For this poor, unfortunate soul – absolutely nothing. I spotted the fox from my train which was just about to enter Wimbledon station. I’ve reported it to Network Rail so they could clear the corpse from the track.

If only the fox decided to cross the railway lines during the upcoming strike action by RMT against South Western Railway (2nd December through to the 20th), he or she would have probably been safe because of so few operating trains. And even fewer trains are likely to be available if there are any signal, track or train defects which has been plaguing the SWR network like mad for the past two years.

If I were the UK government, I’d be looking to withdraw SWR’s franchise as early as possible if the deadlock isn’t resolved…

Packed in like sardines, but without the brine..

Last Monday’s South Western Railway strike was fun. Trains were considerably busier than usual – it took a good half an hour to wait for another train with enough capacity to get me home.

Wall to wall humans. Lovely. I’m happy to wait, thanks.

Another calamity had befallen me earlier that day, however. I was trying new backup software for the local Active Directory server and I had to cancel it due to hogging too many resources. I was forced to shut down windows and reboot – but – ALAS! – the server came up and wouldn’t allow me to log in as administrator via remote desktop. Wouldn’t let me log in with my own user account which has administrative privileges. The Active Directory service was borked.

I rebooted the machine again. I physically booted it into Safe Mode with Networking and was – physically at the machine itself – able to log in. In the end, I had to:

  • Create a Windows Server bootable USB from ISO
  • Boot from the USB stick
  • Select “Repair this computer”, go to Troubleshooting then select Command Prompt
  • Rename utilman.exe to utilman.bak, then copy cmd.exe to utilman.exe

Utilman.exe is called whenever the accessibility feature is used prior to logging into Windows Server (at least prior to Windows Server 2016). By replacing it with cmd.exe, you’re presented with a command-line prompt that allows you to change the administrator password.

With this in place, I changed the admin password (net user administrator <password>), rebooted the machine (which can back up in Safe Mode with Networking), used msconfig to set the boot mode back to Normal, rebooted again – and everything came back up and Just Worked(tm).

It took me two days to figure that out. Windows. So helpful.

“It was a shame how he carried on”

Ordinarily, Netflix requires that you remain indoors, slumped all over the couch and binge-watch all their TV shows and films which took forever and a day to make, only to be consumed in mere hours.

This Saturday (and Bank Holiday Monday), Netflix is making me (well, they’re not – but the tickets are free) take the train up to London’s South Bank to attend a limited exhibition of art, scenery and puppets from their forthcoming series: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jim Henson since I can remember, and The Dark Crystal (along with Labyrinth) was a major departure from the craziness of The Muppets. Featuring state of the art puppetry for the time, The Dark Crystal featured absolutely no humans – only spectacularly crafted puppets. It was also dark in tone. I remember when the emperor Skeksis dies – not only did it feature a jump scare, but the crumbling away of his flesh terrified me as a kid. There was nothing quite like it. And although the film floundered at the box office originally, it’s become a cult favourite since its release on home platforms.

There was the talk of a sequel for many years, but nothing ever materialised in the form of a TV or film. Ultimately the sequel became a graphic novel. But the talk of producing something relating to The Dark Crystal carried on. And now we have a prequel which tells the story of the Gelfling uprising against the evil Skeksis in a mini-series which will be airing on Netflix on the 30th August.

So I had to jump at the chance at being able to see the artwork and puppets. On Bank Holiday Monday, Louise Gold, one of the original members of The Muppet Show, a talented puppeteer, actress and singer, will be giving a talk during the screening of the first episode of Age of Resistance.

I’ll be filing my report as soon as I can. Hoping to come away with plenty of photos (and possibly video).


 (*) With apologies to Boney M.

Central Line – is it time to replace the nearly 30 year old stock?

This week I’ve been travelling on London Underground rather than South Western Railway, and there are a number of observations I have to make:

  • South Western Railway doesn’t have the monopoly on delays. We’ve had passengers taken ill, or defective trains across a number of days which has lead to me arriving late in Wimbledon despite leaving plenty of time to allow for such incidents.
  • The Central Line has sections of track which emit deafening high-pitch squealing as the train passes over it. It’s like somebody dragging their claws down a blackboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s loud enough that it could ultimately affect people’s hearing if they’re regular commuters.
  • Shake, rattle and roll. Again, the Central Line has a section of track – between Mile End and Stratford – which has the effect of the train rattling around like a baby’s rattle when the train is going at a decent speed. For the poor saps inside the train, this is extremely uncomfortable and I nearly threw my back out during to a sharp jerk or three. I was sitting at the end of the carriage at the time. I like my insides as they are: neither shaken or stirred.
  • On a couple of days, when the Central Line train left the platform, it’d start and then violently stop. Then start. Then violently stop. And then start again, eventually picking up speed. I’ve a feeling this is the train’s safety mechanism kicking in – perhaps people are leaning against the door (because, of course, the idea is to cram as many people into these carriages like sardines despite the frequency in which the trains run). In any event, the jerking brought on by these stop-starts-stops-starts isn’t conductive to a healthy back.
  • Apple Watch and Apple Pay. A number of times the Apple Watch had difficulties with the barriers – causing a Seek Assistance or Use A Single Card. Attempting the process again resulted in success (unlike SWR’s terrible smart card system). Similar problems on London buses too.
  • People will NOT stop looking at their mobile phones. Man, these people are seriously addicted, and liable to cause accidents. Their eyes are glued to the screens before getting on the train, during the journey, and when getting off. And it’s the getting off part that’s the worst, because you are then stuck behind them and they ain’t going to be moving fast any time soon.

I remember when the current rolling stock for the Central Line was first introduced. It was around 1991 or 1992 when I was enrolled at Epping Forrest College studying for my BTEC, and we suddenly saw these futuristic trains replace the older stock from the time of the dinosaurs. Alas, now, these trains are now behaving like dinosaurs.

I have high praise for the District Line which has been flawless throughout. Bigger trains thanks to bigger tunnels, and walk through carriages results in a much more open environment. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention proper air conditioning. Unlike the Central Line, where any kind of relief from the boiling temperatures of the train is best to stand against the carriage doorway with the window all the way down.

Next week: The Return of SWR.

This Drake was certainly well cooked yesterday on what was Britain’s hottest day in history. Getting to work wasn’t a problem, but getting home was. It took me three hours from leaving the office in Wimbledon to travel approximately 27 miles.

I had intended to go to Ronnie Le Drew’s book launch party for Zippy and Me at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, but given that we knew what the weather was going to be like – I didn’t fancy my chances of getting from Wimbledon to Islington in time – nor how long it would take to get back to Woking.

The first problem was that as I was about to leave, the heavens opened up. First a spectacular thunder and lightning show, then a heavy downpour. Thankfully it didn’t last long. When I made to Wimbledon station, it turned out that the train to Woking would be delayed. Luckily there was a train to Guildford (via Epsom) which I sometimes take if it’s likely the Woking train is likely to be very late (which it very much was), so I hopped on.

The suburban stopping service on South Western Railway routes uses old train stock. They have no air conditioning to speak of, just windows that can be opened and closed. But this is not enough – especially when trains have to run far slower over track due to heat-related stress – to get a decent airflow. I was sweating buckets. It was if somebody threw a bucket of my own sweat over me. And I forgot to bring water.

When I got to Guildford, the train to London Waterloo via Woking was delayed too – so there was another 20 minutes worth of extra waiting to be had. To make matters worse, when I got to Woking, the regular bus service was majorly delayed by an hour.

So I went to McDonald’s, had something to eat and drink there, then went back to wait for the bus which turned up 5 minutes later. Three hours to get home – door to door – in some of the most uncomfortable conditions I’ve ever encountered. It wasn’t even this bad when I’ve been travelling to hot countries such as Egypt where there is little access to AC.

While it’s going to be cooler today, I strongly suspect the train services aren’t going to be much better..