Home Computer Problems

Last weekend the laptop, a many year old Dell E6520, decided it should update Windows 10 to the anniversary version (1607).  There was much churning of wheels.  The machine restarted and displayed a blue screen, with the wonderful words that an error had occurred.  There was an error message DPC WATCHDOG VIOLATION.  It  restarted again, then went into recovery mode. There was a successful recovery to the old windows.  Phew! I still had an operable machine.  Of course in a few hours the whole process repeated.  The update was downloaded again, and then applied, and the DPC WATCHDOG VIOLATION message appeared.  This went on time after time.  What was I to do?

Google suggested incompatible drivers and pointed to the screen drivers.  I removed the drivers and the update started. The drivers came back and the whole error appeared again.  Another suggestion  was the disk was failing, and I should run a CHKDSK /R /F.  CHKDSK was started. The progress steadily increased until it reached 14%.  At 14% it hung for several hours.  Again there was  someone on the interwebs who said if it hung there for a long time, it was because it was trying to recover bad disk segments and therefore you had a problem.

The Solution

Gambling time had come.  Buy a new disk drive, and while we were at it, buy a solid disk, a Samsung SSD 850 EVO.   Amazon delivered next day. I replaced the disk drive in minutes. I then downloaded Windows 10 onto a stick and booted the laptop from the stick.  Yes it recognised the new drive, and yes it also recognised the laptop so I had a licensed machine.   I also no longer had all the Dell crap bloatware anymore.

The installation media was pre 1607 version, so fingers crossed while Windows updated itself.  This time no problems and now we are all up to date, and a FAST running machine.

The machine now is rejuvenated.  The solid state disk, boots in seconds and is operable immediately after I login.  Previously the machine took 10 minutes to become usable, because there was so much disk I/O from Dropbox indexing the files to find out what was had changed. Startup time was unacceptable.

Now its back to reinstalling applications, and recovering the data from the cloud.  Thankfully, with my FTTP connection this was quite fast.

A Buzzard in our Garden

A Buzzard visited our garden, sitting on the fence between the paddock and the garden.  As I approached, the bird flew off and sat on the fence further into the paddock.  It then flew into the next door field.  In the process the Buzzard was mobbed by the Red Kites.  A bit of a change, the Red Kites themselves are normally mobbed by the Jackdaws and Rooks.


Weekend In Leicester

We had a lovely weekend in Leicester staying with Valerie and Norman, along with Bill and Viv.   The visit started off with a chainsaw massacre  in the garden with a little bit of pruning.  After this hard work, our thirsts were quenched with a couple of pints at The Classroom Real Ale pub.  This is a real ale micro pub, twenty minutes walk away, serving some great ales straight from the cask.  I was very impressed with the quality of the beer and service.  Looking forward to a return visit.

Next day Bill, Norman and I went for a walk along the Grand Union Canal from the Navigation pub to Wistow Rural centre.  Lovely day, the canal had a thin layer of ice, and the outward walk was over frozen mud.  At Wistow Rural Centre we ate lunch and had a walk around the garden centre.  The pictures I have taken are of a model village, notice the campervan. The walk back was a little muddy as the mud had thawed.  On the way home we stopped off at a real ale pub called The Cow and Plough for a quick pint.

In the evening we took a taxi into Leicester centre for supper at the Ask Italian restaurant.

On Monday we had a walk at Bradgate Park. A large open deer park with a ruined house, some lovely oak trees.  We walked to the top of the hill where the Old John Tower is situated.  This 18th Century folly sits on the highest point of the Park and is one of Leicestershire’s most famous landmarks.   Lunch nearby in the Jade Tea Rooms.  Very reasonable and sizable portions.





David Bowie at the Proud Gallery

On Thursday I traveled to London to visit the Proud Gallery on King’s Road to see an exhibition of photographs of David Bowie.  The gallery is a small gallery and had a selection of photographs of Bowie priced from a couple of thousand to over sixty thousand pounds.  Needless to say I was not buying.

I also visited the V&A gallery to see their small free exhibition of Glastonbury.  The exhibition was not about the music, but the performing arts side of Glastonbury.  I took a look at other sections of the V&A and have promised myself another visit.

Ate a late breakfast at an Italian restaurant on King’s Road, seemingly used by builders, which serves a good English breakfast.  I ate poached eggs on toast, Eggs Benedict no less, and drank a good coffee.

New year 2017 at Richard and Andrea’s

We had an invitation to see the New Year in with Richard, Andrea, Norman and Valerie. R and I travelled over, stopping off at Hatfield Forest for a soup lunch.  The day was miserable, but still there were many out walking dogs and blowing  the Christmas cobwebs away.

Arrived mid-afternoon, played a frame of snooker against Richard, but unfortunately I did not uphold the Blasdale honour.  We had an excellent meal with lashings of wine and saw the New Year in with a spectacular firework and sparklers.

Next day we all went out for lunch at the Galvin Green Man.  A busy gastro pub with contemporary restaurant.  Part of the restaurant has a glass roof, which the torrential rain cascaded down.  There were some good beers on tap, I drank an Adnams Ghost Ship.  After lunch we said our goodbyes to Norman and Valerie, who left for home.  We stayed on for another night, and another frame of snooker.  This time the frame ended in a draw. 

The next day the sun shone and it was a beautiful sunny day. We went for a walk around Littley, saw the wedding venue Leez Priory with gorgeous leaning garden walls.  Lunch was at the Compasses which had some excellent beers.  Alas I was driving. The pub had masses of community notices, including one for a sewing group called Bitch and Stitch.

A very enjoyable two nights away.

Christmas for Red Kites

We treated ourselves to a Lidl Spanish Serrano Jamon for Christmas.  I had always wanted one!  The day came and I carved a thin slice.  It was disgusting.  So the Red Kites, Magpies, Crows & Jackdaws had an early Christmas present.  The leg tended to move around the field overnight, badgers or foxes would gnaw at it.  There now is a white bone in the field.  It has taken from before the 20th December to now (January 10th) to reach that state.

Some pictures of the Red Kite on the Jamon, and a few after the juvenile kite flew off.

The Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza, Jamie Cullum

I managed to persuade Rosemary to go to one festival this year, the  Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza. She seems to have been further persuaded to go by one of her friends.  Playing were Van Morrison, Jamie Cullum and the Wells Cathedral School Jazz Band.

The journey to Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza

We set off from home on the Friday, stopping at Avebury.  The site was heaving with people.  We walked around most of the ring, picnicking on the bank.  The facilities have been changed since we were last there.  The National Trust has opened shops, restaurants and museums.  We then continued the journey to Glastonbury, passing through Pilton on the way.  The trouble with Google maps for navigation was a sudden lack of mobile phone signal meant we were unable to plot a course for some time.  The cached map though helped us drive in the correct direction.

Glastonbury Campsite

A special campsite for the festival had been arranged, very basic, some Glastonbury Festival compost toilets, and trough wash basins.  The Festival painted oil drums for rubbish bins were also in attendance.  We erected our tent by a hedge and then walked into town for some well earned beers and food.  We drank at the Who’d A Thought It, which was the only pub we could find to sit outside, and went to the  Elaichi Tandoori for supper.  Lovely walk home behind the Tor back to the campsite.

The prelude

The following day we ate our breakfast, and went to chat with some campervan owners to see how they had done their conversions.  Interesting conversation.  They seem to have been long time campers and campervan owners.  We then walked up to the top of the Tor where the views were staggering.  We could see Hinkley Point nuclear power station on one side, and on the other side we could make out the Glastonbury Festival pyramid stage field and Worthy farm.  To the North of Hinkley we could make out the Bristol Channel and Wales beyond. We met an American who had come over expressly for the Van Morrison concert and a chap who lived on Worthy Farm.

After the Tor we walked on to Glastonbury for lunch at the Hundred Monkeys Cafe.  Rosemary assured me it was a Vegan cafe, and that I was not to mention steaks.  The first item on the menu was  beef burger.  It was a rather bizarre experience, on what was going to be a busy day, the kitchen did not have a full team, so customers were being turned away from a half empty restaurant.  We were seated, but did spend several hours there.  A lazy afternoon ensured with a bottle of prosecco at the Who’d A Thought It.

Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza

At five we entered the Abbey grounds and found an area on a slight rise that should give us an uninterrupted view of the stage.  The fun started.  R was pleased with the Wells Cathedral School Jazz Band and Jamie Cullum.  She did not like Van Morrison at all.  I have to admit there were probably just two of his songs I  recognised.  Still is was a good evening with an almost cloudless sky.  Even saw the International Space station pass overhead.  The night was finished with splendid fireworks.

The next day

The morning after  the Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza, it was raining. A very fine drizzle in the morning, meant we had to dry the tent out when we got home.  We packed and went towards Pilton.  Here we tried to get to Worthy Farm, but it is barricaded off. Showed Rosemary where Love Fields is.  We then headed for home on the A303.


Then Google announced a detour because of traffic congestion, and we headed off on the A36 towards Stofford where we stopped for lunch at the Swan at Stofford.  We did not go for their Sunday roast, but ate from the menu.  Back on the road, and followed the diversion directions back to the A303, to be met by the traffic problem caused by people rubber necking Stonehenge.  At least Google had saved us a few miles of traffic problems, and showed us a reasonable pub for lunch.  Time the A303 was buried out of sight of Stonehenge, should improve the traffic flow no end.





Bletchley Park, The Bombe

Visited Bletchley Park today with Valerie and Norman.  This was definitely not the best day to go, Fathers Day.  The exhibitions were busy, overflow parking was in a nearby school.

We had been to Bletchley Park, years ago.  Several restaurants have been added since then.  With lottery funding a working Bombe machine has been recreated. This was demonstrated with an explanation on how it works.  We next viewed some excellent displays which went into greater detail of the decoding process.  I never managed to get around the whole of the site.  I will be visiting again, the tickets allow free entry for a whole year. The National Museum of Computing is on the same site.  They house the replica Colossus machine along with other old computers. This is definitely on my wish list.

Bletchley Park House

Next we walked around Bletchley Park House, where there was an exhibition of the The Imitation Game film.  This is  complete with Bombe machines used in the Benedict Cumberbatch film.  These don’t work, just the dials rotate with the electric motors behind.  The sound engineers  used the recreated Bombe for sound track on the film.  Wrens who had worked on the real machines back in World War II say it does make the correct sound.

Second Visit to Bletchely Park

We did make a second visit to Bletchely Park when Richard and Andrea visited us. Rosemary, Richard and I visited the park (Andrea was off at a Conference).  It was less busy, but still busy. This time we saw a few other huts.  One very amusing one was the use of carrier pigeons for intelligence purposes.  Did you know there had been undercover spy pigeons? Each side was shooting down pigeons, or using birds of prey.


Caius College Garden Party and Illuminated Caius Choirbook

Rosemary and I visited Cambridge for the Gonville and Caius Alumni garden party.  This is a thankyou event to those alumni who donate to the college.  Despite high fees paid by undergraduates, their payments only cover half the costs.  When I was a student at Cambridge, tuition costs were fully paid, and I also received a grant for living expenses.  I feel a debt of gratitude which I now repay by donations to Caius college.  This is big business to the college, who have a set of rewards depending on the value of gifts made.

The day was a sunny day, and the city was lively with the Brexit campaign in full swing.  The city was full of those supporting the Remain campaign.  Of course the majority  of those we spoke to at the alumni party were in support of Remain.  Education and research is so bound up with freedom of movement and research grants from the EU. It is no surprise that Cambridge voted to remain. 

The food at the party was as usual excellent.  I have never seen so many prepared Cromer grabs.  Wine and fizz was available in good quantities.  After the congratulatory speeches we hastened to the Cockerell building where the Illuminated Caius Choirbook was on display.  We were also entertained to some singing from the Caius Choirbook and came away with a CD.

Starling being fed in old Rayburn solid fuel cooker

Picture of a Starling chick being fed in an old, disused Rayburn solid fuel cooker which a pair of Starlings were using as a nest.  This was the second time Starlings have done this, the previous time being two years ago.  I managed to grab a few pictures of the chick being fed.  The next day it had fledged and gone.  The pictures were taken through an open window on a Canon EOS7D Mk2.  The lens was a 100 – 400 Canon.

Both parents were feeding one chick.  At least, I believe there was only one chick.  This was the same as the previous nesting two years before.



Waddesdon Manor Christmas Lights 2015.

Waddesdon Manor Christmas Lights 2015. Bruce Munro’s installation of lights at Waddesdon Manor called SOS, This is his final year of three years at Waddesdon Manor. The lights on Waddesdon manor were by Woodroffe Bassett design.  We visited with Ian and Julie.  Lovely warm evening for December.  You must watch the video to hear the sound track associated with the lights in the tent.

The Amazing World of M.C. Escher at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Rosemary and I ventured into London to see The Amazing World of M.C. Escher exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.  His graphics were truly amazing, from his original portraits and drawings, onto metamorphosis, and tessellations.  There was also the iconic waterfall.  He worked with British mathematicians, like Roger Penrose who gave Escher the idea for the stairs picture.  Exhibitions of his work are very rare in the UK, and this one is well worth visiting.  It is on until  the 17th January.  We also ate lunch at the gallery restaurant, tad expensive, but very nice meal.

Back in Central London we visited the Chris Beetle gallery.  They are the gallery that sell the original Matt cartoons which are published in the Telegraph. I have an original Matt which Rosemary bought me for my birthday, its of Cyber Crime. Sorry Guv I had to taser the computer. R had tried to buy me a Glastonbury Matt, but it was sold in minutes of being published. The gallery staff were in fact setting up an exhibition of Matt Cartoons, presumably the ones which did not sell.  They also sell originals from many other cartoonists and etchings from a variety of books.

A coffee in a Cafe Nero, then a stare at some of the shop windows as we walked our way to Piccadilly Circus and back home.

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Crystal Palace from West Dulwich

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Fortnum and Mason

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Fortnum and Mason and Selfie

Mars, Venus and Jupiter

I have been meaning to see Mars, Venus and Jupiter for the last few days, but been thwarted by not waking up and the clouds.  First saw them at 2.00am on Saturday morning, saw two bright objects in the sky, low to the horizon.  I thought the other object must still be below the  horizon.  So went back to sleep, to wake at 4.45 am to find cloud.

After the Kingswood fireworks, I set the alarm for 4.45, prepared the camera and went to bed.  Woke and it was misty, but the stars were still visible.  This time I saw the two bright objects high in the sky?  Where was the third.  Puzzled, fired up google Night Sky and searched for Mars, Venus and Jupiter.  Duh, of course Mars was not as bright as Venus and Jupiter. The red planet was easily spotted with binoculars.  Here is a photograph of the planets, from left to right they are Mars (red), Venus (the brightest) and Jupiter.

Mars, Venus and Jupiter on 1st November 2015 a 5.42 EDT, Kingswood, Bucks, UK

Mars, Venus and Jupiter on 1st November 2015 a 5.42 EDT, Kingswood, Bucks, UK