Sunday, January 30, 2011

Scabby Road?

The photo above is a bit of a pale shadow of the famous Abbey Road crossing. This one is not in North London, but rather in Bexley Road, sunny Erith. Click on either photo for a larger view. I doubt that you would find a local Paul McCartney equivalent crossing at this point with bare feet, due to the prevalence of broken glass and dog poo in the area.

I note from a couple of articles in the local news that Dartford Station is about to have a grand total of £7 million spent on it to modernise and upgrade it. This is indeed a good thing; a pity that even a small percentage of the same amount of cash could not be spent on Erith station - which is still surrounded by metal barriers and warning tape, the best part of three months after the initial problems with falling masonry came to light. The endeavours of the authorities have been laughably inadequate in the intervening time. Nothing seems to be happening to remedy the situation, despite the protestations from Network Rail. 

The Maggot Sandwich is rapidly heading towards the 20,000th unique visitor; at the present rate of page views, the event should happen at some time in the next week or so. Bearing in mind that reader statistics were only enabled in June 2010, I don't feel that this is too shabby at all. The site has regular readers in the USA, Brazil, India, Japan, and all around Europe. Thanks to one and all for your valued support. 

The photos below shows the kebab shop and small parade of shops adjacent to the hideous fish sculpture on the roundabout that leads into / out of Erith.

I was perusing the Wikipedia entry on the Atari ST range of computers during the week, and I noticed a couple of things that prompted my attention. The entry refers to the Computers' advertising tag line "Power without the price" and infers that this was a central Atari theme; I can say for certain that this was not the case. As you may know, in my youth, I worked for the largest stockist and distributor of Atari products in Europe, the Sidcup based Silica Shop. The slogan was dreamed up by them, not Atari.  The second, and to me the most telling point is the mention of the fix recommended in the official Atari engineering manual as to how to remedy an ST that when fired up, did not come to life as expected, but instead showed a brown screen of death. Wikipedia terms it thus: Early 520ST owners became accustomed to the "Atari Twist" and the "Atari Drop" service procedures. "Atari Twist" seemed to help discharge built-up static electricity (Atari soldered-down the metal shielding to fix the problem) while the "Atari Drop" appeared to help re-seat chips which may have become partially unseated over time. Actually, the Atari Drop was a procedure that more often than not fixed the brown screen of death issue - which was caused by a couple of ROM chips coming loose in their housings. The short drop of the computer onto a hard surface would knock them back into position, fixing the problem. I know, as it was me that came up with the fix. I had a number of customers with brand new 520 ST machines that would not start up on first boot. On one occasion I turned the computer over to check the serial number, ready to fill in a warranty return form. On turning it back over, I accidentally dropped it onto the wooden counter top, at which point the computer burst into life. I tried this with several other machines that were exhibiting the same problem, and all but one of them was similarly fixed. After talking to Atari Engineering UK, based in Slough, the "Atari drop" became an official remedy, and described in the engineering service manual. One of my minor and very anorakky claims to fame. It is ironic that I never actually owned an ST myself; they were always far too expensive, even allowing for a substantial staff discount at the time. A photo of an Atari ST is below - click for a larger version.

There has been a lot of hot air and consternation in the popular press about the cancellation and scrapping of the Nimrod MRA4 fleet this week. It is a pity that the expressions of outrage were not better based on factual reality. The planes' electronic systems were more than fifteen years out of date before ever having left the ground, and their role would nowadays be far more efficiently be undertaken by a remotely piloted vehicle. You can read a detailed and compelling explanation of why the Nimrod fleet were an expensive embarrassment, that was cancelled not a moment too soon by clicking here. The planes would have each cost more to buy and operate than a space shuttle, had they gone into service, and all they actually were 1950's era Comet passenger airliners with some rather non special electronics installed.

If I ever come into a substantial amount of cold, hard cash, and was looking to buy a prestige car, I would spend it on one of these.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have become very keen on a TV show called The Salvager, which is hosted by a chap called Rico Daniels. He takes all kinds of waste materials and outright scrap; he then re - uses them to make unique and interesting items of furniture and more. It has been on Freeview TV whilst I have been visiting my Dad in his nursing home, and it makes a very interesting background to my time in Dad's room. I would strongly recommend the show as something rather different and compelling. Rico Daniels is a real character - a biker, former Guardian Angel and general one of a kind person, and all the better for it.

Here is an accessory if you have an Apple iPhone 3 or 4 , and feel that you miss the bulk and presence of a mobile phone from the late 1980's - you can now have all the convenience of a modern phone, with the retro looks of one from yesteryear - see below.

I don't know if you ever try clicking on any of the links to the right of the body of this text; I have a number of links to local websites and online resources that you may well find of interest. The links are fed by an RSS feed. As soon as one of the sites gets an update, it goes to the top of the links list; the newer the content, the higher up the list the link appears. All good stuff. You can see the local Erith weather conditions from Bob Hewitt G4MHJ - a fellow radio amateur by visiting his weather station website here

I have always been a big fan of the author Douglas Adams, and his seminal work, the incomparably brilliant Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You can read the original novel online by clicking here

This week's video is a clip from the 1980's television series - probably the best version, and indisputably better than the dire 2005 movie of the same name. Here you have an explanation of the best cocktail in existence - the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Take it away...

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