Friday 29 September 2017

Busy busy busy

The Raspberry Pi that I use to host kept crashing, about once per day. So I swapped it out for another Pi, loaded up the new SD card ... and the new one crashed once per day.

So I've replaced it with a proper 1U server, running a Celeron 2.2 and 2gb of memory, using Fedora 26 32 bit version. There was a lot to shift over, and because I was changing from Debian linux to Fedora, all the configuration files were in different places, and were subtly different, but after a few hours work, I think that's done.

Next, I wanted to change the 32 gb HP XW6600, because it's too noisy for an office. So I bought another 8gb HP XW6600 (£55 on Ebay). When I opened it up, I noticed that the 8gb consisted of two 4gb memory strips. So I had a look in my spare memory box, and found four more 4gb strips that looked like they might fit, even though they were server memory and this isn't a server. I tried them, and they worked, so now it has 24gb memory, and a single CPU (with four cores). And it is blessedly silent!

So I installed Fedora 26 workstation 64-bit on it. But I had to install an earlier version because 26 wouldn't install, it's a problem I find happens a lot. And then I upgraded it to 26. Then I installed all the bits and bobs, including the "Basic PAYE Tools" that I use to pay tax (the documentation says this only works on 32 bit systems, and I can tell you it works fine on this 64 bit box) and the ASDM that gives me a lovely user-friendly way to change the configuration of my firewall. Those two were the trickiest to install, because everything else I use is standard Fedora software, so goes on with the magic word "dnf".

And then the computer couldn't talk to the monitor. So I removed Gnome (the user interface) and reinstalled it, and now it works fine.

And then I couldn't work out how to connect up my speakers to the sound socket, but I discovered that the HP6600 has a quite adequate pair of speakers inside the box, which is unusual, I've never seen that before.

And of course I need a printer. The Samsung USB printer went on just fine, and the Dell network printer the same, but then I tried to install my HP Laserjet 6P, a 20 year old behemoth that still works fine. That needed a parallel port, and when I'd installed it on the 32gb box, that had worked. But even with a parallel port added to the 24gb box, I just couldn't persuade it to play. Eventually, I thought "Sod this" and moved the printer to be near the other Unix machine up here (which only has 2gb,  I use it almost entirely to run a bunch of terminals). That machine has a parallel port, and after I'd plugged the printer in, the Unix box recognised it immediately, and I could print. Result!

But I want to print from my new 24gb machine, because that's going to be where I do most stuff. And that means printing across the network. So I installed Samba on the 2gb box, Samba is the smb-based sharing system (it's the one used by Windows), used smbpasswd -a username password to tell it a login, then on the 24gb workstation I used system-config-printer to connect to it. And now I can print!

So, missions accomplished:

Replaced the crashing Raspberry Pi used to host the stuff with a 1U box that hasn't crashed so far.
Replaced the noisy 32gb HP workstation with a nearly-silent 24 gb HP workstation
Got all my software working on that
Got my HP laserjet working with it.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Credit card change

There's been lots of headlines about data losses; Equifax, Deloitte and there seems to be a new one every week.

But I've recently noticed something odd.

In the last few days, the number of cards being declined when I try to bill them, has fallen sharply, down to maybe half of what it was before.

I can't imagine what could have caused this, and maybe it just a temporary statistical blip.

We'll see.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Using an HP Laserjet 6P on and HP xw6600 running Linux Fedora 26

The first problem is that the Laserjet 6P only has a parallel port, because it was made before USB was a thing, and the xw6600 has no parallel port. I tried using a USB to parallel converter, but I couldn't make that work. So I went on Ebay, and bought a PCI parallel port, cost £2.

I put that into the PCI slot on the computer, and restarted it. Then I clicked on "printers" in the settings tool, and it came up, but didn't show the HP printer.


Google to the rescue.

First, I used lspci -v to find out a plethors of information about all the PCI devices. From this, I narrowed down to:

01:09.0 Parallel controller: Device 1c00:2170 (rev 0f) (prog-if 01 [BiDir])
    Subsystem: Device 1c00:2170
    Physical Slot: 6
    Flags: medium devsel, IRQ 5
    I/O ports at 2000 [size=8]
    I/O ports at 2008 [size=8]

Using that information, I crafted the following:

cd /usr/lib/modules/4.12.13-300.fc26.x86_64/kernel/drivers/parport
rmmod parport_pc
insmod parport_pc.ko.xz io=0x2000,0x2008 irq=5

And that did the trick. The HP Laserjet showed up in the list, it told linux what breed of printer it was, linux found the relevant driver and installed it, and now I can use my 20 year old Laserjet!

Monday 25 September 2017

Two spiders, a ladybird and a spider box

There was a huge spider, three inches across, in my shower cubicle. That's not a good place for a spider, because it could get washed down the drain, and I feel sure that it wouldn't like that. And a ladybird on the floor. So I got the spider box.

First I captured the ladybird, and threw it out of the window; I wanted to give it a head start over the spider.

Then the spider, and while I was capturing the spider, I noticed another, tiny spider, which was optimistically spinnng a web in a corner of the shower cubicle. So I deported the large spider, then the small one. They'll both do better outside than in.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Computer reshuffle

At last, Talia is retired. She did good work for about 20 years, but it's time she was put out to pasture.

Originally, I got her because she was small, and I was trying to cram as many computers as possible into my rack at Energis. She's 2U is height, but half the size of an ordinary rack-mounted computer. She runs a Pentium at 933 mHz, with 512mb of memory, and 20 years ago, that was pretty good.

But her power supply died, and I couldn't get a replacement for any sensible price, because the power supply is a special small one. And I've had to replace her internal fans. So for the last few years, she's been a secondary terminal server, running several terminal windows on Fedora 9 (we're currently on 26, so that tells you how old she is). Because I can't get a power supply inside, I have it hanging off the outside, which is rather ugly. And the power supply also powers four Raspberry Pis, using "Power over Ethernet". I send 12 volts to the Pis, and step that down at the Pi end to the required 5 volts. And she's a bit noisy; the replacement is very quiet.

I've replaced Talia with Talid. Talid has 2gb of memory and a Pentium two-core running at 2.7 ghz. Also Talid is a 64 bit machine, so I've installed Fedora 26 workstation, 64 bit version. I've also brought a spare monitor into play, because I just couldn't get it to work with my usual 1920 by 1200 monitor, it went up to 1024 by 768 (which is pathetic) and wouldn't do any better. So I've got a 1280 by 1024 monitor, which is nice.

To make room for that, I moved the pi that gives me a constant display of network statistics in a graphical form, and its monitor.

I am now surrounded by monitors and computers!

Compulsory pledge

There's always some controversy in the USA over their "Pledge of allegiance". This is a kind of ceremony, in which you put your  right hand on your chest (roughly where your heart probably is) and chant "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Obviously, atheists object to the "under God" part, but there's a deeper problem.

Although, in theory, students at school are not compelled to take part, you can imagine what happenes when one child won't go along with it.

But here's the problem. If it's compulsory, or effectively compulsory, then it's meaningless.Everyone chanting the pledge, is doing so because they have to, not necessarily because they want to.

In the UK, of course, we have nothing like that. We don't wave our flag all the time, were not forever singing the dirge that is our national anthem. We just quietly get on with our lives. We know that Britain is best, so we don't have to keep boring on about it.

A song of patriotic predjudice - Flanders and Swann

The spider and the fly

There's a 12 inch diameter spider web on the outside of my window, Just now, a fly blundered into it, making the whole thing shake, and breaking some of the strands.

The spider ran down to greet it, but the fly got free and flew off.

It must be tough being a small spider.

Thursday 21 September 2017


Yesterday, I got so fed up with the huge noise that the 32gb HP6600 was making, I tried to make it quieter. I changed something in the Bios data that I thought might help, but it didn't. I Googled, to no avail. I tried replacing one of the fans - that made it worse.

Eventually, I gave up and ordered another of the 8gb boxes for £60, like the one I already bought, which is almost silent.

That seems to have done the trick. The new machine hasn't arrived yet, and probably won't until next week, but somehow the 32gb box got wind of its impending replacement, and has gone silent, or nearly so.

So did I waste £60? I don't think so, it's a terrific bargain (there's still a lot more available from that vendor at that price, if you need a new computer) and I'll use it to replace another machine that I use as a terminal workstation. So it'll replace a machine running a Pentium 1 at 833 MHz, and 1/2 gb of memory, running Fedora 9 32 bit, with a machine running a Xeon 2.4 ghx and 8gb running Fedora 26 64 bit, and it'll run more quietly than the existing box.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

HP 6600

My new (well, second hand, it only cost £60) arrived. It's an HP 6600, with 8gb memory and a xeon processor. I got it because I want to upgrade my "workstation computer", the one that I use every day for everyday stuff.

I want to upgrade it because it's running Fedora 19, 32 bit version, and the world has moved heavily towards 64 bit software, to the extent that 32 bit upgrades are getting less available.

I have another HP 6600, 32gb memory, twin Xeon processors, that I'm using as my geocaching data processor, but I don't need that much power there. So the new box will take it's place, and I'll install Fedora 26, 64 bit version on the old box.

But first, backup! I backed up the GSAK database, and then the old computer. Then I took out the drives, and put them into the new computer. And it worked! I needed to give it the Windows product key, but then it was fine.

Now to repurpose the 32gb computer. I installed Fedora version 26, 64 bit, server edition. But that was just the start. I had to install X-Windows, then Gnome, then a zillion fonts and apps. And some Gnome extensions, and my hosts file to block adverts. But after several hours work, I now have the 32gb computer doing everything I need.

A couple of outstanding problems - my beloved HP Laserjet uses a parallel port, and this computer doesn't have one. So I went to Ebay, and bought a USB-to-parallel converter for a couple of pounds. Meanwhile, I'm using a Samsung GL-1915 printer. Fedora 26 didn't have a driver for it, but I went to Google and found on, and it prints fine, so even if the usb-to-parallel gizmo doesn't work, I can still print.

The computer that I was using as a workstation, which I was going to use as an emergency backup, seems to have stopped working. I'll investigate that.

A big problem, the 32gb computer has very noisy fans. I didn't expect that, it was very quiet when I was using it before.

Monday 18 September 2017

ccleaner trojan

I have to admit, I do use Windows! I use it for GSAK, the geocaching database, which it so totally useful, I couldn't do without it. And it needs Windows. But that's all I use Windows for.

Except, in using GSAK, I need to tell it about my two accounts, so it can access data from them. And I have to give it the authority to do that. But in order to do that, I have to scrub off the login data from the previous one I gave permission for; doesn't really expect me to have two accounts, I suppose.

To scrub off the previous data, I use CCleaner, and I have done for several years. And each time I use it, it offers to update itself, and I say "No thanks".

But if you're a user of Avast antivirus, and got your CCleaner from them, you may have a problem. Avast have accidentally been distributing a trojanised version of their software.


13 out of 58

A dozen copies of this appeared in my mailbox.

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2017 09:34:09
From: Phyllis Luty <>


Could you please let me know the status of the attached invoice? I
appreciate your help!

Best regards,

Phyllis Luty

It was sent to me four hours ago, and there's been a steady tricle of the same thing ever since. So I scanned it.

As usual, most products failed to flag it. Nine products weren't able to scan any file compressed with 7z compression. Notice how the products that succeeded are different for each malware I show to Virustotal.

If you're relying on an antivirus scanner to protect you, then you're using a chocolate teapot.

Friday 15 September 2017

What causes floods?

Water. You probably already knew that. But where does all that water come from?

I'm not going to discuss Tsunamis here, except to mention that it's an undersea earthquake, and if you're ever on the beach and the tide suddenly goes out, and out, and out, then the thing to do is run as fast as you can for higher ground, because that's the only way to be saved. In the2004 tsunami, 280,000 people were killed.

No, I'm talking about a more frequent event; floods caused by storms and hurricanes (a hurricane is a storm, only much stronger).

The storm is carrying lots of moisture, which it picked up from the evaporating sea (see my article on hurricanes). When the storm is over land, it is no longer getting the warm air from the ocean, so it cools down, and cooler air can't carry as much water vapour as warm air, so the water vapour condenses to water, and falls as rain. Lots of rain. Harvey dumped 52 inches of rain on Houston. Lots of people are shorter than that.

But that isn't all. There's also a storm surge; the storm winds push offshore ware onshore ... and then you get high tide.

Add all this together, and you get a flood, because all that water is trying to get away from where it is, down to the sea, but if you're on level ground, the water doesn't know where to go and just hangs about.

But that isn't all. Rain is clean, but when it piles up four feet above the ground, it gets all kinds of muck swirling around in it, including sewage. Don't drink it! And if there's a toxic chemical dump nearby, it'll pick that up too. What kind of city has a toxic chemical dump near a residential area? Cities that don't have restrictions on what you can build and where. Like Houston.

Eventually, the flood subsides, and people can get down off their roofs (don't go up into an attic, unless you can break through into the roof, because otherwise, you'll be stuck) and start the clean-up. Which will be massive, because water damages pretty much everything.

What causes storms and hurricanes?

And this is the one that a lot of people don't understand, and which is most often ascribed to a supernatural entity smiting the wicked, where "wicked" is defined by the various speakers as "people I disapprove of".
But again, it's a natural phenomenon. Here's how it works.

You have an ocean, and you have the sun. And this mostly happens near the equator, where you get lots of sun. The sun warms the water. And the sun evaporates the water. So you get warm, moist air near the surface of the ocean. But hot air (and warm air) rises, because it's lighter than cold air.Up it goes!

And the rising warm, moist air is replaced by cooler air coming in from the sides. But that gets heated up and moistened, so it also rises, and in comes more cooler air.

As the cooler air comes in, it's pushed by the Coriolis Effect. That makes the incoming air swirl, in the classic pattern you see with hurricanes as seen from above.So they swirl clockwise in the Southern hemisphere, and anticlockwise in the Northern.

So you get this huge, swirling cloud, and the winds can be pretty strong; a "category 5" hurricane has winds blowing at 156 mph. Irma, which hit Florida recently, was category 5.

A typhoon is just another word for a hurricane. A tropical storm is also the same thing, but less fierce.

So the hurricane swirls and the swirl drifts relative to the earth's surface. It's very difficult to predict which way it's going to go, it's so very very complex. People make guesses (actually, it's a bit more than a guess) but you shouldn't treat those forecasts as totally accurate.

The only way to deal with a hurricane is to get as far away from it as you can, and don't leave it till the last minute, because that's what everyone else is doing, and you'll get caught in an almighty traffic jam. A second thing you can do, is build your buildings with hurricanes in mind, if you live in a place that gets hurricanes. The third thing you can do, is what I do. I live in a place that doesn't get hurricanes, except that we did get the Great Storm of 1987 with wind speeds up to 100 mph, knocking down 15 million trees! And it knocked down a brick wall in my garden; we heard a great "THUMP" but stayed indoors; later when it was all over, we saw the broken wall.

When a hurricane drifts over land, it's cut off from the source of its food, the warm ocean. So as it goes over land, it loses intensity, which is nice. But if it then goes over water again, it can pick up strength. Irma did that. It birthed just of the coast of Africa, travelled across the Atlantic gaining strength as it went, hit the Caribbean, hit the Bahamas (and weakened to a Category 4), but then strengthened back to Cat 5. Cuba weakened it again, but it was still intense when it hit Florida.

Irma killed 82 people, and did more than $60 billion in damage. Awesome.

What causes forest fires?

That's pretty simple. If you have forests, you have trees, and trees are wood. You also have undergrowth, which can be flammable. After a long hot summer or other dry period, it's like a bonfire waiting to be lit. Some arseholes start fires, either deliberately (major arseholes) or accidentally (minor arseholes). But even without arseholes, lightning can start a fire.

If you're anywhere near a forest fire, get away as fast as you can. Because they can spread really fast.

To put out a forest fire, you need a bit of advance preparation. If you look around forests in England, you'll see wide lanes where the trees are all cut down, these are called firebreaks. The idea is to make it a lot more difficult for the fire to spread, it will find it hard to cross a wide lane where there's no flammable material.

And then, mostly, you dump water on the fire, or something else that smothers it. But you do it mostly from an airplane, so you don't get burned.

What causes earthquakes?

There are some people, especially victims of one or another religion, think that earthquakes are sent by their god to punish humanity for ... and then they give their favourite sin. But the cause is fairly simple.

Look at an orange. It's pretty much a sphere, with an outer rind, and all the nice juicy stuff inside.

The earth isn't so simple. There is all the juicy stuff inside (molten rock, you see it squirting out with volcanoes) and big plates of solid stuff float on top of that. But those solid plates rub against each other.

Take two slabs of wood, and push then hard together. Now, while pushing them together, try to move one of them against the other. Nothing will happen as you start to try to move them, then suddenly you'll get one sliding over the other.

Or. Sit down, and rest your foot on the floor. push your foot forward. Nothing will happen at first, but then after you've increased the pressure, your foot will suddenly move forward, then stop. And you can repeat this a few times.

It's the same with earthquakes. The plates are compressed together but are also trying to move relative to each other. Nothing happens for a while, and then suddenly, there's movement. That shakes everything nearby. That's an earthquake.

In England, we don't get earthquakes. Actually, that's not exactly true, I know of two that I actually felt. For the first one, I was on the phone to someone, and I felt a kind of little bump. I told the other guy on the phone, and after a couple of minutes, he said, "Oh! I just felt it too!". That's because the waves carrying the energy of the earthquake, travel at about 6 km/second. The other one, I just felt a slight "bmp" (not even a "bump") and I read in the newspaper that there had been an earthquake, and somewhat to the north of me, a few slates had fallen off roofs.

They get earthquakes in Japan, California and other places near to places where there are two plates moving. So they have building regulations to make their buildings earthquake-resistant. If you live somewhere that has earthquakes, you can find out of your building is earthquake-resistant.

What causes eclipses?

There are two main kinds of eclipse; solar and lunar.

Solar eclipses are when the moon gets between the earth and the sun. You can easily imagine the shadow of the moon obscuring the sun, just as the shadow of a cloud might on most days in England. As the earth rotates, the shadow moves across the earth (just as the shadow of a cloud moves when the cloud is blown along). In the middle of that shadow, the moon totally obscures the sun, that's called a total eclipse. If you move away from that place of total eclipse, you'll get to places where the moon only partially obscures the sun. That's a partial eclipse.

DO NOT look at the sun. Ever. It will damage your vision, permanently. I'd even be wary of looking at the sun using dark goggles - you'd better the absolutely certain that the goggles are dark enough. A better way is to use a pinhole solar camera and look at the image that you get.

Donald Trump looked directly at the sun during the 2017 eclipse. 'Nuff said.

Contrary to what the Times newspaper says, the shadow of the moon does not cross the sun. That's muddled thinking of a severity that makes me scratch my head.

A lunar eclipse happens when the shadow of the earth falls on to the moon. They are quite common; you get a lunar eclipse two to four times per year. It isn't as spectacular as a solar eclipse, but whereas with a solar eclipse, only the people who are in the path of the moon's shadow can see it, with a lunar eclipse, everyone on the night side of the earth can see it.

It is quite safe to look at the moon, any time you want.

Because the orbits of the earth and moon are entirely predictable, dates and times of eclipses are too.

What causes the seasons?

Spring, summer, autumn, winter. What causes the seasons?

First, why do I need to explain this? Because it has come to my attention, that there are some people who don't understand the causes of the seasons.

The earth rotates on its axis, while it orbits in a near-circle around the sun. The rotation of the earth is the cause of there being night and day; the side facing away from the sun has night.

But the axis of rotation isn't upright with respect to the plane of the orbit. It's tilted, by about 23 degrees (the tilt wobbles; if you spin a top, you'll see the same thing, only the top wobbles faster). The period of the wobble is 41,000 years. Huh!

Some people have no idea what causes the seasons, and put it down to "it just happens", or "god did it", depending on their preferences. Some people think that the earth's orbit is elliptical (which it is, but only slightly so) and the difference between winter and summer is caused by the earth being closer to the sun, or further. A moment's thought dismisses that idea because if it were true, Australia and England would have summer at the same time, not six months apart.

No. The cause is the tilt of the axis.

Consider December and the North Pole. The sun never rises, and so cannot heat the Arctic. So it's colder. Now consider June - the sun never sets, so it's not so cold (still pretty cold, though).

But now move a bit south. To the UK, for example. In Winter, there are only eight hours of daylight, whereas in summer, there are sixteen hours of daylight! So it's not surprising that it's warmer in June than in December.

Also, in winter, the sun doesn't get so high in the sky (because of the axial tilt), so what sunlight does fall on the ground, is spread out more than it is in the summer.

And that's why summer is hotter than winter, and why summer is six months different in Australia.

0 out of 60

Subject: USAA Online New PDF Message.

Dear USAA Customer,

Check Attachment For Review.

Thank You,

Yes, it is indeed  PDF file. But it was spammed out, there's no reason given, I don't know who sent it and there's no way I'm going to load it. But I did show it to VirusTotal.

Virus total showed it to 60 products. All 60 said it was clean. Let's see ...

Thursday 14 September 2017

12 out of 59

And just to show that for another piece of malware arriving by email, the failure rate is 80%, with different products failing:

9 out of 58

As happens on nearly every day, a fresh crop of malware arrived in my inbox. Nothing really special about this one - it's an XLS file, first seen by Virustotal two hours ago, not seen yet by most antivirus companies, and certainly they haven't had time to put out an update. Three copies of it have arrived, and I showed it to Virustotal.

As usual, about 85% of products failed to flag it. You can see from the screen capture which ones did, but don't take that as meaning that those are exceptionally good; the next time I do this, some different products will flag, the rest will pass as clean.

What this means is - all that stands between you and malware invading your computer, is your own scepticism about incoming email. If you're running an antivirus, that might make you feel better, but praying is almost as effective. And I don't know the name of the God of computers. The mighty Turing, perhaps?

If you're responsible for a bunch of users, this is why you're getting hit by malware. Users don't care about security, never have, never will.  And I can prove that to you. Go round the M25 for a while, and notice all the people using their mobile phones, some talking and some texting. Look at all the people who are driving so close to the car in front that if the car in front does an emergency stop, or gets a puncture, they won't stand a chance of avoiding a collision. If people are that careless about their personal safety, despite many attempts at education, why would they care about computer security?

So they won't be sceptical enough. And they know they're protected by whatever wonderful product you installed, and they'll click on things that ought not to be clicked on, and next thing you know, you have a mess.

Wednesday 13 September 2017


When I sneeze, I usually sneeze twice. I don't know why, and I don't know if this is true for other people.

Is this a record?

$12,000,000,000.00 USD Payment notification from Royal Bank Of Canada (RBC).

Dear Beneficiary

The Board of Trustees and Management of (RBC) Royal Bank Of Canada wish to
officially inform you today that your outstanding Coca-Cola Company Winning
fund valued at the total sum of US$12,000,000,000.00 (Twelve Billion United
States Dollars) which was deposited with our bank here in Canada to your name
many years ago has been legally approved and Authorized by the European Union
committee on Foreign Payment Resolution, following with the payment release
letter we received from the Canadian Finance Ministry and Canadian Ambassador
to U.S, for onward transfer, therefore, an instruction to credit your fund

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Inappropriate video

If I want a manual, I want it as text, or possibly html. That way, I can go straight to the part I want to look up, expecially if there's an index.

I don't want a video. I don't want to sit through an hour of tedious explanation of things I already knew. I don't want to fast-forward and try to find the information that I need.

Video does have a place, of course. When I was dismantling my bike motor, it was very good to have a video, because that told me whether the thread on the motor was left hand or right hand, a detail that the text didn't mention.

But the worst videos that I'm seeing now, are videos that are actually just a still picture, shown to you for 10 or 30 seconds. Why?

Why I use text-only email

Text is simple. Text is clean. You can't embed a trojan in text, the way you can in HTML.

I used to use Pine; that is no longer available, so I use Alpine which is indistinguishable from Pine. It's text-only. You can "click on a link", but to do that you have to tab down to the link, it isn't a mouse thing. And it tells you where the link is going, in square brackets after the link, which can be quite different from where it says it's going.

And for the same reason, you can't click on an attachment. Which is good.

Unfortunately, the whole world seems to assume that everyone uses html-based email. And I even get emails that say "If your email reader doesn't do HTML, then click here". Which, of course, I can't.

If you're using linux, I can recommend Alpine. It's free, it's easy to get and easy to use. If you're using Windows, you're probably stuffed.

The dark side of the moon

The moon has a dark side, and a light side. As it rotates (it does rotate relative to the sun, that's why the moon has phases) the dark side moves around the moon, just as the dark side of the earth moves around, being opposite to the side that faces the sun.

I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to know that.

The moon rotates in the same period as it rotates around the earth. So we always see one side, we never see the other side (at least, not from standing on the earth). The other side is usually called "the far side". Or you might call it "the back side of the moon".

Again, it's pretty simple. Unless you're a journalist who writes for The Times.

"Space tourists could one day sleep in hotels in the midst of a “village” on the dark side of the Moon"

Uh, no. You mean on the far side of the moon. Good grief, even the Daily Mail gets this right! Building a village on the dark side of the moon, would be as impossible as building a village on the night side of the Earth.

Maybe The Times should hire an astrologer to help them get their facts right? Because even an astrologer would get that right, and I doubt if the journalists at the Times would be able to tell an astrologer from an astronomer.

And I expect astrologers are cheaper.

Thursday 7 September 2017


We visited today. He's very small! And, it seems, sleeps 23 hours out of 24.

Wednesday 6 September 2017


Oh dear.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was starting to look interesting. Tall and thin, reminiscent of Eden or Macmillan, and a candidate for replacing the Blessed May without being Boris or Gove.

But he's a Catholic.

I have no problem with people's religion, he can be a Catholic if he wants to, and good luck to him. But I don't want a Prime Minister who believes that abortion is a sin in all circumstances, how believes that being gay is a sin,  and "I’m a Catholic and I take the teaching of the Catholic Church seriously.". Well, I don't. And I don't want a Prime Minister who wants to impose their barbaric beliefs on me.

Even a vicar's daughter looks better.

Goodbye Firefox, hello Chrome

I've been a staunch Firefox user, running on my Fedora Linux computer. But I can't take it any more.

It happened with the last upgrade to version 55. Suddenly, radio buttons and check boxes don't work. That is, they do work, but I can't tell which radio button has been pressed, because Firefox shows them as all on, or all off, no matter what I do. Ditto check boxes.

Also, it crashes occasionally.

This is serious. There's so many things I use that need radio buttons. The user interface for all my in-house systems, is the browser (because why write a user interface when it's already been done?).

After a couple of weeks of this, I'm done. So I've exported all my bookmarks etc to Chrome, and now I'm a Chrome user, with "script defender" instead of Noscript, and Adblock Plus to fend off advertising.

Yes, I know the arguments about how can web sites get funded if I block advertising. But the fact of malvertising, because ad networks won't or can't keep malicious software off their advertisement networks, means that I have to block all adverts.

So it's goodbye Firefox, hello Chrome.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Englehart arrives!

We've been calling him Englehart pre-arrival, but yesterday he arrived. Ladysolly went to see him today, still in hospital, but he and daughter.1 will be out tomorrow, all being well, and we'll be visiting them the day after tomorrow alongside daughter.2. Englehart now has a name; daughter.1.son.2 (as distinct from daughter.1.son.1). He was eight pounds on arrival which is pretty big, but he arrived without much fuss or difficulty, and very quickly.


Another trip to a dentist

My usual dentist decided that I had a bit of a problem with a tooth that was too difficult for her. It was a previous root canal filling, but there was some infection at the bottom of the tooth, and since it had already had one root canal filling, an NHS dentist wouldn't do another. The NHS solution, if solution is needed, would be extraction. Ugh. So she referred me to a dentist who specialises in root canal work.

I went there today. He was very nice, and sat me down in the chair and had a really good grope around inside my mouth, including with something rather sharp. And some colour pictures, and an x-ray. And then we discussed what to do.

That tooth has been like that for five years now - we have an x-ray from 2012. And it hasn't got any worse. Plus, right now, it's not giving me any pain.

There's a pimple near the tooth, which is good, because that's providing a conduit for the infection to drain, so I'm unlikely to get the appalling pain of a tooth abscess.

It could be operated on, by opening up the gum and poking around inside, cleaning it out, and hoping that it doesn't reinfect. But that might not make any long-run difference.
It's a tooth that doesn't have a partner opposing it, so it isn't doing very much anyway.

So I applied the principle of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and we decided to leave it be.

I can always change my mind if it becomes a problem one day.

The cost of that was £190, which demonstrates the difference between an NHS dentist and non-NHS. And the £190 was just for an examination and consultancy - if I'd opted for treatment, it would have been a lot more!


Stop worrying about being stuck in a bathtub during an emergency

Monday 4 September 2017

Flash upgrade

Yet again. Flash isn't good enough, so I have to upgrade to


Naming conventions

I've been calling my grandson, grandson.1. But now there's another, so I've been thinking about nomenclature.

Perhaps grandson.1 should be called daughter.1.son.1, and the new arrival should be daughter.1.son.2?

Naming conventions are important.

Saturday 2 September 2017

1 in 500

Hurricane Harvey is a 1 in 500 year flood, according to some sources. Well, that's comforting - it means it most likely won't happen again for 500 years. Harvey dumped 40 inches of rain on Texas and has caused (so far) 51 confirmed deaths. Economic loss estimates range from $10 billion to $160 billion.

Do you remember Tropical Storm Allison, in 2001? That was a 1 in 500 year flood.
40 inches of rain, 55 dead,  $9 billion damage

Hurricane Ike; 2008, 195 killed, 145 mph winds, $37.6 billion damage.

Hurricane Rita, 2005. 16 inches rain, 180 mph winds. 97-125 killed, $12 billion damage.

I don't think you need to be a statistician to deduce that four such deadly storms in 16 years means that we should be talking about a once in four year event, not once in 500.

Because if it only happens once in 500 years, there's not a good reason to take significant action.  But if huge storms like this happen every four years, maybe it's worth spending a bit to put up defences. 

Because climate change couldn't possibly be part of the problem, whereby warmer ocean water increases the amount of moisture that a storm can carry, and Americans believe that climate change is a Chinese hoax.

Fortunately, none of this affects us here in England.

Friday 1 September 2017


Woody Allen is one of my favourite stand-up comedians. These days, he's better known for his movies, but here's my favourite - the moose story.