Little Red Roaming Book

  on June 29th, 2007

Samsung Q35 RedIt came almost from nowhere but suddenly, on Wednesday morning, I decided to get a new laptop (or notebook, if you prefer). The next morning, yesterday morning, a kindly courier arrived with my big red book. It’s a Samsung Q35 Red. Actually it is anything but big and it’s only red on the lid. I’ll tell you what it wholly is, though, it’s one fantastic little machine.

What made me decide, almost on the spur of the moment, to get a new laptop? Holidays. Well, holidays and similar traveling. In about six weeks I’ll be staying for a week in the Isle of Man Hilton. Like most decent hotels these days it has full Internet access, in the rooms as well as the lobby/bar areas – or so the website tells me. I’m not sure if I will actually have much spare time to hang around the hotel but any free moments I get I hope to be either blogging or working on Staggering Stories. Then there’s LUGRadio Live in just over a week and then a Star Wars Convention in London the week after. For all this I need a decent light laptop with wireless support…

My old laptop has served me well over the past few years but after an unfortunate incident, when it sucked down the best part of a pint of orange juice, it hasn’t quite been the same since. It was a stupendously expensive laptop, even for the time, coming in at just over £3,500 – it was a full on desktop replacement, with a large high resolution LCD panel (1600×1200 – still very good even being almost exactly five years later), 768MB of RAM, 100GB HDD, GeForce 4 Go graphics card. This was a machine that was up there with the best desktops of its day. What it isn’t, though, is small or light. I still carry it around with me, to work every day or when visiting friends or family – you never know when you might need a computer! It is a little too bulky for carrying around as hand luggage on these smaller aircraft, though. Another issue is that the triple damned orange juice damaged the power circuits in some way so that I can no longer run the laptop off battery. None too handy. The lid/screen is also a little loose now and prone to falling back if I push the angle too far – I have to really slouch down to avoid pushing the screen too far back when it’s on my lap now. Still basically works when tethered and on a desk, though. All in all, the Dell Inspiron 8200‘s traveling days are coming to an end. It has served me well.

So, planning ahead, I decided that now was the time for a replacement. Last time I wanted an all singing, all dancing laptop with the power to take me out of the computer room and into the TV room. I also wanted a laptop I could play the latest games on. The Inspiron was all that and more. This time, though, I wanted something smaller, lighter and with even better Linux support (the Dell was great for all but the WiFi card – every time I installed a new Linux distro it was a huge hassle to get the WiFi going again). A fairly cursory search for available ‘ultra-portable’ notebooks at the local PC World superstore initially led me to a Philips notebook. Further investigation suggested significant issues getting it to even boot under Linux (the smaller the notebook the more exotic the hardware is a general rule of thumb – new and exotic hardware is generally less well supported under Linux as the manufacturers usually only release drivers for Windows). Other notebooks/laptops were either too expensive or just too big (the cheapest laptops tend to be quite large it seems). So much for nipping down to PC World at lunchtime to buy one. Next it was online. Quite quickly I noticed the Samsung Q35 Red – Core 2 Duo 64bit dual core CPU, 160GB HDD, 1GB RAM, 1200×800 widescreen LCD screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, integrated Intel graphics (this is no games machine this time – I have desktop machines (plus a Wii and a DS) for that). Cross checking Linux compatibility came up good too – it looked like the only thing I’d need to do is download and compile the Intel WiFi drivers. Easier than messing around with installing Windows WiFi drivers under Linux as I have to with the Inspiron. So, paying about double what I hoped – £809.98 (still a heck of a lot less than £3,500!) I ordered it.

Multiple credit card authorisation failures saw me calling my credit card company – they were suspicious of such a large online transaction but happily authorised it when I confirmed it really was me making this purchase. Back onto the Dabs website to attempt reauthorisation – that went okay and it was almost immediately shipped for next day delivery. Fast forward to yesterday morning…

It arrived promptly in the morning. Sadly things were even more manic than usual in the department so I didn’t have a chance to do anything more than unpack it to make sure all was present and correct. Lunchtime was a long time coming, both because I was too busy to take lunch at the normal time and the added urge to just start playing with my new toy! When it did come, at about 15:00, I grabbed my things and rushed home – I’d never get peace at work that day. First priority: get Windows ready to share the drive with Fedora 7. I uninstalled various bits of junk that came preinstalled in Vista (including a 60 day Microsoft Office trial – I didn’t even bother to start that up). I don’t know if it was Sumsung or it’s a standard feature of Vista but one thing I really liked when I first started up was the offer to resize the two partitions it already had. Vista’s boot partition went down to about 40GB and there was a 10GB restore partition that I decided to leave alone for now. That gave the ‘D’ drive just over 100GB (of a nominally 160GB drive) – ideal for Fedora 7. This was my first real play with Vista, though all I really used was the Disk Management (to delete drive D) and the Uninstall control panel item. So far, so good. Vista appeared nothing more than XP with a slightly less Fisher Price graphical theme. Really nothing to get excited about – all those years of development, all those missed release dates for this? Probably unfair for me to really say much more at this point as I haven’t given it a decent play yet and aren’t intending to anytime soon. It’s there if I find I need it.

X86_64 Fedora 7, downloaded a week or so back (before I had any idea I might have a new laptop soon), went into the DVD drive (a dual layer rewriter, no less – better than the DVD-ROM/CD-RW mutant in the Inspiron) and immediately up came the installer – and correctly into widescreen, too (I had expected the installer to be stretched and perhaps have a widescreen issue with the final install too). What an excellent start. 64bit Linux, here I come (I should note that I noticed in My Computer in Vista that Windows appears to be a 32bit version, goodness knows why they didn’t install the 64bit Vista). Outside of Red Hat Enterprise Linux on various servers, this was the first time I’d really used a 64bit PC. Of course you can’t really tell any difference as a desktop user but I liked the idea nonetheless! Fedora correctly suggested it take the free 100+GB for itself. The Fedora installation just keeps getting smoother and smoother. Any idiot should be able to install Fedora these days! I left the laptop installing as I had to return to work (I considered bringing it along but it would have been too much of a distraction). Got home about an hour late that evening, thanks to a web conference call, to find the machine sitting there ready for a post install reboot. Hit the ‘reboot’ button, up came the familiar GRUB boot loader and I decided to first go back into Vista. It came up fine, my fears of dual boot issues with Vista were unfounded. Immediately rebooted into the new Fedora 7. To my amazement everything appears to work. The screen looks great in widescreen splendor. The sound worked fine. The touchpad was okay. The built-in multi-card reader worked straight off, as did plugging in a USB memory stick. Even the WiFi just worked – no need to recompile or even download the firmware from Intel – it just worked. Everything just worked! I’m still amazed even now. If I had reinstalled Vista, as may have been required to get the dual boot working, I seriously doubt everything would instantly work without having to dig out driver CDs or perform Windows Updates. It really is a testament to Samsung for their decent hardware choices and to Linux for just how far it has come these past few years. The Samsung Q35 Red and Fedora 7 are made for one another! I haven’t had a chance to actually test it (as I don’t have anything to connect with) but even the built in Bluetooth has been recognised. I really am very, very impressed. Thank you Red Hat, thank you Linux hackers and thank you Samsung. I expect to have many years of fun on this little computer – orange juice allowing.



Staggering Stories Podcast #1: Fungus or Firefly?

  on June 24th, 2007

For 25 June 2007 (recorded 12 June 2007)

Show summary: Andy Simpkins, Adam J Purcell and Tony Gallichan talk about 2007 Doctor Who, Staggering Artwork, Uberguilds Radio, and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00.01 – Introduction and theme tune.
  • 00.31 – Greetings, yes? And introductions from the team.
  • 01.14 – Where is Keith?
  • 02.00 – Pizza Poetry 1
  • 02.41 – Discussion: Doctor Who:
  • 05.00 – Daleks In Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks and the dippy middle of series 3
  • 09.00 – Smith and Jones.
  • 11.11 – The Shakespeare Code.
  • 14.14 – Gridlock and the Doctor’s case of crabs…
  • 20.15 – The Lazarus Experiment.
  • 21.39 – 42.
  • 22.48 – Human Nature/ The Family of Blood.
  • 23.54 – Just why is the Doctor now Judge, Jury and Executioner? Kai Ying wants to know….
  • 30.03 – Blink: Sally Sparrow vs Martha Jones.
  • 31.58 – Adam’s prediction for Mr. Saxon and his ‘Associates’. Cue cliffhanger!!
  • 32.08 – Pizza Poetry 2.
  • 32.47 – And now, the Gallery. Or How Crumbly creates the Staggering Stories’ front covers…
  • 41.53 – Uberguilds Radio and Tony’s radio show
  • 46.41 – SOE adverts,’Alan’, and how not to take the mick out of Yivvits and Mr. Bubble…
  • 49.05 – Pizza Poetry 3.
  • 50.00 – A letter, an e-mail… and one ‘shiny’ bottle… and how to contact us
  • 52.38 – Goodbyeeeeee…
  • 52.51 – End theme, disclaimer, copyright etc
  • plus extra goodies!

Vital Links:



Tony Gallichan is Mildly Perturbed By… TV Reception

  on June 24th, 2007

Tony Gallichan of Staggering Stories muses, nay rants, about the state of TV Reception in Crawley.



I need an I-Pod

  on June 13th, 2007


I had my first app at the Gym today and decided to walk across the strip of green from the estate to the new lesiure center (which I still say shouldn’t have been built where it is). Anyway, I knew there was a bit of greenery, nothing much, I thought. However, on the way back, I decided to exsplore slightly.

Well I never. Theres a whole mini park there, lovely grass areas, a lake/pond-thingy…its quite beautiful – especially as there were no kids around to ruin it…

So, I need to get myself either an I-pod or a portable cd player so I can pop over there with a book during the day and soak up the peace and quiet….’cos it will, hopefully, do me some serious good.

Incidently, I found this as someone’s avatar on the Jealhimet forum and was reminded of a certain Wii game..



MMOOH – MMOs On Hold

  on June 12th, 2007

Staggering Stories PodcastWhere does all the time go? Certainly not into MMOs, not for the past few weeks anyway. In fact it has been 3 weeks today since I sat down and played World of Warcraft on my own. I just don’t have time for messing about with computer games right now. That being the case, I’ve let my City of Heroes account expire. I still have a few weeks left on my 60 day WoW time card and it remains to be seen if I will have located any missing time by that point to resub with a new time card. I suspect it will wait a further few weeks after that, though.

So, where has that time gone? Taking this week as an example, then. Last night, Monday, had me shifting kit and furniture to prepare for a podcast recording. Yes, that recording should be tonight – the first proper Staggering Stories podcast. So that’s tonight, Tuesday. Assuming that happens okay then tomorrow, Wednesday, will see our first attempt to edit together the three audio tracks (each recorded on a different machine, one per podcast host). By rights I should be somewhere around East Grinstead on Thursday but I’ve not heard confirmation of that. That leaves Friday, which is normally the day the gang come over for fun and games! So, not a single evening this week free for MMOs. Okay, there’s the weekend but most of Sunday is normally out seeing the family (I might have an hour Sunday morning and about two hours Sunday evening, time to catch up on a couple of TV programmes from the week). Saturday is the only real time to do anything around the house, for Staggering Stories (not including the podcast, of course!) or any little projects I have (such as the currently languishing Asterisk project) and, of course, the good chunk of the evening that is taken by Doctor Who, Confidential and Totally Doctor Who (from the previous day – I avoid watching it until after the new Who, so I can watch the trailer at the end!) That’s just this week. The previous few weeks have been similarly hectic. Never a dull moment for me!

Back to the podcast preparations. I’ve installed Audacity on three machines (my Mac Mini, running OS X (no, not necessarily ‘of course’, I did have Ubuntu Linux running on there at one point), my laptop running Fedora Core 6 Linux and the secondary desktop from my computer room running the dread Windows XP (it was dual booting Ubuntu at one point – Ubuntu has never quite convinced me and I keep meaning to set this machine up with a dual boot Fedora)). Several gigabytes needed to be freed up on the Mac Mini and the laptop, running out of space would end the podcast pretty quickly! I had to buy an iMic USB soundcard for the Mac Mini as it hasn’t got audio in. Last night I tried to record with my laptop and found the input record levels very low. I don’t know what can be done about that, if anything. I may have to buy another iMic for the laptop but I certainly don’t have time before tonight’s recording (nowhere in town stocks them, not even the local PC World…) I’ve also got some new headsets, ones with only one ear speaker bit, so at least one of our ears is uncovered to hear what the others are saying clearly (that’s forethought!). I picked up a couple of extra clipboards too, just in case the others want to make notes as we go. All in all I think we are pretty much ready on a technical level (laptop concerns aside).

That all just leaves the mental preparation for the podcast! Getting in a decent state of mind and thinking of things to talk about. Those are the tricky bits. I find myself strangely (and pointlessly) nervous about it the closer it gets. We will have about 3 listeners, maybe 6 at a push! At times like this, having listened to so many hundred podcasts in my time, the pressure is on! Fortunately I listened to the first 20 or so minutes of the first LUGRadio episode the other day and that was ropier than scout badge hell! It will take us a while to get in the swing of things too. Plan for the best show we can do, expect the worst show ever!

Back to the beginning, then. No time to play MMOs, no point paying for them at the moment. If I ever do find some free time I also have several non-MMO PC games to play, most notably Tomb Raider: Anniversary. It’s not all over for MMOs, there will always be the free to play ones: Guild Wars, Dungeon Runners and Space Cowboy!