Saturday, 30 April 2016

High cpu usage on named

I noticed that a Raspberry Pi that I use as my local nameserver was hitting 99% cpu usage, and that's not right.

But first, what's this about a "local nameserver"?

From the outside, you access my servers using an IP address in the usual way - for example, this blog is at But there's a limited number of such addresses, so I don't want to use my allocation except where I have to. Otherwise, I can use an IP address that starts with 10, such as There's 16.7 million addresses that I, or anyone else, can use. But the reason that anyone can use them, is that they're only valid within my network - if someone from outside wants to access a server with an IP address that starts with 10 ... they can't. Tough.

So my firewall does "Network address translation" (NAT), and so when you access an IP address like, my firewall translates that to an address like, and everything works fine.

So the upshot is, I have a couple of dozen servers that can be accessed from the outside world, and a couple of hundred that can't because they're on 10.something IP addresses and I haven't set up NAT for them.

So I need a DNS server to translate names like "bunny" to IP addresses like, and that's what I call my local nameserver.

It runs on a Raspberry Pi, because they're very cheap to run - cheap to buy, and low electricity consumption. And it was working fine, but I didn't like the cpu usage. So I did a bit of googling, and found the answer.

The configuration files are in /etc/bind, and in named.conf.options you'll find

managed-keys-directory "/var/named/dynamic";

And the problem is, that directory doesn't exist, and wasn't created when I installed bind.
The fix was to change that to

managed-keys-directory "/etc/bind/dynamic";

and to create the directory /etc/bind/dynamic, and to give it mode 777.

Order, order

If you want to know what's going on in this sceptered isle, read this web site.

It's written by "Guido Fawkes". His real name is a matter of public record, Paul Staines. He's based in Ireland, and his server is in the USA. That gives him the advantage of being outside the range of injunctions against publishing information in England and Wales, which means you get to read stuff that you might not otherwise find.

He's also the journalist that broke the Naz Shah antisemitism news, but that isn't his first scalp - Peter Hain (resigned), Damian McBride (resigned) are two previous outings.

The order-order web site is on my list for frequent visits.

48 volt motor

I've ordered the new motor from Xiongda. It was ordered on 21 April, dispatched immediately, and by the 30 April it was in Slough. Maybe it'll be delivered today, but I'm not in a big hurry for it, because the Panda wheel is working fine.

The advantage of this motor, is that I asked for it to be built for torque, rather than speed. I'm not often whizzing down a long tarmac road, I'm mostly bumping up a rough incline.

But today I suddenly realised that the motor would need to be built into a wheel. I have a suitable rim (when I bought the rim for my old motor, I bought a pair), but I'm spokeless (unless I reuse the spokes from the wheel that doesn't work, which I don't want to do, because I might be able to fix it. So I went back to my previous spoke supplier, Tiller Cycles, and ordered 36 13/14g Sapim Strong, 213 mm long, for £31. I want the "Strong" because I'm a bit tubby, and I ride over some very rough ground. They should arrive in a few days.

When all this arrives, I need to build the wheel. I could have it done professionally for about £25, but then I'd miss all the fun. The best reference for this (and for all things bicycle) is Sheldon Brown whose guidance I use every time.

The most difficult part is truing the wheel; the idea is that when it rotates, there's no wobble. Truing can take a long time, but once it's done, it shouldn't need future work.
There's also the matter of getting the tension right. You could spend hundreds of pounds on a tensiometer,  but I do it by plucking the spoke and listening to the pitch. I'm aiming for D# above middle C. You can get other notes on youtube by searching for, for example, "C# for instrument tuning". 

Friday, 29 April 2016

How to change your domain name registrar

First, why would you want to do that? In my case, it was cost. Network Solutions wanted $25 per year for a renewal; Godaddy is about half that. So what follows, is - How to chenge your registrar from Network Solutions to GoDaddy. Other transfers would be similar.

Why was I with Network Solutions in the first place? Well, in 1996, when I set this stuff up, Godaddy didn't exist, Network Solutions was the only registrar I knew about, and setting it up involved and extremely complex and hair-raising exchange of carefully formatted emails. Today, it's all done using their web sites, and it's all a lot easier.

Part one is a bit of a dance you do with Network Solutions, part 2 is another dance with GoDaddy.

First, I needed to go to Network Solutions to start the process. I logged in to their web site, went to "manage account". Under "My Domain Names", use the drop down menu to choose the domain name you're going to transfer, and click "Go". Then you need to change the "transfer lock" to "off". Then click on "request authorisation code"

At that point, they insulted me by offering a "special renewal rate". In my case, they offered £7.01 for a year. I thought about that for about one second, and then I thought, no, if you wanted to keep my business, you should have offered me that rate in the first place. I *really* dislike an organisation that behaves like this. So I continued with the request.

But I notice that they've changed the renewal price for my other domain names to £7.01. For 1 year, £7.01. For two years £53.28. Not nice.  I'll be moving those when renewal comes up.

Three days later, they sent me an email with the authorization code to do the transfer.

Next, go to the Godaddy web site. Log on, and buy a transfer to your domain name. You'll get a year for a very low price - I paid $8.17, about £5. They send you an email with two codes, so now you have three codes.

Now, go to the Godaddy home page, and log on. Next to Domains, click Manage. From the Domains menu, select Transfers. Select the domain name, and then click Restart Transfer. Then you give it the three codes that you've gathered, and that should be it.

The transfer can take up to seven days. I suppose it hasn't occurred to anyone that if they used computers and the internet, it could be done in seconds.

Godaddy are charging me $54.95 for 5 years - compare that with Network Solutions £53.28 for two years, and you can see why I changed registrars.

Note to self - remember to check that the DNS settings transferred.

Thursday, 28 April 2016


First off, full disclosure. I'm an atheist. But some people might regard me as jewish. I certainly do like Ashkenazi food, I go for Passover meals with my sister and with my sister-in-law and when I go to weddings and funerals, I wear a hat. So antisemitism interests me, and could affect me.

So is there antisemitism? Specifically, is there antisemitism in the UK?

I've encountered it twice. The first time was 30 years ago, and the antisemitism was clear and strong, from the person's own words. I was *really* surprised. It hadn't occured to me that the main reason he hated me was for that reason, but when his own words revealed his prejudice, I had to believe it.

The other time was pretty minor.

Of course, there could be others - people don't usually admit to it. It's deeply unfashionable. These days, any form of racism is a no-no. But the fact that I've only encountered major antisemitism once in 60 years, is a very good sign.

You can criticise the policies of a country, and if you don't like Israel's actions or policies, it's fine that you should say so. So, you can be anti-Israel - but you can't be anti-jewish.

Have you ever heard a dog whistle? No, because they're designed so that dogs can hear them, but the high frequency means that people can't. And there's a similar thing for people. In the Southern USA, you talk about being in favour of "states rights" which sounds fine and respectable, but people with the right sort of ears, hear that as being in favour of "segregation". The great thing about using dog whistles, is that you can claim you weren't being racist, while simultaneously appealing to racist people.

The antisemitic dog whistles are: Zionist, international banker, Zionist controlled media.
And it's sometimes difficult to tell, when someone is making an anti-Zionist speech, whether he's speaking against Israeli policies, or being antisemitic. Which, of course, is the whole point of dog whistles.

But sometimes, the whistle becomes very audible. So Livingstone said that "Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism - before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews." Well, Hitler certainly wanted a jew-free Germany. But I can't remember reading that he wanted them to emigrate to Israel - which, by the way, didn't exist then. In the 1930s, there was a country called Palestine, which was administered by the UK, and the UK wasn't allowing mass immigration of jews to there. Indeed, ships were turned away. And my recollection is of a Madagascar Plan, to relocate all European jews to Madagascar (a French colony, at the time), where they would be governed by the SS.

Anyway - Corbyn thought Livingstone was being antisemitic, and Livingstone is now suspended from the Labour Party.

And there's MP Naz Shah, recently supended from the Labour Party. In 2014, before she was elected, she made a Facebook post in which she suggested that the inhabitants of Israel should move to the USA, where they'd be welcome, and that this would solve the Middle East problems (which it wouldn't). It isn't clear if she was talking about voluntary or forced emigration (I don't see how it could be voluntary, because the six million people today living in Israel aren't forced to stay there). And when I look at what she posted, it looks to me as if she had her tongue at least partially in her cheek. So maybe she was just joking. Anyway, she's now made a statement in which she admits it was antisemitic and she's sorry. As a Labout spokeman said "We’re saying she’s made remarks that she doesn’t agree with." Um.

And Vicky Kirby, suspended for a second time after sending antisemitic tweets. Jews have "big noses", apparently, and Israel is behaving like Hitler.

And there's Khadim Hussain, a Labour Bradford councillor, suspended over antisemitism allegations.

So yes. There does seem to me to be too much going on in the Labour party that is either antisemitism, or at least close to it.

And then there's Malia Bouattia, president of the National Union of Students. She mentioned "mainstream Zionist-led media outlets", and I hear a dog whistle. And the University of Birmingham is a “Zionist outpost”. Dog whistle.

So that's all about the Left. What about antisemitism from the Right? Historically, that's where antisemitism was strongest - Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists being the most obvious. But it does look to me as if the modern Tory party isn't antisemitic, or at least if any individuals are, they don't show it.

And that's creates a bit of a problem for Labour. If they're perceived as antisemitic, they'll lose support from donors and voters. So, hopefully, Labour will fix any problems that they have.

And, by the way, what actually is Zionism? It's the belief that Israel has a right to exist.

Backup problems

While messing around doing some maintenance, I noticed that two of my many backups weren't working. Specifically, I have three major backups, 1) done on the 1st to the 10th of the month, 2) from the 11th to the 20th and 3) from the 21st to the end of the month. So that means, even if something catastrophic happens and that gets copied to my backup, I can always go back 10 days to the previous version.

I've never actually needed this, but it makes me sleep more soundly.

What I noticed, was that the drives for 2) and 3) were full. I have no idea why. So I set up replacements for those drives and repopulated them from the main server, and they wound up at 60% full, which is correct.

The moral of that story is, occasionally you should check that your backups really are working.

Today, I wanted to set up a back of a server called giggi running Fedora core 15. The current version is 23, but if a system is working, I'm reluctant to upgrade the operating system - sometimes, upgrading the OS can cause problems. I chose a server called nelly as the backup server. I started it up, and it was running Yarrow (core 1). Yarrow is a version of Fedora that came out in 2003. So I must have set this computer up 13 years ago, and I haven't used it since then!

When I started nelly up, it was working fine. I thought about upgrading it to core 23, but thought, no. Sometimes, I've found that really new versions of Fedora don't work on some really old motherboards. Why ask for trouble?

So I checked that it was working, and then tried to do a backup.

I like to use rsync. I used to use a perl program called mirror, and I also have a backup program that I wrote myself, but rsync is fast, flexible, comes with the linux distribution and probably doesn't have any bad bugs in it. So I tried to use rsync, to back up giggi to nelly. I got "error in rsync protocol data stream (code 12)". Which can be translated as "incomprehensible error (code random number)".

After googling a bit, I guessed that this is caused by incompatible versions of rsync. Which pushes me towards installing core 23 on nelly. But I don't really want to do that unless I have to, so I thought a bit.

My first thought, was to use the perl program called mirror, and I installed that, and it worked fine, so that's a possibility. Bu then I had another thought.

I nfs-mounted the relevant directories from giggi to nelly. Now it looks as if the directories that I want to back up, exist on nelly - except that, of course, they don't. But then I used rsync to copy the files from the nfs-mounted tree to nelly, and that worked, because to do this, the rsync on nelly is talking to the rsync on nelly, and they're compatible (duh).

And the moral of this story - there's more than one way to do it!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Can you hear me?

Sometimes I have trouble hearing what people say, especially Americans on TV. And ladysolly has always suggested that I might be either deaf or stupid. So, in an effort to find out which, I downloaded the Specsavers hearing app.

I put on earphones, and it played me some talking, while in the background, there was noise. There were three tests with different kinds of noise, and I had to adjust the slider until I could just hear the talking. It's a nice, easy-to-use app.

The outcome was that my hearing is "normal".

Now what I need is an "Are you stupid?" app.

This most excellent blog

I have a Raspberry pi that is set up as another mail server, although it's so low down in the pecking order, that it will only get used if an awful lot of things fail.

Today, I noticed that it's not on Summer Time yet. So how do you make a Raspberry aware of BST?

Google, of course. I googled "raspberry pi bst". The second result that Google showed, was my blog posting on "Summer time on the Raspberry Pi", posted three years ago.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

It wasn't supposed to snow today

But it did.

The day started off with great weather, but early in the afternoon, I saw white stuff coming down, and it wasn't apple blossom.

Start at the start. I went to Amesbury today, to do a nice big circuit there. I decided to start with number 50, because that meant I could wimp out at number 29 and get back to where I started, and it's just as well I did that, because I don't think I could have done the additional 20 caches.

I made my first sighting of lambs this year, that's always a pleasure.

I did 56 caches, two DNFs. My left wrist is still slightly painful from the strain, and my right thigh complained mightily by the end of the day. The bike performed very well.

A wannabe spammer

Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2016 11:07:18
From: " MR GODWIN EMEFIELEgodeme6"

Subject: GOOD NEWS,
   1 Shown   ~30 lines  Text (charset: X-UNKNOWN)
   2   OK    ~81 lines  Text (charset: ISO-8859-1)

****  Commercial use of this software is prohibited  ****
**** Please purchase a license to remove this notice ****

****  Commercial use of this software is prohibited  ****
**** Please purchase a license to remove this notice ****

Monday, 25 April 2016

In or out, part two

More on Brexit.

Back in 1975, we were given the opportunity to vote whether to join the EEC. I voted in.

Here's what convinced me.

Enoch Powell (a conservative MP - very conservative, famous for the "rivers of blood" speech) said that if we join the EEC, then the UK parliament is no longer sovereign. Meaning, that the UK parliament can no longer do whatever it wants. He meant that as an argument for staying out. But I very much like the idea of limiting the power of the people who want to rule my life. So I voted in.

Here we are again. In 2016, the Leavers are telling me that leaving the EU will increase freedom. We'll be able to control immigration, repeal the European Human Rights legislation, keep our own currency and our own parliament.

Well, that's just wrong.

In my previous post on the subject, I pointed out that in the top ten countries that we get immigrants from, only two are EU. The top two are India and Pakistan, and you'll notice that neither of those are in Europe. The third is Ireland, which is EU, but given the relationship between UK and Ireland, and given the unfenced land border, I can't really see any change there. So, leaving the EU will have almost no effect on immigration.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has nothing to do with the EU. In 1949, we helped to draft that, and in 1950 we signed up to it. The EEC didn't happen until 1957. If we leave the EU, we're still signed up to the ECHR.

We do, actually, right now, have our own currency. And our own parliament, although it seems that the Scottish tail is pretty effective at wagging the UK dog.

Any increase in freedom, will accrue to the Wankers of Westminster. And I can see why they find limits on their power irksome. Wouldn't it be great if they could do whatever they wanted, without limits?

Of course, we can rely on our free press to curb the power of parliament. Or can we? We can't even read about which celebrities had a threesome romp because of a legal injunction ... unless you read the media published in Scotland, Ireland or any other country. More importantly, the UK press ranks 38th in the "Reporters without Borders" list, just above Burkina Faso and well below Ghana. So don't rely on the press to blow any whistles that need blowing.

And, as we've seen in the past, there are whistles to blow. Remember the MP expenses scandal, and the Duck House. But the expenses scandal continues -  MPs want to self-regulate, which is like putting the fox in charge of the duck house.

In the USA, they have a written constitution. Even with all its flaws (don't get me started), it exists to curb the power of the US government. We don't have a written constitution, we have an amorphous mass of traditions and Acts. Starting with Magna Carta (of which only three clauses remain in force) and with the latest being a change that gives equality of sexes in succession to the crown (which affects me not at all). Except that the monarch can't be a Roman Catholic, because Guy Fawkes (not really because of Fawkes, but really the monarch can't be Roman Catholic).

So, I'm in favour of the EU limiting the freedoms of the Westminster Wankers.

So what about Brussels regulations affecting the size and content of the British Sausage?
Well, even if we left the EU, Europe is still going to be a major trading partner, because geography. And if our products don't conform to Brussels regulations, how will we export them? So when a manufacturer designs a product that is likely to be exported, it will be Brussels-friendly.

Notice that I'm not using any argument on economics here. Because the economic arguments are fuzzy, complicated and incomprehensible. They're incomprehensible because they're complicated and fuzzy, and you can marshal your statistics to tilt either way. Although, as I've noted before, larger economic units (such as the USA) tend to do better than if they were multiple small economic units. If the USA were 50 separate countries, none of them would be a superpower.

And how dare the US president tell us what the reaction of the US would be to Britain leaving! How can it be any of his business how the USA would feel about this! And why would we care how an important trading partner would react to Brexit?


So as you can see, I'm in favour of the EU.

Slightly unusual malware

From: Peyton <>
Subject: Non-Disclosure - Personal Details

Respected Madam,

As requested we attach our company the document with the personal info
alongside with the list of the transaction for the last six months. If you
require any additional assistance, do not hesitate to write us.

Find the document attached to this email.


So, there was no attachment. I'm supposed to go to the URL, and get the malware for myself (although I suspect that some mail clients might display this as an attachment). So, naturally, I did, and downloaded the rar file. I unrared it, which gave me a file I looked at it, and the first two characters are MZ (the initials of Mark Zbykowski, who designed the Dos exe format, not a lot of people know that), which means it's an exe file. So, clearly malware.

Of the 56 products that it was shown to, only one flagged it, as a trojan downloader. So that's what I'd call a 98% failure rate, a far cry from the 99% success rate that products tend to claim.

Something interesting at the end of the file:

<trustInfo xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v3">
        <requestedExecutionLevel level="asInvoker" uiAccess="false"></requestedExecutionLevel>

That's a chunk of xml, telling the application to run at the same security level as the user. I don't know why that's there; maybe it's an unflushed buffer.

Friday, 22 April 2016

How to program

There's probably more than one way. But let's start off with the three programming virtues - laziness, impatience and hubris.

Of these, the most important (in my opinion) is hubris. Until I've convinced myself that I'll be able to do it, I can't start. My worst example of this was the several months that it took me to convince myself that I could write a program to run on a PC, to emulate a PC. One day I'll explain why I needed that. Once I'd gingered myself up to do it, it only took me a week to write and about a day to debug.

So once you've braced yourself to the task, where to you start? For me, stage one is to design the data structure. Usually, I use a simple flat file, although I do have one scheme where I wrote a database that could handle 109951162777 records. The difficulty was that this is two to the power forty, so I couldn't use 32 bit integers.

I had to write software to handle 40 bit integers. To do the lookups, I indexed the data, then I indexed the indices, then I used the Berkeley DB to access the indexes of indexes. It all worked (and has done for the last 15 years) - anyway, the point is, the starting point was the data structure.

Then choose your programming language. The best language is the one that will make your program easiest to write (laziness), which often means looking for a library that does much of the job for you. I use Perl a lot, and Perl has a shedload of libraries - whatever it is you want to do, there's usually a library for it. And sometimes I use Perl to call a command line program. So, for example, I have a thing that monitors the number of alarms that my alerting system generates. When that's more than 100, I want it to start speaking to me, in case I hadn't noticed. To do that, I use espeak, a command line program that voices the message. It's a *lot* easier to use espeak, than it would be to write software to voice messages.

The next stage is twofold. There's the overall program, with difficult bits left for later (that's laziness). And then there's the difficult bits, which are often written separately and tested (impatience) before stuffing them into the main program.

Then debugging.

The thing there is to think about the tricky cases, the ones that are most likely to fail. And there's more of them that you first think. And more will turn up later.

But there's probably more than one way to program.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Boaty McBoatface

You've probably heard the saga, although ladysolly hadn't until I told her. I think she's too wrapped up in bridge.

So in case you're also too wrapped up in the devil's pasteboards, I'll give you a summary.

We built a research ship, at a cost of £200 million, and the Great British Public were polled to determine what the name should be.

Boaty McBoatface was overwhelmingly the most popular choice, a lot more than the next four put together.

"Oops", said our respected and respectable politicians. "Can't have that".

But why not?

We're British. We're known for our whimsy and eccentricity. A ship called Boaty McBoatface will attract *tons* of positive publicity, and I, for one, would be proud to serve aboard a ship of that name. Plus, why consult the public if you're going to ignore the popular choice?

But maybe ... Ed Vaizey, our minister of culture has stepped in, and has criticised the minister for science (Jo Johnson) for vetoing the splendid choice of Boaty McBoatface.

I really really hope that the voice of the people prevails.

Good left knee

The various knee supports haven't arrived yet, but the knee seems to have fixed itself! I was expecting months of pain, based on past experience, but it seems OK now.

Hurrah for the self-repairing human body.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Hurrah for rice!

I'm an atheist, but I'm gastronomically jewish. Ashkenazi jewish.

There's two kinds of jews. Well, there's probably twenty million types of jews, but one of the ways to categorise jews is, Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Ashkenazis originate from Russia, Poland, and that sort of area; Sephardis come from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East.

My sister, an Ashkenazi, married a Sephardi.

That's not a problem, of course. But there is a slight difference in culture and customs. This is most evident to me at passover. There may be differences in synagogue services, but since I never go to synagogue (except for weddings and suchlike), I wouldn't know.

The big difference at passover, is rice. Ashkenazis don't eat rice at passover, Sephardis do. And I've never really understood why this is.

Over the passover period (eight days, unless you're in Israel when it's seven days, and I've heard an explanation for that which doesn't make sense, but who ever said that religion has to make sense, and also outside Israel there's two Seder nights) you're not allowed to eat leavened bread. Leavened means that it's risen, usually because of yeast making carbon dioxide inside the bread, or else by using sodium bicarbonate, so the bread becomes fluffy. Leavened bread means, in practice, bread like you'd buy at a baker (or bread rolls, etc). Apparently, when the jews left Egypt in a hurry, there wasn't time for the dough to rise. So for eight days, we eat matzo, although if you're like me, you eat matzo all year round, because I like matzo, it's crunchy, which I like, unlike bread, which is soft.

There's five grains covered by this ban. Wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. You'll have noticed that rice isn't in this list.

So when I go to Seder at my wife's brother's house, they're Ashkenazi, so the main meal is chicken soup (of course), chopped liver (of course), roast chicken, roast potatoes, runner beans, maybe brussels, and we all get greatly stuffed and the service after the meal is heavily curtailed.

But when I go to Seder at my sister's house, they're Sephardi, so the main meal is chicken soup (of course), chopped liver (of course), roast chicken, roast potatoes, roast vegetables, curry things I don't know the name of, lamb things I don't remember the name of, stuffed vegetables I don't remember the name of ... and rice. A lot of rice. And we all get greatly stuffed and the service after the meal is heavily curtailed.

Well, some very good news has recently been announced. 

Rice is now kosher for pesach.

So this year, at last I'll be able to eat the rice at my sister's seder!

Just like I always have.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Blessing of the Bicycles

I only just found out about this. What a cool idea! I'd love to take part in this. But there's a big problem.

I don't know what religion my bike follows.

Is your data in the cloud?

First, let's explain what is meant by "the cloud". It means some computer, somewhere ... but not yours. Whenever someone says "the cloud", you should substitute the phrase "someone else's computer".

So what could be the problem in keeping your important stuff on someone else's computer? The problem is, you don't actually control it. You probably don't even know where, geographically, it is. And that can lead to ... issues.

For example, suppose your data is on a computer that, unknown to you, is shared by several other people. What, you thought you had the computer to yourself? No ... it's made to look that way, but your stuff is on the same physical hard drive as many other people. Otherwise it would all be prohibitively expensive.

Now imagine that the FBI decide that maybe one of the people on the same computer as you is a fraudster. Or terrorist. Or drug abuser. And they decide to seize that computer.

You're stuffed.

Or suppose that computer goes down, and it turns out that no-one has been making backups? You're stuffed.

And here's what happened recently. 

And here's one of the web sites that got deleted. And here's how it feels.

123-reg ran a script to automatically clean up their systems. But there was a mistake in the script, and a bunch of their customers had their data deleted. As of today, they're working with "multiple third party data recovery software" and "we are definitely seeing some results". Clearly, 123-reg don't think that having backups of their servers is part of their job. Or if they did think that, then their idea of backups isn't what I would call a backup.

Me - I'd rather rely on having backups that *I* control.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Left knee

Well, my left wrist has healed up fine, the splinter in my thumb is gone without a trace, but now I'm getting a problem with my left knee.

I should be able to run upstairs two at a time - my left knee is telling me that this facility is temporarily disabled. It also twinges (that's not a word that adequately describes the stab of pain) when I sit down or stand up.

I don't know what brought this on.


This will make it slightly awkward to get over stiles, or to get down low to search for a cache. Last time this happened, it cleared up after a few months.

Sunday, 17 April 2016


I had a tiny tiny splinter in my thumb, probably a thorn picked up while caching. It was so small, I couldn't see it, but I could feel it was there, and the skin for about a millimeter nearby, had turned white and started to hillock. That's the natural defences getting ready to eject the foreign material. But I didn't want to wait for that.

I have a *very* fine-nosed tweezers. They're so good at getting splinters out, that when I went to the "Small injuries unit" a few years back with a splinter under my middle fingernail (and I was too wimpy to try to get it out, because I'd be using my left hand), the nurse there preferred to use my tweezers over hers! By the way, I can thoroughly recomment going to a "Small injuries unit" for anything that needs dealing with rapidly that you can't do yourself. They're a lot less crowded than A&E, and if they don't think they can cope (so far, they always have with me), they'll tell you so. I went to the SIU a couple of year ago when I head-butted a tree, and the resulting scalp cut released floods of blood. I couldn't tell how bad it was, so I went to the SIU, the nurse there cleaned the wound, told me it wasn't too bad, gave my scalp a dab of glue, and sent me home. The white t-shirt I'd been wearing looked like it had just come from a butcher's shop.

So recently, I bought (from Ebay, of course) a jeweller's loupe. Actually a pair, in the form of spectacles, and with a 20x magnification, and led illumination. With the aid of this loupe, I could clearly see the tiny black dot in the middle of the white area. With the tweezers I pulled it out, and now I'm good!

You can find your nearest SIU using Google. Mine is at Mount Vernon, in Rickmansworth.

Saturday, 16 April 2016


33 years ago, a friend of ours, Mark Westley, had a camcorder. These weren't common back then. He used it to take some video of us and our kids (with a cameo role for Sooty the cat).

We lost touch ages ago, but recently, we discovered that he was the bridge partner of my cousin - my cousin has a different name to mine, so it wasn't obvious.

So via this link, I recently got my hands on an hour of video vintage 1983/4 (thanks Mark), on VHS tape, starring daughter.1 and daughter.2, with bit parts for me and ladysolly and a small role for Sooty.

Of course, no-one uses VHS these days.

So I fetched down an ancient VHS unit from the attic, plugged it in, and put a tape in. It played the tape, but then it wouldn't eject. But I'm not stupid - I'd used a VHS of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" for testing, so not a problem.

Then I tried another VHS unit, and that worked. But the video capture device I had (A VideOh! from Adaptec) wasn't going to work. A) it runs from the parallel port, B) it needs Windows 98 and C) I have no idea where the software might be, since I last used it 20 years ago. Not a problem, for £5 you can get a USB video capture device from Ebay, so I ordered that.

While I was waiting for it to come, ladysolly asked me why I didn't use the VCR in the spare room. I had a look at that, and not only was it a VCR, but also you could use it to copy a tape to the hard drive, or to a DVD that was internal to the unit.

So I set it up, output to a TV, and an auxiliary output to a three inch PAL monitor from another project, and to a pair of powered speakers. I read the manual, which is fairly complicated, and tried it out.

The first tape I used was "Three plays", put on by Chesham High School; daughter.1 was involved, but not on stage. So then I tried it out on "The Importance of Being Earnest", also put on by Chesham High School and videoed by me; daughter.1 was Gwendolyn. I copied that to the hard disk, and then to a DVD. I'm uploading that to YouTube now.

And then, the rare tape of our toddlers. This covers from the time when daughter.2 was several months, until she was a couple of years. Here's a screenshot.

Daughter.2 is the small one. You see the nest of tables in the background? I still have that, it's used in the computer room.

Here's daughter.1 with her car.

A year later, daughter.2 no the same car


I copied the video to the hard drive, so now I can make as many DVDs as is wanted from that.

After I made the DVD, I had a look at it. There's a list of files with named like VTS_01_1.VOB. And I found that I could play those files with VLC on my linux computer. Probably ladysolly's iPad will be able to play them too, if I can work out how to copy them to there.

There's lots more, the video is an hour long, but since it's really of interest only to the participants, I shan't post it here.

 ... later...

I copied it to my iPad (an Ipad 1, inherited from ladysolly, because I don't really have a use for an iPad) and it will play the video, but not the sound when I use OPLayerHD Lite. And I can't install VLC player because my IOS is too old. But there's not much sound anyway, and it'll probably work on ladysolly's iPad, which is the latest. And maybe my iPhone?

Friday, 15 April 2016

A trip to Hastings

Last time I went to Hastings, they burned their pier down in celebration, so this time, I didn't tell them I was coming.

I parked in the middle of town; my plan was to go south in the morning, working my way down to the sea front (I always like to see the sea), then go north in the afternoon. My plan didn't work.

I got the bike out, with my replacement wheel motor (I'd installed it and tested it on Wednesday), loaded it up and set off.

It all started to go wrong on the first cache. This was clever, but it took me a long time to find. Eventually, I found the loop of cord in the fence, and pulled it. Up rose a hand. Neat! So I did it a few more times, then wondered where the cache was. I used my mirror to look down behind the fence, and I could see the mechanism that worked the hand, but no sign of a log book container. As I was fiddling with it, a man appeared from over the fence.

I've seen the mechanism (via my mirror), there's no way that this could have been installed from the outside. Therefore, it must be in place with the knowledge and consent of the householder - maybe the cache owner was the householder? So I gave him a big grin. He didn't return the grin. "You're trespassing," he said (I wasn't, I was outside his property on a public place). "If you don't leave, I'm calling the police." I asked him if he was the householder (he said he was) and if he knew about the cache (he said he did). But he still wanted me gone. So I went. A DNF.

So I moved on. I did "Who killed Kenny", got the four pieces of information (some well hidden, including one where I was asked by a couple of policemen what I was doing (I told them it's a sort of treasure hunt), then went for the final. When I got to GZ, I saw the cache immediately, but didn't realise it. So I scrambled down a steep muddy slope, rummaged around for a while, gave up, saw the cache again on my way scrambling back up, realised that maybe this was the cache, looked, and there it was. Duh.

 I also tried two of the puzzles that I'd solved, and failed to find both of them.

Hastings, or at least the parts that I visited, is very hilly. All up and down, and flights of steps, which are not good when you're biking. Altogether, that morning I only just managed ten caches in four hours; I'd usually expect 20 and hope for 30.

I got back to the car at 3pm, had lunch, drank my coffee, replaced the bike battery, recharged my GPS battery, and set off again, this time to the north. Again, I DNFed the first one I tried, and the afternoon didn't improve from there.

I found a total of 20 caches, several DNFs, but I did enjoy the day out.

 ... update ...

It turns out that the man from over the fence, wasn't the householder, he was a neighbour. And he hadn't known about the cache. I suppose he was trying to be helpful, but if he hadn't wrongly claimed to be the householder, then I would have realised that he was just a helpful neighbour, and I would have explained to him about the cache. This shouldn't be a problem in future, because the cache owner has now told him about the cache.

Toilet tantrums

Various US states have passed, or tried to pass, or been defeated in trying to pass, "Bathroom privacy" laws. "Bathroom" is the coy US word for toilet.

The problem they're trying to solve, is that of trans people (men who have become women or vice versa) using a toilet of the wrong gender.

Me, I'm not bothered. The first time I encountered a female cleaner in a male toilet, I was mildly surprised, but it didn't worry me. Because what's the problem, actually?

But Americans being American, it seems to be a huge issue. On the one hand, there's the people who feel unsafe peeing while there's someone of a different gender nearby; on the other hand, there's people who feel unsafe peeing while there's someone of a different gender nearby, and yes, I know that's the same thing twice, but that's how it is. The root problem is that the same person can be considered to be one gender by some people, another gender by others.

I won't deny that privacy is useful in the toilet - I don't really want anyone else watching me while I take a dump, whatever their gender. It's undignified.

So I have two possible solutions for our American friends.

Solution one - the problem is that some people want to dump in places where only people of their chosen gender dump, and "male" and "female" isn't enough choice. Facebook allows you to choose one of 50 possible genders.

Cis Female
Cis Male
Cis Man
Cis Woman
Cisgender Female
Cisgender Male
Cisgender Man
Cisgender Woman
Female to Male
Gender Fluid
Gender Nonconforming
Gender Questioning
Gender Variant
Male to Female
Trans Female
Trans Male
Trans Man
Trans Person
Transexual Female
Transexual Male
Transexual Man
Transexual Person
Transexual Woman
Transgender Female
Transgender Person

So the answer, obviously, is to have 50 different bathrooms, each one clearly labelled (and please don't use some cute icon that most people won't understand, please use the correct words (that most people won't understand)).


Have one bathroom, each cubicle with floor-to-ceiling walls.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Major surgery on the bike

Last time I went out on the bike, I couldn't get low gear on the motor. I'm pretty sure that the problem is the clutch. I tried to open the motor to have a look, but I couldn't get it dismantled; I'm going to get a special tool that might help with this. Meanwhile ...

I contacted Panda. They sell various ebike kits, including a Xiongda dual speed motor kit (they call it a double speed motor, but that's a misnomer) for £225. That's a pretty good price. If you buy direct from the Chinese supplier Xiongda, you'll get a better price, but that's eaten up by the carriage costs, plus the motor isn't laced into a rim, so you'll need to buy a rim and spokes, lace it up and then balance and true it, and that, when I did it, took me many hours. The Panda rim looks good; it's a double-walled rim, that makes it stronger.

I paid them Monday evening, they dispatched the kit on Tuesday and it arrived Wednesday morning. I put my usual thick inner tube, gel insert and Kevlar tire on the wheel, and used it to replace the old wheel. I used the old controller, display, throttle and motor gear change switch, so it was very little work to do. Half an hour later, the bike was ready to roll, so I took it out on a couple of tests. One is a speed test on a fairly level road, the other is a hill climbing test nearby, and it works fine. Tomorrow, I'm taking it to Hastings for a day's caching.

I've also contacted Xiongda. I'm planning to buy a replacement motor from them, plus the tool for opening up the old motor. The new motor, will be built into the old wheel, and if I can fix the old motor, that might mean that I wind up with three working dual speed motors. I think they'll let me choose how the motor windings are done - there's a tradeoff here, you can get more speed with less torque, or more torque with less speed. Because of the way I use this bike, speed isn't important, but more torque would be very good.

Another invoice

Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:44:04
From: Sandra Hays <>Subject: Prompt response required! Past due inv. #WHK630082
Parts/Attachments:   2            59 KB     Application


I am showing that invoice WHK630082 is past due.  Can you tell me when this invoice is scheduled
for payment?

Thank you,

Sandra Hays

Accounts Receivable Department


The file extension says it's an rtf file. Actually, it isn't. But because of the extension, it will be loaded into Word, and from there ...

VirusTotal says that it first saw it 22 minutes ago. Seven out of 56 products flag it.

You have to feel sympathy for AV product vendors. How could they be expected to flag malware that only spread 22 minutes ago? It's not surprising that 90% of products don't spot the malware that arrives in my (and, I'd guess, your) inbox.

But at the same time, my sympathy is limited. Very limited. Because A) they're taking money for a product that isn't doing what buyers expect, and B) they could, actually, create a product that is actually useful (previous blog posts have explained how, and I even created a "demo product" that shows that it's possible to remove macros from emails with attached word documents.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Streisand effect.

In today's world, if you try to censor some information, then the effect is to disseminate it more widely.

Apparently, there's a sex scandal. Apparently, it involves three people, of which at least one is well known (a "celebrity"). And there's a court injunction, valid in England and Wales, that they cannot be named.

This, of course, gets us all interested, including me. I'm notoriously uninterested in the bedroom antics of celebrities. But when you tell me that I'm not allowed to know ... I want to know.

So I spent half a minute with Google, and found out.

Obviously I can't tell you who the celebrity is. But I can tell you that there's an injunction that prevents people in England and Wales from knowing this information, but not people in Scotland.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Romanian Vat Moss

A few days ago, I did my Vat return for the 27 EU countries that aren't the UK. I have to work out sales in each of these countries, and fill out a tedious form, in which I tell it my sales, and the Vat rate applicable. I get the Vat rate from their web site.

I made a mistake. I gave the Vat rate for Romania as 24%, and they changed it a couple of months ago to 20%.

You'd think that as part of the submission process, their form would pick up the Vat rate from their own web site, but it doesn't, I have to type it in. So I got it wrong.

My total sales to Romania are less than £10. But I had to redo the form, using the new Vat rate, and resubmit it. But, I already paid my Vat, being a conscientious citizen who doesn't use offshore funds to obfuscate my finances. So, it turns out that I've overpaid my Vat by exactly 25p.

My dastardly plan now, is to let them keep it. The amount of work I'd have to do to extract my 25p from the grasping clutches of HMRC just isn't worth it.

But I suspect that I won't be allowed to get away with this overpayment. I suspect they'll hound me to fill in several more forms so that I can be refunded my 25p.

We'll see.

Return to Bledlow

10 years ago, when ladysolly and I started caching, SimplyPaul's Ridgeway Run was one of the first series we did.

I went back there today, and revisited a number of places I remember. The caches today were mostly by Captain Jack.

I used my usual bike, with the dual-speed motor. But the clutch for the lower gear is slipping totally now, so I can only use it in high gear. The answer is going to be:

A) Buy another motor, and
B) Repair the old motor.

I already tried once to open it, but I couldn't get it apart. Now the stakes are higher, so I'll use a lot more force to dismantle it, because if I can't, then I can't use it. If I damage it trying to get it apart, then so be it.

26 caches done today, no DNFs.

Most importantly, I saw my first butterfly of the year. It was golden. That means it's going to be a good summer.

Monday, 4 April 2016

39368 in my spam trap

About a year ago, I set up a spam trap. It was very simple.

When you set up the DNS for your email, you make a list of MX (mail exchange) records. Normally, you'd have two, one for normal times, and a secondary on in case the first one is down , or overloaded, or otherwise unavailable. Exceptionally, you might have three.

I have seven.

You indicate which is the main one, and which are the secondaries, by giving them priorities in the DNS records. So, your main one might have priority 10, the secondary 20 and the tertiary 30. Or 100,200, 300. Or 1, 2, 3. That tells servers trying to get mail to you about your preferred order.

A while ago, I noticed that many spammers just don't care about the order.

When you do a "dig" to discover the list of mail servers, they are presented in a random order, and the remote server is supposed to use the priority number to decide which one to use.

Spammers don't do that. They just send the spam to the first one in the list.

So I set up a spam trap. As well as my primary, secondary and tertiary mail servers, I have several other mail servers, all with low priority, and all actually sending to the same server, under different aliases.

I set it up a year ago, and frankly, I forgot about it.

I looked at it today, and it had 39368 spams. So that's about 100 spams per day that I haven't needed to look at, or spam-filter.

I can see that a lot of them (most of them) have attachments, apparently invoices, remittance advices and suchlike. These are obviously email-borne malware. Some are invitations from girls, some are luxury watches.

All are now deleted at one command!

Friday, 1 April 2016


The Mississippi senate have just passed a law "The Religious Liberty Accomodation Act" which allows businesses the right to deny service based on religious or moral beliefs.


So if my religious beliefs say that people with dark skin, or red hair, or small noses, or eyes too close together ... or whatever you want to specify ... are haram, then I can refuse to sell then a can of beans?

We all know that Americans are crazy when it comes to religion, but we now see that Mississippians are batshit crazy.

And here's the craziest part. I'm not a christian, and I wouldn't claim to be an expert on christianity, but my understanding is that the "Golden Rule" is "Do unto others as you would have them to unto you." and that everything else is explanation of this.

So I would expect an avalanche of christians protesting against this law. And although there have been a few, I don't see the mass marches that I'd expect.

So if I were to ever visit Mississippi (which is highly unlikely), then businesses there could refuse to serve me on the grounds that I'm an atheist. Which means that I'd be foolish to visit. One more place crossed off my list of places to visit.

Maybe the Mississippi senate has repealed the Golden Rule?