Friday, March 28, 2008

An Adventure In Retro Computing

I am a big fan of 'Iron Chef', this is a great series, two chefs battle for 60 minutes to produce a 5 course meal using a 'secret ingredient'. I love the idea of a wild adventure.

The computer world is sometimes like 'Iron Chef', you have no idea what you are going to be asked to do. This weeks challenge sounded simple, move 5 meg of data from one laptop to another. Walk in the park was my first thought. How difficult can it be to transfer 5 meg?

Well, it was a little trickier than I had imagined. The laptop was ancient, it was running Win 95! I should have said "NO", but of course I said "sure I can do this". And then the problems started!

A quick look at this aging laptop revealed that it had limited capabilities. No USB, no Ethernet, oh, and no floppy drive. This makes it more exciting.

Right about now I am considering the idea of getting Jan to just re-type the damn documents and we can get this monkey off our backs.

It did have a modem though. This could be a breakthrough. Alas it was not, the Win 95 installation was a little 'banged up' and while the modem 'modemed', it refused to connect to the ISP that I use. The problem was in the TCP/IP stacks. I am a bit of a pack rat, but search as I did, I could not find a Win 95 CD.

My next plan was to upgrade the pc to Win 98, but the only CD's I had were 'For A New Computer Only' versions. And the last thing I wanted to do was reformat the drive.

Plan 'C' was to install Win 2k, this worked well for about 2 minutes, then I got the 'you don't have enough RAM message.

Hmmm, I thought, actually I was swearing up a storm by this time.

It was time to think outside the box.....

"Go back young man" was the thought that went through my mind.

So it was 'back to the future', way back when, I used to use something called Laplink. Laplink allowed you to copy files between computers using a funky cable connected to the printer port. Being a retro kind of a guy I just happened to have one of those funky cables, and 2 minutes of Googling found some shareware that would do the job.

It didn't exactly work like a charm, there was much wailing and complaining from both laptops, I guess the clocking on the parallel ports was not quite in sync, but it worked!

Sometimes you just have to go backwards to go forward!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Week In Review(s)

Well it has been a pretty busy week in the land of reviews and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When I first got into this business the problem I had was one of restraint. A movie would arrive but it was not due to 'street' for 3 weeks, so you had to 'sit' on it for a while. Now I have the opposite problem, I have so many of the damn things it is a juggling act to get them out before the street date.

TV was the big problem over the past week, TV has its own unique challenge you need to get the review up between 48 and 72 hours before the program airs. Anyway, I am covering the HBO miniseries John Adams. This is a 7 part deal, and part 1 and part 2 aired last Sunday. Of course someone at HBO managed to screw up, and forgot to get the screeners out to the reviewers, and HBO ended up having to Fed-Ex everything last Thursday. This didn't leave a lot of time for the reviews. What did impress me though was the 'press kit', it was the size of a book! Part 3 airs tomorrow at 9pm.

HBO is also premiering a documentary Autism - The Musical.

On the 25th Stephen King's The Mist hits the stores. This is a two DVD collectors version. I am not really into the horror genre, so I had to get Jan to help get that one out in time.

There was a whole pile of other stuff, books, a couple of interviews, a couple of indie movies, and some music. Too much to detail. But if yyou want to read em they are here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

500 Reasons To Not Become A Reviewer

I was caught in a no win situation last week. Jan has been whining for the longest time about the lack of shelves in our apartment. Unfortunately she mentioned this to my daughter Laura. Laura is a pack-rat, she has never thrown anything out in her whole life. "Oh dad" she says "remember the IKEA shelves that were in the playroom". .... It went downhill from there. I remembered the shelves very well, and if shelves could qualify for 'frequent flier miles' these would qualify for a couple of first class tickets around the world. To the best of my knowledge that have had a couple of trips to England, at least two to Canada, and a 10 year vacation in the US.

I love my daughter dearly, but I could wring her neck, she brought the damn shelving over the next day. I tried the 'But honey, I don't have any tools' approach, and this just resulted in a glare that would freeze molten lava.

I borrowed a thing from work, its a #11 (whatever the hell that might be), and assembled the darn things. I did have the last laugh, once I got it made I told Jan that I planned on putting all of the stuff I reviewed last year on it. The blood drained from her face. She was in shock.

So I did!

That is one years of Books, CD's, and DVD's! Well, almost, it doesn't have the 80 to a 100 items that we gave away.

Most regular folks read maybe 10 books a year, they buy 20 CD's and about 10 DVD's.

Where did I go wrong?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Oh How Times Change!

The internet is a remarkable place, you just never know what is going to happen next. Yesterday in my email I received a letter from a guy who i have not seen nor spoken to in over 30 years, Gary Rixon. At age 9 my parents moved to a small village in not far from Oxford in England. West Hendred boasted a population of about 300, and consisted of a pup 'The Hare' (my parents ran it), a shop and post office, a Church with a Vicar, and a primary school.

About 15 years ago I visited England for a week, and I have to say I was not impressed by what I found. I even made a pilgrimage to West Hendred. The church no longer has a vicar, the village school had long since closed, the Shop and Post Office gone, It was as if the very heart of the village had been removed.

The village schools headmaster Mr. Prossir had long since retired and I went to visit him. It was delightful to spend some time talking about the long and distant past.

My other destination was 'The Hare', boy the place had changed. Odd to walk into your 'home' and not recognize it. I had aranged to meet a very old friend Jim Spey. Jim was one of my heros growing up, a proud Scotsman, resplendent in Kilt and Dirk, with a Rosewood pipe in his mouth. Ex BBC reporter, ex code breaker, and connoisseur of Single Malt Whiskey. Jim had aged, but was still sprightly and engaging. It was two hours that I will always have fond memories of. It was this visit that provoked me to write a short story 'Death of a Country' which I will have to dig out and re-post.

Anyway, Gary apparently had run across this blog and wrote to ask if I was the same Simon Barrett. Better still he included a photo. A photo of the entire village school attendees taken in about 1965. In this day and age of classes overflowing with 35+ kids, and schools boasting pupils by the thousands it is sometimes nice to look back at the way it was.........

Yes folks that was the whole school, and the two teachers! For those of you interested, pictured in the photo are:

Back row left to right: Tina Hazel / Christopher Bullard? / Lucille Harris / Peter Robey / Anne Kearvill or Louise Harris / Michael Hislop / Mr. Prosser / Simon Barrett.

Middle row left to right: Gary Rixon / Aden Atkins / Robert Atkins / Mrs. Phillips / Charles Brewer / Brother of Gail North? / Gail North.

Front row left to right: Belinda Rogan / ? / Miriam or Susan Rogan / Jane Rogan / Barry Dwight.

Anyone know where these people are?

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Week In Review(s)

Well it has been an interesting week. A while back I was contacted by an author, he claimed that my theories about O.J. Simpson's guilt were completely wrong, what I needed to do was read his book, and the truth would be revealed. Oh, who can turn down an offer like that?

So this week I read the book, absolute pile of crap! It is so bad that I have decided to go ahead and write a review. Normally with crap books I just stick them in a dark corner and pretend they don't exist, but this guy deserves all he gets.

In fact he has ticked me off so much that I am in the process of getting quotes from Daniel Petrocelli who was the lead attorney in the civil trial, and Fred Goldman. This idiot book trashes both of them as being gold diggers. The author is going to wish he had never emailed me hahaha

On the music front, well that damn 'to do' pile is getting really big, I have lost count on how many cd's are waiting. It is just a daunting thought. About the only good thing was that my daughter came to visit, and I managed to persuade her to take some away with her. It wasn't nearly enough though. She only took about 10, 50 would have been better.

The high spot of the week in music was the new Clive Nolan double CD. Recorded under the name Caamora, She is a classic rock opera. I love prog rock and this is prog rock at it's very best.

I have been trying to get an interview with Clive for months, to no avail. But of course with this new CD coming out suddenly he wants to talk to the press! The problem that I faced though was Caamora is not being released in the US till May. So my distributor here is not going to have it till April. No prob, I went straight to the record label who are in Poland, they were delighted to send me a copy and arrange the interview with Clive (who is in England). Of course the blasted CD's didn't get here in a timely manner, and I ended up having to FTP a digital version from Poland.

The label was happy to do the FTP, but boy they were paranoid, I guess their FTP server is not as secure as it might be, and having the CD images on there was not their favorite. They had them deleted within a couple of minutes of me getting them.

With the panic over I was able to conduct the interview. You can find the review on or do a google news search on Caamora.