Sunday, May 21, 2017

Guitar FX pedals and other bits for sale

I'm having a clearout of gear I don't use any more.  While I love collecting anything musical I live in a tiny hovel and need more space.  So if you fancy buying any of these pedals get in touch.

All the pedals have lived in a pedal board when in use, so are in good condition.  Each pedal has fuzzy velcro strips on it, it's easy enough to peel off but I've left if on in case the buyers also use pedal boards.  I've priced each item as cheaply as I can.  The prices include postage by recorded delivery.

Ernie Ball volume pedal
I loved this volume pedal.  It's built like a tank!  This is not the cheaper Ernie Ball VP JR, it's the real deal.  New this pedal costs upwards of £175.

Electro Harmonix Nano Small Stone
Tidy little phaser pedal.

Electro Harmonix Freeze
Not sure how to describe this pedal.  You stand on it and it captures whatever sound you're making at the time and sort of loops it.  But it's not a looping pedal, it's a 'sound retainer'.  It might be best if you look at this on the Electro Harmonix website...

T-Rex Fuel Tank Junior
I've only had this a few weeks, and still have the box for it, but as I don't use a pedal board any more I don't have any use for it.  I was seriously impressed by this power supply.  If you've ever had a pedal board set up you'll know how much they hum.  Well this power supply stops that unwanted hum entirely.  This power supply is brilliant, I'm very impressed.  When I bought this I also bought a five metre long power cable, so I'll include that for free.  A five metre power lead makes the world of difference on stage!

Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-12
This is just a few weeks old.  I bought it out of curiosity but don't really have any use for it.  What an idiot.  The PO-12 is a step sequencer / drum machine / groove box / noise maker.  It's a ton of fun.  I'm selling this with the optional silicone case, hence the price.  This little battery operated synth is a ton of fun!

Dr.FART sequencer
Circuit bent fart machine.  More fun than you might think!  Alas, I have no need for a fart sequencer in either of the bands I play in.  My bandmates have made that quite clear.  This dumb little thing was made by Psychiceyeclix.  A little warning if you're going to look at the creator's website, it may give you a migraine.

Pedal board
Kingsmen pedal case.  I have used this for a few years so it's not brand new, but is in good nick.  Hinges and clasps are fine.  It has stickers on it because this type of pedal case is really popular and at the end of a gig it's hard to tell which pedal board is yours unless you make it look different!

Akai Midi controller
Nice little midi keyboard with an arpeggiator.  I barely used this because Arturia kindly sent me a fancy midi controller to review.  There's more info on this keyboard here.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Golden Panda (Woodbridge) Chinese Menu

Chinese menus - still occasionally hard to find!

I wrote a blog post a few months ago expressing my surprise at how hard it was to find Chinese restaurant menus when far from home.  I was on holiday in Cumbria and ended up posting the menu for a great Chinese Takeaway in Grange over Sands.

A few days ago I was visiting my parents near Woodbridge (Suffolk) and we decided to get a Chinese Takeaway.  Being local my parents know that the Golden Panda in Woodbridge has an excellent reputation.  The reviews on Google Maps are great! But there was just one problem, we didn't have a menu.  So we looked online and not only could we not find a proper website for the Golden Panda in Woodbridge, we couldn't find a copy of the menu anywhere online.   This was a bit of a surprise because most of the other Chinese restaurants in Suffolk have their menus online, not normally on their own website but on one of the many websites that displays only menus.

If you find this menu useful please feel free to buy me a pint...

Golden Panda Chinese Takeaway menu.

So here it is, correct as of today, the menu for the brilliant Golden Panda in Woodbridge. Click the menu pages to viewer a larger version.  Alternatively download the pdf menu (1.4mb)...

Why do I upload Chinese Takeaway menus to my blog?

Part of the reason is that when I post something useful on this blog people send me £3.50 via PayPal so I can buy myself a pint.  I started letting people buy me a pint a few years ago, because I knew people appreciated the time I take to post some of the information I have here on this blog.  If you would like to buy me a pint please click here...

Most of the most popular pages on this blog relate to information on fixing the Bosch Classixx dishwasher.  In fact that page was viewed over 12,000 times in 2016!  I'm very grateful to the ten of fifteen people who bought me a pint after reading the page!

So there's your answer hopefully, I post Chinese Takeaway menus if they can't be found anywhere else online because I like to be helpful!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Christmas gift this year was someone driving into my parked car. Again.

My Christmas treat this year was to have someone drive into my parked car last night. No details left. This is the fourth or fifth time my car has been damaged in this way outside my house.

Two previous cars have been written off while parked outside my house. All vehicles I owned have been damaged outside my house. It's not just damage from being struck by other vehicles; the pavement side gets vandalised by pedestrians teaching us valuable lesson about parking on the pavement, even although the pavement on the other side of the road is wide and entirely clear of obstacles.

Not everyone on our side of the road takes in their wheelie bins, so the pavement on our side of the road really is restricted.

So what's the answer? Not owning a vehicle? Well I didn't own my own car for many, many years. But I was struggling to run my business in a professional manner as I was often unable to travel to see clients. Then my girl got assigned a school two and a half miles from where we live, and I've got to get her there somehow. Or get fined for being late.   I looked into buying a cargo bike so I could cycle the girl to school, but they cost considerably more than my car did.

We can't move house for many many reasons. In fact we don't want to move house because we have built our lives here in this neighbourhood for the last twenty years.

So we just put up with vandalism and try not to get frustrated with inconsiderate drivers.

So this Christmas it is worth remembering that while almost all humans are excellent there are also those who have moments when they are total and utter inconsiderate and dishonest shits.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to let them drag me down.

Here's my road.  That's my car on the left.  Note the nice clear pavement on the left.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I just received the strangest cold call ever

My landline phone just rang, it was a 'private caller' (so number withheld) but I'm a curious sort of fellow so I picked it up anyway.  We have a call blocker, so we don't get tons of spam calls.

The chap at the other end asked me if I could do him a quick favour.  'Sure' said I, and he asked me to tell his son Raveen to revise, then passed the phone to his son.  Here's roughly how the conversion went,

ME - So your dad tells me you need to revise, what are you studying?

RAVEEN - GCSE biology and science.

ME - Oh, neat.  How is it going?

RAVEEN - Not very well, I get ungraded in all my tests and works.

ME - Oh I see, what does the teacher tell you is the problem?

RAVEEN - Teacher says I'm a lazy shit.

ME - Well that's not very friendly is it.

RAVEEN - No...

ME - Well I have no idea who your dad is, how he got my number, or why he thinks I should tell you to revise.  But I'll be honest with you, I didn't revise at school and didn't do very well at all with my GCSEs.

RAVEEN (sounding uncomfortable) - Oh?

ME - I didn't revise very much at all.  But I turned out okay.  It's important to do your best at school but I guess school just isn't for everyone.  It could be worth revising a but harder, but ultimately if you're smart then you'll probably be fine...

So that was odd.  I'm not sure I helped very much.  The whole time I was on the phone I was expecting there to be some sort of spammy or scamming angle but I just couldn't find it.

Has anyone else had calls like this?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Zines and the importance of poo

For many years I bought up zines whenever I saw them in my local independent record shops (hey, remember that concept?).  I loved them, but to my mind at the time they seemed to portray a world I would never be able to either fully understand or be a part of; I read (and squinted at, for the print was shite) pages and pages of in-jokes, personal digs at folk I’d never met and sneering reviews of local bands who appeared to have done nothing to earn such derision apart from not being part of the zine-creator’s tiny circle of friends.  And for a long time I thought that this closed-door attitude entirely and fairly represented punk rock.  

Then I found Real Overdose, well more to the point I found Wolfie Retard, an affable fellow who played bass in an Ipswich band called LoveJunk.  Wolfie’s zine was called Real Overdose and while it contained a fair amount of daft stuff that I didn’t at once identify with, it never portrayed punk rock as something that I had to be invited to enjoy.

Real Overdose was the kid in class who you’d be happy to sit next to during a lesson, and who was cheerfully chat about whatever you fancied without at any point telling you that you were wrong because you didn’t wear proper punk-rock shoes, or had the wrong haircut.

Before Real Overdose I thought punk was about leather jackets, adventurous hair and questionable personal hygiene. After Real Overdose I realised that even though I didn’t like The Exploited, and wore long-sleeve tee-shirts devoid of any sort of skull-motif, that I probably was quite punk rock.  I realised that punk isn’t a thing that can be defined in any way; there’s no checklist that one has to complete to achieve the status of being ‘punk’.

Looking back I wonder if the problem wasn’t the way punk was portrayed to me; it was more likely the case I coloured my opinions with my own externally-imposed prejudice.  No idea where my preconceptions came from though, most likely the NME and The Word.

But this isn’t just another rambling damp-eyed thought-piece where some grey-haired duffer mumbles into his pint of mild about an undying allegiance to an alleged scene, nah, not at all.  When I was given the brief by the honourable editor of yon Lights Go Out zine I was asked to explain why I find the word ‘Poo’ (and all associated toilet-humour) so amusing, and I think the reason I’ll always stifle a titter when I hear a fellow beast of the earth guff ‘n’ trump is that (much like punk-rock) bog-humour is a leveller.  If we choose to unclench the buttocks that society tries so hard to keep sealed shut (with an unending list of things we should fear) and let out a little Tommy Squeaker I’m sure we’d all feel better.  Much like the ability to pick up an instrument, hit it, and then form a band, the ability to express ourselves through our bowels is something we all share and can glory in without external permission.

Originally published in Lights Go Out zine issue 27.

Monday, June 20, 2016

How I added 2tb of storage to my Macbook Pro

So I bought a Macbook Pro without looking at storage...

I love my Macbook pro.  That probably doesn't need to be said, but I do.  Well, actually I mostly love it.  External storage is a problem.

I professionally supported Microsoft products for well over a decade but after making the decision to drop the IT support side of my business I wanted to stop using Windows entirely.  Trying to use hardware an software that was trying to be all things to all people was proving too frustrating.  So I bought my Macbook Pro in 2013.

When choosing my Macbook I chose the Macbook pro because it has a SSD (solid state) drive, something which at the time was not incredibly common.  The first few days after I made the jump from Microsoft to Apple were a dream.  This was a laptop that ran like a dream.

The Macbook pro storage problem.

The SSD hard drive fitted in my Macbook pro sure was fast, but after just a few days I realised that I had potentially made a huge mistake in buying an Apple machine with an SSD hard drive.  The problem was that the hard drive on the Mac was only 128gb.  When choosing my first Apple computer I didn't think 128gb was a problem.  I had a stack of 6 massive external hard drives connected (via a hub) to my Windows computer and so local storage never seemed to be an issue.

But of course the Mac OS (operating system) handles storage differently to Windows computers.  For reasons I neither had the time nor the particular inclination to figure out my new Macbook just wouldn't play nice with my external drives.  They would randomly eject, fail to save data, corrupt.... you name it they did it.

I had a 2tb NAS (network attached storage) drive elsewhere on my network but transferring data to and from it was heinously slow.  The NAS worked fine as a backup drive for Time Machine but was useless for anything else.

The other problem with the way the Apple operating system handles storage is that it creates a HUGE file of temporary data.  This data is what enables Macs to 'wake up' really fast.  Apparently you can switch it off, but I leave my machine on all the time to having it wake fast is really useful.  But it was a problem, these temporary files were occupying more of the SSD drive than anything else.  In fact they still do today, below is a screen shot of my the storage status on my Mac.

You see that big yellow 'other' portion?  Well a lot of that is the temp files that allow my machine to wake from sleep swiftly.

The other problem I was having was that every time I imported video from an SD card to edit in iMovie the OS created multiple copies of the footage.  After just a few weeks of Mac ownership my hard drive had a handful of MB left of storage and was totally un-usable.  Even when I deleted iMovie projects the multiple copies of the movie files remained in place.  Eventually I resorted to using a bit of software called OmniDiskSweeper to track down these unwanted files and kill 'em.

Out of desperation I bought a 1tb external portable hard drive.  It wasn't a Mac specific external hard drive but from what I could figure out at the time my Mac should be able to handle pretty much anything.  It didn't.

I experienced the same problem with an portable external drive on my Mac as I did with the big stack of external drives.  The drive would dismount (disappear) constantly.  If I wanted to save to the drive or access it I had to unplug it then plug it back in again.  The final straw was when the external hard drive corrupted and I lost several week's worth of InDesign work.  This happened at the worst possible time, it was just a few days from the deadline for a very long project I had been working on for a big client.  No software could recover anything from the drive and because the drive was external it was not backed up by Time Machine.  I was livid.  So I gave up on the shitty portable hard drive.

As a quick aside I have since learned that if you are using an external drive that you want backed up by Time Machine then you need to make sure that drive isn't on the exclusions list in your Time Machine settings.

If you're saving work to an external drive on Mac OS and want your work backed up by Time Machine make sure your external drive isn't listed on the Time Machine exclusion list.
I got desperate.   I even bought some software that claimed it could reliably connect my Mac to the Amazon S3 cloud storage system.  If this software had of worked well it would have effectively added a hard drive of limitless capacity to my Macbook Pro.  The software was 'alright' but I was at the mercy of my Internet connection.  I'm with Virgin Media and when the kids get out of school, or when there's any other type of demand on the system my Internet connection slows down considerably.

How to fix the external storage problem on a Macbook Pro

I considered getting a big SD card and leaving that permanently in the SD card reader on the side of my mac.  There were two reasons why this solution wasn't going to work.

  1. I need that SD card reader to import video footage
  2. SD Cards are about as reliable as a condom at a hedgehog orgy
I toughed it out with my Mac and just put up with horrible lack of storage for about two years.  I decided that I would buy a desktop Mac with a HUGE hard drive one day and that would be the solution to my problems.

One day a video editing project landed on my lap that I quite simply wouldn't be able to take on unless I bought a new computer.  My Macbook Pro was just as fast as it was the day I bought it.  Now that I was regularly clearing away unwanted files using OmniDiskSweeper I even had a nice bit of spare space on my internal SSD.  Unfortunately the amount of video footage heading my way was far larger than my SSD, let alone the spare space on my SSD.

The answer came in the form of a portable hard drive that claimed to be specifically for Mac.  I was highly sceptical.  The price was much lower than any of the Mac specific external hard drives the used the Apple only Thunderbolt connection.  A LOT lower.

I've been using this new portable external storage on my Mac for a while now and it's amazing.  In fact it's so good I leave it plugged in all the time.  Even when I travel with my Mac I leave the drive plugged in and take it with me.  It has given my old computer a new lease of life.  It always stays connected, is incredibly fast and surprisingly small.

I set up a new iMovie catalog on my external storage and can now edit as much video footage as I wish to without bunging up the internal hard drive.  Happy days!

So what is this amazing external hard drive for Mac?  It's a Western Digital WD My Passport for Mac.  I bought the 2tb version for around £70, but there is a smaller 1tb version going for about fifty quid.  There's also a 3tb version for just a few quid more.  

The cheapest place to buy these external drives appears to be Amazon, click here to get the best possible price right now...

The photos below show what the My Passport for Mac looks like attached to my Macbook Pro.  I keep my Macbook in a protective shell, which is why it's dark grey in the photos rather than silver.  I attached the drive to my mac with some really good strong velcro.  I bought a really short USB 3 lead not just to keep things tidy, but also because travelling with a long lead between the Mac and the external hard drive was just asking for trouble.  Long leads have the tendency to get caught on things!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The first forty years of me!

Somewhat to my astonishment today marks the completion of my first forty years on planet earth!  I've never really thought about how I would feel at forty years old, partly because I try and live in the present but also because it always seemed quite far away.

I feel very blessed to have the friends and family I have.  Being 40 years old doesn't feel any different to being 20, 30 or (probably) 50.  It just means I've had 40 years of fun, and here's to (at least) the next 40 years!

The image below is the birthday card that my dear friend Graham Birks made for me.  We first met twenty years ago, and this card is made up of photos he has taken of me over the years.  Starting top left is a photo taken of me when we all lived in the nurses' flats near Ipswich Hospital.  Bottom right is a photo of me laying on the dance floor at Graham's wedding a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to share this photo with you, not out of self-interest, or any other egotistical reason.  I wanted to share it because it's quite simply one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.  What a lovely thing for an old friend to have done for me.  Thank you Graham, you are wonderful.

Click for a larger version