23 February 2011 (Wednesday) - Wingham Wildlife Park

With ‘er indoors TM  taking a day's holiday we thought we'd do something special with the day. Despite the rain, we thought we'd have a look-see at Wingham Wildlife Park. It was great – pigs and emus and alpacas and all sorts of beasts. We watched penguin feeding time,and even got to feed the meerkats ourselves. Me – I was quite taken with the caimans and the crocodiles. We arrived at mid day, and despite rushing round because of the rain, we were there for two hours. We will certainly go back when the weather is better, and take a picnic.
Personally I would have liked a pub lunch today, but by the time we'd finished at the wildlife park most pubs' kitchens would have closed. But McDinner is always good,  and is half the price of a pub dinner.

I then spent some time getting angry with my sexy new laptop. Like any new computer it didn't come ready for me to use. For all that the thing could access the data on my desktop PC upstairs,it didn't have the programs loaded to do anything with those files.

Loading up PaintShop Pro and Serif publisher was easy enough; I had the disks and not only did they work, but also Windows didn't have any problems with them.

Office programs were a different story – because Microsoft Office came pre-loaded on my old PC. I had no disks for that. So I phoned the I.T. Department at work. At one point they were selling the latest versions of Microsoft office for less  than twenty quid. Unfortunately they aren't doing that any more. I checked eBay, and then decided that I didn't want the latest version of Microsoft Office anyway. Hoorah for openoffice.org, or so I thought.
Billed as a free shareware version of Microsoft Office,  I found two download sites which, after I'd downloaded 150+Mb then wanted me to text message for a code at a cost of three quid. The third time proved to be lucky. Or free, depending on what one considers to be lucky.

Stellarium was another worry. Really useful shareware that has been used by me and most of the astro club for years set off all sorts of alarms from the antivirus software. Alarms which I ignored. Mind you, the sexy new laptop has only come with one month's antivirus so in three weeks time I shall be going over to AVG which (so far) has been relatively well behaved on my old PC.

And then the fun started. Having waited for over a week to get hold of my webcam, I was rather miffed to find that it didn't simply plug and play. The device manager didn't like it, and flatly refused to find any drivers for it. I had a look on one or two astronomy forums and found that the Toucam Webcams aren't supported by Windows 7. They aren't just "not supported", they don't work in Windows 7 at all.
One chap on one forum did offer a fix in which it was possibly possible to tweak another driver to force it to work. After an hour's getting angry with the thing I re-read the instructions offered by the chap on the astronomy forum. To be fair to him he did say that his fix might not always work.

I suppose the fact that an antique webcam doesn't work in the latest version of Windows isn't really a major issue, but after all is said and done,the only reason I got my sexy new laptop was to use as a webcam eyepiece for my sexy new telescope. I shall phone the nice man in the telescope shop tomorrow and see how much a proper astronomical webcam will cost.

But after all is said and done,the acid test of the sexy new laptop is that I'm using it to create and transmit  this blog entry to the world this evening. Do let me know if it didn't work...

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