A New Name

I recently changed my name and I’ve updated the website to reflect my new name.

The previous address for this blog, kthdsn.com, came from my usual internet username, and was my old name, Kate Hudson, without the vowels. This is the surname I acquired from my ex husband, who has not been a part of my life for many years now, so it was high time for a change.

I considered going back to my maiden name, but that was the name I had when I made the mistakes that resulted in my married name, so it carried the same baggage. I’ve moved on with my life and I wanted a name that looked forwards rather than backwards, so I decided to adopt a new name, and spent a long time considering what I wanted. I settled on Harris. I keep the same initials, and it appears in my family history so it’s linked to where I came from, and it’s loosely related to some of my hobbies and interests. Read more

A New Direction

Until recently, I was a stay at home mum. I spent most of my time taking care of the house, picking the kids up from school, cooking, and doing the odd bits of knitting and sewing. I was getting a bit restless and was bored with being in the house all day. I don’t drive, and there’s nowhere very exciting to go near to my house by yourself, so I felt a bit stuck in the same old pattern. This year, that all changed.

My other half, also known as his lordship, decided to leave his job and become self employed. He is a talented web developer and has always wanted to work for himself. He was also feeling stuck in a pattern in his job. A window of opportunity opened to him and we thought it was worth taking.

For the first few days after he finished his job, we had fun being at home together and not being restricted by my lack of driving ability or his old job’s office hours. It was lovely having some time to ourselves and being free to go out for lunch together or not start work until after lunch. Sure enough though, we settled down into a new pattern and he actually got some work done.

We started looking into some options for his business, including becoming a limited company. This was always something he had wanted to move towards, but we didn’t know much about it and we weren’t sure it would be cost effective, at least to begin with. We were referred to a friendly accounting firm who gave us some great advice and suggested that we become a limited company together. This was the first time I had considered the possibility of becoming involved in his business, but it made sense for us.

As work started to pile up, it became clear that I could be more than just a company director who made the ocassional cup of tea. I took on the bookkeeping and administration, but his lordship was starting to struggle with the amount of incoming communication he was receiving. It was interrupting his workday to a point where he was hardly able to get any work done. I was glad to find something I could help with, and I began to take over dealing with incoming emails.

The first couple of weeks working together at home went well. I was enjoying having something new to do, and it was great to be able to choose our own hours and come and go as we pleased. As the novelty wore off, we began to feel a bit restricted in other ways. We were working from a couple of desks in the corner of our bedroom below a beam in a sloping ceiling, as this was the only space in the house they would fit in together. We banged our heads several times and the view of a wall was less than inspiring. Also, being upstairs while working left the kids downstairs by themselves, which was clearly not going to work on a long term basis.

We started wondering about the possibility of getting an office to work from, and trying to figure out how we could make that work with the school run. We also worried about whether it would be affordable as we are still a very new company and we’re just finding our feet. As it happened, another opportunity opened up to us out of the blue.

Whilst visiting one of our clients to discuss a new project, we mentioned that we were considering looking for office space, and by pure coincidence this client had an office unit that was about to be vacated. We had a look around and it seemed to be just the kind of place we could see ourselves fitting in nicely. We would also be able to take on more work from that client which would help to offset the increased outgoings we would have. We went for it.

I’m writing this post from my new desk in our new office, in a quiet moment between answering emails and bookkeeping. We’ll be leaving early to pick the kids up from school until our nanny starts in a couple of weeks time. In the last six months, I’ve gone from being a bored housewife to a company director. It’s been fun, exciting and unexpected. I’m looking forward to the future. Who knows where I might be a few more months down the line?

If you’d like to find out more about our company, you can visit the website at http://qweb.co.uk.

Operating Systems and Backups

I have been using Linux for almost ten years now. I was a loyal Ubuntu fan until a few years ago when it started changing more than I liked. At that point I switched to Mint, a derivative distribution which kept everything I liked about Ubuntu and cleared out everything that irritated me about it. Lately, however, I was beginning to get frustrated with Mint, so I searched for an alternative.

After reading up on various different options, I decided Mint really was the right distro for me, but I didn’t want to have to keep upgrading every six months. This involved backing up my files, formatting my hard drive and installing the newest version from scratch. I like to be up to date, but I don’t like the hassle. I decided to try Linux Mint Debian Edition, or LMDE.

LMDE is a version of Mint that is known as a rolling release. This means that rather than installing a new base version every six months, you continuously update your existing system. It is based on Debian rather than Ubuntu, which means that there are some minor differences from the main version of Mint, but these are mostly behind the scenes and don’t affect general usage. The downside of LMDE compared to the main version of Mint is that it may be less stable, a bit rough around the edges. On the other hand, the regular updates should take care of these.

I downloaded the .iso and made a USB live disk of LMDE 64 bit, to match my computer’s architecture. I backed up my files to an external hard drive and set about installing my new system. The process was a little more DIY than I was used to, I had to set up my own drive partitions, but it was easy enough. Once installed, I booted into the familiar Mint desktop (I like the Cinnamon variant) and copied my files back in.

I noticed some problems right away as I set about installing the programs I use and setting things up how I like them. Firstly, my printer wouldn’t install, and it wouldn’t tell me why. It just popped up an error to let me know that it hadn’t been able to install it. Useful. Next, I had trouble with Skype. I had to download it from the skype website as it wasn’t in the repositories. I was able to install it, although it pulled in over 50 32 bit dependencies so it took a long time. When it finally installed, it wouldn’t play nicely with my sound. It showed me a lot of sound output options, none of which worked. Interestingly enough, it showed the same output options as microphone choices. Needless to say, none of those worked either. I also couldn’t get Picasa to connect to my web albums. It told me I needed a 32 bit library, and offered to install it for me. When I accepted the prompt, it told me that it didn’t know how to handle it on Mint.

There were a few other problems that I encountered. For example, when I closed the lid on my laptop it didn’t always go to sleep, and when I opened the lid after it had slept, the wifi refused to connect to my network. There’s rough around the edges and there’s simply not working properly. I wasn’t satisfied.

I decided that since the bulk of my problems were caused by the software that needed 32 bit libraries, I would try the 32 bit version instead. I copied my files back to the external drive, downloaded the 32 bit .iso and installed a new USB live disk. I went through the identical installation process and once again booted into Mint.

This time, things were a breeze. Skype installed easily and picked up my sound and microphone settings without me having to do anything. My printer installed happily. Picasa didn’t complain about connecting to my web albums. I haven’t had chance to close the lid yet, but if it didn’t work, I would get used to shutting down, I’m sure.

I came to copy my files back over, and at this point I started having real problems. Half of the folders I had copied were empty or corrupt. Thankfully, I had a few of the missing files saved on the internet, and an afternoon playing with testdisk and photorec brought some of the files back to life. I am now just missing one file that I’m bothered about. Typically, it’s the one file I actually can’t manage without. My finances.

I use KMyMoney to keep track of our household accounts, scheduled payments, direct debits and past transactions. I have been using it almost as long as I’ve been using Linux. I depend on it to make payments on time, make sure we don’t overspend and generally keep our finances in check. Without it, I have no idea what’s going on.

Photorec is able to rescue KMyMoney files, and to its credit, it did find my file on the corrupted drive. Unfortunately, the rescued copy was also corrupted. The best I could do was recover a backup I made to google docs five months ago. This means I have the backbones of the data, the payment schedules and transaction amounts haven’t changed much in that time. It also means that to get back up to date, I will have to go through five months of statements from five different accounts and reinput all the transactions. That is not going to be fun.

Lesson learnt. Back up mission critical files properly, regularly, and to somewhere safer than an external hard drive that has been misbehaving for a long time. I’m thinking a weekly back up to google docs should do it. It’s been added to my to do list (another thing I can’t do without, thankfully it’s online).

I suppose I should stop putting off the inevitable and get started on those bank statements.

Don’t Wait

With my thirtieth birthday creeping ever closer I’ve been taking stock of my life so far, looking back over the years from the little girl I used to be to the woman I am today. It’s been an eventful journey with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. I have been thinking about mistakes I’ve made, goals I’ve achieved, opportunities I’ve missed and adventures I’ve shared. I’ve created some amazing memories and learnt some valuable lessons, but the thing that stands out most, that I need to take with me into the next decade, is this: don’t wait.

There have been times in my life when I’ve grabbed chances by the horns and made seemingly rash decisions that often lead to great things. There have been other times when I’ve hoped and longed for something to be just right before I go for it. There have been yet more times when I’ve laid out all the possibilities available to me, but I haven’t chosen one, because to walk down one path means to leave the others untrodden. Rather than let go of the possibilities, I didn’t take any of them. I waited.

Looking back, I am proud of the crazy choices I made. They led me places I wouldn’t have got to otherwise. I found my wonderful partner by making a string of what others would call crazy decisions. I lived abroad because of a spur of the moment decision. Obviously, not all of my choices have worked out well. I’ve been divorced twice, I bought a house that turned out to be a complete disaster, and I tried moving to France without a hope of it working out well. I’m still glad I tried these things though. They were learning experiences that taught me all sorts of unexpected lessons.

What I regret most are not the bad decisions I made, or the ones with disastrous outcomes. I regret the choices I didn’t make, the opportunities I didn’t grab and the chances I let pass by. I regret standing at the crossroads and not choosing one of the paths for fear of losing the other possibilities, or because I couldn’t see which one would lead me to the best destination. I didn’t go back to school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my future. I could have taken any course that interested me and decided further down the line, but instead I waited. I didn’t throw myself a birthday party because I couldn’t think of the perfect way to celebrate, so I waited for next time. I didn’t start a diary because I missed the first few days, so I waited until next year.

My twenties was a roller coaster ride of fantastic highs and terrible lows interspersed with a lot of waiting. I hope my thirties will be more like a road trip, always moving, always going somewhere, seeing as many sights as possible, but having the option to turn around and go a different way at any time. No more waiting for the ride to start, I’m taking control. I’m sitting in the drivers seat and it’s going to be a grand adventure.

New Year Goals

I seem to have missed making a resolution last year, but the year before I set myself one New Year’s Resolution, which was to actually do the things I put on my to do list. Two years later and that has become something that I do almost automatically.

This year, rather than set a resolution or try to start a new habit or drop an old one, I decided to set my major goals for the year. So here they are:

  • Learn to drive – Not being able to drive is becoming a problem for me. It limits my ability to get about, it means a very long walk each day for the school run, and it leaves me stuck in the house a lot of the time. It also leaves my other half to get groceries and drive me places when he has other things he needs to be doing instead. It’s time to sort that out.
  • Finish my course – I started a home study back in summer, and because of a series of overlapping problems and difficulties, I put off getting started. I have now made a decent start, I want to make sure that it is finished in good time.
  • Apply for university – The home study course is a prerequisite for the degree I want to do, and I have promised myself that by the end of the year I will have at least submitted my application for the degree program.
  • Read more

    New Year’s Resolutions

    This year, rather than setting out my usual vague list of goals for the year, I only have one resolution. Just one. And it’s going reasonably well a week into the year.

    My resolution this year is simple, measurable, and most importantly, easily achievable in the short term as well as the long term. Good start, right?

    My new year’s resolution is to actually do stuff that I put on my to do list.

    People who know me well are used to me not getting on with stuff because I’m working on a new organising system, or I’m just making a list first, or I just don’t know where to start, or I’m planning on doing that after such and such a thing has happened at some vague, undefined time in the future. I say things like “yes it’s on my list” and “I’ll get round to it eventually”, and it never actually happens.

    Well as of new year’s day, I have turned this around. I have a to do list, I have no reason to make excuses, and I have actually been doing things from my list. Wow!

    So far this year, I have started to read the books I bought in the January sales last year. I have picked up a sewing project that has been languishing on a shelf for almost a year. I have a knitting project in progress on my needles. I have sorted the big pile of junk that used to reside on my coffee table and put it away. I’m even posting something on my blog!

    My to do list has been transformed from a procrastination tool into the organisational tool that it was supposed to be. What’s more, each time I actually do something to check off the list, I feel more motivated to get something else done so I can check that off too. I’m moving towards all the goals I had intended to work on last year, but never actually got round to doing anything about, and I’m enjoying it.

    I have a good feeling that this new year’s resolution is actually going to stick around and become a part of my life rather than a distant memory that is buried under a pile of lame excuses. Yey for me!

    A Fresh Start

    After a very adventurous move from Toronto, Canada back to the UK before christmas, we’re finally settling into our new home and our new life.

    My fiancé and I lived in Toronto for 3 years with my three daughters, but he didn’t qualify for residency so we had to return to the UK.  We were having money trouble before we moved, and we depended on credit cards to get us back home.  We stayed with our wonderful family while we figured out what we were doing and got back on our feet.

    Once we had decided to stay in England, our luck changed for the better and everything started to fall into place.  Ric got a great job that he is enjoying as much as he will ever enjoy a job.  We found a really nice house to rent with three bedrooms and a garden, a huge improvement on the two bedroomed apartment we had in Canada.

    We have moved in, unpacked (almost), and are starting to feel settled.  There is a lot to get used to living in a small town in the countryside after having lived in a huge city, and as with most things there are pros and cons.  I miss the 24 hour grocery store just around the corner, and the subway across the street which connected us to the whole city.  Of course I miss the people we left behind, especially my sister who spent more time at my place than her own.

    The pros balance things out nicely though, I absolutely love having a garden where I can grow things, the girls can play, and I can have pets.  I like the peace and quiet, and the darkness at night.  It’s nice to be able to see the stars.  I’m even enjoying having a car, without which we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere but Morrisons.

    It’s great to be back online, and I am looking forward to sharing my adventures 🙂