patch tings up with your friends.

Sadly, this is not the method of first choice for me! Yesterday lunchtime I got up, I should have gone to an electronics lecture at 2pm, but instead I packed up a few clothes and my laptop and ran to get the train to Newcastle. After spending the best part of 8 hours on the train because of delays in the Sheffield area, we finally arrive in a cold and very foggy Newcastle (so foggy I couldn’t see the Tyne Bridge!). After calling a few places I find a hotel and get some food in Maccy D’s!

I went to a pub and hooked up my laptop to their wireless, I chatted to an old friend who tried to help me hatch a plan to get home in time to hand in my Electronics assignment, but sadly I don’t think he understands. I went to bed about 1am.

This morning I woke up and went out to find a Psychologist friend of mine who lectures at Northumbria University. Sadly she only works part time and has no office. Her lectures are on Thursday but this week she is presenting to an Autism West Midlands seminar in Birmingham. I doubt she is in Newcastle.

So here I am, in Starbucks near Grey’s Monument, contemplating my life as it collapses before my eyes. I am booked on a FlyBe flight back to Exeter at 12:25 – looks like I’ve missed that one!

I came here to find a solution to my problems, but I doubt I will find one. I don’t see much point carrying on with my studies back in Plymouth at the present time – I know this will just keep happening. Friends come and go, coursework’s get handed out and are due back in, but I will always be me!

Basically I can divide my problems into a few main areas:

  • Lack of concentration and motivation, caused ostensibly by ADHD. Very little professional help is available on the NHS for adults with ADHD, the only clinic is in London and the waiting list is as long as the BFG’s arm! I sometimes sit there trying to understand something and I could probably read it a 1000 times and it still won’t make sense; my brain is constantly trying to concoct new ways to avoid doing it.
  • Problems with social situations, caused by Asperger Syndrome (autism). I lack a general understanding of how relationships work, particularly between men and women. I get too involved with things I shouldn’t do, when I think I might have found a friend I try to find out as much as I can about them, searching Google,, etc… Sounds very stalker like, I know, but when you are sitting there next to someone in a pub and you can’t think what to say to them, how else are you supposed to get to know them better?
  • I often feel very depressed about the future, many would say the world is going straight to hell, and I would agree with them. Companies focus too much on profits rather than helping people. Governments don’t care because they are getting throwbacks from said companies. We invade countries and start wars which lead to more bloodshed that if we have just left them alone to get on with it. I know I shouldn’t worry about these things, but they just make my life worse.
  • I also have a few medical problems, including diabetes caused recurrent chronic pancreatitis. I have mostly learned to live with this, but it does depress me that I can’t go out and drink alcohol like a typical student!

So anyway, my simplistic problems must seem like nothing to other people, but they are problems to me. I have spent the last 3 years doing basically nothing, eking out a meagre existence on state benefits. I enrolled at University this year because I thought I could finally do something worthwhile in society, find a job, etc. I have worked before, but it has never worked out properly, I start off with very good intentions, but then it gets boring or I can’t stand the people I am working with or they expect more than I can give. I had hoped that studying a degree would at least make me more employable – an official piece of paper that says “I can do this”.

So you see, all I had to live for was doing that degree (I had originally considered BSc Computer Systems and Networks, but recently discovered BEng Communications Engineering). If I can’t understand the maths I need to pass the foundation year, then how the hell am I going to get the 60% I need to even be considered for the BEng degree? Let alone understand the maths modules I will be doing then?

I would like to think that my brain could be fixed, that I could somehow be helped to do this stuff. As of last October the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) applies to all aspects of Education, including Higher Education; you would think that would help me, but sadly no, the support I have been given at Plymouth has not been much help at all. It certainly didn’t stop me getting to this stage, which I had hoped it would!

Since even before I got a diagnosis of Autism, I have felt an outsider and looked for some kind of escape from this cruel world. I know that suicide is a waste; lots of people say that I am intelligent, and I believed that for a long time, but I could never help feeling very jealous of the successful people with jobs, money and brains that don’t leak like a sieve.

In 2001 Helen Rogan found a way out. She was convinced her autistic son was going to be taken into care. Mark’s support needs were growing as he got older and there would probably be many battles with Education and Social Services over what the right provision for him would be. I have seen time and time again the struggles parents have to get the right kind of help for their autistic children and adults. It is a David vs. Goliath type struggle – the local authorities who are holding the purse strings have very limited budgets and very little understanding of autism. Parents are left with the wrong kind of support or no support at all, and then when it all goes wrong (as invariably it does, for parents are only human after all) then the autistic offspring are often taken into care, by shadowy social workers. The parents often have to do battle once again with the courts to get their kids back, if they get them back at all.

I can’t sit idly by and watch this happen, but on the other had I can’t do much to help. This is a closed world and the last person those in power will listen to is the autistic person. I have often wanted to start some kind of “Fathers 4 Justice” type campaign but I suspect that this will make things worse.

The longer things go on without help, the greater the chances of me getting into real trouble, perhaps I will get sectioned and spend time in the mental health system, probably drugged into submission or worse, sent to prison.

So I feel that I must take charge of my life for one final time, if you want me, you will find me on the viaduct.

To all those who I have left behind, I am so very sorry, but you just can’t understand what’s going on in my head.

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!