Friday, 18 July 2014

Just done my tax

In 2013/14, my best ever year, I earned about 77% of the average UK salary.

It should be said, that my living costs are relatively low. I have no dependent children. I live in very small accommodation that is cheap to  heat and light. I have generally simple needs. Ditto Bren. And I suspect that the average salary on Merseyside is rather less than the national average.

It looks so far as if 2014/15 will be more of the same. I wonder how long it will last?

Just done what I needed to do to renew my badge too. Busy day off! It should come through just in time for there to be no break between its arrival my previous license to teach expiring.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Weather in Hoylake

Interested in what the weather is like in Hoylake?

Well, just turn on your telly from Thursday onwards. BBC1 and 2 have live, real time coverage this week, for several hours each day. Overcast skies. Drizzle. Sunny periods. They're all there, interspersed with shots of some blokes smacking little white balls around.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

Friday, 11 July 2014

How not to teach

Been to a bit of a shindig recently.

Every year, my parents, and other close relatives rent a rambling old farmhouse near a place called Chwylog, in North Wales. We went there last Thursday afternoon, stayed Thursday and Friday nights, then left on Saturday morning.

There were ten of us in total; my Mum and Dad, my Auntie and Uncle, my Sister and Brother-in-law, their two small children, and Bren and Myself. The full day we spent there was pretty dismal. A low blanket of nimbostratus  made it all both dull and wet pretty much all day.

This day, we awoke a little later than most of the others. Sounds drifted up from downstairs. My Sister was going into town (Criccieth or Porthmadog) on her own to get some time away from the children and to do some shopping. Soon after she'd gone, the older of her two children, a bright, clever, self-contained 4 year old bundle of boundless energy, had accidentally wet herself.

Then we heard it. From the lips of my Mum came the words, "Your Mummy has gone because you wet yourself". Followed closely by "Mummy doesn't love you because you wet yourself".

Bren's eyes were wide. So were mine. I'm still at a loss to explain how these words made me feel.

We got up, dressed, and went straight out. Once out of the door, Bren was in floods of tears. I was angry. We very nearly just went home. Instead we went into Criccieth, and took a walk along the beach.

I wonder if she used to say such things to me or my sister? Or is this something to do with people becoming more reactionary as they get older? For that's what it is. Stimulus. Response. Reactionary. Punishing the mistake. Certainly I remember my Dad behaving this way on many occasions, but my Mum?

I'm thinking of incorporating this approach into what I do.

"Your Mummy doesn't love you any more because you stalled at that roundabout."

"You will get home from your lesson today to find your husband has left you, and all because you bumped into the kerb when doing that parallel park."

Learners don't make mistakes on purpose. Neither do 4 year old girls. Both are trying very hard to please, at least most of the time. Understanding this, though, is not always easy.

Later on, when we got back from our walk, we had the house to ourselves, pretty much. We went for a swim in the pool. We were to go out for a meal later, all except the children and my sister and Bro-in-law. Bren and I offered to stay at the farmhouse and look after them.

After watching me playing with the children in the afternoon, my sister agreed to this, and so it was arranged that everyone but Myself, Bren and the two children would toddle off to Weatherspoons in Porthmadog. I had a look through the cupboards to see what I could make us for our tea. I dug out eggs, onions, spuds, cheese, and a tin of beans. Omelette chips and beans a-go-go! I asked my auntie where the cooking oil was.

She bustled into the kitchen and showed me the bottle, hidden in plain view on a work surface. Then she showed me how to open the microwave, how to chop an onion, how to fry the onion, how to open a tin of beans.

"Do you realise you've just told a grown adult how to open a microwave?" I thought of asking. Instead, I kept my mouth shut, and let her do half of the work of cooking tea for Bren and myself.

Once again,  as a teacher, my approach is very different.

If I meet someone for the first time, I ask questions, and ask them to do some basic things before I start actually doing any teaching. To take someone who can already drive, and talk them through how to put their seatbelt on is both pointless and demeaning.

I don't think we will go next year.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Music II

"Sound card aready in use by another application"

Aye. And there's the rub.

You see, I managed to get the modern creative soundcard (an Xfi something or other) to play stuff. I found the lead that connected it to my speakers. I installed all the music software that came with the MIDI controller. This time around, I read the instructions, and did things in a different order. And so I have a much bigger range of sounds available to the guitar than I did last time, although there is a huge bank of sounds called Sample Tank that I have not yet managed to integrate.

I can play my guitar using the midi pickup. I cannot play it and record what I am playing, which means I cannot multitrack. I just can't record, full stop. It may be that I could connect the guitar to the microphone socket and record from there, but that's not what I'm after here. It seems the soundcard is not full duplex. Full duplex and half duplex are the difference between a dual carriageway and a single track road.

I installed all the software onto the Windows 8 partition. The first option I have is to make a hardware change. Remove the soundcard, plug the speakers into the onboard sound connections, and see if that will allow me to play and record simultaneously.

If that doesn't take me forward, the next thing to try is to use the windows 7 partition, and make a hardware change - unplug the Xfi soundcard, plug in the audigy 2 card, which should be full duplex, but which will only work on windows 7, and not on windows 8; make sure I have sound output to the speakers, and if so, reinstall the software onto the windows 7 partition.

If that too fails to take me to where I want to be, then we're looking at shelling out on another sound card. If so, it should have full duplex, and some form of hard wired ASIO capability. Whether some PCI internal card or an external USB card doesn't matter too much.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

Sunday, 29 June 2014


A couple of months ago, I bought a midi guitar controller. Since then, I've hardly been able to do anything with it. This is partly because I'm not sure how to get things set up, and partly because there are conflicts and incompatibilities between my hardware, my software and my firmware.

Time was, a decade or so ago, I had all day, every day to keep on messing around and trying things until I found a way of achieving what I wanted. These days I have other demands on my time.

Still, today I am not working, and I am trying to put in some kind of concerted effort to make this happen.

Here's the plan...

1. Back up what's on my hard drives onto an external drive.

2. Work out exactly what I have, what's compatible with what, and what possible combination of sound cards, and operating systems will allow me to do what I want to do.

3. Plug in the correct bits and install what I need.

That's the plan. It will be interspersed with displacement activities.

I am currently backing up two SSD drives, just in case. The first one is a 120Gb drive with windows 8 and a lot of documents and programs and what have you on it. It took hours to transfer everything over. The SSD drive is fast. The external spinny disk drive, connecting through a USB port isn't. I suppose in a few years I will be able to get hold of a big external SSD drive for peanuts. The other SSD drive is a 250Gb drive, with Windows 7 on it, but not much else. I don't suppose there's much point in saving all that, but just in case there's something saved on there that I don't want to lose, I am shoving it all over anyway. This bit shouldn't take too long. I also have an internal hard drive that my system is not currently seeing. Once I have completed saving the 250Gb disk's contents, I will be physically disconnecting it from my system and trying to make it show up. Then I will back that up too. I think it's about 400Gb, or was that 750Gb? I don't recall.

I want to format the 250Gb SSD, and partition it, and install at least 2 different operating systems onto it - Windows 7 ans Windows 8. I might even put XP on there, as it is certainly the best option for one of the sound cards I have. Linux too? Not sure there's much point seeing as I have legit copies of windows, but we'll see. I'm sure I have a 64 bit ubuntu knocking around somewhere.

13 minutes to go on the backup. Banana in disk drive error.

I have onboard sound, but I also have 3 different sound cards. One is a soundblaster 5.1 something that's installed in my machine. The others are a 1024 live platinum and an audigy 2 platinum. Both have external breakout boxes. Both are pretty old, especially the 1024 live. There may be a windows 7 driver available for one of them, particularly the Audigy. Neither is compatible with windows 8.

40 minutes to go on the backup...

It's even possible I suppose to put more than one soundcard into the PC, if there are enough PCI slots. If only one was enabled for any particular operating system, it might not cause too many conflicts. - 1024 Live to be associated with an XP boot up, Audigy with windows 7. Something like that maybe. I would have to physically move jackplugs from one place to another. If my room was tidier this would be much easier.

4. Tidy up in here!

or better still,

1. Tidy up in here!

10 minutes to go on the backup.

This is a fast system, but one thing it does lack is power leads for SATA drives. There are 6 SATA ports on the motherboard, but only two power cables. I've got three SATA drives connected by using a splitter.

28 minutes to go on the backup. Time for coffee and a cigarette I reckon.


Backup finished on both SSD drives. What next? Can I format and partition the 250Gb drive while running an OS from the other drive? That means it's prepared as a dual boot system if I can. Here goes...

I can format it from here, but not partition it. So let's leave that for now.


Took the SSD drives out and tried to boot from the HD drive. I found there was no power going to it. I've plugged it in, and I've found that it's a 320Gb disk with an uncorrupted Windows 7 installation. I'm typing this from that configuration. I might need the help of a gynaecologist to get the drive connected to it's power supply at the back of the case, if I want to leave to two extension cables free for the two SSD drives. This operating system though, is up and running ok. I think I will just leave it as is, rather than backing it up and formatting it. I can dual boot the 256Gb drive with XP and Win 8.



Strangely, the act of connecting the windows 8 SSD caused my PC to stop seeing the HD with Win 7 on it. I disconnected the SSD but had to go looking for the HD in BIOS. Now the OS is being flagged up as counterfeit. That's probably fair enough, as I bought this computer as a standalone. Coming with windows 7 pre-installed was just a bonus that I never really took advantage of anyway.


Well, tidying up really was needed. I couldn't find the disk that made my wireless card work until I'd turned this room upside down. I've taken the  opportunity to sort things out and clear my desk a bit.

XP didn't work. It just generated a BSOD when I tried to install it. I suspect it just can't work out the modern hardware it's being asked to install itself to. So I reformatted the 255Gb SSD and I've put my paid for copy of Windows 7 on it. Now to put Win 8 on the other partition. And I haven't even started with the sound card side of things yet! Everything takes so long. It's not like I've been spending a lot of time farting around (apart from blogging this as I go)

Anyway, it looks like the old 1024 live card is not going to be an option. I will shove the audigy in it and see if I can find a driver that will make it work with windows 7. Then I just have to reinstall and work out how to use all the music software that came with the midi pickup. I don't think this will be finished today somehow.


Windows 8 now installed. I have a dual boot system, and the computer asks me which I want to use when I switch on. Exactly as planned. Putting both operating systems on different partitions of the same drive worked fine. Putting different operating systems onto different drives never seemed to really work properly. Now for the sound card, I guess. I suppose I could use the one that's in it already, but the audigy has a nice chunky black box that comes out and sits on top, where you can do extra things with it, so I will try that first.


No sound from the Audigy card. I managed to find a driver, and windows reckoned it was outputting something, but I could hear nothing, either through the speakers, or through the headphones, regardless of whether I plugged into the back of the PC or into the headphone socket on the breakout box. Now trying the card I already had in here...


Got sound through the headphones using onboard connection but not through speakers. Dodgy audio lead I reckon. Now got to try to find the 5.1 leads that came with the speakers.


Enough. Headphones will have to do. Too late for speakers now anyway, and that side of things really doesn't matter.

I have to install a big convoluted suite of interconnected software, and make it work. Not now. I am busy with work over the next few days and then will be going off to spend a few days in a farmhouse in Wales with my folks. I could use the time to get this sorted out, if they don't think I'm being too anti-social.

driving lessons in North Wirral? learn to drive in Hoylake? driving instructor in Birkenhead?