Tag Archives: behind the scenes

Stir Fry

How to Write a Food Blog

Like this:

Stir Fry

I got a new wok for Christmas, so I’m stir-frying quite a lot. Here is how I do it:

Recipe

Feeds 1 Hungry Wizard, or 2 Muggles (3, if you add a bit more Noodles)

Some meat (or not). I used 2 Pork Loins, cut into strips (about 240g total). Just over £1, as it was on a deal at Aldi. If you’re avoiding meat, a few more mushrooms helps.

Some veg. Today I bought a pack of “mushroom stir-fry veg” (325g). Just under £1 at Aldi. £1 at Asda/Tesco. £1.25 at Co-op. If making from scratch, I suggest per person:

  • 1/2 a small onion
  • a few mushrooms
  • a bit of cabbage or other greens
  • a small handful of beansprouts
  • 1/2 a carrot, grated

Make sure your veg are all different colours!

Sauce. You can make your own, but Aldi had either Sweet’n’Sour or Oyster’n’Onion packs at 35p! I went for S’n’S.

Noodles. I skipped them this time, but “Straight to Wok” noodles are cheap and plentiful. Don’t over-do it though! You’ll end up with NOODLE and stir-Fry!

Tools

1 Wok

1 stirring stick (wooden, so as not to scratch the wok)

1 Meat-cutting knife (unless you bought pre-chopped meat)

1 surface to chop meat on (see above)

1 eating-bowl and eating utensil per person (I use a fork. You may risk chop-sticks if you please)

Method

Read through the entire Method. Check you have got all of the ingredients and tools, and understand each process.

Get all the ingredients nearby. Check you have everything.

Chop your veg, if you didn’t buy pre-chopped. They want to be quite small, but not wafer-thin slivers. Or you can leave them chunky.

Heat a little oil (I use Spicy Stir-Fry Oil – adds a little kick, and resists the high temperatures) in a wok (High Heat. On my cooker, I use Level 5 (out of 6). You may choose to use ‘6’. I do not think ‘4’ is hot enough).

A little oil

A little oil

While the oil is heating, chop up your meat (unless you bought it pre-chopped, in which case, just wait for the oil to reach temperature! There should be just enough time to TXT a friend: “HEY! I’m Cooking! Yeah, me! Cooking! Gotta go, kitchen on fire!“).

Chopped Pork Loins

Chopped Pork Loins

The oil should be hot enough by now, but you can throw a little piece of meat in to check – it should sizzle!

Carefully place the meat in the wok. Beware, it may splash hot oil!

Meat in Wok

The Meat Is In The Wok!

You can take a moment now, as the meat starts to cook, to clean down your meat-chopping surface. Be quick-but-thorough.

Now stir the meat (cf: name of dish!). Keep stirring, not too fast, until the meat is about cooked. Make sure to turn it over regularly, cooking all sides, and allowing the heat to reach the centre. This should take a few minutes. If, after 5 minutes, the meat is not starting to brown, you have the heat too low!

Cooked meat

The Meat is Cooked!

Blurry Photo

Blurry Photo

ASIDE: If you are blogging your meal, make sure not to get the camera too close! The steam will mist the lens, and may get inside the worky-bits. The auto-focus will struggle. Your photos will end up looking like this:

Use the Zoom function, from further away!

Now that the meat is cooked, and we have a decent photo of it, we can add the veg. Pop it all in the wok.

Now, with added Veg!

Now, with added Veg!

We now refer back to the Dish Name: Stir the veg (and meat!), turning over, and making sure it all gets nice and hot! A couple of minutes of stirring, and the veg will be starting to cook through, and wilt a little. It will be noticeably reduced in size.

Cooked Veg

Cooked Veg

We can now add the sauce. Depending on the sauce, this can be a bit messy. Sweet’n’Sour is sticky, and gets everywhere if you’re not careful!

Stir some more (are we getting an idea of where the name came from yet?). Don’t go splashing it everywhere, and throwing it all over the hob. A nice, gentle motion, just to keep it moving so it cooks evenly, and the sauce covers everything.

Ooh! Saucy!

Ooh! Saucy!

If you are using noodles, now is the time to add them! (I often skip them, but they do bulk it out nicely). Stir the noodles in, but no more than a minute (unless your packet says otherwise!).

The meal is now cooked, and can be spooned into bowls.

Pro-tip: keep the bowls very near the wok, so as not to spill food all over the oven/counter/floor!

Stir Fry

Stir Fry

Sit at your favourite table, and savour your creation!

SketchUp Three: Building a House

In my previous two posts (One, Two), we learnt some basic techniques for creating models in SketchUp. Now, I am going to jump directly to using these, and other, techniques to build a detailed Scene.

Don’t worry if you struggle to follow this on the first time through! You can always start over, and slowly build up bit-by-bit!

Design Stage

Firstly, it is a good idea to have a plan in mind! Sure, we could just throw a Scene together, adjusting things as we go along, but I prefer to be building towards a Goal! With this in mind, we need a Plan! Searching Google for “royalty-free house floor plans” led me to http://anyaflow.com, where I downloaded this image:

Floor Plan

You may download it directly from me by clicking to show the full Image, and then Saving to your Downloads folder.

Now we can open SketchUp, and start to build!

Start at the bottom

Base

Base

First, we need a surface to work on. Draw out a Rectangle, and size it to be a little bigger than the House will be. (In my example, we can see that the house will be 44’11” wide and 38’7″ long, so I will  make my Base 50’x40′. Remember that we can get exact dimensions by typing them!). I like to give the base some Thickness, so use the Push/Pull tool to bring it up by 1′.

Outline

Now we can start to build the outer walls.

New Tool: Tape Measure. Draw guide lines 1′ from the Right and Top edges.

Offset Tool

Offset Tool

Using these guides, and the Snap Effect, we can draw some of the outer walls. Draw a Line from the intersection of the Guides, about 40′ across the top, and 30′ down the side. Then Select these two lines (Tip: Select one, hold CTRL and Select the other). You can now use the Offset Tool to drag a 1′ ‘copy’ of the Wall. You should have something looking like this:

The Walls So Far!

The Walls So Far!

Now, using the measurements supplied (or worked-out/guessed-at!), we can fill in the rest of the walls.

I used a combination of Drawing straight lines and Rectangles, using Snap Effects, typing Measurements, and Guide Lines (from the Tape Measure tool) to produce this:

Draft Floorplan

Draft Floorplan

Cleaning Up

Now we can get rid of the Guides, and extraneous lines. The Guides are easy. Edit Menu -> Delete Guides! Trickier is erasing all of the extra lines, without clearing lines we want to keep!

Using the Eraser tool, trim the lines back, and also delete the lines “inside the walls:

Erase these bits!

Erase these bits!

We need to check that all of the Lines are connected. Select the Push/Pull tool, and hover over one of the walls. You should see that the entire wall section, and nothing else, is the familiar Spotty Blue. If this is not the case, draw over some of the lines, to make sure they are correctly aligned. You should have something like this:

Ready to Build Walls!

Now use the Push/Pull to raise the walls to exactly 8′ high.

Walls

Walls

Here is your basic building!

in Section 3a, we will move on to detailing it to actually look like a house. Doors, Windows and textures! We WILL be seeing our old friend the PushMe/PullYou again, and I will also be introducing the Sketchup Warehouse!
Until next time!

Part Three, Section 2

SketchUp Two. Copying, Scaling and Detailing.

In my previous post (SketchUp – A Beginner’s Guide), I introduced some basic concepts of the 3D modelling software. How to make and move basic objects.

Now we move on to slightly more advanced (don’t worry, not very advanced! We’re taking baby-steps here!) techniques.

Copying

Once you have an object, it is a simple matter to duplicate it. Actually,. it is several simple matters, depending upon your preference.

Select your object. You may notice that only part of the object is selected! We need to cover this first!

Selecting Objects

The Select Tool - Top Right of screen

The Select Tool – Top Right of screen

Using the Select Tool, you can select a single line or face. Or you can drag a box around an area, selecting everything withing this box. WARNING: This may accidentally select hidden sections! To avoid this, we can try several options:

First, extra-clicks. A single click will select a single item, such as a Face or a Line. Double-Clicking will select a Face and surrounding Lines. A Treble-Click will select ALL connected items! This is very useful fro a free-standing object, but care must be taken when you  have interconnected objects!

A way to avoid interconnected objects is, as mentioned before, to make your objects into Components. This will stop them from interacting with other objects, and make them easier to select individually.

A third way is to drag a box around your object, but this has the danger of selecting unseen items, such as the rear faces and lines.

I recommend Components.

Back to Copying

Cut Copy Paste

Cut Copy Paste

Now we have selected an Object, we can use controls that are very familiar to some people, as they are the standard Windows Copy/Paste functions. On the Edit Menu, choose Copy. Simple as that. This stores a copy of the object in the computer’s “buffer”, ready to insert into the scene. To do this insert, back to the Edit Menu, and choose Paste. (For those unfamiliar with the terms “Cut”, “Copy” and “Paste”, they refer back to when work was done on pieces of paper, and literally Cut with scissors or a knife, and then stuck into place with a glue or paste.)

The more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed the Control Keys noted at the side of the Menu Functions. These are keyboard shortcuts that you can press, instead of moving the mouse to the Menu, clicking on the Menu, moving the mouse to the correct option and clicking on that option! E.g. instead of choosing Copy from the menu, you can hold the CTRL key, and press the “C” key.

Now we have a copy in the buffer, either use the Edit Menu -> Paste, or press CTRL-V to Paste the Item into the scene. To begin, it will be “floating”, and you can move it to the required position, before clicking to actually place it.

Scaling

The Scale Tool

The Scale Tool

You may create an object, and then want to make it a different size, or have a copy of an object as a different size. This requires the Scale Tool. Select the object you wish to Scale, and then click the Scale Tool. You will see lots of yellow “handles” appear over the object. These can be use to drag/stretch the object.

Scaling Handles

Scaling Handles

Some handles will only stretch in certain directions, while the corners will stretch all dimensions. Try some, and see how it works!

As with other functions, the Dimensions box in the very lower right of the screen will keep a track of how much you are scaling the object. And, as an added extra, you can type a Dimension to set it exactly! Start pulling a handle, and then type 2 <Enter>, and your object will be Twice the size! type 0.5 and it will be half as big as it started! Useful for when exact ratios are required. And an extra bonus feature, you can scale it to an exact distance! Try stretching and then typing 6″<enter>  or 3m<enter>. You should see the object become the size you indicate!

Detailing

It is quite rare that all you will want in a scene is a plain cube, or even several cubes of different sizes. So we need Details. There are so many different ways we can alter an object that I can only discuss a few in this article.

We shall start with the

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

A very useful feature, this allows you to move a face, or part of.

To Push/Pull a complete face, simply select the Tool, and hover over the Face you wish to move. You should see the familiar blue spots, showing the selected face. Holding the left mouse button down, you can Push/Pull the face. Notice how the Snap Effect can be used to line up the face with other Objects in the scene.

Push/Pull Examples

Push/Pull Examples

To move just part of a face, you must section it off using the Pencil tool. Draw a line splitting the face, and then proceed as before.

The examples (right) show (l-r) a cube with the whole face pushed back, one with a line splitting the front face in half, and the right pushed back, and one with a design Drawn on, and then Pulled forwards!

NOTE: If you are working on a Component, you must first double-click the component to make sure you are working within it, rather than on the main scene. Also, be aware that alterations made to One component will affect all copies of that component!

This tool can be used to create many effects, including removing a section from an object by Pushing it until it is level with the opposing face (Snap Effect!).

We’ll leave it there for today.

Practice with these tools, and experiment with creating your own Objects.

Let me know how you get on, and the best examples I receive might get featured in my next post!

Happy SketchUping!

Part Three

Sketchup – A Beginner’s Guide

Sketchup 3D design software from Trimble (previously from Google) is a very simple, yet powerful, program. Starting from basic shapes, you can build up to elaborate designs, ranging from small engineering components to vibrant cityscapes.

A lot of people are put off from using 3D design packages as they see them as complicated and fiddly, but with Sketchup, this is not true at all!

Here I would like to look at some of the most basic features, and how they can be used to create advanced designs.

I will be walking you through features, so it will help to have Sketchup running, and switch between it and this page (You know how to use ALT-TAB, yes?)

To Begin

The Opening Screen

The Opening Screen

Obviously you will need to download, install and open the program. It is available here:  https://www.sketchup.com/

Once you  have it up and running, you should see the Main Screen, with tools all around. We shall be learning what some of these tools are for.

First, though, some basic controls. I would advise trying these now, to gain some familiarity

  • The Mouse Wheel controls zooming in and out. It will focus on where the mouse pointer is, so scrolling out, and then back in can be a useful way of moving around the scene.
  • The Mouse Wheel also controls the angle you are looking from. Holding it down, and moving the mouse will rotate the camera.
  • Left-Clicking will select an Object. You can tell it is selected by the Blue border it gains. You can also do this by dragging a Selection Box around an object, but this will select EVERYTHING it contains, so use caution!

Adding Objects

The Square Tool

The Square Tool

Your scene is currently quite bare, so let’s add some features! Strangely, for a 3D program, we do not add 3D shapes. We draw 2d shapes, and extrude them. This is easier than it sounds!

Begin by selecting the Square tool, from either the Top or Left Menu. Your Mouse Pointer will change to reflect the current tool (as always). Click where you would like to begin, and move the Pointer around. You will see the Shape begin to form. If you move around enough, you may notice the useful Snap effect. Sketchup tries to guess if you wanted to line up with something, and “snaps” to be level with it. We will not use this now, but be aware of it as you go forwards.

Snap Effect in action

Snap Effect in action

In the bottom right-hand corner, you will notice the “Dimensions” area. This shows the dimensions of the Object you are creating. It also allows you to directly enter the Dimensions you would like. Try making a square 10 feet by 10 feet. Watch the Dimensions area, and do not worry about being exact. Once you have clicked to place the square, ,type “10, 10” (without quotes), and hit Return. You will notice that the square becomes exactly 10 inches by 10 inches! You must put a ‘ (apostrophe) after the number, to signify Feet! Try again! (Pro-Tip: CTRL-Z will undo your last action(s))

You can now test some of the Selection methods. Choose the Select Tool (an Arrow, like a normal Mouse Pointer), and try clicking an edge, or the face. Try double-clicking.

The Third Dimension

Cube

A Cube! (Sort of!)

You have a square, but we want a 3D object! So, select the Push/Pull Tool, and move over your Square. You should notice the face become ‘spotty’, to show that it is selected. Click on the face, and move the pointer. The face will “extrude” to form a solid. Again, note the Dimensions area. You can try to get the right height for your box, or click in approximately the right area, and then type the distance you actually wanted!

Groups and Components

Before we go further, I can’t stress enough about using Groups and Components! USE THEM! Select a complete object by treble-clicking on it with the Select Tool. This Selects all connected edges and faces. Then press “G” (for “Group”). This locks the object, allows it to be manipulated independently of the rest of the scene, and moved as one piece.

It also allows you to replicate objects without having to recreate them, using less memory and being able to edit them all at once!

If you move normal pieces together, they will connect. This is good if you want them to, but you cannot un-connect them without a lot of work. Groups or Components that touch will “Snap” together, but you can move them apart easily! They are effectively their own “mini-scenes”.

NOTE: To edit an object once it has been made a Component, you need to double-click it to “enter” the component. Or “Explode it, making ti a non-Component again.

Moving Objects and Components

The Move Tool

The Move Tool

I get a lot of use out of the Push/Pull tool, so watch closely!

Adding pieces is easy enough, especially using the “Snap” effect. Make two cubes of different sizes. Make them into Components. Click on the “Move” tool. Hovering over an object will outline it in blue to show it is selected. You can “grab” any part of it and drag it around. The Snap effect will try to guess if you are moving it along an axis, or you can hold the cursor keys to force it to lock the movement to an axis, if for example, you only want to raise the object without affecting its horizontal position.

If you “grab” an edge, or corner, you can take advantage of the Snap, and line it up with another object. Try this with your two cubes. Put the smaller cube on top of the larger. Rotate the View to make sure they are in the right place, with no gaps.

Summary

Two "cubes"

Two “cubes”

You should now be able to create and move blocks in your scene. The best idea now is to practice this, creating blocks of specific sizes, placing them together in specific ways.

Do not forget to save your work!

Have a go at this, and let me know how you get on!

The next part will deal with some other basic techniques. If you have any features you wish to know about, feel free to let me know!

Part Two

More Redesigns

To try to keep a coherent feel cross the Mad Dwarf brand, I have begun rebuilding the PC Wizard website.

Taking the main Mad Dwarf site as a template (as I have with Crystal Wizard and TechNo Prisoners), I have kept the blue and white of the original PC Wizard, giving a level of continuity.

PC Wizard

PC Wizard redesign

I still have a few details to iron out, but it has been a reasonably easy job, copying text from the existing site into the new template, and tweaking to account for the design differences.

It will soon go live, at which point there will be an announcement, and possibly a Grand Re-Opening!  Watch This Space!

Another New Redesign (Again!)

As you may have noticed, the main site, thecrystalwizard.co.uk, has undergone a redesign.

This is part of the recent re-acquisition of our Mother Site, maddwarf.co.uk. Mad Dwarf Productions (MDP) was the original “umbrella organisation” for all of my projects, but due to circumstances beyond my control, the website fell into disrepair. My recent projects sprang up without the guiding light of MDP to keep them coherent, and the designs all went in their own directions.

Now that MDP is back, I am slowly bringing all of the wayward children back into the fold. TechnoPrisoners was designed alongside MDP, and actually sits as sub-site, befitting its station as the first incarnation of MDP-Online. Crystal Wizard has now been brought in line, and the other sites will soon follow.

While I do not profess to be a Master Web-Designer, I have put no small effort into both the technical and aesthetic sides of this design, and I hope it works for you!

The colour schemes have been colour-matched, using a different scheme for each site, to represent their unique flavours, while relying on a common template. The base concept of using labelled Image Links aims to make the site both visually attractive and easy to use, giving quick recognition to each area. Rounded corners softens the look, giving a slightly more informal feel.

Behind the scenes, files have been tidied, renamed and optimised, stripping away unused clutter. The code for the pages has been almost entirely rewritten, incorporating labelled areas (DIV and SECTION tags), and many design elements moved to separate Style Sheets, for ease of maintenance.

I have tried to follow Best Practices for accessibility, incorporating ALT tags to describe images, and making the pages compatible with screen-reading technology for text-to-speech systems.

The Dark Art of SEO (Search-Engine Optimisation) has featured, but as this Alchemy involves tainting ones soul with the ever-vain search for Impressions, Clicks and Likes, I have kept it to the minimum required.

Analytics are run through Google’s offerings, tracking page hits, entry and exit pages, user flow and interactions. This anonymised data is useful for gauging interest, and locating faults, and can be used to suggest area that can use more attention.

Instead of creating a separate Style for mobile devices, the base theme has been written to automatically adjust, allowing the device to display content appropriately. An important design consideration, as people have a wide range of technologies to view the Web on, with a variety of screen-sizes available.

I hope this will lead to a comfortable, coherent experience for my readers, and welcome any feedback regarding the new design!

A Foray Into Steampunk.

My alter-ego, P.C. Wizard, has always been interested in computers, electronics and techno-gizmos of all varieties. So I came up with a way of linking several hobbies into one Project:

The Digital Walking Cane!

Taking my Smart outfit (colourful shirt, waistcoat, pocket-watch) as a starting point, I decided that a Cane would be a nice addition. But not just any Cane would do! P.C. Wizard demands that it be Interconnected, interactive, and wifi-compatible!

So I’ve had a good think about what capabilities the Cane should have, and this is what I have come up with so far:

  • Wifi. So that it can communicate with other devices (see: Utility Top Hat)
  • GPS. So that I know where it is at all times.
  • Weather Sensors. Why bother waiting for the local Weather Report on TV when I can just poke my Cane out of the window and get my own report!
  • Compass. Remember all those times that you needed to know magnetic North, but couldn’t remember how to calculate it from the position of the Sun? No more being lost in the wilderness. Just point The Cane until the beeps tell you which way to go!

With these basics decided upon, I looked at the best way to put the gubbins inside the Cane. A quick look around the Vintage Stores of Leicester (including the very helpful Pink Pigeon vintage store) led me to the conclusion that I would need a custom-made Cane. Standard sizes just do not have the room. Luckily, I know people in the woodworking trade, and am awaiting their enthusiastic response …

While the actual Cane is in hiatus, I next look at the electronics needed to run the Cane Systems. First, a central Power House. The Heart of the operations. I am looking at two basic options (each with multiple ways of implementing).

  • Raspberry PI. A fully-fledged computer that fits in a (large) matchbox. I have an older, larger version, and a friend has lent me the new NanoPI to play with.
  • Arduino board. A Micro-controller designed for electronics projects.

Both would do the job, and the PI is more powerful. Too powerful, if anything. I need to keep an eye on battery life. A little investigation shows that there would not be that much difference in getting them to work, so I think the Arduino will be the way to go.

Next stop: The Electronics Point. Last time I touched a soldering iron was over 20 years ago, so a little refresher course in all things electronic is probably in order. The forums there are very friendly, and I received some very useful answers to my (probably very stupid) questions. Some good pointers on Arduino-based components and packages, too. But overall, I am still a virtual beginner. A peruse of the circuits I will be needing persuaded me that I need to relearn the techniques, and catch up on new developments. Back to the Breadboard, as they say.

So, from my idea, I am  now back at the basics, ready to build from the bottom up. I dug around for my old box of electronic bits, left over from college days. A quick glance made obvious my suspicions: I need to buy some new parts! A quick trip to Maplins got me the basics, and also a very interesting chat with the young lad at the counter, who gave me some good suggestions on part numbers and types of sensor.

Armed with my new array of parts, I skipped over to the on-line tutorials at Spark Fun to get started! Dang, more components needed! I can’t even get started without some kind of Power! The plan is to run the breadboard from a 9V “square” battery, which I need to drop to 5V (the standard board voltage). A simple circuit, but I don’t have the right capacitors!

Electronics Point recommends several suppliers, and I settled on BitsBox of Rugby. £12.01 of my hard-earned cash later, and I have ordered far more than I need, including a big box of assorted resistors (an essential for any project!).

So now I am in the hands of BitsBox and Royal Mail.

Tune in later for updates!

Lady Burghclere and Ethel

Detail from an Egyptian mummy at New Walk Museum

Detail from an Egyptian mummy at New Walk Museum

One of my clearest childhood memories is visiting the New Walk Museum, and finding they not only had dinosaurs and holograms, but also Egyptian Mummies! The Egypt section was dark, like a tomb, and a little scary for a young lad such as myself, but I was fascinated.

Later, when I joined up for the Natural History Sunday Club, we would always find some time to wander through the Egypt display. They have Royal mummies, funereal urns, and even a mummified cat!

Alas, childhood gave way to other, more important, things (or so they seemed at the time!). Rock ‘n’ Roll. Girls. Computers. Howard Carter and his ilk had to take a back seat for a while. But they never completely left.

So imagine my surprise and joy when I found this blog: http://ladyburghclereandethel.com/

A friend has found letters to her grandmother, Elsie Merrall,  from Ethel North, lady’s maid and companion to Lady Winifred Burghclere, the elder sister of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon! You probably know that Lord Carnarvon is not only the business-partner of Howard Carter, discoverer of Tutankhamen’s tomb, but also the inspiration for the UK TV series Downton Abbey.

Ethel and Lady B travelled the world together, and Ethel wrote many letters and postcards to Elsie, telling of her exploits and adventures, along with commentary on many subjects. These  letters are now being compiled into a book, ready for publication.

To find out more, including how to get hold of the book when it is released, visit:

http://ladyburghclereandethel.com

The Art of Art (Part Two – Pencils)

As part of my Toy Soldiers hobby, I have been (slowly) making a Giant’s Causeway out of cheap coloured pencils. While this may hold some small interest for Art Lovers, the cause of this blog post is the Art that manifests itself behind the scenes.

You may remember my previous post, discussing the Art of my work bench, and the tissues and palette that build up with paint over time.

In a similar vein, I have inadvertently produced a sand-paper Art. I have been sawing and smoothing down pencils to create the hex-blocks needed to build the Causeway, and this has led to my sand-paper picking up the colours of the pencils. In this way, The Art of Art is produced, an accidental find, from the making of other Art.

I hope you appreciate it as much as I do!

Sand Paper

Sand Paper

Upgrading software: What can possibly go wrong?

The software that runs my online shop (The Crystal Cave) needed updating last week. Great, I thought! Security updates, performance issues solved, speed increase! So, I had a look at the upgrade process, and it seemed really simple. One-click, and its done! BUT: There is an advisory – make a back-up, just in case. Good advice, I thought. They even provide a back-up button. So, I wait a while, as it copies my existing shop, so I can restore is needed. Then, click to upgrade. A short while later, an error pops up! No Data. hmmm …

I can now no longer log in to my shop! Customers appear to be able to log in, and order things, but I am unable to check the orders and process them! A few tests, and I am emailing my website hosts to let them know, and see what can be done. Of course, this is Friday afternoon! A couple of automated “We have received your email” and a request for more info leaves it at 6PM. The shop is effectively offline for the weekend!

Monday rolls around, and, as usual, my hosts (Free Virtual Servers – look them up, if you need a domain, hosting or web design!) get the systems all sorted in the blink of an eye! All is well, and I can log in and start processing the weekend’s orders. But what is this? Another upgrade available? Nooooo ……

With great trepidation, I reach to click the link, fully expecting another few days offline. I’ve plenty to be getting on with besides fixing the shop, and can do without the hassle …
I decide to set it going, and rather than watch it, I’ll go make a coffee. By the time I’m back at my desk, the upgrade has finished, asking me to “Click here to test the upgrade” … I reach for the mouse. I click. I wait. My shop appears. No problems.

I spend the next half an hour logging in and out, in disbelief! I test all the new functions, and make sure the old ones still work. I check my products and look to see which have fallen out of their categories.

All is working.

I never trust things that work so easily, especially just after a major failure. But The Crystal Cave is open for business again! Feel free to browse and buy, safe in the knowledge that your order can be processed quickly and smoothly. And if it does fail again, don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know!