Changing the WordPress scenery

I thought that my WordPress blog was looking particularly plain so I have just been fiddling about with it using the WordPress customizer (sic).

It was a little frustrating as extra widgets kept appearing when previewing different themes. For some reason, I still had these extra widgets within the unused widget area. These showed up when previewing different themes. (I’m not even trying to figure that out).

Anyway, this may not be the most eye shattering blog that you will find on the web nowadays but it’s not so plain as before.

I needed to take my mind from the dramas that are happening today. Believe me, when you have an ill wife and a daughter in her twenties with emotional problems, it might be a good idea to spend a little time messing with the WordPress customizer (sic).

The new laptop arrives

Okay, I am going to be very traditional man in this post and waffle on about my latest electrical gadget.  Please forgive me and be assured that I am still as modern a man as before, I still do the cooking in our house for a start.  I never fail to make the Yorkshire Puddings rise when I cook the roast, and my Sunday joint comes out of the oven juicy and tender…anyway, back to this post.

The new laptop arrived on Friday and I am already enjoying playing with it.  I would drive up to the Entroware office to thank all their staff personally but I hope that my payment to them tells them everything that I want to say.

For the first time in my life, my choice of new laptop has not been almost entirely dictated by price tag with whatever scant specification I can be lucky enough to get.  I enjoyed this position as I had been saving specifically for the event of having to replace my laptop especially as it was clearly reaching the end of its useful life.

My Entroware Aether laptop with my choice of Netbook desktop layout

Ubuntu-Mate lets you choose from several different desktop layouts – I opted for Netbook with a dock (plank) as an extra option

I was running a Linux OS (Operating System) on my old laptop and was finding that I had time between pressing the on switch and subsequently seeing the logon prompt to switch on a kettle and throw a teabag in a mug.  Oh, and start the washing machine!  Man, it was like I had been running Windows XP rather than Ubuntu.

A little research showed that I would be not be charged a premium for getting a laptop with Linux pre-installed, and so I decided early on that I would take this course.  I weighed up a few different providers and narrowed my search after eliminating  Elementary OS as my choice of Linux OS.  It seems a very solid OS but I find Elementary OS a bit boring, to be honest, but don’t let that scare you off if you like the look and feel of Elementary OS.  The reason for so many Linux distros is that a multitude of wants and needs are being provided for.

I settled on Entroware as they had two things that I particularly covet.  They seemed to offer quite a lot of specification in return for each pound spent as well as also enjoying favourable reviews online for after sales care.

I had to choose between Ubuntu and Ubuntu-Mate to be pre-installed and opted for the latter OS.  I prefer the Ubuntu-Mate desktop to Ubuntu and was finally persuaded on choosing Ubuntu-Mate on noting that Entroware is named on the Ubuntu-Mate website (ubuntu-mate.org) as one of the four main sponsors of the development of the OS.  Hmm, I thought, there’s a good chance that Entroware may have provided some machines for testing during development, so Ubuntu-Mate is likely to fit Entroware laptops like a glove (to use a cliché).

I decided on the Aether model and opted for the default size SSD (solid state drive) on which the Ubuntu-Mate OS is installed.  SSDs are lightning fast in comparison to HDDs (Hard Disc Drives) and opening LibreOffice has never been so quick for me.

As an upgrade on the default specification, I both upped the processor as well as opting for a second disc drive on which I am storing my files.  The second drive is a 1TB (terabyte) HDD and appears to be the only moving part that makes a noise in my new machine.  I realise that a SSD should last almost as long as a HDD under normal use and so this was not the reason I opted for an additional HDD rather than choose a larger SSD.  The reason that I opted for a HDD for my file storage is that I could get more space for my money.  HDDs are cheaper than SSDs and storing my files on a slower HDD will have a negligible effect on the laptop’s overall speed.

Everything is dramatically faster on the new laptop than my old machine and not just in the start up times.  Uploading files to my SpiderOak account is so much faster, for example.  I can upload in excess of 1GB (gigabyte) of data in the same time that my old laptop would take to upload five or six LibreOffice documents.  This is entirely down to the laptop’s performance as my internet connection is no different now than it was a month ago.

So, that’s the end of me reverting to type as a man and banging on about my new gadget.

I should now be able to get a lot more done in the same time which is the important thing.  I’m not a gamer but do most other things online, such as bill paying.  And yes, in case you are wondering, my VPN was one of the first things that I configured in Network Manager.

Where the heck have I been?

That really is the question, isn’t it. Why have I been largely absent from WordPress, Google+ and Twitter for several months and, perhaps more importantly, what changes have I made to my life to prevent this from happening again in the future?

There are three reasons for my dismal level of social media interaction over recent months:

  • A lack of personal organisation

  • Suffering from ‘flu for the first few months of the year

  • The recent demise of my ageing budget laptop

All of us are given twenty four hours every day. Whilst some people use the time to create business empires or to be active within civil rights pressure groups, I was somehow struggling to even find time to vacuum the car on a regular basis. So, come October when I needed to find extra time for some studying on top of the tasks I was already failing to fulfil, I put myself under unnecessary pressure.

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Even Amazon struggled. They took six weeks to deliver my Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods CD

I needed to organise my time much better. After a lot of soul searching, I have (in theory) managed to find the necessary time to do everything. I listed everything that I need to achieve and now have time slots for all necessary tasks during the week. It means that WordPress and Google+ will get my attention on a Saturday, around the time that I back up my computer files to my external hard drive (I also sync to an online encrypted cloud account). I’ll delve into the Twitter account whenever I get a few moments during the working week.

Last year my health was great right up until November when I started to catch every cold or bug that was doing its rounds. Boxing Day was when I succumbed to one of the strains of ‘flu that ravished Britain last winter.

I had trouble to get the help that I needed from the NHS which I am certain lengthened the time that I suffered.

I was even sent back to work too early by one doctor and within two days was back off work worse than ever and needing another course of antibiotics to treat the return of the secondary bacterial infection that for weeks had taken my left lung hostage.

I never want to go through that again.

My fruit and vegetable intake has since vastly increased and I have promised myself a ‘flu jab every year. Paying about £20 a year is a small price to sacrifice if I can avoid a repeat. I know that it isn’t likely that I will catch ‘flu every year but avoiding one future battle with that virus is something I am desperate for.

I need to lose some weight again now. After the ‘flu went, I started eating more and exercising less; but I have started to turn this around.

And finally, my ageing budget laptop had become increasingly temperamental over recent months. (Can laptops catch ‘flu?) Eventually, a fortnight ago with two study assignments due within days, it stopped effective service. It logs in but stops working within about fifteen minutes. I could get it fixed no doubt but it looks to be a three figure sum repair bill, so a new machine became a reasonable option.

Anyway, I mentioned that I started studying and any delay would prevent submitting my final assignments whose deadlines were only days away.

I bought a cheap Windows laptop for immediate use and this will become my wife’s main laptop in the next few weeks. Gloria’s been after her own laptop for quite a while and so is looking forward to sole use of the PC. This will be her’s on receipt of the much beefier laptop I have treated myself to, which will come with Ubuntu-Mate installed as the operating system. Man, am I looking forward to that.

(Incidentally, I found that my old laptop running Ubuntu worked better at connecting to Adobe Connect rooms than some of my fellow students’ Windows machines when attending online study meetings. Linux is more software friendly than you may think.)

So, there were three reasons that affected my output to which I have sourced three solutions: planning how I will use my time better, an annual ‘flu jab and a new (as yet undelivered) Ubuntu-Mate laptop which should last me a decade or more with careful use.

I just hope no-one cursed me too much these last few months whilst I was mostly absent…or, maybe, these events were due to someone’s curse on me.

One of these days I gotta get myself organizized

No, I’m not becoming a real life Travis Bickle, nor am I uploading another post of quotes that I like.

I really do need to get myself organised.

It’s more than a month since my last activity on WordPress.  For several months I’ve been posting nearly every Thursday; each month saw at least four offerings from little ol’ me.  So what happened?

It was the middle of May and I had to work late one Thursday night.  I actually finished at 1 am on Friday morning, slept a few hours and was then back in work that same Friday morning.  After work, and up until dusk on Sunday, I was busy with ripping down my old garden shed and putting up a new one.  So, no posting activity that week.

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At least the new shed looks good

From then on, I started to find that things happened to me rather than be controlled by me.  It has become clear to me that I am not controlling my life so much as I should do.  I have never been well-organised and this has got to stop.  It’s affecting my health.

Every week, I’ve being feeling increasingly rough each day when I’ve awoken and Monday was spent in the bathroom emptying the contents of my stomach rather than going to work.  It’s a good job I have made some improvements to my diet and my weight already this year as I dread to think how bad I would be if I hadn’t.

Enough already, I must take control of my life.

No, this has not been a complaint against life but rather a confession of my own failings.  Life has treated me very well over the last few weeks when I consider how badly I’ve been pursuing my life.  I gotta get myself organizized.

They never really grow up

I’m only going to throw up onto this WordPress site a short blog post today.  Why so brief?  Well…I’ve been feeling rough all day and today was particularly hard at work.  It’s not always the easiest thing to do to reinstall bespoke software and databases on new servers after you wake up with a banging migraine.

No more moaning from me about my ailments.  I have things to be thankful for this week.

After sixteen years of marriage to her mother, Yasmin announced on Christmas Day to Gloria and I that she would no longer be calling me Harry.  Instead she will call me Dad.

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Yasmin and I – you might want to open this photo in another browser window on a smartphone if this falls off the side of the page!

Yesterday, she met me at work as she wanted me to help her renew her car insurance.  I was introducing Yasmin to the Technical Director as Gloria’s daughter – he got on with Gloria well when she was also working at the same place as me – and I realised that I wasn’t sure how to introduce her from now on.

After she left for her flat I exchanged a WhatsApp message with Yasmin (I wish she’d use Telegram) and checked with her how she wants me to refer to her in the future.  She wants me to introduce her as my daughter.

So there you have it.  Yasmin is my little one.  Yes, she’s less than a month from her 24th birthday, but she is my little one.

I would love to have a second little one, but that’s another story.