Thursday 28 February 2013

Bedgebury forest, part two

I returned today to finish the forest. First, I parked in a different place, at N 51 4.4 E 0 30.01. That was partly because I was going to do the northern part of the forest, partly because I didn't like the "lock you in after five pm" policy, and partly to save £8.50. I'm not the only one who parks around there, I noticed.

So I got the bike out, and buzzed around the caches that I hadn't done yesterday. And I got them all! So now  Bedgebury forest is all done. There were some excellent caches - a fill-the-pipe water cache, a fake bird box that was somewhat different to others I've seen, and a musical cache! First, I found a box containing a door chime press. Then I walked back to the bike, pressed the button, and followed the sound of the chime! I had consdiered doing a cache like this myself, and even got the chime, but then I got worried about battery life.

I finished at about 3pm, then went to do a series of ten caches nearby - done on foot, but I can tell you now that they were quite bikable. That was where I saw this:

I didn't see any, though.

To finish off, I did a nearby puzzle that I'd solved ages ago; a one mile walk to get to the cache and back, which also, it turned out, could have been done on the bike.

About which ... the rear brakes needed new shoes - the old ones are only a few weeks old. I don't know why they wore out so fast.

More worryingly, the main crank bearing looks wonky. There's too much play in the pedals, and I think that's the main bearing. I don't think that's a job I could do, I don't have the right tools. A trip to the bike shop is required soon. And a fair chunk of change.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Bedgebury Forest

The first problem was the car park. The car park is huge, which is nice (although at this time of year, it's not much used. You're supposed to pay £8.50 for the day, which sounds to me like quite a lot for parking, but if you think about it, that's probably their sole source of income, and out of that they have to maintain the tracks (which were mostly excellent), and all the other maintenance that they have to do.

So I went to the payment point to fork out. The first problem was, it wouldn't take credit cards (a notice apologised for that), and the second problem was that they couldn't take notes. I don't have £8.50 in coins, so I went to the office.

At the office, they couldn't take credit cards either, some temporary problem. So the lady said "And if you don't have cash, I'll give you a free ticket." "I do have cash," I said.

I'm probably the only person in the last five years who said that. Everyone else would have just accepted the freebie, but, as I said, I reckon that the use of this huge and well-maintained forest for £8.50 is a good deal.

So she said again "And if you don't have cash, I'll give you a free ticket." At last, I got the message, and accepted a free ticket, for which I traded my car registration number (she already had it, I guess I've been APRed).

By the time I got out, my GPS had lost touch with my PDA, so I had to reboot both and get things going again. And then things went well.

There's maybe 80 caches there, but it isn't one route. They're scattered all over the forest. That's fine, it means I have an extra challenge of working out a good route. And that isn't easy; I want to avoid doing more hill climbing that I need to, I want to stay on good tracks and avoid mud-and-rut lanes, and I want to make the total distance as low as possible; the priorities are those three in that order. I think I did pretty well. I managed 45 finds today, and no DNFs. Most of the caches were easy, but there were a couple that took a little while, and a couple of more interesting ones. For one, I had to "go fish" with a magnet on a string to get the coords of the final.

I didn't avoid the mud altogether. I brought home a fair sample.

Weight report 40

15 stone, 3 pounds

Monday 25 February 2013

Lurking at home

I didn't go out today. I'd intended to, but I have a bit of a tummy-ache. I've had it since Saturday, but today it felt worse, and I decided to lurk at home. Ladysolly went out to lunch with daughters, but I definitely wasn't up to that.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Winchester wanderabout

To Winchester today. It was forecast to be very cold, so I put on two pair of socks, four pair of trousers and five tops, plus my coat. And that worked, I wasn't cold, except sometimes my hands when I took off my furry gloves.

I parked a few miles northwest of the city, got the bike out, and trundled south along the Roman road. Then I returned via another series - I did five series (although some were a bit small) before I got back to the car, for 31 caches. Then I relocated to pick up a puzzle I'd solved, then relocated again close in to the city, got the bike out again, and cruised round, winding up near the cathedral, and a total of 45 caches.

Here's a kite I saw, being used as a bird-scarer.

I did the first circuit of 31 caches in four hours, which got me back to the car in time for lunch (and a listen to Hancock). It was nice to have lunch at lunchtime for a change.

Friday 22 February 2013

Pageviews by country

I was looking at Google's map of people reading this blog and where they live. UK is at the top of the list, which is what I'd expect (since it's where I live), and the US is second, which also makes sense.

Third is China, with not many less than the US. Huh? Are there a lot of geocachers in China? Or a lot of people playing with the Raspberry Pi? Or do I have a small but devoted fan club there?

Another surprise is "Isle of Man". I didn't even know that was a country.

The search keywords used was another revelation. Top of the list is "huge solly blow job". Although, admittedly, only two people used that search. Still, I have to wonder what it was that suggested to someone that they put in a search engine, "huge solly blow job".

Bike maintenance

I woke up this morning, and my back felt a bit fragile, so I decided not to go caching today. Instead, I did some bike maintenance.

My back tire *had* to be replaced a week ago; yesterday I noticed that part of my front tire was worn smooth, so rather than wait until it actually wore out, I decided to replace it with a Kevlar-reinforced tire I got from Asda (made in China, like everything else these days, and costing about £12). It was a "foldable" tire. I've never used one of those before, and when I unfolded it, it was *huge* and the cross-section wasn't what I think of as tire-shaped, it was almost flat. Oh well. I took the old tire off the bike, and, after a bit of a struggle, got the new tire on, and reinflated it to 50 psi.

One problem - I couldn't put the gel puncture-protection back on. I'll have to hope that the combination of the Kevlar tire and the extra-thick inner tube is enough.

While I had the bike out, I also adjusted the front and back brakes. I think the cables stretch with use.

Tomorrow, either I'll go out with ladysolly, or else I'll go biking near Winchester.

Thursday 21 February 2013

There was a young man from Cosham

Who took out his eyes to wash 'em
His wife said "Oh, Jack,
if you don't put them back,
I'll sit on the table and squash 'em"

I was in Cosham today, that's just north of Portsmouth. I did about 30 caches, including a multi that I'd started a few years ago but couldn't complete, and Jacob Von Hogflume's Finest Accomplishment, a very nicely constructed multi. I had the usual scattering of DNFs.

View of the Solent

It was bitterly cold, so I wore my leg-warmers, and six layers of top, plus my coat. My furry gloves kept my hands warm enough, and by about 2pm, the weather had warmed slightly so I could wear my fingerless cycling gloves. But by 5pm, the cold returned with a vengeance, and I headed back to the car, getting there just as the battery on my GPS expired.

That was when I did the Jacob Von Hogflume's Finest Accomplishment cache, and then I went home.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

A flying visit to daughter.1

Down to London today with ladysolly, to visit daughter.1. I also got a fleeting glimpse of daughter.2, an exchange of opinions with grandson.1 and a very nice Japanese curry.

Tomorrow will be very cold, but I won't be huddling indoors, I plan to go to just north of Portsmouth, where I see a bunch of caches waiting for me to visit. I'll wear the leggings again, for warmth. The problem I had with them last time, is that once I've put them on, then my trousers, then my knee-protector, then my boots ... I feel that removing them would be such a major operation (including stripping down to my underpants) that they're on for the whole day, whereas with the layers of sweaters, I can always take a couple of them off and stuff them in my saddlebag.

Weight report 39

15 stone 3 pounds. The downward march is resumed!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Robot arm problems

The Pi running the Robotic Arm crashed. When I looked into it, it turned out to be an SD card problem. I replaced the SD card, reloaded the software (I do have backups, of course) and it's working again.

My plan had been to take an image of each SD card, so if this happens, all I have to do is splat the image on a new card. This plan failed, because the old card and the new card weren't exactly the same. So I had to copy files, and that did work.

Pompey part three

I started off the day with a minor disaster - one of the bike batteries hadn't charged overnight! After a bit of thought, I decided to take a charger with me, and plug it into the inverter that runs off the car battery - since the car would be running, I needn't worry about it draining the car battery.

The M25 was snarled up again, so it took me more than two hours to get to my start point, and by that time, the bike battery was showing as fully charged.

So I kitted up. When I started off, the overnight frost had been really hard, so I put on my new leg warmers under my trousers, and five layers under my coat. I soon found that I'd overdressed, so I took off two of those layers.

I parked on the east side of the Pompey peninsula, and aimed to work my way north until I got to the A27. That worked well, and I did 32 caches (and several DNFs). I'm especially pleased that I did "Victor Vault", which I've DNFed twice before, but this time I had a better idea of what I was looking for, and I found it!

I finished up with a couple of multis, one of which I got and the other not. I broke or cracked three fingernails, but I'm not bothered about that, because they do grow back.

Monday 18 February 2013

Pompey part two

As expected, I went to Portsmouth again today. The traffic round the M25 was awful, so I didn't get there until 11 o'clock. Still, once there, I put on my knee-armour (I bruised the knee a couple of days ago, and you *really* don't want to bump an already-bruised knee) and set off. First I did the caches at the far east of town, then as I worked my way towards the town center, I noticed that my right pedal wasn't working properly. On inspection, it turned out that it had lost nearly all the ball bearings from the ball-race (which I think had broken and fallen off). So the next item on the agenda was, find bike shop. I asked a policeman, got directions, forked out £14.99 for a pair (they always come in pairs) and fitted it. That done, I could proceed.

I did 30 caches today, not bad considering the problems I'd had to deal with, plus a sprinkling of DNFs. I had another go at a multi I'd failed on last time, and this time found it very quickly because instead of keeping my head down, I lifted it up and looked around me! I also did another multi that I'd gathered the information for, but because my PDA doesn't render the divide symbol (and also the cache setter used alpha and beta, which doesn't render), I didn't know what the formula was. When I got home, I sorted it out, so today I was able to collect the cache.

I did two other multis, and the last one of those I had some problems with the formula because the cache setter didn't know about BEDMAS, and clearly thought that you do arithmetic operations from left to right irrespective of precedence. Our eduation system has much to apologise for.

Another good day out.

When I got hiome, I found that the geocaching robot arm has stopped working, because the SD card in the Pi has failed. It's restore-a-backup time ...

Sunday 17 February 2013

St Albans with Ladysolly

Out today with ladysolly, it's the first time she's been out for ages. We went to St Albans.  But first to Rickmansworth for victuals at M&S. Then the first series; it was slightly muddy, but not too bad. The first cache we did was a corker, an idea I've not seen before. Then the fifth of that series was missing, so I replaced it with a micro. Somewhat further along, I spotted the missing cache just lying on the ground, but it was too far to go back and put it in place.

Then we worked our way into town, doing the caches as we went, and ended up doing a series of caches near pubs, with the final being near the Camra HQ. I was very pleased we found that one, because we were missing one of the numbers, because that number was available at the event nearby, and we hadn't attended. I don't know what people are supposed to do after the event, but I made a guess, and found the cache. 27 caches, no DNFs.

Tomorrow the weather looks good, so I'm planning a second visit to Portsmouth. And Tuesday is forecast to be fine also, so maybe I'll spend a third day there - I think there's enough caches there to keep me happy!

Friday 15 February 2013

Lolloping around Littlehampton

It's a while since I visited Littlehampton and a bunch of caches have sprung up, so I went there today. First, I stopped off just outside to pick up a puzzle I'd solved, then I went for a trad cache near a church. After searching for a while, I read the cache page, and discovered that although it was classified as a trad, it was actually a multi. So I trundled round the churchyard to pick up the info, then off to the final, whichI couldn't see. So I read the cache page again, and saw that the location I'd been sent to, was just another stage, and I now had to go 140 feet SSW. So I did that, and found the cache.

Then I parked in the outskirts, parked, got the bike out of the car and set off. I DNF'd the first cache, and on the way to the second I was chased by a large dog. I don't know if you've ever been chased by a dog while on a bike; the main problem is to avoid killing the stupid dog as it tries to run under your wheels. The owner, of course, looked fondly on, imagining that this is some sort of game. Yes, it is - Russian Roulette, with your dog as the possible loser. I managed to avoid killing the dog, and went on to find the cache.

I read in the newspaper toay about a jogger that was attacked by a fox. But what about the hunderds, maybe thousands of people who are attacked by dogs? Scarcely a mention.

I saw my first daffodil of the year today

After that, no more disasters, and a successful trundle around Littlehampton, including the parts that seem to think they aren't Littlehampton. 34 caches found.

The sea looked too cold for swimming.

There's a cache in one of those posts.

My back hurts, but that's from biking all day. I think I've recovered from the strain I had. And the pump trolley has arrived! I've assembled it and used it to move the big heavy server back to the rack. It works a treat - I didn't need to do any lifting! I just wish the trolley wasn't so heavy ...

While I was out, I did some thinking about the Big Pi. OK - I've shown that it's possible, but what's the point? I think I'll replace the Pi with a conventional motherboard. It'll run faster, the cost isn't that different, mounting will be faster and the order that drives are recognised will be consistent.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Peregrinations in Pompey

Down to Portsmouth today. The snow has melted, but I'm guessing that the ground will be extremely soggy from the thaw, so I wanted to spend the day on tarmac. I haven't been to Portsmouth for a while, and there's loads of caches there for me to do. And on tarmac, so I can go by bike.

First I did a series "The Dirty Dozen". These were all good caches, some quite difficult, and pretty innovative and/or unusual. I was worried about doing this series, because Esscafe, the Number Two cacher in the UK, did it yesterday and was unable to find three of the 11 caches, so I thought I'd probably fail on at least that many.

But it turned out well! Some of them were quite difficult, but with a bit of luck and persisrtence, I managed to find all 11 and then the bonus.

After that, I trundled the bike south, towards the naval base and the center of town, until I wound up at the D-Day museum. I got a total of 41 caches (plus a few DNFs).

It's not often I see a type of cache I've never seen before. But today, I saw two caches like that. Well done Pompeians!

I saw this along the way.

"I still hate Thatcher". Wow, the Socialist Worker has a long memory.

At the end of the day, I wound up at the D-Day museum, at the statue of Bernard Montgomery. I remember a cache I did a long time ago, where I visited his grave.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Big Pi

I put the Big Pi into a case. I was a bit too optimistic about how many drives I could cram into that case; I could *just* about get twelve in, but it would be *extremely* crowded in there, and difficult to sort out any problems (and the overcrowding would actually cause problems). So I decided to use only nine drives. That also means that I don't need a second Ubec for power.

Mounting drives takes 20 seconds per volume (two volumes per drive), which is a lot, but I can live with it; it means that starting up the whole thing from cold takes a bit less than eight minutes. But since this is meant to be a data server, it shouldn't need starting up from cold except very rarely.

I was able to use a power supply that couldn't power a normal PC (in my experience, power supplies become weak when they get elderly - I know how they feel). That's because the weakness of the PSU is masked by A) the fact that it only needs to supply 72 watts (it's rated at 300) and B) the Ubec will output a steady 5.3 volts no matter what the input voltage is.

Here's what it looks like

Bottom left you can see the Qtec PC power supply; next to it is the Ubec, showing that its output is 5.4 volts. The Pi is next to that. Just above the Pi is the 10-way hub, and the profusion of white cables sprouting from that lead to the 9 USB-to-Sata things, and a red or blue cable from each of those go to the hard drives, which are at the top of the picture. Each of the hard drives has a label giving its serial number, so that when one fails, I don't have to take them all out to find the failed unit. There's a fan right at the back of the case (the bottom of the picture), another one in the power supply, and two more blowing over the hard drives.

The box is a standard tower case, made of very thin metal, which gives the advantage that the whole thing is light enough that I can pick it up without worrying about doing my back in.

Weight report 38

15 stone 4 pounds. Quantum fluctuations.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Big pies and big trolleys

I had a server called Rosie; a huge box, 5U in size. Originally Rosie had 12 80gb parallel ATA drives; that was back when 80 gb was as big as it got. I could get 12 drives by having four off the motherboard, and two additional ATA controller cards that handled four each. So Rosie was my first one terabyte box. Rosie was one of those big heavy servers, like the one that put my back out.

Rosie has been recycled long since; the 5U server case is now holding 14 two-terabyte drives (two off the motherboard, and four on each of three additional SATA controller cards. But something went wrong with my record-keeping, and my records showed Rosie as still doing the job it was doing before. When I noticed this, I thought, I need to replace Rosie, and what better to replace a huge computer like that, than a Raspberry Pi with one drive. And that's what I've done, and I'm currently loading it up with data.

I tried connecting six 2tb drives to a Pi; that worked fine. So, naturally, I tried twelve. I didn't get that to work, but I haven't given up. It nearly works, it's just that the power to the Pi gets a bit iffy. I'm doing nine, and that's working. I have them in banks of three, each three in a bracket with a fan, to keep the drives cool. The whole thing pulls 400 ma, that's 100 watts. Most of that, of course, is for the drives.

The main limitation in doing this, is going to be the rate at which I/O can happen through the USB port. But if I don't try to take much data at once from those 18 tb of drives, it should be OK, and the use I have in mind, is for storing a huge amount of data, which is accesses lightly.

I also tried a new web server. For 16 years now I've been using Apache, and I'm used to its funny little ways. But on a Pi, it uses 12mb of memory even when it isn't doing anything, and one thing I'm always thinking about on a Pi, is economy of memory, because it only has 512mb and you can't give it more. So I had a look at lighttpd, which bills itself as a lightweight web server, and I can tell you, yes it is. The memory footprint is only 1mb when it isn't doing much. And setting it up is very easy. You do "apt-get install lighttpd" and then you edit one file to tell it where the public access files are. I don't think I'll use it for any heavy duty stuff, but all of my servers run a web server, for internal diagnostics.

What happens, is each server runs an internal diagnostic once per minute. It checks that it's running properly, looks at loading, and so on. It puts all this information into a little file, and that file can be accessed using a web browser. One of my servers, once per minute, goes round all the other servers accessing this file. If it can't access the file, or if the file is warning about an error, then it sends me an email. So, pretty much all my servers are running a web server, but all that's used for, is this diagnostic file. So a lightweight web server is just what they need.

On the trolley; I got an email from the vendor to tell me that the 150kg model that I'd ordered was out of stock (this is despite their Ebay page saying that they had more than ten available). Would I like to wait a month (no) or pay an extra £22 for the 300 kb model? So I looked it up, and that looks like a great bargain. So I've ponied up the extra cabbage, and it should arrive later this week.

My back has pretty much recovered from whatever I did to it. But I've learned a lesson - heavy servers need to be handled in such a way that I don't put my back out.

Update ...

It looks like I can only get ten drives on a Pi, using the ten-way hub. I've tried various ways to get a couple more on, but every which way, after a few minutes, the voltage to the Pi drops below 4.8 and it crashes. Giving the 10-way hub its own power supply, doesn't help. Still, ten is pretty good, and nicely matches some small server cases I can use. But there does seem to be a couple of big problems left.

1) Mounting a volume can take between 1 and 15 minutes (it should take a couple of seconds). I don't know why. But that means that mounting 20 volumes (10 drives) might take a couple of hours every time I reboot.

2) Drive names (sda, sdb, sdc etc) are assigned to drives in the order in which the Pi sees them. For ordinary computers, that's (almost) consistent. But in this case, because everything's going via the USB, the drives come up in a random order. So what was sdd last time, might be sdg next time I boot. I can see a couple of ways to deal with this.

Update ...

I've handled problem 2. I've given each volume a label, and I'll do the mount using that label. So instead of:

mount /dev/sda1 /home/mountpoint01

I'll use

mount  -L label01 /home/mountpoint01

Which drive is sda1 will vary each time I reboot, but the labels will stay the same. Now if only I can work out why mounting takes such a long time!

Update ...

I still don't understand why mounting takes a long time, but I've noticed that this is only the case for drives with clusters less than 4k. My guess is, something has to time out (and it takes about five minutes) before mount does its job. By changing all the drives to have 4k clusters, mounting only takes 30 seconds per volume, which is still a lot. But it means that I can get all 24 volumes (that's 24 terabytes) fscked and mounted in 12 minutes or so. Which is still a long time, but bearable.

And yes, I've managed to get 12 drives onto the Pi. Here's how.

The PC power supply powers the drives and the fans (one fan per three drives). It also powers a Ubec set to 5.3 volts, which powers a USB hub. That hub powers the Pi, and three of the USB-to-Sata gizmos are plugged into that hub, so they're also powered by it. I found that one Ubec couldn't supply enough power for both the hubs and all twelve gizmos; after a few minutes, the Ubec heated up and the supplied voltage dropped to below 4.5 volts, at which point the Pi would crash. But two Ubecs give me enough power for all this, and it can all run from a single PC power supply. Nine more hard drive gizmos are plugged into a 10-way USB hub, which is powered by another Ubec, set to six volts. Both hubs are plugged into the Pi. When I measure the voltage in the Pi, I get 5.15 volts, which is just what is needed. The whole thing pulls 0.5 amps at 240 volts, which is 120 watts - obviously the drives are taking nearly all of that. Tomorrow, I'll try to cram these 12 drives into a normal-sized tower case, together with fans for cooling the drives and other stuff, the Pi, the two hubs and the Ubecs.

The costs of all this are pretty low, too. The hard drives, of course, cost whatever hard drives cost. The Pi is £20, the Ubecs are £3, the hubs are £2 or so, the hard drive gizmos are £3 each (12 needed for this box).
The PC power supply is about £8, the case another £8 so I get a 24 terabyte server for about £85 plus the cost of the hard drives. A dozen 2tb drives is £773 (including VAT). If I used 3tb drives, I get 36tb for £1122. As you can see, 90% or more of the cost is the hard drives.

I'll leave it on overnight, to see if it's stable.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Lifting heavy servers is bad for your back

I have a bunch of very large servers. They are 5U in size, that's five times as big a a normal 1U server (and longer, too). They're made of thicker metal, and contain 15 hard drives. I'd guess they weigh 40 or 50 pounds. The first one I made like that I named "Heavy" because it is. Very.

They sit in a rack, 22 inches off the ground. When I need to work on them, I have to slide them out and lift them over to my workbench (28 inches above ground level). It's an awkward thing to do; I have to make sure I don't foul a cable, and I'm twisting while I lift. Not good. And yesterday, the inevitable happened - I strained my back.

Not badly, I think. It's feeling a lot better already. But it's not something I want to happen. So I looked into it - what can I get to make this easier?

First of all, I rescued the latest catalogue from Rapid Racking, pulled it out of the wastebin and had a look. There's one possibility, it's a trolley where you can adjust the height of the shelf, using Allen keys. So I'd be able to slide the server onto the trolley, wheel it to the workbench then lift it onto the workbench.

Then I went to Ebay, and I found two kinds of things; the hostess trolley (which I think is too flimsy for a big heavy server, plus they have tiny wheels) and something that isn't a Zimmer frame, but is like a Zimmer frame on wheels, and I know it's aimed at people who are finding it very difficult to walk, because you can buy it VAT-free, but you have to swear that you're very disabled, or you get prosecuted by the VATman. Anyway, the heights of the shelves were wrong, and it's a bit adjustable, but not much.

Then I found the Sealey Hydraulic Platform Truck. It looks like exactly what I wanted. I'll set the platform to 22 inches, apply the brakes, slide the server onto it (no need to lift), trundle it over to the work bench, pump the foot pump so the platform is at 28 inches, and slide the server onto the workbench. It's rated at 150 kilograms, so it could take the server plus me sitting on it, if I felt like it. The price of £208 looked like a lot for a trolley, but A) it isn't just a trolley, and B) the full price is over £300, C) that's the cost of a couple of hard drives and D) my back is worth a lot more than £200.

While I was in a buying mood, I went to Sports Direct, my favourite clothes shop, and bought three pair of leggings (mens) for use when the weather is really cold, and another three pair of fleece-lined joggers, in royal blue, so if you see a blue-legged cacher, you'll know it isn't because my legs are cold.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Celebrating ladysolly's birthday

Down to London on Friday; we met daughter.1, daughter.2 and bf.2 for a visit to the Savoy as a possible wedding venue, but it isn't the top choice. Then lunch at Banks; I ordered the ribs, which arrived huge and delicious; definitely one for a repeat. Then a steak, which was a bit raw, but edible. Next time, I'll have the ribs for main meal also.

Then round to daughter.2 to see grandson.1. Daughter.2 + bf.2 left to do whatever daughters do, and we had a curry for dinner from the local Indian. On the way home, it was freezing cold, and I got home to find that one of my servers had crashed - turned out to be a memory failure.

Today, I did a deeper investigation of another of my servers that's been crashing frequently. That looks like it was also a memory failure.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Jurassic Jaunt

Today I went north up the M1, to do a bunch of caches on the Jurassic Way. The whole route was on bridleways, byways and roads, apart from a short footpath stretch, but I could bike around that on the roads. So I went by bike.

I used one of my inferior pairs of boots, and they are completely non-waterproof, a fact I'd forgotten. Oh well.

I started at 10:30, and immediately spent far too long looking for a micro that was hidden very close to the place I forst looked; I should have spotted it then. I got it eventually, and then proceeded.

The ground is still very soggy, although is just about bikable. About half way round, I was going along a canal towpath - they're always good for biking, and very level, of course. There was a group of about half a dozen me cutting back the brambles at one point, which is a worthy activity, but unfortunately, they were just at the point where a cache was. I was thinking about leaving that one, but then I spotted where it was. So, casually, I leaned on the tree, snaffled the cache, signed the log, then leaned casually on the tree again to replace it. And then I biked off.

A bit further along, I saw this.

And there certainly were some very big holes along the track!

Near the end of the route, the bridleway cut across the middle of a field, and I could see where people had gone that way. I made the mistake of following their track, and after a few yards, I got bogged down in totally claggy mud. Eventually, I had to pick the bike up (no small thing with an electric bike plus three heavy batteries) and take it to the edge of the field, where at least I could make some progress.

I got back to the car just as it started a combination of rain and snow, and sat inside eathing my lunch (at 4pm) very glad I wasn't still out there!

Took mud, left exhausted.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Braindead in Braintree

Out to Braintree today. First, a circuit on foot of a dozen caches; one of them should have been easy, but I got fixated on a phone box and failed to notice the cache nearby for a long time. The lady in the nearby shop was watching me, she must have wondered what was going on. Then a couple more on the way to a solved puzzle, then in to Braintree for a trundle around on the bike, including a few miles on the Flitch Way (I've been along here a few times before, and it's a great surface for biking).

Rather a lot of DNFs today, but 34 finds. And then the snow came down, while I was a few miles from the car, so I made a sprint for it, and got into the car looking like a snowman, just before I turned into an icicle.

And another pair of boots has walked its last time. It's not that I'm suddenly wearing them out faster, it's that they were already worn out and it's time to send them to that great boot-factory in the sky.

Monday 4 February 2013

Not so cold in Colchester

So, to Colchester again. Last time I went to the south of Colchester, intending to work towards the town centre; this time I started in the north, with the same intention.

Man proposes, rubber disposes. I'd gone about half a kilometer, when I realised that the bumping feeling that I was getting as I travelled along, probably wasn't bumpiness in the road. So I got off the bike and had a good look at the back wheel, expceting to find, I don't know, maybe a kink in the rim? What I did find, though, was a bulge in the tire where the inner tube was pushing the anti-puncture internal liner through a honking great hole in the tire.

I had a little think, and decided that it would be pushing my luck to ride the bike like this. So I biked back to the car, thinking, I'll find a bike shop. I looked at the map, and decided where a Halfords would be likely to be located, and I headed for there. And blow me! There *was* a Halfords in exactly the place I thought it might be. I took the bike in, and splashed out on a new back tire (£25, kevlar armoured and puncture resistant). fitting it (£7, because I thought that if I did it myself, it would take me an hour or two, because although I did have bike tools with me, I don't have the top-flight tools that they have in Halfords), and they were able to fix it in 20 minutes. While I waited, I wandered around the shop, and added a top quality U-shaped bike lock to the bill.

I took the bike back to the car, drove half a mile or so, parked, and did my tour of Colchester from there.

There were some cracking caches, too. One was an excellently made fake bolt, there were a couple of fake metal plates and I did two excellent multis that I'd always wanted to attempt. I also had DNFs on a couple of caches that I've DNFed before.

So a total of 26 caches today, plus a new tire!

Sunday 3 February 2013

The sound of silence

I worked out what was making the high-pitched whining noise in my office - it was the old XP computer (the one that iTunes now refuses to run on, after running just fine for a year). I've got all the functions it was doing, onto a Windows 7 box that I bought so that I could run Civilisation, and the new box is nearly silent.

So the next loudest thing was my big UPS; it has a fan that is relatively loud. So I replaced that with a UPS that runs silently.

So now, the only sounds I can hear are a very quiet fan in the Win 7 box, the occasional car trundling down our little country lane, and the thing upstairs that we call "The Roarer" which is something to do with our heating system, but I never found out what. And, of course, the sound of typing on my big clicky IBM keyboard. And occasionally, someone using the Geocaching Robotic Arm.

The sound of silence.

Another Pi installed

This one replaces a machine that had several functions.

1) It was the utility machine down in the garage, so that if I was doing stuff there, I wouldn't have to run upstairs to use a computer.
2) It was the main internal nameserver. The IP addresses that I use internally, are all different from the ones that people external to me use to access the computers that I allow access to. So I need an internal-use-only nameserver to do the name-to-ip-address translation for computers inside my network.
3) It was a DHCP server. Ladysolly uses DHCP addresses for her various devices, and I use some too.

So I wanted to use DNSMASQ for the DHCP server, but I disabled it's DNS server abilities, because I'd rather use Bind, because I'm used to it's little ways. Also, it has to respond to two different IP addresses, so that computers that I prepare for taking up to Cheltenham, can be given the configuration that'll use when they are in place. That's so I don't have to reconfigure them at the last minute before taking them there.

Also - it uses a CRT monitor. There's not many of those being sold now, but I still have a few perfectly good ones in use. To use it with a Pi, I had to get the right parameters in /boot/config.txt


That gives me a decent resolution (I think it's 1280 by 1024, the documentation calls it 720p) and removes the blank space at top and bottom.

So it was a fairly complicated install, but I think it's OK now. The Pi is housed in a cardboard case, which was formerly the box that a SATA card came in. It's just about the right size for the Pi and will do the useful job of making sure that it doesn't touch anything metallic and thereby short.

This means that I now have eight Pies sitting in a drawer waiting for me to find a job for them. That's OK - I usually have several motherboards and CPUs sitting around for future requirements. It means that when something stops working, I can replace it immediately, without having to wait for replacement parts to arrive (or worse, finding out that the replacement that I need, is no longer available).

Saturday 2 February 2013

Cold in Colchester

I've recovered from the gruelling Gyratory, so I went out today to Colchester. I parked a couple of miles outside, and got the bike ready. Boy, was it cold! Taters! Brass monkeys. My thermometer said 5 degrees, but it felt more like sub-zero. So I put on three sweaters and set off.

By a couple of hours later, the cold had worked its way in to my bones, and I retreated back to the car for lunch. And after lunch, I decided, it's too cold, I'm going home.

One really excellent cache I did was a multi. I was taken initially to a batch of garages, and the number of the garage gave me A and B. I thought, this is impossible, GPSes aren't accurate enough, it could be any of several. Then I noticed that on of the garages was prominently labelled AB. Ah, OK.

So I plugged the numbers into the formula, and that took me to a house just round the corner, but the GPS was pointing inside the front garden. After walking up and down for a bit, the GPS was still pointing inside the front garden, so I went in, noticed a fake log, opened it up and inside, there was a couple of keys and instructions. That took me back to the garage I'd just left, and the keys opened the door. Inside was a mini Aladdin's cave; the front few feet of the garage had been partitioned off, and that was the cache container. You could say that this is the biggest cache I've ever seen! And there was a handy seat to sit on. But best of all, it was out of the cold, which by then was really getting to me.