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The animated Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer
Tom Lehrer in 1960

Tom Lehrer will be known to many Oldie readers - but for the others, suffice to say that he wrote some of the wittiest and sometimes unexpectedly dark songs in the 20th Century. Born in 1928, he started writing whilst studying Mathematics at Harvard and came to international prominence in the 1960's during the satire boom. During that time he inspired (and regularly quoted) the memorable review from the New York Times: "Mr. Lehrer's muse is not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste."


This is a splendid version of one of his less controversial, but most ingenious songs.  Make sure your loudspeakers are turned on before you click on the link - then when you are there, click on either "Broadband" or "Dialup", depending on which system you have, wait for it to load, and enjoy.




Web Groups - the links

In my December column in The Oldie I discuss the merits of online groups of like minded souls sharing information and experiences.  There wasn't room in the magazine to give all the links I would have liked to, so here are a few crucial ones:

Yahoo Groups   This is the main Yahoo Groups page, where you need to start if you are a beginner.

Google Groups   This is the equivalent service offered by Google - very similar in style, and just as good. Some say it is easier to search and find the one you want.This is the equivalent service offered by Google - very similar in style, and just as good. Some say it is easier to search and find the one you want.

MSN Groups   This is the Microsoft version - just as good if you can find the sort of group you are after.

Learn Italian Group   This is the group for learners of Italian that I used as an example. I have a friend who uses it a lot, and thinks very highly of it - you have to skip past the men who insist on discussing Italian football at great length, and concentrate on the mutual support it offers members.

Do please let me know how you get on - I'll pass details of good groups on to other readers of this site.  Click here to send me an email.





Pumpkins online

I don't really approve of the Amercan habit of celebrating Halloween quite so determinedly, and especially not the commercial raping of it, but my wife does grow excellent pumpkins.  We prefer to eat them than hollow them out and put candles in them, so here is a site that allows us to do it online:


Once there, use the tool to carve out the bits and when finished it, press "Done" and it will light the candle. Only a small thing, but worth five minutes of your time.



Think it through first...

Very many thanks to one of my readers for providing this wonderful list of website names that should have been thought through more carefully.  Any further contributions will be most welcome – just click on “Post a comment”, or send me an email.

As I said I would love to hear of more.  Do you know one?


BT's online backup deal - not as good as Mozy

In the November issue of The Oldie I wrote about how good I thought the online back up service offered by Mozy is - it's free, provided that you don't need more than 2 Gigabytes (and that's plenty unless you are storing masses of pictures and music).  Also, once set up it is automatic, and painless.  You are hardly aware of it, don't have to remember to back up.

I moved to Mozy from a similar service provided by BT mainly because I was paying £6.99 per month to BT for half the storage space I get at Mozy.  I now suspect that I am not the only one, because BT have just announced a massive price drop - they will now give you 20 Gigabytes of storage for £4.99 per month, and are also offering a free 2 Gigabyte service.

Don't be tempted by them.  The free service does not include the automatic back up system (which is what makes it all so easy to use) and anyway Mozy will give you 30 Gigabytes of storage for $4.95 per month.

At the moment, Mozy is certainly the way to go.  You can see for yourself by clicking here.

PS - It's not (yet) available to Mac users, but they are working on it.


Make sure your XP firewall is working

If you use Windows XP on your computer, you have a built in firewall, which is the first line of defence against the various viruses and other nasties that the internet can throw at you.  Everyone should be using a firewall.

But it only works if it's turned on and updated, so you need to check that it is. Full details (with easy to follow pictures) are on the Microsoft Website (click here), but in short this is what you do:

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel. 
  2. From the Control Panel, click Security Center.
  • If Windows Firewall shows ON, all is well.
  • If Windows Firewall shows OFF, it has been disabled. If you have another firewall installed, this is probably OK. If you don’t have another firewall installed, you will need to re-enable the Windows Firewall like this.
  1. Click Recommendations.
  2. Click Enable Now.
  3. Click Close
  4. Click OK.

That's it.


Laptop explodes



At a conference in Japan, a Dell laptop suddenly exploded into flames, fortunately, its owner had the thing on a table and not in his lap. An onlooker reported that the notebook continued to burn, producing several more explosions over the course of about five minutes.



Digital photographs

More and more of us have digital cameras, or cameras on our phones;
once you get to grips with them you need to teach yourself how to
use one of the online picture storage sites. One of the smartest
(and newest) of these sites is which is rapidly
becoming the industry standard and is, it is rumoured, about to be
bought by Yahoo. 

It is free, within limits, you send your pictures to the site and
you can allow other people (or no one) to view them. Thus you only
have to send the pictures once and then email your friends and family
(via the site) to see them for themselves, and print them if they want to.

There's a lot to learn, but it's well worth the effort.


Who you gonna call?

This is a fairly well known site, but I would hate to think of any Oldie readers not having it in their list.

It is more and more common for companies to give their telephone number as one that starts '0870'.  This means that if you ring it during the day, you are likely to be paying almost 9 pence per minute (that's not a misprint) and, to rub salt in the wound, the company gets a slice of that 9p.

However, all companies have a real telephone number as well, which is considerably cheaper to call (many have an 0800 number too, which is free), and is a growing list of those numbers.

You enter the company name, or their 0870 number, and if they have it on the list, up pops the alternative. Marvellous.

The site charges nothing and relies on sponsorship, donations and advertising to survive. 


Puzzles galore

Here is a great site for keeping the mind stretched whilst passing the time.  is a terrific collection of thousands puzzles, games and optical illusions. It claims to be the world's most popular puzzle website, and who am I to disagree? It is regularly updated with illusions and games and has five new puzzles added each week.

What's more, it's British; it is run by Kevin Stone, a puzzle enthusiast and theoretical mathematician at Keele University. 
He started it in 1997; initially it was as an exercise to see how much interest there was in an Internet based puzzle site, and it has grown since then.

It is now one of the busiest sites on the Internet, perhaps because he charges nothing to view the whole site. He does
gather some income from advertising, but uniquely (in my experience) you can turn the adverts off. Fantastic.

If you enjoy solving puzzles, crosswords and the like, you'll like this site. You can subscribe to a daily puzzle, too.

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