Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Taking a risk

I was playing poker against a guy with the user name of CalQl8tedrisk. I went all in after the flop, needing an ace for a straight, and a high pair if I missed the straight. He called, I caught the ace on the river, and then he said I was damned lucky. With a name like his, you think that sort of bet would be right up his river.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sony Warranty

As I was growing up, I always wanted to buy Sony equipment. It looked cool, that smooth casing with SONY written across the middle, it oozed quality, I always felt that buying Sony meant you were buying the best. Of course, I had to settle for Amstrad, Saisho, Matsui - my budget would never stretch to Sony. I still linger longingly in the electrical stores as I pass the latest Sony widescreen TV, but I am still buying the cheap stuff.

Over at Nickerblog, Shane Nickerson is someone who could afford to buy Sony, but is now having serious difficulty in getting them to cough up for replacing a damaged screen on a camera under warranty. Apparently it is physical damage, which isn't covered by the warranty. I had a similar problem with a Siemens mobile phone in the past, picked it up one day, screen was cracked. It hadn't been dropped, sat on or abused in any way, but I had no luck in getting it fixed. These companies just don't seem to get that a screen can break because of a fault that was there all the time, a small crack, imperfections in construction etc. I hope Shane gets somewhere with this one.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Land of Hope and Glory

What a weekend of sport - I can't remember so much success in the space of two days - England beat Australia at rugby union, Great Britain beat New Zealand at rugby league, England beat Argentina at Football, and Pakistan have thrown away a strong position in the first cricket test. Finally, Nigel Mansell wins the inaugaral Masters Grand Prix in South Africa!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Change of Style

I've been finding the low stakes Hold'em cash games really frustrating. Because of the low values involved, people don't seem to play sensibly. They're seeing the flop with 29o, raising and calling with nothing. It's incredibly difficult to read what they've got. So now I'm only playing the best hands, KK, AA, AK I'll raise preflop, and hit them hard after the flop. 77, 88, 99 etc I'll limp in, likewise with suited connectors. Anything else I fold. Its already paying dividends. I trippled my starting moneylast night, and doubled it today. I've just got to resist the temptation to play more hands when I've built up some money.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I just had a dream poker hand.

Nothing special to start of with - 78 suited. I limp in from seat 5, along with 4 others.

The flop comes 8 8 8. Oh my God, I've got 4 of a kind. What do I do now? If I raise, everyone else will fold. Then the incredible happens, UTG raises. Only half the pot, but its a start. I assume he's got a full house. I smooth call, SB and BB both call. Guy to my left folds.

The turn is a queen, SB make a pot sized raise. Great! I assume thats another full house. I go over the top, BB folds, SB calls.

River is 2s, SB bets again, nearly half his stack. Enough messing around, I put him all-in. He calls! I show my 4 eights, he mucks.

The last time I had 4 of a kind, all I got was the blinds. Not that I did anything clever this time, I was just helped by someone else raising for me. The luck didn't hold though, I got cocky and ran a set into a full house, losing just under half my stack. Oh well, that will teach me some restraint (I hope).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A refreshing holiday

Aren't kids exhausting? We've just come back from a week in sunny Grange-Over-Sands, staying in a beautiful bungalow, looking out of the lounge window at a fabulous view, and I'm knackered.

On holiday the kids seem to live at a fever pitch. Everything is at full volume, everything has to be done NOW!. The weather wasn't too great so they spent most of the time inside. Not to be recommended. Two 6 year olds in a confined space for a week is not good.

We did manage to get out on Friday. Visited Grasmere with some friends. two families, both with kids under two years old. However, it started pouring down when we were there, so were forced to take refuge in a coffee shop. A very nice coffee shop I must say (Sara's Cafe/Bistro, number 32 on this map), but again, a confined space, now with 4 children.

One latte later, we departed, and set off down the side of Lake Windermere to the National Park Visitors Centre at Brockhole. It has an adventure playground, so it is an ideal place to let my two let off some steam.

Saturday morning started out wet, but by 10 it had brightened up, so I dragged the children out for a walk. We went up Hampsfell setting out from grid reference SD411785. You can see all of the route on this map. We walked up from the road to the viewpoint on the top, along to Fell End, and back down into Grange. I'll try and stick some photos on later. The view of the Lyth Valley and the Morecambe Bay is great.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

OpenOffice.org 2.0 released.

The new version of OpenOffice.org has been released today. If you're one of those people with a dodgy copy of Microsoft Office 2000, then get rid of it, and download this. Its available for Windows, Linux and OSX. Its open source, and its free. It can import most MS Office files, save in MS Office formats, and uses the latest open file format, Open Document. Open Document has been specified by the State of Massachussetts as one of their approved file formats for public documents, and this will be roled out by early 2007. Critically, Microsofts own, semi-open document format, based on XML, like Open Document, has not been approved. This is a huge boost for the adoption of open standards. Have you ever been in the situation where you need to open a document created by an old version of Word, or, even worse, and old version of Microsoft Works. These formats aren't published, so can't be replicated. Open Document is also supported by the following:

Abiword 2.4
Star Office

It is also expected that it will be supported by the Lotus and Corel office suites in the near future.

Thanks to the decision in Massachussetts, Microsoft is now under pressure to provide Open Document support. If it does not, it could find its user base slipping away. On the other hand, if they free users from the tie to MS Office, then they also free many of them from the ties to Windows. What a decision for them to make.

Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails

It was parents evening at school this week.

Having twins always makes for an interesting evening. Two children in the same class, same teacher; comparisons are inevitable. Never before though, have we had such a difference between them.

Our daughter is top of the class, ahead of her age in all areas, writing beautiful poetry (well pretty good for a 6 year old anyway). Our son, the teachers feel, is just as bright as his sister. However, he doesn't concentrate, works far too slowly, and plays with other children when he should be working.

We arranged with the teacher that any work he doesn't finish gets sent home with him, so if he's slow at school it eats into his evening. He didn't like that idea. We also told him that if he got into trouble at school again this week he wouldn't go to his grandparents as arranged. The very next day he was in trouble! So, no trip to grandparents for him, and no night out for us!

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Thats the inaugural WilWheaton.Net tournament over, and I..., well I didn't do so well, though, for someone who's only been playing a month, and in their first tournament, I suppose 77th out of 96 isn't too bad.

I tried not to play too many bad hands - I saw the flop 60% of the time, and tried to push things occasionally, which was the thing that saw my demise; that, and my innability to spot the potential for a flush!

Things started well though -on the first hand I was dealt Js 9s; 5 of us limped in, 100 in the pot, and the flop was 8s Ks 4c. The others all checked, but with 4 spades I decided to push things along a bit and made a pot-sized bet. Three of them folded, one called. On the turn 5s showed up, and I had to decide how much to bet. In the small stakes games I had been playing, any big raise seemed to prompt everyone to fold, and I wanted to get off to a good start in the tournament. Unless the other guy was holding the Ace of spade, I had this hand won. He hadn't raised me on the flop, so I guessed he either had a pair of jacks, or maybe two pairs. I made another pot sized raise (300) in the hope of getting him to at least call, then I could try and raise him again, but he folded. Still, winning the first hand was a good confidence booster for me. Things got even better on the next hand - I was dealt As Jc, there were two raises of 80, I called, and there were two aces on the flop! I bet 300, but every body folded on me.

So I'd won the first two hands, obviously I was going to win the tournament :)

Things didn't carry on is this way unfortunately :(

The next few hands I folded on small pots, then along came something worth playing. I had 4d Ah, everyone folds pre flop bar one guy; he raises 80 and I call. The flop is Ts Ad 6s, I check to see what the other guy is up to, he raises 520, and I call. 9s comes along on the turn, he goes all in, and I realise I'm staring down the barrel of a flush. I fold, and lose 600 on the hand!

That leaves me with the short stack on the table. I play it tight, waiting for the good cards to come along. A few hands later a I get a flush on the turn, and everyone folds on me, but I pick up a couple of hundred.

Over the next few hands my chips dribbled away, blinds were up to 25/50, I made a few small preflop raises, and then folded as the flop gave me nothing. Then I thought my luck had changed, I picked up Jd Ac, there was a raise of 50, I called. Flop was Jh 6h Ah. Great, 2 pair, aces and jacks. Theres a bet of 50 across the table, I raise to 100, 1 fold, 2 calls. Turn was 9h, there was a bet of 200, I call. River is Kd, small bet of 50, I go all in. You spotted what I missed? There were three hearts on the table after the turn weren't there? I run straight into an Ace high flush, game over!

You can reads Wil's (far more eloquent) words about the tournament here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

First Poker Tournament

I've just signed up for my first online poker tournament. Wil has set up a tournament for readers of his blog:

What: WWdN Where's My Burrito? Invitational
Where: PokerStars.
When: Friday, October 14th. 4:00 PM EST
Password: monkey
Tournament number: 13722477
Buy-in: $10+1

I was the fourth name on the list - there are advantages to being 5 hours ahead of the US.

Its 9pm BST, should have got dinner out of the way and kids in bed by then, just got to get permission from my wife!

I expect to be either busted out fairly early on, or find myself folding everything and never seeing the flop :)

The only reason I got into poker in the first place was reading WWdN, so I really should take part in his tournament. I've been experiencing wildly fluctuating fortunes in play money games, with luck varying from having 4 aces, to going all in with kings full of aces, and running into aces full of kings! However, I have started to generally increase my pot of play money, and am learnning which hands I shouldn't play.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sales Success

I've just won my first major contract. Quite by accident really. I don't do sales, I do operations and strategy, but, as the Sales Manager was away when the enquiry came in, I dealt with it, so, that's a 12 month contract worth about £2000 a week, £104,000 a year. Shame I don't get commission isn't it?

New Ports

Well I've splashed out on a PCI card with 3 USB 2.0 ports, and my network adapter is now working perfectly. I still don't know what the problem was with the built-in ports, but who cares? Its working now.

I've also significantly increased performance by installing the latest Nvidia drivers. The OpenGL based screensavers, which were crawling, are now running at full speed. Also, basic things like moving or resizing a window now happen just as quickly as they would with Windows. Installation was straight forward, using the Package Manager, but I did have to venture to the command line to run an activation command. Whilst this was fairly simple, I would have thought the package could have been configured to do this automatically, or at least ask if you want to do it, and then run the command for you.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Well, my optimism in the previous post has turned out to be completely unfounded. I got home from work and found the system locked solid.

Checking the system logs, I discovered that the USB devices disconnected 75 minutes after the computer booted up. There was nothing in the logs after that until the hard reboot I did when I came in.

I suppose the next thing to try is to get the latest version of NDIS wrapper, see if that stops the freezing at least. Another option is a PCI USB card.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Power prevents problem product

I've introduced a powered usb hub into my system, to hopefully stop the problems I've been having with my usb mouse and network adapter. Under Windows, the mouse frequently needs unplugging and reconnecting, and the network adapter disconnects and has to be told to reconnect to the wireless network. Under Linux, this seems to cause an even more severe problem, with the entire system freezing.

I put the powered hub on last night, and had no problems. I've left the computer on all day today, so if when I get home it is still working, the problem is probably solved.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Poker Playing Bloggers

Over at Pokerstars, they've announced at tournament just for bloggers. Unfortunately your blog has got to have been running for two months, so I miss qualifying by quite a long way.

I've got quite into poker recently (not for real money though) playing on Pokerstars, and this would have been a great way to get into a tournament. Maybe they'll do another one next year.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Well that about wraps it up...

Thanks to the magic of Ndiswrapper, which has enabled me to install the Windows driver for my wireless network adapter under Linux, I am making this post from Firefox running on Ubuntu Linux. Apart from the network, this has been the simplest OS installation I have perfomed since MSDOS 6.0!

I do appear to have some sort of problem with my USB ports. Both my USB mouse and network adapter both have a tendency to disconnect themselves briefly every so often. With Windows, the network adapter is fairly simple to reconnect, with Linux, the only way of sorting it seems to be a reboot. I am going to try a powered USB hub, to see if that helps.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Every day I love you less and less

I have become increasingly disillusioned and frustrated with Microsoft products, and so once more am boldly setting forth into the world of open source software. Its about 5 years since I last spent any time in the company of Linux, but this evening I installed Ubuntu on my home PC.

I've always had a preference for Debian type distributions. I've tried Redhat and Mandrake, but was introduced to Debian's package management by Storm and Corel, and find it so much more user friendly than RPM (pause for flames from RPM fans).

Anyway, Ubuntu now resides on the second partition of my hard drive, and is completely isolated from the outside world, due to its refusal to recognise my Linksys USB wireless network adapter. I am girding my loins and preparing to enter battle with Ndiswrapper. I think the reason I abandoned Linux last time was problems with USB device support. Hopefully things will have moved on since then.

I am also playing with OpenOffice. I thought I'd give it another try following the State of Massachussetts decision to adopt an open format for its documents. It makes perfect sense - how many times have you tried to read an old MS Office file, to find that the format is no longer supported. Despite Microsoft's protests that it's own XML format is open, the Open Document standard has won through.

Free for All

At a time when members of the music industry are protesting that Itunes isn't charging enough, its great to see a band prepared to give away their music for nothing, as this post on WWdN reveals. I've not heard of the band, but following Wil's previous recomendation of Aeon Spoke I'm going to give it a listen. You can also preorder the CD (along with various other goodies) here. There's also a report at Boing Boing.

The music industry seems to have an amazing ability to shoot itself in the foot. After Itunes success in converting people from illegal to legal downloads, the industry now seems determined to kill the golden goose.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Singing a new tune at the Opera (.com)

Opera has finally bitten the bullet and taken the ads out of their free web browser.

I first tried Opera about 5 years ago, but was frustrated by the space taken up by the adverts, and went back to Internet Explorer. I dabled with Netscape/Mozilla, but was never entirely happy with them, and they had trouble with many IE only websites.

Once Firefox hit version 0.7, I switched over, and generally have been really happy with it. No spyware, fast rendering of sites, small download, tabbed browser windows and a secure alternative to IE. I also use Thunderbird as my email client. However, there are still some frustrations with it - some sites (particularly financial ones) insist on using IE for "security reasons!" and some just don't work - Renault.co.uk being one I have come across recently, forcing me back to IE.

With the new ad-free Opera now available, I thought I'd give it another try, and generally I'm impressed. It seems just as fast as Firefox, has tabbed browsing (with a slightly better layout in my opinion, with the close button on the tab, rather than at the top right of the window) and the Renault website works with it. I must admit to have not taken my compatibility tests any further than this.

However, I think I am going to stick with Firefox. I like the availability of plugins, though as Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera says they could potentially be a security risk. I also like to support the open source development community.

If you haven't tried Opera, or Firefox for that matter, then give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

Just one more thing, if you do use Opera, go into the quick preferences on the tools menu, and set it to identify itself as Opera, rather than the default of IE. You can always switch it back if some websites object, but it will enable the usage of Opera to be properly reported - at the moment most Opera users will be contributing to the IE usage figures!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why bother?

Why do so many of us feel the need to bare our souls in public, to subject the on-line community to our mutterings, insane ramblings?

Well, I've started because I've been inspired. I've discovered a couple of blogs that I really enjoy reading every day. And maybe its good to have an outlet for those irritations, heartbreaking moments, or times of utter joy. Hopefully there will be more of the last than the first two.

The first source of my inspiration is Wil Wheaton. Having stumbled across his blog because of a Slashdot interview, it is now essential reading. He writes in a way that pulls me in, that can be hilarious, or incredibly moving. I care about what happens to him and his family, they are real people, with real problems, and real good times too.

The second blog I read is something entirely different. Aggro Me is devoted to the world of Everquest 2, a massively multiple online role-playing game. The writing here is amusing and insightful, covering a whole range of topics, from ranting about changes to the game, to the hilarious antics of some of the strange people who play it.

And who am I? Well, my name is Stephen, I'm married, with two kids (twins, a boy and a girl) who I adore, but who regularly drive us to distraction. I live in the north of England, and love getting out and about in the Lake District.

If you agree (or disagree) with anything I say, then let me know, make a comment. It would be nice to know someone is reading!

Well, thats enough for now, once I think of something interesting to say, I'll post it - don't hold your breath, inspiration doesn't strike often!