Monthly Archives: February 2020

Little things

Uh huh huh huh, he said “little thingies”!

Although some big things are causing me problems at the moment — my back hurting again (needing the osteopath), the ever-present risk of further brain issues (and the possibility of my anti-epilepsy medication being Shkrelised after Brexit), and, of course, E.ON still causing my household billing problems — it’s the little things in life that can cheer me up now and again.

For one thing, I’m using my big, expensive TV that I bought and brought home (with “best mate’s” help) in 2017!  Ironically, it’s partly due to me switching from Windows to Linux, and partly due to the recent severe winds damaging or destroying the satellite dish that’s brought me Freesat since moving in here (installed by a previous Sky Digital-subscribing tenant).  The first means I (probably) can’t play Blu-rays on this machine any more, but since I brought up an old 2008 Blu-ray player from Worthing (one which mysteriously started playing discs again, without needing a 2011 firmware update installed via esoteric CD-R format), I can now watch movies on a big screen.

And although I can’t get a live broadcast signal any more, I can use apps in the Freesat box itself — including the one made by the Horror Channel, which means I can watch the evening episodes of Star Trek: Voyager any time, instead of having to make dinner ready for 7pm (or 8pm on the +1 channel), or catching the Sunday reruns!  They’ve even fixed the damn app so it shows the episode with one- or two-advert breaks, instead of being just a recording of the evening broadcast, with the ads made unskippable (it was easier to record and skip through!).

I can also watch Family Guy and American Dad! any time on ITV’s app, instead of scheduling my showers around them, as well as BBC stuff like Doctor Who (which I can do live, though not tonight thanks to the time I was making dinner) and, if and when it comes back, Watchdog.  All things considered, I’m not sure I miss live broadcasts after all — but don’t worry, I haven’t demanded a refund on this household’s TV licence!  All things considered, it’s an impetus to turn away from my computer desk and face the TV itself, instead of using it like a radio in the background.

(If I want to listen to stuff, I can always play CDs in this thing — and Linux ripping to .ogg instead of .wma format means I can finally play albums properly gapless on my phone!  And I just found Eminem’s newest album in Tesco…)

But back to the first thing: I’m still on Linux, and have figured out a number of things regarding getting it to look right for me — though it sucks that LibreOffice Writer (which has assumed the role of being used to write my diary) can’t do some simple things like search for words with apostrophes in them unless you use the exact same one in the search term (straight vs. curly), something even Micro$haft got right years ago!

It also sucks that I can’t get Fitbit (which I went back to recently) to sync via its own USB dongle (sadly, the independent software Galileo doesn’t seem to be up to the task), but hey, it’s having trouble syncing through my phone as well — what’s wrong with the app lately?  I mean, it’s nice to know I’m walking over 10,000 steps every working day, and just possibly sleeping close to 7 hours each night (more at the weekend), but still, maybe I should give it up once and for all…

Well, once I got Linux to stop mixing up the controls so that moving the right stick to the right brought up the game menu!

However, there are far more important things than mere trifles like word processing and physical health: yes, video games.  I’ve managed to get an Xbox One joypad working with the OS (despite Micro$haft not wanting it available to non-Win10 users), and can thus enjoy games like the classic Postal, and (when I’m ready) the later Assassin’s Creed games, which can be run under Linux by special means thanks to a fan-made system called Lutris.

(Good job I completed Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch_Dogs while I was still using Windows 7, though!)

I’ve had trouble with my current (released in 2019) game, Rage 2 (the original of which I played around the time I was taken on in my current job) — fun and glorious-looking as it may be, I almost gave up as unplayable, due to the entire game freezing up completely whenever I tried to use the in-game menus (for things like inventory, map, upgrades for weapons and abilities… you know, the usual).  I researched it and tried various things — such as changing which version of Proton it used, migrating all my game files from NTFS (Windows) to EXT4 (Linux) partitions, disabling the Steam overlay, and adding some esoteric code to limit the framerate to 55fps — but nothing seemed to work…

Finally, when all seemed lost (and I was starting to replay the more cartoony Borderlands games instead), I found a resolution… the screen resolution, that is, because although I can play the game in 3840×2160 (I’ve got a good graphics card), by chance I found that running the game in 1920×1080 stops the crashes, and so now I can actually make useful objects and set destination markers!  Maybe it was down to Linux Mint itself needing the desktop double-sized so I can actually see things on my hi-res 4K monitor (which itself works much better than Windows 7 could ever hope to achieve), but whatever, it works now.

(Why am I going on about this?  So that someone out there in TV land finds their way to this blog and uses my solution, why else?!  Pity there’s still no way to stop the game crashing if it loses focus for even a split second when adjusting the volume via keyboard…)

So anyway, now I can do what I want, and relax in the evenings… well, yeah, it is a matter of coming home from staring at computer screens all day, and staring at two screens here instead (and my phone’s screen in both places).  My mother was once worried, in late 1992, that I was spending all my time in front of “one screen or the other”, but I was happy doing so back then (not wanting a social life in dismal Worthing), and I’m happy doing so now… as long as I can still go outside when I want to, obviously!

But thanks to the necessity of dealing face-to-face with “worst housemate” and her billing, not to mention our landlady being expected to come over and talk about how E.ON are now billing her late husband for his old account (they’re threatening to send the debt collectors here, but won’t tell me why because I’m not him), I wonder if I’ll be able to go out in the evenings… though as long as my back doesn’t play up, maybe it’s high time I climbed the walls again?

Or, perchance, one day I’ll get a date with a woman who turns out to be an introverted gamer as well?  Here’s hoping…

Saying farewell?

Look, I’m not much good at big speeches, and I know I haven’t always been an easy guy to get on with; and I know that, given the choice, I probably wouldn’t have chosen you as friends.  But I just want to say that over the years I have come to regard you… as people… I met.
—Rimmer, Red Dwarf (S5E1, “Holoship”)

No, I’m not giving up on this blog and abandoning you, and I’m naively hoping that today’s Brexit departure from Europe won’t lead to total disaster for my country (or worse, disaster for Average Joe and corresponding success for the people in charge).  I certainly hope I won’t have to say goodbye to anyone I care about being deported because “dey’re forrinerz, innit” — my own mother’s one-quarter French, for a start!

However, there are other goodbyes I’ll need to make in 2020, and except in one potential case, they’ll be entirely welcome.  For one thing, I’ve made the jump and am now running Linux Mint on my computer; it’s still a work in progress (which could also be said of Windows 10, except more or less in the opposite direction), but so far, so good — I can write my diary and maintain my finances spreadsheet in LibreOffice, I can (ahem) browse the Internet, and I can even play games, there being a Linux version of Steam.

(Not all of them, but I’m playing the Rage games at the moment, and the first one actually seems to work better than it did under Windows 7!)

I still have to use Win10 at work (hence I don’t want to at home), and it’d take a miracle to convince my mother to leave the works of Microsoft, but for me, it’s goodbye Windows, hopefully forever — leaving aside the possibility of a Win10 “Geek’s Edition” coming out someday, where you can turn off the unsolicited telemetry and advertising, and where the monthly patches and major updates are actually tested before being inflicted upon the masses.

However, one aspect has been difficult to switch across, and that’s my e-mail archive — because converting an Outlook file to one that could be used by Thunderbird involves paying for software, even if you’re doing it at home for your own e-mails and not in a business.  Fortunately there turned out to be a way (involving typing stuff into a command line terminal), and now my only problem is getting Fasthosts (named and shamed) to let me clear out my personal domain’s catchall inbox, so I don’t have to download over 20,000 messages and delete the ones I already have!  Their own webmail times out if I try to delete more than one at a time, so if all else fails, I’ll say bon jour to them as well, after 12 years of lousy service (especially in 2014), and find another hosting company for my own, self-named e-mail domain.

(I set it up originally so I could give a different e-mail address to each company I interact with, all coming into my catchall inbox, and thus tell easily who’d given it away to spammers… hello, Zoosk!)

Something similar is happening at work: we’re saying goodbye to Microsoft’s “Phone System Formerly Known As Lync” (which they’ll be phasing out next year… why?!), and thus working hard to introduce a new system, on which basis I’m helping at the start of February (i.e. tomorrow morning, a Saturday).  Hopefully I’ll make up for my past screwups and be dependable, but you never know what lies ahead, and whether they’ll replace me after all — they’re already looking at hiring a replacement for my former teammate (to whom we never said “goodbye” in person), and once I’ve trained the new’un in our ways, maybe I’ll be surplus to requirements…?

I’d love to say goodbye to incompetent businesses like E.ON, who screwed up our energy account last year and are now making us pay monthly so we can clear “our” debt, but it’s this situation that means we’re going to say goodbye to a dreadful housemate.  No, not the guy I previously called “new bad housemate”, as he and I are chatting amiably about our IT-based jobs now, and he complimented me on dealing with E.ON (it was Mozart’s 40th, by the way).

No, it’s the girl who moved in the same time as him (due to two housemates moving out simultaneously), and who somehow thought all our households bills were included in the rent, despite this being far from the truth.  There have been many female housemates in that room near the back of the house during my time living here, and here they are in chronological order:

  • “Leaderene”, daughter of the landlord’s friend, who bossed us around regarding household bills (including a kitchen kitty), and needed everyone to be quiet after 9pm due to her early commutes;
  • “Northern lass”, the longest-lasting so far, who joined us in mid-2013 but finally moved on to a new home in late 2016 (around the time my brain started acting up);
  • “Spanish housemate #1”, who was here for all of 2017 and the first half of 2018, moving out while I was in hospital;
  • “Two-month housemate”, who I never really had a chance to interact with due to convalescing in Worthing, but who was apparently smoking pot in her room;
  • “Spanish housemate #2”, who was here for less than a year, leaving at the end of the 2018-2019 financial year;
  • “Worst housemate”, who probably misunderstood her predecessor, and can’t understand why our rent and bills went up, and also can’t seem to remember what she was paying in the first place, except that it was less than £600!

She doesn’t even speak to me when we’re in the same room, so I can’t have a polite conversation about the money — but she’s demanding (via text message, of course) full documentation for the last SIX MONTHS, even though it was December that our rent went up (she must have signed the new housing contract without actually reading it) and my compromise with E.ON about our outstanding bills meant we started paying monthly. During this time I’ve let her postpone the other bills and just pay her share of the rent (which is all our landlady really cares about), but can prove through bank statements what she actually paid, and thus what she still owes.

(Am I Muslamic for charging zero interest on a loan, or some kind of pinko commie?  Does it make me worse than payday loan companies, because I’m not making loadsamoney out of other people’s desperation?)

Mind you, she probably doesn’t want to pay “best mate” £8/month for the Internet connection he’s managed since “drummer-trucker” moved out in 2017, even though she uses it on the rare occasions she’s in the house — and she even has trouble paying a monthly fiver into the current kitchen kitty (set up by “not-so-bad housemate”), or, y’know, doing any housework.  I don’t know what she does for a living, if anything…

I don’t want to slide to “the right”, and think that everyone on “the left” who needs my financial help is some kind of con artist or sponge, and that me being well off somehow means I’m entitled to not help someone poorer than me out of Bounderby-esque contempt — but I also don’t want to let her get away with this: if it comes down to it, I’ll ask our landlady to take the money I’m owed out of this girl’s deposit after she’s moved on, and be done with it.

Good job I keep paperwork, isn’t it?  Though one day I’ll have to say goodbye to the receipts I’ve been logging and keeping files since I moved here in 2012…