Sara’s going to Boot Camp

When we first arrived in Australia we decided it was time to start living a bit more healthily. We didn’t go as far as dieting or joining a gym; but we ate good fresh food, we drank less, we went swimming a couple of times per week and walking virtually every day. We thoroughly enjoyed it and felt a lot better. Unfortunately since we started work we’ve started to slip back into our old ways. 🙁

Lunchtimes are a problem for me because there’s almost nothing near my workplace so we usually jump in the car and drive to Scoresby or Knox City, where there are at least 30 or 40 different places to eat. I do try to choose the healthy option, honest, but if someone says “let’s go to the Irish Bar for a pot and a parma” then my good intentions go out of the window. [-x

It’s even more difficult when I’m working away in Sydney — it’s no fun being stuck in a hotel room, so I invariably go out for a beer or five, every night I’m there. I’m really going to have to make more of an effort. :-@

We’ve tried to carry on with the swimming and walking in the evenings but, because I often have to work late, Sara is left waiting for me to come home. So, when the above flyer came through our letterbox last week, she decided to enrol in this “Fitness Boot Camp” which runs two evenings per week on the sports field at the end of our street. She’s asked me to blog it so that she can’t back out of it. =d>

I’m not sure I like the idea of her getting a free pair of boxing gloves though. b-(

Let’s Offroad!

Last Sunday we went to the Victorian 4WD Show, a huge outdoor fair for 4×4 owners. The show was held in Wandin, about 20 minutes drive from us.

We mooched around all the stalls selling 4×4 accessories, books, camping stuff, tools and survival equipment and had a look at some of the bizarre vehicles on display. We also watched an organised demonstration showing how Land Rovers have evolved to deal with rough terrain — they drove a 50 year old original Land Rover through a series of deep trenches, then did the same thing with a Defender, a Discovery and a new TD3 to show how the suspension has improved in each generation. :-b

The best bit of the day was being shuttled by bus to the “Adventure Circuit”, a purpose-built offroad track designed to thoroughly test a car’s off-road capabilities. It was amazing watching the vehicles climbing ridiculously steep hills, rocky gullies, forging through a deep water crossing and, with bouncing up and down “steps” carved into the hillside. :-ss

Members of the various 4WD owners’ clubs were allowed onto the circuit in their own vehicles; many of them were offering lifts to anyone who wanted to share the experience. Me, Sara and Andy queued for a while before jumping into a virtually brand new Toyota Landcruiser…. complete with a trailer!

It was incredible, like a rollercoaster ride in a car. I kept thinking “Nah, we can’t possibly be considering going up there, are you crazy?” and the guy would just casually drive over the obstacle while chatting to us about his offroad travels in the outback (the trailer was apparently for their “grog” when they were on off roading holidays). #:-s

It really showed what these sort of cars are capable of and gave me the confidence to do a bit more in mine. ~:>

Nick’s New PC

Last Saturday I bought all the components for my new PC. I ended up going for the Core2Duo 4300 processor, Gigabyte 965P-DS3Pro motherboard, MSI 7900GS video card with 2x 1Gb Kingston DDR2 memory. The choice of cases wasn’t great at MSY, but I settled for a nice piano-black Antec Sonata II case with a near-silent 450W PSU.. Total outlay $1043 (£425).

Building it was quite straightforward and it booted up first time without any drama. I installed Windows Vista and then decided to see how far I could overclock things. I started out cautiously, increasing the clock speed from 200 to 220 (i.e. going from 1.8Ghz to 2.0Gz) and didn’t notice any difference in temperature, so I just kept going up, 20Mhz at a time. :-ss

I actually managed to get all the way up to 3.0Ghz before it started getting quite hot, so I’ve settled on running it at 2.66Ghz for now, the same speed as the $735 E6700 — not bad for a $235 chip! If I find that I need more grunt, I’ll buy a better heatsink/fan and overclock it even more, but for now it’s more than fast enough. 🙂

I’ve got to say that Windows Vista is fantastic. Once you’ve used it for a few days you can’t go back to Windows XP. I’m now going through the boring process of reinstalling all the bits of software that I had previously and, so far, I haven’t found anything that Vista doesn’t like, except my old Wireless Intellimouse Explorer which works OK but I can’t reprogram the thumb buttons to my liking. 🙁

I’ve also installed a couple of games, just to see what this video card can do. Supreme Commander looks amazing, but I don’t really have time to play it at the moment. Command & Conquer “Kane’s Revenge” is due out this month, so I’ll probably waste a few (dozen) hours on that, for old time’s sake. 😉

I need a new computer… advice needed

My computer is dying. As I mentioned six months ago, it was poorly when it arrived in our container from the UK and has deteriorated even more since then. :((

My video card has now died completely and the AGP socket on the motherboard no longer works at all. I’m currently stuck with the crappy on-board graphics card which isn’t great, especially under Windows Vista. On top of that, the power supply seems to “breathe” when the computer is busy; it’s not just the fan, it’s a loud electrical hum that can only mean bad things are about to happen soon. 😮

So I need a new PC.

Having worked in various computer companies for the last 15 years, I’ve always been able to acquire bits and pieces from here and there without spending a lot of my own money. Unfortunately I have to buy this one myself, so I’m going to build something half decent in the hope it will last a few years. $-)

I’ve done a bit of research this morning and, unless someone advises me differently, I’ve pretty much decided on the following components:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor — from what I’ve read today, the newly launched E4300 model could be extremely overclockable. With a bit of tweaking, it should be possible to make this bottom-of-the-range chip outperform the 3.4Ghz extreme editions that cost six times as much. [$297]
  • Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 motherboard — It has all the features I could need and seems to be a favourite amongst the overclocking enthusiasts, who managed to get 3.38Ghz out of this 1.8Ghz rated CPU. [$189]
  • Geforce 7900GS video card — I’m not going to pay crazy money for a top-end graphics card; about £60 was my limit last time. I don’t play a lot of games but when I do, I’m usually disappointed to find that I have to turn off most of the fancy graphics. I’ve never been an ATI fan, so I was looking at the slightly cheaper Nvidia 7600GT models but, in the hope that it will last a bit longer, I’ve stretched the budget to £100. [$250]
  • 2Gb DDR2 memory — I’ll make sure I get overclockable 800Mhz stuff, so it matches the FSB speed, but I don’t think I need to pay top whack for the premium branded stuff. [$265]
  • A case — Undecided on this at the moment. I don’t want a huge thing, would prefer a small HTPC or cube style case. As long as it takes standard PSUs and full height PCI cards though. Possibly one of these, but I’ll see what they look like in the flesh first. [$130]

So, if you’re reading this Adrian/Andy/Rob/Jon etc – please let me know your thoughts on the above components. I need your expertise. ^:)^

Feel free to recommend alternatives, but my budget is $1200 maximum. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the bits from MSY next weekend, unless I can source any of it cheaper elsewhere using the StaticIce website.

Introducing… Richard Cheese

At work, over the last few years, whenever anyone has reported a problem with the internet, I usually fire up Google and make a random search or two, to determine whether there’s an issue or not. I also occasionally fire up too — I don’t know why we latched on to using this particular site, but for some reason it’s still my test website of choice. 3:-o

(Actually, I’ve just noticed that they don’t have a listing for one of Australia’s favourite cheeses.) ;))

Anyway, I was looking to illegally download err purchase some music the other day and the Amazon search page didn’t seem to be doing anything so, to see if it was broken, I searched for “cheese”. I was intrigued with the results so decided to illegally download err preview a few of the tracks from the Richard Cheese albums.

I’m very impressed. The best way to describe it is… imagine Frank Sinatra singing “Another Brick in the Wall”, or Tony Bennett covering “Smack My Bitch Up” or perhaps even Dean Martin doing a version of “American Idiot” or “Creep”. :-”

Actually, if you remember The Mike Flower’s Pops cover of Oasis’s Wonderwall from a few years ago, then you’re on the right track. Think swing versions of pop/rock/grunge. It’s a truly bizarre combination, but very funny indeed. :d

Well worth illegally downloading err rushing out and buying. 😉

Edit: There are a few tracks on YouTube.