Migrating Offices To New Equipment – Safely and Efficiently

Four hours with a new client today, moving the home office for his Financial Services Business from three old PCs to new equipment. All data and logins transferred, shared drives, software reinstalled and the team back to work! We also set up a new backup store and took the opportunity not to transfer old systems. We did the preparation remotely, then spent four hours on site, testing as we went. It was also a chance to document their network and their ensuring so that any future fixes will be faster and more efficient. A good session with a lovely team.

Drakes Island Tours – At Long Last…

Well!  What a cracking couple of hours that was…  We have spent the last few years (I moved to Plymouth in 2014) sat on all sides of the Sound overlooking Drakes Island and wondering what the place is like and on Friday we got to see it for real.   When the opportunity came up, it would have been churlish to turn it down.

It must be said that the site is a “work in progress” which is an interesting take, it is early days on their project and there are lots of areas that you cant get to or have scaffolding and fences.  For us, it was all part of the charm, we definitely intend to visit (probably each summer) to see how the progress is going.  Right now, there are four of five main areas and the three tour guides are obviously excited about the future.  Saying that, there is plenty to see and wander around, just don’t expect a visitor centre, informative plaques, a coffee shop and the normal things you’d see at a tourist attraction.  It is a building site while the team get the site under control.

Getting there is easy enough, the Silver Crest goes from Mount Batten Terminal (yes, you have to wear a mask) and its a 15 minute trip across the Sound to the jetty on the island.  We parked at Jennycliff and got a quick walk down to the terminal, leaving us half an hour or so to wander around the Mount Batten Breakwater.

The first part of the tour is outside the building complex that you can see from the Hoe.  They will end up being the Admin centre for the hotel, stores, kitchen, restaurant etc., but were historically the Officers and (separately) Ratings quarters, Canteen and so on.  The tour guides have some stories about the staff over the years and while I am sure its the 20th time they’ve been told, managed to still find them funny.

As with most of the Island, there are lots of lookout points and great views.

Further along are the remaining guns that used to protect the Sound from attack, we were told that they could reach out past the Breakwater.  Theres a long convoluted tale of how the others were removed, well worth a listen!  There is also a project to restore some of them for display and one of the chaps there was around in the 80s, the last time any of them were fired.  Interesting!

The one at the back is 25 tonnes, not including the trailer.


Next is the Caissement area, the curved seaward facing group of rooms that would have taken a gun each and faced outwards to cover the Sound.  These are the areas that are going to be the hotel rooms in the future and the views are going to be stunning!

The highlight of the tour are the tunnels that would once have been storage, communications and shelter for the gun platforms and they genuinely reak of history.  The tour guides make this good fun, getting people to turn off all the lights on phones and telling ghost stories which is a giggle.  There are odd rooms off to the sides which are closed off, but still lots of little nooks and crannies to explore.

After the tunnels, we went up to the top of the island, where the flagpole would have been, for a round-up of the visit, a good 20 minutes photo-taking and some more stories and information on the site.   The tour guides really are enthusiastic about the project and being tour guides is secondary to other roles they have on the build.  They lament the abuse the site gets which is completely fair, witness the graffiti and damage done by people coming over in the night-time and being daft.  There is less history here as a result and that is a real shame.  They appear to have a plan to get on top of this, but without 24 hour security it is going to continue to be a problem as they keep expanding the usable areas.


I had no idea that the rocks that can be seen at low tide and that block shipping from the one side of the island are really man-made obstacles put in place to stop incursions by enemy craft.  Thats probably the “new information” win for the day!

After that we went back down to the Jetty, jumped back on the SIlver Crest and jumped off at Mountbatten Breakwater, wandered back up to the car at Jennycliff and that was the day done.  The Silver Crest did go around the back of the island, which may not happen every time, so that was a treat as we had not been that close to that side of the island before.

We had a great visit, it is a building site for the most part so do not expect a polished tourist experience.  On the upside, its very much a chance to see the island before it becomes one and to keep up to speed on the development.  The team are great, the place is safe and clean, we were lucky with the weather and that helped a lot.  If you get the opportunity, we can only recommend the experience, especially if you havent been over before.

Strava works on boats too!  :o)


iMac Memory Upgrades – Mid 2010

So, slightly milking the iMac updates we did last week, and this posting about installing the memory will probably be the last.  The iMac Mid-2010 model is one of the easiest ones to upgrade, there are lots which are not upgradeable at home and this page (Makeuseof.com) has a list of which is which…

It is worth a look around to see if there are other issues to be aware of, in this case, the iMac is the lowest spec for the model and that meant we could not maximise the upgrade to the full 16gig without potentially losing some reliability.  This model came with an i3 processor and the internet is full of people warning against using single 8gig sticks of memory.

The reason for the upgrade was simple, it was running a weeny bit too slow for the operator who is using it for more than previous people.  Its slow while its maxing out on performance and hes waiting for the next thing to load.  As per the previous posting, we had already given it a good looking at, set up a timevault drive and generally taken some time to calm the machine down, however the machine itself was always going to want more than the supplied 4gig.



We did the research, ordered the memory from Global Memory and it turned up a couple of days afterwards.  This gave us the two sets of memory, 2 x 2 gig and 2 x 4 gig – it would have been tempting to try to add both sorts in the slots, but we are after reliability, and some sites say this will work, others that it won’t.  Safety first, lets just use 2 x 4 gig sticks it will make a massive difference to the user experience.

this model makes the upgrade really straightforward, pop the iMac facedown on a flat, fabric covered area and find the three screws in the bottom of the chassis.

When you unscrew these (the screws stay captured in the plate) you get to see the memory and there are two plastic tags tucked away in there that need to be pulled out.

Give these a good tug (firmly) and the memory already installed will pop out.

Make a note of which slots are in use and which way round the memory goes (check the notch), in our case the ones closest to the back of the machine were in use.  Using the same slots, slide the memory in (making sure that youve got the notch the right way round) and press firmly to seat it properly.  I havent seen one click yet, when its stopped moving, thats enough.

Tuck the plastic strips back in to the frame and reattach the plate with the three screws.

Thats pretty much job done, fire the iMac up and go to About This Mac, it will show you the new amount of memory, give it a whirl!  In the case of a 4gig to 8gig jump, you really will see the benefit immediately.  Below are some of the pics we took demonstrating the changes.


Mount Batten Tower – Plymstock

During our travels around the South West Coastal Path we (Karen and I) find ourselves passing some Points of Interest, including the Mount Batten Tower.  Either head up the stairs from the Mountbatten Breakwater (turn right as youre walking away from the pier and its the only place you can go – lots of steps!) or follow the South West Coastal Walk signs from Jennycliff Car Park.

We have always managed to walk past the Tower without taking too much notice, so we thought wed have a decent look this time.  There is a plaque explaining why it is there and whats is in it.

The text is as follows:

The circular tower in front of you is thought to have been built about 1646 and 1652, probably in response to the threat of war with the Dutch.  It was named after William Batten, who had commanded the Parliamentary navy in Plymouth during the Civil War between King Charles I and Parliament.  Mount Batten headland, then known as “Stert How” had proved to be of great strategic importance during the war, and the new tower was intended both to protect the entrance to the Cattewater and Sutton Harbour, and to fortify the headland.


The tower is built of local limestone, with walls about 1 metre thick.  There are two upper floors and a ground floor basement.  The entrance is at second floor level with the Plymouth coat of arms over the door, and there is a stairway within the wall giving access to the lower floor and the roof.  The upper floor has a fine domed stone vault and an ornate fireplace, and there is also a fireplace on the lower floor.  The roof contains emplacements for 10 guns.  It is similar to Cromwell’s Castle on Tresco on the Isles of Scilly.


The Tower was still armed in 1716, when six guns were noted as mounted there.  Its last known use was as a coastguard observation post during the second half of the 19th Century.  (please let me know what the copyright is and ill do the credit).

The gate was locked up when we were there so we will have a look online to see if its opened at all, would be interesting to see the inside as described.  Anyway, here are some photos of the building…

And some of the view…

I have had a look online and can not find any references to Stert How but I will keep looking, there must be a reason its called that.  We will find some more information out about this site, it doesnt get mentioned in Holinsheds Chronicles or any histories I can find, but then it didnt get to fire at the dutch in the end.

Jennycliff and why to visit the beach!

We (Karen and I) have been spending a lot of time at Jennicliffe during lockdown, especially since we decided to (finally) ignore the “Path Closed” sign and go down to the beach.  What a surprise!  It’s given the whole area a new lease of life for us.  Im not sure if we should be going there, going around some fencing thats been put up but with enough space to get past, but there are always people there enjoying the quiet!  I have dropped a couple of notes to Plymouth City Council to find out what the score is but have yet to get a response.  In the meatime, I’m satisfied that its safe enough, the stairs are clear and the route seems stable.  Anyway…

The views from the top near the coffee shop are amazing, you can see across to Cawsands, the Tamar and the Hoe, plus some inlets that cant be seen around the corner from most of Plymouth.  These are always busy with the boats always up to something worth watching.

Once you get down the steps (which are quite steep!) you really get a surprise, its a short stony beach, plus rockpools and cliffs to explore.  A fair few people use this beach to launch (mainly inflatable) canoes and boards which I imagine is down to the free (yes free!) car park…  Its perfect for this, partly as it doesnt get deep quickly and you can still stand up quite a way out.

The view from the beach is just wonderful, as its a little bit secluded its calm, wind free and the water is really flat (which sounds silly) and not as choppy as the rest of the sound gets…

I really can’t recommend getting to know this place enough, with free parking, the coffee shop, the views and its location just a couple of miles out of Plymstock, its got to be done!

Ask The Earth IT Support – Questions And Answers

Ask The Earth has some history behind it!  It started in 1998 as a Small Business Support And Training Company in Taunton and over the next 8 years served many homes and a lot of Small Businesses in every aspect of IT.  We created and ran websites for 6 or more companies on an ongoing basis and were selling Essential Oils, Jukeboxes, Farm Equipment, Beanie Babies and a lot more.  We taught the teaching staff at Colleges and members of the public through “Community Education”, plus running bespoke training sessions for indiduals to cover their specific needs.  We supplied PCs and Laptops, repaired broken equipment and supported the users as and when they needed help.

Mike then spent 4 years as IT Manager for a major Taunton employer with 150 users, moving over to another major employer in Devon with 400 users for another 4 years.  During this time, we supported Automotive Dealerships on Social Media, IT and other support roles.  The Home and Small Business Support work continued during this time, supporting existing customers and taking on new ones as they came up.

We then moved to Plymouth to join an Automotive Dealership Group in the city for (yet another) 4 years.  In the last year or so, the Home and Small Business IT Support has taken off locally with people finding out about us through word-of-mouth.  We have also been running an Ecommerce website for a major Performance Car Parts company, supporting a Call Centre and a local Car Dealership, plus some other contract work.  You can see our recommendations here on Facebook!

Speaking of which, we have some space in the diary and have opened a Facebook Page here to let more people know we are available to help them.  Please let us know what you need, we will be happy to help!

The Future?  Well, these are interesting times here at Ask The Earth.  Mike will be travelling a fair bit on a new contract to install monitoring equipment in hospitals both in the UK and abroad.  Between these dates, we will be expanding the local work with small businesses and home users.   We will also be continuing this blog with local articles, book reviews and a lot more.

Leave a comment here, like our Facebook Page, ring or sms on 07792170142, tweet to @mike___davidson or email help@ask-the-earth.co.uk to book your session or to discuss your needs.

Speak soon, Mike



Open Air Cinema – Priscilla Queen Of The Desert – Plymouth Lido

Once again, the Open Air Cinema season is upon us, with a cracking set of films chosen again:

Tinside Lido
Saturday 3 August: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Friday 23 August: Alien
Saturday 24 August: Bohemian Rhapsody
Sunday 25 August: The Birds

Royal William Yard
Thursday 12 September: Captain Marvel
Friday 13 September: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Saturday 14 September: Bohemian Rhapsody

And we were lucky enough to get tickets for Priscilla, Alien, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Birds at the Lido, plus of course Rocky Horror later on at RWY.

I hadn’t seen Priscilla for years so I had forgotten a lot of the plot which was a nice surprise at times.  A great film, good fun, very camp as you would expect, wonderful performances all round.  As always, a good crowd showed up of all ages, taking a chance with the weather (we have stayed dry somehow for the last couple of years) and a couple of glasses of wine were drunk.

The venue at the Lido is special, just a beautiful view thats worth getting there early to enjoy.  We (Karen and I) got there for 815 and had a saunter around the site, found seats near the back and settled in.  They time this to coincide with sunset so we may have missed the few minutes of the introductions staring at it.

Anyway, great film good crowd, we are looking forward to Alien in a couple of weeks time!  More to come…

Saltram House – Well, the walk from the Ride anyway.

Saltram Walk 2

Saltram House is a National Trust property on the River Plym.  I use it for a one hour fast walk three or four times a week, just to blow the cobwebs away, get some air and some short exercise.  As I have been doing this since March, its been great to watch the season change, the plants change colour and most recently (its now October) the land thinning out, the leaves changing and the tracks getting clearer.  Its really a beautiful walk all year round, my route takes in 3.2 miles and takes between 50 minutes and an hour to complete.

I start in the car park at the Ride, this is next to the Recycling centre and is free parking.

Walk up the side of the Embankment to the end, which has a little beach.  The Embankment has a really fierce tide, going from completely full to completely empty in about two hours.  If you catch it at the right time, you can watch the birds feeding on the worms, or the water creeping across the mud, or fish swimming around, all from the same place.

Turn right, walk up to the house, circle it to the right, then follow the path back to the beach, past the Birdwatching Hide and the Roman looking Folly.

On any normal day, you’ll come across squirrels and rabbits, plus its a favourite dog walking route so there’ll be a lot of those too.

Ill add some more photos of the route the next time im there.  If you are into the National Trust experience, the House is lovely, plus there is an NT shop, toilets, and a café which does a great Carrot Cake.

More information to be added…

The walk looks like this on Strava, a lovely way to stretch your legs, get some air and see some genuinely pretty urban landscapes.



Plymouth Hoe Lido – Open Air Cinema!

Plymouth Arts Centre organise several Open Air Cinema events at Royal Willam Yard, Tinside Lido and Mount Edgcumbe.  Love it, Love it, Love it!

We went to see Yellow Submarine and Some Like It Hot, both crackers and as my co-pilot had not seen the latter, a real experience.

This year also had showing of The Piano, Dirty Dancing, Pan’s Labyrinth,
The Greatest Showman, The Shape of Water, Jaws, Isle of Dogs, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom but time got the better of us and we only made the two.  At £9.00 a ticket (£17 for VIPs, includes Prosecco!) it’s a great experience and a really good laugh.  You also get to wander around the Lido, which I hadn’t looked at before, its very 1960s!

I really can’t recommend this enough!  You sit in rows on either deckchairs (VIP) or fold out canvas seats (us), all very cosy and drink the wine, beer, coffee etc. which is available from the tent.  Its a really comfy atmosphere, everyone laughs at the funny bits and is quiet for the quiet bits.  They got the sound absolutely right, which had been a concern of mine before we got there, quite foolishly as it turned.  The area the screen is on is just below the roadway on the Hoe, but apart from the odd moped and boy-racer belting along, you really couldn’t hear anything apart from the film.  They’ve been doing this a while and they’ve really got it nailed, too loud and you’d be waiting for the next shock, too quiet and youd be straining to hear.  As it was, perfect.

The shows start at 9.15, just after the sun goes down, we got there at 8 for a wander round the place.  You get the views from the edge of the Lido across the Sound and that’s worth it on its own.

We had a warm evening for both shows, Some Like It Hot got a bit chilly but as it was the end of August, only to be expected.  They supply blankets for hire, we didn’t need them!

Keep an eye out on the Plymouth Arts Centre website – the tickets go quickly, although we were able to get them for the two night we wanted.