Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Train tickets booked with Bristol Air Bus - what if flight is late?

GWR will sell you tickets from "Bristol Air Bus" to your destination: tickets that include the bus from Bristol Airport to Bristol Temple Meads station, and train from there.

I have today (16 Aug 2017) had confirmation (from Andy Robinson in GWR telesales) that Advance tickets bought from "Bristol Air Bus" are valid on trains after the specific one booked if the passenger's flight arrives late into Bristol Airport.

He couldn't offer any documentary confirmation of this, but was adamant that the concession did apply.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

 

php to javascript via json_encode - beware negative keys in sparse arrays

The json-encode function in php is a neat way of getting data into javascript - but ...

... be careful with arrays.

If you have a non-sparse array then that can be encoded using json-encode($thisArray, true);

But a sparse array needs to be encoded the normal way - json-encode($thisArray); - and this creates an OBJECT rather than an ARRAY in javascript (which can't handle associative arrays)

The problem comes if your sparse array has a negative key. I hit this - the key will list if you iterate through the keys (albeit AFTER the positive keys!) but you can't access the value.

Ugh!

Monday, July 31, 2017

 

Cursor offset problem in Pixeur or Pixie?

Programs to check the colour of a particular pixel are really useful. But I found that both Pixeur and Pixie weren't working properly: the problem was that the magnifier would show an area well offset from the mouse position.

The cause? I had my display set to enlarge text etc to 125%.- and it seems that these programs don't make allowance for any such adjustment.

Resetting to 100% got rid of the offset.

A sad choice - between being able to use these handy programs, and having nice large text that makes for relaxed reading by older eyes.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

 

"Failed to find a place for the imported file" (Lightroom 5) - workaround

I've never got to the bottom of this error message.

But there is a simple workaround - open the file in another photo editor (eg Corel Photopaint) and then Save As - and modify the file name (just adding a suffix of "a" will do).

Then you can open the file in Lightroom as you would expect.

Friday, December 16, 2016

 

Won't all the extra self-driving cars cause unbelievable congestion?

No. Owners of fleets of driverless cars will resent their vehicles sat motionless in queues as much as individuals do. But they will have a massive economic imperative to promote different ways of rationing road use at busy times, and the money/influence to get governments to give them their way.

Traffic jams are the chaotic result of too many people wanting to arrive in the same place in a short time (eg 0800-0900 in a city centre) - slow moving traffic and queues do the job of spreading the arrival times over a longer period. As long as the demand comes from millions of vehicles each controlled separately, chaos will continue: scheduling trips to avoid traffic jams would require government intervention that would be politically unsellable.

But at the point where most of the vehicles on the road are run by a few massive network operators, a trip-scheduling system becomes irresistible. We will stop using queues as the rationing mechanism and move to the mechanism that works so well for capitalism - pricing.

The limited slots for a driverless vehicle to deliver you, undelayed, to a city centre for 0830 on a weekday will command premium prices - which will settle down to the level that the richest are willing to pay. The poor will end up being "priced out" of travel at busy times: those who cannot walk or cycle will only afford trips that get them into the city at times nobody else wants to travel. Those no-longer-needed car parks will sprout basic shelters where the poor can while away the time between their too-early arrival on a low-priced autotaxi and the time at which their employer (or hospital consultant) is ready for them to arrive.

So, no traffic jams - just a replication of the way we allocate seats in planes: convenience for the rich who travel when they want, while the poor are priced away from the more convenient slots, to the times when there is capacity that nobody else wants.

Friday, September 23, 2016

 

Updating firmware on a SNOM phone using Pumpkin

Set up Pumpkin on your PC and run it. Check the IP address for your PC (and gateway) as you will need to tell the phone where to find the TFTP server.

Download the firmware image for your phone model from Snom - make sure that you are using a compatible version: sometimes you need to do an interim upgrade if the difference is too big.

Next, RENAME THE FILE. Your Snom knows what it is asking for: a file named snomxxx.bin (where xxx is the model number, eg snom300.bin)

Don't use the Get File or Put File settings in Pumpkin: the phone will ask for the "bin" file by name. Just set the "TFTP filesystem root" to be the folder where you have saved the "bin" file.

To get the phone to access the TFTP server, you need to re-power (not just reboot) to get the option of accessing a TFTP server.

Once you've opted to access a TFTP server, the phone will ask for IP address, this is the IP address you want to assign to the PHONE (for now).

Depending on the phone model, you may need to press the "up" key or "right" key to access the next screens, which ask you to enter IP for the TFTP server, gateway and subnmet mask. If you aren't asked for these, you haven't chosen the right options!

Once you've added all those details, press the Tick button, and you should be away.

Friday, September 02, 2016

 

Autoaid Breakdown - award for most stupid email policy?

If you buy insurance from Autoaid, you will get an acknowledgment email. If you're lucky, you may get attachments that you can open and read. I was less lucky and needed to ask for the attachments to be resent.

So I checked the email address that the acknowledgment had come from: contactus@autoaidbreakdown.co.uk

That sounded fine, so I replied - only to get a bounceback.

A temporary problem? No - Autoaid told me that "contactus" is the name of a mailbox that deliberatel does not accept incoming emails.

You couldn't make it up.



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

 

CAF Bank - not brilliant

We're a few months into using CAF Bank for our village hall.

The basics are good - the ability to follow Good Practice by having all payments authorised by two people, including online payments. Many other banks fall down on this.

But it's been a pretty miserable business. I forgot to send copies of bank statements with our application form - so the whole package was sent back. Not only more expensive, but slower too as they didn't bother to email or phone to ask for the info.

Setting up secondary users was miserable. Despite setting them up online, you then have to phone CAF Bank to have them activated (I didn't see any sign of this on the website). It is meant to take two working days for this to happen, but it took longer for us ("pressure of work": done while we waited when I rang to complain). And when you do get a user activated, they must log in and change their temporary password before 9am the next morning or you have to start again.

And don't expect them to instigate collection of the balance in your old account at another bank (which some banks apparently do) - that is left to you.

Transferring Standing Orders and Direct Debits - didn't happen: they had given us a list, we had agreed it, then nothing happened. When I complained, they said it was now sorted: no apology or explanation. When I asked why, the answer was, again, "pressure of work".

Paying in - at a Post Office if you ask nicely for special envelopes. In our case, their first attempt involved sending a letter with a covering note but no envelopes.

All in all, a pretty sloppy outfit. It's nice that they are a non-profit, but that doesn't excuse poor service delivery.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

 

Not such a Delight

Delight Mobile offer attractive PAYG data rates (at time of writing - 8 Jun 2016: 1p/Mb) using the EE network.

But their Customer Service seems to be non-existent. I phoned them (no landline number, so more expensive) - no answer after 20 minutes. Filled in their online form on two occasions - no response either time. Emailed their parent company to say "do you realise how badly Delight's Customer Service is performing?" and got no response to that either.

And it isn't as if their online offering is so good that you can do without Customer Service: a Delight Mobile number which is good enough to accept credit for (and which works in use) is apparently not a valid Delight mobile when it comes to setting up an online account.

Nice prices, shame about the service.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

 

Cambridge and Counties Bank - no good for charities?

Cambridge and Counties Bank is a UK bank that offers an attractive deposit account that could appear suitable for charities.

But take care - they do not (currently: May 2016) have any way of requiring two signatures on transfers. Is that a problem? Not necessarily - all transactions out of the account are only to a specified linked account (and changes to which account is linked require two signatures).

So as long as you set up a linked account that requires two signatures, it looks watertight - but perhaps worth checking with your auditor first!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

 

RDM Shuttle Data logger - installing on Window 10

Had a bad time with this, but got there eventually.

Not sure whether it is happy installing on other than "C" drive - my final success was on C drive, but other changes made too.

The key step was to follow instructions here (Change advanced startup options) then to restart Windows with "Disable driver signing enforcement“ set.

Then connect logger to USB port, open Device Manager, find the Logger, right-click and choose to reinstall drivers. Navigate to the "Drivers" folder within the "RDM USBLogger" folder and it should find the driver!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

 

Buffalo WHR-G300N - updated password problem (doesn't work!)

Black mark to Buffalo.

Their WHR-G300N has an 8-character limit on root (admin) password. It does say that in the help text, but some of us think we understand about passwords without reading instructions. And so we paste in a nice secure password of (say) 12 characters, reboot - and find that we can't log in with the new password. Because Buffalo don't cope with a sensibly-long password. And they don't even bother to warn you if you try to paste in too long a password. They don't even truncate the length of password that you type in to match the maximum 8 characters. They simply truncate the password that you save (without any option to see the password entered, of course).

So - make sure your password is max 8 characters. And if you find yourself locked out of an Airstation unit for which you thought you knew the password, try using just the first 8 characters.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

 

Windows 10 - adding a tile for your Printers Folder

Windows 10 has its upsides, but the "Do it our way or suffer" mentality from other new releases persists in access to the Control Panel and its contents.

It has taken me a good while to find out how to add a "Control Panel" tile:

start -> all apps -> windows system [pull-down] -> right click "Control Panel" -> click pin to start

And it took me even longer to work out how to create a tile that takes me straight to my Printers folder. (This mattered to me because opening "Devices and Printers" is very very slow (about 25 seconds) - some suggest ditching the Realtek HD Audio Driver, or testing each device in turn (including reinstalling their drivers) to get to the bottom of it.)

Hold down the "Windows" button on your keyboard (between Ctrl and Alt) and press the letter R, to bring up the "Run" box. In this, type:

shell:PrintersFolder

and press Enter.

Now, drag the Printers icon (not top-left, the next one in - highlighted here - by me - in red) to your desktop:



Now Right-Click the shortcut, and choose "Pin to Start". Wait a few seconds, and it should appear as a new tile on your Start Screen.

Voila!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

 

Using a foreign SIM to roam between UK networks

I have this week recorded a short piece for Radio 4's "You and Yours", explaining how a German SIM allows my mobile to roam across three of the four UK networks.

Here in the Peak District, coverage on each mobile network is very patchy: different networks offer coverage in different spots (with much of the area without any coverage at all).

So, wouldn't it be useful always to be able to pick the best signal, whichever network was offering it?

The cheapskate's answer is to buy a foreign SIM on eBay. I bought a "blau.de" SIM, which offers calls at 9c per minute to anywhere in the EU, and doesn't charge to receive calls from the UK or any other EU country.

It isn't perfect:
The biggest challenge is explaining to your friends and contacts that - despite having given them a German phone number - you aren't actually in Germany, and can be down the road to see them within a few minutes of their call.

There are better services, but at a higher price. Auracall's Traveltalk gives you an Isle of Man mobile number (starting 07452) which should roam to all four UK networks, and also looks like a standard UK mobile number. To start, you need to spend £25 on a SIM (£5 for the SIM and £20 of credit) - calls to the UK (or anywhere else in the EU) cost 15p per minute and there is no charge for receiving calls. Be aware that calls to an 07452 mobile will cost callers more than other 07 mobile numbers  - the Isle of Man isn't in the EU and so EU price protections don't work, and calls won't be included in peoples' call bundles. For an extra £1 per month Auracall will also give you an 0344 UK phone number, which your callers can use at standard phone rates.

A more complicated solution, but cheaper than Auracall, is SIP2SIM from the highly-rated telecoms experts Andrews & Arnold. You need a SIP phone connection first (and not all SIP operators will play ball - Sipgate apparently won't). But once you have this sorted, you can then have those SIP calls diverted to/from your mobile for 2.4p per minute each way, plus £2.40 monthly standing charge - and it will roam away from its preferred O2 network when this would make the difference in getting you a signal.

[Please do check the details before signing up to any of these options: I have described them as I understand them, but it's a complicated business, so make sure you are happy before committing].


Why do we need these solutions?

These are all clumsy workarounds to the real problem: that UK governments have been greedy in the money they have looked to extract from mobile companies when auctioning radio spectrum: they have set very low obligations to provide service in less-populated areas. So, the government gets a good fee, but the networks do the minimum they feel they can get away with about serving rural areas.

Having mucked that up, sticking plasters have been sought. In late 2014, the government set the oh-so-ambitious target of 90% geographic coverage, to be achieved by the end of 2017. And in return for that, they abandoned the idea that the networks should allow roaming between their services in rural areas.

Proper "National Roaming" isn't problem free: it would need some financial incentive/penalty system to make it worth networks erecting masts in rural areas (to replace the better-coverage boast that is their current reward). That isn't beyond the wit of man - but too much for our government to ask of these highly profitable businesses: leaving 10% of our land mass without a mobile signal seems to be quite acceptable to their metropolitan minds.

Having no signal in a rural area isn't just a problem for those who live there. It is a problem for those in well-served cities who might want to talk to people in rural areas. It is a problem for those in cities who might sometimes drive through rural areas and would like to be in touch in case someone needs to tell them that their meeting has been cancelled and they are heading in the wrong direction. It is a problem for every citizen if inadequate infrastructure sees people moving away from rural areas because it is too difficult to run a business there. I could go on, but won't.




Tuesday, November 03, 2015

 

Business Accountz Basic - reinstalling the original version 10

I bought the Basic version of Business Accountz in early 2011 and had been using it happily for three years when Accountz decided it was time to milk me for more money: my version would no longer be supported and it was time to buy a new version.

Their end-of-life policy isn't explicit, but a look at their Product Lifecycle page showing release dates and current support status shows what they have done in the past. Today (2 November 2015) they are showing that a product that was the newest available just two years ago (Business Accountz 2013) is no longer supported. I wouldn't buy again from them - even if they were only as mean as they are now, I would be looking at a permanent licence that became difficult to use after a matter of a couple of years, and if one of their shareholders needed a yacht, there would be nothing to stop them trying to gouge me for a following version even sooner.

Things are even worse for Business Accountz Basic which only dates from 2010, but for which you will really struggle to find installers if you need to update your PC. The files for version 10.2.1.0 are availabl here  (today at least) - but Accountz really don't seem to want you to find them: there doesn't seem to be any link to that page from elsewhere on their site.

And your woes don't end there. Armed with your reinstalled program, and a file with a "tex" extension, how do you restore it?

Replacing the newly-installed BAK directory with your archived BAK directory seems like a good start, and then try the restore program "BA Restore.exe". But no - that only spots BAK files and not tex files. (Which is a bit scary - at a first glance you fear that all your more recent work has been lost).

How to restore a tex file? Who knows?- Accountz, having moved on from this version, seem to have no interest in helping you (not from their website, anyway). Perhaps a phone call or email will elicit some help, despite their "end of support" decision. Luckily, I found another way ...

In  my case, I had the full installed file structure available from my old hard drive, so on the new PC, I installed the 10.2.1.0 legacy installer (link above) which was more recent than the disk version that I had. Then, without running Business Accountz, I went to that new PC's "Program Files (x86)" folder and renamed the "Business Accountz" folder to "Business Accountz DO NOT USE". I then copied the whole "Business Accountz" folder (programs, data, settings, the lot) from my old drive to my new PC's Program Files (x86) folder.

In due course, I can delete the "Business Accountz DO NOT USE" folder and all will be tidy, but I'll leave it there for a few days in case of complications.

But as far as I can tell, all is working happily.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

 

ATI HD4650 Graphics card working for Windows 10 (64-bit, Pro)

Having read lots of reports that this card won't work with Windows 10, I downloaded the Windows 8 64-bit package (linked from index page) and saved it. Then chose Windows 8 for Compatability Mode and Run as Administrator - and that was it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

 

Music from the Railway Children - BBC 1968

I had always remembered the closing music from the 1968 BBC production of the Railway Children as being the piece that inspired me to take up the oboe. It can't have been, because the timing was wrong: I started in 1967. But I still remember the piece with great affection and want it as the curtain-track for my funeral.

The Piece is by Grieg - Symphonic Dances, Op. 64: II. Allegretto grazioso. The full piece runs to something over 6 minutes, depending on version, but it is the opening sequence (about 1 min 30 - repeated at the end) that was used for the TV series, and which I find so hauntingly beautiful.

Monday, April 27, 2015

 

Fake DS1302 chips

After wasting many hours trying to set the Trickle Charge parameters on my otherwise-obedient DS1302 chips, I eventually realised that I had counterfeit chips.


I've knocked up an Arduino sketch that will try to set the Trickle Charge byte, reporting back on success or failure - users of other hardware can still get the gist:

//written for Uno R3 or Mega
//Tests whether a DS1302 will process a change of the byte controlling Trickle Charge settings (if not, may be a fake)
//John Geddes, February 2016


#include
#include //http://playground.arduino.cc/uploads/Main/DS1302RTC.zip

const int PIN_1302_CE   = A0;   //5;  // Chip Enable
const int PIN_1302_IO   = A1;   //6;  // Input/Output
const int PIN_1302_SCLK = A2;   //7;  // Serial Clock


#define OPTION_TRICKLE_CHARGE_BYTE 0
#define OPTION_YEAR_BYTE 1
byte testResult=0;//score 1 for rtc byte ok, 2 for yeat byte ok. value of 3 means all ok
DS1302RTC my1032rtc(PIN_1302_CE, PIN_1302_IO, PIN_1302_SCLK);

void printPaddedBin(unsigned long thisValue, byte outputLength=8, boolean endLine=false){
  String thisString;
  String netString=String(thisValue,BIN);//no leading zeroes
  byte padCharsRequired=outputLength-netString.length();
  for (byte padCount=0; padCount<(padCharsRequired);padCount++){
    thisString.concat("0");
  }
  Serial.print(thisString);
  Serial.print(netString);
  if (endLine){
    Serial.println();
  }
}

byte toggleByteAndReportOutcome(byte whichByte){
  //returns 1 if ok, otherwise 0
  byte addressWriteByte; //read byte has address one higher
  byte retValIfOK=0;
  String descString;
  byte maxValueBeforeReturningTo1;
  byte valueA;
  byte valueB;
  switch (whichByte){
    case OPTION_TRICKLE_CHARGE_BYTE:
      descString="TRICKLE-CHARGE";
      addressWriteByte=0x90;
      retValIfOK=1;
      valueA=165;
      valueB=166;
      break;
    case OPTION_YEAR_BYTE:
      descString="YEAR";
      addressWriteByte=0x8c;
      retValIfOK=2;
      valueA=B10100001;
      valueB=B10100111;
      break;    
  }
  byte startingByteValue=my1032rtc.readRTC((addressWriteByte+1));
  byte targetByteValue=startingByteValue+1;

  if (startingByteValue==valueA){
    targetByteValue=valueB;
  } else {
    targetByteValue=valueA;
  }

  Serial.print("Attempt to update ");
  Serial.print(descString);
  Serial.print(" byte which currently holds value of ");
  Serial.print(startingByteValue);
  Serial.print(", ie ");
  printPaddedBin(startingByteValue, 8, false);
  Serial.print(" to new value of ");
  Serial.print(targetByteValue);
  Serial.print(", ie ");
  printPaddedBin(targetByteValue, 8, true);

  my1032rtc.writeRTC(addressWriteByte,targetByteValue);
  byte revisedByteValue=my1032rtc.readRTC((addressWriteByte+1));
  if (revisedByteValue==targetByteValue){
    Serial.print("SUCCESS - new value is ");
    Serial.print(revisedByteValue);
    Serial.print(", ie ");
    printPaddedBin(revisedByteValue, 8, true);
    return retValIfOK;
  } else if (revisedByteValue==startingByteValue){
    Serial.print("ERROR - updating has failed: value stayed at ");
    Serial.print(revisedByteValue);
    Serial.print(", ie ");
    printPaddedBin(revisedByteValue, 8, true);
    return 0;
  } else {
    Serial.print("ERROR - updating has failed: value changed but wrong -  at ");
    Serial.print(revisedByteValue);
    Serial.print(", ie ");
    printPaddedBin(revisedByteValue, 8, true);
    return 0;
  }
}


void setup() {
  delay (2000);//time to open Serial Monitor
  Serial.begin(9600);
  Serial.println("DS1302 test started");
  //initialise RTC to be writeable but clock STOPPED
  my1032rtc.writeEN(1);
  Serial.println("DS1302 set to write-enabled");
  my1032rtc.haltRTC(1);//in case this helps
  Serial.println("DS1302 halted");
  testResult+=toggleByteAndReportOutcome(OPTION_TRICKLE_CHARGE_BYTE);
  
  Serial.print("testResult=");
  Serial.println(testResult);
  
  testResult+=toggleByteAndReportOutcome(OPTION_YEAR_BYTE);
  
  Serial.print("testResult=");
  Serial.println(testResult);

  Serial.println("\n");
  switch(testResult){
    case 0:
      Serial.println("Failed both tests: could not update trickle-charge byte or year byte. Check connections");
      break;
    case 1:
      Serial.println ("OK on updating trickle-charge byte but failed on year byte - looks like genuine-but-faulty chip");
      break;
    case 2:
      Serial.println ("Failed to update trickle-charge byte but succeeded with change of year byte - this is the result you get with a FAKE DS1302");
      break;
    case 3:
      Serial.println ("OK on both tests - GENUINE DS1302 working properly");
      break;
  }
}

void loop() {}


 

BBC iPlayer Radio - for older Androids

The BBC disgracefully abandoned older Android users in 2014 when they "upgraded" their iPlayer app to use separate versions for TV and for Radio. The Radio app demanded Android 4 upwards - justified on the basis that over 80% of users had suitable devices. Tough luck for the rest of us.

We were intended to use the iPlayer radio feature on the BBC website, but I found this unusable - most browsers refused to load an appropriate driver, and when I did find a workable combination, programmes might take 15 attempts to start - or not start at all.

Eventually, I found a way to get near-100% availability, and offer it here. It works on my Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 running Android 2.3.6 - and I hope it will work for you too.




Happy listening

Friday, January 30, 2015

 

TC74 temperature sensor - A0, A2, A5

What's the difference between variants A0, A2, A5 of the Microchip "Tiny Serial Digital Thermal Sensor" TC74?

Simply their I2C addresses, which are 0, 2 and 5 respectively!

Source: http://ww1.microchip.com/downloads/en/DeviceDoc/21462c.pdf

Friday, January 23, 2015

 

TCPDF - coordinates are measured from Top Left ...

... or to be precise:

The origin of the coordinate system is at the top-left corner (or top-right for RTL) and increasing ordinates go downwards.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

 

Google Calendar - invitee cannot edit

When you specify a new person to be invited to share a Google Calendar (eg with editing rights) be aware that they only get sent an email (with the link to get them set up as an editor) after you press Save - just adding them to the list does nothing!

 

Upgrading to Windows 8.1 - "We couldn't update the System Reserved partiton"

I hit this repeatedly, and tried several suggested fixes that made no difference.

In my case, it turned out that the partition was virtually full (try Control Panel, then Computer Management, then Disk Management to see) and the solution was to increase the size of the partition. My suggestion is to grow it generously, then shrink it back most of the way (still leaving 100Mb or so free) once the installation is complete.

 

Windows 7 to 8 to 8.1 upgrade - tackling "Failure Configuring ..."

Wretched Microsoft insist that anyone with an upgrade licence from 7 to 8 must still - even with 8.1 available - update to Windows 8 first, then update Windows 8, and only then upgrade to Windows 8.1.

Can one use a Windows 8 upgrade key to upgrade direct to 8.1  - No, say their helpline.

So it is a particular misery to hit problems with the Windows 8 upgrades that Microsoft inflicts upon you - I hit "Failure Configuring Windows Updates: Reverting Changes" repeatedly as the most frequently suggested fix attempts proved to make no difference.

What worked for me? 

Turning off automatic updating, then sorting the long list (140 or more) in alphabetical order (so that the "Update for Windows" files are all together in one bunch). Then click the "Name" button to unselect all the updates, and re-select the first "Update for Windows ..." updates and apply those. 

Repeat until all those are done, then try the Windows Store and see if it considers your Windows 8 is in a fit state to do the 8.1 update. Mine was, having avoided all the other updates (at least one of which must have been responsible for my updates failing en masse).


Friday, January 02, 2015

 

Panasonic Microwave - connections on Timer Panel

Here - for my reference as much as anyone else's - is a photo of how the connections look on the back of the timer panel on a Panasonic Microwave (my model, anyway). Note the two two-pin connector plugs: the red one goes on the inside (nearer the oven area) and the white one on the outside (nearer the outer casing). If you get them wrong, then the grill comes on when you should be microwaving (and presumably vice versa).

To remove the timer panel (I had to do this because the door release got stuck: broken plastic post), first remove the power plug - there are dangerous voltages inside a microwave. Now go and do something else for a while - voltages can be stored even after disconnection - see this useful article

Now, remove the two screws close to each other at the top, release the two white plastic tabs on the vertical edge, then pull out and upwards to release the two white plastic tabs at the bottom.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

 

Powerline mains sockets

For anyone looking to extract a network connection from the mains without the "horizontal overhead" of a plug-in adapter, Powerline Wall Sockets sound like a clever idea - apart from the price (Dec 2014 - £79 upwards!).

But there is another snag which had not dawned on me until mentioned by a really helpful chap at Solwise. If your network locks up, plug-in adapters can be removed and replaced to achieve a reboot, just as other networking elements can be turned off and on again. But your Powerline Wall Socket will have no facility for powering down the Powerline part, leaving you to turn off the whole mains circuit at your fuse box if you want to reboot it!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

 

Public transport on a dwindling subsidy budget

My local authority, Derbyshire County Council, is facing big cuts in the money it can afford for public transport subsidy, and has asked the public which bus services to cut and which to keep.

I have rather more radical ideas:



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 

Minimum margins for Brother HL-4510CDN

In case this helps anyone else (why can't manufacturers volunteer this data in their spec sheets) here are the minimum margins for HL4150CDN in Portrait mode (for A4 paper, as reported by my system):

Top: 0.42cm
Bottom: 0.43cm
Left: 0.6cm
Right: 0.61cm

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

 

Losing your VOIP service: scary

At time of writing (10.40 Tue 12 Aug 2014), UK telecoms company Soho66 has a major outage - VOIP phones won't register, website doesn't load, phone number (0333 344 3443) gives Number Unobtainable.

Eventually I worked out that they might have a Twitter feed: they do, and reassuringly, that tells me that they acknowledge a network failure AND failure of an automatic changeover, resulting in a delay while they make manual changes. Not great, but at least it shows that my initial fear - that they had gone bust - was unfounded.

But such a fear is rational, and applies to any Telecoms supplier. Before going to soho66, I did a risk assessment, and asked Ofcom what would happen if a telecoms company went out of business. Answer: it could take up to three weeks to transfer your numbers to a new supplier - there is no emergency fast-track procedure. I wrote to my MP to say that this worried me and should worry him as it was impeding competition (a careful company would tend to stick to BT because whatever their other shortcomings, they weren't likely to go out of business). Answer from Ofcom when my MP referred the issue on to them - well, that's the way it is.

Ofcom are worse than useless: they give the illusion of protection when in fact we would be better off realising how poorly protected we are against the intended (and unintended) actions of telecoms companies.

A thought for anyone using a non-BT telecoms company: demand a contact method that doesn't use their own network (ie a pure-BT line or a mobile number) so that you can at least have a chance of contacting them when their network goes down, inevitably taking their own phone lines and website with them. Or at the very least, make sure you know where they will post updates online in such an event.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

 

Digital Derbyshire's secret - Timing of the Phases

Digital Derbyshire have a website that tells residents in which year they are scheduled for Fast Broadband (funded by large amounts of public money) but they seem very reluctant to tell people at which end of the year they should expect to see service - the date checker will tell you "Phase 6, 2015" - but there is no indication of what Phase 6 (for example) actually means.

I asked them - and for once got the data I needed without having to make a Freedom of Information request, and in just 9 working days!

For anyone who would like to know without that wait (and to avoid further waste in public resources in having Digital Derbyshire answer repeated and unnecessary questions) here is the timing that they indicated:

Phase 1, 2 and 3 are scheduled for 2014
Phases 4, 5, 6 and 7 are scheduled for 2015
Phases 8,9 and 10 are scheduled for 2016

The phases differ in lengths and are subject to satisfactory surveying of the area prior to the commencement of works but phase 6 should be deployed during mid to late 2015 and, as you are aware, the caveats apply.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

 

flickr overzealous in spotting links in emails

In their attempts to stop users sending links to each other, flickr try to spot when you have written a link and stop you submitting. But they are very good at misclassifying non-links too.

My transgression came down to an email address. How shameful that a company of their resources cannot invest in making their software sophisticated enough to say "we do not allow you to send email addresses". Instead, it says "don't include links". An email address isn't a link and the unhelpful error message seems to be catching other fools apart from me.

In my case, the problem was avoided by spelling out "@winster.org" as "at winster dot org" - simple enough but it took me far too long to track it down.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

 

Epson 1200U scanner - Windows 8.1 64-bit

Got this working happily:

Download this driver which is NOT digitally signed (someone enterprising has modified a similar driver)

Then follow the instructions on how to disable Win8's apparent insistence on only using digitally-signed drivers - Youtube video here



Saturday, February 15, 2014

 

Samsung N130 Netbook - upgrading from Windows XP

It seemed such a simple question to ask Samsung - how best to upgrade our N130 netbook from XP - would we be better with Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 - and could they suggest which settings to adjust (eg disabling hungry Services) to achieve the best performance given the limitations of the hardware in the Netbook.

I was wrong. Their first response sounded like it was written by their legal department - they couldn't recommend doing anything. Anything I did was at my risk. Goodbye.

A second attempt did elicit one useful sentence: "Your netbook is not compatible with Windows 8, so the only option you have is to purchase a 32 bit Windows 7 operating system."

I share this for the benefit of others. If anyone has suggestions on tweaks to emulate the cut-down Windows 7 Starter (which was installed on later Netbooks, but not available to purchase), do please add comments.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

 

Doro big-button phones: photos

Doro make some simple big-button phones (eg Doro 331ph), with big Speed-dial buttons that will take a photo (or other graphic) to allow the user to place a call to a person that they know.

WARNING - the product looks great, but it will be useless for many people - Doro's Technical Support confirm that the quick-dial memories are lost when you unplug the phone. See my separate note here

Documentation on the phone misses out two key pieces of info - how to replace the photos, and the dimensions.

To replace the photos, you need to lift of the transparent plastic cap that fits over the button. It simply prizes off ...


... to leave a black plastic button below it (here shown for the right-hand button):

The size of the photo is 23mm x 32mm or 272 pixels x 378 pixels for a 300dpi printer



Saturday, November 02, 2013

 

Buffalo WHR-G300Nv2 - setting up for Bridging mode

I had a spare WHR-G300Nv2 and wanted to use it to connect an ethernet device without wifi (a cheap Freeview-with-iPlayer box as it happens) to my house wifi (from a Vigor 2900V as it happens). I knew that what I wanted was to use the WHR-G300Nv2 in Bridging mode. Could it be done? There was a clear mention in the manual - as in a page headed "Configuration Menu (Bridge Mode)", but this was simply a list of other pages where you were expected to guess the appropriate settings.

I was sure it could be done, but searched high and low and couldn't find clear instructions on how to do this.

Buffalo UK tech support were great - response within 24 hours with instructions that worked. BUT what a shame that the instructions weren't readily findable on the web (or, even better, included in the manual).

So here is their (modified) note of what to do.

Extra step added May 2014: Make sure that you have recent firmware. v1.85 is the latest at the time of writing, and this is fine for Bridging. But I wasted a lot of time wondering why I couldn't set things up properly before realising that I was using a v1.80 unit which didn't offer "Slave (EC)" mode.

Bring the unit in Bridge mode by switching to the "OFF" mode. at the back of the unit.
Reset the unit following the settings below.

Please follow the guidelines below to reset the WHR-G300NV2-EU.
1. Power the unit on and let it boot up.
2. Locate the reset or Init button on the back or base of the unit.
3. Press and hold this button for 10 seconds (paperclip may be required).
4. The DIAG led will start flashing (if applicable).

5. Allow approximately 2 minutes for the router to reset.

Now set it up using the instructions in the pdf below. Two notes:




Friday, October 18, 2013

 

Management at the University of York - difference between BA and BSc

For a Management School, I don't think York do a brilliant job of communicating the differences between two of their key Undergraduate products: the BA and the BSc. Needing to understand the differences (which are only in the second and final years), I produced this matrix, and thought someone else might just find it useful:



Tuesday, September 03, 2013

 

TP-link M5350 - problems connecting from a Windows 8 laptop

The TP-link M5350 is a neat device, and (once I had it configured for giffgaff ) and it worked a charm from my Android tablet and from an XP netbook.

And then I tried to connect to it from an Acer Windows 8 laptop. Misery.

The laptop found the network without problem. In the Wifi panel, it would connect OK to begin with, and then modify to "limited" status after a minute or two.

It had a compatible IP address but wouldn't ping the M5350 (let alone access its configuration page), even with Firewall off. So what was going wrong?

Changing from Channel=Auto to Channel=6 saw me able to ping - 100% success. But repeat the ping, and the address wasn't found. Changed to channel 7 - same thing.

Eventually I solved it - I switched the band to 11g only. And everything worked fine. Not sure I understand why, but hopefully this might just help someone else.

 

M5350 TP-Link mifi - settings for GiffGaff

Browse to the home page of the unit (default is 192.168.0.1). Password is Admin

Under the Advanced tab:

Dial-up
Dial-up type: Auto
Profile Management
Profile List: [up to you]
Profile Name: [up to you]
APN Type: Static
APN: giffgaff.com
Username: giffgaff
Password: password
Authentication Type: Auto

Thursday, June 20, 2013

 

Thunderbird - sending only first name as email id?

I was mortified to see that an email I had sent to a discussion group came seemed to have come from "John" - just my first name (that is how the copy sent to me appeared in my Thunderbird inbox), and no sign of my surname. What an idiot I must have been appearing to everyone I was emailing - assuming that I was so important to them that "John" was sufficient identification.

Why was this happening? How long had I been making an idiot of myself?

It turns out that I wasn't. My Account Settings in Thunderbird were unchanged, and the email was indeed going out with my full name.

But when the copy came in, Thunderbird was looking up my own email address in my Address Book, finding an entry which was marked simply "John" and using that ID in the "From" column. There is a setting "Always prefer display name over message header" which you can disable.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

 

Visio 2000 doesn't print (or prints to wrong printer)

Visio 2000 wouldn't print. Eventually found a write-up, suggesting that the problem stemmed from SP2.

You press Print, and something flashes up on the screen, but nothing prints. And there is nothing in the print queue for your chosen printer

Have a look at the Print Queue for your DEFAULT printer, and there will be your document.

Visio seems to ignore choice of printer, and prints to the default printer, whichever you choose.

Solution: nominate the required printer as default, then print from Visio, then remember to set the default back again afterwards.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

 

JPGraph - 'The image ... cannot be displayed, because it contains errors'

If you are stuggling to debug this failure message with jpGraph, then temporarily comment out the line

$graph->Stroke(); 

and re-run the page to let PHP show you the error.

Friday, December 28, 2012

 

Tenda W311R+ - "Connected Devices"

There IS a "connected devices" list on the W311R+ - but it is not immediately obvious.  Try:

DHCP Server

then

DHCP List & Binding

Friday, October 05, 2012

 

The difficulty of decoding text meaning


From http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/ketamine-a-cure-for-depression-8198396.html

a lovely example where word-proximity doesn't get you the right meaning for a word. 

Here are two consecutive paragraphs. If a computer program were trying to work out which meaning to attach to the word "vets", the occurrence of "Vietnam" two words might lead it to the wrong conclusion:


... That meant a soldier in the battlefield could have surgery and be awake and alert soon afterwards, which accounted for its use by the US in Vietnam.

Later vets came to value it as an anaesthetic for equine surgery and it was also used as a pain medication for animals and humans.  ...


 

Howlround (aka positive feedback) on a Windows 7 laptop

My daughter's HP Pavilion G6 Windows 7 laptop suddenly started sounding like a washing machine on its spin cycle. The function keys wouldn't mute or cut volume. We ended up shutting the laptop in another room until it had finished its update and could be forced to switch off.

This was a howl-round, laptop style: the microphone was picking up the internal noise of the laptop, which was amplified and fed to the speakers, which the microphone then picked up and amplified ... and so on.

Not sure how we set up the situation, but the solution was to disable the Stereo Mix on the Recording section of the Sounds section of the Control Panel. "Stereo Mix" is a channel that takes the output that would go to the speakers and treats it as an Input. It is potentially useful in that it should allow you to record from streaming audio (eg from BBC iPlayer radio programmes).

But if you ALSO have the internal microphone configured with "Listen to this device" set on, then you get the howlround.

How amazing that Windows 7 sets up such an obvious pitfall without any warnings when the settings are configured to make this happen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

 

Closing local ambulance stations: the hidden impact


Once you've dialled 999 for an ambulance in a rural area, you find a new interest in where the vehicle is based and how long it will take to reach you.

From September to December 2012, there is an East Midlands consultation on plans to close local ambulance stations in small towns, and to have staff start and end shifts at Hub buildings in large towns and cities: in the Peak District, that presumably means that staff who are currently based in Ashbourne would be based in Derby, and staff based in Buxton or Bakewell would be based in Chesterfield.

The consultation explains the benefit in service to users, but it skates over the impact on staff, and on rural employment.

For what it is worth, this is my response to their consultation:

I am pleased to hear that when I call 999, the ambulance sent to me will be starting from a location which has been chosen for speed of response and network resilience rather than because you happen to have a building there.

BUT you don't explain the impact on staff. The plan appears to involve many staff driving a LOT further at the start and end of their shifts. Even if you have transition arrangements in place, I bet that means that within a few years, existing staff will be driving in their own time, at their own cost, to reach your more centralised bases. That is not fair on people who took a lifetime-career job based on the then-current expectation of where their shifts would start and end.

And in time, this will mean a migration of ambulance service jobs from rural areas to the urban areas where you have your Hubs.  Driving 45 minutes from home to a Hub at one's own expense and time is unattractive enough, but if one then picks up a vehicle and drives back to a Standby point much nearer to home, it will seem even more painful. As planned, staff distant from your Hubs will find the job much less attractive than those who live nearby. And the rural areas of the UK have little enough employment already.

Couldn't you have been more imaginative about where staff start and end shifts? Sure, it is much neater to have everyone troop in to a Hub each day, but it's not good for staff or the country. Set a requirement that each vehicle comes back to the Hub every 12 hours (say) and choose which vehicle goes to which call to make this possible. At that point, the staff swap with a fully-serviced vehicle and go off again. Then you can have your staff start and end shifts at Community Ambulance Posts or even at Standby posts, reducing commuting mileage and maintaining the geographic diversity of your workforce.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

 

ImgBurn fails with "ACM Not Possible"

This happened to me with WAV tracks. The solution that worked for me was to open each (in Audacity in my case), export the file, and when given the chance to specify track details, to add a Track Number for the track.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

 

ImgBurn - "session count not equal" or "layouts do not match"

If you hit these error messages, do check that you aren't making the mistake that I did (and which caused these failure messages) - burning an ISO designed for a CD to a DVD!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

 

Picaxe AXE133 Problem?

Users of a Project Board note: the example of writing via an AXE133 to an LED/LCD display that shows connection to "B.7" means the B.7 output from the Picaxe Chip, NOT the connection with the same nomenclature which is connected through a Darlington IC. The latter won't drive the LED/LCD - you need to get the unmodified signal direct from the Picaxe chip.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

 

Wanadoo/Orange passwords

I wasted ages trying to get friends' Wanadoo broadband working again after changing the password.

First, we tried changing the password on their User Account panel, but it appeared to have failed. However, the old password wouldn't work either. So we called them, and Yes, the new password had been applied. Why wasn't it working? No idea. Checked every letter, and the initial capital. All fine.

But now no internet. After an awful lot of wasted time, I called them again and asked them to reset the password - to "Rotten" (my level of morale). They did (took ages) but still no luck. Then the agent suggested she reset it so that it was all-lower-case ("rotten"), and bingo - everything working again. Why did she suggest this? I suspect that Orange may know they have a problem here. Why can't they fix it, or at least warn users?

They tell you that passwords are case-sensitive, and allow you to set passwords with capitals in them - but then their system falls over when you try to apply those passwords. It may only apply to some setups (this was with a telephone-directory-sized Livebox) but to be on the safe side, my recommendation is always use lower-case-only passwords for Orange/Wanadoo.

 

Wanadoo/Orange and third-party routers: AVOID

Somewhere deep in their settings, Orange/Wanadoo seem to have some subtle different from a normal ADSL ISP.

Two different-model routers worked fine on my home ISP. At a friend's, I adjusted the MTU to 1492 as instructed on the Orange settings page, changed username and password and ... nothing.

Orange help isn't any help: "We don't support third-party routers". It took them 10 minutes to confirm that the DNS addresses on their spec page are still current.

What is it about their setup that needs modification from a normal-ISP setup? Who knows: they certainly don't seem bothered to tell you.

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