Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Day 401 of self-isolation - Blood clots

Blood clots

Let's look at the numbers.

20 million doses of the  AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK

79 cases of blood clots

19 deaths

That's about four cases per million, one death per million vaccinations.

So what are the odds if you aren't vaccinated?

The normal number of brain clots is - five cases per million. So is the vaccine causing those four, or are they clots that would have happened anyway? We don't know.

But what if you're taking the oral contraceptive? 400 cases per million.

Pregnancy? 2000 cases per million.

And the worst of all - Covid-19 - 310000 cases per million.

 But let's look at some really nasty stuff. These are total 2010 figures, in a population of 60 million. So, divide by 60 to get deaths per million.

Choking from food - 203 deaths

Drowning in bath tub - 29

Fall from ladder - 53

Alcohol poisoning - 188

Cyclist in accident - 96

Life is dangerous. That's why we are careful when crossing a road (pedestrian in hit by car, van, lorry or bus, 188) and when using stairs (falls from stairs and steps, 655) and swimming (68).

In the UK, there's an average of five road traffic deaths per day. 1752 deaths in 2019.

Nothing is 100% safe. Doing nothing is not safe. The  AstraZeneca vaccine is safe enough.


Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Day 400 of self-isolation - Second dose

Second dose

I have a date for my second dose - it's next week, an hour before my eye test (just the routine annual test) and the day after my telephone appointment about my asthma (which has almost entirely cleared up). 

It should be another dose of the Pfizer vaccine.



Monday, 19 April 2021

Day 399 of self-isolation - MyPillow


I made a complaint to the Advertising Standard Authority about a MyPillow advertisment that was on LBC every few minutes. My complaint was about the "special two for the price of one" offer, which I felt was their standard price, and not some sort of special offer.

And it turns out that I'm not the only one to complain.

The ASA have decided that further investigation is needed. They have written to MyPillow and asked for a response.

By the way, if you want a half price MyPillow (the standard price is £120 on Amazon) , watch out for promo codes. The normal price for a memory foam pillow is more like £25 to £30. So if you can get a half price offer, combined with two for the price of one, it becomes a reasonable price.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Day 398 of self-isolation - Three million

Three million

As of now, three million people have died from Covid-19. we're in the fourth wave.

It's looking good in the UK, very good with 35 deaths yesterday and 2206 new cases, but when you look at the world situation, it's still looking very bad.

New cases have hit 850,000 per day, and new deaths 14,000. The worst countries for death numbers are still Brazil, India and the USA. Brazil is looking to turn down, but the USA has started to trend upwards again. And India is looking truly dreadful with a quarter million new cases each day. And I suspect that the more rural parts of India might be under-reporting.

In India there is a variant (B1617) with a double mutation, and there are 77 cases of this in the UK. And this mutation is more infectious, which is what you'd expect from evolution.

In the UK, 61% of the population has been vaccinated; in India, 1%



Saturday, 17 April 2021

Day 397 of self-isolation - Bridges compared

Bridges compared 

I tested each bridge by copying a 400 mb file.

The best bridge is, of course, the cat 5 cable, running from my office to the server room. The file copied in 9 seconds, which gives me 41 mb/sec which is 330 mbit/sec.

I tested the TP-Link-411 powerline, using two power sockets in the same room; that gave me 90 mbit/sec, which is the most I could hope for, since it was running via a 100 mbit switch. It gave me great hope, though, because it was really easy to set up. You just plug the TP-Link-411 devices into the power, plug in an ethernet cable, and press the button. Then you press the button on the other one, and they shake hands and they're ready to go.

But when I tried out the powerlines to the server room, which is on a different power circuit (I think), and is several yards way, I only got 12 mbit/sec. That's usable, but disappointingly slow.

Then I tried the Buffalo Bridge. That was very disappointing, I only got about 1 mbit/sec.


Friday, 16 April 2021

Day 396 of self-isolation - Another parcel

Another parcel

Ebay was good tgo me again today. Four powerline adapters arrived, TP-Link 411. This could be an alternative for connecting the server room to the rest of the house.

They work by sending a high frequency signal along the main electricity system. But will it work on my system? There isn't just the one circuit. Also, there are three phases. So I don't know. But I paid only £15 for four units.

The way to find out, of course, is going to be - suck it and see.


Thursday, 15 April 2021

Day 395 of self-isolation - Parcel


The 24-way D-link gigabit switch arrived. New, they cost a hundred pounds or more. I got it from eBay for £25. Corporate-type equipment sells for peanuts on eBay, because corporates don't buy secondhand kit. I tested it, it works fine.


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Day 394 of self-isolation - The Return of Ruth

The Return of Ruth

Ruth's back!

In March 2020, we locked down. That included putting Ruth on full pay leave. For about a year. And the house got dirty, for about a year.

The robot vacuum helped a bit, but not much. 

Neither ladysolly nor I are big on housecleaning. We vaccumed the house occasionally, and pushed the mop around a bit - that's what led to the robot vacuum and robot mopper.

Ruth caught Covid while she was on leave; she recovered just fine, but it shows that we were right to put her on leave. In February, both ladysolly and I got inoculated, so all in all, we're feeling good. We decided that when the number of new cases fell below 2000 per day, we'd invite Ruth back.

So she was back on Tuesday, and the Augean stables  project commenced. There wasn't a nearby river to divert, but a mop and bucket works well.


Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Day 393 of self-isolation - Eye test

Eye test

It's been several months since I had an eye test, so they called me in again. For some years now, the pressure in my left eye has been excessive. Left untreated, that would damage the nerve, so we've been controlling it with eye drops, and they've been working well. And the test today says it's still working well.

But there's another problem coming at my left eye. When I compare the view out of the left, with the view out of the right eye, the right view is a lot brighter, and sharper. The eye doctor took a look, and he thinks that I have an incipient cataract. That means that the lens of the eye is clouding, and that's exactly how it feels. He's going to take a deeper look at it in a couple of months. The only treatment is surgery to replace the lens, but that isn't recommended unless it's really bad - which it currently isn't.

Meanwhile, I made an appointment with my local optician. It's been a year since I was last checked, it was just before the lockdown. It might be that my left eye needs a different spectacle lens.

The other thing I've noticed, is that I now have trouble reading without glasses. I can read fine with my reading glasses, and even with my midrange (as used for computing).

I suppose this is all an inevitable concomitant of maturity.


Monday, 12 April 2021

Day 392 of self-isolation - A pi bridge

A pi bridge

So now I want to see if I can set up a Pi Bridge. I took two version 1 pies, amd installed the latest Raspbian version (Buster). I followed this recipe to turn each of the pies into an access point.

That turned out to be non-trivial. The wifi dongles that I'm using, are using the nl80211 driver, but wouldn't work as access points (AP). I tried swapping the dongle, and I found that of nine dongles, three of them have AP capability, and six don't.  I don't understand this, because eight of these dongles are the same. Ot anyway, they look the same.

Eventually, I got the two APs working, called pibridge01 and pibridge02.

Sufficient for the day. I'll try to turn them into a bridge tomorrow. Here's another recipe.

The pages I used for this are:

The Covid numbers for Saturday were, 7 deaths, 1730 new cases. It's a weekend number, therefore shrunken, but it's looking really good.


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Day 391 of self-isolation - Yet more networking

 Yet more networking

First, I fixed the house wifi system, and got both of the Google Homes working. Really there wasn't anything wrong. I think with all the messing about I did, something lost track of something. I didn't really do anything to fix it, and it was fixed. When this happened in a data revocery, we used to say "The postman fixed it".

Next, a field trial of the Buffalo Bridge. I put one half of the bridge in the server room, and the other half in my office. The results were very disappointing. Initially I got almost nothing. Then I moved the two Buffalos so they were closer together, and I got 3 mbps, which is very poor. Then I made the two as close together as I could, and I got 9 mbps - also disappointing, but workable.

But overnight, I had a flash of inspiration. Instead of running a cable from the server room to the cupboard under the stairs, I could run a cable from the server room to my office which is a shorter run, and won't need to go through the front door. In my office, I plugged it into a gigabit switch, and ran a short cable from that switch to the port on my office wall that connects to the 24-way in the cupboard under the stairs.

I tested it, and I got 90 mbps, which is as good as I could hope for; my internet connection is 100 mbps. I also tested it by copying a file from my office to the server room, and I got 320 megabits/second. That's because I was using gigabit ethernet end to end!

The only downside is that I have to keep my office window a fraction open, so the cable can come in. But now there's no cable over the flower bed, or coming through the front door into the cupboard under the stairs. It's still a bodge, but it's a very non-messy bodge. And re-threading a new cable to replace the one that doesn't work from the server room to the cupboard under the stairs, would be a big job.

While I was at it, I realised why my Siemens wifi access point wasn't working- the power supply plug was loose in it's socket. Fixing that, means that I have a spare, working wifi access point.

Now I want to make another bridge, using two raspberry pies and wifi dongles that I already have, just to see how it compares with the Buffalo Bridge.


Saturday, 10 April 2021

Day 390 of self-isolation - More networking

More networking

Today, I tested all the connections to the 24-way switch and worked out which ones went where.   I was able to identify 13 of them, plus two that don't work, in addition  to the important one that doesn't work.

I've got a bodge working; a wire goes out of the server room, into the garden, across a flower bed, in through the front door and then to the cupboard under the stairs, to the 24-way. This isn't really satisfactory, but I can't see a way to get the cable that runs inside the walls, that used to do this job working.

However. A long time ago (about 16 years back) I had a similar problem, at our old Chartridge house. I solved it by buying a pair of Buffalo Airstations, which lets me make a bridge. One in the house, and one in the server room, and it worked well until I finally strung a cable overhead to link them.

So, one of the Airstations is currently being used as a wireless access point, so I replaced that with a TP-link that I had lying around, and started to set up the Buffaloes as a bridge.

That turned out to be fairly easy, and after some trial and error, I found the combination of parameters that gave me 18 mbps upload and download across the bridge. I set it to turbo mode, BSS all and disabled the use of the Buffaloes as wireless access points, so they can concentrate on bridging.

18 mbps is a bit disappointing, because my internet connection is 100 mbps, but the Buffaloes are very old technology. Even so, they promise "up to" 54 mbps. 

So that looks promising. I've also ordered some powerline bridges; those use the power system of the house to transmit. I'm a bit doubtful about whether that's going to work, but it's really cheap at £5 so I'll give it a try.

However. In all this messing about, I seem to have munged the house wifi system. In particular, the Google Homes stopped working, and ladysolly uses hers a lot.

So now I have to fix that, and then tomorrow, I'll give the Buffalo Bridge a field test. If that works, I can retire the flowerbed bodge, and see whether I can sort out something to up the speed - maybe something that uses 802.11ac wifi. I might use a pair of Raspberry Pis as the bridge. 


Friday, 9 April 2021

Day 389 of self-isolation - Network failure

Network failure

I was awoken this morning by ladysolly. She couldn't get on to wifi, and she needed it SOON for her bridge game.

So I went into fault-finding mode.

I soon discovered that my workstations upstairs couldn't access the internet. Or even any of the servers downstairs. But things in the server room could access each other, and the internet. 

That pointed to one thing - the ethernet switch in the cupboard under the stairs. That's a 24-way ethernet switch, taking a feed from the server room, and distributing it all over the house.

But first things first. I had an increasingly twitchy ladysolly asking when it would all be fixed. I have a wifi access point in the server room, and that was still working fine and had internet access, so I connected her iPad to that, and she was happy.

My first thought was that the 24-way switch in the cupboard under the stairs had failed. I've had switches fail before, and this one is at least 12 years old. So I carefully unplugged all the 24 cables, and took it out. I tested it, and it worked fine. Rats. It wasn't that, then.

I replaced it anyway - I've been meaning to upgrade that 100 mbps to a gigabit switch, so I did that, and connected the switch up to the 24 cables. still no joy. The server room was cut off from the rest of the house.

There is an ethernet socket on the wall of the server room. That connects to a cable that comes out where the 24-way switch is. But I couldn't get a connection.

I got my cable tester out, and plugged the master in to the server room socket. Then I went hunting for the other end, using the remote tester. No joy.

So let's go for broke. I took a 30 meter cable, and ran it from the server room all the way to the 24-way. I plugged it in, and bingo! Everything works.

So, the problem is the cable that goes from the server room to the 24-way, and since that cable is inside the walls, I can't really fix it. I think the fix that I've bodged up, will have to do.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Day 388 of self-isolation - Cert renewal

Cert renewal

After my huge success doing Irish VAT Moss, I decided to do my certs today.

I get my https security certificates from, because they are free. The downside is that they only last for three months, and I have to renew them.

But I've pretty much automated the whole renewal process, including copying them to the servers that need them. So I started the process.

To my surprise, I found that I'd already done it - or something had. I must be doing this entirely automatically now,  but I don't remember automating it. My certs are now all good until June 3, except one which is mysteriously 4 July.

In a few weeks, I need to do the UK Vat.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Day 387 of self-isolation - Irish Vat Moss

Irish Vat Moss

Last time I lost weight, I got down to 15-2, and then yoyoed back up again. Today, I got down to that level, but I'm not stopping here!

One of my mail servers went down, for no apparent reason. It's a Raspberry Pi 1. I have a backup mail server, of course, and that carried n working, so mail continued to flow. Mostly spam.

I power cycled the server - no joy. So I went to it and fiddled with it, making sure that the ethernet connection was good. And that fixed it. I don't see how it could have gotten loose, but maybe there's a lot about ethernet that I don't understand.

I did my VAT Moss for the first quarter 2021. I can't use the HMRC site any more, because the UK is no longer a member of the EU. So I registered with the Irish tax people, because I thought that I could pretty much rely on them being comfortable with English.

I used that registration for the first time today, and I was pleasantly surprised. I had to convert all the numbers from pounds to euros, but that's just a simple addition to my spreadsheet.

Using the Irish VAT Moss system, turned out to be easier than the HMRC on. With the HMRC, I had to fill in the VAT rate as well as the sales numbers for each country by copying the rate from a popup on the HMRC site. With the Irish site, I just tell it to use the e-commerce rate, and it already knows the VAT percentage. Why didn't the HMRC site do that?

So, I filled in all the numbers, double checked that everything was correct, and submitted the form. Then, on the same site, I paid. HMRC made me go to a different site and jump through more hoops to pay them, and when I got it wrong, (by paying the VAT account instead of the VAT Moss account), I got into trouble and had to pay a very small fine, and to sort out the mess I'd created.

I don't fully understand why, as a UK citizen, I have to pay taxes levied in the various EU countries, but there it is.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Day 386 of self-isolation - The 2TB scam

The 2TB scam

When I was looking to buy some 2tb hard drives (which I bought for about £40 each), I was tempted by some 2tb solid state drives. These are available as USB sticks, costing as little as £4.62. What's not to like?

And when you look at eBay, there are DOZENS of these on offer, at various prices.

I don't believe it.

What I think they are, is 32gb or maybe 64gb drives, reprogrammed to report that they are 2tb. But if you try to put that  much data on the drive, it won't do it.

I expect that the same is true for 1tb, and other sizes. 

I could have bought one and tested it, and if it failed, I'd request a refund via eBay. But, I can't be bothered. The probability that these are not a scam is so low, it isn't worth pursuing.

I also checked out Amazon. There, the prices were in the range £30 and up. I don't believe that, either.

I went to Bluepoint, a site that I often buy from, because they are fairly cheap, and a 1tb flash drive was about £150 plus vat. On Aria, a 1tb SSD is £200, a 2tb is £270. On Scan, a 512gb pendrive is £105, 1tb is £300.

When an offer looks like it's too good to be true, then it's probably too good to be true.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Day 385 of self-isolation - Two servers down

Two servers down

They aren't customer-facing, they are backups. But I do want my backups to work.

The first one is named "disku". That has a 2tb drive that seems to be failing. When I opened it up, I could hear the drive making that clicky noise, the "click of doom" as it repeatedly tried, and failed, to recalibrate. The cure for that is to replace the drive.

But I don't have any more spare 2tb drives, so I went onto eBay and found someone selling Seagate Barracudas (I like that drive) for under £40. I bought four. Last time I bought 2tb drives, they were the biggest available, and cost £200. The drive is still working, just about, but I'll replace it when the new ones arrive.

While I was doing all this, the root drive failed. That's a 30 gb IBM 2.5 inch drive, and it's indescribably ancient. So I replaced it with a newer 60gb Toshiba, yummed in all the necessary software, and that's looking good now.

The second failing computer is "diskt" - some of my computer names are unimaginative. "diskt" is one of three computers that are just storage. The first one is called "disks" and you can see how that works.

diskt had a failing root drive. But after I rebooted it a few times, it seems OK. The self-test (SMART) says that it's got no bad sectors and is running fine. Go figure. I'll run it for a whioe, and if the root drive fails again, I'll replace it.



Sunday, 4 April 2021

Day 384 of self-isolation - Ten


Ten more dead on Friday. This is obviously a low "weekend" number, Friday being a bank holiday. But it's a very low number even so. And with it, 3423 new cases, also a very low number, and new case numbers aren't usually affected by the weekend.

This weekend effect has been present all along, but it's very marked in the UK. Obviously the virus isn't taking a couple of days off, it has to be an artifact of reporting.

But if it was, then you'd expect a bump in the first day after the weekend, as people caught up with the paperwork. And that doesn't happen.

So, I don't know.

But ten is the lowest number for a long time, and even though it's a bit of an artifact, it's a good number to see.


Saturday, 3 April 2021

Day 383 of self-isolation - Vaccine passports

Vaccine passports

I have a driving licence. That means that, a long time ago, I took a driving test, and passed. It's illegal to drive without a licence, so I can feel assured that every other car on the road is being driven by someone with a licence. That doesn't guarantee that they are good drivers, but it weeds out the total incompetents. I like this, it makes me safer.

But it is discriminatory. It means that people with physical or mental barriers to driving, are not allowed to drive. Yes, it's discriminatory. That's the whole point.

As we come out of this pandemic, there is talk of "vaccine passports". This would be a document (or similar) proving that you are sufficiently vaccinated against Covid-19. Yes, it's discriminatory. That's the whole point.

There is a cruise line that is advertising that they will only allow  sufficiently vaccinated people on board the cruise. Yes, it's discriminatory. That's the whole point. It's their cruise, and so they can set the rules. If you don't like it, go on a different cruise. If you do like the idea that you're unlikely to be on a plague ship, then that's a cruise you might like.

There might be pubs, hotels or restaurants that decide to do the same thing. Again, it's their premises, and so they can set the rules. I was once asked to leave an Australian pub, because I was wearing trainers on my feet. And I was once asked to leave a British pub, because I was wearing boots. Fair enough - your pub, your rules. I went to a pub nearby.

And it seems obvious to me, that only our government should be able to provide these vaccine passports.

Vaccination is not compulsory, nor should it be. Getting a vaccine passport should not be compulsory. If the pub you wanted requires a vaccine passport and you don't have one, then go to a different pub.

It should be up to the owners of each business, whether they demand to see a vaccine passport, or whether they don't allow trainers. 

Yes, it's discriminatory. That's the whole point.


Friday, 2 April 2021

Day 382 of self-isolation - My bank is full of idiots

My bank is full of idiots

We’re sorry but we’ve discovered that, due to a technical issue, we’ve not been charging your ePDQ management fee correctly.
We’re now giving you 60 days’ notice that this charge will become effective from 1 June 2021.
Your ePDQ management charge will be billed at £25.00 plus VAT each month.

Actually, they were already charging me £25 plus VAT each month.


And then ...

I tried to do my monthly PAYE submission, using the HMRC software. The first thing it did, is it asked if it could update itself. So I allowed that. Then when I tried to run it, it wouldn't work. Surprise! It loaded the splash screen, waited a while, then it went away. I tried again. Same result. Right, said I.

So, we, had a cup of tea ... Right said I, time for a reboot. So I rebooted.

And it worked.

And next, I have the delightful proposition of using the Irish tax office to do my VAT Moss and pay a couple of dozen countries the VAT that I think I have to pay, now that we've left the EU. Let's hope it's easier to use than the HMRC Vat Moss software. It can hardly be harder.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Day 381 of self-isolation - Rivers of blood

Rivers of blood

So, after one flood and two dribbles, I went to the Warfarin clinic to get tested. My INR is 2.0, which is right at the thick end of where I'm supposed to be. So that's not the problem. On the way back from the clinic, I had another dribble. Fun fun fun, nosebleed while driving.By the time I got home, I looked like a bloody vampire.

My telephone appointment with the doctor was a few hours after that. I told him about the INR, and my blood pressure. No problems there.

He explained that the most likely cause is an infection in the septum. So he prescribed an antibiotic cream, and I've to shove it up my nose three times per day.