Saturday, 22 November 2008

It's Raining Sheds

One of the things I used to love about living in England in the winter was the possibility that you would wake up one morning to find the landscape covered in snow. We've had a similar experience over the last couple of weeks here in Madrid. First, the surprising appearance of half of this year's Christmas lights in Plaza de Chueca, and the other half the following morning. A week later, a dozen metal sheds appeared overnight, and the next morning, another dozen.

The sheds, apparently, will be populated by people selling aromatherapy stuff, organic foodstuffs and all the other crap that the dedicated new-ager cannot live without. This will go on until Jan 11.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Blogger Word Verification

Is it just me, or has Blogger done something with their word verification (CAPTCHA) algorithm?

It seems that the squiggly words are now more word-like: they're not real words, but they seem to have a combination of vowels and consonants arranged so that you can actually pronounce the word, and this makes it easier for you to decipher it and type it in.

Some examples:

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

That Election Thang

I don't normally comment on politics - my ignorance lets me down. But if Barack Obama doesn't win tonight, I'll, I'll, I'll stamp my foot or something.

I might stay up all night to see how this goes. Then again, I might not.

Okay, so no foot stamping. Obama won handsomely, and I am a bunny of happiness. I just wish we didn't have to wait until January to get the spawn-of-Satan Bush out of La Casa Blanca - he can still do some more serious damage in the remaining time.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

New Toy!

Well, the MacBook finally arrived, at 1pm today, and I have to say it was worth the wait (I didn't know DHL had a donkey-cart option, but they do). It is the gorgeousest, sexifullest, perfectest bit of kit I've ever had my hands on (apart from the missus, of course). Absolutely wonderful! And the bloody wi-fi works too!

It amazes me that Microsoft, for all their vast buckets of money, could never write an operating system that's even a quarter as good as OS X. And the Apple hardware is just stunningly beautiful: this keyboard feels so great that I think I might be inspired to write a bit more of Tybalt and Theo!

I know I'm half preaching to the converted here, but if you haven't left the Dark Side yet, you have no excuses at all (except financial!). Since Macs moved onto Dual Core Intel chips, you can run Windoze inside OS X (if you have the Parallels software), so the old excuse of having to replace all your old software with Mac versions no longer applies.

Just go for it: you might even start to enjoy using computers again!

Sunday, 2 November 2008


Last Friday was a complete and utter nightmare. First of all, I was expecting to receive my MacBook, which had been collected by DHL from my son's place the previous morning. Nowt, nothing, nada. Checking online it shows that it left DHL's outbound gateway at 5am Friday - on a plane, truck or donkey-cart, I know not. Whatever, it means there is no possibility of it arriving chez moi until after the weekend.

At about 3pm on Friday, the Internet went off. Now, I know the bills have been paid, the line works 'cos the phone is working, and the router works 'cos all the lights are flashing. So I wait for an hour or two, hoping it will right itself. It doesn't, and so I pluck up the courage to call Telefonica. 

They used to have this IVR system, where if you ignored all of the questions and demands to press various buttons, you would eventually get a real-live operator and you could ask if there was anyone who could speak English. Well, guess what? They've changed the system. It's now a voice-recognition jobbie. It asks you to tell it what you want. I was so taken aback by this that I couldn't think of anything to say. It hung up on me. I tried again, and said 'habla ingles?' and it came back asking me (in Spanish) to confirm that I wanted to speak to an English-speaking operator. I said 'si', and got put through to somebody who said 'good afternoon'. 

Yay. I told her what the problem was, and she said that my router probably needed synchronising. I had to call their Technical Department, and they would do it for me. Marvlious. Except when I spoke to the Tech Dept, they don't have any English speakers, but it's not a sincronizado problema, it's JazzTel. They advised me to call the Commercial Department again.

Bollocks. JazzTel. Yes. A couple of weeks ago, two youths in suits with slicked-back hair hammered on my door and forced me to sign up for cheaper, faster Internet through JazzTel. So I did, provisionally, but I never signed a final contract. And also, I realised later, the thing that I had signed wouldn't work, because the Telefonica service is in my wife's name, and she hadn't signed anything. So I forgot about it.

A couple more calls to Telefonica revealed that my service had been disconnected because JazzTel had taken control of the line on 27th October.

So I called JazzTel; they had nobody there who could speak English, but expected one to show up in about an hour's time, and she would call me. Half an hour later, she called, and asked me what kind of router I had. Well, it's the standard issue Telefonica router.

'You don't haff YhathTel* router?'

'No. Should I have?'

'Yes, yes, you need.'

'Well the salesman never told me that.'

'Okay, we send router Mondy.'

'No, no. I can't be without Internet for the weekend!'

'Oh. Maybe you can re-program Telefonica router with YhathTel usernombre y passpalabra. I tell you them.'

So I write it all down, run the horrible Telefonica router setup software, and get precisely nowhere. Because before I can change anything, I have to enter the original username and password, but I don't have them. Bugger.

A flashing lightbulb appears over my head. I have another router that I brought with me from Dubai. I dig it out, and amazingly I also have the installation CD. Off we go then. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The software asks what country I'm in, and then offers a list of ISPs. I select JazzTel, plop in the username and password, and Bingo-Bongo! It works.

The only thing now is that tomorrow my MacBook might arrive, after which I will not be answering the door to anybody. And some dude from JazzTel will arrive bearing a router that I do not want or need, but I won't be able to make him understand that because my Spanish is so crap.

No sign of DHL today :-(

And no sign of anybody from JazzTel bearing a router. So it's just as well I got my own one to work, ain't it.

*Why on earth a Spanish company would give itself a name that is almost impossible for a Spanish-speaker to pronounce is beyond me. But there ya go.