Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Day of 2006

It's been a long time, so probably nobody'll read this but me, so that explains why this is a bit monologish. I've just ripped three Michael Chapman CDs that I received as a birthday present. Michael's been a pro guitar player for almost forty years now, and familiarity just seems to breed respect. The problem with being a fan of someone like Michael is that, as nobody'll ever admit to having heard of him, you tend to have to do unusual things - like buy all your CDs from the man himself, as no shop or web site ever carries them, and entering the track names on GraceNote and CDDB yourself, as very often you're the first to be ripping the disc !

With 26 albums of his (I just went and counted !) I suppose you could call me a fan. If anyone has a copy of Americana, though, I'd dearly love to buy it. I have Americana II, and have heard some of Americana's tracks, buy want that CD ! Anyhow, I just got "27 06 05", which is a recording of a concert he did on that data at The Greys in Brighton, which is where I grew up.

For Christmas I got something seriously more modern - Smoke and Mirrors from Marillion, the two albums from the Holiday Weekend in 2005 at Butlins, Minehead. I haven't listened to the double CD Mirrors yet, but Smoke (the single CD) is great.

Recently I've been listening to internet radio instead of CDs, and getting a good strong dose of Prog Rock. Groups such as Sylvan, Frost, and Ayreon especially. I think that these three will certainly feature in my CD buying list in the next few months. Remember that Frost is officially no more, so try to get Milliontown before it's sold out. Sylvan's is a German site: there's also a Dutch band Silvan. Finally in this musical adverts spot, take a look at Heather Nova.

So, I've spent a very large quantity of my spare time since August getting my teeth into VB.NET 2005 together with SQL Server 2005. All I can say is that I'm very thankful that I didn't try in January ! The six months have provided a huge amount of information onto the web for people to find. Even so, I've easily spent $500 on books, as it's impossible to predict what you'll need to know in advance. Finally, however, the effort is beginning to pay off. However, it's been painful at times !

After over a year with an AMD-based machine running Windows XP/64 I suppose that I was getting blasé. I had got to the point of believing that MS tools worked ! After all, I had installed the Express editions of VB and SQL Server with no problems. This feeling of security vanished abruptly when I installed Visual Studio 8. I did all the things that the release notes commanded me to do, and didn't do all the things they commanded me not to do, and then looked at what I had. The install had added a new copy of SQL Server Express, which was not what I wanted . In addition, it wasn't running. In fact, I couldn't find any services connected with VS8 at all !

OK I though - time for a reboot (akthough the install hadn't asked for one). The PC never came back !

Not good !

Eventually, through Safe Mode and the rebuilder, I found that the video drivers had been trashed, but somehow in a way that prevented me from re-installing them. Every time I touched the video software either the screen went blank or else the complete PC just stopped dead.

So, I added a small - 40GB IDE - drive to the machine and unplugged the two 200 GB SATA drives. Fine ! I can recreate a new system. Well, for a week or so, and then it crashed again - "cannot find NTOSKRNL.EXE". Well, I could find it, but I couldn't blow it away and replace it, so that drive was moved down a notch and yet another drive introduced and XP/64 installed.

Now things went better - except that it refuses to boot without the distribution disc in the CD drive ! So my original C: is now D: and my original D: is E:. So none of the original installs work and I've spent countless hours in reinstalling software onto a system that, before Visual Studio, was working extremely well.

The moral of the story appears to be to do development on your second-best machine ! Right now this PC has become a second-best machine !

My other birthday/Christmas/New Year present was a shiny new Acer 9300 laptop with a gleaming expanse of 17" of LCD screen. Seriously neat, and I hope to review it here for you in the next little while.

Meantime, however, my better half is calling ... New Year's Eve festivities are calling. Best wishes and a prosperous New Year to you all.