Sunday 30 April 2017

Lurgi, part 3

Yakaboo! Yakaboo!

The worst thing about this particular strain of Dreaded Lurgi is that I want to cough, but if I do, I enter a paroxysm of coughing which A) hurts a lot and B) interferes with breathing.

Yes, it's all still happening.

I've been "taking lots of fluids", except that air is a fluid, and the advice should be "plenty of liquids". Most of the liquid I'm taking is water, because it's non-fattening. But this means that I'm also visiting the toilet very frequently (like, once per hour or two). That's not really a problem, but at night it means I'm getting up quite a lot. Also, what comes out is almost as colourless as what went in. Obviously, I'm diluting myself.

Symptoms - I'm tired (which is probably because of lack of sleep and interrupted sleep), my throat hurts, especially when I cough, and I feel like I've been beaten all over with a cricket bat. I can't see any bruises, but it feels like I'm bruised.

Come on, immune system! Do your stuff!

Saturday 29 April 2017

Lurgi, part 2

It's gotten worse. I'm feeling really rough, and if I cough, that triggers a paroxysm of coughing, and I really worried ladysolly with one of those. And I often want to cough, but I'm trying not to, because that's painful. Well, that's the dreaded lurgi for you.

I've ordered a further supply of Lockets (honey and lemon), but since this is an industrial strength version of the dreaded lurgi, I've gone for the Big Gun.


When I was a lad, that was my go-to medicine for chest problems. Basically, it's garlic. Very much so. It's not as easy to get these days as it used to be, but I found a seller.

Let's hope it's as good today as it used to be.

Friday 28 April 2017

Firefox bug?

For the last few days, when I print a page in Firefox, it puts the date 1-1-1970 at the bottom. But the date on my computer is correct.

I think this is something new, perhaps only in Firefox version 53.

It's annoying. So I went to the print setup menu, and told it not to put the date at the bottom of the page.


Each year, I do the tax and PAYE, using HMRC's "Basic PAYE Tools", which are quite good, and run under Linux.

So I was just doing the end-of-year, in which you print out the P60 for each employee, and the P35, and the P11D. I document how I do this, so that in subsequent years, I can just follow my own trail. This year, I did the P60s just fine, and I don't need to do the P11D for a couple of months, but the procedure I had for getting P35s didn't work. I tried flailing around a bit with no joy. Eventually, I called 0300 200 3300, the HMRC helpline.

I got a couple of minutes of explanation of how to do thinga that I didn't need to do, then got put in a hold queue that I was told was 13 minutes. Not too bad, compared with previous values. Eventually, I got to talk to Mary, who almost immediately told me that we didn't have to do P35s any more, that was done automatically and electronically by Basic PAYE Tools.


Thanks for not telling me before I made an unnecessary phone call wasting your time and mone.


Tuesday night was when it started; I was getting a cough and runny nose. On Wednesday, I started feeling very rough. Thursday was the worst, and I started self-medicating with honey, lemon and whiskey, which soothed my throat a bit. Thursday evening i upped the slef-mediaction by rubbing Vick on my throat and upper chest, which gave me enough relief so that I could sleep.

It's Friday now, and I'm still rather coughy and my throat hurts. I'm keeping up the Vick, and I'll take another dose of honey, lemon and whiskey later.

I've cancelled the visit to my pregnant daughter, in case I'm infectious.

Wednesday 26 April 2017


Ladysolly just told me that when she tried to visit the web site of her bridge club, she was blocked by Vodafone's censorship.

There's probably some way that she can prove that she's over 18 and therefore has sufficient moral fibre to resist the lure of the Devil's Bible.

The real problem, of course, is the poor quality of the censorware that's supposed to protect children. I remember I was once asked to try out some censorware. I installed it on my computer, and just used it normally. But when I tried to buy some nuts and bolts, by visiting it blocked me. And when I looked at the reason, it didn't like the word "screw" in the web site name.

And Disney. They tried to block me. Getting round their blocker was very easy.

Wifi in the Magic Kingdom

Wifi in the Magic Kingdom, part 2

A magic way to remagic the Magic Kingdom's Wifi

So these blockers are easy to evade, and annoying for bridge players.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Woodland Walk near Stowe

I went out yesterday with SimplyPaul on a long bike ride. 56 caches found, and one DNF. THe last cache I did was around the Wolfe memorial - a SimplyPaul cache that he was about to archive, on account of lack of interest.

These days, long multi caches involving a lot of walking aren't popular.

The highlight of the day was this.

We found the skull of a deer on a woodpile, and I just had to pose with it.

Sunday 23 April 2017

A suggestion for UKIP

UKIP have announced that a burka ban will be in their manifesto.

I can't see that getting them many votes. I, for one, am not keen on the government telling me how I can dress. But here's a real vote-winning idea they could adopt.

"If elected, we commit to remaining in the EU."

That would get them lots of votes from the 48% who voted remain. Add to that a committment to slashing immigration from non-EU countries (such as Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan) and you're looking hopeful. Then take their previous policy of free university education in STEM (i.e., useful) subjects, enlarge that by copying the Green's idea of free university education for all (which was the case until a Labour government ended that) and you've got a winning formula!

Friday 21 April 2017

Two excellent Mikados

Both by the English National Opera, both directed by Jonathan Miller.

The first one stars Eric Idle as Ko-Ko

The second is more recent, as you can tell by the reference to Trump.

Thursday 20 April 2017

On yer bike round Hampshire

When I saw this series come out, I knew I was going to do it. And today, I did. On my bike.

There were a few extras either along the route, or with a bit of a diversion. I found them all except one, then relocated and found a few more, for a total of 37 caches.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Yippee, another election

So who would I vote for, and why? Here's the main possibilities.

1) Tory. This is the party that got us into this Brexit mess.
2) Labour. One word - Corbyn.
3) Libdem. Whatever they put in their manifesto, you can expect that they'll abandon that instantly if offered a whiff of power.
4) SNP. They probably won't field a candidate in Buckinghamshire.
5) Green. They have good intentions, and bad policies.
6) UKIP. They helped to get us into this Brexit mess.
7) Monster Ravng Loony party. I can only hope that there's a candidate in my constituency. Because if there is, I'm voting Loony.

Monday 17 April 2017

Actually, it is rocket science

The North Korean missile launch failed.

Various media are guessing that this might be because of a cyber attack by the US.


In my experience, when there's two possible explanations, one being conspiracy and the other being incompetence, the correct answer is usually incompetence.

In this case, launching a big rocket is not easy. That's why it's called "rocket science". I think it failed because it's really difficult to get this sort of thing right; there's a lot of systems and they all have to work correctly.

Sunday 16 April 2017


I went on a Segway today, and it was rather fun. The problems with the Segway are:

1. You can't legally ride it on a public road
2. You can't legally ride it on a public pavement
3. It's *very* heavy, so if I took one out geocaching, the first time I'd need to lift it over an obstacle, end of trip.
4.  Cost is about 7000 pounds

So the only place I could ride it would be around my back garden, which isn't big enough.

Thursday 13 April 2017

Telephone Preference Service

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where you could give your phone number to be added to a do-not-call list? Well, good news. There is. And it's free. It's called the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

And today, I was given evidence that it is, at least to some extent, effective.

I was called by a guy who gave his name as "Stuart Thompson" and he wanted to talk to me about energy conservation in the home. Obviously a sales cold call. So I asked him what company he was calling from.

He wouldn't tell me.

I asked him, why would I deal with a company that won't even tell me what their name was? After a bit of prodding, he explained that this was because he was aware that they were calling people who were on the TPS list, and he didn't want to be reported to the TPS.

That's progress, I think. It's the first time I've heard of anyone scared of the TPS.

So the conversation went to and fro for a while until he realised that he wasn't very likely to get a sales lead on this call, and he hung up on me. And dialling 1471 resulted in "Number withheld".

I've had a few calls recently. I think my number has been put onto another list that's being sold by one of the unscrupulous list vendors, and it's been bought by companies who don't realise that there are unscrupulous list vendors who haven't bothered to check the TPS.

By the way, political callers and market research surveys are allowed to call you even though you've signed up to the TPS. The cure for this problem is to sign up to the idea that if you're on the TPS, and you're called by a survey, give wrong answers to all their questions. This will mess up their surveys, until they stop calling TPS registrants. It's optional to tell them that you're doing this.

Windows rebooted

I got to my desk this morning, and one of my Windows 7 computers had rebooted overnight. This is usually caused by an automated update; Windows seems to think that after any change, it needs to reboot. Linux doesn't, unless it's the kernel.

I'd rather control reboots myself. If you need a reboot, tell me, but don't just do it.

So here's how you tell a Windows 7 box to do that.

Start -> search for gpedit.msc or search Run, select it, and then type gpedit.msc.

Now drill down as follows: Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Update.

Double click on "No auto-restart for scheduled Automatic Updates installations"
Job done.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Some advice to people with customers

If you don't look after your customers, then your competitors will.

Apologies should include the words "sorry" and "apologise", and should be an apology for what you did, not for how people might have interpreted or misinterpreted your actions or felt about them. Anything else is called a "not-apology" and is only going to make things worse. Bonus points if your apology includes A) how you're going to compensate the people affected and B) how you're going to make sure that the bad thing doesn't happen in future.

If your customers emerge from their customer experience covered in blood, and that's entirely your fault, then you're doing something so wrong that it might be too late to give you any advice.

Some advice to politicians

You might be tempted, and you might think that you have factual accuracy on your side, but experience has shown that it is never wise to include the word "Hitler" in any political speech.

If you want to see what happens when you flout this advice, talk to Ken Livingstone or Sean Spicer.

Monday 10 April 2017

What is a Christian

Far be it from me as a devout atheist, to tell other people whether they are Christian or not, but I'm going to anyway.

A survey was done recently in the UK, sample size 2010. 51% of those surveyed claimed that they were Christian (3% Muslim,, 37% None).

Of the people who claimed to be Christian, 28% didn't believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I include "don't know" in that number, because if you don't know whether or not you believe something, then you don't believe.

I think that's a core belief of Christianity; if you don't believe that, then you don't believe the rest of it. And I'm not alone in this.

I think that a lot of people are Christian in the same sense that I claim to be gastronomically jewish. Tomorrow, I visit my sister for the Passover Seder, which (for me) is an opportunity to get together with that part of my family, talk about all sorts of things, eat chicken soup, chopped liver and Sephardi food (I'm more of an Ashkenazi, and my sister was too, but she married a Sephardi, and her cuisine is a mixture of both). I'm not frum about this - I'll eat Sephardi.

Strangely, 35% of non-christian religionists believe in the resurrection. That makes me wonder what religion they could be! And 9% of the "none"s believe in the resurrection, which makes me think that there might be some rather confused atheists out there.

17% of people believe that the Bible is gospel-true on the resurrection. A C of E spokesman said it showed many people held religious beliefs. Which is true; we still need to help those 17% towards enlightenment.

Do THIS to Kill Toenail Fungus

I've been getting a bunch of spams along these lines; I've not looked at what they offer, but it does make me think that toenail fungus isn't rare.

And it's a problem I have.

It's not a big problem, at least for me. It means that one of my toenails is slightly distorted. I was visiting the doctor for some other minor reason a year or so ago, and while I was there, I showed her my big toes. "Fungus", she said, and prescribed Amorolfine.

So twice a week, I cleaned the affected nails with an alcohol swab, filed them a bit on the surface, then applied the Amorolfine, as per the instructions.

After several months, nothing seemed to happen. And we changed doctor (because we'd moved house and the old doctors suddenly realised I was a couple of miles away). So when I went to see the new doctor to get continuity for my Warfarin, statin and eyedrop prescriptions (apparently, I'm on all those for life), I showed her my toenails and told her I was on Amorolfine.

"Ineffective" she said, laughing, as in "Who sold you that, then?" and apparently, I had to be on pills. But first, they had to test my fungus to determine which species it was, because they needed to know that to give me the right pills.

So I took a scrape, they tested it, and it came back negative. No fungus.

So the doctor said, stop using the Amorolfine and after some weeks, take another scrape. Which, by the way, tells me that she didn't really think that Amorolfine was ineffective. So I did that, and we got a negative again.

And a third time. At which point, I don't think I'm going to be able to get pills for this.


So I've noticed that the fungus problem has possibly cleared up. You can't see that instantly, because it takes time for the toenail to grow back cleanly. But I think it's doing exactly that.

I'm keeping up with the Amorolfine treatment until it's properly grown back, because why not, but the whole episode has shown me that A) two doctors think it's effective and B) it does actually seem to work.


If you have mis-shapen nails (in my case, big toe), show it to a doctor, and do what the doctor recommends.

Don't bother reading the spam.

Friday 7 April 2017

Are exports bad?

The Times thundered out this headline: "Foreigners dominate market for new homes"

"First-time buyers losing out to investors"

"The Times has established that more than 93 per cent of flats in one of Manchester’s biggest housing developments have been bought by foreign residents or companies registered overseas."

The tone of voice they're using, implies that this is a Bad Thing. But why?

I thought that it was generally agreed that exports are good. And if we don't export, we can't import - we need to import, because, for example, 40% of the food we eat is imported.

But exports aren't just goods; we also export services. And if we build a house and sell it to Johnny Foreigner, that's an export.

Let's consider a fictitious world, in which the number of houses built is fixed. Then each house sold to a foreigner, is one fewer for UK citizens, and we'd want to keep them for ourselves, obviously.

But this isn't the real world. In the real world, a builder makes as many houses as it thinks it can sell at a profit. The number of houses isn't a fixed-size cake.

House builders build as many houses as they can sell at a profit, constrained only by government restrictions on where you can build houses.

So the Times article, which seems to bemoan the fact that foreigners are buying many British-made houses, should instead be celebrating the fact that foreigners are buying many British-made houses.


The UPS in the cupboard under the stairs, is failing. Twice now, it's started a shrill and annoying beeping, which only ends when I power it off and then back on again. I'm thinking, it needs new batteries.

So I had a look around. Bluepoint, who I used to buy lots of stuff from, had on their web site some marvellous bargains; a 6000 VA UPS for £8 (normally I'd expect to pay about £1000 for that). And a few similarly great bargains.

So I phoned them up. The £8 bargain was "a mistake", as were the other half dozen great-looking deals. The sales guy there kept trying to sell me a BPS box, but I'm not keen on being bait-and-switched.

So I went to Ebay; specifically I went to my old pal ups-trader. There I found a nifty little UPS, 800 VA, for £34, reconditioned (meaning, he put in a new battery).

Normally, I buy much heftier UPSes, 3000 VA, which come as a thing that weighs over 100 pounds, mostly the lead-acid batteries.  That's just about draggable. And they cost about £800 (£250 if you get a refurbished one from ups-trader). But for the cupboard under the stairs, all I have there is the ethernet switch that connects all the rooms together, and an ADSL router. Between them they consume gornisht current, so this small UPS should be enough for them.


No-one pays me to write blog posts, no-one gives me free products to praise and no-one pays me to slag off their competitors.

It's not that I've high-mindedly refused to take any baksheesh, it's that no-one has thought to offer any. The only freebies I get are the incessant barrage of spam and scam emails.

So what you read in this blog are my unvarnished opinions.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Cockayne crawl

I went out caching today to Cockayne. I started with a circuit of 36, then another ten and then I went to Potton and cleared out everything I coud find there. It was in Potton that is was assailed by this sight.

There were more, but I couldn't get them into the picture.

I found 56 caches today, including two that I DNFed last time I was here.

Tuesday 4 April 2017


As part of the settlement of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht agreed that Gibraltar would be British. We refer to it as a "British Overseas Territory". So, it's British.

It's understandable that this is a bit of a thorn in the side of Spain. Well, tough. It's British.


When the UK negotiates terms and conditions for trade with the EU, all of the EU members have to agree to whatever is proposed. Unanimously. This means that, for example, Slovenia has a veto. And so does Spain.

So how will we get Spain to agree to what we want? Well, just like every other country, we have to make them an offer that they're happy with.

And if Spain wants to make some new arrangement over Gibraltar a requirement, they can do that.

And we want (I think) pretty much the same access to the EU Single Market as we had back in the old days, when we were a member of the EU.

So what are our options?

Well, we can walk away from any trade deal. Some people seem to think that this will hurt the EU more than it would hurt us, but they're dreaming. We need to export to Europe, and a favourable trade deal, such as we had before Brexit, is very desirable.

Or we can bribe each EU country that threatens to veto, with something that they want. 45 million voters outvote 30,000.

If I were one of the 30,000 people living in Gibraltar, I'd be brushing up my Spanish, because this isn't 1982, Mrs May isn't Mrs Thatcher and the Royal Navy doesn't have any aircraft carriers.

Monday 3 April 2017

Fixing the external iPhone battery

A while ago, I bought a nice external battery, which was rechargable, and capable of powering any device that used a USB connection. It worked for a couple of months, then it wouldn't work.

I did nothing about it for a long time, and it inhabited my box of "things that don't work but might benefit from future attention", but today, I decided to have a look at it.

Opening it up wasn't easy; it had two halves of a shell, which I think were glued together. I prised it apart, and looked inside. It consists of a small piece of electronics, and four 18650 batteries, wired in parallel.

I separated off the batteries, and tested them. One was stone dead, the others had some life. The dead one is the reason the whole thing didn't work. I think they must have used cheap, unprotected batteries. The problem with an unprotected battery, is that there's nothing to stop it from discharging below the level at which it fails.

I tried the small electronics part with a good 18650 battery, and it worked fine, providing 5.15 volts at the USB outlet. So now what?

Option 1) I could resolder the 18650 batteries, but leave out the faulty one.
Option 2) I could make the batteries external to the device, and use an 18650 battery holder.

I've ordered a handful of battery holders (five for £0.99, Ebay), but I think what I'll do, is just resolder the three good batteries, so the capacity will be only 75% of what it was, but 75% is a lot better than zero!

Lesson from the story - if you buy the cheapest iPhone external battery pack, then it will come with the cheapest batteries inside, and most people won't be able to fix this.

Second lesson - buying a more expensive iPhone external battery pack doesn't guarantee that you'll get decent batteries inside it.

Upshot - buy the kind of external battery that lets you put in your own batteries. Then you can buy decent batteries to power it.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Some failings of the 1950

The Dell 1950 III is a fine server, but today I discovered a weakness, and something I hadn't known.

The weakbess is that if you use the built-in SAS controller with a 3tb drive, it can only see 2096 gb, just over 2tb. That's a weakness in common with other similar controllers I've used - it's annoying.

The thing I hadn't known, is that you can use an ordinary SATA drive with a SAS interface. It just plugs straight in, even though the plug and socket look quite different. Nice!

So instead of using a fast (15k) SAS drive at 147 gb for the system drive with a 3tb drive for data, I'm using two 2tb drives, raided and striped for a bit more speed.

This is because I'm setting up a new server to be the backup of my main server. The existing backups of that server will be dowgraded to just data backups; the new server will be used as an instant-swap replacement for the main server if anything terrible should happen to it.