Sunday, 11 May 2014

Harry's Hairy Hospital (A story for Jen)

Harry’s Hairy Hospital
(A story for Jen)


“Harry’s Hairy Hospital is easily the bestest animal hospital in the whole wide world”, said Sticky.
Sticky was a stick insect. He was also a junior doctor.  He and his twin brother, Slippy, were new to the hospital and had got a little lost wandering up and down the corridors looking for their ward.
“Indeed, it is”, replied Slippy.  “In fact, I would say it is the bestest animal hospital in the whole universe!”
Sticky looked sideways at his brother.
“What’s the universe, Slippy?”
“You know.  It’s in space, like you see at night.  It’s where the moon and the stars are.”
“Oh, right”, said Sticky, wondering what space was.  Mind you, he didn’t know what moon and stars were either.  Lord knows how he ever became a doctor.

Just then, a chimpanzee in a white coat came around the corner.
“Good morning, good morning, good morning!” shouted the chimpanzee, “And what a fine morning it is, eh?”
It was Doctor Chimpy.
“Oh, yes Doctor Chimpy, it certainly is” the twins replied.
“You two had better get on with your rounds, don’t you think?  These patients won’t heal themselves, you know.  Come along lads, chop, chop!”

“Come on”, said Sticky, “if we don’t get our rounds done soon, we’ll miss breakfast.”
And with that, they disappeared through a door with a big letter B on it.

Doctor Chimpy walked along the corridor and turned into a side room.
Then he turned into a sideboard.
And then a side order of fries.
And then he turned back into a chimpanzee.
“Stupid Blaine’s Disease”, he thought.
Doctor Chimpy had caught Blaine’s Disease as a child, when he was bitten on the bum by a wild magician that had escaped from the London Palladium.  
He had never really got over it, but the time he spent recovering in Harry’s Hairy Hospital after the incident, had made him want to become a doctor.

“You can stop that right now!” bellowed a voice.
Doctor Chimpy turned around, and there stood Nurse Jentoo, hands on hips, with a frown that would kill an otter.  
“You’d better get your act together, Doctor Chinky.  There’s an emergency coming in.  It’s little Billy Hedgehog and he’s in a bad way.”
“It’s Chimpy. Doctor Chimpy.”
“Sorry, Doctor Chintzy”, she said.  “Just hurry up and get your stupid magical monkey arse down to A&E.”

Nurse Jentoo was beautiful.  She was a kindly soul, the finest nurse in all the world, and when she was happy, her eyes sparkled like stars.  But when she was angry, the fire in her eyes would have put the depths of Hades to shame.
And, for some reason, she could never remember Doctor Chimpy’s name.
It was, it must be said, a little unusual for a penguin to become a nurse.  Growing up in the Antarctic had been hard and there were no medical schools.    
Granny penguin had always told her stories about the hospital.  None of them true, but the thought of working with sickly animals was just too much of an opportunity to pass up.
When she was eleven years old, Jentoo said goodbye to her penguin mummy and penguin daddy and made her way to Harry’s Hairy Hospital to become a nurse.
Doctor Chimpy had a lot of respect for Nurse Jentoo and he felt like a small child when she scolded him.

Nurse Jentoo and Doctor Chimpy raced down to A&E where they were greeted by the sight of little Billy Hedgehog being carried into the hospital on a stretcher, accompanied by his mother, Mrs Hedgehog.

“Heavens to Betsy!” cried Nurse Jentoo.
“Lordy, lordy!” cried Doctor Chimpy.
“Lol!” cried some fool on their phone.

...Billy’s head was missing.

“BILLY! OH, MY BILLY! WON’T SOMEBODY SAVE HIM? SAVE HIM! SAVE HIM! PLEASE! AAAAAAAARGH!” screamed Mrs Hedgehog, all crying and stuff.

Rushing Little Billy into the place where they put you when you go to A&E, the porters put Little Billy Hedgehog on the bed.
“Nurse Jentoo, could you please take care of Mrs Hedgehog while I see to Little Billy?” asked Doctor Chimpy.
“Certainly” she said, and her eyes began to blaze.  
With that, she delivered the most severe slap to Mrs Hedgehog’s face that she could muster.
“Now, please sit down and we will take a look at your lad.”
Mrs Hedgehog immediately sat down, struck dumb by the ferocity of Nurse Jentoo’s hand delivery.

Doctor Chimpy stood looking at the headless hedgehog, which was now sitting upright on the bed and scratched his arse, in the way that chimpanzees do.  “Now then, Mrs Hedgehog, what seems to be trouble?”
But Mrs Hedgehog, didn’t reply.  She had a look on her face that was reminiscent of a giraffe that had just down on a long metal spike.

“Oh, for the love of…” muttered Nurse Jentoo.  “His flippin’ head’s missing. Look, you simian twat...legs, arms, body, shoulders…”
Doctor Chimpy, however was busy sniffing his fingers.
“DOCTOR SKIMPY!”, shouted Nurse Jentoo, “WILL YOU PLEASE CONCENTRATE!”

“Um, er, yeah. Sorry ‘bout that.  Now then, no head, eh? Any idea where it is?  Where did you last see it?”
“It...it...he had it on when he went to bed last night and when I went to get him up for school, it was gone!” said Mrs Hedgehog, shaking uncontrollably.

*Note from the author:  At this juncture, I should point out that Billy Hedgehog is alive.  He’s just missing his head.  He can still walk and everything.  So, you know, just stick with me on this one.

Nurse Jentoo peered into the hole where Billy’s head should have been.

“A-ha!” she said.  “There’s his head. It’s gone down inside his body.  Here, Doctor Stinky, take a look.”

But Doctor Chimpy didn’t reply.  He had turned into a garden gnome.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.  Do I have to do everything?”

Nurse Jentoo lifted Little Billy Hedgehog of the bed and stood him on the floor.  “Right, Billy,” she said, “I know you can hear me, so what I want you to do is bend over this chair, hold on to the seat and stay very still for me.  Can you do that?”

“Mmf, mmf mmfmmf” came Little Billy’s reply.

Little Billy Hedgehog grabbed the seat and bent over.  Nurse Jentoo backed away from Billy to the other side of the room.

“Ready, Billy?” she asked, “Don’t...move...an...inch…”

Her eyes suddenly blazed the colour of a ginger wig on fire and a wicked grin appeared on her beautiful face.  And with that, Nurse Jentoo sprinted across the room and swinging her right foot, she booted Little Billy Hedgehog right up the arse!

There was a loud pop as Little Billy flew over the chair he had been holding on to, followed by a dull thud as he hit the wall opposite.

Mrs Hedgehog rushed over to retrieve her son.  “BILLY! BILLY! ARE YOU OKAY? OH, MY POOR BABY!” she cried.  She lifted him up and lo, and indeed, behold, Little Billy Hedgehog’s head had returned to it’s rightful place.

“Yes, I’m fine, mama” said Billy.  “My bum hurts but I’m fine. Now please stop fussing, it’s embarrassing.”

“Yes, sorry about that,” said Nurse Jentoo, “You’ll probably have some bruising, but at least your head is back.  Oh, and so is Doctor Limpy.”

Doctor Chimpy looked around and wondered what had happened.  He also wondered why he was holding what appeared to be a miniature fishing rod.

“A-ha!” he exclaimed.  “Good work, Nurse Jentoo.  Kick up the arse, was it?  Splendid stuff!”

Nurse Jentoo smiled and her eyes sparkled.  “Now, Little Billy,” she said, looking him straight in the eye, “What I would like to know is how your head got stuck inside your body in the first place.  Can you tell us?”

Little Billy Hedgehog turned his head, avoiding her gaze, and blushed so hard that a passing homeless Anteater stopped to warm his hands on the heat from Little Billy’s face.

Billy didn’t reply.

“I think I know,” said a disembodied voice.  It was Doctor Sticky.

Little Billy Hedgehog looked mortified.  “Can we go home now, mama?” he asked.  “Please?”

“No, no, no ,no, nooooo,” said Doctor Chimpy.  “If we don’t know what caused it, we won’t know how to help young hedgehogs, like yourself, to avoid this sort of thing.  Please, by all means, Doctor Sticky, do go on.”

At this point, Little Billy Hedgehog curled up into a ball.

“Well,” began Doctor Sticky, “What with Billy here being a boy and being of ‘that age’ and, you know, hitting puberty, he probably engages in a bit of the old ‘tail-yanking’ at night.  If you know what I mean.”
“I reckon what’s happened here is that he’s gone to bed, decided to have a quick yank and pulled it too hard.  As we all know, a hedgehog’s tail is directly attached to the brain, which is why yanking is such a pleasurable pastime for the males.  However, if you pull a hedgehog’s tail really hard, you can pull the head down into the body.  In theory, if you pulled it hard enough, you could turn a hedgehog inside-out.”
“All he has to do, is lay off the yanking and when he fancies a quick tug, just don’t be so enthusiastic about it.”

Mrs Hedgehog stood up and said “Right then Billy, hadn’t you better say thank you to Nurse Jentoo for helping you?”

“Thank you, Nurse” said a frightened little voice.

“Now, let’s get you home.  And no more yanking, d’you hear?” she said, wagging her finger at her son.  “Little pervert.  The sooner you get a girlfriend, the better.  I wondered what the mess on your sheets was.  You said you had a runny nose.”
“Thank you ever so much, Nurse, it won’t happen again”.

“It’s quite alright,” laughed Nurse Jentoo.  “You behave yourself, now, Billy.”

And off they went, Mrs Hedgehog still telling off her son.

Doctor Chimpy looked at Nurse Jentoo.  
“What would I do without you, eh?  Always there to pick up the pieces, always there when I’m…”
...and he turned into a big print version of the King James Bible.

Nurse Jentoo sighed, picked up the book and put it on a shelf.  
“That’ll be good for a laugh” she thought.
“Come on, Doctor Sticky,” she said, straightening her dress.  “Let’s get some breakfast.”

The End

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dressing for snowy japes.

Keeping the family jewels warm.


After purchasing my jacket from them and rather liking it, I was perusing the John Lewis website (other websites were also perused) and came across the Helly Hansen Agenda Ski trousers.  Unfortunately, they no longer stock these.

That's right.  Trousers.  I'm not using the word "Pants". Pants are underwear.

And, yes, I'm well aware that what I did is a bit lazy.  I really ought to have shopped around, but having liked the jacket so much, they seemed the obvious choice.

They use pretty much the same tech as the jacket that I bought, being fully seam sealed with a water resistance rating of 17000 and a breathable rating of 19000g.  I still don't get what that means, by the way.
The same Primaloft insulation is inside, with some padding on the bum and knees.
Boot gaiters are provided, gripping the boot to stop snow going up inside.  The trouser equivalent of the jacket's snow skirt, if you like.

Pockets are also included.  Two where you would expect them and one on the thigh.
And they're black.  A good fit, too. Nice and comfy and warm.  And I'll be dry, too!
Unfortunately, John Lewis no longer stock these but you can find them in plenty of other places,

So, what's next?


Base (layers) for your face body, London!


According to all and sundry, layers are the best way to keep warm.

Here's how it works...

You're naked and cold?  Put something on.
Still cold?  Put something else on.
Getting hot?  Take it off again.
And so on.

This is why many jackets and trousers have vents.  If you're wearing three layers (a base layer, mid layer and jacket) you're unlikely to remove the base layer to cool off a bit, are you? And you're unlikely to remove your jacket 'cos you'd get wet.  So, either remove your mid layer (wait until you're inside to do this) or open your vents.  They do make a lot of difference.

The base layer is the layer that sits next to your skin.
And there is much argument about what's best.
For some, it appears, a cotton t-shirt will do. For others, the importance of merino wool cannot be understated.  And for some, it just has to be silk.
No matter where you look for advice, you will find conflicting views.

For me, I needed something thin that would keep me warm and would have the ability to move sweat away from my skin without becoming wet from the inevitable  sweating that skiing will cause me to suffer.

Now, I could have been lazy and just picked up a set of Helly Hansen warm base layers (around the £100 mark for a top and leggings) from John Lewis and just had done with the whole business.  But, no.  Not this time.

Being a regular customer at Uniqlo, I decided to see whether or not their Heattech stuff really was what it claimed to be.  There didn't seem to be much on the subject, but as I've loved everything else from them, I was willing to put it to the test.
I opted for three sets of Uniqlo's Heattech base layers. The long sleeved tops and long johns are available in a variety of colours,  so I got black.
These were on special offer when I ordered them and I picked up three sets for a shade under £60.
Not a bad price, and with three sets, I wouldn't be washing them every night.

Socks were next.  These need to be calf length, a good fit and not too thick.
You can get liners to go under your socks, but I was told that these can cause issues with making your feet sweat and if that happens, you will have cold, wet feet.
I chose three pairs of HH's Apex Ski Socks.  Couldn't find them in black though, so I got black and grey (just for a bit of colour, like).
They are made with Merino wool and other materials to ensure warm and dry feet.
Support for the arches is built in, they have padded toes and heels and they're thick, but not too thick.
They weren't cheap, from Amazon, three pairs set me back forty five quid but I was certain they would be the right product.
After all, who wants cold, wet feet?

So, that's the base layers sorted.


Now I needed a mid layer.

All I knew was I needed a fleece that had a zip.  This would enable me to further regulate my body temperature by undoing the zip.  It made sense that I probably wouldn't need a full length zip.

I spotted a Berghaus Spectrum Grid micro fleece with a half zip on Amazon which fitted the bill nicely.  Something I could wear under my jacket on the mountain and then without the jacket when out in the evening over my base layer.

I did toy with the idea of buying a second midlayer, but I happen to be one of those people who don't really suffer with the cold and decided that once I was out there, if a second mid layer was needed, I would know by the end of the first day and could do something about getting one.

Turns out it wasn't needed, despite the temperature hitting -18c.


I loves my gloves!

I'm not going to explain the importance of wearing gloves when larking about up a snowy mountain in temperatures below -10c.


These needed to be warm, breathable and as water resistant as possible.
After much research and traipsing round London's West End and, eventually, the John Lewis website, I plumped for a pair of womens' North Face Montana gloves.
Waterproof and breathable, they have a toggle/skirt thing on them to keep the weather out, a goggle wiper on one thumb, a nose wiper on the other, a zipped pocket (why?) and have a nice fleecy liner.
Fifty quid well spent.

Why women's and why gloves?

Well, for a bloke, I have quite feminine small hands and the women's gloves come with more insulation than the men's.  They cost the same as the men's and apart from the insulation, they are identical in every way.  Bit of  no-brainer for me.
The Montanas are also available as a mitt.  A mitt will keep your hands warmer but I prefer the practicality of a glove.

AndI'vehatedmittenseversinceIwasasmallchild! So there!



Mind your head!

And so to the helmet.

You need a helmet.  Don't be taken in by anyone telling you otherwise.  I'm very glad I had one on when my head bounced off a layer of ice.

The other thing I learned was about buying a helmet.  To get the right fit, you have to go and try them on.
And so, I found myself in the various retailers that line Southampton Street in Covent Garden trying on a seemingly endless variety of head wear.  I found out that I was a small size and this resulted in endless frustration by being told that it wasn't in stock in a small or they didn't make it in a small.
In the end, I picked up a Giro Encore 2 for thirty notes from Amazon.  Black, of course.
It's nothing fancy.  Removable earmuffs help to keep you cool, if need be, and the helmet lining can be changed between three levels of thickness to ensure a good fit.
It has vent on the top to keep you cool and a goggle clip at the back.


Don't forget the goggles...

I didn't forget.  I merely left buying them until I arrived at the resort.
The problem I had was that the ones I tried before I went were all too big for me and the youth sizes were too small.  The Oakley XS O frame would have been ideal if I'd been able to find a pair on the high street and I'd left it a bit late to get them online.

So, I ended up buying a pair out there.
Made by Smith, they're black with a black and white strap and a vented amber lens.
And that's all I can recall about them.  Well, that and they were reduced to $40.


So, what was the outcome of spending all this money?

It took me a bloody age to get round to typing up this bit, so I'll wait a week before letting you know.

Needless to say it was all money well spent...



Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Skiing. What's that All About?

And so begins a new chapter of relatively expensive geekery.

I have been lucky enough to have been invited along on a ski holiday with some family members who have been buggering off to Canada on a regular basis.

Having never skiied before, I felt it was important to learn as much as I can about the equipment needed, what to buy and what not to buy, how skiing works and, most importantly, how to have a good time.

Now, I've seen moving pictures on the television of people hurtling down very cold looking mountains at breakneck speed, people breaking their necks and people standing around in the cold, having a good time and watching other people breaking their necks. I've also seen pictures of my family larking about in the snow and looking relatively comfortable.

I larked about in the snow once (not too much of that in London) and I got very wet and very cold, very quickly. It wasn't fun.

So, it made sense to do a little research into how I could have fun, too. Thinking logically, this means keeping warm and dry. And it turns out, keeping warm and dry whilst up a mountain in sub-zero temperatures is fairly easy, if a little expensive.

The first thing that came to mind was that I would need a jacket. I thought buying a suitable jacket would be easy.  So, I joined a forum (well, what did you expect) and then started googling.

I was so, so wrong.

HOW MUCH?!
I swear, the first jacket, on the first website I looked at, cost nearly six hundred pounds!
There is no need for this sort of silliness.
Taking a look round the discount sites eased my heart rate somewhat and it appears that a great many skiers buy end of line or last season's gear as it tends to be a great deal cheaper.
I saw jackets for thirty quid in TK Maxx near where I live, but as soon as I touched them, I knew they were not going to suit my needs.  They do get decent stuff in, so it's always worth popping in to see what's new.
It turns out there are different types of jackets, too.  Heavily insulated, lightly insulated and non-insulated, which is called a shell jacket.

Underneath your jacket, you will need to wear things (layers) that will help to keep you warm.
More on that when I buy some.

Keep in mind that not all brands are equal, as I have discovered.  To be on the safe side, I tended to look at well known outdoor brands.  The North Face, Helly Hansen, Oakley, Salomon and a lesser well known brand, Trespass.

There are those that would argue what I was doing was wrong, but, hey-ho.
You pays your money, you takes your choice.

So, what did I look for in a jacket?


A jacket needs to be waterproof.
Yes, it's a case of stating the bleedin' obvious.  When you're surrounded by snow and it could rain at any time, you need to be protected.  It would follow, therefore that almost all the jackets I looked at were waterproof.

Strictly speaking they should be called water resistant, but that's a whole other argument.

There are many different materials available with different levels of water resistance.
The industry standard for measuring the fabric's water resistance is to place a column of water on the fabric and increase the length of the column of water, increasing the water pressure to find the point at which the water starts to permeate the fabric.
The column of water is then measured in millimetres to give the fabric's water resistance rating.
For example, a jacket may have a 14000mm rating whilst another may have a 5000mm rating.
The higher the number, the better the water resistancy of the material.

It's also worth noting that the seams of the jacket (where the stitching is) need to be sealed. This is done with a resin or glue.
So, a "fully seam sealed"  jacket is better than a "critically seam sealed" one.

Easy, no?


Then it turns out that the jacket needs to be able to breathe.  WTF?
This is because when you sweat, the moisture produced evaporates. But if you don't allow the moisture to escape, you will get wet. A bit like a sauna. I had a coat once that used to keep me really warm, until I started to sweat. Because the moisture couldn't escape, it made the inside of the coat wet, which then made me cold.

Silly, really.

I'm still not sure how breathability is measured, and there is no agreement on how it should be measured, so as long as it says breathable on it, it will probably do the job.

Here's a quote from Ski Adventure Guide :

How do we measure breathability?
This is a little more difficult than measuring waterproofness.
All the countries cannot agree on standard methodology.
Three tests being utilized are;
a/ upright cup test-measures water or vapour transmission
b/ inverted cup test-measures amount of water absorbed by the fabric
c/ sweating hot plate-measure moisture loss due to heat application, similar to our skin heating up to influence rate of evaporation of vapour.
One outcome is a mathematical figure which tells us how many grams of water vapour have diffused,or passed through a 1m2 of fabric in the time of 24 hours .
In other words how much in this case vapour will pass through a section of a fabric in 24 hours. This figure is quoted as, for example, 10,000 gm / m2/ 24hrs.
For recreational use, choose fabrics with minimum breathability as shown above. Be mindful however,that a breathable waterproof jacket which has a very high waterproof rating of 20 plus, or even 45, being usually triple layered ,will not attain a very high breathability, usually less than 12,000 gm / m2 / 24hrs.
Another outcome of performing the above testing ,is the RET figure (resistance of evaporation of a textile).
This figure is quoted as ie RET= 60. Since we measure resistance, the less resistance we have the better. So RET = 60 has better breathibility than RET =90.

Clear as mud.
Or maybe I'm just not very bright.
It certainly doesn't help that different brands use different ways of telling us how breathable their jackets are.

Many of them look like an accident in a paint factory.
Seriously, what are these people taking?
I've seen what could only be described as multi-coloured abominations.
I have no no doubt that the ability to be spotted from the air when trapped on a mountain will appeal to some, but I wanted something a little less garish.
Luckily there are some plain ones, which is good, because I intend to wear mine down the pub and on the high street.

The jacket will have any number of extras built in.
Pockets seem to be a popular extra.  You can have a goggle pocket, an audio pocket, a utility pocket, a lift pass pocket, a GPS pocket, a secret pocket, inside pockets, outside pockets, zipped pockets, big pockets, small pockets, fleece lined pockets, Polly Pocket and a Pocky pocket.

I may have made that last one up.

A snow skirt seems to be a popular one, too.  It sits inside the waist of the jacket and you do it up.  It stops snow from going up your jacket, which can only be a good thing.  Some are removable, too.  Which is nice.

Hoods are good, too.  They go over your head.  Some of these are removable as well.
Not the heads, the hoods.

Vents are also a good one to look for.  If you begin to get a bit too warm, these can be opened to help regulate the temperature inside the jacket.

Stretch panels, articulated sleeves, pant connector systems, wrist gaiters... the list goes on and on.

Choosing my jacket.
I read endless forum posts and blogs and adverts, trawled through countless pages on seemingly endless online ski stores and, when I had screwed my head back on, it boiled down to this:

The jacket needed to have a decent water resistance rating.  I wanted a minimum of 10000mm.
It had to at least say it was breathable.  I guessed if it was a reputable brand with a decent water resistance rating, it's breathability would be acceptable.
It needed to have a fair amount of insulation, two or more pockets, a removable hood and a snow skirt.
It had to be fairly plain, preferably black.
It had to cost less than £200.

Going shopping.
As well as trawling the internet, I went to Covent Garden and visited the Trespass store along with the Snow & Rock store and The North Face store.  Here I discovered that some staff are very knowledgeable and some aren't.  I also discovered that I would need a small size, which was helpful as I was sure I would end up buying online.  The difference between brands is difficult to work out, but at least I got a good idea of how my jacket should feel.  Not too tight, not too baggy, warm but not overly so and overall, some just felt better than others.
The tickets attached to them extolled all sorts of virtues on the the jackets, many of which seemed superfluous so I learned to look at just the water resistance number and then try it on.

In all honesty, the only thing I came away with was a headache.  But I now knew what size to buy.

And then I went to John Lewis and...

BINGO!



The Helly Hansen Brevent jacket.  It costs £190 and it does exactly what I wanted it do.

It's water resistance rating is 17000mm and fully sealed seams so it should keep me nice and dry, whatever the weather.
Breathability is rated at 12000g, but I have to admit that the number here doesn't really mean much to me.  This is all provided by a Helly Tech Performance layer.

It's insulated.  According to the Helly Hansen website, it has "insulated two layer construction".
The site also speaks about "Warmcore by PrimaLoft" which is a water resistant thermal material.
Either way, after adding a layer or two underneath, I know this will keep me warm.
Vents under the armpits will help to regulate the temperature if I get too warm.

Pockets!  The waist pockets, where you would normally put your hands, are nice and big and have a fleece lining.  There's a chest pocket with a sort of seal over the zip to stop the elements getting in.  A pocket on the left sleeve below the elbow for your lift pass. I've never even seen a lift pass so I don't know how much use this will be.  Inside the jacket on the right, A rather large, zipped pocket, marked "Utility Pocket" and another smaller one on the left, marked "Comms Pocket".  No Pocky pocket, though.

There's a snow skirt which buttons up out of the way when not in use and a hood which is removable.  The hood has a sort of stiffened panel at the front.  I'm sure this is useful.

Adjustable cuffs also feature and a good job too, as these cuffs are as wide as Gandalf's sleeves.  Should be good for getting gloves on, though.

Black is what I wanted and black is what I got.  The photo above makes it look like a very dark grey, but it is black.

And there you have it!
It wasn't an easy choice, but I got what I wanted.  Whether or not it's what I needed is another matter and I will only find this out come February.

Next, I will be mostly looking at trousers... and installing the new Linux Mint "Lisa" when it arrives.








Saturday, 16 July 2011

EeePC 1005HA + Snow Leopard 10.6.3 = MacEee

Why did I install OS X Snow Leopard on my trusty 1005HA?

Good question.

The answer is (naturally) because I could. It certainly wasn't because I had a need for it, Ubuntu does everything I need, but I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I've never used Apple's OS before and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a nose round.

How did I do it?

First things first (as opposed to first things last):
You will need an external CD/DVD drive.
You will also need a copy of iATKOS_S3_version2.iso. Google it.
And, finally,the files IO82011.Family.kext.zip and KextHelperb7.zip. These two are available in plenty of places, but I have them on my SkyDrive for convenience.



Lets go!

1. First, get the two .zip files and put them on a flash drive or SDHC card.

2. Download the .iso file. Now, I already own a retail version of OSX Snow Leopard but it's a nightmare to get working. The iAtkos version includes the drivers needed for this to work.

3. Burn the .iso to a DVD. I recommend burning it at a slow speed as burning at faster speeds often causes issues.

4. If you haven't already done so, back up any files you may require later.

5. Shut down the EeePC and attach the external CD/DVD drive. Turn on the CD/DVD drive and insert the DVD that you burned. Now boot the EeePC and hit the F2 when you see the grey Asus splash screen to go into the BIOS.

6. Once in the BIOS, go along to the 'Advanced' tab and then down to 'IDE Configuration'.

7. Your 'ATA/IDE Configuration' needs to be set to 'Enhanced' and underneath that, 'Configure SATA' should be set to 'AHCI'.

8. Once done, hit Esc, go along to the 'Exit' tab and 'Exit & Save changes'.

9. When the grey Asus splash screen appears tap the ESC key. the boot menu will appear. Choose your CD/DVD drive.

10. You should see the Apple logo appear shortly. Give it some time to do it's stuff.



11. When the desktop welcome screen appears, click next. At the top of the screen is a menu. Go to Utilities and select click on Disk utilities.









12. Choose your drive on the left hand side (it will probably be called 'untitled'). Now hit the erase button again and choose 'Mac OS Extended Journaled' as the format and hit erase. Wait for it to finish, it should only take 30 seconds at the most. When it's done, close the window.













13. Click continue until you reach the screen where you are asked to select the disk to install to. Select the disk.
NOW, STOP! DO NOT HIT THE INSTALL BUTTON!
You need to click the customize button before we go any further.









14. Tick the options below and do not untick anything that is already ticked. So, to reiterate, you should only add ticks, not remove any. Got that?

BOOT
ASEREBLN ASEREBLN

BOOT OPTIONS
32BITS 32bit
GRAPHICS ENABLERS Enablers GRAPHICS
ETHERNET ETHERNET BUILTIN

PATCHES
CREATE EXTRA
FAKESMC
DISABLER DISABLED
RTC

KERNELS
KERNEL ATOM
EVO REBOOT
SLEEP ENABLER
UUID
SATA-IDE DRIVERS
SATA AHCI

SOUND
VOODOHDA

PS2
APPLEPS2

POWER MANAGER
VOODO POWER

LAPTOP HARD
BATTERY
CARD READER
THERMAL ACPI

VGA
INTEL
EFI STRING
GMA950 27AE

WIFI
RALINK 2860 32BIT

WIRED ETHERNET NETWORK
ATLANSIC L1E



15. Once you are done, go back and check your ticking. Once you are sure you got it right click 'OK'. Now you can hit the 'Install' button. Installation seems to take forever. Move the cursor occassionally to stop the computer from dozing off.





16. Once it's finished it will reboot.



17. Let the computer boot into it's new OS. This will take forever, but it's only this boot that will take this long.

18. You'll know it's getting there when you hear a cover of 'Staying Alive' from Saturday Night Fever. Be patient, the desktop will appear shortly. You will now be asked for your keyboard setup, personal details and a password.



19. Now before you start messing with stuff, insert the flash drive or SDHC card with the .zip files on it. The drive will appear on the desktop. Drag the .zip files onto the desktop.

20. Double click the files to unzip them. Double click on the Kext Helper and then drag the kext file into the Kext Helper window. Enter your password and click 'Easy Install'.

21. Once finished, reboot. If you get a message saying Kext Helper isn't responding, force it to quit. It will take an age for reboot to happen. It will look as if it's just hung, but leave it alone. It WILL reboot eventually. So just wait.

22. Upon reboot, wireless should now be working. If not, try the Kext Helper again and reboot. This took me several attempts on one install but it usually works first time.

And that's it!



Now, the dock at the bottom can be a little intrusive on the EeePC's small screen, so click on the Apple logo (top left) > Dock, and click on Turn Hiding On. You could also move the dock to the left side if you feel that way.
You may have noticed that the touchpad tap-to-click doesn't work and there's no scrolling either. I did attempt to fix this by using a Kext I found somewhere on the net, but it royally screwed up the desktop and I had to reinstall.
The only Fn buttons that seem to work are the brightness buttons.
You may also notice that there are updates available. Do not install the Mac OSX Update Combined. I did, which required another reinstallation. The other updates were fine, though.
The Photo Booth app, while being enormous fun, is a little too big for the screen and I'm yet to find a way dealing with that.
What, no office app? Get Libre Office for that. I got Gimp and Chrome, too.

Overall, it's stable, is fairly nippy on the netbook and it looks nice.

What's not to like about it? Plenty. But I'm not going into that as it's largely subjective.

But popular as Apple stuff is, I'm not planning to switch to it. I just don't like it enough. It's too bloody nice.
After all, I'm the bloke who uses Linux, owns an unpopular phone, is planning to switch to another unpopular phone and encodes all his music in the FLAC format.

So, in conclusion: Boring.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Rotating Video

The missus just took some video footage of me cleaning the windows. I don't know why. Maybe she's secretly entered me for a George Formby look-a-like competition. I wouldn't put it past her...

Anyway, it was shot with the camera (a Sony Cybershot) held sideways so the resulting video, an .mpg file, was the wrong way round.
She wanted to rotate the video and opened it in PiTiVi in the hope that it would do it for her.
But it wouldn't.

So, after a little bit of searching I found this command, which will do it for you. You will need mencoder installed... Just change the INPUT.AVI bit to the name and extension of your file.

mencoder -vf rotate=1 -o OUTPUT.AVI -oac copy -ovc lavc INPUT.AVI

Kudos to the chap who posted it originally, a Mr Jose Catre-Vandis, no less!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Ubuntu 10.10 on the HP Pavilion DV6-3131SA

I got my new laptop yesterday from the nation's favourite retailer, John Lewis. It set me back £649 and this is what I got for my money:

Processor: 2.1 GHz AMD Phenom II Triple-Core Processor N830 (Level 2 cache 1.5 MB)

RAM: 4GB DDR3 (2 x 2048 MB) Upgradeable to 8GB DDR3

Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 Graphics (switchable) with up to 2685MB total graphics memory with 1 GB DDR3 dedicated

Display: 15.6" High Definition LED BrightView Display (1366 x 768)

HDD: 500GB SATA 7200 rpm

Optical Drive: Blu-Ray ROM with Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Dual Layer

Network Card: Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN

Wireless connectivity: WLAN 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth

Sound: Altec Lansing speakers (Dolby Advanced Audio)

Keyboard & Pointing Device: Full size island-style keyboard & HP Clickpad supporting Multi-Touch gestures with On/Off button

Card Reader: 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader

External Ports: Ethernet, VGA, Headphones, Microphone-in, 3 USB 2.0, eSATA + USB port

Webcam: VGA HP TrueVision

And it comes with Windows 7. Which isn't a bad thing, but it ain't for me.

Here's how it looks:



It has a nice lid with an engraved pattern and a little HP logo which lights up:



The engraving is continued across the front where you will also find the power button and the fingerprint scanner There were three stickers on the right which I promptly removed. I'll get rid of the one on the left as soon as I can:



Ports on the left side from left to right are VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, E-SATA (which doubles as a USB 2.0), USB 2.0, Mic, Headphones, Card Reader:



Ports on the right side from left to right are, USB 2.0, Optical Drive, USB 2.0, AC Power Socket. There are also three LEDs here for Power On, HD Activity and Battery Charging:



Now, I should point out that this wasn't my first choice. I originally bought an Acer 5745 (i5 Processor), but having got it home and installed Ubuntu 10.10, it turned out that while the onboard HD graphics were available to me, the 1GB graphics card would probably never be available to use. This is because it uses Nvidia's Optimus Technology to switch the graphics cards and that can only be done using Windows 7. No, you can't use Vista or XP and it appears that no Linux distro will do it either.

So, how's Ubuntu 10.10?
Windows 7 never saw the light of day on this machine. I hooked up the AC power, inserted my Ubuntu 10.10 USB stick, powered up, hit ESC after the HP splash screen and chose to boot from USB.
Once it was up and running, I hit the installation icon. I chose to use the entire disk when asked.
When it was all done, I rebooted and inserted my Ethernet cable.
Then I opened Synaptic, reloaded and applied all updates. Then I installed the Broadcom and ATI restricted drivers and rebooted again.

At this point I discovered that the right-click on the touchpad didn't work. Luckily, a workaround was found for this issue. It's not very elegant and there's no multitouch but it restores the right-click, which is what I wanted.

And this is the only time I've had to use the command line during this install.

What's working? And just as importantly, what isn't?

External display ports work (connected via HDMI and VGA to TV).
Ethernet works (connected to router).
USB ports work correctly (tested with external HDD).
Display is at the correct resolution and sound via internal speakers work. Headphones also work.
The optical drive works (ripped a CD with RhythmBox), as does the eject button.
The card reader works (tested with an 8Gb SD).
Webcam and built in microphone work (tested with Skype).
Bluetooth also works (transferred a file from my Nokia N900).
Keys for display brightness (up and down), volume (up, down and mute) work.
Keys for Play/Pause, Next track, Previous track and Stop all work with RhythmBox.
On the left hand side of the keyboard, the Calculator key starts the calculator, the Email key starts Evolution and the Key with a globe on it (I assume this is supposed to launch the web browser) starts Nautilus. The other two keys don't appear to do anything.
Suspend on closing the lid works and it will come back correctly and connect to the wireless network correctly.

The key for toggling wireless connectivity sort of works. It will correctly toggle Bluetooth On/Off (the Bluetooth icon disappears and comes back) but it doesn't actually switch the wireless card off. It just disconnects/reconnects to the access point.

The fingerprint scanner doesn't appear to work, but I haven't researched how to get get it working, if it does at all.

The graphics card can be configured with the ATI Catalyst Control Centre which you can find under System > Preferences. I'm not too hot on this subject, so further testing will be needed.

With the patch applied, updates applied and restricted drivers installed, it was time to set up Ubuntu the way I like it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New Bag Alert!!

Today I took delivery of my new laptop bag.

And I love it!



It's got more pockets than you could shake a stick at, it's got two (TWO!) Ubuntu things on it, three of the zip pulls have the Circle Of Friends logo on them, it's got a handle and a shoulder strap and it's black and everything!

And now I need to get a laptop for it...

Anyway, you can get one from the Canonical Store if you so wish. It's not the cheapest laptop bag on the market, but it is made by the good people at Ogio and, by purchasing from the Canonical Store, helps to support the Ubuntu foundation. And considering how much I've taken from them over the last six years it only seems right to give a little back.