Hello and welcome visitors to the site. As you can see a lot of the blog content is old. I’ve moved some content over from the old site just to give some depth. But many of the technical and current affairs articles were out of date so they haven’t made the trip over. But there’s plenty of new content coming soon. I’ve got some music gear and photography reviews coming up. And with Article 50 about to be triggered I’m sure I’ll find something to say about that. Thanks for visiting.

The Best Worst Guitar

Epiphone 435i – a 1980s superstrat. HSS, with locking trem. I didn’t know anything about guitars. But I decided I wanted to play electric guitar. Mainly to fit in with some new friends at sixth form. But unlike any other hobby I picked up in my youth – this was one I stuck with.

I didn’t know what kind of guitar to buy. I just ordered one out of a neighbour’s Littlewoods catalogue. They sent the wrong one – a bass. Then sent the right one. But it was wrong too. Instead of the even cheaper guitar in the catalogue I received the Epiphone 435i that wasn’t even listed.

I had no idea what a locking trem was. Managed to break a few strings trying to tune with the locking nuts tightened. But this cheap HSS guitar with its skinny neck was the only electric guitar I had for nearly 20 years. Learned my first notes on it. Played it a lot live at university. In my late teens and early twenties I must have played for hours every day. I was never any good, but that didn’t matter. I loved that guitar.

It was also special because it was a gift from my mother, who would pass away two years after buying it for me. She encouraged me and listened when I learned something new. Telling me I sounded great, even though I knew I didn’t. At her funeral a friend of my mother’s told me mum used to stand quietly outside my bedroom and listen to me play. She’d told this friend I was really good.

When I met my first wife and we were getting a flat together I brought the guitar down to London and left it with her until I moved. It was the most precious thing I owned. She understood why I left it with her until I moved down. It was a statement of where my heart lay, of how important she was to me.

Within a year of our marriage my wife was dead, at just 35. After my wife died I didn’t think I’d play guitar again. I don’t think I ever wanted to play guitar again.

Until I met my second wife. She encouraged me to play again. We even formed a band for a wedding gig. And I started to practice again. My poor Epiphone 435i, now nearly 20 years old and played to death, wasn’t in great shape by now. The frets were worn flat. I’d filled the straplock holes with matches and glue more times than I could remember. And one day while practicing for the gig the whole locking trem disintegrating, the main metal weight sheering off the rest. And of course it would be a weird size and hard to replace.

My wife bought me a new guitar to do the gig. I still have a few pieces of that Epiphone. Not the whole guitar, but some bits. After a very hard life it pretty much fell apart.

It was guitar given to me by my late mother, held and cherished by my first wife who was taken tragically young, and was played again thanks to the love of the woman who picked up the pieces.

It was a shit guitar. It was the very best guitar.

American Truck Simulator – First Impressions

Hurrah American Truck Simulator has finally been released. The favourite game of many a dad everywhere sees a shift in focus from Europe over to the USA. SCS Software’s new game is a celebration of Americana and initially features California and Nevada, with other states to follow later.

So what’s it like?

American Truck Simulator is a lot like European Truck Simulator. In some ways it feels more like an add-on rather than a full fledged sequel thanks to the reuse of the gameplay model and interface. However there’s plenty new to enjoy – speed cameras make way for cops, turning right on red takes some getting used to and there are new mandatory weighing stops. The big draw is of course the USA location and for that the game is definitely worth the modest £14.99/US$19.99.

While initial impressions make one think not a whole lot has changed that idea is soon dispelled by trying a few deliveries. There’s more traffic now. The trucks and trailers you drive are much bigger. And the parking challenges have got a heck of a lot more difficult. The player may be driving on wider roads, but with this much bigger trucks 90-degree turns are a challenge.

For many of us SCS Software’s Truck Simulator franchise is more about feel than technical wizardry. The game is very attractive but can be rough around the edges, quite literally as anti-aliasing options are limited. However it’s very easy to get the game running at 60 fps thanks to good optimization.

Once again SCS has neatly sidestepped the issue of gaining lots of music licenses by allowing the game to use streaming radio. There’s something genuinely wonderful about hooing along a Nevada interstate with a country station doing its thing. I was driving towards a sunset yesterday evening when the radio station began playing the classic Convoy. A wonderful moment.

American Truck Simulator is not exactly action packed. But then it’s not meant to be. This is a relaxing game, and one for those who love to explore and take their time. In this American Truck Simulator and Elite Dangerous are kindred spirits, in fact combat aside, they are very similar games – albeit with a difference in the vehicles involved. They certainly scratch the same gaming itch.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first few hours with American Truck simulator and am looking forward to further states being released and modders getting their hands on the game. It seems SCS Software has done it again – created a wonderful entertaining time-soak form the unlikeliest of source material. Highly recommended.

You can read more about the game at the SCS Software website. The game is out now on Steam or via this Amazon link – American Truck Simulator (PC DVD)

Breezy Westbay

It might have been blowing a gale, but it was also lovely and sunny at Westbay in Dorset yesterday. The day before the town had been very quiet, with rain driving visitors away. But the winter sun brought out plenty of visitors yesterday despite the cold and wind. I decided to head over with my camera. I travelled light for this one, just my Fujifilm X-T1 with the 27mm f/2.8 and 14mm f/2.8 prime lenses.

Breezy Westbay 019

Golden Years

Breezy Westbay 010

Breezy Westbay 003

A Voice for Ellie

Today I published my first short story on Amazon Kindle. Well not my first ever short story. It’s just the first that I’ve published on Amazon’s Kindle platform. At nearly 12,000 words I think it’s a bargain for 99p. The story is called A Voice for Ellie and is a fictionalised semi-biographical tale. The story is available in the UK, USA and many other Amazon stores.

If you are kind enough to buy the story please do leave a review – good or bad – I really value your feedback.

You can find the story A Voice for Ellie by Harry Neary at Amazon.

Garden Tweeter

Oh the horror, Twitter was down for over an hour this morning. I sat and watched the birds in the garden. It’s a beautiful sunny and frosty winter morning. Plenty of birds in the garden looking for something to eat. So I filled up the bird feeder and eventually we had some traffic.

Garden Birds 006

This is a heavily cropped image from a 55-200mm lens. I am going to have to buy some lottery tickets so I can get the newly announced Fujifilm 100-400mm.

My Photography Year 2015

2015 wasn’t a year where I was very prolific. I didn’t venture far from home with my camera so you’ll notice plenty of shots from the same local area. The year has been interesting in photographic terms in that I feel I’m finally developing a style – or at least have a better idea of the style that I’m working towards. The black and white shots at West Bay and the moody colour shots of the village of Broadwindsor are examples of that. At the very least it was a year I finally started getting past gear and working towards better photography even if I didn’t always achieve that.

This is my favourite photo I took in 2015. In reality it is two of my favourite photos I took this year. They were taken in January. However it’s only taken until December for me to realise they’d work well stitched together. And now this is my photo of the year. And if proof were needed that gear isn’t everything this was the product of my Canon Powershot S120 compact camera.

Stormy West Bay

What of the rest? I’ve never been very interested in portrait photography for its own ends. Yes I take lots of people photos – but these are family shots taken to document our children growing up. But I’m finally beginning to appreciate a beautiful portrait and I think 2016 will be the year I explore the art myself. Part of the catalyst for this change is watching the videos of Damien Lovegrove, a photographer whose work I absolutely love. So expect to see more portraits when I return for a similar post next year.

While I don’t think it’s been a vintage year, here are my favourite photos of 2015.

Best of 2015

Windows 10 Slow Sign In Fix

Has your Windows 10 machine been plagued with slow sign in since the major update in November 2015? My desktop machine has. Running from an SSD the computer will reach the lock screen in seconds as usual. But when I enter my pin, the computer now takes 20-30 seconds to reach the desktop. Previously it was only a few seconds.

Since the major update in November there have been a few minor updates released but none have fixed this issue. Yesterday evening I was searching for a solution again and I saw one mentioned I thought was mad. Surely this wouldn’t work. How could something so simple cause such a problem and why wasn’t this caught in testing?

The problem? Auto hiding the taskbar. My Desktop PC was set to auto hide the taskbar. I read that this was the cause of the problem. I didn’t believe it. I assumed it was someone trolling a tech forum.

I tried the fix anyway. I unticked the box marked “auto hide the taskbar”. And lo and behold. My PC now reaches the desktop from the lockscreen in two seconds. Two seconds!

Ridiculous a bug like this gets through testing. But anyway, I hope this fix works for you.

The Quest for the Alrightish Burger

Many years ago my late/first wife and I had a pet called George. We loved George, he was yellow and perky, ever ready to join us in our adventures. With his tail behind him he’d open up his jaws and hiss with delight every time we’d decide to eat with him. He wasn’t a snake though, he was a lean mean fat reducing machine aka a two sided grill. I’m not sure what happened to that George, his fate is lost in the mists of time that for me remains hazy – and not just because of the fat-coated steam that filled the kitchen.

Many years later I’ve returned to a similar adventure. Yes I bought a new George Foreman grill. Once again I can enjoy the delights of arguing who gets to clean the bloody thing and wondering how something can be so charred on the inside and yet so “never mind that’ll do” in the middle. I’m not sure how much fat he keeps from us, but George has proved handy for a variety of our regular meals. I think his contribution will likely be measured more in a slightly lower electricity bill than reducing waistbands.

Our favourite George related dish – for we are conservative in our approach to disappointing charred food – is the beefburger. On George’s birthday I also bought some Morrison’s Signature Scottish Beef Quarter Pounders – a title that drips off the tongue does it not? To be fair these were pretty nice and had surprisingly little fat in them anyway.

But I felt it my duty as this family’s housewife type person to provide for my family an even better burger. My wife is not a fan of processed food, which she equates to anything not given a once over by a bearded lady, who then doubles the price and wraps it in a gingham doily. So feeling I was doing my best for my family the next time we had burgers I went down the made by a butcher route. These were proper burgers – all slightly stuck together, not all the same size and in danger of falling apart. All the things that make middle class artisan produce what it is.

“I prefer the Morrisons burgers we had last week,” said Mrs Grumpyrocker upon sampling the butcher’s burger. She was right. These burgers were okay. Not bad, not particularly good. They didn’t really taste of anything which when compared to lots of supermarket food isn’t always a negative. I was clearly going to have to up my game, I’d already spent a small fortune on these burgers, a whole 75 pence each, yet I was going to have to spend more to get a better burger.

In Tesco this week I found what I was looking for. Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus Frozen Quarter Pounders. These were surely the Holy Grail of supermarket burgers. They must be at 150 pence each. Six quid for four. Crikey, what a culinary delight these are bound to be. Alas my poor wife would be away when these paragons of miniature cow reconstruction would be thrown to George for him to perform his magic. The children and I would be the lucky recipients of this beefy bounty.

Imagine then what it would be like to sink your teeth into a charred bathroom sponge that sprayed a gallon of molten watery grease in all directions, including your face. Now you too can understand the dubious delight that I paid six quid for this lunchtime. 99 percent beef? Beef what exactly? If I’d wanted a hot beefy drink I’d have bought some Bovril, not tried to eat one of these nasty lard rusks with a cow Tardis full of beef piss inside. Six sodding quid? Well played Mr Tesco, well played.

So the quest continues for the most alrightish cook at home burger. I suspect though we’d be better off just going to Burger King.