Water, water, everywhere!

As can probably be guessed from the title, I’m going to write about floods. They seem to be the main topic of news and conversation, depending whereabouts in the country you happen to be. Of course I have sympathy for the people who are homeless and have lost possessions, but only up to a point.

This may seem a little harsh, but there are a few very important reasons why the flooding we are currently seeing was not only predictable but inevitable.

The first is all to do with geology. The vast majority of valleys in the British Isles have been formed over millions of years by the effects of erosion, mainly due to either glaciers, or, more commonly by rivers. That little stream wandering through a wide valley didn’t end up there by chance, it built the whole place, changing course and size with the seasons and the climate and as it cut its way through different materials.

A second factor is that we as a people have grown a bit lazy. Settlements used to be built on high ground, for a variety of reasons, including defence, but also because of the dangers of water. Nowadays high concrete walls can be built to contain the water (more on that in a bit), and we no longer need to live in walled fortresses to protect us from marauding enemies. That means we can live by the river, where there is plenty of fresh water, or by the sea so we can trade by ship.

The trouble with living by the sea is that the sea changes. To be fair this wasn’t a known fact in the middle ages. Everything was as it always had been, the sun revolved around the flat world which had been created in six days only quite recently. Now of course we know a little bit more (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, someone once said!). What is at present a nice piece of flat land with sandy soil ¬†near the coast was at one time the sea bed, and at other times may have been miles inland and/or covered by ice! Sea levels in the past 20,000 years of ice ages have varied by over 120 metres, an enormous amount compared to the estimated 1m rise predicted for the coming century.

Over the population of the world has expanded and people have arrogantly believed they can change nature to suit their needs by draining land, building on flood plains, walling in rivers and barricading out the sea. The Somerset Levels, very much in the news lately, are a perfect example. This area of wetland has been drained by settlers for over 1000 years from land that is at or below sea level. This may have seemed a good idea back when it was believed that we lived in a constant world, but with hindsight we have been setting ourselves up for a disaster. Serious changes to the coastline are not just likely, they are unavoidable, but whilst this has been understood for decades, it has been ignored for just as long as environmentalist propaganda. Towns and cities continue to expand along rivers and low lying coastlines at home and around the world.

When you combine all these factors it is hard to avoid the conclusion that serious flooding and ultimately a redrawing of the map will be the long term result. Personally when I see a new another new housing development being built on nice flat ground near a slow-running river I just think to myself “nice house, but let someone else by that one!”.

People who claim to fight climate change for ¬†environmental reasons are deluding themselves. The planet can cope just fine with anything we can do to it, it was here before us and it’ll still be here when we’re nothing but fossils. What they’re afraid of is losing the way of life they know now.

 

Further reading:

Yale Environment 360

USB 3.0 Fault on a Medion notebook

I spent more of last weekend than planned on setting up a new Medion Akoya S4213 for a family member. I am very glad I had it yo set up, as for a beginner it would have been a very traumatic experience! At first all went well, the machine is really nice to look at, feels well made (apart from a slightly iffy bouncy keyboard), is quick, well specced and cost just £315.

The trouble started after the second round of Windows Updates. The laptop rebooted, everything looked fine, I clicked the touchpad to login – nothing happened. That’s weird. I pressed a key, and still no response. At this point I started to get a bit worried. After a quick internet search on a different device I found the suggestion to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse. This half worked, the mouse did the truck but although the keyboard gave the right plug in noises nothing actually happened. With a working mouse I could login using the on-screen keyboard from the convenient Accessibility menu. Once in I looked in the Device Manager and found plenty of yellow exclamation marks. After trying to fix a couple of drivers it soon became clear that the USB system was badly corrupted. With it being a brand new machine and there being no data on it I had no hesitation in doing a factory reinstall. Once an OS has got mangled like that it will never be quite right! Medion use Cyberlink PowerRecover as their disc to disc system and it was very easy to use. They also provide two DVDs including a WINDOWS 8 INSTALLATION DISC and another with applications and drivers. This is a cheap laptop from a budget brand, why the hell can’t other manufacturers do this?

Rant over. After a full clean reinstall everything was back to how it started, and assuming the first fault was just a glitch I carried on a normal. Until exactly the same thing happened again. Actually it was worse because I’d been using the USB mouse from earliecomputers. of the touchpad, and now that driver was screwed too, so I had no input at all. After some intensive Googling I narrowed it down to a similar problem encountered by other people with different brands of new computers. The common element seemed to be they ask had USB 3 ports. After a bit more delving I found an article by somebody who’d manage to resurrect their computer by disabling the (Microsoft provided) USB 3 driver.

Now I was ready to try again! This time, after reinstalling for a second time, the first thing I did was to disable this xHCI driver in Device Manager. Hey presto, since then everything has been working fine, all updates have worked and I’ve done the Windows 8.1 upgrade too. This reenabled the xHCI, but I’m hoping the driver has been updated to fix what seems a common problem. I’ve certainly had no issues since. Please feel free to borrow this advice if you find yourself in a similar position!

Surprisingly decent Acer laptop.

Tonight’s fix-up project has been an Acer Extensa 4220. My friend tried to format the hard drive and reinstall Windows XP, but in doing so he deleted the recovery partition as well as the OS one. He then tried to install from an XP installation CD, but couldn’t make that work either, as the hard drive was not recognised. I was able to realise that the problem was the SATA drive (Windows XP doesn’t have built in drivers). With no floppy drive and no real wish to cook up a custom installation with added drivers, I found a quick easy fix was to edit the BIOS settings to set the SATA controller to use IDE mode. Strictly speaking this isn’t as good as AHCI, which is the default, fully featured setting, but seeing as XP can’t take full advantage anyway it and a small price to pay for making the installation which and easy. It’s a surprisingly quick machine for a Celeron with 1GB of RAM, but then I suppose people used to count memory in megabytes when XP was new!

Crap Dell laptop.

5315.Inspiron-M5030_0C0AFF82For the past few nights I’ve been working on a broken Dell laptop, an Inspiron M5030 which can best be described as a pile of junk. Due to a serious design flaw the case flexes due to overheating. As it flexes and gets hot some of the connections on the motherboard lose their solder, which causes the computer to fail to start with a series of seven beeps. This is a very common fault on this model, I’ve dealt with two personally and found dozens more cases mentioned on internet forums. A temporary fix can be made by deliberately causing the laptop to overheat by wrapping it in a blanket, blocking all the cooling vents and leaving it switched on in a warm place for an hour or so. This will often get the machine working again, long enough to rescue any data, but tends not to last more than a few days. Speaking of getting at the data, this horrible machine does not have an accessible hard drive slot, one needs to take the case apart to get at it, and the drive screws directly to the case plastics. This is a truly nasty computer, and the lack of quality is not a good sign for the future of Dell.