If you like this site or have comments then please contact me mark@ letterfromengland.com
If you have problems, then hire the best IT guy in town! No job too dirty and none too big. If you have the cash then we can cut a deal, no matter where you are in the world. Read more here and check out my sites beneath.
Here I am! It is generally agreed I need a haircut and change of image, but if you look at my sites maybe you will forgive me just a little.
A growing collection of educational short, fun and very fast videos. Learn something new today.
Over 2,500 complete comic books from the golden age. All FREE and legal!
Hundreds of short films including cartoons, drama, comedy and adventure.
A collection of classic tales and legends from throughout the world.
The diaries of Samuel Pepys, with entries for every day of the year, I am a big fan of his work.
If you are thinking about keeping fish or reptiles, then this is the site for you!
Maybe showing its age, I keep this going through a bit of sentiment remembering the fun it was to make.
After having a play with an iPhone I created this site. It only took a couple of weeks but keeps trundling on.
We all dream of being the next dotcom billionaire. This was my failed attempt, timed perfectly to coincide with the credit crunch :(
A site I use to test things out with. I don't know why I put it here because there is nothing really to see.
A little site that is all about me and offering my services for hire.
. (Time calculated using your computer's clock).

Letter From England
The Musings Of An Englishman

September 2011

August was a really productive month, even though I spent a fair amount of time messing around with bits and bobs. So in this post I thought I'd concentrate on them. I also hope that someday, I may be able to use this as further evidence, if I ever need it, to claim insanity.

So saying, I think there is another message in my forthcoming ramblings, but for the life of me I am not sure what it is. Before I start, I have three things to explain:

I Own The Best Laptop In The Whole Wide World

I really mean this. Even when I am back earning big bucks, this will be my laptop for as long as it lasts. Here is a photograph of my 10+ years old laptop, next to its 'carry case', actually my old briefcase.

My Laptop Next To Its Carry Case

With advancing age and the final countdown to oblivion, I find myself trying to use every hour I have left. On my too infrequent visits to the pub, rather than sit at the bar chatting to the barmaids, I now hide in a corner working on my laptop. Just as I am doing right now, typing this. I guess it is sad that I do not give barmaids the attention I used to, but they seem happy enough.

Last year tragedy struck and my veteran laptop finally died (a loose connection). The old tricks of hitting the side of the case failing which, opening it up and poking inside would not revive it.

After the appropriate amount of grieving, I found a new drinking partner lurking at the back of a cupboard.

This arrived in the household as a kid's toy. The keyboard was bust and the battery lasted less than 5 minutes. Soon the unloved machine was buried amongst a pile of junk, where it sat for a couple of years, until in desperation I dug it out.

It is a Dell Latitude CPX. The Dell site has a cool section where you can track the history of a machine via a serial number. This one was shipped 21st December 2000, just in time for Christmas!

To cut a long story short. I have made some hardware adjustments:

Total cost £24.

My Laptop In Its Carry Case

So what did I get for my money? When I started writing this (after waiting an age to get served at the bar) I took a screenshot of the battery life I also pasted the time and system info. And YES, you read it right, and NO all I have done is grab the image resize and paste the other time and system information bits on. It says 9:51 hours.

What the laptop doesn't know is that my second battery is an old dud and lasts 5 minutes max. If I replaced that we would be running for that length of time!

A Screen Shot Of My Power Meter At The Start Of This Blog

Nothing is perfect so the laptop has two minor problems: it is quite heavy and it refuses any XP service packs. In its past the machine was upgraded to XP Professional. It actually has the official XP stickers attached, but I guess maybe some dodgy stuff was done. As it runs like a dream I do not want to get involved in reinstallations.

Now because of this huge security risk it is not on the net, but I put this as a plus! I run no virus software dragging the machine down. I have no worries about malicious attacks. My networking is a USB key that I transfer files to and from my main machine.

Being 'netless' means as I type this I cannot be tempted to got to Google+, Facebook, check my email or visit the BBC news.

Now what have I got installed and running like a dream? I promise you that it all flies! I had to make some compromises due to not being able to install service packs, but this is impressive enough for a £24 machine!

If you are not technical, the below list means that I have everything I need to write websites. In fact I have all the tools to develop a billion dollar site, if only I knew how!

I also purposefully make the machine look like a pile of rubbish so it should not be grabbed when I turn my back in the pub. If it does go walkies I would only have lost £24, but in reality I would have lost a lot more and it would be gutting!

Today I have been asked: "Excuse me, are you getting a signal in here? I just can't get one." and also by someone else "Do you know if there are any sockets in here?"

I don't have to worry about either of these. This is why I have the best and most productive laptop in the whole world and would not swap it for any other one!

Smile Please, You Are On Camera

I love Google+. When I first joined I told people it was a cross between Twitter and a grown up Facebook. After being on it for a few weeks, now I would now say it is a massive social forum and also a form of blog. I hope that Google do not dumb it down and the spammers do not ruin what has the makings of a great resource.

One of the best features is 'Hangouts'. This is basically a web meeting which 10 people can join. You don't actually need a webcam, a mike will do.

Google have started having hangouts hosted by employees, where webmasters can ask questions and give opinions, it is great!.

I needed a webcam to join properly, but didn't have the finances to buy what I wanted. So, as a temporary solution I made one. This is a similar story to the laptop.

My Webcam Taped Onto One Of My Monitors

I found an old kid's digital camera at the back of a draw. Apparently it ate batteries and was 'no good, you can have it'. I downloaded a manual which said that it could work as a basic webcam. I then downloaded drivers, which along with some rubber bands, a bit of wire, electrical tape and a USB cable, means I now have a webcam. As it is powered from the USB I don't have the battery problem.

The quality is not too good, I admit, but amazing quality for £0. I almost forgot I have a £1 microphone so lets call it a £1 webcam.

Here is another shot of it mounted on one of my monitors. Showing I have a dual screen machine, which I love.

My Dual Monitor PC

My Home Entertainment System

Although I am rather fond of my £1 webcam, it is more for me being a smartarse and when money allows I will buy a proper HD one. The same does not apply to my laptop I mentioned earlier or my "£1 Home Entertainment System".

I think I have talked about this in an earlier post, but it is still going strong. It is a wireless transmitter the sort you use for speakers.

I just plug it into the headphone socket of my speakers and anything playing on my PC is broadcast throughout the house, with crystal clear quality. I like old radio comedies, so I listen to then when cooking in the kitchen. But it could be anything, maybe an obscure radio station broadcasting on the net or last.fm. I also spent £2 on an audio extension cable so I can place it on my window sill and hear it on my radio when I am pottering in the garden.

I was so pleased I blew another £2, on the last 2 left in the shop, which are sitting in my desk draws (see below). I guess these will sort me out forever, perfect!

My Wireless Transmitter

You Never Know When They Will Come In Handy

If you love gadgets, then you must love cables and adaptors! If ever I see one cheap that I haven't got I buy it and I may even have a small gloat over my latest purchase.

In my desk draws I have a solution to most things. This is just a small sample of what I have. Most have at sometime or another been pressed into service.

You won't think it quite so eccentric when I can charge your rather obscure phone, or give you a printer cable on a Sunday night.

Some Of My Cable Collection


Thanks for entering this bit of my world. I was told a few months ago by a woman I have known for many years: "I just realized something, you are a nerd". I took it as a compliment on so many different levels.

Oh, I almost forgot here is my battery reading after 3.5 hours and remember my second battery is a dud, which at some point I will replace!

A Screen Shot Of My Power Meter At The End Of This Blog