Thursday 14 December 2023

Fiat service - lack of

Fiat service - lack of

We bought the car, a Fiat 500E, and we do like it. But.

The dealer we bought it from, will cease to be a Fiat dealer at the end of December 2023, and if we'd known that, we might have bought from someone else. The dealer in question is Glyn Hopkins, St Albans.

Glyn Hopkins say that after Fiat was bought by Stellantis, they've been difficult to deal with, and that this is why they've dropped them. Fiat say they dropped Glyn Hopkins four months ago, but wouldn't say why. I believe Glyn Hopkins.

But this affects me.

I wanted to get a spare key, and I paid Hopkins £495 for this. I'd hoped to take delivery of it along with the new car, but that didn't happen. A couple of weeks later, the extra key turned up at Hopkins, and we made an appointment for me to go there, with the car and the existing keys, so it could all be reprogrammed.

I sat at Hopkins for a few hours, and eventually they told me that they'd been unable to reprogram the keys, and blamed Fiat for not giving them the codes. They suggested that I come back next week and they'd try again.

I told them, "no." First of all, I said, I've already made this journey once, why do I need to do it again - they could send someone to pick up the car and keys. And secondly, I said, how do they know whether it would work second time around, and I didn't fancy spending another half day in futile waiting for something that doesn't happen. Eventually, they agreed to send my original sales guy to pick it up, and we agreed a date.

On that date, sales guy was in hospital, so we agreed another date.

On the latest date, he turned up and I gave him the car keys, and he drove off.

That evening, he came back. They still couldn't reprogram the spare key, which was about what I'd expected. And, he'd just on that day, learned that Hopkins was dropping Fiat.

I phoned Fiat customer service on 020 3450 8702. They had a new story for me. They weren't doing any spare key programming, and that this would be the case for some weeks. Why?  Because they're too busy, she said, and suggested that I contact a dealer in about a month.

So the situation now is - I paid £495 for a spare key, and I won't see it until (at least) some time next month. Hopkins will refund me for the payment that I'll make to the dealer (probably Thames Motor) for doing the job. Thames Motor said I should come January 5th, but I wonder if they'll be able to do it at that date? I should phone Fiat customer service to find out, rather than trek down to Slough to find out that they can't do it.


Fiat 500E. Nice car, pity about the car maker, the owner of the car maker and the dealers. And the customer service. And the customer experience.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

I don't believe it!

 I don't believe it!

Today, I was expecting a callat 12:10 or so to tell me the results of the scan I had two days ago. The call came at 14:10, but that wasn't the problem, the consultant was running late.

No. The problem was that I had a call at 9:30 (which I missed, and you can't call them back). The call was to ask me at which hospital I had the scan, because without that knowledge, they could not get the scan results.

But, if course, the NHS knew where I had the scan, because I'd been told to go there to have the scan. The problem is that the NHS administration system was written by goldfish and run by monkeys. It wasn't possible for the NHS at Oxford Churchill, to know that I had my scan at Amersham. Why Amersham? Because Amersham is five minutes from where I live and Oxford is about an hour. And it really should be easy to electronically move the scan results from here to there.

So what should I do in future?

Well, I get a letter from Oxford telling me to get scanned at Amersham giving me the appointment date and time, from the Oxford secretaries. And then, I was advised, I should phone up the same Oxford secretaries to tell them that it's to be Amersham ... information  that is in the letter that they just sent me.

You couldn't make it up.

Look, a squirrel!

Look, a squirrel!

Non-EU immigration to the UK at the end of last year, was 925,000 people.

Asylum claimants were 76,000.

Immigrants arriving in small boats - 46,000.

So, let's look at the Rwanda policy. I'm not going to look at the legality, but whether the policy can work.

People crossing the channel in a small boat, are taking a big risk, but despite that, despite the fact that they're going from one safe country (France) to another,  they're still willing to take that risk.

And they know what they're getting into. In today's world, the internet and smart phones, means that everyone has access to information. They're still willing to take that risk.

The numbers tell us that we're taking aim at 5% of immigrants. A HUGE fuss is being made about the Rwanda policy, as if it's going to have a significant effect in immigration. But it won't - partly because it's only aimed at 5% of immigrants, and partly because despite the much-trumpeted deterrent effect, desperate people are risking death to get to the UK, and the possibility of being sent somewhere else, is nothing compared to the possibility of death.

So why is our government doing this? It's because "something must be done" and this is something. It's a distraction from what many people see as the main problem, which is that there are too many immigrants from non-EU coming here.

If you want to tackle the number of non-EU immigrants, you need to take aim at the 879,000, not the 46,000.

This policy is "Look, a squirrel!"


Friday 3 November 2023

Car capers

Car capers

We have three cars, mine, hers and a spare car. Recently, she was saying that something that she didn't like abut hers was the delay before acceleration kicked in. That's the turboharger. All cars seem to have them now, I suppose it's cheaper than a big engine. But electric cars have maximum torque at start-up.

So we did some research. One of the things she wanted, was a car that isn't wide, and so easier to park. And a sun roof, and a reversing camera and other stuff ...

We chose the Fiat 500e. 200 miles range, all the features we want, and quite narrow and small. Three doors, but I measured the doors and they don't need extra space to open.

So we went to Palmers at Hemel, and we chose "Ocean Green" and they said we could have it in a couple of weeks.

We went back on November 1st, and the car was ready. The sales guy showed us how thing worked, and we drove away in it, leaving the trade-in car behind.

We stopped off at a KFC for lunch, then drove home, and I parked the car.

Next day, I had a local appointment to check my reading glasses. I took the Fiat. As soon as I got into the road, there was a plethora of warning lights. Tyre pressure, airbags and everything else. So I thought, this isn't a real problem, it's the warning system has gone wrong. I wanted to power-cycle the system, like one does for a computer, but I didnt want to stop in the road. The car park where I was headed was only a kilometer way, so I headed there and parked in a parking bay.

And then I pressed the engine on/off button. Nothing happened.

The car was in "Drive" and nothing I could do would get it out of drive. I had to keep my foot firmly on the brake pedal or it would roll forward into the woods next to the car park.

I tried all sorts of ways to get it out of Drive - nothing worked. So eventually I phoned Jason and asked him to get here fast and bring two bricks - I didn't explain why.

We used the bricks to chock the wheels, so that at last I could take my foot off the footbrake.

This was appalling. Can you imagine, you're driving and you're stick in Drive? It's dangerous. The system has failed, and it hasn't failed-safe.

We phoned for the RAC, the man came quickly but couldn't switch off the battery (there doesn't appear to be any sort of kill-switch). Eventually, he pulled fuses until that did the trick, but on putting the fuses back the car was still in drive.

So we called Palmers. There was no-one there on the Fiat room; apparently they're short staffed. Actually, on that day, they were zero-staffed. Eventually, ladysolly managed to talk to someone in accounts, who said we should get a car transporter to take it back to Palmers, so we ordered that.

So then I called Luke at Palmers - he's on the Jeep team, but at least it was someone car-knowing that I could talke to. He asked us to cancel the car transporter and he'd send Stuart with a loaner and the retrieve the car.

Stuart arrived with the loaner and no tools, no torch (it was dark by now) and no clue whatsoever. I suspect that Palmers thought this was a simple case of PEBCAC (problem exists between car and carseat) and that Stuart would imediately know what to do.

Meanwhile, the car park told us that we were violating their conditions by leaving the car in their car park after 6pm. I ignored tht, because there was no way I dould get the car out of their car park. If there's a fine, I'll pas it over to Palmers, since we'd cancelled the transporter at their request.

Next day, I called Palmers. They said that they had a fix, because Fiat had told them about this a while back, but advised them not to apply the (software) fix. So Palmers came out again, this time (I guess) with the fix and took the car away (we'd already given them the keys).

I expressed my dissatisfaction, and asked what they planned to do. They offered me two options. 1) Take back that same car (now, hopefully, fixed) or 2) Have a full refund.

There was no way we would have confidence in Fiat, Palmers or that particular car, so I told them to do the refund.

So we're back to square one, except I've done some more research, and I an get almost the same car (black instead of Ocean Green) and without the reversing camera, for several thousands less, because it was registered by the dealer (Glyn Hopkin) and therefore technically second hand (with ten miles on the clock). We can get a reversing camera for some £500, so we're going to look at that car on Sunday.

Tuesday 3 October 2023



I just watched Partygate on Channel four, and I'm appalled and furious. They really didn't think that the rules applied to them!

We had a visit recently from our local Conservative candidate, and I was quite rude to him. Now I think I wasn't rude enough.

There needs to be an enquiry. Prosecutions should be severe. £50 fines are just not enough - there should be very stiff fines for some, prison for others, and shame should be heaped on all who participated.

Didn't anyone say "Hold on, this is wrong, we shouldn't be doing this."

The British people made huge sacrifices during the Covid years, but these despicable people could not even sacrifice their parties. They behaved like irresponsible children.

The channel four program should be repeated again and again - this political gang should not be elected again until they are able to display a proper level of responsibility.

The picture above is of actors in the Channel four drama.

And this is the Channel Four released video.

Friday 29 September 2023

Next birthday present

Next birthday or Christmas present

 Sheepskin mule slippers. My old pair is almost worn out. I've tried buying online, but the comfort isn't right,so I need to try them on, so M&S or John Lewis maybe.

Which probably means a trip to London.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Update on Chemo

 Update on Chemo

I had my second round a couple of days ago, it went well apart from the difficulty that the first nurse had in doing the cannula. But the second nurse got it immediately.

I'm re-reading the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell.

 I did have a side effect of the first round, rather bad constipation, but a few doses of a gentle laxative fixed that. It felt like the Flying Scotsman emerging from a tunnel.

My eating is normal, and yesterday I walked more than a kilometer, so my back is feeling a lot better.



Tuesday 19 September 2023

Chemotherapy and a bike

Chemotherapy and a bike

I had my first chemotherapy today. It went a lot better than I was expecting.

They put me in a very comfortable chair, cannulated me (just a sharp scratch) and then dripped stuff into me for about five hours. And that was it. They gave me a cheese sandwich and soup for lunch.

My back is a lot better than it was when I first came off my bike on 11 September (which was the day before I was supposed to go in for chemo). And on the following day, my back was in too much pain, so instead of staring the chemo, I visited A&E (on the advice of the chemo people), which turned out to be a mistake.

So here's what happened with the bike. I was cycling on tarmac, on a road that was so minor there was nearly zero traffic, and I became aware that my back wheel wasn't running smoothly. So I stopped, had a look, and it was totally flat.

What to do? I thought, maybe I can wheel it back home, because I was only about a mile away. So I dismounted ... I put my right foot down on the tarmac, swung my left leg over the saddle ... but maybe I'm not as flexible as I thought, because I was a couple of inches shy of getting my leg over.

And then I toppled. I fell flat on my back, and banged my head quite hard on the tarmac. I was wearing a helmet, and it wasn't just one of these skeletal bike helmets, it was more like a motorbike helmet. So I knew I'd banged my head hard because of the sound the helmet made when it hit the tarmac, but there's about an inch thickness of padding between the outside of the helmet and my skull, so it didn't hurt my head at all.

But it did hurt my back.

I was able to disentangle myself from the bike and stand up, got off the road, and my back was hurting ... a lot. So wheeling it home was not now a possibility. Of course, I had my phone, so I called ladysolly and she came out in the car and picked my up. I chained the bike to a nearby tree for later collection (that bike is much too heavy for her to lift into a car). And she took me home.

At the A&E, I gave them all the details, and then sat and waited. And waited. It turned out that they'd had a major computing crash the previous day, and they were still recovering from that, and their system lost my details - lost me completely.

Eventually, they found me, and sent me off for a scan - of my head, which wasn't actually the problem I was presenting with.

After about nine hours total, I eventually saw a doctor who told me that my head was fine. "I'm not here about my head, it's my back!" I explained. So he pressed each of the vertebrae in my back, and told me that if I'd broken anything, I'd be reportinng a lot of pain, and there was no pain. So he discharged me.

OK, it's nice to know that there's no major problem, and I took some paracetamol to reduce the pain for a while. And now it's feeling pretty good. But I won't be biking for a while.

When I returned home today after the chemo, I did three walking laps round the garden, about a third of a mile, which told me that my back was indeed recovering nicely.

The main possible side effect of the chemo that I'm taking is nausea, and they gave me several prescriptions for that, two that I had to take, and others which were optional if I felt bad. But it's five hours since I completed the chemo, and I feel fine.

Sunday 11 June 2023

AI, Nvidia and Mac

 AI, Nvidia and Mac

I've been experimenting with AI, and it's interesting. At first, I used my Lenovo Thinkpad, Linux and Easy Diffusion. Then I tried an HP XW6600 with an Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 with 2gb memory. Doing all this, I learned enough to know what I needed to use.

 So I took another of my  HP XW660 boxes (I bought several as a job lot a while ago), upped the memory to 32gb (memory is amazingly cheap now, 32gb costs £26) and then the really difficult question - what video card?

There is, as always, a trade-off between price and capability. The latest 4090 is around £2000 with 24gb memory and a very fast processor. But it pulls 450 watts, which means that I'd need a new and more powerful power supply.

I went for a 3060 with 12gb memory, costing £230. It's maybe a half or a third the speed of the 4090 (depending on what you're using it for), but at a far better cost. It pulls 200 watts, which means I can use my existing power supply, with a £5 adaptor.

And now, the monitor. I wanted a good monitor for this, and I have a couple of old Mac Pro machines, inherited as unwanted from family. They have a Display Port Mini connector on the back, and a 2560 by 1440 display, which is nice. But would the Windows box work with the Mac? The only way to be sure, is to try it. I did, and it works. Googling suggests that I switch displays with Cmd-F2, but that did nothing, and my recipe for success was to ignore that, get the Mac running, then plug in the Display Port. And that gave me a beautiful 2560 by 1440 display, for zero cost! The only big downside, is that it throws out a LOT of heat.

Monday 29 May 2023

Half a trillion

 Half a trillion

 The Labour party claimed that more than half a trillion working days had been lost to sickness since the last General Election. 

Don't our politicians have any common sense? Any sense of scale? Half a trillion is 500,000,000,000. This is another Diane Abbott style of mistake. It seems that to our politicians, all numbers are equal.

There are 33 million workers in the UK. So that works out at 15,150 days lost per worker. But in the 3.5 years since December 1019, there were only 875 or so working days. So, somehow, each British worker managed to claim seventeen days off sick into every working day. Absurd!

I own a calculator, it's 36 years old. But even without a calculator, I could see that the figure they were citing was impossible.

So then they issued a correction.  Not half a trillion; they meant to say half a billion. 

It's Diane Abbott again.  All numbers are equally valid, and it doesn't matter if you confuse billions with trillions. And none of the people checking that initial press release, could see that the claim was absurd.

And these are the people who think they can run the UK economy?

Saturday 27 May 2023

Grandson.4 has arrived

Grandson.4 has arrived

On 26 May, daughter.2 produced grandson.4. Welcome to the family!

Wednesday 24 May 2023



There's been a lot of talk about illegal immigration into the UK, especially those crossing the channel in small boats.

This, of course, makes me wonder. Why are they vigorously waving this bright red flag. Is there something they're trying to distract me from?

So I looked at some numbers. Year ending June 2022, the total long term immigration to the UK was 1064 thousand. In the year ending June 2020, it was 711 thousand.

 The number of EU nationals has fallen from 312 thousand to 224 thousand. The number of British immigrating has risen from 90 to 135. The number of non-EU has risen from 309 to 704 thousand.

In other words, immigration has risen by 50%; immigration from non-EU by 128%

Illegals? 52 thousand in 2022. Cross channel in 2022? 46 thousand. Death by drowning in 2022? That's five. Not five thousand. Five.

So, the furore about cross channel illegal immigration does look like an attempt to distract from the huge rise in legal immigration from non-EU sources.

And where are they coming from? India, Poland, Pakistan are the top three.

We were promised by the Tories, a few years ago, that they would bring net migration down below 100,000 (2017 Tory manifesto, Theresa May). It is now 500,000. I think that they are trying to cover up their failure to reduce legal migration, by getting people steamed up about channel crossings, which are a tiny part of migration. It's the old "Look! A squirrel!" strategy.

Personally, I'm in favour of more people coming to the UK. My own grandparents were immigrants, from what is now Poland. We're short of young people in our labour force.

But I'm very much against this "Look! A squirrel!" strategy for covering up the failure of Tory policy.

Sunday 21 May 2023

AI - threat and regulation

AI - threat and regulation

Is AI a threat? And should it be regulated?

AI is the same threat as spreadsheets and word processors. The threat is to all those people who made a living doing paper spreadsheets (I used to be one) and typewriters (I used to use a typewriter). It's obvious to me, and I suppose to everyone else, that a person with a spreadsheet can do a lot more work than one that just uses paper. As a result, fewer people are needed in that role.

It's just like hand looms and powered looms. One person can make a lot more cloth using a power loom. And so, unemployment threatens the hand weavers, typists and paper spreadsheet users.

What you need to understand, is that an AI system isn't some sort of arcane magic. It's just a program, written by a team of programmers. It makes about as much sense to see this as a threat, as it does to see antivirus software or word processors as a threat.

So should it be regulated? I don't think so, any more than database software should be regulated. Certainly these programs should be reviewed and rated by independent reviewers. But I doubt if there are any useful plans to do this - my experience with reviews of antivirus programs is that almost no-one has the competence, understanding and experience to do this.

It's the same with AI systems. A lot of people are churning out a lot of verbiage about them; useful reviews are rare.


Was this blog written by a human, or by a computer?

And why would that matter?

Note. This blog was written by a human, but I used a computer to write it, using Google's blogger software. There's a spell checker that flags my spelling typos so I can easily spot and correct them.


Was this blog written by a human, or by a computer?




Tuesday 16 May 2023

Ding dong Dell

 Ding dong Dell

 I tried to buy a refurbished laptop from Dell, a model 3571,  because I need to do some CAD, so I need something portable with a good graphics chip. They had one for £1108, and also gave me a code for a 12% discount. But when I used their web site to order it, I just went round and round in circles, and the second time I tried to buy it, it had gone. So I tried to buy another one for £1148. Their web site gave me the same runaround. So we tried it from a phone, which seemed to work, but there was no page or email acknowledging the purchase, and when I called the credit card company, they said that there had been no activity on the card.

Using their chat function wasn't helpful, they told me to phone a number 01344 373 727. That number also took me on a tour of Dell people who couldn't help. Also 0800 587 0420 was no use at all.

I felt like they didn't really want to sell me a computer. So, I told them that since I couldn't buy their computer from them, I'm going elsewhere. I don't think they cared.

So I went to Europc, and bought a 3571 from them. It cost £1370, which is £220 more, but that got me an i9 processor instead of the i5, and an A1000 video instead of the T600.

The moral of this story is that if your web site gives purchasers a hard time, and your sales people are unable to help, then you wn't sell as many computers as you could.

Friday 28 April 2023

Fixing the Hanns-G

 Fixing the Hanns-G

 In Server Room 1, I have a Raspberry Pi 4, which I use as a general purpose terminal. The screen is a beautiful 27 inch monitor, 2560 by 1440 pixels, which means I can have several terminals running at once. I got it second hand on eBay for a very low cost.

A couple of days ago, I powered it on, and nothing happened. Then I noticed that one of the breakers had tripped, so I reset it ... still nothing. And there was no little green light on the power brick. When I tested it, it was dead, and that explained everything. The power brick had shorted, and tripped the breaker.

So I needed a new Hanns-G power brick. I went onto eBay and ... nothing. This thing was just too old and unusual for spare parts to exist. But the old brick told me that it wanted 19 volts, 3 amps. So I went back to eBay, and bought a generic power brick, 19 volts and 3 amps, for £11. 

It arrived today. The unit didn't have the output voltage engraved on it, but I checked with a voltmeter, and it was indeed 19 volts. But the plug to the monitor was the wrong size. Nothing is ever easy.

Never mind - I had one that was the right size. I cut the lead off the old power supply and spliced it onto the new one, plugged it into the monitor and it immediately came to life!

A replacement second hand monitor would have cost about £60

Meanwhile, Server Room 2 is starting to take shape.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Caching again

Caching again

Everything was ready.

I have three working Mio Digiwalkers. One I use as a TomTom satnav, one with MemoryMap and the third one is a spare. Actually, all three of them can do either TomTom or MemoryMap.

The bike is fettled and ready to go. Brakes, tyres, batteries and panniers, and a very nice holder for the Mio. I have a substantial bike helmet (actually it's a skateboard helmet) and leather gloves. For lighting, I have a powerful headlight that also shows a red light behind my head, so if it gets dark, I'm still visible.

I had solved several puzzles and multis, and the Mio was loaded up with all the info.

So, first I went to pick up a cache near Shardeloes. I'd worked out the coordinates, verified with Geochecker. I had failed with this one before - and I failed again. Not a good start to the day.

Then I drove to the local clinic, parked there and walked to another cache, which I did find. Better!

Then I drove (still with the bike) to Raans Lane, to pick up a Church Micro that I had solved. Parking was easy; there was a restriction of no parking from 11am to 1pm (which stops commuters from using it), but it was 4pm so I was safe to park there. I grabbed the cache, and then unloaded the bike.

To do that, I put the wooden ramp in place, undid the straps holding the bike in place, and wheeled it down the ramp. I connected up the batteries, and I was ready to roll.

Riding a bike is a bit like flying! Instead of plodding from cache to cache, the bike whisked me around in no time, which was a great saving on my energy. And, of course, parking wasn't a problem, you can leave a bike anywhere. Touring round Amersham, I picked up nine more caches, and had one DNF (but the cache owner said that it was gone, and since I'd looked in the right place, I could log it as found). So, altogether I logged eleven finds.

That's small beer compared with what I used to get in a day's outing, but given my current state of unfitness, it was very good.

After the last one, I made straight for Raans Lane, back to the car. Wheeling the bike up the ramp to the bike carrier was no problem. I strapped it on firmly and drove home.

I was really exhausted, but I still had to get the bike off the carrier (no problem) and put the batteries on charge. 

One of the Mios had persistently claimed that it had "very low battery" so I went on to eBay and ordered a new battery for it. I know they're easy to fit.

I also have two Looxes that work well; they have the advantage of using a better screen than the Mio (640 by 480 instead of 320 by 240) and a bigger memory card (16gb instead of 4gb). And those 4gb cards (which mustn't be HC) are hard to find these days, although I have found a source at £20 per card.

Another thing that I have now that I didn't have before, is an iPhone. Before I had a very ordinary Nokia phone, which could make phone calls and (just about) do texts. The iPhone can also run the geocaching app, or MemoryMap, and has a HUGE memory for maps. But it's a lot heavier. I carry it as a "just-in-case" but it's not as good for caching as the Mio. But the iPhone is good for "Adventure caches".

By the way, you can still buy second hand Mios for £23. The 4gb card is £20, a new battery is £11, and I think that gives you the best geocaching handheld that you can buy today.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Getting ready for caching - the bike, part 2

Getting ready for caching - the bike, part 2

I woke up in the middle of the night, realising that £350 for a Thule Easyfold (new cost £600) would be a great bargain, and I should buy it before someone else does.

Too late. Someone else bought it. I should have decided sooner.

So I rummaged around through eBay, and found a Witter ZX200 for £75 (buy it now).  £75 is a really good price. The ZX200 can tilt (giving access to the car boot) and is lighter than the other similar tow bar carriers at 11 kg (the Thule Easyfold is 18kg). So I bought it, paid via Paypal and today (14 March) I collected it from Aldershot, which is less than an hour away.

There are two locks - one stops anyone stealing the carrier, and the other stops people stealing the bike from the carrier. I doubt if I'll use them. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would steal a bike carrier, and I'm not going to leave a bike on the carrier unattended. 

The ZX200 looks good on the car, and seems to be a well-made and solid carrier.

To get the bike onto the carrier, I have two possibilities. The bike (without battery) is 25kg, which I could lift, but with my hernia I don't want to risk it. So, the first possibility is a wooden ramp, which I'll hook onto the carrier and I'll just push the bike up the ramp. The ramp will be about 20 degrees, so I get a 4:1 advantage, meaning I push 6kg.

The other possibility, is to fit a length of wood onto the roof rack, with the wood sticking out of the back by a meter or so. And I'll attach a hoist to that wood, so I can just winch the bike up, and attach it to the carrier. And if that works, I might replace the hand winch (which cost me £20) with an electric winch for £90.

Monday 13 March 2023

Getting ready for caching - the bike

Getting ready for caching - the bike

The bike that I used to use for caching a few years back, is still in good condition. I oiled the cables to make them run more easily, pumped up the tires, and it works fine.

That is, it works fine if I use it from home. But I want to be able to transport the bike to where I'll be caching, and I have a bit of a problem there.

And the batteries are still good.

Although my recovery from cancer is 100%, it's left me with a couple of problems. My fitness is terrible, my back is weak, and I have an abdominal hernia. I consulted a doctor about the hernia, and he advised that I should do nothing about it, except I mustn't lift heavy weights, such as a full suitcase.

But the electric bike weighs 25 kilograms, and that's without the batteries, which can be lifted separately. And 25 kg is too much for the hernia.

I've bought a tow-bar mounted bike carrier, from which the bike will be suspended. But how do I lift the bike up to it? I don't want to try to lift 25 kg.

So I bought a block and tackle. Two blocks with three pulleys each, which gives me a mechanical advantage of 6:1. So I'll only be lifting 4kg. But I need to attach the top block to a pole or something.

I tried a six foot pole, but the problem is that I'm pulling the cord, but then the pole tilts sideways and it's difficult to stop that. So I need two poles, joined at the top, so that it can't tilt from side to side. 

Also, there's a problem using the block and tackle. You have to hold on to the cord, or the bike returns to the ground. And the cord tangles itself. And the bike tilts as I lift it.

So, I've ordered a hoist, the kind that has a ratchet and a handle, so the bike stays up when I let go of the handle. Next, I need to build an A-frame out of two six foot lengths of aluminium plus a strut to hold them together, but the whole thing needs to be not too long so it won't fit in the car. I'm hoping that will  work.

There's also the possibility of getting a 12 volt electric hoist for about £90, so I don't even have to wind a handle.

And there's another possibility; that's to get a tow-bar mounted carrier that the bikes sit on, plus perhaps an inclined plane so I can just wheel them on to the carrier. Normal bikes are around 15 kg, but the electric bike is 25 kg, so it needs a heavy-duty carrier. But those cost £360 for the "Halfords Advanced 2 bike Towbar mounted bike rack" (and it weighs 14 kg), and I'm trying the cheaper option first.


Getting ready for caching - mapping

Getting ready for caching - mapping

I was a serious geocacher, (number one in Europe at one point) but for various reasons I haven't done much for a few years. Now I want to get back. It's a great way to take exercise. Walking is boring, but walking plus geocaching is fun.

 But there are two factors now that weren't a problem a few years back. One is my eyesight. The right eye is good, but the left has glaucoma, and is so fuzzy that I can't read a book with it. This impacts reading a GPS. The other factor is that I have a hernia, more n that in another post.

I used to use a Loox for caching. It has a 640 by 480 screen, but now I find that hard to read. Before that, I used a Mio Digiwalker, with a 320 by 240 screen, which I find a lot easier to read. The Loox will take CF cards, so I can easily put a 16gb card in, which will store everything. But the Loox doesn't have built-in GPS; I have to use a separate device, which I connect with bluetooth. And, of course, getting the two to communicate is often a hassle.

On my Apple iPhone, I have the Geocaching app, but that's lacking in some of the facilities of the Mio. For example, it's not as good when setting caches. And I don't see how to use OS maps. OS maps show footpaths, and the 1:25k shows great detail, such as, which side of the hedge is the footpath. I also have Memory Map on the Iphone, and I've downloaded all my OS maps to that. But again, it lacks many of the features of Memory Map on the Mio (aka Pocket Nav).

One disadvantage of the Mio is the size of the storage card. It won't take SDHC cards, so officially it's limited to 2GB. Unofficially, it can take 4GB SD cards, but they are very difficult to source nowadays. I have four of them, so I'm OK.

To load up the Mio, I can connect it to a Windows box, but that's rather flaky, and often won't connect. But I can also take the SD card out, and use an SD card reader to download mapping and caches to the card. That works reliably. But there was a problem. How do you get the Mio to load up on my latest set of caches?

MM on the Mio lets me backup the cache data ... but there's no restore! My plan was to download the cache data to the SD card, and then restore from that. But there's no restore ... I struggled with this for a short while, then I Googled the problem (that's usually a good idea). And I found the answer. If you copy a .mmo file to the Mio, then if you click on that, it loads it into MM. The explanation I found was very detailed and dated back to 2006. Then I noticed who posted this solution. It was me! So, thank you, me of 17 years ago.

I also have TomTom on a dedicated device. But I decided to install it on the Mio and use the navigation from that. The big advantage is that the clip that attaches the TomTom to the windscreen is difficult to operate, and it usually takes me several minutes to get it to work. But the attachment for the Mio is much simpler to use.

So that's how it's going to work. TomTom on the Mio to navigate the car, the I'll use the same Mio for the bike and for walking (I have a rather good clip to hold it on the bike).

And I have a big battery pack so I'll never run out of battery.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

I get spam

 I get spam

Occasionally, I get a spam with is outstanding in some way. Here's one that arrived today.




 Subject: NASA teams up with astrologer to uncover your wealth

Hey ,

You are NOT gonna believe this but…

Renowned astrologer, Celeste Asteri, has been granted access to NASA’s highly accurate Galacticcoordinates…

And she’s using it to create a personalized blueprint to wealth and abundance for thousands of people from around the world…

Including you.

Thanks to this unique combination of highly accurate NASA technology…

And Celeste’s natural ability to uncover your hidden gifts…
NASA teams up with astrologer to uncover your wealth
You’ll discover, in eerie detail, what’s holding you back from a life of wealth and abundance…

And the hidden natural gifts and talents you can use RIGHT NOW to create the wealth of your dreams starting today.

The crazy part is…

Celeste is giving you free access to use this powerful technology right now.

But you need to hurry…

Because thousands of people from around the world are flocking to try out this life-changing technology…

And Celeste might need to shut it down or put this technology behind a paywall before her servers get overwhelmed.

So if you want to discover your ONE CHANCE to break the shackles holding you back…

Then take action now before it’s too late.

Claim your NASA-backed blueprint to a life of wealth and abundance now.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

New caches

New caches

After some years of no caching, I've hidden five new caches. They are hidden along the regular walk that I've been taking for a while as exercise. The walk is adjacent to our local golf course, and the cache containers are inspired by that. They should be pretty easy to find.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Changing the SIM PIN

Changing the SIM PIN

If you're with Vodafone, then your default SIM PIN is 0000. If you don't change it, then anyone can take the SIM out of your phone, put it in another phone, and use that phone to send and receive texts as if they came from your phone.

The possibilities for fraud are many. It's nearly as good as being able to know the password for your phone, because many two-factor authentications rely on sending a text to your phone with a code that you then type in to a web browser to prove that you are you. 

So it's important that you change your SIM PIN. With an iPhone, go to Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN. If you have an iPad, go to Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN. With an Android, Google for how to do it.

If you've never set a SIM PIN, give it the default code (0000 for Vodafone other companies might use something else, use Google or call your phone service supplier). Then when it asks, make up a PIN number (and write it down somewhere safe, such as your "Black notebook of Passwords). Don't store it on your phone!

 If you give the wrong PIN, then after three tries, it locks, and the only way out will be to ask your phone service provider for a replacement SIM.

Thursday 19 January 2023

A year went by

 A year went by

It was a year ago today, that I went under the knife for a liver resection. Just before they knocked me out, they asked me what operation I was about to have. "Full brain transplant", I replied, and then I passed out.

Five surgeons worked on me for nine hours, and they cut out most of my liver and all of my gall bladder. I don't think they transplanted my brain, but how could I tell, because if they did, I wouldn't know.

Recovery took months.

But now I feel that I'm totally over the effect of the operation, except that my cancer is gone (I had a scan in October, and revisited Churchill hospital in December for the results, which were great) and I have a hernia (probably partly caused by the operation).

The nurses, of course, were great, and I'm really pissed off at the way that our government is playing Grinch with them. Also, the doctors were great, and the nursing assistants, and the porters, cleaners and food staff. They were all doing their best for me and the other patients in their wards. When I went back last December, I gave them four big boxes of chocolates, to show that there's at least one person who is on their side.

It took a few months to get my appetite back. I started with Chinese takeaways, then Turkish, Indian and KFC. But now I'm on home-cooked meals, prepared by the good Ladysolly, and the only long term effect is that I don't dare lift anything really heavy. And a year ago, I really didn't want to eat, and was only forcing food into myself because I knew that I had to. Now, I'm actually looing forward to meals!

I consulted a consultant about the hernia; his opinion was that it isn't life-threatening, and we should leave it alone for now (but keep an eye on it). So, I'm not going to be cut up about it.