Saturday 31 August 2013

Golden Cross

Ladysolly's foot is still poorly, so I went solo today to Golden Cross. First a circuit of 30 caches, then a smaller one of tem.

Some nice caches today; a bird box with a difference (you had to be slightly clever to get into it), a couple of caches that needed tools to remove the cache from a three-foot tube, and a locked box that was also chained to the tree; muggle-proof!

Then I did a few drive-bys on the way home, and a couple of those were pretty neat, too.

One DNF and 43 finds.

Friday 30 August 2013

Daughters again

To London yesterday. First, lunch with daughter.2 who seems to know all the best eating places around Victoria. When I used to work in this area, I used the sandwich shop  in Whitcomb street, a couple of pubs, and that was that.

Then on to daughter.2 and grandson.1, where I entertained the rugrat by blowing bubbles and ladysolly entertained him by wearing herself out chasing and being chased. Then a friend of daughter.1 arrived with her toddler, and we grown-ups could watch while the two kids chased each other. Much easier.

Grandson.1 is now putting two words together, and is able to count up to ten. I'll start teaching him calculus soon.

I put the idea of leaving a bicycle at daughter.1's pad, whereupon she pointed out that she already had one that she hadn't used for years, which apparently had been a birthday present from ladysolly and me. We went down to the garage to have a look at it, and apart from flat tires, it looked fine. And it's a quality bike. So next time I go, I'll take a spare bike helmet and a pump, and I'll be able to womble around London caching.

Then we had a Tesco dinner (or it might have been another supermarket, I wasn't really listening), then home late.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Around Shorne

Today, I went over the QE2 bridge, always a treat, to get to Shorne. This is a figure-8 route, which I like because I can park in the middle, and find myself back at the car when I'm halfway round.

Then I went to Lower Higham to do some road biking.

Rather a lot of DNFs today, I don;t know why. Maybe I'm just having a bad day? But I still managed to get 56 caches altogether

Weight report 62

15 stone 3 pounds

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Robotic arm fix

The Raspberry Pi controlling the Robotic Arm has been crashnig, every couple of days. I think I know why - it's the USB-to-serial converter. Those work fine for ordinary PCs, but not for Pis. I thought I found one that didn't crash, but it seems that it isn't entirely crash-proof.

So I've replaced the serial-controlled relay box, with a USB-controlled one. Hopefully, that will stop these annoying crashes.

And I'm working on a replacement for the Night Mail.

New monitor, hurrah!

I didn't get the HP3065 I was bidding for on Ebay, it went for more than twice as much as I was willing to pay. Which is just as well, because the Korean monitor arrived today.

And it is beautiful!

It's a 27 inch 2560 by 1440, replacing a 24 inch 1920 by 1200 monitor. The colours are great, the text is crisp and sharp, and it cost me about £200, plus vat. I'm using it right now.

The last time I treated myself to a really good monitor, it was the Sony W900, which was 24 inches (but 22.5 inches of actual screen) and was 1920 by 1200. And heavy? I risked an injury every time I moved it. It weighed 92 pounds. Ladysolly isn't much more than that.

But it died quite a while ago, and I've been using a fairly ordinary LCD since then.

The Qnix 2710 is an LED monitor; maybe that's why it's so much brighter? And it weighs like a feather, maybe 15 pounds? I can lift it with one hand. If you've ever schlepped a 92 pounds monitor, you'll know how happy that makes me.

There doesn't seem to be a way to adjust the angles at which I view it, but I don't mind that because its angle is good. And the manual is entirely incomprehensible, unless you can read Korean.

There are no dead or sticking pixels, or at least none that I can see. And the 27 inches is genuine; I measured it.

Setting it up was not easy. I'm using Fedora release 19 (Schrödinger’s Cat), and most of the people running Linux these days seem to be Ubuntu. So it took a bit of work to see how to set it up, most of what I googled was for Ubuntu. But Fedora and Ubuntu aren't that different, so I was able to work it out. Here's the trick.

I used to create a "modeline", and until I told it to use 30 Hz for the scan rate, the screen was just a mess. I don't know why I tried 30 HZ, this monitor is supposed to be able to do 60.

Then I used xranr to tell it about the new setting:

xrandr --newmode  "2560x1440@30" 143.93 2560 2592 3136 3168 1440 1473 1480 1513

Then I told it to add that to its list:

xrandr --addmode DVI-0 2560x1440@30

Then I used "display settings" to enable the new monitor (connected to the dual-DVI port of the computer). That gave me a dual-monitor system; I could slide a window past the edge of the screen, and it would appear on the other screen! But that isn't what I wanted, so I disabled the old screen.

I still have one minor glitch - when the computer starts up, the display is on the VGA port until I start X windows. My fix for that, is to connect the VGA port to another monitor using a KVM switch, just for while I boot up the computer. Slightly annoying, but I very rarely start up this computer, it's normally on all the time.

Still to do: I plan to move the old 1920x1200 monitor to replace a 1920x1080 that has an annoying habit of blanking for no reason, and it has to be switched on and off to bring it alive again. That's the monitor I have on my Windows machine (used for Memory Map, GSAK and iTunes). And that old 1920x1080 will probably replace a 1280 by 960 that I have in my workshop, used as a display while I fix things. Or possibly as the workshop workstation (used for logging in to servers while I'm in the workshop, or for googling information needed to get a computer working).

Monday 26 August 2013

New monitor (s)

The monitor that I bought in Korea 4 days ago, is now at the DHL delivery place in Heathrow. It could arrive tomorrow! I find it mind-blowing that I can order something like that from the other side of the world, and it arrives so quickly.

As well as the £200 cost, I had to pay the VAT (£40) and some sort of charge for the privilege of paying the VAT (£6). There was a problem doing that - they have an automated system that phones you up and tells you the waybill number and the amount. But when ladysolly took that call, she didn't have a pencil and paper handy, and by the time she had, the original message and the repeat had passed. So today I called DHL, got the waybill number, paid the £46, and told them what a good idea it would be if their calling system had a facility to "repeat the message". It's unlikely that this will happen, though - the people who design and implement these systems rarely try to actually use them, so they never find out why they get so many technical support calls.

I'm still the high bidder for the 30 inch, 2560 by 1600 monitor, but I'm not bothered if I don't get it, since I have this great 27 inch 2560 by 1440 arriving any day now.

The battery (24 volts, 20AH) that I ordered from China has definitely not arrived, and I got a refund; Ebay really is a great place to shop, and Paypal makes it even better. So, I've ordered another one just like it; maybe this one will arrive. If the original one ever does turn up, I'll contact the vendor and offer to pay for it.

I'm also looking at a folding mountain bike just like the ones I already have. If I can get that for a good price, it'll be great for spares. The bike I use has a rather wobbly back wheel; the bearings have gone, and it all needs replacing.

And while I was on Ebay, I bought four more polo shirts, Ecobank branded, at £1.99 each. I already have five white ones, and I do like them; good fit and a good feel to them. The ones I've ordered are blue, because ladysolly says I look good in blue.

I replaced a hard drive on a server a couple of days ago - that replacement has failed already. Not a big problem; I've put the data onto a drive that was being underused, instead. And the two additional servers that I took down there, are working fine.

Ladysolly and I went out caching yesterday and today, doing a couple of dozen caches. Today was very hot, and after a couple of hours, her foot was hurting too much for her to go on. And I have some minor problem in my thigh; it feels like it isn't properly lubricated, if you know what I mean. So I'll rest it for a bit; I don't think exercising a painful leg is a good idea.

And I got a call "Did you have an accident in the last three years ...". So I played the goat with them for a while, and I think they got fed up with me. Never mind, I still reported them to the TPL folks.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Server down!

I woke up this morning and saw my scrolling display telling me that I had a big server problem. Sure enough, one of my bigger servers at Cheltenham was down.

I tried rebooting it, and got a bit of a response, but after a little while, I decided that it was no go. But worse - this was the backup server of the server that went down a week ago. I was still loading up the two replacements that I was preparing, and they weren't ready yet - I was expecting them to be fully ready some time next week or so. Nevertheless, I decided that I needed a trip to Cheltenham today.

So I loaded up the two new servers; they've been running for a week without problems, so although they weren't fully loaded yet, at least they'd been well tested. And some tools, and some cables. And a spare hard drive for the server that had just gone down, and a spare power supply for the one that went down last week.

The trip to Cheltenham was easy, it being the weekend, and parking was great. We got the dead servers out of the rack, and I opened them up. As I expected, the one that died last week was a power supply problem; as soon as I replaced that, it was good to go. And the other one was indeed a hard drive issue, so I replaced that.

So now instead of two big servers (one and a backup) I have four. And instead of each of them having four 2th drives and two 3tb, they each have six 4tb drives.

So things are back in action, and I can continue to load up the two new servers. Time spent in Cheltenham - two hours, but add another four hours for driving there and back. And that's why I try to organise things so that I rarely need to visit.

Friday 23 August 2013

Body mass

I just checked my Body Mass Index. It's 29.7. That makes me "overweight", but not "obese".


Bluepoint restored

My access to Bluepoint's web site (they are one of the vendors that I buy IT stuff from) was stopped, according to Bluepoint, because they didn't have an email address to send their "special offers" to.

So I gave them an email address.

And now I can check their pricing.

And their "special offers" emails go into a black hole.

Still, I guess they're happy.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Marmite vindicated

The Advertising Standards Authority have said that they're happy with the Marmite advertisement that got the RSPCA's knickers in a twist. Apparently, even a complete fool can see that it's tongue in cheek, and that Marmite don't actually employ a team of inspectors to seek out and rehome neglected pots of Marmite.

Well done the ASA.

New monitor

For my new workstation, I fancy a new monitor - bigger, higher resolution.

I've Ebay-bid on a second hand 2560 by 1600 HP 30 inch monitor. Those go for around £1000 new; I've bid a small fraction of that (less than £200), and I don't seriously expect to get it.

But I have bought a new 2560 by 1440, 27 inch monitor for £204. That has to travel from Korea to get here, but they say it should be here within a week! What will replace my current 1920 by 1200, 24 inch monitor.

It's comparable in size and pixels to the beautifully-named Yamakasi Catleap, which I've had my eye on for a while, and which is a slightly higher price. It has to be used with a DVI dual-link video output, and my new workstation has one of those just begging to be used!

£200 for a monitor of this quality, blows my mind. It seems like not so long ago I was buying CRT monitors (with the attendant back-breaking lifting) like the Sone W900 24 inch at 1920 by 1200 pixels, costing about £1000. And it was wonderful to look at.

But everything seems to go that way in computing. The first hard drive I bought, for £1000, had 10 megabytes and nearly pulled my arm off as I carried it from the tube station to home. Now I get 4,000,000 megabytes for £110 and I can lift it with my little finger.

Westward ho!

Westward to Cippenham; I had a late pass, because ladysolly was bridging in the evening. First, a circuit of 23 caches along roads, the Spirit Fox circular, perfect for biking. I found all of them, and I also found the cache owner at one of the caches.

Then another ring of 20, "North by NorthWest", interrupted by the Lost Chord series. I found all of those, although one of the Lost Chords was a devil to spot, and when I did find it, the info was missing. But I made a guess at the value, and it plotted to an good-looking spot, and when I went there, I found the cache!

Then finally to Kings Langley, where I did some of the series "The commons", but it involved doing some very awkward lifts over stiles, and then when I thought I'd got back to the road, I lost the track somehow, and had to bushwhack the bike through some dense undergrowth. I was very glad when I finally heaved her onto tarmac. It was 10:30 pm before I got back home. A very good, although very tiring, day out, 67 caches found and one DNF.

Weight report 61

15 stone, 2 pounds. Hurrah!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Drop the box and run

Three deliveries today, the 16gb CF cards (small box), the 12 4tb hard drives (medium sized box, fragile) and the books from Amazon (big box, quite heavy, maybe 20 pounds).

I don't know who delivered the CF cards, someone else answered the door, but all was well. UPS delivered the 4tb hard drives, he was very careful with it, got a signature, and went on his merry way. Well done Bluepoint, delivery next day, perfect!

The Amazon delivery was dropped over the gate (a height of about four feet) onto wet grass. The rather flimsy box split open and the books spilled out. I noticed them a while later - fortunately, it hadn't rained. The driver didn't ring the bell, because we were in all morning. Books aren't harmed by a four foot drop, but other things that one can buy from Amazon can be fragile.

I made a severe complaint to Amazon, who assured me that good delivery was a high priority.

I've built up the two replacement computers, with six 4tb drives in each, loaded Linux Fedora core 17, and I'm now loading terabytes of data onto them. That'll take a few days, then I can go install them at Cheltenham.

I'm also going to try to repair the computer that died there. It's just stone dead; I suspect it's a failed power supply, so I'll take a few with me, and maybe I can repair it on-site. Another computer has a duff hard drive, so I'll just swap it out for one of these nifty 4tb drives.

Advice for market researchers

For reasons I don't understand, although people selling stuff aren't supposed to call you when you've listed your phone under the Telephone Preference Service, people are still allowed to cold-call you if they're doing market research.

You and I both know that some cold-call sellers pretend that they're doing market research, while actually they're trying to see if you're a potential customer.

But that aside.

I don't want people to phone me, unless they've got a really good reason. because I might be eight foot up a tree, with both hands hanging on. Or I might be in the bathroom. Or whatever. And it really annoys me to drop what I'm doing, rush to the phone (it might be a daughter in trouble) only to hear "Have you had an accident recently?"

And it's just as bad to hear "We're doing market research, could you spare a few minutes?"
"Something off" is one possibility, with "something" replaced by your favourite obscenity. But that isn't going to deter them.

So here's what I do. First, I do their survey. But I give them answers that are as wrong as I can make them. The object here, is to invalidate their research. After the caller is done, I ask to talk to their supervisor. When I get the supervisor, I ask to talk to their manager. When I get their manager, I ask to talk to their director. I get as far up their management hierarchy as I can, and when I've reached as high as I can get, I explain. Here's what I tell them.

I'm on the Telephone Preference List. Yes, I know that you're still allowed to call me, but you're not actually compelled to call me, and there's a good reason why you wouldn't want to call me.

And I explain what I just did. And I explain that, now they have to decide whether to keep the data they just got from me, or discard it. But worse, I'm not the only TPS-listed person doing this, and it's only occasionally that we take the trouble to explani to the market researchers that we've done this. We're sabotaging your market research. Because we've expressed a preference not to be cold-called, and guess what you just did?

So, you see, it would be in your best interest to exclude people on the TPS list from your surveys, because that's the only way you can avoid your surveys from being ruined by our sabotage. And you do want that, don't you? Because your reputation rests on providing accurate data to your customers.

The last people I explained this to was Taylor Nelson Surveys. The manager I spoke to sounded shocked that anyone would feel that way. I guess she's never been cold-called.

Monday 19 August 2013

A reluctant vendor

Bluepoint are constantly badgering me to buy more stuff from them. I buy a fair bit of computery stuff, and I've used them in the past, but I had to threaten them (with no more sales) unless they stopped phoning me. They still email me more than I like, but at least I'm not being dragged out of the bath by a sales call. Or called while several feet up a tree in the middle of Hampshire and have to climb down the tree just to tell a Bluepoint salesdroid that "No, I don't have any requirements just now."

Yesterday, one of my servers suddenly died. Not a big problem, I just switched to the backup server, but it means I need to replace the dead one. And I decided to replace it with two the same. That means I need 12 4-terabyte drives, costing around £115 each, plus VAT, and a few other bits and bobs. I checked my usual sources, and Aria came up cheapest, so I phone Bluepoint and gave them the opportunity to beat Aria's published price, which they did. So I ordered from Bluepoint. About £1600-worth of goods.

You'd think that there would be rejoicing in the hallowed halls of Milton Keynes at this. But it's not so simple. I got an email back telling me that, as I hadn't ordered from them for a year, and as it was over £1000, I'd have to fill in an application to be a trade customer. And, of course, they didn't enclose the relevant form. Not that it mattered. Hey, guys, I've been doing business with you for 15 years now, and I always pay up on time.

So I phoned my contact there, Janine, who I rather think is the only person there with a head on her shoulders, and if she ever leaves, they'll be in big trouble. I explained it to her. She was about as surprised as I was, and said she'd sort it out. Which, I think, she did. I'll know for sure when the goods arrive.

If they don't arrive, if that order isn't fulfilled, then I think Bluepoint will have just become too much trouble to deal with. Because I tend to do one big order about once per year or so, when I'm building or upgrading a batch of servers, and if I have to fill in their forms each time - well, I know that Aria are keen to be my regular supplier.

Fun with Barclays

I needed to give one of my customers a refund. Just $13, but when I tell someone they're getting a refund, it's important that it happens.

Barclays have recently changed their system; new user interface and (I guess) a whole bunch of changes to the back end that I can't see. But I got talked through setting it up by their tech support people, and I've done a refund about a few weeks ago, So, no problem, right?

Wrong. I started up their new user interface, and the option to give a refund has disappeared. I must be stupid, I thought, I'm sure I saw it before. But sometimes, just like with a cache, you can stare and stare and just not see it.

So I called Barclays tech support. And Michael told me that I was doing it wrong. I have to find the transaction, click on that, and then I can do the refund. Yes - they changed it, I wasn't having a blonde minute. I gave him a ciuple of minutes on the subject of "Why have you made it more difficult for me to give my customers a refund? Don't you care about me, your customer? And I asked him to make that into a formal complaint.

Then he tried to show me how easy ot was for me to find the transaction and do the refund. So I typed in the card number, and told it to search. "No transactions found". I took the spaces out of the card number (have you ever wondered why in some places when you have spaces in the number it can't handle it, and wondered about how stupid the programmer must have been?) and that didn't work. We tried this, we tried that, nothing found the transaction. So then Michael logged in. "You don't have and transactions in August." But I do - hundreds per day. "Or in July". Eventually, he worked out what was happening.

I send them my transactions using an encrypted XML file, and I get back an encrypted XML file that tells me the result of each transaction. It seems that this was going to the old backend system, so the new system knew nothing about them. As a result, there was no way I could do a refund using their new system.

Fortunately (I'm not as green as I'm cabbage-looking) I still had the old system to fall back on, and I was able to do the refund there. Sorted.

But then I raised the complaint, to include this new blunder. And then Michael brought up something quite horrible. When I go over to using the new back end, I'll have to change what I send them.

At this point is sighed, and muttered something under my breath. And then I explained to Michael.

"So I'm going to have to write a program to translate what I'm currently outputting, to your new requirement. And so will Joe Bloggs, Fred Smith, Harry Hobbit and all your other thousands and thousands of customers. Or, alternatively, you could write it and continue to accept the old format, and translate that to your new format. I, and several thousand of our customers each write a program, or you do it and your customers aren't troubled by this change. which do you think is best?"

Eventually, he understood what I was telling him. Hands up anyone who thinks they'll listen.

So, I'm going to have to change all my software. And I don't even know what to, because this is the first I've heard of it.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Archiving the Night Mail

I set this cache up about four years ago, and it's had 55 people flagging it as a "favourite". But it has to go.

Too many problems.

1. Some of the night tacks are missing
2. The final is missing
3. When I checked the electronics, it turned out that the USB hub was faulty. Easily replaced, but ...
4. The really big problem is that the locomotive is worn out, and when I run the railway, it derails every minute or so. Or maybe the track is worn out? So, time to archive this cache.

But in sorting out the problem with the USB hub - it was a while before I worked out that it was the hub that was the problem. I tried the relay card, the power supply - eventually, with the aid of Google, I found this. My own blog entry! And that gave me the info I needed to diagnose the problem.

Maybe if someone donates an electric model railway, I'll bring it back.

Credit card facts that the banks don't tell you

- If you cancel your card, it can still be billed, often for several months afterwards.

- You know how you're always asked to give your expiry date? Well, most banks don't care if it's right or wrong.

- You know how a card is a 16 digit number? The first six digits are a number that your bank gives to everyone (the bank identification number), and one of the digits is a checksum. So really, it's a nine digit number.

- Gift cards aren't like credit cards except in appearance. For example, with some gift cards (such as Westfield) any money on the card "disappears" after 12 months. And on some cards, there's a 3% fee for each transaction. Which? did a report on gift cards.

- You know how people are always telling you that you should change your password each month? Well, when your card expires (after two or three years) the bank issues you with a "new" one. But usually, the number is the same. And since your credit card number is like a password to your money, I do wonder why they don't change it every couple of years. Is there a shortage of 16 digit numbers?

- Everyone wants to issue you with a credit card - Amazon, Tesco, Paypal and Sainsburys for example. Why is this? Could it be that they make a profit out of you using their credit card? I went to the Tesco web site to find out what having one of their cards would cost me. I searched diligently, but no mention was made of an annual fee. I phoned them; the customer service person said that there's no annual or monthly fee. The Sainsbury web site says there's no fee. Paypal says there's no fee. Amazon don't mention a fee.

Does your bank charge you an annual fee? If they do, explain to them that you're thinking of changing to one of the above, maybe they'll forgive you the fee.

- different card offer different interest rates. Barclays web site, if you have "excellent credit history", offer 18.9%. Tesco (and the others) offer 16.9%. As a general rule, the retailers seem to offer better deals than the banks. I think it's obvious why.

Peek-a-boo, I see you

When talking to a spammer, he seemed quite sure that he knew how many people had read his spam. But how can that be? I know that when I receive or open an email, nothing is sent back to the sender.

Then I thought, and it works like this.

I use pine to read email. That shows me the text of emails, it isn't a browser. But pretty much everyone else, reads their email in their browser; Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or whatever. That means that you opened their spam in your browser, and if you have javascript enabled, which I suspect most people do, because most web sites need it in order to work, then it's easy to write a script that will contact the spammer's server and send a code that corresponds to your email address.

But it doesn't even need javascript.

When you load the spam, it will load various graphics, and they can come from anywhere, including from the spammer's server. If the file name of one of the graphics includes a code that translates to your email address, then the spammer's server logs will tell him that you opened the spam. And, of course, the fact that you opened the spam, confirms to him that there's a human being reading the spam going to that address.

And that, of course, makes your email address more valuable for resale, so it will be sold more vigorously, and at a higher price.

So there's the lesson. If you get a spam that gets you curious about what it might be, then opening it tells your spammer that you're awake and reading his spam. And you'll get even more spam.

And, of course, if you click on the "unsubscribe" link, any honourable spammer will stop sending you spam. Sadly, not all spammers are honourable.

Friday 16 August 2013

A difficult day in Rockingham

The day started badly. The whole time I was driving north, it didn't stop raining, and when I arrived it was still drizzling a bit. The weather forecast had warned me of the possibility of a bit of light rain, and that's what I was seeing.

So I parked, got the bike out, put on my camo coat to ward off the wetness, loaded up with water and a spare battery, and pedalled off.

On the first cache, I parked the bike on the bridleway (which was tarmaced), stepped into the hedge alongside and started to hunt for the cache. A Landrover drew up alongside my bike, and a man got out. It was at that exact moment that I spotted the cache hanging on a tree and grabbed it. The landrover man came to the gap in the hedgerow; I put the cache in my pocket. "Are you OK," he asked, meaning "what are you doing?" "Yes, I'm fine, thanks," I replied, meaning "I'm fine thanks." That usually is the end of the conversation, but he wanted more. "What are you doing," he asked. "I'm admiring the trees," I replied. "I don't believe you," he opined.

Well. I've never had that before. Well, I have, actually, but not often. So I looked a bit sheepish, and said "Well, if you must know, I've stopped off to have a wee." "Can I see what you've got in your pocket?" he asked, pointing to where I'd just put the cache contents. So I took my hand out of my pocket and showed him my car keys.

Then he wanted to know what I had in my caching bag. "I'm not telling you," I replied, and decided to play a more active role in this exchange, "and who are you anyway?" "I'm the gamekeeper," he replied.  "And do you have any proof of that?" I asked. "I can give you my phone number," he offered. I took out a pen and paper and got ready to write it down. "What's your phone number?" he asked. "I'm not telling you," I replied. "Then I won;t tell you mine," said he. "Well, fair enough" I said, "but you do know that this is a public bridleway?" I said. "Yes, but not if you go into the hedge," he replied. So I came out of the hedge, and said "Then I'll just have to wee at the side of the track." At which point, I think he realised that A) I wasn't there to steal his hedge and B) he was being a bit unreasonable. And he generously allowed me to go back into the hedgerow to have my wee. And he drove off. So I was able to replace the cache log and lid. Right through this exchange, his face was about six inches from the cache which I very carefully didn't look at. And he didn't see it.

The next few caches were along the same bridleway, and I was constantly worried that Landrover man would reappear, and my excuse-me was going to sound a bit thin. But I didn't see him until just after I'd turned off his territory, and we cheerfully waved at each other as I biked off at a right angle to the tarmac.

So that resolved OK.

The next big problem was wasps. At cache number 16, I found GZ quickly, a big tree, but before I had a chance to search, I noticed quite a lot of wasps buzzing around. And then I spotted the cache - it was precisely at the entrance to the wasps nest.

I've had dealings with wasps twice before. They do not like people poking around with their nest, and several of them dive-bomb you with their stings. And the only defence is to run like hell. Or bike away fast. In order to get hold of this cache, I was going to have to move some wood at the entrance to their nest, grab the cache, then replace cache and wood. You might think that it was rather cowardly of me, but I decided not to risk it; half a dozen wasp stings quite ruins your day. I know, it's happened to me. Twice.

Then I departed from the route to pick up a cache that I'd DNFed a while back; this time, the cache was there and I found it. Then back to the route, and round about number 20 or so, I met the next big problem - mud.

Now I'm as fond of mud as the next man; jumping in muddy puddles is one of my hobbies. But this was the sort of gluey clingy mud that adheres to your bike wheels and makes it impossible to push along. Forget about biking, you can't even walk the bike. I was having to stop and dig  the mud off the wheels and brackets every 20 yards or so. The next 300 yards, which should have taken about a minute on a good track, took about an hour, and left me knackered.

Eventually, I got off the mud onto a decent surface ... only to realise that I had another 500 yards of mud to traverse through the next field. No way, I thought, and went a long way round instead, along the edge of the field.

Eventually, I got clear of the muddy tracks, and the rest of the route was on tarmac. Whew!

I sat in the car eating my sandwich (diet, one sandwich, around 300 calories) and drinking coffee (skimmed milk, no sugar) and thought about abandoning the rest of the day. Because of the general wetness, my camo coat was quite wet, my trousers were wet from going through wet vegetation, and my boots ...? I was wearing my non-waterproof boots, big mistake, and they were full of water. I took off boots and socks, and wrung out the socks; quite a lot of water came out.

But I was prepared. I had a spare pair of boots and socks, and my summer trousers are so light, they dry out very quickly. And the rain had stopped, and there was even a bit of sun, so I wouldn't need the coat.

I decided to soldier on.

The second route today was another 30 caches. I went round on the bike, and it was very fast; I was doing about a dozen caches per hour. No stiles, no mud. Wonderful.

So I did a total of 66 caches today, with no DNFs.

A couple of fun things I saw today.

You don't expect to see a number 6 Routemaster here!

They closed the public library, they closed the public phone box. So the villagersadded the two problems together and came up with this answer.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Journalist ethics

Daughter.1 took an amusing picture, and posted it on her Facebook account. Various people told each other about it, and it "went viral", meaning that lots and lots of people told each other about it.

One Twitter user tweeted it. And it went viral on Twitter.

A big UK newspaper printed the picture. No-one asked daughter.1, the copyright holder, if that was OK. So she phoned the newspaper to complain.

The newspaper's position was that they had asked the Twitter user if it was OK for them to use it, and the Twitter user said it was. Notice - they didn't ask the Twitter user if she had the authority to give that permission.

It's a bit like if you were walking down the street, saw a car you liked the look of, and asked another passer-by if they minded if you took that car.

Newspapers get very keen on copyright, but that's when it's their copyright at stake. Do they care about other people's copyright? Obviously, not so much.

So, take heed. Any picture that you post on Facebook, or on Twitter, or on your blog, might be taken by a newspaper and splashed across their front page. And they probably won't ask your permission - if they ask permission from some random person, they think that's enough. So before you publish your wedding photos, or your baby pictures, or your pictures of yourself, you should ask yourself - would I be upset if this appeared on the front page of the Daily Bugle?

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Ringmer runabout

To Ringmer today. I had a look at the route on the map, and decided that I'd do it on foot. Good decision; there were a lot of difficult stiles for lifting over, and about half of the track was either bike-unfriendly, or downright bike-hostile, even wheeling the bike would have been difficult. 40 caches done in 5 1/2 hours, then lunch in the car, then 20 more drive-bys (or nearly so).

Here's an unusual notice ...

They weren't, though.

The route took me past a gliding club, and I was gazing at their field when I heard a whooshing noise from just above my head - it was one of the gliders coming in to land.

The eight mile walk has left me feeling seveerly broken, though.

Weight report 60

15 stone 6 pounds

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Workstation 1 upgrades

I ordered a couple of things for the new computer, and they arrived today. One was a new power supply; this has an eight inch fan - the idea is that larger fans can turn more slowly, so make less noise. I don't think it made any noticable difference compared to the low-noise PSU I already had.

The other thing I ordered was a connector to take the parallel port header pins to a DB25 connector on the outside of the case. So that I can connect my trusty old HP Laserjet 6P. But one of the holes in the connector to the header block was filled in, and it wasn't the one that corresponded to the missing pin on the header. So I couldn't plug it in.

Until I drilled out that hole, so now it fits.

I catalogued my collection of Sharpe books, and worked out which ones were missing, then went to Amazon and ordered them.  That brought my basket up to 42 books, so I went through the checkout. And so I have a huge order on its way from Amazon. I rather think I've already read the ones I'm missing, but the Sharpe books are so good, I won't mind reading them again. Maybe I'll read the whole 24-book series from start to finish.

I read a lot of books.

I had a thought about that recently. I see a lot of messages on the motorway; mostly rubbish notices, like "Think bike" and "No incidents reported". And I thought about the people who can't read, of which there are some, and then I thought that between the people who read fluently and the non-readers, there's probably a whole spectrum of readers with anything between poor and excellent fluency. And I wondered how many of the poor readers can actually read those notices (of which, occasionally, one is important or useful) before they've whizzed past.

And I guess the people who put up these notices don't realise that all those rubbish notices are reducing the likelihood that the important ones get read.

Monday 12 August 2013

Thrashing through Thurrock

First, a circuit of 40 caches, done on the bike. These included a couple of tree climbs - not too high for me, and great fun. I had three DNFs on the route.

Then lunch, and south to do half a dozen in Grays, then East to Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope, for another trundle round on the bike.

I got home at about nine pm, to find my wife and three of her bridge cronies playing with the devil's pasteboards in the lounge.

In the course of the day I encountered this unfortunate misprint on a bridl3way sign. Once you've chiselled the letters, you can't erase them!

And this poster outside a pub - if only it were earlier in the day, I'd cause them to rue that offer.

55 caches found today, and half a dozen DNFs.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Shopping for bridesmaids

Dresses, that is. And I was parked at daughter.1's drum while the girls had fun. And there it was that I first met not-the-boyfriend.1, who isn't the boyfriend of daughter.1, and where I had sushi lunch, with curry. I had a long discussion with ntb.1 about the pretzel business, in the course of which I learned much and made various suggestions for how pretzels might go in the future - when you see the first automated hot pretzel vending machine, remember that it was my idea. Then we were joined by ladysolly and daughter.2 (and bridesmaid.1) and we all played with grandson.1 (I had brought a bottle of bubbles expressly for the purpose) while watching Toy Story, of which he is currently a keen fan. Then fiance.1 arrived fresh from some football fixture (affianced to daughter.2) and we had a lebanese dinner, together with lashings of ginger beer. Ladysolly and I got home at about midnight. A good day out!

Friday 9 August 2013

New workstation

I love my new workstation; 3.5 ghz and 8gb memory. I think it's mostly the memory that makes a difference, but I've noticed that a lot of web sites make extensive use of javascript, and the faster (and multicore) processor greatly reduces the delay on those. So logging finds at is a lot faster.

I use terminals a lot; logging into a whole bunch of remote servers. For that, I want a lot of terminal in a small space, because I have multiple terminals. For that, Lucinda is the font to use, but Lucinda wasn't there. So I googled around until I found it, installed it with Yum, and not I have Lucinda.

I'm using Fedora core 19, which uses Gnome 3.8 as the user interface. I've gotten used to Gnome version 2, so I missed the multiple workspaces that I can instantly switch between - it's like having several computers on the same keyboard, mouse and screen. I googled around, and found that I can install extensions to Gnome,so I did. I've installed:

Applications Menu, Panel Favourites, Taskbar and Window List. Between them, they make Gnome 3.8 a bit like Gnome 2, which is what I'm familiar with.

I also installed my usual Firefox extensions - Adblock Plus, Noscript, and Tineye Reverse Image Search.

Still to do:

I need to install the HMRC tax software, and Flash (I hate flash, but there's one web site that I have to use, that requires it). Most of the time I can leave it disabled.

... later ... I installed Flash, after a bit of a struggle, but when I installed the HMRC software, it put a button on the desktop, but it doesn't seem to run. Oh well. I only need to run this once per month for a few minutes; I'll probably just run it from the old computer.

More things to do:

I've ordered a cable to take the parallel header on the board, to a DB25 connector on the outside, so I can plug in my faithful old HP Laserjet 6p. And I've got a (so-called) silent power supply; since I'm on the same room as this computer, (which I've imaginatively named "workstation 1") I would like it to be quiet, since my Raspberry Pies are all totally silent. I think the trick in having quiet fans, is for them to be large and rotate slowly.

My plans to go to Southend tomorrow have been scuppered. I've been roped into an expedition to London to buy bridesmaids dresses. Fortunately, I've managed to avoid getting involved in the actual dress shopping, but I do have to go to London to visit daughter.1, grandson.1 and the lad who, I'm told, isn't daughter.1's boyfriend. The explanation about why I had to do this was too complicated for a male brain to comprehend, but maybe I can go out on Sunday. It's always good fun to visit daughter.1, and I have my laptop there so I'm not without computer power.

... later ...

I downloaded libpng12-1.2.50-3.fc19.i686.rpm and installed it. And the HMRC software worked!

Bike maintenance

Bike maintenance today, while I recover from the exertions of yesterday.

I wasn't able to get into first or second gear; tightening the gear cable fixed that, now I can access all the gears.

The front brake was worn down to nubbins, that's why it was making a horrible screaming noise when I used it. So, brake pads replaced.

The PDA holder wasn't working. I tracked it down to a small piece of plastic inside that had broken under the stress, so I replaced the PDA holder.

The handlebar grip had become very grungy, so I replaced that. And I greased the main suspension spring, and gave it a squirt of oil; maybe that will stop the creaking noise as I bounce up and down along a field.

The bell was working when I took it off, so I put it back on again.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Rutland Water

Today, I went up north to do "Rutland Water and Back". 32 caches, plus some extras along the way.

The first extra was a puzzle cache - it was a word search, which I did, but I couldn't see how  to get coords out of it. So I just guessed where it was, and I was spot on.

The second extra was a multi. I gathered the info, worked out the location of the first micro, which looked to be in a plausible place ... except that it was in the same place as one of the traditional caches that I'd be doing in an hour or so. And when I got there, the traditional cache was at the foot of the tree, and the micro for the multi was about six feet above it!

That's not supposed to happen - there's a rule that says that caches, or any physical stage of a multi, have to be at least 528 feet apart.

So then I went to do the final, and that was 18 yards from a cache I'd done earlier.

On my travels I met:

A cycling muggle, who engaged me in conversation when I stopped to get a cache, until eventually I just picked up the cache and signed it while he watched and I explained to him about caching.

A pair of old ladies with their two dogs, who I met again later on in the circuit.

Two young women with four children and three dogs, who sort of hovered around while I was looking for a cache until I asked them if they were cachers, and they were. And then I found the cache. Torches for each of the children! One of the kids asked me if I was a kidnapper, so I told him, not until he's at least six inches taller.

And I saw this:

You won't get me up in one of those things. I'd want an experienced pilot.

Quite early in the circuit I fell off the bike, but it was a very slow motion fall, and I was already low down when I fell, so no damage done, except that there's a small patch of vegetation that will remember today for a long time.

On the way home, I went down the A1; that took me out of my NW quadrant, into my NE quadrant. That meant that I didn't have the caches loaded on my PDA as I was driving along, but I did have them on TomTom; I could see them on my satnav, but a satnav isn't accurate enough. So it was a live test of the new system I've developed that lets me have all of the 50,000 unfound caches within 150 km of home. I loaded up segment 15, and that gave me the locations and icons on Memory Map, so I could continue caching on the way home.

53 caches done today, quite tiring!

My bike won't go any lower than third gear, so tomorrow will be bike maintenance. Also, the bell has stopped working, one of the handlebar grips needs replacing, the big spring needs greasing and I ought to check that the brakes aren't too worn.

My new computer (6 cores, 3.5 GHz, 8gb memory) is working like a dream. I think the main improvement came from the increase in memory; the old box was 1gb, and it was very often needing to resort to disk-swapping, which meant long delays while it sorted itself out. And I don't see a way to upgrade that motherboard to more than 2gb.

Wednesday 7 August 2013


I saw the new Marmite advertisement; initially I was a bit puzzled about what they were on about, because I don't really pay much attention to adverts. But by the end, I realised that they were rescuing neglected pots of Marmite and finding them new homes.

I thought it was quite funny - I liked the ad. It won't sell more Marmite in this house, because although I like it, ladysolly hates it, and she controls the food decisions.

Imagine my surprise when I read in the Telegraph today that they've had 250 complaints in the first 24 hours.

Why? Apparently, it offends animal lovers.

Well, I'm offended now. I'm offended that people can comlain about a slightly funny advert, in good taste and not at all offensive.

And I'm offended that the RSPCA has decided to butt in on this so that Marmite and the RSPCA can "work together on animal welfare". I'm offended because it isn't Marmite's job to work for animal welfare; their task is to make Marmite, and since it's entirely vegetable in origin, the RSPCA has no business butting in.

I shall complain to the RSPCA about this. They have offended me. My complaint number is 68224. Here's what I said:

I read that the RSPCA is getting involved with the makers of Marmite about their recent advert.

It is wholly inappropriate that the RSPCA get involved in this - no animals are being harmed in the making of this advert (or in the making of Marmite) and the RSPCA is wasting my contributions to the charity by butting in on this. I am deeply offended by the RSPCA trying to get the makers of Marmite to "work together on animal welfare". Some people will think that this is an attempt to get the makers of Marmite to make a contribution to the RSPCA, and this puts the RSPCA into disrepute.

 ... later ... here's the RSCPA's reply

Thank you for contacting us about the new Marmite advert.

Concerned supporters, who share your concern, have been telling us they feel this advert trivialises the work of animal welfare charities since it portrays a spoof rescue team saving "stricken" jars of Marmite from homes where they have been neglected.  

 We can assure you that the people wearing uniforms in the advert are not RSPCA staff, The RSPCA was not involved in the making of this advert and we were as surprised by its content when it first aired on Monday evening (5 August) as many of our supporters were.

Marmite have since offered us £18,000 which is how much it costs to run our inspectorate service for one day. This will make a massive difference to the animals in the RSPCA’s care and we are very grateful for their generosity.  Love the advert or hate it, we are thrilled that Marmite have put their money where their mouth is and are supporting animal welfare by making a donation to the RSPCA.

Kind regards
RSPCA Advice Team

They seem to have assumed that I have the exact opposite concern to what I told them. So I've pointed that out to them.


Weight report 59

15 stone, 4 pounds

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Seaton and back

Another epic journey today. First up the A1M to Morcott; I parked at a service area, got the bike out, loaded up with a spare battery and lots of water, and trundled off.

I was in trouble almost immediately. The track went through the middle of a field, and the recent rain had combined with the loose earth to make a mixture that stuck to my wheels and jammed into the brakes. Fortunately, I was able to make progress using the "ten yard forward, one foot back" method. I was worried that this would be the theme for the day, but it turned out that this was the only place that gave that problem.

A few caches further on, I was going along the side of a field quite slowly, and then I fell off, onto my left shoulder - that's the one that I didn't injure about a year ago, and which has almost recovered. At the time I thought that no damage had been done - I bounced back up and continued on. But later on, I found that I'd broken the mirror in my carry-bag. Oh well - I have a spare. And I didn't injure my left shoulder, for which I don't have a spare.

I progressed on to Seaton, where I picked up a few extras not in the series, then up to Bisbrooke. That's where the viaduct is.

I did a cunning little multi puzzle there, and then went on to Glaston, and from there back to Morcott. By then it was 3:30, so I had lunch and spent a couple of hours doing drive-by caches, including one that had me in my wellies walking along a stream to get a cache under a bridge. I finished off with the final of a series I did ages ago but ran out of time on. 63 caches done today, and my back hurts from all the biking.

Tomorrow, I think I'll build my new ultra-fast computer.

Monday 5 August 2013

Programming in the rain

As per forecast, it was bucketing down today, so I'm glad I didn't go out. Instead, I was sitting warm and dry indoors, watching the rain and programming.

Yesterday, I was embarrassed by loading up the wrong quadrant of data, which meant that when I arrived at the caching location, I had to rely on the data on my iPhone because I can't use my iPhone for geocaching (see below for why), and tapping it into the Loox. Today, I looked for a way to avoid this problem.

I've tried to solve this before. I can't load all 49000 caches onto the Look, it will only take about 20 or 25 thousand. So I have the area quartered into sections, but I can only load one of them, computer-to-Loox, and I couldn't find a way to have the others also sitting on the Loox "just in case". Just in case I screw up again, that is.

Space isn't an issue - I have a 16 gb CF card on the Loox, and there's lots of spare space available,

Today, I found a way!

I use GSAK to store the full database, and feed it on a steady diet of PQs from Groundspeak. Also, with GSAK, I can tell it to check with Groundspeak about the status of caches. Without that, I could go looking for a cache that has been archived, or at least disabled. Each day, I tell GSAK to cough up a GPX file of all unfound caches within 150 km of my home; that amounts to about 49,000. And I've written a perl program that reads that GPX file and spits out:

1. The four quadrants of data as CSV files, which can be imported into Memory Map on the PC, and Memory Map on the PC can send them to the Loox.
2. The html pages for each cache, with hints and logs
3. Cut-down GPX files for the iPhone version of Memory Map, giving locations and hints, but it's pretty useless on the iPhone 3 that I have because each time you move, it takes a minute or two to notice that you've changed position, which is maybe good enough for some purposes, but not for caching.
4. POI files for TomTOM

So, starting with this program, I've added to it, so that the 150-km circle is cut into 16 squares, that means less than 8000 caches in the worst square, and 8000 is an important limit because Geosphere can only handle 8000 caches. Geosphere is what ladysolly is now using on her iPhone 4 (which doesn't suffer from the same problem as the iPhone 3) and she loves it, she says it's the best geocaching thing she's used. I don't like it much, because the mapping it gives you is whatever it can get from the internet, which A) is totally useless when you're away from a good 3G signal, and B) pretty useless at best because the map doesn't show footpaths. But when we're out, I do the navigating, so she doesn't really need much mapping.

So, today I made a breakthrough. I can take each of those 16 files, and run it through GPSBabel to convert from GPX files to MMO files. And MMO is "Memory Map Overlay". So if I copy those files to the Loox, then I can load whichever of them I need, into Memory Map. That will give me the positions of the caches, on an OS map so that I can navigate to them, and when I double-tap on the cache icon, it loads up the HTML file of the cache description, the logs and the hint.

And all of this works without an internet connection, which is quite often the case when I'm out in the middle of nowhere.

Sunday 4 August 2013

To Pirbright

Today, ladysolly and I went to Pirbright to do a 25-cache ring. The weather was dry and not too hot, and I planned it so that we'd get to a pub at just after the halfway point.

Disaster struck just after I parked the car - I'd loaded up the wrong database on my Loox, so I didn't have any information about any of the caches. Fortunately, I'd put Geosphere on both of our iPhones, which gave the lat and long, and for each cache, I just put that into the Loox, so I had mapping to guide me, as well as all the cache details on the iPhone (Geosphere uses Google maps, which is massively inferior to OS maps). I really must find a way to put my entire database of caches on the Loox - I can't just bung it on, because the Loox can only take about 25,000 caches, and my database of caches unfound within 150 km, is about 50,000. The way I handle this is to divide it into four quarters (with a little bit of overlap) and load up the quarter I'm about to visit. You can see how that can go wrong!

We found all the caches except one, and I suspect that one has gone.

Then a Turkish Takeaway for supper - yummy.

Heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I'm staying in.

New motherboard

It's been a very long time since I buoght a new motherboard - several years, in fact. I standardised on one particular board, and bought 30 of them, plus processors and memory. I did that because I was fed up with playing motherboard roulette - each time I bought a board, it was different from the others I had, and I didn't know whether it would have all the properties I need, or how well it would work. So I've been slowly working my way through that stock - and I still have a whole bunch of them.

But the computer I use as a workstation could be faster. It only has 1 gb of memory, and it runs out, and starts swapping to disk, and they whole thing starts to run slowly. And I get a bit fed up. I thought, I know, I'll upgrade the memory to 4 gb, but when I looked, I just could not find 2 gb memory modules that would work in the boards I use. Not anywhere. Which tells you how obsolete the stuff I use is - just as well I bought everything I needed when I did the mass purchase.

So I had a look on a few of my favourite web sites. First Bluepoint, But, despite them phoning me from time to time to solicit more sales (despite me asking them not to), when I went on to their web site, my password no longer worked. So that ruled out Bluepoint. Scan were ruled out because I couldn't find anything on their web site remotely like what I wanted.

Aria was a lot better. They sell barebones systems (mother board, CPU and memory) and I can add a hard drive (I'll probably use an SSD drive for speed), put it in a case with a power supply, and I have my workstation. The one I went for is an AMD 4.1 Ghz processor, six cores (which means it can do six things at once, and Linux will make use of that), 8gb memory (and I think I could add more). I was surprised to see that it doesn't have an IDE header, so none of my CDs or DVDs will work on it, and I do need to attach a DVD so that I can load Linux. So I ordered a Sata DVD. The system was £234, the DVD £11. I'm expecting it to be a few times faster than my current system. Maybe 300% faster.

I also ordered a 4tb hard drive - not for that system, but because at some time in the future, I'll be needing to use those, so now would be a good time to start experimenting with it.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Egham excitement

Ladysolly and I went out today to to a small ring in Egham. First, we had lunch at one of our favourite places - Beaconsfield Services. I had a meal from the Ho Sin Noodle stand (spicy chicken), and ladysolly had a Domino Pizza. I lost my caching bag, because I put it down next to my chair, decided that the chair was too low, and moved to a nearby table, forgetting my bag (containing iPhone, wallet ...). When I remembered, I saw it had gone. A nearby staffer saw me looking for it, and said that it had been handed in. I gave a pretty good description of the contents, and was given it back. Whew!

I wore my new high-top trainers for the 3 or 4 mile walk, but I think that the soles are too thin and uncushioned for walking. They'll be OK for cycling, perhaps.

Then around the ring. The first one (called Nice and Easy) was anything but, and even with our combined efforts took ages; I was very please when I heard the dulcet tones of ladysolly announcing a find. The others in the loop were pretty easy. 22 caches done today.

Friday 2 August 2013

A handy phone number

I was called by a market researcher today. That's a market researcher, not a "market researcher" who is actually trying to drum up sales leads. Lucy, fro   
wanted opinions on ... well, I don't know what. She wanted to talk to the person whose birthday was next, and when I told her that person was out, she gave up. So I don't think it was a sales call.

Which actually makes it even more annoying. You can put yourself on the Telephone Preference Service, it's free, and it does seem to ward off most sales calls (and when it doesn't, I make a complaint). But for reasons I don't understand, market researchers are still allowed to call, and they still do call. Why do they do this?

I'm guessing that they're trying to get an unbiassed, truly random sample, and it wouldn't be random if they obeyed the TPS. But what they might not have realised, is that whenever I do get surveyed by someone phoning me up out of the blue, I give them deliberately wrong answers. Why do I do this? In order to help them to understand that it's not a good idea to call people who are so keen not to be called, that they put themselves on the TPS. I expect that other people do the same thing.

It was fortunate for Lucy that she gave up so easily, otherwise their survey would have been ruined by one cantankerous individual who doesn;t like to have his time wasted by people calling him to do market research, and has tried to say so by signing up to the TPS.

Still, some good came out of this. I now have a phone number that I can give when I'm asked to give a phone number and when I suspect that giving it will lead to a bunch of unwanted sales and marketing calls.

You can contact Taylor Nelson Sofres on 0208 433 4494.

Thursday 1 August 2013

To Thrapston and Titchmarsh

Two circuits today on the bike. One of 35 (that was more like 45 with some extras) and one of 20 at Titchmarsh. When I got to Titchmarsh, I started to recognise the place - I've been here before to pick up a puzzle cache. So I knew where to park and how to get to the Nature Reserve. I had a few DNFs, but a total of 64 caches is good, and I had a great day out in the hot sun.

A bunch of polo shirts that I've ordered have arrived, and now I know why they were so cheap. They're emblazoned with "Ecobank, La Banque Panafricaine". The Ebay seller did say that they were "Ecobank", but I assumed that was a clothing brand. No - it's a bank. So I'll be advertising the merits of La Banque Panafricaine when I wear them, but I don't mind; all my other clothes seem to be advertising either a clothing brand, or an antivirus company.