Archive for March, 2008

Moving to Linux

First of all, this blog is coming from “Google Documents” as they now allow an automatic upload to my blog. It will be interesting to find out how easy this will be to do, and if I fail, there is always “cut ‘n’ paste”.

Over the years I have attempted to get into Linux but have always dropped the idea, for various reasons.

Either it all seemed too complex, or people on the support forums were too rude to newcomers. I thought, often, “I don’t need this!” and returned to Windows.

I now use Windows XP but am alarmed that, when I buy the next computer, it is going to come with Vista and there is no way I want to use that. Not in its present form anyway.

So I took a look around to see what was the flavour of the month, and discovered Ubuntu.

This looked more interesting than all the others I had tried in the past, but perhaps it is not very fair to make comparisons with a 2008 program against what was around in 2006.

Ubuntu is the brainchild of Mark Shuttleworth. A South African, born in the Orange Free State. If his name sounds vaguely familiar, this is because he was that “space tourist”. He paid the Russians $20,000,000 at the age of 30, to spend nine months training and learning Russian in Russia, and then spent eight days on their space station. Mark had made $590,000,000 selling Thawte the company he started up to Verisign.

He then took the Debian package and altered it, making it more user friendly for beginners and launched Ubuntu 4.10 in October 2004. (The version number is the year and the month) So 2004 = 4 and October = 10. Since then the program has grown, with a new version out every six months, in leaps and bounds, and I now feel confident to take Windows off my computer completely.

Mark Shuttleworth is very wise and the first thing he did was to form a company to supply support for companies. Companies hate “free” and want to be able to pay and command support. So Canonical Limited, Mark’s new company, supplies that to all who require it. Mark also put up £5,000,000 in a trust fund to keep the project going should he fall under a bus. Users responded to that and moved over in their hundreds and eventually thousands.

In addition he “created” a community and in his forums you can click on a “Thank You” button if anyone solves your problem. Other users vie with each other to get the most “Thank You” tags. Also to be an official member of the Ubuntu community, recognised by Mark, you have to have helped with either programming, marketing, design or any way you can offer a service.

This all boils down to me now being confident in moving over to Ubuntu and I have set aside the weekend 12th/13th May for the big day. In the meantime I have Ubuntu 8.04 Beta as a dual boot on my machine so that, come the 12th May, I will know what I am doing.

However, to be successful in making such a move, and to be able to complete everything in one weekend, takes lots of analysing and planning.

My next blog on this will be to show you some of the planning and my “time-line” used for the last 12 days of this project.

Then after the weekend, when I have time, I will publish my notes with my experiences in case any of you will want to make the move. I will still want to use certain Windows programs and have not yet decided on whether to use a VMWare style program that allows me to run a copy of Windows within Linux, or whether to use Crossover which will allow me to run programs without having Windows installed at all.

If you would like to be noted each time I post a blog, send a blank email with Bolg (please use the strange spelling) in the Subject line to ampers at gmail com and I will notify when each blog goes up. Please don’t send me a message in that email as the whole process is automatic and I will not actually see your message.


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Are you a terrorist or a money launderer?

If you are a terrorist you are probably wetting your trousers laughing at the terror laws. Unless you are a very stupid terrorist you will have realised that these laws are doing your job for you. In fact, you may even feel a little ashamed that the governments of your accursed enemies are doing a far better job that you could ever hope to do.

If you are a money launderer and step into your local bank and see a hapless member of the public trying to open up a bank account, your trousers could well suffer the same fate as your terrorist brother in the above paragraph. You use the bank for your normal living expenses. The money you launder from your lucrative drugs trade goes nowhere near a real bank – unless it is in Switzerland or Liechtenstein or, if you are badly in need of a holiday, the Caymen Islands.

So, this got me thinking – I began to wonder what was behind all these laws that appeared to be construed to keep the ordinary population from going about their daily business unimpeded by brutish authority.

I have watched Zeitgeist the Movie and initially I didn’t believe a word of it. But on using the Internet skilfully, I learned that the whole life of Jesus Christ first appeared five thousand years ago around 3000BC and was identical with the life of the God Horus. Although unsettling at first, it got me thinking. Why are we all subjected to toeing the line of our masters in every aspect of our lives.

Initially, the weapon used was poverty but, in the 20th century when the peoples of Britain and America started to amass more wealth, other methods had to be used. Gordon Brown talks about removing poverty but I am not sure if he knows the true meaning of the word. Poverty is not owning a fridge or TV. Poverty is going hungry each day and not owning a decent pair of shoes – or, indeed, owning any shoes at all. Poverty is certainly not owning a car, motor-cycle or even a bicycle. If you don’t believe this, go to Africa. Those with untold wealth and power now need to employ more sophisticated means to keep us down.

The greatest weapon is officialdom in our working lives and the church in our leisure time. Hitler left the Roman Catholic Vatican more or less alone because he knew he needed the church on his side, to help subject the people. This wasn’t done officially, but there is such an abundance of material confirming this that I needn’t go into it here. I believe the church even ran Croatia for Hitler. And after the war it is reported that the church sheltered Croatian Nazi war criminals.

Then there is the opiate of the masses. Television. The one form of entertainment designed to debilitate the public. It keeps the thinkers off the streets spreading mischief. I have a theory that if everyone put their TV sets up in the attic and stopped paying the licence, it would be issued free of charge, or at least greatly reduced, as it is the last thing on this earth our masters would want. Think about it.

And the juveniles roaming our streets. What is the cause of this? Could it be the breakdown of the family unit? There is less breakdown of the family unit in France and the majority of youngsters are so much better behaved there. Terrific for the government though, it keeps the rest of the population indoors watching television!

So, on the one hand we have our own governments, making legislation as complex as they can to create havoc in our lives, and creating an unsafe environment. On the other hand, we have a church continuously trying to make us feel guilty of any fun we might accrue in our lives.

Osama Bin Ladin must have been a godsend to our government. Now terror laws have finally succeeded in making what the government started to do with the motorists. Make the police the enemy of the people, to be feared. And have you tried to fly out of the UK recently? And, try to fly from London to Manchester without a passport! The bureaucrats have made it impossible for us to travel by air from one city to another within our own country without a passport.

I don’t normally ascribe to conspiracy theories but after Christ in part one of the earlier mentioned video, I then watched part two. This casts doubt as to whether 9/11 was an inside job. Watch it, and if you understand about imploding a building into itself as it comes down, listen carefully to spectators’ comments who were there watching it all unfold. The only way a building could do that would be with explosives placed in the foundations underpinning the building. This would take hours, the original plans of the building would also have to be acquired. A building could not implode that way just by an aeroplane flying into the top of it! It cast huge doubts in my own mind I can assure you.

The biggest threat to this group of shadowy manipulators is the Internet. Over the last year, on TV and the newspapers, we have been bombarded with “facts” that paedophiles use the Internet, and terrorists use the internet. We are not bombarded with the fact that terrorists use buses, or that paedophiles may shop at Marks and Spencers. Or that paedophiles eat at McDonalds or terrorists drink coffee at Starbucks! No it is to taint the Internet. Why are they doing this? Is it a way to introduce censoring that we will accept? Now we hear that our poor citizens can come unstuck using “Facebook” Could it be really that dangerous, or could it be because there are so many groups for “just” causes? I am not saying that “Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister” is a just cause but last time I checked he had over 40,000 votes!

Finally, as we are on the subject of politics, let’s take our political climate. Over 40% of the population don’t vote any more as they are completely disillusioned with politics. This is rising at each election and although politicians make a little noise about it, they are happy enough. The Conservatives and the Socialists enjoy their cosy little club and don’t want outsiders muscling in. The fewer voters to upset the apple-cart the better. Don’t you think?

Of course I could go on, but this is long enough to get you thinking. Please don’t believe a word I have said. The message will come home to you in a much more powerful way if you start Googling, and find out for yourself whether this is true or not – and whether there is a lot more that could be added.


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We can learn from the army.

Two things I learned during my army career were “time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted” and “logistics are all”. Two items which, over the decades, have helped me enormously in business.

But there is something else that I think we can all learn from the army. It is about keeping hope alive. I will explain:

Each soldier has a pack which moves with him. This is a sheaf of papers in a folder and is kept at the company office. When you are posted, this gets mailed to your new posting. A bit like your medical records in civvy street before everything was put on the computer.

Among those papers were a Company Conduct Sheet (I will refer this as the CCS) and a Regimental Conduct Sheet (I will refer this as the RCS).

The CCS is a little like the driving licence. It is for minor offences and the offence gets wiped off the sheet after three years of “undetected crime” – the army’s euphemism for good conduct! However, the RCS is for major crimes and stays with you for life.

I mentioned about keeping hope alive earlier. Hands up all those who have had points on their driving licence? Isn’t it a nice thing when you suddenly realise you will have the slate wiped clean in a few months? Aren’t you pleased the “stain” will be off your licence?

My idea is to bring this in for all. We need to do more about prison over-crowding admittedly, but we also need to bring hope to a lot of youngsters who get caught up with the wrong crowd before they reach the age of discernment.

My idea is to have three sheets. A minor conduct sheet where the slate is wiped clean after either four years or when you reach 21, whichever comes last! I said last not first for a reason. This would be to discourage people of 20 committing a crime as they wouldn’t have long to wait for the slate to be wiped clean, and would indicate to minors that they would have a long wait to have their slate wiped clean. Any minor crime where an adult could receive a sentence of up to one year or a fine would go onto this providing violence was not used in any way.

A major conduct sheet where a sentence of up to two years would be given to an adult and where, although violence has been used, the victim was not hospitalised for longer than 24 hours. But instead of four years before the slate was wiped clean, it would be ten years.

Then the Life Conduct Sheet where the crime would stay with you for life would be issued for serious crime. This would be the same as the present information about a citizen held on police computers.

Naturally, these are only ideas and can be changed. And at this stage, the sheets aren’t instead of punishment, they would be as well as the normal court punishment for the crime.

My thinking here is to give a person a little hope that they can, eventually, wipe the slate clean and lead normal lives in society. At present, once someone has a criminal record they are stained for life and never get decent jobs. Eventually they embark in a life of more serious crime.

My message to those of you who tut-tut and say it wouldn’t work is, it isn’t working at the moment! At least I am trying to think around a possible solution.

I am also wondering whether prison sentences really work. I have heard, from many quarters, that the shock of landing in prison the first time takes a whole month to wear off before the prisoner starts to fit in with the routines. Now I am not sure about you, dear reader, but I am beginning to wonder whether a prison sentence of over a month is all that productive for minor criminals. It’s a bit like a doctor’s waiting room in the winter. Windows tightly closed, everyone huddling next to each other breathing out their germs. The most dangerous place for a sick person to be.

In prison we have a similar situation. Someone in for “knocking a policeman’s helmet off” is taught knife fighting, how to burgle a house, how to buck the social security system and a miriad of other petty crimes. If he is liked, the “big boys” will show him how to advance further in his new career.

So we need to be inventive, every criminal should get a mandatory four week sentence for their first crime. But if it hasn’t been overly violent, we need to be imaginative and find other ways of metering out punishment. Ways that will hurt the offender enough for him to reconsider the path he has chosen, but should carry an extremely low maintenance cost for the authorities.

People who have offered any violence at all could go to special factories with large canteens where the villain comes for breakfast, works, has lunch, works, and has an evening meal. He can live at home and is given a bus pass to get to and from work. They should work seven days a week. The objective is a tough life with 90% pay taken for food, travel etc. If the prisoner abuses the freedom, he is then locked up for the rest of his term – and loses his remission. Before you tut-tut yet again, this is just an idea to get people thinking. What ideas have you put forward by the way?

And before you suggest putting them all to sleep as you would your dog or cat I have to say that, whilst the idea does have its attractions, we are not ready, yet, as a society, for those ideas!

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A short trip to Paris

It was my wife’s birthday on the 18th this month so we popped over to Paris on the Eurostar. The ticket included brunch, and champagne as well as wine with the meal so by the time the train pulled into the “Gare du Nord”, we were well into the holiday feeling. After all the dreadful tales of the Parisians refusal to help tourists (Even Mitterrand told them to be more helpful to foreigners) we thought we’d play smart. I programmed our hotel and all the places Pam wanted to visit into my little Nuvi GPS so we wouldn’t have to ask directions. It even gave a list of all the Metro underground stations within whatever vicinity we were in, so we didn’t even have to ask for the Metro. A little bonus was when the taxi driver saw I was following the route on the GPS, we tended to get to where we wanted with no dilly dallying around the back streets.

The first day in Paris was spent travelling around in the “L’Open Tour” tourist bus which helped get the layout of the city with all the tourist spots. A visit to their website will give you an idea of their charges and you can even order the tickets in advance by way of an email voucher you print out.

Our hotel, the “Champerret Elysees, was an excellent jumping off place and the only bad thing about it was the drinks were far too generous! But we got around this by buying one before going out for dinner, and sharing it between us.

Through a blog by “Etienne Marcel”, we discovered an excellent low cost restaurant for lunch just off the “Champs Elysees”, or to give it its full name “Avenue des Champs-Élysées”. It is part of a chain within France, called simply, “Flams”. They sell an Alsace type of pancake which, although not really like a pizza, is the best way I can describe it. Etienne’s description will give you a better idea.

Our first dinner was local to our hotel as we were tired from travelling and was quite expensive. Not really any different to a thousand others for me to want to talk further about it. We later learned that the area where our hotel was situated was the “Mayfair” of Paris hence the high costs.

The second night we ate at Etienne’s favourite, “Chez Stella” for less than half the previous night’s meal and it was excellent. The restaurant was almost an extension of the owners’ dining room and everyone, staff and other diners alike seemed to belong to the same happy family! Etienne Marcel explains further in the above link.

No man goes to Paris, with a woman, who doesn’t get dragged along to the “Galleries Lafayette” in the Boulevard Haussmann. This is a magnificent department store which first opened in 1893, and started by two cousins, Théophile Bader and Alphonse. As you can see from the photograph, there is a centre area which stretches from the floor to the ceiling on the seventh floor. It really is all very beautiful. However, when Pam looked at a jacket in the fashion area I put my foot down very forcibly and said “Non!” It wasn’t the fact that it was an “Amani” that upset me. It was the eight hundred Euro price.

I won’t talk about the daytime periods of traipsing around the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and all the other sightseeing places which I had seen all too often before (I lived in Paris in the fifties for three years) but it was Pam’s birthday treat and she knew little of Paris. This blog is about food and accommodation. Not about sightseeing. However, I will post one or two photographs.

In the evening of Pam’s actual birthday we went to “Le Train Bleu”, a most magnificent restaurant at the “Gare de Lyon”. It was where all the posh knobs would eat before going on the famous blue train (of years gone by) to their mansions on the south coast. There are some words, independently written about this wonderful “Station Café”!

We had a splendid meal and it came to less than £200 for the two of us. I was very pleased as I fully expected it to be up to double this cost considering the type of establishment. It covered a two course meal (we were far too bloated to attempt a sweet). We started off with a half bottle of champagne and followed it with a half bottle of excellent burgundy. One thing we immediately noticed was the excellent choice of half bottles with no attempt to decrease the choice quality wise. Pam had smoked salmon, but when she gave me a taste I discovered it was not like any smoked salmon I had tasted before. It was out of this world. I had a duck paté, everyone has to have duck at some time in France, and we both finished off with a mouth melting fillet of beef. After the meal we finished with “Le Grande Liquors”, these were their special high quality drinks – and should be at around twenty-five Euros a “snort”.

The three night stay, courtesy of Driveline came to a combined charge of £405. This covered a return to Paris from St Pancras by Eurostar, including newspapers, wine or spirits or both, a meal on the train all included, and three nights bed and breakfast in a three star plus hotel. It should be noted that Driveline has now been taken over by the AA so deals like this may or may not be available in the future.

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An honest politician

I remember reading somewhere a long time ago, that the Marxists, who wanted to take over the world, realised they were too short in number. In addition, the Anglo-Saxon thinking was so powerful that, in that quarter, they would find it almost impossible to surpass.

I now consider that possibility rather remote. However, they did put into place two strategies that still live with us. They initiated the idea of “Political Correctness” that has certainly gone down the long path of destroying our critical thinking. Anybody nowadays who calls a spade a spade, instead of a shovel, is in real trouble with people with a rather limited intellect.

The other strategy was a two prong approach: by infiltrating a country’s educational system, and also, at the same time, their media they could control people’s thinking. Whereas they have not had 100% success with the educational system, they certainly seem to have infiltrated television and, to a lesser extent, our newspapers.

I am not sure about America with their educational system, although I do hear stories of middle-class American families going without so they can give their children the benefits of a private education. But their media certainly seems to be infiltrated by these people. And also, at the same time, tightly controlled by big business interests.

This is not going to be a treatise on American politics, I promise to keep it short.

There is a man in America standing for the Republican ticket for the next presidential elections. He collected $20M in the last quarter (2007) in very small donations from over a couple of hundred thousand young Americans who had heard him speak in videos on YouTube. He has been in Congress for three decades and has always been totally consistent, only voting for bills that conform to the American constitution.

He has just written an interesting article on the American economy, and I implore you all to read it.

Although quite long, it is easy for someone with no real knowledge of American politics to read and afterwards I guarantee you will think that this is the sanest man in the Western political scene. Alas he is 71 and is not likely to have a second chance at his age. Should he have won the Republican ticket, he would have won the presidential elections; he has a message that both the Democrats and Republicans would accept. I am referring to mass-America here, not the corporates and political persona though.

If you investigate more you will learn how his message has been repressed or, when they have had to give him time, distorted. When he came second in Nevada recently, they showed the first candidate, then they showed the third candidate and said he had come second. Then they showed the fourth candidate and said he had come third. No mention of the true second place candidate.

Could that happen in the UK? I wonder!


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Picasa from Google

Thank you for all who wrote to me about my article on Tuesday 4th March entitled “Are you having fun with your digital camera”. Many of you wonder if there was a freeware program so I investigated and found Picasa from Google. In fact it seemed so good I am using it myself. Both on my PC and, as there is a Linux version, on my Notebook as well.

It finds every photograph on your computer and presents then in one page, together with a contents column on the left. You can instantly find your photograph by clicking on the folder name on the left, or scroll down incredibly fast to spot them on the right. Nothing gets lost anymore. Unlike LightRoom, the method of making the picture more presentable isn’t as thorough, but it is free, and will do a minimal job. Enough for anyone who is not a professional or a serious hobbyist using a DSLR with interchangeable lenses!

The program has some interesting facilities; apart from importing pictures directly from your camera, you can select a series of photographs and watch them on a full-screen slide show. If you want to send a very large slide show, you can burn them immediately onto a CD which also contains the software to present them on another PC as a slide show. To make this easy for you, there is a “temporary tray” facility where you can chose whatever photographs you want to work with, no matter where they are on your computer.

You can use this temporary tray for all of the following. You could upload them to the Picasa website for show to anybody, or as an unlisted show just for your personal friends. On the other hand, if you build your own websites, you can export as an HTML page. There are six nice templates to chose from or you can write your own XML code if you are a professional programmer. Personally I have found two of the six templates offered superb for my needs.

You can email them to anyone using your own email program; if you use GMail then it is almost automatic. If you are sending one photograph you can send it full or reduced size. Batches of photographs always go out in reduced size. If you want to send a large batch of full size photographs, it makes it easy for you to do so outside of Picasa, by allowing you to easily export all of your original files to a folder of your choice on your computer.

You have two choices if you want to print them.

You can print them at home, using their templates of twelve to the page, four to a page, two to a page or full page (A4). In addition, you can print contact sheets onto A4 with up to 42 pictures per sheet. When printing a contact sheet, it will print the Album name at the top, the dates the photographs were taken, and the file name under each picture. Ideal for your friends to choose what they want.

Or you can choose a printing house (including Bonus Print and Photobox – and quite a few others. I use Photobox as their prices are good and if you get your files uploaded by 4:00am, they will post, via first class, the same day. And they do. They also send you a Calibration Sheet with your first order and if you are not happy with the colours, go to their website and follow their simple instructions and in future your photographs will look as they do on your screen.


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Haven’t politicians got more important things to do.

I was reading “The Times On-Line” which carried a story about Margaret Hodge and said:

The Culture Minister, who has strayed into
controversy in the past, did it again by
that the Proms was one of
several big cultural events that many
people did not feel comfortable attending.

Hasn’t she got anything better to do?

First of all, I thought the Labour Government was all for minority groups? And let’s face it, the British people who are left in the United Kingdom who appreciate culture are, perhaps, now a minority group. We read about the exodus each year of hundreds of thousands of English people who emigrate to foreign climes.

This “English minority group” I am talking about who still watch television are treated to programs such as Coronation Street, East Enders, and all the other programmes dumbed down for the majority. Why would she want to attack the one thing the BBC do so well for this “minority group”?

And anyway, whilst she is going into raptures listening to Yehudi Menuhin, there will be many others, not in this minority group, who may well listen rapturously to Nigel Kennedy!

And let’s look at football for example; is she thinking of condemning rugby because it only caters for a more elite minority? Because the minority of people prefer soccer? In fact I am amazed that Health and Safety haven’t already condemned rugby!

(Margaret, in case you are reading this, Football refers to both games, soccer is the one where you are not allowed to handle the ball.)

Anyway, all the proms are, are a series of classical concerts. Does she have the same misgivings over pop concerts featuring UB40, The Police, Eric Clapton?

My suggestion is for Ms Hodge to go back to bed, there she will be safe from showing her true reasoning powers.


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