tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Orkut annoyances

I've been fiddling with Orkut recently, partly to mention my Beetle fixing site and partly to ask advice about what to do with my car if I can't afford to get it fixed.

Orkut doesn't seem particularly busy, at least in the classic VW / ColdFusion areas I've been poking around in. I'm finding it a bit annoying as I tend to read a few things, put the window in the background and come back later to read or write some more. At the moment every time I go back it's been over half an hour and I have to re-login to the site. This is very annoying, especially as I've got the 'remember me' box selected on logging in.

Other networking sites, such as Ecademy, give you an option to be remembered when you log in and don't have an arbitrary limit as Orkut has. If you go back to the site after leaving it for half a day, you can just continue browsing where you left off. Networking site, business or social, are not sites sit and use constantly, they are ones you dip in and out of, and having to deal with a pair of login boxes every time I go back to a site isn't something that helps me feel it's friendly.

My previous impression of Orkut has been that it's a large forum site with some social networking code bolted on. That impression hasn't been changed, I just now think it's a slightly annoying large forum site with some networking code bolted on. Not the most positive review for a website I can think of.

Strange buzzing noise

I went to see The Day After Tomorrow tonight with Alex and the trailer for 'I, Robot' starring Will Smith was on before it.

If you hear a strange buzzing sound, that'll be Isaac Asimov spinning in his grave. So far the film looks like exactly the kind of shite he avoided writing. Way to go Hollywood.

Changing gearbox oil

I've finally got around to writing up how to change the gearbox oil on a VW Beetle and put it on my Reluctant Mechanic site. I've also found another half-written article on replacing the front brake hose, so I'll have to try and finish that off and get it up there soon.

Reluctant Mechanic

I've decided to spin off the VW Beetle fixing info on my personal site in to it's own place. I've added some more info already, and hope to be adding more articles and getting a better design in places soon. So, for novices everywhere trying to keep their VW running, I give you Reluctant Mechanic, my own small effort at keeping a Beetle going.

Mozilla Google toolbar gets Page Rank

Thanks to Nick Stallman there's a new version of the Google toolbar for Mozilla that has the Google page rank displayed. Knowing Google page rank really helps with SEO, but the only way to get it so far as been the standard Google toolbar for Internet Explorer.

Here's the Mozilla version at work:

Mozilla with Google toolbar with page rank

It seems to be right. I'm not sure how he's got it working, but very good on him. I've been wanting a page rank indicator for ages for my Mac and this will be just the ticket. The only downside at the moment is I haven't been able to get it working with Firefox, but I'm going to try it with one of the latest release candidates later to see if that will make a difference.

Well done Nick!

OS X Apache and PHP setup

The upgrade from OS X 10.2 to 10.3 broke my Apache set up file. The helpful instructions here:
San Bei Ji : Tech : Enabling PHP on Mac OS X helped me get PHP back working. I had to use su to get me to root and then vi within Terminal to edit the file as BBEdit didn't give me the options he mentioned. Not the most fun I've ever had, and the upgrade has also stopped the edit Joe I installed working, and now I can't remember where I've left it. Great.

Anti-discrimination posters on train stations

On my train journey today I noticed there are some new posters around on the train stations: a campaign against discrimination against people with disabilities. Featuring slogans like "I'm disabled, not from another planet." with a picture of a person using a wheelchair with an 'greys' style alien-head pasted over their real head.

I agree wholeheartedly with the campaign, I just find it quite ironic to see it on train stations. Travelling with my sister, who used a wheelchair most of the time, across the rail service in Britain tended to be an experience somewhere between an Ealing comedy and the fifth circle of Hell. The most memorable trips I did with her were the ones to London. When I went to look around Goldsmiths College when applying to universities we got off the train only to find that the side we were on had no non-step way of getting off the platform. We had to catch the next train to the next station along the line, change over to the other side and catch another train back to the original station, but on the side where we could get out.

The most memorable trip was coming back from central London on a cold, grim day in the Guards Van. This is an area for freight boxes and bikes to be stored during a trip. Wheelchairs couldn't get in to the main carriage, so had to go in the Guards Van. Sam wasn't well enough to make the walk down to the main carriage, especially on the very bumpy rails we were going across. I didn't want to leave her alone in the Guards Van, but there were no seats, but it had been a very long day and I needed to sit down. In the end I spent the trip sitting on the cold, dirty floor on her spare seat cushion while the bumps jolted her wheelchair (about six stone in weight, plus her weight) around the barren van. At some point some cyclists bought their bikes in and were horrified that we were doing the whole trip in the van, but there wasn't really any other option.

And lets not forget the lovely rail services where you had to phone a day or more ahead to make sure the station you were going to had a ramp so you could get in or out of the train. More than one trip was made a lot harder because the destination station had 'lost' their ramp by the time you got there. And they wouldn't let the trains carry their own ramps, so they could ensure there was one with a wheelchair using passenger.

However, most of those experiences are from more than four years ago, the nightmare trip now about thirteen years ago. I noticed new ramps had turned up on Leamington Spa station a week ago - a standard folding one and new dual straight ramps. The new designs of trains mean there are no more guards vans, and spaces to drive on to the main carriage, and some of them have a particular space for a wheelchair. It doesn't take account of two people with wheelchairs travelling together, but it is indeed a start. It is only a start, mind you. I would guess that the attitudes of the guards on the trains and stations is as variable as it always was: some were absolutely fantastic, including chaps who helped me lift my sister and her motorised chair on to a train - about 20-odd stone of weight with her later chair, and others gits who deserved to lose their jobs when conveniently losing ramps because they didn't want the hassle of helping.

Even with the changes I have seen, the rail service has a lot to live up to if the posters are going to be anything other than a poor joke to the segment of people they are supposed to help.

The Mac is back

My iBook arrived back today, all fixed up and with an OS X update to 10.3.2 as well, which is very nice (I now have nifty things like Expose, but my Apache settings were nuked by the upgrade so I have fiddling to do to get my development sites working again.)

This should also increase my posting, as I find the laptop a lot easier / quicker to work on than my desktop, partly because I can just suspend it rather than switching it right off when I want to save power.

Now approaching Nowheresville (population: you)

I've been to drop my car off to a welder in Billingshurst. I was very early, which makes a change, as I usually end up late getting to the Ford garage there for things like MOTs. It may seem odd to take an aged VW to a Ford garage, but my dad used to work there and still knows most of the staff, and we know that they're good.

Billingshurst is a blink-and-you-miss-it village in West Sussex near Horsham. It only took me about 50 minutes to drive there, taking it very steady and not doing many miles above 60mph, often much slower in the country lanes behind tractors. Having given my car over, I went to the train station for a ticket home.

The ticket costs £7.80. I say "Really?" surprised it's so much, and say it again before the station master convinces me. Also, the faster train back has been cancelled so I'm better off going home via Ford. I've never been to Ford, but passed through it on the way to Leamington Spa recently and know it is near Arundel as it came up in a discussion / argument I've been having with Tom on the BNM list last week. Billingshurst does have some nice shops, but they're all several minutes walk away from the station, so I nipped in to the not-too-good shop nearby, then it's on to the platform to wait. The shelter is made of scaffolding and wood boards, and the only bench isn't in it so I bake in the sun until the train arrives, sharing the platform with a train guard with a trolley of food and drink.

A ride through the countryside later and I'm in Ford. It's just over a half-hour wait until the train to Brighton, so I decide to have a look around Ford.

There's nothing here.

Well, obviously, there is something: a train station, a small industrial estate, a caravan / camping site, two pubs, a field of 'premier' mobile homes going at £130,000 a shot, and half a dozen houses. I walked both ways down the road next to the station, one way is 100 yards, the other is a bit further to get past the camping site, then it's fields.

For all of it's nothing-thereness, I quite like Ford. It's kind of a ludicrous place to end up changing trains. There doesn't seem to be enough here to warrant having a station, yet here it sits, in the middle of nowhere, just in case someone wants to get to the nearby fields. When the announcement for the train having arrived comes before the train is in sight a woman also waiting remarks that you wonder if it's really arrived there's a secret platform two-and-a-quarter and we'll need to jump through a wall to get to it. This place does have a sort of bizarre Harry Potter-unreality to it, perhaps the station exists to service something we just can't see. I didn't try rotating my world by a billionth of a billionth of a degree. I've enough to get on with without dealing with a load of Norse gods.

Sidenotes: On the way back from Ford I noticed the guy pulling around the food trolley was the same one I shared the wait with at Billingshurst. This means I could have stayed with him to wherever the Billingshurst train ended up and changed there, leaving Ford station with less to do than usual.

Also, it took about two hours to get back on public transport, which I feel isn't doing anything to go against my pro-car stance in the discussion on BNM I mentioned earlier. I've done the trip up to Billingshurst in 35 minutes, in a faster car than I own now, without particularly breaking the speed limit. That's a lot of difference in time if you're busy.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?