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David's diary: April 2009

A busy last few days, happily to say, and I should go out on a bit of a flourish for this tax year coming to a close. Some of it's been a bit frustrating, but hey, it all pays - give or take a bit of chasing! In terms of "firsts" for my business, this week marks the first invoicing to a bona-fide Yellow Pages customer, and the first to an overseas one of sorts - so all good signs for the sustainable future growth of Goznet Systems, hopefully. And the lovely spring weather's decided to make a welcome comeback too, for a few days at least; what more could I want?

Still waiting for my perfect next laptop to come along. As some may be aware, I've had a second-hand Toshiba Pentium 3 with 13" screen for a good while now, and it's got me out of a pickle on a few occasions, but it really is showing its age in just about every regard. Slow, heavy, small storage, fading battery, and so on. But it only cost me £60 plus a wireless card and an extra memory module, so I don't regret it for a moment. But that wireless card is a bit of a problem in itself; it works exactly as it should, but simply can't hope to compete with one integrated into a more modern device, leaving me wandering aimlessly round hotels (and even at home sometimes) trying to sniff out alleged wi-fi reception.

It's no secret I've been eyeing up the new breed of so-called netbooks (with acknowledgement to Psion), middlingly-powerful little gizmos that will slip almost unnoticed into an overnight bag, yet fine for day-to-day mobile use. But after an encouraging early start with Asus's budget EeePC series, it's pretty depressing to see how the market's developing. Far from trying to recession-bust, the only way seems to be "up" for these things, with every new model larger than the one before, and - most significantly - more expensive, and indeed disproportionately so. They started at about £200, but MSI's latest model has been given a £499 price tag! £499! That's half-way serious full-blown laptop territory price, and for something with only a slightly better specification than those early models. And then there's the whole Windows thing; the early models kept costs down by optionally dumping Windows (and Windows XP at that, since Vista runs like treacle on all current netbooks) in favour of Linux. Since these are used first and foremost as web browsing machines, it really doesn't matter what the operating system is, so long as it's cheap and undemanding on resources. Microsoft didn't like this, and pulled the strings at the companies in question and basically had them over a barrel if they still wanted favourable licence pricing for their mainstream PC ranges. But on a £200 machine, the "Windows tax" represents a big premium, and one less visible if - hey, I know, let's make it a £300 machine, or £400, or £499 come to that... Oh, and to make double sure, let's withdraw the cheaper, more portable options from the market, so there's no choice and we can claim that people want bigger and more expensive, rather than, well, nothing at all.

So anyway, yes, I'm still waiting, but with a modicum of confidence things will turn around for the better. A few manufacturers with no axe to grind with Microsoft are getting in on the act, and have announced the imminent arrival of Linux-based netbooks - and small, cheap ones at that. And what's more, not just using Linux but non-Intel architecture, so (barring any dramatic U-turns) Microsoft are not just out of the picture but actively barred from it, having abandoned anything other than Intel compatible processors many years ago. Oh, and these are supposed to run for ten hours or more on a single battery charge, compared with about two or three from the average Intel Atom based netbook. June, they say. Here's hoping... 

It's been a week and a bit, hasn't it? Actually continued to be quite busy the last few days, which is obviously a good thing, both for the cashflow and keeping me out of mischief! Managed a proper day off on Wednesday, though, going up to the Look Out with Darren, Ceryn and the kids, for a picnic, failed attempt at building a teepee, and walk in the forest, followed by supper back at theirs. The weather forecast had been grim, and we'd been prepared for a very wet play day, but in the end it was lovely, and plenty of time was spent out and about, playing in the garden and so on. The lousy weather caught up with us today, though, when we had been intending to go on the Walk of Witness in town. We don't blame the rain for our lethargy this morning, but can't honestly deny it might have been a contributory factor...

Well that was a slightly mad party last night, but what better a way to kick off Easter weekend, given our abject failure to do so in more reverent fashion earlier in the day? Quiet day today, and on set-up (for the last time, hooray) tomorrow, so glad Monday's a day off too.

And now it is Monday, and we've had bacon muffins and hot cross buns to celebrate! Yesterday morning went OK, set-up wise, but we're glad that's a chapter that's over for now! Lamb roast round with Katy's mum and dad afterwards went down very happily, needless to say.

Interesting (well, to me, anyway) Easter musing though: one of our friends insisted that it should be Passover, not Easter, because Easter's a recycled pagan festival, with much of the common symbolism based on that. I can understand that point of view, but Passover itself existed long before Christ's crucifixion and the other events underpinning Easter as the church understands it, and to me, despite the undoubted pagan connection, denying Easter in its own right is to implicitly deny Christ and what he did. Give it another name if you have to (and in fact both "Passover" and "Easter" were words that themselves only entered the English language in Tyndale's 16th century Bible) but please remember that the events of that particular Passover almost two millennia ago were completely set apart from all others previous or since.

Just had a nice afternoon flopped in the sun by Frensham Little Pond, with a late picnic lunch, the puzzle supplement from the Saturday paper, and of course my lovely wife. What with that scrummy breakfast earlier, could Easter Monday really have been better spent?

After a good run of largely unproblematic trips up to London, Katy's had some real train-related fun and games this morning, and unavoidable for once - though I think all was well in the end, apart from being an hour or so late into Waterloo and having to delay her meeting. At about six o'clock this morning, we were awoken by a few distant rumbles of thunder. Nothing much to worry about, as if thunderstorms ever cause us much worry anyway. But then in short succession there were two incredibly loud and concentrated claps of thunder, as loud as if they were overhead, but still almost two miles away. Cause to run around and unplug the TV aerial and so on, though that seemed the end of it apart from a few more distant rumbles again.

Anyway, just after I had got back in from driving Katy to the station, she phoned to say that the storm (presumably one or both of those big strikes) had knocked out all the local railway signalling - and with not the faintest idea when things were going to be up and running again, Farnham station wasn't even willing to sell tickets. Typically vague information on the South West Trains and Network Rail websites, with suggestions that Farnham passengers should make their way to Farnborough (quite a trek at any time, let alone rush-hour) but no shuttle buses or anything being specifically laid on to help. Anyway, eventually news seemed to have filtered through to the station that things would be up and running again soon, and Katy was able to buy her ticket and get on to a train that was stuck there, and about an hour after time, they slowly trundled into London, stopping just about everywhere en route - and that should have been what is believed to be one of the busiest commuter trains in the country, even before having to take on board about three times the number of passengers expected!

Mmm, a hearty men's breakfast chez Andy this morning, and after some doubt as to how many might make it for the first such event, it was a pretty packed kitchen in the end for well-loaded sausage, bacon and egg baguettes! Went for a picnic lunch and walk at Fleet Pond later with Katy, inspired by our friend Catherine and kids' recent adventures there. It was where Katy and I first met up for real all those many years ago, and always a nice place to spend a while!

Another week gone by; fairly busy, but managed a proper weekend once again. We've had breakfast out with Si, Bex and the gang, two barbecues - one here with Francesca and one next door with a few neighbours - and today we've had a nice afternoon in the sun, exploring the Bourne Woods and its French castle under construction, and enjoying half an hour of cricket on the green at that quintessentially English village of Tilford. Tired and lacking in energy despite spring being properly here, but happy to be alive and happy with everything I do have!

This week is officially Big Marketing Push Week, having identified a number of local companies in dire need of the services of Goznet Systems or its ilk. Sure, it would be expenditure some may balk at, but surely it's at times like this when customers are thin on the ground that you need to keep your edge, and a small investment now could reap big rewards not long down the line. Some businesses are obviously wise to this, given that even since I carried out my review, a few had realised the errors of their ways and given their sites the overhauls they so desperately needed. Anyway, about a dozen hopefully well-targeted personalised letters and brochures went out yesterday and today - and probably about the same again tomorrow, targeting a sizeable handful of local businesses who have had sites "under construction" for longer than could be considered reasonable... If even one or two of these bite, it will have been worth the effort.

Six more letters and brochures today in the end. Would have been more, but some of the businesses involved were untraceable, and the others whose sites had claimed to be under construction really were, with definite signs of progress since my review. Had one phone call today, which may or may not have been related to the last couple of days' mailings, but sod's law that I was shopping in Tesco at the time so had to return a voicemail message when I got in. Anyway, things may not be brilliantly promising, but it's certainly not all doom and gloom!

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