Saturday 29 August 2015

The best movers in Toronto, part 2

I quote the spam in full:

Subject: Received annoying spam from BestMoversToronto?

Received annoying spam "from us"?
We understand how it feels, but we didn't do this.
Someone very jealous is trying to bring reputation of our company down by
sending these annoying emails to you. These spammers' goal is to make you
angry and report "us" as spammers. That's why being opened we are showing
this message to you and wanted to let you know that we would never do this.
Our privacy policy actually protects you from receiving those emails. And we
have received multiple complains and we know that your are probably not even
living in Toronto.

Lastly, we would like to say that we are actively investigating the case and
you can actually help us to collect more evidences and prosecute the
offenders! Please forward the emails you receive to

Thank you for your time and understanding,
Real team of

The thing is, I don't believe this. It's being sent from numerous fake email addresses, and numerous IP addresses.

Still, it's fun, and they're right about me not living in Toronto. How did they know that?

Friday 28 August 2015

Bike maintenance

Regular readers of this blog know that I love fettling my bike.

Today, a new pannier arrived; I wear them out rather fast. So I decided to spend a couple of hours fettling the bike.

First, I tightened the PDA holder, it had been slipping as I rode. Then on to the big job - gears. For quite a long time now, I've only been about to use six of the seven gears, and that's worse than it sounds, because the gear I've been unable to get to, is the lowest gear, good for going up hills. The problem was that the cable length adjuster had come out of it's socket, and I couldn't get it back in.

So I loosened the cable, and with a bit of a struggle, got the adjuster back into its socket. Then I retightened the cable, and by adjusting the gear change carefully, I was able to get to all seven gears! At last.

Then I looked at the rear brake, and decided that it was worn enough to need replacing. That led to adjusting the tension of the return springs. And for good measure, I oiled the chain - whenever I see a bike in a bike rack with a rusted chain, I cringe, and wont to apply some bike oil.

Adjusting the rear brake, meant that I also had to adjust the brake light that comes on when I brake. I recently installed this, mainly to get the left-right turn indicator, so that when I'm on a road with tarrfic and want to turn right, I can put out my arm, and then switch on the turn blinker, so the cars behind me know my intentions. It also has a rear red light and a horn that plays eight different sounds. And all for £3.70.

I taped up a sharp edge on the rear carrier, because that could lead to damage to the pannier if left.

Then the batteries. I've been using an ammo can to hold them in the pannier, but the sharp metal of the ammo can has damaged the pannier, and I don't want to find that I go over a bump and the bottom falls out of the pannier! So, for my new replacement pannier, I'm doing it differently. I've gone back to using the rigid plastic boxes for the batteries. I suppose I could just put the batteries in the pannier without a box, but they don't have any protection from damage, they're just soft pouches. Hence the battery box.

I found that if I taped the batteries together in an L-shape (I use them in groups of three, so that I get 50 volts fully charged, 40 volts discharged) I can get two sets into the plastic box, giving me 20 amp-hours. Yesterday, 10 amp-hours was enough for about 50 caches, so I doubt if I'll ever need more than 20. In the past, I've been using 5 amp-hour batteries, which give me 20 to 25 caches of range. I count range in caches, not kilometers.

I also changed the front pannier. I have one of those little panniers that goes over the front tube, and I've been using it for all the bits and pieces that I used to carry in my shoulder bag (but then I decided that the shoulder bag was too heavy). The problem was, it was fouling the front wheel slightly, and it was also picking up a lot of mud. So instead, I'm using a belly bag (but it'll live in the pannier) that I haven't used for a long time. It has several compartments, so I can keep stuff somewhat organised, but in the last few outings, I haven't needed anything from that collection of stuff (pliers multitool, scissors multitool, tweezers, spare pen, bike back light, rubber bands, first aid kit, spare logs, spare batteries for torch, PDA, GPS, string, etc etc etc) in the last few times I've gone out. Small stuff that I hardly ever need, but when I do need it, it's so good to have! This is my secondary caching kit (the primary kit is my shoulder bag, because I need stuff from that all the time).

So now the pannier contains: Bike repair kit (which is extensive and fairly heavy, and I hardly ever use it, but when I'm ten miles from the car, it's good to know that I'll be able to fix most problems that might happen), secondary caching kit, box with batteries, combination bike lock, spare PDA holder and small toilet roll (don't ask). I weighed it, it's just over twenty pounds weight, but the pannier can take it easily, and when I need to lift the bike over an obstacle, the pannier detaches quickly, so I can lift it over separately.

The bike is now fettled!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Amesbury adventure

I saw a big circuit, 70 caches, near Amesbury, and I decided to do it today. I had a treat as  I drove towards my starting point - a great view of Stonehenge.

My first thought was to do the 70-cache series in one bound - that would mean I'd have to carry enough batteries, water and food for the day, which would have been a lot! So I changed to my usual plan - I started at cache 57, went round till I got to cache 10, the biked the two miles back to the car, along a good road. At the car I had lunch, swapped the used 5AH battery for one of my lovely new 10AH batteries (plus another one as a spare), and set off in the opposite direction, starting at 56 and finishing at cache 11.

The 5AH battery was just enough for the morning's 25 caches, and the 10AH was more than enough for the afternoon, for a total of 71 caches, and no DNFs. There was one fun tree climb.

I was especially pleased to get the puzzle in the series, because it was the sort of puzzle that doesn't give you exact coords. Instead, I drew three lines on my map, and the cache was where they intersected. And indeed, there it was!

 I went through a field of cows, except one of them was a bull. He ignored me, he was busy playing with a cow. When I left the field, I saw this:

I didn't see a notice when I entered the field! Not that I'd have been deterred. A bike is a very good defence against bovines; if they get too frisky, I walk the bike and keep it between me and them.

A good day's caching, with about 30 kilometers covered.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

False floor

At the back of one of my racks, I have an alleyway with a lot of wires. That's because the power cables have to cross that alley to get to the UPSes, and then more power cables go from the UPSes to the computers. I like to pad around in bare feet, but treading on wires isn't nice, and treading on plugs can be painful. And I have to visit that alley quite often, because that's where the computers present their ports. So I was looking at laying a carpet down on top of the wires to make it nicer to walk on. I had a look on Ebay, and there was a perfect rug, 2 feet by 8 feet, with a lovely green pattern, for only £5. But I'd have to go to Ipswich to collect it.

So  I asked Jason about carpet offcuts. When this house was carpeted, there must have been a lot of offcuts; maybe I could use those. But no - he'd thrown them away, because we stored them in the shed, and they'd gone manky. He said he'd have a lookout in carpet shops.

But then he came up with a brilliant idea. I have a length of chipboard. It's about 8 feet by 2. It came from a long time ago, in a previous house; we decided to redecorate my office, and I got that to use as a temporary desk in another room while this was happening. And I didn't throw it out afterwards, because you never know when a 2x8 feet length of white melamine covered chipboard might be useful.

Jason's idea was to put bricks down in the alley, and lay the chipboard on that. In other words, he invented the false floor!

Every good computer room has a false floor, and usually a false ceiling too.  And now mine does too!

Rain rain rain

Today, I went to give my routine blood sample at the local clinic. Outside, it was wet, but not raining, so I decided to go by bike.

On the way there, it was great. There was a road works with a long hold-up, so I just put my bike onto the path and zoomed along until I was past the blockage, then back on the road. When I arrived at the clinic, there was a long queue for parking places, but I zoomed past that on the bike and left it chained to a bench.

There was no queue at the clinic, so a quick prick on the finger and I was pronounced OK for another three months, so back out to the bike ... and it was raining.

OK, I have a plan B for this. I went to the clinic library, books for £1 each, and spent a while choosing interesting-looking books. At £1 each, I don't mind if a few of them are duds. Meanwhile, I peeked at the weather every few minutes ... still raining.

Eventually, I'd collected ten books, and it was still raining. OK, I have a plan C for this; I get wet.

So I cycled home through the rain. The rain rained on me, passing cars soaked my trousers, going at speed through a flooded road soaked my shoes and socks and eventually I got home. Very wet.

Well, I'm not made of sugar, despite what ladysolly says, so I didn't dissolve. A quick rub down with a towel and a change into dry clothes and all is OK.

It's stopped raining now.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Another clock

Down in the Data Center, I've long had a hankering for a display.

Upstairs in my office, I have a rolling display which shows me A) the temperature outside, the time and the number of reported errors on my servers, B) the view from my front garden and C) how much network activity here and at my colocation, and on two important servers.

So I decided to have the same display in the Data Center. But first, where to put it?

I have a rack with a row of 2U servers, unpowered, there as backups, and (hopefully) used pretty much never. I thought, why don't I take those off the rack, and use the rack for the display.

So first, I cleared a space for them. I have a small collection of front bags for bikes, but I haven't used a front bag for a long time, so I took those up to the attic (also a reel of CAT 5 cable, and a couple of boxes of video cables). While putting those away in the attic, I rummaged round the big unsorted heap-of-stuff, and found four cartons of stuff belonging to daughter.2, so I've pulled them out, and next time she's here, I'll tell her to either take them away, or let me dump them. It looks to me like stuff from her university days.

So I moved the 2U servers to there, and moved my AST 386 (which is the computer I used for compiling Dr Solomon's Antivirus 20 years ago) to the attic. And with all that tidying done, I was able to get the display set up.

It's driven by a Raspberry Pi. I've taken a 12 volt feed from a nearby computer, put that through a voltage reducer, and fed that to the Pi. And I made a bootable SD card by taking an image backup of the SD card on the Pi that runs the rolling display upstairs.

And when I powered it all up, it worked immediately. Sweet.

Switch selling

I wanted a cable, so I went to Ebay. I saw a listing "PREMIUM GOLD 1080P HDMI TO DVI CABLE LEAD SMART HD TV HDTV 3D METRE 1m 2m 3m 5m" for 99p. Well, that looks good, I'[ll take the 99p 1 meter cable, thank you.

But the 1 meter cable is £3.99. What you get for 0.99, is a HDMI coupler joiner.

A lot of the other listings are similar. They suck you in at 99p, and then you find out that for 99p you get an RJ45 connector, which isn't remotely to do with what I'm after.

It's annoying.

Another annoyance was, when I did eventually find what I wanted, for £1.19, the vendor wouldn't let me buy two. One per ten day period! It's very strange.

So I pressed on, and eventually found a vendor that really does sell a 99p 1 meter cable, and you can buy as many of them as you want.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Did you sign up?

I get a lot of spam. A lot. And I didn't sign up for any of it. Just now, I got a spam purporting to come from Transport for London. I did sign up to them, but not from the email addresses that it's being sent to. It's just spam, and it's being sent to the email address that I give when a form requires me to, but I don't want to give my real address.
And it's being sent from a account, not by TfL.

People buy lists of email addresses from unscrupulous vendors. Unscrupulous vendors create lists of email addresses by using things like Google, and then automatic recognition programs to analyse the results and parse out email addresses. So, if I put "" in this blog post, in a few days, Google will index it, and in the fullness of time the address "" will be sold to gullible purchasers, who will then spam it. I hope that address doesn't actually exist! Well, I checked, it doesn't. But maybe one day someone will register the domain name and create that email address. Or maybe they won't - the unscrupulous vendor doesn't care either way.

If a site actually cares about getting real email addresses, then it must use the "double opt-in" system, and I've used a few (a very few) that do. The way that works, is I sign up and give my email address. They then send an email to that address, asking for confirmation. If I ignore that email (or don't get it) then the email address is scrubbed. It's only if I reply, giving a code they sent me, that the email address is added to the list.

The main thing this prevents, is people signing up other people without their agreement. Including

So if is in the Ashley Madison leaked list of email addresses, or if it's signed up to any other service that doesn't use double opt-in, then that doesn't actually mean that the owner for the address signed up. All it means is that someone signed up and gave that email address.

Tim Loughton MP, said "if, as looks possible, government email accounts in what should be secure departments are this vulnerable to being hacked or impersonated that raises its own serious security issues."

No,  Tim. May I call you Tim? Email addresses aren't secret. They aren't supposed to be secret. They're like names. The name "Tim Loughton" is publicly available information, very easy to find, just like your phone number, fax number, address of your constituency in Shoreham, and their phone number and email address. His email address is I got this from, the House of Commons web site. I could now go to any web site I wanted to, and give that email address in a sign-up. I won't, of course. But the fact that your email address is very easy to discover, is *not* a  "serious security issue".

And I just read a column in the Telegraph, written by the usual ignoramuses. "What should you do if your email address is in the Ashley Madison list? Apologise."

Bad advice. Because maybe someone else signed up giving your address.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

On site at Cheltenham

I made a trip down to Cheltenham today, to swap out nine faulty servers.

The last time I went was pretty recent, about six months ago. On that visit, I aimed to repair the faulty servers, by swapping out memory and drives. But that didn't work very well, and I'm now thinking that the Foxcomm motherboards I've been using for several years, have a limited life span. I'm guessing that it's capacitors wearing out, because I can't think what else it could be.

So I've replaced them all with Gigabyte motherboards, each with a fresh CMOS battery (when that battery expires, I can't power-up a server remotely, someone has to press a button, which is annoying).

Seven of them I built here; three with two 8tb drives, and four with two 4tb drives. The other two I mostly built here, and added a pair of 4tb drives salvaged from the old servers.

Because drives are so much more capacious, I don't need to use the long 1U servers that can take seven drives. I'm using the shorter 1U servers, and I put three drives in each; one being the system drive (a 300gb PATA) and the others being SATA drives. So no adapter is needed - one less thing to go wrong.

I'd allowed eight hours for the task, but in the event, it only took me two, which was nice.

So, back at the Control Center, it seems that all nine are working fine.

e-cigs on the NHS

A jolly good idea! I do understand that they haven't been as thoroughly studied as some people would like, but it's very clear that the harm to health is massively less than tobacco cigarettes, and if vaping can help people give up smoking, it's a rattling good wheeze..

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Bike maintenance

I adjusted the gears again. This is a recurring theme. I find that I can't get into the lowest two gears, so I have to shorten the cable. The main problem is, the hand adjuster won't work, so I have to do it by loosening the cable-holding nut, putting great pressure on the cable, and then shortening it, then retightening the nut again.

The other thing I did, was to install lighting. The problem I was trying to solve, is that when I'm on a road and turning right (or left) I can let the cars behind me know my intention by holding out an arm, but if I do that then I'm riding with only one hand on the handlebars. And I prefer two. This is a rear unit that has turn indicators and a brake indicator light. The controller at the front also has a beeping horn, and can switch on the lights at when it gets dark. The equipment came with no manual, but I worked out how to install the brake light.

There wasn't enough room on the handlebars for all this; I have two handbrake levers, two gear levers, the motor controller display and switch, the bell, the throttle, the motor thermometer and the PDA holder. I use a bracket that attaches to the handlebar to give me a bit more space for all this, and I added a second one. My handlebars look like the bridge of a starship!

Weight report

There hasn't been a weight report for a long time - this is because my weighing machine stopped working. But I've got a new one from Ebay.

16 stone, 0 pounds. Could be better, but could have been a lot worse!

A demand from Ireland

I got a letter from the Irish tax authorities, telling me that I had faile to pay them 503 euros (or something like that) and I was now incurring a daily penalty of 0.037% per day (or something like that).

I was a bit surprised. I've never paid the Irish tax authorities, because I'm not Irish. So why do they suddenly think I should? I put the letter aside to show my book-keeper, maybe she could shed light on the situation.

Then I got an email from the Irish tax authorities, telling me that the letter was in error. Some people had been told the wrong amounts, and people who paid via Vat Moss should ignore the letter. This was rapidly followed by a letter from our own dear HMRC saying the same thing.

Vat Moss is the Vat Multiple One Stop Shop. What happened was, as of January 1 2015, if you're offering services electronically, then instead of paying the UK rate of Vat in the UK, you pay the rate of Vat in the country where the customer is, and you declare the amounts in an HMRC form called the Vat Moss, and they (I guess) pass it on to the country in question.

The big problem (for me) was that I found out about it on December 30, 2014. It wasn't publicised at all well, I found out completely by accident. Actually it wasn't such a big problem; I was able to change my billing software so that it kept track of the billing to each EEC country, and then at the end of the three month period, I could add up the total for each country, and fill in the rather badly designed Vat Moss form. It's badly designed because you have to do each country, one at a time, and I don't see an easy way to do the 27 countries at once. 27, not 28, because you don't pay UK Vat via Vat Moss.

Also, it's out of synchronisation. My Vat periods for the UK are Feb-Apr, May-Jul etc, whereas my Vat Moss periods are Jan-Mar, Apr-June etc. Annoying.

And I got things slightly wrong the first time I did it, and double-paid some Vat, and had to correct it next time around, which is always a fraught situation.

And when Luxemburg changed their Vat rate fom 18% to 19% (or something like that) and I didn't notice, I got a stuffy email from the Luxembourg tax authorities, and I had to pay an additional two euros, 14 cents (or somewhat about that much).

So the whole scheme has teething problems, not the least of which is that I'd guess that a *lot* of people who should be using it, haven't heard.

Including, it would seem, the Irish tax authorities.

Monday 17 August 2015

Two loops near Woodford

The first loop I did was Gread Woodaddfordington, including the Addington Amble. I the course of doing that, my left pedal feel apart, leaving me just enough stub that I could use. I got back to the car for lunch, and replaced the pedal (I carry spares in the car).

Then I did a loop just north of the NENE. A total of 40 caches done today.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Unitarianism and Trinitarianism

Unitarians believe that their god is one entity.

Trinitarians think that their god is three people. The father, the son and the holy spirit. These three are distinct, yet are one. This is a "sacred mystery", meaning that everyone can hear about this, but it cannot be explained.

Sorry, but if you can't explain your beliefs, why on earth would you think that anyone else would subscribe to them? I guess some people must think, well, this is beyond the capacity of the human mind. But to me, it sounds like a married batchelor.

Unitarians, at least, don't believe the Trinitarian impossibility before breakfast, and bully for them, but there's not a great many of them. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, is a Unitarian. See? Not all scientists are atheists.

Unitarians also don't subscribe to the idea of "original sin", wich says that we're all bad people because Adam ate the apple. They don't believe in the inerrancy of the bible (and I don't understand how anyone can, given the obvious mistakes in it).

So, if forced to choose which of the two was most unreasonable, I'd go for Trinitarianism.

If I've misunderstood the tenets of  Unitarianism and Trinitarianism, perhaps someone could comment a correction.

Friday 14 August 2015

The lucky atheist

At the age of 0, I was circumsized. No-one asked me if that was what I wanted, and if they had, I wouldn't have answered, because I wasn't speaking yet. At the age of 13, I was barmizvahed. My excuse is that at the age of 12, you don't really have a lot of choice in such things, it seemed to make my mother happy. I sang well, we had a party, and I got a rather fine briefcase. But I was never a keen synagogue-goer; it was long, boring, in a language I didn't speak, tedious and pointless. At the age of 14, I realised that I was an agnostic, or at least, that's what I thought. More recently, I've realised that I was actually an atheist, and have been since age 14. Now I self-define as atheist, but gastronomically Jewish. The last time I saw the inside of a synagogue was daughter.2's wedding.

There are many benefits to being an atheist. I don't worry about going to hell (and heaven sounds pretty deadly too). Indeed, I don't worry much about what will happen after I leave the party; things were just fine before I was born, and will be just as fine after I leave. It is, of course, disappointing that I will have to leave one day, but modern medical science will make it pretty painless, I hope. I don't have the incredibly difficult task of deciding which of several thousand religions, sects and cults is true (none of them). I have no idea how religionists choose which religion to follow, it seems to me to be a nearly impossible task. Although I suspect that parental influence is the main thing.

But there are bigger benefits. I don't pray. So much time is wasted in praying, and nothing fails as consistently as prayer.

As the storm raged, the captain realized his ship was sinking fast. He called out, “Anyone here know how to pray?”
A pastor stepped forward. “Captain, I know how to pray.”
“Good,” said the captain, “you pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets – we’re one short.”

Daughter.2 was going out with a Christian boy for a while. That's fine by me; obviously no boy is going to be good enough for my daughters, but they get to choose. What did make me annoyed, was when she told me that his parents were praying that she become Christian, which is an evil thing to do for so many reasons. I threatened to pray that their son become Jewish unless they stopped praying against my daughter - it was a standoff. My god against theirs, which is complicated because maybe they're the same god, except theirs is triune. Then she stopped going out with him, and she's still an atheist, so their prayers didn't work. I cancelled my threatened prayer, and so I don't know if it would have worked (probably not, except that it would have certainly annoyed the parents which was the main objective) - maybe he temporarily became Jewish, and then back again. Or maybe not.

One big benefit, is I don't get to waste one day per week in a place of worship. That gives me 17% more time in my life, which is nice. Another big benefit is bacon. By the way, in some kosher restaurants you can get fakon, which tastes a bit like bacon, and makes me wonder how they justify it, isn't it sinning in the heart?

So anyway.

It was really easy for me to be an atheist; no-one gives me the "sharp intake of breath" when I tell them. I usually say "I'm an atheist, thank god" and you can watch as the penny drops, which, by the way, is an allusion to penny-on-the-slot machines, and I remember when "spending a penny" really did cost a penny. But it's not so easy for some people.

I was out caching one day and met another cacher, and we decided to team up for the day. As we walked along, he told me that he'd been in Rome for three years, and I asked him why. He'd been studying to be a priest, and he became a priest, but then he lost his faith (I would say, he lost his gullibility), and he told me how difficult that was for him. He lost his job, because the priesthood don't employ atheists, and that meant that he lost his home. he lost many of his friends. Now he was working as a driving instructor, and he was a bright lad, and I can't help thinking that if he hadn't gone to Rome for three years, but studied something useful, he'd now have a much better job.

Two people I have great admiration for, are Matt Dillahunty and Dan Barker. Both of these were committed Christians; Matt studied for the ministry and seems to know the entire bible by heart; Dan was a preacher for 19 years and writes excellent songs. it must have been one hell of a struggle for them to get to atheism.

And I've heard stories about "disfellowshipping" in Jehovah's Witnesses and the escape from Scientology, and that the Islam penalty for apostasy is death. I knew a girl who converted from Judaism to Christianity, and her father mourned her as dead, and didn't speak to her for several years (grandchildren changed his mind).

So I'm very lucky to have come to atheism so easily and without penalty. Thank Fortuna, I'm an atheist.


I didn't like history when I was at school. I couldn't see the point of it, it was just a boring, pointless, endless recitation of dates and events, with no rhyme or reason. And when I did my history O level, I got a grade H, which is the failest failure I could fail at.

For the next five years, it was mostly maths. Maths, a bit of physics and lots of bridge. It wasn't until I was 21 that I got interested in world war 2. WW2 happened just before I was born, but there was evidence of it all round me; adults would talk about it, and you could see the bomb sites. And it wasn't until I was five years old that sweet rationing ended.

The first history book I read was "The Second World War" by Winston Churchill. He's an excellent writer, and as Prime Minister at that time, he was in an excellent position to write about it. What I didn't realise at that time, that this is also an excellent reason why he would be biassed.

But it was an excellent book, and it got me interested in why that war happened. That, of course, led me to read about the Great War, which we now call World War 1. I hadn't known anything at all about it before then, because in school, history stopped in 1832. World war 1 was horrifying.

WW1 led me back to the Franco-Prussian war (and the US civil war), which led me back to ... and so on. I think people teach history the wrong way round. You shouldn't start with the ancient Britons and work forward; you should start with what happened yesterday, because that's relevant and interesting, and work backwards. Because the thing that links historical events is causation.

So now I read lots of history books, because history is interesting and important, and I'm currently reading Roy Jenkins' biography of Churchill, which brings me back to my first kindling of interest in history.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Rain rain rain

It was very wet today. So I didn't go out.

Instead, I did lots of pootering. My main Secure Server has crashed twice in the last few days, once with a disk problem  and the second time with a kernel panic.

A kernel panic happens when something goes so badly wrong with the operating system that it doesn't know what to do. I first encountered this on the Amiga, which displayed "Guru meditation" and a number. Those of us above a certain age will remember the BSOD, "blue screen of death" that was Windows take on it.

A kernel panic is, I think, usually caused by a hardware problem. And the best way to fix a hardware problem is to completely replace the hardware. Then you can test each part of the hardware that failed, and reuse those parts that pass.

So I loaded up two new servers (one as the main server, one as the backup) using Fedora version 22 (the latest) with the latest version of OpenSSL and Apache (in order to pass the PCI DSS). Then I tested it using the qualsys test, and it scored an "A". And then I fed it to the Sysnet PCI DSS tester, and it passed that too.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Bike maintenance

A few things.

First I adjusted the gears - I've been unable to get into the lowest two gears, so I needed to tighten the cable slightly.

Then I replaced the thermometer. Why is there a thermometer on a bike? Because it's an electric bike. The thermometer element is glued to the thing that holds the motor (the torque arm), and the readout is on the handlebar. It's an aquarium thermometer, cost about £1, and it will warn me if the motor starts to overheat.

Then my battery box. It has sharp edges, and it was tearing the pannier. So I taped some foam round the edges; no weight added, and it should stop the box from tearing the pannier.

I adjusted the throttle, which was a bit too far from the handlebar grip, which means that it can throttle-on when I've let go of it.

And I put sticky tape on the PDA holder, to hold it together.

The "Your lifestyle" scam

This is a phone call, made by someone with a heavy accent (India?). He starts off by telling you that he's from "Your lifestyle" (the name can vary) and he wants just one minute (sometimes three minutes) to do a survey.

And then you get "depending on your answers, some of our partners may call you".

So, if you agree to this, you're consenting to them selling your details to whoever they want, so that third parties can call you and it's legal because you agreed to it.

So then they ask you various questions, designed to determine which selling organisation might be interested in pestering you.

And then your details, as well as thousands of others, are sold on.

Who's being scammed here?

Primarily, the organisations that they sell your details to. Secondarily, you because you're going to get a lot of phone calls that you didn't really want.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

The first six

Caches starting with the number 6 have been available for a little while, but today was the first time I did one.

First I did a circuit of 39 caches, "Elkington/Winwick". I did nearly all of it on the bike, using my new batteries, although I did do a short stretch on foot.

I met Lansdown and  Nadia Goes Caching, which was just as well, because they were able to help me with a cache that I just didn't see, although it should have been easy! And I help them with a cache when I caught up with them later.

I found all 39 caches on this circuit. Then I had lunch in the car, and went on to another circuit, the "Mr Men" series nearby.

64 caches done today, no DNFs.

Sunday 9 August 2015

An outing to Quainton Railway Museum

Brilliant weather today, so ladysolly and I went to look at steam locomotives.

First, we went for a ride! First class, of course, because we've never gone First Class before. And the locomotive chuffed us a few hundred yards down the line, and then back again. If you don't remember steam, then you won't understand what a thrill it was.

Then we looked round the rest of the museum, seeing many things that we remembered.

We were able to go inside the travelling post office, and we could see how it worked. A very good day out!

Saturday 8 August 2015

Calais migrants find the door to Britain wide open

According to the Telegraph, dozens of migrants got the code for the gate that lets you get to the tunnel. Their theory is that they noticed that 2, 4 and 0 were dirtier than the other numbers.

A few problems with this theory.

First of all, this kind of lock tends to have four digits, not three, because three digits means 1000 combinations, and if you try one per second, that will take you 20 minutes. With four digits, it would take you three hours. Still doable, of course, if you can spend three hours on the job without someone wondering what you are up to.

The "dirty numbers" idea does help ... except that it's the other way round. The ones that are heavily used are rubbed clean by the fingers. But still ...

Here's how I'd do it. No, wait, here's how I did do it. I was asked by a company to look at their security and give them feedback on how good it was. So I turned up, and sat in the waiting room, with their receptionist, and I had a very clear sight of the keypad defending their entrance. People keyed themselves in, and I watched where their fingers went. You can do the same with the iPhone; when someone logs themselves in, look at where their fingers go, and more than half the time, you'll have their four digit code, and it's great fun to ask them "What's the significance of 3948?" or whatever it is.

So anyway, I soon had the code, so I stood up and walked confidently through the door, No-one tried to stop me - if you look like you're supposed to be there, people don't question. If they do, it's usually with "Can I help you?" which (in my experience) is dealt with every single time by "No thanks, I'm fine." Look - if you're going to challenge a stranger wandering around, don't let yourself be fobbed off. Ask them who they're visiting, and then helpfully (but insistently) conduct them to that person.

So I wandered around until I found the office of the guy I was supposed to be visiting, went in, and waited for him.

When he turned up, he was quite surprised to see me already there. Security, you see. So he asked me how I got in. "Oh," I said, "it's all explained in a file on your computer, look for the filename drsolly.txt".

He sat down.

"Only kidding," I said, and I explained how I'd gotten in.

And that's how it's done. It's called "shoulder surfing."

I notice that they've added a handy looking lock, which will (I hope) take more than a couple of minutes to pick. But look at that picture. If I wanted to get through that gate and already had the keycode, I'd use a fairly ordinary wirecutter on the 1/8 inch cable and be through it in seconds.

Let's hope that migrants don't read this blog. Or the Daily Telegraph.


The best movers in Toronto

OK, I get it. I completely get it. You're the best movers in Toronto.

Now explain to me why someone who lives 8000 miles away is so interested in this that you send them 100 emails per hour to tell them about your great service?

Thursday 6 August 2015

Whitchurch wander

Near to Andover, because I've been going to that area.

First I did a loop of 17 caches, "Fingo". Then I had lunch, and relocated.

Then I started to do the "Byway Bonanza". After looking at the first one, I realised that they were all tree climbs, and not really for me. So I changed my plans, and just whizzed around doing whatever I could find.

I ended up at "Hogdigging", which is a puzzle cache. When you solve it, you discover the special equipment that you'll need for the cache.

At GZ, it took me a while to find the cache, and then I was able to deploy the special equipment and got the cache.

A total of 42 caches done today.

The wrong defendant

An 11 year old shot and killed a three year old, and has been charged with manslaughter.

In my opinion, the wrong person is being prosecuted.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Bike maintenance

The stand arrived, and it's all I hoped for.  I used it to hold the bike while I checked and adjusted my rear brakes.

I also decided that I like the 4s 10000 mAh batteries so much that I've ordered another set, because the 4s 5000 mAh batteries that I bought two years ago, are starting to weaken. As a rule of thumb, I expect a battery to last about three years.

Those 10000 mAh batteries terminate in an XT90 (every battery I bought up till now terminates in a 4mm plug and socket). So I've made up some adaptors because I've standardised n EC5 connectors for everything.

I like EC5s, because they're fairly easy to plug and unplug, but not so easy that they slide out without some effort. I need the ease of unplugging, because whenever I charge up these batteries, I first have to unplug the harness that combined three 4s batteries together into a 12s (50 volts), then plug in the charger. Also, a couple of times when I've come off the bike, my pannier falls off, and if the battery connector hadn't unplugged, it would have ripped off the wires. But each time that happened, the EC5s have unplugged, and I just need to plug it back in to get going again.

I also bought 10 meters of AWG 12 wire, because Hobbyking are selling it really cheaply right now. Also some more XT90 connectors, and some more EC5 connectors.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


There was a bunch of people who lived in a country, quite a long way away from here, in an easterly direction. They lived in peace with their neighbours, worked hard, loved their families and followed their religion.

Then the people who ruled the area, decided that this wasn't good enough. So they made rules that allowed them to live only in certain places, because they didn't want them in the rest of the country.

But then the people in charge decided that they didn't want these people there at all. So they encouraged the harassment and killing of them, which was made easier by the fact that they were all collected together in a small area. Naturally, the people who were suffering this, wanted to leave. They thought about where they'd want to go, and a lot of them decided "England", because England has a long tradition of tolerance, England is a civilised country, and in England you stand a chance of making a new start.

Of course, when the trickle of strange-looking people speaking no English, became a flood, there was some resistance to that immigration. But the resistance wasn't so strong that it prevented this exodus.

Which is just as well, because if my grandparents hadn't left Poland for England in 1905, they would have been killed by Hitler in 1943, and I wouldn't have been born.

Now ask me my views on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa to England..

Andover amble again

Another trip to Andover. First I did eight caches in Ridges Copse, then back to the car for an early lunch, then to Andover, doing the Christmas series, some more of the Andover Ring, and various assorted caches in Andover for a total of 42 caches.

While I was having lunch, I met a 93-year-old man who had served on aircraft carriers during WW2, and he told me a lot of interesting things.

Sunday 2 August 2015


We all know about data backups, and we all have them. Don't we? Well, if you don't, then you haven't been listening.

But what about non-data backups?

The power supply for my firewall failed. Last time, I did a power cycle and it worked again, but after this second failure, it's no longer to be trusted. Fortunately (actually, no luck was involved) I bought a replacement PSU for it on Ebay several weeks ago, after it failed the first time. So I've put that in place. But that leaves me without a backup. Well, not quite, I have a backup firewall and a backup power supply. So even if both the firewall and the PSU go down, it'll take me a few minutes to replace it.

But for something as mission-critical as the firewall (no firewall means no network), I want a second backup, because wouldn't it be horrible if the unit failed and then the backup didn't work? Because you probably don't check if your backup works every month. I know I don't.

So I have a second backup firewall ... but no PSU for it.

Last time I looked into this, I decided that I could make a PSU for a Cisco 506e firewall out of an ordinary PC power supply and the cable from a dead Cisco 506e PSU, by soldering the wires from the Cisco cable to the relevant wires on a socket for a PC PSU. So I did the necessary soldering, but didn't test it, because I have so much confidence in my ability to work out which wires to connect to which and in my ability to solder. Not.

Today, I tried it out. First, I connected that cable to a PC PSU, and powered it on, and checked that the voltages on the Cisco cable were right. Then I connected it to one of my backup Cisco 506es, and it worked! So now I have my secondary backup.

So what I'm telling you, is, just like you make a backup for your data in case something bad happens, so you should also think about your hardware, and think about what things you should have an on-site backup in case something goes wrong, and getting a replacement might take a few days, during which you're out of action.

Because things do go wrong. Unexpectedly.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Bike stand

I arrive at the area I'm going to cache in, I get the bike out of the car, and now I want to get the bike ready. I used to prop it up against the car, but my old car was so scratched and dented, I didn't care, but my new car is pristine, and wouldn't it be a shame if the bike scratched it?

So I've been propping the bike against a wall, or a lamppost. Or on the prop stand, except that the prop stand is only just enough to balance the bike on, the slightest push and it falls over. That's a problem while I'm setting up the bike, and also when I'm on the circuit.

I've found something that might help. My first thought was one of these:

But I persisted, and I found this.

The top one uses the rear axle to support the bike. The bottom one uses the horizontal strut of the bike, and I think it will be a bit easier to use.

I'll use it for setting up the bike before starting the circuit; I might even be able to use it for parking the bike while I'm going round. Currently, I'm using a prop stand at the middle of the bike, but I have to find some ground that's sufficiently level, and even then, a strong wind can blow the bike over, which isn't good for it - I've had damage from this before. Quite often, I just lay the bike down on it's side, which has the advantage that it *cannot* fall over, but the disadvantage that I have to heave it upright again (and the bike plus batteries comes to a lot of weight).

The drawback, of course, is that it's one more thing to carry and deploy. So I'll use it when setting up the bike, and see how it goes.

Paper airplanes

We've all folded and thrown paper airplanes. But look at this.

 You fold your paper airplane, then add the motor. You can control the motor speed (which means you can increase or decrease altitude) and there's a rudder that you can set to left, right or middle. 20 minutes to charge it, and you get 10 minutes flight time. You put the control ring on your finger, and then you have speed control by raising and lowering your finger, and left and right when you move your finger sideways left and right.

I was on the Hobbyking web site to buy a few things I needed, and then I browsed around a bit and saw this. I've seen it before, on Ebay, at about twice the price. I got it for £16, and I bought one, for a lark. I think grandson.1 might like it.

One lion, hundreds of foxes, millions of lambs

We've all heard about Cecil the lion, and the Minnesota dentist (why does every story on this repeat the fact that he's a dentist?) who killed him.

But you don't hear so much about the foxes that are hunted (yes, foxes are still hunted, it's only illegal to do so with a pack of dogs). And you hear nothing at all about the millions of lambs that are slaughtered to put lamb chops on our plates.

I'm not saying that the dentist was OK. I'm just wondering why we lavish so much sympathy on the lion, a little on the foxes, almost none the lambs, and none at all on slugs, flies and bacteria.