Saturday 30 August 2014

Another UPS

The second set of batteries arrived, and I've put them into another 3000AV UPS. So now I have five of these large UPSes working. The biggest problem, is their weight. They must weigh around 50 kilos; I can barely raise one off the ground.

I'm putting a server together for running Wordpress on. The biggest challenge is going to be making it secure - PHP and wordpress have a long history of insecurity. I'm thnking a firewall will help.

Friday 29 August 2014

Lunch at The Grove

Ladysolly and I had lunch today with daughter.1 and daughter.1.husband at The Grove, one of my favourite places. I had smoked salmon for starter (and chicken wings, and onions, and quiche) followed by sweet potato soup. Main course was duck (yum) and sweet potato chips, plus a yorkshire pud. Dessert - I had some Brie and black grapes, the Brie was great but the grapes were terrible. And then I was going to have cheesecake, my favourite, but by then it had all gone, so I had some cherry cake instead. Then they brought out another cheesecake, but on close inspection I discovered that it was the Wrong Sort of Cheesecake.

There's lots of kinds of cheesecake, but as far as I'm concerned, the divide is whether it is baked or not. Non-baked cheesecake is squidgy and slimy, and I really don't like it. Baked cheesecake (otherwise known a New York cheesecake), on the other hand, is Ambrosia.

So, on the way out, I explained my disappointment to the head waiter. Maybe next time we go there, the cheesecake will be baked.

A very nice day out.

New driving licence

The replacement arrived today. Good news! The three points that I had on it from a while back, are gone; they fade after a few years. But my recent bout of not obeying the variable speed limit on the M1 (I was doing 58, because what I read as 60 was actually 40) has cost me another three points.

Plantar fasciitis is back :-(

I've had plantar fasciitis before. What it feels like, is a pain in the heel when you put your weight on it.  It's caused by overuse, weight or age.

I haven't overused my foot. I do nearly all my caching on the bike, so the feet aren't weight-bearing while I'm moving from cache to cache. I've lost weight (I'm down to 15 stone, 5 pounds on last weighing). But I have to admit, I'm older than I was yesterday.

I've had it before, in my right foot.  I can move around the house, but going for a long (more than a mile) walk is definitely contra-indicated right now. But I know how to fix it. I have a method that's worked twice before, and here's the theory.

According to Wiki, "Individuals with plantar fasciitis often report their symptoms are most intense during their first steps after getting out of bed or after prolonged periods of sitting." and that's exactly what I get. Further internet research told me more about what's going on here. When you rest, healing starts. While you're asleep, things mend themselves. But while you're asleep, your foot is in the relaxed pointed-down position, so the healing happens in that way. When you stand on the foot, it's now at the 90-degree position, and all that fine healing-up is undone.

The answer is a night splint. Weight reduction is also a good idea, but I'm already trying to do that. There's other treatments including surgery (I don't fancy that) and Botulinum Toxin (no chance). I tried stretching exercises, but they didn't seem to help. But in the past, when I've had this problem, the night splint fixed it. And it's the sort of treatment that doesn't sound like it could be excessively unpleasant.

I have a night splint, it looks like this:

It holds my foot in the "standing up" position while I'm asleep. It's fairly easy to put on, the straps adjust with velcro. It holds my foot in the right-angle position overnight, and the only downside is that if I need to get up in the middle of the night to use the loo, it's a bit of a hobble to get there, or else I take it off and then have to put it on again, all while I'm half-asleep. So, no big downside, and in the past, it's fixed the problem.

Fingers crossed!

Thursday 28 August 2014

Alconbury again

I like going to Alconbury. There's a great place to park, I can leave the car there all day. And what stiles they have, tend to be the very large kissing gates, no problem getting a bike through.

So I went to Alconbury again today. Before I went, I gave a puzzle to ladysolly to solve, she likes that kind of thing. But it did make it important that I find that one!

Heaving those heavy UPSes around yesterday has made my back hurt slightly. I wouldn't go so far as to say "strained back", but I was very glad I didn't have to lift the bike over any obstacles today.

And Freda the Freelander is going for service, she's developed a bit of a whine when I turn the wheel, and I *don't* want to suddenly lose steering at an inopportune moment. Also the handbrake could do with a bit of improvement. So today I took out Victor the Volvo, a big heavy car with a poor turning circle, but room in the back for the bike.

I did 52 caches; as well as Alconbury, I went south a bit to pick up a few extras, includinmg a couple of solved puzzles I've had for a while. That meant that I had to cycle back to Alconbury along the main roads. The A14 was hairy - huge articulated lorries were passing me a few feet away, and the benefit of the rush of air whooshing me along wasn't enough to compensate for the fear of ending up splatted.

But the A14 was not as bad as the A1, which I also had to go on. I was *very* glad when I could turn off it.

Bike.2 performed beautifully. I was in low gear almost the whole day; 12 mph is more than enough over rough ground - 8mph is more like it.

The cache of the day was "Troll lol lol lol", a cache that I tried before when this was the "Alconbury Amble" and failed. I failed again today, but I Phoned a Friend, and she gave me enough information for me to have another go and I found it!

52 caches done today, no DNFs.

Wednesday 27 August 2014


Down in the Data Shed, all those computers are consuming power. And, of course, I use UPSes on them, so that if there's a power glitch, I don't get a load of reboots.

One of my three big UPSes (made by APC) has had a red light for some time now, and I don't know what it means. Also, it's been beeping plaintively, but only occasionally. Another one is running at 50 degrees C, which is hotter than I think it should be. So today, I spent some time sorting out power problems.

I ordered eight 12 volt batteries, and I used those to replace the dead batteries in an old 3000 watt UPS that's just been sitting doing nothing for a while. I connected it all up, and there was a flash and a bang, and I knew that this wasn't good.

So I got another old 3000 watt UPS, and put the batteries in that, and ther was no flash, and there was no bang, and it was good, and I saw it was good. Good it was.

Then I had a bit of a think, and there's some computers that don't really need to be on all the time. I mean, if there's a power cut and they go down, nothing terrible happens. So I put them directly onto the main power.

And now I have four big UPSes, and I redistributed the load so that they're only passing two or three amps (they're rated for 13). The red light has gone, it's looking good.

Encouraged by this, I dismantled two more UPSes, made by BPC (I have six of these). I can see what sort of battery they need, 12 volts 12 ah, and I can get a set of four new batteries for £70. But then I thought some more, and I decided to get another set of eight batteries for the APC that didn't go bang.

I also have a small (650 va) UPS that's been sitting in a rack for ages. I took that apart, and that also uses a 12-12 battery. So I bought one of these (they use them for mobility scooters and the like) for £17, and I'll rescuscitate that UPS.

By golly, those lead-acid batteries are heavy!

Tuesday 26 August 2014

I lost my driving licence

I have a drawer in which I keep important documents, like my passport. I needed my driving licence (I've incurred three points for not conforming to the variable speed limit on the M1) and I could find the plastic that had my photo, but not the paper part, and you need both. Ugh.

I searched high and low. I can't imagine how I lost it - it lives in that drawer and it only ever comes out when it's needed, which is, like, almost never. Eventually I gave up, and phoned the DVLC in Swansea.

I expected a major performance, but once I'd got past the menu system, I spoke to a very nice man who asked me my name and address, and then started addressing me as "Dr", which meant he'd found me on his system. He relieved me of £20, and I'll get a new licence in the post in a couple of days.

Last year, I lost my passport. Again, I don't know how that could have happened. In future, if ladysolly (or anyone else) needs to borrow either of these temporarily, I'm going to get a receipt.

Fedora core 20 on an old motherboard

I tried to install Fedora Core 20 on an old motherboard, but Anaconda (the installer) bomber out with "Pane is dead".

I tried all sorts of things, and now I have a good list of what doesn't work:

 - googling Anaconda pane is dead
 - Core 19
 - more memory
 - less memory
 - basic graphics mode
 - swearing

What does work:

When you get the menu that includes "Install Fedora 20", press the Esc key.
That gives you the boot: prompt, and from there you type "Linux text".

Now you're installing Linux in text mode, and although I've never used this interface before, and it isn't as nice as the graphical interface, it was pretty obvious how to use it.

Sunday 24 August 2014

More memory

Ladysolly will be playing bridge in Cheltenham, next November. And that's where my colocation is, so I'll use that time to do some computer maintainance.

The way I work, is I have frontline computers, backup computers, and computers that are powered-off, ready to be brought into service when a frontline computer goes down. Right now, I have three dead computers, and three giving problems.

The dead ones are easy - I'll just build three more to replace them. I have everything I need for that except the hard drives, so I'll need six 4tb drives.

The dodgy ones are a bit harder.

One of them is dodgy because it has two drives each with 20,000-odd bad sectors. That's fairly straightforward, I'll just replace those drives with a 6tb and a 4tb

One of them keeps crashing, every few days. The usual reason for that is faulty memory, so I'll replace the memory (and one of the drives) and hope that fixes it.

And one of them crashes every week or so. Again, a memory transplant. That also has a drive with 3000 bad sectors, that will be replaced.

So, overall, not too much work. I'm holding off buying the drives as long as I can, because the tendency in drive prices is downwards. Right now, 4tb drives cost £104 and 6tb £190. I need eight of the 4tb and three of the 6tb.

For the memory, I'll need 4 1gb sticks, and I want to give the memory a long, long test before I install it. So I had a look at my usual memory sources, and there's a bit of a problem.

The motherboards I'm using are old, very old. I bought them several years ago, they work fine, I still have a dozen in stock, and I don't want to use something more modern until I absolutely have to. But they use DDR memory, and these days, it's all about DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4. So much so, that one of my suppliers (Aria) doesn't seem to do DDR. My other frequent supplier, Bluepoint, does, at a mere £10.20 per stick. But then they hit me for (probably) £10 for carriage, based on past experience. So I thought I'd have a look on Ebay.

Buying memory can be a nightmare, if you don't know your onions. There's ECC and non-ECC, there's PC2100, PC2700 and PC3200, and it turns out (I hadn't known this until today) that there's two kinds of density, low and high. High density comes with a huge compatibility problem; low seems OK. So I want non-ECC, PC3200, low density, and I can get that on Ebay, from China, for £6.50, including postage, per gigabyte.

I remember, 25 years ago, buying 64kb ram chips for £80. 1024 kb make a mb, and 1024 mb make a gb. And a 10 mb hard drive cost £1000. Those were the days!

So I've ordered 4gb of memory; based on experience, it'll arrive within 10 days. It might be rubbish, but I've bought 1gb memory sticks from a reputable UK supplier, with the brand "Rendition" that I'll never buy again. If when I test them, they fail while being tested, I'm out £26, and I'll order more from one of my UK suppliers.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Hail August!

Yes. Hail in August. And a driving wind. While I was out on the bike. It was so bad, it was quite painful, so I lurked under a tree until it was over.

Today I took the bike to Moulton Chapel, near Spalding in Lincolnshire. It was at the extreme of my range for caching, 130 kilometers away, but how could I resist 40 caches, all on a network of small roads?

The bike performed well, but I got soaked. However, I need to do a couple of small repairs.

One of the bolts on my rear carrier came undone AGAIN! That leaves my rear carrier not fully supported, and with the weight of batteries I'm carrying, that's bad. I've replaced the bolt, and I'm trying a different way of locking it in place.

The PDA holder came apart when the bike fell over (I left it on it's prop stand, and the wind was just too much for it). So that needs fixing. And the LCD clocks that I ordered have arrived, so I've taped one of those to the handlebar.

An interesting thing that I discovered about the two-speed motor. If I'm doing 12 mph, then in low gear, it's pulling 250 watts, but in high gear, the same speed is pulling 500 wats. According to the wattmeter on the display, that is. I know that electric motors are more efficient if they run faster, so maybe that's the reason.

They grow gladioli here, they made a fine picture. Then the hail came down.

40 caches done today, and a few DNFs.

Thursday 21 August 2014


I don't get punctures. Or at least, that's what I used to say. But I'm going to have to say "I rarely get punctures".

I got one yesterday. I didn't find out about it until today; it was a very slow puncture, which is good, because it didn't affect my day out. I looked at the inner tube; a thorn had got past all my defences and gone deep enough into the inner tube to cause a slow leak.

Yesterday, I went down some *very* rough tracks, overgrown with brambles and other spiky plants. I'm guessing that's how the puncture happened. I've replace the inner tube, pumped it up again, and it seems fine.

Replaced rather than patched ... these inner tubes cost about £1.50, and it's more cost-effective for me to replace rather than patch, because I'm not very good at patching, and previous attempts have usually failed.

I also got a puncture in my telecoms. I have a leased-line, with a 2 mbit capacity, because you can't get fibre where I am, and I need upstream as well as downstream capacity. I noticed it at about noon, just a few minutes after it started. I quickly narrowed the issue down to a telecoms problem, and phoned Daisy, my supplier.

The tech there suggested that I switch off my router, wait ten minutes, then switch it on again. I cannot imagine any problem that this would fix, but I did it anyway, and guess what? It didn't fix it. And then Daisy discovered that it's a line problem, and Vodafone are working hard on it because it's affecting lots of people.

So here I am, seven hours later, still without my main line, using one of my DSL lines as a temporary measure. I think that's more than my SLA (service level agreement) allows, so when this is all fixed, I'm going to ask for compensation. I expect they'll do something like a one month discount.

By coincidence, BT phoned me, to upsell something to me. I told the salesman that I might be interested in fiber broadband. I told him what I currently have; that 2 mbit leased line and three ADSLs (I use those for backup).

He suggested something interesting. I think my 2 mbit is actually over a 10 mbit line; that would allow me to upgrade from 2 to 10 without anything needing to be installed, they'd just flick a switch. So it boils dow to the cost of bandwidth, and that's a lot less than it used to be. I know this, because so many ISPs are now offering "Really Truly Honestly unlimited broadband", which is different from the old "unlimited broadband up to a limit that we're not going to tell you until you reach it". So if they can offer that on consumer-grade ADSLs, the bandwidth must be really cheap. And maybe they can do me a really good deal on my leased line. That would mean that I could dispense with two of my DSLs, saving me a bit. Even better, of course, would be if they could undercut Daisy's price for 2 mbit. But I told him that, because of the hassle of changing, it would have to be a *much* better deal, not a slightly better deal.

He tried the old salesman's trick of asking me for a target price, but I told him, go as low as you can, and then I'll decide. And what I'll probably do with his "as low as possible" quote, is haggle him down a bit.

And then decide.

Update: 19:45, I have connectivity!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

To Brigstock

Today, I took bike.2 (with the dual-speed Xiongda motor) to Brigstock. I did two circuits, first "Another Brigstock and back" and "Brigstock to Stanion".

The bike performed perfectly. I was in low gear the whole time, except when I was on tarmac. In low gear, I can get up to 12 mph, which is plenty when going over a rough track. Then I tried low gear for starting off, and switching to high when at about 12 mph. I also tried the automatic gear change, which worked fine.

The thermometer was good; it told me that the motor temperature got up to 32 degrees, but because I'm stopping frequently for cache-hunting, it was able to cool down. And I don't think I'd be worried until it got to at least 50.

The front brake failed at one point (but not at a critical moment); it only took a few seconds to fix it, but I need to work out why it happened. I also need to tidy up the wiring.

And I've discovered that having the PDA on the left instead of on the right is good, because it means I can see the indicator that tells me which gear the bike is in.

48 caches done today, no DNFs, but I did quite a lot of replacements of missing caches.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Bike stuff

I bought ten reed switches on Ebay for 99p. They arrived yesterday, and I had a little play with one today. It's neat. It's a switch, which turns on when you put a magnet near it. I'm planning to use it to control the bike motor with the brake cable. The idea is that when I put the brake on, the cable moves, that moves a magnet stuck to it, and the magnet gets close to the reed switch, which closes. And that tells the bike controller to switch off current to the motor. So if I forget to cut the motor when I put the brakes on, this will do it for me. Not that I've ever done that.

I also tested a nice switch that I got (also Ebay, also about £1). It's actually three switches in one. It's sold as useful for horn/headlight/turn-switch, but that's not what I have in mind.

I have a three-way switch for the Infineon controller, that switches the amount of power between 30%, 60% and 100% (those percentages are programmable, and that's what I chose). 30% is really feeble, it's a "granny mode". 60% is what I usually use, and 100% is for when I'm going as fast as I can along a long straight length of tarmac, I hardly ever use it. I can use the turn-switch for that function, it has left-middle-right.

The Xiongda motor has two gears, and you access them by running the motor either forward or reverse. I can use the "headlight" switch to tell the controller to run in reverse. And the horn switch? I have a horn; not as loud as a car horn, but it makes a nice noise and I can use it to tell pheasants, cows or pedestrians that there's a bike comping towards them, so they don't get startled as I pass.

My tests with the motor so far, gives me 11 or 12 mph in low gear on the level, several mph more in high.

One problem I see; according to the documentation I've seen, the fastest you can go in reverse is 70% of full speed. That makes some sense because reverse is usually so that you can back the bike (for example, a heavy cargo trike). I'm not sure if that 70% limit really is true; experimentation will tell me. What I really want, is 100% in low gear, and 30/60/100 in high gear. When I run the xpd software (that's what you use to program the Infineon), that seems to allow up to 100% in reverse.

But first, I'm going to use the bike as it is, with just the options of low or high gear. Actually using it for caching is going to tell me what modifications I want.

Another jaunt to London

Ladysolly said she was going to London to visit our offspring on yesterday, so I decided to tag along. I remember, when I was young, my grandmother would often visit my mother, and that was always great.

I had a chickenburger, fries and peas for lunch, and a Lebanese minced-lamb dish with rice for dinner, I always eat too much on these visits. We played with grandson.1, but we decided not to go to the sandpit because the weather looked threatening.

We also got visited by daughter.2, and just after she left, the rain poured down, and I don't think she had an umbrella.

A nice day out.

New wine in old computers

I use wine. That's either "Windows Emulator" or "Wine is not an emulator", depending on how you feel. The idea is to make it possible to run Windows problems on a linux computer.

Why would I want to do that? Well, I need to run GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife); I use that to update my database of found and unfound caches, to create the files that I use to make the files for my PDA, and for all sorts of other things. I really need to be able to run GSAK, and I have an entire Windows computer just so that I can.

So I installed Wine on my Fedora version 19 linux computer, and then installed GSAK. To my great surprise, it worked. Maybe I'm a pessimist when it comes to comupter compatibility. Everything worked except for some features to do with accessing the web site, and even there it mostly worked. Hurrah! So I set up cron jobs and macros, so that my updates could be done automatically.

Then, a few days later, my linux box nagged me about updates. It's so easy to update all your software on Linux, I just run "yum update", and everything gets updated.

And then GSAK worked, but a lot less than it did before. For example, I couldn't tell it to output a GPX file, which is crucial. Grrr.

My guess was that this was because Wine had been updated. The wine was version 1.7.22, so I decided to change to 1.6.2, the previous version.

That turned out to be difficult. "yum downgrade wine" looked like the right command, but it dodn't work. I'd have to install the older version 1.6.2 without yum. First I had to remove the existing version of wine. I tried "yum remove wine" but it wouldn't do it. Eventually, by doing "yum remove wine*" I got rid of the new wine.

To install the older version of wine, I couldn't just do "yum install wine" because that would have put 1.7.22 back on. So I had to download the source code of 1.6.2, compile it and install that.

yum -y groupinstall 'Development Tools'
yum -y install libX11-devel freetype-devel
tar -xvjf wine-1.6.2.tar.bz2
cd wine-1.6.2/

That worked, although the compile took a very long time. Then I ran GSAK, and now it works as well as it did before.

Computers are such fun!

Sunday 17 August 2014

To Bishop's Stortford with ladysolly

We went to Hatfield Forest country park, where there's a whole bunch of caches. We did 14 of them, and got a couple of DNFs. But the caches were mostly very good ones!

Saturday 16 August 2014

Testing bike.2

I took the bike out for a test run. It's powered by 12s of Lipo. The summary of my testing, is that it's the bike I plan to take out when I next go out geocaching. Which means I'm happy with it.

In low gear, the top speed was 12mph, in top gear it was 20 on the level. That's pretty good for a 250 watt motor.

I'm actually happy to run most of the time in low gear; when I'm on a bridleway, if I'm doing 10 mph then I'm going pretty fast.

I took it to my local steep hill test road. It climbed it at 7 or 8 mph, with only a very slight encouragement of pedalling; most of the hill it could climb without any help.

The voltage display is nice; the watts display is good, but I have my own wattmeter, which revealed that the max amps was 15 (not surprising, that's set by the controller) and the max watts was 750 (which is because I was pulling 50 volts x 15 amps). It's also nice that there's a speedometer. You can choose units of miles or kilometers.

There's 5 levels of PAS; I haven't tried that out as I prefer throttle. There's also a level which is "walking speed", which is about 4mph, and the bike keeps on going as long as you have your finger pressed on the display's button (which means that if it runs away from you, it'll cut power).

The thermometer on the bike display is useless. I think it's displaying the temperature of the air, it certainly isn't showing the motor or controller temperature. My own thermometer (an aquarium thermometer, cost me about a pound) turned out to be excellent. I checked its display with an infra-red thermometer, and by feeling the motor. The axle is hotter than the casing, and it peaked at 36 degrees C, feeling really quite warm (but remember my blood heat is about 40, so not really hot). It might be possible to put a few more amps through the motor.

The autoshift does work; when the speed falls to around 7 or 8, it changes to low gear, and at 12 or so it changes to high. But, obviously, it has no anticipation. When it changes gear, you lose power for about a second. My feeling is that I'll prefer to make my own choice when to be in low and when to be in high, based not only on my current speed, but also on what I can see coming up ahead of me. So I think that for me, the autoshift won't be very useful.

Which means that I could replace the controller with any controller that will let the motor go in reverse at full speed.

Friday 15 August 2014

Biking in Bedford

I went just north of Bedford, to finish off two series that I've partly done; the "Cartoon Cats" and "Two birthdays one bash". I had a great bike ride around the area, then down to Bedford for the MVT series, which was all on tarmac. So a good day out, and 58 caches done, including one in a very clever hide that I've not seen before, and it isn't often that I can say that!

I was on bike.3. A couple of problems developed. One minor, something broke the horn wire, I'll have armour it a bit. The other possibly more serious; the back wheel does a little bump, once per revolution. I'll have to look into the cause of that.

Deliveries from my Ebay purchases; another kickstand like the one I'm using on bike.3, which has proved to be a *lot* better than the one it came with, I think because it's adjustable. Two thermometers, that I can use to monitor motor temperature. And one roll of camo tape.

Also, I've had an idea. I have a handlebar switch that combines horn, power on/off and a three way switch intended for turn indicators, but I have no need to those. I'm thinking that I can use this, maybe, for the three speed control on the bike, which right now, has a separate switch. I'll have to test to see if my multiswitch turn indicator can give the same signals as the three-way.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Finishing off bike.2

Today I finished off. Installed the LCD meter/control panel, installed the controller and a throttle and tidied up the wires. Some comments.

First of all, let me say it's very nice, it's really all I hoped.

It is quiet, except at high speed there's a sort of buzz, nothing that sounds bad.

I'm running it from 12s Lipo. At low speed, I get 12mph, and it climbs the very gentle hill I tested it on like it wasn't there. At high speed, with a very slight downhill, it can get to 20 mph. I'm happy with that; this is a 250 watt motor. Most of my biking is done at less than 10mph.

The autochange doesn't work very well; I'm not bothered, I wasn't planning to use it anyway. It has trouble deciding to change gear, I think.

When you change gear, there's a delay of maybe a second before you get power again. Since the motor is reversing it's direction of motion, that's not too surprising.

The LCD thing is a bit complicated to learn how to use, but I guess you'd get used to it. It tells you that it's going to give you motor temperature, but it doesn't - as far as I can tell, all it gives you is the outside temperature. I don't really understand that; there's six control wires going into the motor, surely one of those is the temperature sensor? Maybe I haven't understood the LCD thing. It does give you battery voltage, and speed, which are the main two things I want. The voltage is in volts, hurrah, not some arbitrary number of blobs on a blobmeter. You also get an odometer. I plan to add a clock, because I like knowing the time.

Something to watch out for; there's a "walk the bike" mode, which is nice (2.5 mph in low speed, 4mph in high) but if you invoke it while you've got the bike in your garage, you'd better be ready for the bike to start going forward! But as soon as you take your finger off the LCD's control, the bike stops, which is very good.

The wheel does freewheel forward, but there's more resistance than in an unmotored wheel. Not so much that you couldn't pedal the bike, though. There's a lot more resistance if you try to go backwards, but I doubt if that would matter much to most people. You can wheel the bike backwards, it's just not as easy as forward.

Rebuilding bike.2

Bike.2 has a motor I got from Ebay from a company called "Germanladen". The motor and bike work fine, but I wanted to use the new two-speed wheel, and of all the bikes I could work on, I decided that this was my least favourite.

The spokes arrived today. So I read the expert view on building a wheel. You can see how complicated it is. But my view is, if someone else can do a task, then I can too.

I installed the key spoke, using a spoke washer. Then the next, and the next, until I'd installed all 9 of the first run. Then I took them out again, because I decided that the spoke washer was causing a problem. And installed them again.

Then I did the second run of nine, then the third and the fourth.

To install a spoke, you have to thread it through the hub hole, then bring it to the correct rim hole, and screw in a nipple; that attaches the spoke to the hub, and you can tighten the nipple to get the necessary tension. I managed to get one of the nipples inside the rim. The first time I did this, I took all the spokes out to get the nipple out. The second time I did it, I had nearly all the spokes installed. So I left it there. As a result, I'll have a slight rattle in the wheel. It adds character.

Then I put the wheel on the bike, and discovered that, although the forks are wide enough to take the hub, the forks get narrower after a couple of inches, and that fouls the hub, which means the wheel won't turn, which is a bit of a disadvantage in a bike. Ladysolly called dinner at that point, so I had a think while I ate.

After dinner, I went out to the Volvo, and got the jack out. It's a screw jack, used for lifting the car when you want to change a wheel. So, as you can imagine, it can exert a lot of force when you turn the handle. I put the jack between the forks (which I measured at 10 cm separation), and turned the handle, spreading the forks. You can do this with steel forks, which I have, but *NOT* with aluminium. I spread the forks about an inch, which reduced to half an inch when I took the jack out. I tried the wheel, that wasn't enough. So I repeated the process, spreading the forks even more. When I'd finished, I had forks that were 1 cm wider than before, and they weren't fouling the hub.

Next, I had to true the wheel; that means, making sure it doesn't have a wobble. To my great surprise, it was already true! So I went round the wheel tightening up each spoke by one turn, which left them nice and tight, and the wheel was still true.

So now bike.2 has a new motor and wheel. It weighs 12 pounds, which is  6 1/2 pounds less than the Germanladen wheel, and that's worth having, because I'm lifting this bike several times each day.

Tomorrow, I'll install the controller, throttle and other electronics. And then see how well it works.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Signing for a delivery

A lot of the deliveries I get, I sign for. That assures the seller that the parcel arrived, and that I have the goods. So if some bad person were to try to claim that they hadn't received the goods when actually they had, and demanded a refund, they'd have proof of delivery.

But it doesn't work.

I bought a rear carrier for the bike, cost about £12. Not a high value item, not really worth stealing, because what would you do with it?

It was sent by the vendor, with Yodel as the carrier. I bought it at the end of July. On August 8, I checked Yodel's web site, they had the item, but it was still in transit. I checked it again two days later; now it was saying that the parcel had been delivered on August 1st. Strange.

I contacted the seller. They asked me to contact Yodel (really, it's them that should do this, because it's them that are paying Yodel, not me). But I did as they asked.

Yodel said that the parcel had been signed for, signature "Alan".  And the whole point of this system is that there's proof of delivery.


No-one here would sign for a parcel using my name. And when I sign for a parcel, I don't use my first name. It wasn't me that signed for this, and it wasn't ladysolly, or anyone else here.
So how come there's a signature that says "Alan"?

This is where the system breaks down. The parcel is addressed to me by name, so if someone wanted to pretend to be me, my name is right there in front of them, written on the parcel.

So, for example, someone could be waiting by my front gate, intercept the parcel, sign it "Alan", and waltz off with the proceeds of their crime. Which I could understand if it were a packet of diamonds, or a wodge of cash. But it's a rear bike rack, only useful to you if you have a bike without a rack, and often not even then.

OK, the miscreant wouldn't know ahead of time that he was stealing something pretty useless. But I'd guess that most such parcels are pretty valueless. A pair of size 11 boots, three XL t-shirts, a second hand pannier - that's the sort of thing I buy.

So what happened here? Yodel are investigating, and the driver came round here today, and we had a discussion. He has no idea what happened, and why would he remember the details of what happened during a delivery that happened two weeks ago, one of hundreds?

It's a mystery. The Mystery of the Missing Carrier.

Weight report 84

15 stone, 4 pounds. Hurrah!

St Mary Bourne

I went South today, because I wanted to attend the "Cunning Cachers" event, one I've been to a few times before, and it's always well attended.

First, I went caching, and did a bunch of the "World cup" series. I did 32 caches, including visiting this church to get the info for a multi.

I'm guessing that the building is also used as a synagogue. Good idea, economical and ecumenical.

So after circling the large curchyard a couple of times, I got most of the data, guessed two of the numbers, and worked out a location ... a couple of kilometers away! So I decided to do it later, when I'd be a bit nearer the place.

I also saw this near a stile.

And indeed this is true - the stiles were simple gates, so easy to get a bike through!

Then I got back to the car, at about 14:30, for lunch and a rest. But then, batteries changed, I went out and did another 30 caches. And it rained a bit, so I got a bit wet - not a problem in summer.

Then on to the Cunning Cachers event, where I met a lot of people I've never met before. And I suggested to Keith that he organise a Kilo. What's a Kilo? Well, if a Mega is an event with 500 or more people, a Kilo must be an event with half a person or more.

Tomorrow, it's bike maintenance. The horn button on the bike fell apart, and I do actually use that horn occasionally, to let a walker know that I'm coming up behind them. What I *don't* want, is for me to pass the walker, the walker to suddenly notice me, and jump to one side ... the side I'm passing on.  That wouldn't do much damage, I'm always going very slowly as I pass people. But if it causes me to fall off the bike, I'd be unhappy. It's best if they know I'm there.

Also, the gears need adjusting, and the rear brake. And if the spokes arrive, I can build the wheel using the two-speed motor!

64 caches done today, no DNFs.

Monday 11 August 2014

Technical support scam part 7

I'm astounded. And I think it was the same people. Because she also called herself "Flora".

Sadly, I was too busy today to play with them. So I told them "My phone is downstairs, my computer is upstairs."

Did that stop them? It did not. Flora got me to write down a long list of things that I was supposed to do, and she was willing to hang on while I went upstairs to do them.  Or, she said, she could call me back in ten minutes.

But, as I said, I was too busy to play with them. So as soon as she'd finished talking, I said "OK, I'll go and do that now" and hung up.

She hasn't called back.

Stuff arrives ...

On advice from the experts on the pedelec forum, I opened up the two-speed motor again. Before, I'd put the improved grease in like spreading butter thinly on toast; this time I whacked in great dollops, like marmalade on toast. Or chopped liver.

The rim arrived today. I measured it, and it was exactly as advertised, so I did the calculations for the spoke size, and ordered 36 spokes from probably the best place in the UK to get spokes. I'm getting 36 spokes of "Sapim strong", because apparently those are the strongest spokes. I'm also getting spoke washers because I think the holes in the hub are a bit large, and a proper Park Tool spoke key (I've been using an el cheapo tool up tilll now).

I think I'll be able to install the rim, spokes and hub togather, but if I can't Tiller Cycles will do it for me for £25. I'd rather do it myself though, because I do like making things.

Also the tire arrived today, it's my usual Schwalbe Black Jack; reinforced with Kevlar.

Saturday 9 August 2014


Today, ladysolly and I went out to Dunstable. Ladysolly made the sandwiches, and I did the driving. We did 26 caches, and had one DNF, no rain and we're both cream crackered.

The grease for my new motor arrived today, and a "while you were out" card from the post office; I wonder what that is? I'll find out on Monday.

Thursday 7 August 2014

On the bike

Today, I went up to Hatley, near Bigglewade. The first circuit was 44 caches, the second was another 20. There were no stiles! Not a single lift was required, which is nice. I found 67 caches, and one DNF

I saw a couple of trig points. Trig points are what we used to use before GPS was discovered. As you can see, they were pretty heavy to hump around. Leaning casually on it you can see bike.3.

I came into a field and I saw these - they're dwarf humpless camels. Very cute.

And here's an important lesson in security. If your security chain isn't long enough, use a bit of wire to make it longer.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

A day in

The weather forecast for today was for rain all day long, so I decided not to go out. Mistake! The weather was fine all day long. Bah.

I did manage a bit of an outing - I cycled to the doctor's to pick up some eye drops. THat's several kilometers and back.

I also managed to find the time to have a look at the new dual-speed motor, and with help from an expert on a pedelec forum, I took it apart (I want to put in better grease). It's a very interesting idea; if you rotate the motor coils one way, the axle turns, if you rotate it backwards, the axle turns the same way, but more slowly! Very clever; it means that by running the motor in reverse, you have a lower gear, just what you need for getting up a steep hill.

One of my battery chargers packed up completely; I've only had it for a couple of weeks. I did an RMA with Hobbyking, and they're going to replace it. I find Hobbyking's customer service very good, this isn't the first time they've done a replacement on faulty goods.

So today's outing will take place tomorrow.

Someone is trying to use one of my DNS servers for nefarious purposes; using it as a reflector/amplifier against a third party to do a DDOS attack. So I've tightened it up; now it won't do DNS service for anyone except me, It was trying to resolve names like and It's still trying, but my DNS server isn't answering.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Annoyance number 437

It isn't very high on my list of annoyances, but I was reading an article by somoene who doesn't know the difference between loath and loathe.

They look similar. They sound similar. But the meaning is as different as disinterested is from uninterested.

Loathe is a verb, a bit stronger than hate. I loathe boiled carrots.

Loath is an adjective, meaning "unwilling". I am loath to go out in the rain.

Loth is an alternative spelling of loath.

So now you know why, at that point in the article, I was loath to read on.

You can see the same thing with:

bath and bathe
breath and breathe
cloth and clothe

Bought on Ebay

The new monitor arrived, and it's Wonderful! I can't actually see the scratch that they said marks the screen. So I'm bidding for another one.

The long sleeved cotton "Fruit of the Loom" t-shirts I got have been very good. I don't need to put sun cream on now, and the fabric, even though it's light, gives my arms some protection against nettles, thistles and brambles. So I've ordered five more.

I felt the motor of bike.3 while I was out, and it was definitely getting warm. Then I felt the nut that holds the wheel in place, and that was, as you'd expect, equally warm. That means that I can fit a temperature sensor to the wheel; I can't put it on the motor, because that's spinning, but I can put it on the nut. I've ordered two (£1 each). And I've also ordered a nice big LCD clock for the bike; also £1.

The two-speed motor arrived. It feels heavy, but actually it's only 3.32 kilograms, which isn't much for a motor. A very knowledgable guy on the pedelec forum suggested this motor. He also suggested that I replace the grease inside with better quality grease, so I've ordered a pot from Ebay. Also two double-walled (and therefore stronger than single) rims, two Kevlar puncture-resistant tires, and the tape to go on the rim to stop the spokes from puncturing the inner tube. I already have loads of heavy-duty inner tubes, and the gel inserts. I'm planning to put this on the Haro bike that I got a few months ago (with the original intention of using it for spare parts). It will be bike.7.

When the rims arrive, I'll do some careful measurements, then work out the length of spoke I need. If the spec of the rim is correct, I'll want 213 mm spokes. I can get 36 of those from China for £20, but I'd rather get them from Tiller Cycles for £27, because A) they won't take a week or two to arrive and B) TIller looks like he knows what he's doing when it comes to bikes. He also offers wheel build and truing for £10, which sounds like a really good bargain - I've done this once, and it's a long and tedious business (but I'd guess he's got the proper tools for doing it quickly and efficiently).

I also bought a couple more of those LCD voltmeters; they're ideal, much better than the LED ones for seeing in sunlight.

Tomorrow I have a late pass, ladysolly is playing bridge. I'm planning to go Hatley. There's a 40-cache ring "A walk on the wild side", and then "A walk in the Buff", 17 more caches. There's a few more around while I'm doing those.

Monday 4 August 2014


First, I did "Little Addington and back", a ring of 32 caches (and I did an extra one). While I was doing this, I met a group of three lady cachers at a cache, and then I caught up with another pair of cachers.

At one cache, I was just writing in the log, when a muggle drove up. "What are you doing?" he asked. "I'm cycling down this bridleway," I replied. My usual policy is to answer this sort of question with an answer that adds nothing to what the questioner can already see for himself. It's surprising (to me) how often this finished the conversation. In this case, the young lad sat in his 4x4, obviously wondering how to continue this conversation, so I said "Nice dog," referring to his dog. And he said "yes" and zoomed off.

A couple of caches later, I was talking to the cachers that I'd caught up with on the trail, and the young lad joined us, looking a bit like he wanted to say something, but couldn't think what. So I asked him what he was up to, and he gave me a detailed answer.

Then I did "Thorpe Waterville and back" plus a few extras nearby for another couple of dozen caches. That took me up to 5:30, so I set off home, but I stopped off for a couple of caches that are just off the A1; one of them I had a go at several months ago without success, but this time I found it.

A good day out; there was a light shower, but not enough to get wet. 62 caches found.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Monitor maintenance

The monitor for my multiple-terminal server stopped working, so as a stopgap, I swapped in an old CRT display. Very old! You can't actually buy CRT displays any more. But this one, an Iiyama Vision Master 17, seems to be able to display 1600 by 1200, although the text font is rather small. Very small. I have a few of these left over from when CRT was the only kind of monitor.

Today, I tested the old monitor, and it wouldn't power on. And there's no obvious way to open it up to see if a fuse has gone, or something simple like that. So, new monitor.

I had a look on Bluepoint, my go-to site for bits and bobs, and I could get a 1920 by 1080 21.5 inch monitor for £75. But I really want 1920 by 1200 or better. So I had a look on Ebay. And I bought a second hand 1920 by 1200 24 inch monitor for £61. It says it's scratched, but the scratch is small, and I don't think it'll bother me.

I'm also bidding on another 24 inch, 1920 by 1200 monitor, no scratches, but I didn't put a high limit on the bid, so I doubt if I'll get it. I bid the amount such that, I'll be happy if I get it, and I won't be unhappy if I don't.

Tomorrow I'm planning to go caching near Kettering. I like Kettering.

To the zoo

Yesterday, ladysolly and I went to London, and with daughter.1 and grandson.1, we all went to the zoo in Regent's Park.

It's quite a long time since I've been to the zoo, especially this one. When the girls were young, we'd take the to Whipsnade (which is also part of the ZSL). It's changed a lot since I was last here.

The biggest change is that there's fewer species, and larger habitats, which must be good for the animals. And no elephants, which is sad for us, but probably better for the elephants. Another change was in the number of foreigners. But I suppose in a place like London Zoo, in August, you've got to expect a lot of tourists.

The blue ball in with the camel isn't an accident from a visitor; the camels had two of these balls, and I suppose they play football with them?

The penguins weregood, and grandson.1 also visited the petting zoo, where he fondled a goat.

Friday 1 August 2014

ADSL maintenance

I have three ADSL lines, used mostly for doing backups. Yesterday, one of them died, so I called TalkTalk on 0800 298 6725 -2 -2 and spoke to Ryan. He did some tests, agreed that the line was faulty, gave me a fault report nuber, and I left it with him.

Today, 20 hours later, the fault was still there, so I called TalkTalk again and spoke to Tommy. Tommy told me that nothing had been done in the last 20 hours. "Nothing?" I asked. So I explained to him that, as I was paying business rates for this line, I expected rather better service than "cross your fingers and hope that it fixes itself."

Tommy was suitably apologetic, but even better, he seemed to know a bit about supporting ADSL. First he suggested that maybe my router was the problem, and he'd send me a new one. I doubt that this is the problem, but I'm willing to try it. Then he told me that this would most likely fix the problem of not being able to sync.

"Sync" means that the router contacts the exchange and is able to handshake, authenticate and log on. And a little light comes on at  the router to tell you that this has happened. I also have remote diagnostics for this router. So I knew that I was, in fact, getting sync. So I told Tommy this.

Ryan had written on the fault report that it wasn't syncing, even though I told him that it was. And Tommy just accepted this. So then Tommy looked at his remote diagnostics, and saw that it was, indeed, syncing. And that completely changed things.

On that line, it was set up for 6db of signal-to-noise ratio, which is the default. But on a noisy line, that's assuming too much, and so Tommy set it to 9db. That immediately fixed the problem! He told me that I'd get about 1 mbit less bandwidth (which would reduce me to 6mbit, and I guess I have to live with that).

Then I told him that I have two other lines. He looked at one that has been giving me problems,  and that was also on 6db; he set that to 9db. The third one, which hasn't been giving me problems, was already on 9db.

So I learned something new about ADSL today.

Bike maintenance

After spending the day on bike.3, it needed a bit of maintenance. That's part of the fun of a bike.

While I was doing a cache, I spotted a piece of aluminium tubing, just discarded rubbish. And I thought, "If I flattened that, and drilled a couple of holes, and attached it to my rear carrier, it would keep the pannier away from the back wheel". So I grabbed the tubing, and installed it on the bike, and I think it's going to work just fine. So maybe I didn't need the dogleg carrier that I bought.

I also fixed the speedometer, although I still don't know why it wasn't working.

I usually run the bike with a wattmeter on the battery, so I can see how many amp-hours I've used. But the answer tends to be fairly boring - I'm getting about 90% of rated capacity, pretty consistently (although yesterday, one battery gave me a tidge over 100%, so don't tell me "it's impossible to give more than 100%"). And yesterday, I noticed that the wattmeter was a bit warm, maybe even a bit hot. That means that it's consuming power, which is power that isn't going to the motor. So I'm going to run without it; I have an assembly that's just a switch (with charging resistor) and fuse, and I'll use that.

The purpose of the switch is this. If I just plug the battery straight into the controller, there's a big blue spark as the controller's capacitors charge up. That spark is definitely bad for the contacts, and maybe not too good for the capacitors. I can avoid the spark, by putting a power resistor between the battery and the controller, so that the capacitors charge up slowly and there's no spark, but then, of course, the rsistor stops the controller from getting full power from the battery. So the switch is there to short-circuit the resistor. I have the switch off, plug in the battery, plug in the battery monitors, and by the time I swith the switch on, the capacitors have charged. Occasionally, I forget to plug in with the switch off, and I get that big spark, so I know it's a good idea to use this arrangement.

The LCD voltmeter is perfect. I can see it in full sunshine, and in the shade, and I'll be able to read it at night. I've found that I don't really need an ammeter on the handlebars.

The inner tube on the back wheel moves. Well, it's meant to move, of course, but I mean it moves relative to the rim, which means that the valve starts to stick out at an angle instead of at 90 degrees, and if that gets bad enough, it can shear off the valve (that happened to me once). I deflated the tube and moved it back to where it's supposed to be, at 90 degres, but it keeps working its way round, and I'm not sure why.

And I got a phone call from DHL, they want me to pay £14 before they'll send me a delivery. That must be my two-speed motor from China!