Sunday, 30 November 2014

The pi monitor

Most of my Pies just keep on running. They'd been going for about two years nonstop before they suddenly all died. The fault was the power supply that fed them; the fan had died (fans are a weak point in any system - being mechanical, they wear out), the PSU had overheated and shut itself down.

But the two Pies that I use to tell me the outside temperature, give me a view outside, the time and the number of alerts on my server monitoring system - crash much more often. Not a big deal, it only affects me (and only slightly) and all I have to do is cycle the power so they're up and running again.

Wouldn't it be nice to automate this? I already have for the more important Pies, that carry email and DNS.

I did it slightly differently this time. I started with four female USB ports, and I soldered then to a strip of metal, so they were nice and stable. The outside connectors are the positive and negative, and that was all I was going to use. I soldered leads to the negative connectors, and put all the four leads into one terminal connector. On the positive side, I soldered a lead to each connector, and the other end of that went to a serial relay box. I've used these before for all sorts of purposes (the robot arm uses one, for example), and when I bought them, they were less than a third of the price they're shown at now. You can get something similar on Ebay for £10. A similar thing to run off USB ports is £19.

A long long time ago, to start up a PC you had to apply power, and then press a button at the front. These days, you can set u a PC so that no button press is needed. But I wanted to be able to power-cycle my PCs remotely before that was possible. I wired up that button-press so that it could be done by these relay boxes. Pretty cool! So I have a few of these left over from those days, and I would never throw away something as potentially useful as that.

I connected the four positive leads to the "common" connector of each relay, and I connected the four "normally closed" relay connectors to another terminal connector. The effect of this is that if I feed that terminal connector with five volts, then five volts will appear on all four USB connectors. But if I switch one of the relays, then the power for that connector is switched.

I got the five volts from a step-down (buck) converter, that costs £1 on Ebay, but I prefer to use the ones that display the voltage, costing £2.

The feed into the converter is the 12 volt line from an old PC power supply, and the same 12 volts is also used to power the relay box. So, using this, I can run up to four Raspberry Pies off the same power supply, and have remote power-on, power-off control.

So next, to automate this. The relay box is connected to the serial port of a computer, and on that computer, I run a program once per minute. that program pings the Pies, and if it doesn't get a good reply back, it then cycles the power to the Pi that isn't responding.

To cycle the power, I use a program called Minicom, which is great for this purpose. It's a terminal emulator. I set it to 9600 baud, 8N1 which is what the relay box uses, and I set up a file called "off01" which will control relay number 1. So, to switch it off, that's

send N1
! killall -9 minicom

And to get minicom to do the job, my perl program does this:

`minicom -o -t ansi -S /home/drsolly/engine/off01`;

"N1" means "switch relay 1 on" but because I have them wired as "normally on", it means "switch relay 1 off" And "F1" means switch it on. So when it can't contact that Pi, it powers off, waits five seconds, then powers on. Of course, if the Pi doesn't start up within 60 seconds, the next time the program runs it will do the same thing again ... and again ... and again ... but I know from experience that it takes less than 60 seconds to start up a Pi.

I have it running for one of the Pies; after that's been going for a while, I'll connect the other Pi to the same box, and I still have two spare slots.

The class of 59

In 1959, I started at Grocers; actually the Hackney Downs Schools, formerly the Grocer's Company School" but we all called it Grocers. So did 104 other kids my age.

Today, two dozen of us had our first reunion, at Reubens kosher restaurant at 79 Baker street. I had chicken soup with lockshen, salt beef and latkes followed by lockshen pudding. Yummy! When it comes to food, I'm not an atheist.

The main thing that happened, was for us to tell each other what happened after we left school. Some became doctors, some became dentists, some became teachers and some went into IT.And some went down less common paths.

Everyone looked older than when I'd last seen them, about 50 years ago.

Barry Brooks is an orthodox jew; fringes, hat - everything. He came all the way from Israel to this reunion. I would never have predicted that from what I knew at school. Most of us had acheived moderate success, although quite a few had been made redundant 10 or 15 years ago. One told me that he considered that his life had been wasted - he was a bright lad when I knew him, and we had a common interest in electronics. But he dropped out of university, and he considered that things hadn't gone well for him since then.

One had a heart problem, and had major surgery for that, but was looking good now (and he'd lost a couple of stone). Most of them was bald or baling, all of them were grey. I think I had the best head of hair, although that might be my vanity. We'd all put on a few stone - some more than others.

We all gave each other potted histories of the last 50 years. I was told by a few of them that I was famous, although one of them said he saw me on an Open University program - actually that was another person with the same name as me. Some told me that when they heard about the antivirus, they'd thought it was me, and I told them they were right.

It was a very good day out, and I hope we do this every year from now on. Many thanks to Gary Gray and the committee for organising it. And I can recommend Reubens.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bike maintenance

When I got back from my mud mining expedition yesterday, I pressure-washed the bike. Then I did some maintenance.

First, I changed the read pannier rack again. The one I'd put on to repkace the broken one, was another aluminium one, and it feels a bit flimsy. I put a lot more stress on these than the normal rider, because A) I put in several kilograms of battery and tools and B) I'm riding over rough, bumpy ground. So I spashed out £31 for a really good quality rack, made of Steel, by Avenir. It was easy to fit, and looks good. It doesn't have the spring-loaded clip, but I never use that anyway, it's just a nuisance in place.

I also oiled the pedals. They're folding pedals, and I fold the right one when I put the bike in the car. I fold the left one when I need to get through a very tight space. I found the the left on is seized, and in freeing it, I cracked the rubber part - and it's still seized. So I replaced them both with a new pair (about £7) and bought a couple of replacement pairs, for future use.

Halfway across a field yesterday, I spotted something red on the ground, so I slammed  on my brakes and had a look. It was a rear light for a bike, with the rubber band broken. I took it home, dried it out and it worked fine. So I'll fix the rubber and it can go into service. These things only cost about £1, so it isn't the money, it's the satisfaction of fixing something.

Another try at the tech support scam

She was from Microsoft, or so she said. The Windows Support Service. And my computer was reporting that there was something wrong.

"Oh dear," I said, "what should I do?"

"Is your computer switched on?" She asked. "No". "Switch it on then. " "It's upstairs."

And the game was on. We started off by playing "upstairs, downstairs." In this game, I'm pretending that my computer is upstairs, my phone is downstairs, and never the twain shall meet. Once she'd understood this, she asked her supervisor for advice -  he told her to continue. So she gave me a whole list of instructions, which would have downloaded and installed Teamviewer, got an id and password, and give them control of my computer. I said I'd do that.

I let her wait for five minutes, then got back to her. "What do I do after I press the Windows key?"

She must have realised that I wasn't capable of following a whole list of instructions, so she dropped into step-by-step mode, as per her script. And each step took me five minutes, what with running upstairs to the computer and then downstairs to the phone. Eventually, we had Teamviewer installed and run, Well, not really. I was making all this up. But I do know what a Teamviewer ID and password looks like, it's nine digits and four digits. I gave her a made-up id and password, and she handed me over to a techie, Sam McKenzie.

Sam must have tried those, and found they didn't work. So his next plan was to send a techie to visit me, for the really amazingly low price of £20. You can't even get a plumber's assistant's assistant to come out for less than £100, so what a bargain. And he asked for my credit card number. "I usually pay by cheque"

He ignored that, and said "Visa or Mastercard?" and after a few more interchanges like this, I said "Sam, you're not listening. I don't have a credit card. Can I pay by Postal order or cheque?"

So he asked my address. He already knew my post code, so I told him that he had that wrong, and gave him the details of a recent spammer. Then he told me the address of a nearby Western Union outlet, "Global Home Service". And that I should send £120 to "Lalit Sharma, India". The £120 was because it was cash, but the technician, when he visited me, would refund the extra £100. I thought that was a nice detail.

So I phoned the  nearby Western Union outlet, but no-one was there. And then I phoned Western Union and reported the fraud. They said they'd put a block on that name.

Job done.

 ... later ...

Sam called me back. I told him that the phone number he gave me for the Western Union outlet, no-one answered. He said, "You dn't need to phone them, just go there." I explained, "There's no point in going there if there's no-one there," Eventually, he saw my point, and gave me another address, a few doors down from the forst one, and the phone number 0800 833 833. I happen to know (see above) that this isn't " Best End Quality Ltd", it's Western Union. But I didn't tell him that ... yet. He said he'd call me back in five monutes.

... later ...

Oops! He forgot to block his phone number. It's 001 630 582 0473 - I googled it, and it's a known scammer.

He called me back. I told him that the first office weren't answering the phone, maybe they're closed? He asked me what time it is there. Oops! I told him, same time as it is where you are, you said you're in the UK. Actually, he hadn't, but I didn't think he'd be keeping careful track of what lies he's told. And then I told him that the second phone number was Western Union head office.

He reassured me that they'd be open, and I didn't need to phone. I said I'd go there. He'll call me back in 30 minutes.

Muddy in Finedon

Today I went to Finedon and got muddy. Very muddy. Most of the mud in Cambridgeshire accompanied me home.

I did the circuit "Fruit and nut series" and I was able to find all of them, plus some extras while I was out. But I very nearly got caught short, twice. Once was my PDA - I was down to 5% charge when I got back to the car (but I did have a spare with me). The other was battery. The series was 31 caches, about 10 miles, so I should be able to do that with two batteries. So I took three. And three was only just enough, because I did quite a lot of extra caches.

41 caches found, and a few DNFs. And some swans. They were sitting where I wanted to go, and totally ignored me dinging my bell.

So I, very slowly, walked the bike through them.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I speak your wait

The new monitor arrived. Well, pre-owned. It has "Property of Halesowen College" on a sticker on the back. I'm pretty sure that's not true; I'm pretty sure I'm the legal owner. Maybe I should contact Halesowen College to see if they've had a theft recently? Surely not; I got it from a reputable vendor. It's 1280 by 1024, which is a modest resolution, and it's 17 inches diagonal. But for £25, it's very good.

I connected it up to the pi, and it all worked straight off displaying the framebuffer, which surprised me, because the resolution of the monitor I had there before was somewhat less. Something adjusted itself somehow. I'm not complaining. It's including my refreshing display of outside temperature, time and the number of alerts on my monitoring system. But I've added something new - Muriel. Muriel speaks when there's more than 100 alerts, and she sounds good. I'm using Google Translate's text-to-speech thing.

mpg123 -q "$alerts%20alerts"

There's a choice of accents; for US, use en_us. For British, use en_gb and for Australian, use en_au. I could also have French, German, Italian and I don't know how many others.

Unlike most speech synthesisers, Muriel doesn't sound like a robot. But her inflections aren't quite right. Never mind, it's a very good attempt, and I guess they'll improve it.

Dart charge 30 Nov

This cryptic message has been on display on the M25 for some days now. I've been ignoring it, as one does the "don't read distracting messages" message they (don't) put up. But I just googled it, and it turns out to be important.

Going over the QE2 bridge (always a pleasure) or through the Dartford Tunnel (I remember when the tunnel went both ways) used to cost £1.50, although it then went up to £2. Now it'll cost £2.50, but you can't pay at the barrier. They're abolishing the barrier. Instead, you have to prepay (or postpay) online.

Maybe this will save a minute or two as we cross. It should save TfL quite a lot in the cost of collecting the toll.

You can also sign up for a pre-paid account - if you do, then you can just forget the whole thing, it'll cost you £1.67 per crossing. That's what I've done, and I've registered three cars under one account.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Three more disasters

I exaggerate. More minor niggles than disasters.

Today, I did two rings in Cambridgeshire. I like caching on the bike in Cambridgeshire; the farming is mostly arable, so there's no animals in the fields, which means .... NO STILES!!!

It was cold, though. I put on three sweaters and my furry gloves for the first time this year, so I wasn't cold. When I have lots of layers on, I stay warm, provided I don't get wet, either from rain or from falling in the water.

The first niggle happened before I set out. I noticed that my bike rack is broken. Aluminium isn't as good for this sort of thing as steel, because where steel would bend a bit, aluminium breaks. I don't carry a spare rack in the car, but looking at it and wiggling it a bit, I decided that it would probably last the day, and I was right.

The second niggle was with the bike's on-off button. That's clamped to the handlebars (it also controls what's shown on the display), And the clamp broke as I was switching it on. I'll repair that with duct tape.

The third problem happened as I was finishing the second loop. The touch screen of my Loox PDA stopped responding to touches. I didn't have my spare PDA with me (a mistake I'll try not to make in future) so I had to finish the day using my iPhone, which isn't nearly as good for this purpose.

However. I didn't fall off the bike, I didn't fall into any water and it didn't rain. So, a good day out, with 51 caches found and no DNFs.

While I was out, I saw this very splended display - look at the size of her onions!

Christmas comes earlier each year.

Don't you just hate it when they change the name of a road so for the rest of your life you can't remember the name?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sharing a printer

I recently set up a Windows XP box, for a particular purpose, and I want to be able to print from it. I already have a Windows 7 box with a couple of printers connected via USB mostly used for playing Civilization (sic)). You'd think it would be easy to share a printer between Windows machines.

The problem is that one is Windows 7, the other is XP. 7 wants to use Homegroups, XP wants to use Workgroups. I think these are two different things, but I'm not a Windows expert.

So I spent about an hour messing with this, and still failed to get either one working. Then I had a flash of inspiration.

I also have a Linux box with a printer. It took me about a minute to get the XP box to recognise, and use, that printer.

New tire, new brakes

While getting the bike ready for tomorrow's outing, I noticed this:

You can see the two cracks in the tire; the one on the left is so bad you can see under the rubber. I thought, this isn't too bad, it'll hold. And then I thought, I don't want to be ten miles from the car when this goes toes-up, and although I carry a spare inner tube in my bike toolkit, I don't carry a spare tire (but I do have one in the car). I get these good quality Kevlar-reinforced tires for about £13, and I have a couple in stock, so I put one on.

Also, I've been finding that the back brake is a bit reluctant to stop me. Looking at it, I saw this:

You can see it's worn down nearly to the metal. I don't go very fast; 10 mph is about my speed, because I'm going over rough ground, but even so, it's not good if you can't stop. Although I do have front brakes also. But new brake pads set me back about £1, so I fitted replacements.

And now I'm ready for a day's biking around Steeple Morden.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Looking at pictures of Nigel, I find it hard to find him appealing.

Would you want a prime minister who made faces like that?

But then I thought of Ed.

And Dave.

But we shouldn't vote based on the appearance of the candidates. We should vote on the basis of their promises.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Three disappointments

Today, I went to Ware, to do the Ware Wander, a series of 48 caches, with another 20 along the route. I thought I'd need three battery packs, so I loaded up with four, using two saddlebags, which was just as well because I rode about 20 miles, and I did need all four. And a head torch, because I thought I'd be caching in the dark. And a spare PDA, and all the usual equipment.

I had planned to do this yesterday, but that plan got pre-empted by the cremation of my Aunt Betty, who was a significant aunt in my life. So I went out today instead.

Last night, I got an automated email; there was a new cache in the series, just published! So I stood a chance of getting "First to Find" on it. I'm not really big on FTF, but it's always nice to score one. And so I decided to take a different route, so I'd start the day as close as possible to the FTF.

The first disappointment was that although I got to it at 9:30, it had already been logged, so I got second to find, which isn't anything. Still, a cache is a cache.

The second disappointment came a couple of hours later, at about 12 pm. I take great precautions agains punctures; I use very thick inner tubes, which are therefore thorn-resistant. I use Kevlar tires, and I have a gel insert between the tire and the inner tube, so that any thorns that do penetrate the tire, don't get to the inner tube. With this system, I haven't had a puncture since I started using it. It means that my wheels are a lot heavier, but an electric bike is heavy anyway, because of the motor.

But this wasn't a puncture. The inner tube had worked its way around so that the valve, instead of sticking out at right angles to the rim, was at a sharp angle. And because of that, the rim cut into the valve, and suddenly I had no air in my back tire.

So I stopped, took off the saddle bags, turned the bike upside down, and got to work. I pulled the inner tube partly out, and soon saw the problem. I thought about repairing it with a patch, but I suspect that it wouldn't work, because patches work best when you have the pressure of the tube keeping it in place, and that wouldn't happen with the valve.

Fortunately, I carry a spare inner tube. It isn't one of those nice thick ones, because they take up a huge amount of space - it's a standard thin-walled tube. Enough, I hope, to get me home. So I got my toolkit out, took the back wheel off, removed the duff inner tube, put in the replacement, pumped it up, and it held. So I replaced the back wheel, pumped the tire up fully, and was able to spend the rest of the day biking round my route. It cost me about 30 minutes. And that's why I carry a substantial toolkit when I got out caching.

The third disappointment was when I did a multi. I gathered the information, and set off. Soon, I came to the bridge, under which the cache would be. So I started to get down under the bridge, to find it. But the ground was steep and the ground was muddy, and you can probably guess what happened next. Splash! I was in the river and wet up to my knees, including two bootfulls of water.

And I couldn't find the cache - possibly it isn't there.

As soon as I found somewhere dry to sit down, I took off my boots and poured half a pint of water out of each, wrung out my socks, and put the socks and boots back on. I still had wet feet, but al least I wasn't walking in a pint of water. Squish squish squish.

I did a total of 68 caches today, so it was a good day out altogether. Here's a nice thing I saw along the way:

It's a pump, and if you turn the handle (which I did) it actually works.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My new 100 megabit link

I just got an email - they're talking about 02/02/2015 as the installation date, although they'll do it sooner if they can, or later if they have to. The really good news, is that they don't seem to be asking me to pay for the install. I was concerned that I might have to cough up some dosh, because they have to run the fiber from quite a distance away, then from the street into the building. But we found the existing conduit into the building, and they can almost certainly use that for the last part, and I guess they've solved the problem of getting it down the street - there is a conduit for it, but it's pretty old, and the BT engineer was worried that it could be blocked.

So - good news!

iTunes user interface

I wanted to put the geocache data on to ladysolly's new iPhone 6. iTunes wouldn't recognise her iPhone, so I thought, first step, update to the latest iTunes, which is version But when I did that, I found that not only have Apple changed the user interface, they've made it really difficult to find where to go to copy data for apps onto the iPhone.

I use Gsak for keeping track of my cache data. Actually, I use several copies of Gsak on three computers; that spreads the processing load. So, from Gsak, I output a GPX file of all the caches not found by me within 120 kilometers. But that's 41,000 caches, and Memory Map can't handle that many on the Loox, so I divide it into four quadrants; NE, NW, SE and SW. I notice Star Trek uses the word "quadrant", where what they actually mean is "region".

I have a program that reads that GPX file, and spits out:

1. TomTom "Favourite places" so that when I'm using the satnav, caches show up as I'm driving along, and I can use it to navigate to them. Different kinds of caches have different coloured icons.

2. GPX files (in four quadrants) for Memory Map on the iPhone.

3. Geosphere data files (divided into 16 regions) for the iPhone (because Geosphere can't handle more than 8000 caches at once).

4. HTML files with the cache page, hint and last 25 logs of each cache. But I don't want 41,000 files, because the FAT file system gets very sluggish when a directory has that many files. So they're grouped by the first two or three letters of the cache code. So one HTML file might cover 41d00 up to 41dzz. So there's only 4500 files, covering the 41,000 caches.

5. CSV files for Memory Map on the Loox and the PC; again,different kinds of caches have different coloured icons; a cache whose most recent log isn't a find has the icon upside-down, and micros have the icon backwards.  I use the PC for planning the day out (because it's got a lovely big screen) and the Loox for caching on the trail (because I don't want to carry a PC as I walk around). The iPhone is an emergency backup. But on a long route, like I'm planning tomorrow, I take a second Loox.

I have used the iPhone, when water got into my Loox and made it temporarily dead. It is possible to use the iPhone for caching, but the Loox is much, much better.

So, as part of all this, I need to copy Memory Map and Geosphere files to the iPhone. With iTunes 10, it was pretty obvious how to do this; you click on iPhone ... apps  and then it's easy. With iTunes 12, you click on a tiny rectangular icon which turns out to be "iPhone", and I had terrible trouble finding it. There doesn't seem to be a menu equivalent. Until you find that icon (which doesn't look to me like an iPhone) ... you're stuffed.

Thanks, Apple.

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Claim under warranty

Often, when a drive fails, I check and it's still within warranty (I use quite a lot of drives). So I send it back to Seagate for warranty replacement. If it isn't withing warranty, I give it a low level reformat and give it away in a geocache.

In the last couple of years, I've been finding that they often replace with a "remanufactured" drive. Whatever that means. Could it mean the replaced the innards of the drive? Or could it mean that they just gave it a format and hoped for the best?

I'm finding that these "remanufactured" drives are even lower qquality than the usual Seagate drives. I just had another one fail, and it was still within it's warranty. So, back it goes.

I'm not buying any more Seagate 3tb drives. They rank with the Maxtor 160gbs, pretty low down.

Microsoft's Certified Professional

Some qualifications (such as Watermanship Two) are good to have; in this case, it means you can swim somewhat.


When a five year old passes the exam for "Microsoft Certified Professional", then that tells you two things.

A) The kid must be pretty bright.

B) I wouldn't let someone with the "Microsoft Certified Professional" qualification anywhere near my network. Unless they had something a lot more substantial.

Saturday, 15 November 2014


I was out today with ladysolly, doing the Ridge Top Ramble, which included some very steep descends and climbs, and some very soggy terrain. The highlight of the day happened when I heard a sudden scream from behind me, followed by a splash, or more precisely, a spludge.

Some electrified fence had come off its posts and was tangled all over the ground. I saw it, and avoided it, but ladysolly didn't, got her feet caught up in it, and toppled over, face first, into the soggy ground. It was so soft and wet that she didn't get hurt, but she did get a faceful of mud, and spent the next several minutes spitting it out again. Here's what she looked like:

As you can see, her trousers and jumper were soaked and muddy. We headed straight for the car - we'd nearly finished anyway - but by the time we got there, the wet had wicked into her socks, so she had wet feet. Also wet t-shirt, panties ... you get the idea.

I know, I should have taken a picture when she was face-down in the mud, but I didn't have the heart. Or courage.

After a quick bath when we got home, she's fine.

26 caches done, no DNFs.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

New alerter

While I was rummaging around the cheaper end of Ebay (as one does), I found a 1280 by 1024 LCD monitor for only £25. And it does HDMI!

I thought about the little three inch screen I currently have my alerts on, and I thought, this is what I need.

It arrived today, and I have it in action now.

To use it, I set the framebuffer


And the HDMI mode

The information displayed comes from my external temperature sensor, my mail server, and the Pi's clock.

I'm using Imagemagick to create the bmp file with the information, Then I convert that to a framebuffer format using ffmpeg. I have no idea why I needed to do that, but I couldn't see how to make Imagemagick create framebuffer formats. Then I copy the file to /dev/fb0.


The alerts thing goes yellow if it's looking bad, and red if it's very bad. Red means that a server is definitely playing up, and needs to be checked out.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sixty six

I did 66 caches today, not counting one DNF. The DNF was one that I've DNFed before. But it was missing then. I wonder if it's missing now?

I did three circuits; Barnack and Back, Etton and Back and Frognall and Back. Doing the last circuit, I was on the home stretch, it was dark (but I have a good head torch) and I crossed a bridge that led to a track across a muddy field. I bottled out. My experience of such a track, is that you can get so badly bogged down that you practically have to carry the bike, which at 80 pounds is no easy matter. I only missed out one cache by doing this; the other two along that track were multis, and I guessed (correctly) the answers and found the caches, which were nowhere near the muddy field.

So, a good day out, which ended just as it was about to start raining, and which netted a most appropriate number of finds!

Monday, 10 November 2014


November 7 is the birthday of daughter.2, and the 11th is mine. So yesterday, we had a joint celebration, with daughter.1, other halves and grandson.1.

We went to a French-style restaurant. Well, the menu was in french, the food was frechified and the waiter had a french accent. It wasn't expensive. Quite cheap, actually, about £200 for seven of us. But the quality matched the price.

Afterwards, we went back to daughter.1's for lounging around followed by dinner. We got a takeaway from a local Indian, but they forgot to include three of the items we ordered (and paid for). Fortunately, there was enough even so.

A nice day out.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Wakerley Great Wood

Last week, the Halloween Mega was held in Wakerley Great Wood. I didn't go to that, because I'm a bit too old to get a thrill out of skeletons and vampires, and I'm not too keen on caching in a huge group. So I went there today.

Caching on a bike in a forest can be very nice, if the tracks are good, or very iffy if the tracks are muddy and squishy. Wakerley Great Wood was half and half. But the big problem I had, was that they've taken all the scary-fun caches out (so they can use them again next year) and replaced them with micros. And the hints are often left as they were. Which leaves me looking for a micro in a forest, without a hint. Or with a hint that applies to the original cache.

Forests aren't good for GPSes. The tall trees bounce the signal around, and accuracy is badly affected.  There's about 50 caches there, and I had hoped to get all 50. But I only got about half.

At about 2pm, I got back to the car for lunch and a battery change. This little fellow invited himself to join me.

He came right up to the car, obviously begging. I held out for several minutes, but eventually I gave him a crumb of bread, which he happily ate. Then asked for more.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


This morning, the BT engineer arrived for the site survey. I'm planning to get a 100 megabit link installed, which means fibre. I already have a 2 mb link, and there's a conduit from the nearest telephone pole to the house carrying the copper for this. The plan is, to run the fibre through that same conduit, so we won't have to dig up the garden.

It took us a long time to work out where that conduit came into the house, but we found it eventually. Quite a lot of dismantling was necessary to be sure we'd found it. When ladysolly got back from the morning's bridge, she said "I could have told you where it was." It hadn't ocurred to me that she might know!

So it looks like the route from the road to inside the house will be fine, but the BT man wasn't sure about running from the nearest exchange with fibre, along the road. There is a conduit, but it's quite old, and if it's blocked anywhere along the way, then we have a problem. The cost of putting in a new conduit would be quite heavy. I'd probably be expected to carry a lot of that.

I did suggest that the cost might be shared because they would then be able to offer fibre broadband to the other people along the road, but I think I was talking to the wrong person for that idea.

We'll see what he says about the existing conduit.

Wheep wheep wheep

Something was going "wheep wheep wheep". It was starting to annoy me. I checked the phone - not off the hook. Then I realised, it was tania, the computer I use for having loads of terminals open to various servers. Tania was telling me "I'm overheating".

So I powered it down, and opened it up. There's four fans, One is in the power supply, that was fine. One was at the back of the case, that was fine. One was in the front of the case, and that was too stiff to turn. And one was blowing cold air onto the CPU, or rather it wasn't, because that was only just about managing to turn slowly. And it was the last one that was probably the reason for the wheeping.

I got out my several boxes of spare fans, and replaced the two faulty ones. Those were my last two 60 by 60 by 15 mm fans, so I went on to Ebay and ordered several more for stock. I powered tania up and put it back into service, and there's no wheeping now.

In a computer, the cpu fan is the component most likely to fail and stop the computer from working. It's a mechanical thing, and they wear out after some years of service. They're very cheap (I just paid £0.99 for these fans) and I expect they're built to the price.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Andover again

Back to Andover today. First I did a ring of about 32 caches, the LWL series. While I was doing the second one, a man with a dog came up, "I know what you're doing", said he. And so it was that I met one of the local geocachers.

After finishing that ring (with a few extras) I got back to the car for lunch, battery changes, and then to Andover town to see what I could find there. I had a few DNFs there, but completed 48 caches today.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


I like metric. I cache in kilometers and meters. I had a debate with Jeff Bones, he prefers Imperial, feet and miles, he said it's easier to think in feet and miles. So I asked him how many meters there are in a kilometer. He said 1000, because it's easy. Then I asked him how many feet in a mile, and he didn't know. I suspect most people wouldn't know unless they looked it up, or had a long think.

So I'm in favour of metrication. The problem is, we're making such a dogs dinner out of it. The UK speed limit is still in miles per hour, and almost all signposts are in miles. Except some which tell you "Give way in 180 meters", which is probably a "translation" of 200 yards.

Milk is in litres, beer is in pints. People's weight is in stones and pounds, potatoes are in kilos.
And the whole mess is summed up by this notice:

This was in the bathroom of my hotel. Metric litres of water, imperial tons of washing powder. Why not "millions of litres of water, millions of kilograms of washng powder"?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Bournemouth bridge bash

We arrived at 5ish, upacked, and went to the pre-bridge drinkies, then on to dinner. After dinner, ladysolly went for her first bridge session, and I went out for a few hours caching.

My favourite was a water-pouring cache. It took me a while to find, then I spotted a pipe nailed to a fence post, two holes in the bottom to let the water out. I carry a couple of liters of water in the car for just such a cache. Finger and thumb over the holes, and I poured the water in. the cache should have bobbed up to the top. But it didn't. So I gave it a good prodding with a stick sourced locally and tried again. It worked on the third attempt, and on the fourth attempt, I managed to grab he cache. And when I took my fingers off the holes, I was able to evade to resulting jet of water

32 caches done.

On the Saturday, I got up at 7am, wandered down to breakfast at 7:30 only to be told that it didn't start until 8. I mentally translated that to "8am maybe" and decided to go out caching without waiting. In the course of the day, I visited Tolpuddle, where the Tolpuddle Martyrs have a museum, and Shaftesbury, where I got my lunch at the local Asda,

I did 110 caches (plus a couple of DNFs), which is a new high for me.I got back to the hotel at 9:30 - ladysolly was deep in a bridge game.

Two lessons learned - my favourite headtorch only lasts for a few hours, so in future, I'll be sure to carry a spare battery. And my gps blutooth lasts for about 11 hours (it used to last for 13).