Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sunday ramble from the secondhand book trade with masses of boring stuff about computers.

Looking at this mornings news I found I was surprised at myself, for not being surprised, that the man who is supposed to be sorting out the MPs expenses issue, has expenses issues himself see

As various stories about government local and national break I find I am now inclined to get the uneasy feeling that I have had de ja vue before.

What we seem to have here is a case of another highly paid civil servant milking the system, while not really achieving anything apart from trying to keep all the plates spinning until he moves sideways to another lucrative job within government.

On to computer problems now, my in house expert and I decided that the time had come to reformat the main computer in the bookshop, this is primarily used for online bookselling, local book publishing and publishing images to the internet.

The idea being that we would install a new operating system at the same time, last time we tried to do this I bought Vista, couldn’t make the scanner work at all so bought a new scanner, while I was waiting for it to turn up I discovered that the vista drivers to ordinary thing like Epson printers produced completely different colours to the XP ones.

When the scanner that worked with Vista turned up it turned out to be far to slow and complicated, at this point I gave up a few hundred pounds worse off.

I should point out here that in the secondhand book trade we are stuck with windows as the industry standard book cataloguing program won’t work on anything else.

This time I was much more cautious before I bought another Windows 7 license and tried the one I already had on my laptop, this is the free evaluation copy that expires later this year and I can honestly say that it is the best version of windows I have used so far.

Having discovered one again there was no driver for the scanners that we use to copy the images for the books I publish and that the driver for the colour laser printer didn’t work properly, I am back with XP again.

A few more detailed thoughts on computing here, firstly when Microsoft are about to launch a new operating system you can download the evaluation copy for free and try it before you buy it.

Over the years we have found with the main computers that having two completely separate drives in them is the best set up, one for the operating system and all of the programs and drivers and the other for our stuff, documents images etc.

If you are running a computer hard in a business then you can pretty much guarantee that you will have to reformat (completely wipe the drive) with the operating system and programs on about once a year.

If you have a single drive even if it is partitioned into more than one drive you will have to wipe the whole thing, including all of your stuff.

Also it is sensible to save programs and drivers that work properly, as when newer versions come out they may not work properly and the older versions may be no longer available for download.

The last operating system that offered a way to completely wipe a drive including the boot partition was windows 98 via a floppy disc, so I recommend having this equipment available if you intend to do this yourself.

We are very careful about making backups with the bookselling program we use it is important to make these backups to a different drive to the one running the program as if the drive dies you lose everything, including the record of who owes you what.

We had a major glitch with this program “Homebase” in as much as there was a corrupted entry back in March of last year so unbeknown to us all of the backups we had made since then didn’t actually work.

When we came to restore the entries in the program it got as far as entry before this entry and just stopped, as all of our clients details and our invoices were further up the backup file, this was a considerable problem.

This is an Access based program and we got round this by opening the backup file in Wordpad and deleting the book entry that was corrupted i.e. the one after the last one to load from the backup file into the program.

One final boring bit of computer information, there is now a security update for internet explorer 8 after it was compromised by Chinese hackers, it is important to note that it is a good idea to make sure that your operating system is up to date before installing the latest version of internet explorer and that with XP this should include service pack 3.

Frankly using Firefox as a browser for blogging has been a right pain, you cant even copy images straight from it as I did from IE8 for the one at the top of this post.

I have gone to the trouble of writing this all out mostly for other secondhand booksellers as had we not found these solutions it would have cost us a considerable amount of money.

As far as the local book publishing goes my latest publication John Heywoods Illustrated Guide To Margate is now available, see this is a fairly ordinary Margate tourist guide form about 1905 and may be of interest to some people.

Publishing guides to Margate is a bit of an uphill struggle as there is nowhere left in the town to sell them, Albion Bookshop in Northdown Road closed, as did the museum and now Thanet District Council have introduced a new purchasing system for the tourist information offices that means that the people working in those offices no longer seem to have a way to purchase the books they want for resale.

Frankly I was quite surprised that my last post was met with so much support for Tony Blair, my thoughts were based on background research, as they mostly are, and having discussed this with an Iraqi I know who is an academic historian and someone else I know who worked as an intelligence operative in the build up to the war.

I get the feeling that if I respond to the comments there the argument will just go on interminably, so a few thoughts here.

Firstly the people I spoke to were in no way friends of Saddam and he would probably have had them eliminated if he could.

Both were convinced that war was not the right solution at that time and that the weapons of mass destruction was a ruse by Saddam to make it difficult for parts of his regime to run for a coup.

This was just a false show of strength in and this game of chicken was well understood by our military intelligence.

Consider the 45 minutes to Cyprus statement click on the link to remind you as the evidence is coming out it is obvious that they were uncomfortable with it, which begs the question why didn’t they rebut it.

There is very much a sense here that The Civil Service and intelligence services became Blair’s agents rather than agents of the Crown’s, telling him what he wanted to hear.

Consider were his allegiances to the Americans or to parliament, yesterday when explaining how he took us to war he mentioned all the things that he had to have in place and then said, oh yes and then I had to go to Parliament.

Oh well this is tucked well down and not tagged in what must seem to most a pretty boring post, as I don’t have much time to deal with the comment about it.

As the main computer hasn’t got all of the image handling and web publishing programs on it yet, and my children are using my laptop to maintain an audio visual connection with each other using Skype, I can’t publish yesterday’s pictures at the moment but will probably do so and ramble on some more later.

This computer doesn’t even have a question mark on it, or an exclamation mark….

Here are the Ramsgate pictures, sorry the snow had mostly melted by the time I managed to get out also the picture enhancing program on my notebook is just not as good as the one on the shop’s main computer.

I have a cold at the moment so may not be getting out taking photographs for a few days unless things warm up considerably.


  1. Michael i have to disagree with you about partitioned drives, you do NOT need to wipe the entir lot - just the drive you want to - I have 3 drives - The main one which is partioned one part carries the operating system and the other part carries copies of all the programs that are installed on the drive as well as program specific save data. One drive has music and video on it and one is used entirely for saving work to and working from.
    The point is i had to format the system drive but didnt have to wipe any of the other drives at all partioned or not.
    Good blog tho

  2. Ah Sir Head, consider that it is your system partition that boots your computer, so if you had really formatted that whole drive you computer wouldn’t in fact boot.

    The advantage of doing it the way I said is that you make a floppy that not only completely wipes your drive, including the boot partition but also contains the files to boot your computer for the first time after formatting.

    You may also consider that if formatting the way you do it really did format the whole operating system drive it would wipe the registry entries for the programs installed on your program drive, so they wouldn’t work.

    You may also wish to consider what you would do when your single hard drive wears out and ceases to function, had this happened to me although I back up everything outside of the computer on a monthly basis, I would have lost most of the months work.

  3. I neglected to mention I use Acronis true image to restore my drive back to its original state without the need for a full format. Its actually very useful and i consider it a must have for my machine - have a look here

  4. Michael you have shamed me into backing up my stuff

  5. Michael one step you may want to consider when reformating and installing the system drive is once you have it setup with all programs and drivers needed for various pieces of hardware you make a ghost image (norton ghost) then use that to restore the drive when needed or in fact as Sir Head said acronis Disk image (also will work if you have to replace the hard disk itself)

    also the vunerability in IE was in fact in version 6 not 8

  6. Until recently I had two hard drives in my system, one contained the operating system, programmes and general day to day files, the other a rather small and very old drive for backing up inportant files..Guess which drive failed..yes operating system drive...

    I was reasonable happy that all my important files were safe and the fact i`d further backed them up to a cloud drive gave me more confidence it wouldn`t be a long job.

    But the most fustrating thing of all is reinstalling all the software..especialy when most software is downloaded and you don`t get a nice box with the registration ect. So following this painful episode i brought Acronis and Sir Head I agree the programme is the nuts.. new set up now includes boot drive with all programmes and docs, slave drive with all documents backed up and a USB drive with operating system back up.....Plus important files copied to the cloud drive...never again will I loose operating system, programmes or data...

  7. Thanks for the comments and I will indeed look at various other ways of dealing with the reformatting problem.

    I have man flue at the moment so my thoughts may be a little jumbled and fuzzy here.

    On the subject of IE8 my info was based on this article and indeed there is a security update for IE8 last week.

    I have four children and the bookshop with various computers performing different functions about 12 in all.

    While things like Acronis and Ghost can be useful it all rather depends on what has gone wrong or how we have upgraded, on about half the occasions we have either replaced the main computer, so it goes up the line with the slowest usually doing something mundane like being used as an advertising display in the shop window, drops off the end or we have something like a dead motherboard or processor, something that usually means replacing these parts with more up to date ones.

    So at the moment a mixture of second drives and backing up around the network seems to work best for us.

    Don glad to know you have done a backup, I wouldn’t want you to lose all of your pictures, I learnt this the hard way when I had a drive break.

    One of the problems that I have is a lot of the stuff I have is high definition images, either scanned pages of local books or photographs, as most of you know outside of the bleakest of mid winter I often take and publish over a thousand images to the web in a week.

    Of course I keep the original HD files because sometimes people want them, or something comes up like when the council lied to the paper about the Pleasurama bulge not being there when the work on the cliff started, so I was able find the bulge in a picture I had taken when they were putting the scaffolding up.


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