Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tour Down Under 2009

Last Friday I joined over 7,000 other cyclists to again take part in the Challenge Tour, riding the stage 4 route that the Tour Down Under professionals would also complete.

The last few years, I’ve ridden with my Dad, but this year due to recent surgery he was unable to participate. As we’d also been away for a couple of weeks my preparation was not what it could have been, so instead of attempting the full 155km course from Burnside Village to Angaston, I elected to just do the 97km starting from Mt Pleasant.

I again rode as part of the Mud, Sweat and Gears team, which had around 40 members this year. Here’s a group shot, and here’s me heading for the finish line (centre).

I took 4 hours 45 minute to complete the ride (including breaks) which I was quite happy with. It was only forecast to be 28 °C which is much better than last year, and this time I tried to drink a lot more regularly.

There was a sad note to finish on – unfortunately my bike did not travel well on the drive home. Somehow the front forks were bent sideways. Due to its age, I don’t think it’s worth repairing. I had been hoping to get a new bike later this year, but maybe those plans will have to be fast-tracked.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The case of the disappearing DVD Drive

For some unexplained reason, the DVD drive on my home computer disappeared. Not physically – it’s still mounted in the case! But logically. A bit strange, as it was still listed in the BIOS at startup, but Windows XP didn’t show it under the local drives and the following message was in the System Event Log:

Event Type:    Error
Event Source:    Service Control Manager
Event Category:    None
Event ID:    7026
Description:
The following boot-start or system-start driver(s) failed to load:
Cdrom

Opening up Device Manager revealed the drive was listed, but had a problem - “Windows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing. (Code 39)”

I don’t know how this happened, but KB Article 314060 describes a resolution that worked for me.

This wasn’t actually the first thing I tried. Thinking that it may be hardware-related, I bought a new Pioneer DVR-216. Being a SATA drive, I then installed this into Dad’s video editing machine (which also meant I could do away with the extra IDE card and just use the motherboard IDE slot) and took his old PATA DVD drive and tried that in my older machine. As it turns out it didn’t make any difference to me, though Dad has probably ended up better off.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Mosquito Massacre

Have to give this video a plug :-).

Disclaimer: Yes, I personally know Francesca, Han Solo and the one-and-only Thomas Tilley

Holiday to Yamba

The Gardiner family started 2009 off with a week’s holiday in Yamba, NSW. Narelle has family up there and it also happens to be a very picturesque and relaxing spot too.

While you could fly to Coolangatta or Coffs Harbour and then use a bus or rent a car, we opted to drive from Adelaide so we’d have the convenience of our own car to get around once we were there.

We took this route going up, staying overnight at Hay and Gunnedah.


View Larger Map

Coming back, we followed a similar route, however we came back via Glen Innes (slightly longer, but less windy). We also stopped over at Coolah and Moulamein. Both of these towns are slightly off the main highway, but the cost of a cabin was a lot cheaper.


View Larger Map

So how does a family with 3 kids (including a 7 month old baby) who only have a medium-sized sedan survive driving these kinds of distances? Things have improved a bit since me and my sister and Mum & Dad used to head off on family holidays many years ago. A critical innovation has revolutionised long-distance car travel – the portal DVD player!

Narelle wisely suggested we purchase one for our previous interstate trip, and it really did make the difference to the younger members of the family, who aren’t quite up to the stage of curling up with good book to while away the hours.

Not wanting to take all the original discs, I made copies of a few of the kids’ DVDs. In addition Narelle borrowed a few talking book CDs from our local library (more for the benefit of those in the front seats).

Copying DVDs isn’t always straight forward. I’ve got a copy of the final version of DVD Decrypter (no longer under development) which is pretty good, but I read just before we left that SlySoft (who also produce the very useful free ISO mounting utility Virtual CloneDrive) had a special on their AnyDVD HD tool. AnyDVD works at the driver level to transparently remove protection from DVDs (including HD and Blu-Ray). I could then use ImgBurn to copy and burn the “travel” copies. For any dual-layer discs, I made use of DVD Shrink 3.2 to squash everything down to fit on my single-layer blank discs.

I also copied a few of the kids’ favourite ABC Kids programmes that had been recorded using Media Center and burned a couple of discs with those. For some weird reason I couldn’t get Vista Movie Maker to work with the DVD drive, but I found a decent (and free) alternative – DVD Flick that did.

We did survive the trip there and back (also aided by Narelle’s folks who also drove up with us in their car), and had a nice time in Yamba too, managing to be in the pool or at the beach every day!

If you’re dining out, have coffee and cake at the Marina Cafe, and try some fish and chips or hamburger from the Fish Shop on Wooli St.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

2009 starts off well

Some good news for my sister Fiona – she and David got engaged on New Years Eve. Apparently the wedding will be sometime later this year.

I’m slowly getting used to the fact that “David and Fiona” no longer refers to me anymore.