Archive for December, 2006

December 29th, 2006

Fighting with Windows

I’ve been supporting my parents with their computer for a few years. This Christmas I was planning to have a major changes in the system, as it has been aging.

I purchased a set of stuff as presents and brought a few old items with me, too.

On Friday, I set up a wireless network for me and Sanna to work with our laptops. It also protects the desktop computer with its built-in firewall. That was easy and straightforward, the system was configured in no time and worked like a charm. The second step was to install VNC for remote helping, and that went flawlessly as well.

I also run a few spyware tools, uninstalled an old virus scanner and installed a new one — that promptly told me that there is not enough memory in the system. I had tried to buy memory from Polvijärvi, but as the computer dates back from 1998, there were no DIMM chips available. Fortunately the nice folks of Pekan Kone knew a specialist store in Joensuu, the nearest bigger town.

The store was open on Saturday — to my surprise — and as we had some other stuff to purchase from Joensuu, we got an outrageously expensive DIMM chip and a very cheap used second hard drive for the computer. The rest of the day was spent with the computer, as it failed to find the other half of the 256 MB DIMM and as the disk drive seemed to be corrupt. I was working together with my brother-in-law Juha.

We did everything we could, changed order of memory chips, flashed BIOS and reconfigured Windows. Finally we noticed that the auto-select IDE switch was not working properly and the second IDE channel had two masters. After that the disk drive worked perfectly.

Santa brought my parents an anti-virus program, a web camera with headsets and an USB hub. Juha installed them on Sunday together with Skype. There were no sound from the headset and the video crashed Skype, but otherwise everything was ok.

The audio out was easy, as the volume for WAV was set to zero. Video is not working still this day. We got the video from the camera using Logitech’s own tools, but Skype showed always grey box. While debugging this, I had to reorganise the hard drives, as there were only 20 MB left on C: and the drive was badly fragmented. That speed up the computer, but video problem was still there. I downgraded Skype and upgraded video drivers with no visible difference. This took five hours. At the end I didn’t have too much Christmas spirit left…

Finally the power supply died, as a final insult. We were just leaving, Sanna had dressed Aapo for the trip and I had finished updating Windows. But the computer would not boot. No matter how many times I pushed the switch…

We had to leave with mixed feelings and left my parents to deal with the situation. Fortunately they knew a person skilled with IT hardware and could get the system running again with a borrowed power supply.

Groceries in Soho

Central London is not the best place to buy fresh vegetables or family sized bag of snacks and huge bottles of soft drinks. In fact, some of the small corner grocery stores look so filthy that I have to check the best before date for each and every product I’m purchasing.

Somerfield supermarket in Soho, London
Fortunately, there is a solution on Peter Street, central Soho. Somerfield has been operating a mid-size supermarket there for years, and they will cater all needs a hotel dweller might have. The location is excellent as you can pick the stuff on your way from a restaurant — even double so, if you are living in one of the fancy design hotels in the area.

As an additional bonus, there is a good fruit market next to the store. You just have to be there during morning or midday, as the market closes in the afternoon.

www.somerfield.co.uk, 104-105 Berwick Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7437 6349

Central luxury

The most conveniently located luxury hotel that I’ve encountered in London is a bit hidden gem. Most people have never heard Courthouse Hotel Kempinski, located on The Great Marlborough Street — a couple blocks from Oxford Circus tube station and next to Carnaby Street shopping district. This is a shame, as the hotel is very nice five star experience.

Courthouse Hotel Kempinski in London, UK
We got a decent special rate and spent a few days in the hotel. Our room was spacious, bed comfortable and all required amenities were in place. We missed only the view, as the room windows were towards the inner yard.

Lobby of Courthouse Hotel Kempinski
The service was excellent, and our infant son got a special treatment everywhere he went. Breakfast was a real treat with a wide selection of food and beverages, including Voss water. The only catch is the price that is steep during normal business days.

www.courthouse-hotel.com, 19–21 Great Marlborough Street (at the northern end of Carnaby Street), London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7297 5555

December 22nd, 2006

Christmas in Northern Carelia

This year we’ll be celebrating Christmas at my parents’ house. Also my little sister Anna-Kaisa together with her family will join us. In total, there will be eight people. The number includes two active toddlers, so there are chances that the Christmas is not that restful.

We arrived already yesterday and had an almost full working day today, as my mother was with Aapo. While I’ve worked, I’ve also been fixing my parents’ computer that got a broadband Internet connection a couple of months ago. After removing a broken program, downloading a virus scanner, running malware detectors, cleaning the unwanted programs from the system, and defragmenting disks, the system is clean enough for the new year. The next step is to install a remote management system so acting as a helpdesk won’t be guessing over the phone.

Affordable chicness

Mexx store in Covent Garden is a good place to find inexpensive clothes that look stylish enough. The brand doesn’t have hints of luxury, but the garments are well designed and follow the trends. In essence, the store and the brand is for the middleclass.

Mexx store in Covent Garden, London
The Covent Garden store caters for both men and women, and it is quite large as a Mexx store. The location couldn’t be better, in the heart of one of the most funkiest shopping districts in London.

www.mexx.co.uk, Covent Garden, London, United Kingdom, +44 207 836 9661

Excellent sushi experience

Kulu Kulu Sushi is with its conveyor-belt style service is a nice exception in the London sushi scene: the prices are decent and the sushi is really tasty. As most of the pieces are laid in pairs on the plates, the place is at its best with even number of people — or then you have to eat for two to get enough variation of tastes. There are also other stuff, such as salads and soups on the belt.

Kulu Kulu Sushi in London
The conveyor-belt minimises the need for any human interaction — so the place fits for geeks — but the service was nonetheless good and very responsive.

The location is also great, just a couple blocks from Covent Garden tube station. Shelton Street is not a high street, so make sure to have a map or directions with you.

Kulu Kulu Sushi, 51-53 Shelton Street, London, United Kingdom, +44 871 0757122

December 16th, 2006

Of being a costy passanger

As the frequent readers may recollect, I visited San Francisco with my family in November. The flight to US was a bit problematic as we didn’t have a baby bassinet seat. Coming back, Lufthansa broke our stroller.

This week, we finally got even. First, United send us a standard apolegic letter (a real letter, mind you!) with $200 travel voucher. There are only three minor details that I’m not satisfied. First, the voucher is good for United, United Express and Ted flights only. As United is not flying from Finland, there are only slim chances that the voucher would be used anytime soon. The second issue is related to the first; the voucher must be used before November 26, 2007. So I need to go to the States less than in a year. And the third: the voucher cannot be redeemed in the Internet. Yes, you read right. To get $200 redemption, I need to call sales agent. And I thought this was 2006, not 1999. Well, it seems that USA is not on the leading edge with everything…

Today, we got our stroller back from the shop. In fact, we got a brand spanking new stroller, as the old one could not be repaired without delays and the broken part might have torn the hood’s canvas… The retail price of the new stroller is 279€.

In total, our trip costed about 430€ extra for the carriers. Considering that we had very cheap tickets — booked well in advance — used three lounges extensively, had more checked-in weight than passangers usually, and caused a lot of extra work for their personnel, we probably caused losses. For some odd reason, I feel satisfied.

A bit better burgers

If you are fed up with McDonald’s and Burger King, but still want to taste burgers, Burger Shack might be an answer to your quest. It is a quite recent small burger restaurant chain in London. We visited their Soho restaurant and were not disappointed.

Burger Shack in London
The restaurant is not very upscalish, but a huge improvement from the normal fast food joints — no visible dirt and so forth. The service was fast if a bit blunt, and the burgers arrived soon enough to satisfy our appetite. The menu is extensive, about 20 different burgers and a host of other choices for the burgerly challenged.

The price is about double the fast food, but it is worth of it.

www.burgershack.co.uk, 14-16 Foubert’s Place, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7287 6983