Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Royston and Baldock

Out again today, to Royston and Baldock. First a ring of a dozen or so, then to Royston to get several caches that have appeared since my last visit there. Then on to Baldock to do a night cache, and I finished up at N 51 56.843 W 0 12.361, where the map says there's a bridleway that would take me to a couple of solved puzzles and a few more caches, but I couldn't find any trace of the brodleway, and then it started to rain, so I decided to head for home.

I was just checking the base of this bench for a cache (which I didn't find), when a lady hurried over to talk to me.

She wasn't wanting to ask me why I was crawling around the bench. She wanted to apologise for all the halloween stuff on it, part of something for kids that would be running later. I assured her that I wasn't inconvenienced at all, and she left.

Weight report 24

16 stone 1 pound. Just a temporary tick up ... I hope!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Papworth trip

Up North to Papworth, home of the famous hospital. I did a series of ten Hitchhiker's Guide caches, but although I checked each cache carefully for the bonus number, I only found three out of the six; not enough to go for the bonus.

I also had rather a lot of DNFs today. But on the plus side, I did a very nice multi, and a smashing puzzle cache. Imagine you're creeping through the wood at night by torchlight, you find a tree stump that looks a bit wrong, you move the slugs away, open it up, and something jumps up and screams at you. I was quite proud of my bladder control.

The puzzle cache was good also; first, I found a large ammo can full of 35mm micros, maybe a hundred or so? And each of them had a latitude or longitude, and I had to work out which were the true ones, among all the decoys. But I had a flash of inspiration, and found the final. 33 caches today, not a huge number, but a good day out.

You've probably heard the expression "hill of beans". Well, I actually saw one today. Broad beans, and they've started to sprout.

"it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world" is from  Casablanca.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Babysitting again

Yesterday to London to visit daughter.1 and grandson.1, to do a spot of babysitting. Daughter.1 was up most of the night previous because grandson.1 was teething, so our visit meant she could get a few hours sleep in the afternoon.

For lunch we had a Japanese curry, plus sushi. The laptop I've left there is working fine, I was able to get up-to-date on email. Then daughter.2 and bf arrived, grandson.1 woke up and we all had a jolly time. Dinner was an Indian curry, and we went home in light rain which decided me not to go out today.

Ladysolly has discovered that the Kindle Fire doesn't let her access the Android Marketplace, which means she'll only be able to use things that Amazon approve. We don't know if her favourite bridge program is on Amazon's approved list, so she's thinking of the mini iPad again. I think she's right; I'd hope it has exactly the same user interface as the iPad 4 (whereas the Kindle would have differences), and using two similar devices with different user interfaces would be very annoying. I had to use Word to get smoething done for her, on her Windows 7 box, and ... Microsoft have *completely* changed the user interface. Maybe there's a way you can tell it to use the old user interface, but I didn't want to take to time to find out, so I used the new UI.

And she's decided on the black iPad 4 (daughter.2 said that white's for rock stars, black's for old women). And it's been ordered. It should arrive in less than a week, according to Apple.

Actually, you could access Android Marketplace if you root the Kindle (which means, getting full access to the device that you paid for) but I don't think she'd want to do that.

Tomorrow the weather is set fair, so I'm planning to go to Papworth for a bike ride.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

To Cambridgeshire with ladysolly

Golly, it was cold today. The car had a thick layer of frost, confirmned by the freezingness when I went outside. So I wore three layers, plus my coat; ladysolly was similarly bundled up.

On the way there, we talked about tablets. She's definitely getting an iPad 4, the only question she has is whether it should be white or black. It's just as well those are the only two colours.

She's also ruled out the iPad mini, but she's thinking of getting a Kindle Fire, for book-reading and playing bridge. The iPad, apparently, is too heavy to be lugged around London. And the iPhone 5 is barely bigger than the iPhone she already has, the 4.

I'm still looking forward to inheriting her old iPad 1.


Last night, I discovered that a process that should have been happening, hadn't been. So I started it going, and then discovered that it would take about a week to complete. So I fired up several more computers so they could all share in the load, and that worked fine. But in doing so, I discovered one computer that wouldn't start up at all, and another that had one of it's drives gone bad. So now I need to replace six computers at my colocation in Cheltenham.

I've already got four ready for installation, so today I started making the other two. They'll each be using an 8gb CF card as the system disk, and a 2TB plus a 3TB for data.

We got to Bassingbourn, and sat in the car for lunch. When we got out, the first thing we both noticed is that it was really really cold - I was glad of my three layers+coat, and put on thick winter gloves. We did 14 caches, of which 2 DNFs. We got back to the car a couple of hours later, and were glad of the hot coffee. Then we just drove around a bit and did drive-bys, with me as the volunteer for getting out of the car each time. 24 finds total.

A very nice day out.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Little Staughton

The weather looked good today, so I went up North to Little Staughton.

On the bike; first I did a ring of 29 caches, which turned into 32 with a few extras along the way. Annoyingly, I failed to notice one cache; I must have just sailed past it. Then back to the car for lunch, and then another 16, cruising around on the bike. I didn't encounted any ploughed fields, and I didn't fall off the bike, but I did meet yet another aggressive dog whose owner was walking him without using a lead.

The problem when a dog chases me on the bike, is that I don't really want to run over the dog. And, of course, I don't want to be bitten, or pushed over. And the entire burden of looking after myself and the dog, is on me, with the wretched dog owner acting as a passive audience. Apart from ineffective yells of "Here, Rover", which Rover ignores.

While I was out, I think I invented a way to combine three (or more) ADSL lines to connect to one file server, without having to buy extra hardware or subscribe to an extra service. I'll do a bit of experimenting when I have time, but I think it should work.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Ipad 4

Ladysolly has decided to get the iPad 4, and soon. The main effect of that, is that I'll inherit her iPad 1.

I already inherited her old iPhone. And I got a cheap Android tablet, just to explore and see how it compared.

Well, it doesn't. I can tell you definitely that the tablet that I got is pants. You only find out when you try to use it; the problem is that it's very unresponsive to clicks and swipes. So I'm looking forward to the iPad.

That gave me a bit of impetus; I wanted to work out how to hook it into my network. Almost the first thing I do with any computer, is hook it up to the network, because then it can use all the great stuff I've got already hooked up. The secret trick is to use Samba, so I googled "Samba iPhone" and found FileExplorer.

I installed the free version of FileExplorer, gave it a username and password to use, and told it the name of the server to access. It was in like greased lighting - very easy. And now I'm playing Boogie Woogie, the files are on my file server downstairs, and I'm playing it on the iPhone.

And where did those Boogie files come from?

Well, several years ago, I had a collection of CDs. I kept them in a big carousel CD player, and I could tell it "Play number 325" with the remote, and it would. Then the carousel part of it stopped working, leaving me with just a CD player, and a big box of CDs to riffle through..

So I fed the CDs, one at a time, into the CD drive of a PC, and copied the data on them, onto a server. That gave me humungous WAV files, which I compressed into mp3 and ogg files. Ogg because mp3 was (is?) encumbered with a patent, so sometimes you find you can't use it, because someone didn't pay the licence fee. Ogg isn't encumbered, and it's just as good.

I still have the CDs. They're in a box somewhere. Probably in the shed. I can't remember. I haven't seen them for years. What I actually use, is 30 gigabytes of music files, with a couple of backups, of course. And I can play my music anywhere in the house.

And now I'm playing some Chas 'n' Dave ...

IP changes concluded

I made the rest of the IP changes, but a few hours later, I discovered that AOL and Comcast wouldn't accept email from me.

AOL amd Comcast (and probably others) check your reverse DNS (rDNS). So, if your server is called then you can check (for example, by pinging, or use dig or nslookup) that this resolves to the IP address (I made this up).

Now, you're probably wondering what resolves to. If you do

dig ptr

Then dig will tell you. And if it doesn't give you a result, then AOL won't accept email from you. It's an attempt to reduce spam.

To make the rDNS work, you have to set up your DNS so that it works, and your ISP has to delegate the resolution of those numbers to you. I'd set it up, but my ISP hadn't done the delegation, they didn't realise that I was handling the rDNS. A phone call to Daisy soon sorted that out, and I now have reverse DNS. You can check it here:

So, now I've successfully changed all my IP addresses. My contract with Daisy expires in 18 months; if at that time fibre broadband is available to me, I'll probably switch to that, since I now know that I can handle the IP address changes involved. If I can do that, it will reduce my datacomms bill here from about £400/month, to maybe a tenth of that.

Weight report 23 - under 16!

Yes, I'm under 16. 15 stone, 13 3/4 pounds. Brilliant, and that's after a week in which I was a bit naughty; two pieces of cheesecake and a big curry.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Biking in Bletsoe

I haven't been out for a few days, and it's about time. So I went to Bletsoe for a bike trip. Nearly 60 caches, and only one DNF.

I got wet. That partly happened because of the foggy mist, partly by being dumped on by trees, and partly when I went through a ford and the water was *just* too deep for my boots..

And I fell over. Not too badly. It was late, I was very tired, and I was pulling the bike from where I'd left it back to the road. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I lost my balance as I was getting the bike into position, and ... fell over. I crumpled as I went down, so it wasn't too serious. No bruises.

I did a ring of 40 caches first; that took about 5 hours, and I was pretty tired, hungry and thirsty by the time I got back, but first I had to do the cache that was a few yards up the road from the car, and I managed to drop the magnetic micro into the post it has hiding in, and I couldn't see a way to get it out again. So I replaced it.

Then on to another series, which turned out to be three series all mixed up, and I chose a handy route to do another 18 caches.

A great day out!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dobbin rides again

My first PC was an IBM PC, bought in 1983, and that's how we started S&S. But at some point, we acquired another PC, which was used in Data Recovery, and which was affectionately called "Dobbin" because it was used as a general purpose work horse.

Dobbin is an 8088 computer (or maybe an 8086, I don't remember, and I can't see the CPU chip). There's a full-length mono card (no graphics, just text), a Torus ethernet card (which doesn't have the modern plug-in type of connector so isn't much use now), and a 5 1/4 inch, full-height, 10 mb hard drive, and the full-length card to control it.

I tried three monitors before I found the one that worked. Dobbin tried to boot up, but didn't have a floppy drive. So I found an old 360 kb floppy drive, and that worked. Then I rooted out an old Dos 3.2 diskette, and Dobbin booted from that. This is the first time Dobbin has started up since 1990 or so. 22 years later, it started first time!

I also rooted out an old Hardcard, put that in, and was able to boot from that. I could run Lotus 123, and Turbo Pascal, and I read a few old documents I'd written. That Hardcard hasn't been used for 20 years, but that also worked perfectly first time.

And all this, was just to demonstrate that my old IBM PC keyboard, which I want to get back into use, still works. Which it does, very well!

Parties and a Sonicwall

First to Helen's 90th birthday party, which was a lot of fun (and salmon, and cheesecake). Then to brother-in-law for a curry in Stanmore, then home, when I once again got fed up with the way that the Sonicwall (a firewall I use in a slightly peculiar way, to segment off part of my network) cuts off any connection after several minutes.

There's a setting for that, of course, and I set it to 999 minutes ages ago, 999 minutes is several hours, and I'd be happy with that, but it doesn't obey the setting.

But this time, I got so fed up with it that I came up with the bright idea of googling the problem. It's my experience that *any* computer problem that's solvable, can be solved with Google, including many that some people have declared impossible.

And sure enough, I got a result. I've been setting the global timeout value, thinking, silly me, that this would do the job. But it turns out that there's a timeout value for each rule, which overrides the global value. And since the default value is 15 minutes, the rules I'd set up before I changed the global value, had a timeout value of ... 15 minutes.

You find these rules by clicking on the edit button for each rule in the firewall rules list, then going to the "advanced" tab. So I changed them to 999 minutes, and it works! Now I can mess around with the computers behind my internal firewall, and if I don't access one for 16 minutes, I don't find that I need to log back in to it.

Why, you might ask, do I have a firewall inside my network?

Well, it's like this.

Usually, you have three zones; outside, inside and the DMZ. Outside is the "whole world", inside is computers that you don't want the outside world to access, and the DMZ contains computers that you want to allow limited access to by the world; for example, for incoming email, or web servers. So you have to buy a firewall with three ports. And that, of course, is a corporate-type firewall and costs corporate-type prices. I mean, a few thousand pounds. That's £3000. Wow. And what you get is a little box (which is actually a computer) with three ethernet ports, and the Cisco software.

But there's another way. You get two two-port firewalls. You can get a Cisco Pix 506 with two ports, on Ebay, for £40-£50, and they don't come better than the Pix. You can get a Sonicwall for £25. I use the Pix as my main firewall, because it can easily handle the main load, and I use the Sonicwall to create the DMZ, because all it has to do is stop anyone in the DMZ from breaking out into the internal network, which is going to be light load.

Why is the Pix so cheap?  A new Pix 506E costs £700 - £900, and that price tells you something about the quality (and if it doesn't, take my word for it, a Pix is the firewall of choice). The thing about the Pix, is I don't think consumers buy them, they're a corporate buy. You have to program them in their own language, which should be "Pixie", but is actually "IOS", and it's about as easy to use as double dutch. Fortunately, I speak fluent Pixie. And I doubt if corporates buy firewalls second hand. So when they get onto the market, there's several sellers and almost no buyers, which means ... low price. You'll find that with any computer item that corporates buy and consumers don't, and since the Pix is just a box of electronics, a second hand one is pretty much as good as a new one. They don't grow old and die. No moving parts.

So the Pix bars anyone from my internal network, and allows limited access to my DMZ. And the DMZ is walled off from the internal network by the Sonicwall. I don't know anyone else who does it this way; I was quite pleased to have thought it up. It replaced the homebrew firewall (a linux box with three ethernet cards) that I used before.

I have to say, if I were doing this from scratch today, I'd use Pixes in both roles; they're easier to program. I only used Sonicwalls because I had two of them lying around doing nothing (I have two DMZs). And if they ever die, I'll replace them with Pixes.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

More on IP changes

Today, I found out how to tell a DNS slave to update from the master, how to tell godaddy and networksolutions about the existence of a new name server, and lots more.

This isn't entirely a waste of time caused by Daisy forcing me to change my IP address range. It's an investment for the future. Next time my contract with Daisy comes up for renewal (I think it's a year or so), they'll be competing with every other packet transit provider. Now that I've learned how to change IP addresses, it'll be a lot easier for me to switch from Daisy to someone else.

And there's even a possibility that I can switch to using fiber broadband, a service that Daisy won't be able to match on price with a leased line. Virgin, for example, will give me a 100 mbit link for £35/month. That gives me download at 100 mbit, upload of 10 mbit. Halve that because things are never as good as promised, and that means 50 down and 5 up. Currently, I have a 2 mb line, that's 2 down and 2 up, so it's still good.

They throw the word "unlimited" around, but ... "Usage will be monitored daily between 10am and 3pm, then 4pm to 9pm. However, customers will have to have to use between 3.5GB and 20GB of data, depending on their package, during these times to trigger the throttle."

But I can't get fiber yet. Coming soon ...

So, looking at copper broadband,  And looking at BT, I can get "up to 16mbit" download, "unlimited usage" for £36/month. Virgin reckon 13.5-20.5, which is about the same.

I also tried looking at the Talktalk web site (my broadband is currently with them), but it hangs when I click the "can I get fibre" button, which kind of rules them out!

Daisy offer 76mbit download, 19 upload. Again, halve that. But it's £50 per month, a lot more than Virgin. And to find out if it's available in my area, I have to give them my name, address, phone number and email. I'm guessing they don't offer fiber either; all of them are reliant on BT installing a green box somewhere near me.

And while I was doing all this research, I suddenly found I couldn't access google! Oops. I soon tracked the problem down. I had a static on the pix allowing outside information to come in to my local nameserver, but I had it misnamed as being one of my power cyclers. But that power cycler doesn't work, so I deleted the static as being unnecessary, not realising that it was actually needed for my name server. Easily fixed, but for a moment, I thought I'd lost connectivity somehow.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Milton Keynes again

This time, the Magenta section of the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk. This looked like it was all on footpaths, and the ground would be very soggy, so I decided to walk it. I left my bike at the end (locked using a really good lock), drove to the start, and set off.

It certainly was soggy, and I wasn't regretful at not taking the bike. Eventually I got to where I'd left my bike, and it was still there. So I attached my walking pole to the bike, and cycled back to the car, on the roads. This was a long way round, but better than walking back the way I'd come, plus I was able to pick up three more caches on the way.

Then on to Salcey Forest, where I grabbed a couple more from the forest walkabout, a solved puzzle, and a few of the Green MKBW series. But by that time, it had settled in to rain, a steady drizzle that left me soaked, so after finding a few more, I set off for home. A good day out, albeit very damp.

Fixing things

1. The server that occasionally rebooted. I took out the memory, and put in a different memory stick. Unfortunately I put it in the wrong way round, which is almost impossible because it's keyed, and I saw blue smoke. That fried the memory stick and wrecked the motherboard. After I replaced the motherboard and memory stick, it's working fine.

2. The bicycle that had the back brakes jammed on. I replaced the brake pads, and after messing around with it for a while, I realised that the springs that return the brakes to "off" weren't working. So I took that apart, saw why, and fixed it.

3. Me. I had a couple of nosebleeds recently, including one that was about a thimbleful. So I went to soo the doctor. He didn't seem concerned, but took my blood pressure, which he said is really excellent.  No action required.

4. Bike lock. The lock I've been using for my bike fell apart. I was going to buy a replacement, but then I remembered, I've already got a really good lock. So I dug that out, checked that it worked, and I'll be using that.

5. IP addresses. My packet transit provider was originally Nildram, and I got a class C (256 IP addresses) from them. But Nildram was sold to Pipex, and Pipex was sold to ... and so on and so on, I lost count, every time I called them (about once per two years) I was talking to a different company. And now, there's two parts of Nildram belonging to two different companies. Talktalk have the ADSL part, and Daisy have the leased line part. My leased line is, therefore, now with Daisy, but somehow my IP addresses wound up with Talktalk. Duh.

So Daisy want me to change all my IP addresses, because they belong to Talktalk. And that's a terrible thing to contemplate.

I've been trying to get them to change their minds, but I doubt if that's going to be possible, despite the original assurance that the sale of Nildram wouldn't affect me, and subsequent assurances from Daisy sales people that it'll all be OK.

And I can tell you, that when my contract comes up for renewal, the fact that I will have changed all my IP addresses, means that I can very easily move away from Daisy, because what I've done once, I know I can do again. So Daisy have shot themselves in the foot there. I'll be ringing round for the best pricing, and if Daisy can't match that, they'll lose a customer.

So today, I started doing the change.

First, I found out about DNS "glue records". When a domain is doing its own DNS (like if the name server for is at, it's no use telling the registrar that the nameserver for is at because, for obvious reasons, they won't be able to find it (because to find they need to know its IP address). So you have to tell them that it's at or whatever IP address it's on. Then it's accessible.

So I'll have to change my glue records for any domain that's doing its own DNS. That's a few domains, not many.

The good news, however, is that I'm making extensive use of NAT (Network address translation). So that when you come at my firewall with a request for, it translates that to, which is where the server actually is.  The advantage of that, is that I can have as many addresses that start with 10 as I want; they aren't addressable from outside my network, they're purely local to my network. You can also use addresses that start with 10, and that won't affect me using them.

So what I wanted, was for to translate to, but also for to translate to And the firewall (a Cisco Pix, a top-of-the-line firewall) wouldn't allow two addresses to be translated to one. But after much research and anguish, I found a way to fool the pix into letting me do it; this is by making use of access-lists. I won't give you the gory details.

I've tried it, and it seems to work. So when I move to the new addresses, I can have a period in which both the new, and the old addresses both work. And you can see how that will make my life a lot easier!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Milton Keynes again

This time, the Orange series. Again, on the bike.

I drove up the M1 to get there, but when I turned off, I made a serious mistake, and found myself back on the southbound lane, so I had to drive south for 7 km, get off at the next junction, and then repeat the 7 km north again. Second time around I got it right.

I started at number 7, so that I could get down to number 28 and back, then do the easy (i.e., on the road) caches 1 to 6 later.

Number 7 was a multi, so I collected the numbers on my way through the golf course (which meant I had to walk the bike quite a lot). At the final, it was a quick find, then on the bike for the road south.

Another multi en route, also threatened to go through a golf course (this area seems to be stiff with golf courses). But I'd had a look at it in advance, decided that I knew where the final would be, and went straight there, which meant I could go by road, which is much easier on the bike, and I avoided the golf course.

Because I'd skipped the first six caches, by the time I got to where the bonus probably was, I was still missing one of the numbers, and it was an important number. So I made a heroic assumption, which plotted to an unlikely place, but I was fond of my assumption and went there anyway, and after a brief scout around, I saw something that shouldn't have been, and it was the cache.

So on I continued, picking up a few not from the series along the way, until I'd done number 27, leaving only number 28. But that was 350 meters across a very soggy-looking field, so I decided to walk it rather than try to bike. I chained up my bike to a handy tree ... and that was when I discovered that somehow, the lock had broken while it was in my saddle bag. New lock required! Never mind, I trudged across the field, which was even soggier than it looked, got the cache, and went back to the bike. So that was 7-28 done.

On the way back north to the car, I picked up several more caches along the way. And when I was about a kilometer from the car, instead of beetling back to it, I thought, hang it, let's do 1-6. So I did those, then back to the car. And that was why lunch happened at 17:30.

By that time I'd done 41 caches, was pretty tired from the day's efforts, and had to be back home for a dinner with ladysolly, daughter.2 and, so I went home. A good day out!

Weight report 22 - 16 stone 1 pound

It's still going down!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Milton Keynes Meander

The folks up at Milton Keynes have been busily putting a ring of caches on the 65 mile circumferential walk. Wow. Not something I'd try to do in one lump! But the problem with doing it in parts, is that you have to start somewhere, do a series of caches, and then walk all the way back to where you started.

Or ride a bike.

I decided to start with the Yellow series. So I parked near number 24, and did them in reverse, just to be different. The route was very bikable; I had to lift over only one stile, and the track was very firm, despite all the recent rain.

It rained all the way up the M1, but when I got there, the rain had just stopped. So I got the Technobike out of the car, loaded it up with two extra bike batteries, my head torch (just in case), my lunch, bike repair tools, and set off.

A couple of them were a bit difficult, but I persisted, and got the full set, plus the bonus.

Along the way, I suddenly found that I couldn't ride the bike in low gears (it kept slipping gear), but it was fine in higher gears. That usually means that the smaller cogs have got clogged with grass, so I stopped and had a look. They were clogged, but not with grass, they'd picked up a strip of canvas which was wound round the lower gears. And then I saw where it had come from - it was one of the straps from my pannier. So I got the strap out of the gear (apparently undamaged) and shortened it by tying a knot in it, and now it's fine.

And then, on the way back, I took a different route, and picked up several others. I got back to the car at 16:30, just in time for lunch :-)

One of the caches I did had this little fellow:

It scooted off when I tapped the box.

And here's another animal, seen yesterday while out with ladysolly:

After my late lunch, I got back on the bike and had a go at Oakhill wood, which was also nearby. But the tracks in the wood started off as not good, and deteriorated from there, until eventually I found myself bushwhacking across the undergrowth, which is difficult enough on foot, but when you're dragging a bike along ... very bad.

And then it started to rain.

So I only managed a few in the wood, and got back to the car really wet, and very tired.

An excellent day out!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A flurry of PPI spam

In the last few days, I've been getting a flurry of spam about PPI (Payment protection insurance) and Accident Claims (if it's not your faul, you could get compensation).

And I think what happened was this.

Some new spamming company (call them Spamalot) bought a big list of UK email addresses. Then they made a list of insurance companies (or bought a list) and spammed that list. Some of the insurance companies, being a bit naive, and believing the claim they they are all opted-in, paid Spamalot to spam their big list. So, if 20 companies paid Spamalot, Spamalot spams me for the same service, on behalf of those 20 companies. Spamalot doesn't, of course, mention to the naive insurance companies that their spam is only going to be one of 20. And the naive insurance companies don't ask. Or maybe they do ask and get lied to?

Either way - the victims here are the 20 insurance companies that have paid good money for a useless service.

So. I told one of them that I've had a couple of dozen offers in the last few days for PPI reclaim services, and they were quite surprised. "It wasn't us," they said. So I explained again, no, it wasn't you, but if in the unlikely event that I am in the market for PPI reclaim services, they're only one of 20 candidates, and if I do go to one of them, they only have a 5% chance of being the lucky one.

Of course, I never did buy PPI, it always seemed to me to be the sort of insurance that never pays out because you're always caught by one of the exclusions.

So anyway. I decided that, since this email address has been bought-and-sold, I need to put a despammer on it. I've been running this particular address naked up till now.

It's fairly easy to despam emails; I've done it for another of my email addresses, and that gets thousands of spams per week. Very few of them get as far as my Inbox.

The easiest way is to use one of the commercial email services; gmail, hotmail, yahoo etc.  They do everything for you, including they decide what's spam and what isn't, and that's why I prefer to do it myself.

So here's how I did it.

1) Install perl's  Mail-Procmail (which meant I had to install  MailTools and LockFile-Simple. That's easy, you just download it and install it in the usual way.
2) Write a perl program (I called it What that does, is it looks for:

 - email that isn't actually addressed to me (I'm just getting a copy of it). Spam.
 - email with one of a bunch of keywords in it, such as "Payment protection insurance", Viagra, etc.
 - email sent by one of the programs used only by spammers (yes, some of them they make it that easy)
 - email sent by one of the prolific spammers
 - email with one of a bunch of keywords in the subject, such as "You have won", etc.
 - email that's sent to several other people as well as me.
 - email that seems to have come from myself. Huh?
 - email with a lot of unreadable characters in the body; maybe it's spam and maybe it isn't, but since I can't read it anyway, I don't want it
 - email with a lot of spaces in the subject

Then, after analysing this, it does the same after removing all spaces, tabs etc in the email. So via   gra will show up as viagra
And again with accented characters, so if you use accented characters to spell out your spam, it's still caught.
And again after removing weird characters in words.

If it includes a zip, rar or other compresssed file, put it in a mailbox of attachements
If it includes an exe file, or other executable, put it in a mailbox of possible viruses
If it wasn't actually addressed to me, put it in a mailbox of "not-for-me".
If it fails the spam tests, put it in the mailbox for spam

And if it passes all those tests, then put it in my Inbox.

And now the insurance companies can spend as much of their ill-gotten money on spamming me as they like - I won't actually see their spam unless I check my spam box.


Down to London today on a babysitting mission for daughter.1

But first ... the Shimano gear shifter arrived, and I spent a happy couple of hours installing it on the bike. Now I won't need to grip the handlebar with a vice while twisting it to change up a gear, I'll push a lever until it clicks.

I took my new Dell laptop with me, set it up at daughter.1's place and it worked fine. I can check my servers, stay on top of emails and just mess about. I was looking at the Yamasuka Catleap, a 2560 by 1440 monitor for £200, it looks very tasty. I'll be leaving the Dell there so that in future when I visit, I have a good computer to use. And it plays games.

Daughter.2 was there too, so between her and ladysolly, my babyminding skills weren't required.

Supper was some sort of middle eastern food; Lebanese or Turkish, I think, and very nice, although it took far too long to arrive (90 minutes) and ladysolly's fried Dover sole was a grilled one.

We got the last tube home (well, last but one). Just like old times where I was out on the booze.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wireless on the M60

It's really important for me to get Wireless Lan working on the new Dell. And it wasn't working. Why? because the internal Wifi doesn't work with Linux, and you have to patch the firmware. So I tried that, and it still didn't work. After much Googling and patching and trying to understand the problem, I thought, sod it, I have a Belkin Wireless Lan PC Card that I got for Rover (a Sony Vaio) and since Rover isn't working, the card isn't being used.

So I shoved it into the PC Card slot, and Bingo! Immediate Wireless Lan. So I'll go with that. And since I'm visiting daughter.1 on Friday to do a bit of babysitting, I'll take it down with me so I can leave it there as a permanent box for me to use while I'm there.

£99. Not bad!

 ... later ...

I tried the Vaio wireless card, and that worked also. And then I noticed something ... and took both cards out ... and the Dell's internal wifi was working fine! Something I did must have fixed it and I didn't notice. Oh well!


Up the M40 to Lighthorne today.

I was expecting a nice relaxing day on the bike, mostly on bridleways.

Actually I had an exhausting day; bridleways weren't there, or ran across ploughed fields, or through a marsh. So I wound up walking the bike rather a lot.

The worst moment was when I followed a bridleway into a wood, couldn't work out how it was supposed to go, got to the edge of the wood at a five foot high fence topped with barbed wire, at which I A) heaved the bike over, and B) climbed over myself using a handy tree to hold on to, but which yanked my arms out as I descended back to the ground.

Or possibly it was the dog. As I was approaching the farm (on a bridleway), I could hear the dog yapping, and when I came through the gate, it did its display of aggression. The owner was calling the dog, but the dog took no notice, and the owner took no action, whiich is why the dog took no notice. As I was passing the farm, the dog kept making little rushes at me - now I don't care if I run over a dog with my bike when it's not my fault, but I'd guess the owner would be unhappy. And when I managed to get a bit in front of the dog so I could pedal-sprint away, it decided to take a bite at my leg. It missed and got a mouthful of trouser.

Should I have complained to the owner? On past experience, it's not worth the effort, I wouldn't have been believed, and no action would have been taken.

In the course of the day, I crossed the M40 twice (that's always fun) and found some really well-designed caches. The bike performed well (it's the one with the gears that don't need a grip of iron) and I didn't fall off, although at one point, it was a near thing. 47 caches, 2 DNFs.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Computers and bikes

A quiet day at home ... and then my new Dell Precision M60 arrived in a load of foam pebbles. I unpacked it, and it looks good. It arrived with Windows XP, which I don't really want, but just in case, I did a backup of it before I cleared it. The backup wanted to make a floppy boot disk, and the Dell doesn't have a floppy drive. And then I thought, hey, I've got a floppy drive attached to a USB, so I used that and it worked.

So then I tried to install Linux 17 (the current version) and it wouldn't go. So I tried 16, and that's going on just fine. I'm planning to use this as a computer that will be left at daughter.1 so I can do stuff while I'm visiting, now she's got her wifi working. But, just in case, and why not, I also installed a ton of games on it. This computer is just what I wanted - it has a 1920 by 1200 screen, which means lots of screen space, so I can have multiple terminals open. And it only cost me £99; found on Ebay.

I contacted Seagate again, and told them that I've solved the problem of Seagate 3TB drives failing in large numbers shortly after install. My solution is to buy Western Digital drives instead. Unless they can come up with some other solution. It's ridiculous, I'm getting a failure rate of more than a quarter. OK, I can send them back under warranty, but that's not what I want to do. The email I got back from Seagate so obviously hadn't read my message, because they suggested doing a check disk. No, Seagate, the problem is reallocated sectors, meaning sectors that have failed, this is a drive problem.

And the bike - a few problems, of which the biggest was the extreme stiffness of the gear shift for the front sprockets. Oiling the cable hasn't helped, and there's no "stiffness" adjustment. So I had an idea, and I've ordered lever shifters (currently I'm using twisters, which means I have to grip *really hard* in order to change gear). Two Shimano shifters cost me £24, which is really cheap, especially if it gives the effect I want (easy gear changes).  When you're going cross-contry (as I do in caching) you change gear a lot. Unless the gears are so stiff that you can't!

In looking into the gear shifter problem, I ran up against a problem I had before - how do you get the handlebar covers off? They're just a push fit, but I just didn't have the grip to get them off. The answer was the mole wrench that I impulse-bought from TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago - I knew that would be useful.  After a minute or so, the handlebar cover yielded to the mole wrench. Easy.

I also fixed the battery level indicator - the plastic thing attaching it to the handlebars broke. So I've applied some blutack, and I think that's working. While I had the bike out, I adjusted the brakes - I think you have to do that regularly, or at least, whenever pulling on the brakes results in not being able to put them on as hard as you can. Not that I want to use the brakes much - each application of brakes is a waste of kinetic energy. But when you've got to brake ... it's important that you can! And I refilled the front fork shock absorbers - they seem to get through a lot of hydraulic fluid. Maybe they have a slight leak?

Tomorrow I'm going out caching again. On the bike.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Up North

This morning, up the M1 to Draughton for a day on the bike. First a ring of 20 caches, all without hints, but I managed to find all of them. Then I picked up a few puzzles I'd solved, and then I tried to do the Brampton Valley Way multi. I made a real hash of it; forgot to count the picnic tables, got the name of the area wrong, but eventually I sorted all that oiut and plotted a very plausible set of coords. But the area was so overgrown in brambles and nettles, I gave up after a while.

Then on to another sort-of ring; I had to do a bit of backtracking to complete this one, again no hints, but again I got them all.

Then on to the Brampton Valley Way for a few more, although I decided not to risk the tree-climmbing ones.

While doing one of the caches (the abandoned village at Faxton, I saw this:

Very fenced in! It's either a highly radioactive storage system, or some sort of religious thing whose significance has been lost in the mists of time.

Towards the end of the day, it rained a bit, so I was able to get home both wet and muddy. 50 caches in total, a good day out!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A really good Spanish Prisoner scam

So many of the Spanish Prisoner scam (also called 419, or advance fee fraud) emails that I get are just a few lines, and not really well made; poorly spelled and unconvincing. But here's a rather good one. it explains that everyone is a scammer, and you've been defrauded wholesale. Except Barrister Daniel Uwasota. He'll do you proud.


I'm Ruth Ruggiero , I am a US citizen, 43 years Old. I'm one of those that took part in the
Compensation in Nigeria, London, And Malaysia two year's ago i was even contacted by email an
individual impersonating to be US (FBI) told me that they will help me to apprehend and recover my
money from those swindlers but they too sucks me dry by me sending them money to help retrieved my
money and me having a new and better life and they all refused to pay me, I had paid over $91,320
while in the US my husband and family had to leave me because i refused to listen to them when they
where asking me to stop trying to get my payment all to no avail.

So I decided to travel down to Nigeria with all my compensation documents, And I  was directed to
meet Barrister Daniel Uwasota Esq, who is a member of COMPENSATION AWARD AUTHORITY and a Human
Rights Activist (Lawyer). I contacted him and he explained everything to me. He said whoever is
contacting us through emails are fake and listed the below information that they are all working
together as one team and partners. It all started with one who contacted me to help him,since then
my life has been a hell not until now. Below are some name's:

1.) Barrister Frank Okoh / Mr.Richard Smith
2.) FBI : Director John S. Pistole, Director Robert Swan Mueller III
3.) Name: John Simmons
4.) Eric William

The above names and many more where listed to me and shown to me by Barrister Daniel Uwasota,
Because i was scammed by many. But i was disappointed when i went to my country FBI to lay complain
that i have been paying money to them. they where very annoyed with me because they said that i am
going against the law by dealing with people that are impersonate government offices,bank
official,FBI agent,courier company etc., I was heart broken and ashamed of myself that i lost my
hard earned money and my entire family due to negligence. That's when i took the mind and spirit to
go down to Nigeria when it all began?

Below are some of there emails i deal with and they suck me dry:

There are still real transaction in the global world today but the scammers are just much than the
real transaction so we are all confused it is better you get the compensation money instead of
pursuing empty and chartered dreams.  So whats the deal with this email?  I have been dealing with
a John Simmons for a while and he has not delivered what he said he would,  I have not sent him any
money in a while but did send him some in the past, Not as much as this lady but a couple grand. He
is still communicating with me but knows I will not send him any more money till i receive my fund
what can i do to get my money and stop this man from getting others?  Please note that I will never
send money to anyone else including you to get money so if this is just another scam then you are
wasting your time.  please advise any steps that can be taken to secure my fund without any money
to be paid by me BEFORE getting it  thanks

When i went to American embassy,i was directed to contact Barrister Daniel Uwasota Esq immediately,
He took me to the paying bank for the claim of my Compensation payment, he showed me care and help
me.  when i first approached him i was very annoyed with all black's at that time but he made me
understand that there are still some good black people. Right now I'm the most happiest woman on
earth because I have received my compensation funds amounting to $1,700,000.00 Moreover, Barrister
Daniel Uwasota Esq, showed me the full information of those that are yet to receive their payments
and I saw your email and name as one of the scam victims, that is why I decided to email you to
stop dealing with those people, they are not with your fund, they are only making money out of you.
I will advise you to contact Barrister Daniel Uwasota.

You have to contact him directly on this information below.

Name: Barrister Daniel Uwasota Esq
Office Address: 89 MARINA, P.M.B. 1794 SURULERE, LAGOS- NIGERIA.

You really have to stop dealing with those people that are contacting you and telling you that your
fund is with them, it is not in anyway with them, they are only taking advantage of you and they
will dry you up until you have nothing. In case you contact Barrister Daniel Uwasota just know that
the only money I paid after I met Barrister Daniel Uwasota was just $850.00 for IRS permit, which
you know, So you have to take note of that. Don't worry at all as you do not need to go down to his
country Nigeria all he need's from you is for you to identify yourself briefly and he will take it
from there. I am traveling to Spain to find my family now and start a new and better life but i had
to do some good before i take my leave as i will not be coming to the computer for long again till
i see my family and start a new and better life. Once again my friend do not waste your time and
money on those empty promises instead go ahead and contact Barrister Daniel Uwasota Esq.

Thank You and Be Blessed.

Mrs. Ruth Ruggiero.
426 E. Jackson, Chillicothe, MO 64601,
United States of America

Center Parcs

Well, here we are in Center Parcs. My first impression was very unfavourable - we were stuck in a car queue for half an hour to get in.

The accommodation is very nice, though.

My previous experience with Center Parcs was when I had to rush out to rescue daughter.2 who was staying at one and was thoroughly miserable. I expect she was staying in one of the more squalid hovels.

The wifi works well, although it says it's going to require me to log in every 24 hours, which will be slightly annoying, because I'm trying to do something on one of my servers that entails being continuously logged in.

Ladysolly, daughter.1 and grandson.1 have all gone shopping, leaving me to recuperate from the 2 hour drive to get here (and 30 minute car queue).

I saw the lions at Longleat

Last week, ladysolly, daughter.1, grandson.1 and myself were at Center Parc in Longleat. It's a sort of upmarket Butlins, and we had a very nice chalet. Daughter.2 didn't come - she had a bad experience once at a Center Parc (I had to rush out in the car to rescue her).

I had a very bad impression on arrival; as soon as we turned off the public road, we had to sit in a 30 minute car queue for check-in. Apparently, everyone arrives at the same time on one of two days, and they haven't worked out (or don't care) how to deal with that.

Eventually, we got through, and unloaded at the chalet. I immediately tried out the wifi, which is good enough. You only get 600 kbps, but that's enough for me to be able to check my servers, and I was very keen to do that because one very important customer-facing server had crashed twice in the last few days. I'd installed a remote power cycler, so at least if it crashed again, I'd be able to reboot it. After the second crash, I replaced the memory, because it was the sort of crash that made me suspect memory, and it hasn't crashed since.

While we were there, another customer-facing server crashed, but I was able to remotely power-cycle it and bring it back up.

I also used the web to look at Ebay. Before I'd left, I looked at my various laptops, and to my dismay, I found that two of the boxes that I'd thought were OK, have seriously failed, and are probably not worth repairing. On Ebay, I found that I could buy a 1920 by 1600 screen Dell for under £100 (I want a large screen because I mostly use it to run multiple terminals to my servers).

On day two, the wifi crashed. I asked at information, and they told me that on rainy days, everyone's trying to use it and it can only handle 400 people. That might sound a lot, until you remember that everyone's phone uses wifi and everyone has brought, and will be using, their phone. I told them that they ought to rethink their capacity. Rebooting fixed it, so maybe I was misinformed.

That evening, we ordered a takeaway curry which was delivered and was very nice.

On the first day after arriving, we visited Longleat.

I won't tell you what they are, except that the elephant is called Anne. We didn't visit the monkeys, apparently they can make a real mess of your car, and daughter.1 didn't want her car trashed.

That evening, we ordered pizza which was delivered and was very nice. My large one was big enough to feed a family of 12.

The next day grandson.1 went for his football lesson, and the rest of us chilled out when we weren't running after him. We also picked up out bikes. Ladysolly can't ride a bike, she falls off, but I thought she'd be OK on a tricycle.

I was wrong. She hated it. That evening we ordered chinese, which wasn't as good as the curry or pizza.

On Thursday, grandson.1 went for "messy play", which, since his normal play is pretty messy, must be messy indeed. The rest of us chilled out. In the evening, we had the curry again.

If you're not getting around by bike (and the hills are pretty steep here), then you're walking ... and walking ... and walking. Everywhere is miles from anywhere else, the map is dumbed down to the point of uselessness and the "train" (it's really a bendy bus) is only once per 20 minutes, only goes one way round (so it you want to go the other way, you have a train trip of 30 minutes) and looks like this.

Everyone had a great time there (especially grandson.1) and we'll probably be going back some time, or maybe to a different Center Parc.