Thursday 14 August 2008

Busy preparing for our European holiday

I've been busy the past week trying to get everything ready for our trip to Europe. We will be hiring camper vans in Germany and then in the UK, and I'm planning to make this trip as leisurely as possible, rather than trying to cram in as many "sights" as possible. Travelling with my parents (who are in their 70s) and two young boys (8 and almost 2) for five weeks may be a lot of fun, or it could get quite stressful if we try to rush our journey. I'm taking my digital camera, digital compact video camera and my older miniDV video camera on the trip. If I manage to access WiFi hotspots with my new laptop during the trip I may post some photos over the next five weeks. I doubt I'll be posting much about personal finance during our vacation...

** Warning: rambling techno-babble follows **

Most of my trip preparation time so far have been used trying to get my electronic gadgets to behave. It took several attempts to get a set of digital photos formatted and loaded onto a digital photo frame we are taking as a gift for my 93 year old great-Aunt. I picked 60 photos to load onto the internal memory of the photo frame, and initially tried to reduce and crop photos to fit exactly the resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio of the photo frame. However, it was taking so long that I decided not to bother with cropping each photo, but simply reduce all 60 photos so that the entire set should fit into the internal memory. The photo frame documentation didn't mention the amount of free memory available, so I phoned the customer service number to find out. As it turned out the figure I was quoted (32MB) was incorrect - I could only load about 3MB of data before the memory was full. For the moment I'm leaving the photo frame with just 15 images loaded. I can either re size the images (again) on my laptop while we are travelling, and load all 60 images at lower resolution (they'll appear the same at full size, but won't look very good if the zoom function is used), or I can leave the 15 photos loaded into internal memory and buy a cheap USB memory stick to store the remaining 45 photos. An added benefit of using additional USB memory is that I could store additional photos that we take during our stay in Germany and London, before we visit my Great-Aunt.

Aside from the photo frame, I've also spent many hours attempting to get my new Dell Laptop setup for the trip. The initial configuration of the system when it was first powered up went without a hitch, and the Vista home premium OS looked very sexy with the enhanced graphics display I'd opted for. However, once I'd loaded in some freeware encryption software (Truecrypt) in order to create an encrypted volume (to store my financial website passwords to use during our trip), and some image editing software (Mindworks Alchemy) to be able to convert my Pentax RAW photos to jpeg format during our travels, things started to go haywire.

I connected the laptop to the Internet through my home network, but the system crashed due to low memory while autoloading some software updates. Apparently the 1GB RAM I'd hoped to scrape by with wasn't sufficient for Vista once some other apps had been installed.

I then decided that I'd better install some network security software before accessing the Internet too much, but I didn't want to register the 1-month free version of McAfee viruscan that came with the Dell laptop. Instead I bought a 3-PC licence of McAfee Security suite so I could replace the expired version on my desktop PC as well as install it on my two laptop PCs. Once I made the purchase I tried to update my existing McAfee Security Suite on my desktop, that had expired last week. Unfortunately it refused to update properly, still reporting that the installation needed to be "fixed" after the download finished. The expiry date displayed by McAfee also hadn't changed, even after I rebooted the system.

Since updating an existing installation hadn't worked, I decided to uninstall the 1-month trial version of McAfee from the new laptop before downloading the newly purchased version. Of course, when I then tried to login to 'My Account' with the laptop I couldn't get it to work (nothing happened when I pressed the "login" button, even though I used the same details that work OK on my desktop!). I though that the applications I already loaded may be causing the problems, so I used the Visa "restore" function to reset the system to the state prior to my starting to install any applications. Unfortunately "restore" only resets the OS system software, so the deleted McAfee 1-month trial application was still deleted. Trying again to login to my McAfee account still didn't work after the reset, so I'm currently stuck with a laptop that only has the firewall and anti-virus security that comes as part of the Vista OS - not the ideal setup for accessing the internet for financial transactions while travelling the globe!

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