Sunday, September 14, 2008

BlackBerry Curve WiFi on Belkin router

A tip for anyone trying to get this combination to work: you must disable 802.11e QoS or the BlackBerry will be unable to authenticate.

This setting can be changed within the router's built-in web setup. Once connected, go to the Channel and SSID entry in the side menu (under the Wireless heading). On the page that comes up, it's the very last setting: 802.11e QoS.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stupid Mac bug with Leopard and Spaces

Sometimes, when I move my Macbook Pro from using my external 23" Cinema Display at work (laptop lid closed) to home with the internal display open, the sliding between Spaces is gone.

Instead, it just flips; windows appearing just appear, windows going away disappear, and nothing slides.

I don't know what causes it. I don't know if anyone else has this happen, but it's happened to me with two successive Macbook Pros so it's not just one system.

The way to fix it is to select a different resolution from the Displays drop-down on the right of the menubar, and then return to the old resolution. When this is done, the sliding effect returns.

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 5: Oxfordshire, continued

I went to school in Oxfordshire at Langtree School (image) in Woodcote. We took a bus route through the villages of Nuffield, Stoke Row and Checkendon.

For sixth form, nothing was available at Langtree, so I attended The Henley College in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, for my A-levels.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 4: Oxfordshire

My father got another job when I was about thirteen, all the way south in Oxfordshire, just outside the historic town of Wallingford. The position was as an instructor for Turners Court, a residential educational establishment for delinquent boys.

Again, a house was available for us on-site, just up the hill at No. 2 Brixton Hill. (Several more houses have been built since then; all that was there in the 1980s were the semi-detached pair of homes at the bottom. We lived in the rightmost of the two.) It was next to a small wood of beech trees, which provided endless fun for my brothers and I.

About a year or so later a house on the grounds proper was vacant, and we moved into it, it being much closer to my dad's work and a much newer house. (The only change to this area since I lived here is that each house has had a 2-car garage built for it. Originally everyone shared a row of rather ramshackle garages approximately where the big trees just north of center are now. We were in the house second from the right.) I believe the address was No. 3 Turners Court.

The school itself appears to have been razed to the ground since we left; no trace of the residences or classrooms remain. Houses have been built over most of it. It's not surprising, since after my dad had worked there for a few years the establishment was bankrupt and closed down. I imagine it was sold for housing.

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 3: Durham

When I was about nine or ten my father, having finished his OND(H), got a job with a youth training center in Aykley Heads, Durham (the actual location was somewhere near the center of this map; it appears the buildings they used are long gone).

They trained unemployed youths with some horticultural skills (among other things) in the hope of finding them work. This was the 1980s, after all, the time of large-scale unemployment and displacement, especially in North-East England. Heavy industries, such as coal-mining and shipbuilding, were closing down and the world was changing under everyone's feet.

They found us housing in a set of houses built for policemen's families but at that time sitting vacant in the village of Sherburn, to the east of Durham proper, while my Dad's employment was to the north-west of the city. Sherburn was a scary place for newcomers. I recall many of the kids I went to school with there had never been beyond the visible horizon their entire lives. Scotland was a foreign land, inconceivably distant, alien to their world. The fact that large proportions of the village's inhabitants appeared to be related to one another gave it a horror-movie tone. I hated it.

Things got a little better when I started attending Gilesgate Comprehensive School, though, where it wasn't just the idiots from Sherburn.

After about a year they found my family a permanent residence at a council house in Framwellgate Moor, which occasioned a change in schools, too – we now attended Framwellgate Moor School, just down the road.

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 2: Ayr

When I was about six, my father began a course leading to an Ordinary National Diploma in Horticulture (ONDH) at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchincruive Estate, near the town of Ayr, Scotland. To pay his way, he hired on as the Head Gardener at Doonholm Estate, a position coming with lodgings for a family. This proved to be a single-storey gatehouse on the A77 Ayr–Maybole–Stranraer road.

This was a bit of an accident black-spot, due to the fast and straight stretch of the A77 yielding suddenly to a dip and sharp blind turn. The dip flooded during bad weather, which in western Scotland is almost continous. There were at least three deaths there in the just over three years we lived there.

We attended Alloway Primary School in the nearby village of Alloway, nowadays pretty much a suburb of Ayr. Alloway's claim to fame is as Scottish poet Robert Burns' birthplace, and the Burns Cottage is close to the school. Being a good five miles from school or more, we were afforded free transportation. Normally that'd be a bus, but because of the tiny numbers of children coming from near us we were instead ferried to and from school by taxicab, the schools contracting with a local cab firm for the purpose. I have strong memories of the taxis, big Ford Granadas (always the most popular taxicabs in the UK, just like Ford Crown Victorias are ubiquitous in the USA). Big plush velour seats, brown upholstery, as I recall brown cars too, with vinyl roofs (this was the late 70s, after all!), the everpresent smell of cigarette smoke and Big Tree air fresheners.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 1: Somerset, Ballantrae

Google Maps (and thus Google Earth as well) now have pretty good high-resolution imagery of the United Kingdom, good enough now that I can pretty much trace back my geographic history, so that's what I'm about to do.

I was born in Hampstead, a district of London, but I'm not sure which hospital. The Royal Free Hospital wasn't open in Hampstead at that point, so I'm not sure. Perhaps I was born elsewhere but my parents lived there, or perhaps it was in a location since closed.

Pretty early on – vague memory from my parents says at about six months of age – we moved to Montacute in Somerset, where my dad took a job at the National Trust's Montacute House. I'm not absolutely sure of the house we lived in, but this one appears closest to my memories.

At five years old, I think, we moved to Scotland, taking the night sleeper from Euston up the West Coast Main Line. Ever curious, I pulled the communications cord, fortunately when stationary. I remember the Guard coming to our compartment while I frantically hid beneath the blankets.

My father had taken a job as Head Gardener at Glenapp Castle, near Ballantrae, which was then the family seat of the Earl of Inchcape; it's now been sold and is a luxury hotel, but this was after my time there. We first lived at a house on the estate, Boartreehall House (I think I have the spelling of that correct, but we'll see) and later in a more modern bungalow, 1 Smyrton Hill, just outside the estate. I went to school at Ballantrae Primary School.