Friday 31 August 2012

A Big Day Out

To Dorset, for 114 caches.

Paul arrived at 8:30, and we loaded up his car with everything we'd need. Traffic was good, and we arrived at Cranborne at about 11am. I loaded up my saddlebags with two extra bike batteries, four bottles of water, sandwiches, bike repair kit, spare GPS, spare PDA, head torches (I was expecting to finish this ring possibly after dark) and extra batteries for those. And off we went. On the way there, it rained pretty steadily, but by the time we got to the start point, the rain was over, and we didn't get any more rain that day. Of course, we both had waterproofs in my saddlebags, just in case.

The Cranborne Chase Circular is about 15 miles and 95 caches, plus two Church Micros, plus a couple more caches with a short diversion. It's nearly all on bridleways, that's why we did it on bikes.

I started out with battery #7, my newest one, but after only 8 km, it died, and nothing would persuade it to come back to life. Not a big problem, though, because the other two batteries were fine. When I got home, I recharged them all, but #7 still doesn't show life. The LEDs don't come on, and I get zero volts at the output (but after charging, a full 29 volts at the input). I suspect the problem is an internal fuse, but the battery is under warranty, and I don't want to open it up unless the vendor approves. I've explained to him about the problem.

Most of the caches were quick and easy, but number 22 involved climbing a tree, number 43 we didn't find (in common with many other people) and number 63 was another DNF, although everyone else had found it easy. It didn't help that there was a bee-keeper doing his stuff several yards away, and we were aware of a large cloud of bees nearby. Very nearby.

A man up a tree

We got to number 53 at 3pm, which got us to the only village on the route, Sixpenny Handley, which was a lot sooner than I'd expected. This was because the going was good, and we weren't having to lift the bikes over difficult barriers. That was too late for lunch, but we went to the Sixpenny Handley village shop and post office,  and bought some extra food there; Paul got ice cream and crisps, I bought a fruit cake, because fruit is so healthy. So I had fruit cake for lunch, and then we pressed on. 

Many more caches later, we were back at the car at about 7:30 pm, having done 96 caches and 2 DNFs. It was still quite light, so we had a short rest and more nosh, and went on to a short series nearby along a byway, "Walk in the countryside", except we didn't walk, we biked. The track started out well, but soon got mushy, with lots of big puddles. But we found all nine of the caches, giving a total of 106. And it was still only 8:30.

So I suggested another series nearby, the Royal Ramble in Boys Wood. What a contrast! The caches were all very clever and mostly very difficult to find. But we found them all except one, and we found the bonus, so another eight caches, for a day's total of 114.

And that's a personal best for me. Paul nearly fell asleep at the wheel on the way home, so we had to stop so he could have a short nap, which recharged him enough for us to get home.

A very good day out.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Predicting drive failure

Wouldn't it be nice if you could predict hard drive failures?

Well, maybe you can. There's a facility in modern (meaning, within the last several years) hard drives, that lets you interrogate them to see their condition. In Linux, that's the smartctl command.

smartctl -a /dev/sda

For Windows, you can probably find something if you use Google. Or go to

This give you a whole scary-looking table, but I think the important figure is Reallocated_Sector_Ct.

Drives have a number of spare sectors; when it decides that a sector has failed, or is about to fail, it pretends it isn't there and uses a spare sector instead. Reallocated_Sector_Ct tells you the number of times that's been done.

One of my servers has a failed drive, Reallocated_Sector_Ct = 3884. So that must be too many.
Worryingly, on the same server, there's two more drives with values of 1519 and 1746. That server is about to be removed from service and replaced with another newly built server (but using old drives) where all the Reallocated_Sector_Ct values are zero.

As usual, Wikipedia gives an excellent explanation of this

Weight report 17

16 stone 5 pounds. Still falling.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Three circuits and a trundle

Very early today, I visited my dentist; he's going to do something about my broken front tooth (it broke a couple of years ago). His first attempt was to build a fake tooth on a pin, but that keep coming loose, so he recommended that he does a bridge. This means, he makes a tooth, then ties it to the tooth next door. That sounds fairly painless, but he also wants to remove the old tooth root, and that's going to be seriously unfun. Still, needs must. Thank goodness for local anaesthetics.

So today, he took an impression of my dentition, so that the replacement tooth can be made. That wasn't a biggie, except that I have a strong gag reflex, and I had to concentrate to avoid triggering it. The whole process was over in five minutes, so I had the rest of the day to go out caching.

First, I did the last remaining circuit of the Geolympics Marathon; I now have completed all five rings. Along the way, I met a nice couple of cachers, and we found a couple of caches together, but because I was on the bike, I soon left them behind.

Back at the car I had lunch, which consists of one low-calorie sandwich, and two Tesco-prepared fruit boxes, which are low calorie, and delicious.

Then on to the second ring of the day, the Stonor Circular. The route looked very steep, so I decided to do it on foot. Then an additional group of three nearby, also done on foot. Here's the big house along the way.

Very nice.

And then a short intermission - the abandoned church at Bix Bottom, which, apparently, has been the location for horror films. I've done a cache here before, but that was archived, and there's a new one here now. I solved most of the puzzle, decided I could go without one of the numbers, parked near the church, and wandered around. I went into the church; some people say it's spooky, especially at night, but I'm an atheist, so ghosts don't affect me. After wandering around for a bit, I spotted something that fitted the hint, and there was the cache.

Then on to the Dunsden Dawdle; a 20-cache circuit which I did on the bike. And I finished off with a couple of drive-bys in Caversham. 52 caches, one DNF, and a very good day out.

Also, a couple of recent purchases arrived today. The first was a Fujitsu Loox, the same PDA that I use for caching. I got it for 99p (plus £3 P&P) from Ebay, and although the previous owner said it wasn't working because it was lacking a battery, I put in a battery and it's working perfectly!

The other thing that arrived was  ... yet more panniers. These cost £13.48 from Rutland Leisure Outlet, including P&P, and they look to be in the same class as the Altura panniers that would be about £45.

Monday 27 August 2012

Biking around Ashford

Ashford, Kent on Sunday. I wanted to do more urban, becuase my left knee is still somewhat bruised from the recent two falls.

I found a good place to park, and used that as my base. In the morning, I biked around for three hours, picking up 19 caches. Then in the afternoon, carrying full saddlebags, another 24, including some very nice caches.

In one of them, after I found the cache ( should have found it very quickly, but failed to quite spot it), I was told that the log was five feet away. More scrambling around ensued, before I eventually found the log in a *very* clever place.

Altogether, I found five caches that I noted as especially good; clearly they're good hiders around this area.
One was a fake "Footpath" yellow circle with the cache behind it; another was a *very* realistic fake branch. Another cache just gave me a picture of where I should stand, and where the cache was.

I can also recommend Ashford as a great place for biking; they have proper cycle lanes (not just 12 inches protected by a white line) and lots of them. Plus, no steep hills. I did 39 km there.

I haven't comletely cleared out Ashford, there's one I couldn't do, as the final location was closed on Sunday, there were a few DNFs (including one that would have given me the coords of a puzzle cache).

I had a late pass, so continued caching until dusk, then back along the M20 and M25, just in time to pick up a chinese curry for supper.

Saturday 25 August 2012

rfc 1149

I just published a new puzzle cache, difficulty 4.5, terrain 4.5. Just as I'd finished putting it in place, we got torrential rain. Fortunately, I was only a few yards from shelter.

I'm glad i wasn't out in the middle of nowhere when that downpour happened, it was an instant-soaking.

I'm planning an outing to Ashford, Kent tomorrow.

Friday 24 August 2012

Soaked in Southampton

Today I got rained on in the place where my sister did her degree.

Because I was still feeling cautious about my knee (see last blog), I wanted to go urban today. Less likelihood of falling off the bike, and also I'm not likely to be far from shelter should it rain.

And rain it did. And wet I got, although not as wet as I would have got if I'd been out in the middle of nowhere with no way to shelter.

And my Loox got wet too, and it decided to display everything in negative, before deciding to go completely dark. So I navigated back to the car with the iPhone, got the spare Loox, and continued.

One excellent cache involved stopping the bike next to a stream, crossing the stream (remember, my boots aren't waterproof) vis sort-of but-not-really stepping stones, and finding the cache thrust deep inside a hollow tree. Great fun.

After 19 caches in the morning, I got back to the car for lunch, relocated, waited till the rain stopped, and set off again. And not long after that, was when I had to make an unexpected return to the car to change Looxes and wait till the rain stopped.

The knee was fine - I had it braced with a neoprene knee support, and protected with a skater's knee-pad.

And today, my new rope ladder arrived. I can't wait to make use of it!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

A long day out in Billingshurst

SimplyPaul arrived at 8:30 for our day out in Billinghurst to the "Queen's Diamond Jubilee Walk", a series of some 74 caches. First, we had to replace one of the pedals on his new bike, the old one was faulty, and as we would be going 20 miles, I didn't want to chance using that.

I took my three best batteries, numbers 6, 7 and 2, expecting to probably only need 6 and 7, but in the event, used all three.  I also gave the first outing to the Altura saddlebags that came from my old bike, but which I'd thought were too posh to use on rough biking. We took two spare inner tubes (not needed) and sufficient tools to do most roadside repairs (not needed), and plenty of water (definitely needed).

We started the trek at about the 20th cache in the series, "1969" (they were numbered from 1952, of course). I did that so that we'd arrive at the pub in Codmore Hill at lunchtime.

We parked on the grass verge near the bridleway that led into the cache series, and I immediately had the first disaster. I was trying to avoid an overhanging bramble, managed to lose balance, and toppled over to my left; I got scrapes and scratches on my left arm, and I twisted my knee slightly. Paul got the bike off me (I think he should have been standing taking pictures, but he said he thought I needed a bit of help) and I got up, feeling slightly stupid. After I pulled the prickles out of my arm, we continued.

Things went well, and we got to the pub as per plan, at 1:30 (they close at 2). but the pub wasn't a pub any more, it was an Indian restaurant. That was fine by me, but Paul only eats chips. Never mind, we persuaded them to provide him with chips, and lunch was good. I had a chicken curry with rice, two pints of diet coke, and we refilled empty water bottles.

The weather forecast had been dry and overcast, but not long after this, we were standing under some trees signing logs, when it started to rain. Fortunately, it was only a short shower, and we stayed dry.

We carried on round, but the series was taking longer than I'd thought - I'd hoped that we could average 8 caches per hour, and get round in 9 hours before it got dark, but darkness fell while we still had a dozen or so caches to do. I think it was because we had a very large number of stiles to lift over, but I really could not have done 20 miles on foot. Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to carry head torches, so we used those, and I found that wearing a head torch under a biking helmet works fine. But torchlight isn't as good as daylight, and as we were biking along by the river, I skidded on a patch of mud and went over again, once more falling on my left. The good news is, I fell on something soft; the bad news is that this was a lush bank of nettles. My left side tingled like a bell for several hours afterwards, and even now, 20 hours later, I can feel it. I also slightly wrenched my left knee a bit more, and my knee started muttering about a divorce.

Paul lost his biro three times, and each time, he went back to find it. The last time, it was night time, he went back 500 meters while I sat and waited for him, and I can't help wondering if maybe he has the most valuable biro in the world?

One of the caches was an "earthcache", in which you have to answer various geographical or geological questions. I'm not a fan of this kind of cache, I feel that unless you find a container and sign a log, it isn't geocaching. And it was especially so in the dark, where we could barely see the things we were supposed to remark on.

We got back to the car at about 10:30. I'd used three batteries (B7 - 16.6 km, B6 - 12.7 km and B2 for the remaining 4 km, which gives me some idea of the battery lifetimes on rough ground) to cover 33 km, 20 miles. On the way back, we tried to join the M25 at junction 10, but the slip road was closed, so we had to go the wrong way round the M25 eastwards to junction 9 so that we could join the westbound M25 there. But the junction at 9 is complicated, we got it wrong, and we had to go all the way to junction 8 before we could get onto the M25 going west. As a result, we didn't get home until 1 am.

Here's an interesting sight I spotted along the way

But we didn't see any.

Two caches weren't there (it was clear in both cases where they ought to be) so we replaced them, for a total of 73 caches for me (75 for Paul, because along the way there were two I'd already done).

About half way through the day, my iPhone ran out of juice, and I hadn't been using it, or so I'd thought. I must have had something running that was continuously draining the battery, either the geocaching app or Memory Map.

I had a look at the Altura saddlebags, and they're worked fine, there's no sign of the wear that I was getting on the ETC bags. That's because they give a lot more clearance to the working parts of the bike. I also found that getting them off and on (needed whenever you have to lift over a stile) is very quick and easy.

Of course, Altura don't make those any more, they've changed to a somewhat different model. Isn't it so often like that - you find something that works perfectly for what you want, and the manufacturer moves on. It's the same for the Mio 550 and the Fujitsu Loox 720. But I can still bid for them on Ebay.

I also bought a couple of "army surplus" plain olive shoulder bags, just a bit bigger than a bike battery. They arrived today, I put a battery in each of them and hung them on the back rack using a tent peg.

To take them off, I just pull out the tent peg. They don't hang down much, so they won't foul the bike working parts, they were very cheap (£5 each), there's room for a couple of bottles of water in each apart from the battery and I'm very pleased with my home-made saddle bags.

A very good day out, the tingling on my left arm has almost stopped, and my left knee still hurts.

Weight report 16

16 stone, 6 pounds. Going well!

Monday 20 August 2012

Super-cheap, super-fast hard drive.

An 8gb 133-speed CF card costs £8. An CF to IDE adaptor is £1.30. Put them together and you have, in theory, an 8gb IDE hard drive for £10 which should be very fast, since it's actually just memory.

So I did exactly that, and tried to install Linux on it. After six attempts, I concluded that it just wasn't going to work. But as I sadly took things apart, I noticed that I could see through the IDE cable in places. So I replaced that, and then the install worked just fine! It was a duff cable. The system is using just over half the storage, leaving 2.7 gb for other stuff, although if I use this idea seriously, I'll be adding 3tb Sata drives for storage.

The best part of this is that wearing-out hard drives is one of the top three causes of computers going down, in my experience (the other two are cpu fan and power supply). It's actually a bit worse than that - if you have a system drive and a data storage drive, then you have a problem if either of the two drives goes down, so that doubles the probability.

How reliable are CF cards? I don't know, other than I've never had a problem with one. But theory tells me that they aren't mechanical, there's no moving parts to wear out.

CF cards to have a limited lifespan, but I don't know what it is. I think I'll be incorporating this adea in future system builds.

I am reminded of the first hard drive I ever bought. I got it from Pete and Pam, the full cost was £1000 (I got it for £650), it was 10 megabytes and it was so heavy (it came with its own power supply and a steel case) that by the time I got it home, my fingers were falling off. I'd guess it weighed 30 pounds or more.

The CF-based thing cost £10, is 800 times more capacious and weighs less than an ounce.

Compare that with cars.

My first car was a Morris Minor, cost £80, did 40 mpg at a top speed of 80mph, 40 years ago. My current car is a Freelander, cost £35,000, does 24 mpg if I'm lucky and has a top speed of 70 mph, because if I go any faster I'll get done.

Perfect panniers

The search for the perfect bike panniers continues. The ETC ones I'm using are good, but they're still getting chewed up at the base, and I've been reinforcing them with steel places and duck tape. That's not ideal.

So I did some extensive googling, and came up with:

1. An Avenir product which mostly goes on top of the back rack, but can be extended with a fold-out on each side.
2. The Mwave top box, which is just large enough for a spare battery.

Unfortunately, when I checked the bike, I found that I can't put a box or bag on top of the rack, because that's where the battery is.

So I continued the search - what I'm looking for is something that can hold one or two spare bike batteries, which are 25l x 19h x 9w cm, but which doesn't hang down so far that it fouls the bike parts that will wear through the fabric. After an hour or two, I'd come up blank, but seeing one delightful looking bag that had been custom-made by its proud owner, I thought, I can do that.

So I've bought two army surplus haversacks, 27l x 19h x 9.5w, so they'll be just big enough for one battery apiece. Then I have to work out a way to link then together and drape the pair over the back rack, and find a way to stop them sliding backwards or forwards, and I feel sure I can do that, probably velcro.

In the course of doing all this, I measured all the panniers that I currently have, and to my surprise, the Atura bags that I got five years ago for my first electric bike, which is 30h by 30l, looks like they will fill the bill, because they're supported on the back rack with hooks, so don't hang down the full 30cm, and are well clear of the bike parts. And I tried taking them on and off a few times, and they remove quickly and easily, which is important, because when I'm going to lift the bike over an obstacle, I want to take off the heavy spare batteries first, otherwise the weight is just too great.

How much weight? Well, I did a bunch of weighing.

I'm 230.5 lb. Batteries are 7.5 lb. The bike is 51.75 lb = 23.5 kg (without battery). The panniers are 8lb (that includes the spanners etc that I'll need to change an inner tube). So, the panniers plus three batteries are 30.5 lb. So you can see why I want to remove the panniers before lifting the bike, and sometimes also the battery currently on the bike.

So I'm going out tomorrow with SimplyPaul, to do a trail that's 26 km long. That's going to need two batteries, but I'll take three because it's not much more trouble than two. Plus several bottles of water, and puncture repair tools, plus food. 74 caches, I hope.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Tollesbury, Essex

Today I did 54 caches over 32 kilometers.

I parked in a handy spot, loaded up the bike and set off for the morning loop of 24 caches. I got back to the car at about 1:30 and had lunch, another bottle of water (it was really hot today),  a change of battery for the bike and a recharge of the Loox.

Then I set off on the second loop, got back to the car, changed battery again, and went round the third loop. These aren't loops that the cache owner set, it was just me finding a route that would be as short and easy as possible.

Along the way, while on the road, I encountered the remains of a minor accident. A box of drill bits had fallen onto the road and shattered, there were bits of plastic and drill bits lying there, a potential hazard. I tidied up, and I'll be keeping the drill bits - I was thinking of buying new bits anyway, because my current ones are getting a bit blunt. These are Black and Decker, so hopefully they'll be good quality.

Towards the end of the day, I encountered this:

Yes, it's a ferret. On a lead. The lady said that she was training it, but she was still having trouble with it biting. I've never seen a ferret on a lead before.

Saturday 18 August 2012

All in the cloud

Someone told me recently, that he keeps all his data in the cloud. All his kids pictures, his documents, everything. And he doesn't do a backup.

I was horrified. And told him so. "But surely MyCloud (I made up that name, I forget who it actually was) will be doing backups?"

Yes, probably. Maybe. I expect so. But that isn't the problem.

Suppose the people running MyCloud, suddenly decide that your pictures are all in violation of someone's copyright? Or that they violate their "Acceptable Use Policy". And so then remove them all.

Well, they aren't a violation of copyright, you took the photos yourself. OK. But how are you going to fight the MyCloud people? A lawsuit? You know what that would cost?

Or suppose the FBI decide to impound all of MyCloud's computers, for some reason that they think is a good one?

Or suppose some hacker got your password and deleted all your files?

All of these things have happened, and could happen again.

So I convinced him to use his DVD writer and burn himself a copy of everything that's important to him.

Because your data isn't yours until you can hold it in your hand.

Up the M1 to Twywell

It was very hot today, up to 30C, so I took plenty of water as I went round. I used battery 7 for the first time, and I got 18.3 km out of it. That's on very good track (cycleways), but I was making liberal use of the throttle.

On the way in to Twywell, I parked the car off the road and had a look for cache 19 in the series. Immediately, an angry lady drove up, and wanted to know what I was doing. I told her I was admiring the view, and she called me a liar.

Apparently, she's had trouble with people stealing things from her field which is adjacent. Chickens, blankets etc. So I asked her if she thought I was stealing chickens, and why isn't she calling the police? She explained that the police are fed up with her, and won't come. She was taking pictures of me and my number plates, and asked me again and again what I was doing there. "Admiring the view" was what I kept saying. "That's the weakest excuse I've ever heard," she said. After going round and round on this a few times, I said "Well, that's the one you're getting." And I drove off. "I'm telling everyone in the village about you," she yelled after me.

A couple of hours later, I passed here on my bike. I'd decided to give this one a miss, because of Mrs Angry. But the temptation was too great, and I found the cache, signed the log and pedalled off.

I'd suggest that this cache be relocated.

As I approached cache 21, I saw that a muggle was having a bonfire in the garden adjacent. So, remembering Mrs Angry from cache 19, I approached the cache around the back of the building, where he wouldn't see me. It didn't work. A voice called out "it's round the other side". So I sheepishly emerged and he pointed to where the cache was. "Thanks," I said. What a contrast with Mrs Angry!

As I was cycling the last few yards to my car, a van slowed down and the window opened. "Oh, what now!" I thought.

"Do you know anyone who would like a foam mattress?" asked the driver.

That's got to be the weirdest question I've been asked for a long time. "Sorry," I said, "I don't know anyone who would like a foam mattress." And he drove off.

I got 40 caches today; my favourite was one under an iron bridge, where I had to clamber around underneath.

And when I got back home, I found I'd won an Ebay auction for a Fujitsu Loox 720 for a mere £15 (plus P&P), which will be a spare in reserve - I've already broken three over the years.

Friday 17 August 2012

A video

Someone told me about this video on Youtube. It's me, explaining about viruses, back in 1995, that's 17 years ago.

I don't remember giving this interview, but I just played it, and it's still true today, except that viruses aren't just written by kids now.

I think I'm slightly slimmer today (although a couple of months ago, I wasn't) and slightly greyer.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Around the Chilterns part 2

But first, a couple of pictures from yesterday's trip to Southend.

I saw this notice on the sea front. I'd like to avoid whatever it's prohibiting, but I don't know what PWC is. I might be doing it by riding along the promenade, or maybe just by being there. 

And I found this in the town.

So I went in, showed them the log book from a cache I'd just done, and asked them for a loan.

Actually, I didn't, I bottled it.

So, today I did a second stint around the Chiltern marathon series. I've done rings A and B, so today I did C and D. There was a lot of lifting involved, and at the start of D, I had to push the bike up an incredibly long and steep hill. You can see how long and steep.

That's the view from the top, you can see how tiny the houses at the bottom look, and that's where I started from. You can also see how the hill curves down, getting so steep that you can't see the track from the top. I was pretty puffed out by the time I got to the top.

A bit later on, all that height was rewarded by this great view.

48 caches done today, including a puzzle cache just outside Wycombe that I solved ages ago and which has been nagging at me to get the log signed.

A good day out, but exhausting. There's one ring left to do in this series.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Around Southend

Today was forecast to be showery, so I decided to go to Southend and bike along the sea front. The idea was, if it starts raining, I can always duck into a shelter and wait for it to stop. In the event, there was almost no rain. I was out from 10 am to 5pm, and had a very late lunch.

I did 37 caches, and biked 41 kilometers. 3 DNFs, plus one where I found the eyebolt it was attached to and the string, but the cache was gone, so I put in a temporary replacement.

And I tried to do four caches along a river that ran in the bottom of a concrete gully. But it looked to me as if, in each case, I'd have to get down into the gully, which wouldn't be a big problem, but I could foresee a huge problem getting out again. And since I was on my own, I wouldn't get any help. What I needed here, I thought, is a rope ladder, and a length of rope to tether it to something solid. I have the rope, but no ladder. So I went on Ebay and ordered a 2.5 meter rope ladder, capable of carrying 100 kilos (i.e., me), and this will become part of the standard equipment in the car. It's not the first time I've felt the need for a rope ladder, so I've finally taken action.

The adjustments I made to the back rack seem to have done the trick; the panniers no longer foul the kickstand, so they're no longer being destroyed as I ride along.

Battery mileages:
B5 11km
B2 15.3 km
B6 14km and still going strong

I like Southend. There's lots and lots of chip shops. Sadly, my diet precludes chips.

It's not every day I get an email from the Queen

Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:14:09 +0300
From: Her Majesty The Queen <>
Subject: YOUR FUND IS REED  ii

>>From officer Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,
Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA

Good day,

It has come to our notice that after various effort which you have made through our commercial
banks such as Barclays Bank PLC, HSBC BANK PLC, Natwest Bank, Lloyds Bank, Standard Chartered Bank
Etc and your effort was in vain.  It is because this office has not officially endorsed the
signatory which will empower you to receive your fund. affter  Closing Ceremony of the London 2012
Olympic Games, Her Majesty Queen of England has issue an ultimatum to every foreign
outstanding/Unclaimed funds should be released which she has started on the below website.

You are requested to contact the  Bank of Asia London  UK  with the information stated below.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Servers built

I've built four servers, and they're all currently under test. I was a bit worried about whether I'd be able to use the 3tb drives; if you google then you'll find a lot of uncertainty as to whether you can actually get the full 3tb with some motherboards. Well, I've done some tests, and I've found that they work fine with the three main motherboards that I use (which tend to be a few years old), and also with the Sata raid cards I use.

I'm using Fedora 17 now, that's the latest version. Fedora 9 couldn't handle drives larger than 2tb, but Fedora 17 has no problems. You have to use parted instead of fdisk.

I also realised that loading up the servers can go a lot faster. I've been using a problem I wrote that does an scp from one server to another, one file at a time. but the overhead in using scp is so large, that it's a *lot* faster if you use scp to do multiple file copying, as in *.*

Superglue is wonderful. When one of my PDA holders breaks (which often happens if the bike falls over), I often find that I can repair the broken plastic with superglue, and it's as strong as the original.

An annoying feature of Amazon - they have this great "You bought this so you might like that" feature. But what they don't have is a "Don't buy this, you already bought it" feature. An order from Amazon just arrived, and, annoyingly, one of the books I just bought, I now realise, I already had. From Amazon.

Knocking around Northhampton

Yesterday was forecast to have rain in the afternoon, so I thought, I'll do a bit of urban. I loaded up three batteries in my panniers, and some water, and set off. By the time I got back to the car it was 4pm, I'd done 40 caches, and the rain had been a mere slight sprinkle. I was starving by then, of course.

I made a severe navigation error at one point - I went South of town, and after doing the caches I was aiming for, I went back via what I thought would be a good track to return on. But the "good track" ended in a severe gate, with no way through, and I had to retrace my path to get back to town; I must have added a couple of kilometers to my travel.

So I put the fourth battery on the bike, and set off for a final loop, along the river and railway. I was very pleased to get one of the "Thomas the tank engine" caches, because it was a vital one that, I think, has told me where the final cache in this series must be.

While I was out, I solved the problem of why my panniers are taking so much damage. It's because they're riding too low, and fouling the kick-stand. So today I took a spanner to the bike and added a few inches to the clearance.

Also in that outing, I determined that battery no 1 (which as you might have guessed is pretty old) was so weak that it could only do a mile or two, and it's time to retire it. So I've ordered a fresh new battery from the same place that I got battery number six.

Don't let anyone tell you that electric bikes are economical, on account of the electricity costs a fraction of a penny per mile. That calculation doesn't take into account the limited lifespan, and very high cost, of the batteries.

While I was out, I saw this rather nice sculpture.

I did 36 kilometers while out; no way could I do even half that on foot. Biking is magic.

Three rings

On Sunday, I went up North and did three rings. The first was 20 caches, then back to the car for lunch and a battery change for the bike. Then a short relocate and another ring of 20, and back to the car again for coffee and another battery change. And then another relocate and a ring of 15 or so. Great weather, and I found them all except one, which, according to a subsequent log, had the coords badly askew.

Battery 6, the most recent, is excellent. Battery 2 is really good. Battery 1 is weak, and battery 5 is moderate.

There was some sort of horse thing going on while I was there. I stopped by a little wooden bridge in the middle of nowhere to hacve a quick p, and I'd just whipped it out when I noticed a landrover beetling down the field toward me. I hastly replace the item, and tried to pretend I was admiring the view. But the farmer stopped, wound down his window, and I thought, now here it comes.

But he was just being friendly, and he told me that the very bridge that I was about to cross had been the scene of a nasty accident. A woman went across on horseback (it's a foot bridge, not for horses), and halfway across, the horse lost footing and tumbled. She went down into the gully (it's about 10 feet down) and the horse fell on top of here. That's pretty much what happened to me a couple of months ago, except iy was only 6 feet, and a bicycle falling on you isn't as bad as a horse.

She broke her pelvis, and her friend who was with her called 999. But she didn't know where she was, and the emergency services couldn't find her, even with a helicopter. She was found in the end by a gamekeeper.

And he also told me that the horse thing is an endurance trial.

And I went on my way, wondering if horses actually enjoyed an endurance trial, since it's them that's doing all the work, not the rider.

So, that explained the arrows I was seeing sprayed on the ground.

And then, as I was biking through a field of ripe barley, I got the explanation for how they persuade the horses to take part in an endurance test.

I already knew that they used whips in horse racing, although I can't understand why it's permitted. But I didn't know they also use them in trotting around the countryside. Do these people actually like horses?

Saturday 11 August 2012

I changed my password

I have a zillion passwords. I suppose I ought to try to be a bit more precise than that - I have more than 200, and possibly (but not definitely) less than a thousand. This is because I look after a lot of servers, and I have accounts on lots of web sites.

How do I handle this?

Like a lot of people, I use the same username/password in a lot of different places. And, unlike a lot of people, I keep track of my passwords by writing them down. Yes, I know almost everyone tells you not to do that, but I've been telling people to do exactly that for about 25 years.

So when I read this I was taken aback. It's a long and sad story, but the summary is:

He lost everything on his iphone, his ipad and his imac.
Someone else had control of his email and his twitter account. And started making some really horrible tweets in his name.

How did it happen? The link gives the details, but roughly, it went like this; let's pretend we're hacking Mr Happy.

1. Get Mr Happy's billing address. It's not that difficult to get someone's address, people don't try to keep it secret.

2. Get Mr Happy's credit card number. Now this is something that people know that they shouldn't give out, but ...

 2.1 Call Amazon, tell then you want to add a credit card number to Mr Happy's account. You'll need to tell them the name on the account, an associated e-mail address, and the billing address.You could use a real card number, or you can make up a number that passes the checksum test; you won't be trying to spend money on this card.

2. Wait a minute, and call Amazon again. Tell them you forgot your password, give them Mr Happy's name, address and the new crewdit card number you just added. Now you have access to Mr Happy's Amazon account. And that lets you see the last four digits of Mr Happy's real credit card.

3. Now call AppleCare.  Give Mr Happy's name, address and those last four digits. AppleCare are now convinced that you're Mr Happy, and they'll give you a login password to Mr Happy's account.

If Mr Happy is using Find My Mac then you can do a remote wipe of Mr Happy's computer, iPhone and iPad. And because you have Mr Happy's email under your control, you can ask other services to send a password reminder to that address.

Apparently, Apple and Amazon have since then changed their policies on giving out passwords. But you can bet that there's plenty of other services that make it easy for people who have forgotten their password. So I wouldn't be surprised if a method like this still works, with different services.

Lessons to be learned.

1. Don't assume that people running services understand about security. I know that banks don't seem to, I've written about this before. So why would anyone else?

2. Don't assume that anyone else is going to bail you out when you get into trouble. And do assume that companies running services will happily give out your password on the slenderest of evidence that you are who you say you are.

So, as I said in the title to this blog, I've just changed my password. I've only changed one of them, but it's one that would cause me a lot of grief if it got out. I use it for some very important logins, and I've probably let it "creep" over the years, using it in places that I probably shouldn't have. So, I've changed it now, and I feel a bit happier.

Unlike Mr Happy.

Around the Chilterns

I did go around the Chilterns, but not on foot. I did the Geolympics Marathon - well, part of it. There's five rings, so I did ring A in the morning. I got back to the car at about 1pm, very tired (I did a lot of lifting, and a lot of uphill), and I decided to abandon the day and go home. So I had lunch, and I felt somewhat better, so I decided to do ring B as well. 45 caches done today, no DNFs.  Even so, I got home quite early.

While I was out, I saw this - I carefully avoid the obvious comment.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Hastings again

Another trip to Hastings, to finish off all the puzzle caches that I'd started. It was a good day; nice weather, and I found all the puzzle caches. it's good when that happens, becuase in the absence of Geocheckers, you're never really sure that you've got it right, until you locate the container, and some of the locations I'd plotted looked pretty unlikely. Low numbers, though, only 19. INATN. Not much on the bike, mostly on foot and driving around.

I've not had any recurrence of my hip tendonitis, or of my plantar fasciitis. The tendonitis I got in my shoulder when I fell off that bridge, is almost gone, it's clearing up slowly but surely. So that's why I'm hoping I can do a long trip tomorrow. Ladysolly is amazed that I'm going out four times this week, but she can't come with, because of her hip, but that's healing well, she says.

Tomorrow I'm planning to be entirely on foot, for a two longish circuits in the Chilterns.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Weight report 15

16 stone 11 pounds. Yay, I've broken the 17 stone mark! That's lighter than I've been for a long time.

Server plans

One of my servers is 90% full - that means I need to upgrade it from 2tb volumes to 4tb before it hits 100%. I was using 2tb volumes because fdisk-type partitions can't cope with 4tb, but there's a new type of partition, the GPT, and that can, so with a more recent version of Linux, I can have these bigger partitions.

I'm also going to try using 3tb drives - I've read that some motherboards can't handle them, so I'm going to get just one, to experiment with. 3tb drives are now the same price-per-byte as 2tb, so they're now a sensible buy.

I'm also going to make my first foray into SSD (solid state drives). They're much faster than mechanical drives, and because they don't have moving parts, I can hope they'll be less failures. I'm going to use 16gb SSDs for the system drive - SSD is far too expensive to use it for mass data storage. So I've ordered the SSDs, they come in at about $40 (£25) for a 16gb drive. We'll see how that goes. I also ordered ten 4-port Sata cards; they'll be needed to make the beefier servers. I got them for $15 (£10); I've been paying £25, so I'm hoping that these cheaper ones actually work! Bluepoint offer 30gb SSDs for £33, so I might also try those.

So, I'm planning to make four servers. Three of the "small" ones, with 4 2-tb drives, and one of the larger, with a 3tb and 5 2tbs. I already had 4 2tbs in stock, so I'll need to order 14 more, plus the 3tb.

Biking round Hastings

I decided to go to Hastings today, because that was the only place I could find that had a rain-free weather forecast, and where there were loads of caches to do. It's a bit far, about 2 hours.

I picked up a few on the way, and then arrived in Hastings. I parked, got the bike out, and went on a tour.

One of the puzzle caches I did, I still don't know how you're supposed to get into the area I went to; it was obviously a public area, because there were other walkers, but I went in through a gap in a high wire fence, and I left by climbing over a five bar gate, with bike.

I was trundling along one track when I encountered a lady with a dog, and she looked at me in a very hostile manner. "You know there's a No Bikes sign at the start of this path?" she said. "I didn't see such a sign", I explained. She looked at me in a way that was meant to make me curl up and die. However, when I looked at the entrance to the track, there were warning signs about dogs, but nothing about bikes.

I racked up several DNFs, but I found 39 caches, including several puzzle caches. One of the puzzle caches wasn't where I looked, because in the time between me solving it (several months ago) and now, the cache owner had relocated it.

Another series of caches; I solved 5 out of 6 puzzles, but I've had another look at the sixth, and now I've solved it. Plus, I've solved a few other puzzles round there. So I'll be returning to Hastings as soon as I can.

I used fully my two best batteries; B6 ran for 17.6 km, and B2 for 12.3.

As I started to drive home, the rain arrived. Just in time!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Wandering in Worthing

First, I went to Findon, where they have the sheep fair each year. Ladysolly and I did the original Findon Sheep series a long time ago - this was a new one. There were 45 caches, and I thought that it might take all day, so I loaded up the bike suitably. And with all the tracks being bridleways or better, biking would be good!

I actually went round in under four hours, a cache finding rate of 11 per hour. Only one of them took me a log time to find, and that was mostly because the GPS decided to throw a wobbly.

Back to the car for lunch, then on to Worthing, wnere I grabbed a couple of puzzles that I'd solved a while back, and did a bunch of trads and multis.

On the way home, I nearly had an accident. It's a big mistake to quaff three mugs of coffee before starting a long journey; coffee not only fills the bladder, it also acts as a diuretic. So, as I was trundling round the M25 about 30 minutes from home, I realised that I didn't actually have 30 minutes, and if I tried to hold out, I'd have a terrible accident. So I pulled in to the hard shoulder at a point where the M25 is quite bushy, ducked behind a bush, and accident-proofed myself.

65 cahes done, a very good day out.

Saturday 4 August 2012


My first effort was to retreive a puzzle cache; I'd had to do a jigsaw puzzle, then I had to work out where the picture was on the map. Getting to it wasn't easy; I got a bootfull as I went through a gate, and then I had to climb a fence to get to the side of the bridge that I needed to be. But then a quick find, hurrah.

Then I picked up another puzzle cache nearby, and then moved on to my first circuit of the day. And my first soaking; while I was biking along the bridlepath, the heavens opened. It was what the Met Office calls a "thundery shower" and what I call "lightning, thunder, cats and dogs". And the rain makes searching more difficult, because every time you move a bush, it dumps another pint of water on you. And it threatens to get water into the PDA.

So I got back to the car, and had lunch while I dried out a bit, changed my wet gloves, and then I did a circuit of Warmington, and I got rained on again.

Then I relocated to Thorpe Park in Peterborough, and did another circuit ... and got soaked again. So much, that it affected the PDA, and I had to go back to the car for a replacement PDA. So then I did a couple more caches in the direction of the town center, and it rained on me again, and at that point I decided that I was wet enough, so I went home. So just 28 caches today, but I got the two puzzle caches that I really wanted to get.

Friday 3 August 2012

Morborne transmitter

Today I did 59 caches, all on the bike. I spent quite a lot of time in sight of Morborne Transmitter, which makes me think of Laurel and Hardy and I keep humming the cuckoo song.

Some very good surfaces to ride on; there's a cycleway that I think used to be a road, because it's tarmaced.

Midmorning, it rained, and I got wet. But at this time of year, that's no big deal, and when the weather improved, I got dry again. Except for my feet; my boots aren't waterproof.

When I got back to the car after 39 caches, I had lunch, relocated and did 20 more. A good day out!

Thursday 2 August 2012

London during the Olympics

Yesterday, down to London. Ladysolly and I were recruited as babysitters while daughter.1 and husb attended an Olympic event. We left early, as per what all the notices said, and had to stand all the way in to London on the Chiltern Line train because I think we caught the tail end of the rush hour. But once in London - where was everybody?

It was like a ghost town. Taxis were plentiful, traffic was light. The taxi driver said that this had been his experience too. I guess that the combination of all the bad news about queues at Heathrow, the big question mark over the security situation caused by G4S and the general perception that London would be a place to avoid, has led to a situation where the only people going anywhere near London were bicycle racers and volleyball fans, and the usual tourist masses in London have gone elsewhere. And who can blame them?

Daughter.1.husb said that his sister has closed her flower shop for the duration of the Olympics, on account of uncertainties about whether delivery would be possible,

I can't help feeling that when the costs are counted, the Olympics will be a success, but that will be because most of the costs won't be counted. Inspector gadget says that policing is currently very weak anywhere away from the Games, because so many police have been drafted in to London. And the leave situation is dire.

Ladysolly did a great job looking after grandson.1, with some assistance from daughter.2. Later on, daughter.1 and husb got back, daughter.2.boyfriend turned up and we all had a Lebanese takeaway delivered to our door, which was very nice.

Weight report 14

17 stone 1 pound