Firefox 1.5 Released

Firefox
Mozilla Firefox version 1.5 has been released today.

If you’re still using Internet Explorer you’re seriously missing out; Firefox is faster, much more secure and can be customised with all sorts of add-ons to improve the way it works. I’ve been using it for over a year now and I’d never go back to IE.

This new version seems even quicker and includes lots of nice new features, but unfortunately a few of my essential add-ons haven’t yet been updated. Luckily I found a website where someone has tweaked a number of the extensions to make them compatible with version 1.5.

Edit: A new version of WordPress, the blogging software which runs this site, is also due out soon. I’ll probably hold off upgrading until the Christmas holiday period, as I’m sure to break things in the process. Unfortunately that means that the automatic e-mail notifications are still broken for the time being.

It’s snowing!

WebCam051129

I’ve also been trying to get the webcam working again.

This time, rather than leaving the webcam running 24/7, I’m using a program called Fwink and scheduling the webcam to take a single shot a few times per hour. Hopefully this will prevent the webcam from burning out like the last one did.

Real Madrid CF 0 – 3 FC Barcelona

Sitges Sports Bar

One of the highlights of our trip to Catalunya was experiencing “El Classico” – the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona. 😎

There was really only one place in town to watch the game, the Sitges Sports Bar, with its plasma screens and Barcelona memorabilia plastered all over the walls. We arrived a couple of hours before kick-off and had a bite to eat, which turned out to be a good move because it guranteed us a decent seat as the place soon filled up. By the time the game started there were scores of people stood outside watching through the windows. 😯

The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant – I’ve never experienced anything like it. The whole place was rocking, with everyone singing and shouting before the game even started. The staff played the Barcelona Anthem to stir up the crowd before kick-off and again each time there was a goal. Everyone, young and old alike, jeered and hissed abuse at the Real Madrid players for the whole 90 minutes. πŸ˜›

Having become used to watching stale, lacklustre performances at Old Trafford the game itself was a breath of fresh air. Fluid, passionate, attacking football from both teams with superb displays of individual skill. Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring after 15 minutes and the place went wild. Barcelona enjoyed better posession, with the young Argentinian Leo Messi impressing every time he got the ball – definitely one to watch for the future.

Ronaldinho stole the show in the second half with first-class solo efforts, drifting in from the left wing and effortlessly beating a couple of players before slotting home neatly. Twice. Even the Real Madrid fans applauded. I still can’t believe that United allowed him – arguably the best player in the world – to slip through our fingers for the sake of a couple of million quid. πŸ™„

Edit: Roy Keane left United by “mutual consent” while we were away, undoubtedly a direct result of comments he made about the quality and commitment of certain teammates and criticism of the management, training and tactics. Well said Roy! Thanks for the memories, especially Turin ’99. I’m sure he’ll be back at Old Trafford in some capacity one day.

Edit: George Best passed away today. Links to BBC News and The BEST page. R.I.P.

Catalunya Mini-break II

Sitges is a really nice town, typically Spanish with narrow cobbled streets leading to plazas bustling with bars and cafes, a traditional market and a pleasant promenade with a good choice of restaurants and hotels. Our chosen hotel, the magnificent Melia Gran, was situated at Port d´Aiguadolç – a 15-20 minute walk from town.

We were very lucky with the weather for this time of year. The forecasts had predicted mostly overcast weather with temperatures around 12 degrees, but it was sunny and warm when we arrived and it remained that way for most of our stay. As we sat eating tapas – all succesfully ordered and paid for in Spanish – outside a beachfront restaurant on Monday lunchtime, the temperature was 25 degrees. 😎

It was really nice spending a few days doing absolutely nothing at all. We did a lot of walking, I read a couple of books, ate and drank far more than we should, and I even managed a few afternoon naps – something I just can’t bring myself to do at home. The most difficult thing we had to do was decide where we were going to dine and where to spend each evening. πŸ˜€

One thing we didn’t realise until after we’d booked is that Sitges is a Mecca for gays. To be honest, if nobody had told us we wouldn’t have even known, but once you know you can’t help but notice it everywhere. It’s not in-your-face like Manchester’s Gay Village, but it’s certainly noticable – ordinary places advertise themselves as being “gay friendly” and you see lots of blokes holding hands as they walk down the prom in the evening. We found it quite amusing, sitting outside the cafes playing spot the gay. πŸ™‚

Unfortunately it was all over much too soon and we headed back on Tuesday morning, taking the inland motorway route back to Girona this time. At the airport we found out that Monday’s flights home had all been cancelled due to fog in the U.K. and lots passengers had been stranded at the airport, with absolutely no assistance from RyanAir, for more than 26 hours. The knock-on caused our flight to be delayed by nearly three hours, but under the circumstances we were grateful to get home without further expense and inconvenience. 😐

Upon arrival back in Liverpool we found our suitcase had “burst” open during transit but, quite amazingly, the Scouse baggage handlers hadn’t stolen any of Sara’s duty free cigarettes. 😯

It was -2 degrees when we arrived home. πŸ™

Catalunya Mini-break I

RyanAir had one of their famous ticket sales a couple of weeks ago. They offered flights on any of their routes for £0.01 per person, plus taxes. We snapped up a couple of return tickets from Liverpool to Girona, near Barcelona in Spain, for a grand total of £45.26. 😎

We hadn’t used RyanAir before but had heard other peoples’ horror stories: just last week a colleague enjoyed a cheap break in Venice but found themselves stranded in Italy when RyanAir chose to completely cancel, rather than delay, the return flight due to foggy weather. Naturally they received a full refund – £0.01 each – but had to find extra accommodation and pay full fare to get back home the following day. πŸ‘Ώ

RyanAir is very similar to EasyJet: no frills at all. You don’t even get a seat number when you check in, so it’s a case of arriving early and being at the front of the queue at the gate. Only the first 65 passengers to check in are given boarding cards, after that you see people dashing across the tarmac if they want to sit together. Sara & I arrived nice and early, checked in, queued again at the gate and boarded first, getting our usual Row 1 exit seats. πŸ˜€

On arrival in Girona we picked up our hire car, a little Fiesta diesel, that I’d pre-booked via www.carjet.com – a company we’ve used before and can recommend. I particularly like their policy of “Hey, this is Spain, people here drive badly and sometimes bump into your car; we’re not bothered about little scratches and dents when you bring it back to us”. πŸ˜‰

Not wanting to travel very far on the first night – in darkness, driving on the wrong side of the road, not being able to read half of the signs, driving a manual rather than my usual automatic – we had planned to stay in nearby Girona for the first night. We somehow managed to fluke our way to our hotel, the superb Ciutat De Girona, which is tucked away in a plaza behind the main street in the Old Town. It’s a really funky, modern designer-style hotel with lots of frosted glass, steel, wood and leather – and they even offer a complimentary mini-bar on the first night! We didn’t even bother unpacking, just went straight out and hit the local bars for a few bottles of Estrella Damm. πŸ˜€

Next morning, after a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed for the seaside. We followed the N-11 south and then took the C-32 along the coast, passing through all the pleasant seaside towns – Malgrat y Pineda de Mar, Calella, Mataró, Premià de Mar – and then hit industrial Badelona, on the outskirts of Barcelona city. We hoped to take the ring road – the Ronda Litoral – and bypass most of the city, but unfortunately our out-of-date map let us down and we ended up ploughing straight through the heart of the city on a busy Friday afternoon. πŸ˜•

The journey along the Gran Via was interesting enough – if you like stop-start driving in 7-lane traffic jams with hundreds of mopeds weaving in and out on either side of you – and we passed right by several landmarks including some of the Gaudi buildings, but unfortunately it added two hours to our journey. In the end we gave up on the map and just headed in the direction of Barcelona Airport, which we knew was situated to the South West of the city. 😳

We were soon back on track and out of Barcelona, heading along the coastal highway towards Tarragona. After about 30 miles we turned off and headed for Sitges, following a twisty mountainous road that could have come straight out of the Italian Job. 😯

Free .be domain names

I recently found out that you can register a Belgian domain name for free by visiting this site. You can have pretty much anything you like ending with “.be”. 😎

I tried a few that might be useful, like “letit.be” or “free.be”, but all the decent ones I could think of have been taken. I ended up with www.theonlyplaceto.be. 😐

The only drawback is that the registration and confirmation pages are all written in Belgian or Dutch. I had to use Altavista’s Babelfish service to translate the forms into English. πŸ˜‰

Bonfire Night & Lynda’s 40th

Doesn’t time fly? It hardly seems a year ago since I last wrote about Bonfire Night. 😯

We went up to the King’s Arms again this year and although it wasn’t the spectacular musical event that Steve laid on last year, it was still a superb display. The weather was appalling, stinging rain and freezing cold wind – my pint glass nearly stuck to my hand as we stood on the car park. πŸ™„

After a quick warm-up back in the pub we hopped in a taxi down into Shaw for the other event taking place tonight, Lynda’s 40th Birthday bash, which was being held at the Cartshaft Club. It was nice to see Rob & Lynda, Max & Diane, Stu, Phil and everyone again but I’ve got to say the resident DJ was absolutely shocking! πŸ˜•

We had to wait ages for a taxi afterwards – apparently most of the Asian taxi drivers weren’t working last night because they were celebrating Eid. πŸ‘Ώ