31st of October 2003
Well the bad news month continues, when the workers of the Royal Mail in Maidstone are on strike at the moment. As my last day of mail delivery and collection was on Monday (27th), which means that this is now the fourth day with nothing much going on.
A lot of the companies in my area risk going bankrupt if this continues, where just this morning I heard two local nurses very annoyed about the mail problem and also worried about one of their parents companies.
This is no real problem for my company of course, when I have no real debts and only minor overheads. So no money coming in, just means no money going out. And that includes my VAT return for this quarter, which would have been with Customs & Excise today had not the local Royal Mail employees giving up collecting these pre-paid envelopes as well.
Ah what they going to do, break my fingers? When that is the job of the Inland Revenue after all...
So at this moment I am currently just sorting out all those overdue problems and doing all those things that I used to do until work overload and sorting out all the problems this month took over. Guess I will take a bit of a break as well until the mailing system is working once more.
We will have to see how long this strike lasts, where at the moment it is spreading to other areas. It began in London of course, almost two weeks ago, where at minimum it should last until next week. Still, I hope that claims by certain strikers about it lasting until next year is not true, when by then the UK's main mail system will be under the control of another company.
Anyway, as soon as my mail starts moving again, then I will let you know.
23rd of October 2003
Just my luck, yet more computer problems over the last few days.
At about 18:15 on Monday (the 20th) my cable modem and major link to the Internet went down, where a reset showed that it could obtain both an up and down stream, but an on-line connection (or FEC lock as they call it) could not be achieved.
This I would have phoned my cable company about on the following day of Tuesday, except that at around 23:30 things got a lot worse. Still, the cable modem did return to life on Wednesday morning, after a day and a half of endless cycling, where the new IP address I guess means that something blew up at my ISP's place.
Anyway, what happened at 23:30 was that I reset my server like I sometimes do, when all of a sudden it would not reboot. The Windows 2000 server software complained about one of the system folders and said to run the installation CD and select the repair option.
Nice idea, except that No2, who now does other things, had this very installation CD, where it was Tuesday evening before he dropped around to fix it. Quick fix I first thought, put in the CD and Windows would take care of it, except that it could not find the former Win2K installation.
So time to run chkdsk I guess and see what is going on, where sure enough it found disk data errors, even if it *believed* that this NTFS partition looked fine at first glance. And so I fixed that problem, gave it another check to be sure, then restarted the repair attempt.
Still no luck, when the installation CD still could not find about a gigabyte's worth of former Win2k installation, where certainly all except that one problem folder was there.
As it was now time to do a fresh install, then since the idea of Win2K wiping the entire C drive was proving very undesirable, when say the e-mail system and more was on there, then it was decided to move to Windows Server 2003 instead, which does not wipe the install partition.
This was also done in the hope that this new O/S would see the old O/S and upgrade it, thereby saving a lot of time sorting out server settings. Nope, when now I have the option of booting to a non-functional Windows 2000 server install or the Windows 2003 server install.
Sure enough No2, who now does this for a living, got my server up and running in no time, where he left me to sort out the applications.
First of all I had to reinstall my drive encryption software, where since I download the latest version at the same time, then I was pleased to see that the problem with it identifying my encrypted drive as a floppy disk on the first mount had been fixed.
Next up I sorted out all the users, which these days are No2 the rare times he drops by (usually to raid my media files) and then No3A, who does my sales spreadsheet work a couple of times each month.
However, getting the e-mail server program working proved a lot more difficult, when it reported that connections from my other computers were denied. I looked at this e-mail program entered the new IP range and even the exact IP address, with still no luck.
As the e-mail server software was not showing its own connection denied message at this time, then that made me think that the problem must be in the O/S. Since I could not find something wrong though, then I decided to swap from using the new 192.168.0.* address range to the old 192.168.1.* address range.
After all the e-mail server software was already set up to deal with that one.
Since I never got the whole system to switch over despite many hours of trying with the DHCP and DNS, then I decided to put it back how it used to be, which is where I took out the routing to the Internet at the same time.
Then I decided to go to sleep, which was just as well, when I figured out the answer to both problems during my sleep. Redoing the DHCP once more this morning, but this time without the error on the router address (that I had manually fixed last time), soon had the Net connection working again.
Now the problem with the e-mail server software was that beforehand it had 192.168.1.* to accept connections, then *.*.*.* to deny connections, where my adding 192.168.0.* following this was proving unhelpful, when the previous *.*.*.* option was denying all else before it got to the new option.
So when I removed the old option and had 192.168.0.* followed by the usual *.*.*.*, then all of a sudden it worked.
As I was working on the e-mail system at this time, then I decided to give the whole thing an overhaul, where first I moved the new on-line payment option addresses to the server. This makes collection faster, where checking mail on my two domains every couple of minutes means that in case of network or hosting failure, then the very last of the e-mail will be collected shortly before.
That feature was highlighted so well when my old hosting provider deleted my site without warning that one time, when it was this very e-mail server software that collected that final e-mail that reported that my site was being eaten alive. You can still read about that in my Old News section (see below) for about one year ago I guess.
After checking through the e-mail address I noticed a couple of mistakes, where the most serious one was that mail was not being collected from the trade address for the www.cardman.co.uk domain, which was not really a problem when this address had been closed anyway.
I guess that happened during my hosting provider change, where I had just overlooked creating that one address.
The second problem explains what happened to that missing PayHound on-line order form earlier this month, when the order form was set to send it to the cardman.com domain. Nice idea, but there was no PayHound e-mail address on this domain, when PayHound only lets you have the one account, which was set for the cardman.co.uk domain.
Since the order form was technically doing it correctly, when you would not want to forward an order form from one site to the other (twice the chance of an error), then that is why I created the missing e-mail address and now have the server collecting this mail.
The other thing I have done is to remove the trade address and now have a new address to collect all my supplier's adverts in the one place. Even though it is going to be a job to get them to use it.
And the final change in my very many e-mail addresses is to get rid of my spam overloaded main cardman addresses, where I have already contacted my two hosting providers to have this done. I suspect it can be done, but not that easily, where with a little luck this 100+ spam a day will soon be returned marked "user unknown".
Valid people still using that address are usually the same ones who need to start using the new Your ADs address.
The penultimate thing I did with this e-mail software was to move it to my RAID drive, where after telling it to now look for the files it needs on the RAID drive, then that is why it is now happily ticking through all the e-mail address one by one, before waiting 60 seconds and starting again.
And finally I did my overdue update of my e-mail page, when there is no need to mention things that no longer apply on it. That you can now see for yourself, where it now also has a good e-mail processing system behind it.
I will be back to answering the e-mail tomorrow, when today I will remove other old site information and then two items from my order forms.
16th of October 2003
First of all I wish to say "Hi" to Pris, a special friend of mine, who is also a fan of the series Charmed, where she will certainly be dropping by my site and reading this. :-]
Next up is that I have resolved all the problems caused by my computer explosion (well almost..) late last month, where this site is now reading like it should. The old special offer has been removed, the prices are correct, and the currency rates are up to date.
That makes a good time to comment on how the value of the US Dollar seems to have taken a sharp nose dive recently, where last time I updated it this was in recovery, but now at $1.6595 to £1 it is doing very badly.
Since the Euro rate is about the same, then I guess the US economy took a turn for the worse.
Two of my on-line payment services have been changing recently, where the most interesting one is that PayPal can now debit funds to a UK bank account for free for £50 or more. This is a good reason to start thinking about receiving PayPal funds in Sterling as well.
As long as there is no currency conversion involved, where these Sterling funds are kept separate from my US Dollar funds, then this appears to be like a very popular payment option. I have had people ask me about Sterling funds to PayPal before, but up until now I have only accepted the US Dollar.
So after some research that option could be on-line very soon.
Also PayHound has been doing some interesting changes, when it now appears that they will be doing automatic debits to your card/account if the value takes it over the £100 account limit. That sure beats denying payment transfers, which is a change that is long overdue.
I am a little worried about the 75p debit charge on values so small, but as long as PayHound actually use this money to improve their service, then this is fine with me.
I have also noticed that they have been changing their payment confirmation e-mails once again, which is why the second payment recently was not correctly filtered to my Payment e-mail box, which of course created a couple of days delay until I found it.
One payment before this was delayed for even longer, where I never even received a payment confirmation e-mail for that one, for one of several possible reasons.
Well those two have now left, where PayHound is now a better payment option than what it was. Makes me wonder if they have an account by-pass for immediate and larger payments yet, when that was their other problem.
I believe that I have now resolved my computer crashing problem, when it began to get better and better and did not crash for days before this morning.
As my e-mail client when belly up (died) this morning after that crash, then again I did a drive scan using WinXP's Error Checking options in the properties. For the second time this reported no drive errors at all, but then a "file corruption, use chkdsk" message appeared in the task bar.
Based upon what I saw in my e-mail client folder I was going to do that anyway, but the task bar had come to the same conclusion that I had.
Sure enough after opening a DOS window and running chkdsk a whole load of file chain problems turned up, which goes explain a lot. If this explains why my computer has been locking up whenever playing with this drive I don't know, but that is certainly a strong possibility.
I have now lost what little faith I had in WinXP's drive checking utility, when it could not even find this basic problem.
Anyway, the results from this quite serious problem is that after a rebuild my mail boxes are not what they should be, missing and miss-marked e-mail are apparent, but at least this computer only deals in on-line order forms and payments, then some private mail and lots of spam.
I am just about to check on recent received payments and hope that I still have order forms for them, but I will use chkdsk a few more times to make sure it does not happen again, when new on-line orders and payments should be fine.
Also I have decided to suspend upgrade of this computer until next month, when that will allow me to backup important data for when I reinstall WinXP on the much faster RAID system. As if one of those two HDDs die, then I can just pull it out, put in a spare, then select rebuild to have it back to normal. No having to reinstall the O/S and no loss of data, all thanks to RAID 1.5 (a two HDD version of RAID 1+0).
I was going to upload this latest News yesterday, but I noticed that my www.cardman.co.uk site was playing up and not reading what it should be, where the Plesk Server Administrator default page showing instead of my site highlighted that things were not going well.
The two reasons it mentioned for showing this page was that either I had not configured my site correctly, or my hosting account had expired. This made me go off and check on these two possibilities, where first of all I checked on my web pages. Sure enough logging in by FTP showed that all my site pages, where as they should be.
And as my web site was working fine earlier in the day, where I had not changed it since, then that ruled out the first option of a configuration mistake by me.
Next up I checked on when my 12 month hosting was due to expire, where to begin with the clear lack of e-mails asking me to continue with another 12 months were apparent. After about an hour of trying to nail down the date that I have to renew, then the answer came up as that my next 12-month renewal date is set for the end of March 2004.
Since the two default reasons quoted by this page were deemed not true, then so did I send an e-mail off to my hosting provider (GNX Online) to find out what the real reason was. Thoughts of overuse of bandwidth, as well as that person using another ISP to virus spam thousands of people using one of my valid e-mail address in a forged mail header came to mind.
Anyway, since my site was back working this morning, then that confirmed my top assumption, which listed as number three should read "The administrator employed by your hosting provider has not correctly configured your hosting on this server.
If I will ever get an e-mail reply about this glitch I don't know, but that is why you are now able to read this latest news.
After sorting out the on-line order problems from what was yesterday, then in the end there was only one missing order form. The rest had been put in the In box instead of being filtered to the Orders box, which is where I later manually moved them.
That one missing order form will leave today, since I received a quick reply mentioning the missing order details.
I will be busy over the next few days catching up on e-mail, refunds and returns, but then that is not uncommon around here.
8th of October 2003
Some good news at last is that I have now recovered from a fatal computer error taking out processing of on-line order processing and most management control functions. This is not due to using new computer hardware as expected, which I will now explain.
New computer hardware to replace this faulty system was ordered late last Monday with expected dispatch on Tuesday with arrival before the weekend. This never came about due to a series of problems, which I will again explain.
First I heard was that my first of two orders had a payment problem due to an invalid postal code, where after a check the 6 in my post code was wrongly marked as an 8. I had assumed that this was a typing error and therefore my mistake, but after checking previous orders, then this problems needs further checking, when all orders for over a year now came with this faulty post code.
So after explaining what the correct post code was to fix the payment problem, then I had to fax them a copy of my bank statement showing these valid details. As that was done on the Tuesday, then I was hoping for a dispatch on Tuesday, but as he was busy the manual check with the card company was going to happen on the following day of Wednesday.
Sure enough on the Wednesday my bank account was debited for this sum, where in one of their e-mails to me they said clearly that delivery would be on Thursday.
No delivery Thursday or Friday made me ask them where this order was, with no reply being received. As their on-line system was reading "processing", then I began to have doubts if this order I had now paid for had been dispatched at all.
At the same time I contacted the second company to find out where my order was, which is where I found out that the motherboard I wanted was not in stock. And as this was not going to turn up Monday as they first expected, then they offered me three lower cost alternatives.
I did consider getting this from another company, but after a long check one of the alternatives (the DFI LANParty PRO875) seemed slightly better than the one I had first wanted. And well as they had it in stock and it cost less, then so did I tell them to send that one.
As it was now late Friday I said get it here by Tuesday at my expense or else. And sure enough that complete order arrived here yesterday.
The other company I contacted a second time Monday morning asking again where this order was, where the questionable excuse of illness on Thursday (remembering an expected Wednesday dispatch) meant that this order had not been dispatched.
Oh well the funds taken from my debit card meant that trading law had just been broken, when funds are only allowed to be taken at the point of order dispatch. Therefore in this country a debit or credit card debit means that your order is (almost) always on the way.
Ok, so I told them to dispatch my order to have it arrive here Wednesday or I would cancel it and order elsewhere.
Now I find out that the only two things I ordered from them (Memory and Graphics Card) are both no longer in stock, even though they were in stock when I ordered them. And no doubt they were when I paid for them, when the AGP Graphics Card at least had only arrived on the Monday when I ordered it.
So as this is just not good order handling, then I will now be getting a refund for the goods I have paid for yet never was sent to me.
And so today I was rushing around trying to find some suitable DIMMs to use in this new system, not to forget trying to find a PCI graphics card.
First of all I spent a couple of hours trying to find the right invoice to find out what type of DIMMs it was that was in my currently dead Athlon XP system. And I was pleased to discover that these were PC2100 DDR266 DIMMs, which was the minimum memory type that could run on my new motherboard.
As to a PCI graphics card (when my old AGP card from my old Athlon XP system could not work), then I searched though the remains of three computer systems before discovering my old ET6000 PCI graphics card. This I found in the box for my later AGP card, when I have a habit of putting the old card in the vacant space in the box of the new card.
So I now had all I needed to try powering it up, even if I had a few concerns. The main one of these was that my PSU was only a 300w model without the extra 12v power connector needed for the modern Pentium 4 systems.
Sure I had a 550w model with that extra (unused) 12v connector in my server, but it was just not a good idea to take down my server just to borrow the PSU.
Anyway, when I spent more than a few hours wiring up this system, then I switched it on to see the same kind of response that I saw from my broken system. After it had died I had first suspected a motherboard failure, which then changed into an assumed CPU failure (well it was running at 90c the other week...), but now I was starting to suspect the PSU.
And so I got out my spare 300w PSU connected it up and turned on the system, where since now it began to power up, it was clear that my old system had died of PSU failure. That was certainly unexpected, when this same system had been running perfectly fine for over a year. And to see it slowly die is not something that you would expect from a PSU.
Anyway, at this point my new system was powering up, but not getting too far. When now we had no video display, all four leds were on, then after a few seconds it made a continuous repeating beeping noise.
Now as this problem could have been due to the memory, the PSU, the very old graphics card or tons more, then I had the idea that I could get my old system working again. After all that saves a whole load of playing about with WinXP before being able to get the new system working. And after a couple more hours I had taken out all the new hardware and put back in the old hardware.
Since I got no video out of my old AGP card, then I decided to run with my even older PCI ET6000 card and solve that lightning caused lines problem as well. Sure enough it worked first time before I sorted out the cables and the CMOS settings before booting back to my usual WinXP.
The first discovered problem was that WinXP could find no drivers for my ET6000, which give me a nice time working in 16 colour mode. Soon enough I discovered that ET6000 drivers for WinXP are a very rare thing, but after some time I found one.
To cut a long story short, then now I have a choice of 800x600x24 mode, or 1024x768x16 mode. I decided on 1024x768 for usual work and 800x600 for watching video. As the lower setting is just too damned small to see much with, which reminds me how well my old AGP card used to do 1600x1200x32 mode on my 19 inch monitor.
I am thinking that I should be able to get more out of this card (it has 4mb [I think] of memory), where say the 1024x768x16 mode would use up just 1.5mb of that space. Anyway, my current problem is that every time I reboot I have to remove and reinstall these video drivers to get these higher video modes working again, when a direct reboot produces no video on WinXP desktop.
Oh well I can live with it as long as I don't keep having to reboot.
That brings me to my second problem, when my all important e-mail client has a habit of crashing my whole computer system after X amount of time. Why I don't know, but this does not help my video problem any, but at least it seems to recover fine after starting up again.
Well as it now runs if not too well (it seems to be improving), then that means that my on-line ordering system is working again. Too bad that I will one day soon have to restart the whole system to get my new and much better computer hardware working, but at least the new system will be a lot more reliable.
Anyway, since the on-line orders have been stacking up I see, then later today, and maybe some of tomorrow, most if not all of them will be departing. I will need to extra verify payment confirmation, but that should not take long.
Also since I download 800+ e-mail on my two cardman addresses, then you can see why I closed this address due to spam overload. That means that I was receiving nearly 100 spam e-mail a day, which valid e-mail can get easily lost in.
Although this can cause additional problems, but very soon I will change my system to bounce all e-mail sent to the cardman address. Hopefully this will cause this spam to end, but I feel that only a law making mass spam events illegal can solve this serious problem.
Well since all my other management aspects are now working again, then I will now update this site to remove last month's special offer, update the currency rates are all the rest.